This week, Eli Roth invites you to witness what he calls The Last Exorcism, but let's face the film facts here people: Priest's have been exorcising demons in Hollywood long before the world cared about him (does anyone even care now?). The religious method of cleansing the possessed is as much a myth as it is a mystery, but it has always been a great subject for movies. In honor of the spooky new film, which hits theaters this Friday, we've exercised our own knowledge of film history to bring you a Brief Timeline of Cinematic Exorcisms. Check out the history of this horror sub-genre below!
Blithe Spirit (1945) In what is more than likely the very first cinematic exorcism, Blithe Spirit focuses on a husband and his second wife who are haunted by the ghost of his first, named Elvira (coincidence? I think not). The married couple seeks the help of a medium named Madame Arcati, who contacts the deceased lover and tries to fix up this nasty little triangle. There are more chuckles than thrills in this Golden Age fantasy-comedy, but it deserves a spot in our timeline because I don’t think you’ll find an exorcism on film before it. The Devils (1971) In Ken Russell’s 1971 shocker, you will find many sequences of depraved acts that make an exorcism look tame. The film is a dramatized historical account of the rise and fall of Urbain Grandier, a 17th-century French priest executed for witchcraft following the supposed possessions of Loudun. You could view the film as a warm-up to The Passion of the Christ in terms of its graphic violence, but in addition to crucifixion and torture, this one’s got nuns involved in an orgy at the feet of a statue of Christ, as well as Vanessa Redgrave masturbating with a human bone. Chew on that, Father Merrin. The Exorcist (1973) Though there may have been examples of exorcisms in movies before it, William Friedkin’s incredibly frightening film has become the fictional benchmark for the religious practice. Both cinematically intense and controversial within the religious community, it is the most successful horror film of all time and rightly so: There are images within that you won’t easily forget. Martin (1977) A B-movie for the history books, George A. Romero’s Martin is a vampire-romance tale with just a touch of exorcism. The title character is an obsessive “serial feeder” (I just made that up) who preys on young women, grifters and criminals in and around Braddock, PA. His old-school Greek grand uncle attempts to shoo away the evil inside him by contacting two priests to perform an exorcism, but they are unsuccessful. Martin eventually meets a tragic fate as his own “blood” ironically kills him. The Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) Far from the success of its predecessor, the sequel to Friedkin’s masterpiece was directed by John Boorman, who presented a more allegorical and symbolic story that failed to captivate audiences the way the original did. In many ways it’s a rehash of The Exorcist, but it explores the positive side of the supernatural. Beetlejuice (1987) We’ll now take another break from William Peter Blatty’s satanic saga and travel to Winter River, CT, where the recently deceased Maitlands meet the afterlife’s leading bio-exorcist, Betelgeuse. Tim Burton gave horror fans a lighter look at the world of the dead as Michael Keaton’s wild and crazy supernatural swinger rids Barbara and Adam of their house’s new owners. Additionally, we get the rare opportunity to see what happens to ghosts who have been exorcised via the Lost Souls room. Exorcist III (1990) “Save your prayers, God is not here with us now” -- and neither is any sign of true quality in W.P. Blatty’s cinematic adaptation of his own novel, Legion, which he claimed was the true sequel to the original 1973 film. Though the film is cemented within the Exorcist canon, it’s really more of a standalone serial-killer/murder mystery hiding behind the title of the greatest horror movie ever. Repossessed (1990) No classic film is above being parodied, and The Exorcist was the victim of satire in this lowbrow comedy that cast Linda Blair as, essentially, Regan MacNeil all grown up with a family of her own. When the Devil possesses her once again, it’s up to Father Jebedaiah Mayii (Leslie Nielsen) to exorcise the demon. By this point, exorcisms were so ingrained in global pop culture that the magic of the film that made the religious practice a phenomenon had been nearly forgotten. Scary Movie II (2001) Continuing on in the tradition of mocking cinematic staples, the Wayans brothers conjured a blue-chip franchise by mashing together parodies of hit horror premises. The second film in the series featured a riotous vignette that at once parodies and pays homage to The Exorcist. Exorcist: The Beginning (2004) After 14 years and many spoofs, the horror franchise that made “exorcism” a household term returned to shock a new generation of moviegoers. Unfortunately, the tricks of ‘70s cinema didn’t work as well in a world of contemporary special effects, and though there were some frightening moments in the film, it didn’t reach the level of terror that fans were hoping for. Constantine (2005) In the decade of superhero cinema, Warner Bros. found a way to reinvent the exorcism with this underrated comic-book adaptation. Keanu Reeves plays an irreverent supernatural detective who casts away demons in Los Angeles. The exorcisms are physically brutal, and, with plausible makeup and prosthetics, the victims are genuinely horrifying. