By Dan Metcalf, Jr.
Clipper Film Correspondent
Prisoners (Warner Bros.)
Rated R for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout.
Starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Dylan Minnette, Zoe Borde, Erin Gerasimovich, Kyla Drew Simmons, Wayne Duvall, Len Cariou, David Dastmalchian, Brad James.
Written by Aaron Guzikowski.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve.
Child abduction movies have rules. One of those rules is the kids don’t usually die. Knowing this should not tip anyone as to the outcome of Prisoners, a new “child abduction” movie released this week in theaters, but it should keep audiences interested in staying to the end of the film.
Hugh Jackman plays Keller Dover, a construction company owner and survivalist who lives with his wife (Maria Bello), teenage son Ralph (Dylan Minnette) and young daughter Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) in a quaint Pennsylvania village. Their neighbors are Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrance Howard and Viola Davis), who have a teenage daughter Eliza (Zoe Borde) and a young daughter named Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons).
The Dovers spend Thanksgiving with the Birches, and sometime during the commotion of the holiday gathering, Anna and Joy disappear. The frantic search turns up no leads, except a creepy, old RV the little girls were seen playing on earlier in the day. As police detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) takes over the investigation, the RV is located a short time later, and its driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is arrested and questioned about the girls. Alex is apparently mentally handicapped, and when police can’t find any evidence of the girls connected to him, he is freed, which allows Keller to confront him in the police station parking lot, where Alex whispers something about seeing the girls “playing when I left them,” angering Keller more. Alex’s aunt Holly (Melissa Leo) defends her nephew’s innocence, pointing out his lack of intelligence.
When police turn their attention to another lead (including a dead man’s body found in a church basement), Keller grows impatient and abducts Alex, taking him to an abandoned apartment building he owns. Keller beats and tortures Alex for several days, and enlists the help of Franklin and Nancy to try and force the young man to confess.
When the truth comes out, Keller must try one last, desperate confrontation to locate and save the girls – if they are alive…
Prisoners is at times a clever film with a lot quality performances from a more than capable group of performers (Jackman, Howard, Davis, Gyllenhaal, Dano, Leo). That’s an impressive list of actors, and Prisoners is a film that requires a lot of acting talent to keep it from becoming too melodramatic or maudlin, like so many Lifetime Channel movies.
Great actors aside, Prisoners suffers from a few cinematic flaws, including its length (2 & 1/2 hours), and more red herrings than a communist fish market. The story has all the twists and turns you expect from a crime novel, which often made me realize how implausible it is. I had the real “bad guy” pegged in the first 20 minutes, and a major piece of key evidence in the abduction investigation is exposed early as well. All that hand-tipping kind of ruined the ending for me.
Prisoners is not your “feel-good” child abduction movie, because it is very dark in tone and earns its R-rating from several prolonged torture scenes. If you have kids, Prisoners might provoke a few soul-searching thoughts as to how far you would go to save them, but that doesn’t make it a good date night movie, either.
by Jenniffer Wardell
Rated R for violence, language, nudity, sexuality and some internal organs
Written by David Twohy, Jim Wheat and more
Directed by David Twohy
Starring Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff and more
Sometimes, all we want out of a movie is to watch someone punch a monster in the face really hard.
“Riddick,” the third in a series chronicling the adventures of the titular character, is an almost brutal yet satisfying return to form. The movie returns the trilogy to pure survivalist action, a war waged against impersonal (but beautifully rendered) CGI monsters, and the blood and mayhem it offers is almost viscerally entertaining.
Though plot barely matters in these kind of movies, “Riddick” begins with our hero dropped on an abandoned planet for reasons that are eventually described in a quick flashback. This flashback also serves to reject the excesses of the second movie, 2004’s “The Chronicles of Riddick,” even as it indulges in them for a few final moments (i.e. full-frontal female nudity).
Then it’s straight on to killing surprisingly detailed and realistic-looking monsters in landscapes far more beautiful than are normally seen in action movies. Everyone in the computer animation department should be applauded for their work in “Riddick,” particularly in relation to the entirely adorable dingo-like creature that becomes Riddick’s companion for a time. It may have been made of nothing more than pixels, but it manages to inspire Vin Diesel to some of the most nuanced acting I’ve seen from the man in a long time.
Of course, one of the reasons Diesel works in this movie is that there’s very little nuanced about him. The man’s always been the human version of a blunt instrument, his settings stuck on either melodrama or violence, but in a survivalist movie like this anything quieter would get lost. “Riddick” is at its most effective when it essentially becomes “Conan the Barbarian” in space, and Diesel indulges in all the raw opera that requires.
