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Entries in lily collins (2)

Thursday
Aug222013

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

With the “Twilight” franchise having finally and mercifully come to an end, it’s no surprise that Hollywood is eager to find something to take its place. The latest tween movie based on an existing novel with multiple entries in its canon is this week’s “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.” While it could be argued that this first movie is somewhat of a gamble, the series has six books under its belt and if it proves to be a success, it could be the next lucrative, never ending franchise we’ll be forced to sit through every year until it ultimately dies. “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games” notwithstanding, most tween novel adaptations are poorly made and fail at the box office, rarely resulting in a sequel. If we’re lucky, this one will fail too and our cinemas will be saved from further ridiculous, overemotional melodramas.

The story follows Clary (Lily Collins), a pretty young girl whose best friend in the world, Simon (Robert Sheehan), is secretly crushing on her. One night, while out at a club, she witnesses a murder. However, the murderer soon catches up with her and explains that it was hardly a murder at all. His name is Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) and he’s actually a Shadow Hunter, a person who hunts and kills demons of all kinds. She soon finds out that her mother, Jocelyn (Lena Headey), is also a Shadow Hunter, but she finds it out too late and is unable to protect her when she is kidnapped by a gang looking for a mystical cup that they believe is in her possession. Along with the help of Jace, Clary sets out to find the cup and get her mother back.

Naturally, a love triangle ensues, as is seemingly common with these types of things. Simon is in love with Clary, but Clary and Jace eventually hit it off, which leads to Simon witnessing them kissing, Clary making excuses and Jace storming off in a fit of rage, bemoaning that she is “dismissing their love,” partly due to the excuse and partly because she won’t invite him into her bed after a single kiss. What a swell guy. This is, quite literally, “Twilight” all over again, though the movie doesn’t seem to want to admit it. At one point, after Clary hurts herself and is bleeding slightly, she even mocks the franchise by commenting, “Is this the part where you start tearing off pieces of clothing to bind my wounds?” This is no doubt a reference to “New Moon” when Jacob hilariously and egregiously rips off his entire shirt to tend to Bella’s minor scrape.

While these moments are nevertheless amusing, they’re offset by lines of dialogue mere minutes later, lines that read like one of those idiotic words-of-wisdom memes so many wannabe prophets post on Facebook day after day, things along the lines of “The rune to fix a broken heart is the most painful one.” So while it creates some initial goodwill with some self-aware quips, it quickly becomes ignorant of just how closely it resembles the very things it mocks. In a nutshell, the film points out the flaws of something like “Twilight” while succumbing to the exact same problems, never aspiring to become anything better.

If it had a story worth caring about, these tween clichés would be easy to look past, but the script is an absolute mess. While the central story is certainly lacking, it’s in its side stories that the film truly drops the ball, never fully concluding any of them despite their initial set-ups. At one point, Simon is kidnapped by vampires and bitten, Clary finding the bite wounds shortly after rescuing him, but the film never follows up on this, nor does it use it as a precursor for what could come in any potential sequels. Similarly, it alludes to the homosexuality of another Shadow Hunter named Alec (Kevin Zegers), an intriguing plot turn that could mix up the usual love triangle romance we’ve become so accustomed to, but once it’s brought up, it’s quickly dropped and never resurfaces. It’s like the screenwriter, this movie being her first cinematic endeavor, had some good ideas (no doubt derived from the source material), but then forgot about them as she wrote on.

If there’s one thing “City of Bones” does well, it is its art direction. This is not a bad looking movie and, in particular, its costumes and make-up are nothing short of fantastic. The design of this fantasy world set amidst a modern day New York City is top notch, springing to life before our very eyes. Yet the movie itself is still a gigantic mess. Although darker and more action packed than many tween movies, it never compliments its admittedly palpable suspense with a satisfying payoff and a mid-movie Star Wars-esque pseudo-twist leads to some of the most awkward moments and dialogue exchanges one can imagine. “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” may hope to become a franchise (and with an already planned sequel in the pipeline, it could become a reality), but it’s going to have to try much harder than this to justify it.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones receives 1/5

Friday
Sep232011

Abduction

Abduction is a movie that knows its audience. With Taylor Lautner in the lead role, it does everything it can to be what can only be described as an action-fueled Twilight. The problem is if you’re catering to the Twilight demographic, you’re not aiming very high. The surprise, however, comes from how utterly incompetent, atrociously stupid and highly unbelievable it is, even when compared to Twilight. And if you’re unfortunate enough to have sat through all three of those, just imagine what’s in store for you here.

