Edgar Allen Poe’s works are cinematic treasure, and he stands next to Stephen King in terms of influence on the horror film genre. Unfortunately there has yet to be any significant adaptation of Poe’s works since the Vincent Price films; a shame really, since his works are great material for gothic horror and thriller films.
Now, Along comes The Raven, a film about Edgar Allen Poe’s stories where Poe himself is a character. Seems like an interesting concept and twist on adapting Poe’s stories.
The film is a fictionalized account of Poe’s last days. 19th century Baltimore is being terrorized by serial killer who bases his murders on Poe’s stories. To track down the serial killer, Detective Fields enlists the help of Edgar Allen Poe (John Cusack) to help catch the killer. The mouse hunt turns alot more personal when the killer kidnaps Poe’s lover (Alice Eve), and forces Poe to write stories based on the murders, all while giving clues to Poe about the next crime.
If you’ve seen any serial killer film, you’ll know exactly how this plays out. Instead of exploring Edgar Allen Poe’s character, the film is your run of the mill serial killer film, where Poe happens to be a character. Every serial killer convention and trope is played out by the film, right down to the “reveal” at the end. But hey, there’s cool costumes in it, lots of lots of costumes.
But I like serial killer films, and on that account, I enjoyed The Raven. John Cusack is enjoyable to watch (as he is always), and the film does maintain a decent level of suspense throughout. The film also delivers special treats to Edgar Allen Poe readers, with plenty of subtle (and not so subtle) references to his Poe works.
But the film is still has his flaws, mostly regarding how much potential it wastes. Poe would’ve been a very interesting character to explore on film, but instead of an accurate portrayal of brilliant yet tormented writer whose pessimism was reflected starkly in his works, we get a overdramatic Poe, whose exaggerated actions and mannerisms trump his character development.
Furthermore, Poe was the master of atmosphere, with the grim atmosphere of his stories having immense on gothic literature. Unfortunately, the film fails in this regard, and instead of delivering the crushing atmosphere Poe is known for, the film relies on over the top CGI blood and gore.
The Raven is a decent film, and has a unique take on serial killer films. If does lose points though on its failure to live up to its subject, and for taking excellent material and turning it into a mediocre film.
‘Red Heart’, a Kurdish romantic drama that’s a co-production between Norway and Iraq, is a movie you’ve seen before. The subject matter lacks originality and the execution isn’t much different. Yet there’s an amount of charm to the film based on the performances and the setting that keeps you engaged even though you know how it all ends.
The film follows Shirin and Soran, two teenagers in Iraq secretly in love with each other. But things take a turn for the worse when Shirin’s father vehemently goes against Soran’s proposal of marriage with Shirin after he selfishly wants her to marry someone else for his own advantage. That’s when Shirin and Soran decide to run away to Arbeel to start a new life away from their family. But hardships come in their way and the road isn’t as rosy as they made it out to be.
One of the most attractive qualities of the film is how beautifully it’s been shot, and that’s the key reason I actually went out to see the movie. It’s a professionally shot movie with picturesque locations and landscapes that add a lot to the story it’s trying to tell. The actors do a great job in their roles for the most part and there’s a charm to the early segments of the film that offset the fact that the plot isn’t moving forward at all. But then the plot kicks into gear right around the end of the first act and it’s actually gripping to watch the turn of events. One feat for the film is definitely the fact that you actually relate to the characters and root for them to succeed in their goal, which is half the battle won right there. Part of the reason for that is because they’re in a relatable situation and clearly being forced into things they don’t want to do. It’s a very watchable film because of that and keeps you engaged in the fate of these characters that you’re following.
But at the same time, I found the film to be incredibly generic in the progression of the plot. We’ve seen this film a hundred times before especially in independent festival-oriented films. An innocent girl runs away with a guy that she loves and imagines a happy life, but then hardships upon hardships begin to fall upon her. Sadly, ‘Red Heart’ doesn’t do anything different or new with that premise. That’s not to say that the events that take place aren’t gripping to watch – they just seem very manipulative and you can see them coming from a mile away. And that takes away a lot of power from those scenes.
‘Red Heart’ is an engaging romantic drama that does a lot of things right and has noble intentions, but it just doesn’t do things differently enough to really matter in a sea of similar independent films.
The prospect of an Arab horror film is certainly an interesting one. Therefore, we at MEMovies were really excited to see Lockdown, an Arabic zombie film, and probably the first of its kind.
The film begins with two friends, Saif and Rashid going on a simple trip. All goes wrong when they are attacked by zombies in the middle desert. Saif manages to escape, but his friend Rashid is not as fortunate. Saif’s fortune doesn’t last long however, as he is imprisoned by a mysterious military group who seem to have a strange relationship with the occult. Saif finds in a prison filled with strange creatures and monsters, all of whom are awaiting the arrival of the mysterious Shahdab to set them free.
