REVIEW: SCREWED (2011)

CAST

James D’Arcy (Agent Carter)
Noel Clarke (4.3.2.1.)
Frank Harper (This Is England)
Kate Magowan  (Stardust)
Jamie Foreman (Layer Cake)

screwed-still_1-460x246Sam Norwood (James D’Arcy), a former soldier, takes up a new job at a local prison to make ends meet. Already anxious at having to work among the undesirables he knows he’ll come across, Sam is unprepared for the guards, headed by the burly Deano (Frank Harper) to emerge as just as corrupt, if not worse, than the convicts, as a drug dealing network emerges, while he also has to contend with a warden who seems to take the side of the inmates more and head con Truman (Noel Clarke) steps up the pressure to make Sam snap.v1Based on a novel by former prison guard Ronnie Thompson, Screwed attempts to bring the grim horrors of prison life to the screen, as if it’s a feat that hasn’t been attempted before, taking in hostage situations, scaldings and pretty much everything bar gang rape. Somehow, this adaptation of his work has all the right ingredients in the pot, from the cast to the gritty, drained style. Somehow, though, the end impression really isn’t as impressive as it could have been.untitledSomehow, an impressive cast, including D’Arcy, Clarke and Harper, and a supporting cast including Jamie Forman and Andrew Shim fail to shift a low key tone from the film, which comes off as an amateurish, messy, misguided effort. Better use of the cast probably could have raised it up a bar or two, but D’ Arcy can’t let his character rise above the typical raging ex soldier sort, while Harper and Forman are also stuck with cardboard prison officer roles. Clarke is impressive as ever, but takes too long to make his presence known and come alive, as well as the vicious villain he’s portrayed suffering an ill judged, nonsensical ending that is at odds with everything we’ve seen through-out. It’s a bit of a let down, but it’s not a complete failure. It remains an unflinchingly brutal depiction of the prison world, how the drama plays out remains intriguing and it retains a sense of style and atmosphere.

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REVIEW: LET’S BE COPS

 

CAST

Jake Johnson (Jurassic World)
Damon Wyaans Jr. (The Other Guys)
Rob Riggle (Absolutely Anything)
Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries)
James D’Arcy (Agent Carter)
Keegan-Michael Key (Tomorrowland)
Andy Garcia (The Unsaid)
Jon Lajoie (Wrong Cops)
Tom Mardirosian (The Wire)
Natasha Leggero (The Do-OVer)
Briana Venskus  (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)

Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson in Let's Be Cops (2014)Two longtime friends, Justin Miller (Wayans), a struggling video game designer, and Ryan O’Malley (Johnson), an unemployed, washed-up former college quarterback, recall a pact they once made: if they hadn’t “made it” in Los Angeles by the time they were thirty, they would head back to their Columbus hometown. As they leave a bar, their car is hit by a Mercedes Benz G500 driven by an Albanian gang, who intimidate them into not retaliating.Damon Wayans Jr., Keegan-Michael Key, and Jake Johnson in Let's Be Cops (2014)Justin attempts to pitch a video game about policemen, but the idea is rudely dismissed by his boss, Todd. Later, Ryan convinces him to use the police uniforms from his presentation as costumes for their college reunion party. Upon attending, they meet many successful former classmates and both are confronted with a sense of failure and they mutually accept to honor their pact. As they walk home, they are treated like real cops and decide to enjoy the gag. They kick the Albanian gang out of Georgie’s, a local diner. It allows Justin to finally get the attention of Josie, a waitress to whom he is attracted and who works at the said diner.Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson in Let's Be Cops (2014)Ryan decides to take the hoax further than one night. He learns official procedures on YouTube and buys a used Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser, modifying it with decals to resemble a real LAPD car. Although reluctant, Justin agrees to continue the charade, and through it, begins a relationship with Josie. Ryan gets revenge on the Albanians who hit his car, unaware they are actually mobsters blackmailing the owner of Georgie’s. During their many shenanigans, Ryan and Justin end up on a real distress call with Patrol Officer Segars. The experience shakes Justin, who realizes they face serious jail time if exposed. He tries to “retire,” but gets a phone call from Josie about a man frequently harassing her at work. It turns out to be Mossi Kasic, the leader of the same Albanian gang. Once more, the pair are intimidated into doing nothing.Nina Dobrev in Let's Be Cops (2014)Via Segars, Ryan obtains surveillance equipment to gather evidence and put Mossi away, along with an unidentified partner who has been investigating the pair. Ryan convinces Justin to do an undercover operation to obtain information on an incriminating shipment of crates. During the mission, they discover the crates full of SWAT equipment and weapons, along with secret tunnels that run between Mossi’s club and Georgie’s restaurant. This necessitates the acquisition of the restaurant, explaining the blackmail. After a few close encounters with the mobsters, they barely escape. Fed up, Justin insists on mailing the evidence anonymously, but Ryan, finding purpose in his life again, is set on delivering it personally. They fight, and part ways.Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson in Let's Be Cops (2014)Ryan brings his evidence to Segars, who recommends it go to the highest authority, which is Detective Brolin. Unfortunately, Brolin is actually Mossi’s business partner. After instantly recognizing each other, Ryan makes it out of the station, but his sudden threat has blown their cover. Meanwhile, Justin decides to “man up” and, in uniform, assertively pitches his game again. One of Brolin’s officers shows up to try and kill him, inadvertently helping to sell the pitch. Ryan is abducted, and Mossi sends a threatening message to Justin. Overwhelmed, Justin pleas to Segars for help after admitting everything. He also confesses to Josie that he is not a real cop, which he had made previous attempts to do, and she disgustedly leaves him.Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson in Let's Be Cops (2014)Justin goes into the tunnels alone while Ryan pits Mossi and Brolin against each other, prompting Mossi to shoot and kill the detective. Justin attempts to save his friend, but is overpowered. Segars arrives, causing Mossi and his crew to retreat. Segars admonishes the duo for their deception and orders them to leave before going after the mobsters, without waiting for backup. Ryan and Justin agree they can’t abandon him, and suit up with the SWAT equipment. They save Segars, but he becomes incapacitated. The pair then face Mossi alone, during which the two reconcile. They fail to take him out, but luckily, Segars is able to show up and shoots Mossi on the side of the neck, saving Justin and Ryan.Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson in Let's Be Cops (2014)Thanks to the respective confidence and motivation gained during their impersonations, Justin has become a successful game developer, while Ryan graduates from the police academy as a true, fully-fledged member of the LAPD. Justin apologizes to Josie, and after she forgives him, they rekindle their relationship. Ryan, however, still has not given up on their fun as cops together, and convinces Justin to don the fake uniform once again and join him on patrol.Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson in Let's Be Cops (2014)Well, this film is neither intellectual nor cheesy. It has a really nice core story about these two great guys who have had very little success in life, but then they realise how powerful they are just by wearing police uniforms. The story seems simple, but the two main actors play it just right and it doesn’t go over the top, but produces a really humorous film that kept be riveted. One of the best comedies I have seen, simply because it gets the balance right and is light, exciting, fun, has a little depth, and made me laugh despite my grumpy mood. Thoroughly recommended to everyone!.

REVIEW: HITCHCOCK (2012)

 

CAST

Anthony Hopkins (Westworld)
Helen Mirren (Red)
Scarlett Johansson (Ghost In The Shell)
Danny Huston (30 Days of Night)
Toni Collette (Krampus)
Michael Stuhlbarg (Lincoln)
Michael Wincott (Romeo Is Bleeding)
Jessica Biel (The A-Team)
James D’Arcy (Agent Carter)
Richard Portnow (Kindergarten Cop)
Kurtwood Smith (That 70s Show)
Ralph Macchio (Ugly Betty)
Wallace Langham (CSI)
Currie Graham (Stargate: The Ark of Truth)
Judith Hoag (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Lindsey Ginter (Argo)

