Birth by wuyunqing

VIEWS: 63 PAGES: 28

									(Films Archive – 210907)


The following (unedited) film reviews were written for the webzine musicOMH
(www.musicomh.com) between 2004-2006.


THE AMITYVILLE HORROR
Starring:
Ryan Reynolds
Melissa George
Jesse James
Jimmy Bennett
Chloe Moretz

Directed By:
Andrew Douglas

And so arrives another remake of a cult horror film. Only this time the original 1979
version of The Amityville Horror starring James Brolin, Margot Kidder and Rod Steiger
was never any good in the first place and remains painfully overrated. By comparison,
this version produced by Michael Bay and his company behind the 2003 remake of Tobe
Hooper's grotesque shocker The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, is a tactless film of
complete and utter absurdity.

The Amityville Horror is a true story that inspired Jay Anson‟s novel and the 1979 film
directed by Stuart Rosenberg. On 14 November 1974, a man named Ronald DeFeo
murdered his parents and four siblings in his family‟s home, claiming he was „forced‟ to
do it.

Skip to one year later and the house has not been sold. Yet on 18 December 1975 George
(Ryan Reynolds) and Kathy Lutz (Melissa George) move in to the poorly conditioned
house with Kathy‟s three children from her first marriage. Almost immediately they
become possessed by the demonic strength of the large house. The family lasted only 28
days.

After a very slow set up, The Amityville Horror tries to scare the viewer with some very
lame shock tactics. When will filmmakers learn that loud effects do not always scare the
viewer? There is very little subtlety and thought involved in the process. There are too
many sporadic outbursts of horror with no build up of suspense and excitement.

Great haunted house pictures such as Robert Wise‟s seminal 1963 film The Haunting
offer perfect examples of thought and subtlety. The Haunting carefully leads the viewer
through each part of the house emitting moments of tension and intrigue. The characters
lead the viewer through each facet of the disturbances thus undergoing similar emotions.
The Amityville Horror throws far too many daft moments, posing as shocking effects at
the viewer. Such moments soon become too tiresome and predictable. It may scare the
very timid and coy but for those viewers literate in horror cinema; it will be a time of
embarrassment more than a frightening experience.

From the start Ryan Reynolds as George Lutz is too unlovable and cocky to like, so there
is no loss n respect to his possessed charter. Melissa George is fairly capable as the
mother of the house but her elder son Billy, played Jesse James is a sharp twelve year old
who struggles to cope with the death of his dad and his subsequent replacement by
George. Billy offers some amusing moments before he grows weary and scared of
Georges possessed soul.

Jimmy Bennet as Michael, the younger son is not much use but it is Chloe Moretz as the
only daughter who undergoes serious spiritual transition, as she becomes friends with one
of the ghosts of the house. Her character‟s freighting friendship tries to create moments
of taut control but like much of the film is handled without delicacy.

The Amityville Horror will only go down in history as being a waste of time.

Neil Daniels

Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/amityville.htm


BIRTH
Starring:
Nicole Kidman
Cameron Bright
Lauren Bacall
Danny Huston
Anne Heche

Director:
Jonathan Glazer

Birth not only made headlines because of its controversial, morally ambivalent story
content but also that its leading star, Nicole Kidman was laughed off as a screen legend
by the films fellow thespian , Lauren Bacall, at a press conference during this years
Cannes Film Festival.

The films premise is simultaneously rather disturbing and laughable. A 10-year-old boy
walks into Anna‟s (Nicole Kidman) apartment during her mother‟s birthday party and
abruptly announces himself as Sean, Anna‟s deceased husband. Inevitably they think
Sean is an oddball kid who is probably playing a bizarre hoax.
Sean is relentless in his pursuit of Anna and his desire to destroy Anna‟s recent
engagement to Joseph (Danny Huston.) Anna gradually believes Sean and develops a
peculiar relationship that causes rifts between her and her family. Does Sean have serious
psychological problems or is he actually telling the truth?

The most impressive aspect of the picture is the truly remarkable acting talent of display.
Cameron Bright is spookily effective although he has too few lines; he delivers them with
an aura of menace and eeriness through his sturdy performance. Pay considerable
attention to his stern frown and you would think he has almost supernatural qualities. Yet
he is subtle and sophisticated with a darkly unsettling ambience that surrounds him.

Nicole Kidman shows her unmatchable thespian skills with considerable aplomb as she
descends from confusion to frustration and then to despair as she is literally torn apart by
her believe that Sean is her reincarnated husband. While Lauren Bacall tries to pull Anna
away from the absurdity of the whole thing; she mocks Anna by asking if her sisters
newly born baby is her deceased husband as well.

The relationship which develops between Sean and Anna as result of his claims has
sparked considerable scorn from hot-headed critics who claim it is unscrupulous, sick and
deeply disturbing.

In particular the scene where Sean joins Anna in the bathtub, when placed out of the
films context is indeed a perverse situation but in this instance it is necessary for the plot
to move forward and for Anna to understand what is actually happening to her.

The film has an atmosphere of an art house film coated in glossy Hollywood paint.
Jonathan Glazer has created a stylish, sombre film with Hitchcockian overtones and
situations.

The Hitchcock effect is at its zenith in the scene set in a concert hall where the camera is
firmly fixed on Anna‟s gaze for several moments as she considers the reality and
ramifications of Sean‟s claim. We gain an uncomfortable insight into her mind and
explore her unsettled thoughts.

With many long pans that create a creepy and suspenseful atmosphere, which covered in
the haunting score create some authentic moments of the macabre.

Despite such claims to the contrary, Birth never over crosses the mark and becomes a
perverted flick about a pedophilic woman and a kid. Anna offers Sean the chance too run
away and wait until he is 21; there is nothing sexual between them as the story is an
exploration of their perplexed mental states.

Birth is a finely-crafted film made with delicacy, a sense of pace and thought that is an
odd but interesting piece of cinema.

Neil Daniels
Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/birth.htm


THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT
Starring:
Ashton Kutcher
Eric Hess
J. Mackye Gruber
Amy Smart
Elden Henson
William Lee Scott

Directed By:
Eric Hess
J. Mackye Gruber

Since H.G Wells published his classic science-fiction novel The Time Machine in 1895,
time travel has been a concept of intrigue for filmmakers and writers. From Wells‟ book
to contemporary films such as Twelve Monkeys, there have been literally hundreds of
books and films in between. With such a vast history to explore a single idea, time travel
in cinema has had a haggard past; for the most part a majority of these films are lame.
The Butterfly Effect is no exception. It tries – it tries very hard – but fails to be anything
other than an entertaining popcorn movie.

Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher) is a Psychology student, who as a child suffered from
painful blackouts. As he reads an excerpt from one his childhood journals, the blackouts
start again. Through a flashback we learn that Evan and three friends committed a serious
crime with fatal consequences for one of the children involved. This childhood trauma
would force the three surviving children into different directions. By manipulating these
blackouts, Evan learns that he can go back to the past and change what happened that
fateful day, only to realise that by changing the past he changes the future. After each loss
of consciousness Evan wakes up in a different timeline.

