Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)

One wonders if “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)” was ever intended to be taken seriously; I suppose the same could be said for the first sequence too. You see, this full sequence rendered me confused, in that I was unsure if the rib-tickling moments, of which there are many, were an attempt at dark humour by writer-director Tom Six, or if they were a display of Six’s sheer and utter incompetence as a writer. Thinking about it now, I believe they may have been a mixture of both; Six attempted to create a slightly tongue-in-cheek tone, but was clueless as to how to make this work to the film’s advantage.

“The Human Centipede II” has the same basic, though admittedly imaginative, concept as “The Human Centipede.” This is the concept that some sick, psychotic sicko psycho takes it upon himself to surgically join several kidnapped victims mouth-to-anus, thus creating a human centipede. The difference with this vomit-inducing sequel is that the perpetrator of this twisted surgical experiment is not a surgeon.

The perverted antagonist of this perverted sequel - which is mercifully shot in black-and-white - is called Martin. He is played by Laurence R. Harvey, a British stage actor and performance artist who, and I’m sure he won’t mind me saying this, is a tad odd-looking. With sticky-out ears, a receding hairline, beady little eyes, an ever-sweaty forehead and a belly that probably has its own gravitational orbit, he ain’t exactly Robert Pattinson.

Martin works as a security guard in a parking garage. He lives with his mother, who despises him. He is asthmatic, small in stature and appears to have some form of mental illness. It is revealed, very unsubtly, that Martin was a victim of sexual abuse from his father when he was a boy; this is used as an excuse for his behaviour in the film. Martin has an unhealthy obsession with a certain film; this film, surprise surprise, is “The Human Centipede,” which he watches on a regular basis, sometimes while masturbating with sandpaper wrapped around his penis, sometimes not.

Inspired by the film he loves oh so much, Martin decides he wants his own centipede to play with, and I’m not talking about the kind he keeps inside a glass box in his living room. So, with the aid of a handgun and a crowbar, Martin begins kidnapping those who visit his parking garage and takes all twelve (yes, twelve) of them to an empty warehouse for a little bit of medical experimenting.

I said it once, I’ll say it again: Martin is not a surgeon, nor do I believe he ever will be. While Dr. Heiter from the first film decided to administer anaesthetic while operating on his victims, Martin decides to beat them over the head with his crowbar (which proves to be incredibly ineffective). And when Martin discovers he is incapable of properly slicing up his victims’ buttocks for application onto another victim’s face, he gets out his staple gun and gets to staplin’.

There are three things about “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)” that I believe to be genuinely good. The first is Harvey, who gives a strong, chilling performance as our antihero/villain without ever uttering a word. The second is the cinematography by David Meadows; Six also seems to be a decent visual director. And the third… well, I can’t think of a third thing.

It goes without saying that this is a nasty, nasty film, a fact which I believe anyone who goes to see it will be fully aware of. Anyone who thought the first film was tame (which, by comparison, sort of was) will be pleased - scratch that, I’ll say “morbidly satisfied” - by the sheer depravity of the violence in “Human Centipede II.” By that same logic, those who were utterly horrified by the content of the first film will find “Human Centipede II” a traumatic experience and may require the services of a psychologist afterwards.

In this BBFC-cut version (with 32 cuts made), we have the tearing of ligaments, the bashing-in of teeth, the removal of a person’s tongue and a rather interesting use of a funnel. An old lady’s skull is beaten open with a crowbar, a newborn baby’s head is crushed by its mother’s foot and, at one point, explosive diarrhoea splatters across the screen; all I can say is, thank Christ the film isn’t in 3D, or indeed 4D.

I can picture Six sitting at his desk following the success of the first film, furiously jotting down the most sinful, lurid and disgusting things he could possibly think of. I can also picture him then inserting these nauseating thoughts into a screenplay, giving little thought to anything in the script outside of these ideas, other than how to progress the plot towards them.

The funny thing is, this is pretty much what people asked for. I can remember audiences complaining to Six that the first film was too tame for its deeply disturbing premise. They begged for the inevitable sequel to be unforgivably repellent and incessantly stomach-churning, as they expected the first film to be. They asked for it to be more graphic, more gruesome and more vile than the first one; they essentially wanted him to up the ante, as it were. Unfortunately for us, Six listened.

And the result is “The Human Centipede II,” a film stock-full of pathetically laughable dialogue, dodgy acting, a plotline that is surprisingly boring, a climax that is deeply unsatisfying and a hopelessly idiotic script so concerned with being vile and repugnant that that is the only way to describe the film. This film is beyond unpleasant, and I would never be so irresponsible as to recommend it to anyone.


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

“The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” is a master class in visual extravagance which should be attended by any filmmaker intending to create a spectacle; they may learn something. Teaching this master class are legendary director Steven Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg’s photographing partner since 1993’s “Schindler’s List.” Together, they create a dizzying thrill-ride so dazzlingly thrilling and a visual spectacle so visually spectacular that it could be described as inspiring; I myself found it endlessly riveting and frequently breathtaking.

As you should know, “Tintin” is based on the classic series of comic books - specifically “The Crab with the Golden Claws,” “The Secret of the Unicorn” and “Red Rackham’s Treasure” - by the Belgian artist known as Hergé. I myself am vaguely familiar with the books; I remember reading a couple of them as a child and enjoying them. As far as I can tell, writers Edgar Wright ("Shaun of the Dead"), Joe Cornish ("Attack the Block") and Steven Moffat ("Doctor Who") do a more than fine job in representing the beloved characters and the adventurous tone set by Hergé.

The film leaps right into the adventure that intrepid, flame-haired boy reporter Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell, “Billy Elliot”) undergoes with his trusty dog Snowy. The adventure begins with Tintin’s purchase of a model of a legendary ship known as the Unicorn. Upon his purchase, he is almost immediately confronted by two men, one after the other, who wish to buy the model from him. They seem desperate to have it in their possession, though Tintin stubbornly refuses. He wonders: what’s so important about a model ship he just bought for a quid? He must find out!

So, Tintin investigates and soon finds himself locked inside a cage, aboard a freighter, against his will. He discovers that the moustachioed Ivanovich Sakharine (Daniel Craig, “Casino Royale”) is behind his kidnapping; Sakharine reveals that he wants a scroll that Tintin discovered within the model ship, but Tintin doesn‘t have it on him. While aboard the freighter, Tintin meets Captain Archibald Haddock (Andy Serkis, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”), a bearded drunkard with an obsessive liking for the taste of whisky. They quickly form a friendship. And together, the unlikely duo bravely set out to stop Sakharine’s villainous schemes and solve the mystery they’re both now heavily involved in.

