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Late Night with the Devil (2024) – Movie Review

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Late Night with the Devil (2024) – Movie Review

Late Night with the Devil, 2024.

Written and Directed by Colin Cairnes and Cameron Cairnes.
Starring David Dastmalchian, Laura Gordon, Ian Bliss, Fayssal Bazzi, Ingrid Torelli, Rhys Auteri, Georgina Haig, Josh Quong Tart, Christopher Kirby, Steve Mouzakis, Gaby Seow, Michael Ironside, and Paula Arundell.

SYNOPSIS:

A live television broadcast in 1977 goes horribly wrong, unleashing evil into the nation’s living rooms.

Playing with fire and selling his soul for ratings during Sweeps Week in sibling writers/directors Colin Cairnes’s and Cameron Cairnes’s unnerving and engrossing Late Night with the Devil, 1970s late-night talk show host Jack Delroy (a commanding, transfixing David Dastmalchian who wears inner conflict all over his face) has invited a medium (Fayssal Bazzi), a skeptic skilled in hypnotism (Ian Bliss), and a psychological therapist (Laura Gordon) working closely with a young girl (Ingrid Torelli) drifting in and out of possession at the expense of a traumatic incident following briefly living with a satanic cult on the same episode, a special Halloween show looking to turn around dwindling viewership.

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Jack also has some personal reasons for taking an interest in spirits, having recently lost his wife (Georgina Haig) to lung cancer and is still visibly in the grieving process, even after taking a six-month hiatus from hosting the talk show. He also has a suspicious connection to a different kind of cult in some Californian woods, mostly a peaceful place to destress from the hectic nature of hosting the show during its offseason. The filmmakers make it clear from the get-go that he is a shady person and perhaps was even before he lost his wife, but David Dastmalchian is a gifted actor who can find the time in that sliminess, simultaneously rooting for him while eagerly awaiting all hell to break loose, and quite literally in this case.

Some authentic production design bolsters the performances of the outstanding ensemble, with camera angles and cinematography mimicking a late-night talk show. This allows for more immersion during the interviews and escalates tension, especially when the supporting players have been formally introduced individually and are all onstage, arguing amongst themselves. Strange phenomena occur, freaking out close on-air associates of the show, but Jack naturally keeps pushing forward with no interest in pulling the plug on the episode. The live audience is enamored with what they see, resembling our cultural fascination with disasters waiting to happen on live TV.

Presented as archived raw footage of a hellish night gone wrong, Late Night with the Devil also transitions into black-and-white during TV commercial segments, where these characters debate amongst themselves whether what’s happening is real or part of the show, with each subsequent break giving David Dastmalchian room to gradually, subtly, express that absorption into a dark side of embracing some unexplained horrors for ratings that will not only save his show but might help him finally overtake Johnny Carson. He unsettlingly becomes all too comfortable exploiting the drama between these differing beliefs, not to mention a young girl recovering from tragedy for personal gain, at one point encouraging a live exorcism.

Naturally, that scenario makes for more traditional horror, miraculously putting a refreshing spin and perhaps the most tired, exhausted subgenre out there. It also helps that, much like the original The Exorcist, Late Night with the Devil spends considerable time exploring and building its characters so that when we hear that familiar possessed voice saying outlandish, crude things, there is also room for pause to wonder if it’s telling the truth this time. There are also impressive practical effects grounded in realism, upping the terror of this chaotic evening.

As bonkers and nightmarish as those final 30 minutes are, Late Night with the Devil also feels like it drops the ball on fleshing out these characters fully. It somewhat leaves Jack’s past open to interpretation, but in a manner that leaves the narrative feeling undercooked thematically. Still, this is engrossing, twisted fun that somehow elicits an uproarious laugh during the climactic terror. It’s a compelling study of the sins people will commit for fame and fortune, knowing that there will be a complicit audience in lapping up the car crash drama. 

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Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com

 

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Movie Reviews

'Challengers' Movie Review – Spotlight Report

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'Challengers' Movie Review – Spotlight Report

‘Challengers’ is directed by Luca Guadagnino and stars Mike Faist, Josh O’Connor, and Zendaya.

Tashi ( Zendaya) a former tennis prodigy turned coach is married to a champion on a losing streak. Her strategy for her husband’s redemption takes a surprising turn when he must face off against his former best friend and Tashi’s former boyfriend.

Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor give it their all in this film and they were a great addition to this amazing cast. Being the new guys on the block when it comes to big Hollywood productions, they’ve easily cemented themselves as actors with a long career ahead of them.

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The actors both took up months of tennis training prior to the film starting production and this was something that really pays off on screen as their performances as tennis players is that much more captivating because of their efforts.

Zendaya is of course a standout and always brings her A game to any film she is a part of. She works very well on screen with Faist and O’Connor and their overall chemistry is strong throughout the duration of the film.

The cinematography of this film is something that really stands out as there are endless amounts of creatively executed shots that show off the sport of tennis, while at the same time, keeps it fresh and thrilling to watch throughout the course of the film.

The film has a lot of time jumps involved as we start the film in the present day and then go back and forth between past and present events to flush out the backstory of the film’s characters. At times this was a little jarring as some of these time jumps aren’t spaced out too well and happen very quick and abruptly.

The film’s runtime is roughly 2 hours and 20 minutes. This runtime could have been dramatically shortened to allow for a more seamless and smoother flowing story. After the first few time jumps and once the audience understands the relevant backstory of the characters, some of the time jumps seem pointless and sometimes take you out of the film.

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Overall, ‘Challengers’ is a captivating sports romance flick that is worthy of a trip to the cinema if you get the opportunity. The film has something everyone can enjoy and if you’re a fan of the sport of tennis there is definitely a lot involved that you would appreciate.

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Civil War Isn’t the Movie You Think It Is

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Civil War Isn’t the Movie You Think It Is

Kirsten Dunst and Cailee Spaeny in Civil War.
Photo: Murray Close /A24

Americans sure do love to see their institutions destroyed onscreen. I remember back when it was sorta-kinda news that audiences applauded and cheered as aliens blew up the White House in Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day (1996). Since then, it’s been standard operating practice for blockbusters, particularly the disaster-y ones, to incinerate or otherwise defile a monument or an iconic government building. (We took a brief recess after 9/11 — “too soon,” etc. — but went right back to it once the cultural all-clear sounded.) Maybe because our institutions were deemed so secure and unchanging for so long, the idea that they might be ravaged by aliens, meteors, zombies, or Dylan McDermott became a naughty fantasy we were eager to see played out onscreen, over and over and over again. A variation on this kind of chaos has become all too real over the past few years, with more than 40 percent of the country in a 2022 poll saying they think a civil war is likely within the next decade. I’m not entirely convinced that the constant barrage of apocalyptic destruction on our screens is unrelated. We’ve been spectators to the fantasy for so long that we’ve come to imagine we’re participants in it.

Here’s another truth about repeatedly indulging in our fantasies: We become desensitized to them. What makes Alex Garland’s Civil War so diabolically clever is the way that it both revels in and abhors our fascination with the idea of America as a battlefield. No real monuments get done blowed up real good in this one. The spectacle this time is coyer but somehow all-consuming. What’s being incinerated in Civil War is the American idea itself.

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The film is set in what appears to be the present, but in this version of the present a combination of strongman tactics and secessionist movements have fractured the United States into multiple armed, politically unspecified factions. The president (Nick Offerman), we’re told, has refused to give up power and is now serving his third term; he’s dissolved the FBI, bombed American cities, and made a point of killing journalists on sight, or so we’re told. California and Texas have joined forces and become something called the Western Front. There’s also the so-called Florida Alliance. Smoke rises from the cities; the highways are filled with walls of wrecked cars; suicide bombers dive into crowds lined up for water rations; death squads, snipers, and mass graves dot the countryside.

How we got here, or what these people are fighting over, is mostly meaningless to Kirsten Dunst’s Lee and Wagner Moura’s Joel, two war journalists making the treacherous drive from New York City to Washington, D.C., for an exclusive, probably dangerous interview with the beleaguered president. Tagging along for the ride in their van are Jessie, played by Cailee Spaeny, a young, inexperienced photographer who aspires to a career like Lee’s, and Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson), an aging reporter who wants to go to the front lines in Charlottesville. Lee is vexed by both their presences. Jessie’s too young, and Sammy’s too old. The blood-soaked highways of the divided states of America are no place for either of them.

