Monday, July 30, 2012

The Devil Inside

I decided to watch this film in spite of overwhelmingly negative press and reviews.  I enjoy 'found footage' most of the time, but this was almost a pseudo-documentary.  In 1989 (they had HD cameras back then) Maria Rossi murdered three people while they were performing an exorcism on her.  She was then committed due to insanity to South Hartford State Asylum, finally being relocated to Vatican City.  How convenient.  Some twenty years later, her daughter Isabella and a filmmaker named Michael set out to discover the truth about her mother and find out if she is possessed by the devil.  She goes to the Vatican School of Exorcism and meets two priests, Father Ben and Father David, and they agree to let her witness a true exorcism. 

Before I continue, I know the scene was supposed to be scary and unsettling.  There were multiple cameras, quick cuts, static and blurring...these effects just don't make a movie scary.  The camera work was well done when compared to other contemporaries, but in order to stand out there needs to be more.  The shouting in multiple languages and knowing Isabella's name were nice touches but still didn't do it for me. I'll continue.

After the successful removal of a demon, the priests feel ready to attempt the same with Maria Rossi.  Isabella visits her mother and finds she is erratic and unfocused.  She has carved crosses into her arms and lip, and also speaks in multiple accents (which is mentioned at least three times in the film, so the director really wanted to make that point) before she lets out a blood-curdling scream.  She didn't seem overly demonic or evil, more toying with Isabella, to the point of calling her a murderer for having an abortion at some point in the past.  When the exorcism is ready to happen,  Father David starts to fall apart.  He has growing fears that he will lose his position at the church, as such acts aren't sanctioned without significant proof.  He decides to go on with the exorcism, and the film's 'big' scene begins.  Maria continues her mocking of the group, calling out Ben for things he had done in the past and again talking about Isabella's abortion.  She lets out another fantastic scream and breaks free of her restraints, attacking Ben and David before being subdued.  The scene suffers from the same camera shots used earlier but still maintains a decent pace, making a more dramatic exorcism scene.              

The recordings are presented to the church as evidence, and as Ben plays some of the audio over and over, David seems to react. They discover that Maria is not possessed by one demon, but four.  This didn't deliver the shocking twist that I imagine the film was shooting for.  Suddenly, David says he must leave to perform a baptism and Mark says he will join and film it.  Convenient.  During a seemingly normal procedure, David begins to mumble and stare right into the camera.  He then holds the baby underwater, not releasing until some of the crowd rushes him.  At this point, I realize that the discovery of multiple demons will probably lead to the main characters getting possessed.  It's just obvious.  Moving on, the next scene finds Ben seeing David and the wounds he has inflicted on himself.  Police enter the room and David grabs a pistol from an officer and threatens to kill himself.  Ben cries out to him, hoping to reason with the demon inside but to no avail.  David recites the Lord's Prayer and near the end blows his head off.  The instant he hits the ground, Isabella starts to convulse and Ben figures she is possessed now as well.  

The finale takes us to a hospital where Isabella has just been admitted.  When the camera finds her room, a nurse is covered in blood spewing from her neck as Isabella attacks her.  Ben and Michael take her and they drive off, Ben hoping he can release this demon as well.  The demon is very repetitive, as once again an act he committed in the past is mentioned and he is attacked. Michael loses control of the car and Isabella breathes into his mouth, immediately showing signs of being possessed himself.  He speeds into oncoming traffic and the next few seconds are dark with scenes of the car spinning and their bodies crashing about. The film comes to its conclusion here, with no resolution and the three characters likely dead.  Text reads the case is still unsolved and directs to a tie-in viral site with more information.  

It's hard to say much about this film that casts it in a good light.  There are interesting scenes but they either have no setup or go nowhere.  The widely panned ending is such a letdown, it's clear that all stops were out as the demons jumped to all of our characters but that stopped abruptly with the crash.  I'm all for most of a cast dying, but give us something.  The only death that had weight was David's and only because we had a few moments of setup.  This could have been an enjoyable film, but the focus was on replicating something already done and little would have been added, even if it found success.  

