Gods and Generals Preview

A small note prior to this post: Last July we decided to take a look back at the movies that we watched over five years ago and choose a Hall of Fame class, five movies that we thought embodied BMT in some way. Perhaps they were particularly bad, or an example of a specific bad movie trope, whatever, something made them stand out as special in our minds. Since we didn’t do email previews before 2013ish we also decided to provide a preview for the movie. This is the third in a series of five leading up to our yearly awards the Smaddies Baddies. A recap (Hall of Fame speech really) will follow immediately afterwards to explain why the movie was chosen, things we loved about the movie, and things we discovered upon second viewing. Enjoy!

Gods and Generals (2003) – BMeTric: 17.1

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(It concerns me that this film is actually rising over time. Not because the rating is rising, that is natural as the vote count increases. No. I’m concerned because anyone is deciding to watch a horrible 4 hour film … why? I guess Civil War enthusiasts, which I suppose might explain the rising score.)

Leonard Maltin – 2.5 stars –  Writer-director Maxwell’s prequel to Gettysburg is not in the same league but does manage to capture some of the sights, sounds, and personalities of the Civil War’s early years, with an emphasis on the South. Lion’s share of the story is devoted to Lang’s pious “Stonewall” Jackson. Telling vignettes and vivid battle scenes make up for some ponderousness, speechiness, and overlength (it’s even longer – 231m. – on video). Film’s backer, media mogul Ted Turner, has a cameo as a Confederate soldier. Based on the Jeff Shaara novel.

(Amazingly if you watch the director’s cut the film is an astonishing 4 hours and 40 minutes. When I watched it for the first time I remarked “I’ve forgotten what it was like to not be watching Gods and Generals. I’ve been born, lived, and died while watching this film.” Leonard is being kind, or it was a review of the time, because the film is an achievement in ponderousness, there is no more ponderous film.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxPXrrZ8bJU

(Hmmmm. Hmmmmm. Hmmmmm. I wonder which side is fighting for God’s glory and which for his kingdom on earth …. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.)

Directors – Ron Maxwell – (Known For: Gettysburg; Little Darlings; Future BMT: Copperhead; BMT: Gods and Generals; Notes: Notable somewhat for his incredibly long production periods. The intention, as of 2013, was to write and direct a Joan of Arc movie. But it is somewhat unclear what happened with that plan.)

Writers – Jeff Shaara (book) (as Jeffrey M. Shaara) – (BMT: Gods and Generals; Notes: The son of Michael Shaara who wrote Gettysburg, which this film is a prequel to. He also wrote a sequel called The Last Full Measure.)

Ron Maxwell (screenplay) (as Ronald F. Maxwell) – (Known For: Gettysburg; BMT: Gods and Generals; Notes: Exclusively writes and directs historical epics financed by Ted Turner.)

Actors – Stephen Lang – (Known For: Avatar; Hostiles; Tombstone; Don’t Breathe; Braven; Public Enemies; Manhunter; Gettysburg; The Dinner; The Men Who Stare at Goats; The Hard Way; Tall Tale; Band of Robbers; Last Exit to Brooklyn; Gridlocked; White Irish Drinkers; Project X; Pionér; The I Inside; Twice in a Lifetime; Future BMT: Eye See You; A Good Marriage; The Nut Job; Shadow Conspiracy; In the Blood; Another You; Guilty as Sin; Mortal Engines; The Amazing Panda Adventure; Trixie; Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You; Band of the Hand; BMT: Conan the Barbarian; Fire Down Below; Gods and Generals; Notes: His father was a noted businessman and philanthropist who left the entirety of his $150 million fortune to charity upon his death.)

Robert Duvall – (Known For: The Godfather; Widows; Apocalypse Now; The Godfather: Part II; The Road; The Natural; Jack Reacher; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Judge; Deep Impact; Falling Down; MASH; Open Range; We Own the Night; Crazy Heart; Secondhand Lions; Network; True Grit; Sling Blade; Thank You for Smoking; Future BMT: Four Christmases; Something to Talk About; Days of Thunder; Wild Horses; Lucky You; The Handmaid’s Tale; Gone in Sixty Seconds; In Dubious Battle; Seven Days in Utopia; Breakout; Jayne Mansfield’s Car; BMT: The Scarlet Letter; Gods and Generals; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Supporting Actor, and Worst Screen Couple for The Scarlet Letter in 1996; and Nominee for Worst Supporting Actor for Newsies in 1993; Notes: Won an Oscar for Tender Mercies. Was good friends with Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman whom he went to acting school with.)

