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Weekend Movie Forecast: <em>The Last Exorcism</em> Vs. <em>Takers</em>

<p>You have to hand it to Hollywood producers, they can tell when the movie-going public at large feels a void when staring up at the marquee and they do everything they can to fill it. Our collective desire for another Exorcist movie must have been palpable because they got on it post haste and deliver to us today <em>The Last Exorcism</em>, which in all honesty probably won't be the last exorcist movie in our lifetime. The film follows sweet, non-molesting Reverend Cotton Marcus as he goes to make a routine exorcism on a girl named Nell down in Louisiana (another thing we can't get enough of these days). Needless to say this crazy bitch may or may not just be a normal demented teenager, but apparently the outcome will shock us all.</p><p></p>Reviews have actually been pretty positive (especially for the umpteenth installment of a tired horror franchise), with Joshua Rothkopf from <a href="http://newyork.timeout.com/articles/film/88537/the-last-exorcism-film-review">Time Out New York</a> saying: "A smart horror film will fatten its pigs before the slaughter, and the mock doc <em>The Last Exorcism</em> feeds its prize hog nicely. 'That’s <em>your</em> word, not mine,' insists Cotton (the deliciously smug Fabian) to the lens. The word is <em>fraud</em>."<p></p>"But with the introduction of Nell (Bell), a haunted teenager confined to her religious dad’s farm, the movie morphs into a progressively lesser entertainment: first a rape drama, then a sub–<em>Blair Witch</em> running-around-the-woods panic piece."


<p>In his spare time between beating Rihanna and apologizing for it, Chris Brown made a movie! In <em>Takers</em>, Brown breaks type by beating up baddies instead of pop-stars as he and his BFF's T.I., Hayden Christensen and his Super-sized version, Paul Walker try to outsmart the downright lovable Matt Dillon who was assigned to track down these vagrants. The movie looks all flashy and new but its really just a "one last" heist movie. One wonders why these thieves ever stop, they seem to do pretty great until their last big score.</p><p></p>Reviews have been typical fare for a Hip-Hop Heist film (yeah, that was just coined), with Nathan Rabin from <a href="http://www.avclub.com/articles/takers,44613/">The A.V. Club</a> saying: "Takers is all about impossibly handsome, chiseled men in exquisitely tailored suits looking thoughtful and sophisticated while enjoying fine liquor poured from crystal decanters in a series of glossy, glamorous urban locales. There’s also a heist or two, plus the requisite chases, gunfire, and betrayals, but that all seems incidental to the film’s real purpose: allowing a cast of handsome young men to live out their Rat Pack fantasies—and by extension, the audience’s.<p></p>"Director John Luessenhop and his co-screenwriters Peter Allen, Gabriel Casseus, and Avery Duff futilely attempt to add a little substance to the flashy nonsense with a subplot involving Elba’s troubled bond with crack-addicted sister Marianne Jean-Baptiste. But in spite of the pedigree of the actors involved, the relationship feels shoehorned in from another movie altogether. Besides, too much—or for that matter, any—characterization might get in the way of the film’s raison d’être: standing-around-looking-cool sequences."


<p>Vincent Cassel has got to be the most attractively revolting actor working right now. Considering some of the films he's made in the last two decades (<em>Irreversible, La Haine, Eastern Promises</em>) the man has made a career out of playing disinherited sociopaths that commit some of the most awful, disturbing acts while remaining an extremely engaging presence on the screen. Today he stars in the film <em>Mesrine: Killer Instinct</em> and it looks like he's once again created a brilliant character out of a brilliantly questionable human being. The film follows middle-class Mesrine after he returns from the Algerian War only to get caught up in the glamorous, fast-money lifestyle of 1960's Paris. Leaving his family behind he quickly climbs up the ladder as one of the most successful criminals around until he finally becomes France's public enemy #1. Mesrine was an extremely interesting individual and it looks like Cassel was perfectly cast for the part.</p><p></p>Reviews have been good with some dissent coming from Nicolas Rapold from <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-08-25/film/mesrine-takes-a-hit/">The Voice</a> who says: "The two-part tale of French gangster-showman Jacques Mesrine is as densely packed and serially rambling as a well-trafficked Wikipedia entry. Director Jean-François Richet, who whipped up not-bad mayhem in his <em>Assault on Precinct 13</em> remake, devotes so much time to tallying his subject's career milestones and highlights—all of them, it seems—that any insight into the supercriminal falls by the wayside.<p></p>"Mesrine's jaw-dropping record of flamboyant crimes and repeat prison breaks would seem to guarantee an exciting portrait of this Gallic force of nature, but Richet proves maddeningly loath to edit his material, and his charismatic star, Vincent Cassel, does not delve deep into the character."



