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Entries in Sam Neill (2)

Friday
Feb102012

The Vow

The Vow plays just like a Nicholas Sparks book adaptation. Two characters fall in love, but are then torn apart by a terrible event. That idyllic love is shattered and needs to be rebuilt, but there are numerous factors prohibiting that from happening. Even the ending, albeit in a less manipulative way, seems like something a sap like him would dream up. The only thing it’s missing is an actual Nicholas Sparks writing credit. It’s not surprising then that early word of mouth has been good among fans of movies like The Notebook. The stories are identical—a man tries to help the woman he loves reclaim her memory so she will love him again—and it features the same passion that this demographic loves. It’s not quite as good as The Notebook, but it’s better than every other Sparks adaptation (if that means anything at this point). It’s no prize winner, but The Vow is a serviceable romance for the upcoming Valentine’s Day crowd.

Leo (Channing Tatum) is married to Paige (Rachel McAdams). They love each other dearly, but one night, a truck rear ends them and Paige is thrown through the windshield. After waking up from a weeks long coma, Paige doesn’t remember anything in her recent life, including Leo. Her parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) show up to comfort her, hoping to reclaim her love after years of separation for unknown reasons, but Leo insists Paige stay with him. He needs to remind her how much she loves him because he simply can’t live without her.

Yes, it’s true that The Vow is yet another sappy, ridiculous romance movie that occasionally manipulates viewer emotions with contrivances and silly screenplay love talk, but it has its heart in the right place and it doesn’t pound you over the head with prophetic nonsense about the value of love and how it can save a life, ad nauseam. It’s simply about a man who loves his wife unconditionally and will do anything to get her back. It’s a respectable road to take in a cinematic world where love is unrealistically portrayed with impulsive exaggeration, creating a false view of it for females everywhere.

But where The Vow shines is in the chemistry of the two leads, which comes as a surprise given Channing Tatum’s poor track record in romance films (or any other films, for that matter), but he’s good here and creates a sympathetic character. Any man in the audience need only think how awful it would be to be in his shoes to understand his feelings, even if we’ve never personally felt them before. A lot of this is, of course, due to Rachel McAdams who is once again radiant. She’s so lovely and warm that it would seem insane for Leo to not go to the great lengths he does to win her over again. Her amiable screen presence lends credibility to the tale at hand and does more than enough to make up for the film’s flaws, of which there are many.

Despite likable leads and a love story that doesn’t get too gushy, it’s hard not to criticize just how dumb this movie can be. The characters, though played well, aren’t the brightest people in the world and you’ll stare in amazement as they ignore important information and end up in preposterous situations. Take for instance when Paige first wakes up. The doctor is hopeful that she’ll regain her memory, but doing that means getting back into her daily routine. The sooner she gets back to her normal life the better, but Leo doesn’t help her do that. He simply takes her home and finds it to be sufficient. Sure, he explains that the first thing she does in the morning is make coffee and check her emails, but that’s hardly an effort at all on his part. Instead, he heads off to work while she’s stuck in a place she doesn’t remember and feels uncomfortable in.

Once at this point, the screenplay starts to treat Paige like she lost her intelligence rather than just her memory. Despite not remembering anything, including where she is, she ventures outside (without a cell phone), turns a few corners and gets herself lost. It’s a scene that exists solely so she can call her mother to pick her up, beginning a string of events that couldn’t be more manufactured if you tried to make them so. The writers seem to have profound disrespect for the characters they’re writing about, but the performances pull it through.

The Vow doesn't reinvent the romance genre, but it at least tries, which is more than can be said for most other romances these days. I’m sure some guys will bicker and pout to their girlfriends in an attempt to get something in return after being forced to sit through it this Valentine’s Day, probably to decent success, but what the ladies won’t realize is that the guys secretly liked it.

