Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny

Review: 'The Devil Inside' is a disappointing burn and not scary

Mockumentary form just plain doesn't work for muddled horror misfire

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<p>Suzan Crowley plays the woman whose violent actions kick off the events of the new mockumentary 'The Devil Inside'</p>

Suzan Crowley plays the woman whose violent actions kick off the events of the new mockumentary 'The Devil Inside'

Credit: Paramount/InSurge

"The Devil Inside" is an insidious kind of terrible movie, a movie that is simply low-grade bad for most of its thankfully brief running time before offering up an ending so openly contemptuous of the audience as to feel like a prank.  Short version of this review:  nope.  Don't see it.

If you require more than that, then I'll be happy to share.  I was invited to see the film at a screening tonight that Paramount held in downtown Los Angeles, and I was all set to go before I got invited to something else, something I'll write about tomorrow.  Because that was at the same time, I decided to do that and then just pay for a midnight show of "The Devil inside" somewhere in Los Angeles.  The other screening was on the Fox lot, so I considered staying there at the Century City AMC theater.  They had an 11:45 screening of the film listed.  Instead, because we got out of the other film and in our cars by 10:30, I decided to drive back to the Valley to see the movie near my house at the Woodland Hills Promenade 16.  They had an 11:30 listed.  I made the drive in time, and at 11:10, stepped up to buy my ticket and got told that the film was sold out.

I was so surprised that I think I stood there for a minute staring at the girl behind the window like she'd just called me a name.  I still had time to try to find another screening, so I checked my phone, saw that there was a theater at Coldwater and Victory, right in the heart of the Valley, where there was a 12:01 show.

Warner Bros. pumps the brakes on 'Akira' weeks before starting production

Budget and script issues rumored to be behind big case of studio nerves

<p>When you're competing with something as iconic as 'Akira,' it seems like it's real hard to win.</p>

When you're competing with something as iconic as 'Akira,' it seems like it's real hard to win.

Credit: IMAGE

At this point, I think Warner Bros. should ask themselves if there's any figure at which they truly believe audiences are clamoring to see a mostly-white live-action version of "Akira" made for a profoundly compromised budget.

I'm not sure there's any price tag that the film works at, frankly, because I'm still not sure who they think they're making the movie for.  This has been a long development process, and I've read a number of different drafts of this as it's been winding its way through the studio system.  It feels like every writer who's worked on it has tried hard to craft something that honors the spirit of what "Akira" is about, but little by little, most of the world-building, most of the rich detail that would make this something unusual or special, has been squeezed out, and what's left doesn't really work as "Akira," and it doesn't feel like it works as something new, either.

Ruairi Robinson almost made the film, and Albert Hughes almost made it as well.  It looked like Jaume Collet-Serra was going to be the guy to finally get it across the finish line, and the film was announcing cast members, looking like a full-speed-ahead green light…

Schulman and Joost return to direct 'Parnormal Activity 4' for this Halloween

Paramount's got this one humming along at this point

<p>It's things like this which make me happy to hear that Joost and Schulman will return for the fourth 'Paranormal Activity'</p>

It's things like this which make me happy to hear that Joost and Schulman will return for the fourth 'Paranormal Activity'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

This makes sense.

Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman adapted to the particular demands of making a "Paranormal Activity" movie with real aplomb this year, working quickly on a demanding schedule and turning in a film that absolutely extended the life of what is becoming one of Paramount's favorite franchises, teeny tiny cheap little movies that earn giant bags of cash for the studio each year.

So why wouldn't Paramount want to bring them back for another one?  After all, they've demonstrated that they understand the rhythms of the series, and that they have a head for the increasingly-complicated mythology that is evolving from film to film.  I talked to them this year about their work on the film, and they described the process to me as something that was difficult but also really exciting and fun, and it resulted in a movie that I think works very well.

Paul Rudd and Kristen Wiig star for Errol Morris in true-life cryogenic comedy

Some strong players join forces to tell an intriguing story from the '60s

<p>This, of course, is the iconic cover of his recent smash hit CD release of traditional folk songs, 'Feelin' Kinda Rudd'</p>

This, of course, is the iconic cover of his recent smash hit CD release of traditional folk songs, 'Feelin' Kinda Rudd'

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

There are days when there is just a torrent of news you're interested in, and other days where there's nothing at all.  It's almost funny when one news story has about a dozen names you're interested in, all working together, a collision of many different interests all at once.

We talked yesterday about the needless panic about the prospect of a sequel to "Bridesmaids" happening without Kristen Wiig, and one thing that renders that question moot at this point is her schedule.  She's busy nine months of the year with "Saturday Night Live," and then she's got, evidently, 40 movies she's making in those other three months.  Those better be some well-scheduled months, but I think it could be worth it.

