Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Skeleton Key

Year: 2005
Director: Iain Softley
Cast: Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, Peter Sarsgaard, John Hurt

Creepy poster, isn't it? They're marketing this film as a horror movie, but it really isn't scary though. Spooky, with a handful of cheap shocks here and there, but not ultimately scary. But the biggest shock comes at the end of the film.

Let's get to the story first. Kate Hudson plays Caroline Ellis, a hospice worker from New Orleans who gets tired of caring for the elderly at the hospital, simply because no one there seems to care about their patients once they pass away. Caroline yearns for more, not just waiting for the next death. So she takes up a job to care for Ben Devereaux, an elderly man who's paralysed completely and unable to speak down in Terrebone Parrish. Ben's wife, Violet initially rejects Caroline, but the family lawyer, Luke Marshall helps her seal the deal.

Violet comes off as a cold, fussy individual who makes odd rules. For example: no mirrors to be put up on the walls. Caroline manages eventually despite her suspicions of Violet's attitude, until she discovers a secret room in the attic that holds strange objects related to the art of hoodoo, which is black magic practised in the old South. When Ben tries to tell Caroline through eye contact or other means that he needs her help, she suspects that Violet may be more than just a cranky old woman. The more Caroline delves into the mystery surrounding the house, the black arts and how it relates to each other, the darker and more dangerous it gets. She comes to the conclusion that Violet had something to do with Ben's condition. She's determined to save Ben from it, but can she?

I'm not a fan of Kate Hudson. I watched this because it had an intriguing plot, and the subject matter is no doubt fascinating. But to Hudson's credit, she plays Caroline well. Caroline comes off as a determined individual, who now wants to do the right thing after being unable to help her own father when he died many years ago. Rowlands is excellent as the cold, mysterious Violet. Hurt is also commendable playing the paralysed Ben. He doesn't have many lines, but the look of fear and suffering on his face is very convincing.

I did say that there is a shock at the end of the film. A twist that you wouldn't see coming. And it is brilliant, in that sense. Overall, the film isn't that great due to the shortage of scary moments. But the ending saves the film from being mediocre. If you like surprises, this one may just be your cup of tea. (3.5/5)

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Patriot

Year: 2000
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Joely Richardson, Jason Isaacs, Chris Cooper, Tom Wilkinson

This is a Roland Emmerich film. The same Roland Emmerich that gave us the mind-blowing sci-fi flick Independence Day and the critically panned Godzilla. But here is where he scores.

Set in America in 1776, specifically South Carolina, The Patriot tells the story of former war hero Benjamin Martin, who is now content with being a farmer and raising his seven children without their mother who has passed on. Content, because he wants to leave the horrors of his past behind. He had been part of brutal savegery during the French Indian war, and now hopes to leave his sins behind.

However, when the British threaten the entire country and bring the war to his doorstep, Benjamin has to make a choice: to stand up and fight or sit the war out. He chooses the latter, in contrary to his eldest son Gabriel who signs up to join the revolution. Finally he's forced to join the battle when his second son Thomas is killed by the brutal British commander, Colonel Tavington. Benjamin and Gabriel form a militia with unlikely volunteers and take the fight to the British.

I gotta say, the script is exceptionally good. This story covers all the important aspects: love, war, brotherhood, revenge, family and of course, patriotism. Gibson and Ledger shine as Benjamin and Gabriel respectively. Gibson of course, is good at what he does. His expressions and words jump out to you on screen. Ledger almost matches him as well.

But also take note of the great supporting cast. Joely Richardson does well as Benjamin's sister in-law. Jason Isaacs is excellent as the evil Tavington. Isaacs finally gets a role he can excel in and make his own, unlike his other forgettable supporting roles in Armageddon, The Tuxedo, Soldier and Event Horizon. Chris Cooper is good as Col. Burwell, Benjamin's partner in arms, Tcheky Karyo is funny as French officer Jean Villeneuve and Tom Wilkinson also does a good job playing the proud British leader Lord Cornwallis. Watch out for Rene Auberjonois as a fighting reverend (he plays Odo in Star Trek Deep Space Nine).

What else is good about it? Oh, the battle scenes. Emmerich pulls out all the stops in recreating the violence and horror of war. Blood flies, limbs fall off, heads get thrown off or shot through.....but don't get me wrong. This isn't a gore fest. If war has to be shown on screen, it should look real. The dialogue and drama was also well written. Particularly there is a subplot involving two men, one white and one black. The black man is offered freedom from slavery if he joins the fight, but the white man asks him, what will he do with freedom if he had it? In the end, the two men learn to respect each other and bond as they fight alongside each other.

