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Movie Review: Green Lantern (2D) (2011) August 15, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews, Reviews.
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Green Lantern, the latest comic book adaptation (from DC), is the type of film that would have been better received a few years ago — before the genre got ‘realistic’ and before the bar was exponentially raised by films such as Iron Man and The Dark Knight.

Does that make Green Lantern a horrible film?  No.  But when lined up against the other quality superhero films of recent times — actually, even just 2011 (Thor, X-Men: First Class and Captain America: The First Avenger) — Green Lantern suddenly looks like a weak link.

I had almost no idea who or what Green Lantern was before this film came along — for years I got it confused with The Green Hornet (I thought the hornet lived in the lantern).

Well, in short, it’s about this intergalactic league of superhero protectors called ‘Lanterns’ that rely on the green power of ‘will’ (encased in a ring, powered by an actual lantern!) to fight enemies that utilise the yellow power of ‘fear’.  Stuff happens, a new Lantern is needed, and the ring chooses a human, a reckless fighter jet pilot by the name of Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds).  Of course, fear has also chosen someone, and it’s up to Jordan to overcome his own fear and save the world.

That sounds like a silly and derivative premise (it has shades of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Superman), and it is, but so are the premises of most comic superhero films.  It’s up to the makers of the film to make us believe in it, even if it’s just within the confines of the story’s own universe.

And that’s where Green Lantern struck out for me — apart from a fairly strong introduction, I didn’t believe in the story for the majority of the film’s 114-minute running time, and as a result, couldn’t connect emotionally with the narrative or the characters.   There were just too many gaps, inconsistencies and avoided issues to prevent the film from being a more engaging experience.  The writers and the director (Martin Campbell, who helmed Casino Royale and Edge of Darkness) didn’t make the necessary adjustments in bringing a comic book to life, and instead, the film played out like a children’s cartoon with (predominantly) human actors.  Perhaps for once they stayed too true to the original source.

Speaking of actors, Ryan Reynolds did everything he possibly could to fill the shoes of Hal Jordan but was still a disappointment.  On paper, Reynolds, with his pearly whites, ripped bod, boyish charm and wry sense of humour, was probably the one of the best choices for this superhero, but the poor screenplay never allowed him to fully break out.  The result was a relatively flat, forgettable performance and a character that should have been a lot more likeable.

Blake Lively plays Jordan’s childhood friend and fellow pilot Carol Ferris, and does a surprisingly good job, and dare I say looks better as a brunette than a blonde.  There is genuine chemistry between her and Reynolds, but again, something was holding them back.

The remainder of the all-star cast were all solid — Mark Strong, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett, Temuera Morrison and Taika Waititi (from Boy), plus the voices of Geoffrey Rush, Michael Clarke Duncan and Clancy Brown (everyone’s favourite warden from Shawshank) — with the standout being Peter Saarsgard’s wonderful villain, who was more interesting to me than the hero and deserved more.

Having come across as rather negative, Green Lantern certainly wasn’t bad.  There were some exciting scenes, a few cracking action sequences and moments of ingenuity, and none of the film could be described as slow.  The digital effects were also very good, but nothing outstanding by today’s standards.  If we hadn’t been spoiled by so many good superhero movies in recent years, Green Lantern probably would have received a lot more love from critics and viewers alike.  Nonetheless, I hear Warner Bros are pushing forward with a sequel, with a potential for a trilogy.

2.75 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Orphan (2009) August 16, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews.
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In some ways, Orphan is your typical ‘child from hell’ movie.  However, it is also a superior horror/thriller that can keep you at the edge of your seat for a couple of hours.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to see the film – it had a fantastic poster (see above) and a stellar cast, but it’s also directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who was at the helm of such classics (not) such as House of Wax (2005) and Goal! 2: Living the Dream (2007).  Well, I came out of it pleasantly surprised and rather impressed.

The plot, of course, is pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t go into it too much.  The adopted child Esther is a seemingly charming 9 year-old girl who dresses weird, has a secretive past and gives one hell of a dirty stare.  Yes, it has a cliched storyline with cliched characters, but don’t let that put you off.  It’s all in the execution. 

Collet-Serra has injected much style and tension into the film, with a strong beginning and a ripper of an ending (which, even though I unfortunately guessed in advance, was still good).  He mixes it up with the voyeur cam and the POV (point-of-view) cam, and in addition to the ‘boo!’ scares, throws in the occasional ‘feint’ scare (where he sets up a ‘boo!’ shock that never comes).  Combined with the cool colour scheme, the icy surroundings and the smooth wooden house, the atmosphere is superb for a horror film.  

Collet-Serra also doesn’t shy away from the violence and the visceral shocks, which was a little unexpected as the incidents all involve young children.  And for those who think the movie will be entirely predictable, think again because not everything will go according to the way such films usually pan out.  It’s these little breaks away from the cliches that kept things interesting for me.  Oh, and there’s a dash of dark comedy as well.  Intentional or not, it was amusing.

The highest praise is reserved for the cast.  Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard are both outstanding as the parents (which you would expect from actors of their calibre), but of course it’s the title character, played by Isabelle Fuhrman, that really lifts the film to another level.  Fuhrman is really a wonderful little actress that manages to captivate the audience whenever she’s on screen.  She demands your attention.  She can be sweet, funny, scary and downright terrifying.  She makes you believe.  I can’t wait to see what she’s in next.

No doubt there are a lot of critics out there that would call Orphan trash – but really, what do people expect when they watch such a film?  It may be a little overlong (122 minutes) and totally unbelievable, but Orphan succeeds at what it set out to do – scare and shock the audience.  Can’t ask for much more than that.

4 stars out of 5!

[PS: they really shouldn’t say things like ‘You’ll never guess her secret’ in the trailers and posters because whenever they do I always end up guessing it!  Keep silent and surprise the audience!]

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