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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Bling Ring (2013)

The Bling RingRelease Date: June 21, 2013Director: Sofia CoppolaStars: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma WatsonRuntime: 90 min.

“The Bling Ring” completes the trio of 2013 social commentaries on the stupidity of the human race. The first is “Spring Breakers”, Harmony Kormine’s reality check for today’s youth, and the way that their decisions on their spraaaang breaaaak vacation will have consequences. The second is Michael Bay’s true-crime movie, “Pain & Gain” that expressed how far people are willing to go to achieve the American dream. I love both of those movies, because they’re entertaining and well-written. The same can be said about Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring”, even if it is my least favourite of the three.

Inspired by actual events (occuring between 2008 and 2009), a group of fame-obsessed teenagers use the internet to track celebrities’ whereabouts in order to rob their homes.

“The Bling Ring” highlights the stupidity of some younger people and their obsession with fame, and their want to experience the celebrity lifestyle. This movie is fascinating. It shows the stupidity of people because the characters who do the robbing fail to wear gloves, so they’re just smothering their fingertips all over the house. Smart thinking, right? They also use all the slang of today’s youth – grimy (meaning dirty), lates (instead of later), and totes (instead of totally) – which isn’t exactly an ode to the intelligence of my generation, but I guess it is how we talk. (I, for one, try my hardest to keep my language formal – even if I am guilty of dropping the occasional ‘Just chillin’.) But that’s just the point of these characters: They’re dumb.

One shows enough remorse, but they’re dumb for stealing merchandise, and not knowing how to keep their mouths shout about it. I guess they’re clever enough to steal merchandise the celebrities wouldn’t notice is missing, for awhile. That also just indicates how off the wall consumer society today is, and how much we own that we don’t actually use. It’s also insane how everything is on the internet now, and it’s surprising how easy one could find a celebrities’ home by just searching for it on Google. The kids aren’t the only stupid ones; as it’s truly hard to believe how many celebrities leave their doors unlocked, and don’t bother to use an alarm when they’re out of town.

Even though most of these characters are stupid, they are intriguing. Rebecca (Katie Chang) is the sociopathic ring leader of the group. Mark (Israel Broussard) is the best written of the group, because he’s one of the only almost appealing characters of the gang of criminals. He’s a trendy guy who knows the difference between Muumuu and Prada. (What the f*ck is a Muumuu?!). He’s only ever found one true best friend. He’s unfortunate enough that the one person is Rebecca, and that is his motivation for going along with the crimes.

The real scene-stealer here is Emma Watson, who is hilarious as Nicki. Her performance is truly impressive, and you cannot hear a trace of a British accent in her prissy, stuck-up, L.A. dialect.  The director, Sofia Coppola, really knows how to get laughs out of the audience. One scene has Watson saying “I wanna rob”, and it immediately cuts to a scene of her saying “I just went along with it” (or something like that). It’s such a simple, but effectively genuine way to get a big laugh out of the audience. It’s also funny Nicki is being interviewed, and has to constantly tell her Mom (Leslie Mann) to shut up because it’s her interview. (Her Mom seems to just love fame as much as her daughter, because included in her home-schooling curriculum is a class called ‘Celebrity Role Models’.)

The casting is truly spot-on, because the primary cast is mostly made up of great, but generally unknown, actors (Katie Chang; Claire Julien; Israel Broussard in his first leading role). The casting is clever because well-known celebrities playing fame-obsessed characters seems far-fetched. Leslie Mann is a well-known actress, but she isn’t part of the group. Your eyes might go to Taissa Farmiga, because she’s a great performer who steals a few scenes, and she is a spitting image of her much older sister, Vera Farmiga. (Was anyone else reminded of “Spring Breakers” when she had that gun in her hands?) Emma Watson is inarguably the best known of the primary gang, but her character is supposed to be played by a celebrity, as some of the character’s lines are delivered like a true celebrity. Plus, she’s only a supporting character and she’s freaking hysterical. (If her a character like hers really did “rule a country one day”, I’d be so done with the human race.) Your eyes will probably keep going to Emma Watson because she’s as great as ever, and her character is well-written. Even though she is stuck up (that’s the point of her), she’s very amusing. She believes in Karma and believes this is a learning experience for her, and she seems destined for celebrity life.

