Thomm Quackenbush, author

From Heaven to Hell - Melting Reese's Pieces to Sucking Tootsie Flops

The Exorcism of Emily Rose Asks, "How Many Licks Does It Take to Get to the Center of HELL?"

Before priests made headlines for molesting children they were killing them. The Exorcism of Emily Rose focuses on the semi-true trial of Father Moore, played by Tom Wilkinson. Most fondly remembered as the doctor who wipes unhappy times from the minds of the loveless in Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, Wilkinson is just as well-suited playing a non-creepy priest. Opening on a pumpkin patch, the film gears the audience up for its fall release. Inside the farmhouse it's obvious how Emily's exorcism-gone-awry has really bummed out her family... And killed her. Father Moore is cuffed and led away like common criminal instead of the man of collar he is, loving Jesus and hating fags.

Through flashbacks we get to know Emily Rose, her soft spot for stray cats, her desire to be a school teacher, and her role as meat puppet to The Dark Lord, Satan. Laura Linney plays Erin Bruner, a top attorney and functioning alcoholic, spending most of her nights in a swank lawyer bar where she rolls with the big boys. Erin's boss offers to make her a partner at the firm in exchange for defending the now-famous priest. Erin celebrates with another martini.

This film was written as a horror flick with courtroom drama, but it never feels sure of itself. It wants to be scary and it wants to make a statement. This movie would certainly collapse in on itself without the performance of Laura Linney who gives trademark layers to every character she's ever played. There is some fine craftsmanship by the entire cast as they weed through this mediocre script. These actors take flat, cliché lines and breathe into them like orange and black party balloons. Laura Linney especially, always, listens to her fellow actors, taking time with her well-tuned reactions. Girl's got it raw. Campbell Scott works against Linney in the courtroom, playing a Methodist prosecutor who beats the Bible, yet doesn't believe in the devil. Huh? I feel like the writer started something interesting with Campbell's character but never finished it. I also had the sense that the writer asked, "How can I make this different from The Exorcist?" But decided instead to just MAKE it and make that buck. The courtroom scenes are almost as interesting as TV courtroom dramas. A fair and wise lady judge in glasses reminds me of that cartoon owl who tricks kids into giving up their Tootsie Pops. Linney and Scott go rounds on witnesses as Lady Owl takes a bite out of crime and their zany beliefs.

Emily's "special friend" Jason is a sweet, quiet boy (virgin) who stuck around tending to Em as her soul got sucked into hell. Jason was an obvious candidate of erectile dysfunction before Emily Rose, but after First Base's redefinition of seeing Em bent like creepy insect in her pajamas, her eyes wide and black, Jason is never going to put his dick near a girl again. He tells Erin, "Most of what we shared was like a horrible nightmare... But I wouldn't give up a single minute of it. She woke me up to things I never felt before..."

I expected him to follow up this statement with, "Ever have a demon suck your dick?"

Like any horror movie trying to make a statement, every time the characters stop screaming and start speaking it's crap and agonizingly dull. Erin is being haunted every night at 3 a.m. Father Moore informs, "You're under attack, Erin! You're in the middle of a spiritual battle!"

Goddamnit, Woman! Didn't you learn anything from starring in The Mothman Prophecies?! Father Moore says, "Three a.m. is the demonic witching hour... "

In a flashback, the priest experiences his own strangeness at 3 a.m. in which The Emperor shows up in his usual Star Wars garb, Darth Moore interpreting this invitation to The Dark Side as, "The game is on."

Before overly-sensitive Jason goes home and dresses up in his mother's clothes, he tells the court, "They were in control of her... Y'know, the demons."

Jason says this last line as though the demons were the cool kids and he's feeling left out. An anthropologist in PierOne-inspired-frock is called to testify and takes the movie to an interesting, new place by informing the courts that Emily Rose is "Hyper-Sensitive." A Hyper-Sensitive is a person more sensitive to the world of ghosts and demons. Anthropologist goes on to suggest the medication Emily was on for alleged epilepsy may have weakened her to the aggressive demon infection. Very interesting concept. And then it's over.

