Ignoring everything that made the 1982 ghost-horror classic so iconic, this remake merely feels like yet another Insidious movie, using the same bag of tricks to try to frighten the audience. It's very well made, and the story still sends chills down the spine, but without even a hint of originality the film never develops any real suspense, relying instead on cheap tricks to cause the audience to jump at things that aren't actually scary.
The story opens as the recently laid-off Steve (Sam Rockwell) moves his family into a cheaper home in a dodgy part of town next to some buzzing high-power lines. His wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) is determined to make the best of it, while their teen daughter Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) moans about having to move, their nervous preteen son Griffin (T.S. Spivet's Kyle Catlett) is afraid of every new sound, and 6-year-old daughter Maddy (Kennedi Clements) discovers some new imaginary friends. As strange things start happening in the house, Maddy disappears on a stormy night. So Steve hires paranormal expert Brooke (Jane Adams) to rescue her from what is clearly an angry spirit. And when the nastiness escalates, Brooke calls in reality TV ghostbuster Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris).
What made the original version so memorable was the way Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper reinvented the haunted-house genre, finding new ways to scare us silly. This remake's director is Gil Kenan, who so ingeniously terrified audiences with his animated Monster House but allows this movie to look like pretty much every other horror out there at the moment. It's all so familiar that we brace ourselves for each loud blare of noise. Each set-piece has a rather bland sheen about it, playing so predictably to the most obvious fear factor that nothing catches us by surprise.
Continue reading: Poltergeist Review
Like Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, this film shows the overpowering strength of Disney and producer Joe Roth, as they once again bury a gifted filmmaker and cast in an effects extravaganza that's strong on visuals but short on story. There are glimpses of Raimi's genius here and there, most notably in his eye-catching use of 3D. And the actors manage to inject a bit of spark into their family-friendly characters. But the plot and the relentlessly simplistic tone will only please children or undemanding adults.
At least it looks amazing. And like the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz, the film opens in black and white with a Kansas-set prologue, where the womanising conman Oscar (Franco) performs as the flashy magician Oz. Chased into a hot-air balloon by an angry husband, he is engulfed by a tornado and drops into the colourful land of Oz, where people are looking for a messianic wizard named Oz to save them from the witch who murdered their king. But which witch is the wicked one? Oscar first meets the naive Theodora (Kunis), who hasn't yet decided if she'll be evil or not, then her big sister Evanora (Weisz), the steely interim ruler, and then the too-good Glinda (Williams). And even though he's not a real wizard, he might have some tricks up his sleeve that can help.
The film mixes ideas from L Frank Baum's stories with references to the iconic 1939 film, plus much more epic landscapes of Oz recreated with eye-popping digital trickery. On the other hand, the plot is formulaic and predictable, with characters who are only superficially complex and are far too obvious in the way they interact, badly underestimating the sophistication of even very young children in the audience. But the real problem is that the film is focussed on visual spectacle rather than endearing characters. The sidekicks this time are a slightly creepy-looking flying monkey (Braff) and a feisty china doll (King), both rendered with elaborate motion-capture effects that never quite seem to be there on the set with the actors.
Continue reading: Oz The Great And Powerful Review
Vividly colourful details in the animation and script bring mythical characters to life in ways that are thoroughly engaging as this riotous action-comedy soars through its epic story. It's a bit frantic, barely pausing to let us admire the artistry, but it's a lively thrill-ride of a movie that will keep both adults and kids on the edge of their seats.
Jack Frost (Pine) is a lonely boy no one else can see, so he has no idea why he exists at all. He fills time creating snowy-icy mischief to make children laugh, and feels out of his depth when he is summoned by the Guardians of childhood: burly Russian Father Christmas (Baldwin), tough-talking Aussie Easter Bunny (Jackman), fluttering Tooth Fairy (Fisher) and wordless Sandman. They need him to help them defeat Pitch (Law), a boogeyman who is replacing children's imaginations with nasty nightmares in an effort to get them to believe only in him. So while Jack works out a plan to get rid of Pitch, he also needs to figure out if he belongs with the Guardians.
Screenwriter Lindsay-Abaire and the animation team have a lot of fun with the characters, which are loosely based on the William Joyce novels. Each person is fully formed, with terrific vocal work from gifted actors who pack their characters with personality, especially Baldwin and Jackman. So their interaction zings with attitude even as the imagery bursts with hilarious details. Since the story is centred on Jack, he's the one who carries us through, and he's an engaging reluctant hero in the vein of Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins. Watching him discover his own inner skills is often exhilarating.
Continue reading: Rise Of The Guardians Review
But things are changing in the animation scene. The freshness of CG has worn away, and audiences are no longer wowed by flashy technology alone. Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles has raised the bar on both animation excellence and story-telling savvy to a level that will be hard to top in coming years. If such early hits as Toy Story or Antz premiered today, it's unlikely they would wow the crowds nearly as much as they did on their initial releases. It's a tough time to be an animated film.
Continue reading: Robots Review
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