In 1959, Alfred Hitchcock opens his latest film, North by Northwest, to considerable success, but is troubled by a reporter’s insinuation that he should retire. Seeking to reclaim the artistic daring of his youth, Hitchcock turns down film proposals, including Casino Royale and The Diary of Anne Frank, in favor of a horror novel called Psycho by Robert Bloch, based on the real-life crimes of murderer Ed Gein. Gein appears in sequences throughout the film, in which he seems to prompt Hitchcock’s imagination regarding the Psycho story, or act as some function of Hitchcock’s subconscious mind (for instance, drawing Hitchcock’s attention to sand on his bathroom floor, the quantity of which reveals how much time his wife Alma has been spending at the beachhouse with Whitfield Cook).Hitchcock’s wife and artistic collaborator, Alma, is no more enthusiastic about the idea than his colleagues, especially since she is being lobbied by their writer friend, Whitfield Cook, to look at his own screenplay. However, she warms to Hitchcock’s proposal, suggesting the innovative plot turn of killing the female lead early in the film. The studio heads at Paramount prove more difficult to persuade, forcing Hitchcock to finance the film personally and use his Alfred Hitchcock Presents television crew (over at competitor Revue/Universal) to produce the film, his last with Paramount.However, the pressures of the production, such as dealing with Geoffrey Shurlock of the Motion Picture Production Code, and Hitchcock’s lecherous habits, such as when they confer with the female lead, Janet Leigh, annoy Alma. She begins a personal writing collaboration with Whitfield Cook on his screenplay at his beach house without Hitchcock’s knowledge. Hitchcock eventually discovers what she has been doing and suspects her of having an affair. This concern affects Hitchcock’s work on Psycho. Hitchcock eventually confronts Alma and asks her if she is having an affair. Alma angrily denies it. Alma temporarily takes over production of the film when Hitchcock is bedridden after collapsing from overwork, but this sequence, which included a complicated process shot showing Arbogast’s demise, with Alma’s specification of a 35mm lens, instead of the 50mm lens preferred by Hitchcock for this film, proved to be the least effective in the film.Meanwhile, Hitchcock expresses his disappointment to Vera Miles at how she didn’t follow through on his plan to make her the next biggest star after Grace Kelly; but Miles says she is happy with her family life. Hitchcock’s cut of Psycho is poorly received by the studio executives, while Alma discovers Whitfield having sex with a younger woman at his beach house. Hitchcock and Alma reconcile and set to work on improving the film. Their renewed collaboration yields results, culminating in Alma convincing Hitchcock to accept their composer’s suggestion for adding Bernard Herrmann’s harsh strings score to the shower scene.After maneuvering Shurlock into leaving the film’s content largely intact, Hitchcock learns the studio is only going to exhibit the film in two theaters. Hitchcock arranges for special theater instructions to pique the public’s interest such as forbidding admittance after the film begins. At the film’s premiere, Hitchcock first views the audience from the projection booth, looking out through its small window at the audience (a scene which recalls his spying on his leading actresses undressing earlier in the film–by looking through a hole cut in the dressing room wall–which itself is a voyeuristic motif included in the film of Psycho). Hitchcock then waits in the lobby for the audience’s reaction, conducting slashing motions to their reactions as they scream on cue. The film is rewarded with an enthusiastic reception. With the film’s screening being so well received, Hitchcock publicly thanks his wife afterward for helping make it possible and they affirm their love. At the conclusion at his home, Hitchcock addresses the audience noting Psycho proved a major high point of his career and he is currently pondering his next project. A raven lands on his shoulder as a reference to The Birds, before turning to meet with his wife.The final title cards say that Hitchcock directed six more films after Psycho, none of which would eclipse its commercial success, and although he never won an Oscar, the American Film Institute awarded him its Life Achievement Award in 1979: an award that he claimed he shared, as he had his life, with his wife, Alma.Overall, honestly, I know Hitchcock isn’t a perfect film. No film is. But, I love the film for it’s dramatic and whimsical aspects, the phenomenal acting, score, screenplay, camera-work, and the way the film was done as a whole. If you love/like Psycho, or just enjoy learning about the man known as The Master of Suspense, give this film a go.