The journalists covering this war gather in hotel bars, get drunk, and loudly yuk it up with the jacked-up bonhomie we might recognize from movies set in foreign lands like The Killing Fields, Under Fire, and Salvador. They’re mostly numb to the horrors they’re chronicling. After the young Jessie is scarred by an early run-in with a man who threatens to shoot two unarmed, tortured, barely alive captives, Lee tells her that it’s not their job to ask questions or get involved: “We take pictures so others can ask these questions.”

One of the reasons Lee is such a legend in her field is because she has grown a protective shell around herself. She wants to get the picture. That’s it. She’s protective of Jessie but only to the extent that the girl will slow them down or upend their plans. “Would you photograph that moment, if I got shot?” Jessie asks. “What do you think?” Lee responds, as if the answer is obviously yes. But we also understand that Lee bears the psychological scars of what she’s seen. At night, alone in her bath at a hotel, she covers her eyes and revisits the horrors she’s photographed all over the world. “I thought I was sending a message home: Don’t do this,” she says of her earlier work. “But here we are.” Garland can be clunky and obvious with his dialogue, but Dunst can also make just about any line sound true. Her face tells one story, her words tell another; together, they bring this conflicted woman to life.

The film embodies Lee’s traumatized numbness to a degree. Garland knows how to build suspense, and he depicts astonishing violence with the requisite horror, but he also moves his film along in playfully provocative ways. After one ghastly sequence in which guerrillas shoot a weeping soldier, the director cuts to a montage set to De La Soul’s “Say No Go,” a song about a horrific subject that adds a peppy beat to the grisly images onscreen. (I was reminded of the way Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket cut to the Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” right after a similar firefight.)

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Even the film’s episodic quality — it’s really just a ghastly travelogue through the war-torn Eastern Seaboard, with our protagonists confronted at each stop with some upsetting new incident — feels like a provocation. Part of shutting yourself off to such horrors involves being able to move past them, and Civil War, like its characters, glides past each monstrous vignette with unbothered brio. This can make the film feel weirdly weightless at times. Its characters are observers and nomads. If anything, they feel less invested in what they’re witnessing as the movie goes on.

Civil War’s lack of a political point of view, as well as its refusal to really identify the positions of its warring parties, has come in for some understandable criticism. But does any sane person really want a version of this film that attempts to spell out these people’s politics or, even worse, takes sides in its fictional conflict? (That sounds like it would be the worst movie ever made.) Garland does include flashes of real news footage from a variety of recent American disturbances, but he’s clearly done more research into media depictions of other countries’ war zones.

This is maybe his best idea, and why the film’s lack of political context feels more pointed than spineless: The conceit here is to depict Americans acting the way we’ve seen people act in other international conflicts, be it Vietnam or Lebanon or the former Yugoslavia or Iraq or Gaza or … well, the list goes on. In that sense, Civil War winds up becoming a movie about itself. Beyond the plausibility of war in the United States or the tragedy of such an eventuality, it’s about the way we refuse to let images from wars like this get to us. It’s more a call for reflection, an attempt to put us in the shoes of others, than a warning — not an It Can Happen Here movie, but a Here’s What It’s Like movie. It doesn’t want to make us feel so much as it wants us to ask why we don’t feel anything.

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DeAr Movie Review: A messy relationship drama that lacks depth in writing

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DeAr Movie Review: A messy relationship drama that lacks depth in writing

As an adult, all of the childhood punishments become instant life goals. Everything from eating healthy, to heading to bed early, becomes an activity we work hard to incorporate into our daily lives. GV Prakash’s Arjun is one such adult who safeguards his eight-hour sleep like a baby and he is a light sleeper who wakes up even when a pin drops. Aishwarya Rajesh’s Deepika is the exact opposite. They get married, move in together, and all hell breaks loose.

When the trailer of DeAr revealed that the film is about how chronic snoring creates a rift between newlyweds, there were instant comparisons with Manikandan’s Good Night, which was released last year. The difference here is that it is the wife who snores. Despite a brilliant premise in hand where multiple issues could be addressed, the film completely wastes this opportunity. Instead, we are given a film that lacks focus and holds onto too many emotions rather than exploring the central theme.

Cast: GV Prakash, Aishwarya Rajesh, Kaali Venkat, Thalaivasal Vijay, Ilavarasu, Rohini, Nandhini

Director: Anand Ravichandran

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