<p>After the history lesson-cum-comic book-cum-video game cut-scene <em>300</em> did so successfully, Hollywood seems to think that people are dying to see epic historical battle films. Today comes yet another one: <em>Centurion</em>. The film is set during the war between Roman soldiers and Pict tribesmen during the 2nd century Roman conquest of Britain. Quintus Dias is a Roman centurion and son of a legendary gladiator who leads a group of soldiers on a raid of a Pict camp to rescue a captured general. Somewhere along this mission things go wrong and a Pict soldier is left dead, leaving a lot of ticked-off Picts who vow revenge. The film is glossy and surely full of super-slow motion shots, so those of you who liked <em>300</em> probably could do worse this weekend. </p><p></p>Reviews have been alright, with Keith Uhlich from <em>Time Out New York</em> says: "Quintus’s testosterone-slathered philosophy comes courtesy writer-director Neil Marshall, who occasionally brings this guys-on-the-run actioner, set in 2nd-century Britain, within spitting distance of its superior cited influences: Walter Hill’s bayou chase film, <em>Southern Comfort</em>, and Mel Gibson’s sanguine Mayan epic, <em>Apocalypto</em>.<p></p>"Unfortunately, everything has been digitally graded to an off-putting slate gray, hacked to disjointed pieces and subwoofered into the red. It’s prime B-movie material put through the Ridley Scott Cuisinart."


<p>And for those of you looking for one of those feel-good movies, <em>The Milk of Sorrow</em> follows a young girl Fausta who has gotten ill from being breastfed "the milk of sorrow" (which resulted from violations her mother suffered during the Peruvian civil war), and decides to insert a potato into her vagina to repel against unwanted intruders. Ah, good times. And that's just the set-up. </p><p></p>Reviews have been decent, with Jeannette Catsoulis from <a href="http://movies.nytimes.com/2010/08/27/movies/27milk.html?ref=movies">The Times</a> saying: "Plumbing the generational reverberations of trauma (believed by the indigenous population to be passed on through a mother’s milk), the Peruvian writer and director Claudia Llosa (the niece of the author Mario Vargas Llosa) explores the possibility of female empowerment in a culture suffocated by superstition and poverty.<p></p>"A tender, tentative turn by Efraín Solis, as a gardener who tries to breach Fausta’s defenses, offers temporary relief from the emotional uniformity, but it’s not enough to rescue a story limited less by Fausta’s reserve than by the filmmaker’s."


