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The Raven: Suspense-less Thriller Based on Edgar Allen Poe’s Work
A deranged groupie has taken Edgar Allen Poe’s (Cusack) literature a little bit too literally. He goes on a killing spree using different murders from Poe’s stories as inspiration, where each murder contains a clue to the next. The murderer starts improvising though and kidnaps Poe’s girlfriend, Emily (Eve), to draw the author closer in; taunting him. The murderer orders Poe to write a story and publish it in the newspaper where he works, based on the murderous actions. In the story, Poe both immortalizes the killer and shapes his future actions.
This is a film with a decent concept that just doesn’t work out. Making a murder-mystery out of bits of Poe’s literary tales could have been pretty interesting, but it basically boils down to us hopping from one gruesome murder to the next. There isn’t even much connecting one murder with the next. Also, by having Poe translate the murderer’s escapades into fiction the film has a very strong going-through-the-motions vibe, killing any sense of suspense or tension.
The characters aren’t much better either. Cusack’s character of Poe is a depressed alcoholic with a raging ego and an insufferable sense of superiority – basically a cliché of an artist. Eve’s character Emily is pretty and, unfortunately, doesn’t get much of a chance to transcend that trait seeing as she’s stuck in a box for most of the film. Also, Poe is at least double her age and is probably old enough to be her father. Their relationship is kind of creepy and you wouldn’t be wrong in completely empathizing with Emily’s father who does his best to keep them away from each other. Luke Evans plays Detective Fields, the officer in charge of the investigation and the man who first makes the connection between the murders and Poe’s stories. He does a decent job not least because he isn’t saddled with the ‘artistic,’ heavy-on-the-synonyms dialogue that Cusack has to deal with.
At the very least, the film looks good even though it’s not as extravagant as other period films. It has a very Gothic feel with its bleak palette and reams of fog unfurling everywhere, which does manage to give the film a vaguely foreboding feel. The murder scenes are pretty gory, the costumes look good and are sufficiently showcased in the scene of a ball.
The film is disappointing on two levels: it squandered a cool concept and it ended up a completely by-the-numbers thriller.
Pretty Woman director, Garry Marshall, returns to the big screen with the star-studded but helplessly formulaic ensemble comedy that is Mother’s Day; a mindless and unintelligent onscreen debacle which ends up delivering its uninvolving and forced storylines with a heavy-handed serving of cheep and cheesy sentimentality.
Meet Sandy (Aniston); a happily divorced housewife and mother of two whose ex-husband Henry (Olyphant) suddenly announces his marriage to young bombshell Tina (Pretty Little Liars’ Shay Mitchell). Her friend, Jesse (Hudson), is married to Russell (Mandvi); a man of Indian origin whom she has a son with but, hasn’t yet told her parents - Flo (Martindale) and Earl (Pine) - whose Texan roots and conservative nature doesn't sit well with their union. Her sister Gabi (Chalke), meanwhile, is in the same boat, with her marriage to Max (Esposito) – who happens to be a woman – also something that might not go down very well .
Meanwhile, Bradley (Sudeikis) - a widower whose marine wife (Jennifer Garner in an excruciatingly syrupy karaoke singing cameo) was recently killed in combat - is trying his best raising their two daughters, who are at the gates of puberty.Then there’s Kristin (Robertson); a young mom who is not sure whether she can commit to the father of her child, Zack (Whitehall), and finally, there’s Julia Roberts – and her wig - in the role of Miranda; a multi-million dollar shopping network mogul who's seemingly been shoe-horned into the plot.
Although Garry Marshall’s recent, similar efforts with Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve have been almost unanimously panned by critics, one must say that even though they’re far from what you might call award-winning cinematic achievements, there’s always a comforting sense of predictability and familiarity.
Mother’s Day, however, overworks its interconnecting plot whilst trying to juggle far too many characters at the same time, without so much as pausing for affect. The jokes are painfully weak and sometimes even quite offensive, while all of the conflicts – if you can even call them that – are resolved far too easily to matter.
The only performance worth mentioning is that of Aniston, who manages to sustain a level of charm and likability for most of the story, whilst Roberts’ Ana Wintour-type wig remains as one of the film’s biggest highlights in a what-the-hell-was-she-thinking kind of way.
Sappy, disengaging, unrewarding and ultimately lifeless, Mother’s Day takes the occasion-based ensemble rom-com idea into territories that it may never recover from. Who knows what day they’ll tie into a film next – Halloween? Easter? How about Martin Luther King Day? Enough’s enough.
Despite a relatively entertaining performance from Kevin Costner in what proves to be one of the actor’s most violent roles in recent years, there’s very little fun to be found with Ariel Vromen’s Criminal; an illogical action-thriller that turns its already senseless premise – featuring a prominent sci-fi concept – into a run-of-the mill actioner that lacks the necessary drive and originality to make any sort of impact.
Scripted by Douglas Cook and David Weisberg – the writing duo behind 90’s action-thrillers such as Rock and Double Jeopardy – Criminal opens with the murder of CIA agent Bill Pope (Reynolds), by thugs working for self-proclaimed Spanish anarchist, Heimbahl (Molla), as he tries to find the whereabouts of a hacker by the name of Dutchman (Pitt) who claims to have gained full control over all U.S military weapons and is now waiting to sell the info to the highest bidder.
CIA boss, Quaker Wells (the seemingly loud Gary Oldman), subsequently reaches out to Dr. Franks (the seemingly uninterested Jones); a medical scientist working for the agency whose very special experimental procedure – that just so happens to transplant memories into a damaged brain - might be their only way to find out Dutchman’s location, before anyone else can get to him. Selecting an incarcerated criminal named Jericho Stewart (Costner) as their guinea pig, the deceased Pope’s memories are injected into the lawbreaker, who soon after the procedure, decides to escape, only to find that the procedure has effected him in ways he could have never imagined.
Car chases and gun fights are aplenty, though there isn’t much conviction behind the punches thrown, with the film quickly turning into paint-by-numbers action flick which just gets messier as the minutes go by. Performance wise, Costner offers a reliable tough-guy act and it’s quite refreshing to see the veteran actor break away from his usual placid side-roles. Meanwhile, both Oldman – shouting his way through the scenery – and Jones – looking particularly miserable - end up providing one of their worst performances to date. Reynolds is not clear of the ridicule either whilst Gad, as Pope’s widow, is criminally underused.
Your ability to forsake logic and suspend a good portion of disbelief is a definite plus when going in to watch the Criminal as that might be the only way to even be remotely entertained by its ridiculous premise.