Tuesday, 12 June 2012

REVIEW - The Pact * *

Review by Damon Rickard
Stars Caity Lotz, Casper Van Dien
Written by Nicholas McCarthy
Certification UK 15 US R
Runtime 89 minutes
Directed by Nicholas McCarthy

Nicole and Annie (Lotz) haven't seen their mother for years but following her death Nicole returns to the house they grew up in to sort out her affairs.  Having suffered at her hands as they grew up, Annie refuses to have anything to do with it until Nicole goes missing.

Believing Nicole has done what she always does and run off, Annie doesn't think there is anything strange about her sister's disappearance.  But when things start going bump in the night, Annie soon realises that something more sinister is also living in her mother's house.

What started off as a somewhat promising ghost story soon descended into a by the numbers, highly cliched horror film, aimed at the masses.  Other than a lead actress in Caity Lotz that was very photogenic making her easy to watch this had nothing going for it.  Unless of course you were dying for a return to the screen of Casper Van Dien who hasn't figured out yet that the only reason he fit in to Starship Troopers is that its tone supported bad acting.  And no, he hasn't improved.

The script was poor with character exposition being thrown at us in lines such as "so how long since you shot up", "I've been clean four years".  So I guess that character is a reformed heroin addict.  This was also in the first conversation in the film,  You also have Nicholas McCarthy not believing his audience has a brain cell between them that he felt it necessary every time Annie sees a picture of her mother to have to say out loud to herself "Mum".  Just in case we couldn't figure it out.

The film was riddled with flaws, which if you do see it and make it to the end you'll soon spot the holes from earlier on and also left story strands completely sidelined.  Such as Annie's niece who she had to start looking after following her sister's vanishing act.  The niece was all but forgotten for the middle third of the film.  There were highly fortuitous school friends still living in town that just happened to be genuine mediums.  Although maybe most people went to school with someone that communicates with the dead and then later in life happened to be part of a haunting.  I must have missed out.

The characters were barely fleshed out (other than bad things happening to Annie when she grew up we know nothing about her), the acting was poor and the dialogue scarcely believable.  

But most unforgiving was that the film was just, well, boring.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

REVIEW - Red Tails * * *

Red Tails ★ ★ ★

Review by Damon Rickard
Stars Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Cuba Gooding Jr, Terence Howard
Written by John Ridley & Aaron McGruder
Certification UK TBC US PG13
Runtime 125 minutes
Directed by Anthony Hemingway

Before and after the war, the African American’s suffered constant abuse at the hands of racist white Americans.  But even when men were supposed to unite against a common enemy there was no respite from this.  Given second string duties and treated as second string humans, the black soldier was seen to be a soldier of little or no worth.  One to be kept out of the way so that the real Americans can do the fighting.

This is the story of a group of young black pilots, led by “Easy” (Nate Parker) put through the Tuskagee training program that was essentially a socio experiment to try and enable them to prove their worth.  We find them based in Italy flying missions across empty fields and areas where no German’s have been sighted for some time.  They are waiting for that one chance to go into battle and show that they are as good as any pilot that fought for a country they love and is yet to love them back.

Red Tails is George Lucas back with Rick McCallum (Star Wars prequels) producing together to bring us visual style but lacking depth and heart.  They have taken a screenplay that, in the right hands, could have been crafted into one of the year’s best films.  Unfortunately what we are left with is something written with a great idea but struggled to really flesh it out.

We were presented with a number of ideas that could have been delved into more deeply such as the potential alcoholism of Easy, the love story between a young black pilot and a white Italian girl and, the central piece to the film, the first hand struggles of the pilots.  Each was given fleeting moments to show they were there but nothing was really followed through.

The love interest in particular turned out to be forced and ultimately unnecessary.  Had they given us something more believable then this may have been a worthwhile sub-plot.   As it was, it remained almost an afterthought.

The racial attitudes of the white soldiers were glossed over with short scenes that were never followed through.  And the redemption of turning some soldiers around was explored in barely mentioned relationships where a simple sentence was used to demonstrate their change in attitudes.

That’s the bad stuff out of the way, now onto the positives that the film had to offer.  After an opening sequence where the acting and dialogue was so bad I was worried about what I was in for.  And then when the credit “and Cuba Gooding Jr” flashed up, my heart sank.  Thankfully, a few annoying characters aside, the performances were all decent and in turn crafted likeable characters whom you found yourself rooting for.  The dialogue was often shaky but the interplay between the soldiers was entertaining, if lightweight and somewhat clichéd. 

The battle sequences were very well handled but lacked something that created any real tension.  Part of this was down to the pure predictability of the film where they used every trick in the book to bring in an emotional punch (someone might as well have said “I just got married the day before I enrolled”).  But true to Lucasfilm style, emotion was not a strong point in this film.  Which is a shame as this was a story that should have been served by the battle against the odds, the hardships overcome and the inner demons that some of these pilots obviously faced.  

As it is Red Tails was an entertaining but ultimately hollow film which will be watched and likely quickly forgotten.  There’s not enough good about it to say it’s anything more than average but there’s also not enough bad about it to have particularly disliked it.  It just sits on the proverbial fence thinking it’s something that it isn’t.