Largely known for dating Demi Moore and hosting MTV cult show Punk’d Ashton
Kutcher, hardly an actor with strong credentials, leads the cast in this film of less than A-
list actors. Surprisingly Kutcher handles the role rather well, although his performance is
a little overdone. It is hardly ground breaking stuff, but the supporting cast run through
the mills with what they got and act competently.

The butterfly effect refers to the philosophical belief that when a butterfly flaps its wings,
a hurricane happens on the other side of the world; thus causing total chaos. In this
context, Evan changes one event in the past consequently causing havoc in that timeline;
thus altering the future. Time-travel defies the laws of physics; as a result plausibility is a
difficult obstacle for filmmakers to manoeuvre around. Perhaps it‟s a generalisation to
say that their task is to make the audience believe the unbelievable without patronising
the viewer and descending into complete absurdity. Unfortunately The Butterfly Effect
does not apply to this notion.

The Butterfly Effect, if totally ridiculous, is entertaining enough. It is not as intelligent
as it thinks it is. Credit must go to the writers, who also wrote Final Destination 2, for
conceiving a story like this and having the confidence - or arrogance - for pursuing it to
the big screen. As you leave the cinema, ask yourself a question - would you want to go
back in time and regain the two hours lost while watching this film?

Neil Daniels

Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/butterfly.htm


CELLULAR
Starring:
Kim Basinger
Chris Evans
William H. Macy
Jason Stratham

Directed By:
David R. Ellis

Larry Cohen penned the screenplay for Cellular when he was striving to sell his script
for Phone Booth to Hollywood studios but soon aborted it as his friends told him they
were too alike. Contrary to Phone Booth - which concerns a man unable to drop the
phone in a phone booth in New York - and nearly every other American thriller in at least
the past decade, Cellular actually focuses on the one indispensable gadget that
practically every western citizen owns.

Kim Basinger plays Jessica Martin, a science teacher who lives in an affluent suburb of
Los Angeles with her husband and child. Her middle-class life is turned up side down
when a group of men, led by Greer (Jason Stratham) break into her house, kill her maid,
then kidnap her and hold her captive in a gritty attic. Luckily, Jessica manages to hotwire
a broken phone which Greer smashed in front of her and dials a completely random
number.

The tenuous call is answered by Ryan (Chris Evans), who at first naturally assumes it is
hoax but soon becomes convinced that Jessica is truthful when he overhears Greer
threatening her. It becomes a tense ride as the fragile line between Jessica and Ryan is the
only single connection she has with the outside world that will prove the fate of her own,
her family‟s and even Ryan‟s life.
In theory, this elaborate story cooked by Larry Cohen actually sounds intriguing but on
celluloid it shows it‟s self-up and becomes totally preposterous. Chris Morgan‟s badly
written script is infested with misplaced humor and hammy one-liners that are totally
uncalled for in a film whose promotion and marketing campaigns purport it to be a
serious psychological thriller.

The acting is just about suitable for a straight to video rental as the only person to come
out of it looking like a professional thespian is the always-reliable William H. Macy; who
plays Mooney, a veteran uniformed cop.

Mooney is brought into the equation as Ryan goes to the police station asking for help but
as a consequence of being referred to another department and a low signal on his cell
phone in the police building, Ryan leaves and does it alone. Mooney later becomes an
integral facet as the story unfolds to its gripping showdown conclusion.

Even Kim Basinger, despite a few emotional scenes with her son, fails to carry the hefty
weight of the film admirably; oddly enough, throughout the picture her melodramatic
performance develops into an annoying and over-done piece of acting.

The recently dumped Brit actor, Jason Stratham succeeds in being perfectly out of depth
with a frankly bizarre and totally implacable American accent; he delivers more beef than
brain as the menacing main villain. Chris Evans (no, not that one) is equally irritating
with more bad lines than a Jim Davidson sketch.

Despite some anxious moments and a taut car chase, it is very easy to pick at the mistakes
and acts of folly in David Ellis‟ film, which is not given any credence at all as it is
concocted from a long list of unimaginable acts of coincidence and fate that render
Cellular a completely ludicrous film – this is one number you should avoid ringing.

Neil Daniels

Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/cellular.htm


THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK
Starring:
Vin Diesel
Judi Dench
Karl Urband
Colm Feore
Thandie Newton

Directed By:
David Twohy
For those of you are like me and have a high-tolerance for bad science-fiction, I still have
trouble understanding why Pitch Black is seen as something of a cult classic; it is hard to
forget the mind-numbingly-feeble script, the painfully poor acting and basically the
whole silliness of the film plus the lack of excitement and engagement with all the
characters. Its only redeeming feature that despite an overcooked (or should that be over-
beefed) and clichéd anti-hero, is its central character's interesting flaw - his only
weakness is light. As the title suggests, The Chronicles Of Riddick is a loose sequel to
that overrated low-budget sc-fi film.

Despite owning a strangely ordinary name for a futuristic sc-fi savior, Richard B. Riddick
(Vin Diesel) is a man with many hassles - he is hunted by bounty hunters and
mercenaries for a very large sum when all he wants is peace. Not only that but a
dastardly race, known as the Necromongers led by Lord Marshal (Colm Feore) are
scouring the universe possessing every soul to expand their evil species, to argue with
them is obvious suicide.

Throughout the film there is a tense and eerie atmosphere that surrounds Riddick; there is
very little emotion and even fewer likeable traits about him so as a consequence the
macho-male persona is played to its zenith. Vin Diesel merely seems to play Riddick as
a 1-dimentional, ostracized and aggressive cowboy giving a typically sterile and very dry
performance. For the majority of Vin Diesel's screen time he whispers in monotone
making it a struggle in parts to hear his words, perhaps its camouflage to hide his lack of
talent as a leading thespian?

The central problem is Riddick as a lead character; he has simply not evolved since the
first film. David Twohy has largely avoided expanding Riddick as a character and a
potentially absorbing anti-hero, like The Terminator in his second outing, it would have
been far more intriguing and commendable had Riddick been shown as more 'human' and
'deeper' than in the initial film. As it stands, he is merely an anti-social action hero for
the 21st century.

As with Riddick, the rest of the script hasn't progressed much; it is littered with hammy
one liners (“It's been a long time since I smelled beautiful.” and “I hate not being the bad
guys.”) and over the top sc-fi verbiage.

Judi Dench's character, Aereon, is part of the Elemental species and has managed to
withstand the Necromongers as she is chosen to help the people of Lord Marshall's
current target. Aereon is an underdeveloped yet interesting otherworldly being, like a
female obi-wan-kenobi who helps Riddick brings to light (excuse the pun) his own
species. Watching the revered actress, who has graced the big screen in various historical
features and play adaptations, playing a ghost is a bizarre experience but she adds a tad of
integrity to a fundamentally hollow film.

