Sometimes I wonder if Hollywood is even trying anymore, especially when the glut of horror films comes out right around Valentine’s Day. Are audiences not tired of a scantily clad heroine who squeals her way through supernatural dreams and can’t get people to believe her until its too late? Do moviegoers still get startled by gimmicky moments when creepy things jump out at them? Has the story of the evil stepmother not been told a million different times since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?
Apparently people still go see these movies, because The Uninvited is like a homeless man’s What Lies Beneath, which is just a poor man’s The People Beneath the Stairs. The film starts with Anna (Emily Browning) returning home from an insane asylum following the tragic death of her mother. After reuniting with her sister (Arielle Kebbel), the duo bands together against their father’s girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) who they suspect of having devious plans. The first hour of the movie follows a simple formula: Anna feels hope, then her potential stepmother is a bitch, then she hears a bell followed by some creepy ghosts that reveal a tiny plot snippet. By the fifth time this cycle repeats, you practically hear the bell ring before our heroine does.
There is no room for interpretation here, the story knows exactly what it wants you to believe and insists you know nothing more than it is willing to share. Leaving the theater you will know EXACTLY what you just witnessed, there aren’t many nuances to debate with friends. Characters talk vaguely about topics that obviously aren’t so vague, only to get cut-off by convenient distractions and later die before being able to divulge their secrets.
The build up to the plot twist is so painful because the film spends so much time driving home who the bad guy is that the audience knows there’s either no way she’s really the killer, or it’s the most unimaginative script ever. While it might still be the most unimaginative script of all time, I was pleasantly surprised when the twist was revealed. It’s like suffering through a horribly cooked meal so you can eat the delicious desert — only by the time you get to the desert you’re so full of crap you’ve lost your appetite.
Browning turned in a solid performance despite the role requiring a short range of emotions from ‘scared’ to ‘terrified’ with bouts of heavy panting thrown in. Her eyes were intoxicatingly innocent, and after her turn in Lemony Snickets, she could be this generation’s Helena Bonham Carter. Kebbel was forgettable as the classic ditzy horror movie girl and Banks should stick to tub scenes from The 40 Year Old Virgin. The films was directed by the mysterious “Guard brothers” who don’t have much a resume, and I doubt we’ll be seeing much else from them.
I’d like to hope that these films are a thing of the past, but just as I wrapped up writing this review a gchat window popped up:
“WhitD: So Caroline talked me into going to see that movie The Uninvited with her even though you said it wasn’t that good.”
Ugh. Only you can prevent terrible horror films.
Bryan (Liam Neeson) has taken early retirement from the CIA in order to live closer to his teenage daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Bryan's government work kept him away from Kim for much of her childhood, and he's now trying to make up for lost time. When Kim announces that she's taking a trip to Paris with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy), Bryan is apprehensive about her traveling on her own and his worst fear is soon realized, as Kim and Amanda are abducted upon their arrival in France. Bryan immediately springs into action, using his well-honed CIA skills to piece together clues from a single, frantic phone call he received from Kim. He hops a plane to Paris, determined to rescue his daughter before she falls off the grid completely.
District 13 director Pierre Morel knows how to make action work, and screenwriter Luc Besson knows a thing or two about writing bad asses. (see. Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional, Transporter) So when these two came back together for another go we knew something good would come of it. Throw in a pretty interesting cast of Maggie Grace, Famke Jansen, and the always impressive Liam Neeson and you have a recipe for awesome.
Make no mistake, Besson has his shortcomings as a screenwriter. He has two modes, good writer Besson (Leon, Angel A) and fun writer Besson (Fifth Element, Transporter). The latter Besson is sometimes guilty of uneven characters and somewhat silly plots, but the fun we have watching those movies far outweighs their problems. If I were to compare this script to one of his others I'd liken it most to Danny the Dog (Unleashed), but where Unleashed let up with some cutesy fun and humourous moments, Taken gets serious and hard to the core. Taken's story is silly and outlandish sometimes, but Neeson anchors the film with a truly spectacular performance. He is relentless as this man on a mission and he is brutal, he loves his daughter and will stop at nothing to get her back. Watching the film, it made me think what would have happened to Jason Bourne if he grew old and retired. I wouldn't call this a thinking man's movie, but if the trailer even slightly interests you or you are looking for just a really solid good time at a theatre, you'd be hard pressed to find a better alternative than Taken. Trust me.
Based on the Cornelia Funke (no relation to Tobias) novel, the story centers on a young girl(Sienna Guillory) who discovers her father (Brendan "I make any movies for money" Frasier) has an amazing talent to bring characters out of their books and into reality. After accidentally banishing his wife to the land of books, her father, Mo, sets out on a nine year quest to bring her back, all the while being pursued by a villain he unleashed on the world. Mo and his daughter must try to stop the freed villain (Andy Serkis) from destroying them all, with the help her aunt and some storybook characters.