Jeff Daniels – (Known For: The Martian; Looper; Speed; Dumb and Dumber; State of Play; The Hours; Steve Jobs; Pleasantville; Terms of Endearment; 2 Days in the Valley; Gettysburg; Arachnophobia; The Squid and the Whale; Away We Go; Blood Work; Ragtime; Good Night, and Good Luck.; Because of Winn-Dixie; Traitor; Heartburn; Future BMT: Space Chimps; My Favorite Martian; RV; Dumb and Dumber To; Allegiant; 101 Dalmatians; Mama’s Boy; The Butcher’s Wife; All the Rage; Super Sucker; The Catcher Was a Spy; Paper Man; The Answer Man; BMT: Gods and Generals; Notes: Married his highschool sweetheart and lives in his home state of Michigan helping to support economic development there.)

Budget/Gross – $56 million / Domestic: $12,882,934 (Worldwide: $12,923,936)

(Catastrophic. But then again Gettysburg didn’t do much better. I’m fully convinced Ted Turner just loves the Civil War and doesn’t care. Also they probably have a racket whereby every school in America buys a copy of Gettysburg and Gods and Generals and thus the film is profitable before it even releases … I’m only half joking, that sounds plausible to be honest.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 8% (10/121): Filled with two-dimensional characters and pompous self-righteousness, Gods and Generals is a long, tedious sit. Some may also take offense at the pro-Confederate slant.

(Some might take offense … at the pro-Confederate slant. Yeah I can imagine that might rub some people the wrong way. Reviewer Highlight: Four hours including the intermission, I felt like I was seeing the Civil War in real time for awhile there. – Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper)

Poster – Sklogs and Generals (B-)

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(Neither the worst nor the best. I think the imagery is stirring but wish they had done it a bit more artistically. Looks a little sloppy. Odd font, but unique.)

Tagline(s) – The nation’s heart was touched by…. (D+)

An unforgettable story of the Civil War, from the Director of “GETTYSBURG” (D-)

(Obviously the second one is a classic trash just trying to get those Gettysburg fanatics in the seats. At least it tells me the story is unforgettable. Which is true. I’ll never forget how terrible it was. The first is merely bad. So you’re telling me the nation’s heart was touched by a gigantic civil war that tore the country apart? Interesting.)

Keyword(s) – george washington character; Top Ten by BMeTric: 71.5 Wild Wild West (1999); 17.1 Gods and Generals (2003); 16.5 The Manchurian Candidate (2004); 12.0 Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014); 6.6 The Patriot (2000); 2.2 John Paul Jones (1959); 0.2 Janice Meredith (1924); 0.0 George Washington’s First War: The Battles for Fort Duquesne (2003);

(Noice, although I’m skeptical there was a George Washington character in Wild Wild West all things considered. As a matter of fact, why would George Washington be in Gods and Generals? Or The Manchurian Candidate. Weird stuff. Usually I would replace a dumb keyword like this, but I’m mostly just fascinated.)

Notes – Some scenes were filmed on Robert Duvall’s estate in Virginia, which was the site of some Civil War skirmishes.

Martin Sheen was in the Washington, D.C. area the week of September 11th filming scenes for The West Wing (1999). He was prepared to fly the Tuesday morning Dulles to LAX flight if Warner Brothers agreed to his demand for one million dollars to reprise his role of Robert E. Lee from Gettysburg (1993). It was only because Warner Brothers passed, that Sheen was not on Flight 77 the morning of September 11. (Wow)

The majority of the Civil War re-enactors in the movie volunteered to be in the movie without pay. In return, the production company agreed to donate at least five hundred thousand dollars to preservation of a Civil War battlefield. (Cool I guess)

