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Entries in Timothy Olyphant (2)

Friday
Feb182011

I Am Number Four

Movies made specifically for a teenage audience are easy to spot. These are the films that get PG-13 ratings not because the director’s vision just happened to fall into that area, but because nobody above the age of 15 would think what they are watching is any good. I Am Number Four is clearly one of those movies. It calls out to the youngest of the high school crowd who thinks a slow motion shot of someone back flipping a jet ski is cool. So if you’re a teenager, have at it, but everyone else would be better off watching something more enlightening.

Alex Pettyfer plays John, aka Number Four. Although he looks like your typical high schooler, he’s actually an alien from a planet called Lorien. After an evil race of creatures called the Mogadorians destroyed their home, he, along with eight others, travelled to Earth to escape. They are the only ones of their kind left, but the Mogadorians are on their way to take them out. The catch is they must be killed in order. Unfortunately, Number Three has just been killed and Number Four is next.

That’s as basic as a story can get. And it’s close to the stupidest. It’s a narrative of such little consequence that your pre-movie concession counter snack decision will hold more weight. I Am Number Four is an incredibly shallow film with a few snazzy effects and some flashy action scenes that may cause some to defend it, but those people would be looking past the plethora of problems that persist.

If there were to ever be one, definitive example of a film with a “hip” teenage build to it, I Am Number Four would be it. It tries so hard to be, like, you know, totally rad man, but it’s washed in clichés. Slow motion explosion walk-aways, the aforementioned water sporting, hot chicks on motorcycles and one random cliff diving scene beg the teen audience to latch onto it. Just in case that doesn’t work, however, it does everything it can to be angsty, even going so far as to include a soundtrack full of bad pop songs with lyrics about being “invisible.” Adding to that is the poorly developed and overly cheesy budding relationship between Number Four and Sarah (Dianna Agron), a photography obsessed girl who sees the beauty in everything, that would make the lovesick ninnies in Twilight gag.

This too-cool-for-school-yet-still-emotionally-distraught-over-everything tween attitude is, frankly, too much to bear, but I Am Number Four fails in more ways than just in its limited scope. It’s also one of the most shoddily produced movies I’ve seen in quite some time, featuring poor pacing and writing that makes spoof movies look cohesive. At times, there is so little feeling of an actual threat that random, unnecessary interjections of the Mogadorians shopping and humoring themselves by scaring little children seep their way in, seemingly to remind us that, yes, the movie will indeed be going somewhere at some point. But the fact that it takes so long to get there is what is so objectionable. Take, for example, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), Four’s warrior guardian, whose only job is to keep the kid safe at all costs. The possibilities for experimentation are endless, but the only major security measurement he takes is to ensure no pictures of Four end up online. These Mogadorians have mastered the ability to travel across vast expanses of space, but evidently rely solely on Google to get their information.

More problems persist in the sea of vapid idiocy that is I Am Number Four. My only fear is that I didn’t do a proper job of explaining just how awful it is, though that’s a feat with which I imagine many would struggle. Some movies are so bad they transcend a proper description. This is one them.

I Am Number Four receives 0.5/5

Friday
Feb262010

The Crazies

When one thinks of horror master George Romero, it's only natural to recall films like Night of the Living Dead and its sequels Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. He practically invented the zombie sub-genre by mixing gore with brilliant political and societal commentary. You may not, however, be aware of his lesser known directorial endeavors, including his 1973 turd bomb The Crazies. Now, nearly 30 years later, a remake has emerged and rightfully so. This is the type of movie that should be remade, one that had potential and an intriguing set-up, but failed to capitalize on it in any way. This 2010 version of The Crazies does indeed improve on its predecessor, yet it's still not good. You can polish crap all you want. In the end, it's still crap.

The film is set in a small Iowa town, a relatively quiet place that has never really had to deal with criminals, so much so that the sheriff, David (Timothy Olyphant), spends his days at local baseball games. One day at one of those games, a strange man walks in from the outfield with a shotgun and David shoots him dead. He assumes this was a one time thing, but odd actions begin to plague the citizens of the town and before he knows it, him and his wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell) are being quarantined off by the government. It turns out a plane carrying a biological weapon has crashed into their reservoir polluting their drinking water and turning everybody who drinks it stark raving mad. David and Judy are eventually separated because Judy is suspected of being infected, but instead of leaving quietly, David goes back to find her as the crazies break out of their camps and begin to wreak havoc on the town.

The Crazies is one of those movies that you walk out of in a state of bewilderment, impressed by its expertly crafted look, but baffled at the unstructured mess it became. What I mean to say is that this thing is shot with panache. In its own dark, macabre sort of way, the film is quite beautiful. The cinematography is second to none in the horror genre and each shot is bursting with creativity.

But all of that is wasted on a bare bones script and poorly executed jump tactics. Much like the majority of so called "horror" movies these days, The Crazies implements these jump scares like they're going out of style, each one more predictable than the last. I barely flinched, let alone jumped out of my seat. If I were wearing a heart monitor during my screening, I feel confident that it would have maintained a steady beat.

But what this thing really needed above all else was a decent script. It does nothing but move from horror set piece to horror set piece with little narrative arc. It moves so quickly from the morgue to the big empty house to the diner down the street and to the creepy, darkened shed with plenty of pointy objects just waiting to be impaled into somebody that it didn't feel so much like a movie as it did a haunted carnival ride.

This might not have been a bad thing had the film known how to carry itself. Look at Zombieland, for instance. That movie, much like this one, went from horror set piece to horror set piece with minimal narrative flow, but it knew what it was. It didn't care about story or scares, but rather on simply providing a damn fun time to its audience and it succeeded. The Crazies takes itself far too seriously and in its attempt to be scary, it falls face first to the ground, denying itself a chance to get back up again.

Like the original film, director Breck Eisner includes a commentary on biological warfare and the use of the military, but it's surrounded by so much useless bloodshed and idiocy that none of it seeps through. The only redeeming factor in all of The Crazies is the excellent visual style. With that style, which provides the appropriate tone for the movie, it's shocking to see how utterly void of scares this thing is. It may be more entertaining than the exposition filled snooze fest that was Romero's original, but that's kind of like saying a punch in the gut is better than one to the face. I'd rather not have either.

The Crazies receives 2/5