Posted on 3/14/13 01:09 PM
Generally one should trust film reviews that are objective and based in fact and evidence. Reviews steeped in personal opinion and preconceived prejudices lend themselves easily to criticism and are often declarations of emotion rather than solid argument. As a rule, I try to be objective.
Of course, rules are meant to be broken. How else can we account for "The Raven?"
A quick tangent: I go to the University Edgar Allan Poe attended and I can tell you, from first hand experience, how much the University cherishes his time spent in Charlottesville before he dropped out. We have T-Shirts with his picture that are captioned "Dropout," and his room on the lawn is preserved as it (supposedly) was during his time as a student.
Studying English there, as I do, I have learned an entire semester's worth of information on Poe just by tangential diatribes from my professor's. I found it interesting, then, when every one of my professors advised his students to stay away from "The Raven." "Don't watch it," they said, "it's sacrilege."
In Charlottesville they take their alumnus seriously.
I tried my best to go into this film with an open mind, willing to accept the absurdist fiction sure to be thrown into my face. And so I did.
The film attempts to blur the lines between truth and fiction. It's the only way they could present the audience with an interpretation of Poe's death while completely stomping on his memory.
I won't go into the numerous historical inaccuracies. It's not a historical drama; it's highly fictious.
It's an interesting concept, though. A Poe who is called upon to consult for the police as they chase a killer who is seemingly inspired by Poe's stories (I kept track for you: "Tell-Tale Heart," "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Masque of the Red Death," "The Mystery of Marie Roget," "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," "The Cask of Amontillado") gives the story a "National Treasure-ey" vibe. The kicker? The killer captures Poe's fiancé, giving Poe a stake in the killer's capture. It's meant to be a movie hidden in the guise of a Poe short-story, but all it ends up being is a reminder that Edgar Allan Poe wrote a ton of short-stories.
The film, sadly, does not live up to its premise.
It's called "The Raven," because, of course, any movie that depicts Edgar Allen Poe must make an allusion to his best-known story (that's the "Tell-Tale Heart" for you math nerds). And, of course, Poe is going to quote excessively from his short-stories. As if creating authentic Poe dialogue was beyond what a Wikipedia search can produce.
The film doesn't know what it wants to be. It's a fictional reality, to be sure. But it's also based heavily in the Poe legend, and instead of creating a macabre mystery out of the pages of a Poe collection; the film is more of a formulaic hack job.
Is it ironic that one of the writers of the film has the last name "Shakespeare?" Is she tired of hearing that joke about her work? Regardless, for a film that depicts one of America's most respected writers, the film was poorly written. I seriously question the amount of research that went into crafting this script, which-for a history film-really says it all.
The writing is terrible, and the plot is more formulaic than a calculus test, but what ultimately buries this film is the acting. Simply stated, John Cusack is the worst. He lives his life as if it were still the 80's, when he was still a relevant actor in the Hollywood system. This role feels desperate, as if playing Edgar Allan Poe in a decent-to-terrible movie would reinvigorate his career (but not at all). The female lead, and Poe's fiancé, Alice Eve may not be a terrible actor, it's just that she has shown her audience's no reason to think otherwise. She looks unnatural in front of a camera, like she knows she is on camera and doesn't know how to compose herself. My biggest issue with her-and it's going to sound shallow-is the way she holds her mouth open. It's a wonder flies don't flock to the accessible warmth. Other than her physical attractiveness I don't see a reason she should ever be in movies.
Overall, I found the film to be unnecessary. There is enough unused material in Poe's cannon to create a great film. "The Raven" was an attempt to take too much of Poe and yet leave much to be desired.
The filmmakers took Edgar Allan Poe and made him uninteresting. As if neutering the legend of an artist is something that people would find appealing.
Early in the movie Poe promises to his patrons a drink to any man who can finish his quote from "The Tell-Tale Heart":
"Quoth the Raven," he provides.
"Piss off," they say.
Sounds about right.
Posted on 2/01/13 12:04 PM
Films are often judged within the cannon of the auteur. You are never just watching a Steven Spielberg film, nor could you ever just read a William Faulkner novel. Similarly, after 2009's "The Hurt Locker," one can never just watch a Katherine Bigelow film. The argument can be made that this doesn't matter, that each film exists within itself, within its own universe. I would argue the opposite. You watch "Lincoln" and you compare it to "Arimstad" or "Raiders" or "War Horse." You read "As I Lay Dying" and compare it to "The Sound and the Fury." They never just exist; they exist within the context of everything that has come before it.
