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"The Devil Inside" (2012)
Directed by William Brent Bell
Starring Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth
Running Time 87 Minutes, Rated R.
1.5 Mitch's out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com
It wouldn't be January without dreadful excuses for film like "The Devil Inside". 2012's first wide release follows the template for the annual exorcism release. Lord have mercy on us all for watching this would be horror film that has more unintentional laughs than intentional scares.
A ridiculous disclaimer is given at the beginning saying that this film is not endorsed by the Vatican. Didn't know that the Holy See was in the business of endorsing horror films, along with any other films for that matter, but good for them for trying to distance themselves as far away as possible. Writer/director William Bent Bell of "The Devil Inside" chooses the path of sloth with this lazy overdone found footage and fake documentary route. Exorcism films are an easy median to manipulate the viewer for scares, but besides a few chills, the film is possessed by poor editing, plenty of coo-koo script choices, and some truly awful acting.
Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrande) travels to Rome to visit her mother Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley) for the first time in twenty years who was institutionalized for killing three people after a botched exorcism. Along for the ride is Mike the camera man to document Isabella's journey that Ionut Grama cringly acts out as if he was a "Real World" contestant. Isabella befriend's Ben (Simon Quarterman) and Simon (Evan Helmuth), two rogue priests who'll remove demons when permission isn't granted. One of the bigger "that'd never happen" moments is when the screenplay has Ben and Simon inviting Isabella, someone they've known for a day, along with Mike and his camera to record all the Church's laws that they are in violation of by taking them out to one of their exorcisms.
As the film drudges along, William Brent Bell inexplicably chooses not to resolve many of the exposition he set up so early along. What about Isabella's terminated pregnancy, what about the mysterious death of Father Ben's uncle, and what the heck about the films main focal point Maria Rossi? Maria's multiple possessions are left with a whimper along with an ending that chooses not just to end but come to a complete halt, basically just giving up. As the credits rolled, the theater eye's collectively rolled. It's been told the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was people making crappy movies with his name in it.
"The Artist" (2011)
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius
Starring Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman
Running Time 100 Minutes, Rated PG-13
4.5 Mitch's out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com
"The Artist" is a fantastic film achievement. A black and white silent film shown in Academy aspect ratio (4:3) that is no gimmick but an endearingly joyous movie that somehow transports you to 1920's cinema house. I'm not going to give you a pretentious speech about how when I the movies in the 20's and the 30's that I went to are the only true cinema, one- cause that would be impossible and b- that's not true. Fortunately, for us neither would Parisian born director Michel Hazanavicius. Hazanavicius doesn't go this route to cater to the art-house public and award voters but because he has a real love for the time that contagiously leaps off the screen and keeps us high spirited and perma-grinned.
Jean Dujardin truly dazzles as George Valentin (great old Hollywood name), one of Hollywood's biggest silent stars. When one of Valentin's star gazed fans, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), bumps into him as photographs are being popped, he helps make her the next "it" girl. Their is attraction between the two but soon the two take very different paths. While Peppy popularity soars the advent of "talkies" in Hollywood around 1929 leaves Valentin a forgotten dinosaur, and when the stock market crashes he's also left broke. Stubborn pride and fear of change have Valentin hitting bottom.
Next to Michael Shannon's performance in "Take Shelter", Jean Dujardin's is the best of 2011. Dujardin is a great showman that is irresistibly debonair. His controlled mugging convinces you he stepped out of a time machine from the era of Charlie Chaplin while he needs no dialogue to convey the subtlest of emotions. Bejo's huge smile also lights up the screen but as the great finale scene proves when the two are on screen you can't take your eye's off of the wonderful Frenchmen. John Goodman always proves to be genius casting, his big mug tells a thousand words with every shot as Al Zimmer, the film producer warning Valentin that times are a changing.
With respect to Woody Allen and Martin Scorcese, Michel Hazanavicius is my clear pick for best director of the year. While doing nothing anything fancier than you could have done in 1932 with a camera Hazanavicius creates some of the years most memorable images. A gorgeous wide angle shot of George Valentin and Peppy Miller conversing over a three story stairwell is beautiful. Hazanavicius also show a flair for odd, as a scene of Valentin having a surreal nightmare in sound.
Hazanavicius also wrote the screenplay, that doesn't need dialogue to be brilliant. Along with Ludovic Bource's crucial score, "The Artist" is one of the most complete and fun films of 2011. It's the "bee's knee's" man, and is enough to have you speechless.
"War Horse" (2011)
DIrected by Steven Spielberg
Starring Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, David Thewlis
Running Time 146 Minutes, Rated PG-13
2.5 Mitch's out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com
Legendary tear-maker director Steven Spielberg tells us the story of a boy and his horse against the horror filled backdrop of Europe's devastating WWl. Time to call your stockbroker and buy shares in Kleenex, right? Not so fast film goer. Spielberg's 50th directed film is a superbly crafted film, too superbly crafted. "War Horse" looks like a Spielberg film but it doesn't feel like a Spielberg film.
The world's most recognized director, who is the reason why some of today's directors like J.J. Abrams are classified as Spielbergian, feels like he's become a facsimile of his proven ways. Just a week earlier he missed with his "Raiders of the Lost Arc" blueprint in the motion-capture "Tintin", and even though in "War Horse" he amps up the schmaltz to 11 there isn't the authentic wonderment to win over this viewer.
As we we're witness to the birth of a young colt we're supposed to know this is a special Equas callabus, we know it cause John Williams's sappy score beats us over the head with it. Once grown, the horse is bought by the drunkard Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan) in spite of his landlord played by David Thewlis. Mamma Narracott (Emily Watson) isn't having it, but young Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) instantly falls in love (a little too in love to me), names it Joey, and begins a bond that can't be broken. That is until Ted sells Joey to Captain Nicholls once England goes to war with Germany. Captain Nicholls is played by Tom Hiddleston, who gives one of the few effective performances in the film.