Ms. Sofia Coppola really knows how to handle this screenplay. Her style, the cinematography, the movie’s sense of realism, and the energy makes the movie more appealing than it might be in any other director’s hands. I dig her style, and this is my first experience with the director. Although, I’m not sure how entertaining I’d call one specific scene with Mark trying on lipstick and dancing in front of a camera for a minute or two. If it were Emma Watson doing that instead, I would not be thinking that the young man would grow up to be Buffalo Bill from “The Silence of the Lambs”. (Seriously, you’ll be waiting for him to put on a robe, turn around and say, “I’d so f*ck me.”) This film is a fascinating true-crime tale, and its analysis of obsession with celebrity life and fame is endlessly intriguing. The memorable performances and the film’s energy makes me want to watch it again in the future. It’s well-written, often compelling, and a great adaptation of the article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins”. (What the hell are Louboutins?!)

Score80/100

The Great Gatsby (2013)

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby

Release Date: May 10, 2013

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Tobey Maguire

Runtime: 143 min

An astounding adaptation of a novel is rare. Some notable greats include The Silence of the Lambs, Fight Club, and recently, Life of Pi. There are bad ones, like every other Stephen King adaptation (that isn’t handled by acclaimed directors or starring great actors). The newest book-to-movie adaptation is of The Great Gatsby, where Baz Luhrmann decides to stay faithful to the source material, and this turns out to be a great adaptation of a highly-acclaimed book.

Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is a Midwestern war veteran who moves to Long Island, and he soon becomes attracted to the past and lifestyle of his millionaire neighbour, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Luhrmann takes a unique stylish approach to the source material, and there’s enough substance to keep movie-goers satisfied. The odd scene feels empty and rings dull. This is most notably the interaction at the barbershop between Wolfsheim, Gatsby and Carraway. The audience does the feel the emotions they’re supposed to feel, and they become invested in the few characters (Gatsby, Carraway) that are actually likeable.  The symbols of the Green Light and the Eyes of of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg are significant enough to the story, that they begin to become characters in themselves; and they begin to feel more likeable than some of the characters. Luhrmann achieves his fantastic vision, while still keeping Fitzgerald’s classic themes – love, hope, dreams, the past, wealth, prosperity, the American dream – intact.

Simultaneously, he achieves the Fitzgerald-like vision, and I think F. Scott Fitzgerald would approve of this if he were alive. I like to think I comprehend the cultural significance of the source novel, even if it is a boring book. I’d rather re-visit this movie and not the book, and that might be because I think listening to big words is easier than reading them. The movie is just as slow as the book itself, but if it were any quicker, it would feel rushed. A rushed movie wouldn’t leave such a lasting impression. It’s a great adaptation because the viewer feels the same way as if they were actually reading the novel. The thought-provoking feature is handled so well and it is very well-made. It’s always intelligent and rarely boring. If one reads the novel, there’s no way they could imagine set pieces so lavish and magnificent as this. I think this is quite the great achievement.

The extravagant set pieces, production design and costume design truly capture the essence of the 1920’s. This movie will make you fall in love with the time period all over again. The contemporary music surprisingly fits the amazing parties that are thrown, as well as the movie’s style. The contrast between the rich lifestyle of Long Island and the slum-like lifestyle of the Valley of Ashes is fascinating.

The introduction of each character is refreshing, and each star captures the significance and mystery of each character. The cast is a great ensemble. Joel Edgerton brings some fine intensity and spot-on arrogance to the despicable Tom Buchanan. If there’s any role to make Edgerton a household name, it’s this one. Jason Clarke and Isla Fisher are the right choices to capture the poor, paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle of the 1920s, as George and Myrtle Wilson, respectively. Elizabeth Debicki rocks her big feature film debut as Jordan Baker. Carey Mulligan (who is almost always fantastic) is delicate and stunning as the irritating Daisy Buchanan, but she really embraces the foolishness of the character, and she performs superbly.