Emily Rose leaves college for a home-cooked exorcism. Her hillbilly parents send their impressionable, pre-teen daughter to check on Big Sis Em, setting themselves up for problems down the road.

"Why can't I have a demon in me too?! Emily's got six in her!"

Green puke on her orange bedroom walls is very Halloweeny. Just as I'm wondering how a girl can muster so much vomit when the demons won't let her eat, we catch Emily on all fours munching on bugs. No holes in this script! Her exorcism is performed on Halloween for effect (and marketing.) Em is tied to her bed. It's her first exorcism - Splurge on handcuffs, for Christ's sake! (Pun intended.) Lil Sis watches as Emily makes Dad her bitch, speaking in Latin, and jumping out the window. (CUT TO: Lil Sis at Hot Topic buying her first Goth CD and black lipstick.)

In the barn, Emily Rose proves herself more than just the anti-Christ, for she is the anti-Snow White, using cats, snakes and horses for evil instead of musical numbers.

As though the green puke wasn't enough, this film has close-ups of pigeons. Erin meets with a secret witness in the park who can turn this whole case around. But at the last minute he chickens (pigeons) out. I laugh harder than I should at an exorcist film when in an alleyway, in broad daylight, the special witness is randomly killed by a barreling Buick!

CUT TO: Erin pouring booze. Lord have mercy, it's a Johnny Walker night! And she'll need it for the craptastic upcoming banter with her boss.

The most important thing to Father Moore is that Emily Rose's story be told. Laura's final plea to the jury is radiant. The woman is stunning and worthy of a good bra. Shame on you, Wardrobe! Despite the support she's lacking, Laura holds this film up like a vanilla pillar candle in rotting jack-o-lantern. The flimsy point of this movie seems to be that the devil is alive and kickin', proving God is around, He's just shyer with the ladies.

At Emily's grave, Father Moore tells Erin, "Once you look into the darkness you carry it with you forever!"

Erin almost replies, "Tell me about it... I'm drunk right now!"

CUT TO: Erin switching to tea. Nothing like a friendly lesson in demonology to straighten out a wolf-like, alcoholic lawyer.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose is nothing you haven't seen before. It's as memorable as a stubbed toe. I suggest ingesting The Exorcist coated in all its perfect-musical-score glory and going straight for scarred-for-life instead of stubbing your time with this goo-filled sucker.

Somebody Finally Eats Reese's Pieces In Just Like Heaven

I planned to hate this movie. And I did at the very start when my most favorite song, "Just Like Heaven" is sloshed through by whiny Katie Melua instead of the gloom-spunk master, Robert Smith. I didn't even have an open mind about this film. And that's why Just Like Heaven is so deserving of a good review. Like eating junk food, there is a time and place to neglect quality for a good time. And that is what this film is to me - Leftover Halloween candy found in the freezer. It's not gonna clean your liver or brighten your skin, but it's gonna be a good, secretly-shamed time.

Reese's Blonde Ambition tour kicked off with her two-part roles of pink-encased, Chihuahua lovin' lawyer, and now our little debutant has come full circle by playing a doctor. In blue scrubs, Reese is all work, no play, busting ass in a San Francisco emergency room and forsaking her love life. After a twenty-six hour shift that would render anyone retarded, Reese drives to her sister's house in the rain, talking on her cell phone, and playing with the stereo's knobs. I wonder what's gonna happen?! A semi-truck hits her head-on as the radio blasts "Let The Good Times Roll." From this moment on the movie slowly stops sucking.

I turn to my two picky girlfriends upon Mark Ruffalo's entrance and ask, "Do you think he's cute?"

