In today’s Journal, I put down in writing a few of the films we discussed on the latest podcast. I’ll be looking at the recent films BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, THE CALL and SNITCH. Let’s begin, shall we?
SCOTT’S FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 49
BEAUTIFUL CREATURES (2013) – Not to be confused with a pretty awesome and overlooked Rachel Weisz film from 2000, this film is based on the popular teen fiction novel, which creates a new mythology of witchcraft set against the American South.
Ethan (Aldin Ehrenreich – STOKER, BLUE JASMINE) is a teenager wasting away in a small Georgia town. He reads banned books and wants to get as far away as possible. The one good thing that happens to him is the mysterious Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert – SINGULARITY, GINGER & ROSA), a bookish girl who is tormented by the conservative, fundamentalist, superstitious townspeople, due to her family history. Ethan falls for Lena, soon discovering that she really is descended from a powerful line of witches, called “casters.” Lena doesn’t want to get too close because her 16th birthday is fast approaching. On that day, caster women are either claimed for the light or for the dark, and she doesn’t know if she’ll even exist anymore once her birthday comes.
BEAUTIFUL CREATURES creates an intriguing mythology and sets it amongst the mysterious trees and the small minds of the Bible belt. The cast is good, particularly the two leads. Jeremy Irons and Emily Rossum also do fine work in supporting roles. Unfortunately, the film feels disjointed. Many set-pieces are hard to decipher, due to shoddy writing or direction. The CGI is also pretty atrocious for a studio film. What we have here is something that manages to be an entertaining curiosity, but had the potential to be so much more. ★★½ (out of ★★★★)
THE CALL (2013) – A 911 operator (Halle Berry) takes the call of a frightened young girl reporting a break-in at her house. Due perhaps to the operator’s clumsiness, the girl is kidnapped and later found murdered. Six months later, the operator is still having a hard time forging ahead with her life. She receives another call from a teenage girl (Abigail Breslin), who is in the process of being kidnapped. On the other end of the line, she tries to help the girl get free of her attacker, who may be connected with the earlier crime.
THE CALL is directed by one of my favorite current filmmakers, Brad Anderson. Anderson has done a number of exceptional thrillers and horror films, particularly SESSION 9, THE MACHINIST and TRANSSIBERIAN. Getting his hands on a studio film, Anderson does not disappoint. He keeps the tension high and the pacing frantic. But a little over an hour into the film, the third act begins and feels like it was a different movie. A thriller that had previously been a smart chase film instead becomes an insipid serial killer thriller that would be tossed out of the CRIMINAL MINDS writing room for being too silly. And just when you think it can’t get worse, along comes one of the dumbest conclusions of the entire year.
THE CALL is a great film most of the way. Unfortunately, it disconnects midway through. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
SNITCH (2013) – John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson) is a successful, hard-working man, trying to keep his construction business afloat and take care of his new family and the estranged children from his previous marriage. When his son gets arrested on drug charges, John comes face-to-face with the draconian drug laws in our country. Unless his son is willing to roll over on any known accomplices, he will be in prison for twenty years. John offers a deal – he will bust drug kingpins in his son’s place. In exchange, his son will receive a reduced sentence.
Much of SNITCH plays things incredibly smart. Big as he is, John isn’t very street smart and he winds up getting himself in trouble early on. He instead has to go the sleazy route of convincing a former pusher trying to go straight (Jon Bernthal) to contact his former colleagues and get John involved in the drug trade. SNITCH winds up being an exciting thriller as well as a profound and courageous statement about how the War on Drugs often prosecutes the wrong people in a “black and white” system that does nothing to block the flow of drugs into this country.
But, just like THE CALL, things go south in the third act. Seeing a pattern here? In this case, it’s as if producers realized they had the Rock in a movie and they didn’t have him fighting back in any major action sequences. So, we get a ridiculous chase scene, a moronic resolution to Bernthal’s storyline and a film that feels exactly like the film I was afraid this would be. SNITCH could have knocked my socks off and did, but it went in a downright embarrassing direction later on. ★★½ (out of ★★★★)
Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 223
Miss any of the previous Journal entries? Check them out here!
And tune into my new web series, Moviocrity!