Before ZDT there was "The Hurt Locker." They were different films, with different plots, and different actors, but a similar topic: the Iraq War. This war, had you watched a news cast in the last five years, has dominated the American consciousness and pervaded politics. With war, films that depict the specifics don't usually exist during the life of the conflict. Kathryn Bigelow has broken this mold, twice. Her two films, "Hurt Locker" and ZDT are not only quality artistic achievements, they are significant cultural constructions. They are more interesting because they are a learning experience. We are entertained, and yet we are also engaged. There is almost a documentary quality to Bigelow's last two films. It feels as though the films know more than they should, and we as an audience are privy to classified information that we must immediately forget, less some government agency comes to terminate us.
The film itself is tremendously satisfying. It's not as much a story about the death of Osama Bin Laden as it is a portrait of Maya (Jessica Chastain) and her struggles to achieve the/her goal. The film proceeds with an almost business-like seriousness as leads are chased and work is done. If you want to catch Bin Laden you don't stop for coffee and chat it up with your girlfriend. Or, maybe you do. But if you do you open yourself up to mistakes while simultaneously losing focus. It's how a bomb goes off in a hotel killing hundreds, or how a car bomb detonates in a U.S. military base. You can't lose focus, you have to keep your mind on the goal at hand. It's why this movie is suffocatingly serious: it didn't have the time to be anything else.
The material from which Bigelow is privileged to work is superb. The writer, Mark Boal, perfectly dramatizes the manhunt for Bin Laden. He grabs our attention at the credits with 9-1-1 calls from inside the World Trade Center on September the 11th, 2001, and he keeps it until the end when Maya breaks down into tears. He makes our heart pound with excitement, with anticipation, and with horror. He quickly breaks the audience's tension with a well scripted joke or piece of humor, before ratcheting up the stakes yet again. It's not overly demanding- it let's take a collective breath of air- but it makes no mistake as to what the mission is. The emotional investment is high, and, ultimately, so is the payoff.
The performances in this film demand high praise. Chastain is good, not great, and the film suffers as a result. Narratively Maya's character development is there, however, Chastain as Maya left something to be desired. Her performance was lethargic as if she was somehow detached from the gravity or weight of her character. For her the dots were all there, they just weren't fully connected.
Of particular note are Jason Clarke and Kyle Chandler. Both men ooze masculinity and power that played very well against Chastain. Clarke, for one, plays a detestable human-being. A torturer and a silver-tongued government official capable of getting what he wants in ways that he wants. Chandler is somewhat of a fish out of water, clearly ignorant to his place at the dinner table. He thinks he has a seat when in reality he is at the command of others.
In that respect Chastain shines. By and large, she is an ardent believer in herself and her process, speaking out to her superiors and generally not giving a damn about the opinions of others. She wants Bin Laden and nothing can get in the way of that. She invests so much into the search for Bin Laden that she comes close to breaking down at several points. It's the human capital she invests, and her robot-like approach to the manhunt that makes her outflow of emotion at the end so powerful. She spent years, as she says, doing nothing but Bin Laden. The pressure on her is extreme. Her job is either done well or its a failure. There is no mediocre. No silver lining. You catch him and hope to avenge those affected by him, or you don't and you can't.
In the end she gets her man, but from her tears we can't tell if it was worth it.
Posted on 8/05/11 05:50 PM
Sorry patient followers, but after a noticeably quiet absence (slightly due to a Hangover-style liquor induced blackout, but mostly by spending 5 weeks in Europe) in which All of the Lights was turned off, I have returned to once again, as if I ever really stopped, force-feeding my opinions down throat's. Right or wrong as they may be. But mostly right...
Today finds me at odds with a movie widely considered to be the best of 2008, There Will Be Blood. Based, in principle, on the Upton Sinclair novel Oil!, the film tells the fictional story of Daniel Plainview, from his start as a lowly mineral prospector to a tyrannical oil tycoon, and the personal relationships he destroys as a result of his monumental greed and inflated self view.