This is the filmmakers’ debut feature film, and it is admirable that they tackle horror films, a difficult genre, on their first effort. Unfortunately, their inexperience in storytelling is very apparent. While the film’s beginning does its job in introducing the story, the plot soon slows down to a lumbering pace that does very little to move the story forward, and despite the lengthy monologues scattered throughout, the characters remain drastically underdeveloped. The doctor was really cool though.
This is especially sad considering that from a technical point of view, the film is very good. The filmmakers know exactly what they’re doing in terms of filming, lighting, and special effects. The direction sets the mood perfectly for a horror film, and the special effects are surprisingly good for such an independent project by first time filmmakers. As such, it is sad that there wasn’t a good story to go with it.
Arabic horror films are almost unheard of, and we commend the directors from bringing such a genre in Arabic form. However, the Arabic region is ripe with stories and myths that would be great for a horror film, and Arabs don’t need to borrow western horror myths (vampires, werewolves…etc) to make their own horror films, especially when theirs plenty of Arabic material to draw from.
Despite the shortcomings of Lockdown, it is a commendable effort on its makers’ part, and we look forward to future projects from the filmmakers.
“Ever seen a vegetarian zombie?”
The actors of the film all used to be part of the same workshop organized by the filmmakers.
I was more interested in seeing Mirror Mirror than I was in seeing Snow White and the Huntsman, mainly because of Tarsem Singh. Singh seems like the obvious choice, after Guillermo Del Toro, to direct a fairy tale film. His visual style lends itself perfectly to such stories, as exemplified by his film ‘The Fall’. Sure, the tale has been adapted countless times, with the 1937 Disney adaptation still being way at the top of the heap, but it is a very compelling, and it would be interesting to see how different directors handle it.
The plot follow the same basic premise the original fairy tale and the Disney 1937 adaptation. Snow White lives with her evil Queen stepmother who is jealous of her beauty. The evil Queen sends an assassin to kill Snow White, but Snow White manages to escape deep in the forest, where she lives with the forest dwelling Seven Dwarves. There is also a prince somewhere.
Mirror isn’t any different than Singh’s previous films, with lush colours, otherworldly architecture, and wonderful set design. But, despite the great art direction, it is Julia Roberts who steals the show. This is probably the first time she’s played an outright villain, and surprisingly she shines in the role. She gives a funny and surprisingly, a relatively subtle performance, as the villainous queen, and is responsible for most of the film’s funny scenes. Armie Hammer and Nathan Lane also stands out, displaying some admirable comedic skills (a very common feat or Lane), with their scenes with the queen being the funniest in the film.
But Singh’s flaws are unfortunately trump his skills, and while his films usually look good, there’s always this problem with his films where they seem to take place in a very confined space. You never get the feel that the characters inhabit a world, but that they move from confined set to confined set. The problem was present with ‘Immortals’, and its present in this film.
As we also found out from ‘Immortals’, he really can’t tell a good story, or create decent characters. Filler plot are no stranger to Hollywood comedies, but one would expect something more from an adaptation of Snow White, but it is difficult to care about anything that happens on screen. With weak plot comes bad characterization. Snow White, the main protagonist, is so bland and two dimensional she makes Twilight’s Bella look like Travis Bickle. Lilly Collins is cute in the role, but she really doesn’t have much to work with. Furthermore, The seven dwarves, instead of being endearing as the protectors of Snow White, they come off as shallow dispensers of the film’s tired humor.
Unnecessary is the word that comes to mind when thinking about this film. There was really no need to attach the Snow White name to what amounts to a generic fantasy comedy. The film does have its laughs scattered here and there, but overall, it really doesn’t offer anything remotely interesting or new. Here’s hoping that ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ will be better.
Trivia: One of the dwarves in the film is named ‘Grimm’, a reference to the famous Brothers Grimm, who popularized many of today’s most famous fairy tales, including Snow White.
When talking about ‘The Artist’, it doesn’t seem right to dicuss the film in terms of plot and performances. Its defining aspect is that it is silent film, and it serves as window for the audience into the world 1920s cinema, and this is what makes it one of the most interesting films of the year.
Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a silent film star at the peak of his success. He is as charming as his mustache is thin. However, he is unfortunate to find himself working in a time when talking films are on the rise, and he is finding himself to be increasingly irrelevant in a time where sound films are all the rage and nobody watches silent films anymore. With his downfall comes the rise of Peppy Miller (played by Berenice Bejo), a friend of George Valentin and a former extra in his films who has become a star in her own right with the rise of talkies.
The first thing you would notice are the similarities with the film ‘Singing in the Rain’, which deals with same topic of Hollywood’s transition from silent cinema to talkies. Yet, while ‘Singing in the Rain’ was a comedy, ‘The Artist’ is a melodrama, and goes to great lengths to show the plight of fallen film star George Valentin.
