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The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring

The Exorcism of Emily RoseShould I see it?

Director: Scott Derrickson
Written by: Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson
Starring: Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Jennifer Carpenter and Campbell Scott

Rated PG-13 for thematic material, including intense/frightening sequences and disturbing images

Buy or Rent This Movie Here

The Exorcist dominated cinematic exorcisms much in the same way Bond is the only real spy and Star Wars is the touchstone for all space films. These classics defined their subject matter, and to even think of getting a foothold on their ground is risky business. The Exorcism of Emily Rose made me forget about The Exorcist (the best horror film of all time.) This was done through the film's revolutionary element its deep sense of reality.

Director/Co-Writer Scott Derrickson infuses a strong sense of the realism into his film which only serves to buttress the horror. Exorcism and demonic possession is a serious topic and Derrickson has the intelligence to take it sincerely. His honest look at the subject is what makes this film brilliant. The Exorcist took its subject matter very seriously as well, but upon reflection took loose translations of reality. This film doesn’t go the pea soup and head-spinning route. It keeps its characters and their troubles within the realm of the possible.

Derrickson’s film is strongly paced and smartly presented. Through the lens of a courtroom, we are exposed to the strange case of Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter). Emily’s priest Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) is on trial for negligent homicide, a result of the young woman’s death. Since the film comes at the subject matter through this avenue, Derrickson is able to present Emily’s story patiently and to it fullest effect. The courtroom scenes issue explanations of what is to come and then we are sent off to the horrible world of poor Emily Rose. The continual set up and presentation of scary scenes is quite powerful. The courtroom setting also sets up a Protestant court convicting a Catholic idea vibe…luckily this isn’t pushed too hard.

The performances in the film match the strength of the writing and directing. Tom Wilkinson as Father Moore and Laura Linney as his attorney Erin Bruner perform to their normal high standards. Opposite these talented actor is Jennifer Carpenter who portrays Emily. This was Carpenter's introduction to the public and while she didn't become a household name, her performance is a central reason to why the film works so well.  Carpenter doesn’t have many lines, she offers very convincing renditions of being possessed and going insane. This may not seem like much but it can be very difficult for an actor to get this kind of performance done properly. There is a thin line between scary and stupid. While filming, the actor must look like a complete idiot writhing on the ground or making funny faces. They have to give their full trust to their director and hope they are talented enough to keep them from looking like a moron on the big screen. Carpenter’s performance is striking in that it doesn’t seem forced. As with Derrickson’s direction, Carpenter shows truthfulness in her performance and that gives this film its heart.

Overall, this is a truly brilliant film. If you haven’t already seen this film, you should. It is clearly worth the rental price. Outstanding.

Click on the screamer to view the trailer

Scott Nehring Good News Film ReviewsRelated Reviews:
Tom Wilkinson movies
Batman Begins (2005)
Valkyrie (2008)

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Movie Trailer: Jaws: The Revenge

You have to go a ways to get to the point where your production can be as bad as this film.  Even if you try to make a movie that stinks, you'll be lucky to reach the depths mined by this production.

For an outstanding skewering of this film, check out one of Roger Ebert's better reviews (IMO):

Savage Chickens: The Matrix: Alternate Ending

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Movie Trailer: Jaws 3-D

3-D?  Hey, be thankful it wasn't released in Smell-o-vision.

Movie Trailer: Jaws 2

One would have thought the fish being blow to smithereens would have reduced the possibility of a sequel...

I still prefer this version:  http://t.co/jhAPRWN

Screen Shot: Vertigo (1958)

James Stewart Vertigo

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A New Star Wars Trilogy?

Lucasfilms is denying they are secretly working on a new Star Wars Trilogy - which probably means they are.

I'd be excited but...

Lucas has been making the franchise into a steaming pile of Dooku for a decade.  A new trilogy would just be Lucas opening new avenues for him to spoil the whole lot.

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Tombstone (1993)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring

Tombstone Christian movie reviewShould I see it?

Short Review: One of the best westerns made.

Directors: Kevin Jarre and George P Cosmatos
Written by: Kevin Jarre
Starring: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Michael Biehn, Charlton Heston, Powers Boothe, Jason Priestley, Stephen Lang, Thomas Haden Church, Dana Delany and Billy Bob Thornton

Rated R for violence.

Buy or Rent This Movie HereTombstone movie review

Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Michael Biehn, Powers Boothe, Charlton Heston, Stephen Lang, Thomas Haden Church, Dana Delany, Michael Rooker and Billy Bob Thornton - All of them and you toss in Robert Mitchum doing the narration for good measure?

This is how you cast your Western.

