Ouija

October 24, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Darn Kagasoff
Directed by: Stiles White (debut)
Written by: Juliet Snowden (“The Possession”) and Stiles White (“Boogeyman”)

It might be based on a board game found in any local toy store, but moviegoers will be hard-pressed to find anything remotely entertaining about the horror movie “Ouija,” a dull and completely apathetic cash-grab for game maker Hasbro and Universal Pictures. Just in time for Halloween, terrible horror movies like “Ouija” might be enough for an indiscriminate 13 year old to enjoy, but teenagers are bound to get more scares walking through a high school haunted house run by the band booster.

After the mysterious death of their friend, a group of five high school students attempt to contact her via the Ouija board she apparently played before committing suicide. Best friend Laine Morris (Olivia Cooke), leads the group through the ritual, which ultimately awakens an evil spirit who begins to kill each teen one by one. It’s a hokey story with forgettable characters and situations seen countless time before in other shockingly bland contributions to the horror genre. In the case of “Ouija,” it is so generic, the actual Ouija board could’ve been replaced with just about anything (a demonic cell phone, a possessed antique heirloom, a pair of dirty underwear, perhaps) and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference in the narrative. Add an wise, old Latina maid who know exactly what is happening to the teens because, well, she’s a wise old Latina maid, and just about every other horror movie cliché you can possibly think of (“Come on you guys, who’s doing that?” a character asks when the Ouija board planchette starts moving), and “Ouija” is about as brainless as you can get.

Written by the duo that brought audiences a handful of other unwatchable horror movies like “The Possession” and “Boogeyman,” it really shouldn’t be a surprise how awful “Ouija” turned out to be. It’s more disappointing that this movie is actually going to make people money. In doing so, remember to look out for “Chutes and Ladders: Path to Hell” next October.

Knowing

March 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Chandler Canterbury
Directed by: Alex Proyas (“I, Robot”)
Written by: Alex Proyas (“Dark City”), Juliet Snowden (“Boogeyman”), Stiles White (“Boogeyman”), Stuart Hazeldine (debut), Ryne Douglas Pearson (debut)

Actor Nicolas Cage has only been making consistently terrible choices in movies since 2006, so why does it seem longer?

After doing a fine job in the Oliver Stone–helmed “World Trade Center” where he played a New York City Port Authority police officer, Cage went on a massive losing streak with critical bombs including “The Wicker Man,” “Ghost Rider,” “Next” and “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” and “Bangkok Dangerous.” While it’s only been three years of cinematic gaffes, the torture Cage has put us through seems endless.

He continues his mission of futility with his latest bomb, “Knowing,” an absurd sci-fi movie posing as an end-of-the-world thriller, both of which support the idea that moviegoers should always do their research before going to the theater and raise a red flag when a production gives more than a couple of screenwriters credit for the work. In “Knowing,” five (!) writers are credited and none of them come close to making anything credible or inventive.

It might be just a mediocre combination of ideas, but “Knowing” ends up being a haphazard mess starting from the top. Cage plays John Koestler, a college professor and astrophysicist who stumbles onto a sort of numerical puzzle that reveals the dates, coordinates, and death toll of the world’s most major tragedies.

The list of random numbers comes from a time capsule buried 50 years prior at the school where John’s son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) now attends. Back in 1959, schoolchildren were given an assignment to draw a picture of what they thought the world would look like in the future. Instead of drawing robots and astronauts like her classmates, one of the students, Lucinda Embry (Lara Robinson), an antisocial little girl with dark circles under her eyes who hears voices, begins to handwrite a sequence of numbers on her paper.

Fifty years later, Caleb ends up taking the excavated note home where his father begins to decipher what it means. For this plot point, all the five-headed screenwriting team could come up with for John’s interest in the numbers is that a stain he accidently makes on the paper directs his eyes to the numbers 9112001, code for the attacks on 9/11. From there, John, like Jim Carrey in “The Number 23,” becomes obsessed with his set of digits, the last of which point to the date of the earth’s demise.

The end of the world doesn’t come soon enough as Proyas and his team focus more on the computer-generated disaster scenes than they do on the actual narrative. Cage and the rest of the cast, which includes Rose Byrne (“28 Weeks Later”) as Diana Wayland, Lucinda’s grown daughter, become pawns for the unpredictable albeit mangled conclusion. “Knowing” thinks it’s more meaningful than it actually is, and that’s the most disturbing part of its inconspicuousness.