Deliver Us From Evil

July 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn
Directed by: Scott Derrickson (“Sinister”)
Written by: Scott Derrickson (“Sinister”) and Paul Harris Boardman (“The Exorcism of Emily Rose”)

When it comes to horror films that dealing with demonic possession, it’s starting to get quite difficult to keep each movie separate when one contorting body looks like the other.

How diluted has the devil-made-me-do-to subgenre become, you ask? In just the last couple of years, titles like “The Devil Inside,” “The Last Exorcism Part II,” “Insidious: Chapter 2,” “The Possession,” “The Devil’s Due,” and even the torturously unfunny parody “A Haunted House” are only a small fraction of the movies that have taken the demon narrative and somehow stripped away everything that made films like 1968’s “Rosemary’s Baby” and 1973’s original “Exorcist” such classic stories audiences were actually afraid to see alone. Now, it feels like you can’t even spew a little pea soup on a studio lot without it hitting another Satan-fueled character crab-walking across the ceiling.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t change with “Deliver Us From Evil,” a cliché-ridden script that actually starts off with a slightly different kind of buzz before regressing into something as generic as it’s title would suggest. Unlike their past possession film “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” co-writers Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson (who is also the director) do nothing fresh with this specific tale like creating a court-room horror movie. Instead, the duo plays around with combining horror elements into a police procedural in hopes of creating something that resembles filmmaker David Fincher’s “Seven.” It doesn’t come close on any level.

In the film, Eric Bana (“Hulk”) stars as NYPD officer Ralph Sarchie who is investigating a series of paranormal events that begins with a call to the Bronx Zoo where a psychotic mother has tossed her infant son into the lion’s den. When the crime starts to connect to other horrible incidences around the city, Ralph teams up with a priest/demonologist, Father Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), to track down a possessed, dead-eyed ex-solider who is the cause of all the evil happening around NYC.

While the writers attempt to make Officer Sarchie a three-dimensional character by turning him into a faithless, absentee father and husband fighting the good fight (while also hallucinating Jim Morrison songs for some stupid reason), there’s still not nearly enough meat on this character to make him or the cases he’s investigating all that interesting. The script calls for Sarchie to have a comedy relief partner (Joel McHale) to lighten things up, but the character mostly wastes screentime when he is given two ridiculous scenes where he basically transforms into some kind of knife-wielding ninja. Even scenarios where Sarchie’s family (his wife is played by Olivia Munn) is affected by his work when their own house starts creeping their little girl out don’t create a tangible enough threat to worry that anything will happen to anyone of importance. It all makes for a very dull and unfrightening mix of low-rent cop drama and standard horror flick action that won’t do much to stand out from the other half dozen similar projects that are sure to rear their ugly heads soon enough.

Funny People

July 31, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann
Directed by: Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”)
Written by: Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”)

It’s been satisfying to watch the evolution of Adam Sandler over the last 15 years. While he started off as a mostly juvenile comedian whose popular five-year stint on “Saturday Night Live” propelled him into films like “Billy Madison,” “Happy Gilmore,” and “The Waterboy,” Sandler has grown into this oddly mature actor who is slowly learning that there is a lot more he can offer moviegoers than the jibber-jabber most mainstream fans flock to the theaters to see.

In “Funny People,” Sandler take a step forward in his career by taking a step back to recognize the fresh comedy that director Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”) has brought to Hollywood in the last few years. While Sandler’s best years are still ahead of him, it’s a testament to him as an actor to be receptive to the younger generation of talented showmen who are hungry for the same things he was at twenty-something years old.

Sandler continues working on his dramatic acting chops (although he’s already done a noteworthy job so far with films like “Reign Over Me,” “Spanglish,” and especially “Punch-Drunk Love”) by returning to where it all started for him as a performer back in the 80’s: stand-up comedy.

In “Funny People,” Sandler plays George Simmons, a famous comedic actor who has taken full advantage of his wealth and celebrity, but is still searching for that special something (or someone) to make him truly happy. George has to come to terms with the idea that this will never happen when he is diagnosed with a rare terminal disease and given an eight percent chance to live if he begins to take experimental drugs.

