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Entries in the devil inside (2)

Friday
Aug102012

The Bourne Legacy

Movies are a business. It’s as simple as that. Most movies that make money are going to get at least one sequel, regardless of whether or not the story warrants one. Rarely, however, does a movie feel as much as a cash grab as The Bourne Legacy. The Matt Damon starring Bourne movies had their fair share of problems, but none were as cumbersome as this. The Bourne Legacy isn’t as fun, interesting or exciting as the original trilogy and it coasts by on name alone. Separate this movie from the franchise as a whole and it becomes an instantly forgettable and banal thriller.

The protagonist this time is Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), a genetically engineered black ops agent similar to Jason Bourne. Due to Bourne’s events in the previous movies, the government has cancelled its black ops programs and has decided to dispose of all their field agents, a task assigned to Retired Col. Eric Byer (Edward Norton). However, Aaron escapes and eventually meets up with Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a scientist who worked on the program who is also in the government’s crosshairs. Together they set out to expose the government’s crimes.

The story isn’t complicated—it’s actually fairly straight forward—but The Bourne Legacy (and indeed, the previous films) needlessly convolutes it with too little explanation and too many location jumps. The movie starts at a training site in Alaska before jetting to Reston, VA, Washington DC, London, New York City, Chicago, Korea, Pakistan, Thailand and back again. While some jumps are necessary, others are not, existing only to show agents in other parts of the world as they are taken out one by one. Such obvious inclusions are unnecessary. We know what’s happening, why show it? The film includes many moments like these that do nothing but muddle up the picture and take away from the story at hand.

It’s moments like these that truly prevent The Bourne Legacy from finding a rhythm. Pakistan, Korea and many other locales in the film are visited as if their inclusion will be setting up important future scenes, but they never do. This tedious globetrotting is broken up by nothing more than random scenes of violence that are interspersed throughout. Like the original trilogy, this movie suffers from excessive close ups and nauseating shaky cam. Although there is some fluid camerawork, including one impressive sequence when, in a matter of seconds, Cross scales a house and jumps through a window to meet an intruder at the top of the stairs, much of it is too hectic to keep up with. The camera moves so gratuitously at times that it often feels like you’re watching an overproduced Tony Scott film. Cross may make for a good protagonist, but he’s not fleshed out enough for us to care and the clunky action doesn’t make up for it.

Renner is a capable actor, so this movie’s failures certainly isn’t his fault. It just appears that the Bourne series has lost its luster. Those not already over the franchise most likely will be after witnessing one of the most unsatisfying endings to grace the big screen this year. Just as the film finally begins to gain the momentum it so desperately needs, it ends. The ending isn’t quite a “non-ending” like January’s The Devil Inside, but it’s just as abrupt and inconclusive, no doubt due to the studio’s desire to continue the franchise. It leaves many doors open, but you likely won’t care.

The Bourne Legacy refers to the franchise’s hunted down black ops agents with the tagline, “There was never just one,” which may be true within the world the previous films created, but their stories are largely the same. We’ve seen this before and it was more interesting the first three times.

The Bourne Legacy receives 1.5/5

Friday
Jan062012

The Devil Inside

A lot of people these days criticize mockumentaries and “found footage” films. I’ve always been one of their defenders. I think the style allow for more realism. Conventional horror movie techniques are overshadowed in favor of simple, subtle frights, not exaggerated violence and “Boo!” scares. After watching The Devil Inside, though, I’m quickly changing my tune. This subgenre of film has presented only a small number of tricks and after The Blair Witch Project, The Last Exorcism, REC and three Paranormal Activity films, I think we’ve just about seen them all.

The story of The Devil Inside revolves around a young woman named Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) who wishes to know whether her mother (Suzan Crowley), who was institutionalized after murdering three people years ago, is simply crazy or possessed by the devil (take a guess which one it is). So she employs the help of two Catholic priests-in-training named Ben (Simon Quarterman) and David (Evan Helmuth) who agree to let her and her documentary filmmaker film them as they perform an exorcism without the church’s permission.

Of course, that begs the question, why in the world would they do that? As the film so kindly points out, performing an exorcism without the church’s permission is grounds for excommunication, but they let them keep right on filming anyway. “All media coverage is banned,” one of the priests even says as they drive to perform an exorcism while the documentarian lugs his camera around, as if a documentary is somehow more acceptable. It’s a lapse of logic so huge that it’s impossible to get past. Watching this movie is like watching someone accidentally walk into a glass door, pause for a second and then do it again. You can’t help but throw your hands up and laugh at what I feel I can safely say is the most poorly planned out movie I’ve seen in years.

If Wikipedia is to be believed, Paramount Pictures snatched up the rights to this movie with the hopes that it would turn into their next Paranormal Activity. There are clearly hints of that film (and about a dozen others) in this one, but there’s a difference between using it as inspiration and simply riding its coattails. The Devil Inside clearly does the latter. One can’t help but get the sneaking suspicion that if horror mockumentaries hadn’t gained so much popularity over the last few years, this never would have been made. In a strange way, it makes all the great movies that have come before seem redundant.

Think of your five favorite foods in the world. Then think about blending them together and choking them down. So much good has suddenly become bad. The Devil Inside is kind of like that. It begins like the brilliant Australian horror mockumentary, Lake Mungo, complete with talking heads and back story akin to an actual documentary. It’s also very much like the aforementioned Paranormal Activity, with a number of cameras set up during the actual exorcisms, so as to provide fresh perspectives. At times, it even reminds of the underrated sequel, The Exorcist III, during its dialogue heavy asylum scenes. But whereas all three of those movies are great, The Devil Inside is garbage. Lake Mungo actually had an interesting story to tell with plot turns and an interesting twist. At 77 minutes without credits, this barely has a story at all and it offers no surprises. Paranormal Activity was all about minimalism and letting your imagination do all the scary work. This throws its supposed frights in your face. The dialogue in The Exorcist III was gripping and thought provoking. The Devil Inside was written by the same guys who wrote Stay Alive, which should be all I need to say about that.

If that’s not enough, you have story points that are said in passing, but never explored, like Ben’s haunted past involving the death of, I don’t know, someone and contrived scene set-ups, like when a parent says they needed to move their possessed daughter into the basement for no other reason I could ascertain than because it’s dark, decrepit, scary looking and a perfect fit for a horror film. Its worst offense, however, is its inability to maintain the documentary illusion. This thing uses film techniques that simply aren’t feasible in actual documentaries. Most of the time, it’s small things that most people won’t notice, like a sequence of shot reverse shots where the camera operators would have to be sharing the same space to pull off without time skips, and other times it’s something stupidly obvious, like a long shot that suddenly jumps forward to the object or person in the distance without missing a beat.

The Devil Inside is horribly sloppy. It feels like a college video project, with actors that only strengthen that feeling, and it’s entirely ineffective. If it had come out a week ago, it would have easily made my worst of the year list. It may very well indeed make my list this year, but if it’s lucky, by the time the end of 2012 rolls around, I’ll have completely forgotten about it.

The Devil Inside receives 0/5