This is a film that others in Hollywood movies should emulate. Directors George P. Cosmatos and Kurt Russell explore the familiar tale of the shoot-out at the OK Corral . Following his famed stewardship of Dodge City, Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell), retires to Tombstone, Arizona where he hopes to live a quiet existence with his brothers and their friend Doc Holiday (Val Kilmer).

Tombstone movie reviewEarp's idyllic dreams are ruined by the Cowboys, a band of outlaws, who threaten the small town. The Earp Brothers, along with Holiday, face down the brutal outlaws. The conflict leads to the final shoot-out that made all of the men legends.

While the cast is impressive, it is Val Kilmer who makes the movie. His turn as Doc Holiday is one of the great performances in the genre and one of the best film performances of the 1990's. His sly, fatalistic Holiday is reason enough to see the film.

Doc Holiday is presented as an ominous gunslinger who has the capacity to bring quick death to anyone. His ever present danger is undercut by terminal illness. He is racked with tuberculosis and is physically fading. The duality of a dying man who is forced to summon the skills of his healthier days is fascinating to watch.

Kevin Jarre’s script is perfectly paced and full of so many brilliant lines I can’t decide where to begin my praise. The dialog in this script puts most screenwriters to shame. Characters should always have heightened speech. The best way to elevate your characters is through the words that flow from their lips. Jarre offers his characters great lines that perfectly match their personalities. Not once does the elevated language feel imposed. Another example of this use of grand language is Pirates of The Caribbean series (written by Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio.)

Jarre’s wise use of language meshed with Kurt Russell’s confident performance give credence to the fear that Wyatt Earp puts into those around him even though he doesn’t use his gun until the midpoint of the film.

Are you gonna skin that smoke wagon or 
are you going to just stand there and bleed?
[slaps Tyler across the face, unafraid]
I'm gettin' tired of all your gas, now jerk that pistol and go to work!
[slaps him harder, now completely steely-eyed]
I said throw down, boy! 

You die first, get it? Your friends might get me in a rush, 
but not before I make your head into a canoe, you understand me?

And then there is Doc Holiday.

Evidently Mr. Ringo's an educated man. Now I really hate him.

Nonsense, I have not yet begun to defile myself.

I’m your huckleberry.

Children, that is how you write dialog.

This is how you make a movie.

Obviously, since this deals with the shoot-out at the OK Corral, there is violence. In comparison to what you see on TV these days, the violence is not out of hand.


Worldview: Men are fallen and their hunger knows no bounds. This hunger for power, sex, wealth drive many to commit atrocities. These horrors can happen on large and small scales. The immediate threat the Cowboys pose to the peace of Tombstone is an interesting moral problem that replicates the one found in war zones. When is it acceptable for a man to pull the trigger? To kill another man?

The sixth commandment states "You shalt not murder". Murdering is different than killing. Murder assumes no moral right is promoted by the act. Murder is wasteful and hateful. One is permitted to kill as the need arises however. But where does that moment come?

Self-defense is one of the central human rights. The ability to be free is centered on this concept. Wyatt Earp tries to shirk the concerns over the Cowboys, up to the point where violence is visited upon his family.

Wyatt refuses the role of Sheriff only to have his brother Morgan take up the position. Morgan is the calm soul, the thoughtful brother who says at one point "God made all this and He remembered to make a little speck like me." He is not the one to confront the evil of the world alone. That is Wyatt's calling. Wyatt's hesitation to stand up to evil costs both him and Morgan dearly.

When Wyatt takes up his guns against the Cowboys he isn't taking revenge, a sin, but defending himself and his family. He is justified in his violent reaction. In this sense he is not replicating the forgiving, sacrificial Jesus of the Gospels but the down to brass tacks, answer evil by strongly vanquishing it, Jesus found in Revelation.

I find questions about where these important lines are drawn to be fascinating. I also find that they cause a boatload of arguments as well. I would say that it proves the potency of this film that a simple Western can prompt such thoughts in the first place.

Related Reviews:
Scott Nehring Good News Film ReviewsVal Kilmer movies
Heat (1995)
Mind Hunters (2004)

Scott Nehring Good News Film Reviews

Movie Quote: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Cowardly Lion
Put 'em up, put 'em up! Which one of you first? I'll fight you both together if you want. I'll fight you with one paw tied behind my back. I'll fight you standing on one foot. I'll fight you with my eyes closed... ohh, pullin' an axe on me, eh? Sneaking up on me, eh? Why, I'll... Ruff!

Movie Trailer: Jaws

I have a rule that a trailer that rambles on and exposes much of a film's plot is a sure sign of a lesser production.  This particular trailer is an exception to that rule.  Oh, this thing is far too long and should have been cut in half, but there is no denying the brilliance of the actual movie.