“Tintin” is the very definition of a no-holds-barred, action-packed extravaganza; it’s a spectacle and is not ashamed to say so. One could call it pure entertainment; it exists with the sole intention to provide a non-stop barrage of blockbuster thrills, but is smart about this and never patronises its audience. It’s a film that very rarely stops, and when it does it does not last long.

Its structure essentially takes the form of action set-piece after action set-piece, which may sound tiring, but the experience is exhilarating. The action is fast, intricate, thrilling and creative, with a dash of slapstick humour thrown into the mix. It’s all incredibly fun, as all swashbuckling shenanigans should be; it's Spielberg back in old-school "Indiana Jones" mode, which can only be a good thing.

There are two action sequences that stand out from the rest. The first is an epic, swooping, beautifully shot flashback to Haddock’s pirate ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock (also played by Serkis), as he protects his ship from villainous invaders. This imaginatively intercuts with Captain Haddock’s lively and enthusiastic description of the scene. The second is a chase sequence that takes us through the streets of exotic Bagghar. Tintin and Haddock are in hot pursuit of Sakharine, who has just obtained the three scrolls that will lead him to a heap of treasure. The scene, lasting sometime around three minutes, is unadulterated over-the-top action that is, impressively, done without a single cut from start to finish; I know it’s animated, but still, it’s impressive.

The film has latched onto the recent trend of performance capture; this, in case you don’t know, is when the facial and bodily movements of one or more CGI characters within a film are based directly on the facial and bodily movements of a real-life human being. The trend is usually lampooned for creating animated characters who are afflicted with zombie eyes and skin that looks like it is made of wax; “Tintin,” however, does not suffer from this.

You see, “Tintin” actually pushes this technology into truly impressive territory and has me absolutely convinced the medium really could go places. Unlike other performance capture efforts such as the Robert Zemeckis-produced “Mars Needs Moms,” Robert Zemeckis' “The Polar Express” and Robert Zemeckis’ “A Christmas Carol” (you noticing a pattern here?), the medium here is not a friggin’ eyesore, instead creating something that is ridiculously gorgeous and visually pleasing. Along with August’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” the film is the best argument for performance capture I’ve seen since James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

The film is fully animated, so every movement of every single character has been physically carried out by the voice cast. The movements of the characters are smooth, fluid and realistic; their facial expressions are also fully expressive, as opposed to stiff and scary (as they were for the CGI-faced Jeff Bridges in “TRON: Legacy”). Altogether, the character animation is utterly magnificent and is some of the best I’ve seen in a feature film; indeed, there were several moments where I genuinely believed I was watching real-life human beings.

Hergé famously stated that Steven Spielberg was the only director capable of bringing Tintin to the big-screen; turns out he just may have been right. Wonderfully animated, frequently hilarious and boundlessly stimulating, “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” is an invigorating piece of action-packed entertainment that will excite and beguile audiences of all ages. I hope to see more adventures from quiff-head soon


Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Ides of March

I’ve always thought George Clooney would make for a lovely President of the United States. For one, the American actor has a suave, ridiculously charming and effortlessly cool personality. He gives the impression that he is an intelligent, confident and well-spoken man during interviews and TV appearances. He’s undeniably handsome, having won People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” twice. He’s a ladies’ man, with flirtation practically his second language.

He’s sexy, though in a way that straight guys can say is sexy without feeling, well, un-straight. His teeth are so white they make Bill Clinton look like 2Pac. Also, wikipedia says he’s done some big important humanitarian and political work a few times or something or other (I skim read the page). Anyway, given these key facts, I reckon if Clooney were to run for the presidency he’d win with his hands tied behind his back; plus, he’d be the first Batman to run for office, though hopefully sans bat-nipples.

In “The Ides of March,” Clooney plays a man who is running for the presidency. This man is Mike Morris, the suave and charming Democratic governor of Pennsylvania. Currently, he is attempting to win over the state of Ohio, competing against rival presidential candidate Ted Pullman (Michael Mantell, “Ocean’s Thirteen”), the Republican senator of Arkansas. Helping Morris in his campaign are senior campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Capote”) and junior campaign manager Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling, “Drive”).

While only in the junior position, Stephen is frequently shown to be the real brains behind Morris’ campaign. He understands elections and how they work. He understands how voters’ minds operate and what Morris should say to sway voters either way. He knows what will make people vote for Morris and what will make people not vote for Morris. I may be making him sound sneaky and crafty in a devious way, but he’s not, at least not at the film’s beginning. You see, Stephen genuinely believes Morris to be the best man to sit in the president’s chair and he will do anything within his power to make sure his man wins the election, but a corrupt man he is not.

One day, Stephen is contacted by Senator Pullman’s campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti, “Sidways”). Duffy reveals he wants Stephen to dump Morris and come help support Pullman’s campaign instead. Stephen is appalled and says no. Soon after, Stephen begins an affair with an intern for Morris’ campaign, Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood, “Thirteen”). This ends in Stephen learning of a scandal that could possibly destroy Morris’ campaign. His opinion of Morris begins to change. He’s not the man Stephen thought he was. But should Stephen remain loyal and stay with Morris, or ditch him and go with Pullman?

“The Ides of March” has a wonderful story that’s fully engaging from the opening scene right up to the chilling closing moments. The story has a superb set of characters who each have their own motivations and sense of purpose. These characters are acted without fault, the film fitted with a cast of well-respected, enormously talented actors. The dialogue, which is sometimes humorous and sometimes emotional, is rich, witty and highly entertaining. All in all, it’s an unqualified success that’s very difficult to falter in any specific area.

The film not only stars Clooney, but is also co-written and directed by the hunky silver-top. It follows his previous directing stints on “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Leatherheads.” Blissfully ignoring that last one, one can see he’s already proven himself to be an exceedingly talented filmmaker as well as a supremely commanding screen presence; “The Ides of March” only serves to further support this reputation.

Clooney, along with fellow writers Grant Heslov (“Good Night, and Good Luck”) and Beau Willimon (writer of the play “Farragut North,” on which the film is based), successfully keeps the story stimulating and intriguing throughout. The story is given much weight through its characters, who are engaging and well-developed. The plotting is sharp, teeming with quick twists and well-timed character moments. At times dramatic, at others sly and comical, it’s a story that is infinitely compelling and handled with care and attention.