Along with fighting his illness, George starts focusing more on his stand-up routine. He immerses himself in the improv club lifestyle where up-and-comers are hoping to be discovered. When he hears a set by aspiring comedian Ira Wright (Seth Rogen), who shares an apartment with a pair of much more successful roommates (Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman), he hires him to write a few jokes for an upcoming corporate gig.

They’re business relationship soon turns more personal when George confides in Ira about his sickness and the regrets he has in life, the most specific being his breakup 11 years ago with Laura (Leslie Mann), the only woman who ever truly loved him.

Just as soon as George begins to accept the fact that his life will soon end, he is hit with an emotional blitz. The experimental drugs have cured him of his disease. “What the fuck do we do now?” George tells Ira as he tries to wrap his head around the miracle he is experiencing.

“Funny People” is a giant leap into something different for Apatow who knows how to combine vulgarities and compassion and have the outcome make sense. Here, he skirts the boundaries of inappropriateness with jokes about male genitalia (Apatow is probably one of the very few writers who can say 100 of these and make them all sound different) but never loses focus of the mature narrative he has crafted.

While the third act doesn’t really match the first part of the film thematically, Apatow attempts to make up for the lack of funny moments and muddled characterizations in the homestretch with an ambitious message about family, which doesn’t come across as totally realistic. Still, the imperfections in parts of the story are shadowed by the wittiness Apatow is known for. “Funny People” may not be his best film of the bunch, but it proves there’s plenty of reason to anticipate his next assertive move in the industry.

The Other Boleyn Girl

February 27, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Eric Bana, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Justin Chadwick (“Sleeping with the Fishes”)
Written by: Peter Morgan (“The Queen”)

Based on the novel by Phillipa Gregory, “The Other Boleyn Girl” gets all glamed up with nowhere to go for the same reasons as 2005’s “Memoirs of a Geisha.” All the literary pieces seem to be there in some fashion, but cinematically they evolve into a film less historically savvy and more melodramatic and unreal.

It is the early 16th century and King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) is growing weary of having to wait for his queen, Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent), to give birth to his heir to the throne. When her last pregnancy ends with a stillborn, the king ventures out to find a mistress to provide to him with a son.

He meets Anne Boleyn (Portman), a pretty daughter of the Boleyn family who is loosely connected to the royal court. Knowing this, the Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey), who is brother of Lady Elizabeth Boleyn (Kristin Scott Thomas), sees an opportunity for the family to take advantage of the power that would be bestowed upon them if King Henry were to choose Anne as his lover. “Would you accept the challenge?” the king asks Anne, as if she was about to enter some sort of sexual gauntlet.

Henry’s attention, however, is diverted to Mary (Johansson), the other Boleyn girl, who quickly strikes his fancy without doing much. But could a man actually come between Mary and Anne as it does in this instance? In the opening sequence, screenwriter Peter Morgan (“The Queen”) attempts to set up the idea that these two sisters are very close to one another. This thought is forgotten once both women flex their claws and do everything they can to seduce the king, who spends all of his time worrying about who he’s going to bed and no time actually doing anything a king would do.

Who believes Bana as the king anyway? He is a sore thumb and terribly miscast and Johansson, this generation’s most overrated actress, swoons enough for author Gregory’s next five novels. When she doesn’t, she situates herself behind simple dialogue and brilliant set design to blend into her surroundings. Only Portman, at least in the final act, is able to escape some of the formulaic scenes to prove there is actually blood pumping through one of the character in habiting the castle.

Still, there is direction missing in “Boleyn Girl,” which might not be so apparent if Morgan hadn’t written the script right after going on a Danielle Steele book-reading marathon. Where there should be passion there’s tacky love affairs. Where there should be strength from the crown, there’s a schoolboy crushing. Make no mistake about it, “The Other Boleyn Girl” will be an easy period piece to forget once the credits (and heads) roll.