The character of Maria was the standout of this film and Suzan Crowley did an excellent job of being genuinely weird and unsettling.  The times she would scream were a treat and possibly just because I don't really see 'possessed' characters just act weird as hell.  It was a good move, and if I get real serious about the subject, biblically demons would mock those around them in an attempt to discourage continued attempts.  -Also see The Exorcist, haha.  Exorcism scenes are starting to become stale although one could say they were as soon as religious horror became the flavor.  The establishing scenes with these characters are what I relish and that's the positive I will give.  I hate that another good idea was ruined with poor execution and wasted talent.  


Friday, July 27, 2012

The Raid: Redemption

I finally, after nearly a year of waiting, have watched The Raid.   Not the true original cut which is titled 'Serbuan Maut', but the Sony Pictures edition.  Only difference I have been able to find other than the title is the score, by Mike Shinoda and Joseph Trapanese.  I can't imagine a more appropriate soundtrack, just to be clear.  This is, aside from the opening scenes, literally a one-set picture.  My only real concern with a film this ambitious is how can there be the slightest hint of character development or story?  I was very surprised at what took place and there's a twist that I didn't see coming for a second.  The plot revolves around a SWAT team, led by Sgt. Jaka infiltrating a drug lord's apartment building in Jakarta and to my surprise, our main character is a rookie cop named Rama.  The lord, Tama Riyadi, is known to have two bodyguards names Andi and 'Mad Dog' and countless others inside.  Once they open the doors, it's non-stop action for the duration.  

When a boy spots the team and alerts the guards of their arrival, carnage immediately ensues.  As the team slowly makes their way through the building, they have no idea the opposition is already in place.  They are soon ravaged by gunfire and the 20-man team is decreasing rapidly.  They soon realize that the odds are stacked against them tremendously, as their support on the ground is killed and now they are trapped inside.  An announcement over the loudspeaker offering sanctuary to those that are successful in killing any cops brings nearly the whole building into the mix.  We learn that this whole operation has been monitored on the 15th floor by our antagonist, leading to questions of how this operation was intended to succeed - a detail that I won't spoil.   As our now small and wounded police team are running out of bullets, the tone switches and hand-to-hand combat becomes the focus of the film.  I loved this plot point, so often in action films the 'good guys' have an unlimited supply of ammo and this makes the film much more realistic and gripping.  So many creative attacks and props are used to make one the scenes brutal and full of impact.  Men are thrown out of windows, stabbed violently, limbs broken and this is often in close-up shots.  I will say that the knife fighting choreography is the best I've ever seen.  

I want to talk more about the specific scenes but this is a film I can't allow myself to spoil.  Part of the excitement I had watching this is not knowing a lot about it, other than the basic plot.  The story does evolve as a relationship between an officer and one of the attackers is revealed, this took the film in a different direction than I expected.  'Mad Dog' has two fantastic fight scenes, including the vicious finale battle where he takes on two men.  I was on the edge of my seat since in this film, nobody is immortal and anyone can die at any point.  Gareth Evans has created something spectacular in making one of the best pure action films I've ever had the pleasure of watching.  It pulls no punches with the gore and brutality that Hollywood has taken from mainstream films and manages to tie a great (albeit small) story in as well.  Going into this review I hoped to tell enough to make people interested and leave enough to keep it fresh and exciting.  Hope I did that, thanks for reading.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (From IMDb)

This is my IMDb review of TDKR.  Wanted to have it somewhere else, seeing as there are nearly a thousand reviews on there already.  Originally posted at