Gosling, who’s only recently risen to public attention and become a household name, makes for a fabulous lead alongside slightly more distinguished actors such as Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman (both of whom are as excellent as ever). Gosling convinces as a man who comes face-to-face with a moral dilemma and is forced to question his own loyalty. He’s a committed, ambitious and skillful press secretary who must become corrupt in light of unexpected events; he must lose his innocence and his ideals if he is to survive. The character is not necessarily a sympathetic figure, but instead an endearing character played with much charisma by the talented Mr. Gosling.

“The Ides of March” is not necessarily a thriller, but it feels like one. It’s a political drama that’s overwhelmed by a frequently intense mood while not giving into typical cinematic thrills. It’s a good-looking, splendidly written and marvellously acted drama that goes down well as captivating entertainment. I suppose you could say it’s march-nificent. Look, even I cringed at that.


Friday, 21 October 2011

Paranormal Activity 3

The thing that I love about the “Paranormal Activity” franchise is its use of tension and build-up. Each instalment, from the 2009 original to this brand new third entry, is absolutely littered with the kind of hair-raising tension that will shred your nerves and cause you to bite your fingernails down to the bone. I love these movies because they throw me, among many others, into a never-ending whirl of terror and suspense; in an age where horror films consist mostly of blood, gore, torture and tits, this series is a revelation.

The build-up that is utilised in each film, all of which are filmed in the found-footage format, is phenomenal; the way in which the villainous entity/demon/ghost/whatever haunts and taunts the petrified protagonists guarantees a suspenseful build-up. The scares are always minimal at first - maybe a few bumps in the night and a gust of wind blowing a door closed - and then slowly but surely build and build into a batshit-insane bundle of horrifying horror and bloodcurdling screams; it’s at this point you begin to question why the character holding the camera is still, well, holding the camera.

“Paranormal Activity 3” uses this formula once again, but please don’t be put off, dear reader, because I assure you there are plenty of surprises stuffed up the filmmakers’ sleeves; also, the two-year-old formula, well-known as it is by now, still proves itself to be very effective in creating a boatload of tension and suspense (with pay-offs too!). Sure, fans of the first two films will be more than aware of the formula’s methods of progression, but the film is not as seen-it-all-before as one may initially suspect.

Like “Paranormal Activity 2,” “PA3” is a prequel, this time predating the first two films’ story by just under twenty years. The film is set in 1988, a fact which is sometimes convincing and sometimes not. Remember sisters Katie and Kristi from the first two films? Well, here they’re little youngsters living with mummy (Lauren Bittner, “Bride Wars”) and daddy (Brian Boland, “The Unborn”) in a lovely suburban home in California.

Kristi is here characterised as a rather shy girl, as opposed to her teasing sister Katie. Kristi is shown to have an imaginary friend named Toby; no, you do not get any reward for predicting that this Toby person is in fact the entity/demon/ghost/whatever haunting the home. This is so obvious (yet cool) that even daddy manages to figure this out in the film’s first half.

So, the family suspect there is an entity/demon/ghost/whatever stalking the hallways of their spacious abode. Well, daddy at least does, and thus he decides to set up cameras all around the house, recording footage with VHS tapes that need to be changed every six hours. There’s one in the kids’ bedroom, one in mummy and daddy’s bedroom, one that’s used for handheld filming about the house, and one that sits on a rotating fan, surveilling the kitchen and living room; the film is, of course, presented entirely through what these cameras manage to capture.

I love that last camera. I love the way it very slowly rotates from the kitchen to the living room, and then very slowly back to the kitchen again, repeat all throughout the day. This allows for nigh-unbearable suspense as we await the camera to rotate and reveal something standing, something moving, something going missing or something popping up out of nowhere; as the camera turns, you are entirely aware that anything could suddenly appear at the side of the frame at any moment. It’s simple, but gosh darn it’s effective.

The film is directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. You may recognise these names from last year’s controversial documentary “Catfish,” a cautionary tale about the dangers of social networking. The choice of Joost and Schulman as directors of the next instalment in the biggest found-footage franchise in the history of ever is interesting, seeing as to how the two spent months fiercely defending their claims that “Catfish” was a genuine documentary and not a found-footage film.

Anyway, it turns out they were a fabulous choice for the film. Along with Christopher B. Landon, writer of “Paranormal Activity 2,” they muster up a cavalcade of creativity and originality in the scares department. Yes, some scares are easily foreseen (such as the babysitter lunging at the camera for a LOL-tastic gag), but there is an ample heap of shocks and frights to startle, traumatise and create a sort of yellowy-brown stain in the bottom of your underwear; I apologise for the image.

“Paranormal Activity 3,” against all odds, is an unexpectedly glorious success of a horror threequel. As somebody who thoroughly enjoyed “PA1” and “PA2,” I can safely say that “PA3” is at the very least on a par with both of its wonderful predecessors. Different enough to be fresh yet still true to the franchise’s well-established formula, it’s a titillatingly terrifying and furiously creative found-footage chiller that should more than please die-hard fans of the successful series. I would, however, advise the producers to end the series here; the story has been told, leave it at that. We don’t want another over-convoluted “Saw”-esque franchise on our hands here.


Thursday, 20 October 2011


“Contagion” begins with the ominous sound of a person coughing. This person is Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow, “Iron Man 2”) and, unbeknownst to her, she is the first known person to carry a newly developed virus that can cause intense headaches, perspiration, seizures and death. By the time Beth has died in hospital as a direct result of the virus, she has already sparked its rapid spread from country to country; soon enough, the virus will consume the globe, infecting and killing millions in the process; this virus is much worse than bird flu, lemme tell you that.

This is director Steven Soderbergh’s ultra-realistic disaster drama-thriller set in the present day. Well, I say ultra-realistic, but I myself am maybe not equipped enough to say so. I’m not a medical doctor nor a professional in dealing with global epidemics, but as far as I could tell the film painted a fairly realistic picture of what would happen if a very lethal and very contagious disease began to spread throughout the world. If not, then it sure fooled me.

As is usual with the disaster genre, “Contagion” carries an ensemble cast of big star names; it has a script that balances them with ease, with no actor getting lost in the ocean of very recognisable A-listers. This is also a result of sublime acting performances, which aid in making the film feel so real and compelling as we watch the story unfold.

Laurence Fishburne (“Predators”) plays Dr. Ellis Cheever, a high-up official of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention who is tasked with dealing with the virus’ outbreak. He assigns Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet, “Revolutionary Road”) of the Epidemic Intelligence Service to keep track of who is currently infected and thus try to stop the spread.

