The Devil Inside review

Director:
William Brent Bell
Cast:
Feranda Andrade
Simon Quarterman
Evan Helmunth
Ionut Grama
Suzan Crowley
Rated: R

Oh goody, another exorcism movie, and even better, it’s found footage.

“The Devil Inside” tells the story of Isabella (Andrade), a young woman who has come to the Italy to see her mother. When Isabella was a young girl her mother Maria (Crowley) killed three people who were trying to perform an exorcism, after the event Maria was taken to a hospital near the Vatican.

Because of the mystery surrounding the event, Isabella has a documentary filmmaker named Ben (Quarterman) go along to capture footage. During their time in Italy, they meet two young priests who do a type of vigilante exorcism service, unfortunately they don’t have a Commissioner Gordan at the Vatican. At any rate, the two priests become interested in Isabella’s story and decide to see if Maria’s possession is real or not.

This movie had an even worse ending than “The Last Exorcism,” the difference though? “The Last Exorcism” was a great movie up until the end, “The Devil Inside” was not. “The Devil Inside” exuberates lazy writing having a story built on a weak foundation of nothing but genre cliches from both exorcism and found footage films.

For most of the film, it plays out almost exactly like any other found footage film that we’ve seen before. There are interviews, personal vlogs and scenes where the lights go out where they are forced to use the light. With all of that going on though, they forgot to add any real depth to the characters or story.

And then there is the ending, which basically has the film just stop. I don’t hate ambiguous or sudden stop endings. I loved “Cloverfield” and “Martha Marcy May Marlene” which both had these types of endings. What worked for them though is that they felt final, it was the end of the story they were telling on film. “The Devil Inside” on the other hand decides to just stop and tells the audience to do more research. To that I say, I’m sorry, but you have to put some effort in to earn an ending like that.

The characters are simply bland. There was nothing memorable or for any matter even likable about these people that we have to follow around. Credit where credit is due, Suzan Crowley did a fairly good job portraying a woman who was possessed. The same can’t be said about the rest of the cast though.

Above all else though, was the movie scary? Well not really. Some creepy moments? Sure, but nothing that will keep one awake through out the night. Many of the things that they try to use for scares are the peoples limbs getting twisted or getting really strong and speaking in languages.

However by this point now, audiences are becoming desensitized to this kind of horror. Exorcism films are basically their own genre now, so seeing a person talk with a devil voice in an exorcism movie is like seeing a killer coming at someone with an axe in a slasher flick, it’s expected and isn’t as scary on the screen. It got to the point of the movie being more laughable than anything actually scary towards the end.

I disliked the end of “The Last Exorcism,” it got a bit to outrageous at the end for me. However, I still thoroughly enjoyed the film up to that point and applauded it for trying to have a different take and put some new spins on the genre. “The Devil Inside” does nothing new, it’s not scary and is to exorcism movies what “My Soul to Take” was to slasher movies. 0.5 out of 5.

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Contraband review

Director:
Baltasr Komakur
Cast:
Mark Wahlberg
Ben Foster
Kate Beckinsale
Giovanni Ribisi
Caleb Landry Jones
Rated: R

Maybe the main character in this story was cousins with Wahlberg’s character in “The Italian Job.”

The story of Contraband follows the character Chris Farraday (Wahlberg), a former smuggler who has now turned to making an honest living and having a family.

Unfortunately, his younger brother-in-law Andy (Jones) didn’t quite get the message and decides to try smuggling himself, this goes wrong though as Customs catches him in the act and he has to get rid of the drugs he was bringing across.

Because of the incident a mob boss named Briggs (Ribisi) tells Andy that he needs to come up with the money for what he dropped or he will put hits out on the entire family. Andy then goes to Chris for help forcing the retired crook to get back into the business. Chris asks his former smuggling friend Sebastian (Foster) for help for one last criminal run to save his family.

