28 February 2010

Retro Review: 30 Days of Night (2007)

(This is a revised version of my original theatrical review of the film from 2007. Having re-evaluated the movie and rewritten the review I felt it worth publishing. I am aware that as a 2007 release “30 Days of Night” may feel somewhat overly contemporary in the “Retro Review” section but ultimately that’s the only place it really fits into.)


30 Days of Night
2007, 113mins, 15
Director: David Slade
Writer (s): Steve Niles, Stuart Beattie, Brian Nelson
Cast includes: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, Mark Boone Junior
UK Release Date: 31st October 2007

Ripped from a seriously fertile graphic novel “30 Days of Night” is an atmospheric and chilling picture. Directed by David Slade (2006’s monumentally edgy “Hardy Candy”) “30 Days of Night” restores some proper fright into the vampire mythology with a superb central concept and a roster of shiver inducing scares. The film asks maybe a little much of audiences with its 113 minute running time but overall fans of horror and gored up mayhem should be mighty pleased with what Slade has concocted. Certainly as an admirer of the source material myself I was heartily satisfied.

The remote Alaskan town of Barrow has to endure a strange phenomenon every year; a month in which the sun sets for good and perpetual darkness swallows the land. Many of the residents head elsewhere during this 30 days of night but the towns core remain. As that time of the year rolls around Sheriff Ebon Olsen (Josh Hartnett) starts to notice strange things happening; culminating in the arrival of a disturbing stranger (Ben Foster) who has seemingly conducted a series of crimes that will keep the town in complete isolation. His motives are blurry until a swarm of ravenous vampires descend on the permanently nocturnal environment; feeding on Barrow’s inhabitants at a violent rate. The responsibility then falls on Ebon and his estranged wife Stella (Melissa George) to ensure that the remaining folk evade and survive the vampires during the month of darkness.

“30 Days of Night” is a good horror film because it does something interesting and on a base level it’s scary. Too often the genre just spits out the same uninventive hack and slash escapades; more likely to bore viewers than have them nibbling on their nails. “30 Days of Night” has an ingenious plotline and a few decent performances; aspects aided by Slade’s ability to milk tension and compile freaky imagery. The movie has failings (the passing of time is poorly presented for example) but it generally succeeds in the most pivotal areas, namely that it’s exciting and the leads are sympathetic.

Josh Hartnett is better than usual in “30 Days of Night” but really it’s the immediate supporting players who nab the show. Melissa George carries an underwritten part with a surprisingly firm and skilled hand whilst Ben Foster is genuinely unsettling as the weedy but malicious stranger who sets the town up for vampire invasion. However the real golden performance is provided by Danny Huston as the terrifying leader of the bloodthirsty hoard. It’s through Huston’s undying evil that Slade really captures the dangerous extent of the foes at hand; the actor rewarding his director’s faith with a turn that oozes menace and ferocity. I’m the first to admit that the film has arranged an unusual cast but somehow it all kind of works. Certainly you end up caring for the heroes and fearing the villains; something many a frightener has failed to achieve.

The film looks brilliant and has been photographed wonderfully by Slade and his crew. The sense of isolation and aloneness is well executed even if the passing of time is depicted lazily (subtitles and stubble are the primary tools). From a visual standpoint Slade has done a solid job of replicating the graphic novel’s style; a difficult feat given the somewhat abstract nature of source illustrator Ben Templesmith’s frosty work. “30 Days of Night” focuses mostly on building dread and churning out tension as the invaders hunt the humans but it also throws up some commendable bursts of bloody action. One scene involving an industrial grinder and a decapitation should be of particular interest to gore aficionados; but whilst this might be the film at its most excessive Slade doesn’t skimp on the viscera as a general rule.