Marion Cotillard (“Midnight in Paris”) plays Dr. Leonora Orantes, an epidemiologist who travels to Hong Kong to investigate the source of the virus. Jude Law (“Repo Men”) plays Alan Krumwiede, a conspiracy theorist and internet blogger who believes the government is doing very bad, very scandalous things for financial gain; turns out he’s a bit of a hypocrite.

Matt Damon (“The Adjustment Bureau”) plays Mitch Emhoff, husband of the late Beth. He comes home from the hospital to discover his young son has also died from the virus. It turns out Mitch is immune to the virus, but is his daughter, Jory (Anna Jacoby-Heron)? The doctors can’t tell yet. He’s determined to protect her from anyone carrying the virus, or anyone who could be carrying the virus until she can be treated with the yet-undiscovered vaccine. He’s already lost his wife and son, he’s not going to lose his daughter now too.

Damon’s character feels like more of a protagonist than any of the other characters, though he shares an equal amount of screen-time with his co-stars. Perhaps this is because he’s the most human character; all others are government officials questioning and investigating, while Mitch is just a man trying to protect his daughter. He’s a likable and noble man with whom we can fully relate; I mean, the only other main character who is not a government official is played by Jude Law, and he’s a knob.*

Still, the government folks in the film are also made to be relatable. They are shown to be flawed human beings rather than a bunch of soulless bureaucrats in suits. They are people trying to get their job done in extreme circumstances. They are trying to save the world and control a situation that seems to be uncontrollable. The world’s health and sanity is at their fingertips; the world is scared and they too are scared. As a result, their character flaws begin to seep through the surface.

There’s a lot of medical jargon in the film; I suppose this is an inevitability when many of the characters are doctors who must frequently converse about a dangerous virus that’s spreading across the globe. I think I got the gist of what they were saying most of the time, the majority of it consisting of explanations of what the virus consists of, its danger level, where it’s spreading and where it is going to spread. It’s a bit like watching “ER;” you’re often perplexed by the jargon yet still able to follow the basics. Anyway, all we need to know is this: there’s a disease, it’s a bad disease, it’s spreading everywhere and it’s killing everybody up in here.

I can imagine all of this happening in real-life in the way the film portrays it would. I can imagine quarantines being put in place, I can imagine mass panic and violence in the streets and I can imagine the government reacting the way it does in the film. Also, with the average person touching their face three to five times every waking minute (this film taught me that), I can imagine the virus spreading so quickly in such a short space of time. That’s ultimately what I loved about “Contagion:” I believed it and didn’t doubt the story; I could be fully enthralled in the narrative without frequently questioning its realism, which is more than I can say for some films.

“Contagion” works as both a drama and a disaster movie, in fact succeeding very well at both. These elements go hand-in-hand without fault; I suppose disaster always comes with a slice of drama, anyway. It’s a very compelling film that doesn’t resort to mindless thrills for entertainment value. It’s an intelligent disaster flick that’s about emotion as opposed to spectacle; we don’t have enough of those these days.


*Just kidding, I like Jude Law. Sort of.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

It’s a rule of horror cinema that the children, as opposed to the customer, are always right. It’s also a rule that the parents of said children, no matter how much the children beg and plead for mummy and/or daddy to believe their story, will not believe a single word they say. “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is a film that incorporates this rule and does so proudly; it may sound like the film’s writers have merely tumbled their way into a tired horror cliché, but using classic horror tropes makes perfect sense in a film that has a rather classic horror story to tell.

The child in this case is ten-year-old Sally Hurst, who is played by the very talented Bailee Madison (“Bridge to Terabithia”). Daddy is Alex, an architect played by man-of-many-accents Guy Pearce (“Animal Kingdom”). And mummy may be heard on occasion but is never seen, though taking her place is Alex’s new girlfriend, Kim, who is played by a surprisingly decent Katie Holmes (“Batman Begins”).

Little Sally is most displeased with her current living situation. She’s been taken from her LA home with mummy and is now living with daddy and daddy’s girlfriend in the spooky and gothic Blackwood Manor on Rhode Island. Alex and Kim are planning on putting the house on the market, so are refurbishing the place for selling purposes.

They soon discover that underneath the grand staircase lies a basement that has been mysteriously hidden away behind a wall. As they are unaware that they are in a horror film, they indulge in their curiosity, and venture into the basement. The place is completely covered in dust and cobwebs. Nobody’s been in here for decades. Sally begins to hear voices. Daddy says it’s just rats. Who do you believe?

Inevitably, spooky goings-on begin to occur in this creepy, creaky house, specifically around poor little Sally. But no matter how much Sally begs and pleads for daddy and daddy’s girlfriend to believe her story, they ignore every word that comes out of her silly little mouth, believing that she has just gone a bit nuts. But there are teeny-tiny fairy gnome creatures living in the basement, you stupid grown-ups, and they want to take poor Sally down to the basement and devour her bones! Do something, damn it!

Yes, the villains of this supernatural horror are teeny-tiny fairy gnome creatures that live in the basement and enjoy chasing innocent little children. Now, these vicious little buggers may not sound very intimidating on paper, but when you’re watching an endless army of the creatures sneaking about the floor, wielding knives and screwdrivers with murder in their eyes you better prepare to be slightly intimidated.

They’re kept in the dark for a fair amount of the film’s runtime, their presence for the first half or so of the film consisting of raspy whispers that attract and enchant poor little Sally. But when these creatures finally emerge from the darkness and show their ugly faces, we are greeted with a marvellous, yet rather simple, design. They’re humanoid, they’re scrawny, their skin is a dead grey, their eyes are beady, their teeth are rotten and they’re a half foot tall. Just imagine the world’s worst rodent and times it by a thousand.

The film is less scary than it is thrilling. Sure, there are plenty of jump-scares to startle one and send flakes of popcorn flying through the air, but the film never truly chills or frightens. Instead, the film benefits from being engaging and intriguing, providing a regular and consistent collection of thrills to keep viewers enthralled throughout. You may think that a horror film that is not frightening is not worthy of your time, but a horror film - and any film in general - need only be entertaining to be a success.

The film is co-written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, a very talented Mexican filmmaker. His influence on the film is noticeable; the creature designs, for one, remind one of the creatures presented in his “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Hellboy II: The Golden Army.” There’s also the use of a child as the protagonist, much like in del Toro’s “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth;” the original, made-for-TV “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” of which del Toro is a massive fan, instead had a grown woman (played by Kim Darby) as the protagonist.

