Nights in Rodanthe

September 12, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Viola Davis
Directed by: George C. Wolfe (debut)
Written by: Ann Peacock (“Kit Kittredge: An American Girl”) and John Romano (“The Third Miracle”)

No need to call FEMA when a hurricane hits Richard Gere and Diane Lane in “Nights in Rodanthe.” There’s so much damage done even before the storm comes in, the undeniable chemistry between the two can’t pull it out of its shallow pool of triteness.

Adapted from the book by Nicholas Sparks (“The Notebook”), “Nights” brings two complete strangers, Dr. Paul Flanner (Gere) and Adrienne Willis (Lane), together for a passionate weekend lodged in an oceanfront inn.

Helping her friend rent out rooms at her North Carolina beach house while she is away, Adrienne’s only guest during her hurricane-filled vacation in is Paul, who has made the trip from the big city to sulk over the death of a patient he lost during a standard plastic surgery procedure. He is also there to visit the woman’s family to explain to them what went wrong.

Despite being the only shoulder to cry on, Adrienne might not be the right person to lend out emotional support (she’s making some life-changing decisions and thinking about whether or not to take back her cheating ex-husband). Leave it to bottles of wine and the harsh winds of the hurricane, however, to produce manufactured romance as flimsily written as daytime soaps.

Put most of the blame on the dialogue, which will ultimately lead our leading man and woman into the bedroom. In “Nights,” it flows out in all its cliché glory. When Paul asks Adrienne formulaic questions like “Who keeps you safe?” “What are you so afraid of” and “Do you even remember who you are anymore?” it becomes harder and harder to understand why people fall for these overly schmaltzy and dull cinematic relationships.

Maybe two people could really fall in love with each other over the span of a few days like Paul and Adrienne, but why pour on the sentimentality so blatantly? Why resort to sappy exchanges and forced moments of bliss? I like a good cry as much as the next person, but why not pull my heartstrings through a natural progression of romanticism?

Movies like “Nights in Rodanthe” are to the romance genre what torture porn is to horror. It might fill a need, but why dumb down the story for a cheap reaction from the audience? While one gets screams and the other gets tears, it’s all the same artificial moments that make films like this so unwatchable.

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.