Box Office Preview: The Movie that Shall Remain “Nameless here for evermore,” Jason Statham, Pirates! and the next Apatow/Stoller/Segel Comedy

The Raven

Let’s just get this out of the way, this movie looks like shit, which is unfortunate given some of the names involved. “The Raven” was directed by James McTeigue, who was an assistant director for the “Matrix” trilogy before making his directorial debut with “V for Vendetta” in 2006. The cast includes Brendan Gleeson (“Braveheart,” “Gangs of New York,” “Harry Potter”), and stars John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe’s death is shrouded in mystery, so the filmmakers took more than a few creative liberties in this fictionalized account of the writer’s last days. When a serial killer begins using his work as the inspiration for a series of gruesome murders, police enlist Poe to help bring the assailant to justice.

Reviews have been bad, hovering around 20 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and not without reason. Edgar Allan Poe was a fascinating human being. In 1836, at age 27, he married his 13 year-old first cousin. The man was a great many things: author, poet, alcoholic, opium addict, and the inventor of detective fiction. He uneqivocally was not an action hero or some macabre version of Sherlock Holmes. With such an intriguing life story, there was no reason to make him into such.

“The Raven” is the 241st film or television adaptation of Poe’s work. That leaves you 240 options that might not be garbage, so pick one of those. Or, better yet, pick up some of his written work, which is in the public domain (that means it’s free).

Safe

In “Safe,” Jason Statham plays Luke Wright, “the Big Apple’s hardest cop, once up on a time.” Now, he’s a a second-rate cage fighter who drives fast, kicks ass, and always has a wry one-liner up his sleeve. That is, Jason Statham plays Jason Statham doing Jason Statham things, only he’s got an American accent (sort of). In this case, his excuse for coating the streets in blood is protecting a 12-year-old Chinese girl who’s memorized a valuable code from some Russian mobsters. Purely by coincidence, they’re the same Russian mobsters who murdered his wife.

“Safe” couldn’t have a more appropriate title. It’s another formulaic Statham action movie that’s split critics right down the middle because even though you know what’s going to happen, you can’t help but be entertained. Perhaps Aaron Hillis of The Village Voice put it best: “Safe” is a “preposterously enjoyable—or enjoyably preposterous—action-thriller.”

If “Safe” is your style, go and enjoy it, you’ll get no argument from me. But since you already know the endings anyway, you might as well rent “Snatch” or “Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels” instead.

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Mary and Max

Falling somewhere between Nick Parker’s charming “Wallace and Gromit” shorts and Tim Burton’s more adult stop-motion films, the 2009 Sundance hit “Mary and Max” is a hilarious and poignant tale about two very different people from separate sides of the world. Eight-year-old Mary Daisy Dinkle (voiced as a child by Bethany Whitmore and as an adult by Toni Collette) has no friends in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia, so one day she randomly selects a name out of the United States phonebook and writes them a letter to ask where babies come from.

That person is Max Jerry Horowitz (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a 44-year-old overweight New Yorker who also has no friends apart from the imaginary one he created as a kid. Against his better judgment, Max decides to answer Mary’s question, thus jumpstarting a 20-year long pen-pal friendship that explores everything from love, religion, and even mental illness. Though the film is told in a storybook manner with narration by Barry Humphries, “Mary and Max” has some surprisingly mature messages at its core. Mary may only be a child, but that doesn’t stop Max from speaking bluntly, which as we later learn is a result of his Asperger’s Syndrome. Pretty heavy stuff for Claymation, but thanks to a wonderful script by director Adam Elliot and key performances from Whitmore and an unrecognizable Hoffman, this is one animated film that every adult fan of Pixar should rush out and see.

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