‘The Artist’ is not so much a modern take on silent films as it is a full-fledged silent film in its own right. The film follows closely the storytelling elements, stylistic features, tropes and even the aspect ratio of silent films. It confines itself to all the limitations of the medium, yet revels in its style, and seizes the opportunity to throw in some delicious self-references and meta humor. The film doesn’t tell its story in the same manner we are used to, neither does it have the same characterization present in modern films. The film’s story and characters are unique to its form, told in a stylized manner that is radically different than the more ‘realistic’ color films. Michel Hazanavicius has wisely chosen to employ as little intertitles as possible, telling the story almost entirely through the actions and expressions of its actors, Dujardin and Bejo.
Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo both do a wonderful job, driving the story of the film with grace and charm, but it is Dujardin who stands, mostly because of his larger screen time and as the central character of the film. He certainly would’ve made a perfect silent star, not only because he can look like one, but because the he manages to be as expressive a silent film demands, conveying the emotions and trials of his character without speaking a single word of dialogue.
‘The Artist’ is a lovely homage to silent films, and manages to stay incredibly faithful to its medium. As a silent film made almost a century after silent films stopped being made, It is a chance to experience film when it was a different medium and witness acting and storytelling methods that would seem quite foreign to the average modern viewer.
George Valentin (referring to sound films) “If that’s the future, you can have it”
Trivia: The destruction of George Valentin’s career as talkies came to prominence is a very real issue that faced many silent film stars, most notably John Gilbert.
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Kyle Chandler, Ella Fanning, AJ Michalka
Taking place in 1979, the film follows a group of teenagers as they are shooting a film on a super 8 camera, when they unwittingly film a train crash that they suspect is not accident. The investigations lead to ominous discoveries.
Who would’ve known that telling you absolutely nothing about a film would turn out to be a brilliant marketing strategy? Coming from legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg and film (and TV) juggernaut J. J. Abrams, we couldn’t help but get excited about the film, thanks in part to its secretive marketing campaign. Besides, nobody does sci fi conspiracy theories like J.J. Abrams, and this looks like it is going to be his crowning achievement in that mini subgenre.
The Green Lantern:
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard
Starring an ensemble cast headed by Ryan Reynolds, the film tells the story of Hal Jordan, a test pilot for the American Air Force who becomes the first ever human inducted into the intergalactic Green Lantern Corps, a brotherhood of warriors who seek to maintain peace and stability in the universe. When Hal Jordan becomes the first human Green Lantern, he finds the fate of not only the Green Lantern Corps, but also of Earth itself, lying in his hands, when a new force of evil, Parallax, emerges.
While not as well known as his fellow DC Superheroes; Superman and Batman, The Green Lantern has a vibrant fan base within the comic book readership, and could make successful transition from a niche comic book character to a mainstream film franchise. Ryan Reynolds seems to be charismatic enough to carry such a film, and director Martin Campbell directed everybody’s favorite blond Bond film, Casino Royale.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins:
Directed by: Mark Waters
Starring: Jim Carrey, Carla Cugino
Mr. Popper’s Penguins is an adaptation of a children’s book about Tom Popper, a clueless businessman who inherits six penguins. As he tries to accommodate them, his life turns upside down, resulting the inevitable conclusion where he learns about *insert Hollywood life lesson here*
Aside from a few mishaps, Jim Carrey has proven himself a leading comedic actor of modern times, as well a formidable dramatic actor. While it has been a while since he had a great comedy film in the caliber of Dumb and Dumber and Me, Myself and Irene, Carrey’s return to comedy is always worth looking forward to
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington Whitely, Josh Duhamel
In the latest installment in the Transformers franchise, the Autobots and Decepticons learn about the existence of a Cybertonian spacecraft on the moon, and must get to the spacecraft before the other, as it could determine the outcome of their war.
While Michael Bay won’t be winning any Oscars soon, but his Transformers film are crowd pleasers, evident by the fact that their collective box office gross reach up to 1.5 billion dollars. Despite the scathing reviews he usually gets, people flock to his movies. Why? giant nine meter robot fighting action, thats why.
Directed: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
Starring: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine
Abiding by Pixar’s trademark simplicity in storytelling, the film follows race car Lightning McQueen, the star from the first film, and his friend Mater, as they take part in International Grand Prix, which takes them to the streets of Europe and Japan. Throughout the story, Mater gets caught in the world of international espionage when he is confused for an American spy, and is torn between supporting his friend, and carrying top secret spy missions.
Pixar seems to understand how much the world is in need for a new Pixar movie every summer. The animation stuido’s entry for this summer is Cars 2, the sequel to the 2006 hit. The first Cars may not be as highly regarded as the rest of the Pixar filmography, but after film’s like Toy Story 3 and Up, we can’t imagine a Pixar film being anything but sublime.