Ranking The Conjuring Universe

I tend to drag my feet on any long-running series that spawns its own spinoffs and shared universes. Interconnectivity can be cool (and hugely profitable) but it can also be straight up obnoxious. “ALL OF THIS IS CONNECTED,” “THESE MOVIES TAKE PLACE IN THE SAME UNIVERSE.” Bro. We get it.

Marvel Studios is the only one to successfully launch a cinematic universe, which is why other studios keep trying and failing. Warner Bros. flubbed its Justice League mashup; it’s a miracle I got around to watching Aquaman, and I have yet to see Shazam or WW1984. The Fast & Furious franchise, though mega successful at the box office, bred a spinoff in Hobbs & Shaw, but you cannot pay me enough money to watch that movie. Don’t get me started on what Disney’s doing to plow through our nostalgia with its live-action adaptations. And remember Universal’s planned Dark Universe? Ouch.

The only other cinematic universe that can dare hold a candle to the MCU is The Conjuring Universe. As horror movies, they have a built-in failsafe. They’re cheaper to produce than any one superhero movie. So if any of the Conjuring Universe movies “flop,” the losses are small and the studio can (and most assuredly will) try again with the next movie.

These movies vary in quality, but they’re all commercially successful and that’s all that matters in the studio game. Having seen and sunk my teeth into the latest installment, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, I decided to finally give the whole Conjuring Universe a go. (I hadn’t seen two of the Annabelle movies, The Nun, or The Curse of La Llorona). And you know what? It’s the most fun I’ve had this summer so far, and an excellent pregame to what feels like will be a summer of horror.

All caught up, here’s where I rank The Conjuring Universe:

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Does ‘Cruella’ Solve Disney’s Live-Action Problem?

I come down hard on Disney for numerous reasons (that it as a corporate entity owns Pixar, Marvel, & Lucasfilm— also Fox and ITS properties; controls 40% of the media market, and the fact that I can never escape word of its new releases no matter how hard I try) but the thing I come down on hardest is its live-action sector: Disney’s brand of animated classics now being repackaged for modern audiences. From a business standpoint, live-action remakes, sequels, and spin-offs are a no-brainer – established properties that have greater odds of securing an audience. Admittedly, these attempts can yield something truly magical as, say, Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella or Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book. But more often than not, the efforts ring hollow like Alice in Wonderland, and whatever Through the Looking Glass was, or Dumbo, Aladdin, The Lion King, last year’s Mulan

Needless to say, I wasn’t holding my breath for Cruella, Disney’s latest live-action movie that’s also a *stops to catch breath* villain spinoff and 101 Dalmatians prequel. But to my surprise, Cruella is immensely fun. So much fun that it makes a surprisingly strong case for, and I shall live to regret saying this, more of its kind?

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The Problem with Today’s Fight Scenes

One of the first movies I saw in theaters this year was Mortal Kombat and I gotta say, it felt good to be back. Hearing that bombastic MK theme and Hiroyuki Sanada laying down the most badass line of dialogue ever just screamed CINEMA to me. Which is to say I was all too happy to return to the theater for me to be completely objective to the movie. Something stuck out to me that I couldn’t quite pinpoint until I re-watched Mortal Kombat before it left HBO Max last week – how lackluster its fight scenes really are.

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