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Four-of-July Weekday – Notes on a Quadruple Feature: "Deliver Us from Evil," "Tammy," "America," and "Earth to Echo" PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Thursday, 03 July 2014 10:12

Eric Bana in Deliver Us from EvilJuly 2, 10:40 a.m.-ish: My screenings begin with the demonic-possession thriller Deliver Us from Evil, and I notice, during the “found footage” prelude, that the action begins on the Fourth of July. So, clearly, the film is being released at the right time. Ninety minutes later, I notice, during the climactic exorcism, that the action ends on 4/20. So, clearly, the filmmakers were high.

Okay, that’s probably not true. But man, is this thing nuts, and not in a bad way. Based, inevitably, on “true events,” director Scott Derrickson’s dark, gory outing casts Eric Bana as a Bronx detective investigating a series of crimes with Satan’s fingerprints all over ’em, and it has its share of dreary scenes, such as any involving Bana’s fretful wife (Olivia Wilde) and grade-school daughter. Yet this sharply edited time-waster features crazily disturbing visuals and some of the squishiest screen corpses and near-corpses since Seven, and its motif of murderously pissed-off animals – lions, bears, monkeys, bats, aquarium fish – makes the movie resemble Noah redesigned as a grimly amusing slasher flick. I also enjoy Édgar Ramírez, as the token exorcist, and Joel McHale, as the token comic relief, but it’s Bana who delivers the strongest performance, and sometimes even the funniest. There aren’t many laughs on hand, but I, for one, chortle when McHale eyes another of the film’s über-peeved animals – a hideous-looking cat – and asks, “Jesus, what’s wrong with it?” “It’s a cat,” Bana deadpans. “That’s what’s wrong with it.”

Susan Sarandon and Melissa McCarthy in Tammy12:35 p.m.-ish: You can feel how initially jazzed the Melissa McCarthy-loving crowd is for her new road-to-self-worth comedy Tammy, because for the first 20 minutes, they laugh way too hard at bits that not only aren’t funny; they don’t appear intended to be funny. As the film progresses, though, it becomes increasingly apparent that McCarthy and director Ben Falcone (spouses who co-wrote the script) would much prefer tears to laughter. While the slapstick is halfhearted and the jokes, when they work, elicit more smiles than chuckles, the scenes of poor, cheated-on Tammy road-tripping with her alcoholic grandmother (an excellent Susan Sarandon) are generally treated with unabashed seriousness; for long stretches, the movie is like Eugene O’Neill’s take on Thelma & Louise. This isn’t necessarily a detriment, but it is profoundly odd, and while Tammy is an easy film to sit through, its meandering formlessness, frequent dips into maudlin self-pity, and inability to land on a consistent tone kept me from ever fully warming to it. Happily, the acting is consistently topnotch, even from performers (Allison Janney, Mark Duplass, Kathy Bates, Dan Aykroyd) whose roles are terribly sketchy, and McCarthy herself is never less than wonderful. And look at that – the film’s dramatic tension climaxes at a lesbian Fourth of July party! The holiday theme continues!

John Koopman in America2:25-ish: I enter the muckraking documentary America relieved that only a dozen or so others are joining me, because I’d previously sat through the insulting propaganda of directors Dinesh D’Souza’s and John Sullivan’s 2016: Obama’s America with a large crowd, and had no desire to subject myself to an experience like that ever again. (It was like being the only donkey in a room packed with elephants.) And yes, about half of that dozen-or-so applauded the end of this one, too – though whether they were applauding the shameless God-and-country imagery, D’Souza’s arm-twisting narration, or the fact that this god-awful travesty was, finally, mercifully over is not for me to say. The movie opens intriguingly enough, with the insufferable D’Souza asking, hypothetically, how the world might now look if the Civil War fractured America into 10 separate countries, or if Hitler had access to the A-bomb. He then proceeds to ignore those questions for the next 100 minutes, instead offering, in no particular order, specious rationales for slavery and Native American genocide; snarky, unsubstantiated attacks on Obama, A People’s History of the United States author Howard Zinn, and Matt Damon (presumably for the Zinn shout-out in Good Will Hunting); masturbatory salutes to the greatness of Ronald Reagan; and a crazy-making flow chart that, if I followed it correctly, linked Hillary Clinton to a biblical quote by Lucifer. It’s all terribly filmed and overflowing with conjecture, and it made me want to throw up in my mouth on a regular basis. But I did grin when D’Souza found it necessary to state that his 2016 was “a runaway hit” and “the second-highest-grossing political documentary of all time.” Guess he didn’t feel like adding that the highest-grossing one was directed by Michael Moore.

Earth to Echo4:30-ish: Prior to its opening, and based on its previews, a co-worker said that director Dave Green’s sci-fi family adventure Earth to Echo looked to him “like E.T. with WALL•E.” Well, I saw the movie. It’s E.T. with WALL•E, and both as charming and as baldly derivative as that description implies. Cute kids. Funny banter. Slapstick. Suburbia. Bicycles. A big-eyed alien who wants to go home. A lonely robot in need of a friend. Threatening scientists. A requisite girl. Floating objects. Open-mouthed stares to the heavens. Teary farewells. Your kids are gonna love it. If they’ve never seen E.T. or WALL•E.

6:30-ish: Home at last. Hungry for Reese’s Pieces and have no idea why … .

 

Follow Mike on Twitter at Twitter.com/MikeSchulzNow.

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