“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is director Troy Nixey’s first feature-length film; all in all, it’s an impressive debut. He, along with co-writers del Toro and Matthew Robbins (“Mimic”), successfully build an unnerving atmosphere and stay true to it. While it’s not particularly spine-chilling or scary, the film is a perfectly enjoyable, endlessly compelling and generally solid haunted house horror; okay, okay, infestation horror.


Real Steel

“Real Steel” is a boxing movie that focuses more on the trainer than it does on the boxer; think “Rocky” focusing on cranky ol’ Mickey rather than the eponymous Italian Stallion. Now, that may sound a bit crap, but with “Real Steel” it’s a plus, given that the boxer is a hunk of junk that can’t talk, emote or really do a whole lot outside of swinging its metallic mitts and taking a heap of hard hits. To be frank, this robotic character is no Wall-E, so it’s a relief the film’s attention is dedicated to the robot’s human trainers rather than the robot itself/himself.

The film is based on Richard Matheson’s short story “Steel,” which already got the live-action treatment with a 1963 episode of “The Twilight Zone.” Director-for-hire Shawn Levy’s big-screen adaptation is set in the near future, when robot boxing has won the world over; yes, sports fans are now less enticed by the intensity of two muscular human beings sweating and panting as they brutally brawl with each other, and are now more concerned with the sight of scraps of metal repeatedly bashing against other scraps of metal. [insert “Transformers” joke here]

Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), an ex-boxer, is an amateur trainer of these robots, i.e. he controls them as they fight in the ring. He’s had mixed results with this, frequently having to owe money to men who threaten to beat him to a pulp if he doesn’t pay up; he rarely does. He’s that lovable rogue kinda character who’s immature and a bit of an ass, but the audience still roots for him in spite of his hardhearted attitude.

One day, he’s given the news that his ex-girlfriend has died and that the aunt and uncle of his eleven-year-old son Max (Dakota Goyo, “Thor”), whom Charlie abandoned, want full custody of the boy. Uncaring about Max’s future, Charlie signs off full custody to the aunt and uncle, but will have to take care of him until the aunt and uncle return from a three-month trip to Italy.

Soon enough, Max takes an interest in Charlie’s robot-boxing. Together, they find a veteran robot named Atom lying in a junkyard. Max drags Atom to the gym despite Charlie’s insistence not to; Charlie thinks the robot is useless; Max thinks the robot has potential. They power Atom up and discover he has the ability to mimic the actions of humans through sight. They enter him into a non-official fight. Atom is sure to lose. And they watch as Atom beats the nuts and bolts out of his brawny competitor; it turns out the old automaton has quite a bit of fighting fuel left in him.

Inevitably, Atom ends up fighting in the televised official leagues against robotic juggernauts who are much bigger and much stronger than him. There’s a bunch of action, so it’s a good job the film’s biggest asset is its action; the fights between the robotic characters are surprisingly compelling and relentlessly energetic, shot with spacial awareness and visual clarity. They’re sometimes tense, sometimes emotional, but always fun. It turns out Shawn Levy is quite the director of robot fights; maybe the “Transformers 4” gong should be taken off Michael Bay and given to Levy? No, wait, Levy made “Cheaper by the Dozen”…

The robots themselves are designed rather well. They’re big and bulky and heavy and look a little like Transformers (I’ll stop mentioning Transformers). They’ve been animated through use of motion-capture, much like the Na’vi in “Avatar” and the apes in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes;” this is very effective. Atom in particular seems to have been designed not necessarily in a cute way but with the idea of making him appear friendly and appealing; with his small glowing blue eyes, how could you not love him?

However, the film is not just one overblown rock ’em sock ’em robot action spectacle; no no, it’s also a family melodrama. Yes, there’s the drama between the absent father and the abandoned son that acts as the heart of the story. Side note: it seems it’s impossible to take part in combat sports nowadays without having family troubles; first it was “The Fighter,” then it was “Warrior,” now it’s “Real Steel.”

The family drama works perfectly fine; it serves its purpose in making the film feel like something more than just a movie about robots repeatedly thwacking one another in the nuts and bolts. The relationship between the father and the son is convincing as they initially meet, clash and fight, and then bond together over the professional bot-boxing; sure, it’s predictable and wreaks of Menahem Golan’s “Over the Top” (minus the robots), but it works.

“Real Steel” is a fun film and nothing more; it works perfectly fine on those terms. As a piece of audience-pleasing entertainment, it’s a mostly satisfying success that you can like without feeling guilty. It’s cool, it’s fast, it’s exciting, it’s visually pleasing and it’s dramatically adequate. I’d say that’s pretty good going for a film that’s essentially “Robot Wars” on steroids.


Friday, 14 October 2011

The Three Musketeers

My last review was of Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” a film which, as you may have guessed from the title, was set in the beautiful city of Paris. Paul W.S. Anderson’s “The Three Musketeers” is also set in Paris, though this time it’s 18th Century Paris; y’know, that time in history when Frenchmen and Frenchwomen would casually gaze out of their windows and frequently see airships floating high in the sky alongside the Eiffel tower as they blasted their cannons and aimed their flamethrowers at enemy airships hovering nearby. Wait, what?

This is the classic Alexandre Dumas adventure novel as seen through the eyes of the director who gave us “Alien vs. Predator” and “Resident Evil: Afterlife;” the perfect man for the job, clearly. As such, the film is overblown, hollow, chock-full of CGI and pointless slow-motion, is a bit of a mess, and is generally just an unsatisfying piece of cinematic fast food; ah, don’t you just love 21st Century filmmaking?

We have four protagonists, three of which are the titular musketeers; the other is their new recruit. The heroic trio of sword-clangers are the same as they always have been: we have brave leader Athos (Matthew MacFadyen, “Pride and Prejudice”), chuckling mammoth-of-a-man Porthos (Ray Stevenson, “Punisher: War Zone”) and the quiet, devilishly handsome Aramis (Luke Evans, “Tamara Drewe”). And the new recruit is the young and ambitious D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman, “The Number 23”), whose father was once a musketeer.

Together, they boldly fight the forces of evil. In this case, evil takes many forms. Firstly, there’s Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”), who yearns to gain the crown and thus control the whole of France. Then there’s the Duke of Buckingham (a very hammy Orlando Bloom, “Pirates of the Caribbean”), a vain walking-hairdo who wishes to destroy France. There’s also Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen, “Casino Royale”), the eye-patched right hand man of the diabolical Cardinal. And finally there’s Milady (Milla Jovovich, “Resident Evil”), a sexy femme fatale who sort of jumps between villain and anti-heroine throughout the course of the film.

