Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Review: Mirrors

Keifer Sutherland plays Ben Carson, a New York City Detective currently on sick leave after an "incident" a year earlier that still threatens his career and his shakey marriage.
Determined to get his life back together, he takes a job as a security guard at an old burned out department store. Why would an abandoned building require security? Who knows? Only in New York!!

Before long he realizes that something is inhabiting this building which is riddled with mirrors. And not long after that, horror ensues as the mirrors, both in the building, and elsewhere (where ever reflections exist, in fact) begin attacking the people closest to him.

Of course, everyone thinks he's lost his mind completely (he is on leave after all because of mental issues associated with the "incident").

But the detective in Ben prevails as he solves the mystery that existed for decades and cost the lives of many. He figured out what the mirrors wanted (or rather, what was accessing our world through the mirrors).

In the final "battle", I started to get a little annoyed. It seemed contrived and kind of silly. However, at the VERY end of the movie we were handed a bit of a twist that I wasn't expecting. Maybe it was predictable and I just didn't pick up on it right away, but I remember saying to myself, "...that's kind of cool..."

It was indeed entertaining for those that like horror movies. And as far as I was concerned, it was far better than "The Ruins" which I had seen earlier this year.
Rating: ***

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Review: Disturbia

A strong start, a sag in the middle and a very suspenseful finish... that's the arc of Disturbia in a nutshell.

Shia LeBeouf plays troubled 17-year-old Kale, who a year earlier survived a personal tragedy that he's yet to come to terms with. As a result of that event, his behaviour has been on a downward spiral, culminating in his lashing out at his Spanish teacher during class. That particular misstep - not his first! - lands him in court and gets the young man sentenced to 3 months of house arrest. As such, he can't go further than his own yard without risking jail time. Cabin fever soon leads to voyeurism, and before long he's convinced, in true Rear Window fashion, that one of his neighbours is a serial killer. And there you have the setup for Disturbia, similarly in a nutshell.

Parts of the movie require a good helping of disbelief suspension - like when one person who's been acting terrified suddenly decides to pull a prank! - but the first several minutes and the last hour or so make up for the occasional goofiness in the plot. When Kale's first learning to deal with his home-incarceration, I found him pretty hard to take (as I'm sure we're supposed to). LaBeouf hits all of his standard notes, as his acting repertoire seems to consist of: smart ass comments, a heart of gold that takes awhile to reveal itself, and a willingness to risk it all in the name of love at some point (here, the objects of his affection are neighbour Ashley, played by Sarah Roemer, and his struggling mother, a still-pretty-hot Carrie Anne Moss). Prior to the extended climax, Kale's big moment comes when he confesses to Ashley that he has, indeed, been spying on her from his bedroom... but what he says about what he's seen of her shows that he's done the exact opposite of objectifying her, and in the process he wins her over (and us, too, I suppose).

Besides the places where your common sense is assaulted, there are also aspects of the story that just never seem to pay off completely. One character who had all the earmarks of being introduced to play a significant role later, for example, then simply serves to become another victim of the killer (accomplishing nothing in the process). Similarly, I expected some sort of closure on the trauma that opens the film, but nothing in the resolution of the main plot really echoes back to it. I think a defter hand on the screenplay could've tightened it up just a bit, and transformed this into a really first-rate thriller.

David Morse is appropriately creepy as the shady neighbour, although I wish I wasn't always seeing him in roles that are quite this dark! Moss is also fine as Kale's mother, given that she doesn't really have all that much to work with. Aaron Yu, as best-friend Ronnie, provides some of the funniest moments, but also a few of the least believable.

The two women with whom I watched Disturbia were literally squirming in their seats throughout the last third of the movie, and not from boredom! The tension during that portion of the story is very well done, and definitely reminds the older film fan of Hitchcock's Rear Window, while not being in that same class, overall, of course. It was definitely worth the couple of hours of my time that it took up, though.

