Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour
By Kurt Jensen
NEW YORK (OSV News) – “Early on in the history of film, stage actors had to make the transition from the outsized gestures and expressions needed to convey emotion to a crowded theater to the restraint required by the intimacy of the camera. The same contrast is always likely to be highlighted in a movie dedicated to capturing a lavish stadium music concert.
Those attending “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” (AMC Theaters) will discover that the titular singer-songwriter – the current doyenne of breakup songs – is aware of this. Just as the smirks and eye rolls of some of her numbers become cloying, the solo balladeer emerges and equilibrium is restored.
While Swift can be credited with aesthetic insight, parents of teens clamoring to see her on screen will be concerned with other matters. In a world of ultra-raunchy rap and the obscenity-laden lyrics often found even outside that genre, Swift shows considerable moderation. A smattering of vulgar words aside, her performance is more glitzy than gritty. So, although her preteen fans may have to be kept away from this production, older teens can probably be given the green light.
They’ll find “Eras” a lively recap of all 10 of her studio albums across 17 years. Directed by Sam Wrench, the footage was compiled from concerts at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, outside Los Angeles, during Swift’s ongoing tour.
This is, then, no valedictory. Rather, it’s a powerful summation of Swift’s life and work so far. The idea is to craft an experience just as communal and immersive as the vocalist’s live events. Audience members, for instance, are encouraged to sing along. Yet in a movie theater the noise is not overwhelming, making it possible to concentrate on Swift in all her sparkly glory throughout.
Little exposition is provided. Instead, there’s continuous music, enhanced by CGI special effects and a bit of dancing. By contrast to some of the documentaries in which Swift has featured in the past, no backstage segments are included and no forum is given to her opinions.
Her lyrics do, however, address the loneliness of her level of stardom and hint, pretty consistently, at past heartbreak. At their poignant best, her songs somehow manage to combine the varied qualities of honky-tonk blues and the sophisticated work of German-born American composer Kurt Weill.
It’ll cost you a lot more than three pennies, though, to have a look.
The film contains fleeting rough and crude language. The OSV News classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
(Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for OSV News.)
The Exorcist: Believer
By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (OSV News) – Although the horror sequel “The Exorcist: Believer” (Universal) gets off to a reasonably promising start, it degenerates quickly. In fact, it ends up being a muddle both dramatically and, more significantly, in its treatment of religion.
Director and co-writer David Gordon Green’s take on the demonic possession theme follows the ordeal of widowed father Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jr.). Victor’s life is initially disrupted when his daughter Angela (Lidya Jewett) disappears in the company of her schoolmate and friend, Katherine (Olivia O’Neill).
Although Victor agonizes over Angela’s absence, he gets more than he bargained for when both girls eventually return. As the audience knows, the pals had gone into the woods to practice amateur spiritualism in the hope of communicating with Angela’s late mother. To that extent, the screenplay – penned with Peter Sattler – presents a cautionary tale applicable in real life.
As Victor and Katherine’s parents, Miranda (Jennifer Nettles) and Tony (Norbert Leo Butz), try to cope with the duo’s bizarre subsequent behavior – as well as some inexplicable phenomena – they get religious guidance from nun-turned-nurse Ann (Ann Dowd). They also get less specific advice from self-described exorcism expert Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn).
Chris is, of course, the mother of Regan, the victim in a similar incident showcased in the 1973 film that inaugurated the franchise. Although the current movie is intended as a direct sequel to the original and, in that respect, a reboot of the series, the approach of this script to its subject matter departs markedly from the earlier tale.
As adapted from his own fact-based novel by screenwriter William Peter Blatty, and directed by William Friedkin, the Watergate-era picture may have sensationalized matters but at its center was a fairly straightforward confrontation between Regan’s tormentor and two Catholic priests.
The driving away of the devil here, by contrast, takes on the qualities of a circus.
In part, that’s probably attributable to the fact that the more-or-less church-friendly attitude of the earlier movie would jar on contemporary Hollywood sensibilities. What’s presented to the audience, as a result, is a spiritual free-for-all.
There is a well-meaning cleric, Father Maddox (E.J. Bonilla), hovering around. But his superiors won’t authorize an exorcism. So Ann decides she’ll read from the Roman Ritual herself. Miranda and Tony’s unnamed minister (Raphael Sbarge) also is on hand, loudly reciting verses from the Bible.
This interdenominational broadmindedness is further extended by the inclusion of a female shaman, Dr. Beehibe (Okwui Okpokwasili). She’s out to see what her version of African animism can contribute to the overheated shouting match.
The good doctor’s practices are shown to be just as effective as the prayers of priest or pastor. But the dialogue in some quieter scenes assures us that it’s really interpersonal solidarity that will ultimately send Satan packing.
The production thus promotes a syncretist, humanistic and even vaguely anti-Catholic outlook that could be spiritually dangerous for anyone inclined to take it seriously. On the whole, however, this half-a-century-later follow-up is best dismissed as a bit of chaotic schlock.
The film contains misguided spiritual ideas, brief gory images, mature references, including to abortion, a handful of mild oaths, a few rough terms and at least one crass expression. The OSV News classification is O – morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
(John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @JohnMulderig1.)