The other actors are mostly there for cannon fodder, though Matt Nable is a standout. His character is a nod to 2000’s “Pitch Black,” and Nable brings a note of dignity and depth of feeling to the role that exists nowhere else in the movie.
If there’s one flaw to Riddick, it’s a streak of misogyny far more obvious than can even be found in most modern action movies. The one female character in the movie is named “Dahl,” which conveniently sounds exactly like “Doll” every time another character refers to her by name. It’s also suggested near the end that she sleeps with Riddick, even though she’s shown nothing but distaste for him throughout most of the movie.
The saddest thing about this is that Dahl is played by Katee Sackhoff, an actress who has proven time and time again that she can hold her own against any man. Indeed, the scenes where she gets to violently beat up another character in the movie are delightful to watch, and I can only pray that one day someone hands this woman an action movie of her own to helm.
After all, everyone should get a chance to punch monsters.
There are plenty of other other visible mistakes and improbable outcomes that make Getaway a film to get away from, which is a really good idea, in my opinion.
By Dan Metcalf, Jr.
Clipper Film Correspondent
Closed Circuit (Focus Features)
Rated R for language and brief violence.
Starring Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Ciarán Hinds, Julia Stiles, Jim Broadbent,Riz Ahmed, Kenneth Cranham, Barbora Bobulová Jemma Powell, Doug Allen, Anne-Marie Duff.
Written by Steven Knight.
Directed by John Crowley.
I like spy-thrillers and court dramas, but I’m not as fond of movies that lack thrills or drama. Closed Circuit is a movie that stradles the line between the two film types, and perhaps suffers for trying a little too hard to serve two masters.
Eric Bana plays Martin Rose, a British barrister (lawyer) assigned to defend a Turkish man accused of masterminding the bombing of a London market. It’s a little confusing to describe the British legal system, but another attorney named Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) is also assigned to represent the suspect, but is not allowed to confer with Martin. All of the court proceedings are to take place in secret, to protect “national security.” Incidentally, Martin and Claudia had an intense affair years earlier, leading to Martin’s messy divorce, which adds to the drama.
As Martin and Claudia dig deeper into the case, they soon discover that their suspect may not have been responsible for the bombing, and that MI5 (British secret service) might have something to do with it. Martin realizes that he’s under constant surveillance and that the lives of both Claudia and himself are in danger. The death of an American journalist covering the case (Julia Stiles) confirms their suspicions. They break the rules and make contact with the suspect’s son, who may hold hidden information about the bombing, and might also implicate the government.
As the secret court hearing nears, Martin and Claudia must evade their MI5 agents to stay alive.
Closed Circuit has a few things going for it. One is Bana, who again proves he can handle complex dramatic roles quite favorably, as he did in Munich and other films. Another is Rebecca Hall, who is fast becoming one my favorite actors with an impressive resume (Iron Man 3, Everything Must Go, The Town, Frost/Nixon). Jim Broadbent also does a fine job as the UK attorney general with a subtle manner of being creepy. There is also a fair amount of tension in Closed Circuit, especially when the movie lives up to its name, i.e. the idea of being under constant surveillance (referring to the UK’s oft-maligned “everywhere” security cameras, which are an effective means of setting up the pivotal bombing during the film’s first scene).
The problem with Closed Circuit is the payoff, which is lacking, to say the least. I don’t want to spoil too much, but letting the bad guys win is not a very enjoyable film experience. All that great acting, tension and clever plot seem wasted on spy-thriller that is less than thrilling, and a courtroom drama without a dramatic ending.
By Dan Metcalf, Jr.
Clipper Film Correspondent
The Spectacular Now (A24)
Rated R for alcohol use, language and some sexuality – all involving teens.
Starring Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Masam Holden, Dayo Okeniyi, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nicci Faires, Ava London, Whitney Goin, Andre Royo, Bob Odenkirk, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Levi Miller.
Directed by James Ponsoldt.
Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, based on the novel by Tim Tharp.
Teen alcoholism just isn’t supposed be funny. Miles Teller, who plays the lead role of Sutter in The Spectacular Now seemed focused on saying otherwise in his film career prior to its release. Teller has starred in two “party films” over the past year (Project X, 21 and Over), playing drunken idiots who personify all the benefits of substance abuse and alcoholism. Maybe it’s just a simple case of typecasting, or perhaps that’s why he was perfect for Sutter, a young man who learns some hard lessons about life, family and love in The Spectacular Now.