Tobey Maguire is adequate as Nick Carraway. He’s the character that has to keep everyone’s secrets. Maguire’s range of emotions isn’t wide. There’s some obvious emotions of regret, contempt and anxiety when he’s writing about Gatsby; and he always seems intrigued and in awe in Gatsby’s presence. He’s a better presence when he is narrating. The pairing of Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio reminds me of the Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman pair of The Shawshank Redemption. Everyone will praise the latter, and the former will get the shorter end of the stick. Every person who walks out of the theatre will be discussing the latter performer first.

DiCaprio truly captures the essence of Gatsby, a man of hope, of mystery, and delicacy, a man who rose from ashes to be, like Jack Dawson of Titanic, “king of the world”. He is an intriguing character, it just feels right to hear DiCaprio say “old sport” so much in one movie. After watching this great man portray Gatsby, it’s hard to imagine anyone other actor in the role. He gives one hell of a performance, and he is one of the best things about the film. He draws the viewers into the picture more; and the movie truly takes flight right when the essential introduction of the mystery host comes about. It’s really a refreshing introduction to an intriguing character.

Luhrmann surprisingly stays faithful to the novel. He maintains the intelligent themes, takes some really boring material out, and throws some fresh material in. The movie is long and it feels that way, but everything unfolds in a visually compelling way. It’s rarely boring, and Luhrmann truly makes classic literature feel sexy. The utilization of 3D makes the sets even cooler, and it feels like it adds a whole new layer. This is a very good adaptation of a novel hailed as one of literature’s greatest books and tragedies; but sadly, and unsurprisingly, it doesn’t translate into one of cinema’s greatest films.

82/100

Psycho – A film review by Daniel Prinn – Twelve cabins, twelve vacancies!

Psycho

Release Date: September 8, 1960

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Stars: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles

Runtime: 109 min

Tagline: The Essential Alfred Hitchcock.

 

Words cannot express well enough how impressed I was by this film; it has so many great aspects to it.

Marion Crane is a beautiful blonde who just stole forty thousand dollars from her employer, and she sets on a road trip to be with her lover a few towns over. She stops at the Bates Motel, where she meets a young quiet man, Norman Bates, who seems to be dominated by his wicked mother.

This was the first film that I saw from Alfred Hitchcock, and I loved the film so much it encouraged me to check out a lot of his other features, and a lot remain on my watch list. It’s one of my favourite horror/thriller experiences of older cinema.

The film doesn’t rely on things that pop out for scares (but there are a few effective scares that made me jump), but its eerie material is what makes it the most terrifying.

A great horror/thriller with a few big scares, huge twists and turns, and a great sound to accompany it all. It’s just difficult not to be entertained by this film; from the beginning, it held my attention tight and never let go until the end credits, and it’s a movie that is truly unforgettable.

It’s effective and disturbing, this is the first and one of the greatest slasher flicks ever made, and is my favourite Hitchcock film.

*SPOILER ALERT, IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THIS FILM KEEP OUT.*

This film has one of the most famous scenes in cinema: the shower scene. It’s one of the reasons why I have to shower with the door locked, the idea of someone coming from behind and attacking me while I’m all vulnerable in the shower spooks the heck out of me.

Norman Bates has a comfortable Number Two spot on AFI’s Top 50 Film Villains, which is very deserving. He really is quite twisted and is a very disturbed character. He lost the number one spot to Hannibal Lecter, which I agree with because he’s a great villain. It’s a little funny, as both the actors that portray these two characters have the same name: Anthony (Perkins as Norman Bates in this and Hopkins as Hannibal ‘The Cannibal’ Lecter in Silence of the Lambs).

Bates really doesn’t display his true colours until the end of the film, with a truly haunting monologue, but the second watch around – you’ll see how spooky Norman really is in the beginning of the flick.

*END OF SPOILERS*

 The film stars Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Marvin Balsam, and John McIntire.

Hitchcock brings his usual great direction to this one.

It’s a film that it was correctly chosen to be in black and white, it wouldn’t have been quite as spooky if it was in colour.

It’s an unforgettable and entertaining film experience, which is still discussed to this day, and is about as must-see as horror films get. Horror and thriller fanatics check this out. Even if you don’t like black and white films, still check it out. If you watch one horror film in your life (I don’t see  how you could personally), this one is an extremely strong contender of what that one film should be.

 

100/100