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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.
Written and directed by the Syrian-born director, Sam Kadi, The Citizen sets out to highlight the hardships faced by Arab settlers in the US during the aftermath of 9/11. Despite appearing at several international film festivals, the film unfortunately falls short in both complexity and spirit.
After winning the green-card lottery, Lebanese immigrant, Ibrahim Jarrah (Nabawy), arrives in New York City on September 10, 2001. Determined to leave his troubling past behind, he is ready to live the American Dream.
Soon after arriving, Ibrahim checks into a Brooklyn motel where he finds himself saving a young woman from an abusive boyfriend. The girl in question is Diane (Bruckner); a pretty, young waitress who is instantly taken by the soft-spoken stranger and offers him a tour of the city as a way of saying thank you. The pair is quick to bond, but the next morning, their worlds change forever.
Almost immediately after the tragic events, Ibrahim is apprehended by US government officials and is held for questioning - for a total of six months - about his ties and connections to a mysterious cousin he mentioned on his arrival. However, with no substantial evidence, he is set free, only to face prejudices at every corner.
Painted with a soulful and a sorrowing mettle, Egyptian actor, Nabawy, proves to be a fairly likable lead. Quiet, courageous and mannerly, Ibrahim’s character is easy to connect to as a gutsy underdog who is putting everything on the line to better himself. And although his execution lacks bite and passion at times, he still manages to sustain the geniality of his character throughout. Bruckner, on the other hand, falls back on her television soap-opera experience and stands out like a sore thumb in what is generally a solemn and hushed tone.
The real issue with The Citizen, however, is that it plays out like shoddy TV-movie, especially in terms of aesthetics. The plot moves along with a sense of urgency, but is never really fleshed out and is dramatically uneven. Though the central character’s rocky road is one that any empathetic person should engage with, the audience is told how to feel and is never given the chance to recognise the wider issue of immigration and equality.
By anchoring itself so lucidly to the events of 9/11, The Citizen never really gets to fully develop; its ready-packaged message is delivered in the most inorganic of ways and ends up being conventional in its sentiments.
As one of the most celebrated horror films of all time, Brian De Palma's 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s fable, Carrie, is always going to be a pretty tough act to follow. However, as an attempt to recreate and modernise the horror classic, director Kimberly Pierce – who made her directorial debut with the stunning 1999 drama, Boys Don't Cry – handles the pressure reasonably well.
Thanks to her isolated upbringing, Carrie White (Moretz) has always been seen as an outcast; a lonely, shy and incredibly introverted teenager who lives with her controlling and extremely religious mother, Margaret (Moore). Her reclusiveness makes her an easy target for bullies, with Carrie falling victim to harassment in the school halls on daily basis.
One day after swim class, Carrie experiences her first period; as a result of her mother's fanatic ways, she is confused, shocked and completely unprepared. This public humiliation is made all the worse by mean-girl-classmates, Chris Hargensen (Doubleday) and pretty Sue Snell (Wilde), who lead the charge as Carrie is filmed and pelted with tampons – like kids do these days.
While the incident marks Carrie’s first steps into womanhood, it also mysteriously ignites telekinetic powers in her. Allegedly feeling guilty over what happened, Sue Snell persuades her athlete boyfriend, Billy Nolan (Russell), to take Carrie to prom instead of her; and that’s when things get rather nasty.
Moretz, who was only fifteen years old during filming, gives a relatively consistent performance, managing to capture Carrie's vulnerable aura, even if some of the scenes portraying her defencelessness are a little theatrical. As Carrie's religiously fanatic mother, Moore’s performance is incredibly eerie and frightfully convincing. Similarly, Greer’s role as Carrie’s sympathetic gym teacher, is a perfect foil for the otherwise lonely Carrie, though other characters felt undistinguished and underdeveloped.
Attempting to rejuvenate the story, Pierce’s re-make has a sense of freshness to it, most prominently in the cinematography. On the downside, it doesn’t quite make up for the peculiar continuity issues and the disappointingly diluted ending.
When all's said and done, the 2013 re-imagination of Carrie is a reasonably well executed remake. Frightening, ghostly and yet awfully safe, it could and should have been much more.