Clunky dialogue and a slightly bloated 113 minute runtime (this could have been a 100 minute production with added editorial stringency) are minor impediments to an otherwise effective horror flick. “30 Days of Night” is humourless but this removes the need for tongue in cheek flamboyancy, something too common in contemporary vampire fare. “30 Days of Night” instead dishes out bleak and blood soaked scares; and carries them off with panache and artistic dignity. For those wanting a reminder of why vampires are terrifying “30 Days of Night” is a good starting point.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2007,2010

26 February 2010

Retro Review: Happy Gilmore (1996)



Happy Gilmore
1996, 92mins, 12
Director: Dennis Dugan
Writer: Tim Herlihy, Adam Sandler
Cast includes: Adam Sandler, Julie Bowen, Christopher McDonald, Frances Bay, Carl Weathers, Ben Stiller
UK Release Date: 19th July 1996

“Happy Gilmore” is one of Adam Sandler’s stronger studio comedies. During the 90s Sandler seemed completely intent on goofing off to the maximum; the results often overpoweringly childish and stale. “Happy Gilmore” is certainly no more mature or nuanced a work, but it does offer a respectable gag rate and a surprisingly engaging underdog story. Directed energetically by Sandler cohort Dennis Dugan, “Happy Gilmore” may not be intelligent filmmaking, but it would be unfair to suggest it isn’t funny.

Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) is an aspiring hockey player with a terrific shot but lousy skating abilities. As a result he can’t make the team in tryouts and spends his days pursuing a dream that will very likely never come to be. When his grandmother’s (Frances Bay) house is repossessed by the IRS, Happy has to find some money fast; an unusual opportunity arriving when golf coach Chubbs Peterson (Carl Weathers) observes the extent of Happy’s power. Initially Happy isn’t interested in golf, but when the cash start rolling in he begins to take the sport seriously; especially when tour loudmouth Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald) treats the fiery upstart as a threat to his own championship campaign.

Sandler’s manic routine is perfect for “Happy Gilmore”, it’s nothing you haven’t seen the comedian do before but here he does it stunningly well. Few performers (comic or otherwise) could make a blatantly smug and vaguely psychotic leading man into a likable screen presence, but Sandler does it with aplomb. Being aided by such a competent supporting cast is a big help. Christopher McDonald isn’t usually a name I want to see on a marquee, but here he creates a gem of a douchebag in Shooter McGavin. It’s possibly McDonald’s insurmountably arrogant and ignorant turn that allows the audience to warm toward Happy so heartily. Frances Bay is good fun as Happy’s cute but weird Grandmother whilst Ben Stiller and Bob Barker (playing himself) pop up in highly amusing cameos. The love arc involving Julie Bowen’s golfing PA is listless and dull (much like the actresses’ performance) but other supporting players generously compensate.

The story is obvious but the script is deliciously silly and never once does the venture take itself too seriously. “Happy Gilmore” combines the juvenile irreverence of multiple Sandler efforts with some smashing jokes and an agreeable 92 minute running time. The denouement isn’t hard to foresee but the movie never tries to cloak its gently mocking sporting template; instead rushing headfirst into the realms of comedic anarchy. I’m also going to acknowledge that “Happy Gilmore” was making sports commentator gags well before “Dodgeball” took the idea to delirious new heights in 2004. “Happy Gilmore” is undeniably idiotic, but hey, sometimes the brain wants to see a grown man wrestling a crocodile. It’s not exactly a genre classic, but it is a whole heap of fun.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2010

23 February 2010

DVD Verdict Review: Everybody's Fine



Review Link: http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/everybodysfine.php

DVD Verdict Review: The Informant!



Review Link: http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/informant.php

DVD Verdict Review: Couples Retreat



Review Link: http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/couplesretreat.php

19 February 2010

Movie Review: The Lovely Bones



The Lovely Bones
2009, 135mins, 12A
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer (s): Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Alice Sebold (novel)
Cast includes: Mark Wahlberg, Saoirse Ronan, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Jake Abel, Rose McIver
UK Release Date: 19th February 2010

Adapted faithfully from Alice Sebold’s novel of the same name “The Lovely Bones” marks a change of pace for director Peter Jackson. Since the turn of the 21st Century Jackson has shunned his splatter roots and pursued bigger and more bombastic productions; albeit with mostly universal acclaim. His “The Lord of The Rings” trilogy is more or less the benchmark for modern day fantasy filmmaking and whilst his remake of “King Kong” may have disappointed financially it was met with nods of approval from the cinematic community. “The Lovely Bones” has some very extravagant visual effects but this is a more human and emotionally driven tale than Jackson’s recent output; reminiscent in a sense of the directors excellent 1994 picture “Heavenly Creatures”. I don’t think this translation of Sebold’s story quite gets on a par with the aforementioned films but it is a well made movie in its own right; certainly stronger than the current mixed word of mouth and uninspired box-office would suggest.