But the film suffers from its lengthy running time, clocking in at over 2 and a half hours. And I do understand that some may say that this film appeals more to Americans and their pride and gung-ho-ism for their country. But I don't completely agree. I always say, watch a film for what it is, and not for what you see it represents, either directly or indirectly. And what The Patriot is, is good entertainment. (4/5)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Event Horizon

Year: 1997
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson

I remembered watching this with my sister the first time it came out. She was so freaked out after that haha. But then, she doesn't like horror flicks. And I thought it wasn't really that scary. But it is entertaining somewhat.

Set in the future, Event Horizon is about a search and rescue team sent into space, particularly Neptune, to recover the space vessel with that very name. The ship had been missing for years, until now. Apparently, the ship has technology that enables it to jump from one point of space to another through a self made black hole. The ship was designed by a brilliant scientist, Dr William Weir, who is still haunted by memories of his dead wife.

Dr Weir joins the rescue team led by Capt Miller onboard the ship called Lewis and Clark (named after the famed explorers) and heads to Neptune to investigate where the ship has been and look for survivors. Of course, it's never that simple. Once they arrive, they discover that the ship has a life of its own, and it starts picking off the rescue team one by one, in gory fashion.

If there is one thing that impressed me with this movie, it's the set design. Event Horizon (the vessel, not the film) looks real unusual. The architecture of it, both outside and inside is unlike anything I've seen in other space films. The walls, doors, corridors.....all have a dark gothic look. Something you wouldn't normally see in a spaceship. It's like a haunted mansion in deep space.

Character development isn't much, but Fishburne does well enough as the determined Capt Miller, who tries desperately to save each of his crew from the chaos. Neill is equally good as the troubled scientist whose demons finally consume him. So what's the problem then? I guess the actual problem with the film is not being scary enough. Sure, it has its moments but the scare tactics used aren't original. You've probably seen it before in Alien and The Shining. But where it lacks in spooks, it makes up for in gore and violence. Well, I'll let you see it for yourself.

Not a bad film, but if you want something scary, go watch The Ring. (3/5)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby

Year: 2006
Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sascha Baron Cohen

It's a weird title for a movie, but Will Ferrell isn't exactly a regular comedian either. So the title kinda suits a movie with him in it. And I'm not exactly a Will Ferrell fan either. I tried watching Elf and couldn't quite sustain interest after 30 minutes. But Talladega Nights was actually something else.

In this film, Ferrell plays Ricky Bobby, a race car driver who ever since he was little, wanted to go fast. When he grows up, he gets his big break when the driver of the car whose team he's a pit crewman for, refuses to finish the race halfway, and Ricky takes the wheel. He manages to win 3rd place, and ever since then he drives for the team. And he does it so well he always wins. A little help from his best friend Cal Naughton Jr on the track, doesn't hurt either.

But his success in NASCAR takes a downward spiral when a French F1 driver Jean Girard walks into the picture. They challenge each other on the track, and Ricky crashes. He loses everything he took for granted and hits rock bottom. So what happens next? Leave it to his good-for-nothing dad to return and help him conquer his fear and win back his pride and glory.

As far as comedies go, this is as American as it can get. Which is quite disconcerting when it depicts children being rude to their elders and cussing left and right. But perhaps the real America isn't like that. I'm just saying this because when Ricky faces off with Girard, he speaks like a proud American. And most of the humour is very American, as in it wouldn't work if filmmakers from other countries used it in their movies.

Speaking of humour, there's lots of it here, though not all of them hit the mark. Scenes of Ferrell running around the track in his underwear thinking he's on fire is downright funny. Also funny are the product endorsements Ricky does as a driver. Haha. I'd say the 2nd half of the film fares better than the first. Cohen (or Ali G to some of you) is hilarious as Girard with his over-the-top French accent. I would have enjoyed it better if not for the censors working hard to remove certain unpleasant scenes. And some of the jokes are kinda lame, at least for me.

Overall, it's not a bad film, but it's not that good either. Watch it, but leave your brain at the door before you do. (3 /5)


Hello everyone. I'm Aaron, and if you don't already know it, I'm a movie buff. I think watching movies is a great way to spend your time. It can be fun and educational at the same time. Just placing yourself in front of a screen, be it in a theatre, television or your own computer, and enjoying what's an excellent way to immerse yourself in fantasy. It's mind blowing, nerve wrecking, tear/laugh-inducing....but enjoyable nonetheless.

This place is where I will give my opinion on whatever films I have watched recently. If you wish, you can tell me what you think too. I do hope to update this blog as often as I can. Thank you for coming;)


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