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Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
Artistically Shallow And Ineptly Directed, Snow White Is a Wreck of a Story
Snow White and the Huntsman is a long film. It is made even longer by the fact that it is effectively a story about nothing, packed with poor performances, an average score and some truly terrible writing. The film has two saving graces though: a fiery performance by Charlize Theron and some amazing cinematography.
Let's start with the story. An evil, un-named queen (in these types of stories names are unimportant), rises to power by seducing the King (off-screen, of course) and killing him in his bed. Her reasoning for killing the king and seizing power is that men are pigs and can not be trusted with power. She proceeds to throw the King's daughter, Snow White, by throwing her in jail for the rest of her life. But, as soon as she learns that Snow White's heart could bring her eternal youth and beauty, she sends her Brother (who also, does not have a name), to bring Snow White to her for some lunch time heart-harvesting. Naturally, the princess escapes and a long, dull chase into two mystical forests ensue.
Here lies the film's two central problems. For one, if we were to care about the protagonist's fate, she should be a captivating, well-written and acted character, she is none of these things. Instead, she has almost no personality at all. Who is Snow White as a person? According to the story here, she is "life itself", "pure", and completely "good". Okay, but why? Does she do good deeds? What does it mean she is 'pure life? She just is. The writers didn't think it was important to SHOW these things, merely telling us that Snow White is a very good person should suffice. It doesn't. And if the writers assumed it did, they should be ashamed to be calling themselves storytellers.
On the other hand, we have the evil Queen, who wants to stay young forever. But unlike the dull Snow White, she actually acts out her attributes. She kills the King because she believes he merely uses women, but does not respect them. She allows the kingdom to wither, because she believes it doesn't deserve happiness. She is evil, because she believes that people deserve nothing more than evil to come their way. In the end, I agreed. Wiping out these lifeless characters is exactly what they deserve, and then some.
Unfortunately, the film concentrates almost completely on Snow White, played lifelessly and without emotion by Kristen Stewart, who has the incredible ability to find leading roles in big films without evidencing a shred of acting talent. Her co-star, Chris Hemsworth, does not help matters much, as he tries to carve some kind of a performance out of an under-written character, but there is only so much one can do with nothing.
In the end, the film's script is so terrible that some of the film's virtues, such as beautiful cinematography, can not overcome how bad the overall film is. Which is, truly terrible. It manages to be shallow in every conceivable way from shallow characters to a shallow story. The film has no moral to its story, it shows nor teaches us anything. It just goes from one pointless scene to another until credits roll. And by that time, you'll wish Snow White had been hacked to pieces to be never seen again.
[Rec]³: Génesis (2012)
A Major disappointment, Rec 3: Genesis, is an inferior sequel without any thrills
Oh how the mighty have fallen. The third installment of the REC franchise, which has produced two top-notch horror movies, returns with a whimper in REC 3: Genesis. Discarding all the elements that made the two previous films entertainment-wise and artistically so spectacular, REC 3 is neither entertaining, nor scary. And there are no new plot twists either, as the film merely recaps the major story elements of the first two films.
Speaking of the story, the plot of REC 3 occurs concurrently with the events of the previous two films. It's the wedding day of Clara (Dolera) and Kaldo (Martin), two characters we learn nothing more about than that they are deeply in love. The doomed wedding is attended by a multitude of guests, of whom we learn nothing about either, but the underwritten characters are hardly the film's only problem. Predictably, as one of the guests have been bitten by the rabies-infected dog mentioned in the first film, the wedding reception takes a bloodier turn. Yet, the violence and horror seem tamer than in the previous installments, despite the bloated cast of zombies and bigger budget, which should have delivered better gore and better horror.
As nothing scary happens during the entire film, one begins to wonder why. The biggest contributor is perhaps the visible change in style. REC 3 is only partially shot with a hand-held camera, a major departure from REC and REC 2, which might explain the lack of hands-on horror feel the two previous films delivered to intensely. The writer-director, Paco Plaza, seems inept at directing in a traditional style, or mixing the traditional camera work with the hand-held style. And the script hardly helps. With nothing new to say story-wise, Plaza attempts to cover up the hollowness of the script by introducing comedic elements, which do not help making the film better, but certainly hurt the horror aspect of it.
