With its above-average cast and a gritty, realistic tone, this exorcism thriller is a lot more involving than most. Not only is it packed with demonic mayhem, but the complex characters make the drama much punchier, setting up the audience for several big jolts. Even so, the plot builds slowly, finally reaching its most intriguing twist right at the very end, so the credits start rolling just as things get properly riveting.
The title refers to a secret archive under the Vatican run by Cardinal Bruun (Peter Andersson) and his assistant Imani (Djimon Hounsou). It contains files and lots of tapes of demonic possession, including scenes of 30-year-old Angela (Olivia Taylor Dudley). She has a happy life with her cute boyfriend Pete (John Patrick Amedori) and tough-but-kind dad Roger (Dougray Scott), but starts acting a bit strange whenever a raven is nearby. As her behaviour gets more erratic, she is assisted by Father Lozano (Michael Pena), who takes a personal interest in her case. But things spiral far beyond Lozano's expertise, so he calls the Vatican for help. And when Bruun arrives in America to meet Angela in person, he's unnerved to discover that this might not be a demon: she could be the Antichrist.
The screenplay cleverly weaves in news reports and current events to make everything that happens feel grounded in real life. As it continues, the biblical and fantastical flourishes intriguingly fit into this context, while director Mark Neveldine delays tipping over into effects-based action until the final act. This means that the film quietly unnerves the audience from the start, using CCTV footage and some enjoyably scary touches that add to the atmosphere. As a result, the actors are able to flesh out their characters. Dudley gives Angela a strong personality that lingers even after the presence inside her starts to take over. As the three priests, Pena, Andersson and Hounsou don't have much to do, but they add subtle details to their scenes.
Continue reading: The Vatican Tapes Review
Like Benjamin Button, this drama plays around with the human lifespan, is slickly produced and feels far too serious for its own good. There's a sweeping romanticism to the premise, but it's ultimately so sentimental that it becomes rather corny. Fans of Nicholas Sparks-style movies will adore every golden-hued moment and yearning glance. More cynical viewers will enjoy the premise and performances, but will find the tidal wave of plot twists too yucky to bear.
In present-day San Francisco, Adaline (Blake Lively) is preparing to change identities as she does every decade or so. She's been 29 since a fateful accident in 1933 stopped her ageing process, due to a convergence of random factors at the time of a car crash, and she doesn't want to arouse suspicion. The only person who knows her secret is her daughter Flemming (Ellen Burstyn), who after all this time now introduces herself as Adaline's grandmother. Then the dashing Ellis (Michiel Huisman) tenaciously starts pursuing Adaline, and Flemming encourages her to stop running. So she decides to let herself live for a change, travelling with Ellis for a weekend to meet his parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker). But fate has a few more surprises in store.
The story is told by an omniscient narrator (Hugh Ross) and camerawork that often stares down from a godlike point of view, as if Adaline has no say in her own story. And without a sense of humour or irony, it's tricky for a film audience to root for her. The story is engaging, and it's enjoyable to watch the events unfold, but the moment the plot loudly clanks into gear the film becomes difficult to like. Revelations and coincidences pile on top of each other in the story's final act, making everything both achingly emotional and suspiciously convenient.
Continue reading: The Age Of Adaline Review
Even with its relentlessly cliched production design (trenchcoats and flickering candles galore), this raucous gothic thriller deploys enough visual flash to hold our attention. The gigantic effects-heavy action sequences are eye-catching and sometimes exciting, and there are elements of the story that almost begin to resonate before the script veers off in another more simplistic direction.
Based on a graphic novel, the story picks up where Mary Shelley's novel left off, as the monster (Eckhart) is attacked by demons that want to study his non-human existence. He's rescued by gargoyles, angelic protectors of humanity, and taken to their Queen Lenore (Miranda Otto), who names him Adam and enlists him in the demon-killing cause. Although her second-in-command (Courtney) isn't so sure. Over the next 200 years, Adam hones his skills before returning to Lenore just as the demon Prince Naberius (Nighy) is launching his evil plan to re-animate a dead army with the help of sexy scientist Terra (Strahovski) and Dr Frankenstein's journal. In other words, all hell is about to break loose.
Annoyingly, every time the plot begins to get interesting, writer-director Beattie indulges in another vacuous action set piece that's as irrelevant as the 3D. There's a decent story in here about the nature of the human soul, religious fervour and moral tenacity, but the film only uses these things as devices to make the dialog sound intelligent. Which is tricky since Beattie directs his cast to deliver their lines in growling, blurting monotone. Eckhart's voice-over narration is particularly dull. And this over-earnest tone leaves every potential relationship as a non-starter.