REVIEW: AGE OF HEROES

CAST

Sean Bean (Game of Thrones)
Danny Dyer (Severance)
Aksel hennie (The Martian)
Izabella Miko (Clash of The Titans)
James D’Arcy (Agent Carter)
William Houston (Dracula Untold)

The film follows the exploits of Corporal Bob Rains (Danny Dyer) as he is inducted into the newly formed 30 Commando unit in the Second World War, after being freed from a war prison for cowardice and striking an officer during operations in France. Rains and the rest of the platoon are put through intensive training under the watchful eye of Major Jack Jones (Sean Bean), where their skills and endurance are pushed to the limit as they prepare for their first highly classified and dangerous mission: to parachute into occupied Norway and capture new radar technology from the Germans which could change the outcome of the war.The newly formed band of brothers are joined in their task by Norwegian immigrant Steinar Mortensen (Aksel Hennie), now a US Marine Lieutenant with vital knowledge of the terrain, and beautiful spy Jensen (Izabella Miko). All their lethal commando skills are put to the test as they attempt to escape fierce gun battles and attain the German radar technology. The mission objective bears much resemblance to Operation Biting. Their plan is thrown into crisis when their extraction is delayed and they must fight their way to the border of Sweden. With the Nazis desperate to hunt them down and stop them, the commandos realise how important their mission is to the war effort.After a long trek in the snow, the commandos try to resupply by returning to a previously visited farm. Its inhabitants had been shot by German units after they refused to collaborate with them. To make things worse, the Germans catch up with them at the farm, bringing the one commando captured alive during the earlier fire fight. The Germans urge the commandos’ surrender in exchange for the life of their captured comrade. The commandos refuse, and instead open fire on the Germans. Jensen and radar specialist Roger Rollright are ordered to make a run for the Swedish border, while the rest of the commandos provide cover for them.Major Jones realizes that there are too many German soldiers pouring into the fire fight. He orders Rains and Steinar to run for the border, while two others stay to cover them. Those who remain at the farm are last seen firing on and suppressing the Germans. The Germans catch up to Rains and Steinar retreating; Steinar is shot and killed. Out of ammunition, and with several enemy soldiers advancing on him, Rains prepares to cut his own throat. But before doing so, Jensen and Rollright kill the two Germans, thus enabling them to escape overland to Sweden. The last scene shows the two surviving team members and Jensen standing on a hill looking down into a snow-covered valley that leads to Sweden.Unfortunately as it nears towards the end, the story seems to have been “chopped off” with a somewhat quick ending to a nicely built up story. I believe this could have been better done with a proper ending to the story.

REVIEW: JUPITER ASCENDING

CAST

Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street)
Mila Kunis (Ted)
Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts)
Sean Bean (Game of Thrones)
Douglas Booth (Noah)
Tuppence Middleton (Trance)
Christina Cole (Hex)
James D’Arcy (Agent Carter)
Vanessa Kirby (About Time)