“The Three Musketeers” is a chronically stupid film; one need only be aware of who is in the director’s chair to know this. It’s a film that is all style and no substance; this is a given, and all those who are interested in the film will be entirely aware of this. This is the kind of movie you go into with the full knowledge that more thought has been put into the production design than the script or the characters. But even on these terms, and even when expecting these terms, the film simply is not a satisfying enough watch.

The film works mostly when it’s in action mode; Anderson, incompetent as he can be (see, well, everything he’s ever done), is a decent director of action and of visually appealing spectacles. The action here is over-the-top, very stylish and very slow-motiony (if that’s a proper term). It’s good-looking, it’s well-choreographed and it’s rather thrilling on occasion, but one must remember that some decent action scenes do not a good movie make. And “The Three Musketeers” is most definitely not a good movie, regardless of all the sword-clashing and cannon-firing on display.

Tonally, it’s a mash-up between the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, “The Mask of Zorro” and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” with a little sprinkle of “Prince of Persia” thrown into the mix. There’s explosive action, intricate swordplay, comical banter, heart-wrenching emotion and slapstick comedy; quite a mix, but it’s consistent enough to last until the end credits finally arrive.

It’s essentially a big-budget pantomime assembled by a pyrotechnic-mad director who’s read one too many steampunk novels. Like a pantomime, it’s playful, it’s silly, it’s a bit mad and is very tongue-in-cheek. And serving as this pantomime’s very pointless and very annoying comic relief is James Corden (“Lesbian Vampire Killers”), who, in one scene, gets hilariously shat on by a flying French pigeon. Stupide Anglais, no?

Corden aside, the film is acted capably, with no notable errors in the casting of characters. The very talented Waltz, however, feels underused as a chief villain, his character not exactly given much to do. This is a problem with the script, which is written by Alex Litvak (“Predators”) and Andrew Davies (“Bridget Jones’s Diary”); the script, while not horrible, is uninspired, lacking in wit, and is probably the film’s biggest drawback.

“The Three Musketeers” may not be as howlingly horrendous as I anticipated it would be, but it’s still an unfulfilling movie that will please very few. No, it’s never dull, and yes, it’s enjoyable while it lasts, but rarely is it ever satisfying, exciting or charming enough to warrant a recommendation; I know I personally have no desire to ever watch it again.


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Midnight in Paris

I feel I shouldn’t mention the main plot of “Midnight in Paris,” or at least not in specific detail. I feel it would spoil the surprise for viewers who could have walked into the movie blissfully unaware of the odd and unexpected route the movie happily goes down. I, unfortunately, stumbled upon the film’s principal concept before viewing it, so I was anticipating the surprise for the first twenty or so minutes of the film. I still highly enjoyed the film, but I believe audiences would find “Midnight in Paris” a better viewing experience if they were unaware of its secrets.

The film is written and directed by Woody Allen, a filmmaker who’s recently fallen a few miles down from his towering highchair. A couple of decades ago, he was a king, albeit a short, bespectacled and helplessly neurotic king. He wrote, directed and starred in “Annie Hall,” a rom-com masterpiece that won Best Film at the Academy Awards in 1978. He did the same with “Manhattan,” which won Best Film at the BAFTAs in 1980. Allen has also written and directed “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Broadway Danny Rose,” “Husbands and Wives” and “Bullets over Broadway,” all wonderful films. And yet recently, he’s come up dry.

Most recently, Allen released “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” which was more or less a step in the right direction; it was smart, funny and wreaked of Allen’s charm, wit and style. Now we have “Midnight in Paris,” a splendid piece of comedic entertainment that is also smart, funny and wreaks of Allen’s charm, wit and style; it just does it a little bit better than “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” did.

It stars Owen Wilson as Gil Pender, a Hollywood screenwriter who is ambitiously venturing into the realms of the novel. He is vacationing in Paris with his beautiful fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams, “Morning Glory”), and her two rich parents, played by Mimi Kennedy (“Dharma and Greg”) and Kurt Fuller (“The Pursuit of Happyness”).

In the city of light, they by chance bump into Inez’s friends, Paul (Michael Sheen, “Frost/Nixon”) and his wife Carol (Nina A rianda, “Win Win”). Paul is an obnoxious, pseudo-intellectual git whom Gil despises, but of whom Inez enjoys the company. One night, Inez, Paul and Carol decide to go out dancing while Gil decides to just head back to the hotel. Soon enough, the slightly tipsy aspiring writer becomes lost in the city and stumbles upon something magnificent when the clock strikes twelve.

And this is where I shall stop explaining the plot, but if you take a look at the cast list, specifically the characters some of the actors play, you will get a sense of what it is that Gil finds. It’s a fabulous concept that allows for many interesting opportunities to be explored, and Allen does a splendid job in exploring them; one also gets the sense that he had much pleasure while writing these parts of the film’s script.

Wilson is playing the typical Woody Allen role in this Woody Allen film. His character is an oddball and is also a writer, so there’s an immediate connection there. Gil is a man with a passion for the finer arts, who has a love for the city in which he’s vacationing and is knowledgeable in all things literature. He’s a smart, naïve, laid-back and very likable fellow, and Wilson is effortlessly charming in the role. It’s one of the best on-screen performances I’ve seen him give; yes, even better than his performance in “I Spy.”

He carries the film on his shoulders as our protagonist, so it’s a good job Wilson is so charismatic as the character. We experience the bizarre events the film presents along with Gil, who takes it in his stride without much questioning. Aiding Wilson is Allen’s writing, which is sharp, witty and filled with character and personality; it also nudges at the audience without prodding too hard.

Allen also has a clear love for the city in which the film is set. One can imagine why; Paris is a gorgeous city that I myself have not visited but hope to some day. Allen shoots it beautifully, most notably during the opening three minutes, which consist of a montage of shots capturing the magnificent sights of Paris; it’s rather spellbinding and gives off a distinct sense of passion from Allen.

“Midnight in Paris” is Allen’s finest work in years. It’s a perfectly charming, perfectly amusing and perfectly offbeat film that fully engages for its 90-minute length. As such, one can only hope Allen continues down this path to glory and doesn’t get lost again as Gil Pender does, though I’m sure Allen would love to get lost as Gil Pender does; you’ll see why when you see this splendid film.


