There is something particularly unnerving about demon possession. It's the idea of something you can't see or control creeping into your body and taking up residence eventually obliterating all you once were and turning you into nothing more than a sack of meat to be manipulated. Then there's also the shrouded ritual around exorcisms: the Latin chants the flesh-sizzling crucifixes and the burning Holy Water. As it turns out exorcism isn't just the domain of Catholics.
The myths and legends of the Jews aren't nearly as well known but their creepy dybbuk goes toe-to-toe with anything other world religions come up with. There are various interpretations of what a dybbuk is or where it comes from — is it a ghost a demon a soul of a sinner? — but in any case it's looking for a body to hang out in for a while. Especially according to the solemn Hasidic Jews in The Possession an innocent young person and even better a young girl.
The central idea in The Possession is that a fancy-looking wooden box bought at a garage sale was specifically created to house a dybbuk that was tormenting its previous owner. Unfortunately it caught the eye of young Emily (Natasha Calis) a sensitive artistic girl who persuades her freshly divorced dad Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan of Watchmen and Grey's Anatomy) to buy it for her. Never mind the odd carvings on it — that would be Hebrew — or how it's created without seams so it would be difficult to open or why it's an object of fascination for a young girl; Clyde is trying really hard to please his disaffected daughters and do the typical freshly divorced parent dance of trying to please them no matter the cost.
Soon enough the creepy voices calling to Emily from the box convince her to open it up; inside are even creepier personal objects that are just harbingers of what's to come for her her older sister Hannah (Madison Davenport) her mom Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and even Stephanie's annoying new boyfriend Brett (Grant Show). Clyde and Stephanie squabble over things like pizza for dinner and try to convince each other and themselves that Emily's increasingly odd behavior is that of a troubled adolescent. It's not of course and eventually Clyde enlists the help of the son of a Hasidic rabbi a young man named Tzadok played by the former Hasidic reggae musician Matisyahu to help them perform an exorcism on Emily.
The Possession is not going to join the ranks of The Exorcist in the horror pantheon but it does do a remarkable job of making its characters intelligent and even occasionally droll and it offers up plenty of chills despite a PG-13 rating. Perhaps it's because of that rating that The Possession is so effective; the filmmakers are forced to make the benign scary. Giant moths and flying Torahs take the place of little Reagan violently masturbating with a crucifix in The Exorcist. Gagging and binging on food is also an indicator of Emily's possession — an interesting twist given the anxieties of becoming a woman a girl Emily's age would face. There is something inside her controlling her and she knows it and she is fighting it. The most impressive part of Calis's performance is how she communicates Emily's torment with a few simple tears rolling down her face as the dybbuk's control grows. The camerawork adds to the anxiety; one particularly scary scene uses ordinary glass kitchenware to great effect.
The Possession is a short 92 minutes and it does dawdle in places. It seems as though some of the scenes were juggled around to make the PG-13 cut; the moth infestation scene would have made more sense later in the movie. Some of the problems are solved too quickly or simply and yet it also takes a while for Clyde's character to get with it. Stephanie is a fairly bland character; she makes jewelry and yells at Clyde for not being present in their marriage a lot and then there's a thing with a restraining order that's pretty silly. Emily is occasionally dressed up like your typical horror movie spooky girl with shadowed eyes an over-powdered face and dark clothes; it's much more disturbing when she just looks like an ordinary though ill young girl. The scenes in the heavily Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn look oddly fake and while it's hard to think of who else could have played Tzadok an observant Hasidic Jew who is also an outsider willing to take risks the others will not Matisyahu is not a very good actor. Still the filmmakers should be commended for authenticity insofar as Matisyahu has studied and lived as a Hasidic Jew.
It would be cool if Lionsgate and Ghost House Pictures were to release the R-rated version of the movie on DVD. What the filmmakers have done within the confines of a PG-13 rating is creepy enough to make me curious to see the more adult version. The Possession is no horror superstar and its name is all too forgettable in a summer full of long-gestating horror movies quickly pushed out the door. It's entertaining enough and could even find a broader audience on DVD. Jeffrey Dean Morgan can read the Old Testament to me any time.
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
Director Alexander Payne's (Election Sideways) new film opens over sprawling landscape shots of Hawaii's scenic suburbia accompanied by George Clooney's character Matt King summing up his current predicament: "Paradise can go fuck itself." The reaction unfortunately is reasonable.
We pick up with King an ancestor of Hawaiian royalty in the middle of deliberations over a plot of land handed down through his family over generations. With every uncle aunt and cosign whispering opinions into his ear King is suddenly presented with an even greater problem: taking care of his two daughters. A boating accident leaves his wife in a coma forcing Matt to take a true parenting role with his young socially-troubled daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) and his rebellious teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who was previously shipped off to boarding school. Matt awkwardly hunts for the emotional glue necessary for the mismatched bunch to become "a family " but matters are made even more complicated when Alex reveals that her mother was cheating on him before the accident. Murphy's Law is in full effect.
