Thursday, September 08, 2005


Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

THOSE who have seen the 2002 Japanese original by Hideo Nakata and Taka Ichise may find this remake rather slow and taxing. However, if you are looking for a psychological thriller that makes sense, instead of just cheap jolts, this one comes pretty close.

Director Walter Salles concentrates on character portrayal and plot development instead of those 'bump-in-the-dark' scares that are not properly explained.

Also, you won't find those creaking doors or sudden jolts on the soundtrack which are a staple of B-grade horror thrillers. Still, if Salles and screenwriter Rafael Yglesias had thrown in a few good scares in the build-up, it would have made a lot of difference.

This version deals with Dahlia Williams (Jennifer Connelly of A Beautiful Mind) who has to find a new home for herself and daughter Cecilia (Ariel Gade) after splitting up with her husband Kyle (Dougray Scott).

Jennifer Connelly in Dark Water

Not being able to afford the more affluent side of the city, Dahlia has to settle for a ninth-floor unit on Roosevelt Island which is just two blocks away from a good school she has picked for Ceci. Yes, soon the creepy stuff start happening in and outside her apartment.

Instead of things going bump in the night, we get a disturbing drip-drip-drip from the ceiling. The building's handyman (Pete Postlethwaite) is not willing to fix it, claiming that it is the job for the plumber. After complaining to the building manager (John C. Reilly), Dahlia learns that the unit above hers is vacant. The leak may or may not have been caused by juvenile delinquents living in the building. And to make things worse, Ceci's teachers complain that the little girl has been talking to an imaginary friend in class...

One of the best things about Dark Water is its cast. Connelly's single mom fighting to keep her child would have single parents in the audience eating out of her hand. She has shown that she is not just a horror movie star but an actress playing a mother who is faced with horror and a nightmarish past. And then there is Ariel Gade who gives an excellent account of herself as Ceci, trying to convince everyone that her imaginary friend is not just a figment of her imagination. Why, her performance also reminds us of Dakota Fanning's in Hide And Seek. Postlethwaite provides the element of enigma as the recalcitrant caretaker, while Tim Roth has a nice cameo as Dahlia's busy divorce lawyer.

This is the first movie in English by Brazilian helmer Salles who is famous for The Motorcycle Diaries. Here, he uses water as a manifestation of evil. It is always raining on Roosevelt Island and the dark and dank building adds to the sense of gloom that pervades the movie. Salles has also changed the ending a bit but he has failed to sweep us away in the horrors of Dark Water.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Cave: Muddled Thriller


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YOU get the sickening feeling that you are in for a dreadful time just 10 minutes after the opening of The Cave.

That is when you see a bunch of dysfunctional divers heading for an underground river in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania.

Seeing how they bitch and bicker among themselves, you know it is just a matter of time before they join the body count in this predictable B-grade horror thriller directed by Bruce Hunt. So what else is there to hold our interest?

Hunt had worked as second director on hits like Matrix and Dark City.

Here, however, he is hampered by a weak script and a B-grade cast.

The premise, about explorers encountering mutations, is both familiar and formulaic.

However, unlike in Alien and Species, we don’t care what happens to the characters here because they are either poorly developed, or they are so bland that they deserve to be killed.

Marcel Iures and Lena Headey play scientists whose mission to the caves is not properly explained.

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Cole Hauser and Eddie Cibrian, as estranged brothers Jack and Tyler respectively, offer the requisite tension before the ‘monster show’ while Piper Perabo provides the eye candy.

But don’t expect to be scared by the mutant creature. These scenes are so muddled
and chaotic that you won’t know what is happening most of the time.

And yes, the film-makers had the cheek to leave a narrative hook at the end — for a sequel!

Low-Brow Car Crash Comedy


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AFTER Bewitched, here is another blast of nostalgia from Hollywood’s television past.

I cannot recall anyone ever being a fan of the red-neck Dukes Of Hazzard series — except, perhaps, for the cut-off denim shorts that one of its characters, Daisy Duke, wore in the show that ran from 1979 to 1985.

In fact those pants were so hot in those days that they were even nicknamed ‘Daisy Dukes’.

And here, they are brought back by the shapely Jessica Simpson.

