Paul Harris Boardman

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Devil's Knot Review


Good

Based on the events documented in West of Memphis and the Paradise Lost trilogy, this drama takes an almost clinical approach to the story. By filling in so many details and covering so many perspectives, skilled Canadian director Atom Egoyan sometimes loses the emotional connection, simply because there are too many punches to the gut. But it's utterly riveting.

The events took place in 1993 in rural West Memphis, Arkansas. After three 8-year-old boys go missing, suspicion immediately falls on four goth 16-year-olds: Chris (Dane DeHaan) has just left town, but the fiercely charismatic Damien (James Hamrick), hapless Jason (Seth Meriwether) and mentally disabled Jesse (Kristopher Higgens) are arrested and charged with murder. The victims' parents (including Reese Witherspoon, Alessandro Nivola and Kevin Durand) band together in outrage. But private investigator Ron (Colin Firth) thinks the police have wrongly accused these teens of being killers.

The story is a shocking account of a miscarriage of justice, as the community turns on kids who simply look a bit funny and the police and judicial authorities refuse to admit that they may have made some serious mistakes. The rush to judgement is terrifying, accompanied with explanations that falsely link the teens to satanic rituals and death-metal music. Egoyan cleverly builds a sense of outrage from the start, as the film mourns not only the young boys' death but also the horror of carelessly ruining three innocent teens' lives in response.

Continue reading: Devil's Knot Review

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) Review


Good
Remakes are the bane of many a film fan's existence. Some are strident in their wholesale hatred, while others take a "wait and see" stance before eventually dismissing the attempted upgrade. Of course, by doing so, they have ignored quite a few quality films (Cronenberg's The Fly, Jackson's King Kong, Scorsese's The Departed). Yet in general, when a modern filmmaker takes on a considered classic, they run the risk of embarrassing themselves and the material being remade. A true masterwork from the '50s, Robert Wise's The Day the Earth Stood Still is considered "verboten" by purists. An update stands as a disaster waiting to happen, right? Actually, no.

When a huge spherical object lands in New York's Central Park, a first response team led by members of the military and scientific community set out to explore its purpose. Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) makes contact with a strange being exiting the orb, but said creature is accidentally shot by a soldier, mandating immediate medical care. Eventually, the humanoid-looking alien named Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) explains his purpose. Mankind's lack of environmental concern and overall violent nature has led other civilized planets to mandate the destruction of the entire population. While the Secretary of Defense (Kathy Bates) plans an armed solution, Helen helps Klaatu escape, and along with her stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith), she tries to convince the extraterrestrial emissary that humanity is worth saving.

Continue reading: The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) Review

Urban Legends: Final Cut Review


Terrible
Words I thought I'd never write: the sequel to Urban Legend lacks the grace, wit, and power of the original.

Put the gun to my head, pull the trigger, and put me out of my misery. Better yet, put the horror genre out of its misery. When you've finished watching Urban Legends: Final Cut, you'll share my same grim point of view thanks to the horrible acting, terrible script, and ridiculous directing which has become all too common today.

Continue reading: Urban Legends: Final Cut Review

The Exorcism of Emily Rose Review


OK
For the record, I'm suspicious of any film that claims to be based on "true events." The opening credits for The Exorcism of Emily Rose tell us that it is based on the true story of a priest accused of negligent homicide resulting from an exorcism gone bad. Really, unless you lived it yourself, how do you actually know what happened? So many made-for-entertainment movies are guilty of stretching reality so thin that it's difficult to trust the "truth" that is told to us. Some subjects are just better told as documentaries.

And Rose is one of those films. That's not to say that Rose is not entertaining in its current form -- it is. I'm giving it a marginal recommendation. But knowing that it is based on the events surrounding the Catholic Church's recognition of demonic possession, the way that the film unfolds does not give the story enough due justice. Instead of the model of reality that it's credentials claim it to be, Rose plays out like an overly calculated episode of Law and Order.

Continue reading: The Exorcism of Emily Rose Review

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