The opening with the young woman swimming is a perfect teaser trailer. It would be better to show that, cut to some quick images of the rest of the film and call it a day.

Screen Shot: The Wrestler (2008)

The Wrestler movie still

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Movie Poster: The Incredible Shrinking Man


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Movie Trailer: Lost in the Fog

First thing, if you're making documentaries, don't call your company Doctored Pictures.  Why not just name yourselves "Lying Pieces of Crap, Propaganda Makers"?

I like this trailer, it does a good job of establishing why we should care by building up the horse's successes.  When they drop the other shoe, and don't fully explain what has happened - smart move.  Leave the audience wondering.

Beauty by Scott Burdick

Scott Burdick created the fantastic presentation below for the American Artist's "Weekend With the Masters" event.  This is a look at the differences between realism and modern works.  Good stuff.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

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Friday Rewind: Blindness (2008)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring

***Originally posted June 6, 2009***

Should I see it?

Short Review: Blindness is right. You'll want to scrape your eyes out rather than sit through the final act of this film.

Fernando Meirelles directed a great film, Cidade de Deus "City of God". It is a moving, sometimes shocking exploration into environment and character. It is a reminder of the power of cinema and is one of the best movies I've ever seen.

This ain't City of God.

The first act of this film about a plague that blinds its victims is wonderfully constructed and executed. Merielles' stark visuals and thoughtful scenes develop the paranoia, isolation and fear that comes with the uncontrollable threat of disease. One by one, people are left stumbling around town, crashing their cars and getting lost in their own homes. Before too long the government steps in and quarantines the victims in an abandoned mental hospital. One of the victims "Doctor" (Mark Ruffalo), an optometrist, loses his sight early on. His wife, aptly named "Doctor's Wife" is immune to the disease and therefore retains her sight. She pretends to be blind so she can keep tabs on her husband. It's at this point things hit a big, unmovable wall.

While institutionalized, it becomes clear that the outside world is falling apart.  Unfortunately, things aren't much better indoors. The blind prisoners wander the excrement smudged floors and halls.  Some victims have lost their clothes. Their life in squalor slowly worsens and fear grows.  Suddenly, the food shipments stop coming.

A group of thugs, who live on the first floor of the building, take over the remaining food supply and demand payment for it from the other residents. They back up their demand with a gun and the fact that one of their members has been blind his whole life. Unlike everyone else, he is used to being blind, and uses his experience to control others.

***Spoiler Alert: From this point forward I will give away important facts that will ruin the story. If you plan on seeing the film, do not read further, also please do not blame me when you realize you've wasted your time. I tried to warn you.***

The story descends into a confusing, unpleasant mess because once the thugs take all of the trinkets and property from the rest of the asylum they then demand the women. The women in the asylum submit so people can eat. What follows is a disturbing rape sequence where the women are brutally victimized, one even dies. Meirelles doesn't descend to showing the rapes, but still the audio and shadows of women being raped isn't something most people want to sit through. The point is made without forcing the audience to experience it overtly. What is so frustrating about the whole situation is that the lead, Doctor's Wife (Julianne Moore) IS NOT BLIND. In the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed man is king. In this case she's queen. She has the ability to put an end to the conflict at any time. She can see and the thugs can't. She allows herself and others to be raped. She allows for people to live in squalor. We're not given solid reasons for her choices, other than it all goes to feed the film's overall symbolism. The problem is that symbolism doesn't outmatch logic. Her failure to act makes her, the heroine, as evil as the villains.

Eventually, Doctor's Wife does confront the thugs, after the thugs have visited every possible evil on the rest of the people in the asylum. She burns the place down and leads the residents out on the streets. There things are better but they're left to scavenge along with everyone else. After a while, and some minor conflicts, everyone regains their sight. End of story.

Sound stupid?

It is.

Related Reviews:
Julianne Moore movies
Children of Men (2006)
Short Cuts (1993)

Other Critic’s Reviews:
Film Critics United
Intermedias Review

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Screen Shot: Dr. No (1962)

Dr. No movie still

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Movie Poster: Murder by Television


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Movie Trailer: Scream 4

And who says our culture isn't completely bankrupt? 

Seriously, if you see this and are excited, you need to get off the Earth.  You're slowing it down for the rest of us.

Film Should Be Charmingly Incorrect

By Wayne Johnson

Over the past 11 years or so I have encountered many students that seem to put an excessive emphasis on the details in their projects. This is mostly true when I was teaching Computer Animation, where the students had to model sets for their short cartoons. They would build, say a bar or restaurant, and would make sure that all of the tables and chairs were there. Even if they were only seen on screen for a few frames. Often times this would result in spending countless hours on rendering and cause many problems that would take away from focusing on the stuff that counted, like the story!