The wide shots of the Union infantry advancing towards the stone wall during the Battle of Fredericksburg were not set up nor filmed as visual effects shots. However, due to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and the subsequent travel concerns and military reserve call-ups, the film’s re-enacting unit had drastically shrunk in number. This was not fully evident until the wide shots were viewed in post-production. Visual Effects Supervisor Thomas G. Smith had to digitally create over seventeen thousand low-resolution CGI soldiers, and then map out individual speeds for them: running, walking, or crawling wounded. He then added three thousand dead soldiers to scatter around the shot. (Kind of sad actually, that they didn’t get to do what they originally envisioned due to a national tragedy)

Kevin Conway often cites reprising his Gettysburg (1993) character, Sergeant Buster Kilrain, in this film, as part of the reason he turned down a supporting role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which would have prevented him from shooting this film. (Oof)

Originally given an R-rating by the MPAA for extended battlefield violence and gore. Director Ron Maxwell either shortened or cut out entirely the most objectionable scenes in order to get the film down to a PG-13 rating. (But I assume he added twice as much footage of Jeff Daniels ordering people into the proper battle formation? Can’t let the movie be too long)

The film mostly omits a few of General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson’s eccentricities, but makes sly reference to them. The real Stonewall Jackson rode with a hand raised at all times, as he felt it was necessary to balance his bodily humors. In the film, Jackson suffers a wound to one hand, and spends a scene riding in that manner, ostensibly to staunch the bleeding. In addition, the real Jackson, according to legend, sucked on lemons incessantly in the belief that it was essential to his health. In the film, he presents lemons as a gift to the fiancée of his junior officer, and enjoys the resultant lemonade for its tartness. (What a weirdo)

Russell Crowe was the first choice to play Stonewall Jackson. Crowe expressed initial interest but eventually declined, citing a need to return to Australia and take a break from movie making. The role was then offered to Stephen Lang, who was already signed and rehearsing to reprise his Gettysburg (1993) character of General George Pickett. Billy Campbell took over the Pickett role.

Ted Turner put up the entire sixty million dollar budget of the film personally.

Although Robert E. Lee was a highly regarded officer in the U.S. Army, his dislike of slavery, and lukewarm approach to secession, combined with some early reverses while in command of the Virginia militia, took him out of consideration for field command in the Confederate Army. Instead, he was made an advisor to Jefferson Davis. He was named to command the Confederate Army outside of Richmond in 1862, when General Joseph Johnston was wounded, because Davis did not want General Pierre Beauregard in command.

A subplot involving John Wilkes Booth and his actor friend Henry T. Harrison (from Gettysburg (1993)) had to be cut from the film in order to get a wide release. The entire battle of Antietam was also deleted. In all, nearly two and a half hours of the film never made it to final print. (Jesus Christ. Director’s Director’s Cut of 6 hours incoming)

The intermission was actually included in the print and was almost an entire reel of black film. Theaters added light cues at the beginning and end of it. (Weird)

Unlike Producer Ted Turner’s previous American Civil War movies Gettysburg (1993) and Andersonville (1996), this movie was a major failure at the box-office and among the critics. The movie returned only twelve million out of its sixty million dollar budget. History buffs were angered by some obvious historical inaccuracies in its depiction of some of the major characters, despite the movie’s promoting its historical authenticity (Stonewall was not shot in the hand at the start of the war, Lee’s ascension to the position of the leader of the Confederate army happened slightly differently, et cetera.). Some critics even accused the movie of historical revisionism in favor of the Confederacy, due to the film’s somewhat glorified depiction of the Confederate Generals, and downplaying the importance of the issue of slavery in the conflict, since it focuses more on the states rights issue instead. (Yeah … they do seem to like the Confederates in the film)

Jeff Daniels reprised the role of Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain from Gettysburg (1993). Tom Berenger had been asked to reprise the role of James Longstreet, but declined, and was replaced by Bruce Boxleitner.

Stephen Lang also appeared in Gettysburg (1993). However, he does not reprise his original role from “Gettysburg”, that of Major General George E. Pickett. Instead, he played Lieutenant General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, who died two months prior to the momentous clash in Gettysburg. Billy Campbell took over the role of Pickett. (Honestly someone bigger should have been Stonewall, but whatever)

Ron Maxwell spent all of 2002 editing, re-editing, test screening and touching up the film. It went from six hours to three hours and five minutes, to three hours and thirty-seven minutes time and again. (Jesus, it was six hours!)