The overdose of special effects is like a weird mind expanding drug that is bleaker that
psychedelic but it is an exciting trip for almost two hours. The film rapidly moves from
various planets as the Necromongers expand their conquest on the ground and under,
from immense, sprawling landscapes to empty but freezing Antartica-type proportions.

The Necromongers are essentially futuristic roman soldiers with very bad hair, who build
and expand their empire and take a hostile, deadly approach to any persons who attempt
to divert their plans. The actions scenes are brutal and stereotypically over the top but at
times rather exhilarating, although the editing during particular fight scenes is so fast that
is confusing and nauseousating, so if you want to avoid a headache you should divert
your eyes away from the screen.

The Chronicles Of Riddick successfully manages to bridge a gap between big and
brainless action film and an immense sc-fi epic that owns a blatant 'thank you' to Frank
Herbert, L. Ron Hubbard and the like; it should be labeled for 'sc-fi junkies only'
because not many others will care.

It is science-fiction devoid of deep scientific thought, it is more of a bleak and distant
fantasy film but controversially - and perhaps my tolerance exceeds most peoples - more
entertaining and visually imaginative than its lackluster and frankly boring predecessor.

Neil Daniels

Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/chronicles.htm


CURSED
Starring:
Christina Ricci
Joshua Jackson
Jeese Eisenberg
Shannon Elizabeth

Directed By:
Wes Craven

It is ironic that a film called Cursed was plagued with so many production problems
since the first day of filming in 2002. In fact, rumour has it that director Wes Craven was
allegedly rebuked by producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein because his initial cut was too
violent and would not reach a wide audience. And so Craven (allegedly) abandoned the
film only for another director take over the helm.

After a bizarre car crash in the Hollywood hills, curious psychological and physical
powers begin to manifest themselves on attractive Television PR girl Ellie (Christina
Ricci) and her tiresomely geeky brother Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg.) Was it Southern
California‟s first wolf attack in 70 years? Or was it something much more evil and
sinister?
The annoying thing about Cursed is that it could have been a brilliantly weird and quirky
b movie but it lacks the right irony and wit. It is a stupidly inept and frankly boring film
unfit to be labelled a TV movie for a budget Cable channel it is that daft and uninspiring.

Cursed goes to show that writer Kevin Williamson, the man who penned Scream and I
Know What You Did Last Summer, cannot conceive anything even remotely original.
Fans will label his work a homage to classic horror cinema, but homage has always been
a posh way of saying „rip-off.‟

Cursed suffers from an incredibly feeble script; it is filled with unintentionally funny
lines and enough cheese to stock a whole supermarket.

It breathes in everything that has been seen before and fails to challenge the viewer with
intelligence and excitement. Even Rick Baker's special effects and make-up are lame in
comparison to his work on The Howling and An American Werewolf In London in the
early eighties.

Similarly to the Scream trilogy there is a set of rules that the characters must abide by in
order to challenge the horrific creation that stalks Hollywood. Jimmy delves into
websites and books; researching ways he can fight the werewolf‟s curse. His infected
sister laughs of his claims at first until she encounters a physic and starts to acquire some
scarily odd attributes such as a taste for blood.

Cursed is cursed with hammy performances and irritating characters with an abundance
of loathsome traits and inadequacies.

The audience in this particular auditorium laughed more than they screeched. Toward the
ultimate climax the scenes set in an artificial hall of mirrors could have been a really
tense and suspenseful set but is hilarious instead. Practically all the scenes concerning
the mysterious beast are completely incompetent and not frightening.

Wes Craven needs something much stronger and effective if he is to resurrect his career
as a master of the macabre. Not since New Nightmare in 1994 has he delivered a
thoughtful exercise in psychological horror. The Scream trilogy may have brought
Craven more fame and attention but they are fun thrillers at best and in hindsight,
stupidly overrated.

Avoid Cursed like you‟ve been infected with the mark of the beast.

Neil Daniels

Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/cursed.htm


THE DEVIL’S REJECTS
Directed By:
Rob Zombie

Starring:
Sid Haig
Billy Moseley
Sheri Moon Zombie
William Forsythe
Ken Foree

The Devil’s Rejects is a direct sequel to the utterly atrocious House Of A 1000 Corpses
and just like it‟s predecessor it is utterly absurd, masochistic, obnoxious and for the most
part, fairly boring.

Controversial metal star and noted horror film fanatic Rob Zombie should stick to
making music, which is underrated, because as a director with only two films on his CV
he should give up hiding behind the camera and run back to the stage. Just like his style
in musical compositions The Devil’s Rejects is obsessed with terrifying.

It is only for the select few: those who are zealous horror fans, Rob Zombie fans or those
with a strong stomach and a high tolerance for pain. Honestly, as we are halfway through
2005 this film could possibly be the vilest and frankly, crap film of the year.

For the back-story, you should pay a visit to House Of A 1000 Corpses but be warned.
Months later to the events of the first film, The Firefly family home is raided by a
strongly armed group of Texas State Police officer‟s led by the determined and foul
mouthed Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe) but Otis (Bill Moseley) and Baby Firefly
played by Rob Zombie‟s wife, Sheri Moon, manage to evade police encapturement and
head off to a hotel to meet Baby Firefly‟s father, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig.) With a
stream of bloody violence they move onto a practically dilapidated amusement park
owned by the seedy Charlie Altamont (Ken Foree) who is the half-brother of Captain
Spaulding. It is a horrific journey as they endeavour to avoid the approaching Sheriff and
his team of police officers, the FBI and some horrifically brutal hired bounty hunters.

The characters in The Devil’s Rejects are just so shamefully ugly, loathsome and evil
(even the sheriff is with his ruthless tactics despite his passion to bring the trio to justice)
that the film ends up a torrent of violent deviances, abuses, obscenities and curse words.
Indeed it is cheap, nasty, cold, harsh and so poorly written that it feels like one of those
really bad video nasties that was banned back in the early eighties and just bought back
for public viewing.

There is nothing clever about the film what so ever. The Devil’s Rejects is too long; the
hideous climax lasts for an absurd length of time and is merely a rampage of pointless
violence, anyway.
In a way, it is a twisted homage to extreme horror cinema, decades old. The perverse and
graphic images evoke recollections of films by the likes of true horror visionaries like
Dario Argento but here, there is nothing that is remotely scary, suspenseful or intriguing
whether that be aesthetically or otherwise. It is red splatter after red splatter and swear
word after swear word.

Ultimately, The Devil’s Rejects is an abominable crime against cinema and should be
rejected to the celluloid dump for incineration. Yet I have this ugly feeling that Rob
Zombie will write and direct a third film.

Neil Daniels

Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/devils-rejects_0805.htm


ELEKTRA
Starring:
Jennifer Garner
Terence Stamp
Goran Visnjic
Kirsten Prout

Directed By:
Rob Bowman

Based on the cult Marvel comic book series created by the legendary writer Frank
Miller, Elektra stars Jennifer Garner as the cold-blooded female assign for hire, an
eccentric loner cursed with a mystical power known as Kimagure which allows her see
she partial glimpses of the future.