The film is narrated by Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) who at the very opening tells us she’s dead. The first 20 minutes of the film showcase her murder at the hands of local weirdo George Harvey (Stanley Tucci) and the grief her family are forced to feel by her loss. Susie watches from the afterlife as Harvey evades capture and her once loving family unit is torn apart. Her mother Abigail (Rachel Weisz) can’t deal with Susie’s death and eventually leaves whilst her father Jack (Mark Wahlberg) becomes guilt ridden and obsessed with tracking down the murderer. Only Susie’s sister Lindsey (Rose McIver) really manages to keep a handle on things and begins to quite openly suspect Harvey of committing the deed. The film is split into several very distinct sections. The first deals with building up the characters and carrying out the villainous killing. The second zones in on the emotional aftermath and Susie’s time in the afterlife, with the final segment turning into a manhunt as both Jack and Lindsey move against Harvey despite the law enforcements lack of support.

“The Lovely Bones” is about as good an adaptation of the source as anyone could have hoped for; after all this was a story deemed unfilmable when Jackson launched into pre-production. There are obvious flaws with his interpretation and some editorial choices kill particular characters but overall this is a compelling and fairly rewarding motion picture. It’s a film bolstered by great performances and it ultimately succeeds in conveying the central story even if some subplots are given a swift sweep aside. Fans of the book should be pleased with what they see in Jackson’s film; it’s not perfect but anyone expecting it to be was clearly pitching their expectations at an unreasonable height.

The visions of heaven look good even if at times they seem over stylized. The best shots of Susie in the afterlife are definitely the more subdued and moody efforts that don’t overuse CGI or overpower the viewer with intoxicatingly vibrant imagery. Given that nearly all these environments are digital Ronan does a fabulous job of reacting to them and narrates with grace and poignancy. Some of the early dialogue seems clunky but things eventually straighten out and muster a degree of gravitas and poetic beauty. The role of Susie is pivotal in this story; your opinion of her is directly proportionate to your involvement in the plot. Without a credible Susie it would be impossible to loathe Harvey or truly feel Abigail and Jack’s sadness. Thankfully Ronan nails the part and brings the correct amount of energy and pathos to the role. It’s an incredibly mature performance and one deserving of more awards attention than its garnered.

Rachel Weisz is given the short straw by a screenplay that cuts off the meat from her character’s bones. She seems to be simply going through the motions and by the conclusion feels like the film’s most one dimensional character. Wahlberg on the other hand fights bravely with his role and digs up some of his best acting since “The Departed”. Wahlberg injects Jack with the right amount of emotional drive and tragic love; enough to forgive the occasional moment where he reverts back to the grimacing and hardboiled style of acting he’s been pushing for the last few years. Stanley Tucci is creepy yet tortured as Harvey and definitely proves that less is more when conjuring up a memorable villain. It’s hard to sympathise with the character given the enormous evil of his actions but Tucci does a good job of demonstrating the characters desperation and unease concerning his own bloodlust. Susan Sarandon is adequate as Susie’s drunkard grandmother and other cast members like Reese Ritchie (playing Susie’s first crush) and Rose McIver do solid jobs.

The subject matter of “The Lovely Bones” is raw and horrible, so it’s surprising to see Jackson sanitize it so obviously. In the book it is made clear that Susie was both raped and murdered, here only the killing aspect is touched on. Jackson also doesn’t labour on the act itself instead showcasing the violence through shots of blood encrusted blades and other murderous paraphernalia. All this said “The Lovely Bones” is still far from family friendly; there are some disturbing images and a rather messy end for one of the key characters come the conclusion. I actually don’t take much issue with Jackson removing some of the edgier material because he handles the core relationships and bonds with enough skill and determination to render added viscera needless. I acknowledge that many folks don’t seem to feel the same way but I was happy enough to get caught up with the other elements and let the violence slip by.

The shift from the supernatural to reality is steady and digestible; whilst the three distinct acts blend together robustly enough. The final third is the most exciting and features a wonderfully staged sequence with Lindsey inside Harvey’s house which showcases Jackson’s ability to conjure tension and suspense from the simplest things. However this more thrilling climax wouldn’t be possible without the evocative and emotionally rich opening chapters; which build up the characterization and tone well. The production doesn’t score too highly on its depiction of time passing but ultimately that’s not a huge problem. Jackson does rely on his characters dialogue and one particular gimmick to showcase the months flying by but there are enough positives amidst the exposition to make this a forgivable flaw.

