Movie Review ~ Silent House

The Facts:

Synopsis: Trapped inside her family’s lakeside retreat, a young woman finds she is unable to contact the outside world as events become increasingly ominous in and around the house.

Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens

Director: Chris Kentis & Laura Lau

Rated: R

Running Length: 85 minutes

Random Crew Highlight:  Script Clearance – Carol A. Compton

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Review:  After I saw this movie I was out with friends and one asked me about it.  The other friend said, “What movie was that again?”  The first friend said “It’s that horror movie with the Olsen sister than can act.”  Actually…that’s a pretty good description.

Much like Daniel Radcliffe in The Woman in Black the success of this remake of a 2010 Argentinean film starts first and foremost with its star.  The movie is pretty much all Olsen and if we aren’t taken in with her the movie would have been in serious trouble.  Thankfully, Olsen is incredibly watchable and handles this material and concept nicely.  She’s in charge of moving the film along and does so with wide terror filled eyes that never telegraph what’s coming next. 

The film develops in real time and for 90 minutes or so the audience is an over the shoulder observer at the strange goings on in her decaying family home.  While some ads have said the film was done in one continuous shot I’m more thinking it was done in 4 or 5.  True, there are long spanses of time where there is no cutting and from a technical standpoint it’s hard not to be more than a little impressed with what everyone involved has accomplished.  With the long takes the film starts to feel like an extended trip inside a haunted house…or  The Haunted Basement for all you MNs reading this. 

Working with a fixed set, timeframe, and plot it does take about 10-15 minutes or so to feel orientated to the style of the film.  In that time directors Kentis and Lau (who also made the tense Open Water) show us the entire house and introduce us to the characters.  Pay attention to these moments because they will help you later on as the secrets of the house are revealed.  It’s almost like they are drawing a map for you visually that you have to keep at the back of your mind to help figure out where in the house you are.

All horror movies hinge on the ‘big reveal’ and once that happens it can signal the end of the fun and a countdown until the lights come up.  Unfortunately, for this viewer, once Silent House reaches that point it started to unravel a bit too fast in my book.  Echoes of other movies started to ring in my mind.  I can’t say what those are here because doing so would give away too much.  Suffice it to say that the journey to the answer is relatively spooky and involving but once the answer is given my interest waned quickly. 

Still, from a stylistic standpoint and for all you lovers of scary flicks out there this is one you’ll want to have a look at.  It’s not filled with a lot of ‘gotcha’ moments but relies on a genuine build up of suspense to unleash the goosebumps on the audience.  It’s a worthy effort.

The Silver Bullet ~ “Seeking Justice” Trailer

 

Synopsis: After his wife is assaulted, a husband enlists the services of a vigilante group to help him settle the score. Then he discovers they want a ‘favor’ from him in return.

Release Date:  March 16, 2012

Thoughts:  Not since Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino paired together to make Heat have two stars been more perfectly matched.  In fact, putting two of the worst actors in Hollywood in the same movie could mean the end of the film industry as we know it.  Of course that’s overstating but when I saw a movie was coming out with January Jones and Nicholas Cage as the stars I just couldn’t imagine who this movie would be marketed toward.  Both have proven time and time again that their acting skills are only a little bit better than their choice of material.  Cage’s fall has been one for the record books while Jones has capitalized on the success of TV’s Mad Men for her poor transition to the big screen.  Once Mad Men is off the air I’ve a feeling her days on the silver screen are numbered. 

Aside from its stars, this movie looks pretty lousy anyway.  With a direct-to-video plot and a trailer that gives away pretty much the entire film what more excuse do you need to let this one slide by?

Movie Review ~ John Carter

2

The Facts:

Synopsis: Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in desperate need of a savior.

Stars: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Thomas Haden Church, Willem Dafoe

Director: Andrew Stanton

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 132 minutes

Random Crew Highlight:  Jon Favreau – Thark Bookie

TMMM Score: (9/10)

Review:  Ask anyone that has seen a movie with me in the past year and they’ll tell you that every time the trailer for this would start I would give my famous Joe Botten Heavy Sigh and exclaim “Not this trailer AGAIN…this looks SO DUMB!”  And it did!  Both trailers for John Carter made it look like another Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time…the 2010 Disney debacle that was a costly gamble for the studio. 

Cut to a few weeks ago when I started reading online reviews from fanboys (and girls) that were not only positive but some were outright raves.  Then reviews came out saying the opposite.  Clearly this was a movie divided which meant one thing…I had to give it a shot.  I love seeing movies that are polarizing to viewers because I know they’ll be challenging in some way.  For instance, I really enjoyed The Tree of Life and found it to be a moving exploration of innocence lost.  Others hated it with a vitriol reserved for foreign dictators.

As I put down my fork from eating a piece of humble pie, I’m writing to tell you that John Carter was one of the more enjoyable movie going experiences I’ve had in quite some time.  Blending elements of Star Wars, The Hobbit, Dune, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and even The Wizard of Oz , John Carter worked better than I ever thought it would.  All the elements of a classic sci-fi adventure story are here from the epic battles sequences to an original back-story that keeps your attention.  How a trailer so bad was made of a movie this good is a mystery.  Director Stanton (Wall*E and Finding Nemo) makes the leap from animiated films to the big screen with great results.  Another Pixar colleague of Stanton’s, Brad Bird, helmed Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol which was also equally as fun.  Pixar seems to have a magic touch no matter the medium.

 Usually when a review says the effects are the best thing about the movie it’s perceived as a negative – not so in this case.  The effects are impressive, yes, but without them the film couldn’t sustain its pace and originality.  Creating a whole solar system of creatures, machines, and elaborate landscapes give the film a true feeling of grand design…and our actors are blended into this mix seamlessly.

I saw this film back to back with Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace and couldn’t help but see a lot of inspiration in both films.  Yes, John Carter was made after Star Wars but the source material surely had to have inspired George Lucas as he was creating his films.  The Star Wars films and John Carter both have created a totally new universe that I found myself wrapped up with.  True, at times the actors in both films would ramble off the crazy names/places with such abandon you weren’t sure what language was being spoken…but congrats to them for coming up with some creative names.

Kitsch makes for a nice leading man and he’s equaled by Collins as the Princess of Mars (the title of the Edgar Rice Burroughs tale this is based off of).  Collins was also the best thing about the ill-fated X:Men OriginsWolverine and she’s nearly the best thing here too.  Many of the supporting players in John Carter are not even seen onscreen.  With the effects team creating an entirely new race of CGI beings, we just get the voices of Morton, Defoe, and Church rather than their physical presence.  The rest of the players may make less of an impact when put up for comparison but all bring something to the proceedings that propel the story forward.

Bookending our trip to Mars are stops in London circa the mid to late 1800’s and while you may find yourself a bit shell shocked at how the movie bounces around time and space please be patient…it all is explained by the final reel when the movie is brought to a satisfying conclusion.

While John Carter was not originally filmed in 3D, the conversion to 3D was handled with great care.  It wasn’t rushed so things pop out nicely and the IMAX screen I saw it on enhanced the 3D process with greater detail and serious megawatts of sound.  If you can, try to see it on in IMAX  to be fully immersed in this clever and intricate world.

A real unexpected pleasure, John Carter may not be breaking any box office records but if any movie deserves a sequel it’s this one.  By the end of the film I was ready for another adventure and would welcome the chance to revisit these characters should Disney give a sequel the green light. With the middling box office take this had in its first weekend and it’s reported 300 million dollar budget that may not be in the cards…but fingers crossed John Carter takes flight again!