Since her demise in 2003‟s feeble Daredevil - which makes you wonder why this equally
poor spin-off has been made in the first place - Elektra Natchios has returned from the
dead aided by a group of supernatural assassins known as The Order Of The Hand. Her
latest case takes her to a remote island where she is assigned to kill widower Mark Miller,
played by ER‟s Goran Visnjic, and his 13 year-old daughter Abby (Kirsten Prout.)

Yet Elektra soon befriends and protects the Miller‟s from The Hand and their evil leader
Kirigi (Will Yun Lee.) With guidance from her blind mentor Stick played by the
underused Terence Stamp, Elektra finds her self stuck in spiritual turmoil. And that‟s
pretty much it if you dispense all the pointless mystical mumbo-jumbo that the script gets
knee-deep in.

Why exactly has this film been made? After the embarrassing failure that was
Daredevil, surely the underground story of Elektra wasn‟t what you would call
guaranteed box-office gold. It is a completely lacklustre film on every level.
Jennifer Garner tries her hardest but does not manage to front this particular film
convincingly. What little characterization there is of her character, which is basically
random flashbacks to her youth, you fail to get to grips with who or what precisely
Elektra is. That is probably fine if you‟re a fan of the comic books (as presumably you
already know her past) but it alienates the average viewer who is literally ignorant of
Elektra‟s mythology.

All we really know is that she has a strange power that causes her to have frightening
premonitions, her dad was a bit of a bully toward her and her mother was murdered. It is
rare for a mainstream Hollywood movie with a central female character to set its lead
protagonist up as almost totally unlikable, cold and detached.

Kirigi‟s lethal group of mystical baddies with such characters as Typhoid are entertaining
but stupidly understated as is Terence Stamp who looked completely bored throughout
his small part. He was probably wondering why on earth he agreed to star in this film,
surely his bank balance isn‟t that low?

Having work as producer/director on the X-Files, director Rob Bowman failed to bring
any of the cult shows suspense or dark ambience instead offering us bland and
uninteresting tales of eastern mysticism that get very boring, very quickly.

Lots of questions can be asked such as why is it that since The Matrix almost every
Hollywood science-fiction/fantasy film has to have an annoyingly loud rock soundtrack?
When it‟s added to the action pieces, which in Elektra are ridiculously fast, it becomes
very frustrating casing some confusion. And why do the Ninja‟s blow up in green smoke
when they are killed? And where exactly is the film set?

I hope the forthcoming Batman Begins redeems my faith in comic-book adaptations,
which did shine for sometime with films such as the X-Men and Spiderman couples and
2004‟s Hellboy. For the most part, Elektra is pitifully poor yet it‟s not as bad as the
diabolical Catwoman - that at least says something positive.

Neil Daniels

Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/elektra.htm


HELLBOY
Starring:
Ron Perlman
John Hert
Selma Blair
Rupert Evans
Doug Jones
Karel Ruden

Directed By:
Guillermo del Toro

Comic-book stories have had a haphazard history when converted to cinema; it is often a
case where they are incredibly feeble, ridiculous and almost unwatchable affairs that for
the most part outweigh more robust efforts in their quantity. Yet occasionally there
comes a finely crafted, imaginative and totally engrossing adaptation; Tim Burton's
Batman and it's sequel, Batman Returns are brilliantly told gothic tales of the legendary
hero and more recently the exhilarating X-Men and Spiderman couples come to the
forefront; thankfully Hellboy can be added to that small list of successful big-screen
versions.

The mad, mystic Russian monk, Grigori Rasputin (Karel Ruden) lead's a black magic
ceremony in the moors of Scotland toward the end of the Second World War to aid the
Nazi's in their losing fight against allied forces. The occult ceremony is raided by the
allies and the obsessive Dr. Broom (John Hurt) but not before a demon from the infernos
of hell is conjured. Fortunately, the demon child is taken into care by the magnanimous
Dr.Broom where he is taken back to America and raised to be a hero in a quest to fight
the dark forces of evil.

Skip 60 years later and Dr. Broom is in poor health but still an integral part of the FBI's
clandestine Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense who nurture a bizarre family of
mutants - Hellboy (Ron Perlman), the telepathic Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and Liz
Sherman (Selma Blair) who has a power to start raging fires. Together they must stop
Rasputin from regaining Hellboy and prevent the dooming apocalypse.

Based on the popular Dark Horse comic series created by Mike Mignola, Hellboy is
fortunate to be in the talented hands of director Guillermo del Toro whose previous films
include The Devil's Backbone and the excellent Blade 2. The main appeal of Hellboy is
the lead character himself, his sardonic wit and humour is often hilarious; Ron Perlman
plays the character brilliantly and makes him more likable than any comic hero since
Batman and Superman, it's good to see this underrated actor take the lead role in a
successful mainstream film.

Hellboy's tastes are somewhat eccentric: he listens to pop music, has a strange fixation
with cats and loves chocolate bars but just like humans - a species he craves to be, hence
filing his horns - he is a flawed man. He doesn't always get it right, in one humorous
scene he is running from each rooftop, makes an uncalculated miss and struggles to claim
back up the wall.

John Hurt gains equal applause as the brainy paranormal professor, but unfortunately as
much time and care is not taken with the other characters. Liz Sherman is Hellboy's love
interest and is not given enough screen-time to show off her powers of inferno but her
thoughts of wanting to be human are quite potent while Abe Sapien offers occasional
help but his interesting character is largely peripheral.

Rupert Evans plays FBI Agent John Meyers who is transferred by Dr.Broom to
eventually take his place and play 'nanny' to Hellboy but the hesitant and temperamental
beast becomes angry when Meyers takes a keen interest to Liz. Apart from the final
scenes when Meyers becomes less coy around mutants and plays a central role in
Hellboy's battle with Rasputin, he is not given adequate character development.

Although the pace of the film is rather slow at times, the action scenes and special effects
- which are immense and handled with care - substitute for any tedious drawn-out jargon
about the occult. Hellboy is a deadly trip through a world of mad occultist villains, a
samurai Nazi, and huge vicious beast's straight from the pages of H.P. Lovecraft and
epic visions of hell.

After the recent, entirely diabolical Catwoman, Hellboy makes up for an reluctance to
watch cinematic comic book conversions; had this been a Stephen Sommers or Paul
W.S. Anderson film perhaps my words would be less benign.

Neil Daniels

Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/hellboy.htm


HIDE AND SEEK
Starring:
Robert DeNiro
Dakota Fanning
Famke Janssen
Amy Irving
Dylan Baker
Elisabeth Shue

Directed By:
John Polson
Hide And Seek stars Dakota Fanning as Emily Callaway, a young girl you suffers mental
problems after her mother (Amy Irving) commits suicide by slashing her wrists in the
bath. As a result of this trauma her father David, played by Robert DeNiro, decides they
should move to the peaceful, leafy surroundings of upstate New York to start afresh
despite adamant reservations by Emily‟s doctor Katherine (Famke Janssen.)

