Friday, October 6, 2023

The Exorcist: Believer

My View: The Exorcist: Believer (2023) R  In 1973, the devil possessed Chris MacNeil’s (Ellen Burstyn) daughter, Regan, and it took a heroic priest to save her. Now, in present day, two girls (Lidya Jewett and Olivia Marcum) disappear into the woods and then return three days later with no memory of what went on. Something has happened to the girls, and there is an evil presence that only one person alive has witnessed anything like this before: Chris MacNeil. The Exorcist (1973) is one of the greatest horror films of all time. It was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, including Ellen Burstyn as Best Actress and William Friedkin as Best Director. There have been attempts to recapture that magic, including the 1977 sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic, which is on many film critics’ lists as one of the worst films in cinema history. Well, now we can add another film to the list with The Exorcist: Believer. Ellen Burstyn, who has resisted appearing in a sequel, is in this one (she got a boatload of money and has used it to set up a scholarship at a university where she teaches acting). I am sorry to say that Miss Burstyn should have stayed away because she is wasted in the minor role she plays in this film. Unlike the first film, this one uses the idea that a community can beat the devil if they just band together. So we get a former wanna-be nun, an evangelist, a Haitian priest, and a reluctant Catholic priest to get the devil out of the two girls. The film is incredibly predictable, including a surprise appearance by someone from the past. The film is laughable in parts because it is so cheesy, and the few scares are only from the jump-out-of-the-dark variety. In the original The Exorcist, a sense of dread started almost from the start and built until the very end, making it one of the scariest films that has met the test of time, and audiences left feeling like they had battled the devil themselves. At my screening, when the movie ended, the audience clapped. I was shocked until I realized they were clapping because it was finally over.  My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again  The Exorcist: Believer Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Indiefest: Foe (2023) R Foe is set in the near future, where Hen (Saoirse Ronan) and Junior (Paul Mescal) farm a secluded piece of land that has been in Junior’s family for generations. Their life is turned upside down when a stranger (Aaron Pierre) shows up at their doorstep with a startling proposal. It’s a proposal that will change their lives forever. Foe is a film about love and the choice you make to keep the love alive. The film's attempt to tell a convoluted story leaves the audience feeling unfulfilled. I had trouble with the film from almost the start, not understanding why Junior was picked for a mission that could save humanity. He’s pretty much a dolt, and I had difficulty seeing what Hen saw in him. The film doesn’t give such a fine an actor as Saoirse Ronan much to do other than staring off into space. The film feels like it’s just a bunch of scenes put together, and when it’s time to reveal the ending, it feels like we have been cheated. My Rating: Cable Foe Info  Now playing exclusively in theatres. 

My View: She Came to Me (2023) R  Composer Steven (Peter Dinklage) is having writer’s block, and his new opera is due in two weeks. His wife, Pat (Anne Hathaway), suggests he take the dog for a walk. Steven finds himself in a bar and meets a tugboat captain, Katrina (Marisa Tomei), who invites him to her boat. He has a one-night stand with the captain and is inspired to write his new opera. The problem is the tugboat captain loves being Steven’s newfound muse. I thoroughly enjoyed this romantic comedy about a man full of doubt and neuroses who is married to a woman who has her own troubles (even though she is a therapist) and seems to indulge Steven, even when he doesn’t need it. Entering Steven’s life is Katrina, who is a hopeless romantic who goes too far, too fast. Marisa Tomei makes this film work, and she is terrific as the seemingly opposite of the cold and rigid Pat. Add in the mix is a sort of Romeo and Juliet romance of a couple of teens, and we have one of those romantic comedies that somehow all comes together in the end. And though I am not a big opera fan, the scenes we see of Steven’s compositions make me want to go, primarily when he deals with axe-welding sirens.  My Rating: Full Price   She Came to Me Website    Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Indiefest: Strange Way of Life (2023) R Silva (Pedro Pascal) and Jake (Ethan Hawke) were once more than just friends working on a ranch. After twenty-five years, Silva has ridden a horse across the desert to visit his friend Jake. With friendship and love behind them, Silva wants Jake, now a sheriff, not to hunt down Silva’s son, who is wanted for murder. How far will what happened in the past keep Jake from doing his duty? Strange Way of Life is a short 30-minute film from Pedro Almodóvar (The Skin I Live In (2011), Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989). This strange film feels too short for the story it is trying to tell. While I loved the performances of Pascal and Hawke, there isn’t a lot of sparks between the two. We are to think that these two former lovers broke up over differences in how they wanted to live their lives. It’s a story about love that has been lost and the choices the two men have made in their lives. One man is driven by his duty to the badge, and his love for his son drives the other. There is a story here to tell; it just needs to be longer and more complex. Instead, the film ends too soon and easily, with both men making choices that don’t feel resolved.  My View: Bargain Matinee   The film is playing with another Almodóvar short, The Human Voice, that stars Tilda Swinton.  Strange Way of Life Website  Now playing in theatres.