With The Descendants Payne continues to explore and discover the inherent humor in life's melancholic situations unfolding Matt's quest for understanding like a road movie across Hawaii's many islands. Simultaneously preparing for the end of his wife's death and searching for the identity of her lover Matt crosses paths with a number of perfectly cast side characters who act as mirrors to his best and worst qualities: his father-in-law Scott (Robert Foster) who belittles Matt for never taking care of his daughter; Hugh (Beau Bridges) an opportunistic cousin who pressures Matt to sell the land; Alexandra's dunce of a boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) who always has the wrong thing to say; and Julie (Judy Greer) the wife of the adulterer in question. Colorful yet real Matt experiences a definitive moment with each of them yet the picture never feels sporadic or episodic.
Clooney and Woodley help gel these sequences together as they observe experience and butt heads as equals. Clooney's own magnetism stands in the way of making Matt a fully dimensional character but he shines when playing off his quick-witted daughter. His reactions are heartbreaking—but it's the moments when he has to put himself out there that never quite ring true. But the script by Nat Faxon Jim Rash and Payne gives Clooney plenty of opportunities to work his magic visualizing his struggle as opposed to vomiting it out like so many of today's talky dramas.
The Descendants is a tender cinematic experience an introspective and heartwarming film unafraid to convey its story with pleasing simplicity. Clooney stands out with a solid performance but like many of Payne's films it's the eclectic ensemble and muted backdrop that give the movie its real texture. The paradise of Descendants isn't all its cracked up to be but for movie-goers it's bliss.
S1E10: Well, the great controversy as to whether or not it was okay to watch our children do drugs, have sex and drink alcohol is over. We made it everyone. We made it. Now let's have a drink and smoke a joint with our kids to celebrate!
Skins wrapped up last night with "Eura," an episode focusing on Tony's younger sister, who's a self-imposed mute. And, well, in the same vein as the rest of the show, the episode warrants one great big "Meh." It was incredibly average. Seriously. I'm amazed at just how average it was. But, I guess since this was the season finale (and potentially the series finale), it should show everything that the show does best. And what does Skins do best? It's the best at being really, really average.
"Looks like you should've looked a little closer, kid. This isn't for me." -Michelle
Everybody's still pissed off at Tony, but who can blame them? He's a jerk to his girlfriend (now ex-girlfriend). He's a jerk to his best friend. He's a jerk to anyone else he meets. In short, the dude is just a big jerk. Eura, as his little sister, loves him dearly in spite of all his jerkiness. She tries to convince everyone else that "Tony, hey, he's not such a bad guy!" She shows Michelle a letter that he wrote for her, except one vital thing is incorrect -- it wasn't for her. It was for Tea. So instead of helping the situation, she only hurts it. Then, Tony finds out. He's upset with her, telling her that she "shouldn't have done that."
"Took ur lil sista." -An anonymous text
Tea calls Tony to talk about her feelings and all of that crap, and Tony tells her that he loves her. She decides to be all like Han Solo and says, "I know." Honestly, it was disgusting. Two of the reasons Skins is so average is because a: the acting is really terrible at times (I'm looking at you, James Newman aka Tony aka man without emotion). And b: it wallows in melodrama. Don't get me wrong. I know Skins is a teenage drama, and with that territory comes some melodrama, but when the every scene is melodramatic, it just gets old. Combine that with the bad acting: yuck.
Anyway, after Tony hangs up with Star Wars-era Tea, he receives an anonymous text message that says someone "got his sister." He freaks out, which seems odd. Yeah, I know it's his sister, but who knew that Tony cared for anyone? I'll let it slide, because family connections are very strong, but so far, Skins hasn't given the audience anything regarding Tony's character that makes me think, "Oh, yeah, he's a good guy who cares for other people." In fact, it's done everything to make me thing exactly the opposite of that.
Tags: Skins, MTV Shows
"It's up to you to figure out the ending. Go figure." -Cadie
Meanwhile, in the storyline that no one cares about, Stanley is trying to figure out if he likes Cadie or if he likes Michelle. He was on the computer looking at Facebook photos of Michelle, then suddenly, Cadie messages him! (Technology these days, I tell you.) He goes outside and he and Cadie talk about, well, something (honestly I'm not really sure what -- it was something with feelings, though) and then they kiss.
