M. Night Shyamalan has made more stinkers than the new born baby next door and has, of course, attacked the very people who put him in the position that has allowed him to have so many chances because of poor reception of his last films. His last three films The Lady in the Water, The Happening and The Last Airbender show a man who has not been able to match the potential he once showed.
Set about 1000 years in the future, Cyrus (Will Smith) and his son, Kitai (Jaden Smith), crash land on a hostile planet. This planet is home to animals that have evolved to kill humans, and Kitai must evade these animals to reach the tail end of the ship so that he can send out a distress beacon. The planet in question is Earth, but not the Earth that we know as we have destroyed it because of war and excessive use of fossil fuels. All these factors have made Earth a dangerous place to be.
Visually, After Earth is solid but nothing spectacular, the landscape looks very impressive (especially the incredible sight at the waterfalls), but the other aspect of the movie’s visuals, such as the GCI created animals, is where the film falls flat on its face. The huge Saber Cats are obviously GCI, taking away the dramatic tension away from the scene. The baboons and giant condor look equally as poor. However, After Earth’s (filmed mostly in Costa Rica) landscape remains an impressive spectacle.
It is clear where the $130,000,000 budget was spent (and not very well), and it was clearly apparent it was not spent on a decent script. Inane dialogue such as ‘he is a feeling boy’ (which makes very little sense) is peppered throughout the film as well are tremendous gaps in logic and unanswered questions. However, the main problem with the film is the lead actors’ performances. Will Smith delivers his dialogue in the same monotone voice and Jaden Smith lacks the acting talent and charisma to carry a film which he is asked frequently to do here. It is a risk to rely an entire movie on such an inexperienced actor. Yet, it has shown to be massively successful; Jaden Smith hasn’t got the charisma to carry such a film as his performance is to wooden to be effective. Will Smith is relegated to spending most of the time sitting in a chair, occasionally wincing in pain (which is what I do whilst watching Shyamalan torch his career).
Aggressive, hostile animals, poisoness insects and vast landscapes have all been done before, and Shyamalan and Gary Whitta’s screenplay covers the major bases of a story concerning a lost survivor traveling through a threatening and unknown landscape. It isn’t a mindlessly boring piece work as some of his previous outings, but it doesn’t really do anything interesting with existing ideas. The father-son relationship, in which the authoritarian father is cold and distant to his son, has its moments, but it isn’t greatly expanded upon except in Kitai’s emotional outburst. Overall, the film lacks emotion (James Newton Howard’s boring score tells you how to feel), but After Earth isn’t Shyamalan’s worst film, yet it isn’t a hit he needed to retain credibility.
Steven Soderbergh signs off before his sabbatical to paint stuff in style by looking at the love affair between flamboyant and camp entertainer Liberace (Michael Douglas) and Scott Thornson (Matt Damon). Their love at first was caring, tender and passionate but after Thornson’s drug addiction and Liberace bouts of unfaithfulness their relationship turns sour. Poignant, amusing and moving Behind the Candelabra is all of these things, but despite its brilliant set design and touching story it is Michael Douglas’ perfect performance that steals the show. Much like how the entertainer commanded the stage, Douglas commands the screen capturing the flamboyancy of the presenter. Matt Damon is also superb as his partner, and some of the film’s success is owed to him, but the majority of it goes to Douglas great performance, and Soderbergh whose engaging and entertaining movie works wonders right to the film’s heartbreaking conclusion. Liberace’s dream was to pick up that golden state; it is a shame that this film can’t pick up one of these golden statues, but, if it could, Michael Douglas may just have collected one portraying him.
It was almost ten years after the film was released that The Wicker Man began to get the acclaim that it deserved. Released as a supporting picture to Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (could you imagine a better double bill?) Robin Hardy’s 1973 film was hated by the studio at the time of its release. The film has seen numerous cuts, but finally we have the definitive, final version. Edward Woodward is Sergeant Howie, a policeman who has been called to investigate the disappearance of a young girl on the island of summerisle. On that Island lives a pagan community, led by Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee), whose attitudes towards sex repulse the conservative Christian Howie. A stunning, unnerving atmosphere is masterly maintained by Hardy who expertly leaves the audience in the dark as much as Howie is about the true intentions of natives. This builds up the atmosphere to the film’s unforgettable conclusion (which is somewhat ruined by the DVD cover). Led by an excellent performance from Edward Woodward The Wicker Man works as an interesting character study as Conservative Christian Howie struggles to come to terms with the Pagan’s beliefs, and free loving attitude towards sex which go against Howie’s beliefs, much to his bafflement and disgust. Christopher Lee’s menacing performance puts him high on a plinth of memorable horror villains, and the film’s conclusion is a highlight of the horror genre. Unearthly, unreal and chilling The Wicker Man is cult classic.