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Month: April 2016

Now You See Me (2013)

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MONEY    Monstrometer4
LONELINESS    Monstrometer1
BOREDOM    Monstrometer2
FEAR    Monstrometer1
TIME    Monstrometer1


Now Try to Watch Me!

What if the American Dream was only money? What if the dollar bill, no longer based on gold, was the only measure of everything, and a grand illusion? Has one become too jaded after watching such blockbusters on end? Well, here we are. Watch my eyes, watch my eyes, don’t look around my eyes!

Should we first go through character exposition? Please meet an illusionist (Jesse Eisenberg), a mentalist (Woody Harrelson), a spoon bending sleight (Dave Franco) and an escape artist doing (or not) an Houdini routine with piranhas (Isla Fisher). Is that enough of a random crew for you? Good, let’s proceed.

Teaming up through tarots (no, really!) our “Four Horsemen” (of what?) are confronted with a Jigsaw-like setup which, let’s say it once and for all, is impossible to achieve without a hefty dose of CGI. Any magic which will follows will be equally impossible to achieve without a green wall. Consider yourself warned – and bored in equal measure.

One year later, they are onstage in Las Vegas, for a grand illusion performance that has nothing to do with their conjugated talents apart from throwing card decks to the audience and explaining where a bunny goes when it vanishes. The show is a decoy for an elaborate heist to rob the Crédit Républicain de Paris (again?) to rapturous applause. Morgan Freeman is in the audience, playing The Eye in the Sky with his trademark bonhomie.

Sir Michael Caine is there too, of course. Ah, Michael Caine, him of the endless list of cardboard characters requiring a British accent. So can we establish that Caine is evil and Freeman good in this movie narrative? Thank you.

Siphoning money through a conveniently placed air duct, the heist relies on CGI and Jose Garcia’s innocent-abroad French idiomatics, from La vache to Oh merde. Interpol Agent Dray (Mélanie Laurent) flies in from Europe and is pitched against FBI’s Agent Rhodes (Marc Ruffalo, awful as usual). The Four Horsemen are interrogated, leading to more impossible tricks which will be explained by surveillance cameras played in slow motion.

Excusez-moi, the French heist being debunked by Morgan Freeman by way of a trapdoor, should we move on? Caine says to Freeman he has little eyes; the plot hinges on who does/did not believe in magic during a money transfer scene shamelessly appealing to Katrina hurricane’s victims before dragging forever on a protracted gag. Agent Rhodes reads with his fingers and Agent Dray knows everything as per the plot to progress.

Suddenly the Four Horsemen become fugitives and someone imperviously asks “Now get me an airplane”, which one guesses is part of the perks of featuring in such big budget endeavours. Come on, how many times were you able to shout that, then get one?

There is a Fifth Horseman masterminding the whole thing. There is a not bad car chase, lifted from other movies from the most part, but one has no idea what it is doing there. One Horseman appears to be down, not that it affects in any way the somnolent viewer. There is also a red herring or two.

A safe full of balloon animals pops open, a scene glossily but ineptly made, and one’s heart goes to the prop crew. Now, what could possibly be more insulting than a Katrina’s ripoff? Well, a 911 light show of course!

No one barely educated in such big budget thrill rides will have any hard time guessing who’s the Fifth Horseman: the only reason why being “Because we say so”. Money IS magic. Everyone is dumb. The true marker of fame is Times Square. Oh la la.

A sequel is due in a couple of mouths. Same magical time, same magical place, folks!

IMDB page

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Damien (2016)

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You’re Simply the Beast

In this day and age, no movie is a movie if it doesn’t spawn a trilogy, a remake, a prequel and a TV series. To celebrate the The Omen‘s 40th anniversary, the producers of The Shield and The Walking Dead check the penultimate box in the list and here we are, happy as clams, gifted with a series about Damien Thorne, son of Satan, aka the Beast, aka the Anti-Christ. The only item missing now is an origin story. One would love to see this movie, culminating in the Devil copulating with a female jackal in the Holy Land desert. Possibly one is sick.

