Deliver Us From Evil (2014)

Deliver Us From EvilReleased: July 2, 2014. Directed by: Scott Derrickson. Starring: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn. Runtime: 118 min.

Director Scott Derrickson brings the same eerie style to his latest film “Deliver Us From Evil” as he did with “Sinister”, even though this is the more basic of the two, without the same heart-pounding effectiveness. Early on, the scares rely heavily on creepy crawlies and scares from hyperactive animals. This choice for atmosphere doesn’t enable any ability to differentiate itself from “The Silence of the Lambs”, until it gets into the story.

The competent mystery begins in Iraq with a small army group who find a cave with odd inscriptions. This leads to 1990s New York where the real-life Sergeant Ralph Sarchie resides. A passionate detective, Sarchie is deeply affected by the abuse of children – it is established early on. The mystery starts when a seemingly insane woman Jane (Olivia Horton) throws her two-year-old baby in the lion’s den at the local zoo. Sarchie is sent on an awry journey and first-hand encounters with malicious evil, and makes him want to find out why a woman with no previous criminal record just lost her mind.

Basic horror film scares can be found in this film: creepy crawlies, strange noises from the basement, weird static, children’s laughter, and children’s toys that come to life. Latin inscriptions might make you expect a basic exorcism film and the long-run, and that’s what is delivered. Some aspects of the mystery are intriguing, particularly the repetition of lyrics from a song by The Doors (“Shut the door, the damn door”). The film, running nearly two hours, is too long for something this basic and something that delivers only a few intense sequences and a creepy atmosphere.

What does set this apart is a sensitive performance from Eric Bana; as he truly captures the essence of Sarchie, who cares deeply for others, even if he is not the best at showing it. By being so dedicated to his community, he neglects to spend time with his family (Olivia Munn isn’t notable as his wife). This is an enjoyable aspect. This is a movie that’s about how people can be affected by secondary evil, and the effects it has on them. Sarchie has been deeply impacted by this kind-of evil, but is now experiencing a whole other type of evil, a primary evil that sometimes can’t be explained. Many of these concepts are brought up by a priest named Mendova (Edgar Ramirez), a heroin addict who found God.

One good thing about this film: This is Joel McHale’s first truly enjoyable film role. He’s been playing jerks since his days of TV’s “Community” and that’s the only place it has previously been effective. This time he plays a mildly likeable character, and perhaps action or horror films might be his calling in the movies.

Score: 63/100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blended (2014)

BlendedReleased: May 23, 2014. Directed by: Frank Coraci. Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Wendi McLendon-Covey. Runtime: 117 min.

Adam Sandler and co bring us a rom-com that’s heavy on the romance, light on the comedy. Six or seven good laughs throughout the feature is no impressive feat, but is okay for Sandler’s current streak, considering six laughs is around my personal combined tally for how many times I laughed during That’s My Boy, Jack and JillGrown Ups 2 and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. You could say the film is funny on occasion. Sandler portrays Jim, a family guy with no wife and three daughters. He goes on an awful blind date with Lauren (Drew Barrymore), as his first attempt at dating since his wife passed. When Lauren’s best friend Jen (Wendi McLendon-Covey) breaks off her relationship with Jim’s boss, Lauren pounces at the opportunity to take her kids to Africa. Jim does too, and the trip is conveniently a getaway just for blended families! 

Blended is pretty much Just Go With It with a twist: the characters hate each other at first, but everyone’s still just bonding on vacation in an exotic place. Writers Ivan Menchell bring so many components of Sandler’s previous films to get Blended, which is a film that just steals from stronger movies. At least Sandler knows what works to still get work. Some of the laughs that hit are amusing song choices, at least when they’re not completely obvious. Before I get onto what jokes do work, I’ll say what doesn’t make this a family-friendly movie. There are so many sex jokes and some of this is just plain gross. Some of it’s even worse than a deer pissing on Sandler’s face in Grown Ups 2. Take this for example: A giraffe’s very long tongue goes down a character’s throat, practically, when a character is going in for the kiss. This abysmal attempt at comedy is cringe-worthy.  

What work best are some cameos and bit roles. Shaquille O’Neal shows up in a not that funny cameo, because his acting is as strong as his free throwing ability. Terry Crews constantly shows up to sing a song about blended families and whatever else is on the caricature’s mind. He is funny at first, but the film gets a bit desperate to use him so many times during the film. It’s somehow amusing on a minor level throughout, even after his signature titty dance. It’s partly due to his energy, and partly due to the fact that the film gets boring and energy is welcome. I’ll keep the most amusing cameo under wraps. 

It seems to me that Sandler is trying to get laughs by channeling aspects of his comedies that have worked in the past. I counted seven occasions where characters channel aspects from his other films. I guess if it works, many people won’t notice – but those who do, it’s going to seem a bit lazy. Sandler brings slapstick humour and adult-oriented jokes that get the bigger laughs, while parents will think “As if this looked family-friendly.” Kevin Nealon portrays one half of a strange Canadian couple. He channels his character from Happy Gilmore at times. His wife is a bimbo named Ginger; a character who doesn’t get one laugh. She shimmies a lot, which makes Lauren’s eldest son Brandon horny. 