The musical score is haunting and attractive at the same time; bolstered by Jackson’s exquisite cinematography. “The Lovely Bones” is a gorgeous film to look at and highly atmospheric from start to finish. There are multiple problems with the film but I have a feeling its reputation will improve in years to come; for now it’ll have to settle for being an imperfect but spectacular storytelling odyssey.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2010

14 February 2010

Movie Review: The Wolfman (2010)



The Wolfman
2010, 102mins, 15
Director: Joe Johnston
Writer (s): David Self, Andrew Kevin Walker
Cast includes: Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, Anthony Hopkins, Art Malik, Asa Butterfield
UK Release Date: 12th February 2010

“The Wolfman” is an enjoyable romp devoted to the spirit of old school monster movies. Having endured a very public and problematic production the film hits theatres on a tide of mild pessimism, after all this is a movie we were supposed to be getting in 2008 not 2010. That said the picture works out to be a fun flick, hardly a buffet of subtle acting or narrative complexity but with tonnes of gore and some solid action and suspense. Director Joe Johnston has guided the project into safe and pleasing waters; it won’t turn up on anybodies end of year top 10 but as an unseasonably early blockbuster it’s a pleasant treat.

After the death of his brother in mysterious circumstances Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns home for the first time in years. His estranged father (Anthony Hopkins) welcomes him as does his brother’s grieving fiancĂ©e Gwen (Emily Blunt) but the spooked locals offer slightly less hospitality. In a bid to find out who or what is responsible for his brothers murder Lawrence runs afoul of a mysterious wolf-like beast; wounded but spared due to fortunate circumstances. However it quickly transpires that the bites inflicted have caused Lawrence to be imbued with the same curse as his assailant; turning him into a predatory and insatiable hound of hell during a full moon. As if battling with his newfound demons wasn’t enough a Detective (Hugo Weaving, The Matrix) arrives on the scene and he has Lawrence pegged as a prime suspect for the ungodly amount of blood spilt in the preceding months.

Part of what makes “The Wolfman” so digestible is its hardcore R-rating. The film is doused in gore and unsettling menace; maybe not as visually aggressive as your average “Saw” sequel but still happy to slap on the coat of blood and guts in an admirably thick fashion. Horror aficionados are sure to respect this artistic touch and in a sense it allows “The Wolfman” to be taken more seriously as a proper horror gambit. The picture musters several enjoyably tense moments but has a tendency to resort to jump scares a little too frequently. A few of these boo moments did admittedly catch me out but especially in the first half Johnston places an excessive amount of emphasis on this method of fear mongering. Teenagers may love these but more hardened and well adjusted horror nuts will undoubtedly tire of them quickly. The aesthetic lends itself wonderfully to the haunting story; Johnston deploying the foggy Moors and washed out scenery to create a truly memorable atmosphere. This well crafted setting gives the effective frights an extra level of credibility, certainly the quieter moments set on the desolate Moors are amongst the most sublime in the film’s arsenal.

The performances range from adequate to very good. Del Toro is usually a terrific screen presence but in “The Wolfman” I found him to be one of the less inspiring actors; he fills his characters shoes competently but maybe with less flair than audiences might be hoping. As a love interest Emily Blunt deserves better; she looks beautiful but an actress of her calibre should surely be in pursuit of meatier and more meaningful roles. There is an undercurrent of emotional resonance in Blunt’s character but not enough to make her properly engaging. On the other hand Hopkins is terrifically creepy and overblown as Lawrence’s father whilst the snooping Hugo Weaving nails the rip roaring and adventurous tone the film demands.

The action is fabulously entertaining and technically robust and whilst the story could hardly be described as ambitious; it is all the same simplistically satisfying. The plot takes a rewarding detour into asylum territory about halfway in which culminates in a fabulous London set scene of terror; a sequence also inclusive of some great prosthetics and CGI. The transformations look decent but it’s fair to say the physical make-up effects are better than digitals on these occasions. Johnston also does a good job of keeping things going at a rollicking pace and does manage to fire an ample character arc for Del Toro to work with. The use of flashbacks is never something to outright congratulate but Johnston actually makes the hackneyed filmmaking method seem acceptable and certainly uses them to benefit the production overall.

