I Am Number Four

February 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer
Directed by: D.J. Caruso (“Eagle Eye”)
Written by: Alfred Gough (TV’s “Smallville”), Miles Millar (TV’s “Smallville”), Marti Noxon (TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”)

Give author James Frey some credit. Not many people could battle the media beast that is Oprah Winfrey and live to write another day. If memory doesn’t serve, Frey fibbed about the facts of a memoir a few years ago and received a severe tongue lashing from O after she placed it on her esteemed book club list. Since then, Frey has dusted himself off and now sets his sights on penning the next series young adult blockbusters.

The venture is off to a terribly shaky start with his first effort, “I Am Number Four,” a sci-fi novel turned unimpressive motion picture directed by D.J. Caruso (“Eagle Eye”) in an attempt to fill the void left behind by a commercial success like “The Twilight Saga.” While Frey was quoted as saying he didn’t “want to write books that look like other people’s books” after his literary fracas subsided, the film adaptation of “Four” suggests him a liar again.

Replace the melodramatic vampires and werewolves with some equally angsty extraterrestrials and “Four” is an obvious imitation with faint originality. Set in small town Ohio, newcomer Alex Pettyfer plays John Smith, a teenager who happens to be one of the last nine aliens left from his destroyed planet. Along with a gang of Romulan rejects (they’re actually called Mogadorians) in black trench coats hunting them down in numerical order, John (No. 4) is also caught up in high school politics when he falls for the popular artsy girl and pisses off the quarterback.

It’s no surprise the film’s screenwriters are the same team behind the TV series “Smallville.” John might be a hybrid of a young Superman and a sparkling blood sucker, but it’s a moot point nonetheless. There’s absolutely nothing heroic about a squeaky-clean kid who shoots light from his palms and exhibits as much personality as a cardboard cutout.

Eagle Eye

September 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton
Directed by: D.J. Caruso (“Disturbia”)
Written by: Hillary Seitz (“Insomnia”), John Glenn (debut), Travis Wright (debut), Dan McDermott (debut)

Looks like the Patriot Act wasn’t such a good idea after all. At least that’s what the U.S. citizens who are forced to carry out terroristic conspiracies think in “Eagle Eye,” the newest action thriller directed by D.J. Caruso (“Disturbia”).

Don’t look now but regular people are being is listened to and watched through the technology they use everyday. Jerry Shaw, local employee of the Copy Cabana, realizes this first hand when he answers his cell phone and a mysterious female voice on the other end begins to give him directions so he can escape a situation he has no control over.

Having just buried his twin brother, who was in the military, Jerry doesn’t know what to believe when he find a surplus of weapons in his apartment and $750,000 in his once meager bank account. Soon, Jerry is running for his life from FBI agent Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton), who thinks he is part of some sort of terrorism plot.

Deciding to follow the directions of the unidentified woman who continues to call him, Jerry is led into a car driven by Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan), a desperate mother who receives a message telling her that she has also been “activated” and that her son will be harmed if she does not comply with similar instructions. Before they know exactly what they’re involved in, the newly-introduced duo is blindly chasing after something although they have no idea what it is.

Helmed by four screenwriters, which can sometimes raise a red flag in any script, the idea of cyber-terrorism presented in “Eagle Eye” feels outdated even when it takes an Orwellian approach and adds clever twists to modernize the story. Still, the advances in the film’s surveillance techniques aren’t too impressive and the writers end up driving the plot uncomfortably close to ridiculous. It’s especially meaningless by the third act when the curtain is pulled back to reveal the cause of all the mayhem. There’s not much to beam over in the writers’ decision making at this point. And there’s only so much a talented LaBeouf can do, even if he is supposed to be the next Tom Hanks.

Although in some earlier scenes the paranoia factor reaches some intense moments a la David Fincher’s “The Game,” those instances are too few and far between and Jerry and Rachel’s mad dash to the finish line pulls up limp. “Eagle Eye,” with all its underlying messages about high-tech governmental regulation, manages to become a bit more exciting than finding a convenient store with a dashboard GPS.