Movie Review: The Mist

When it comes to horror movies it is difficult to come up with a concept that delivers a truly horrifying experience. While The Ring and Silent Hill succeeded in making psychological-horror films (in my opinion), others rely on the gradual increase of disturbing violin which ends in some window breaking or a werewolf leaping out from the closet.

The Mist is a Stephen King novella adaptation which fails miserably. I am sure that the novella is a good read, because the story is obviously deeper than what is provided in the movie. But the movie itself is just a sad affair from beginning to right-before-the-end.

The Mist

As the name implies, a pretty little town is shrouded in mysterious mist which – surprise surprise – kills anyone who dares to venture outside in a bloody mess. Our cast of main characters and over 30 supporting characters are all trapped in a supermarket whilst they think over the best way out.

Given the premise, you’d be surprised how little scare the actual mist provides, since most of the movie is shot inside the supermarket. What is even sadder is when the things in the mist start to appear and you’d realize the absurdity of the movie. The fog in Silent Hill is used into good effect and the creatures were disturbing. Here, the mist is just there to limit the shooting scenes to the supermarket and the nearby pharmacy when our heroes do eventually decide to take the risk.

Strangely, most of the focus on the story isn’t really about surviving what the mist dishes out against the occupants of the supermarket, but rather about the relationship between the people there. While the premise is good, pitting a religious fanatic and the newly converts against the “logical” group tries to explore the fundamentals of politics and religion and human behaviour, the film adaptation fails in fleshing these concepts out well.
The Mist
In fact, it can get bad enough that these human interaction segments provide a comic relief from the rest of the movie. On ink and paper, the conversations and ideas could have been good but didn’t translate well. In the theatre, people – including us – were actually laughing during some conversations and some predictable demise and dismemberment of some characters.
What is worse than the script is the acting, save for the religious preacher (Marcia Gay Harden) who does a great job being serious and preachy. Equally bad is the 3D CGI of some elements, which quality is inconsistent during the course of the movie. The opening scene begins with a storm rendered all wrong – which I find surprising because a regular storm-seen-through-a-window is a no-brainer in movies. Whatever is in the mist is not rendered in a realistic way as well. Creatures appears a bit too plastic or too rubbery. The animation itself is OK but the character designs are just ridiculous and ripped out of any Dungeons & Dragons-based video game.
The Mist

Don’t let me start on the music… the little of it that is there anyway.

What IS good about the movie though, is the final sections and especially the ending. Too bad they’re not really worth sitting the movie for.

Movie Review: Beowulf

I was pretty excited this weekend since I had planned to watch Beowulf, and, even though my friends attempted to thwart my Angelina Jolie fetishism, I ultimately had the final word against six.

Prior to going to the film, I read some reviews and I was surprised to learn that it was a 3D animated movie – shocked in fact, since I have seen the trailer and haven’t noticed the photo-realistic approach. I suddenly had my doubts and thought this was going to be catered to young kids, but given that Angelina Jolie appears naked in the movie I quickly dismissed the idea and went ahead with the plan.

Quite simply, I was blow away.

Beowulf

The story in Beowulf retells the epic poem tale but actually – like most Hollywood movies – deviates substantially from the original plot and creates a new tale based on the old one. This time though, the retelling is for the better, since the plot of the movie is coherent and relates the events and characters rather than sticking to the bard-song tale of old, but of course this is a bit double edged. On the plus side, like I noted, the story is nicely tied together and the characters now relate to each other in different ways. On the down side, puritans may be put off as well as the Angelina Jolie fans since Grendel’s mother (Ms. Jolie’s role) has her own epic battle in the original poem and not in the new tale. But in the context of the movie, it makes sense to deviate from the original text.

The highlights of the movie – and frankly the sellers of it – are the 3D graphics and Angelina Jolie’s presence in the film. As for Jolie, although her acting part is very small in the film, it really does an excellent job whether you are into the sex-sells business or not. Angelina is the perfect actress to be Grendel’s mother, the main villain and seductress of men – whether or not they rendered her fully nude and had her dipped in liquid gold. She simply rocked the film.

