After Earth

May 31, 2013 by  
Filed under Ashley, Reviews

Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Sophie Okonedo
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan (“The Happening”)
Written by: Gary Whitta (“The Book of Eli”) and M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”)

How two-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan went from directing and writing one of the best horror-suspense films of all time with 1999’s “The Sixth Sense” to holding down the fort at the Golden Raspberry Awards should continue to boggle the mind of every moviegoer. One day, if we’re all lucky enough, he’ll get his head out of the clouds and return to form. “After Earth” isn’t the film to knock him back on track, however. Reprising his gut-wrenching trend of calamitously-made movies, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Shyamalan hits Raspberry gold once again with “After Earth.” At least he won’t be alone. Will and Jaden Smith are almost guaranteed to have a seat right next to him.

After a crash landing leaves stern General Cypher (Will Smith) of the peacekeeping organization, Ranger Corps, and his rebellious and audacious son, Kitai (Jaden Smith), stranded on Earth, the father-son duo must work together to retrieve an emergency beacon located in the tail of a ship to stay alive. Badly injured, General Cypher is forced to sit idly by, guiding his son through the treacherous terrain, which is filled with evolved species and an alien creature that killed his only daughter.

“After Earth” kicks off with a disorienting introduction and the 100 minutes that follow don’t get much clearer. Had the audience not been forced to endure the film’s ill-executed sci-fi elements and Will and Jaden Smith’s laughable performances, it could’ve scraped by with a tolerable father-son storyline. Instead, Shyamalan damages the film beyond repair with trite dialogue and melodramatic one liners, which make for good albeit unintentional laughs.

With so much chaotic back story and information throughout the entire movie, it doesn’t take long for the audience to realize how paper-thin the narrative actually is. Scenes where Jaden Smith attempts to carry the film alone don’t work. As if that isn’t bad enough, the film tries to contribute some sort of substance through flashbacks, but never reveals anything but the same scene from different angles.

At times, “After Earth” feels like a sci-fi themed episode of “Lost” starring Will and Jaden with horrible accents. If you’re used to Shyamalan disasters like “The Last Airbender” and “The Happening,” this won’t come as a big disappointment. What is disappointing, however, is the fact that the film studio is already discussing a sequel. If the Smith men can’t wait to get back on the screen together, why not try “The Pursuit of Happyness 2” instead? It couldn’t be any worse than Shyamalan’s latest debacle.

The Book of Eli

January 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis
Directed by: Albert Hughes (“From Hell”) and Allen Hughes (“From Hell”)
Written by: Gary Whitta (debut)

In comparison to other films that feature lone travelers living in a post-apocalyptic world (“Mad Max,” “Children of Men,” “The Road”), “The Book of Eli” would be the end-of-days-movie-of-the-week. It spouts off religious banter as if it was poetic dialogue and relies on a thoughtless narrative and plot twist, which does nothing to tie up any loose ends.

Oscar winner Denzel Washington (“Training Day”) takes the lead as Eli, a road warrior-type who is traveling west on the desolate highways through a world destroyed by some type of nuclear war 30 years prior. In his backpack he carries the last-known Bible, a book he has kept safe from anyone who tries to take it from him. A machete and shotgun get the point across to the thieves and cannibals who try and make trouble for the isolated journeyman.

But trouble has a way of finding Eli no matter how many limbs he hacks off would-be agitators. When he strolls into a tumbledown town as cool as a cowboy on horseback, Eli is confronted by Carnegie (Gary Oldman), the leader of a renegade gang who has been sending his men for years to search for a copy of the Bible. He believes possessing the last Good Book on earth will give him limitless power and help him conquer the rest of humanity as an all-knowing messiah. “It’s not a book, it’s a weapon,” Carnegie gripes to his henchmen.

What he does not count on, however, is Eli’s stubbornness and refusal to give up his prized possession. Tracking him on the road when he escapes the town (not to mention taking along a pretty sidekick played by Mila Kunis of “Max Payne” and TV’s “That 70s Show”), Carnegie and his band of greasy-haired thugs will stop at nothing to get the faith-based text.

Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes, the brotherly duo who gave audiences 1993’s “Menace II Society” and 1994’s “Dead Presidents” before taking a 9-year hiatus from filmmaking after the dismal Jack the Ripper-inspired “From Hell” of 2001, there’s not much of a defense the Hugheses can give for their decision to stand behind this work. While there are some well-choreographed scenes, “The Book of Eli” lacks any common sense with a script penned by first-time screenwriter Gary Whitta. What Washington saw in this script is beyond comprehension. This is the type of role that someone like Vin Diesel was made for – a kind of second-rate addition to his “Chronicles of Riddick” series.

God may be all-forgiving, but for The Hughes Brothers and Washington, it’s going to take a little more time to get over this one.