According to a report on CNN.com, Senators Robert Byrd (D-WV) and George Allen (R-VA), Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and former Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) all make small appearances in this film. “Wet plate” photographs of these politicians in full Civil War attire are available online. (Weird and wild stuff)

Gettysburg (1993) was based on author Jeff Shaara’s father’s classic novel, “The Killer Angels”. After the critical and commercial success of the film, Jeff was approached about the possibility of continuing the story, finding someone to write a prequel and sequel to The Killer Angels. Because of this, Jeff Shaara has used his father’s historical fiction approach to the American Revolution, the Mexican-American War, another Civil War Trilogy in the West, and both World Wars. (Good for Shaara I guess, get yo money)

Ted Turner is a huge Civil War buff. He financed two more films on the subject, Gettysburg (1993) for theatrical release, to which this movie is the prequel, and Andersonville (1996), a successful and acclaimed television movie about the worst and most notorious Confederate P.O.W. camp for captured Union soldiers in the entire war. (I knew it!)

The Nun Preview

“22 miles?!” Jamie exclaims, “we’ll never make it.” Patrick knows he’s probably right but they have to try to get their treasure to the masses. They sneak about the city like ninjas using the parkour knowledge they learned from Truth and Dare. Just as they reach the publishing house a man approaches at the same time. He’s wearing a thick turtleneck sweater with a pencil-thin moustache. “Damn it,” whispers Patrick, “It’s my rival, Manfred Long. He writes horror fantasy romance novels. They are totally played out. He’s a hack.” He quickly puts on a smile and slaps Manfred on the back, “Why hello, Manfred. Heading up to a meeting?” Manfred wipes his sweater, “Of course. Just going over my latest manuscript. Basically gonna change the world. Don’t worry about it.” “I’m not worried,” retorts Patrick. “I know, cause I said you shouldn’t be,” jabs Manfred. And they glare at each other. It’s tense. “Wanna hear about it?” asks Manfred. “No,” sighs Patrick, “we have a big meeting too.” But Manfred continues, “It’s a horror fantasy romance novel about a girl who falls in love with a swamp monster.” At that they freeze. Swamp monster? Shit. Jamie catches Patrick’s eye and they all start running for the publishing office at the same time. They gotta get their book out there and fast before that piece of shit Manfred Long plays out Swamp Monsters. They rush up the stairs and obviously easily outpace that hack Manfred Long. When they reach the office they throw the manuscript on the desk of Patrick’s literary agent. Huffing and puffing they look up the find Patrick’s agent holding a gun. “Excellent,” he says, “this will do nicely.” Patrick is shocked. He trusted his agent like a brother and yet he was a double agent the whole time. Manfred enters, also with a gun. Suddenly a shot rings out… and Patrick’s agent falls dead. A triple agent! My god! “Yes, excellent,” says Manfred Long, “our agent wanted this only for money. But I want it for something far greater.” The air in the room grows cold as Jamie and Patrick both whisper the name… Gigandet. That’s right! We’re transitioning to the new year! 2019! And we’re starting off hot with some Franchise-zzzz. Here we will start or finish some major BMT franchises as well as attempt to right some wrong in the BMT past. Most notably our decision to skip right past Predator II when we started in on that franchise. Gotta finish that one up. So we start it up with a major 2018 prequel The Nun which is one of several branches in The Conjuring Universe. I watched the first film in theaters and enjoyed it quite a bit so will be fun to catch up with The Conjuring 2 and The Nun. Let’s go!

The Nun (2018) – BMeTric: 49.6

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(This will be 50+ by the new year which is pretty incredible. No one rocks a bad review like horror fans who sniff any sort of cliched scare tactics. I’m still a bit surprised at how low the IMDb rating is, 5.5 is legit terrible!)

RogerEbert.com – 2 stars –  The “Conjuring” movies—especially James Wan’s original two, and not so much the “Annabelle” prequels—stood apart from so much demon-themed horror with their well-drawn characters, strong performances and powerful emotional underpinning. “The Nun” feels like an empty thrill ride by comparison.