“The Wolfman” is ultimately a commendable burst of schlocky monster movie goodness. It’s hardly a venture to lavish vast amounts of praise on but certainly a film deserving of a decent Box-Office run. The filmmakers haven’t taken the project too seriously but they demonstrate the right amount of love and understanding to have it operate as a well made love letter to the creature features of old. The story leaves the possibility of a sequel open and whilst I wouldn’t be super enthused about the idea; it’s only fair to recognise that much inferior Hollywood productions have been granted further instalments. On its own terms and within its own limited ambitions “The Wolfman” really is a decent motion picture.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2010

Movie Review: Gamer



2009, 95mins, 18
Director (s): Neveldine/Taylor
Writer (s): Neveldine/Taylor
Cast includes: Gerard Butler, Amber Valetta, Michael C. Hall, Alison Lohman, Logan Lerman, Terry Crews, Ludacris, Aaron Yoo
UK Release Date: 16th September 2009

Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (or Neveldine/Taylor as they prefer to credit themselves) impressed me with their rip roaring debut “Crank” in 2006. A complete love/hate affair “Crank” enthralled me with its hyper kinetic action and ridiculous sense of humour, many hated the film and lambasted it as brainless and misogynistic, but I found it to be a pressure cooker of excitement and energy. “Gamer” was released last year and marks Neveldine and Taylor’s third collaboration behind the camera; and it’s a messy endeavour to say the least. The barbs aimed at videogaming society are warranted but the story is ineffective and Gerard Butler is simply no replacement for Jason Statham. I had my interest piqued by individual moments in the picture but as a whole it feels uneasy and mostly frustrating.

“Gamer” unfolds in a world where humans play out their lives through others in two different virtual realities. The first is called “Society” and it operates as a sexed up version of “The Sims”; allowing gamers to connect with real people and have them act as the computer surfing nerd sees fit. The second is the more violent and aggressive “Slayers” in which real death row inmates are pitted against each other in the heat of battle. If a slayer makes it through 30 sessions he wins his freedom, something that Kable (Gerard Butler) is close to doing. Controlled by rich kid Simon (Logan Lerman), Kable needs to get out so he can once again be reunited with his wife and child. However the creator of these simulations Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) thinks that Kable might know too much about the backstage workings of his empire and is thus not keen on the idea of him winning release.

“Gamer” is about as visually vigorous as cinema gets. Neveldine/Taylor are no strangers to hyperactive shot construction and crazed action but “Gamer” takes the bonkers filmmaking to new heights; minus the tongue in cheek beauty of “Crank”. The film looks to have been edited with the most potent laser in existence; the cutting frantic and the tinge of digitalised colour ladled on with no remorse. The directorial duo certainly has an eye for excessive style and uses it to create an oddly imbalanced world with “Gamer”. Parts of this futuristic earth are grimy and drenched in depression and death while other stretches are more vibrant and eye-popping than your average bubblegum store. As individual environments they work well and deserve kudos for craftsmanship but together they strike a nauseatingly surreal chord; almost like the by product of an unpleasant night sucking back tequila shots and lucidly dreaming. It’s a unique and carefully constructed aesthetic but something about it doesn’t blend to create a satisfying whole.

Butler is as one note as ever but relief is granted via a few neat supporting turns. Michael C. Hall is a terrific villain not granted enough exposure on the big screen. Neveldine/Taylor channel the actor’s natural menace and insanity into an unsettling digital mogul who makes a believable and dangerous adversary. Adding Alison Lohman in as part of a resistance movement and Terry Crews as a psychotic slayer opponent are also good calls; whilst Logan Lerman nails the spoilt brat routine with his morally repugnant teenage gamer. Amber Valetta is a pathetically underwritten as Kable’s wife but overall the casting in “Gamer” isn’t bad for your average Hollywood shoot em’up.

The commentary the film makes on the voyeuristic nature or our culture and on the increasingly questionable standards of gaming is welcome but not always successful. Neveldine/Taylor offer a few scenes of the disturbing possibilities which such digital freedoms might offer your average creep and do a fine job of making both games seem super unappealing. However large swathes of incomprehensible action keep the satire from achieving a razor sharp edge and the team’s sense of humour is muted in this outing. A few of the anarchic hits of ultraviolent carnage executed by the filmmakers do work but through some odd creative choices and a general inability to keep the camera still others are totally ruined. Suspension of disbelief is also pivotal for “Gamer” to work successfully; one scene with a bottle of Vodka and an Ethanol powered car for instance is unlikely to work at home.