Rating: ***

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Journeyman Answers Provided

For those of you who, like my wife and I, got hooked on TV's Journeyman last season, only to have it unceremoniously canceled out from under you in a Drive-like fashion, there is this. It may provide some small amount of closure for you (personally, I haven't even read the whole thing yet... but I'm sure my wife will!)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I finally got around to watching this movie recently. I'm happy to report that I enjoyed it. I was worried that I might not enjoy it based on the hype leading up to its release.

For those that know me, I like the idea of our protagonists being up against an enemy that you just can't beat. That's what made the Borg on Star Trek: TNG so appealing to me.

So here we have a big monster destroying New York and at the same time dumping mini monsters in the street to "share the destruction". It was kind of cool to watch.

And taking a page from "The Blair Witch Project" in the camera work made it more real for me.

The ending kind of left me wanting more, or should I say....SOME! But I guess it was done like that on purpose.

All in all, an enjoyable flick for those that like monster movies.
Rating: ***

Monday, August 4, 2008

Review: V For Vendetta

Seeing The Dark Knight twice in the past two weeks made me hungry for more comic-based movie fare, and so we watched V For Vendetta on DVD this evening. I'd seen the film at the theatre when it came out in 2005 and have owned the DVD for awhile now, but hadn't gotten around to re-watching it until tonight.

As anyone who's seen my favourite comic stories of all time would know, V For Vendetta - the comic series - rates pretty high up there with me. In fact, the only work of that sort that I like better is Watchmen, which is also now in the process of being movie-ized even as we speak. Because of this, I'm probably harder on the film version of VFV than I maybe should be, but there you go. The reality is that the source material that the Wachowski brothers and James McTeigue drew on in creating V For Vendetta - the film - is among the most intricate, dense and rewarding to be found in the "four colour medium." Given that, I'd say that what they put on the screen was a reasonable, though certainly not outstanding, distillation.

The scene that devastates me, every time I read the comic or (now) watch the film, is the one where Evey emerges from captivity. I wrote about how that revelation moves me elsewhere:

"But the shocker in that story, the one that put the whole tale in a different perspective for me, happened when Evey was released from her prison and wandered upstairs to find that her captor and tormentor had been V all along. The gravitas this turn of events lent to the larger canvas of VFV was incredible, for me at least. We knew full well how much V cared for Evey, so seeing the lengths he'd go to in order to, in his words, remove her blinders, was shocking and revelatory. I can still remember the sensation of reading those pages for the first time, realizing what had happened, and having tears run down my cheeks as it sunk in and everything changed. Definitely one of the most powerful scenes in comics history that I can think of."

And for their inclusion of that scene, as well as how beautifully they pulled it off - and all that leads up to it - I have to give the film-makers full credit. That aspect of the story works, and works well. Also effective are the shots of V doing his thing, and the progression of his relationship with Evey throughout.

Where the movie version fails, it seems to me, is in its choices to deviate from the blueprint laid out by the Alan Moore/David Lloyd comic. And I don't mean that simply from a purist point-of-view, although I'm sure it must seem that way. Rather, I think that our suspension of disbelief, which Moore is a master at playing with but never betraying, gets stretched past the breaking point with some of the coincidences and pleasantries that are introduced into the silver screen script. Having Evey work at the TV studio that V uses to broadcast his message, turning the citizens of London into V-wannabes, and even the plot near the end to turn one of the insiders against the "high chancellor" are all examples of Hollywood writing stomping all over something much better than that. Moore's story is full of ambiguous greys, unanswered questions and unsolvable mysteries... which I suppose someone decided just wouldn't be palatable to a movie-going audience.

What I think V For Vendetta accomplishes, though, is perhaps this: it may cause people to seek out the graphic novel upon which it was based ("Illustrated by David Lloyd," as the credits tell us, because Moore demanded that his name be removed from the film). If that happens, then those lucky souls will find a superior masterpiece that was only hinted at by this passably entertaining flick. And that's not a terrible outcome, indeed.

Rating: ***