Sunday 28 February 2010

Review: The Crazies

Year: 2010
Director: Breck Eisner
Screenplay: Scott Kosar, Ray Wright
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker

Plot Synopsis is here

I'm becoming more and more mellow about the amount of horror remakes that are being churned out in the last few years. I'm theorizing that the works of Craven, Carpenter, Romero et all are being redone as tributes to what are clearly recognized as modern genre classics. I mean how many takes of Dracula has there been? Perhaps I'm being naive, but then if I think like this I at least going into these films with even more of an open mind. As I've said before, I don't mind them as long as they're done well

The Crazies; yet another remake of an older cult horror film is one I consider to be well done. Starting quickly and landing us straight into the action, Breck Eisner sets the scene competently, giving off a vibe reminiscent of the 50's version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The film works best with it's simple moments, much like a similar film of it's ilk: Pontypool. A repeated phase here, a glazed stare there, irregular whistling that unsettling feeling you get when the normal is askew exists in the films opening act and if it were to continue down that road I would have already have signed up for the special edition home release. Alas the film does go down cliche alley at times, with the odd info dump scattered about, and telling moments of horror familiarity, such is life.

However the film is crafted well enough to keep the tension raised and my interest peaked and although it doesn't capture Romero's more nihilistic tone, it does manage to give off an absurd uncertainty to the proceedings.

Visually Eisner doesn't nothing particularly new, but he clearly releases the importance of sound in a horror film. The churning of the massive combine, the scraping of knives and rakes, isolated moments of silence, it works well and it's the combination of these other moments of sound that make the usual zinger sound of the jump scare a little more effective. In fact the jump scares aren't bad here although still a little too easily telegraphed.

Cast wise, we in good hands. Timothy Olyphant is a consistent actor and once again puts in what you would not only expect from him but from the part as well. A villain or anti-hero in many films, Olyphant is allowed the chance to roam around as the do-good sheriff and doesn't put a foot wrong.

Many talk about the various strung out mother roles of Vera Farmiga but spare a thought for the genre queen that Radha Mitchell. Roles like the one she has here are her bread and butter and once again she pulls it out of the bag. Same goes for Danielle Panabaker whose clearly at home with material like this (see Friday the 13th remake or Mr Brooks). Bringing up the rear is Joe Anderson giving us the comic relief that comes as standard with this sort of affair but his animated display is a great distraction and for me he comes into his own by the end of the film.

As yet another entry into the diseased body sub-genre The Crazies has it's fair share of scares and a creepy unease that flows through the film. It doesn't have the guts of a Pontypool and the film could really be more anarchic in the later moments, but as a whole, The Crazies is solid piece of b-horror madness.

Review: From Paris with Love

Year: 2010
Director: Pierre Morel
Screenplay: Adi Hasak
Starring: John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Plot Synopsis is here

Bringing up the rear of the January to February junk train is From Paris with Love a wreck of a movie that reminded me why I'm not as interested in action movies as much any more. It's producer and story writer Luc Besson is a filmmaker who has brought about some classic action to audiences. Far-fetched many they may be, and yet grounded with solid characters who you can get behind and a plot that not only intrigues but allows the action to flow well along side it. It seems that Besson has become bored of all this "effort" and now writes stories (I use the term loosely in the case of this film) so some jobber can try (I use the term strongly) to write the screenplay. The result is a lazy excuse of a plot that could be fixed with five extra pages to fill out that tiny little thing called plot.

I don't mind streamlined plot, and I don't mind all out action, but I do want them to sit together well. Here they don't. Reason? Well there's no plot to speak of. No internal logic, no true reasoning behind certain things just...stuff happens. What about the action that will patch the so called story together? Bland as they come. We saw similar in the Besson produced Taken but at least with that film I enjoy the time I spent with a restrained but dangerous Liam Nesson. In this film we have John Travolta to contend with.

Travolta has decided to go back into the Pelham 123 bag and pull out another demented performance as a bigoted "wigger". How do you get a bigoted wigger you may ask. Did you not see what I wrote above? Travolta's hammy over acting isn't as frustrating as it was in Tony Scott's movie but still has it's moments of irritation. To describe this role; in the eighties it would have been cast by a bad black comic because Eddie Murphy wouldn't be available. Jonathan Rhys Meyers doesn't fare much better as the straight man, mostly because the film doesn't care enough about him. In a film like this the chemistry of the actors and the connection of the characters should be central to the story. However, as they're is no story then there's no chemistry or connection. We're waiting for them to stop talking to get to the next average action sequence (admittedly at least the scenes are edited well enough so you can see what happens).

Director Pierre Morel clearly has talent as a director of capturing action, but there's nothing in this film that had the verve of District 13 nor the bluntness of Taken. The story needs works and for those who felt there was xenophobia in Taken should not watch this movie. Although a couple of guys did laugh at the fact that John Travolta shot down loads of Muslims and bragged about it. But that also says a lot about them not the movie, but then that was the only time people actually found anything in this film funny. The films schizophrenic tone doesn't know if it wants to be serious or absurd and tries to tread water...not a good idea.

For those who want to watch what I would consider a well done action flick with a streamlined plot; watch Taken or Shoot em up. For those have money to burn on a film with a irrational toned piece of mediocrity....ENJOY!