At the beginning of the story, Earth’s residents are unaware that the human species on Earth and countless other planets were established[17] by families of transhuman and alien royalty[18] for the purpose of later “harvesting” the resulting organisms to produce a type of youth serum for the elites on still other planets.[19] After the death of the matriarch of the House of Abrasax, the most powerful of the alien dynasties,[9] her children, Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), and Titus (Douglas Booth), quarrel over the inheritance, with Balem inheriting an enormous refinery on Jupiter and Titus spending his inheritance on a lavish spaceship, declaring his intention to dismantle the youth serum trade, of which Earth is the next intended source.Protagonist Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) narrates that her father, Maximilian Jones (James D’Arcy), met her mother, Aleksa (Maria Doyle Kennedy), in Saint Petersburg. After Maximilian is killed in a robbery, Aleksa names their daughter Jupiter, after his favorite planet, and they move to Chicago to live with Aleksa’s family. Many years later, Jupiter works with Aleksa and her Aunt Nino (Frog Stone) to clean the homes of wealthy neighbors. To buy a telescope, Jupiter agrees to sell her egg cells with the help of her cousin Vladie (Kick Gurry), under the name of her friend Katharine Dunlevy (Vanessa Kirby). At Katharine’s house, Jupiter and Katharine are attacked by extraterrestrial ‘Keepers’; and when Jupiter photographs these, they erase both of their memories of the incident. Jupiter stumbles upon the strange photograph on her phone while waiting at an egg donation clinic, but could not recall anything about it. During the procedure, the doctors and nurses are revealed to be Keepers, sent to kill her, and she is saved by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a former soldier sent by Titus to bring her to him.While Caine and Jupiter ascend to a ship, it is destroyed by a squad of Keepers who then attack them. Caine fends off the attack and manages to kill the Keepers and hijack one of their vehicles while protecting Jupiter. Afterwards, Caine realizes that Jupiter must be of great significance to both Titus and Balem, who is revealed to have sent the Keepers to Earth to capture her. He takes Jupiter to the hideout of Stinger Apini (Sean Bean), another former soldier living in exile on Earth. As Jupiter discovers that she can control the bees in Stinger’s residence, she is revealed to be a galactic royalty. Stinger agrees to help Jupiter, but a group of hunters who initially were hired by Balem but bribed by Kalique capture her and take her to Kalique’s palace on a distant planet, where Kalique explains that Jupiter is genetically identical to the dead matriarch, and therefore the Earth’s rightful owner. Supported by Captain Diomika Tsing (Nikki Amuka-Bird) of the Aegis (an intergalactic police force), Caine retrieves her from Kalique, and brings her to the planet Ores (the intergalactic capital planet) to claim her inheritance.In another attempt to lure Jupiter to him, Balem sends Greeghan (Ariyon Bakare) to kidnap Jupiter’s family. On the way back to Earth, Titus’s henchmen capture Jupiter and detains Caine, as punishment for not bringing Jupiter to him as promised. Titus reveals to Caine his plan to marry and kill Jupiter and claim Earth. He then throws Caine into the void; but Caine survives and returns with Stinger to save Jupiter at the altar before she signs her life away to Titus. Jupiter asks to return home, but learns that her family has been taken hostage by Balem. In his refinery in the Great Red Spot, Balem demands Earth in exchange for Jupiter’s family. Realizing that Balem can “harvest” Earth only with her permission, Jupiter refuses. Caine infiltrates the refinery and damages its gravity hull, causing the refinery to begin collapsing. While the occupants evacuate the refinery, Tsing’s ship moves in and rescues Jupiter’s family.Jupiter survives the collapsing structures, only to land at the feet of Balem who tries to kill her; but she fights him off, and is rescued by Caine while Balem falls to his death. As the refinery is in its final stages of collapse, Tsing opens a portal to Earth and prepares to evacuate, potentially leaving Caine and Jupiter behind. However, she is relieved to find that they have survived and crossed the portal along with Tsing’s ship. Jupiter’s family is returned home with no memory of their disappearance, while Jupiter secretly retains ownership of the Earth. Caine’s rank with the Aegis is restored, and he and Jupiter begin a relationship.A surprisingly good sci-fi, if you are into that sort of thing. If you aren’t an SF geek, then it probably won’t appeal, as it didn’t to the critics. A tricky plot but not bad once you got into it. Think watching it thru again is advisable.

REVIEW: CLOUD ATLAS

 

CAST

Tom Hanks (Catch Me If You Can)
Halle berry (X-Men)
Jim Broadbent (Paddington)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Susan Sarandon (Tammy)
Hugh Grant (American Dreamz)
Jim Sturgess (21)
Doona Bae (Sense8)
Ben Whishaw (Spectre)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
James D’Arcy (Agent Carter)
Xun Zhou (The Message)
David Gyasi (Containment)

Tribesman Zachry Bailey recounts stories to his grandchildren on an extra-terrestrial Earth colony.Cloud AtlasPacific Islands, 1849

Adam Ewing, an American lawyer, has come to the Chatham Islands to conclude a business arrangement with Reverend Horrox and his father-in-law. In Horrox’s plantation, he witnesses the whipping of a Moriori slave, Autua, who later stows away on the ship. Autua confronts Ewing and convinces him to advocate for Autua to join the crew as a free man. Dr Henry Goose slowly poisons Ewing, claiming it is the cure for a parasitic worm, to steal Ewing’s valuables. As Goose administers the fatal dose, Autua saves Ewing. Returning to the United States, Ewing and his wife Tilda denounce her father’s complicity in slavery and leave to join the abolition movement.

