Eric Bana stars as Ralph Sarchie in Screen Gems’ Deliver Us from Evil. SuppliedUniversal Sony, 118 minutes
THIS flick will clear the room of the scaredy-cats in a hurry. Eric Bana stepped into the lead role as New York police sergeant Ralph Sarchie when Mark Wahlberg bowed out.
And Bana does horror proud.
Sarchie’s story was told in a book, Beware The Night, but the movie line heads into an original plot with Sarchie teaming up with a priest, Mendoza (played by Edgar Ramirez) as they seek to exorcise a demon from a former soldier who became possessed while serving in Iraq. Directed by Scott Derrickson and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it is full of darkness and tough guys.
And yes, it will scare the hell out of you.
Critics didn’t like it, but the public did, with the film grossing more than $87 million at the box office.
– Jim Kellar
Paramount, 157 minutes
SOMETHING strange has happened to blockbuster director Michael Bay since the 1990s, when he made his name with Bad Boys and Armageddon, overblown action movies that still played by the rules of genre.
By comparison, the Transformers films resemble out-of-control art school projects – crass without being remotely watchable, as if mocking the very notion of entertainment.
Transformers: Age of Extinction improves on its predecessors, mostly because it doesn’t feature the charisma-free Shia LaBoeuf as lead human.
His shoes are filled by Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager, a can-do “garage inventor” with a passing resemblance to Harrison Ford in The Mosquito Coast, a somewhat creepy obsession with the virtue of his leggy teenage daughter (Nicola Peltz), and a passion for discarded machinery that leads him to rescue Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), noble leader of the Autobot race.
Otherwise this is the same Transformers movie as all the others. There are sunsets, explosions and screechy vocal performances; calendar-art landscapes gleaming like Norman Rockwell on steroids; low-angle shots of buff bodies, flesh or metal; and tasteless evocations of September 11 leading up to a gleeful smash-everything climax.
Despite appearances, Bay is no fool: while the Transformers films are zeroes when it comes to suspense, characterisation or humour, last year’s true-crime satire Pain and Gain showed he can manage all three when he wants to. With his background in advertising and music videos, he’s closer than he seems to more obviously conceptual directors such as Michel Gondry or Jonathan Glazer: like them, he’s not primarily interested in telling a story, but in putting across an idea.
So what is this idea exactly?
Hard to say, but one of the more striking slow-motion shots shows a couple of giant Transformers spinning in mid-air while tossing human characters from hand to hand.
In plot terms these are the good guys, but visually they seem to represent those impersonal social entities – corporations, governments – that tower over the puny individual.
It’s no accident the film’s two human villains are a ruthless CIA “black ops” chief (Kelsey Grammer), and a more redeemable robotics entrepreneur (Stanley Tucci).
While these characters attempt to exploit the Transformers, they’re unable to control the forces they unleash; perhaps Bay is telling us that he, too, is a tool of the system, doomed to whip up endless sound and fury to sell some lousy toys.
– Jake Wilson
PAY TV PREVIEWS 21 JULYMELINDA HOUSTON 03 9384 6295DRAMApic from ‘THE NEWSROOM’, airing july 22 2013 on showcase.
Warner Bros, 3 discs, 473 minutes total
I MUST make a disclaimer here first: I am a news junkie, have been most of my adult life. Through thick and thin. Oh, there was a period when I was out of the loop, living in Alaska, but I caught up when I got back to civilisation.
The Newsroom is a show that appeals directly to the tastebuds of news junkies. It’s fictional, but smells a lot like CNN, America’s first dedicated cable all-news TV network.
The contemporary plotlines provide a palate for understanding the motives behind the news – what the competition is running, how scoops come into play, how the staff deal with the constant pressure.
Jeff Daniels, as news anchor Will McAvoy, is outstanding in the lead role. He has the right amount of cool and ego to make you love him and hate him at the same time.
The supporting cast is up to the task of holding together the newsroom and backing McAvoy as the leader of the pack.