<p>Those of you pining for the good ol' days of V.C. Andrew's style incest need look no further, <em>Dainel and Ana</em> comes out today and boy does it aim to please. Unfortunately, whereas in Flowers in the Attic the incest was mostly of no consequence to the characters, in this film it destroys the two siblings. Daniel and Ana are brother and sister and best friends who are both going through two different stages in their lives. Daniel is reaching sexual maturity and Ana is about to get married. After the two siblings are kidnapped they are forced to have sex in order to be let go. The film follows the after effects of such a traumatic experience and attempt to depict what might happen. </p><p></p>It sounds as if the writer came up with the one effed up scenario and hoped the rest of the film would write itself. Looking at the reviews, it doesn't seem like that happened. Lisa Rosman from <a href="http://newyork.timeout.com/articles/film/88534/daniel-ana-film-review">Time Out NY</a> says: "It’s a common enough response to such extraordinary trauma, but director Michel Franco takes his cues a bit too well from his characters’ disassociation. The film’s horrifying experience looms over each well-constructed frame without anywhere to go, and the siblings spend lots of time languishing in darkened rooms and failing to keep appointments. (Meanwhile, their parents only halfheartedly inquire into their kids’ apparent malaise.)<p></p>"When a resolution inevitably arrives, it’s a case of too little, too late—the result is nonetheless damningly graphic. There are plenty of difficult films that reward the misery of watching them with profundity and a dramatic payoff. This dour import, alas, is assuredly not one of them."



<p>Starting Monday at the world famous Apollo Theater is the silent film <em>Louis</em> which follows the little scamp Louis Armstrong as he attempts to transcend his poor upbringing through playing music. The jazzy score was overseen by man around town Wynton Marsalis (who will be performing the score with an ensemble) and the film was directed by one Dan Pritzker.</p><p></p>The only review comes from Tim Grierson at <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-08-25/film/satchmo-the-backstory-in-louis/">The Voice</a> who says: "Director Dan Pritzker's playful silent comedy features beautiful women cavorting in frilly lingerie, a jazzy score overseen by Wynton Marsalis, and a shooting style that mimics the look of pre-talkies cinema. So why isn't <em>Louis</em> more fun?<p></p>"But no matter Haley's skill at Chaplin-esque balletic clowning, or Lowry's feisty carnality, Pritzker invests too little time in too many skimpy storylines, resulting in an episodic slackness that reduces the film's faux-silent technique to little more than a visual gimmick. <em>Louis</em> may superficially resemble movies of a bygone age, but it lacks their essence: masterful effortlessness."


<p>Although many of us don't really consider it an option, there are in fact people who live in the City who still make it out surfing every week. For those of you who do make it out and for those of you who always talk about it, there's a new surfing documentary that comes out today entitled <em>Highwater</em>. The film documents the history of the 7 Mile Miracle beach on the North Shore of Oahu which has become the sort of surfing Mecca of the world. It has become the central symbol of a ten billion dollar industry and one that brings in surfing pros and surfing wanna-bes from the world over. Specifically the doc centers on the soap opera that yearly unfolds during the surfing Triple Crown.</p><p></p>Reviews have been mixed, with Keith Uhlich from <a href="http://newyork.timeout.com/articles/film/88536/highwater-film-review">Time Out New York</a> saying: "There’s an eerie calm about the surfers interviewed in Dana Brown’s unfocused documentary, filmed during the 2005 Oahu North Shore Triple Crown. Even at their most frazzled, the perpetually wide-eyed gazes and soft-spoken demeanors of these devoted men and women suggest they’ve attained a Zen-like higher consciousness. Nothing much fazes them, not even the loss of limb, life or lower-body movement. The ocean is their God, and Brown, a surfer himself, looks on with an insider’s respect and awe.<p></p>"Would that his filmmaking style (call it Final Crutch Pro) lived up to his passion. The director splits the screen into overly busy panels and quadrants, cutting so haphazardly between Triple Crown events that it negates any suspense over the three-month contest’s outcome. His voiceover narration is an eye-roll inducer, what with its simplistic aphorisms ('Fear is the new black') and fairy-tale invocations of Cinderella at the ball."


