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Movie Review: “The Raven”

7 May

This past Sunday, when everyone I saw in the cinema was headed in to watch the exploits of superheroes, I took the path far less traveled (there were two other people in Theater 12) and settled in to see “The Raven” starring John Kusak. You may have already heard the plot: in the last days of his life, Edgar Allen Poe, just steps away from achieving the happiness which eluded him in real life, is due to wed the love of his life when a serial killer begins murderIng the citizens of Baltimore, patterning the killings after those described in Poe darkest (and most popular) imaginings.

In one of the goriest scenes I can remember in recent movies, the Pendulum, built with all the steam punk one could wish, clanks and ¬†meshes its way to inevitable gruesome finality, slicing the victim right before you in living spattering color. If ever you doubted the horror of Poe’s original story, I suggest you reference this version, bound to please the most bloodthirsty of movie-goers.

So the rush and desperation with which the director infuses this movie maintains its tension until, just as we approach the end, one scene turns the dial of tension DOWN when it should be ratcheting it UP. To wit, Poe and the police ride out to a church in the country. Why? A church in the city where 90 percent of the rest of the story occurs would have worked just as well, better even. The fake tombstone cross would have seemed eerily out of place next to the venerable tombs surrounding it (and harkened in us the thought that this place resembles the same where Poe would later rest).

Don’t spend all that time working to build tension only to pop it like a balloon.

John Kusak is well cast and puts his great energy into this one. It’s worth seeing…once.


Film Review: “John Carter”

19 Mar

The cheapest way to film an action sequence is through very tight close ups. Your actors do not need to be fighting or have any skills at all. A flash a cry and a thud and you have simulated (albeit poorly) a moment of combat. What I don’t understand is why this old and cheap technique is employed over and over in “John Carter”, the Disney rendition of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Princess of Mars”. They have such amazing production values, their pick of known and unknown talent, and they put the camera in too close to enjoy the action. The exception to this is some excellent swordplay.
Major kudos for the Martian language sections, the incredible scenery (although they made little use of what we have gathered from the rovers), and the monsters/creatures of Mars. Fine direction and editing work well and the script contains some surprising humor and quick laughs without resorting to the usual Disney pie-in-the-face antics of so many of their recent films.
The use of light is fantastic, both in the brilliant desert scenes and the darkened sets of temples, tunnels, and caves. The mixed technology and the “old is new” feel is remarkable.
One last comment: after seeing many recent films offered in 3D, I have decided that the glasses and filtering destroy a film’s color, the most powerful visual reason for going “to the movies”. Save yourself seven or eight dollars (tickets for the 3D showings run $15) and go see this one in the stunning color of 2D. Also, sit back away from the screen for this one, you’ll want to catch all of the split-second, high-speed action of Disney’s “John Carter”.