27 April 2012

The Five Year Engagement

Review posted at InsideStL

The Raven

The Worst Movie of 2012

I knew I was in for a long terrible movie when some of the first dialog is goes as such:

(to police officer in charge)
Fourth floor.

(to police squad)

Thanks for explaining that people on the street need to go upstairs to reach the fourth floor. I should have just gotten up right then and left and saved myself from what was yet to come.

The Raven opens with titles on screen that explain Poe was found on the morning of his death, in a weird state of mind. The last days of his life are unknown. We are to infer from this that this film will shed some light on these final days. Then, the scene I explain above happens, leading to the police squad marching, not running, quickly upstairs following the screams. They are too late. A mother and her daughter are brutally murdered, but there is no one in the room.

Next, Poe (John Cusack) walks into a pub where he is not liked by anyone and demands a drink. This goes over like a lead balloon. He is promptly kicked out of said bar and stumbles into the local newspaper, The Pioneer, where he works as a writer. Co-worker Ivan (Sam Hezeldine) informs him that the big boss Maddux (Kevin McNally) is not publishing Poe’s latest article. This sends Poe on a very eloquent rant.

Then, Poe leaves the Pioneer, and meets up with his girlfriend Emily (Alice Eve) and her father Captain Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson). Capt. Hamilton despises Poe, which only makes the forbidden love between Emily and Poe even stronger.

Finally, Detective Fields (Luke Evans) assesses the first crime scene. Something about the murders seems familiar. Then it hits him, he has read this murder before in a story written by Poe. So, he asks Poe for his help to solve the crime. In the meantime, the killer strikes again, and leaves a clue as to when and where he will strike next. The killer abducts Emily, and taunts Poe and the police to play his game. If they don’t play along, he threatens to kill her.

This is the plot for the rest of the film. It is very generic and uninspired. As is the acting. Cusack really hams it up as Poe. It is like he is in a totally different film than everyone else. Luke Evans is probably the least worst. He at least seemed like he was acting and trying. I cannot understand why Gleeson agreed to make this film. Had he read the script?

The story tries to be cute and original, but fails. Writers Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare tried for a murder mystery with a Seth Grahame-Smith (Pride & Prejudice & Zombies) overtone. Seth Grahame-Smith intertwines the original text with his craziness so well. I am looking forward to this summer’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I am not sure that Livingston and Shakespeare are even familiar with Poe’s works, or even Poe himself. They tried to use dark humor, but it just felt out of place. Some of the lines of dialog made my ears cry.

James McTeigue’s direction sucks. This is the guy that gave us V for Vendetta and Ninja Assassin. While not a fan of the first film, I appreciated his direction. I must admit that the second, while not a great film, is a guilty pleasure of mine. There are so many scenes in The Raven that just don’t make sense. He uses slow motion for no apparent reason, one time and never again. He shows grisly gruesome violence, but is so over the top with it that it becomes comical.

All this crap is running rampant to a horrific score by Lucas Vidal. Wow, did it have an identity crisis. He tried to be modern rock meets Beethoven. What resulted was garbage. When the end credits mercifully came, his score sounded like alternative rock. Even the credits themselves did not know what to do. They were some new wave font. The only upside to The Raven is it is….I got nothing. I left screaming, Nevermore!

RATING: 1.5/10

20 April 2012

The Raid: Redemption

The Best ACTION Movie in Years.

There are action movies. Then, there are ACTION movies. There are plenty of the former, but very few of the latter. When you think of a genre defining action film, what do you think of? Die Hard? Enter the Dragon? The Matrix? Well, you can add The Raid: Redemption to that list.

Re-titled from just The Raid when distributed in the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classic, Gareth Evan’s Indonesian action flick played the film festival circuit last autumn. The trailer debuted around then, too. If that isn’t enough to make you want to see it, I don’t know what else to do but sing its praises. The Raid: Redemption finally opened in theaters here in the StL last Friday.

The Raid follows a SWAT team as they attempt to takedown the crime lord Tama (Ray Sahetapy), who lives at the top of his own slum. The police unit of twenty officers is lead by Jaka (Joe Taslim). His plan is simple: Infiltrate the dangerous building silently. Take out spotters. Work their way to the top floor by floor until they reach Tama. Why is it so dangerous? The inhabitants of the apartment building are mostly criminals that have been given a haven by Tama.

The assault starts off smooth. The SWAT team arrives unnoticed. They make a quiet clean approach. They begin their ascent of the dilapidated building. Then, the inevitable happens. They are found out. Now, this should-be-condemned structure becomes a house of nightmares for the officers. Tama makes an announcement over the house intercom. Anyone that kills an officer will live rent free for life. This is when all Hell breaks loose. As this happens, Jaka discovers that their mission is not sanctioned, and back-up is not coming. Lieutenant Wahyu (Pierre Gruno) has a past with Tama, and he ordered this ill-fated raid that turns into a massacre.

Apparently, there is no credit check to live in this building. The only requirements seem to be: You must own a machete and/or an assault rifle and know the basics of the Indonesian martial art of silat. The officers are hunted and have to use their brains to survive. A rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais) starts to emerge as a leader as his comrades are killed.

The character development is nonexistent, but that doesn’t matter. It is not necessary to get to know these characters because they perish so quickly. The story is simple, the characters are simpler. What is not simple is the action. As I have mentioned, this is genre defining. Evans puts you in the middle of it with long uncut shots. Much like I mentioned in my Haywire review, instead of the shot of the attack. Cut. Shot of the reaction. Cut. Evans lets it roll for seconds on end. And the length of the overall action sequence is longer than most. The action is not limited to hand-to-hand combat. The early scenes have plenty of gunplay and explosions to satiate that appetite. The melee of action just keeps coming.

The Raid offers a musical score by Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park and Fort Minor. The music helps to set the pace of the film while being original and fun.  Shinoda has a ways to go before he reaches the level of composing of fellow rock artist and Academy Award winner Trent Reznor.

My only real complaint about The Raid: Redemption is the forced backstory and convoluted plot that is thrown in at the end. It just did not need to be. Keeping it simple worked. I don’t understand the necessity to throw in a generic storyline at the end. The Raid: Redemption delivers on every level that an action film should. It is sitting high at 83% on Rottentomatoes. It stood at 100% for a long time, but once that first critic turned in a negative review, a few others followed suit. As a warning, the actors speak Indonesian. But don’t worry you lazy haters of reading subtitles, Sony Pictures has greenlit a US remake. I would hate to think that Americans could just get behind a foreign film. The Raid also has had a sequel in the works and the possibility of a whole trilogy. I cannot stress enough, if you have the opportunity to see this film, DO IT!

RATING: 9/10

06 April 2012

American Reunion

InsideStL has the review of this great reunion