In a most unusual move, I have seen TWO movies at the theatre in ONE week. (Those of you who know me well will know that I don't even usually watch two rented movies in one week, let alone make it to the movie theatre.) About a month ago, Randal started posting reviews to the website of the Xpress, which is a weekly entertainment news guide in Ottawa-Hull. He has posted a number of movie reviews (he has seen many, many more than me), since Xpress doesn't limit the reviews to just new films.* For each review, he gets a certain number of "tokens". Then, if his review gets rated highly by other Xpress readers, he gets more tokens. You can use your tokens in online auctions to win stuff - everything from CD's to tickets for sneak-preview movies, concerts, operas, and more (even a weekend getaway at a spa & resort - ooh! - but I think he will need a lot of tokens to win that one).
Anyways, so last Wednesday we went to see A Sound of Thunder and this week, The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Allow me to proceed in reverse chronological order.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
I don't normally go in for horror flicks, at least not at the theatre. At home in the safe confines of my living room, sure. But, well, what the hell: the tickets were free. Though I did a bit of reading on the movie to prepare myself and I'm glad I did. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is (loosely) based upon the true story of a 19-year-old girl in Germany (her name was Anneliese Michel) in the 1970s who started exhibiting bizarre, strange behaviour, and was determined to suffer from either some form of psychotic epilepsy (as her doctors thought) or demonic possession (as she, her family, and her priest thought). The premise of the film is that Emily has died following a failed exorcism and her priest is being prosecuted with negligent homicide in her death (since he counselled her to cease using her medication).
I have seen enough horror movies to know they can be incredibly schlocky, but this one was well done. Told as a series of flashbacks by involved persons at the trial, a device which was not nearly as clunky as some critics seemed to feel, we see how quickly Emily progressed from a normal teenager, away from home for the first time to attend college, to a very sick girl. We are shown just enough to suggest that while there was likely a rational scientific explanation for her "possession", there are just enough strange elements to also suggest otherwise.
Before going to see the film, I read at least one review which likened The Exorcism of Emily Rose to an Asian horror flick, rather than an American one. I can't remember if the reviewer's tone was complimentary or not, but often that is not a flattering comparison. My sole experience with Asian horror films is Ringu, which I saw on video earlier this summer. A week or two later, the American version The Ring happened to be on TV and so I got a chance to compare (though I must admit, I lost interest in The Ring quite early on because it was so mediocre). The Ring pulled out all the proper punches in terms of showing scary, horrifying things. Ringu did not - but it did something much more horrifying - it showed you just enough to leave the rest to your imagination. And THAT was where its powerfulness lay, by deciding to not walk you through all the horrifying things but letting you fill that in yourself (which, if my mind is any indication, is probably worse than what the director would have come up with him/herself. A scary movie shouldn't be just punch after punch of scare, gore, and fright - it is much scarier with tense buildup and dread.
Of course The Exorcism of Emily Rose is not airtight. There is some fine acting (and some bad screenwriting at times) - it stars Laura Linney as the lawyer defending the priest, Father Moore (played quite well by British actor Tom Wilkinson, who has been in way more movies that I've seen than I realized). Jennifer Carpenter plays Emily Rose and was quite good (though you never really see her as, shall we say, normal). However, you must remember two lawyers went to see this movie (a courtroom drama). I know that court procedures are slightly different between Canada and the U.S., and while I won't bore my dear readers with a list of things that you would just never see in a courtroom, suffice it to say that (a) trial by ambush is a big no-no, (b) whipping out a big blown-up photo of the victim and leaving it in full view of the jury for the bulk of the trial is also a no-no, and (c) there is such thing as disclosure. Then, of course, Randal is also trained in psychology so the entire time Emily Rose is displaying various "problems", he is giving me the whispered diagnoses: "catatonic schizophrenia", "sleep paralysis", "psychosis", "hey, why hasn't anyone suggested multiple personalities?" Heehee.
Recommendation : Go see it, but bring a friend with more courage than you, and even better if it's a friend you can spend the night with afterwards (to keep you safe, of course).
A Sound of Thunder
Based on a short story by Ray Bradbury, the premise was intriguing: In 2055, big-game hunters can pay big money to get big-time thrills by travelling to the past - the way distant past, about 65 million years ago, and hunt a dinosaur.
Ben Kingsley does a fine turn as the tycoon who has financed and runs the operation of the time-travel hunting operation, despite the fact that the character is one-sided and a caricature, nothing more. The other characters are fine, and do the best they can under the circumstances, but nothing really stands out.
The plot is contrived. You know someone is going to either leave something behind, bring something back, or change something. Aaaaand, hmm, let's see how the film develops - oh yeah, there you go, one of the Golden Rules just got broken. Oh sh*t - now you've gone and done it.
There are a few dinosaurs and many monkey-cum-lizards. There is a weird tsunami-like time warp wave that hits the planet every now and again, and every time this happens - yup, you guessed it - something gets changed. Plants burst out of nowhere. And somehow, in all the chaos, Our Brave Heroes battle through, with liquid nitrogen bullets and plucky courage, and despite the fact that the state-of-the-art facility with time machine has been flooded and damaged beyond repair, Ms. and Mr. Scientist can remove a hard drive (thankfully, stored above the flood line) and then reinstall it in a monkey-infested physics lab across town and - boom! voila - we have a new time machine. Dang - if only computers were generally that easy to fix.
Recommendation : Save the $10 and stay home to watch Ringu. If you absolutely must see this, I guess a late-night video rental is OK, but have some fun with it: buy lots of beer first and play a drinking game - Everytime something impossible happens, or a piece of hokey dialogue spoken, take a sip. Lightweight drinkers should probably stay far from this one. (Then again, it may make the movie way, way more palatable.) Better yet, read the short story and leave the rest to your imagination.
*ps. I will add links to Randal's review(s) of the movie (he's reviewing Emily Rose for sure, and maybe A Sound of Thunder) if his review is accepted by Xpress.