Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns home to the midwest after a business trip to Hong Kong, only to die soon after from unknown causes. Immediately following her death, her young son dies. Several more people who had contact with Beth meet their untimely demise and thus spurs an investigation by the CDC. We peer into the lives of her husband, Mitch, who turns out to be immune, Leonora (Marion Cotillard) of the World Health Organization, Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), an EIS operative sent out into the field, and Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) of the CDC, among others.
The film moves fluidly, with brief shots of objects we touch every day to remind us how susceptible we are – a door handle, an elevator button, a pen at the office, a bowl of peanuts at the airport. While it’s captivating throughout, I couldn’t help but feel like I was stuck in biology class now and then, particularly scenes that delved extensively into the genetic analysis of the virus. But I am content to have learned a few things about r nought (the reproduction number of a virus/infection), fomites, and how crap-my-pants scary Gwyneth Paltrow’s hospital scene really is on a gigantic cinema screen.
This isn’t much of a thriller. It’s more of a slick, stylized, fictionalized docu-drama that is very bleak and pensive with a CSI element to it. It’s a sobering look into what could realistically happen during and after a pandemic outbreak. It’s pro-science/pro-medicine. Unlike many movies of today, the heroes don’t have bulging muscles, superpowers, or cool gadgets. In Contagion, the saviors wear lab coats and their weapon is a vaccine.
Sara (Sara Paxton) and her college friends travel to her lake house on the Louisiana Gulf for a wild weekend of beer pong, sunbathing, and death by shark. Be mindful of the PG-13 rating because, if you go into this expecting the finned version of Aja’s silicon laden Piranha 3D, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The most you’re going to get to feast your eyes on is a brief shot of Katharine McPhee’s and Alyssa Diaz’s side boobs.
It’s light on the carnage and heavy on the sentimental and often overdramatic monologues. The gore is pretty watered down for the teen/tween audience. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing – it’s a boring thing. While there are quite a few deaths, the attacks are short cut scenes that end with the camera lingering over pools of red coloring dye to signify, yep, they’re dead.
What’s missing from this humdinger is good ol’ fashioned fun. Most of its ilk celebrate the B-movie campiness with richly funny dialog, revel in the opportunity to mock its genre, or totally go off the deep end with exaggerated kills and/or gratuitous nudity. I realize Shark Night 3D wasn’t made to be an in-your-face exploitation film but it’s not Open Water either. It falls to the wayside because it has no guts, literally and figuratively.
Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up on a train to discover he’s assumed the identity (and body) of someone named Sean Fentress. Confusion quickly sets in for the military pilot – his last memory is of a mission gone haywire in Afghanistan. Eight minutes later, after the train explodes, he’s strapped inside a cold, dark pod. He is soon contacted by Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) who bombards him with questions about the train and the explosion. Struggling to make sense of what happened, he fires back with questions of his own. Careful not to disclose too much information, Goodwin instructs him that he has eight minutes to track down the bomb and the bomber. Any deviation from the mission, including trying to save passengers, is highly discouraged.
He’s transported back into Sean’s body over and over until, finally, he speaks to a man who appears to be in charge of the mysterious operation, Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright). It turns out that Colter is in a project called Source Code, which allows him to relive the last eight minutes of Sean’s life in order to gather valuables clues about the bomber. For Rutledge, it’s about the objective. For Colter, it’s now about saving the lives of the passengers, particularly Christina (Michelle Monaghan), the pretty and flirtatious passenger he’s steadily been growing feelings for. One problem: Source Code is not time travel – it’s time reassignment. It’s metaphysics, quantum theory, and a host of other scientific concepts that will likely fly over most viewers’ heads but don’t worry, you don’t need to understand how Source Code works in order to enjoy the movie.
Source Code has been mentioned with and compared to Nolan’s wildly popular dream invasion flick, Inception. Having seen both, I urge you not to go into Source Code expecting an Inception knock-off. While both films have their strengths, I found Jones’ action/sci-fi/thriller miles better with its character development. Another plus is that it has a very Hitchcockian/The Twilight Zone feel to it in that it relies on its story and the actors, rather than extravagant CGI and a dramatic soundtrack. Having said that, as much as I gripe about the over-use of CGI, the special effects in this movie are rather underwhelming and a bit dated. No biggie, though. This isn’t the kind of movie that relies on grandiose computer generated imaging and it’s certainly not hindered by any lack of it.
