20 September 2010

DEVIL

The Devil May Be Bad, but the Movie is Good

I have to admit, when I first heard of a movie based on a story by M. Night Shyamalan , I had a laugh. He has not been worth anything since Signs. He seems to be more of a punch line now more than anything. Yet, the concept seemed intriguing. I took a screenwriting class where one of our assignments was to write a scene in which three or more characters are stuck in an elevator. They all had to have a unique voice. So, when I saw this movie, at first, it looked like someone stole my idea. As it happens, my friend and co-writer that I met in said-class, called to see if I wanted to go see Devil. He had free tickets, so I figured, why not. It’s only 80 minutes. How bad can it be?

Devil opens with a voice over about how the devil likes to take human form and torture his victims in life before claiming them for eternal damnation. Later, the security guard refers to this as “the Devil’s meeting.” He narrates the story, telling of how it starts with a suicide, which happens. This allows the devil to take human form. Throughout the movie, the narrator gives insight as to what will happen next. The security guard I mentioned above does the narrating.

So, five strangers get into an elevator, which just so happens to be an express elevator, and head up. They are an older woman, a male security guard, a mattress salesman, a rich woman and a shady looking guy. I have to admit, the dialog was entertaining. Each character had their own feel and motivation.

When the elevator stops, two security guards notice and ask the maintenance guy to look into it. In classic horror movie fashion, the cameras work, but the two-way speaker only works one way. The security desk can talk to the elevator, but not vice versa. The narration warns that people that try to get in the way of the devil’s plan wind up paying for it. The maintenance guy finds this out. Meanwhile, the lights flicker, and go out. When they come one, one of the passengers meets their demise. This was a stroke of genius. It allows there to be violence, but not seen keeps it PG-13. Also, the pitch black with noise all around helps keep things eerie.

A detective looking into the jumper from the beginning answers the call of the stuck elevator after the first death. Of course, he has a backstory. While he tries to get to the trapped passengers, other dies. All things come full circle. The voice over, the detective’s backstory, and everything going on in the elevator cab get nicely wrapped up. I just wish that they would have pulled the final twist and tied in the jumper from the beginning.

Verdict: I am afraid people are not going to see Devil because of M. Night’s involvement. That is too bad. This was a very entertaining popcorn flick. I recommend this. I just hope people, and you, can look past M. Night. He really has nothing to do with this film.

16 September 2010

The Town



I was a big fan of Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone. I though the story was compelling, and made you think. I thought the acting was overlooked by the Academy. But surprisingly, I thought the directing was phenomenal. Yes, Ben Affleck was Daredevil. Yes, he was in Paycheck. And yes, he is an Oscar winner. Ever since he married Jennifer Garner, he has been on a rampage to reinvent his career. He turned in an absolutely amazing performance in Hollywoodland, but was panned by the Academy. He was great in State of Play, but the entire film was not on the radar of award season. This could be Ben’s first nomination since his win in 1998.

After I first saw the trailer to this film, I was determined to see it. So, when I got the chance to see the St. Louis screening on Monday, I jumped out of my chair, printed my tickets and texted my friend to see if he was interested. Of course, he was.

The Town is based on an award winning novel by Chuck Hogan, Prince of Thieves. I am in the middle of it, but have not finished it, yet. The cast is full of great actors in great roles, and Blake Lively. Jon Hamm, Golden Globe winner for Mad Men, plays FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley who is given the task of tracking down a group of bank robbers. Jeremy Renner, Academy Award nominee for The Hurt Locker, plays Ben Affleck’s best friend and group co-leader Jem. Chris Cooper, Academy Award winner for Adaptation, plays Ben’s father. So, with this cast, an award winning novel, and a great director, this movie was just too good to be true.

Well, The Town was awesome. It is the second best movie I have seen all year, with Inception being the only one better. I was a bit worried when the first action scene came on screen. It was great. The action was great. The shootouts were great. It shows that Ben Affleck knows and loves Boston. All the acting was great. I will even say that Blake Lively was tolerable. The music was a bit hit or miss. The script was great.

The Town follows a group of friends who live in Charlestown in Boston, or more fondly referred to as The Town. This group of friends robs banks and armored cars. It opens with a robbery on a bank. While there, the silent alarm is tripped. This causes the crew to take a hostage, Claire Keesey. This marks the group’s first kidnapping. They let her go free, but they are afraid that she might have seen something that could give them away. The FBI is trying to solve the robbery, and they hope she can be of use. Doug falls in love with her. In the meantime, a mysterious florist, played by another Oscar nominee, gives them the goods on a final score. So, with the FBI close on their tail, the group goes for one more take.

When the movie was over, I was disappointed. I wanted it to go on. I wanted to see more. As I said above, I loved this movie. Jeremy Renner was amazing. Jon Hamm was great. The acting was so good. There were great actors in small roles. Chris Cooper was only in one scene, but he owned it. The dialog was compelling. I loved the scene between Affleck and Renner, when Affleck explains that he needs Renner’s help, but he cannot ask any questions, now or ever. But, they are going to hurt people. He asks him if he is okay with that. Renner’s response: “Who’s car we takin’?” Excellent. Verdict: See this movie. It is just over 2 hours, and I loved every minute of it. I highly recommend The Town. Let’s see if the award season with miss this one like they did Gone Baby Gone.