Lautner plays Nathan, a mild mannered high school kid who is crushing on the pretty young Karen, played by Lily Collins, and as luck would have it, he is partnered with her on a school project. While researching one night at his house, they stumble on a missing persons website where they find a picture of a child that looks suspiciously like him. After some digging, they realize it is him, so they contact an administrator of the site. What they don’t know is that it’s a mock site created by Kozlow, played by Michael Nyqvist, who has been searching for him for many years and now that he knows his location, the chase is on.

The story goes to great lengths to be interesting and delves deeper than what I’ve detailed above. There are undercover agents posing as parents, a mystery involving Nathan’s actual parents and a journey to uncover what his significance to Kozlow and the US government is. It’s a silly tale built for the tween crowd who have never been properly introduced to a proper thriller before, but its idiocy isn’t its problem. Any story can be told well if the foundation around it is solid, but Abduction is so poorly put together, it makes director Uwe Boll look like a masterful craftsman.

For starters, it must be said that Taylor Lautner, an all around mediocre actor who is wildly inconsistent from scene to scene, is not a leading man. Depending on what he’s doing, he can either look like a veteran or a nervous first time performer. Lautner is a martial arts expert, taking up the craft at an early age, and he works best when he’s punching something. He brings forth an unexpected ferocity to the action scenes. If not for his boyishly good looks, he might even be intimidating. He’s dependable on that level and in an action thriller, that counts for something, but his inability to develop his character, build emotion or create an authentic chemistry with his co-star only goes to show how lousy he can be. He and Collins feel distant in the film, despite spending much of it side by side. No romantic tension is ever built, which makes a random, steamy and aggressively uncomfortable make-out scene in the middle feel forced into place. Lautner simply doesn’t pull this roll off. He may have a voice that is calm and commanding, but his mannerisms are stiff and awkward. He walks into certain scenes like he’s in the middle of a battle with a particularly itchy hemorrhoid.

Of course, if you’ve seen the Twilight films, you know he’s not in this for his talent. He’s in it for the way he looks with his shirt off (and if you don’t know what that looks like, you will within five minutes of watching this film). His lousiness shouldn’t come as a surprise, but you might be taken aback by the amateurish editing that can’t even sync up the action onscreen with the appropriate sound effects, like in one scene where Nathan turns his head to watch a car drive off, despite the noticeable delay of the vrooming engine. It’s a laughable mistake, something that should have been corrected in Editing 101. The rest of the film fares a tad better, though it is perhaps a bit too fast paced for its own good. The fistfights are edited together so choppily, if certain shots were any shorter, they’d be subliminal.

Rounding out this disaster are some of the worst and most distracting extras I’ve ever seen in a movie, though to be fair, they were unpaid. The finale of the film takes place at the Pittsburgh Pirates stadium and the scenes were shot during an actual game with an unsuspecting crowd. Although good in theory—that packed stadium gives some credence to an otherwise ludicrous film—the final product speaks to its failure. The people in the crowd, stunned that Taylor Lautner is being filmed only a few feet away from them, begin to stare, point and take pictures. It’s hard to fault them (besides, they weren’t obligated to act normally), but it’s easy to criticize director John Singleton for not realizing the challenges of shooting such a scene in such a setting.

Abduction is bad, and that’s putting it mildly. Never mind that it clearly doesn’t know the definition of the word “abduction,” the film simply lacks efficiency in front of and behind the camera. The story is hokey and the acting is weak. Similar to how Twilight effectively ruined vampires, Abduction effectively downgrades the action thriller genre. It takes it to a dumbed down, preteen level and it will only be enjoyed by those who are less interested in good filmmaking techniques and more interested in once again seeing Taylor Lautner’s impeccable abs. I can’t say I’m one of those people.

Abduction receives 0.5/5