In the end, REC 3 is like the first two films, only all the good parts being cut out.
A B-horror movie, just without the horror, "Man-Thing" is truly awful
Calling a movie just awful might seem uninspiring and unoriginal, but "Man-Thing" hardly deserves any originality from its reviews. The movie is, just awful, period. No horror or even jump scares are to be found in this atrociously banal comic book adaption about a vengeful swamp monster who kills people and stuff.
Although the plot is really not the point in this film (though I sincerely doubt the film has a point at all in any department), a new sheriff (Le Nevez, who makes Hayden Christensen look like a character actor) arrives to a small Lousiana town to replace the missing sheriff, amidst an influx of missing persons cases. Peculiarly, they have all gone missing in the swamp, where an oil company has just recently started drilling oil on sacred Indian land. The rest of this predictable and dull plot consists of an odd assortment of people running aimlessly around the swamp getting themselves impaled by the Man-Thing that looks strangely a lot like big tree, only less terrifying and a lot clumsier (how you can move less gracefully than a non-moving object is itself an achievement). Why anyone would be terrified of this thing is perhaps the biggest - and only - mystery the story has to offer.
While this unfunny, non-scary bore-fest may not be nothing more than a waste of your precious moments on Earth, the film did propel Alex O'Loughlin and Rachael Taylor, both Australians (where the movie was filmed) into acting careers in Hollywood, with O'Loughlin starring on CBS's "Moonlight" and "Hawaii 5-0" and Taylor landing roles on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and "Charlie's Angels". Call it a silver lining if you wish.
Alex O'Loughlin gives a menacing performance in a subpar thriller
The premise for "Feed", an Australian thriller, is reminiscent of such films as Seven, in which a biblical sin is fleshed out through a serial killer plot device. In Feed, a serial killer (O'Loughlin) manipulates women to overeat, so much that they'll hearts will eventually be stopped by their obese condition. Much like in Seven, the killer justifies his sociopathic actions through the sinful lifestyles of their victims, this time the deadly sin being gluttony.
The point of course is not that serial killers' actions are justifiable, but rather highlighting the moral corruption of society at large. People idolize their bodily beauty so much, that the end-result, whether it's anorexic underweight or obesity, that he end result can only be devastating ugliness and, literally and metaphorically, death.
While "Feed" then certainly is a movie that drives the point home with vehement conviction, the execution is its biggest obstacle in delivering that message to its audience. To put it simply, the film is so overly disgusting it's hardly possible to watch it, or finding an audience large enough to appreciate its message. Second, he execution of the script often trails to unintended comedy, that is, when it's not causing vomit-inducing reactions. And whence the two combine, the film begins to lose its thrive.
On a more positive note, its star, Alex O'Loughlin provides a chilling performance as a sociopathic egotist, whose religious convictions posit with an illusion of being on top of the food chain, an illusion that the film's twisted, dark ending smacks right out of him. Unfortunately, a few minutes of pure genius does not compensate for an hour and a half of pure amateur execution.
White Noise (2005)
An Intolerably Bad Thriller Gets More Noisy Every Minute
Have you noticed how thrillers that begin with a happy family preparing for breakfast always means one of them will die? This is the screenwriter's way of preparing us to be sad when one of the family members die in an accident. "Hey, this a happy family, when one dies it's really really bad, ya'll!" And then the surviving family goes crazy or gets depressed for the rest of the film.
"White Noise" is a psychological thriller, where the exact above scenario occurs. Anna (Chandra West) dies in a car accident, leaving a grieving husband, John (Michael Keaton) behind to utter bad dialog that even Keaton can't make work. Soon, he is followed by a very fat man (hard not to notice, huh?) who tells him he can contact the dead. "Sure thing, I'd love to hear my dead wife talk", says Keaton. Suppose he is a in a happy marriage, because most married couples don't want to hear each other talk even when they're alive and kicking.
