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Devil: A Throwback Horror Clinger
In one of cinema’s most ironic twists, Devil’s reason for existence turned out to be its own worst enemy. The blessing of M. Night Shyamalan, director of the brilliant The Sixth Sense and a whole bunch of other loathed films, puts Devil in the unfortunate position of having to overcome Shyamalan’s own baggage to earn viewers’ interest. This is a shame; as Devil is a truly gripping horror thriller free of Shyamalan’s usual off-putting pretences.
The premise is simple but quite effective: five sketchy individuals are trapped in an elevator, unaware that one of them may be the devil. There is the sleazy salesman who has screwed his fair share of innocent people out of their savings; a posh, good-looking lady that's also an unapologetic gold-digger; an unassuming old woman who is also a compulsive pocket thief; a brawny looking fellow with a criminal past, and last of all; a suspiciously coy man who has witnessed excessive brutality during his days in the military.
From this classical horror setup, Devil manages to deliver some interesting twists; keeping the mystery alive and present for the film’s entire 80 minutes, which fly by fast. The elevator scenes depict the claustrophobia of the situation well through cleaver camera angles, never exhausting the location’s confined space. However, Devil is most ingenious in its use of darkness as a means of generating fear, projecting pivotal scenes in the viewers’ imagination in their entirety– harrowing and unnerving.
Getting trapped with the Prince of Darkness is a horrific prospect in itself, but director Dowdle gives it a moody spin with his insular and bleak cinematography. There is a sense of vacancy in Devil’s open landscape scenery that contrasts with the confined setting of the elevator. Devil’s cast of unfamiliar actors add to the film’s mystique while delivering competent performances that ground the film’s sense of foreboding and hopelessness.
Devil’s religious themes are heavy-handed and the film often hammers home its point too blatantly. However, it’s not uncharacteristic or out of place for a film that carries such a bold title.
Unlike other horror affairs that opt for gore and blood to turn your stomach, Devil never feels exploitive or nihilistically ambivalent; if anything, the film leaves you with a renewed sense of hope.
Tinker Bell, who made her first appearance in 1953’s animated picture Peter Pan, returns in the fifth installation of her popular Tinker Bell franchise, The Pirate Fairy; an infectious and thoroughly charming story of friendship and sisterhood.
Directed by Peggy Holmes, The Pirate Fairy follows the adventures of Tinker Bell – a.k.a Tink – (voiced by Whitman) and her five fairy friends; the Garden Fairy, Rosetta (Hilty), water fairy, Silvermist (Liu), light fairy, Iridessa (Raven-Seymone), wind fairy, Vidia (Adlon) and finally, animal fairy, Fawn (Bartys).
The girls live in Pixie Hollow; a magical fairy community where everyone has been given a duty based on the talent revealed to them at birth. Life is seemingly peaceful for the five friends but trouble soon comes knocking when Zarina (Hendricks), the new fairy in charge of the production of fairy dust, decides to perform a forbidden experiment with the rare Blue Dixie Dust – an important ingredient used to make the fairy’s gold-blue dust powder – resulting in a near-catastrophe at the lab.
Relieved of her position as the Dust Keeper, Zarina flees Pixie Hollow, only to return a year later for the Dixie Dust. It’s now up to Tink and her friends to pursue Zarina, who they soon learn has become the captain of a pirate ship, and convince her to return to where she truly belongs; in Pixie Hollow. However, Zarina’s new friend, James (Hiddleston), a pretend-cabin boy has other plans for the fairies and the fate of Pixie Hollow altogether.
Serving as a prequel to Peter Pan’s 2002’s Return to Never Land, The Pirate Fairy will please fans of the franchise, who will be happy to see their favourite fairy – and her devoted group of followers – return with their peace-loving ways. It’s a simple story with just enough colour and vibrancy to keep things moving along. Although its animations and overall technical quality is nowhere near the likes of Pixar productions, for example, the story is strong enough to compensate for its drawbacks.
Whitman, who has been with the franchise since the beginning, returns as Tinker Bell and once again shines as the determined and lovable leader of the fairies. However, it’s Hendricks – popular for her role as Joan Harris of the TV’s Mad Men – who steals the show as the feisty and the often misunderstood Zarina who manages to get herself mixed up with the wrong crowd.
Similarly, Hiddleston – better known for his portrayal of Thor’s evil brother, Loki – is superb and deliciously devious as cabin boy James whose destiny as Captain Hook is yet to be fulfilled.
Ultimately, The Pirate Fairy is a story about friendship and understanding. It may not be as big or majestic as Disney’s last outing, Frozen, but it’s still engaging enough to stand on its own feet.
Wally Pfister’s directorial debut – a slow and relatively complicated take on the world of artificial intelligence – falls short of the type of thrill needed to push Transcendence into the major leagues of sci-fi.
Written by a fellow first-timer, Jack Peglan, Transcendence lends its focus to Will Caster (Depp); a prominent leader of the artificial intelligence research who, along with wife Evelyn (Hall) and fellow researcher Max (Bettany), hopes that computers will one day be able to think for themselves and, inevitably, replace humans and the ill-intentioned ways of mankind.
However, Will’s radical way of thinking soon makes him a target for an underground anti-tech terrorist group led by Bree (Mara), who decide to take out the A.I pioneer by shooting him with a radioactive bullet, leaving him to die a slow and a painful death.
Not prepared to let go of her husband just yet, Evelyn reaches out to Max and manages to convince him that the only way they can keep Will and his work alive is to download his brain – and consciousness – into the system, before his body completely deteriorates.
The experiment is a success, but the new computerised version of Will is not the same man they all once knew, but a cold mechanical shell obsessed with accumulating both knowledge and power. With the help of a renowned computer scientist, Joseph Tagger (Freeman,) and FBI agent Buchanan (Murphy), Max begins to look for ways to put an end to Will, while Evelyn, desperate to hold on to the man she once loved, is hesitant to let go.
Pfister, a long-time Chris Nolan collaborator who served as cinematographer for most of his productions, definitely knows how to work the camera and manages to paint Transcendence with a crisp, pallid polish. Everything from the special effects to the choice of framing looks absolutely superb. However, its steely façade doesn’t make up for the shallowness of the story, which goes from confusing to downright ridiculous pretty early on.
In terms of the performances, the cast struggles with their underwritten roles and, consequently, feel utterly disengaged from the story altogether. Showing off a more subdued side, Depp is relatively passive and indifferent in his performance of a man who quickly loses sight of what’s right and wrong as he begins living in his own creation. Freeman and the rest of the supporting cast are underused, while Hall – as Depp’s despairing onscreen wife – is left with little to build with on the emotional side of the story.
In the end, Transcendence flatters to deceive; from the lack of onscreen chemistry and character development to the absurdity which the story quickly escalates to, this latest wannabe sci-fi blockbuster – although pretty to look at – is just a little too dull to stand with the big boys – so to speak.