Monday, 10 October 2011


Lars von Trier's "Melancholia" works wonderfully as a companion piece to Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life." For one, they're both stunningly shot arthouse films that are epic in scale and that some label “visionary" and others label “pretentious.” The second reason is that Malick's film is seen by many as a celebration of birth, of the universe and of life in general. Von Trier's film, on the other hand, is about the end of life; indeed it is about the end of all life forms crawling, swimming, walking and galloping on the face of the miserable little planet we like to call Earth.

This apocalypse is at the hands of a planet which scientists have just recently discovered. This planet is fittingly called Melancholia and has been hiding behind the sun, hence astronomers were unaware of its existence until recently. Now, however, it has come out of hiding, is becoming increasingly visible with the naked eye and is hurtling towards our general vicinity; some have predicted that it is going to collide with the Earth and that it will kill every life form on the globe; yes, even the cute little kitties.

Oddly, we are shown this collision in the opening moments of the film; it is presented in a hypnotic dream-like state, an overwhelming orchestral score blaring out from the loudspeakers as our protagonists, filmed in slow-motion, react to the end of the world. These moments set the tone perfectly; they are haunting yet magnificent, and eerie yet mesmerising. It's a marvellous sequence that is filmed exquisitely and attractively; it is cinema at its most visually beautiful.

The film is split into two parts, both of which are named after the film’s two protagonists. The first part is named after Justine, who is played by Kirsten Dunst (“Spider-Man”). The second part is named after Claire, who is played by Charlotte Gainsbourg (“Antichrist”). Justine and Claire are sisters, and their sibling relationship is very convincing.

Part one concerns the party celebrating the wedding of Justine and new hubby Michael (Alexander Skarsgard, “Straw Dogs”), who seems to be a genuinely nice man. The wedding is taking place at Claire’s house, or castle I should say, with Claire’s husband John (Kiefer Sutherland, “24”) paying for the whole thing. As the expensive-looking festivities continue into the late hours of the night, Justine becomes increasingly gloomy and unhappy, much to the concern of the party guests and the annoyance of John. During this first half we are unaware of the planet Melancholia, though Justine frequently looks at a star shining ominously in the night sky.

Part two also takes place at Claire’s house/castle/castle-house (complete with massive golf course). Justine is now suffering from severe depression, is unable to complete simple everyday tasks and thus moves in with her sister, John and their young son, Leo (Cameron Spurr). At this point we are made fully aware of Melancholia; John is an astronomer and assures his worried wife that the planet will simply pass us by. Claire, however, is convinced otherwise.

As it’s written and directed by Lars von Trier, you can bet your bottom dollar that “Melancholia” is a glum experience; another clue to this is that it’s called “Melancholia.” The controversial Danish director is known for his tremendously bleak and clinically unhappy films, such as “Dogville” (which involves rape) and “Antichrist” (which involves genital mutilation); y’know, the kind of films you wouldn’t go out and see with your mum (unless your mum is very cool). “Melancholia” is no exception; yes, its plot revolves around a planetary collision and the impending doom of mankind, so some glumness is a given, but just make sure don’t go in expecting the audience-pleasing nature of Michael Bay’s “Armageddon.”

You see, while “Armageddon” was big and dumb and fast and fun, “Melancholia” is slowly paced and deliberately miserable in tone. It takes its time as it develops characters and gradually builds up to the possible collision of Melancholia with Earth. This global-killing impact serves, for the most part, as little more than a backdrop, though the ever-nearing presence of planet Melancholia is always in the back of our minds.

Dunst and Gainsbourg make for marvellously cheerless protagonists; their characters fit the film perfectly, I suppose you could say. Dunst is in control of the film’s first half, with Gainsbourg appearing on occasion, while in the second half the film’s focus shifts more to Gainsbourg, though Dunst serves as prominent support along with the glorious Sutherland.

Both characters go through extreme states of sadness at different stages throughout the film. Dunst’s sadness seems to be a result of mental illness, while Gainsbourg’s sadness is a result of the threatening presence of planet Melancholia. Like their sisterly relationship, Dunst and Gainsbourg are incredibly convincing in their gloomy roles; the latter is more sympathetic (Dunst’s character seems to be a bit of a dodgy individual), but both characters feel real and genuine.

So, don’t go into “Melancholia” expecting an explosive thrill-ride about valiant heroes saving the Earth from imminent expiration. This is arthouse stuff from a filmmaker notorious for sending audiences into severe depression, and he’s certainly not changing his ways with “Melancholia.” Me, I was put down in the dumps by the film, but I still saw it as a powerful, beautiful, hypnotic and near-faultless piece of cinema; turns out down in the dumps is a happy place for me to be.


Saturday, 8 October 2011

Johnny English Reborn

I'm going to start this review by informing you, dear reader, that I like "Johnny English." Yes, sharpen your pitchforks and light your torches as much as you please, but you still won't change the fact that I, shockingly, like "Johnny English." I viewed it as a young 'un in 2003 and I loved it; I still do, though maybe to a lesser degree now. I believe it to be a very amusing and frequently rib-tickling British comedy that works splendidly as a family-friendly spy spoof. It's a fine film, and I like it. And now, dear reader, I am going to inform you that I, scandalous lover of the first "Johnny English" movie, do not at all like "Johnny English Reborn."

This is the first (and hopefully last) sequel to "Johnny English," arriving a grand total of eight years after the original's release. It sees Rowan Atkinson returning as the eponymous spy with a license to make a complete arse out of himself. As expected, he is as bumbling and incompetent as ever; that's fine, that's what I, among a few others, like about the character. The problem is, "Johnny English Reborn" the movie is as equally bumbling and incompetent as the character, if not more so.

Once again, English is a destructor of anything and anyone he comes into contact with; leave him in a room with a cat, poor pussy will be flung, whiskers and all, out of an eight-storey window. Invite him to a kids' birthday party, expect grandma to be hilariously (read: violently) beaten over the head with a serving tray. Why this man is allowed anywhere near a gun, let alone high-tech gadget weaponry, I do not know.

I guess you can call me curious as to why it is still this man’s duty to serve on her majesty’s secret service and protect his country. Considering how incessantly accident-prone he is, it seems very irresponsible of MI7 to keep English working for them. Maybe it's because he gets the job done in the end, always catching the bad guy by pure chance. But still, the path to his criminal-catching glory is always a trail of fiery destruction; surely the risk is far too great.

Anyway, at the beginning of this deeply uninspired sequel, Johnny is attempting to find himself with some monks in Tibet after having royally screwed up his last mission (which resulted in the death of the President of Mozambique). However, following some kicks to the groin, he's soon called back into duty when the life of the Chinese premier is threatened by a group of deadly assassins.