Sutter has it all going into his senior year at a small-town Georgia high school: The hottest girlfriend, the adoration of the student body and big plans for more parties. His world collapses when his girlfriend (Brie Larson) dumps him, because graduation is coming up, and he is unable to take things seriously. In a funk, Sutter meets Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a poor nerd and social outast who finds him lying on a lawn (after an all-night bender) where she delivers newspapers to support her widowed mother and siblings. Despite coming from opposite sides of the high school social spectrum, Sutter and Aimee form a friendship that blossoms into love. Sutter also introduces Aimee into the world of alcohol, which helps the couple in their bonding – at first.
Sutter introduces Aimee to his sister Holly (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Sutter meets Aimee’s family, but their relationship shows signs of trouble, mostly due to Sutter’s dependence on alcohol, and his desire to reunite with his estranged, alcoholic father (Kyle Chandler), a man his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has tried to shield from him since leaving the family years before.
As graduation approaches, Aimee tries to help Sutter out of his funk, while Sutter re-examines what’s really important in life.
The Spectacular Now is a surprising film considering the knee-jerk switch in tone for Miles Teller, who delivers a great dramatic performance. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, knowing The Spectacular Now was co-written by Scott Neustadter, who penned 2009′s 500 Days of Summer (an equally brilliant film), and directed by James Ponsoldt, who also directed 2012′s Smashed (another overlooked cinematic gem dealing with alcoholism – starring Winstead in a fantastic performance). That’s a pretty good pedigree for The Spectacular Now, and I hope audiences give it a chance.
If there’s one minor flaw to The Spectacular Now, it’s the casting of Woodley as a nerdy outcast. I’m not knocking her performance; she’s obviously talented and deserves any and all accolades for her portrayal of Aimee. It’s just that her apparent beauty does not make her wallflower material. Filmmakers often think they can “nerd-out” any attractive person with a little geeky wardrobe, glasses and a dull hairdo.
Even with a little knit picking, The Spectacular Now is a great film with an understated and beautiful message about taking control of one’s life, especially at a young age.
By Dan Metcalf, Jr.
Clipper Film Correspondent
The World’s End (Focus Features)
Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references.
Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, Pierce Brosnan.
Written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright.
Directed by Edgar Wright.
Being drunk is something foreign to me. Meeting people from other countries who often drink is not. Alcohol is a big part of the culture in many countries, and none more so than the United Kingdom, where pubs are revered by the general public as the optional social gathering place. One popular activity among the drinking public in England (and gaining popularity in the USA) is the “pub crawl,” in which participants travel a circuit of drinking establishments over one night (I’m guessing the word “crawl” refers to the manner of travel one is forced to use once they are inebriated from earlier stops in their journey). One such crawl is the subject of The World’s End, the third major film collaboration from Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, who also brought us 2004′s Shaun of the Dead and 2007′s Hot Fuzz (Pegg as co-writer and star, Wright as co-writer and director).
Pegg plays Gary “The King” King, a middle-aged alcoholic loser out to reunite all his schoolboy pals in a 20 year anniversary re-enactment of a pub crawl they attempted back in their high school days. Gary somehow manages to convince his old pals to try and complete the crawl they attempted as 18 year olds in 1993, even though all of them have moved on to more responsible lifestyles. Gary’s old chums include Andy (Nick Frost), a successful businessman, Oliver (Martin Freeman), a real estate salesman, Steven (Paddy Considine), a divorced construction company owner, and Peter (Eddie Marsan), a luxury car salesman. Oliver’s beautiful sister Sam (Rosamund Pike) also drops in.
As the fellows head back to their small home town and begin their drinking circuit, things seem a little out of place, as do the inhabitants of the quaint English hamlet. As Gary gets the fellows into trouble, the townspeople exhibit odd behavior, as if the boys are being watched.
It turns out almost all of the townspeople are really robot clones, manufactured by an alien race to replace their human dopplegangers. As “The King” and his court realize what’s going on, Gary insists on completing the crawl. Gary’s pals are often forced run from the killer robots and follow him as he gets to the final destination in the crawl, a pub aptly named “The World’s End.”
The World’s End is a very funny movie with a lot of clever, hilarious dialogue from Pegg and Wright. It’s one of the funniest movies of the year, unless the drinking culture puts you off a little. The World’s End is the third leg in a series of similar movies from Pegg and Wright. Even though it has the same basic theme from Shaun and Fuzz (regular guys deal with some sort of apocalypse or conspiracy in a rural or suburban setting), it’s still original on a few aspects. That theme might be old, but the Pegg/Wright dialogue in The World’s End will be like a vintage brew for fans of their films.
By Dan Metcalf, Jr.