After all, who wouldn't want to be part of the second narrative feature film from acclaimed legendary documentary filmmaker Errol Morris?  True, his first shot at making a fiction film was the adaptation of Tony Hillerman's "The Dark Wind," a 1991 film that barely got any distribution after a troubled post-production process.  Even so, this is one of those guys whose voice is so strong and who has so much to say and who has been so consistently interesting since the amazing "Gates Of Heaven" in 1978, and if anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt as a storyteller, it's him.

Lily Collins steps in for Bruce Campbell as star of 'Evil Dead' remake

The new film widely avoids using Ash, so what do they have planned instead?

<p>I have a feeling it's not going to be all 'pretty dresses and happy dwarves' when Lily Collins stars in the upcoming remake of 'Evil Dead'</p>

I have a feeling it's not going to be all 'pretty dresses and happy dwarves' when Lily Collins stars in the upcoming remake of 'Evil Dead'

Credit: Relativity Media

Speaking of remakes…

Even though "Carrie" is considered a classic of the genre and was both a critical and commercial hit, there seems to me to be enough flexibility to allow for a new interpretation.  That story can be retold in new ways to find new resonance.  That's one sturdy central metaphor they're dealing with.

I'm not sure the same is true of "Evil Dead," which isn't particularly built on theme and subtext in the first place.  "Evil Dead" was a purely visceral experience, terrifying because of how stark and ugly and isolated it was.  Thanks to the much-larger success and visibility of "Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn," many people define the "Evil Dead" series with a sense of humor.  "Army Of Darkness," the third film in the series, pushed it even further, and for many fans, that was their first "Evil Dead" in a theater, meaning there are many different groups of fans who have many different ideas of what "Evil Dead" even means.

'Boys Don't Cry' director Kimberly Pierce may direct new version of King's 'Carrie'

Can the story withstand another interpretation, and why try again?

<p>I don't want to turn this into a contest, but I'm pretty sure my prom was worse than this.</p>

I don't want to turn this into a contest, but I'm pretty sure my prom was worse than this.

Credit: MGM/UA Home Video

Since it was the first major thing he published, little wonder "Carrie" has had a longer and more robust multi-media life than almost any other Stephen King novel.

It was a novel, and then obviously a very well-liked Brian De Palma film with Sissy Spacek, and then a much-much later sequel that no one remembers, a huge terrible infamous Broadway musical bomb, a TV remake, and now, if MGM and Screen Gems have their way, another remake.

And oddly, I'm not opposed to the idea.

There is a reason "Carrie" keeps coming up, a reason people keep returning to the material.  There is something potent about the idea of the outsider looking for acceptance and getting snubbed, something rich in the notion of the cruelty of teenagers, and something brilliant in the concept of budding sexuality tied to the unleashing of terrifying powers.  King hit the jackpot with that book, and De Palma's film benefitted greatly from the collision of a hungry young filmmaker, the right material, and a cast that was loaded with budding movie and TV stars.

Panic over a Kristen Wiig-free 'Bridesmaids' sequel seems premature

Would Universal really jeopardize one of their most valued relationships?

<p>You might see a lot more of this and a lot less Kristen Wiig if Universal moves forward on plans for a sequel to 'Bridesmaids' without her involvement</p>

You might see a lot more of this and a lot less Kristen Wiig if Universal moves forward on plans for a sequel to 'Bridesmaids' without her involvement

Credit: Universal Pictures

Looking at the headlines today, it sounds like Universal threw a drink in Kristen Wiig's face in the middle of a restaurant.

I think the truth is probably a little more nuanced than what we're reading so far.  No doubt Universal would like another helping of whatever just earned them almost $300 million worldwide.  Basic studio math says "We paid $30 million, we made about $300 million.  Yep.  More, please."  The film is not just a commercial success, but a genuine awards-season contender, a critical hit.

There's a fair degree of speculation in the Hollywood Reporter piece that kicked this off today, suggesting financial tensions between Wiig and Universal.  If you read closely, Wiig did not speak to them for their story at all.  I think the choices she's making indicate that she's not looking at immediate superstardom or purely financial factors in what she's signing on to do.  She's been building towards this for a while, and things like "Friends With Kids" or "Clown Girl" or "The Comedian" all have personal, independent origins, and they sound like challenges, movies that won't be easily sold in 30-second spots.

First trailer for beautiful 'Upside Down' with Kirsten Dunst makes us dizzy

Fantasy-romance with Jim Sturgess has at least one big idea

<p>Kirsten Dunst seems to have a bit of a thing for upside-down kissing in her films.&nbsp; Important dating tip, fellas.</p>

Kirsten Dunst seems to have a bit of a thing for upside-down kissing in her films.  Important dating tip, fellas.