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) The year 2005 gave the world a double dose of exorcisms. The second helping came in the form of a fictionalized account of the story of Anneliesse Michel, a German girl who authorities claim was truly possessed by the Devil. The film is an interesting mix of courtroom drama and true horror. Thanks in large part to Jennifer Carpenter’s chilling performance as Emily Rose, the film is a fitting companion piece to The Exorcist, one that attempts to scientifically explain demonic possession and exorcisms and also questions the moral and legal ramifications of performing one. The Last Exorcism (2010) As stated earlier, don’t think that this will be the last film to feature an exorcism, especially if it performs well. Eli Roth’s low-budget faux-documentary centers on a troubled evangelical minister who agrees to let his last exorcism be filmed. The trailer looks decent and the reviews are surprisingly good, so hopefully this will be another solid entry into the sub-genre of horror.
Built from comic book auteur Frank Miller’s (Sin City) rock solid foundations 300 is based on his vision on the 1962 film The 300 Spartans filtered through the same tough-as-nails pulp sensibility that populates most of his comics work. Leaving such leaden wannabe sword-and-sandal epics like Troy and Alexander in the historical dust 300 reworks the real-life legendary tale of the Battle of Thermopylae in which a battalion of 300 elite Spartan soldiers heroically hold the line to protect ancient Greece from the invading Persian hordes. The story focuses on the Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) who must not only lead his small cadre of troops--each one honored since childhood into a razor-sharp battle-relishing warrior—into a battle they are unlikely to survive but he must also fight for the fate of Greece and its democratic ideals. As the bizarre seemingly endless marauding legions of the tyrant Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) descend upon the Hot Gates—a narrow passageway into Greece that Leonidas’ miniscule band can most ably defend—the soldiers take up arms without the usual post-modern anti-war hand-wringing that most war epics indulge in. These soldiers are both bred for battle and fighting a good fight and the film focuses squarely on the highly charged action. Meanwhile in a new plotline created specifically for the movie his equally noble and faithful queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) takes up arms in a more symbolic way as she also tries to keep democracy alive by taking on the political warlords of Sparta to secure relief for her husband’s troops. Butler has become a familiar and welcome on-screen presence in such films as The Phantom of the Opera and Reign of Fire but there has been little on his mainstream movie resume to suggest the kind of bravura fire he brings to the role of Leonidas. This is the stuff of an actor announcing himself to the audience in a major way akin to Daniel Craig’s star-making turn as James Bond. In a big bold performance that could have gone awry in any number of ways Butler plays even the highest pitched notes like a concerto perfectly capturing the king’s bravado bombast cunning compassion and passion each step of the way. Headey is his ideal match imbuing the queen with more steel and nobility in a handful of scenes than most actresses can summon to carry entire films. Fans of Lost and Brazilian cinema will be hard-pressed to even recognize Santoro whose earnest pretty handsomeness is radically transformed into Xerxes’ exotic borderline freakish form personifying a terrifying yet seductive force of corruption and evil that spreads like a cancer across the earth. And don’t forget to add in the most impressive array of rock-hard abs on cinematic display since well ever (think Brad Pitt in Troy times 300). Even bolstered by canny casting choices and their washboard stomachs helmer Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) is the true undisputable star of 300 establishing himself firmly as a director whose work demands to be watched. With a kinetic sensibility that’s akin to Quentin Tarantino and John Woo and using CGI technology to its utmost effects both subtle and dynamic Snyder creates a compelling fully formed world that the audience is eager to explore. Snyder doesn’t literally match Miller’s signature artwork as meticulously as director Robert Rodriguez did with Sin City. Instead Snyder captures Miller’s essence be it raw brutality majestic size and scope the exotic and otherworldly carnal physicality or hideous deformity--even seemingly antiquated and potentially off-putting techniques like the repeated use of slow-motion are put to fresh effect making every blow and cut seem crucial. Yet even in the visual glorification of some of the most bloody and violent conflicts ever put to film Snyder infuses the tale—which ultimately is one big glorious testosterone-soaked fight sequence—with the sense of honor and sacrifice which characterizes the most noble of war efforts. Yes war can be hell but this is a case where some like it hot.