This is a movie where you basically get what you paid for, it’s nothing special but it will entertain you for two hours. In some ways, the story tries to hard to be dramatic sometimes when at almost every corner this is just a straight forward action piece. There were times when it was unpredictable to know exactly what the characters were going to have to go through, however there was always a sense of whatever they were about to do was going to go terribly wrong.

The film goes overboard towards the end also as it tries to throw a twist in with one of the characters which I felt was completely unnecessary. The whole idea was used just to thicken a plot which really didn’t need to be thickened.

The acting was alright for the most part. This type of film is very familiar territory for Wahlberg and it shows as he’s able to play the part convincingly. The same could be said about Ben Foster who’s character had a believable friendship with Wahlberg’s and without any use of flashbacks it was easy to see that these two had been through a lot together.

However I can’t say as much about Kate Beckinsale who seemed dull in the role and never had a real chemistry with Wahlberg on screen, this may have been because she was mainly just used as a punching bag by the villains though. Speaking of villains, Giovanni Ribisi never wowed me either. He did the part fine and had the persona of being a sort of middle of the road crime boss, yet I never felt that he was truly threatening.

The action was alright and it was interesting seeing the ideas and ways of operating in the smuggling business. The problem is that going into the third act, the action begins to slow down for a more dramatic finish which just didn’t work for what the movie really was.

Contraband is just an okay film. It has actors who can hold their own and lead their roles and a nice budget for some nice action moments however the story just seemed to try and be more than it really was, the more it tried to be suspenseful and throw a twist, the more dull it got. It will keep you entertained however it’s nothing special. Low 2 out of 5.

Haywire review

Director:
Steven Soderbergh
Cast:
Gina Carano
Channing Tatum
Michael Angarano
Michael Douglas
Antonio Banderas
Ewan McGregor
Rated: R

It was almost surprising not seeing Angelina Jolie in this.

“Haywire” is the latest film from director Steven Soderbergh, it follows the character Mallory (Carano), a spy for hire who is on the run after being betrayed by the company she works for, in particular, her boss Kenneth (McGregor). Because of this she is forced to leave a small diner abruptly with a young man by the name of Scott (Angarano). During their get away she begins to go into flashbacks about how her life got turned upside down.

The first hour of the film is devoted to telling the flashbacks where the second half goes into how she will try to set the record straight. During this time she continues to be hunted and has to be careful and watch her step.

The level of sophistication is heightened in the film mainly due to the direction of Soderbergh and acting of McGregor as well as Michael Douglas. It raises it to a fairly smarter action thriller than it would have been.

However the plot has some issues. After the flashbacks the film just becomes a fairly average revenge film and isn’t all that interesting. Also, the 19 year-old character Scott is abandoned nearly half way through and never has a resolution.

The main character Mallory makes for a good heroine and is easy to root for, yet she does not have much emotional depth besides maybe anger. That being said I liked her a lot more than I did with, say, the title character from last year’s film “Salt.” She does have an experienced cast around her which helps heighten the overall product.

The fight choreography is well done here, especially since the actress Gina Carano is a trained MMA fighter. Many of the fight scenes were also done with out any music which was different and I welcomed it. I was more engaged in the fight scene since all you could hear was things breaking and the connection of every blow.

The plot of Haywire leaves some to be desired and it under uses what I thought would be a main character and under develops some others. That being said, this is one of the better action/spy/thriller films to come out, it goes on the same level as some of Liam Neeson’s recent action films. Normally this would be lower, however, because of the nice direction, good acting on the part of the experienced cast, it makes it a bit smarter. This one manages to get a 3 out of 5.

The Grey review

Director:
Joe Carnahan
Cast:
Liam Neeson
Dallas Roberts
Frank Grillo
Nonso Anozie
Rated: R

The characters Liam Neeson plays just can’t catch a break.

“The Grey” follows a group of men who work for an oil company in Alaska. The main character, Ottway (Neeson), a trained wolf hunter for the company, seems to be one of the outsiders at the oil company and keeps to himself. Eventually, the crew of the company is to be flown back to a major city for a break however during the flight the plane goes down.