It has now been three years since the film was shafted at the 80th annual Academy Awards by a Cohen Bros. Production (yell at me all you want, I can't hear you anyway), but that is neither here nor there. It's just out there for you too see that even though it has been considered the best movie of that year, it didn't win the right awards to prove it, a la Social Network. However, in my eyes, this is the best film of this past decade, and for the following reasons:
Daniel Plainview (expertly played by Daniel Day-Lewis, in an Oscar winning performance- but more on this later) is the kind of character that any writer wishes they could have dreamed up. He is the worst kind of person, in fact as the minutes drag on we, as the audience, come to see him as the incarnation of what is wrong with the world (depending on your politics). His Cortezian (a word I just made up) greed, and desire for money make him the embodiment of capitalistic system where those in power have gone crazy with it. All this, plus he is a huge dick, shooting down and breaking the spirit of preacher man Eli Sunday (Paul Dano, of Little Miss Sunshine fame) and making life near impossible for his adopted son. And yet, despite my best efforts to despise him, I found myself rooting for the man to get what he wants. Even if it is power and land, and even though I know I shouldn't want to. I couldn't help it. Daniel Plainview is a tremendous character, and his life is one hell of a story.
Paul Thomas Anderson puts this film on his back and really accounts for 75% of the film's viewing pleasure. As the writer of the screenplay (based on a novel, not necessarily adapted from) and the director, he rivals a world class pastry chef. He puts together a winning recipe for Rhubarb pie but has to ultimately leave it up to the oven to cook the desert to perfection. The actors being the oven. From his mind he has created a world of greed and with an unforgiving air rivaling that of only Citizen Kane. From a purely visual standpoint his direction gives the audience the idea that they are watching the world's greatest western, when in fact the two bear no semblance. And within these breathtaking views of arid wasteland lie the film's best moments. The symbolism. Tucked in within the films 156 minute run time are competing religious and fiscal undertones, each at the forefront at one point or another. It's these two main forces that really drive the film forward and it's at their intersection where a life is destroyed.
Seeing as I mentioned Daniel Plainview, the juicy character first, in my glowing admiration for this film, it would be easy to discount the role that Daniel Day-Lewis and the other main actors play in this film. Easy, but ultimately ignorant. DDL as he will be known from now on to me, absolutely kills in this film- channeling everything Daniel Plainview is on paper, on screen. He takes it up a level as well, adding little idiosyncrasies and personal flourishes that make this character memorable, demonstrating to everyone why he is films greatest contemporary actor. Paul Dano is memorable as well, playing both Eli and Paul Sunday, the children of a landowner who is eventually bought out by Plainview. How he doesn't have steady work as a Hollywood actor is beyond my comprehension, and an issue for another time, and another place.
I can give this film no further praise other than to say it has been the best film I have seen. It takes risks with character and story that actually provides for a much improved film (much in the same way The Social Network portrayed Zuckerberg and Facebook), while still taking aim at life's biggest unanswerable questions- does god exist? what makes a person bad?- and searching for the answers.
Posted on 5/10/11 08:34 AM
Seeing the news that a Green Hornet film was in the works did not surprise me. Hollywood has a fascination with comic book films at the moment, and rightfully so because they are in 3D and make a ton of money. However, as evidenced by this film and the upcoming Thor and Green Lantern, not to mention Dark Night Rises and the new Superman, Hollywood is taking this cash cow of a genre to the well until the well runs dry. Honestly, when I heard that Seth Rogen was going to write and star in this film I vowed not to see it. Its not that I dislike Seth Rogen, I do like watching him on talk shows and etc. I just don't like watching him on a movie screen. He is known as an 'every man,' making us non-hollywood stars feel better about ourselves because he isn't all that attractive but he still gets hot women and has millions of dollars. No, that doesn't make me feel any better about myself, sorry. I would say that his only future in the industry is as a writer, not an actor, but after having to sit through 2 hours of Green Hornet I would have to retract that statement.
Filled with such gems as "oh my god you just punched that guy in the face," "wow, that was cool" and "this is so awesome," its a wonder why this film was even put into production. From the very beginning the scene is set for an unrealistic, cliched action film, substituting one-liners for character exposition and never justifying any decisions made by any of the characters.