As one of history's better sports stories Cinderella Man focuses on legendary prizefighter James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) who during the Great Depression became a common-man hero. Once a boxer on the rise Braddock hits rock bottom with the rest of the broken-down beaten-up and out-of-luck American populace and is forced to give up his dreams of being a world champion to find work. We get to sit around with Braddock his loving supportive but weepy wife Mae (Renee Zellweger) and their starving cold children for the first hour of the film feeling mightily depressed indeed. But then things pick up when Braddock gets a last-chance bid to make something of himself by returning to the ring. Spurred on by an inner determination--and his hardnosed manager Joe (Paul Giamatti)--Braddock miraculously makes an almost mythical rise to the top. The underdog to beat all underdogs--yes even topping a nobody horse named Seabiscuit--the pugilist ends up taking on the heavyweight champ of the world Max Baer (Craig Bierko) who's renowned for having killed two men in the ring. And wins. The roar from the people who look to their "Cinderella Man" as their champion is deafening.
Chris Rock said it the best: "If you're gonna do a movie about the past you best to get Russell's ass!" It's absolutely true. The Oscar-winning Crowe has an uncanny knack for taking anything period and making it seem contemporary be it clashing swords in the gladiator ring in ancient Rome or working out equations on a library window as a brilliant but trouble 1950s mathematician. So it seems natural Crowe would once again turn in a stellar performance as the Depression-era boxer who rallies from the depths of despair to become a world champion. Of course Crowe did have to learn how to box--and apparently injured his shoulder pretty severely during the process--but it was all in a day's work for this hardworking Method actor. He also is supported by a superlative cast including Zellweger as Braddock's devoted yet longsuffering wife. The actress may be a bit more pinched-face than usual having to play cold and hungry most of the time but she still does an admirable job. The biggest standout however is Giamatti as the beleaguered but sharp-as-a-tack manager who does everything in his power to get Braddock back in the ring--and keep him there. Someone just needs to give this man an Oscar. Pronto.
Of course everyone is calling Cinderella Man this summer's Seabiscuit. Granted the comparisons are numerous--underdog plot the Great Depression down-trodden men who need some kind of hope to get them back on their feet again a nation rallying behind them. But Seabiscuit didn't have the powerhouse duo of Crowe and director Ron Howard to back it up. Their special brand of mojo made A Beautiful Mind another rather staid biopic the Oscar winner of 2001. It only makes sense they would try for it again with Cinderella Man's inspirational story. While the first part of the film discourages you a bit it's necessary to set up Braddock's desperation and ultimate fortitude. Once we hit the ring however the action is nonstop and riveting making you shout from your seat. Howard now joins the handful of directors including Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby) and Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull) who can effectively cause this reaction by watching two men (or women in Eastwood's case) pummel each other. But as far as Cinderella's Oscar chances it's a tough call because: a) it is the beginning of summer and b) it's not a film you carry around with you once you leave the theater. Perhaps if the studio does a blitzkrieg Oscar marketing campaign similar to Seabiscuit it might work. We'll see.