Cloud AtlasCambridge/Edinburgh, 1936

Robert Frobisher, a young English composer, finds work as an amanuensis to aging composer Vyvyan Ayrs, allowing Frobisher the time and inspiration to compose his own masterpiece, “The Cloud Atlas Sextet”. Frobisher begins reading Ewing’s journal, which he has found with the latter portion missing, among the books at Ayrs’s mansion. Ayrs demands credit for “The Cloud Atlas Sextet” and threatens to expose Frobisher’s homosexuality if he refuses. Frobisher shoots Ayrs and flees to a hotel, where he uses the name Ewing. He finishes “The Cloud Atlas Sextet” and commits suicide with a gun just before his lover Rufus Sixsmith arrives.

CLOUD ATLASSan Francisco, 1973

Journalist Luisa Rey meets an older Rufus Sixsmith, now a nuclear physicist. Sixsmith tips off Rey to a conspiracy regarding the safety of a new nuclear reactor run by Lloyd Hooks, but is killed by Hooks’s hitman, Bill Smoke, before he can give her a report that proves it. Rey finds Frobisher’s letters to Sixsmith and tracks down a vinyl recording of Frobisher’s “Cloud Atlas Sextet”. Isaac Sachs, another scientist at the power plant, passes her a copy of Sixsmith’s report. Smoke kills Sachs by blowing up his plane and runs Rey’s car off a bridge. She escapes but the report is destroyed. With help from the plant’s head of security, Joe Napier, Rey evades another attempt on her life, which results in Smoke’s death. With another copy of the report obtained from Sixsmith’s niece, she exposes the plot to use a nuclear accident for the benefit of oil company executives, who are indicted as a result.cloud-atlas-9

London, 2012

Sixty-five-year-old publisher Timothy Cavendish reaps a windfall when Dermot Hoggins, the gangster author of Knuckle Sandwich, murders a critic who gave the novel a harsh review, generating huge sales. When Hoggins’s brothers threaten Cavendish’s life for Hoggins’s share of the profits, Cavendish asks for help from his wealthy brother, Denholme, who tells him to hide at Aurora House. On the way there, Cavendish reads a manuscript of a novel based on Luisa Rey’s story, and recalls his relationship with a woman named Ursula. He visits the house where she lived with her parents and discovers that she still lives there. Believing Aurora House is a hotel, Timothy signs papers “voluntarily” committing himself; in fact, Aurora House is a nursing home (in Ayrs’s old mansion). Denholme reveals to Timothy that he sent him there as revenge for Timothy’s affair with Denholme’s wife Georgette. The head nurse, Noakes, is abusive, and contact with the outside world is denied. Cavendish escapes with three other residents. He resumes his relationship with Ursula and writes a screenplay of his experience.

2144-waitresses-soap

Neo Seoul, 2144

Sonmi-451 is a “fabricant”, a human cloned for slave labor, living as a server at a fast food restaurant in a dystopian South Korea. She is exposed to ideas of rebellion by another fabricant and friend, Yoona-939. After witnessing Yoona being killed for rebelling, Sonmi is rescued from captivity by Commander Hae-Joo Chang, a rebel. He exposes Sonmi to the larger world, including the banned writings of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and a film version of Timothy Cavendish’s “ghastly ordeal”. They are found and Sonmi is captured. Hae-Joo rescues her, introduces her to the leader of the rebel movement, and shows her that clones are not freed at the end of their contract but killed and recycled into food for other clones. Sonmi makes a public broadcast of her story and manifesto. The authorities intervene to halt the broadcast; Hae-Joo is killed in the firefight and Sonmi is recaptured. After recounting her story to an archivist, she is executed.cloud_atlas_-_behind_the_scenes_featurette

Big Isle (Hawaii), 106 winters after the Fall (2321)