He’s a walking joke; as he resembles Frodo, he’s a masturbating fiend, and he calls his mom hot on two occasions – which might be a subconscious reason for his hostility against Jim. I detect an Oedipus complex. Lauren’s other son Tyler is a temperamental kid who might only have few lonely brain cells left, due to the amount of times his mother hits his head on walls in one week’s span. Barrymore can’t save this because she gets only about two laughs. Her chemistry with Sandler is only able to give audiences so much enjoyment because it’s gotten old. It also doesn’t help that they don’t like each other for the first half. Wendi McLendon-Covey is cast in a lame sidekick role where she can’t exhibit much talent, and Joel McHale portrays Lauren’s ex. He’s been largely unfunny in every film I’ve seen him in thus far. I think he’s funny on TV’s Community, but now that it’s been cancelled – he needs to be picking stronger roles to star in, now more than ever. His schtick seems to be asshole characters, but he’s just not funny as them. 

Bella Thorne’s character Hilary is a tomboy who only sportswear and is nicknamed Larry by her father. Can you tell he wanted a boy? She experiences an ugly duckling arc, which isn’t believable because even with that hideous curly bowl cut wig, she’s still mildly pretty. Put some extensions on her and slap on some make-up, and wow, she now has confidence because no one will mistake her for a boy or an ugly lesbian! The song choices for her transformation are obvious and just not that funny. Sandler’s middle daughter Espn (idiotically named after his favourite network ESPN) has a strange arc: She carries on conversations with her dead mom. Emma Fuhrmann’s performance helps it ring true occasionally, and it adds sincerity to the film, but it’s weird throughout. I guess there’s a big problem when the weird girl’s arc is the strongest. 

Elsewhere, there is sporadic sweetness in the film – but the film’s attempt to tackle realities of today’s day and age are forgettable, and the writers stretch it when they attempt to show that even in nature, families are blended. (A tiger and lion proceed to eat a baby hippo.) For Blended, predictable is fiercely boring and all the extraneous crap makes this run at nearly two hours. Films like these just shouldn’t be that long, unless it’s entertaining.

Score: 45/100

Celebrity Birthdays: October 8 – 14

Chevy Chase (October 8)

Happy 69th birthday to Chevy Chase who is probably best known for his role in National Lampoon’s Vacation films as Clark Griswold. He’s also well known for his improvisational role of Ty Webb in 1980’s Caddyshack. Nowadays he appears on the NBC comedy TV Series Community, as the racist, clueless, offensive, rich and often hilarious Pierce Hawthorne. What’s your favourite Chevy Chase movie or TV role, and favourite movie featuring him? My favourite roles portrayed by Chase are Ty Webb in Caddyshack, and his role as Pierce Hawthorne, on Community,  is a close second. My favourite films featuring Chase are 1) Caddyshack as Ty Webb and; 2) Hot Tub Time Machine as the hysterical Repairman and;  3) Snow Day as Tom Brandston, the weatherman.Though, I’ve only seen four of his films. The fourth is Zoom, but frankly, who truly enjoys that one? I’d count one of the Vacation films, but I can’t remember which one I’d seen…

Matt Damon (October 8)

Happy 42nd birthday to Matt Damon, star of The Bourne trilogy, Good Will Hunting, and The Departed. I won’t go into what my favourite Damon flicks are because I haven’t seen a lot of his work to judge. But what I have seen him in, I can say that he evidently has great talent.

Sigourney Weaver (October 8)

Happy 63rd birthday to Mrs. Sigourney Weaver. Weaver is sort of just an extraordinary Queen of Science Fiction/Horror. She is the star of the Alien series as Ellen Ripley. Unfortunately, I have not seen those films at all yet. She has also been in Ghostbusters and Avatar. I’ve only seen three of her films that she has a primary role in, and they are ranked: 1) Holes as Warden Walker; 2) Avatar as Grace and; 3) Ghostbusters as Dana Barrett.

David Morse (October 11)

Happy 59th birthday to David Morse, who is best known for The Green Mile, Contact, The Hurt Locker and The Rock. He’s a great and diverse actor that can be creepy in films like Disturbia and touching in films like The Green Mile. I really love the work that I have seen him in. He has been nominated for two Primetime Emmys for his work in the TV miniseries John Adams and House. My favourite films featuring him are: 1) The Green Mile, as Brutus ‘Brutal’ Howell; 2) Disturbia as the creepy Mr. Turner and; 3) The Hurt Locker as Colonel Reed (who got about two minutes of screen time).

Hugh Jackman (October 12)

Happy 44th birthday to Hugh Jackman, an Australian born actor who is best known for his role in The Prestige and as Logan/Wolverine in the X-Men series. My favourite role is him in The Prestige. That’s really the only stuff I’ve seen him in.

Sacha Baron Cohen (October 13)

Happy 41st birthday to Sacha Baron Cohen, who is the creator of great characters such as Borat, Ali G, most recently Aladeen from The Dictator, and then there was Bruno. He is often very hysterical, and has even gotten an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay for Borat. My favourite Cohen character is definitely, without any question, Borat. He’s freaking hysterical. My favourite films featuring Cohen are: 1) Borat, where he played the titular character and; 2) Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, where he played Jean Girard and; 3) Madagascar where he voices the hilarious Madagascar lemur, King Julien.

Other Birthdays: Oct. 10, Aimee Teegarden (23). Oct. 11, Michelle Trachtenberg (27). Oct. 11, Joan Cusack (50). Oct. 12, Josh Hutcherson (20). Oct. 14, Roger Moore (85). Oct. 14, Mia Wasikowska (23).

So, what do you guys think of one of my newest features? And who is your favourite actor/actress on this talented list?

My reviews of films they have starred in: 

Sigourney Weaver: Holes (2003)

David Morse: Disturbia  (2007)

Joan Cusack: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Josh Hutcherson: The Hunger Games (2012)