Beowulf

The 3D graphics blow everything else out of the water, and the closest thing that would come to it is Advent Children which was released in 2005 but lo and behold what technology can do in two years. Although, to be all perfectly honest, both movies have perfected the 3D genre in different terms. Just like Advent Children before it, Beowulf has a living, breathing world with beautiful (if somewhat barren) landscapes and a staggering amount of detail put into everything – from textiles to facial features all the way to the textures on the walls and facial hair. In some respects, Advent Children does a much better job, especially in the fluidity of the animation. In a couple of scenes it could be visible that the frame rate in Beowulf drops, and the way the horses and characters run is a bit stiff. Advent Children on the other hand – considering how fast paced the movie is – is technically much more superior in that regard, with not a hint of slowdown with all the action going on. But then again, Beowulf is a much more photo-realistic render (light-years ahead) than Advent Children and surpasses it in that aspect.

My only gripe though is that the pace of the movie was a bit off at first. It starts off very slow until the Grendel battle and the time used in nonsense conversations could have been used to establish the reason behind Grendel’s suffering more so that people sympathise with him. I felt it important because in the retelling, both Grendel and the Dragon have something in common which is not explained until further into the movie, and while I understand the reason behind concealing Grendel’s identity in the beginning, I thought it odd to not at least show some reason behind his actions other than an overly sensitive ear drum.

Beowulf

Other than that, I was thoroughly impressed with the movie, not only because it re-tells an old legend in a new, fresh way with some subtle concepts and ideas, and not only because I am a huge Angelina Jolie fan… but because the movie is thoroughly enjoyable, strange, feels truly epic (the Dragon battle is probably the highlight of the entire film and it was as exciting as the Dragon battle in Advent Children)… and that it pushes the technical possibilities to the limit and shows Hollywood that you don’t need fluffy animals and funny one-liners to make a good 3D film.

 

Movie Review: The Brave One

It has been a good while since I have watched a movie in the cinema, so yesterday I decided, after a hearty meal at Japengo’s, that I go and select a random movie to watch. It wasn’t an entirely random selection though – despite the fact I had no idea what was currently showing, as soon as I saw a Jodie Foster movie I said to myself “this is it”. I even passed on a Ms. Jolie movie – rendering me forever shameless amongst fellow Jolie fetishists.

The movie has a basic and typical action movie plot: Erica (Jodie Foster) and hubby get brutally attacked by a group of thugs in a tunnel, leaving her and her hubs for dead. Supposedly. She survives but learns after her coma is over that her hubby didn’t make it, and she sets out on an emotional and quite disturbing route for revenge. But rest assured this isn’t an action movie nor is it a sappy-I-am-afraid-please-cuddle-me type of story.

The Brave One

What is different about this movie and sets it apart from other Woo Clones is that the storytelling delves deep inside Erica’s thoughts as she gets more traumatized every day. The focus of the movie, as I felt it, is on the transformation of the human psyche after a traumatic event. The story doesn’t go overboard with a complete transformation from a peaceful Erica to a murderous psychopath, but rather it shows how Erica’s life has changed, her perceptions, views, values and impulses differ as well as her confusing and contradicting thoughts in each scene. So in that respect you can consider the movie as a psychological thriller more than anything else.

What brings this otherwise B-rated movie to life, other than the story, is Jodie Foster’s superb acting and the well-written and thoughtful monologues. The dialogues in the movie are nothing extraordinary, and in a couple of scenes it gets a bit cheesy and too typical (so don’t go in thinking the dialogues are Closer-like). It is the monologues that truly are the meat of this movie, and although they’re not as numerous as they ought to be for a movie that focuses on thoughts rather than action, they’re spaced out well and are put in key moments. They gripped me long enough to keep recalling a few monologues a few hours after the movie has ended and it gave me a new insight on some issues I would have otherwise taken for granted.

Jodie’s acting is really good but it still doesn’t top her performance in Silence of the Lambs, which I strongly believe is the highlight of her career. In spite of that though, her acting and monologues is what makes this movie, which is a pretty sharp double-edges sword. On one hand, if you do get sucked in, you will enjoy the movie – otherwise you’d be yawning yourself unconscious and only be awakened when there are gun shots (the guns are unusually loud).

