'The Devil Inside' sins against great exorcism flicks
Published Friday, January 6, 2012 8:36AM EST
"The Devil Inside"
Richard's Review: 0 stars
A title card near the beginning of "The Devil Inside" reads "The Vatican does not endorse this film." I know how they feel. I can't endorse it either.
Set in 2009, it's a mock documentary -- think the "Blair Witch Exorcism" -- about a daughter's search to find out the truth about her mother. In 1989 Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley), mother of Isabella (Fernanda Andrade), murdered three people during an exorcism. Twenty years later Isabella, documentary camera in tow, travels to Rome where her mother is being treated in an institution. There, she hooks up with two rogue priests who perform unauthorized exorcisms. Their examination of Maria to determine if she is mentally ill or is actually possessed results in a devilish domino effect.
"The Devil Inside" is an exceedingly silly movie. The naturalism that makes other "found footage" movies like "Paranormal Activity" so effective is missing, replaced with stilted acting, clunky dialogue -- when good old mom tells Isabella that her actions are "against God's will," Isabella pronounces, "That means something, right?" -- and way too much pointless exposition. Is it really necessary to explain that the possession of one body by several demons is known in the profession as -- wait for it! -- "multiple demonic possession?"
Worse, there's more talk of exorcism than actual exorcisms. They prattle on and on about the particulars of possession, but when they actually do one it is with all the out-of-focus, wobbly camera anti-panache these "found footage" films are known for.
There's no pea soup, no head spinning, just some contorting and hard to see special effects. Even the battle between good and evil -- the thing that made "The Exorcist" the benchmark of devil possession movies -- doesn't register. If you don't care about the characters you certainly won't care about whatever may be living inside them.
In its slight 80-minute running time -- just about the best thing I can say about this movie is, ‘Hey, at least it wasn't longer! -- "The Devil Inside" has one or two fleeting moments that will raise the hair on the back of your hand. The rest of the time you'll be resting your head against the back of your hand trying not to fall asleep.
"Margin Call" DVD
Richard's Review: 4 stars
"Margin Call," a new Wall Street drama with an all-star cast including Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons and Demi Moore, deserved a better run at the theatres. Now on DVD and download, this overlooked movie of the beginning of our recent financial crisis has a compelling story and great acting.
A fictionalized account of what may have happened at Lehman Brothers et al, "Margin Call" is set at a Wall Street firm following a brutal round of layoffs. Using information passed on by one of the outgoings execs, an analyst, played by "Star Trek's" Zachary Quinto, discovers that the firm is wildly overleveraged. Saving the company will affect not only the employees but the entire economy of the United States.
The way I have described it would sound melodramatic if it wasn't bound so closely to fact. That's the beauty of the movie. It takes complex financial transactions, dramatizes them and presents them in a way that makes sense. It also shines the spotlight on the terrible mess the greed of these Wall Street firms caused.
Without great characters, a movie solely about the crisis wouldn't be necessary in the wake of "Inside Job." That Oscar-winning documentary covered pretty much the same ground.
Luckily "Margin Call" abounds with interesting characters even though it doesn't exactly avoid the stereotypical portrayal of Wall Street types. There's the de rigueur associate obsessed with his colleague's pay cheques, as well as the over indulgent CEOs. But despite its occasional typecasting, actors like Spacey, Tucci and Simon Baker imbue their characters with humanity, creating multi-layered people concerned with the ethics of what they are doing.
Perhaps "Margin Call" flopped because people don't want to be reminded of the financial meltdown that left tens-of-thousands of Americans stuck with sub prime mortgages and made foreclosure signs the hottest landscaping feature of the 2008-2009 season. Perhaps it was because the star wattage of Stanley Tucci and Kevin Spacey wasn't enough to put bums in seats. Whatever the reason, "Margin Call" remains a gem that will hopefully find its audience on the small screen.
"The Windsors From George to Kate" DVD
For royal watchers: 4 stars
For everyone else: 2 ½ stars
From "The King's Speech" to the Royal Wedding, the royals have been at the centre of popular culture. Not that they have ever been far out of the spotlight, but lately it seems that light is shining a bit brighter than it has for some time.
Taking advantage of that newfound enthusiasm for all things regal is "The Windsors From George to Kate," a new DVD made up of old footage. Offering up everything from George V's Silver Jubilee to a host of royal funerals, the coronations of George VI and Queen Elizabeth and wedding footage -- Charles and Diana and William and Kate (the latter only in the bonus material) -- it's a greatest hits package of royal public life. But it barely touches on anything that didn't happen in front of a television camera. There are more crowns on display here than in an entire season's worth of "Toddlers and Tiaras."
The result is an educational look, filled with pomp and circumstance, at one of the most fascinating families of our age. There's no insight, but watching the ancient rituals of coronation played out in modern times is anthropologically interesting.