Continue reading: I, Frankenstein Review
Frankly, if you put Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin in your movie, you don't really need to worry about the script: we'd happily watch them do just about anything on-screen. And here they sieze every hint of humour, drama and action to keep us entertained and make us care about their characters. Indeed, they maintain their dignity by refusing to give in to the screenplay's lazy old-age jokes and convoluted plot.
The story kicks off when Val (Pacino) gets out of prison after 28 years behind bars. His only remaining friend is Doc (Walken), who lets him stay in his humble apartment. But Val wants to get back in the game, and tries to get Doc to abandon his austere retirement. Then Val learns that Doc is only alive because gangster Claphands (Margolis) is forcing him to kill Val on his release - an act of vengeance against both of them. With nothing to lose, they liberate their dying buddy Hirsch (Arkin) from hospital and decide to go out with a bang.
Screenwriter Haidle seems to want this to be a geriatric Apatow-style comedy, as these men continually talk frankly about their sex lives (including of course a tired Viagra joke). But this is more squirm-inducing than amusing. And director Stevens lets the action set-pieces drag on too long, trying to crank up the energy by giving every scene a madcap spin. But none of this was necessary with these actors: they are geniuses at adding zing to even the most weakly written and directed scenes, keeping us engaged by constantly upstaging each other. They may be past their prime, but they prove that there's plenty of life still in them.
Continue reading: Stand Up Guys Review
Mick (McConaughey) runs his successful L.A. law practice from his vintage Lincoln. He has a daughter with his public-prosecutor ex Maggie (Tomei) and works closely with his private-eye pal Frank (Macy). His new case involves the wealthy Louis (Phillippe), who claims he didn't violently assault a prostitute.
But the more Mick and Frank look into things, the fishier they get. And Mick will need to do some unorthodox things to win the case against the tenacious D.A. (Lucas) and achieve real justice.
Continue reading: The Lincoln Lawyer Review
Unfortunately, the film is a cacophonous mess without a single interesting character.
In the nearish future, roleplay game-maker Ken Castle (Hall) has made his fortune with two games that let people live vicariously through others: the sex-and-party Society and the war-and-destruction Slayers. The twist is that the gamers are controlling actual people due to nano technology implanted in the performers' brains. In Slayers, they're all death row inmates firing real bullets, and the global megastar performer is Kable (Butler), controlled by rich geek Simon (Lerman). But Kable longs to escape and find his wife (Valletta), and a renegade hacker (Bridges) sets his escape in motion.
Continue reading: Gamer Review
Straight out of Marilyn Manson's wet dreams comes the fantastical storyline: For centuries, vampires have battled werewolves, known here as Lycans. It's not really clear why they've been battling, even after the film sort of reveals the reason; so we'll leave it there. The Vampires are depicted as aristocratic sophisticates who prefer fine crystal and Porsches, whereas the Lycans are filthy street thugs who morph into ferocious dog-like monsters.
Continue reading: Underworld (2003) Review
Beginning for beginners with a flashback to 1202 A.D. where two siblings - Marcus (Tony Curran), the original vampire, and William (Brian Steele), the first Lycan - are battling each other in a frosty village, the film does much to quickly remind us of its vampirical mythology. Marcus is betrayed by Viktor (Bill Nighy), stored away in the vaults of the family mansion, and William is trapped in a steel coffin for all of eternity. The twins are separated. With this effective piece of prehistory portrayed with some pizzazz and a lot of furrow-browed earnestness, director Len Wiseman treats us then to a series of flashbacks from the original film. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) has killed Viktor and his blood has revived a hybrid Marcus, now with wings. What he wants, and the very nature of his resurrection, are muddily explained in a film whose plot is too convoluted to be enjoyed, but whose occasional sparks of light work hard to make it float.
Continue reading: Underworld: Evolution Review
Explaining the film - or even saying what genre it's in - is a bit tricky. Josh Hartnett plays a young ad executive named Matthew, who's obviously done well in parlaying a job as a camera repairman into a creative position in New York. Briefly back in his old home town of Chicago before jetting off to China, Matthew abruptly runs into old pal Luke (Matthew Lillard) and catches what he's sure is a glimpse of old girlfriend Lisa (Jessica Lange-lookalike Diane Kruger, last seen as Helen of Troy). Luke - on the cusp of marrying his boss's daughter (Jessica Paré) - is thrown into such a panic he blows off his trip overseas. What unfolds over the next two hours is the story of Luke and Lisa - how they met, how they abruptly split up, and the strange mysteries that are hidden in the past.
Continue reading: Wicker Park Review
The latest from Sam Raimi (For Love of the Game) is a muddled thriller, filled with tired clichés and some of the worst casting in years. Raimi, along with screenwriters Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, try so hard to create a "serious" psychic chiller that the film is practically drained of any excitement.
Continue reading: The Gift (2000) Review
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