Zachry Bailey lives in a primitive post-apocalyptic society called the Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii.[13] The Valley tribesmen worship Sonmi-451; their sacred text is taken from the broadcast of her manifesto. Zachry is plagued by visions of a demonic figure called Old Georgie, who urges him to give in to his fears. Zachry, his brother-in-law Adam, and his nephew are attacked by the cannibalistic Kona tribe. Zachry runs into hiding and his companions are murdered. His village is visited by Meronym, a member of the Prescients, an advanced society using the last remnants of high technology. Meronym’s mission is to find a remote communication station on Mauna Sol and send a message to Earth’s off-world colonies. Catkin, Zachry’s niece, falls sick, and in exchange for saving her, Zachry agrees to guide Meronym to the station, where Meronym reveals the true story of Sonmi-451. Returning, Zachry finds his tribe slaughtered by the Kona. He kills the sleeping Kona chief and rescues Catkin, and Meronym saves them both from the returning Kona and is in turn saved by Zachry. Zachry and Catkin join Meronym and the Prescients as their ship leaves Big Island.cloud-atlas-tom-hanks-halle-berryI understand that this movie won’t be to everybody’s liking but if you want to watch a unique, beautiful piece of epic storytelling then I highly recommend Cloud Atlas.

REVIEW: EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING

CAST

Stellan Skarsgård (Thor)
Izabella Scorupco (Reign of Fire)
James D’Arcy (Agent Carter)
Ralph Brown (Alien 3)
Julian Wadham (The English Patient)
Ben Cross (First Knight)
David Bradley (Game of Thrones)


