‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’ Sees the Franchise Making a Comeback

Paranormal Activity The Marked Ones poster

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” proves to be much, much better than “Paranormal Activity 4,” and it succeeds in reinvigorating a franchise which was starting to look like it was running on fumes. In terms of story, it’s not very different from the previous films and you do have a good idea of where the story is heading, but Christopher B. Landon who wrote the screenplays for “Paranormal Activity 2, 3 and 4” and directed this one is very deft at positioning the scares to where they come at you before you know it. Thanks to a terrific cast and a good dose of humor, it proves to be one of the best entries in the long running franchise.

“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” is not a direct sequel to “Paranormal Activity 4,” but instead a spin-off which features a family not white-bred like all the others featured in the franchise. When the film begins, we are introduced to Jessie (Andrew Jacobs), a young Latino who has just graduated from high school along with his best friend Hector (Jorge Diaz). Soon afterwards, we see the whole family partying at their apartment complex and having a grand old time as they bid farewell to the hell that is high school.

But then they learn their downstairs neighbor has died under suspicious circumstances. With nothing better to do, Jessie and Hector break into the apartment to figure out what happened. What they discover are a bunch of items used in black magic rituals as well as all those videotapes which formed the basis of “Paranormal Activity 3.” The next day, Jessie wakes up to discover what looks like a huge bite mark on his arm, and it’s a sign that his troubles are only about to begin.

The idea to focus on a Latino family for this “Paranormal Activity” was a smart one as it gives this entry a fresh feel we really take notice of. The family presented here is a great one, and while Landon is really just out to give us a fun and scary time, he is also smart in giving us a group of Latinos not dominated by stereotypes. Some might complain the film does traffic in stereotypical behavior, but I disagree. While many have a view of inner city neighborhoods as being violent hellholes, few seem to realize how close knit the families who live in them are, and many of them are not involved in a life of crime.

Part of me was hoping the filmmakers would dare to film the whole movie in Spanish with subtitles, but since this is a “found footage” movie, they are apparently not allowed to do so. Still, this was a small complaint in the large scheme of things.

Another one of the main differences between “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” and the previous films is the amount of humor in it. This is not to say the other films lacked humor, but I was surprised at how much I found myself laughing with this particular entry. A lot of this is thanks to Diaz who comes close to stealing the movie as Hector. Watching him get all super excited at the things happening to and around his friend Jessie are a gas to watch, and he ends up becoming the real star of this movie as a result.

I also have to say that the ending of “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” is one I did not see coming. It ends up turning the whole franchise on its head as you wonder what realm these “Paranormal Activity” movies truly exist in. After watching this spin-off, it’s clear the series is not simply relegated to the found footage genre.

Landon, who finally gets to direct a “Paranormal Activity” movie after having written many of them, knows we have become familiar with where to expect the scares to happen. To his credit, he plays on what we expect to see and provides us with some jump out of your seat moments we don’t quite see coming. Whether or not you think this particular entry is or is not as scary as the first three, it definitely has its moments if you patiently wait for them.

I got to see “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” with a preview audience, and their reaction was contagious as was their enthusiasm. Many movie franchises, regardless of the genre, live and die in regards to how audiences react to them, and this one shows there is still life left in it. Just when you think this series has reached its peak, this entry makes you excited for what will happen next, and I am ever so curious to see which direction this one will take from here. That’s a very good thing as this series works best on what fans are not expecting.

For me, I’m still waiting for the “Paranormal Activity” movie where the executives of Paramount Pictures become victims of similar hauntings as a result of profiting off the tragedies which have befallen the families featured in these films. If they want people to keep believing these found footage movies are real, then they should seriously consider this because the franchise appears to be heading in this particular direction.

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Check out the interview I did with the stars of “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” which I did for the website We Got This Covered down below:

‘Get Him to The Greek’ Allows Us to Forget about Sarah Marshall

Get Him to the Greek movie poster

We have sequels and franchise reboots or remakes up the wazoo this summer, but it feels like it has been forever since we had a movie spin-off. I know there are tons of them on television these days, but TV spinoffs seem to be a necessity, especially with shows like “Law & Order” and “CSI.” We’re gonna have “Law & Order: Los Angeles” in the fall, proving the cancellation of the original “Law & Order” never ended anything. Personally, I’m waiting for “Law & Order: Barstow” and “CSI: Chico.” Now those would be the ones to really shake things up!

In fact, the last time we had a movie spin-off was “US Marshalls” which took Tommy Lee Jones’ character of Sam Gerard from “The Fugitive” and gave him his own movie. Looking back, it was more of a remake of “The Fugitive” than anything else.

Now we have “Get Him To The Greek” which takes Russell Brand’s character of spaced out rock star Aldous Snow from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and has him starring in his own movie movie. Give Hollywood some credit here for being a little more creative than usual. By making a movie based on a supporting character from another, they show an air of confidence they usually only pretend to have.

