(ag) wrote: 3 Stars out of 4 "Paradise Lost 2 - Revelations" is called the "sequel" to "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders At Robin Hood Hills" from 1996. In ways this is a sequel, but more precisely a continuation of a story, another piece to the puzzle, the second document commenting on a life. But whose life? The first "Paradise Lost" covered a murder trial, a flawed one at that, through several point of views. It bursted with anger, frustration - but those emotions bursted from all ends. It seemed to study - if anyone - Damien Echols, a teenage boy tried and sentenced to lethal injection for allegedly killing, in the company of Jessie Misskelly and Jason Baldwin, 3 young boys in what was assumed to be a satanic ritual. Why Damien? Because he wore black, had one devilish haircut, listened to that "heavy metal stuff", and happened to store "The Book of Shadows" in his bedroom. He was a walking target, the perfect answer for this mystery. But is it true? By the end of "Paradise Lost: TCMARHH" we are highly skeptical of Damien, Jessie, and Jason's involvement. The evidence is mostly circumstantial, but the courts liked those circumstances I suppose. Now, Jessie is 23; Jason is 21; and Damien is 24 - the first two serving life sentences and Damien wallowing on death row. Damien is making several appeals, but his efforts render unsuccessful so far. Eventually, a support group forms (gathering people from all over the country) and they want to take the evidence further and reach a fair trial. Notwithstanding the end result, the support group wants a revised trial to be bestowed on the West Memphis Three (as they are called) and, guilty or not guilty, justice needs to be served without prejudice. However, "Paradise Lost 2" does not centralize on this effort, but kind of forcibly relocates to John Mark Byers, the stepfather of one of the victims. He's the only person out of the victim families to speak during the documentary; the others, I assume, would want their peace. Now, remember Mark Byers? He was a character in "Paradise Lost" that, around the half-way point, handed over a knife to HBO as a gift. The filmmaker found blood on it and handed it over to police. The blood matched Mark Byers and his son. The evidence was left inconclusive. Now that the West Memphis Three are in jail, people start to feel less convinced of the verdict. Byers becomes the town gossip; people start to wonder if he had an involvement in these brutal murders on that May 5, 1993 night in Memphis, Arkansas. "Paradise Lost" had quite an influence on me, but especially the folks of Arkansas. About 4 years later, Damien viewed it for the first time. He said it brought out all poles of emotions in him and he finds, in the end, Mark Byers to be "the fakest creature to ever walk on two legs", which doesn't sound off. Byers parades to the camera, never making eye contact, giving pseudo-sermonized speeches in lurid prose. He seems to be trying to prove (or disprove) something about himself. Wait, reader, stop: I'm about to commit a huge hypocrisy. What am I doing here? I'll tell you. I am placing the very assumptions that "Paradise Lost" discouraged. I think Byers could be our guilty party because of his look, background, and behaviour. I don't exactly have evidence, but he just looks so crazy. "Paradise Lost 2", directed again by Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger, is, as the title suggests, about "revelations" not assumptions. New holes in the trial are poked and people are raising there voice. But to explore these discoveries, the directors have to forgo the documentary's cold, assured objectivity from before in order to develop an argument and make us think once again about where the truth might lie. Byers becomes the main character of "Paradise Lost 2", a figure we wish we could sympathize with for his devastating loss, but an inexplicable evil seems to writhe inside him. His wife also died from what was dismissed "indeterminate", but Byers insists was a complication with the medication taken for her heart condition. There are clues that suggest she was perhaps suffocated and that some medication found in her blood wasn't prescribed to her. Byers wouldn't know, though. He has a litany of other problems: brain tumour, drug abuse, bad checks, restraining order for spanking a neighbour's child, DUIs, and hallucinations. It's pretty sketchy, and there's even an acute moment when Byers laments: "After my wife was murdered...". Is that a Freudian slip? Another piece of evidence to the murders involves bite marks found on one of the victim's heads. The prosecutors claim it's just a belt buckle mark; regardless, the West Memphis Three and Byers provide dental records. None match the mark. Granted, Byers' teeth were apparently removed four years after the murders. However, he rants that the extraction occurred earlier and his reasons for this happening contradict (reminds me of The Joker's story about his scars, but that's a little much). "Paradise Lost 2" is a documentary where you want to record notes. This is a film that's existence is in pushing our skepticism. Without new evidence, these documentaries would have no basis. Often, strange events spontaneously occur during "Paradise Lost 2" and the documentary, from happenstance, is unpredictable in where it will veer off to. One must note, this is a very disturbing film. But, like "Paradise Lost", it is effective in allowing the audience to slip into its mystery and feel a part of it, like one of the West Memphis Three supporters for example. There's more. Much more. One scene actually earns a shot of the cross on Byers son's grave reflecting on Byers' forehead. He looks like Peter Gilmore or someone (look him up, you'll know what I mean). Furthermore, there's a sequence with Byers forming a mock burial of the West Memphis Three. He retreats to the crime scene and performs it with gas and verbal curses. However, instead of a lugubrious fit, this comes off - ironically - like a satanic ritual in itself. "Paradise Lost 2" is another documentary that needs to be endured. Its power, I think, is diminished in the fact that it doesn't stand alone like "Paradise Lost". This is more an extension, whereas the first documentary was spellbinding as a first discovery. The footage, also, is interesting but isn't as accomplished compared to "Paradise Lost" and how it covered both trials and what transpired behind the scenes. All said and done, "Paradise Lost 2" is a qualified follow-up to a masterful documentary that rivets you with anger and a biting gnash for curiosity and, of course, truth. "Paradise Lost 2" closes stating Damien still faces the death penalty, as early as May 5, 2000 (the 7-year anniversary of the murders). Is the hope for change up to us? That dangles in our thoughts. In the meantime, Byers sings "Amazing Grace" and, needless to say, his voice is no revelation.
(jp) wrote: Like Touch of Evil or The Third Man, The Lady from Shanghai explores Orson Welles' skill involving the film noir genre and combines his talents with that of the famous Rita Hayworth to ensure that it features compelling performances enough for the audiences to stick around, and with Orson Welles in the lead role there's no denying that its bound to succeed, and he puts on a flawless Irish accent.And Like her character, Rita Hayworth puts up a great performance as the core of the story's mystery and also maintains a fine level of sex appeal due to her seductive nature, so like all the other characters in the story, the audience is just unable to take their eyes off her, which ensures that the audience more-or-less embodies the mindset of Michael O'Hara, aside from his instincts.The Lady from Shanghai is undoubtedly one of Orson Welles' finest yet lesser known films, and his handling of noir themes is matched only by his excellent performance in the lead role, and the atmosphere he provides is constantly intense in a series of immaculately executed scenes.And even though it's a little slow to start off with and is relatively strange, once the intensity kicks in The Lady from Shanghai vastly becomes a compelling example of film noir to add to Orson Welles' fine filmography.