Sounds like a pleasant enough children's story right? And while the story's concept seems alluring, the execution is clumsy and ridiculous. The characters are no doubt cliff's note versions of their textual origins, and the films good intentions get muddied by the visual effect set pieces. And that's just the beginning. I'm sure Funke's novel doesn't share many of the films problems, and it no doubt seems like it could have been a Last Action Hero meets The Never Ending Story type film, but it just never comes together. To call the film bad is too easy, it's just less than mediocre. When you're an audience member, and it dawns on you what should have been done to correct so many of the films missteps, you know something is wrong. And that's just the storytelling of the film. The script does itself no favors, with it's clunky awkward dialogue. E.G., a nefarious looking fire dancer played by Paul Bettany chases down Brendan Frasier with the help of his ferrett side kick, and once he pins him in a darkened alley he leans into to our fairy tale hero and at an almost whisper says, "Read to me?" The suspension of disbelief can be strong, but sometimes dumb is just dumb.
That being said Paul Bettany does do a fine job,and Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent offer some good comedic relief. Andy Serkis also seems to be making the most of his situation and though he sometimes borders on scene chewery, he is always enjoyable to watch. The visual effects, while superfluous, are relatively impressive, and the costume design isn't too shabby either. It's a shame such an intriguing sounding novel didn't turn out better, but it seems these characters might have been best served had they not been brought to life at all.
Tom (Jensen Ackles) returns to his hometown on the tenth anniversary of the Valentine's night massacre that claimed the lives of 22 people. Instead of a homecoming, however, Tom finds himself arriving to a copycat(or is it the revived corpse of the original murderer?) in the town, and he is suspected of committing the murders. The only person who seems to believe he's innocent is his old flame (Jamie King).
This is the first time modern 3D technology has been utilized to bring a horror movie to life, and I'm happy to report the sick and twisted minds behind this picture do not disappoint. If you're going to the theatre this weekend with hopes of gimmicky jump out of the screen ridiculousness, you've paid for the right movie. On top of all the disgustingly grotesque perceived spurts of blood all over the audience, our fine director, Patrick Lussier, also thought the thought that's been boiling like a kettle int he front of our minds ever since we first saw what 3D could do. What if you filmed boobs? Not only boobs but boobs, butt and bush? Yes, that's right you gore whore slut hounds, this film achieves the rare trifecta of horror movie nudity and it's made all the better through the use of modern technology. But that's enough about that, you came to see if the movie is any good right?
Is this a good movie? Well, yes and no. That all depends on your measure of success for a film. Is it Gone with the Wind? No, but the film makes no pretenses about being anything other than a B movie gore picture, and a fun time for it's audiences, and on that it delivers. So I'd been willing to claim this film is a good movie, because it does exactly what it set out to achieve. Now with that being said, there are some real weak links in the acting chain (I'm looking at you Ackles), the story telling is pretty much generic, and some of the twists are just downright ridiculous. But when the final credits rolled, in 3D no less, I found myself not really caring. I just really enjoyed the retarded ride. You see this film is like going to a Wal-Mart when you're feeling blue, you can walk in and have zero expectations to display intelligence, and by the time you leave, you feel a bit better about yourself and you don't know why.
"Have you ever seen a one trick pony in the field so happy and free?
If you've ever seen a one trick pony then you've seen me"
- Bruce "The Boss" Springsteen
If you've gotten a chance to see the trailer, or hear Springsteen's song for Darren "I only make awesome movies" Aronofsky's latest, then you have heard an almost perfect description and feel for the film. Mickey Rourke, makes his comeback in this drama centered on retired professional wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson as he makes his way through the independent circuit, trying to get back in the big game again for one final showdown with his former rival.
Where to start with this incredible and moving picture? I don't know what it is about an Aronofsky picture that makes them stay with you, but he sure finds a way to climb inside and affect you with his art. Maybe it's his open endings, maybe it's his relatable characters, or maybe he's just a really great director. There's not a part of this movie that doesn't work, but you do walk away from it wishing there was more. The cinematography is intimate and real, the acting is some of the best of the year, and the writing is heart wrenching. Make no mistake, this is a simple intimate portrait of a man and is a significantly different film that Aronofsky has ever made, but it's still just as good, if not better, than his others.
Marisa Tomei proves her Oscar was no fluke with this picture, as she portrays a stripper/mom who receives regular patronage from Rourke. Evan Rachel Wood also delivers the goods as Rourke's estranged daughter, but the real star of the show is Mickey Rourke. Everything you have heard about how good he is in this is completely true. You see a knight slowly getting chinks in his armor until he has nothing left to protect himself with. You see reluctant vulnerability, and you see a fully-realized character, brought to life in a way only Mickey Rourke could do.