Ironically, I loved this film (and its delightfully dreamy leading man) until the last eight minutes. A 9/10 knocked down to an 8/10 for its ridiculously sentimental, typical Hollywood “and they all lived happily ever after” ending. I’m not a pessimist. I root for the underdog. I believe in soulmates and love at first sight. I like to see karma reward the good guy or gal but closure should be a resolution that makes sense for the characters and viewers in a way that doesn’t completely insult either parties. There’s poignant (frozen kiss) and then there’s sickly sweet (let’s go look at our reflections in the big, shiny thing).
I think Source Code is more suited for mainstream audiences than films like Inception or 12 Monkeys so I give it the go-ahead to most of you out there.
Kyle (Alex Pettyfer, I Am Number Four) is a handsome, popular, rich kid who is also a grade-A jerk but blame that on his conceited, inattentive father who is more concerned about his career as an anchorman than with his own son. At least that’s what the film wants you to do. Like father, like son.
After Kyle plays a cruel prank on another student, Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen, Full House), she transforms him into a bald, boil-covered, tattooed freak. It turns out Michelle Tanner grew up to be a witch dressed in emo-inspired haute couture clothing. Oops, not exactly the person you want to invite to the prom and then publicly humiliate. He has one year to find someone to fall in love with him or he’s cursed to stay ugly as hell forever. A blind girl, maybe?
Nope, Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens, High School Musical), a fellow student who moves in with him after he saves her and her father from muggers. The blind person turns out to be a tutor, Will (Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother), hired by Kyle’s father. Kyle was moved into a place of his own after doctors told his father that, um no, a face transplant is not a viable option.
We are all familiar with the tale of Beauty and the Beast so we all know where the characters are headed and what happens at the end. This isn’t the kind of film for special effects or over-choreographed fight scenes so that leaves the acting.
Both Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens are easy on the eyes but their acting skills have yet to be fully developed, or developed at all. It seems like Pettyfer is trying but Hudgens has one or two facial expressions in her repertoire. I’ve seen better acting from my daughter’s sock puppets. The saving grace is Neil Patrick Harris whose comedic timing is sublime. He breathes some life into this flat fantasy.
Parents, this is okay to let your tween/teen watch but I don’t recommend it.
Hanna Heller (Saoirse Ronan, Atonement) lives in solitude in the Finland wilderness with her father, Erik (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA agent. For the past 16 years, he has been training her to be the perfect assassin. She is a skilled hunter and fluent in many languages but she longs for the outside world. Realizing that she is finally ready, he gives Hanna a transmitter box which she uses to dispatch her location to Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), another CIA agent.
Leaving his daughter behind, Erik sets out to Berlin where Hanna is to meet up with him after she has killed Marissa. She’s captured, taken to Morocco, and interrogated by a double for Agent Wiegler. Believing the double is the real Marissa, Hanna snaps her neck and flees from the facility, but not before getting her hands on classified files about her own DNA. An intensive manhunt for Erik and Hanna begins.
You should know that this isn’t your typical action film fueled by crazy spurts of adrenaline. No car chases through busy streets, superhuman stunts, or fiery explosions. In fact, it’s more of Hanna’s coming-of-age story – her first real friend, experiencing the power of music and dance after wondering about it for so long, encountering technology and electricity after a decade and a half of kerosene lamps, being with a boy. This is a bit of a Euro Art House film so if you’re looking for a movie like Salt, you’ll be vastly disappointed.
As a David Lynch fan (director Joe Wright cited him as a major influence), I give Wright props but The Chemical Brothers score is invasive at times. As a stand-alone soundtrack, it is freaking awesome. What Daft Punk does for Tron doesn’t always work in Hanna. Take Hanna’s escape from the CIA safe house in Morocco, for instance. The blaring track and flickering lights are enough to put the average person into a rockin’ epileptic seizure.
Recommended to those who have the patience to let their tea steep but not to action junkies looking for a quick adrenaline fix.
After the last war between vampires and humans, the Church sets up a walled off society where the people are oppressed and controlled by the constant reminder that “to go against the Church is to go against God”. After learning his niece, Lucy (Lily Collins, The Blind Side), was abducted by a vampack, Priest (Paul Bettany) disobeys the Church by traveling to the wastelands to rescue her. Her boyfriend, the town’s sheriff (Cam Gigandet, Pandorum), accompanies him on his quest, along with Priestess, who defies the Church’s orders to bring him back dead or alive.
The three of them go on a mission to track down Black Hat, another Warrior Priest who was believed to have been killed in Mira Sola, but turns out to have been turned into the first vampire/human hybrid by the vampire Queen. He plans to dispatch an army of vampires via train into the Church’s city and destroy all inhabitants there. Priest, Priestess, and Hicks are now saddled with two missions – save Lucy and stop the train before it reaches the city.
