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This Week at the Movies

'Evil Dead' is grotesque and pales in comparison to the original, 'Trance' is stylish but not one of Danny Boyle's best and 'The Company You Keep' is a solid political thriller.

If watching attractive young men and women get torn to shreds, sawing off their own limbs and being punctured by a variety of sharp and blunt instruments, then the remake of “Evil Dead” could be for you.

Those who can’t imagine “Evil Dead” without the trademark humor, delirious camerawork and independent spirit of Sam Raimi’s original films might want to stay far away from this one.

The picture, directed by Fede Alvarez, follows the storyline set up in the 1981 cult classic - a group of youths head out to a remote cabin for a weekend.

Ash, who was played in the original trilogy by Bruce Campbell, is not included in the remake. Instead, drug addict Mia (Jane Levy) has traveled to the cabin in the woods with her unreliable brother (Shiloh Fernandez) and three other pals in an attempt to quit drugs cold turkey.

Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), who provides the film’s few moments of comic relief, unleashes a demon after disregarding a warning not to read the inscriptions written in a leather-bound book in the cabin’s basement.

The evil spirit makes its way from body to body, possessing the picture’s characters and causing them to do damage to themselves and one another.

An arm is sawed off with an electric knife. A man is pierced just below the eye with a syringe. A young woman cuts off most of her face. And several characters are shot in the face, hands and torso with a nail gun.

During the film’s second half, blood is nearly constantly gushing and characters howl with pain as they are disfigured.

The original “Evil Dead” films were also pretty gory, but those pictures, while often scary, had a sense of humor with bloodletting that was almost cartoonish.

This new version, which miraculously secured an ‘R’ rating, is unpleasantly brutal and its thinly-drawn characters are merely on-hand to be carved up.

My suggestion is to save your hard-earned money and just rent Raimi’s first two “Evil Dead” movies.

The characters in Danny Boyle’s violent new thriller, “Trance,” also take a beating.

The picture is the sort of thriller that strings you along, only to pull the rug out from under you in its finale. If the first two-thirds of the film had been as clever as its climax, I might have recommended it.

As it stands, “Trance” is a stylishly photographed, but convoluted, heist drama/psychological thriller.

James McAvoy plays an art auctioneer who gets mixed up in a heist gone wrong during which a group of thieves, led by Vincent Cassel’s Franck, attempt to steal an expensive Goya painting.

McAvoy’s Simon hides the painting and is bludgeoned on the head by Franck, causing him to lose his memory. The thieves bring in a hypnotist (Rosario Dawson), who attempts to get Simon to remember where he hid the painting.

Boyle’s films – especially “Trainspotting,” “28 Days Later” and “Slumdog Millionaire” - are often visually impressive and make good use of music.

“Trance” is no exception. But its labyrinthine storyline, which I’m not completely sure adds up, often feels gimmicky, whereas the director’s previous films were not only stylish, but substantive.

It’s not a bad film, but a minor one on Boyle’s mostly impressive resume.

Robert Redford’s “The Company You Keep” is the week’s best new release as well as the best picture from the actor/director in at least a decade.

In the film, Shia LaBeouf plays an ambitious journalist who investigates a former Weather Underground operative (Redford), who is now living as an attorney and has a teenage daughter.

The movie has an incredible cast that includes Susan Sarandon, Julie Christie, Chris Cooper, Brendan Gleeson, Anna Kendrick, Nick Nolte, Terrence Howard, Richard Jenkins, Sam Elliott and Stanley Tucci.

Although the picture stretches credibility in its depiction of LaBeouf’s journalist, it is a thoughtful and engrossing thriller that examines the effects of 1960’s radicalism on the lives of its characters, some of whom still carry the torch of revolution, while others have moved on to have children and hold high-paying jobs.

The arrest of one of the characters (Sarandon, who steals the show in just two scenes) sets off a chain of events – and other arrests – that force Redford to go on the lam. LaBeouf’s crisis of conscience revolves around how he will report the information that – somewhat unbelievably – keeps falling in his lap.

While “The Company You Keep” may not be in the league of “Quiz Show” or “Ordinary People,” it is an improvement over Redford’s other films from the past few years, including “The Conspirator” and “Lions for Lambs.” It’s a solid political thriller.

“Evil Dead” is playing at Douglaston’s UA Court Street 12, while “Trance” is screening at the Angelika Film Center and “The Company You Keep” is at Regal Union Square Stadium 14.

“Trance” opens at Kew Gardens Cinemas on April 12, while “Company” debuts at that theater on April 19.


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