But since this film is a thriller, lots of bad stuff begins to happen when the dead are called upon. The really fat guy dies, being crushed under a computer. If you can already see why this film is unintentionally funny, you're just enough intelligent to avoid seeing it.
The film gets its worst grove on when the ending hits the screens. My guess is that the writer couldn't come up with one, so he threw in something that requires special effects and, like, would be cool. Like, it wasn't...
Easy A (2010)
Easy A gets an easy B
If getting an A from an exam was as easy as it is to spread rumors in high school, then we'd all graduate with honors. That is what Olive (Emma Stone) learns the hard way in the comedy 'Easy A'.
In a high school populated by horny, gossipy teenagers, rumors can really bring you down. But what if you make those rumors work for your own profit? Olive provides the right service for those desperate males whose social status benefits from a few (false) rumors about having had sex with a girl.
In exchange, Olive asks for a few gift cards to have her favorite shops. But while providing a service that has obvious demand, Olive learns that her peers aren't exactly flush with money, hence the profit margins are slim. And then there's the whole issue of being labeled as the school tramp.
What is the most strange about this film filled with witty banter is that in my own experience, people in high schools aren't that interested in gossip. Sure, sleeping around will get you noticed, but as a rule, people in that age are far too concerned with their own problems to actually care anymore. Even if you're a group of over-the-top stuck-up Christians, whom seem to populate TV and cinema high schools these days,
While Easy A has to work hard to make its premise credible, there is no doubt the film isn't funny, thanks to its smart script and a performance by Emma Stone that won't be left unnoticed. Neither will the supporting cast, though someone needs to tell Penn Bagdley that playing the same role over and over again won't get him Oscars. Or you know, fame. Neither will a shaved chest, but that's not for here.
The Universe (2007)
The Universe has never been prettier on TV
History Channel's "The Universe" is a documentary series that fuels its somewhat empty content with blazingly beautiful CGI of the most spectacular sights in the universe. The series covers stars, planets, cosmic weather (!), terra-formation, dark matter and the aggressive nature of the cosmos in hour-long episodes of visual effect candy.
The hook of the series is that you get to take a look at what Venus, Neptune or a nebula or a meteoroid strike on Earth would look like up- close, while the narrator explains the "science" behind it. I say "the science" because very little science is usually covered. Any complicated phenomena is usually explained through real-life analogies. A meteorite crashing the Earth is like shooting a ball with a rifle. The crater can be measured by drawing an analogy of throwing a weight plate on sand and measuring the width of the bump on the beach. And so on.
Then again, this series is not aiming to educate the experts or even science enthusiasts. It's written for the laymen, who just want to see what Venus looks like if you were standing on its ground. On high definition, those images are quite impressive and grab your attention.
Unfortunately, those images are continuously recycled, for probably no other than budgetary reasons. But images aren't the only reused on the show. Every time the show goes on a short commercial break, the narrator insists on recapping what happened just before the break. As if no one could remember the very easily comprehensible bits they had just been told a few minutes ago. In many ways, the series undermines the audience's intelligence and even memory by recapping and reusing its material over and over.
In fact, every season of the series contains at least one episode dedicating to apocalyptic events that wreak havoc on Earth, recycling the same scenarios over and over while adding a few new ones, even going as far as reusing the same narrations!
Regardless, while the Universe is admittedly a little dumb and condescendingly so, the imagery is sometimes truly astonishing. The CGI, of course, is nowhere near what many modern films, such as "2012" or even the "new" Star Wars films have accomplished, but for the small screen on high definition, it's pretty impressive.
And on the bright side, it is really exciting to see what Venus or a pulsar looks like, even if you get to see the same image about a hundred times. Its greatest virtue is its entertainment value. While its greatest vice is the lack of science, the series does introduce the audience to the basic ideas of the newest and hottest theories of contemporary astrophysics and related sciences and find out more by hitting the nearest university library.
War Eagle, Arkansas (2007)
The War Eagle flies with grace and subtlety, if not slightly off the mark
A life in a small town is something of an oxymoron, as small towns tend to suffocate even the most admirable attempts to make it in the world. Unless you are watching Gilmore Girls, this is mostly the case in cinema, where anyone with any sense flees the small town life for a bigger adventure in an even bigger city. "War Eagle, Arkansas" is an exception, suggesting life in a small southern town may be just the kind of a place, in spite of its limitations, where a happy life awaits.
