Monday, April 25, 2011

Water for Elephants

Release Date: Apr 22, 2011
Runtime: 2 hr. 0 min. 
Director: Francis Lawrence 
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, Paul Schneider, Hal Holbrook.

Based on the best-selling novel of the same title, “Water for Elephants” recalls the story of a runaway, and the forbidden love he encounters on the rail tracks during the Prohibition era. Set against the backdrop of ‘The Most Spectacular Show on Earth,’ the film creates a mesmerizing landscape that is alluring, as it is somber. Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon play the star-crossed lovers, Jacob and Marlena. He: the circus veterinarian; and she: the main attraction. Together, they create a wondrous show that rivals that of the Ringling Bros. However, as fledgling romances go, the attraction between the two actors falls short of a circus act. While Witherspoon is passable in her role as the unattainable starlet, Pattinson struggles to break his preconceived stereotype as teen heartthrob. From his brooding stares to his lifeless acting, the chemistry is all but lost amidst the performers and spectacles. In contrast, Christoph Waltz transcends above the others by bringing out his ruthless side as the abusive animal trainer and volatile husband of Marlena. It is his erratic behavior alone that keeps the tension alive in a rather slow-paced period drama.Though a bit has changed from the novel, the general essence remains, and in return we get a compelling story of love through hardships. While it's not the greatest tale ever told, it's a mellow transition into the action-packed summer that is to come.

Rating: 3 stars

Monday, April 18, 2011

Scream 4

Release Date: Apr 15, 2011
Runtime: 1 hr. 43 min.
Director: Wes Craven 
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere.

In 1996, horror maestro Wes Craven introduced us to "Scream" and 'Ghostface,' spawning a number of sequels and followers, while simultaneously reviving a genre that has come to be known as 'slasher films.' Over a decade later, the masked killer has returned to the infamous town of Woodsboro, with a new plethora of victims to kill. Campbell, Cox and Arquette reprise their roles alongside a new cast of anybody who's everybody, continuing the familiar tradition of tapping into young Hollywood. While the game remains the same, the rules have changed, but not by much. As in prior cases, everyone is a suspect. Only now, the guessing game that made the franchise so successful back then seems futile and tiresome. The characters' awareness that used to be considered clever is overrun by clichés and trivial movie knowledge. It's a wonder as to how the main heroine has withstood countless death threats and yet manages to be surprised by anything. Still, this franchise has thrived for a reason, and it's the entertainment factor that pulls it through. Aside from the obvious scare tactics and phone calls, the plot twist, interestingly enough, reveals a nice tie-in to the first film that started it all. Call it nostalgia, but sometimes a recognizable sequel is what's needed to jump-start a dulling genre. On the other hand, it may just be time to let things go. While Craven has stated that this will be the birth of a new trilogy, four times seem plenty for 'Ghostface' to finally rest in peace.

Rating: 2½ stars

Monday, April 11, 2011

Your Highness

Release Date: Apr 08, 2011 
Runtime: 1 hr. 42 min. 
Director: David Gordon Green 
Cast: Danny R. McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Rasmus Hardiker, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux.

From the director of “Pineapple Express” comes the latest raunchfest that takes us back to medieval times. When men in tights and damsels in distress are a dime a dozen, and phony accents are an easy source for laughter. "Your Highness" tells the tale of two brothers who embark on a quest to save the virginal bride-to-be from the evil sorcerer, Leezar. Danny McBride and James Franco reteam on screen as the royally dysfunctional pair, bringing their comedic chops to a seemingly effortless comedy. But as their journey gets hindered by obstacles and misfortune, so do the jokes, regrettably. Much like a high school play, the lines come off as rehearsed, while the humor tapers into the absurd. Overuse of profanity and nudity do little to mask out the thin storyline that oftentimes feels tedious, juvenile and contrived. While the trailer shows ample promise, the hilarity that ensues the first half quickly fizzles in the second act. But laugh you will, if not by much. If Courtney's hair doesn't do it for you, 'get your quest on' with "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" instead.

Rating: 2 stars

Monday, April 4, 2011

Source Code

Release Date: Apr 01, 2011 
Runtime: 1 hr. 33 min. 
Director: Duncan Jones 
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Arden.

These days, it’s a rarity to see an action thriller that comes equipped with poignancy, let alone unpredictability. But Duncan Jones’ sophomore feature does just that. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Captain Colter Stevens, an army helicopter pilot who’s been commissioned to undergo an enigmatic military program called the ‘Source Code.’ Under the constraints of 8 minutes at a time, he must identify the bomber of a train before the next imminent attack occurs. In a manner of "Déjà Vu" and "The Butterfly Effect," Stevens relives each time-frame with mixed intentions and different outcomes. But where it could have verged on redundancy, the film prevails in keeping each sequence unanticipated and new. With every transmission, the intensity surmounts, as it edges closer to the predetermined catastrophe. Aside from credible acting and palpable suspense, the emotional link between the characters gives substance that further enhances the story and cultivates the mindset. However, if there is one error that could have been averted, it's the last 8 minutes that seem more like an afterthought, rather than a formulated ending. The conclusion seems feeble and standard in nature compared to the smart script that preceded it. Nevertheless, "Source Code" keeps the pulse racing and the brain buzzing. Look out for a surprise cameo, as well, that'll have you grinning.

Rating: 4 stars