While adapting to a new home Emily avoids overcoming her personal struggle as she
develops an imaginary friend called Charlie. With Charlie‟s help Emily soon develops
disturbing and highly–unusual traits and habits.

The film bosses were so concerned that Hide And Seeks „surprise‟ climax would be
revealed before it reached audiences thus ruining the shock effect; they actually had the
final reel delivered separately to cinemas across the U.S via security guards.

Well they needn‟t have bothered as there are so few characters at play the perceptive
viewer will quickly deduce the final outcome before it arrives. And with the rise of these
so-called dark thrillers such as the equally laughable Secret Window and White Noise
audiences are already well versed in similar territory. The film moves at snails pace and
when you finally get to the last reel everything rushes ludicrously fast – and what a silly
ending anyway.

When the Callaway‟s move upstate they meet their only neighbours in the small town
who are portrayed as slightly sinister and unusually creepy particularly Steven (Robert
John Burke) who develops an odd interest in Emily because she looks uncannily like his
recently deceased daughter.

The peripheral characters including the as always very odd local Sheriff (Dylan Baker),
Famke Janssen as the attractive doctor and recent divorcee Elisabeth Shue, who develops
a liking for David, are used but not very abused as they are disposed after very little
thought and effort.

As a great, legendary actor Robert DeNiro must be in serious need of financial assurance
to accept this lacklustre film. Like a majority of his recent films Hide And Seek lacks
the vicious bite and hard edge of his earlier pictures. But he does give a typically
gripping performance as David struggles with his daughter‟s psychological issues but as
the ending unfolds it quickly turns into a pantomime act. Yet for much of the film it is a
stroll in the park for an actor of his famous rigour.

Hide And Seek fails to shock and excite. It is a case where the few minute trailer is
actually more gripping that the feature - and that is very bad indeed.

Hide And Seek is bland, at times boring and utterly stupid film that blatantly attempts to
be something more than it is. As an abundance of intelligently dark and supernatural
thrillers are being made in East Asia and distributed in the West (even their American
remakes are surprisingly effective) Hide And Seek is nothing more than a dull routine
thriller that is as scary and suspenseful as a Halloween episode of The Simpson‟s. The
best thing you can do is hide from this tribe.

Neil Daniels

Link:


LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN
Starring:
Josh Hartnett
Morgan Freeman
Ben Kingsley
Lucy Liu
Stanley Tucci

Directed By:
Paul McGuigan

Apart a very bad title and the decidedly pretentious way Ben Kingsley has been labelled
sir on the films advertising campaign - and allegedly all the time (he has more ego than
hair!) - Lucky Number Slevin is actually a rather good and enjoyable film.

Slevin (Josh Hartnett) has more than a bad day when he stays at his friend‟s apartment in
New York. A neighbour named Lindsey (Lucy Liu) calls around for some sugar and
meets Slevin who is obviously not the elusive Nick who owns the apartment. The pair
exchange witty banter and wonder where Nick has got to. Soon later Slevin is mistaken
for Nick by a couple of punks, punched in the face and dragged to meet a crime boss. He
then becomes involved in a violent war between two evil crime bosses who both live at
the top floor of directly opposing buildings. Slevin tries to prove he is not Nick but also
enjoys fuelling the waging battle between The Boss (Morgan Freeman) and the Rabbi
Schlomo played by Ben Kingsley.

Directed by the Scottish filmmaker Paul McGuigan whose past credits include the
excellent British film Gangster No1 and the poor Wicker Park you would at least
expect a bit of violence and some moderate intrigue. He does deliver the violence – quite
vicious at times - and the intrigue is there in abundance from start to finish. From the
excellent opening segment to the surprise (not all that surprising for well read film goers)
climax, Lucky Number Slevin is an exciting modern day noir film.

The mostly sharp script by Jason Smilovic tries too hard to be like Tarantino with its
overindulgence in pop culture references and silly, pedantic banter but on the whole it is
engaging and funny. The dialogue between Slevin and Lindsey is probably the highlight
of the film. Lindsey gets herself involved in the whole mess and plays a pretend-sleuth,
trying to find out where Nick is and to get to the bottom of Slevin‟s awkward and
unfortunate situation.

Bruce Willis (who is on a high-tide after a string of successful and actually very good
films) plays a hired assassin who is becomes embroiled in the violently bitter, revengeful
war between both crime bosses. He doesn‟t talk much but his intimidating presence is
felt. Stanley Tucci plays an unlikable seedy detective named Brikowski who tries to bust
Slevin.

Josh Hartnett is a strong lead character and is actually bearable for once; he seems to be
toughening up. The non-linear narrative makes the more interesting and again uses a
famed Tarantino trait but unlike, say, Guy Ritchie‟s Revolver, Lucky Number Slevin is
rescued from complete critical annihilation and ultimate obscurity by a well written
script, engaging characters (although clichéd) and some surprising twists and turns.

Despite all that, any director venturing into the crime caper genre should move aware
form the tired and tested Tarantino-esque formula and try something different, perhaps
more basic.

Neil Daniels

Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/lucky-number-slevin_0306.htm


NATIONAL TREASURE
Starring:
Nicolas Cage
Diane Kruger
Justin Bartha
Jon Voight
Harvey Keitel
Christopher Plummer

Directed By:
Jon Turtletaub

According to National Treasure there is an invisible map inscribed on the back of the
Declaration of Independence that leads to hidden treasure which existed before the
Egyptian Pyramids, even survived the Crusades and was eventually found and hidden by
the Founding Fathers of the New World after the Revolutionary War against the British.
Of course it‟s a Jerry Bruckheimer production so its complete fantasy but its
surprisingly exiting stuff nevertheless.

Nicolas Cage plays Benjamin Franklin Gates, a sort of modern day Indiana Jones
(possible franchise perhaps?) who is on a personal quest to find the elusive treasure by
tracking and solving an abundance of elaborate clues that lead to its whereabouts. You
see, Gates is a descendant of a family of treasure hunters and has been intrigued ever
since his grandfather (Christopher Plummer) told him childhood stories about the treasure
despite major reservations by his skeptical father, played by Jon Voight.

Sean Bean plays Ian Howe, the clichéd English baddie who is a former associate of
Gates. He is on a mission to steal the Declaration from an exhibition in the National
Archives so he can view the map that will hopefully take him to the secret treasure. The
only way Ben can protect it is if he steals the Declaration first – so he does. It becomes
more complicated for Ben when the reluctant exhibition curator, Dr. Abigail Chase
(Diane Kruger) is forced to join him on the run.

So it becomes a violent, harsh mission for Ben, his partner Riley Poole (Justin Bartha)
and Abigail to keep the Declaration safe but track down the treasure and avoid being
captured by Ian and the FBI, headed by a stern Harvey Keitel.

A Jerry Bruckheimer production staring Nicolas Cage, Harvey Keitel and Sean Bean that
is a PG certificate, surely that can‟t be right. As it‟s a Disney film the action is kept
relatively clean, inoffensive and bloodless but it is still a really fun ride if a little
overlong.