Upon regaining his bearings, Ottway begins searching for survivors and finds a handful, he also finds that they are surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves. Ottway soon establishes himself as the leader of the scared group of survivors and begins a journey to try and bring them back to civilization.

For those wanting to see a crazy, beat em up brawl between Liam Neeson and a pack of wolves you may be disappointed. The plot of “The Grey” is set up almost in the same way a survival horror film is set up, with characters dying off one by one, however replace the horror aspect with discussions and thoughts on life, death and faith.

“The Grey” is very easy to become engaged in. The displays of survival and having a will to go on mixed with the emotional backstories of these men make for a very real and human experience that is both frightening and deep. That being said, the ending did leave just a little bit to be desired.

The characters in the film were the strongest part. Sometimes in a set up like this a group can be annoying however the group here felt very honest and relatable. There was even one character who was a bit of a jerk for a time but grew on me as the film went on. The chemistry between the survivors felt real and the teamwork displayed was great.

The best actor is of course Liam Neeson who plays the gruff, angry and experienced man very well. His leadership is believable which makes it easy for the audience to follow and root for this character as the head of the pack just like the survivors do.

Overall “The Grey” has a simple premise that was really well executed by the cast and filmmakers. Despite not being perfect on all levels or having the best ensemble cast it is still really nice for a January release. Low 4 out of 5.

Man on a Ledge review

Director:
Asger Leth
Cast:
Sam Worthington
Elizabeth Banks
Anthony mackie
Jamie Bell
Genesis Rodriguez
Ed Harris
Rated: PG-13

“Man on a Ledge” follows the story of escaped convict Nick Cassidy (Worthington), who tells everyone he was wrongfully framed for stealing a diamond from rich CEO David Englander (Harris). Because of this, Nick devises a plan to prove his innocence.

He stands out on a ledge of a high building to attract all the attention he can making it seem like he’s going to leap off the edge, meanwhile, his brother Joey (Bell) and his brother’s girlfriend Angie (Rodriguez) break into Englander’s compound to find the diamond and prove Nick’s innocence.

The premise of “Man on a Ledge” might have been able to work had it taken itself a little more seriously and/or get some better people in the roles. It doesn’t work here though, and at times the film is almost insulting to one’s intelligence. The story felt like it was created around the name itself, which cheapened the whole experience.

The plot might have worked if it had just stuck with Worthington’s character, in a sort of “Phone Booth” type of way, however it was dragged even further down by the parts with Joey and Angie breaking into the tower. These parts of the movie were the absolute worst part for being to over the top and having dumb characters.

Speaking of the characters, they are all archetypes and the actors playing them offer nothing. Sam Worthington’s career has been hit and miss for me and this was a major miss. He is absolutely wooden here, there was never a sense of real desperation from his character. The same can be said about Ed Harris who could have been easily replaced by just about anyone.

Elizabeth Banks was weak also, playing officer Lydia Mercer, who is tasked with trying to talk Nick down off the ledge. Once again she’s suppose to be this character with a bit of a dark history but it is poorly portrayed. The worst offenders in the film though were Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez. Rodriguez did nothing but basically be the Megan Fox of the film and Bell’s character could never be taken seriously because all he did was crack stupid jokes.

The stunts that Joey and Angie pulled breaking into the compound was laughable, most of it was cliche’d, including a good ole “cut the red wire scene.” They also had other things like setting off a bomb and no one seeing the explosion in a city with millions of people.

This could be over looked, but the fact that these characters were basically just regular people with a bag of tools made it unbelievable. Plus the bag that they had seemed to be a Mary Poppins model since it never ran out of equipment for their mission.

“Man on a Ledge” is a bad film, the idea might have worked had more effort been put in, however everything about it just feels to cliche’d and the acting was for the most part weak all around. 1 out of 5.

Big Miracle review

Director:
Ken Kwapis
Cast:
John Krasinski
Drew Barrymore
Ted Danson
Dermot Mulroney
Rated: PG

It’s like the Free Willy genre is making a comeback lately.