I can’t blame them entirely for this fascination with every nut and bolt of a 3D model. It is somewhat an industry standard to major on the minor details. In a great and insightful documentary on the production of one single minute of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith called; In a Minute, the truth comes out in glaring detail. In the section discussing the 3D modeling of the platform Anakin Skywalker runs across during his final battle with Obi Wan. The modeler gives us his specific point of view on the process. He shows us the model and points out how it is built then lays down his insightful words of wisdom talking about adding all of the bolts on the platform, he says “something you probably won’t see but, would miss if it wasn’t there.”

Now let me give a fuller picture of this shot for those of you not familiar with this film. On a volcano planet, above a river of molten lava, with explosions of lava, two Jedi Knights are in the most epic battle of the series, running along a narrow platform as the lava explosions happen all around them. And the 3D modeler spent, probably and extra few days, on making sure all of the bolts needed to hold the fake platform are in their proper place because if not, WE WOULD MISS IT.

Now again, I can’t entirely blame the 3D modeler. He was working on a film series where George Lucas himself felt he needed to give a full and detailed description of how the Force worked. Why? By giving a detailed breakdown of what the Force is destroys the whole story. Suddenly the force isn’t what I (the audience) imagines it to be but what George declares it to be. (I personally think he did it so he would never have to answer another question about it from his army of nerd fans, but I digress.)

This whole idea of explaining everything to the audience, giving them every bit of information goes against the grain of the greatest storytellers in history. As soon as you fill in all of the blanks and make it the most accurate it can be, you cease to allow your audience to contribute. They become passive and no longer required to use their brains to imagine it. The rule is, whenever you allow your audience to contribute, they will. This is true in story, film, music, painting, poetry, literature, and the rest.

Our culture is however, obsessed with the details. They think that everything must be laid out on the table. Everything must be “text book” accurate. All the information must be there for the story to be truthful. When in fact, all of the facts destroy the picture entirely.

This goes back to the majority worldview of today. There are no big Truths only small truths like how many keys are on my keyboard. It may be true in the sense that it is a fact there are a certain number of keys, but does it make the story any less true if I only show you some and not all of the keys?

A great painter, John Pike, retold a tale of one of his watercolor works. He had presented the painting to the man who commissioned it and the man said to John, “How do I know those white blobs in the middle there are sheep?” He paused, “Well I guess I do.” Do you get it? Do you see? Am I being clear?


The job of the artist, whatever his art, must be to be Charmingly Incorrect and not Irritatingly Correct. Art is not about the business of gathering all the facts. A great painting of a house is not measured in whether or not the painter painted all of the windows and all of the doors. A great story can’t be measured if all of the details are exactly right. And no matter what, the fact that all of the bolts were modeled on that platform could never save the fact that Revenge of the Sith had many other problems to be solved first.

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Screen Shot: Quantum of Solace (2008)

Daniel Craig James Bond movie still

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Movie Poster: The Black Scorpion


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Movie Trailer: Jurassic Park III

It's just like the first two movies.  The problem - you've probably already seen the first two movies so there is no reason to see this one.

Jurassic Park III: The Merchandising

Understanding Movies, Chapter 2: German Expressionism and Russian Montage

By: Lindsey Dunn

This post will be continuing the course I wrote called Understanding Movies. In this section, we are learning about silent movies still, but these filmmakers took the art of silent film to its max. I really enjoyed this chapter and had a lot of films to watch, which is why it has taken so long to get this second chapter up.

The main movements discussed are German Expressionism and Russian Montage. In German Expressionism, we are looking at using film to create a heightened emotion. If you remember, in Chapter 1, we looked at cinema as a way to reflect everyday life, in a documentary style, and as a way to explore the imagination, such as a fantasy. German Expressionism is closer to the latter, but it is beyond that. Rather than an emphasis on the story, filmmakers took a special interest in creating a mood or feeling--mostly a dark mood. There was a special interest in what impact the movie would have on the audience. Some of the staples in this genre are mad scientists, dark shadows, deranged madmen, or crazy camera angles.

There is also a constant battle between man and society. Look for that in most of these films.

The first film I watched was Metropolis. I have heard of this movie but never took the time to watch it, especially since I find many silent movies to be boring. This film is about a contrasting world. Above ground you have the beautiful wealthy people who don't work. Down below you have the poor who work constantly and live in the darkness. A man who lives above ground, Freder Fredersen, falls in love with Maria, a woman from below. He bravely enters the darkness below out of concern for her. What he finds is horrifying, but this same woman whom he loves has inspired a community of underground dwellers to hope for the chosen one who will unite the head (the city planners above) and the hand (the laborers below). She calls him the heart. As I watched this movie, I was surprised at how engrossing it movie is, even though it was made about 80 years ago. The director is Fritz Lang, and he is the master.

