Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Raven

Movie Name: The Raven
Year of Release: 2012
Director: James McTeigue
Stars: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Kevin MacNally, Sam Hazeldine, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Pam Ferris
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

The new film from James McTeigue following "V for Vendetta" and "Ninja Assassin" tackles author Edgar Allen Poe and his involvement with ritualistic murders in Baltimore in the middle of the 19th century, right before the author's passing. The film introduces us to Allen Poe, who is financially broken, trying to re-ignite is writing career, and simultaneously marry the lovely Emily. A series of grisly murders, executed according to Poe's writings start occurring, which leads Detective Fields to seek out the author's help in finding the homicidal maniac. The case becomes increasingly dramatic when the murderer takes Emily, in an attempt to challenge Poe. It's up to the author to battle his demons and claim his future bride's life.
James McTeigue's film uses the smart screenplay from Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare, one that mixes the gruesome nature of the murders, with the literary works from Edgar Allen Poe. The film manages to create a mood of darkness and unease, and though it falls prey to some cliches (the author who's an alcoholic and who can't get past his own demons), it's an overall interesting (if slightly superficial) probing into the mind of a great author. Aside from James McTeigue's taste for the depiction of the gorier side of the murders, this is a solid and entertaining film that uses an interesting hook to tell a smartly written story. John Cusack and Brendan Gleeson are as usual, reliable in their performances, being well supported by Luke Evans and Alice Eve. A film worth watching.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Hunger Games

Movie Name: The Hunger Games
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Gary Ross
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Wes Bentley, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields, Toby Jones, Alexander Ludwig, Jack Quaid
Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

Gary Ross' new film, his third feature, is an adaptation of the immensely popular book by Suzanne Collins, "The Hunger Games". The film follows the story of Katniss Everdeen, a young girl from a poor district, that is part of an assembly of several districts ruled by a totalitarian regime. The regime demands every year the sacrifice of a young man and young girl, for their games, where they all battle each other and only one comes out alive. Katniss is a young and resourceful young woman who allies with Peeta Mellark, the young man from her district, in order for both of them to stay alive.
Suzanne Collins' book is a bleak vision of a future, where children kill each other for the entertainment of the crowds, in a massive show that is televised for everyone to see. Gary Ross directs the film trying to walk a thin line between the gruesome killings of the young kids, while maintaining the film viewable to that same age group. The film is at points brutal, but always feels underwhelming, mostly because the director is aware that he can only depict and show so much of what effectively occurs in the games. There's strangely a lack of depth to most of the characters displayed on screen, save for Katniss Everdeen, who is portrayed with a strong emotional resolution by Jennifer Lawrence. She brings the young heroine to life, more than any of the other actors, who have little to work with. This is a film that feels contrived and ultimately not as satisfactory as it could have been.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods

Movie Name: The Cabin in the Woods
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Drew Goddard
Stars: Kristen Connolly, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Brian White, Amy Acker, Sigourney Weaver
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

"The Cabin in the Woods" is Drew Goddard's first feature film after a career as a writer for shows such as "Lost" and "Alias", to name but a few. The film was written with Joss Whedon, responsible for writing films such as "Toy Story", "Alien Resurrection" and creator of tv shows such as "Buffy, The Vampire Slayer" and "Dollhouse". "The Cabin in the Woods" follows the story of 5 college friends who go to a cabin for the weekend, to relax and enjoy the outdoors. While there, they start experiencing all sorts of horrors, which they then realize have been staged. The few surviving ones discover all sorts of horrors as they investigate what's behind everything they have experienced.
Drew Goddard's film experienced some problems coming to the screens, after the studio behind it collapsed. Luckily Lionsgate came along and has released what is an intelligent and different take on the traditional horror film and genre. The film smartly plays with cliches that have been established by other horror films (the college kids who get killed in a remote cabin), but takes it further, with a surprising twist that is both inventive and that brings humor to the whole premise. The film also benefits from a very good cast with established actors such as Richard Jenkins and in a surprising cameo Sigourney Weaver, who add further irreverence and a needed touch of irony to the whole concept. A good film worth checking out!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Deep Blue Sea

Movie Name: The Deep Blue Sea
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Terence Davies
Stars: Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale, Harry Hadden-Patton, Sarah Kants, Karl Johnson, Ann Mitchell
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Acclaimed director Terence Davies returns after 12 years, when his last feature film premiered, the fantastic "The House of Mirth". "The Deep Blue Sea" is the adaptation of Terence Rattigan's play, and it follows the life of Hesther Collyer and her tribulations in the London of the 1950s. Hesther is married to an older man, a magistrate who adores her, but falls in love with a younger man, a former soldier who fought WW2. Their relationship is volatile, but Hesther is overwhelmed by the feelings she has never experienced before. Once Freddie finds work, things change for the both of them.
Terence Davies films echo a lot of his own experiences growing up in London after WW2, as can be seen in his remarkable feature "Distance Voices, Still Lives". "The Deep Blue Sea" goes back to that particular time frame, and follows the unraveling of a woman who finds love with the wrong person. Hesther who never felt so rapture in a feeling that overwhelms her, simply can't turn away from a situation that she knows is simply wrong. The film lives from the delicate balances of the three main leads, who all create fully realized characters, in particular Rachel Weisz, who with her looks, silences and gestures, creates a woman that is tender, but also strong enough to know what she wants. The cinematography and music also add a beautiful part to a film that is another strong statement to the body of work of Terence Davies.

Wrath of the Titans

Movie Name: Wrath of the Titans
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Stars: Sam Worthington, Rosamund Pike, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Toby Kebbell, Edgar Ramirez, Bill Nighy, Danny Huston, John Bell, Lily James
Genre: Action, Adventure
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 1

Director Jonathan Liebesman is back, following his mediocre film "Battle Los Angeles". "Wrath of the Titans" is a sequel to Louis Letterier's "Clash of Titans" from 2010. The film follows the story of Perseus, whose wife has passed away recently and who is raising a young son by himself. Perseus is a fisherman and the son of Zeus. Zeus appeals to his son for his help, since he fears there is a conspiracy taking place to destroy all of the Greek Gods. Perseus resists his father, but later is forced to battle in order to save him and the world from the brink of destruction.
"Wrath of the Titans" is a big special effects spectacle, that tries to be entertaining, however it's a film that ultimately falls prey of many cliches. Amongst the cliches, there is the reluctant main hero having to deal with the legacy of his father, the funny sidekick, the strong resourceful female figure. The film is terminally badly written - there isn't a cliche that this film doesn't touch, and it's painful to watch actors such as Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, having to deal with such inane dialogue. The special effects feel at certain points poorly executed - this is without a doubt a film that doesn't work in any department. For all the noise that it creates, it's certainly sad to see that it offers no substance and no entertainment. A terrible film to be avoided at all costs.