Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Killer Inside Me (2010)

Directed By: Michael Winterbottom

Rating: R

Runtime: 109 minutes

"The Killer Inside Me" is not for the faint of heart. This film is raw, bloody, and downright grisly. My initial attraction to watching the film was the cast line-up, including Casey Affleck (Lou Ford), Kate Hudson (Amy Stanton), Jessica Alba (Joyce Lakeland), and Simon Baker (Howard Hendricks). 

In its opening scene, we are introduced to the small town of Central City in west Texas during the 1950's - a town of little consequence, where everyone knows everyone... or so they thought. Introduce Lou Ford, played by Casey Affleck, the seemingly do-gooder sheriff deputy who holds a deep dark secret - he's a psychopathic masochistic raving lunatic serial killer! A man with way too many issues to even attempt to unravel and explain, Lou commits a series of murders that appear too convenient and clean for out-of-town detective Howard Hendricks, played by Simon Baker. The victims? A prostitute and the Construction Magnate's son. Appearing as a love to hate relationship that went seriously seriously wrong, Hendricks isn't convinced that the killing was the case of mutual mayhem. As the clues come together, the evidence begins to point to... sheriff deputy Lou Ford. 

In what would appear as a case of clean-cut guilt that should have led to Ford getting the death penalty, we are left wondering how the law is so dysfunctional in this small town and how the hell does this man continue killing? With a beginning that was full of such intrigue and gruesome visuals that made me cover my eyes, the film lost something in its pace. I think it began to drag and left us with the repeating visuals of the 1950's town setting, which if you ask me my opinion, didn't feel much like the 1950s aside from the old-fashioned cars that were parked on the streets. 

Affleck did a commendable job in his role playing Lou the predator. For such an unassuming young man, I was terrified of Lou within the first 30 minutes of the film. What I do not understand is how a man can get away with such leniency and manage to play the system to the degree that he does. Are we to assume that all small towns have a backwards judicial system where people can get away with murder in broad daylight, where they chase their victim down only to have a fellow police officer shoot the victim, for example? "The Killer Inside Me" began as a film with working potential, but managed to fall short of its initial hype. 

Thumbs DOWN 

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Hunger Games (2012)

Directed By: Gary Ross

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 142 minutes

I never did make it to the theaters to see this one, but believe me, I heard all about "The Hunger Games." A few months before the theatrical release, I picked up the novel and gave it a try. The book was interesting and held my attention, just like the film. If you're the kind of person who enjoys a bit of imagination, then sit back and enjoy yourself for this dystopian adventure. 

I always cringe when I hear people talk about how much better the book was than the movie. I love writing fiction and I most certainly love watching film, but I respect the two as being completely different art forms. Providing imagery and character development in a book is much different than shooting it for the screen. That being said, I was impressed with this film adaptation. This may have had something to do with Suzanne Collins' co-writing the screenplay - it's always nice to let the author in on the script just to make sure the story runs smoothly. But let's face it, your average novel has around 75,000 words to come up with a story, whereas the film does it in 142 minutes. Some may have considered this length to be too long, while others too short - I think it was appropriate. 

"The Hunger Games" is the first installment in the trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. After a long period of war and devastation, the United States has broken up into twelve Districts, with a centerfold of wealth and power situated in the Capitol. Each District is responsible for producing or contributing something to the sustenance of the northern territory. Our focus is directed on District 12, the coal miner's district, where people are overworked, hungry, and don't know the meaning of "the good life," for it's been absent for far too long. One family in particular who has dealt with loss and hardship is the Everdeen family. Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is older sister to Primrose. Their father having passed away in a mining accident, Katniss has taken over the role as the family protector, taking care of her mother and sister who both appear helpless and scared. 

Each year, in order to honor the memory of the war that resulted in this "peaceful" time, one boy and one girl are chosen from each of the twelve Districts to compete in the Hunger Games. The games entail a test of survival as the tributes battle one another in a controlled environment until only one person remains. The Capitol explains that these tributes are a test of honor and sacrifice, but we come to learn that it's more about power and authority, as is the case with most government-type regimes. 