Priest is a fusion of western, post-apocalyptic, science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres very loosely based on a manhwa (Korean comic), Hangul, by Hyung Min-woo. The animated sequences in the start of the film are awesome. It’s a shame that it all turns to drivel once the real actors hit the screen. Paul Bettany, who will forever be the most perfect Geoffrey Chaucer in my mind, has certainly been choosing some, uh, interesting roles lately. But don’t get me wrong, I dig him as a vampire slaying action hero just as much as an English poet.
This is a fine flick to veg out on but, Hollywood, please stop with the crappy CGI vampires/monsters/creatures/animals already. The familiars (humans given a pathogen to make them subservient to the vampires) look cool. The vampires do not. Do vampires really need to be slimy looking airborne acrobats? No, high-flying stunts don’t make them more intimidating. The fights are stylishly choreographed but when the action dies down, it’s all too easy to zone out. Not surprisingly, the movie is visually stunning – from the dark, claustrophobic city ruled by the Church to the dry, barren landscape of Jericho.
Despite what you may assume, there isn’t a heavy or overbearing religious theme. Priest is nothing profound or cutting-edge but most audiences will probably enjoy it for what it is.
Liam Neeson is Dr. Martin Harris, a scientist who travels to Germany with his wife, Liz (January Jones, Mad Men), for a bio-tech conference. Before checking into the hotel, he realizes he’s left his briefcase and passport behind so he flags down a taxi driven by Gina (Diane Kruger, Inglorious Basterds). Her expert driving skills sends them careening off of a bridge and into the drink. She manages to save herself and Martin, then flees the scene, not wanting to risk deportment because she’s an illegal immigrant from Bosnia.
After waking up from a coma, Martin can only remember who he is and why he’s in Berlin. He finds his way back to the hotel where he finds Liz, only she denies that she’s his wife or that she even knows him. Worse yet, she’s with a man (Aidan Quinn) claiming to be her husband and the real Dr. Martin Harris. Lacking any identification to prove that he is who he claims to be, he’s removed from the premises. And the mystery surrounding the dual Dr. Harrises begins.
He tracks down Gina and, together, they try to understand what is happening to Martin and why Liz denies that she’s his wife. They’re lousy detectives. If it weren’t for the mystery men constantly in their faces (I don’t want to give too much away), they’d be wandering aimlessly around Berlin.
Yes, there are plotholes and more than enough “reeeeally?” moments, but Neeson makes it all worthwhile. At 58, he’s still got it. The action is intense, the suspense and thrills are the perfect tone, and the mystery is well done. It’s up to you to decide whether the twist at the end is satisfactory. This isn’t a flawless film. It’s escapist entertainment that relies mostly on its leading man. Unknown is The Bourne Supremacy with less action.
M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village meets Twilight, giving birth to an hour and 40 minutes of torture. It makes sense. Catherine Hardwicke directed the sparkly vampire teen romance. Red Riding Hood plays out in the same fashion – brooding young hotties fighting for the same girl, in this case Amanda Seyfried as Valerie. (I did go into this film not knowing who directed it. I didn’t find out until afterward so I viewed it unbiased.)
For many years, the townspeople have kept the beast away by offering it an animal sacrifice every month. With the appearance of the blood red moon, its hunger can only be sated by taking a human life, Valerie’s sister. A grieving Valerie returns home to find out that her parents have arranged a marriage with Henry, a wealthy suitor, but she’s in love with Peter, a lowly woodcutter (who, by the way, not only can’t bring home the bacon but can’t act to save his life).
Seeking revenge and justice for the slaying, the people of the village summon Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), a renowned werewolf hunter. He warns them that the beast takes human form during the day, inciting paranoia in everyone, including Valierie who wonders if her true love could be the one who killed her sister. The watered down romance suddenly turns into a whodunit mess.
Despite the trailer and theatrical poster that emit a dark vibe, horror/thriller fans will be grossly disappointed. Even with veterans Gary Oldman, Julie Christie, and Virginia Madsen, the film is constantly bogged down by its simple dialog and cheesy CGI. There is also a lot of nonsensical filler that stretches 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Why can’t Hollywood ever offer a decent ending to a movie? It doesn’t have to contain a clever twist but it shouldn’t be so anti-climactic.
You may think I’m being harsh but, in fact, I bumped my rating up generously because of Oldman. Tweens and teens will like the re-imagined fairytale but serious movie-goers will probably walk away frustrated.