Like Lillian Gish, the actors do get melodramatic somewhat. Everything is overacted, but that's part of the expressionism style. Each facial expression and gesture speaks volumes. You can tell this is expressionism because there is little logic. We don't really understand what the underground workers are tasked to do. One worker just has to move the hands of the clock to match the lights. If he does not keep up with this task, something explodes. It doesn't make sense, except on an emotional level.

You can see how Lang used many things in this movie to create a heightened emotional experience for the viewer. There is fog, darkness, the catacombs, candlelight. The special effects are still impressive today.

Here are some clips. The soundtrack is not original. Scads of people have created soundtracks for Metropolis. The original soundtrack was lost.

If you have not taken the time to watch Metropolis, do it now. This is one of the best and most original movies I have seen in awhile.

We also have The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari by Robert Wiene. In this story, a somnambulist (sleepwalker) goes on a murderous rampage. Or does he? The story starts at a carnival with creepy music and distorted angles. We know immediately we are in a nightmare type of world. It turns out the whole story takes place inside the mind of a madman. Truly this story inspires feelings. This would be a predecessor for Frankenstein and many other horror films. The soundtrack on this one scared my cat.

The next film is Karl Freund's The Last Laugh, which introduces one last important German innovation: the moving camera. In this film a man who is a doorman at a fancy hotel gets demoted to janitor. He gets to his lowest point ever, and at the end, gets the last laugh. The moving camera is so natural to us that it is hard to spot this technique. The camera was released from its static spot and mirrored its protagonist by climbing buildings, spinning drunkenly, or walking a floor. For its time, this was quite astounding. It allows the viewer to experience the story as if they are in the room rather than just watching from one spot, similar to watching a play. The opening credits are the easiest to spot. Watch as the camera rides down the elevator, walks across the floor, and moves through the rotating doors.

Now we can talk about Russian Montage movement. The Russians realized that no matter how much the camera moves, it is always on one side of an 180 degree line. The 180 degree line is a term that describes an invisible wall or line that we are watching the action take place across. Think about the TV show Friends. At the Central Perk coffee shop, we always watch the characters sitting in front of that one couch. We are never behind the couch. That camera is always sitting at that one invisible wall. Most TV studio sets are like this. There are 3 walls, and a fourth imaginary wall where the camera crew goes. That is the 180 degree line. You are always on one side of the line rather than the other. In film then, if you don't "cut" to another angle or side, there is always the danger of being removed from the action, like you are watching a play on stage. The Russians could use the "cut" to view multiple sides of the action, therefore getting the audience more involved in the action.

The cut is also a way to manipulate the audience into seeing what you want them to see. For instance in Storm over Asia (I could not find a clip for this), the directors wanted the Mongolian peasants to appear amazed by a set of animal pelts a trader showed them. But the hired extras were not amazed by the pelts. The director next hired a magician who performed tricks for the peasants. They were amazed at the magic tricks. So the director intercut the trader showing the pelts with the Mongolians who were amazed at the magic tricks. The film then came out looking like the peasants were amazed at the pelts.

The Russian Montage school thought that it was the director, not the actor, who had the most control over what the viewer would experience. This is a foreign concept for our movies today. The emphasis is on acting, and when the acting stinks, the movie fails. If modern directors would use some of these techniques, they could make great movies out of any performance.

The most famous example of this, what Professor Shargel calls "the richest 8 minutes in the history of motion pictures," is the Odessa Steps sequence in The Battleship Potemkin. This is a powerful scene, so I want it to speak for itself. But in this scene, there is so much happening, yet we are clear at all times as to what is taking place. Shargel says that in the modern action film, sometimes we aren't sure what is happening until the dust clears. There is just a continuous sensory overload. We know load noises are happening and bodies are being thrown all about, but the cutting is not done so well. In this scene, we see the soldiers marching down steps, people running down steps, people walking back up the steps, the baby carriage rolling down the steps, and so on. The director, Sergei Eisenstein, has complete control of his camera at all times. And even though this isn't all actually happening at the same time (this must have taken a long time to film), we think it is.

As you watch this, see if it looks familiar. It has been copied multiple times, but never done as skillfully. This film marks the end of the silent movie era and moves us into lesson 3.

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Screen Shot: WALL·E (2008)

Pixar WALL-E movie still

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