The two Michel Gondry films I have seen before The Green Hornet, Be Kind Rewind and Eternal Sunshine, I really liked. They both had a unique style that separated them from other films accomplished by angling camera shots in certain ways. In Green Hornet, he sells out; conforming to Hollywood mainstream and thereby losing his identity, and the thing that made his films entertaining to watch.In addition to the mediocre directing and woefully constructed script was the shoddy performance of the films actors. Forgetting for a moment my dislike of Seth Rogen, his poor performance was largely due to his characters writing. There was no character exposition, meaning that (unlike good writers) Rogen crafted the character around the story instead of crafting the story around the character. Dramatic films are meant to chronicle the life of the protagonist through the most important moments in his life; comedic films are meant to expose parts of society that do not make a great deal of sense. Because this film is both (or neither) and doesn't feature a likeable, humanized central character, the audience is not drawn into the film and we as an audience feel no empathy for Bert Reid when his life starts to crash down on him.
The best part of the film is the small cameo appearance made by James Franco, about 5 minutes in. It marked the first and last time I laughed, and was easily the most memorable moment of the film. Jay Chou's Kato was a dim bright spot, his spotty English ruined what could have been a funny side kick cliche. Cameron Diaz is terrible, she walks through the whole film with a shit-eating grin on her face proving again that she is one of the industries most overrated talents. Coming of his Oscar winning campaign as Col. Hans Landa is Christopher Waltz, the films main antagonist. It is clear that he played his role admirably, sticking to the script and trying hard to give his character human qualities that the writing didn't, but after watching him in this movie you begin to wonder why this man has an Oscar.
The Green Hornet is about as fun as a bee sting and as boring as living in the 1700's. If you are a screenwriting student, this is exactly how not to write a film script. A below average effort overall, The Green Hornet is the personification of what is wrong with the film industry these days: Comic book adaptation, converted from 2D to 3D to inflate revenue, hastily created by people who have no business working in this genre (Gondry directing action, Rogen writing superhero, Diaz acting) and leaving me wishing I had my money back- but happy that I didn't shell an extra 5 bucks to see it in 3D.
Posted on 5/10/11 08:32 AM
Written by Jeremy Brock, scribe of 2006's 'Last King of Scotland' and directed by Kevin Macdonald, director of the same; 'The Eagle' is an ill-conceived, mess of a film that fails to capture the grandeur and excitement of a 2nd century adventure epic. This film has flashes of brilliance, however the script is rather inconsistent and the film fails to capture any sort of climatic buzz, making its viewing a non-worthwhile experience.
Featuring a career effort from Channing Tatum (which really doesn't mean much), and an above average performance from co-star Jamie Bell, 'The Eagle' focuses principally on the relationship these share as they venture together in search of a lost golden emblem- the Eagle of the Ninth Legion. This relationship starts off fractured as Bell's Esca is saved from death by Tatum's Marcus and is purchased to be Marcus' slave; but the two eventually reconcile and, literally, walk off into the sunset.
The films basic premise, or the 'story' is actually an interesting one, but the film itself is just not that compelling- and there are several reasons for this:
Lack of character dimension Static lead performance Cliched moral premise
What became immediately evident through the films first few plot turns is just how one dimensional Marcus and Esca are as characters- dimensions of course being inner character conflicts that drive action forward. For the entire film Marcus (Tatum) is obsessed with finding the missing eagle and bringing honor back to his family's shamed name. Great character motivation, but not a dimension. He is stubborn in his pursuit of redemption but has no character traits that conflict or get in the way of his desires. This results in a bland film where the stakes are never raised nor does anything adversarial occur. Who knew Channing Tatum could be so boring?
Piggybacking on the last part, Channing Tatum was, again, the weakest part of a Channing Tatum film. He doesn't understand how to convey emotions, and no spaced-out, talentless, over-hyped movie star doesn't count. But because a film is generally the story of a character, it is hard for the audience to connect with the film if the protagonist is lifeless. (Let's aside for a moment- Tatum is a terrible actor, obviously, but from his first on screen role in the Amanda Bynes comedy 'She's the Man,' he has improved by leaps and bounds. He has improved so much that I think there will be a time when he is in a movie that isn't terrible, or maybe that is just wishful thinking.
Cliched moral premise? Who even cares? The audience cares, though they might not realize it while watching. All films have moral meanings- it is the entire point of film, to send a message through an entertaining, not outwardly critical visual medium. Therefore every film starts with a message but it is only the great films that effectively incorporate the message into the story. I will not go into to specifics because this could easily be another post altogether. In 'The Eagle' the moral message is somewhere along the lines of following one's dreams, which has to be the most cliched phrase in the history of the world- utilized at every high school and college graduation speech since the beginning of time. Yes, cliches carry some inherent truth but they also make for static films that cause us, the audience, to see into the future of the film and know how it ends. Something that is bad for obvious reasons.
