Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: January 6, 2012

Kevin Carr's Weekly Report Card

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr looks at his list of New Year’s resolutions. However, since he was a little drunk when he wrote them and his handwriting is sloppy, he thinks it reads to “exorcise more” instead of “exercise more.” So, he hops a plane to Rome and sneaks out to the theater late at night to check out the latest first-of-the-year release, The Devil Inside. After waking up from a quick nap in the theater as a result, Kevin heads back to the states to catch some last-minute award films in limited release.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Click here to listen as Kevin is joined by Rudie Obias from The AuteurCast and ShockYa to bemoan the January release.

Studio: Paramount Insurge

Rated: R for disturbing violent content and grisly images, and for language including some sexual references

Starring: Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth, Ionut Grama and Suzan Crowley

Directed by: William Brent Bell

What it’s about: In 1989, a woman killed three members of the Catholic clergy who were giving her an exorcism. Years later, she was taken to Rome to be institutionalized. In 2009, her daughter tries to determine if she is in fact possessed and needs another exorcism.

What makes the grade: Not much. In situations like this, I often say, “Well, at least it was in focus.” Unfortunately, this movie isn’t. I like a good exorcism movie (like the original The Exorcist) now and then. Heck, I like a lame exorcism movie (like last year’s January release The Rite) now and then. But I never like a bad exorcism movie (like this one).

What fails: It’s clear that Paramount is trying to recreate the lightning in a bottle that resulted from the Parnormal Activity franchise with this new found footage film. Not only is this genre getting tedious and overwrought, The Devil Inside doesn’t even strive for any sort of cinéma vérité realism.

The bulk of the film takes place in Rome, but few people actually speak Italian, rather they use bad Italian accents and speak English. There’s a scene where a teenage girl has been possessed for some time, contorting and writhing under the demon’s influence, yet she has immaculately shaved arm pits. The priests involved tend to be real exorcists, but they just stand around the body screaming and pressing religious objects to her head.

Then there’s the filmmaking style, which is supposedly shot by an experience documentary filmmaker. However, even though he has a steady rig set up, the picture wobbles more than behind-the-scenes footage shot by Disney Channel stars with a FlipCam. Making things even more nauseating, the camera zooms in and out constantly, going in and out of focus every few seconds.

Finally, there’s the ending, which is quickly become notorious for being booed by audiences around the country, not because it’s offensive or upsetting but because it’s so weak. I won’t spoil anything for you masochists out there who want to experience it for themselves, but it’s a stinker, let me tell you.

Who is gonna like this movie: People who never have seen a good exorcism movie and don’t mind a terrible ending.

Grade: D-

Studio: The Weinstein Company

Rated: PG-13 for some violent images and brief nudity

Starring: Meryl Streep, Harry Lloyd, Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent and Anthony Head

Directed by: Phyllida Lloyd

What it’s about: Meryl Streep really wants an Oscar, so she plays Margaret Thatcher in this new biopic about her life from a young politician to a fallen British leader.

What makes the grade: Each award season, there’s a rash of films that serve little purpose beyond being an acting spotlight for a star. The best example from recent years that comes to mind is A Single Man, which wasn’t a bad flick but clearly made so Colin Firth would have a chance at winning an Oscar.

Similarly, The Iron Lady exists to get some awards and accolades for Meryl Streep. As expected, her performance as Margaret Thatcher is quite good, and she manages the difficult task of not making her a caricature. So kudos to Streep for playing the role well. I suppose those interested in Thatcher’s life will enjoy this film quite a bit.

What fails: However, the rest of the film seems rather pointless to me. Considering the fact that the BBC recently aired The Rise and Fall of Margaret Thatcher which examines this lady’s life in greater detail and more cohesion, the movie seems unnecessary.

Anyone unfamiliar with the day-to-day working of British government or the historical context behind Thatcher’s reign might find much of the film obtuse and hard to follow. Additionally, a certain amount of pre-knowledge is needed to know who is who in the Thatcher family. So big, dumb Americans like myself might be a little lost or bored.

Oh, and it also inspired a political ad for Michele Bachmann in the Republican primaries. That can’t be good.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of Meryl Streep and those who know the historical context.

Grade: C

Studio: Focus Features

Rated: R for sexual content and language

Starring: Kim Wayans, Stephanie Andujar, Nina Daniels, Aasha Davis and Charles Parnell

Directed by: Dee Rees

What it’s about: Alike is a high school girl in Brooklyn struggling with the understanding that she is a lesbian. Facing discrimination at school, casual sexual encounters and reject from her parents, she has to come to terms with her own identity.

What makes the grade: A forgotten little film that got buried during the award season push, Pariah is a honest and frank portrayal of identity and sexuality. It does not fetishize lesbians (which is often the case in Hollywood), but rather shows how someone comes to terms with herself.

Not being a woman, lesbian or poor African American living in Brooklyn, there was little that I can relate to in this movie, but its triumph is getting someone like me to find a certain connection the with character. It’s not a perfect film, but it opens up some issues that are otherwise ignored by an industry that thinks it’s so progressive but is really quite stuffy and hung up.

What fails: The biggest hurdle Pariah has is the aforementioned problem it has at times connecting completely with an audience. It’s made about and for a very narrow segment of society, which will limit is exposure, I’m sure. That’s not necessarily a complaint about the film but rather an observation about why you haven’t heard much about this movie before now.

Also, I question certain aspects of this movie, particularly how easy it is to find lesbians trolling around the Fort Green area of Brooklyn. After all, while Alike has consistent trouble finding anyone to relate to in her neighborhood, she runs into lesbians all over the place. Correct me if I’m wrong on this one. Like I said before, I’m not a woman, lesbian or poor African American living in Brooklyn.

Finally, as realistic and heartbreaking it is to see the outright rejection from the family, Pariah does lay things on a bit thick, threatening at times to become a caricature of itself.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of the micro-budget, urban character study.

Grade: B-

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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