Butler’s infuriatingly samey performance and Valetta’s paper thin characterization mean “Gamer” has no real emotional core and thus the finale is a total anticlimax. The film is isn’t a total failure and makes some worthwhile snipes at videogaming whilst batting the occasional action sequence out of the park. However as a whole it’s a vastly imperfect experience; riddled with flaws and likely to be consigned to genre specific mediocrity. “Gamer” isn’t inept in the extreme but on the whole one does get the feeling it’s a wasted opportunity.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2010

12 February 2010

DVD Verdict Review: No Right Turn



Review Link: http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/norightturn.php

DVD Verdict Review: Love Happens



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DVD Verdict Review: Triangle (2009)



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7 February 2010

Movie Review: Youth in Revolt



Youth in Revolt
2010, 90mins, 15
Director: Miguel Arteta
Writer (s): Gustin Nash, C.D Payne (novel)
Cast includes: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Ray Liotta, Zach Galifianakis, Jean Smart, Steve Buscemi, Ari Graynor, Justin Long
UK Release Date: 5th February 2010

Adapted from a text I’ve never read “Youth in Revolt” is a strange and bewildering experience that aims high but never really gels. The film is confusingly inconsistent but almost seems to want it that way; lathered in oodles of indie quirk and highbrow irreverence. For some this might be the sort of bizarre gold that they hope to stumble upon during their multiplex outings. For me it’s a patchy comedy with an overly pretentious tone, a weak plotline and a few decent performances. It’s hardly a movie worth making a song and dance about.

Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) is a 16 year old guy, who passes his days writing in his journal, embracing films and music removed from his peers and moaning about his lack of success with women. He’s a depressing individual who has to tolerate social exclusion and a family life which could never be described as pleasant. After his mother’s no good boyfriend (Zach Galifianakis) gets in a financial tiff with some local sailors, Nick is dragged away to a trailer park for a week in the hope the dispute will die. There he meets Sheeni (Portia Doubleday) an equally individual personality albeit with a more attractive outer shell than Nick. The two hit it off but in order to get a real romance burning Nick is forced to become more rebellious; so as to circumvent the obstacles keeping him and Sheeni from being together. As a result he creates a supplementary persona called Francois Dillinger (also played by Cera) in order to get the girl of his dreams. However whilst Sheeni might be in love with Nick’s crazed alternative personality others aren’t so enamoured, including the local law enforcement who are quickly hot on his heels.

“Youth in Revolt” may sound like “Me, Myself and Irene” with teenagers but Miguel Arteta’s movie is a completely different beast. There is very little that connects with mainstream cinema in “Youth in Revolt” other than a plethora of recognisable names on the cast list. It’s not hard to see why all these people signed up, on paper this is a movie that most have looked spectacularly original but in execution it’s something of a chore. The writing has an unstoppable pomposity that disallows audience members from really connecting with the characters and as a comedy it only manages one or two properly funny moments. It’s a weird film but not a good one, notable only for Michael Cera’s slight widening of his acting range.

The central romance isn’t convincing, there are many reasons why Nick might become infatuated with Sheeni but virtually none vice versa. Sure they share a strange taste in culture but other than that Sheeni seems a far more attractive person; both physically and emotionally. Cera struggles to make Nick anything other than a slightly creepy weirdo, though his interpretation of Francois is skilfully restrained and rather fun. The real acting standout is Doubleday, turning Sheeni into the film’s cutest and most appealing character. It’s a great performance and one that only emphasises the flaws in Cera’s. The audience really likes Sheeni but Nick is far harder to get along with. Elsewhere Steve Buscemi, Justin Long, Ari Graynor, Zach Galifianakis and Ray Liotta do pretty solid work in small parts, though the film probably doesn’t require them all. A little more discriminating editing on the character front might not have repaired the tonal and writing frustrations but it would at least have made the film shorter. “Youth in Revolt” feels a good deal longer than its 90 minutes and has at least two natural endings before the actual one comes around.

