The Vow

February 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams, Scott Speedman
Written by: Michael Sucsy (debut), Marc Silverstein (“He’s Just Not That Into You”), Abby Kohn (“He’s Just Not That Into You”), Jason Katims (“The Pallbearer”)
Directed by: Michael Sucsy (debut)

If you’re in a serious, long-term relationship, there’s a good chance that at some point you’ve discussed with your significant other if they would stand by you through anything that happened. You’ve probably cooked up the most absurd scenarios ever, promising to stay with them even if they encountered an event ranging from a minor cosmetic abnormality through full-on incontinence. “The Vow” takes a shot at one of those tests of true love, but fails to fulfill its promise of being a satisfying date-night movie.

Inspired by true events, “The Vow” opens with a car accident that causes Paige (Rachel McAdams) to lose the previous five years of her life, erasing her husband Leo (Channing Tatum) from her memory completely. When Paige’s estranged parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) come back into the picture, Leo is left to try to convince Paige of their previous feelings for each other and make her fall in love with him again, while trying to keep her last known boyfriend Jeremy (Scott Speedman) at bay.

If you took the over in the “Channing Tatum shirtless” office pool, you’ll come out a winner. Tatum is good enough in the role of Leo. He’s convincing in showing that he truly cares for Paige, but like with most of his performances he leaves something to be desired on the acting front. McAdams proves herself to be pretty charming in her short-lived pre-accident moments. But once the accident happens, she reverts back to her old self which makes sense in theory, but robs her of the personality she establishes early on. One of the biggest issues facing “The Vow” is the seemingly lazy effort put into creating any interesting secondary characters. The random vindictive intentions of ex-fiance Jeremy are forced and misplaced given his outward behavior. In fact, the forcedness of all of the characters who are foils to the romance make the already weak characters that much more stale.

While the plot of the film might seem similar to 2004’s “50 First Dates”, it is a little different in that Tatum’s character doesn’t have to reintroduce himself to his love on a daily basis. But perhaps that’s why “The Vow” fails to strike a chord. Though Leo goes through the big spectacles and far-fetched ideas to reignite their love, his sense of frustration kicks in and the passion isn’t felt as strong as something like “50 First Dates” where Adam Sandler’s character refuses to give up. After the accident, Paige has changed, and no longer has chemistry with Leo. Unfortunately for “The Vow,” watching someone try to force a relationship on someone else does not make for a good romance.

Coming out just in time for Valentine’s Day, “The Vow” knows its exact target audience. Although it occasionally comes off as sincere, the story is too schmaltzy, the humor is too flat and the characters are too flimsy to stand on their own.

Adoration

July 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Devon Bostick, Scott Speedman, Arsinée Kahnjian
Directed by: Atom Egoya (“The Sweet Hereafter”)
Written by: Atom Egoya (“The Sweet Hereafter”)
 
In his new film “Adoration,” it’s never quite clear what Canadian director Atom Egoya (“The Sweet Hereafter”) is trying to say about broad topics such as terrorism, post-9/11 prejudices, and even the effect of the media on an technologically-driven society, but he sure is trying to say a lot.

While “Adoration” may push some buttons on issues that will likely be prevalent in our world forever, Egoya’s screenplay feels like a convoluted lecture in an intro to sociology college course with no syllabus. There are plenty of talking points to fill an entire semester, but is it all worth it without a meaningful objective?

It doesn’t matter much in “Adoration.” Egoya is the professor and he’s making all the rules. He begins by introducing us to Simon (Devon Bostick), a high school student who is trying to come to terms with the accidental death of his parents. Living with his once-mischievous uncle (Scott Speedman), who had to quickly grow up so he could care for his young nephew, Simon finds a way to face his own reality without expressing an ounce of truth to anyone around him.

His self-therapy begins innocently enough when his French teacher (Arsinée Kahnjian), who also teaches drama at the school, persuades him to practice his performance skills in front of the class by placing himself into a fictional story about a terrorist who hides a bomb in the luggage of his wife so he could kill passengers on an airplane headed to Israel. Actually, the story is real, but not one Simon has ever experienced.

Taking complete creative control of the narrative, Simon makes his class believe it was his father who was the terrorist and his mother the woman who boarded the plane with the bomb. He places himself in the story as the child inside his mother’s womb, whose fate would have been sealed even before he was born if it wasn’t for the inoperative bomb.

The secret class project goes viral on the Web as we watch students from Simon’s school and others around the world debating the emotional and political significance of the astonishing story, which ends up hitting a collective nerve. As Egoya builds his characters on fabrication and twists, he reveals little before the final act. When the end comes, you’d hope there would be something concrete to grab onto. Egoya, however, chooses pointless poetry over a realistic resolution.

It’s this tenacity for the ambiguous that hurts the film most of all. There is no real sense of suspense to balance out the deep-seated ideas that ultimately become empty words on a page. After listening to enough of it, who knows what to believe?

The Strangers

May 28, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Kip Weeks
Directed by: Bryan Bertino (debut)
Written by: Bryan Bertino (debut)

It looks like Hollywood is slowly straying away from Asian horror remakes and starting to see what the country of France can provide in the genre. With the release of French horror films including “High Tension,” “Frontiers” and “Inside” in the last few years, a European influence is definitely working its way toward American-made horror.

The latest evidence of this French connection is with the new horror/thriller “The Strangers,” which has an eerily similar synopsis to the French film “Them.” In “Strangers,” James (Scott Speedman) and Kristen (Liv Tyler) find themselves being terrorized by a trio of masked individuals lurking outside their desolate vacation cabin.

First-time director and writer Bryan Bertino creates natural tension before the attacks begin by introducing us to James and Kristen as they experience some major relationship turmoil. James has just proposed to Kristen earlier that evening and, much to his disappointment, Kristen did not accept his offer.

Their gloomy evening takes a shocking turn for the worst when they receive a visitor at 4 a.m. looking for someone named “Tamra.” Even after telling the young girl that shows up at their doorstep that there is no one at the cabin by that name, the girl returns later that night with another girl and man, who begin to bang on the door, peer into the house, and creep around the vicinity.

Soon, James and Kristen realize that if they are going to survive the night, they will have to stay one step ahead of their assailants all while being trapped in a house with no connection to the outside world.

Aside from the lack of a plot, which basically does not matter for a film constructed in this manner, the weaknesses of the “The Strangers” start with the repetitiousness and unoriginality that start right after the first couple of frightening scenarios. People wearing masks and lurking in and out of the shadows is petrifying, yes, but when that’s all they do for a duration of the film, Bertino misses a chance to grab his audience by the throat and match the satisfactory work he does setting the tone.

Then comes the horror clichés: the uncharged cell phones, the couple separating during the time when they should really be as close to each other as possible, the part where Kristen darts outside only to fall and twist her ankle, which, of course, causes her to limp around for the rest of the movie. It’s all been seen before in other horror films, and in “Strangers,” none of it works to its narrative’s advantage.

Although Bertino manages to keep the anxiety at a peak for the first half of the film with his minimalist efforts (Tyler adds on to this by looking like she is always a second away from having a nervous breakdown with each bump in the night she hears), the emotional impact declines in the waning moments as “The Strangers” becomes more and more similar to less suspenseful films of the past.