In the present series, nothing has happened since the first movie, a rather rational artistic choice. Damien never became KD Lang or became a self-flagellating 40-something. He just turned 30, and memories of his troubled childhood start resurfacing. Because Christ was baptised at 30. Or something. The Final Conflict was NOT final, see.

After having only seen the pilot, let’s just say that we have a rather wooden hero, expressing inner turmoil (which is, one suspects, the arc of the season) like passing gas; an atrocious love interest; promisingly ludicrous death scenes; a prologue in Damascus. Son of Satan, check, underdevelopped female character, check, Final Destination style massacre, check, Evil from the Middle East, check.

This is all looking very promising!

IMDB page


Episode 1 The Beast Rises

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Oh My God They Killed Kelly!

It does not start with a bang, but with a rather constipated night visit to church, where Damien, instead of asking “Why me?” like he did in the Omen 2 (which never existed), asks “What do you want from me?”, switching from existentialist to pragmatist as the series had hardly started. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the XXIst century.

In Damascus, Damien takes advantage of a civil war zone to quickly establish that he’s friend with a guy called Amani, that he never called back an R&B babe named Kelly, and that he is special and conflicted. Special because an old woman tells him “I love you” then quote the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. Conflicted because he’s a nice guy, saving a child an all, when, come on, he’s the Beast.

Being expelled from Syria, Damien calls a favor from the IMF Secretary General (Christine, what have you done this time? This have to stop!) for no obvious reason but briefly meeting Ann Ruttlege (Barbara Hershey, ghoulish) who chooses this awkward moment to reveal she’s watching over him since like, forever, in total discretion. Maybe not since the jackal thing, though.

After some atrocious acting from Kelly, who’s back in NYC when she still was on the phone from Damascus five minutes ago, our heroes go meeting a biblical scholar, because that’s what special and conflicted grown ups do. “Many expected the Beast to be a politician”, says the aforementioned scholar, and indeed very few expected him to be a photo reporter. Or a dentist.

Anyway, the biblical scholar is mauled by rotweilers (a phrase that in itself justifies the writing of this blog) and Kelly is upset. “I can’t have all the answers”, she unnecessarily points. She storms out and well, drowns in a puddle of black goo. One dreads that she will be revived, but fear not, Kelly was just an amuse-bouche. The real deal is her sister Simone (Megalyn Echikunwoke).

Simone is a bit sad since her sister died and shit. Damien is not The Great Comforter. But she says “She’s in a better place now.”, and voilà, she’s off. More later.

Some cardinal has the Megiddo dagger. What? ONE? More later.

Damien goes to church at night again (same editing, twice, really?), Christ on the cross explodes, and when he goes out (in broad daylight), the evil old woman is there, tearing his hair to reveal his 666 tattoo. Plus she is everywhere, photoshopped in movie stills from The Omen.

Oh my God, this is holding its promises so far!

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Lucifer (2015)

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I Love Luci

Starting with a “In the beginning…” card weirdly echoing the biblical epic reviewed two weeks ago, Lucifer was a dark horse to make it to our Devil Week but temptation proved, as usual, impossible to resist. Having only watched the pilot of he DC Comics based series aired on Fox, one can’t say much more that it looks quite sleek and seems like a hoot. Oh, and that is an empowering jackass fantasy.

What if the Devil was in LA and could do anything a 15 years old wants, like driving fast, getting laid a lot, mastermind anyone and generally chill? Wouldn’t being such a slacker the acme of cool? No idea where they gonna go with this one, hoping it won’t be only “The Devil is LAPD”. Hell, let’s chill with the Devil!