The Vow receives 2.5/5

Monday
Jan112010

Daybreakers

There was a time when vampires used to be the epitome of cool. There was a time when Blade ruled the box office with its hard R rating, providing plenty of action and blood for fans. There was a time when vampires weren't reduced to frilly angst ridden teenagers entwined in a romantic love triangle with a self-pitying high school girl and shirtless werewolf. I remember those times. Oh, how I miss them. Vampires used to be scary, stalkers of the night out for the blood of unsuspecting humans. Now they sparkle when they walk in the sun. Thankfully, nay, blessedly, Daybreakers is here to set things straight. While it may be coming at an unfortunate time, in the wake of those silly Twilight movies, it's nevertheless a riotous good time.

The year is 2019. Due to a single bat with a strange virus, a plague of vampirism has spread across the world like a wildfire. Now, less than five percent of the population is human. Everybody else has turned into a demon of the night, but things still run as usual. They still go to work, drink coffee (with blood instead of cream) and drive and the television politics still rage on. The only difference is that they do it all at night and the political arguments are about the extermination of the human race. During the day, the world is one giant ghost town, which proves to be a perfect opportunity for the last remaining humans to venture outside in search of other humans. Edward (not to be confused with that pale skinned, love sick ninny), played by Ethan Hawke, a vampire himself, runs into a group of them one day on his way home from work. Although they threaten to kill him, he has no desire to feed on them and helps them instead. He's one of those human-hugging types. Hippie.

He does this despite a global shortage of blood. In fact, in another few weeks, the last remaining human harvests will dry up and the vampires will all go mad feeding on each other, which will increase the rate of their deterioration until they all finally die. However, those humans have found a cure for vampirism thanks to a former vampire called Elvis, played by Willem Dafoe, and they enlist Edward in their attempt to save not only themselves, but the whole world.

Not since 2000's Shadow of the Vampire, which also starred Willem Dafoe, have I seen such a unique vampire movie. Finally a film comes along that dares to switch up the tried and true formula. It takes the basic concept of vampires feeding on humans and flips it around. What if there were no humans left to feed on? The premise is intriguing and an interesting commentary on our dwindling resources with our growing population. Who knew a bloody horror flick could be so smart?

But then again, it's not like I had my brain tuned to "think" when I sat down to watch Daybreakers. All I really wanted was a slickly done vampire movie with humor and gore and that's what I got. After watching Twilight and New Moon, where the only pain inflicted on anyone was purely on an emotional level, it was nice to see some pain transcend to the physical realm. This thing gets red with some excellent moments I didn't see coming, including a hilarious vampire combustion that had me cackling with glee.

What I came out of Daybreakers surprised about, however, was that the film was actually made well. A horror movie not screened for critics being released in the theatrical dump month of January? There's no way it could be good, right? Wrong. The Spierig brothers, the directors, whose only other feature length film was the 2003 straight-to-DVD horror/comedy Undead (which was pretty damn awesome if you ask me), showcase some skill here. Whereas Undead was fun, but amateur, Daybreakers promises better things to come in the duo's future. It's slyly directed and the little attention to details makes for a pleasurable experience.

Even more impressive is that they wrote the picture as well, toning down their jocular tone from Undead to make a more mature horror/drama. With the sole exception of Willem Dafoe's character, who spouts some really dumb one-liners that feel out of place in an otherwise rock solid picture, the writing is spectacular. It doesn't explain everything, but it doesn't need to. It's not about how it happens. It's merely about what happens and why. Though I fear putting these two films side by side may confuse the levels of their quality, this film is like The Road in that it's more of a warning than anything else. It intends not to show the causes of certain situations, but rather create an allegory revolving around them that can be related to real life.

Now, Daybreakers is no Oscar contender like The Road, but not every movie has to be some amazing display of filmmaking to be entertaining. Despite combining quality acting with a clever script and skillful direction, this is really nothing more than a fun romp at the movies. Given the quality of films usually released in this month, what more could you ask for?

Daybreakers receives 4/5