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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.
Based on a 2010 novel of the same name – written by the English young-adult fiction writer Andy Mulligan – Trash is best described as a feel-good story that carries a smimilar spirit to Oscar-winning drama, Slumdog Millionaire; similarly, it's a colorful and a slightly strained drama of adolescence and poverty.
Set in Rio Di Janeiro, Brazil, Trash follows the story of Raphael Fernandez (Tevez), Gardo (Luis) and Rato (Weinstein); three fourteen year-old Brazilian boys who live in a lakeside favela and who earn their pennies by sorting trash at the nearby dumping ground.
During one of their routine scavenger hunts, Raphael comes across an expensive looking wallet that, just as luck would have it, is full of cash. While no one is looking, Raphael quickly pockets the cash. However, when crooked police officer, Federico (Mello), turns up desperately looking for the wallet, Raphael realises that there is more to his find than it meets the eye.
As it happens, the wallet, which also contained a flip-book photo of a little girl with coded numbers on the back and a mysterious looking key, is directly linked to a wealthy and seemingly corrupt politician who is currently running for mayor. Realising that they are in way over their heads, the boys reach out to Father Julliard (Sheen) and aid-worker, Olivia (Mara), for help, all the while doing everything they possibly can to evade the hands of the corrupt police force who will do everything they can to get their hands on the wallet.
Trash, adapted to the screen by Richard Curtis, spends most of its running time in Portuguese and does a decent job in portraying the poverty hiding beneath the colourful streets of Rio; the chase scenes through the bustling streets and tight alleyways are particularly enjoyable. However, although pleasing to the eye, the material feels a little forced, a little too pretty around the edges and yes, a bit too Hollywood; if you were expecting more of a harsher look inside the life of favelas, perhaps you will need to revisit movies such as City of God or Elite Squad for a better insight.
Nonetheless, Trash does manage to keep things relatively upbeat and entertaining mainly because of the infectious energy and dynamism brought on by the three leads, who, despite their limited acting experience, hold the entire film together.
Watchable but ultimately pretty forgettable, David Hayter’s Wolves was readily described as Twilight meets Teen Wolf the run-up to its release – an intriguing, if worrying, description. However, although the action is pretty solid, there’s very little here that would attract anyone older than fourteen.
Written and directed by first-timer David Hayter –screenwriter known for his penning support of films such as X-Men and Watchmen – Wolves is centred on Cayden Richards (Till); a handsome high-school senior and all-round football playing jock who has pretty much everything going for him.
However, life for the teenager is not all that groovy as Cayden soon finds out that he has a disorder, of sorts; when provoked, he turns into a werewolf. After an incident during a football game and a bloody incident at home, Cayden decides to flee and go in search for answers.
He soon ends up in a run-down bar where he meets fellow wolfman, Wild Joe (Pyper-Fergusson), who tells him that there is more of his kind down in a place called Lupine Ridge. Once there, he is immediately snubbed by ruggedly handsome Connor (Momoa) who is quick to send the teenager packing. With no one else to turn to and no place to go, Cayden is soon taken in by friendly farmer, John Tollerman (McHattie), who offers the young man-wolf some food and a roof over his head in exchange for help on the ranch.
Gone are the days when the traditional concept of werewolves were (ha!) a box-office draw and, even though Wolves manages to stay relatively true to the genre, the novelty of seeing these hairy creatures in action wears off pretty soon into the story. Unable to establish a solid base and a tone for the plot and characters, the film rushes through the narrative, putting the focus very much on the gory action.
It’s a shame because the stunts, the cast and the special effects deliver the goods, but the lack of depth in the overall storyline and dialogue pulls Wolves from being a potentially solid action-horror into the abyss of nothingness. It fails to register anything outstanding and you’d do well not to forget it two seconds after the credits roll.