Big Miracle is a movie inspired by the true events that happened in Alaska in 1988. Three whales became trapped by ice and had no way of getting to the ocean since there was only a single hole for them to get a breath from.

Because of this, news reporter Adam Carlson (Krasinski) does a story on it and attracts many volunteers and attention from the media from across the United States, however with so many coming together disagreements begin to arise. So they have to come together in whatever way they can to stay on task and save the whales.

I was very skeptical going into the film, expecting a cheesy family movie with many of the cliche’s that we’ve seen over the many years. Fortunately, it turned out different. The film has no slapstick humor, no real main antagonist, and it takes itself for the most part rather seriously.

The story of what they are going to do to save the whales becomes quite engaging and it’s interesting seeing people from different backgrounds and beliefs try to work together on at least one thing. There were some quirky moments here and there as well as a few jokes thrown in however for the most part the film kept its pacing well and delivered on the main goal of showing people coming together.

The characters were hit and miss for me but for the most part they were at least all okay. Krasinski, Danson and Mulroney were all pretty good. I can’t say the same thing about Drew Barrymore though, and it might have just been her character but I honestly didn’t like her at all. She was just extreme to the max about the Green Peace stuff, especially when she called all the native hunters murderers.

Overall, “Big Miracle” isn’t completely perfect, It’s lacking in the acting departments at some points and the characters are sometimes a bit over the top. That being said, it is one of the better live action family films I’ve seen in a while and the story of getting the whales free does become engaging. High 3 out of 5.

Chronicle review

Director:
Josh Trank
Cast:
Dane DeHaan
Alex Russel
Michael B. Jordan
Ashley Hinsaw
Rated: PG-13

It’s very rare that I can see a movie which I will consider one of my favorite of the year as early as February but, “Chronicle” did it.

“Chronicle” tells the story of three teenage high school boys, Andrew (DeHaan), Matt (Russel) and Steve (Jordan). At first, Andrew is a bit of an outcast. Early in the film he decides to start filming everything around him. Eventually he goes to a party with Matt and Steve and the three come across a cavern with a mysterious rock which gives all three of them the power of telekinesis.

After this the three start hanging out more and become very good friends while learning to strengthen and better control their new found powers. During this time they pull some pranks and have some fun however they soon learn about how dangerous they can be as well and Andrew unfortunately begins going down a bad path.

“Chronicle” was a film trying to be a found footage film, a teenage drama and a super power story, and it nailed each of the genres it contained perfectly. The story is paced perfectly, as we get to see the three becoming good friends, learning how to use, what it means to have powers and what happens when you lose control. These plot points were all handled with care, the film manages to balance the bits of high school drama, humorous scenes and the darker third act all very well.

It is a shorter film being only at 84 minutes and this means not much explanation on the origin of the powers but it’s almost not necessary here as the film puts most of it’s focus on the characters, and that part it does exceptionally well.

The actors were mostly unknowns but their performances in this film really displayed their talent. All three of the actors made the characters very believable and real, nothing seemed phoned in. The camaraderie and friendship between the three feels natural which really helps on the emotional side of the film whether it pertains to humor or tragedy.

Credit should also go to the writers who came up with great dialogue as well. Once again, making it seem very natural and real. I find the dialogue for the teenagers in this much more believable then some bigger teen films that are out there. From lines that are funny to lines that are serious, everything works.

The film also succeeded in making due with what they had. This film didn’t have the giant budget that some other films have and yet it exceeded many recent action films. The special effects look awesome and the powers that they have are great. One scene in particular shows the three teens flying and it is absolutely breathtaking.

There is very little to complain about in “Chronicle.” There was one character, Casey (Hinsaw) who was mainly just used for another camera angle and nothing really more

However that is just a very minor complaint in an overall phenomenal film, this movie gets basically everything right. It’s the best found footage film that has been put out and is easily the best of 2012 so far. I’ll give this one a 5 out of 5.