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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.
Trying to recapture the heart, wit and all-round musical grandeur of its 2012 predecessor, Pitch Perfect 2 sees actress-turned-filmmaker, Elizabeth Banks, sit in the director’s chair for her very first feature film. But as is so common with sequels, Banks’ directorial debut is a little off-key and not or as comically refined.
Following their success and three consecutive wins at the A Cappella U.S nationals, the Barden University Bellas are riding high. Led by Beca Mitchell (Kendrick) and Chloe Beale (Snow), the Bellas have been travelling the country on a victory tour, which also happens to include a very special stop at the Kennedy Center, where the group performs for President Obama and other a cappella enthusiasts.
However, things don’t go exactly to plan and when a rather unfortunate wardrobe malfunction involving Fat Amy (Wilson) labels the group as a national disgrace and the Bellas are mortified to learn that they will no longer be allowed to compete or admit any new members to their ensemble as a result.
Devastated by the outcome but equally determined to regain their former glory, the Bellas – who have been currently replaced by their rival team from Germany called Das Sound Machine on the victory tour – are now left with only one choice; win the global a cappella championship or be cast aside forever – dramatic gasp!
Delivering bigger and bolder musical numbers, Pitch Perfect 2 ticks the boxes on the musical entertainment front and the cleverly-constructed mash-ups seen in the previous film will leave any loyal Barden Bellas fan giddy with joy. However, the script isn’t without its problems, written by the 30 Rock’s Kay Cannon, the plot is unfocused and unpolished; everything feels a little overstated and the humour – especially those involving Das Sound Machine –
doesn’t seem to be as focused or as polished as before and although, there was plenty of reason given for the story’s comeback to the big screen, it feels a little overstated and the jokes – especially anything involving any Das Sound Machine member – are quite crude. Even the character of Fat Amy, who was the comedic heart of the original, becomes worn early on. Essentially, there seems to have been little or no character development and, generally, it's too much of the same.
It also doesn’t help that Kendrick’s role has been somewhat downsized in order to make room for Steinfeld who plays Emily Junk; an eager freshman hoping for a place in the squad.
If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that Pitch Perfect 2 will still score big at the box-office and many will be able to turn a blind eye, and a deaf ear, to its inoffensive, but equally infuriating, flaws. Don’t be surprised if a Pitch Perfect 3 comes to fruition.
Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist can rightly claim to be one of the most successful haunted-house tales ever told and so a reboot of what is probably one of the scariest films of all time makes sense in that money-grabbing Hollywood kind of way. But as with so many reboots, Gil Kenan’s uninspired take on the 1982 classic proves that it’s no easy task.
The story is centred on the Bowens; a family of five who, due to the recent recession, have been forced to downsize their home and move to a more affordable neighbourhood. Having recently lost his job, Eric Bowen (Rockwell) and his wife, Amy (DeWitt) have been struggling to keep up with the mounting debts and finding the perfect home for themselves and their three kids; teenager Kendra (Sharbino), her younger brother, Griffin (Catlett) and their youngest sibling, Maddy (Clements) hasn’t been easy.
Settling on a semi run-down estate in a town where the pricing seemed to be just right, the Bowens are excited to get settled into their new surroundings. However, things soon go bumping in the night and both Griffin and Maddy – the latter of whom doesn’t seem to be at all bothered about making new ‘friends’ in the closet – begin noticing strange occurrences. Griffin is the first to voice his concern, however his parents think that he is just being overly-anxious about his new home – that is until Maddy goes missing only to resurface as a voice inside the family’s television.
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire – see Rabbit Hole – the script stays very faithful to its source material. It’s something to be commended, yes, but the horrors of old just don’t have the same effect as they did back then and this reboot lacks freshness, creativity and that extra little oomph needed to bring it into the 21st century. Subsequently, it’s difficult to assess as to how loyalists to the original will receive the film; on one hand, it stays close to the original, but on the other hand, there’s nothing new – no new angle, no new pull.
Luckily, the acting is solid and everyone involved turns in relatively convincing and connecting performances. One of the most versatile actors working Hollywood right now, Rockwell turns out to be a decent choice for the role of the troubled father and Clements - although, nowhere near as powerful as her predecessor - is creepily endearing.
In the end, though, Poltergeist 2015 is too weak to stand up to the original. One of the things that made the 1982 version the iconic horror it is today is that unnerving atmosphere and the unsettling energy which followed the story from beginning to end. For what it’s worth, Kenan’s keen eye and roaming camerawork manages to keep his audience on the edge of their seats, but the predictable jump-scares only serve to take away from tension.