IMDB page


Episode 1 Pilot

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Did you know the Devil was British all along? Welsh, even? Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis) has left the Hell building for relatively edenic California so demons are getting restless. He’s a club owner (Lux, ha, witty!) drives a vintage sports car well over the speed limit while listening to loud music and he can get any woman he wants. He calls everyone “human” or “maggot”. Fuck, man, this is way too cool.

He exfiltrated Maze (Lesley-Ann Brandt) with him, she says “I’m a big fan of sex but I didn’t leave Hell to be a bartender”. Well love, the boss has left Hell to run a club where crowds dance to David Bowie’s Fame in 2016, so he should know better, right? Demon Amenadiel (easy on the eye D.B. Woodside) appears to remind Lucifer he’s due back downstairs and calls him “a mockery of everything divine”. That is NOT how someone calls anyone else very often.

An R&B prop is shot by some crystal meth dealer, allowing Chloe (Lauren German), the hot blonde detective who featured in Hot Tub High School – only in this series universe, deplorably – to ask Lucifer Morningstar “What planet are you from, London?”. She’s weirdly immune to his sex appeal, so together they embark in the thrill of investigating a murder. Except Lucifer, the most handsome and most knowledgeable of angels, can’t follow police work.

Along the way, they confront a rap singer hilariously named 2Vile and his posse, crash a producer/supermodel wedding and antagonise Chloe’s estranged husband. This is, one hopes, during an exchange with Chloe’s daughter Beatrice that the writing becomes quite good, finding a footing between smart and lucidrous (pun intended).

Chloe dies but not. Amenadiel drops by again. Lucifer Morningstar goes to see an ugly shrink when he was supposed to bed the supermodel. Come on dude, know your priorities!

Lucifer is, like Damien but for very different reasons, a promising start. One now has coast-to-coast Evil to review!

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Consumed (2014)

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Unplanned Obsolescence

A master class in apophenia, David Cronenberg’s first novel is, to adapt François Truffaut, a roman malade. This only would qualify it as a true offspring of the Canadian master; it’s still whobbling quite a lot. Its best part is a lenghty and delightful narrative from its reluctant hero about how he embraced his wife’s psychosis and participated in her masectomy. It’s loving and chilling in equal parts, and one can’t help wishing this specific point of view had been the focus of the book.

Instead, we are acquainted to cross-stared lovers Naomi and Nathan, marginally in love but mostly co-dependant and addicted to technology. Geeks, this is a novel for you, crammed with detailed tech-porn while the actual porn is glossed over. A bit like William Gibson, but far more deranging and much less tidy (Pattern Recognition, anyone?).

Jumping for some reason from Budapest to Paris to Toronto to Cannes to Tokyo then Pyong Yang, Consumed has its fair share of body horror, from alleged cannibalism to self-mutilation to bizarre dick shape. It is very good at inventing syndroms and diseases, which does not come as a surprise from Cronenberg.

It also takes – legitimately – all the liberty that a novel allows compared to a movie, from broadly pictured exotic locations to independant journalist characters gifted with very deep pockets (when in Paris, Naomi stays at the Crillon, because she likes the rusted decay of her roof view a lot).

Cronenberg declared in interviews that he was not aiming at adapting Consumed for the big screen. It is too bad, because financial logic would have forced him to let go of most of the travelling and concentrate the movie in France, or Canada. It would also have led him get rid of his fetish for high tech gadgetry, something he kept ay bay on the screen but takes an awful lot of space here. The 3D printer is a great idea, but who cares about digital camera optics that much? One gets the idea of planned technological obsolescence and its consumerist background by page 20. Still being lectured about it on page 200 is a tad annoying.

The Cannes episode is scrumptious. The starting point is as infamous as possible. The Budapest and Tokyo segments could take place anywhere else. Naomi is kind of a bitch and Nathan quite a moron. The most compelling character is Celestine, and she’s only reminisced, or investigated, by other, less developped characters.

