Gimme Shelter

January 24, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Brendan Fraser, Rosario Dawson
Directed by: Ron Krauss (“Amexica”)
Written by: Ron Krauss (“Amexica”)

No one is blaming actress Vanessa Hudgens for trying to separate herself from the fluffy roles that made her famous during her more formative years. She, along with fellow Disney princess Selena Gomez, was able to put some space between her and her tween fan base last year when she starred as a scantily clad criminal in “Spring Breakers.” It’s a routine other actors have tried before, all with varying success. Think Macaulay Culkin in “The Good Son” or Dakota Fanning in “Hide and Seek.” Even Molly Ringwald went to the dark side in “Malicious” after playing a slew of goody-two-shoe characters in the 80s.

While Hudgens has been working on her transformation for only a couple of years (she was also in the unwatchable “Sucker Punch” and “Machete Kills” where she tried some “edgier” roles), she still hasn’t found a character written well enough for anyone to take real notice. Unfortunately, the same can be said of her starring role in “Gimme Shelter.” In the film she plays Agnes “Apple” Bailey, a pregnant teenager who leaves her abusive mother (Rosario Dawson) in search of her estranged father (Brendan Fraser). When things don’t go as planned on account of her bad attitude, Apple finds sanctuary in group home for pregnant teens with the help of a caring priest (James Earl Jones) and a shelter caretaker (Ann Dowd) who guide her.

It’ll take more than a choppy haircut, baggy clothes, a neck tattoo and other unrecognizable features for audiences to believe Hudgens can lose herself in a role like this. She does her best with what she is given, but with as script as inauthentic and blatantly heavy handed as the one director/writer Ron Krauss offers up, Hudgens has nowhere to go emotionally. In fact, the only real change we see in her character is when more makeup is applied to her face after each scene in the third act to give some kind of false impression of resurgence and self-confidence.

There’s nothing in Apple’s life that should lead audiences to even imagine she is going to be alright. Are we to believe the girls she spends such little time with in this facility have done enough to help her see the error in her ways? Is Krauss trying to say that since God has her back, nothing bad can happen to her? The fact that Krauss is masking Apple’s personality with a host of weak relationships she creates during this pivotal time in her life makes her journey feel all the less affecting. Without Dawson mugging for the camera and Fraser emoting some ridiculous facial expressions, “Gimme Shelter” would be an empty vessel.

Extraordinary Measures

February 5, 2010 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser, Kerri Russell
Directed by: Tom Vaughan (“What Happens in Vegas”)
Written by: Robert Nelson Jacobs (“Chocolat”)

“Extraordinary Measures” is one of those inspirational movies that would have worked better if it had stayed in the pages of a nonfiction novel or newspaper article. Instead, director Tom Vaughan and screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs attempt to take this story of parental love and whittle it down to form a film with some kind of emotional resonance. It works to a point if you’re a sucker for tearjerkers, but the simplistic filmmaking and script is far too much to overlook. Harrison Ford does what he can, but in the end “Extraordinary Measures” is about as affective as the last hour of a day-long telethon.

Inkheart

January 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Andy Serkis
Directed by: Iain Softley (“The Skeleton Key”)
Written by: David Lindsay-Abaire (“Robots”)

In terms of big-budget family adventures, “Inkheart,” based on the first part of a trilogy by German author Cornelia Funke, would be considered a footnote in the fantasy genre (Not to worry Harry Potter, you’re still more popular than ever). That, however, doesn’t mean all fantasy films that come in between the quests to Hogwarts have to be trivial and dull. In “Inkheart,” there are enough magical moments to warrant the attention of the entire family. Even someone who can’t identify all the storybook references will enjoy the fascinating characters. It’s this year’s answer to films like 2007’s “Stardust.”

In the film, Brendan Fraser (“Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D”) stars as Mortimer “Mo” Folchart, a “Silvertongue” who has the power to read a book and transport its characters into the real world. In doing so, however, each fictional character carried over from a piece of literature is replaced with someone near the reader.

Mo finds this out when he reads from a book called “Inkheart” and unknowingly sucks a diverse group of the novel’s characters from the book causing his wife to mysteriously disappear. The book’s characters who enter reality include a fire juggler named Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) and Capricorn (Andy Serkis), the antagonist of the story who loves Earth and refuses to return to his narrative.

Instead, Capricorn would rather stay and force Mo to read to him and deliver riches from stories like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Capricorn’s current reader, who also possesses the same power as Mo, hasn’t quite perfected his craft. Since he has a stutter, the characters he brings from out of the books have defects. Most of them have text tattooed across their faces and bodies.

