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.
If there's anyone who knows a thing or two about having to prove himself when the odds are stacked against him, it's Eli Manning. The two-time Super Bowl champ went in to last night's Saturday Night Live with the task of living up to great athlete hosts of SNL past, including his older brother Peyton Manning.
While Lil' Manning has always seemed like a sweet and approachable kind of fellow, Big Bro has been seen as the mainstream star thanks to his funny turns in commercials and, yes, SNL. Of course, if there's anything the New York Giants quarterback does best, it's defy expectations. (Just ask the New England Patriots.)
Kicking things off with a surprisingly funny cold open that poked fun at Fox & Friends and Rupert Murdoch (of course, anything in comparison to yet another bland Mitt Romney sketch seems downright hilarious) first-time host Eli soon took the stage of Studio 8H and looked poised to take New York City by storm...again.
The relaxed Manning performed a solid, though not particularly daring opening monologue about being a "real New Yorker," in which he suggested that tourists do things like see Cats on Broadway and go to New Jersey for some authentic Italian food at the Olive Garden. Which is completely ridiculous because all real New Yorkers know there's an Olive Garden in Times Square.
After a faux commercial for Amazon shopping on Mother's Day, which served as a horribly embarassing reminder to not get our moms a Kindle or Fifty Shades of Grey, Manning got his first real shot at showing off his comedic chops during the motion-capture Madden video game sketch. Taran Killam made a brief, but welcome return as Tim Tebow and Jay Pharoah shimmied into his Victor Cruuuuuuuz impression, but it was Eli who ran away with the whole thing playing himself. While SNL tapped into the aw-shucks quarterback's vanilla charms, that didn't make them any less funny. Case in point: Eli not being able to come up with a cool end zone dance and instead mimed drinking water, brushing flowing hair, hugging himself, nervously throwing a grenade, and the big winner, eating a sandwich. One can only hope that by next season Manning actually does some of these on the field. Check it out: Good guy Eli took the backseat for the next sketch in which he played a man on trial who was only truly guilty of mass sexting (a nice little jab at some of his NFL cohorts, eh?) and sketchy internet history searches. The football star easily kept up with the comedic pacing of the sketch and his faces for text message emoticons were the things gifs were made for. But it was his turn as the butt-kicking superhero for little brothers everywhere that followed that solidified his spot as one of this season's best and one of the best athlete hosts. Rivaling Peyton's classic United Way sketch, an ad for Eli's "Little Brothers" program, which consisted of the sports star helping younger brothers everywhere get revenge on their torturous older siblings ("I'm your worst f***ing nightmare," he warns one) was the surefire crowd-pleaser SNL has needed all season. Watch it below, and "learn to treat your brother with respect, Peyton": : Of course, Eli couldn't save the day all night. Manning played an Occupy Wall Street organizer in Bill Hader's rare misfire, the frequently used, but infrequently funny Herb Welch bit (sorry, but Drunk Uncle is the only crotchety voice of reason on SNL) and later as a guy trapped in a game show nightmare for the unnervingly outdated 'What Is This' sketch. (Women are clingy! Get it?!) Worst though came when Lil' Manning ignored our warning to NOT wear a dress for a sketch when he donned a gaudy yellow frock and a huge wig for an eye roll-worthy sketch about a drag competition. A drag, indeed. Still, they were the rare blips for an episode that was packed with highlights, including a short, but touching tribute to the late Adam Yauch. Much like how they paid tribute to Whitney Houston earlier this season, SNL paid their respects to The Beastie Boys member by showing a snippet of their visit to the show when they performed their classic "Sure Shot." Then there was the surprise cameos during Weekend Update from Sacha Baron Cohen, in character as General Aladeen, as well as Martin Scorsese as himself, being held hostage in order to talk about The Dictator. While Cohen's General Aladeen stunts felt dated by the time he dumped "ashes" on Ryan Seacrest at the Oscars, it's always fun to watch a legendary director poke fun at themselves and their work ("You think this is torture? I had to sit through Aviator") which SNL has done for the past two episodes, first with Steven Spielberg and last night with an equally game Scorsese. See it here: For whatever reason SNL opted not to use Rihanna for any sketches, despite her previous turn in the viral favorite "Shy Ronnie." Instead, the songstress sang two songs (or, as appearances would have it, lip-synched) during her turn as last night's musical guest. While there wasn't anything terribly memorable from Rihanna's performances of "Birthday Cake" or "Where Have You Been", aside from the pop star's enviable bod or those incredibly over-the-top set pieces, it was refreshing to see a musical guest who wasn't afraid to show how much fun they were having. Rihanna cracked smiles during both of her performances, which was more infectious than either of those songs. The latter half of the show, as is so often the case with SNL, took a turn for the weird with the polarizing Helga Lately sketch. Twitter seemed to be split straight down the middle with folks who found the Swedish version of E!'s Chelsea Lately inspired or grating (while Eli's Swedish football player and the idea of "Jersey Fjord" made me chuckle, I found myself leaning towards the latter.) The host ended the night on a high note, er, so to speak, with a Cheech & Chong sketch in which Eli played an "all-American wet blanket" who tries to put an end to the weed-smoking duo's fun. Don't worry Eli, the last thing you did last night was put an end to anyone's fun. In fact, viewers should have been awfully proud of you, baby bro. This one was a real winner. Do you agree that Eli Manning did a solid job as a surprisingly impressive host who was willing to poke fun at his gee-whiz persona? Or were you underwhelmed by him? What was your favorite part of the night? Least favorite? What did you think of Rihanna's performances? Was it all about Martin Scorsese for you or Kristen Wiig's take on the New Jersey tanning mom? Sound off in the comments section below! [Photo credit: NBC] More:
Watch Eli Manning's Saturday Night Live Promo: 'He's Like a Tree!'