Whereas Aldous was drug free in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” he is shown to haven fallen off the wagon big time in this one as we watch him suffering the after effects of a horrible song he wrote and recorded called “African Child.” The song was declared to be the worst song of the decade, and it places second to apartheid as the worst thing to happen to Africa. The love of his life, Jackie Q (Rose Byrne from “28 Weeks Later”), ends up leaving him along with their son Naples, and he proceeds to go on one drinking/drug binge after another as his life goes from worst to intolerable. Then he hits rock bottom, but this doesn’t stop his spiral any.

Several years later, a record company intern named Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) brings up at a meeting how it is coming up on the 10 year anniversary of when Aldous performed a concert at the Greek Theater, one which resulted in one of the best-selling live albums of all time. After Aldous confirmed with Aaron’s boss, Sergio (Sean Combs), that he will do a new show to celebrate this occasion, Sergio sends him out to England to fetch Aldous and to make sure he makes it to the concert on time.

Judd Apatow is of course behind this one as a producer, and the setup reminded me a lot of his movie “Funny People.” Big fan meets his celebrity idol, discovers being where the celebrity is can be the loneliest place of all, and they somehow connect at the end in a way they never thought possible. But this one is just a flat out comedy and has none of the dramatic edge of “Funny People.” Its humor is vulgar and crude, but like all good Apatow productions, it also has a heart.

Like “Knocked Up,” “Get Him To The Greek” exists in the entertainment world. Hearing Aaron talk about how a new concert will spur large revenue for the record company, allowing them to re-release Snow’s back catalog in new remastered editions with bonus material struck a cord with me. I always fall for this stuff myself; remastered CD’s which make you actually feel like you’re in the room with the band as they jam together. I have been an addict of these remastered editions ever since I bought the one for Eric Clapton’s “Behind the Sun.”

This is not to mention all the cameos from artists like Pink and television personalities including Meredith Vieira from the “Today” show. You even have Mario Lopez and Kurt Loder poking fun at their public perception, something they probably would not have done ten years ago. “Get Him To The Greek” does not take place in some fairy tale world where everything ends up all nice and tidy. The laughs end up stinging much more here because they remind us of all those celebrity controversies the media thrusts at us every single day.

Russell Brand’s own drug addled past has been chronicled for some time now, so part of the fascination with watching him here is figuring out where he ends and Aldous Snow begins. Regardless of how out there he may seem in the media, there is something about his personality that makes us watch his every move. Not once does he do anything to hide his character’s hedonistic ways, and he scores one solid laugh after another. I’m not sure what to say about him as an actor because I haven’t really seen him in anything else, but watching him again as this character was indeed worthwhile.

Jonah Hill also was in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” as a waiter, but here he plays an entirely different character. From “Superbad” to “Funny People,” he’s been basically playing the same kind of role over and over again. Here, he plays his most grown up character to date. As Aaron Green, he also gets to lose his trademark hairdo which makes him look like Little Orphan Annie. Clearly, his high school days are behind him, and he has us laughing at the most insane and compromising positions his character keeps stumbling into. Hill even has a great “Pulp Fiction” kind of moment, but I leave it to you to discover it for yourself.

But while Brand stole every other scene in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” he has this movie stolen from him by Sean Combs. That’s right, Puff Diddy is in this movie as record company executive Sergio Roma, and it allows him to parody his own image as a hip hop entrepreneur. What I loved about his performance is you never get the feeling he was trying to be funny. The more serious he gets, the more gut-bustlingly hilarious he becomes, and no one sells the term “mindfuck” the way he does here. It’s easy to fall into the trap of playing for laughs instead of playing the scene, but Combs never falls victim to it here.

You also have some nice supporting performances from actors like Colm Meaney, the “Star Trek” journeyman actor who plays Aldous’ father Jonathan, and he makes this man anything but a father figure. Having used his drug addicted son for his own gain, it is very surprising these two actually bother to be in the same room together. Rose Byrne also has some great moments as the love of Aldous’ life, Jackie Q, and her own music is ridiculously controversial in its own terms.

“Get Him to The Greek” was written and directed by Nicholas Stoller who also helmed “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Stoller does good work here, but he does let the pace drag towards the end to where there are lulls where you are waiting for the next big explosion of laughter. All the same, comedy is hard work, so you have to give him credit for the loud laughs he does get out of us.

Is this as good as “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”? Not quite. In fact, “MacGruber” was a funnier movie in retrospect, regardless of its audience not showing up when it was released. The plot itself is no different from a lot of road trip comedies, and you could compare this one a bit to John Hughes’ “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” when you think about it. Still, I had a lot of fun with it, and it is easily more fun than a “Geoffrey.” Trust me; just see the movie and then you will know what I am talking about. I’m sick of giving away the best parts of movies anyway.

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