'The Eagle' is a frayed, historical bore, leaving me somewhat disappointed (its what I get for expecting big things from a Channing Tatum movie). One of my favorite genres of film, great historical epics have become few and far between these days, possibly spawned from the American public's lacking desire for films with educational substance. On the flip side, if these films are going to be this poorly made, I say bring on the comic book films. I just hope this doesn't come back to haunt me.
Posted on 5/10/11 08:31 AM
A blend of Alice in Wonderland and Little Red Riding Hood, 'Pan's Labyrinth' is a fairy tale story for adults. Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, this film is more of a visual and allegorical spectacle than a memorable piece of fiction.
'Pan's Labyrinth' is a fantastic artistic achievement, to say the absolute least, but the world that is created by the direction of del Toro is so much deeper and symbolic than a casual viewing would yield. The film sends a message that is somewhere in between 'the only reality is the one in which we chose to believe' and 'truth only exists for people who know where to look.' This strong moral meaning only strengthens the films' motivations, symbols and themes, and gives 'PL' an emotional and rewarding ending.
Guillermo del Toro creates a world so fantastically beautiful and yet so hauntingly surreal that it becomes a pleasure to watch the main character, Ofelia, navigate it and attach herself to this parallel reality. What is great about this other world is how violently it clashes with 'reality.' The film colors 'reality' in blue's, and grey's, while Ofelia's world is in red's and gold's. However, even with this clear seperation, as the plot progresses the two worlds become more and more interconnected until finally something has to give.
Because the film is Spanish, and I do not speak the language, I was better able to pick up on the film's terrific acting rather than focusing on dialogue (which, it should be noted, is the correct way to view a film- in visuals not sounds) and I was blown away by the performances. Before there was Hailee Steinfield and another 'True Grit,' there was Ivana Baquero, the misunderstood, disobedient, loner who finds a world where she truly belongs. If she was great, very emotional and vulnerable, than (who I think is) the films main antagonist is even better. Captain Vidal, played by Sergi Lopez, is evil personified. He hurts and kills people with no just cause, he has major daddy issues and yet, on the outside, is so gentlemanly and perfect- otherwise known as character depth.
For all of its greatness I found the film to have 1 main flaw. For all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds it, the film is only a slight re-imagining of the classic Alice in Wonderland. To me the film would have had a bigger impact had it constructed its own identity and not borrowed one from a classic story that virtually everyone knows. It is certainly not plagiarized but there are far too many allusions between the two for me to consider this an 'original screenplay.'
This film is not as good as advertised, but it is exciting, it is disturbing and it will blend the lines between fantasy and reality (much like 'Inception' did for audiences this past year). A highly worthwhile viewing experience although it is possible one might feel as if they have been there before.
Posted on 5/10/11 08:30 AM
Matthew McConaughey plays Conor Mead, a self absorbed ladies man who has trouble cultivating relationships with anyone other than himself. When he returns to the house where he grew up for his brothers wedding he must confront his old life, and his old girlfriend (Jennifer Garner), while still clowning around as his still crazed, Charlie Sheen-self. After having one too many drinks at the rehearsal dinner, Conner starts seeing dead people- notably his uncle, played by Michael Douglass, and his first high school lay, played by Emma Stone. In addition to these two, two more ghosts visit Conner throughout his night and try to help him see what an ass he is and that he is ment to be with Jennifer Garner's character.
First of all, McConaughey has absolutely no chemistry with Garner, a fact due more toward Garner's futility as an actress, making the mushy love scenes almost unbearable to watch and not nearly as sentimental as the writers probably thought they would be. For a love story it is remarkably uninspired and lacks any sort of sentimental value, resulting in a main story line that bores and does not create any sort of feeling.
However, as in most comedies, the redeeming quality of this film lies in the supporting cast that features the likes of Michael Douglas, Emma Stone and Breckin Meyer. Douglas, who plays Conner Mead's playboy uncle, steals the show with what little screen time he is given, delivering the films best pieces of dialogue. Emma Stone plays The Ghost of Girlfriends Past and is a zany, bracefaced teen who really excels in her role.
Overall the film is flat and not as romantic as its Rom-Com premise would have one believe, but it offers mild entertainment value and some funny moments. A great date movie and a film that definitely deserves to be seen, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past may be run of the mill- but, then again, even that is better than half the shit Hollywood produces?