The film opens with a bloodied and terrified priest slowly making his way across the bodies of thousands of dead soldiers. There are many crows and hyenas roving around the bodies. The priest reaches the dead body of another priest and tries take a small demon idol of the head of Pazuzu from his hand, but, suddenly, the dead priest briefly comes back to life and stops the living priest from taking it. The camera pulls back to reveal that the entire valley is littered with dead soldiers, many have been crucified upside down. The movie then cuts to Cairo, Egypt in 1949, where the young Father Lancaster Merrin (played by Skarsgård, who played the same part in Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist) has taken a sabbatical from the Church and devoted himself to history and archaeology as he struggles with his shattered faith. He is haunted especially by an incident in a small village in the occupied Netherlands during World War II, where he served as parish priest: near the end of the war, a sadistic Nazi SS commander, in retaliation for the murder of a German trooper, forces Merrin to participate in arbitrary executions in order to save a full village from slaughter.
After World War II, Merrin is an archaeologist in Cairo, when he is approached by a collector of antiquities named Semelier who asks him to come to a British excavation in a valley called Derati the Turkana region of Kenya. This dig is excavating a Christian Byzantine church built circa 500 A.D. — long before Christianity had reached that region of Africa. Semelier asks Merrin to recover an ancient relic of a demon, thought to be in the church, before the British can find it. The relic is the small head of the Pazuzu idol. Merrin agrees and travels to the dig site. He is joined by Father Francis, a Vatican scholar who was on his way to do missionary work in East Africa but was diverted by the Vatican to ensure the church is not desecrated. Upon arriving at the site, Merrin meets Major Granville, the British military officer in charge of the dig. Merrin also meets the chief excavator, a brutish man names Jefferies with visible boils on his face.And he meets Sarah Novak, a doctor who spent time in a concentration camp during World War II and is haunted by what happened to her there. Merrin’s translator and guide is Chuma. In addition, Merrin learns that the diggers are disappearing or leaving in droves because the local tribemen fear the church is cursed. Merrin witnesses a digger inexplicably experience a seizure. Merrin visits the dig site. Only the dome is uncovered; the rest of the church is buried beneath the earth. Merrin discovers that the church is in perfect condition, as though it had been buried immediately after its construction were completed. Merrin, Francis, and Chuma enter the church through the dome. They find it is near-pristine condition, but there are two oddities.First, all of the statues of the angels holding weapons are pointing the spears downward, whereas it is conventional for statues of angels to either have no weapons or to point them triumphantly toward heaven. Merrin and Francis deduce the sculptors were trying to depict the angels restraining something that was beneath the church. The second disturbing discovery is that someone has vandalized the church by ripping the enormous crucifix from its place on the altar and suspending it with Christ on the cross in an upside-down position, which is considered a desecration.
Merrin is determined to learn more about the archeological dig and asks to consult with the lead archeologist, Monsieur Bession. Sarah tells Merrin that Bession went insane three weeks earlier and was transferred to a mental hospital in Nairobi. Merrin visits Bession’s tent at the dig site and sees dozens of drawings of the same thing, the demon artifact the collector had asked Merrin to find. Merrin then travels to Nairobi to visit Bession. But when he enters Bession’s room, he discovers Bession has carved a swastika on his chest and is speaking through demonic possession in the voice of the sadistic SS commander who tormented Merrin during the war. As Merrin registers these events, Bession slashes his own throat after saying he was “free.” Father Gionetti, warden of the asylum, speculates that Bession was not possessed but rather “touched” by a demon, which drove him mad and eventually to suicide. Merrin is very skeptical, but before he returns to the dig site, Father Gionetti gives him the volume of Roman rituals to use in exorcism, although Merrin claims he will never use them.
Upon returning to the village, strange events continue. A local boy is attacked and killed by hyenas that seem to continuously stalk the dig, night and day. His younger brother, Joseph, enters a fugue state after watching his brother ripped to pieces. The local chief’s wife gives birth to a stillborn baby who is covered in maggots. Around the same time Merrin discovers that there is a passageway that leads to a cave underneath the church. In the cave he finds an ancient pagan temple with the statue of the demon Pazuzu. He also finds evidence that this temple was used to conduct human sacrifices. Upon his return, he sees the local tribe cremate the stillborn baby. This makes Merrin suspicious because there are stories of an epidemic that wiped out an entire village in the valley 50 years earlier. He had been told that the dead were buried in a graveyard just outside of the valley. When he digs up one of the graves of the supposed victims of this plague, he discovers it is empty. Merrin confronts Father Francis about it and Francis reveals to him about the history of the Derati valley and the real reason he was sent there.He says that 1,500 years prior, a great army led by two priests came to the alley searching for the origin of evil. When they arrived in the valley the evil presence consumed them and they killed each other. When the lone surviving priest made it back, Emperor Justinian ordered a church be built over the site, specifically the pagan temple, and then buried to seal the evil force inside of it. Father Francis reveals to Merrin that the builders of the church never meant it to be recorded in Vatican documents, however, a vague reference to it was recorded and found in 1893. Four priests subsequently came to Derati and enlisted the local tribe to help them. All of the tribesmen and the priests disappeared. The Vatican then ordered that the false graveyard be built and stories of a plague spread around to keep people away from the valley. Then the British just so happened to stumble upon the site. Francis then reveals that the Vatican sent him to see if the legend was true. When Merrin asks what legend, Francis reveals that it is believed that the valley in Derati was the spot where Lucifer fell after the war in heaven.
At the end of the movie, the dig’s doctor, Sarah, turns out to be the possessed individual and has the demon exorcised from her in the tunnels below the church but dies. Dr. Merrin and Joseph emerge from the church, (once again buried in sand) and history has repeated itself. Everyone at the site was killed by an evil presence from the church, except for one priest. Now, only Father Merrin and the little boy are left as the British soldiers and the local tribes have annihilated each other. Merrin returns to Rome and meets with Semelier at a cafe, explaining he was unable to find the relic, Semelier replies, “But you found something….Didn’t you?”… As he leaves, Merrin is revealed to be wearing a collar and is now a priest again, having regained his faith in God, after defeating the demon with holy exorcism rituals.

It could be argued that Exorcist: The Beginning isn’t necessarily a “bad” film, but a disappointing one. But, that would be splitting hairs, as the film is simply boring and not entertaining. Stellan Skarsgard does an admirable job in the film and director Renny Harlin certainly knows where to point the camera, but they can’t save a film which was damned from the beginning.