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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.
The fourth and supposedly last film in Bryan Singer’s X-Men reboot trilogy has a decent mix of action and visual splendor enough to keep the fans happy; only the movie is not short of stretched out running time and lack of emotional gravity.
Set in the early eighties – almost a decade after the events in Washington D.C exposed mutants to the world at large - the story begins with Professor Charles Xavier (McAvoy) seemingly happy teaching at his school for the gifted where we get to meet several new faces, including Scott Summers’ Cyclops (Sheridan) and Jean Grey (Turner).
Meanwhile, Magneto is keeping a low-profile somewhere out in Poland whilst Mystique (Lawrence) is busy travelling around the world looking to free enslaved mutants, coming across a special young man known as Nightcrawler (Smit-McPhee).
When the remains of En Sabah Nur – a.k.a. Apocalypse - (Isaac) are discovered in the deepest trenches of Egypt, the powerful mutant is soon awakened and he is not happy.
With plans to rule the world, he recruits The Four Horseman including, Psylocke (Munn), Storm (Shipp), Archangel (Hardy) and Magneto himself and it doesn’t take long before he begins his reign of terror upon the world, forcing the students – led by Mystique and Beast (Hoult) – to come together and learn to control their powers in order to fight the new evil.
While it does reach a certain level of superiority above its previous installments in terms of visual grandness and action set-pieces, X-Men: Apocalypse has failed to raise the stakes in its supposedly closing chapter– sure there is more death and devastation on display but the consequences are free from any emotional impact - with Singer struggling to find sentiment and meaning in his a little too serious world of mutants.
On the other hand, however, the movie delivers on the action front with a couple of sequences - including Quicksilver’s (Peters) dazzling showdown inside of a burning building and Magneto’s takedown of Auschwitz – while Apocalypse’s very own mythological beginning earns the movie points for creativity.
Performance wise, X-Men’s younger cast doesn’t exactly ooze confidence in their very first X-Men outing, however, they are all still very likable and watching them learn to embrace their powers is entertaining. Meanwhile, the turbulent relationship between Xavier and Magneto – both McAvoy and Fassbender reliable in their roles– takes a seat back with the duo sharing very little screen time this time around.
As for the major villain of the story, well, he is not as threating as the movie might want him to be and despite Isaac’s best intentions, he doesn’t really manage to resonate as anything but a one-note villain.
X-Men: Apocalypse may not be one of the series’ finest entries to date. Big, colorful and not as loud as it should have been, the movie offers more of the same; which, depends on how you look at it, is not exactly a bad thing.
As far as B-movies go, there’s the good kind of bad, there’s actual bad and then there is just downright awful. Chuck Russell’s latest dip into the B-grade action pool, the exceptionally dreadful and contrived I Am Wraith, has unfortunately fallen somewhere right in the middle proving once again that John Travolta’s faltering career is still very much on the decline.
Written by Paul Solan, the story is set in Columbus, Ohio and it is centred on Stanley Hill (Travolta); a former special ops agent who has decided to leave the dangers of his job behind and now works in the car industry. His wife, Vivian (De Mornay), is an EPA analyst and, as the movie opens, we watch her excitedly welcoming her husband home from a long trip away. However, their reunion is short lived when, seemingly out of nowhere, a group of thugs kill Vivian and wound Stanley before he escapes.
Devestated by the loss of his wife, Stanley is left with no choice but to return to his old line of work as a trained CIA assassin, quickly reuniting with old partner Dennis (Law & Order’s very own Meloni) who is excited to help his buddy chase down the killers. With his daughter Abbie (Schull) very much in the dark about her father’s intentions, Stanley’s plan of revenge soon gets complicated when he realises that there are people up at the top – including Governor Meserve (Esprit) and local kingpin, Lemi K (Sloan) – connected to the murder.
Juggling one too many ideas at once, director Chuck Russell doesn’t seem to have a clear idea about what he wants his movie to be; is it a bloody revenge thriller? Is it an actioner with a political conspiracy undertone? Or is it a buddy-cop movie? It’s very unclear and the story serves up a stream of tough-guy-fighting-bad-guys clichés. Switching the focus and overall tone numerous times during the course of the movie, the action sequences are decent, though the overuse of slow-mo shots proves a little tiresome at times, while the plot’s pacing and emotional is all over the place.
Sporting a ridiculous wig, Travolta switches on his macho mode and, for the most part, we believe him. However, the novelty of watching the sixty-plus year old actor fighting his way through the bad guys – all the while indulging in atrocious dialogue with the slightly more affective Meloni – wears out pretty darn soon. Generic, clichéd and exceptionally tiring, I Am Wrath fits in well within the ‘geriaction’ genre of movies that Taken kicked off, but without any of the conviction of the Liam Neeson-starring adventure.