(Having watched the original two at this point I agree with that assessment, and this is the impression I get from the reviews as well. Tired, cliche, and totally out of sorts with the rest of the franchise. That small review of the Annabelle franchise is a bit ominous, I’ve heard good thing about Annabelle: Origins.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzD9zGcUNrw

(Make sure you watch to the end … for our stupid jump scare which everyone is going to get mad at us for. And yet … not so mad people won’t go see the film since it made bank. Go figure. Fine trailer I guess, although I had jump scares, they are dumb non-scares, so that is not a good sign for the film as a whole.)

Directors – Corin Hardy – (Known For: The Hallow; BMT: The Nun; Notes: Seems to work a lot in ads and stuff. Started in sculpting, prop design, and animation for film and theater and only relatively recently started to direct features.)

Writers – Gary Dauberman (screenplay by & story by) – (Known For: It; Annabelle: Creation; Future BMT: Annabelle; Wolves at the Door; BMT: The Nun; Notes: Actually set to make his directorial debut with the next Annabelle film.)

James Wan (story by) – (Known For: Aquaman; The Conjuring 2; Saw; Future BMT: Saw III; Dead Silence; Insidious: Chapter 2; BMT: The Nun; Notes: He has had an amazing career and has been a part of some of the biggest franchises ever with Saw, The Conjuring, Furious 7, and most recently Aquaman.)

Actors – Demián Bichir – (Known For: The Hateful Eight; Alien: Covenant; Savages; The Heat; Che: Part One; Lowriders; Dom Hemingway; A Better Life; Foreverland; 7:19; Future BMT: Solo; Machete Kills; Good Kids; Perdita Durango; Sin noticias de Dios; BMT: The Nun; Notes: Wait… he was in the film Solo?! Jesus.)

Taissa Farmiga – (Known For: The Mule; The Bling Ring; The Long Dumb Road; The Final Girls; In a Valley of Violence; 6 Years; What They Had; Rules Don’t Apply; Higher Ground; At Middleton; Future BMT: Mindscape; Jamesy Boy; BMT: The Nun; Notes: Sister of Vera Farmiga who plays a major role in The Conjuring series. Her sister is 21 years older than her.)

Jonas Bloquet – (Known For: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets; Elle; Orpheline; Future BMT: 3 Days to Kill; The Family; BMT: The Nun; Notes: Actually from Belgium and not French Canadian like this film makes him out to be.)

Budget/Gross – $22 million / Domestic: $117,450,119 (Worldwide: $365,550,119)

(A roaring success which at this point is inevitable. Once hooked horror fans will come back again and again for more. They will gladly shit on the film online if it isn’t to their tastes, but I have no doubt The Nun 2 will make a ton of money as well. You have to spit in their face or produce a number of bombs in a row to get betrayed once that first hit is made it seems. Which is great in my opinion, the horror genre is one of the most interesting and fresh genres around I think.)

#4 for the Horror – Period genre

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(You’d think this would be better given the witch sub-genre almost by definition should be a period piece, but not even 10 of them have made over $100 million which is terrible. I guess it is at least 10 since for some reason The Conjuring 2 isn’t there when it is, in fact, a period horror film. Which means at least four of the top ten are Conjuring films which is nuts.)

#7 for the Horror – R-Rated genre

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(From I Know What You Did Last Summer to Alone in the Dark we’ve seen a ton of these films at this point. The genre has never been stronger with It and (arguably) Get Out flexing their muscles last year and things like The Nun making a ton of cash as well.)

#9 for the Horror – Supernatural genre

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(Nothing can beat The Bye Bye Man in my heart, but that is pretty good for a very strong genre. It hasn’t been this strong since the turn of the millennium for supernatural horror, and having watched The Conjuring, it is kind of amazing that a genre which has been hitting home runs since the seventies can still bring fresh takes and rake in cash. Something that things like slashers can never seem to get the hang of (although a few have come around in the last few years like Happy Death Day).)

