34 posts categorized "ZERO STARS"

March 04, 2019

THE WATCHER

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WatcherAny kid in Filmmaking 101 knows that the easiest thing to shoot, and have it hold an audience's attention, is a chase scene. Almost every movie ever made contains some form of a chase scene, and it can be fun to pick it out in every genre of film.

But debut feature director Joe Charbanic (music video director for Keanu Reeves' band Dogstar) dilutes any hope for captivating cinematic entertainment in The Watcher by beating this otherwise innocent cinematic device until there is nothing left. People run, cars chase, helicopters search, and somewhere along the way a suspense movie pretends to happen.

The-watcher

It doesn't help matters that Keanu Reeves, as David Allen Griffin, insists on crystallizing his worst-actor-in-Hollywood title by playing a serial killer about as menacing as a sleeper sofa. And James Spader (sex, lies and videotape) comes off more as a desperate actor in search of a script than as Joel Campbell, a drug addled F.B.I. agent hot on Griffin's trail.

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The Watcher is a textbook study in oversights that music video directors make in directing poorly written feature films, the most grievous disregard being the choice of script. Joel pours out tons of weakly disguised exposition to his unskilled therapist Polly (Marisa Tomei). The therapy session dialogue is so slanted toward Joel gabbing about his tortured life of tracking an elusive serial killer that Joel should be the one interviewing Polly.

Watcher-2000

Charbanic leverages the shrink/patient relationship for much more than it's worth, then blows his only shot at an even marginal movie by failing to produce compelling visuals and refusing to mix up the rhythm of the story. Every labored flashback feels like two giant rusty cogs turning so that the audience can get yet another glimpse of Keanu in black leather, threatening to break out of his notoriously flat-line readings.

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It's hard to believe that Reeves has actually worked in a movie with Al Pacino (The Devil's Advocate), a master of vocal inflection, and didn't learn a single thing from the experience. The only real question is how many movies Keanu Reeves will be cast in before casting directors realize that not only does the emperor have no clothes, he hasn't even got the energy to sit on a float in the parade. When Keanu does a victory jig to some metal-grunge music before squatting down with his fingers stuck against his temples like little Satanic horns, it's so laughably bad that you want to write a letter.

Keanu reeves

Spader keeps his focus strong, but can't help seeming like a weakened Atlas trying to carry the weight of the world on his exhausted shoulders. The weathered Marisa Tomei looks like an aging ingenue pulled out of some community theater production and given her first film role. Tomei cheats her psychiatrist role as Polly by evoking a damaged girlish quality that begs for another, more experienced actress to come along and relieve her of the burden of acting.

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No stars for this lame attempt at stylish suspense and psychological voyeurism.

Rated R. 93 mins. 

ZERO STARS

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

 

April 26, 2018

THE DEVIL AND FATHER AMORTH

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ColeSmithey.comWilliam Friedkin’s audio-enhanced documentary about an actual exorcism is a lukewarm flop. At just 68 minutes long, “The Devil and Father Amorth” is a filmic amuse bouche that leaves behind a sour taste.

It’s sad that the director of such amazing films as “The French Connection,” “The Exorcist,” and “Sorcerer” has chosen to leave behind this paltry cinematic footnote. It's an embarrassment. 

Friedkin narrates, informing us that there are more than 60 million people in Italy. “500,000 Italians see an exorcist every year.” Somehow I don’t think those figures will do much to encourage tourism there. Introductions are made regarding Christina, a 46 year-old architect with bad skin who suffers from demonic possession, or so her wild fits and bizarre screams seem to evince. More on that bizarre screaming later.

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Christina’s affliction is so debilitating that it prevents her from working. She has had nine exorcisms, and seems destined for many more. Father Gabriele Amorth is a 90 year-old priest known as the best in the [exorcism] business. And oh what a biz it is. Amorth’s signature exorcist move is to thumb his nose at the Devil, or rather the person he is treating, at the start of each exorcism. That would have been a fun detail for Max Von Sydow’s Father Merrin to have included in his volatile interactions with Linda Blair’s Regan back in 1973 when Friedkin made “The Exorcist.”

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The exorcism takes place during the day in a room filled with Christina’s friends and family members. Father Amorth’s tranced subject rocks in nodding agreement as he administers the rights that he reads from a card. A cheap photo of the current Pope hangs loosely on the wall behind Christina as two men hold her in the chair from which she writhes and struggles. And then it happens; Christina screams unintelligibly with a blood-curdling sound that has clearly been amped up in Friedkin’s audio editing. You can clearly tell that Christina’s guttural exhortations have been enhanced because they so effectively block out any other voices in the room, especially Father Amorth’s words whenever she shouts. Friedkin’s cinéma vérité goes out the window. The case for atheism gets stronger.  

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Our not-so-sincere filmmaker sets about playing a video of the exorcism for medical experts and other priests, none of whom catch on to the filmic illusion they're viewing. They all want their moment of fame too after all.

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It’s clear that William Friedkin wanted to extend the legend of “The Exorcist,” but going to such overreaching, but small-minded lengths results in a pshaw moment. At 82 there’s no telling how many more films William Friedkin has left in him. I only hope he is able to make one that will redeem him from this mistake.

Not Rated. 68 mins. 

ZERO STARS

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

 

April 23, 2018

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE — CANNES 2017

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This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel. Punk heart still beating.

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ColeSmithey.comIf only I had never really seen this atrocity of a movie I’d feel much better. That does it; I’m giving up on Lynne Ramsay for good. I loathed Ramsay’s last film “We Need To Talk About Kevin” (2011). Still, I was willing to give her latest effort a chance. Big mistake. I thought it possible that Ramsay had grown as a filmmaker. The complete opposite appears to be the case.

Ramsey steals a dozen little tropes from movies like “Reservoir Dogs” and “Taxi Driver” to piece together a baloney narrative that hangs together like wet seaweed on the beach. Some people might call it experimental, and I can see why. You certainly feel like a guinea pig being experimented on while watching this awful movie. Ramsey based her self-penned screenplay on Jonathan Ames’s novel, but you’d never guess that this movie had any formal underpinnings.

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Joaquin Phoenix plays Joe, a hit man/cop killer who rescues underage girls from sex traffickers. A New York politician hires Joe to rescue his pubescent daughter. So topical, you think. Wrong. Ramsay treats the issue with such cavalier sloppiness that she trivializes sex trafficking into something so fake that it's no wonder so many people don't believe such a thing even exists. Judging from this film, it doesn't.

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If revenge fantasy is your thing, Michael Winners 1974 “Death Wish” did it meaner and with real heart from the great Charles Bronson. Joaquin Phoenix just looks like he needs a good long nap. Joe suffers from delusions, so not everything we see is for real. Joe is a white dude sociopath whose chosen weapon is a hammer. If I never see Joaquin Phoenix with his shirt off, it will be too soon. 

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If this set-up sounds like something you want or need to see for some imagined reason, just know that there is an underwater scene that is a very close copy of a similar scene in “The Shape of Water.” You could always stream “You Were Never Really Here” and turn it into a drinking game where you have to drink a shot every time you see a reference to another movie. The influences here are much more accessible (read lazy) than the arcane ones you find in a Tarantino movie. Then again Quentin Tarantino is a real filmmaker; Lynne Ramsey isn’t.

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Rated R. 89 mins.

Zero StarsZERO STARS

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

 

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