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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.
Loosely based on Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography of the same name – a book that was approved but never actually read by the man himself - the life and work of the late Steve Jobs is once again brought to life on the big screen, this time, in Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle’s engaging, but niche biopic, Steve Jobs.
The story begins with Steve Jobs (Fassbender) getting ready to launch and share the Macintosh home-computer with the world. As he awaits, rather impatiently, backstage for the auditorium to fill, marketing manager, Joanna Hoffman (Winslet sporting a sporadic and an uneven American-Polish accent) is working hard on containing the pandemonium involving a possible failure-to-launch scenario.
Jobs is soon approached and confronted by ex-lover, Chrisann Brennen (Waterston), and his five-year-old daughter, Lisa (Ross) – whom he refuses to accept as his own – who wants to discuss paternity issues, while Apple co-founder and old-time friend, Steve Wozniak (Rogen), is eager to argue the possibility of Steve actually sharing the credit for their success. Meanwhile, Apple CEO, John Sculley (Daniels) has his own bone to pick with Steve, who, by this point has demonstrated that his blinding ambition and drive to succeed will not be hindered by anyone.
Much like its titular character, Steve Jobs is not an easy film to love; those expecting a more straightforward approach to the story – and an in-depth account of the company’s history and a deeper insight into the man who brought it success - might well be disappointed with its minimal setup. However, those who find time to appreciate Danny Boyle’s unique storytelling, which covers three very distinct Apple product launches - debut of Macintosh, NEXT and the iMac which transpired in 1984, 1988 and 1998 respectively – will see that most of the movie’s strengths lie with its somewhat claustrophobic – albeit intimate – and theatrical setup. Padded with a few flashbacks, Steve Jobs is not interested in portraying the ‘early’ years; instead, it attempts to highlight Jobs’ personality and the interactions that occurred between him and his closest associates during a time which was deemed most critical for the company and, of course, for Jobs himself.
Capturing the often sociopathic and ruthless behavior when dealing with colleagues – friends and family not excluded - and his obsessive attention to detail, Fassbender offers a subtle but deeply-layered performance, completely devoid of any mimicry or impressionism. Meanwhile, Rogen manages to strip off his funnyman suit and deliver a poignant portrayal of the Apple I designer, while Winslet is surprisingly unnoticed as a loyal assistant.
It’s a decent biopic that offers a compelling glimpse inside the head of a man who is often referred to as a pioneer and a visionary of the digital age. The film doesn't exactly portray Jobs a nice man, that’s for sure, but stresses on his importance as one of the most famous figures of our time.
Steven Spielberg’s latest cinematic offering has ome in the form of a surprisingly tensionless and tame courtroom-drama- come-spy-thriller, Bridge of Spies. Written by newcomer Matt Charman and polished by the always-reliable Coen Brothers, the story, although still effective in terms of mood and acting, is not Spielberg’s best thanks to the lack of suspense and overall excitement.
Set in the late 1950s, Bridge of Spies takes place during the height of the Cold War and it begins telling its story with the arrest of a suspected Russian spy named, Rudolf Abel (Rylance) who is placed on public trial. In order to make sure that the US justice system appears to be fair, Abel is appointed defence in the form of a hand-picked insurance-lawyer, James Donovan (Hanks), who hasn’t quite got to grips with what he’s gotten himself into.
While it’s becoming very clear that everyone - including the judge himself - would like to see Abel hang for his crime, Donovan’s idealistic nature compels him to push even harder to ensure that his client receives fair treatment even if it means that his very own reputation as a lawyer could be placed at risk. After a lengthy battle, he manages to keep his client away from the death row, just in time when an U.S military pilot, Frances Gary Powers (Stowell) is shot down over the Russian territory in his U-2 spy plane and placed in Russian custody.
It’s hard not to get excited about a film project which finds one of the most respected and successful filmmakers in Hollywood, Mr. Steven Spielberg, rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Coen Brothers - see No Country for Old Men, Fargo. However, even though the film is still relatively engaging, there is very little meat on its narrow and bony structure to stand alongside either Spielberg’s or the Coens’ past cinematic triumphs.
Luckily, Tom Hanks is there to pick up the pieces and the Oscar-winning actor is once again as reliable as ever, while his Russian client, played by talented British stage actor, Mark Rylance, is quietly brilliant and perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the entire film.
In the end, the two filmic personalities seem to produce a clash of styles; the blend of Spielberg’s old school and grand approach to storytelling and the Coen Brothers’ downplayed quirkiness, results in a rather peculiar mix which doesn’t always sit right. In addition, the importance - and the horrors - sitting behind its Cold War backdrop is illustrated in a rather lazy and stage-like manner, contrasting Spielberg’s typically spot-on detail.