The direction by Miguel Arteta is packed with odd shots and ideas but the filmmaker struggles to integrate them into the story without making them look like needless art house flair. Arteta was responsible for 2002’s underrated “The Good Girl” a rather plain looking film that told a great story. “Youth in Revolt” is the opposite, a film filled with visual ticks and quirks but lacking any real narrative substance or entertainment value. It doesn’t really have much of an emotional or human core and comes across as deeply affected for a teen aimed flick. “Youth in Revolt” doesn’t really work as a drama, comedy or romance and whilst it’s hardly liable to be seen as one of 2010’s worst movies it still doesn’t warrant your time or money.

A film review by Daniel Kelly, 2010

6 February 2010

DVD Verdict Review: I Hate Valentine's Day



Review Link: http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/ihatevalentinesday.php

Movie Review: Edge of Darkness



Edge of Darkness
2010, 117mins, 15
Director: Martin Campbell
Writer (s): William Monahan, Andrew Bovell
Cast includes: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic, Shawn Roberts
Release Date: 29th January 2010

Not since he was spooked by aliens in 2002 via M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs” has Mel Gibson had the lead role in a major motion picture. Having taken a few years out to direct two movies of his own and generally act in various anti-social ways the actor is now back with “Edge of Darkness”. Adapted from a 1985 television property of the same name “Edge of Darkness” isn’t the storming return fans of Mad Mel might have been hoping for. An unexciting and lifeless thriller; “Edge of Darkness” is the years first real case of potential greatness being turned into garbage. I wanted to like the feature but nothing really works and Gibson himself has rarely been worse than he is here.

Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) is a Police Detective who at the films start loses his daughter to a masked assailant wielding a powerful firearm. Craven initially suspects he was the target, though a bit of snooping leads him to become more doubtful. His daughter had been feeling ill and acting irrationally before being shot and the panic ridden state of her boyfriend all but confirms it was she and not him who was the target. Craven investigates her place of work and suspicions immediately rise given the secretive nature of the operation, and he is reduced to taking justice into his own hands with the subdued help of government agent Jedburgh (Ray Winstone).

“Edge of Darkness” is that most frustrating of things; a mystery without intrigue. Everything the plot offers is brutally obvious from the outset, with only brief instances of uninspired action to break-up the tedium. As soon as you see Danny Huston in a suit and working for a covert nuclear operation it’s not hard to fathom in which direction “Edge of Darkness” is headed and where the enterprise will culminate. I’m not familiar with the TV work on which it’s based but given it’s respectable reputation I’ll just have to assume it’s superior or simply of its time. This 2010 version feels outdated and obvious, a state not helped by a routine and one dimensional Mel Gibson performance.

The picture is helmed by Martin Campbell last seen doing sterling work with “Casino Royale”, now fully boring us to tears with this tripe. Campbell directed the original miniseries and maybe a labour of love brought him back to revisit the story but sadly this retelling is essentially just another lacklustre remake. Apparently the 1985 TV version ran at six hours, so it’s baffling to behold that at just under two; “Edge of Darkness” 2010 feels so baggy and overlong. It’s a turgid watch filled with workmanlike action and some of the most unadventurous plotting I can recall from a recent thriller. For large portions of the film I was close to falling into a deep slumber, as Campbell fails to do anything of note to mark this out as better than poor. Gibson doesn’t make Craven a fully rounded or sympathetic character, he’s all grimaces and hardboiled interrogation sequences with little added depth or feeling. Ray Winstone just turns out the same bullish and snarky performance he always does and Huston is laughably slimy and cartoonish as the *potential* villain of the piece.

The musical compositions and visual look are often black and gritty and like any proper revenge thriller there is an ungodly amount of moody weather and violence. It is possibly the success of “Taken” this time last year that triggered studios to back this project, after all “Edge of Darkness” also features an armed middle aged man setting out to avenge his daughter. Yet in comparison to this “Taken” feels like an electrifying time at the cinema and considering the fact I wasn’t particularly fond of that film, it sort of emphasises how dissatisfactory “Edge of Darkness” is. It’s the worst sort of nuts and bolts thriller and one that ought to be avoided. Sure there are a few unexpected blindsides on route to the climax but as you leave the theatre “Edge of Darkness” will have fulfilled every prediction you made in the opening 30 minutes. That is not good filmmaking.

A film review by Daniel Kelly, 2010