Luke Grimes, best known from his role on ABC's "Brothers & Sisters", gives a performance worth talking about. Grimes plays Enoch, a stuttering, shy and socially limited young man, whose only friend is Wheels, appropriately named since his medical condition has left him to live his life on a wheel-chair. The film's funniest lines are usually delivered by Wheels, who sees himself as quite the womanizer. Though Wheels may be physically handicapped and needs constant care, it is Enoch who is emotionally and socially handicapped, barely able to speak to anyone else without his stuttering getting out of control.
While Enoch shows aspirations to become a pitcher and receive a college scholarship, he is unsure whether the life of a star-pitcher is his dream. It certainly is his father's (Brian Dennehy), who has had enough of living the working class life with little money. Meanwhile, Enoch's infatuation with Abby (Misti Traya) causes friction in his friendship with Wheels, leaving him wonder if his place in the world is with his friend, or whether he should leave to pursue bigger dreams.
While the angle of the story is fresh, it never really gives enough reason to think Enoch should stay. Even when Enoch explains that most southerner's spend their first twenty years trying to get out and the next twenty to come back, the script cannot even convince itself that life in a small town is much of a treat. Tolerable, sure. Ideal? Only if one's ambitions don't reach that high. Then again, maybe that's the point.
Still, the excellent performance by Grimes works in the film's favor, as does the humor and the subtle drama between two best friends.
Harry's Law (2011)
There's fun to be had with Harry's Law
**this review is written based on the pilot episode only**
Getting fired for bashing your employer is a familiar situation for more than a few Facebook users, though Harriet Korn (Bates) does it in the conventional way, straight to her employer's face. Hitting the road, Harriet is involved in two consecutive accidents, being hit by a falling man (!) and a car, incidentally driven by another lawyer.
And because this is a David E. Kelley show, these events have some unexpected consequences. The man who falls on Harriet sending her to the hospital just happens to need free legal counseling. And the lawyer driving the car that sends Harriet to her second trip to the hospital just happens to be looking for meaning in life and volunteers to work for Harriet for free. Or at least, so it appears since Harriet never actually officially hires him. Also a good way to evade taxes.
Harry's Law is a funny show, which is what we would expect of Kelley. Where else would you find a law-firm slash shoe store in the same package? But the least appealing side of Harry's Law is the law, that is, the legal cases, which one could label as "liberal propaganda", not because they were overly liberal, but because Kelley's intention was to preach instead of telling a story.
The Chicago Code (2011)
A messy, unprovocative police drama is all style and no substance
A woman enters a politician's office telling him that she's stumbled upon some evidence linking the company she works for to bribery within Chicago's political scene. Soon, she is killed. Well, apparently she was smart enough to know a bribe when she sees one, but not quite clever enough to realize that you do not report bribery to the very people who may well be the people accepting those bribes.
After this fatal mistake, the superintendent of the Chicago police (Beals) assigns Detective Wysocki (Clarke), a tough guy with a history of scaring off his partners and sleeping with his ex-wife while being engaged to another woman, to investigate the murder and help her expose the corruption in her city.
It me amazes me how flexible the superintendent's schedule is. She has the time to visit crime scenes, gangsters and the like in a city big enough to drown her in administrative duties. Well, perhaps she has delegated all her actual responsibilities to someone else.
Meanwhile, a bunch of irrelevant, lifeless characters dance around the case. Detective Wysocki's niece may or may not be falling for her partner, who may or may not be a douche-bag. Detective Caleb Evers (Lauria) sees things others don't and knows how to work with Det. Wysocki, which very well may be an actual miracle, considering Wysocki's track-record.
When all is said and done, we can be sure that these cops will do anything to bring down the corruption in the city. They also manage to bring interest in the show's storyline to a screeching halt, but perhaps its a problem one can fix, but I have a feeling it will require more than a few good bullets.