The supernatural, sci-fi thriller Anna stars Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes, Kick-Ass) as gifted detective John Washington who has the unusual ability to psychically enter other people's minds in hopes of glimpsing a detail that might not always be remembered but is key to cracking a case. After taking some personal time off following a tragedy in his own life, John takes on a new case involving a highly intelligent young woman of privilege named Anna (Taissa Farmiga - The Bling Ring), who has been accused of an attempted triple homicide of three of her equally posh classmates. Tired of being maligned and eager to prove she is not a sociopath but instead a victim herself, Anna quickly warms to the detective and warns him of her step-father's (Richard Dillane - Argo) true intentions: lock her up and she'll lose everything ... making it all become his. Muddying the waters of the case, John discovers that his supervisor Sebastian (Brian Cox - L.I.E.) also had a patient-client relationship with a much younger Anna years ago when she was first abused (which nobody believed important enough to have mentioned). What is hidden in Anna's memory that he must find?! The concept here is mildly intriguing but by film's end the writers had had too much going on here, there and everywhere as anything goes! It hopes to be an Inception-lite; but no ... it's nothing close.
This pitch black comedy from Romania about old Mr. Lazarescu's last night on earth -- because of a startlingly inept medical industry/healthcare field -- is probably much more realistic than any of us would like to imagine. Dante Lazarescu (the late and great Ion Fiscuteanu who passed two years after this film was released) is an older man who lives alone in Bucharest, Romania. He reluctantly decides to go to a hospital one evening after his bout of dizziness will not go away and he begins to feel worse as the evening progresses. After an ambulance takes him to one location he is diagnosed and sent to another facility for an additional test. After receiving a few different diagnoses his current condition becomes so bad he requires emergency treatment ... which is unable to be performed at the medical facility he is at! The intelligent, book-smart physicians cannot hear either Mr. Lazarescu or other patients and people speaking up for a dying man! The film is a tragic comedy with poor Mr. Lazarescu paying the ultimate price for aloof, bureaucratic obliviousness. Is Mr. Lazarescu a human being in need of treatment or simply a piece of trash that will cost money to temporarily repair?! When human beings become numbers with price tags affixed to them, the world has become a VERY scary place. It is a frightening thought -- and one scarier than any horror movie out there today.
As many "bankable" movie stars of yesteryear continue to age like the rest of us, it seems as if Hollywood is making more of these age-centric movies every year which would not be a bad thing IF they were not already beginning to feel clichéd and methodical like Last Vegas ... which is basically a less crass version of The Hangover as it is about four guys in Vegas for a bachelor party. This "new" genre of film almost always finds itself doing exactly this: it borrows most of a plot from another movie and pretends to be "original" by making all of the characters -- except for the bride-to-be -- older. In Last Vegas, three of these older men -- Robert De Niro (Casino), Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption) and Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda) -- find themselves throwing a wild bachelor party for their one friend (Michael Douglas - Wall Street) who had remained single all of these years. Mary Steenburgen (Elf) costars as a lounge room chanteuse who catches the eye of a couple of the men reigniting a long-forgotten rivalry from the past. Full of predictable situations and an abundance of stock characters in supporting roles; Last Vegas stars five Oscar winners (!!!!!) who prove age is just a number and that none of them are past their prime. The movie has some winning moments and an easy charm to it; but Last Vegas unfortunately is a movie that feels old -- NOT looks -- because it has been done many times before. The age thing is merely a gimmick and these five fine actors have all risen above it ... if only the screenwriters were also able to rise above it Last Vegas could have been a fine movie about lifelong friendship instead of old men acting like kids.
Five years and five films after this film franchise began, The Paranormal Activity series is just as dull and lifeless as ever and it will most likely continue as long as the studio can continue making films about nothing for next to nothing that some people will still venture out to pay for and see. This fifth film is more of a spin-off than a sequel or prequel like the previous films have "claimed" to be as this one takes place in Oxnard, California and centers around a mostly Spanish-speaking cast of characters who believe their downstairs neighbor to be some sort of mystical, dark-arts witch. As a coven of witches has been hinted at and slowly introduced in the previous four films, the filmmakers are hoping this is enough of a cohesive thread to start a new set of films to scare the bejesus out of audiences everywhere. The Marked Ones is riddled with ridiculous, far-fetched occurences NONE of which are scary, though, and this does not bode well for a "horror film". Just like all of the other films in the series, this film continues with the hand-held camera technique that is supposed to lend authentic believability to the scares witnessed onscreen but instead has the exact opposite effect. Nobody ever sees the necessity of dropping the camera and running for his/her life ... and therefore the fates of each of these (dumb) characters means nothing to me. We finally get to see why Katie freaked out and screamed for Micah in the very first film -- thank goodness for time and space traveling portals in low-rent apartment complexes in SoCal! -- but by the time this happens it is just another yawn in a long series of yawns found in this fifth film. I'm beginning to miss Jason and Freddy.
Quite possibly the two coolest vampires to ever grace the silver screen, Only Lovers Left Alive is an artistically stylish nod to the supernatural from director Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers, Ghost Dog) that stars Tom Hiddleston (Thor) and Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin) as centuries old vampires who have become more reclusive as they age because of their contempt for what has become of the human race. Tom's Adam appears to be an ultra-cool hipster who simply likes older, vintage things because he IS old. Tilda's Eve is quite similar and she appears to be loathed by her more fun-loving and irresponsible little sister Ava (Mia Waskiowska - Jane Eyre) who believes her elders to be boorishly pretentious (when they are simply nothing more than wise). John Hurt (Alien) co-stars as Eve's close friend and confidant, Christopher Marlowe (yes ... that Mr. Marlowe!). The action of the film takes place in a run-down Detroit which is highly symbolic of today's plight and a once-important Tangier that is still majestic and beautiful but only has meaning to those who actually know something ... and this is why Adam and Eve no longer fit into society. It isn't that they are vampires ... they are simply too intelligent and curious beings to co-exist in such a depraved, me-centered society. The film is slow and lacks action many would most likely expect in a vampire flick as the film's high points are the brainy conversations these two hold begrudging a dumbed-down, diseased world. The film's final scene is one of my favorites of the last year. Oh Tilda (okay, and Tom), how WONDERFUL thou art!