Credit: Jouror Productions/Onyx Films

Of course the moment we publish our list of the films we're anticipating most for 2012, we start to see trailers and things for movies we've never heard of that are coming out this year that immediately look like something we need to see.

"Upside Down" is a fantasy film from an Argentinean director named Juan Diego Solanas, and based on this peek at the movie, it's a big lovely Andrew Niccol style "imagine if the world was like this" movie.  Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst are the stars of this one, and it looks like Solanas has spent his money well, creating a great big visual hook that everything hinges on.  Movies like this are tricky to pull off, and most of the time, it's coming up with a tone that matches the big visual decision and making it work beyond the gimmick.

The first thing I can't help but notice is that one of the most iconic moments in any of Kirsten Dunst's films was in "Spider-Man," with the upside-down kiss in the rain.  Casting her in this is one of those choices that seems like a big bag of duh.  The question mark for me is Sturgess, who has had a number of shots as a leading man, and so far, I haven't felt like he really connected at all.  He does have his fans, though, and I suspect this will play an extended run on a double-bill with "Across The Universe" at the New Beverly for three or four months.

Could 'Lord of the Rings' have been public domain today?

The shifting landscape of copyright law makes for some interesting close calls

<p>I chose to use this shot because honestly, I&nbsp;can never get enough shots of the Witch-King and his crazy Fell Beast</p>

I chose to use this shot because honestly, I can never get enough shots of the Witch-King and his crazy Fell Beast

Credit: New Line Home Video

It's one of those accidents of timing that I would decide to finally watch the documentary "These Amazing Shadows" on January 1, the same day that I read an article about what works would have been entering the public domain on January 1, 2012, if not for a new law that revised copyright in the United States in the late '70s.

Even so, those two different bits of information at the same time caused me to really consider the idea of the public domain and what that even means.  Look at this year's Oscar poster, look at something like "The Artist" or "Hugo," or look at that documentary, and it's apparent that the main message Hollywood wants to sell you is that the memories Hollywood creates are the things that we all share, that unite us.

Isn't that the big idea behind public domain in the first place?

If you create something that everyone eventually internalizes, something like… let's pick a random example that has nothing to do with anything I happened to publish in the last week on this blog like, say, "Lord Of The Rings"… something that is hugely influential and widely commercialized and heavily exploited… then after a certain amount of time, you're going to have to expect things like fan fiction and different interpretations and parody and homage and plain old fashioned borrowing, and there comes a point where law was designed to finally say, "Okay, everyone, have at it.  The creator has had enough time with it.  Everyone knows it at this point.  It's all yours.  Do with it what you will."  That's what the law originally had in mind, with a set time period that could be renewed if the author still had an active interest in the thing.  If not, if no one stepped forward to claim something, then it would become public domain. 

Some thoughts on 'These Amazing Shadows' and the National Registry to kick off 2012

A documentary about film preservation offers a great reset for a new year of movies

<p>A viewing of 'These Amazing Shadows' this afternoon lit a match under me as a viewer and made me consider what I hope to accomplish this year here on HitFix</p>

A viewing of 'These Amazing Shadows' this afternoon lit a match under me as a viewer and made me consider what I hope to accomplish this year here on HitFix

Credit: SPHE

Ted Turner may be the greatest accidental hero in the history of film preservation.

Let me back up and take the long way around to get to this point.  I'm going to try something different this year and keep a media journal for myself, to not just break down what movies I watch but every bit of media I ingest.  When, how much, where, what I used to watch them.  I'm curious about my own diet, but also about our media diets in general.

With this in mind, I realized that I wanted to pick just the right thing to start 2012, and so I opened Netflix Instant and pulled up the documentary "These Amazing Shadows," a movie about the National Film Registry and why it was created, how the films are chosen, who chooses them, and what it all means.

I had not seen the film before, and it's a lovely piece on the cultural importance of movies, the nature of film preservation, and how we share our cultural history.  One thing the movie reminds me of is the way these films that have become old hat, ingrained to the point of white noise to some of us, are always new to someone, and there's an importance to the idea of keeping them pristine and available so that future audiences have their chance to have that experience.  Yes, I've seen "Wizard Of Oz" so many times over the course of my life that I barely "see" it when it's on, but this ongoing Film Nerd 2.0 project with my kids underlines the idea that every viewer has their first time with films, and setting the stage the right way for that first viewing can mean so much.  You can ruin a movie by showing it wrong, and you can make an afternoon into magic if you show it right.

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