Top Story: J.Lo Denies She's Crying a River
Jennifer Lopez denies she gave an interview to Star magazine in which she was quoted as saying she was "extremely brokenhearted" over her breakup with fiancée Ben Affleck, The Associated Press reports, and that Lopez felt she had put "enormous effort" into the relationship with Affleck, but had to end it so she could put her "personal and professional life back together." According to a representative for Lopez, she was never interviewed by Star magazine's reporter Victoria Gotti, AP reports, but the tabloid stands by the story.
Crowe TKO'd on Boxing Film
Actor and new dad Russell Crowe suffered a dislocated shoulder while in training for his new film Cinderella Man, Reuters reports. Crowe is training for his upcoming role as world heavyweight champion James Braddock, a poor, local fighter who went on to beat reigning champ Max Baer in 1935. Universal Pictures told Reuters Crowe, 39, would immediately undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair the injury in Australia, followed by intense physical therapy.
Singer Manilow Suffers Chest Pains
Crooner Barry Manilow was rushed to the hospital Saturday night in Palm Springs, Calif., after complaining of chest pains, Reuters reports. Manilow, 57, was hospitalized after returning home earlier in the day from New York, where he "endured two of the most grueling days of arbitration" in a lawsuit in which he and co-writer Bruce Sussman are fighting to regain the rights to their stage musical Harmony, publicist Jerry Sharell told Reuters. Sharell said Manilow would remain in the hospital to undergo various procedures and tests.
Trebek Resumes Jeopardy! Post After Accident
Alex Trebek will resume his Jeopardy! hosting duties Tuesday after escaping serious injury when he fell asleep behind the wheel of his pickup truck Friday, AP reports. The 63-year-old game show host was driving in central Calif. near the town of Templeton when his truck drifted off the road, sideswiped a bank of mailboxes and sailed over an embankment into a ditch. Trebek was not hospitalized and was not cited, AP reports.
Real World Creator Dies
TV producer Mary-Ellis Bunim, who pioneered the age of reality programming by co-creating MTV's The Real World, died Thursday in Los Angeles after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 57.
Press Want Cameras at Jackson Hearing
News organizations asked a judge on Friday to allow cameras into an upcoming Michael Jackson court appearance Feb. 13, claiming the chaotic mess of Jackson's arraignment Jan. 16 on molestation charges should be countered by images of orderly proceedings, Reuters reports. Lawyers for Court TV, Fox News Channel, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and AP stated in a written motion that Jackson's arraignment undermined the court system. "The public did not see Mr. Jackson plead not guilty but instead saw only Mr. Jackson's dramatic entry into and exit from the courthouse followed by his interaction with a large crowd of supporters from atop an SUV and his invitations to a party at Neverland Ranch," the court papers said. It was not immediately clear how Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville would handle the request, AP reports.
It's All About Timing, Says Miramax Chief
Miramax Films co-chairman Harvey Weinstein blames timing for Cold Mountain's failure to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. In an interview with Time magazine, Reuter reports Weinstein said, "With the early (Oscar voting) this year, we fell short. There's a lot to do for Academy members and I don't know how many members we got to. We just plain ran out of people who had seen this movie." Even though Cold Mountain garnered seven nominations, including a nod to Jude Law for lead actor and one to Renee Zellweger for supporting actress, it is the first time in 12 years Miramax has not had a Best Picture contender. The studio did get the most nominations, however, with 15 in total, including nods for the Brazilian film City of God. But Weinstein says Miramax has learned its lesson, telling Newsweek the studio plans to move up the release of J.M. Barrie's Neverland starring Johnny Depp, to October, as well as releasing Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, in November rather than December.