They shrug. I share their indifference. But as he sputters through encounters in his recent sublet apartment with Reese's spirit (who does not want a roommate) Mark begins to grow on us. Aaaand grow on Reese. Mark is depressed, repeatedly watching his wedding video and drinking a lot of beer. Reese is pissed because Mark does not understand the concept of coasters. Mark wanders into an occult store where a psychic Napoleon Dynamite (fo real) sells him books to conjure or expel the obsessive-compulsive undead. But Reese is stubborn and takes her own steps to get rid of Mark, singing at the top of her tiny lungs, "Tomorrow" and illustrating for the world why she will never be a Broadway baby. Mark busts out big guns as the producers pay big bucks for rights to the "Ghostbusters" song, when a couple of half-ass Ghostbusters came, saw, and kicked no ass. Instead of taking up coasters, Mark brings in The Joy Luck Club to work Asian magic on Reese, but to no avail. Even a seething priest cannot compel Reese with the power of Christ. Finally, Napoleon Dynamite comes over and tells Mark he's the one who's dead. Y'know, like, on the inside, man. Reese snaps at this discovery with, "You were dumped! Probably for some guy who doesn't have a couch fused to his ass!"

Napoleon reminds Reese to respect the dead after Mark runs up to the roof to sulk. As an overworked doctor, it is her nature to care, so Reese tries to help Mark quit his drinking as he tries to help her figure out all the things she cannot recall about her life. The duo meets up with a sexually aggressive neighbor who tells Mark of Reese, "She was like a cat lady without any cats."

Rawl! In the odd couple's travels, a waiter trips and falls in a restaurant, lying on the floor and slowly suffocating for no apparent reason. As a manager pleads, "Is there a doctor in the house?!" Reese remembers her calling and jumps in, directing Mark on saving the waiter's life. Only in the movies would anyone hand insecure, fumbling Mark Ruffalo a knife and bottle of vodka and watch him go to town on an unconscious waiter. The waiter breaths again and Reese is back! Well, almost. Except for that bodiless part. At the hospital, Mark and Reese make a very obvious discovery and the film gets a new direction.

Mark stops drinking. Reese catches the sex-starved neighbor trying to boink Mark. Now Reese goes to the roof to sulk, really suffering over the loss of her body. Mark joins her after sending slut-next-door away. Reese asks what he told Slut. Mark replies, "That I was seeing someone."

"Honestly?"

"Well, I didn't say I was the only person who could."

And then Mark wins my bleeding heart as he tells a story of his ex-wife's broken heel and how she'd mangle the TV's remote control. It's so precious that I want his fuzzy head in my lap! Not only does he win my heart (along with the hearts of my cohorts) but Reese's pieces melt too.

Now that the heat is on, Mark plays Whoopi Goldberg to Reese's Patrick Swayze, going to her sister's house and making up a story about spinal meningitis that is utterly creepy, weird and CUTE. After being chased from the premises with a butcher knife, Mark deduces to Reese, "I don't think your sister is a very spiritual person."

Back to the drawing board. Mark takes Reese to the occult store where Napoleon says, "You can't bring that thing in here, Dude!"

But I don't understand how he can take her anywhere since she falls through walls and tables in her own damn apartment, yet can sit in the seat of his pick-up truck? This is also inconvenient when the two try to justify their love on what seems to be their last night together. The next day Mark has a brainstorm and sure-fire plan to keep Reese. Trying to save her soul, Mark the necrophiliac tells Reese, "I love you," before busting out some old-school fairytale no-fail, guaranteeing us our happy ending.

Reese gets to be pretty and quirky, but it's Mark Ruffalo who makes this movie (dare I say it?)... GOOD. He applies a very natural, unique rhythm to his lovesick character, similar to what I'd seen him do in the GREATEST love movie ever, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Chics need flicks too, and this is a lady's equivalent to guys' Vin Diesel action and explosions. I hated the beginning, but working into this seemingly suspicious nugget, I realized its center was tasty and easy to swallow. Especially when Robert Smith finally sang as the credits rolled, "Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick!"

Trick or treat, it's all fun and games 'til somebody gets stuck in Purgatory.
Angie is wearing a kick-ass custom-made t-shirt. Email her for details and YOU could be wearing one too!
Angela Lovell, writer extraordinaire, can kick your ass with a well placed word. Her writing can also be found at Sugarzine, Tickingboxes and WHOREscopes. She can be seen acting (occasionally wearing very little or making out with fellow hot girls) in the web series The Fold (NSFW).



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