Big Eyes

December 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Christoph Waltz, Amy Adams, Danny Huston
Directed by: Tim Burton (“Ed Wood,” “Alice in Wonderland”)
Written by: Scott Alexander (“Ed Wood”) and Larry Karaszewski (“Ed Wood”)

A return to form effort from wayward director (and Johnny Depp enabler) Tim Burton might elicit more praise on the surface than it deserves when you really dig in strictly because of how long we’ve had to wait for something that wasn’t terrible. “Big Eyes” may, in fact, fit that description, but for now, bask in the refreshment a Burton movie with style and focus—and without gothic weirdness or Depp in a weird hat or even former flame Helena Bonham Carter—brings to the table.

As the film opens, Margaret (Amy Adams) flees an abusive husband and an “Edward Scissorhands”-esque treeless suburb with her daughter Jane (Delaney Raye at first, aging to Madeleine Arthur) in tow. Settling down in 1950s/1960s San Francisco, Margaret works on her artwork, using Jane as a model for a series of paintings featuring big-eyed children. After meeting and marrying fellow artist Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), Walter begins taking credit for Margaret’s work on the “big eyes” paintings, using his innate showmanship to turn the artwork into a kitschy sensation. As tensions escalate between the sidelined Margaret and the increasingly disjointed Walter, Margaret begins to regret the trap she helped build for herself and her art, looking for a way to escape.

For better or worse, the film belongs to Christoph Waltz and his charming-turned-dangerous performance as Walter. He owns every scene he’s in, at times leaving Amy Adams—the story’s protagonist—in the dust in her own story. Waltz as Walter becomes such a commanding presence in the film, you can hardly blame Burton, doing his best work since “Ed Wood,” for turning the film over to this convincing weirdo. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Burton re-teamed on “Big Eyes” with “Ed Wood” screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski for another tale of a strange fellow on the fringes of stardom, clawing his way into relevance no matter the cost. While “Big Eyes” doesn’t have the whimsical spirit of “Ed Wood’s” love-letter to a purveyor of crap, instead diving into the darkness that comes from Keane being cornered by the idea of the truth being revealed, the film rekindles enough of that spirit to make you look forward to Burton’s next project with an open mind.

Edge of Darkness

January 30, 2010 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston
Directed by: Martin Campbell (“Casino Royale”)
Written by: William Monahan (“The Departed”) and Andrew Bovell (“Strictly Ballroom”)

“Edge of Darkness” is what Mel Gibson does best. This revenge film is overly-written in a number of places, but Gibson knows how to deliver some of the most intense scenes as an actor. Here, he channels his rage into one very believable man with a vendetta. It’s gripping despite its flaws in its storytelling.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

May 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston
Directed by: Gavin Hood (“Rendition”)
Written by: David Benioff (“The Kite Runner”) and Skip Woods (“Swordfish”)

It’s no surprise 20th Century Fox wanted to start the new “X-Men Origins” series with the most popular character of the mutant group after the first three installments raked in more than 600 million in the U.S.

In “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” which is the first in more than likely a string of prequels to follow (“Magneto” is scheduled for 2011), Hugh Jackman reprises his role as the clawed-one. Director Gavin Hood (“Rendition”) takes us back to the beginning of the superhero’s life when he was a young, sickly boy struggling with the gift/curse with which he was born.

While the back story to Logan AKA Wolverine’s upbringing is noteworthy (we watch him and his half-brother Victor, who later becomes his nemesis Sabretooth, fight their way through years of war and suffering), the script soon stumbles onto an uninspired story of revenge. It’s a played-out theme that should have been left for its predecessors or at least built on a bit more securely.

When Logan turns his back on his unique capabilities and chooses to live his life in Canada as a normal human being with his wife, Victor (Liev Schreiber) gives him six years of freedom before coming to knock at his door and cause problems. Taking a page from “Watchmen,” Sabretooth is picking off his former mutant comrades and decides to punish Logan by killing his wife. (Cue the cliché aerial camera shot of a distraught Jackman screaming in the air as he holds his dead wife in his arms).

This prompts Logan to set out after his bro for revenge, but not before getting help from William Stryker (Danny Huston), the military man who unites the band of mutants at the beginning of the film to search for an indestructible material in Africa. This, of course, is the substance that is later injected into Logan to transform him into Marvel Comics’ icon Wolverine. The event is highlighted with Logan’s jagged claws turning into sleek alloy blades.

From here, the familiar Wolverine is born and begins his journey to find Sabretooth and destroy him. But not before screenwriters David Benioff (“The Kite Runner”) and Skip Woods (“Swordfish”) can introduce (or reintroduce) us to more mutants who, despite their massive following in the comic-book world, sort of bow out without doing much of anything. In essence, characters like Gamit (Taylor Kitsch), Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) and Agent Zero (David North), feel like trivial cameos amidst some astonishingly terrible special effects. (Hood might as well have left the actual green screen on the set during some scenes. The actors literally look like their running in a studio lot).

Nevertheless, it’s not only the technical flaws that make “Wolverine” so average and dull. Most of the finger-pointing should be directed toward Benioff and Woods for sticking to the safe route rather than giving audiences something they’ve never seen before. Sadly, “Wolverine” falls somewhere in the middle in terms of superhero cinema. It’s where most comic-based blockbusters that make millions go to be forgotten.

30 Days of Night

June 6, 2007 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston
Directed by: David Slade (“Hard Candy”)
Written by: Steven Niles (debut), Stuart Beattie (“Collateral”) and Brian Nelson (“Hard Candy”)

In 2006, one of the most overlooked films of the year was also one of the most intense, distressing, and surprising thrillers imaginable. That film was called “Hard Candy,” and followed the twisted mind of a 14-year-old girl who is looking for revenge against a pedophile. The film was more so gratifying through its unsympathetic storytelling because it was made by David Slade, a first-time director. For those of us who go a chance to see the film, a new director seemed to be on the rise.

So, when Slade was announced to be at the helm of the graphic novel and vampire story “30 Days of Night,” one could only imagine how it would be time for the American-made horror film to get a much-needed boost by an exciting new filmmaker. Boy, were we dead wrong.

We won’t say Slade won’t come back to redeem himself (he just might surprise us again) but with “30 Days,” the legend of the vampire is not revamped in any way and simply plays out like any other monster movie made in the last five years. Just because it’s set on a beautiful Alaskan backdrop doesn’t necessarily mean it has improved the idea of the iconic characters.

The story begins in a remote town in Alaska where the sun has just set and will not return for an entire month. With no sunlight in the area, a group of raging vampires find their way to the snow-covered wasteland where they will have more than enough time to feast on humans before any sunrise. Josh Hartnett (“Resurrecting the Champ”) plays Eben Oslen, the town law enforcement, who watches as the vampires pick off citizens of the town one by one. Melissa George (“Turistas”) is Eben’s ex-girlfriend, who has missed the last flight out of the area and must now join forces with the small group of humans that remain to fend off the bloodthirsty gang of vamps.

In probably one of the most unconvincing roles in his career Danny Huston (“The Aviator”) takes on the role of Marlow, the leader of the neck-sucking demons who dress in black and scream like banshees when they’re ready to feed. The sounds that come out of their mouths are not as scary as they are annoying.

Dull, unoriginal and mindlessly written, “30 Days of Night” at first seems like its going for something as classic as John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece “The Thing” because of it’s setting and tone, but ends up more like John Carpenter’s dismal 1998 flick “Vampires.” Who really needs more of that?