Red Riding Hood

March 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Shiloh Fernandez
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight”)
Written by: David Johnson (“Orphan”)

No matter what version you’ve heard, when it comes to traditional folklore and fairytales, there isn’t one that comes with more thematic baggage than “Little Red Riding Hood.” Whether as a parable on a young girl’s sexuality or simply a cautionary tale for kids about the dangers of wandering off the beaten path, most written adaptations over the last 300 years tend to follow the same narrative pattern before offering some type of intrinsic morale.

In “Red Riding Hood,” director Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight”) communicates none of the above, nor does she pretend to have the least bit of interest in capturing any of the enchantment, eeriness or menacing quality of the original fable. Instead, Hardwicke is out to tap into the 13-18-year-old tween demographic who funds these gothic soap operas with their babysitting money. “The Twilight Saga” might shamelessly placate the horror/fantasy world, but at least Stephenie Meyer’s vamps and wolfboys brood vehemently. In the passionless “Red Riding Hood,” you’re lucky to get a blank stare and whimper.

Set in the medieval, snow-covered village of Daggerhorn (fortunately not the most optimal weather conditions to show off werewolf abs), a bloodthirsty beast has killed a human after 20 years of feasting only on the livestock appetizers he is served. Amanda Seyfried (“Letters to Juliet”) plays Valerie, a pretty little thing caught in a love triangle with a poor woodsman (Shiloh Fernandez) and a well-to-do blacksmith (Max Irons). Paranoia sweeps across the village when werewolf hunter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) rides in and deems everyone a suspect, including creepy, old grandma (Julie Christie).

Unintentionally hilarious (the “what big eyes you have” scene begs for ridicule especially), “Red Riding Hood” piles on the dreadful dialogue and unconvincing romance like salad-bar fixings. The only way it could have possibly been hokier is if the climax actually featured a computer-generated wolf dressed in granny’s nightie knitting a doily.

Twilight

November 7, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke (“Thirteen”)
Written by: Melissa Rosenberg (“Step Up”)

I completely understand the fascination with the “Twilight” series and I would go as far as calling author Stephenie Meyer a genius because she though of the combination of the horror/drama genre and tween demographic, which really hasn’t been tested before.

With that said, “Twilight” gets points for not falling into the clichés of its subjects like most vampire movies do. We don’t get bloody fangs, cloves of garlic, or faces melting in the sun, which is admirable. But what Meyer and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg replace some of this universal lore with is just as hokey as zapping one of the undead with holy water or shoving a stake through their heart.

In “Twilight,” Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moves from Phoenix to the small town of Forks, Washington to live with her father so her mother and her minor-league-baseball-playing new husband can go on the road. While fitting into her new school and making friends isn’t too difficult for her, Bella’s love life gets a bit strange when she becomes intrigued by the mysterious Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a pasty heartthrob who she later finds out is a blood-sucking vampire.

But Edwards isn’t the type of vamp that kills people for sustenance. Although he does lust for human blood, he has learned how to suppress his hunger (good for Bella) and live off the animals in the nearby forests. Knowing this, Bella is never frightened of her new love interest, but is tossed in the middle of a rivalry when a group of rogue vampires come into town and find out Edward has feelings for a mortal girl.

While the foundation of “Twilight” is a love story, there is far too much dialogue between Bella and Edward that will have young girls swooning and everyone else rolling their eyes. While I could have ignored lines like “I don’t have the strength to stay away from you” as poetry any gothic teenager would write in their high school English class, Rosenberg chose to keep pushing the schmaltziness until the relationship between the star-crossed lovers is maintained only by long glances into each others’ eyes.

Instead of telling us more about the vampire culture (which might be saved for the two sequels), Rosenberg let’s Edward say things like “Her scent is like a drug to me” and “I never knew a lion could fall in love with a lamb.” It’ll hit the demographic fine, but for everyone else the romance might stall.

Untraceable

January 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Diane Lane, Billy Burke, Colin Hanks
Directed by: Gregory Hoblit (“Fracture”)
Written by: Robert Fyvolent (debut), Mark Brinker (debut), Allison Burnett (“Autumn in New York”)

Not everything about the new tech-thriller “Untraceable” is ridiculous and worthy of deletion, but most of it is. If there is a saving grace it must be Diane Lane, who could thrive in this genre if there was a workable screenplay to match what the classic beauty can do as an actress.

It happened in 2002 when Lane was nominated for her first Oscar in the dramatic thriller “Unfaithful.” In that film, Lane peeled back the layers of Connie Sumner, a wife and mother emotionally torn between her family and her lover.

In “Untraceable,” it’s the screenwriters (three of them to be exact), who are doing most of the cheating. Two newbies and the writer behind the sad and sappy film “Autum in New York” is an unusual combination that falters around the time the picture should kick into high gear.

It’s simple enough to guess from the title of the movie that either someone or something can’t be found. Turns out the missing link is a murdering computer geek who has created a Web site (killwithme.com) where visitors can assist in the killing of one of his victims by simply logging on.

It doesn’t seem like much to worry about at first for FBI Cyber Crime detective Jennifer Marsh (Lane) and her team of Portland-based Internet-browsing personnel. The killer makes his presence known by offing a kitty (don’t all serial killers have a history of animal violence?) on the World Wide Web. But when he starts kidnapping actual humans and rigging them to his computer system, Jennifer must do everything she can to find the whereabouts of the sadist before he broadcasts another death.

Where the film could have possibly made some sort of statement on the media’s influence on society and the curiosity the everyman has with violence (they mention the video of the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, which made its rounds on the net back in 2002), “Untraceable,” instead, goes for basic clichéd scenes where FBI agents knock down doors and come up empty. Why not just call it “CSI: Portland” and save us a trip to the theater? Plus, once the identity of the killer is revealed fairly early in the film (and you realize that, in fact, he is as dorky as any stereotypical computer programmer with an evil grin), there’s no reason to invest in the film especially if you’re the type of moviegoer who craves the unobvious.

Transparent and less shocking than the film thinks it really is, “Untraceable” is nothing more than a high-tech torture flick that’s heavy on the gore and light on the logic.