The book does not end, it pauses, leaving the reader wondering what really happened in North Korea. Are the insects real? What the hell will happen to Naomi and Nathan? Not that one cares too much, happy for the ride as he is. But frankly, Mr Cronenberg, that’s a lot of build up before you lost interest and kinda quit. Witnessing the connection of so many random threads was thrilling, but watching most of the balls falling from the juggler’s hands is a letdown.

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Starry Eyes (2014)

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MONEY    Monstrometer1
LONELINESS    Monstrometer2
BOREDOM    Monstrometer1
FEAR    Monstrometer2
TIME    Monstrometer2


Better The Devil, You Know…

Sarah (Alexandra Essor, fearless), an aspiring actress, pays her bill by working at Big Tatters, a family restaurant with boobs where the waitresses wear potato-skin-inspired very tight pants. She shares a house with a bunch of bros and hoes, endlessly discussing the movie they will never shoot. For some obfuscating reason, the scene is in Los Angeles.

Sarah gets an audition for “The Silver Scream”, produced by Astreus Pictures, a once prominent company now on an eclipse but planning their big return to the horror genre. It does not go well and she throws a fit in the bathroom, banging her bag on the wall (with her cellphone in it, one presumes), screaming and pulling off her hair, a rather mild reaction after such a disappointment. Her rage attracts the attention of the casting director who’s not played by a terrible actor and she’s asked to replay her fit, only with epileptic shaking.

By the time a disheveled Sarah walks the streets while synth music plays, two things have become obvious: the movie will follow the same Halloween-inspired horror nouveau template than features like The House of the Devil or Girl Walks Alone at Night, and it will neither be great or awful. But it has a certain something in the slow burn vein.

At her second audition Sarah is asked to disrobe completely, which she does reluctantly at first, until she experiences some kind of an epiphany possibly induced by the flashing strobe lights. Are they trying to give her a seizure? The casting matron sports a pentacle pendant, so one knows that some cult is behind Astreus. Ominous name, check.

Three being the charm it is, she’s invited to met the producer, a libidinous creep who tells her in a conspiratorial tone things like “Ambition is the blackest of human desires” and “I want to capture the ugliness of the human spirit” before feeling her up. Being the epileptic goody-two-shoes she is, Sarah backs off and storms out. Her one female roomate who’s not passive-agressive is appalled: “You don’t mean sex!” she scoffs as if the casting couch was an alien notion in LA.

Sarah takes the walk of shame, begs for her job back at Big Tatters and threatens to spiral into depression. She musters the courage, or is desperate enough, to beg Astreus for a second chance. At this point, one would be allowed to think of her as a tad irresolute.

She goes to her meeting with the head of Astreus dressed as a hooker, because life is for doers, not quitters, and she also gets to meet his other head. “Show me the real Sarah”, he says, to which she doesn’t respond since her mouth is full. The producer has a pentacle tattoo and a very vulgar diamond watch. A masked silhouette observes Sarah, well, performing.

Morning after is a b****. She feels nauseous, gets fired, flashes her roommates and loses her hair while wandering the streets on obsessive dialogue loops. Visions of herself dolled up like a drag queen alternate with losing tooth and nails in he fashion made popular by The Fly. At the point her vagina bleeds and she throws up worms, one wonders what it was she actually swallowed the night before. Astreus explains her that she has to die for a new star to be born.

But not before killing her roommates, in a slasher segment which provides a welcome rush to the movie pace. The worst of the lot has the best death scene, Torn Curtain-style, before it is time for Sarah to lay down and die.

In a finale which does not make any dreadful mistake (ultimate jump scare, loose ends, call for a sequel, to name but a few), Sarah is born again as Annie Lennox, complete with Savage wig and make-up moves from the Why video. Part character study, part body horror, part slasher, part satanism, Starry Eyes does not really coalesces into a coherent whole. The idea that to become part of the Hollywood elite you have to suck c***, lose your teeth and vomit maggots seems eerily adequate, though.

IMDB page

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