Emily Mortimer as MacKenzie McHale is the ultimate executive producer; powerful and instinctive. John Gallagher and Alison Pill as young producers Jim Harper and Maggie Jordan are complicated – good at their jobs, not so good at personal relationships.
The talent doesn’t end there: Olivia Munn is outstanding as Sloan Sabbith, the economics reporter who hungers for more fame; Sam Waterston as crusty news director Charlie Skinner; Thomas Sadoski is producer Don Keefer, the staff’s bellwether about what is quality news.
This second season is an intense exploration of what went wrong with a huge investigative story the network broke, alleging misdeeds by the US military in Pakistan rescuing captured American soldiers. There’s still plenty of personal smooze, perhaps too much for my liking. But it certainly gives every character personality and helps explain their behaviour.
The show’s third and final season has just gone to air in the US on HBO.
It is still worth following. Created by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing), it will be remembered for marking a particular period in American history. In this case, fiction tells a story that reality cannot package so easily.
– Jim Kellar
Warner Bros, 127 minutes
MODERN history is full of controversial events. But it makes for great movie fodder.
The reaction to the AIDS crisis will always be subject to revisionist history, particularly in America, where people tend to disagree on basic facts in regards to political matters all the time.
Dallas Buyers Club was a superb drama set at the time when AIDS was emerging as a major crisis. Matthew McConaughy deserved his Oscar for his role as Ron Woodroof, the rough-as-guts cowboy determined to help AIDS victims and himself by doing it his own way.
In The Normal Heart, we’ve got another non-traditional hero of the AIDS movement, Ned Weeks (played by Mark Ruffalo), a New York novelist who is deeply disturbed by the death of his friends, and eventually his own lover, at the hands of a disease that government authorities are trying desperately to ignore.
Weeks will tolerate none of the obfuscation going on around him, even from the AIDS movement, who he feels is way too patient and afraid.
This HBO production won Outstanding Television Movie at the Primetime Emmy Awards this year. The supporting cast is brilliant, including Julia Roberts, Jim Parsons, Alfred Molina and Matt Bomer.
– Jim Kellar
Universal Sony Pictures, 94 minutes
IF the challenge of making a successful adult comedy lies in combining the right proportions of raunch and sentiment, then Sex Tape – directed by Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard) from a script by Kate Angelo, Nicholas Stoller and star Jason Segel – shows how that balancing act can go wrong.
Segel and Cameron Diaz play Jay and Annie, a bored married couple who shoot an intimate home movie then must race through the night to stop it going viral.
This is a premise that provides plenty of opportunity for high jinks – and while I can handle Segel’s hangdog goofiness only in small doses, both stars are undeniably pros.
Still, there are early indications that the film isn’t going to work. First, the title is off: there’s no tape here, just an MP4 file, and the details of how it finds its way onto iCloud are convoluted and never funny.
Second, we’re told that Jay and Annie spent their evening of passion working through every position to be found in a 1970s copy of The Joy of Sex. But how provocative, really, is the notion of amateur porn that proceeds literally by the book? For comic effect, Kasdan and his team might have been better to skip over the details and let the viewer’s imagination run wild.
This points to Sex Tape’s larger problem: for an outrageous farce, it plays things extremely safe. Kasdan may not be a puritan, but he’s too commercially cautious to risk pointed satire of either the porn industry or family values.
He even avoids assigning his protagonists any overly specific character traits. Jay works in the music industry, but we learn nothing about what the job means to him.
Still less persuasively, Annie is depicted as a “mommy blogger” who’s about to sign a deal with a multinational toy company, a career move we’re meant to see as positive even after her future boss Hank, played by Rob Lowe, proves thoroughly deranged.
And an interminable sequence set in Hank’s mansion, where Annie snorts coke while Jay is chased by a German shepherd, is one of the weakest excuses for a comic set piece in any recent film not starring Adam Sandler.
– Jake Wilson
The winners of the Devil’s Knot DVDs are: L. Roach, of Windale; B. Anderson, of Lambton; K. Young, of Hillsborough; W. Schafer, of Kotara South; and C. Rodgers, of Fern Bay.