To begin, I was really nervous about this film. Ending a trilogy, bringing in a new villain with Bane, a major new character with Selina Kyle, and an original character/sidekick in John Blake all within three hours. That's a daunting task for any director, Nolan or otherwise. I won't touch on every character or scene, just the ones that stood out the most to me. The shots are wide and grand, some scenes playing out with little to no score - a move that gives complete focus to the screen. The opening with Bane's arrival had me on the edge of my seat. Tom Hardy played the character as few could, showing a strong physique and unquestionable mannerisms. Bane's voice (a source of debate) was unique and brought a different edge to the antagonist. I knew watching this character that he could - and would kill or main anyone in his path and also had the brain to create plans on a massive scale. Selina Kyle is a very welcome addition to the film. Anne Hathaway with her sly personality and actions created a very good character, but the 'suit' scenes were the weak point of her performance I feel. I hoped Catwoman wouldn't be the major focus and I was pleased, she was a burglar, not a superhero. That, actually, is what I feared the most. Adding two companions to Batman's already strong group with Alfred and Gordon could easily dull their screen time. Gary Oldman once again brought a very emotional and strong role. With Gordon being taken out and staying in the background for most of the duration seemed to add weight to his performance. Alfred was placed in a similar role, doing a fantastic job of bringing the tears when he was in the frame. Michael Caine has proved himself to be a master actor, and even in a small role he brings a presence that only he can. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in a very good showing as John Blake, though how certain he was that Wayne was Batman struck me as a little off. For Gordon not to know with large amounts of face time between both sides of Wayne and Blake to know wasn't badly written, just made Blake look exceptionally sharp. Which is likely how the character was intended to be. I did buy him as both an officer and a detective, as did Batman, who took him in almost immediately. I liked their banter and even though the character wasn't 'Robin' as seen in the comics, he was a fitting helper to Batman and one that had his trust. Blake had a triumphant final act, as he was charged to save as many citizens as possible while facing military opposition. Levitt was the standout in a stacked film, as his character gained strength as the film went on. The finale, while in reality three separate endings, was his shining moment. What better compliment to the strength of an actor than to (presumably) place him in line for the next film? Of course, the direction of the franchise remains to be seen and it wouldn't shock me if this canon was disregarded completely. I hope that doesn't happen. The action scenes, especially the fights between Batman and Bane, are jarring and large. That's the moment I wanted to see, and it came much earlier than I expected. The epic showdown between the stars. The nods to Bane's actions in the Knightfall storyline - using Wayne's long layoff being the catalyst for his failing to succeed, goading Batman into a fight he wasn't ready for - these provided the same feeling I had reading issue #497 some nineteen years ago. I felt the time Wayne spent in the prison was a bit bloated, I know that he needed to rehab his back and literally climb out of hell but it did take some time. That's my only real issue with the film, the five months that Bane ruled the city and Wayne suffered in prison seemed lacking as there was no pressing of time. Wayne is successful in making the impossible climb and as he suddenly - and without any type of explanation - reappears in Gotham, the time scale materializes. The final act simply didn't have it for me. Miranda Tate's sudden turn and quick demise did nothing for me, which is why I haven't mentioned her character. Marion Cotillard was fine in her role, but her character disappeared suddenly and I was forced to embrace this new role and back story without the time to fully accept it. By the time I did, she was gone. Batman's ending made sense by the forced ending of a trilogy. Killing two characters while giving a suitable explanation as to how Wayne survived was okay, I had a lingering feeling throughout that Bale would not truly die. Didn't seem appropriate. The act gave Batman brought his credibility to a wounded city, while I assume Wayne would not be mentioned again. Bane's death was anticlimactic, he was moments away from killing Batman when Kyle silently drove up and shot him. The blast would have killed anyone, so instead of an epic end to the villain he was just quickly disposed of. These small issues I had with the film did nothing to lessen its impact, my eyes were glued to the screen both the first and second viewings. For the final film in a trilogy, the plot points were nicely wrapped up and new characters successfully introduced and ended. At the base level, the film is very complete. I have jumped around in my review but in closing, I loved nearly every moment and am fully happy by what I saw. The actors couldn't have been better, Bale is Batman. For all I'm concerned he will be Batman.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Failure and Triumph.

I suppose it's obvious that my keeping up of this blog has failed.  I started strong and fully realized the issue early on:  I wanted to start a blog/channel reviewing my favorite genre.  What's the problem with this?  The films that demand reviewing have already been watched.  I withheld that information from you all, the critical bit that I wanted to be watching the films for the first time then reviewing.  Why did I settle for this's not productive.  I have probably two hundred horror films, a hundred shock and gore films...I've watched most.  Also in this time period my wife and I have moved.  We have (mostly me but she's joining) been thinking about our health.  I'm overweight and have a family full of medical issues.  Priority hasn't been in watching films, much less the reviewing of them.  I have taken a month off from gaming and I have several days off the next couple of weeks.  My promise to you is that I will watch films, both new and old.  I will type and I will record.  I never cared how many views I had.  That wasn't the point.  I just want to share my passion.  Thanks for reading and watching, things will start happening again.