Nicolas Cage offers some good moments but fails to show the charm, charisma and
humor, say Harrison Ford has in the Indian Jones trilogy. Justin Bartha is irritatingly
sarcastic as Ben‟s partner in „justifiable theft‟ while Diane Kruger is simply stunning to
look at but there is no chemistry between her brainy character Abigail and Cage‟s
obsessed, equally clever, workaholic character despite attempts by the script to bring
them close together yet it just doesn‟t work even with the ending as it is.

Although the climax is tense, the action pieces are bland with predictable outcomes yet
there are some above run-of-the-mill attempts. Also, the constant, absurd clues get
tedious and frustrating as hope of finding the treasure seems to diminish as the film drags
on.

Yet the weakest part of the film is Sean Bean, perhaps it‟s because he‟s played the bad
guy so many times in American films that it becomes boring watching him act in the
same type of role.

National Treasure is completely farcical. It‟s a typically stupid Hollywood make-
believe popcorn movie, but it‟s passable. Take it with a pinch of salt and you should
enjoy the journey.

Neil Daniels

Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/national-treasure.htm
SAW
Starring:
Leigh Whannel
Cary Elwes
Danny Glover
Ken Leung

Directed By:
James Wan

Saw is a serial killer film with a difference. Apart from the sheer brutality of the murders
and the inventive, grisly story of an ingeniously misleading killer, Saw pulls it self away
from other, less original serial killer films of recent times because the killer here, does not
actually murder his victims. He forces the sufferers to kill each other or themselves as
they try to escape from the horrifyingly elaborate predicaments they are trapped in.

A middle-class surgeon, Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and a young lay about
called Adam (Leigh Whannell) wake up chained down on opposite sides of a filthy, large
and abandoned underground bathroom. A bloody corpse with a gun and a Dictaphone is
the only thing that separates them both in the domain of a serial killer who has been
christened “Jigsaw” by homicide detectives due to his bizarre calling cards.

Adam and Lawrence are each left a tape by the killer, which they play on the dictaphone
Adam manages to reach from the corpse; like all the victims of “Jigsaw”, the pair are told
the lessons of life through mental and physical torture. It literally becomes a taut race
against the clock as Lawrence is told to kill Adam as an escape if he is to prevent his wife
and daughter from being murdered in cold blood.

Judging from the grainy, neo-gothic visuals and the gruesome yet plausible premise, Saw
could quite possibly derive from David Fincher‟s school of filmmaking and be the logical
successor to Se7en.

Indeed the crimes committed in Se7en where not random acts of gratuitous violence and
murder but meticulously planned homicides that where committed for specific reasons.
The killer saw his crimes as being „sociologically important‟; his victims where people
that society could continue to function and be better without - for example, a lawyer who
is greedy and corrupt and an obese man who is so hideously ugly he is ashamed and
embarrassed of himself. The killings in Saw are committed to force his victims to look at
their lives and see where they have gone wrong, hence the tape or video message left
behind explaining his motives.

However immoral, unethical and unspeakably evil it may seem, both films look at murder
in the most unconventional manner. Actually, the only surviving victim astounds the
detectives be telling them “Jigsaw ” made her life fundamentally better because she has
kicked her drug habit and is learning not to waste her life.
Mainly told in flashback, much of the film is well paced creating an eerie, perspiring-
drenched feeling of claustrophobia and paranoia. There are a few rather annoying scenes
where James Wan uses a nauseating fast-forward filmic technique which added to the
loud soundtrack give the film an unnecessary MTV movie feel.

The script is not totally sharp, especially scenes involving Danny Glover as the obsessive
Detective David Tapp, which see the dialogue flutter off into irrelevance. Yet the
majority of the picture is filled with gut-wrenching tension and unbelievably nasty acts of
gruesome, bloody thirsty violence that leads to the horrifying conclusion.

Saw is a hell of a horror film that ranks along side Se7en for terrifying realism, and with
Halloween for an evil yet totally engrossing boogieman. James Wan and scriptwriter
Leigh Whannell have created a sombre masterpiece of 21st century American horror.

Neil Daniels

Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/saw.htm


SAW II
Directed By:
Darren Lynn Bousman

Starring:
Donnie Whalberg
Tobin Bell
Lyriq Bent
Tim Burd
John Falton
Franky G
Erik Kauden
Dina Meyer

Saw was a great little horror picture with its post-Se7ven horror theatrics and
gruesomeness. Its huge commercial success (it even gained more than a few decent
reviews) in 2004 came out of the blue so when it raked in the millions it came as no
surprise that a sequel was immediately in the pipeline. A rushed one-year later and here it
is, conveniently, on Halloween weekend.

A group of eight random strangers are trapped in an unknown building of an unknown
location. The building contains deadly booby traps and the strangers all have one thing in
common that links them together. Detective Eric Mathews (Donnie Wahlberg) finally
catches up with the infamous serial killer known as Jigsaw (Tobin Bell.) But one of those
eight people is Mathews‟ son and he must beat the clock to save his son before a lethal
dose of nerve gas is leaked in the building that will kill all eight of them.

Saw II is basically the same as its predecessor but it takes the morally repugnant story
that one step further and there are plenty of cringe worthy scenes that could quite
possibly make the timid violently sick there and then.

As with Saw, its sequel sees Jigsaw kidnap and trap people (here it is a group of people
rather than separate individuals as in the first film) in impossible situations where the
only way out is death, he toys with the police and in particular the leading detective and
then there is a surprise twist that sets up a third film, which will no doubt happen.

The way Jigsaw manipulates his victims and the police are ingenious and his Hannibal
Lector-like intelligence is part of the reason why the film grips but unlike Lector (who
seemed almost supernatural and untouchable,) Jigsaw is not nearly as charming or as
articulate with words and as such is not as interesting a character, rather it his deadly
creations that steal the show.

Perhaps the films downfall is that the eight characters chosen for Jigsaws little plan are
completely unlikable so who gives a damn what their fate is? Also, the MTV-style
direction with its rapid cuts, extreme close-ups and fast pans are annoying and
nauseating, as they are overdone and quite pointless.

Horror fans will love its willingness to push the barriers of horror by offering lots of
blood and guts on the plate. There are some suspenseful moments and it does sustain your
attention but ultimately much of this film was expected.

Saw was such a good and surprisingly shocking horror film that fans of the genre wanted
to see it all over again. As such, writer Leigh Whanell gave them that but with different
characters and a 2 at the end of the title.

Neil Daniels

Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/saw-2_1005.htm


THE SKELETON KEY
Starring:
Kate Hudson
John Hurt
Gena Rowlands

Directed By:
Iain Softley
With the immense and often profound selection of horror films emanating from East Asia
over the past decade or so, American horror cinema seems almost mundane these days.