Posted on 5/10/11 08:28 AM
'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Hot Fuzz' are two of the premier satire films of the past decade, both hilarious, heartfelt and spawned from the collective minds of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. These clever Brits are at it again in 2011 with the extra-terrestrial comedy, 'Paul,' however this outta-this-world comedy falls flat on its premise and brings those with high hopes back down to Earth. Ultimately it is a charming movie that doesn't offer enough laughs.
Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) are two sci-fi nerds who have travelled to San Diego, CA for the annual Comic Con convention, ogling at almost everything. Clive writes graphic novels and hopes that meeting his idol, Adam Shadowchild (Jeffrey Tambor) will help him on his path to success, but this doesn't work out the way Clive would have hoped. On their way back across the country they discover Paul (Seth Rogen), an alien who disputes every perceived stereotype of himself. Paul is being hunted by the government, most notably the hardcore Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) and the incompetent Haggard (Bill Hader) and O'Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio). This central conflict sets the scene for a race across the dessert in order for Paul to return to his mother ship and take him back home.
The film is sweet and sentimental but it lacks in gags- and clearly that is the most important aspect to any comedy film. Most of the films attempted jokes are spawned from the misunderstanding people have for Paul, and aliens in general; a joke that is dragged endlessly through the entirety of the film, and, while it may have been funny the first time, by the end it was terribly hard to bear witness. The major problem here is that there is just not enough going on: there is the central conflict and chase, a love angle between Graeme and Kristen Wiig's character, and thats about it. The film is a very lightly pack hour and a half, not going to the lengths that would be expected from a Pegg- Frost film.
Whereas in many comedies the films supporting cast steal the show and often offer many of the films most memorable lines, it was not the case with 'Paul.' Bateman's character was remarkably uninspired and Hader/ Truglio's characters were so much less than their incompetent ways demanded.
Chalk this films failure up to one thing- the poor writing. Lack of gags, references to TV shows that aired in 1992, zero interesting characters, this film is a veritable failure no matter which way it is sliced. If taken seriously this film is 'E.T.' if taken as a comedy this film is a waste of time. And while not terrible, 'Paul' has to be the most disappointing film of the year so far.
Posted on 5/02/11 08:36 AM
Even a man who is pure of heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.
This is how 2010's The Wolfman begins, with the poem that defines the werewolf genre as well as the 1941 film off which it was based . Then the action takes over. A werewolf kills an unsuspecting human in the woods and sets this swift story in motion. The man killed was the brother of Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro), a famous actor, and the fiancée of Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt). Lawrence comes back home and has a reunion of sorts with his father Sir John (Anthony Hopkins). They come to see that his brother's body was badly mauled and people in the town start talking about how a werewolf has been seen recently. One night the wolf bites Lawrence but people start to believe that he is responsible for the murders because he is mentally ill (or at least they think that because he has a history of playing mentally ill characters in theater). From there Lawrence begins to see that things aren't always the way they seem and finds out mysteries that have existed in his life since he was a child, forced to come to grips with these new truth's in his life the story moves toward climax.
The story moves at an uncomfortably speed, moving from scene to scene, adding plot point after plot point and habitually featuring too much exposition and not enough actual plot development. For example, the relationship between Lawrence and Gwen makes little sense. He is her dead fiancées brother and she cares for him after he is bitten, a very short period of time, but after he becomes a werewolf the two have apparently fallen in love. Nothing happens between the two that bridges this transition, it just seems that they fall in love because every mainstream Hollywood film needs to feature some sort of romance to humanize the main protagonist. It leaves much to be desired and makes it seem as if scenes were cut from the film to make it more commercially appealing (the film is only 100 minutes).
Lawrence's character is not humanized enough, essentially alienating the audience from the film. We want to feel bad that this man is a werewolf, but we can't. We don't like him; we don't even know him enough to make a call. It is the defining reason why The Wolfman fails. This is why we are subjected to subplots like his estranged relationship with his father or the idiotic doctors who think it is a good idea to study him under the full moon. There has to be other scenes that move the story further, even if they don't make any sense.
Filled with symbolism and a melodramatic angst that allows Hollywood exec's to feel as if they are making an art film- even though it is far from- The Wolfman fails valiantly in its attempt to capture the same suspense and interest that its 1941 predecessor had.