Technically speaking "War Horse" is gorgeous. From opening shots of the Narracott's stone farm house, to the very ending that steals a blood-scorched silhouette sunset right from "Gone With The Wind". Much praise to Spielberg and masterful cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, but these pass merely as respectable moments but do not create a complete film. In the end, Spielberg's "War Horse" goes lame and deserves to be put out of it's misery and so do we.
Directed by Steve McQueen
Starring Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan
Running Time 101 Minutes, Rated NC-17
3.5 Mitch's out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com
WARNING: Due to my religious beliefs this is a sensitive subject matter to review. "Shame" is NC-17 due to it's sexual nature. I do not promote graphic sexual viewing content but in the case of this film it treats it's subject matter as an addiction. "Shame" is a hard PSA on the crippling effects of sexual addiction and on those merits the film has merit. Always be aware of the films you are about to see. Thanks.
Steve McQueen's unapologetic NC-17 rated look at one mans addiction to sex in "Shame" is one of those 'only need to see it once' films. Well worth seeing that one time as the films succeeds with much of the praise going to Michael Fassbender's unflinching performance, but there was a certain silence that rang through the theater as the credits rolled, leaving us witness to someone's very sad affliction.
2011 was the year of Michael Fassbender (Jane Eyre, X-Men: First Class, A Dangerous Method) and "Shame" is his best performance. Fassbender plays Brandon, a man driven by sexual gratification. He follows women out of the subway, his work computer is confiscated with his hard drive filled with pornography, he hires prostitutes, and partakes in casual sex. Brandon isn't fulfilled by his actions, but is a slave to them. Fassbender is able to show an empty existence that is sad while also frightening.
Brandon has no relations with anyone which is most comfortable with him. We're introduced to his sister Sissy, played by the wonderful Carey Mulligan, standing naked outside the shower with an uncomfortable comfort shown between the two. When Sissy decides to move in for a while this rocks Brandon's solitude reminding him of a past that has shaped his habits.
Steve McQueen chooses vagueness over details. Brandon works at an unclassified high exec NY job, family traumas are hinted at, including the never seen but incestuous relationship of Brandon and Sissy. McQueen goes wide angle a lot for tension and draws shots out so you can sit in the uneasiness. When Sissy, a club singer, performs and aching version 'New York, New York' we hear every verse. This and a night jog from Brandon creates the sad atmosphere, but also, unintentionally, comes off as mere time filler.
Scorcese's NYC is crime, Fincher's NYC is always raining, and McQueen's NYC is casual sex. The finale is a cacophony of explicit sexual debauchery. Eroticism doesn't exist in this film, just sex and the means to sexual gratification. You won't take much of a journey into Brandon's hurt soul but you will be haunted by it.
You will be haunted by "this".
1 Corinthians 10:13
"The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" (2011)
Directed by David Fincher
Starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara and Christopher Plummer
Running Time 158 Minutes, Rated R.
4 Mitch's out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com
I didn't read Stieg Larsson's best selling thriller, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", because you don't have to wait long for those to get made into movies. I didn't watch Niels Arden Oplev's 2009 Swedish film by the same name because you don't have to wait long for Hollywood to remake international blockbusters. So now, it's all fresh to me like all the Harry Potter films were (didn't read a one) and David Fincher rewards my patience with his version. Stupid American.
Even though that formula would quite often work out for you, the truth is I did not take that route on purpose, I just never got around to the revered Swedish take and just so you know- I read the first Harry Potter book- and I plan to get around to the rest when the rest are put on tape in gift form. So while everybody will be making the comparisons between Oplev versus Fincher's direction or Noomi Rapace versus Rooney Mara's iconic Lisbeth performance, I will not.
Right from the opening credit sequence that involves a sadomasochistic-black rubbery-weird bondage motif with a Led Zeppelin cover you can see Fincher's slick execution taking hold of his usual dark storytelling. Fincher brings back Trent Reznor from The Social Network for an even more in your face score that damns subtlety and embraces punk angst. "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" is also served well by Steven Zaillian's script that embraces the oddities of its two leads who don't come together until the third act. Rapists, serial killers, Nazi's, and so much more with darkened tones is David Fincher's way of Season's Greetings.
Recently disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is hired by wealthy island owner Henrik Vanger, played by Christopher Plummer taking a page from Max von Sydrow, to solve a family member murder 40 years ago that has long gone cold. Along the way Blomkvist is knee-high in Vanger family quarrels, and through above average detective skills, uncovers a bevy of female murders, unleashing a strong message of men who hate women.
Larsson's novel and Zaillian's script give us vengeance justified with a female lead like no other in Lisbeth Salander played by Rooney Mara. Rooney Mara, who you know from the first five minutes of "The Social Network", gives an absolute star making performance as the violently troubled bi-sexual computer genius. Lisbeth isn't much for extraneous conversation, which can be hard to keep interesting for the audience, but Mara's intensely brave portrayal accomplishes more than just interest, it accomplishes fascination. Still under the ward of the state, Lisbeth's social welfare worker is the worst of men. Two anal-rape scenes show you the injustices to Lisbeth and her 'an eye for an eye' way of living.
"The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" may not be as smart as it wants to be, and I never reached the edge of my seat. There's a Lord of the Rings multi-ending that isn't much for holding tension but like the "..Rings" Fincher's expertise has characters interesting enough to follow for 158 minutes.
Expertise has "this" interesting enough to follow for 158 Minutes.