Here and there throughout the unimaginably (and unimaginatively) expensive John Carter are elements that, in some configuration or other, could conceivably be assembled into a good movie. There is a magnetic leading man in Taylor Kitsch. There is some attempt to discuss race, class, and religion. There is a love story and a bit with a dog. But there is also bloat, incoherent lethargy, and a truly appalling post-production conversion to 3D. Thus, John Carter is something of a disaster.
Author Danny Bowes
The new thriller Gone is, for most of its running time, a competently executed job of painting by numbers, dutifully checking genre conventions off its list, anchored by a not-bad lead performance by Amanda Seyfried. She plays Jill Conway, who a year previously to the events of the film was kidnapped by a serial killer, only to escape his clutches. And, because she escaped, no one even really believes she was abducted at all, including the police, whose skepticism is compounded by Jill’s brief stay in a mental institution. Thus, when her sister disappears one night, no one believes Jill’s immediate conclusion that the same person is responsible, and she finds herself with no choice but to track down the serial killer herself. A mild though palpable amount of suspense builds as Jill finds herself having to stay one step ahead of the police while pursuing the bad guy . . . and then, suddenly, the movie ends.
he greatest lasting impact of Safe House, releasing this Friday, may very well be to give audiences a greater appreciation for the skill of Tony Scott as a director. He did not direct Safe House, a picture whose constantly moving hand-held camera (DP Oliver Wood’s work on the Bourne trilogy popularized the style to which even he himself appears an imitator here) and frenetic, arbitrary editing seem to echo late-period Tony Scott. But one thing “ol’ nine-camera Tony” (as Safe House star Denzel Washington once fondly referred to him) never does, even when shooting an actor walking across the street with nine different cameras, each at a different speed with a different gauge film stock, is lose the sense of who is doing what to whom, and where. Even in the absurd (and wonderfully entertaining) Unstoppable, with all its gratuitous camera moves and over-caffeinated cutting, it was clear what Denzel and Captain Kirk were doing at each step of their attempt to keep the train from annihilating Pennsylvania. Not so in Safe House, which beyond having to explain through dialogue that it was shot in Cape Town, South Africa, has entire action sequences that require the audience to completely abandon any rational sense of linearity or even causality.
Inequality of wealth is a factor in cinema, as it is in life. The kind of picture a director can make with several hundred million dollars is grossly different from one s/he can make for several hundred thousand, and the criteria for judging what results should be different as well. This is not to say that low-budget cinema should be afforded more leniency, merely that a separate rubric should be employed. With that understood, the independently-produced Watching TV With The Red Chinese is awful for reasons that have nothing to do with its limited resources.
Resuming in both tone and narrative from where its predecessor left off, Don 2: The King Is Back tells the immensely satisfying—and gleefully amoral—story of master criminal Don’s attempt to stay one step ahead of the cops and the entire criminal underworld, and play both parties against each other, resulting in all of them wanting him dead (even if the cops will settle for jail.) Shahrukh Khan looks to be having an indecent amount of fun in the lead, as a genuinely bad person for whom an audience cannot help but root for, in part because the character is so good at being bad, but in arguably greater part because he’s being played by one of the greatest movie stars currently breathing air.
With the imminent release of Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan’s Don 2: The Chase Continues, the time is right to revisit Don: The Chase Begins Again, the picture to which Don 2 is, as can be easily determined, the sequel. Don itself has historical precedent, being a remake of the 1978 Amitabh Bachchan classic of the same name (and to a lesser extent, the 1980 Tamil remake Billa, starring the legendary Superstar Rajnikanth.) The attempt to remake Don alone was a declaration by Shahrukh Khan that he was a star of the same caliber as Bachchan and Rajnikanth, which is to say, one of the greats in the history of Indian cinema. That audacity alone would have made Don: The Chase Begins Again an “event movie,” even were it not for Shahrukh Khan’s star power.
It’s hard to be too negative on a film as earnestly presented and about as important a topic as I Am Singh, namely the hate crimes against Sikhs in the United States in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The earnestness and good intentions carry I Am Singh a long way, especially when the subject matter—extending beyond the specifically Sikh-targeted racism to an examination of prejudices against South Indians in general, especially Muslims—is as continually relevant as it is here. Unfortunately, it takes more than having its heart in the right place for a movie to succeed: it must be well-executed, and this is what makes I Am Singh such a failure, and a mysterious one to boot.