Rotten Tomatoes – 26% (45/171): The Nun boasts strong performances, spooky atmospherics, and a couple decent set-pieces, but its sins include inconsistent logic and narrative slackness.

(Wait a second… inconsistent logic and narrative slackness is enough for a 26% on RT. This actually sounds more like “we loved the previous two entries in the series and this didn’t measure up so fuck it.”)

Poster – Evil Twin Nun Time (A-)

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(I like this poster quite a bit. Nice balance in the visual and the font is good. Clever as well given the premise of the film. Just wish it was a little better with some coloring. Need to tie it all together.)

Tagline(s) – Witness the Darkest Chapter in The Conjuring Universe (F)

(Boooooooo. They need to pray for forgiveness for this tagline… ayo.)

Keyword(s) – spin off; Top Ten by BMeTric: 75.3 Elektra (2005); 69.9 Wing Commander (1999); 67.8 Supergirl (1984); 64.5 Tekken (2010); 62.6 Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014); 59.4 The Mod Squad (1999); 54.6 Annabelle (I) (2014); 51.1 The Scorpion King (2002); 49.6 The Nun (2018); 47.4 MacGruber (2010);

(Oooooo Supergirl is going to be a super weird film for sure. And there is Annabelle and Paranormal Activity as well which are inevitably going to have to be done. Bantastic.)

Notes – The film was shot entirely in Romania. (Yeah it was)

The events take place before Annabelle: Creation (2017), making it the first movie (chronologically) in the film series. Although the opening scenes of Annabelle: Creation take place before The Nun, the rest occurs afterwards.

Taissa Farmiga, who played Sister Irene in this film, is the younger sister of Vera Farmiga in real life, who played Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring (2013) and The Conjuring 2 (2016). The Demon Nun, played by Bonnie Aarons, also appeared in The Conjuring 2 (2016) and had a brief cameo in Annabelle: Creation (2017). Though the sisters’ characters are not at all related to each other, they are both devout Catholics with clairvoyant abilities.

This was Valak’s third appearance after The Conjuring 2 (2016) and Annabelle: Creation (2017). Although Valak did not appear in The Conjuring (2013), the scary premonition that Lorraine Warren had in that film was about Valak, as later revealed in Conjuring 2.

After the “Demon Nun” from The Conjuring 2 (2016) proved to be a popular horror antagonist, a spin-off focusing on the character was green-lit, making her the second character from the franchise to get her own feature after Annabelle (2014). The Crooked Man from Conjuring 2 will be the third in The Crooked Man. (Maybe. I guess since The Nun smashed it they will go forward with it, but it kind of sounds like a terrible idea, The Crooked Man is by far the weakest demon character of the three IMO)

Despite the Conjuring and its sequel being based on true events, this film is not based on any real historical events and is entirely fictional

An advertisement for the film was pulled from the video sharing site YouTube, as many users complained that the five second clip featuring a startling jumpscare was “too scary.” Administrators thus removed the ad and apologized, claiming that it was not their intention to publish content that may potentially “offend” or “shock” viewers. (And afterwards people were still seeing it apparently and super pissed. It is basically just a crazy jump scare which shouldn’t be pulled on unsuspecting people)

The film was originally set to hit cinemas in mid-July of 2018 but was pushed back closer to Halloween season on September 7, in hopes of doing as successful at the box office as It (2017) did last year, which smashed records and earned more than USD $700M. (It didn’t do quite that well, but it did do very well).

At the end of The Nun, a scene from The Conjuring (2013) is shown where Ed & Lorraine are performing an exorcism on Maurice. This scene links the Maurice from that video as being the same Maurice from The Nun, but they edited the scene to fit into the narrative of The Nun: they edited in Jonas Bloquet into the exorcism scene, as he used to be played by a different actor (Christof Veillon); they added in dialogue of Ed saying “they called him Frenchie”, so as to make a better connection. (Uh yeah … you can tell. It was pretty weak to be honest).

Valak is mentioned by name only once, when Father Burke looks into the abbey’s history. Everyone else refers to it as “the evil” or “the demon”.

The name Valak can be found in the upside pentagram all in uppercase. (I guess … Valac was a thing before these films, and spelled with a C, so that seems like a coincidence.)