Clipper Film Correspondent
Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics)
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, language and sexual content.
Starring Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tammy Blanchard, Max Casella, Alden Ehrenreich.
Wriiten and Directed by Woody Allen.
Woody Allen seems to have found a new groove. He sort of fell off the movie radar after Mighty Aphrodite (1995), and even though he continued making films almost every year, none of them really caught on with critics or audiences until 2010′s Midnight in Paris. Blue Jasmine is his latest project, starring Cate Blanchett as a narcissistic socialite down on her luck as she plunges into madness.
Blanchett plays Jasmine, as she arrives in San Francisco to reunite with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). The rest of the film covers Jasmine’s current events as she tries to adjust to living in a small apartment, while flashing back to her days in New York as the wife of Hal (Alec Baldwin), a wealthy investor with a flair for shady deals. Although Ginger is not as refined as her sister, she tries to help out by setting Jasmine up on dates and finding a job. Jasmine clashes with her sister’s boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale), whose character bears a younger, but strong resemblance to Ginger’s ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), seen in many of Jasmine’s flashbacks.
As Jasmine struggles to find her way, she slips deeper into madness, and is often seen talking to the people she sees in flashbacks, creating the vision of someone talking to themselves. Jasmine seems to turn things around when she meets Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), a wealthy diplomat who believes her lies about being a successful interior designer. Jasmine’s world comes crashing down again as she tries to reunite with her estranged stepson Danny (Alden Ehrenreich), and is caught in her lie to Dwight by a man from her past.
While Woody Allen has been known to make a few dramas over the years, not many of them have drawn favorable attention from critics or audiences. Blue Jasmine might break that pattern, since it’s a gut-wrenching story of one woman’s spiral into madness.
I can’t say enough about Blanchett’s powerful performance as Jasmine. It’s one of those roles that will more than likely launch her back into “best actress” consideration during the upcoming awards season. It’s one of her best performances, and worthy of any such consideration. One acting surprise in Blue Jasmine comes from Andrew Dice Clay, who does and excellent job playing a bitter, broken man and victim to Hal’s questionable investment schemes.
Blue Jasmine isn’t Woody Allen’s best film, but it’s a dramatic departure and something fresh from the famed auteur. It’s also good to see Woody get out of Manhattan once in a while. First Paris, then Rome and now San Francisco. The world is getting larger for Woody, and certainly darker if he keeps making notable dramas like Blue Jasmine.
By Jenniffer Wardell
Islander Staff Writer
Written and directed by Marc Fafard
Starring Max Von Sydow, Laurence Leboeuf and Serge Houde
Apparently, Salt Lake’s Clark Planetarium is feeling a little hemmed in by hard science.
Though the planetarium has sometimes lent its IMAX screen to the neighboring Megaplex 12, Clark’s own movie offerings have traditionally focused on either space or biological science. With “Dragons: Real Myths and Unreal Creatures,” the planetarium’s latest IMAX show, that’s clearly starting to change.
Whether this new direction will succeed, however, is an entirely different question. “Dragons” straddles an uneasy line between education and pure fiction, failing to deliver on the first genre while never quite letting itself stretch its wings enough to fully embrace the second. Though the movie has its charms, it never manages to overcome a major identity crisis.
Like with many Clark Planetarium movies, “Dragons” does have an educational element. The movie, which stars Max Von Sydow, accurately recounts several dragon myths found in European and Asian cultures. There are also a few seemingly random references to Carl Sagan, as if someone on the production team felt that the well-known scientist’s name would be enough to give the movie some factual grounding.
At its heart, though, what “Dragons” really wants to be is a fantasy. The movie focuses on two central characters – Skye Ingram, a gothic-looking girl who’s been plagued by strange dreams, and Dr. Alistair Conis, a collector of unusual, mystical-looking artifacts. Both take turns narrating the myths that make up the bulk of the movie, but they also drop cryptic clues about secrets in both their pasts.
Though the myths themselves are genuine, there’s little effort to tie them to any historical context and absolutely no effort at analysis or sociological framework. Instead, the focus is on the movie’s central mystery, emphasized with several fun, inventive visual touches. They start out relatively subtle, growing more obvious as actress Laurence Leboeuf’s once innocent-looking character grows more desperate and menacing. “Dragons” is far more interested in making a new myth than exploring the ones it’s gathered.
Whatever the movie lacks in analysis, it makes up for in visual punch. The dragons themselves are gorgeous, rendered in surprisingly detailed and realistic computer animation. They command attention every time they’re on screen, though their roars are loud and frightening enough that small children should probably be kept away. These creatures are beautiful, but they’re not in the slightest bit friendly.