<p>Considering how awful the economy is it should be interesting to see how a French comedy of manners such as <em>Change of Plans</em> does in theaters here in the states. Perhaps it will do well because people need a bit of escapism in their lives, or maybe people will see a film like <em>Mesrine</em> instead, as a way of living vicariously through a person who became successful outside of the system that failed him. In actuality, people who would normally see a comedy of manners at <a href="http://www.ifccenter.com/films/change-of-plans/">The IFC Center</a> are probably in good enough standing to see it anyway. Plot: typical comedy of manners whereas ten wealthy socialites have a dinner where their romantic troubles are slowly revealed and exacerbated to the audiences delight.</p><p></p>Reviews have been alright with Melissa Anderson from <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-08-25/film/a-comedy-of-manners-for-the-privileged-class-change-of-plans/">The Village Voice</a> saying: "Sarah (Emmanuelle Seigner), one of a highly privileged group of 10 at an annual dinner party held on the first day of summer, wishes to be free of 'the dictatorship of appearances.' Her creators, however—director Danièle Thompson (2006's <em>Avenue Montaigne</em>), co-writing with son and frequent collaborator Christopher (who also plays Seigner's obnoxious lawyer husband)—remain shackled to the tyranny of the tiresomely blithe and skin-deep.<p></p>"Skitting from one haute bourgeois Parisian to the next—nine-tenths of whom are either cheating or being cheated on—Change of Plans is a comedy of manners in need of Ritalin. As the film toggles back and forth from one year hence, smooth scene transitions and endings become even more insurmountable for Thompson. Shoehorned injections of gravitas and weak topicality among the partner swapping—cancer, a car accident, Sarah's book-signing for her just-published <em>The Saga of Raggedy Cape</em> about "an autistic child with magical powers"—merely highlight the tonal messiness."


<p>One of the good things about this vampire/zombie trend is when someone actually successfully makes a film with an interesting take on it (think <em>Shaun of the Dead</em> or <em>Let the Right One In</em>). When films like this are released it's even more refreshing because it swims in a sea of mediocre genre conventions. Today sees the release of <em>Make-Out with Violence</em> and it sounds pretty interesting. The film follows two fraternal twins who are trying to deal with the death of a close friend when they find her animated corpse wandering through the woods. The two kidnap the zombie and chain her to a bed in a small shack in the hopes of successfully getting her back to her old self again. </p><p></p>Reviews have been good with Jeannette Catsoulis from <a href="http://movies.nytimes.com/2010/08/27/movies/27makeout.html?ref=movies">The Times</a> saying: "A zombie movie like no other, <em>Make-Out With Violence</em> uses an undead crush to explore one of our most wrenching transitions: that long, hot summer between high school and adulthood.<p></p>"The title is something of a misnomer. Featuring precious little making out and even less violence, this downright dreamy fable about the difficulty of letting go — of friends, family, first love — unfolds with soporific charm."


<p>From August 26th through September 20th at <a href="http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/films/1091">The MoMA</a> is the series Ida Lupino: Mother Directs, which is a part of their Modern Women: Women Artists publication. The showcase centers around Ida Lupino who was referred to as the "English Jean Harlow" and had the acting and directing chops to transcend the comparison. Featured in the series is Nicholas Ray's masterpiece <em>On Dangerous Ground</em>. Definitely a lot of great films to check out, do yourself a favor and try and catch at least one.</p>


<em>Can you dig it!?</em><p></p>This weekend at the <a href="http://www.landmarktheatres.com/Market/NewYork/NewYork_frameset.htm">Landmark Theater</a> Sunshine at Midnight presents one of the essential cult and NYC films <em>The Warriors</em>. The film accurately depicts what a pain in the ass it is to get to Coney Island. If you haven't seen this movie and you're living in the city it is essential that you get yourself to Landmark ASAP. It should be a blast to see in theaters.



<em>Wendy? Darling? Light, of my life. I'm not gonna hurt ya. You didn't let me finish my sentence. I said, I'm not gonna hurt ya. I'm just going to bash your brains in.</em><p></p>Tonight at <a href="http://www.ifccenter.com/">IFC Center</a> is Stanley Kubrick's classic <em>The Shining</em>. The film is either the most beautiful horror movie ever shot or one of the most interesting meditations on alcoholism we have, but it's probably both. This movie is made for theaters so don't miss out.