Tag Archives: 2012 movie reviews

Movie Review: Erased

I’ve got quite a few drafts I’m working on right now and I’m churning them out the best I can.

Erased is up next and I watched this because again, I was tired of looking at it on my “Top Picks for Tim” list on Netflix.

Erased, known as The Expatriate outside of the U.S., stars Aaron Eckhart in another film he shouldn’t be in.

Aaron Eckhart, why do you keep doing this to yourself? Eckhart continues to find substandard roles to follow the upper-caliber talent he expressed in The Dark Knight as Harvey Dent, easily his best performance. Another half-baked character and father-daughter relationship that I can add to the list “Times Netflix has wasted my life.”

Ben Logan (Eckhart) works for a technology company in Belgium with his daughter Amy, who until recently never knew him. As always the other parent has died after “getting sick” and now Eckhart has some new obstacles in his way.

A quick sidenote: If I had a $100 for every time I watched a movie where one of the kid’s parents “got sick”, I’d be able to payoff a semester of tuition. It is one of the most overused clichés in film today. Come up with something creative or better yet, just don’t mention it. I don’t need to know what happened to the mother. It’s not important. She’s not here and that’s all that matters. Stop throwing it in there. Assuming that’s the case is fine if you want to but don’t waste screen time talking about dead parents. It’s not building connections with the material or the parties involved. Move on.

I’m sorry, but man does that bug me. Anyway, Logan notices one of the products he’s working on has a patent not registered with the company and when he lets his superior know, everything starts getting weird. However, before I talk about what’s getting weird, let’s have Logan accidentally give his daughter a cookie with peanuts in it and visit a hospital, which will somehow play into the happenings later on or just act as a brief intermission. The next day, he goes to work and the office is empty. Everything is gone. Something that doesn’t make sense in this introductory clause is he decides to bring his daughter to work with him for some reason. He was going to pick up a delivery so I assume it was meant to be an in-and-out thing, but why does she need to be there? Earlier in the film, Logan sees his daughter is struggling with school and he lectures her about the need to keep her grades up but his solution to getting her to improve is to have a “bring child to work” day? Doesn’t make any sense to me.

That’s all the plot you’re going to get from me and you should be grateful I don’t say more. Might put you to bed.

One example of this film’s incoherence is Liana Liberato. Apparently she won a best actress award for a drama flick called Trust and was even praised by critic Roger Ebert, but Liberato wouldn’t be allowed on my high school stage. Nearly everyone mentioned Liberato’s lifeless acting in the Netflix reviews for this and I couldn’t agree more. Her character, Ben’s daughter Amy, is meaningless to the plot and does nothing but whine all the time. At times, it replicates relationship turmoil that can be found in the daytime soap opera of your choosing. It’s uninviting dialogue and far too choppy a script to accomplish much smiles for the audience. Director Philipp Stolzl has no sense of humor, allowing no quick comedy or lightheartedness to take place between the two, which might have eased the awkwardness audiences are sure to feel whenever Liberato tries to put on a serious face. The pitch of the film seems to be in an uncomfortable range because it never flows right. Scene transitions make this story pace like the heartbeat of an adrenaline-filled rabbit, which is counter-productive to establishing surprise or apprehension. Stolzl is in such a hurry to get this film over with that he ignores the opportunity to highlight Eckhart’s narrative voice and doesn’t create any impactful dialogue for Ben and Amy to share.

Yet to say the film is up-tempo would be a lie. Events unfold at a brisk pace but time proceeds in such a lackadaisical fashion. Removed of build-up and without deciphering a theme, Erased leaves you feeling empty.

The concept of having your life erased was a good starting point, but it was downhill from there, especially when they brought Olga Kurylenko into this. I’m unsure how she maintains the title “actress” because she cannot perform. She’s so lifeless in everything I’ve seen her in aside from Centurion, but that was because she was a mute and had to demonstrate some emotion so she wasn’t standing still like a mannequin. She needs to stick to modeling and stop picking up scripts all together. Her character is only an expanse of an overused story cliché.

The whole script was underdeveloped and that left Eckhart shouldering the film. Any entertainment you get from Erased will probably be from Eckhart, but I doubt you’ll get much from it. The plot’s overly symptomatic of other thriller films such as the Bourne trilogy and is comfortable wearing the coats of those before it.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (American BeautyGone GirlMulanGuardians of the GalaxyDawn of the Planet of the Apes)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2Young Guns)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too.(SnowpiercerThe FamilyWhen the Game Stands TallBlack Hawk DownRed Dawn(2012))

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (TwistedParkerHouse at the End of the StreetThe RavenDead Snow)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (RageZoolanderThe Expendables 3HomefrontG.I. Joe: Retaliation)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (I, FrankensteinThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBilly MadisonA Haunted House)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The GreyX-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark WorldThe Sum of All Fears)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (SabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. EvilSafeWatchmen)

My score for Erased: 41.

Over the last week, I’ve watched Twisted, The Frozen Ground, Stolen, In the Name of the King and this. Twisted was the best of the group so if you’re looking for some decency, I’d go with that. As for Erased, erase it from your memory.

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Movie Review: The Raven

I hate John Cusack. He’s such a lifeless, insipid and monotonous actor. Serendipity? A romanticism of a story that not only wouldn’t happen, but makes love way more difficult than it needs to be. Just ask the girl out on a date! Geez! The Contract was so bad and so, just no. I don’t even want to talk about it. No care was given for that whole production by anyone. Finally, while I haven’t watched all of 2012, I’ve watched enough to know it’s terrible and while Cusack isn’t the thing that started the fire, he didn’t help anything either. I’m doing my absolute best to avoid his films at all costs.