Joining him on his perilous mission is the young Special Agent Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya, “Chatroom”), whose common sense is frequently ignored by his middle-aged partner. Together, English and Tucker travel the world in their attempts to uncover the true identities of the villainous assassins, falling out of cable-cars and thumping the living daylights out of old ladies along the way.

As it was with its predecessor, “Johnny English Reborn” survives on the juxtaposition of James Bond-style espionage and the relentless ineptitude of the main character. English, much as he wants to be 007, is the complete opposite of 007; he’s a clumsy buffoon who wouldn’t be able to make a bowl of cornflakes without setting the kitchen on fire. His incompetence is the film’s running joke and it tries to keep this joke going from the opening scene right up until the end credits; the first film somewhat succeeded at this; the second does not.

The joke is tired now; it’s already ran for one whole movie and even by the opening moments of “Reborn” it begins to feel almost entirely worn-out. Every scene involving English feels like nothing more than a platform for him to screw something up, which here becomes laborious incredibly quickly; we’ve seen it all before and only on the very rare occasion is it genuinely funny.

This truly is a shame, because Atkinson has proven himself again and again to be an incredibly talented man of comedy. Look at his work in “Blackadder,” in “Mr. Bean,” in “Not the Nine O’Clock News” and even in the “Johnny English” films and you will see that he is very skilled in his line of work. He’s a fabulous comedian in both the physical and the verbal sense, perfectly displaying his rare abilities throughout “Reborn,” yet, much as he tries, he can do nothing to save this clunky comedy from plunging to the bottom of the barrel.

“Johnny English Reborn” may be bigger in scale than its perfectly enjoyable predecessor, but its comedy factor is almost running on empty. Atkinson gives it his all and manages to squeeze out a few laugh-worthy moments from a dreadfully stale script, but this spy farce feels hackneyed and lacking in imagination. Thankfully, though, it doesn’t look like Johnny will ever be returning to the big-screen for a third outing; you only live twice, y’see.


Sunday, 2 October 2011


“Abduction” is pure studio product; it exists entirely as a method of making Lionsgate some undeserved money and filling the wallets of Hollywood producers. It is a film that is unconcerned with filmmaking artistry, instead placing its attention on the lighting of its, frankly, talentless star, Taylor Lautner (“Twilight”). As such, the film is brimming with incompetence; it’s an insipid and mind-numbing film into which little to no effort was put. Either that, or its creators are utterly inept when it comes to professional movie-making.

Is all of this a bit harsh of me to say? Possibly, yes. But I feel they are fair statements. You see, “Abduction” is a thriller that is not thrilling. It is a mystery that is not mysterious. It is a piece of entertainment that is not particularly entertaining. It’s intended to be intriguing and exciting, but fails pathetically at both; it falls flat in its intentions and is thus a failure of a film.

Lautner stars as Nathan Harper, a partier who appears to be a relatively average teenager, just without the ability to emote properly. Like most kids, he lives with his parents; mum is played by Maria Bello (“A History of Violence”) and dad is played by Jason Isaacs (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2”).

For school, he’s assigned to do research on missing children. His partner in this assignment is Karen Murphy (Lily Collins, “Priest”), on whom Nathan of course has had a crush for, like, forever. It will be of no surprise to you that they will hug, snuggle, snog and attempt to fuck (but will stop; remember, this is PG-13 land) throughout the course of the film. Collins’ character exists because, well, why not?

While doing online research for the assignment, Nathan, to his shock, discovers a picture of his young self on a missing persons’ website. Why is his picture on a missing persons’ website? Are his parents really his parents? Did they kidnap him? Did they adopt him? Who are his real parents? I honestly don’t care.

Before he can make sense of what’s going on, men in suits break into his house and kill fake parent number one and fake parent number two (who are shown to be lovely people so we feel bad for Nathan when they die). A deeply confused Nathan (deeply confused face, Lautner, remember) goes on the run with tits-and-ass as men in suits and the CIA try with all their might to hunt him down.

There are four very talented actors who have been dragged into this lifeless mess. The first two are Isaacs and Bello, who, in their short screen time, are effective in their roles as loving parents and as a loving couple. The third is Sigourney Weaver (“Avatar”) as Nathan’s psychiatrist; Weaver is also given limited screen time, though I’m sure she’s not exactly begging for money after “Avatar.” The fourth is Alfred Molina (“Spider-Man 2”), who plays a villainous, and then decent, and then villainous again, CIA agent who’s chasing after Nathan. As always, Molina has a fine on-screen presence, though the script does him no favours.

But, sadly, the filmmakers seem to believe that teenage heart-throb Taylor Lautner is the one we should really be paying attention to. Lautner has the on-screen presence of a Madame Tussauds wax model; this model was evidently based on an image of the teen icon posing in the only expression he knows: brooding like a disgruntled youth moping about how much he hates his mum. This wax model has a tape recorder lodged inside its mouth; the tape within this tape recorder contains recordings of Lautner monotonously reading his lines. The model’s lip movements were presumably animated through use of CGI, akin to the very annoying titular dog in “Marmaduke.” Somebody on the production team must have been paid to hold his hips and move him about when necessary. What I’m basically saying is, Lautner may as well have been a lampshade with abs and muscles painted on, given the performance he provides us with here.

The film is doing nothing more than using Lautner; the 19-year-old hunk has gained a heap of fame and a mountain of fans since his flat appearances in the “Twilight” saga. The filmmakers seem to have hired him purely to get his fans to come flocking to the multiplex to purchase a child/student ticket for the 4:30 screening of “Abduction.” Why is this my assumption? Well, judging by what I saw on-screen of Lautner’s performance in “Abduction,” I’m short on other justifications for the filmmakers’ hiring of him as the star of their film; he shows us no signs of acting ability, charm, nor charisma, though what he does often show us is his bare chest.

The film’s chief problem is this: it’s boring. It’s an uninteresting film that should be interesting. It believes itself to be fascinating and enthralling when it is anything but. When you are intended to be on the edge of your seat and absorbed in the promising story and all the mysteries it holds, you are instead slouched in your seat, indifferent to the story and battling away boredom. Now, who on earth enjoys being bored during an action-packed thriller? Not me, at the very least.

So, if you have a young daughter who wishes to go and see the new Taylor Lautner (swoon!) movie, fight her with all your might (within reason). If you’re asked by your girlfriend to go and see it with her, resist as much as humanly possible; splitting up would be a good solution. And if you yourself, for whatever reason, feel compelled to see this load of old drivel, let it be known that I warned you.