Proof of Hollywood‟s desperation to create something truly horrific and classic is seen by
the recent spat of American remakes of east Asian films, and the aesthetic look of such
intense pictures as 2003‟s Ju-On (The Grudge) and Jian Gui (The Eye) in 2002 show a
blatant effect on American horror films (the stark, cold, clinical look is one such
influence.) Sadly for enthusiastic horror fans, The Skeleton Key is one of those truly
mundane films.

Kate Hudson, looking a lot less dopey than her mother Goldie Hawn, plays 25 year old
care worker Caroline Ellis. She takes a random job as a carer in Louisiana, which means
a long move from her home in New Jersey. She works for Violet Devereaux (Gena
Rowlands) to help care for her frail, practically comatose husband Ben (John Hurt) who
suffered a stroke years ago in their attic.

Caroline moves in with them as a live in carer and is given a skeleton key that opens the
lock to every door in the house except the attic, which proves dark and mysterious to the
recent employee of the household. As well as the oddity of what exactly is in the attic,
Caroline is intrigued as to why Violet bans mirrors in her house. Caroline becomes
almost obsessed with the attic and when she finally opens the door, she makes a shocking
discovery about the history of the house and its current inhabitants.

The central flaw in The Skeleton Key is the laborious build up to what is essentially a
lame climax that offers as many chills as a summer holiday in the Caribbean. There is
little sense of pace and psychologically intrigue, which is one reason why the films fails
to scare. Also, it has long become a cliché to use loud sound effects to frighten the
viewer but here they are simply tedious and predictable.

The script is written by Ehren Kruger, the man who penned the recent, less than
satisfying U.S. remake of Ringu (The Ring.) Actually the story about the history of the
house, and more specially the attic, is interesting and could have worked well in better
hands. Yet here, it is not gripping or handled with enough care to sustain almost 2 hours
of absolute absorption and emotion from the viewer, which is a shame.

Kate Hudson is watchable enough but hardly showing any great thespian talent and John
Hurt gives a deliberately catatonic performance as the bed ridden stroke victim who is
unable to speak. It is Gena Rowlands as the strange lady of the house who is the most
outstanding despite the odd naff line or two (“well child, I believe you‟ve broke my
legs.”)

Fundamentally, The Skeleton Key is an annoyingly slow film with only vague moments
of tension and an underwhelming finish but even when it gets going it is ultimately quite
boring.
Neil Daniels
Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/skeleton_0705.htm


STEALTH
Starring:
Josh Lucas
Jessica Biel
Jamie Foxx
Sam Shepard
Richard Roxburgh
Joe Morton

Directed By:
Rob Cohen

Stealth has no brain but a lot of brawn and while parts of it are actually entertaining - in a
lazy sort of way - much of this film is a complete no-brainer despite the intricate
technology it is largely concerned with.

Inevitably, it could be called a Top Gun for the 21st Century, but unlike Tony Scott‟s
over-cooked but enjoyable film with Tom Cruise; Stealth is not sexy, funny and is
devoid of a neatly kitsch yet infectious soundtrack. Stealth also rips of ideas from 2001:
A Space Odyssey and any other film about a machine that has a mind of its own and
goes berserk, loudly.

In the near future, despite the application of 400 pilots, there are only three pilots fit and
talented enough to fly U.S. Stealth fighter jets. Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Jackson,) Kara
Wade (Jessica Biel,) and Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx,) are those three lucky pilots. The
Navy creates a clandestine fourth Stealth fighter run by an artificial intelligence but the
plan goes disastrously wrong when it develops a mind of its own and with the power
hungry Captain George Cummings (Sam Shepard) in command, there are devastating
results for the three human pilots concerned.

Despite the speed of the Stealth fighter jets, the first half of the film moves as fast a
partially sighted person driving a Mini car for the first time. But that does not stop the
second half of the film from being surprisingly exciting due to the blistering amount of
action, both in the air and on land. Typically with Rob Cohen, the director of XXX and
The Fast And The Furious, on the director‟s stool it is a predictable fare.

As the fourth Stealth jet develops a mind of its own due to cryptic messages implanted in
its own neural net, it recalls Kit (the car) in the Knight Rider television series and had
the confident nerve of Hal in Arthur C Clarke‟s classic novel 2001: A Space Odyssey
and the subsequent film by Stanley Kubrick. In terms of Knight Rider, perhaps that‟s
Rob Cohen had in mind as he conveniently produced the 1994 TV movie, Knight Rider
2010.

Certainly Stealth avoids intelligence on a political level. As one of the fighter pilots is
forced to land in North Korea and with the diplomatic tension between America and
North Korea being tempestuous, there could have been far more tension and atmosphere
created. Instead, there is sheer violence and only hints of the political distrust between
both powers.

After starring in the darkly superlative Collateral and winning an Oscar for his lead role
in Ray in 2004, perhaps Jamie Foxx is still short of money. This film will only tarnish his
reputation as an inspiring thespian. As for Josh Lucas, well, he is far too smug but he has
grit as the cocky Lieutenant. Jessica Biel offers alluring totty but hardly steals the show
with any high degree of acting skill but Sam Shepard as the sinister Captain is very
watchable.

Fans of action films will perhaps love Stealth, but even so, it‟s only the climax that really
gives anything even remotely satisfying in terms of simple entertainment. As for the
story, frankly, there is more substance in a Subway sandwich.

Neil Daniels

Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/stealth_0805.htm


TAKING LIVES
Starring:
Angelina Jolie
Ethan Hawke
Olivier Martinez
Gena Rowlands
Jean-Hugues Anglade
Kiefer Sutherland

Directed By:
D J Caruso

Since the distinguished former FBI profiler Robert Ressler coined the term „Serial Killer‟
the public has been equally disturbed and intrigued by these wicked criminals and their
nightmarish acts of depravity. The foundation of the worlds first National Centre for the
Analysis of Crime in Virginia – made famous in the film The Silence of the Lambs -
and the exploits of Special Agents in tracking psychopaths and calculated murderers have
inspired authors and filmmakers alike. Writers such as Mary Higgins Clarke and
Thomas Harris have formed their careers writing about grotesque killers and their
heinous crimes. While Ressler and his colleagues have inspired films like Seven and the
television series The X Files. However, Taking Lives, although similar in plot and style
to the aforementioned films would not join their esteemed reputations as classic serial
killer thrillers.

FBI Profiler Illeana Scott (Angelina Scott) is sent to Canada to assist Montreal‟s police
force in capturing a serial killer, who travels across the country and assumes the identities
of his victims. What would seem to be a routine case for a distinguished expert turns into
a far more unpleasant experience than she could have imagined. Not only does Scott
have to contend with a bitter partner on unfamiliar turf, but also her professional integrity
is called into question as she develops personal feelings for the cases only witness; such
emotions have disastrous consequences.

The main flaw the film has is its lack of suspects; there are few characters and very little
evidence to keep are minds working for almost two hours. The film is littered with
clichés; a hostile cop upset at the arrival of an FBI agent, a witness who falls for the
agent, and an obviously innocent suspect.