So there they are, all the prospective tributes, gathered together in District 12, waiting for the name to be pulled from the bowl. And the name is... Primrose Everdeen. The chance of Katniss' 12-year old sister being picked is slim, but the realization throws her into a panic and Katniss volunteers to take Prim's place as tribute. Shortly thereafter, she is torn away from everything that she knows and is transported to the Capitol, in a world that reminded me of "The Fifth Element" meets "The Running Man." I'll leave the rest of the film for your enjoyment as you weigh the stakes on Katniss Everdeen and her ability to stay alive long enough to maybe win the competition? 

Thumbs UP


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Wrath of the Titans (2012)

Directed By: Jonathan Liebesman

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 99 minutes

It's all about the family values in "Wrath of the Titans," the sequel to 2010's "Clash of the Titans." Returning to the screen once again, we have Perseus (Sam Worthington), Zeus (Liam Neeson) and Hades (Ralph Fiennes). With the blockbuster popularity of "Clash of the Titans" I was curious to see whether "Wrath..." could follow suit and continue to strengthen the franchise. Unfortunately, I was left with mixed feelings. 

An avid fan of ancient Greek mythology, I love these kinds of stories - the rabid two-headed monster, the giant Cyclops, Gods and Goddesses, the magical trident, the Underworld, cold steel against molten lava. It's all present and accounted for in this film, but could have been so much better if executed in a different manner. 

The story opens with a view into the life of now humble and ordinary fisherman Perseus and his son Helius. Looking upon his wife's grave, Perseus reflects upon his promise to her that he will be there for their son no matter what. It is apparent that this demigod has thrown in the towel on his fighting days and traded the sword and shield for the fishing pole and bait bucket. We presume that Perseus has gone full-blown mortal, complete with the mundane everyday routine.

One day Perseus is visited by Zeus, who brings some troubling news. Apparently the mortals are no longer praying to the gods anymore. What does this mean? As the Gods become less useful to man, their powers begin to diminish until there's nothing left. And the catch? If the Gods lose their strength, they will no longer be able to withhold all those evil forces they've locked away for so many years - the titans! Zeus believes that Perseus is an integral key to making things right. Exactly why he is convinced of this I'm not quite sure. Yes, Perseus is a demigod, but he's still a mortal man. 

It's at this point in the film where I begin to question what the heck is going on with Mount Olympus. Did I miss something? If I recall correctly, there's a whole hoard of Gods and Goddesses to be called upon in a time of need, but none of them are mentioned in this film save for Hades, ruler of the Underworld, Ares, the God of War, and Poseidon, the God of the Sea. Perhaps this was something addressed in "Clash of the Titans" and I don't remember, but for me this was a major plot hole. 

Moving on, in a scheme to maintain immortality, there is a double cross and all the sudden Zeus is held prisoner in the Underworld. The big plan, Kronos, leader of the vile Titans as well as father to Zeus and Hades, plans to drain Zeus of his power and break free from his bonds to wreak havoc on the mortals. Some of the best moments we get of Kronos occur during a vivid dream sequence of Perseus'. A big molten lava mass that resembles that of a gigantic man, Kronos is not nearly as terrifying as some of the other CGI monsters that we encounter, which is such a disappointment. Sure Kronos is big and has a grumbly voice and makes all kinds of smoke and fireworks, but we've seen it before in the beginning of the film so it's just not as effective the second time around. 

I think "Wrath of the Titans" put too much emphasis in the special effects and too little time in the script. With a "love conquers all" theme throughout the entirety of the film, I had to roll my eyes at times because of the cliche and rather tacky dialogue. Yes, I agree, family is ever-so-important and reconciliation is a great thing. But this is war and when you're up to your neck on the battlefield, you either man up or be put to rest, because adrenaline is about the only thing running through your veins. If I saw a little bit more of this, then perhaps I wouldn't be so reluctant to give this film a thumbs up. 

Thumbs UP