Oddly enough, in spite of all of this, Stanley is one of my favorite characters. I think it's because Daniel Flaherty is probably the best actor on the show. But regardless, I just could not find myself caring about the love triangle that's quietly emerged between these three over the past few weeks. There just doesn't seem to be anything genuine about their feelings. Sure, Stan likes Michelle because, um, she's hot? And he likes Cadie because, um, she's weird? And they like Stan because he's, um, awkward? I pose these questions because I don't have the answer. The show never even bothered to hint at the cause or reasoning.
"Is he here?" -Eura
So anyway, the group gets together -- despite being pissed at each other -- and goes to look for Eura. Chris magically knows where she is, so they head over to a rave/concert to look. Stanley finds her backstage and Eura speaks! She admits that she faked the kidnapping herself as a way to teach Tony a lesson about his selfishness. And, um, I guess that works? And then the episode ends, right? They all go home and live happily ever after? Well, almost. But not before Stan sings a song.
Yup. You read that right. Stan ends up on stage after removing Eura and, well, because Cadie told him that he needs to express himself, Stan does the logical thing and starts to sing. He busts out a rendition of the Tears for Fears classic, "Shout." Oh yeah, then Cadie jumps in, because, you know, Cadie is weird. And weird people -- they are good singers!
This scene was abso-fucking-lutely ridiculous. But in hindsight, "Shout" was more than just a bad scene. It is the perfect example of everything that's wrong with this version of the Skins. At its heart, Skins wanted to demonstrate the realities and emotions of teenage life. It wanted to show us how someone feels when they brush their arm against the arm of their crush. It wanted to capture the nervous butterfly feeling in your stomach after you get that first kiss. It wanted to reveal what that first hit of marijuana tastes like. It wanted to show us these things. And to a certain extent, it did. But it did it without any heart.
Despite focusing each episode on a single character, Skins never gave its the audience a chance to invest in its characters. It relied too heavily on big, dramatic and over-the-top scenes (like "Shout") to show us the smallest of emotions. Sure, it's slightly interesting to see Stanley look back and forth at the two women he loves as he sings, but it would have been much more effective if it'd happened in a quieter, more intimate setting. Instead, we're presented with an onslaught of melodrama that focuses so much on trying to look cool -- with flashy lights, indie-rock songs and clothes from American Apparel -- that nothing feels genuine. And once that authenticity is lost, there's nothing left but empty characters and an empty plot, and as a result, an empty show.
The Marvel publishing mogul, who helped bring to life characters such as Spider-Man, the X-Men and Iron Man, was on hand to see his permanent tribute unveiled on Los Angeles' Hollywood Boulevard, surrounded by cheering friends and fans.
And he told reporters of his shock at being named as an inductee on the famous strip, saying, "Would you believe I'm on the same block as Paul Newman and Sophia Loren?... I really still can't believe it. I think they have me confused with someone else, but I'm not gonna tell them!"
Lee, who has enjoyed numerous cameo roles in his characters' superhero films, also joked that he hopes his Hollywood star will lead to more acting slots, adding, "One good thing about it: Maybe now I'll be able to get cameos of more than 30 seconds in length. With my new elevation to legendhood, maybe I'll rate a full minute from now on!"
The Hollywood star came as a belated birthday present for Lee, who turned 88 years old on 28 December (10).
Let's hear it for the old guy who in this movie comes off sexier than his buff young accomplice (Dermot Mulroney). OK the old guy happens to be the gracefully aging icon Paul Newman -- as a feisty heistmeister who dodges a long prison sentence and then teams up with his equally conniving rest-home nurse (Linda Fiorentino) on a bank job gone wrong. "Where the Money Is" is breezy suspenseful and as much a love story as anything else -- if you call mentoring a new life in crime a kind of love. The mission-improbable caper is no more or less entertaining than a "Rockford Files" rerun but the film's swerving joyride takes its real thrills from the great escape that Fiorentino's Bonnie Parker makes from a dead-end life in the married lane.
Newman still hasn't lost it and as Henry Manning he doesn't miss any nuances in the edgy balance between streetwise wariness and amiable rapport with his sultry new colleague. The steam-powered Fiorentino has forged her career by making danger look casual and this is her most alluring work since "The Last Seduction" added another zero to her salary. Her chemistry with Newman a flirty twist on the idea of honor among thieves is really what makes this movie worth seeing. Mulroney is serviceable as the dim but lovable hubby a supporting role that's more foil than fully etched character.
We can all thank director Marek Kanievska for deciding not to have the May-December duo end up in the sack and leaving them simply professional cohorts. The director's admirable sense of comic timing works all the better by not letting the laughs get in the way of his leads' exploration of their characters -- although there's no denying the limits of this frothy genre. Perhaps Kanievska's greatest feat here is allowing Newman to retain his dignity in close-up.