My View: Totally Killer (2023) R Totally Killer occurs when the infamous “Sweet Sixteen Killer” returns after 35 years. The killer attacks Jamie (Kiernan Shipka) and is somehow transported back to 1987. Jamie has just a few days to stop the killer from committing his first kill, or she will be stuck in the 80s. Totally Killer is a fun film that uses Kiernan Shipka’s charisma and charm to wow us and maybe forget a few plot points that don’t quite work. But the film succeeds because the fun of the movie is that it’s a great takeoff of the slasher films of the 80s, mocking all the cliches of those films, including killing the teen who has sex, the isolated cabin in the woods (complete with a hot tub) and clueless high school students who can’t see that their lives are in danger until it’s too late. The film’s pace is blindingly fast, so you won’t mind that the ending doesn’t make much sense, but that’s okay. The films that it’s making fun of didn’t either.   My Rating: Full Price  Totally Killer Website  Now playing on Amazon Prime.

Indiefest: The Royal Hotel (2023) R Hanna and Liv (Julia Garner and Jessica Henwick) are US tourists backpacking across Australia. In need of extra money, they sign up to work for a few weeks at a remote pub in the outback. The job at first is fun, but soon, they are confronted with a bunch of unruly locals in a situation that snowballs out of control with nowhere to escape. After seeing who was in the cast and a trailer that promised a lot, I had high hopes for this film. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t deliver the tension or danger the trailer seems to hint at. Instead, we get two characters that, as the film goes along, you like less and less, which isn’t good when it’s an us versus them kind of movie. The film ends with a whimper and not the bang you expect, making the film feel flat and never provocative or as daring as it aspires to be. I like the performances from the two leads, but the rest of the cast felt very wooden, and the characters they played were too easy to predict. The Royal Hotel wanted to be a movie about the trials and tribulations of young women working in a bar full of men, but all we got was a lot of drunks bored with life and an ending that left a hangover.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Royal Hotel Website  Now playing in theatres. 
When Evil Lurks (2023) R  Two brothers (Ezequiel Rodríguez and Demián Salomón) hear gunshots in the middle of the night. When they go out the next day to find out what happened, they find a dead person who has been sawed in half. The brothers know that evil has come to their region, and it will take over if they don’t do something. The film is from Argentinian filmmaker Demián Rugna, known for his 2017 award-winning horror film Terrified. I will warn you that When Evil Lurks is a violent and bloody horror film with some extremely disturbing scenes, including one with a child. If you don’t like horror films or can’t stand violence, this isn’t a film for you. Almost from the start, the tension builds, and as soon as we see the body cut into two, we know we are dealing with something evil. Against their better judgment, the two brothers try to stop the evil from infecting their town, but things go from bad to worse as the evil keeps spreading. This is one scary film that doesn’t let up, and you feel as helpless as the two brothers do as they try to fight back. The deaths are sometimes shocking, and the scares are almost overwhelming. When Evil Lurks is a film that has wowed audiences at film festivals, including rave responses from the recent Fantastic Fest, but be warned, it is not a film for the squeamish. My Rating: Full Price  When Evil Lurks Website    Now playing in theatres. 
My View:
Pet Sematary: Bloodlines (2023) R  Pet Sematary: Bloodlines returns to where it all began in 1969, where Jud Crandall (Jackson White) dreams of leaving his hometown of Ludlow. Jud and his friends find out the town has dark secrets, and he must face his family's connection to an ancient evil that could destroy everything in its path. The prequel that no one asked for. This is the origin story of the 2019 movie Pet Sematary, which was a bad horror movie in itself. So there wasn’t much hope for this one, and it’s another long line of failures that tries to make films out of Stephen King's ideas. The film tries and fails to answer why people stay in a cursed town. Instead, we get a story that is plain stupid from the beginning to the end. Pet Sematary: Bloodlines is one of those films when you feel sorry for actors in the movie, like Henry Thomas, Pam Grier, or David Duchovny, who are all better than what they are asked to perform. There aren’t any scares, and the film runs out of ideas almost from the get-go. The ending feels like the filmmakers were thinking, ok, we need to wrap this up, so let’s do this and call it a day. One of the characters tells us, ‘We can never bury that evil.’ Well, I hope we can bury this movie, at least. My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See It Again  Pet Sematary: Bloodlines Info  Now playing on the Paramount+ platform. 

Forgotten Film: Boy (2011) Boy, an 11-year-old who lives in Waihau Bay, New Zealand, with his younger brother, Rocky (who thinks he has superpowers), and his grandmother, is obsessed with Michael Jackson. His mother died giving birth to Rocky, and Boy spends much of his day thinking about what his long-lost father is doing. Is he a spy, a famous rugby player, or a brilliant artist? Boy’s world is changed when his father suddenly shows up, and he must come to grips with the realization that his father will never live up to the image he created of him over the years. The director (who also stars as Boy’s father), Taika Waititi, gives us a wonderful world of interesting characters, where Boy’s fantasies about his father come to life, and cartoon drawings illustrate what Rocky thinks is going to happen when he applies his imagined superpowers. My Rating: I Would Pay to See It Again  Boy Info The film is available to rent or buy on Amazon and Apple TV.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Foe: Chicken Coordinator

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Next Goal Wins (2023) PG-13 Back in 2001, the American Samoa soccer team suffered the worst loss in World Cup history, losing to Australia 31-0. With the 2014 World Cup approaching, the team recruits a down-on-his-luck coach (Michael Fassbinder) to get them back to respectability. It’s going to be a long road back. The film is from Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit (2019), Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) and Boy (2010)). I am a huge fan of Waititi and can’t wait to see this film. Next Goal Wins Website   The film will be released in theatres in mid-November.

Until Next Time!

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