Although Mo refuses to read at first, Capricorn and his henchmen use his daughter Meggie (Eliza Bennett) as collateral until he delivers what they want. All Mo wants is to find a copy of “Inkheart” so he can figure a way to bring back his wife. But since the book has been out of print for years, he must search for its author Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent) and get another rare copy before Capricorn finds out how to release some of the book’s most evil characters.

Reminiscent of last year’s “Bedtime Stories” but with an actual script that has some imagination, some of your favorite fictional characters are brought to life by director Iain Softley (“The Skeleton Key”). From the flying monkeys of “The Wizard of Oz” to the ticking crocodile from “Peter Pan” to Rapunzel and her head of long golden hair, “Inkheart” has wonderful visuals and a convincing cast that includes Oscar winner Helen Mirren (“The Queen”) as Meggie’s frantic aunt. While the story won’t become a classic like “The Princess Bride,” studios could always do a lot worse (and consistently do) when creating something clever enough for adults and entertaining enough for children.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

August 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, Jet Li
Directed by: Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious”)
Written by: Alfred Gough (“Spider-Man 2”) and Miles Millar (“Spider-Man 2”)

When one of the characters in the third installment of The Mummy saga declares “I’ve seen enough mummies to last a lifetime!” you can’t help but giggle at the fitting statement and wonder why execs at Universal Pictures didn’t get the memo. Mummies are the monsters in yesterday, so making room for another archeological dig is probably just the studio’s way of simply shaking every grain of sand from Brendan Fraser’s lucrative boots.

Fraser is back as tomb raider Rick O’Connell, but neither director nor leading lady returns to round out the trilogy. Instead, Stealth’s Rob Cohen replaces director Stephen Sommers and Maria Bello takes over for Rachel Weisz. In this chapter, the team, which includes Rick’s son, Alex (Luke Ford), travels to China to stop a cursed emperor (Jet Li) and his stone army from unearthining and seeking eternal life.

Like the first two unmemorable albeit money-making adventures, Emperor relies heavily on special effects to divert the audience’s attention from the film’s misplaced and scanty humor, action sequences, and dialogue. An example of all three: a yak vomiting on someone’s face, an Abominable Snowman using a human as a football to kick a field goal, and Bello’s Egyptologist character proclaiming “There’s something incredibly romantic about vanquishing the undead.” If rotting corpses and three-headed dragons don’t make your heart flutter, then file, er, bury this one, a mediocre movie only a – dare I say – mummy could love.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

July 3, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, Anita Briem
Directed by: Eric Brevig (debut)
Written by: Michael D. Weiss (“The Butterfly Effect 2”), Jennifer Flackett (“Nim’s Island”), Mark Levin (“Wimbledon”)

It’s usually hard to sell a movie with 3-D special effects without thinking it’ll be nothing more than gimmicky concepts and designs. You can hardly be blamed for the pre-notion when the visual technique was popularized in the 80s and attached to a number of second-rate movies.

In “Journey to the Center of the Earth,”  however, the digital technology, which has improved immensely over the last few years, is such a major element of film, the computer-generated risks just happen to work much better than the story itself.

Based on Jules Verne’s book of the same name, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” screenwriters of this newest film version decide not to actually adapt the book like the 1959 movie, but rather incorporate it into the story. The actual book is one of the belongings given to geology professor Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser), which belong to his late brother, a scientist in his own right.

Left to take care of his young nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) for a few days, Trevor discovers some notes his brother scribbled in the margins of the novel that could possibly lead to a major discovery. The doorway to this scientific breakthrough happens to be in Iceland, the location where Sean’s father disappeared during his last mission.

So, off the duo goes to explore the great unknown with the help of Hannah (Anita Briem), a lively guide who directs them through dangerous passages of the Icelandic volcanoes. Of course, this isn’t your ordinary tour through a few harmless walking trails. The group finds this out when the cave they are trapped in collapses and they begin freefalling to the Earth’s core.

The real 3-D adventure finally begins once they reach their destination and left to fend for themselves against giant piranhas, man-eating plants, and, of course, an ornery Tyrannosaurus Rex hunting for some human grub. (Ignore the yo-yo scenes tossed in at the beginning for no good reason).

The effects are amusing if you have your shades on, but there’s really no reason to see “Journey” if you’re not watching it in 3-D format (2-D versions will also hit theaters). While the story is fast-paced and the effects fun, novice director Eric Brevig (the amazing special effects guru behind “Total Recall”) can’t steer clear of the corny dialogue and one-dimensional (how ironic) characters. While everything is literally jumping out at you from the screen, “Journey” screenwriters actually forgot to include something to return the favor and reel us in.