It seems the audience is taken for granted and treated as ignorant fools, an example being
the ridiculously superficial motive of the killer. Destructive or distant relationships
between a mother and her son have in the past, created memorable films, the most
obvious being Psycho. Rather than a passing glance, more concentration of such a
relationship in this film would have created more tension and solid reasoning for the
killer‟s wicked acts. As it stands the killer‟s motive in Taking Lives is rather frivolous.

Director D J Caruso, whose previous credits include episodes of The Shield and Dark
Angel directs the film with an understanding of the situations the audience has to be
placed in to create and maintain suspense. However, Caruso does not always succeed in
his aims; but there are some tense scenes that include an apartment and house search
similar to Seven.

Taking Lives is too long; an obviously weak story is lengthened resulting in a silly,
though surprising prologue, which is out of place causing the film to lose momentum.
Perhaps Caruso should stick to directing one-hour television episodes. Turn on Channel
Five about nine o‟clock on most night‟s and you will see films similar to this one – bog
standard, distinctly average run-of-the-mill thrillers.

Neil Daniels

Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/taking-lives.htm


WHITE NOSIE
Starring:
Michael Keaton
Chandra West
Deborah Kara Unger
Ian McNeice
Nicholas Elia

Directed By:
Geoffrey Sax

White Noise is an unexpected commercial hit which sees Michael Keaton surprisingly
return to box-office gold after what seems a long absence from the top spot.

Architect Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton) and successful writer Anna Rivers (Chandra
West) are an affluent couple with a son, Mike (Nicholas Elia) from Jonathan‟s first
marriage. When Anna goes to work one day she leaves a message for Jonathan saying
that she is meeting with a friend. When it goes past midnight and Anna fails to return
home, Jonathan is left worrying for her well-being.

It is announced on the TV news that Anna was involved in a serious car accident and her
body is undiscovered. Months go by as Jonathan and Mike are left worried and anxious -
is she dead, has she been abducted? Jonathan confronts an eccentric man called
Raymond Price after he follows Jonathan to his workplace. Raymond tells Jonathan that
his wife is dead and that he has been receiving messages from her beyond the grave, he
leaves his card for the skeptical Jonathan. After their initial „meeting‟, Anna‟s body is
found 3 miles up the river from where her accident had occurred.

Six months later, Jonathan and Mike move to a luxurious apartment where he starts to
receive calls from his dead wife‟s cell phone and hear distorted cries from her in the
night. Jonathan seeks the EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) obsessive Raymond for
advice about these bizarre experiences. Jonathan descends into a state of paranoia and
obsession as he tries to communicate with his deceased wife.

At a time when American remakes of East-Asian Horror films such as The Ring and The
Grudge prove highly profitable and when the supernatural cinematic endeavors of films
by M. Night Shyamalan gain considerable critical and commercial recognition, White
Noise has an advantage as its joins the current trend for the financially beneficial
supernatural horror market. But is White Noise any good? In a single word, Nope!

Michael Keaton practically flies solo with little help from his co-actors; he is actually the
films only saving grace as he is rather engaging when he moves from varying emotions
such as despair, frustration and obsession. It‟s fair to say that if it wasn‟t for Keaton‟s
thespian talent the wafer-thin plot would collapse and disperse down the proverbial drain.

His fellow actors are given little screen time especially the underused EVP manic
Raymond played by the eerie yet likable Ian McNeice, he is simply not granted enough
time and space to exploit his idiosyncratic, obsessive interests in EVP, shame!

Deborah Kara Unger‟s character, Sarah Tate meets Jonathan at Raymond‟s house during
one of his EVP sessions; also like Raymond, Sara is not given enough space as she
merely plays a sound board for Jonathan‟s unbelievable musings and experiments when
he becomes deeply embroiled in EVP.

As well as the under use of the actors the film manages to lose the slight psychological
grip it gains when Jonathan begins to see the cheap Scooby Doo-style apparitions -the
climax is appalling!

The use of ghosts in White Noise lets the film down as it deflects you from the creepy
mental state it really struggles to achieve by using sound, thus creating an unbalance.

At times White Noise is slow moving, most of the time is deeply implausible and all of
the time is uncomplicated, clichéd, and flawed, silly and utter nonsense.

Neil Daniels

Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/white-noise.htm


ZATHURA
Directed By:
Jon Faveau

Starring:
Jonah Bobo
Josh Hutcherson
Dax Shepard
Kristen Stewart
Tim Robbins
Frank Oz

Touted as a loose sequel to 1995‟s excellent Jumanji, Zathura has the special effects
wizardry and kiddie humour of the aforementioned Joe Johnston family film but mostly
lacks the imagination.

Of course having dorky American kids cast in central roles is a delicate issue. It could
either go very badly; as was the case in the first Star Wars prequel or it could brilliantly,
as was the case with the first two Home Alone films. Thankfully in that sense Zathura
holds up rather well.

Two squabbling brothers - Walter played by Josh Hutcherson (the cocky older one) and
Danny played by Jonah Bobo (the younger, lonely one) - are at each other‟s throats when
they spend the day with their dad. Their older sister doesn‟t want to know them and their
dad is a busy trying to work at home in preparation for an important meeting. While their
dad is out, Danny discovers an old board game called Zathura in the cellar. He begs the
apathetic Walter to play the game with him. The board game whisks them (including
their sleeping sister) and their house into outer space.

Based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg who also penned novels that offered inspiration
for Polar Express and Jumanji, Zathura nicks ideas from The Wizard Of Oz (flying
house,) the eighties cult TV series classic V (lizard-like baddies) and even Jumanji (a
board game that causes all the raucous.)

Zathura may appeal to pre-adolescents more so than adults and even teenagers who are
perhaps into darker, more action packed fantasy films. What could have broadened the
films audience appeal would have been the root, say; The Incredibles or Sky High took
– which is using cheeky references to past sc-fi classics, or stealing characters names
from nostalgic b-movies monster films and mocking the mundane trappings of everyday
life. It could have brought a much-needed depth to what is essentially a superficial family
fantasy film. But Zathura is meant to entertain more then offer social or cinematic
commentary.

The special effects are, as you would expect, spot on and the direction by Jon Favreau
(perhaps best known in the UK as Pete Becker – Monica‟s ex-boyfriend – in Friends) is
basic but engaging.

When Danny plays the game, it was like opening up Pandora‟s Box but instead of
bringing Pinhead and his evil goons to present day Earth, he opens up a world of trouble
that involves spinning into space, finding a lost astronaut (played by Dex Shepard,)
battling some scary looking Lizards and a huge robot (voiced by Frank „Yoda‟ Oz.)

David Koepp‟s script is necessarily light hearted and funny at times and Tim Robins
makes a fairly brief and unmemorable appearance at the beginning and end of the film as
the stressed father.

Zathura is good family fun but hardly memorable. Seeing as the best family SF/fantasy
films are mostly fully computer generated these days and have incredibly smart scripts,
Zathura – just like the board game - feels like it has only just been discovered after long
hibernation from its pre-nineties roots.

Neil Daniels

Link: http://www.musicomh.com/films/zathura_0306.htm

								
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