Religious Groups Plan Counter Against Passion
Jewish and Christian groups alike are planning lecture series, interfaith talks and other programs to try to deal with the perceived impact Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion of the Christ will have, AP reports, which is being released Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25. The American Jewish Committee, who viewed the film last week, said they believed it contained destructive stereotypes about the Jewish role in Christ's death "It's part of something larger, which is a hardening of religious conversation. It is such an absolutist movie. It undermines the progress that we've made in this country toward mutual respect and religious pluralism," Rabbi David Elcott, the American Jewish Committee's interfaith director, told AP. Meanwhile, several prominent conservative Christians, including the Rev. Billy Graham, said the film was among the most powerful depictions they'd seen of Christ's last hours. They plan sermons and lectures related to the movie, and have even produced special Bibles that contain images from the film, AP reports.
Iommi Tops Greatest Guitarist List
Black Sabbath's guitarist Tony Iommi was named the No. 1 metal guitarist of all time by Guitar World magazine, Reuters reports. According to Guitar World editor in chief Brad Tolinski, the criteria for the l
Whitney Houston's father John Houston died of cardiac arrest early Sunday morning in New York after struggling many years with diabetes and heart disease. He was 82. He and his famous daughter were recently embroiled in a lawsuit in which the elder Houston's theatrical management company claimed the pop diva owed the company $100 million for helping her through financial difficulties and securing a record contract. In December, he publicly urged his daughter from his hospital bed to "pay the money you owe me." The dispute did not keep Whitney away, however, as Reuters reports the singer flew to New York Sunday from Miami, where she was doing a shoot for a magazine cover, to be with her family.
Ben Affleck will not be marrying his fiancee Jennifer Lopez on Valentine's Day after all. Reuters reports the actor quelled the rumor by telling Vanity Fair in an interview published Monday that he and Lopez "don't have time!" and added they are shooting for the nuptials to take place sometime next summer.
Jude Law doesn't like rumors either. According to People.com, Law, who is married to actress Sadie Frost, insisted to Australia's Syndey Morning Herald that the rumor he and Nicole Kidman had an affair on the set of their movie Cold Mountain is categorically untrue and "to suggest otherwise is malicious, hurtful and libelous." It was reported by a few tabloids that Frost, who recently had to be treated for postnatal depression after giving birth to the couple's son, may have been also upset about the alleged affair. Law added, "I have been on to my lawyers and will follow all legal action necessary to ensure that these kind of vicious lies are put to a stop."
Pop star Michael Jackson, who allowed a British interviewer access to his personal life over an eight month period for a special television documentary, reveals, among other things, that he picked a surrogate mother to give birth to his third child, Prince Michael II. Jackson also told ITV1 reporter Martin Bashir having children sleep in his bed is perfectly innocent and admitted he had plastic surgery on his nose--twice. Riiight. The 90-minute TV-special aired on British television Monday and will air on ABC's 20/20 Thursday.
Meryl Streep doesn't buy into all the Oscar hullabaloo. The Oscar-winning actress told London's Daily Telegraph, "I find it alarming that all the campaigning for Oscars is getting like a political campaign. It really is distasteful.....It won't be long before they start paying for television commercials for best picture, best actor and all those things." The 53-year-old actress has been nominated 12 times, winning twice, and shares the nom record with Katharine Hepburn. Heavily touted this year for her performances in The Hours and Adaptation, Streep will most likely break that record when the Academy announces the nominations next week.
Russell Crowe is set to reunite with his A Beautiful Mind director Ron Howard for the boxing drama Cinderella Man. Variety reports the film focuses on Depression-era fighter and folk hero Jim Braddock, who defeated heavyweight champ Max Baer in a 15-round slugfest in 1935.
The Directors Guild of America has announced their nominees for the best television movie direction for 2002, including nods for the late John Frankenheimer for HBO's Path to War, Julie Dash for CBS' The Rosa Parks Story and Mick Jackson for HBO's Live From Baghdad.
NBC's new drama Kingpin has drawn criticism from the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Associated Press reports, for its depiction of Hispanics as "drug dealers, murderers and unpatriotic American citizens," the group said in a statement. They added the show "opens the door to more negative feelings towards Latinos in our community."