Rihanna Channels Wild Things in 'Where Have You Been' Video
Mick Jagger To Host SNL Season Finale: Predicting the Sketches
SNL Eli Manning
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
CBS has released a trailer giving audiences a look at their latest cop show, Hawaii Five-O. The reboot of the 70’s hit focuses on the members of a special forces team investigating crimes in the 50th state.
Despite the dubious premise (Is there really that much crime in Honolulu?) the show has managed to assemble a surprisingly strong cast. Lost’s Daniel Dae Kim and the Ocean series’s Scott Caan both play detectives, making up for a bland-looking Alex O’Loughlin. Grace Park, whose acting abilities improved phenomenally over the course of her last series, Battlestar Galactica, plays token chick and obligatory surfer Kona Kalakaua. Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s James Marsters makes a brief appearance in the trailer, but will be filling the role of series big bad Victor Hesse.
While it’s doubtful that this show will be the next Lost, it certainly looks like a solid enough police procedural, with the added bonus of a beautiful setting (with one of the lowest violent crime rates in the nation) and a very catchy theme song.
For a chance to check out the series for yourself, watch the trailer below.
Country crossover sensation Faith Hill was the top winner at the 28th Annual American Music Awards on Monday night, walking away with three trophies but not before letting the audience in on her husband's dirty secret.
The singing beauty left an impression on the three-hour-long show with what perhaps was the strangest, or raunchiest, comment made during her acceptance speech for the Favorite Female Country Artist award.
"I was going to wear my husband's underwear, but it had a hole in it," Hill said while laughing and pointing to her husband, country singer Tim McGraw, who also took home an award in the Favorite Male Country Artist category.
Hill also won awards in the Country Album ("Breathe") and in the Female Pop/Rock Artist categories. In the pop/rock category, Hill beat out Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Celine Dion.
Toni Braxton Rockers Creed followed suit, as did R&B favorite Toni Braxton, each taking home two trophies apiece. Creed nabbed the award for Pop/Rock Album ("Human Clay") and Alternative Artist while Braxton's awards in the Female R&B and R&B Album ("Heat") categories set the singer on the road to a strong career comeback after bankruptcy and contractual problems.
Hosted by reigning pop queen Spears and veteran rapper LL Cool J, the annual music awards show also doubled as a platform for the young and sexy stars to show off as much skin as possible on network television.
Spears kicked off the evening's peep show, ripping off a conservative dress held together with Velcro to reveal a barely there miniskirt and tube top. Jennifer Lopez followed suit during her performance as did R&B newcomer Pink and, um, shock rocker Marilyn Manson.
Ricky Martin gave a remarkably tame performance with literally no bon-bon shaking while Spears' rocked-out version of her latest single "Stronger" -- not to mention her obligatory showcasing of more skin -- heated things up.
Aerosmith's performance of their new single "Jaded" was clearly the standout performance compared to the bland offerings of 3 Doors Down, Marilyn Manson and Pink.
A special Award of Merit went to Janet Jackson, which was preceded by a retrospective of the entertainer's acting and music career. 'N Sync took home the first-ever Internet Fan Award presented by William "Mr. Priceline.com" Shatner, no less, but lost out to boy band rivals Backstreet Boys in the Favorite Pop Group category.
Destiny's Child Multiple Grammy-nominated singing group Destiny's Child, 3 Doors Down, Dixie Chicks, Dr. Dre, Enrique Iglesias and Kid Rock each took home one award. Rock also made a special appearance on stage to set up a video homage to music artists who died over the past year, a segment that included images of composer/author Steve Allen, veteran pianist Victor Borge and, um, the late Joe C, Rock's pint-sized, foul-mouthed sidekick.
Eminem Spears, a two-time AMA nominee for the night, went home empty-handed, as did two-time nominee Eminem and three-time nominee Marc Anthony.
Winners were determined by a poll of 20,000 music buyers, with nominees compiled from retail sales and radio airplay data.