The Brave One

The music hits the good notes with its piano melodies; given I am a piano fetishist as well the movie got some good solid positive points there. The camera-work and composition in a good number of scenes is stellar and brings out the mood well – especially the ones where the depth of field is not more than two feet. The rest of the scenes look pretty standard and nothing to talk home about.

At the end of the day, what will make you like this movie are Jodie’s acting and the thrilling monologues, and nothing else. This makes The Brave One quite a brave movie in its own right as it is a hit or miss, and, to me at least, it was a hit. Could use some improvement? Definitely. The idea of the monologues and their actual contents could have been fleshed out more along with other aspects, but given the time limit imposed on movies as well as Hollywood expectations the movie did quite decent.

It makes a good book, though.

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean 3

The premier was over and done with, unlike when I went to watch Spiderman 3. I went alone to watch the movie – after having devoured what was hands-down the best lunch I had since mom’s wara2 3enab (stuffed grape leaves) last year. Nothing beats a perfectly done Chicken Spinoccoli from Pizzeria UNO.

Like many fans, I had too high an anticipation for the movie. The trailers and teasers bugged me to the fullest as the release date drew near.

Was the movie worth it though? Was it worth all the wait, all the anticipation, all the excitement, and the talk and gossip?To be honest and frank, yes and no.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3

Yes because, once again, we are taken on a great journey across the seas. Who doesn’t love pirates? Who doesn’t love their myths and legends and codes and attire? And their language? I can hardly think of someone who never thought of dressing up as a pirate when they were kids.

The movie was great, in many aspects. Depp did a superb job in acting. There was a lot of humor, a lot of nonsensical, interesting twists to the plot. Lots of pretty special effects, a really stunning ship-on-ship battle in a swirling maelstrom near the end of the movie.Not to mention of course all the attention paid to makeup, clothing, accessories, high production values, and a really good dialogue to go with (although I will be surprised if pirates spoke that well an English).

The downside?

It faced a lot of what other trilogies faced before: The first movie brings forth the novel, first idea and experience. The second movie takes it many steps further by enhancing everything that can be enhanced and delivering an exceptional (but familiar) experience. The third movie lacks the charm of the first and the grandeur of the second, but rather just slightly extends the experience and often leaves a lot to be desired, especially after the second movie.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3

Anyone who watched The Matrix would probably agree – the first movie was completely novel and redefined the industry. The second movie was brilliant, but, by the third, people lost interest (regardless of whether or not the divulged in the philosophy or religion of it), everything became predictable (especially if you divulged in philosophy and religion) and people watched it just for the sake of it.

Even Lord of the Rings suffered such a fate, although not fully since the actual novel climaxed at Helm’s Deep and the third book had a second and predictable climax, so it is excusable.

My main gripe about Pirates of the Caribbean 3 is that it had a lot to live up to after the first two movies, that it failed to deliver all or most of the expectations. While Depp’s acting was excellent, it was not as good as the second movie. The third concentrated on all the other characters, which is good, but, people want Jack Sparrow, and in that regard, it didn’t deliver what was expected (especially for a 3 hour movie). There were also some gaps in the rather convoluted plot, but they’re probably due to not updating yourself with the story from the beginning, but still, all three movies could be regarded as three separate overall stories with the characters serving as the link.The movie also failed to deliver a sense of the grandeur that was expected from the trailer. Admittedly, a couple of concepts were brilliantly novel (but I won’t spoil them here), and, like I said, the vortex battle was well choreographed. However, I expected something more out of the “thing that caused the vortex” (see, I told you no spoilers), since a good chuck of the movie focused on bringing that thing back, the outcome of only a vortex being created was disappointing.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3

At the end of the day, though, the movie was very enjoyable regardless of its shortcomings, just don’t have much high of an expectations for it and you will not be disappointed. And do yourself a favor and update yourself on the events and characters of the first two movies. The third movie is catered for those who know the history, otherwise you would just feel that everything is going arbitrary and without cause (although in a couple of spots this is the case).