- Category: Movie Reviews
- Written by Gilbert Seah
The holiday films continue through the New Year. It is unlikely that you would have seen all of them and there would be still plenty to choose from. Only one new film opening this week: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES.
Hot Docs Soup – January 2014: A FRAGILE TRUST
Hot Docs is pleased to announce that January’s Doc Soup will present the Canadian premiere of A FRAGILE TRUST (D: Samantha Grant, USA, 75 min.) Nominated for the Special Jury Award at the 2013 Sheffield/Doc Fest, A FRAGILE TRUST will screen on Wednesday, January 8, at 6:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m., and on Thursday, January 9, at 6:45 p.m. at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor St. West. Filmmaker Samantha Grant will be in attendance to introduce the film and answer questions following the screenings.
A FRAGILE TRUST tells the shocking story of Jayson Blair, the most infamous serial plagiarist of our time, and how he unleashed a scandal that rocked The New York Times and the world of journalism. In 2003 Blair was caught plagiarizing the work of other reporters and supplementing his own reporting with fabricated details in dozens of different stories published in the Times. The ensuing media frenzy surrounding the “Blair Affair” served sordid details in a soap opera-style tale of deception, drug abuse, racism, mental illness, hierarchy, white guilt, and power struggles inside the hallowed halls of The New York Times. Featuring an exclusive interview with Blair, and unprecedented access to his notes, reflections, and private email account, A FRAGILE TRUST is a compelling, character-driven narrative about an important chapter in the history of journalism, and a complex story about power, ethics, representation, race, and accountability in the mainstream media.
Single tickets for A FRAGILE TRUST are $15 and can be purchased in advance online at www.hotdocs.ca or in person at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema box office. In the event advance tickets sell out, a limited number of tickets may be available at the door on the night of the screening. Tickets and Student 6-Packs can be purchased online at www.hotdocs.ca, in person at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema box office, or by phone at 416-637-5150.
A FRAGILE TRUST: PLAGIARISM, POWER AND JAYSON BLAIR AT THE NEW YORK TIMES (USA 2013) ***
Directed by Samantha Grant
Samantha Grant’s account of serial plagiarist, Jayson Blair whose massive scandal rocked the New York Times and the journalism world is an intriguing enough documentary that covers her subject in satisfactory detail. The film’s three main interviewees are Jayson Blair himself, Seth Mnookin, the reporter who wrote the exposing article on Blair for Newsweek and Howell Raines, one of the higher-ups at the Times who got the sack because of Blair. They provide a good round picture of the man, with Blair himself talking about himself, about his crime and how sorry he is at what had transpired. Director Grant has not taken sides, but it is difficult to feel sorry for this man, whose only redeeming feature appears to be his sincere regret although he has a written a money-grabbing book (that got scathing reviews) on the subject. Grant also brings other key issues such as racism, substance abuse and bureaucracy into the issue. But what is missing is what his close friends and family have to say about all this.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES (USA 2013) **1/2
Directed by Christopher Langdon
The 5th (yes, already) of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films, THE MARKED ONES is sort of a sequel following the lines of shaky handheld camera, constant filming footage that made famous the BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and other PARANORMAL ACYIVITY films. These are low budget horror flicks that turn out a tidy profit for the studios.
So from the very start of THE MARKED ONES, the ‘really’ shaking camera serves to remind (before settling to just normal shaky) the watching audience that this film treads similar territory. THE MARKED ONES refer to the characters in the film destined to be vassals for the demons at work.
The film is set in a Hispanic neighborhood in California. Teen, Oscar (Carlos Pratts) delivers his valedictorian speech following his graduation party in which friends Jesse (Eddie J. Fernandez) and Hector (Jorge Diaz) attend. As the story unfolds, Jesse acquires strange powers, which is preliminary to him being chosen to be possessed by demons. Hector intervenes to save his friend with the help of others.
For a cheap horror flick, Langdon’s film delivers. The story is fresh, the setting more in the open, the characters (mostly latinos) original enough and the scares, all taken from previous horror flicks, regenerated and still workable. There is the ghoul from the top of the cupboard or stairs suddenly descending on the unsuspecting victim, the glowing white faces that suddenly appear in the dark and dark corners, the odd sounds that go bump in the wide spaces and so on. Though these techniques have been used countless times. A visual scan around the cinema will prove the tactic sill working, judging from the number of people still jumping out of their seats.
But the three leads Diaz, Fernandez and Pratts are unable to carry a feature length film on their own. The weak narrative is also at fault for failing to keep the audience attentive from start to end. The film also contains many loose ends. What happened to the tattooed Victor after he fires and kills two witches? An hour into the film feels close to two hours of running time. The scares are ok but there is nothing holding the entire film together. The subplots are loosely connected, but at least the silly humor alleviates the boredom.
There will likely be another PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, but one can sure do with normal horror storytelling without the found footage and shaky hand held camera. The novelty is over!
Best 5 films of the Week: (alphabetically)
- American Hustle
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
- Inside Llewyn Davis
- The Wolf of Wall Street