I watched the 1941 in preparation for this review and decided to include a paragraph explaining why the 1941 was better (instead of reviewing it by itself); come away with me on this tangent for a moment. The '41 version was only 70 minutes in length- today that is about the length of a pilot episode of a TV drama on HBO. It works because, of those 70 minutes, there is not filler, nothing thrown in there for no purpose and the film never deviates from its central plot. But perhaps most importantly, the protagonist of this film is actually a human being. Watching the film, one can absolutely feel for this man as he attempts to overcome his curse knowing that he never will. He becomes a tragic character and not just a tragic circumstance. Only two reasons but they are significant enough to completely sink a film.
Andrew Kevin Walker penned this dreary, mind numbing of a film. Known most for his dark tone, his script is surprisingly tame and lacking in suspense- elements that one should never say about a werewolf film. Joe Johnson directs, a man known as much for his directing as his art direction. He seems like an interesting choice to direct a werewolf movie, if simply for the reason that werewolf films are not usually in need of extreme special effects. This film goes so far overboard with special effects that it seems like execs threw meaningless money on this one. It one an Oscar for best make up but it was up against 2 other films that were never going to win. As far as I am concerned that Oscar means nothing.
This film takes everything that is good about werewolf films and completely butchers it. It is a complete misfire and it is clear that it is missing something, perhaps the story is told from the wrong angle, or that the story was even told at all. One thing that is known for sure is that it doesn't hold a candle to the original even if it attempts to steal its fire.
Posted on 4/22/11 06:16 PM
How is this for a hypothetical: Why do we do the things we do?
Well its relatively simple, our motivations, for better or worse, cause us to make our decisions. Do I want this, or don't I? And what has caused me to feel this way? In real life we never really think twice about our motivations unless they cause us great strife. Think: "Why did I break up with her, blah...blah...blah." In film these motivations have to be on the forefront of every scene, every action, every piece of dialogue. Before we find the film credible (or realistic, whichever one prefers), we have to know why characters act the way they do.
And yes, this has everything to do with my opinion of Source Code. By now we all know the story. Soldier Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal- and one of the all time badass soldier names in movie history) wakes up on a train with Christina (Michelle Monaghan) and a bomb. The bomb goes off and we learn about the Source Code from Goodwin (Vera Farmigra), a woman who talks to him on a TV screen and he is forced to listen to what she has to say. Antics ensue as the Source Code program continuously transports Colter onto the train 8 minutes before the bomb goes off.
Right off the bat there were several things about this film that would have approved it: The rules of this program, and the subsequent world, are not defined in a way that makes it clear what is happening. Everything in this film has a hypothetical result, nothing is a certainty and therefore conflict resolution isn't as critical as it should be. Sure if he doesn't save the train it will blow up and maybe a hundred people will die but he apparently has unlimited attempts, so there is no rush, he is free to chat with Christina and strike up a relationship. Even with the film's brevity, it was still a bore, and a completely unrealistic portrayal of this kind of hypothetical situation. There is a bomb on the train and stopping it will foil a terrorist plot? You know, I'd rather grab a coffee...
Other than Colter Stevens having a totally kickass name, his character has a surprising lack of depth or motivation. Quite frankly, watching him on screen was one of the least fulfilling things I did last week- films with tragic structure are all about teaching the audience lessons, but I didn't learn anything from Colter, nor did I discover what the filmmakers were trying to tell. This story didn't tell me anything, it didn't teach me anything, it didn't make me feel anything, it didn't make me think of anything. What did this film do? Nothing.
The triviality of the protagonist is the main reason the film fails. The story is weak around him and the supporting characters can do nothing because they work off a poor lead character. Story is built around a hero who struggles to overcome impossible odds to fix whatever situation goes awry in the beginning, hoping to set his life back into some order. Nothing about that is true in Source Code.
After Moon the career of Duncan Jones seemed to be rising exponentially. He became a hot commodity in Hollywood circles and eventually came out with this, one of the more disappointing films of the year. The blame does not fall squarely on his shoulders; by all intents and purposes this is actually a well-directed film, however, with that being said Mr. Jones could have focused more on telling a story and less on visuals.
The consensus on this film has been that it finds the human story amidst the action, a statement that is not true. The protagonist is lame, has very little layers, a weak arc and lacks conflict. For what promised to be an intelligent sci-fi out of the mold of films of yesteryear, Source Code fell flat on this promise and left us thinking only one thing after leaving the theater. What was my motivation for seeing this?