It's difficult to say The Wrestler is the type of film that would be nominated for best picture, because it isn't really. Aronofsky has toned down his visual flair and tells a simple straightforward story of an old broken down piece of meat. It's just a solid piece of filmmaking that will leave you better off for having seen it, and what else can you ask for?
Review by: Greg MacLennan
Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Bell star as three Jewish brothers who escape from Nazi-occupied Poland into the Belarussian forest, where they join Russian resistance fighters and endeavor to build a village in order to protect themselves and others in danger. As more refugees come to the forest after hearing of these three heroic brothers, their situation worsens. There are German attacks, sickness, food shortages, and the Russians are real dicks to their Jewish brethren. Sounds like it's got Oscar written all over it, doesn't it? Well, not exactly.
Aryan faced Daniel Craig (nobody thought brown contacts might "Jew" him up a little?) stars as the elder pacifistic brother. Craig exercises restraint, frustration, and gives an overall solid performance. Shreiber is also good as the hot-headed, out for revenge type, while Bell plays the more timid follower. The acting across the board is pretty excellent, and the story, which is based on historical events, is both incredible and profound. It's just not told in any new way, we've seen this kind of movie before, and unfortunately this type of story has been more aptly told.
Speaking of aptitude, I'm a general Edward Zwick fan. He did awesome work with Glory, The Blood Diamond, and The Last Samurai, but his work on this is nothing to turn your nose up to. However, for a man who has displayed such skill when directing action scenes in the past, he sure let us down with this one. Some of the action scenes are so poorly filmed you can barely tell what's happening or who it is happening too. Apart from those few missteps, he does do an overall acceptable job. It's difficult to say what is missing from Defiance, but something definitely is. Maybe the romantic angles were downplayed too much, or perhaps the hope inspiring speeches didn't have a big enough swell. The film is by no means bad and is well worth your time. It just fails to be exceptional. And I think with the pedigree involved with this film, people were expecting something really good, if not great.
Review by: Greg MacLennan
First of all, let me preface this review by stating that Kate Winslet can do no wrong in my eyes. I'm even willing to overlook the whole Romance and Cigarettes debacle. So put her in a 1950s drama with her ole Titanic buddy Leonardo DiCaprio, and I'm there faster than you can say Sam Mendes.
Revolutionary Road is about an unhappy couple living in suburban Connecticut. To say they are merely unhappy is an understatement. Both approaching 30 and saddled with two kids, the couple puts on airs of domestic bliss, cavorting around their 'burb with the preconceived notion they are better than everyone else while completely ignoring the fact that they are just like everyone else: stuck. April (Winslet) is an aspiring actress, and although we don't actually see her act, we do catch her husband, Frank's (DiCaprio) reaction to her acting skills, and it ain't pretty. So, as Frank sets off to Manhattan to spend a day at his mindless job, throwing back martinis and occasionally schtupping secretaries, April comes up with a harebrained idea to pack up their lives and move to Paris so that Frank can "find" himself. As what usually happens in these dramatic pieces, the shit hits the fan.
To say that Revolutionary Road is good is difficult. It's like subjecting yourself to masochism. It's rough to get through, and at the end, you may delude yourself into thinking, oh that can't happen to me... But while it's unsettling to watch, there is plenty of truth in the film, albeit uncomfortable. Michael Shannon shows up as John Givings, a mathematician who's been hospitalized for insanity, and who proves how unfit for society he is by making every acid comment cut to the truths that no one else will speak. It's fairly haunting.
Revolutionary Road, written by Richard Yates in 1961, was a book before its time, shattering myths of suburban perfection and displaying adult ennui and scenes of abortion when both of those were still taboo to discuss, however, the film feels a little too familiar nowadays with the prevalence of films in recent years devoted to exposing the ugliness under the shell of beauty in the 50s. This film almost feels like an extended episode of Mad Men, and not one of the better ones. You have beautiful exteriors mixed with boozing, sexing, and yelling, that's sooo Don Draper. And usually with Sam Mendes' direction, you have a incredible film, yet, this one feels almost stagey (perhaps he waited too long between films while directing plays overseas?) and a little less intimate than it should be.
All that aside, the performances are spectacular. Leo starts off a little slow, lagging behind Winslet's acting chops, but somewhere along the way, he catches up and holds his own next to her powerhouse of performance. And while Winslet has played the disillusioned and unhappy housewife before (probably in an even, dare I say, better character in Little Children), she is a marvel to watch. She just snagged a Golden Globe for her role in Revolutionary Road, which is long overdue and well-deserved. This film may be a beast to sit through, feeling sluggish and discomforting, but Leo and Kate give us performances so nuanced it may make up for the lack of the film on a whole. Tread carefully down this Road.
Review by: Darcie Duttweiler