The Associated Press
“Heaven Is for Real” (Drama: 1 hour, 40 minutes)
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Connor Corum and Margo Martindale
Director: Randall Wallace
Rated: PG (Thematic material including some medical situations)
Movie Review: Based on Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent’s book, a certain childlike nature exists with this religious drama. Because of this, the film never achieves the mark of being convincing, despite the fact a true story serves as its basis.
Colton Burpo (Corum) is a 4-year-old boy in a small town who apparently leaves his body during a near-death experience. While out of his body, he enters Heaven. He meets deceased relatives like his great-grandfather and his miscarried sister, angels and Jesus. Colton’s father, the Rev. Todd Burpo (Kinnear) is tasked with defending his son’s visions to his town, the media and his congregation.
This is a movie for believers. It is for the faithful. It rests upon that notion. However, if one keeps an unbiased view, the film is a mild production. It appears like something one would see on television’s family station. It is not a conclusive screenplay.
The film spends too much time focusing on Todd Burpo and secondarily his family and their connections. The screenplay writers Chris Parker and director Wallace (“Secretariat,” 2010) wants everyone to see this is a regular family living in the United States.
This film is heartfelt, but it spends time elsewhere when audiences want to see more of Colton and what he observed. Instead, the film focuses on Todd Burpo, played by Kinnear as well as possible considering the screenplay. Almost a half hour passes before the film makes it to its main point — what a boy saw during his visit to Heaven.
The film shows a baseball game, a father dealing with a bodily injury, church politics, a grieving mother and the Burpos as a family. These matters make the family all too human, but they are mere distractions.
Producers look as if they tried filling time because they realize this screenplay could not make it to an hour and a half without the extra material. These extra, unneeded scenes may help viewers understand the cast’s personas, but it does little to facilitate the story. Additionally, a stronger dramatic side would have made this interesting screenplay more compelling.
Grade: C (Heaven sounds great, but too bad we did not see more about it.)
“Oculus” (Horror: 1 hour, 44 minutes)
Starring: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane
Director: Mike Flanagan
Rated: R (Violence, some disturbing images, brief sexuality, profanity and gore)
Movie Review: Mirror, mirror, on the wall, why do you kill people? This film fails to answer that question. The reason this mirror collects souls is unclear. We only know that an unwise brother and sister decide to take the mirror and destroy it. As observed in most horror films, the first rule for fighting evil is to know it is probably smarter than you.
Kaylie Russell (Gillan) and Tim Russell (Thwaites) are two adults who plan to destroy an antique mirror responsible for the deaths of many including their parents Marie and Alan (Sackhoff and Cochrane). The mirror has some defenses of its own.
It wants to remain in existence and keep collecting souls.
This horror movie is supposed to be a psychological piece, but this is a screenplay with characters who are not too bright. They could have smashed the mirror from the start, but they decide to prove to others an evil spirit inhabits the ornately framed mirror.
For a split second, the film builds a nice suspense. It quickly becomes a tedious piece that tries too hard to be a cerebral film.
It tells a backstory simultaneously, intermixed with scenes taking place in the present. This part of the film is creative. However, the characters’ actions are asinine. In addition, these characters are not convincing.
“Oculus” is supposedly a reflective piece more than a horror. The psychological aspects make average entertainment. The frightful moments are few to see.
Flanagan, who directed “Absentia” (2011), merely expands his short film “Oculus: Chapter 3 — The Man with the Plan” (2006). The expansion is a slim visual.
Grade: C (A cracked mirror)