I almost saw The Raven in theaters and then I thought better of it. “Why waste money on a John Cusack film? Why, in the name of your own sanity, would you do that?” So I didn’t go and I didn’t regret it.

I played football yesterday and did not have fun at all, so being pissed, I had three options to burn off steam: 1) Walk to the gym and shoot hoops and I didn’t feel like that 2) Shoot things…in video games, mostly Call of Duty. My friend’s X-Box was unavailable. Which left me with 3) Watch a movie.

I don’t like watching bad movies, but at the same time, I find a certain level of satisfaction in railing on a film on my blog for you fine compatriots and creating new catchphrases and divulging my wrath onto a film’s flimsy shoulders. I wasn’t looking for a grotesque film or a film that only angered me more, just something to pass the time and deflate my bubble. The Raven was one of the first Netflix films that popped up.

Edgar Allan Poe was an odd man who very few understand even today. Has anyone watched The Following with Kevin Bacon? I did for a while and the show started to get really dark, almost too dark, which ironically, is what I think happened whenever someone got to know Edgar Allan Poe on more than a superficial level. His writings were maniacal, borderline psychotic, making you wonder if the man was capable of committing the crimes he described. At the same time, there was a certain fluidity to his work that few have been able to match. His mastery of the macabre, or quality of having a grim or ghastly atmosphere, was incredible and not appropriately respected at the time. He struggled through life but everyone knows the name Edgar Allan Poe.

Following this film and prior to this review, I read through the Wikipedia biography of Poe just for giggles because the film got me interested in the famous persona.

John Cusack, I hate you so much. The fact that you’ve gotten to Hollywood and probably make more in a year than I’ll make in an entire life disgusts me. You’re a terrible excuse for an artist. With all that said, good job.

Cusack exudes quick-witted, joshing language in the earlier segments and gives us a brighter aspect to the Poe we know. Probably not historically accurate, but not far-fetched. I could see a struggling writer performing these parlor tricks. There are some impressionable love lines between Poe and his one-and-only Emily Hamilton, played by the lovely Alice Eve from Star Trek: Into Darkness. Alas, we won’t be with the two lovebirds for long. A murderer starts killing people in the same manner as some of Poe’s writings, so Poe, with the aid of detective Fields (Luke Evans), must track down the killer and put a stop to it once and for all.

Kind of corny, huh? Sounds like a mix of The Following and Castle. Cusack and Evans take their work seriously and don’t give up on it, which is both admirable and partially effective. I’m still watching but some of this dialogue can’t get out of the gate. It clutters and clanks around the starting gate while the genre’s more effective counterparts gallop ahead.

There’s too fine a line between dialogue and plot points. The Raven is rudimentary. Driven by its need to solve the murders, the script never grips the characters and immerses itself in them. We’re talking about Edgar Allan Poe, one of the greatest literary minds in history, yet his character is largely ignored. Had it not been for the endless name dropping and physical likeness, it wouldn’t be hard to forget Poe and imagine our protagonist to be a struggling poet who has found success in writing works of gothic violence. The need for Edgar Allan Poe in this story doesn’t exist. In fact, retaining Poe is probably The Raven‘s greatest hindrance.

As I voiced wrote above, our knowledge of Poe is limited. That is not an excuse to pen a poor fictionalized account of how Poe met his end. If you’re going to fictionalize/create a story, create the character. Screenwriters Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare (not making that up) did the product a disservice by aiming their sights below this form’s potential. This wasn’t going to be a best actor opportunity by any means, but give us a story that Poe himself would have approved of. Make it dark, gory and suspenseful. Read The Tell-Tale Heart for inspiration. Sculpt the horror, paranoia and bewilderment that Poe used as the bedrock for his pedestals. Produce a work that only Stephen King could match.

Perhaps the writers did not have the talent to accomplish such a feat. Director James McTeigue’s inability to acknowledge the failings convince me that The Raven was purely an economic venture. When money is your primary purpose, I lose respect for you. Greed is such a barren ideal and contemptible value. There’s more to life than currency. Something tells me that Poe understood that. Most great minds do.

I almost would have preferred if The Raven wouldn’t have been about a series of murders and would have instead turned its gaze on the love of Poe and Hamilton. I wished to see how they made their love work despite her father’s hatred of Poe and the dire financial circumstances Poe found himself in. The Raven needed a subplot of some kind desperately. Its stern gaze ahead made it totally oblivious to the story angles around it. Ahead was corroded copper, but to the side there was bronze that they missed out on because of their overconfidence.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Gone GirlMulanGuardians of the GalaxyDawn of the Planet of the ApesTransformers: Age of Extinction)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2Young Guns)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too.(When the Game Stands TallBlack Hawk DownRed Dawn(2012)MaleficentRise of the Planet of the Apes)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Dead SnowRubberHansel and Gretel: Witch HuntersAnchorman: The Legend of Ron BurgundyThe Transporter)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Expendables 3HomefrontG.I. Joe: RetaliationVantage PointThe Starving Games)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBilly MadisonA Haunted House300: Rise of an EmpireCowboys and Aliens)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The GreyX-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark WorldThe Sum of All Fears)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (GallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. EvilSafeWatchmenClash of the Titans)

My score for The Raven: 65.

The Raven may feature my favorite John Cusack role, but an ill-used duo of Luke Evans and Brendan Gleeson plus an over-polished story and a lack of propulsion in the film’s final third drop this into the mid 60’s. Still hate you, Cusack.

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