As for the movie itself, it’s both fascinating and ultimately unsatisfying. People who enjoy the planetarium’s other offerings won’t feel like they’ve learned enough, and those who enjoy fantasy movies will feel cheated by the too-brief plot.
If Clark truly wants to broaden its horizons, “Dragons” isn’t the steadiest first step. Hopefully, their next offering won’t be quite so confused about what it’s trying to be.
By Dan Metcalf, Jr.
Clipper Film Correspondent
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Screen Gems)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy violence and action, and some suggestive content.
Starring Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Kevin Zegers, Jemima West, Lena Headey, Jared Harris, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Robert Sheehan, Robert Maillet, Kevin Durand, Godfrey Gao, Harry Van Gorkum, CCH Pounder, Aidan Turner, Stephen R. Hart.
Written by Jessica Postigo, based on the novel by Cassandra Clare.
Directed by Harald Zwart.
It used to be an inspirational movement, commenced by J.K. Rowling. Juvenile fantasy literature has since seen the likes of several new franchises, marked by the runaway success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. The movie adaptations of such literary works have been spotty, at best, with Harry Potter dominating (Hmmm…perhaps quality source material is significant here). The Mortal Instruments (TMI) series of six novels is the latest to get a big screen adaptation, beginning (and perhaps ending) with Cassandra Clare’s first TMI book: City of Bones.
Lily Collins plays Clary (short for Clarissa), who lives with her mother Jocelyn (Lena Heady) in New York City. When Clary begins to have visions of a strange symbol (or rune), Jocelyn and her best friend Luke (Aidan Turner) fear the girl may be in danger. During a night on the town, Clary and her platonic friend Simon (Robert Sheehan) encounter a strange group of people in a club, and witness them killing another person while using odd-looking ancient weapons. Lilly later discovers that the group was not committing a murder, but disposing of a demon – since they are shadowhunters (some sort of ancient race of demonic creature police force in existence since the Crusades).
The young team of shadowhunters consists of Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), Alec (Kevin Zegers) and Isabelle (Jemima West). Soon, demons attack Jocelyn, who drinks a potion to save herself while hiding the location of a sacred cup. The demons are under the command of the evil Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who broke off from the shadowhunters and wants to use the magical cup in an attempt for world domination.
Lilly and Simon seek refuge with the shadowhunters in their downtown Manhattan lair (unseen by “mundanes,” or regular humans), where they learn more of the shadowhunter history and practices from the wise Hodge (Jared Harris). Jace begins to romance Lilly, much to the chagrin of Simon. Soon, the group must deal with vampires, werewolves, more demons and Valentine himself, who does all he can to get his hands on the cup.
TMI: City of Bones has its moments, in the form of some clever dialogue between the main characters (most of which was stripped right from the pages of the novel). Other than that, the movie is a hodgepodge of stuff you’ve seen and read already. It’s as if Cassandra Clare (or the producers) rummaged through the garbage cans outside the homes of Rowling, Meyer, Riordan and George Lucas to come up the City of Bones story. There are magic people, werewolves, vampires, supernatural powers, and a little “kissing your sister” awkwardness. It’s like ordering a snow cone with 6 flavors, all mixed together. You can’t really enjoy any of it, because there’s too much in it. The “TMI” acronym certainly works for the movie’s title – and plot.
Perhaps Jamie Campbell Bower is the film’s saving grace with his sarcastic wit and delivery, but it’s all wasted on a plot most people won’t understand or care about, even if they’ve read the books.
FARMINGTON — A Syracuse man will be in court on Sept. 4, facing charges he stored and shared child pornography images and videos through peer-to-peer networks on his computer.
Malcolm John Purcell, 52, faces seven second-degree felony counts of sexual exploitation of a minor after investigators allegedly found nearly 2,000 child porn photos and seven videos.
Officers with the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force investigated Purcell after a special agent allegedly found Purcell’s IP address had downloaded child porn from the The eDonkey Networks, beginning in July of 2012, according to a probable cause statement.
Investigators searched Purcell’s home on Jan. 30, 2013 and confiscated an external hard drive and a laptop. They allegedly found 1,968 “images of child erotica,” and seven videos “depicting victims estimated to be 12 years or younger,” the statement said.
Purcell denied any knowledge of child pornography and told agents he thought his computer may have been hacked, the probable cause statement said.
Purcell told investigators that the only file sharing he had done was in trying to set up a virtual private network for his work, but that he had been unsuccessful, court documents say.
He was charged July 23 in 2nd District Court in Farmington.