To be fair, this low-brow comedy is all about fast cars in the Seventies’ Smokey And The Bandit vein.

Everything else falls short, especially the plot idea wich is not enough to fill a paper napkin.

The Dukes are two goofy cousins who deliver moonshine t the townsfolks in their souped-up 1969 Dodge Carger and making a fool of the local police.

Luke (Johnny Knoxville) and Bo (Seann William Scott), nturally, have run-ins with the county sheriff who has also been trying to find their Uncle Jesse’s (Willie Nelson) moonshine still.

Things hot up when Hazzard’s big boss, Jefferson Davis Hogg (Burt Reynolds), hatches a secret plan to strip-mine the county for coal and turn it into a wasteland.

To divert the people from finding out about this scheme, he organises a road rally featuring local boy Billy Prickett (James Roday) who is a famous driver.

If this sounds ridiculous, wait till you see how the two Duke boys and their other cousin, Daisy (Simpson), try to thwart Hogg’s evil designs.

Of course, everything they do involves their Dodge Charger, nicknamed General Lee, and other cars which are made to go through all sorts of flying stunts and breath-taking crashes.

One sequence even has Bo dragging a heavy safe all over town — ostensibly to crack it open! Other gags involve digs at African Americans and Japanese.

The Dukes Of Hazzard is directed by Jay Chandrasekhar (of Super Troopers) from a script by Starsky & Hutch writer John O’Brien.

Littered with Seventies nostalgia, it looks like a ‘sequel’ to Smokey And The Bandit with Seventies’ stars like Reynolds, Nelson and former Wonder Woman Lynda Carter in supporting roles. (However, it must be set in modern times as one of the race cars is sponsored by Yahoo!)

It is obvious that Chandrasekhar wants to keep this B-grade summer outing as infantile and giddy as possible — to attract the youngsters of America.

Why, some of its lines are so ‘bad’ they may even help to turn this effort into a cult movie.
Or help it to win an award. Not the Oscars, silly. The Razzies.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

RED EYE: Tension At 30,000 Feet High



Time: 87 mins

Rating: ***

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opening 10 minutes of Red Eye
lulls us into thinking that we are watching a romantic movie.

Then, when director
Wes Craven starts to unravel the plot, he piles on the tension and creepiness so relentlessly that we can't help but be drawn into it...

The action starts at a Texas airport where Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) manages to snag a seat on the 'Red Eye' to Miami after her scheduled flight was cancelled due to bad weather. (Red Eye flights are those that take off between 2am and 6am).

As she relaxes with a drink at the airport bar, she gets into a nice chat with a suave guy named Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy).

Lisa, a hotel receptionist, is apparently attracted to Jackson and when she finds that he has the seat next to hers on the plane, who can blame her for thinking that romance is in the air?
However, while having a heart-to-heart talk with him after a bumpy take-off, she realises that the air turbulence they are facing is nothing compared to what she is about to endure.

They had not met by chance, definitely.

Jackson confesses that he is a terrorist and he needs Lisa's help to move a VIP guest (Jack Scalia as Charles Keefe, director of US Homeland Security) to another room at her hotel.

All she needs to do is to call her assistant, Cynthia (Jayma Mays) on the phone, to make the switch.

And if she does not do as he says, her father (Brian Cox) will be killed!

At best, this terrorist plot is flimsily-concocted (by screenwriter Carl Ellsworth) and it looks even more ridiculous when it is carried out.

However, the movie is not about the act of terror by an unnamed group; it is a classic damsel-in-distress gimmick set up mostly in the confines of an airplane. And when the plane lands, all hell breaks loose.

This B-movie works because the second-string leads have well-written roles to play and display their talents.

McAdams, who appeared in Mean Girls and the recent Wedding Crashers, is utterly convincing as the vulnerable-yet-gutsy Lisa. And with such great looks, she is definitely heading into Hollywood's A-List soon.

Murphy, last seen as Scarecrow in Batman Begins, is chilling as Jackson Rippner while newcomer Jayma Mays is marvelous as Lisa's wide-eyed assistant.

Director Craven, who is more famous for his horror thrillers, has cleverly broken the plot into an intriguing three-act set-up. The first two parts, at the airport and on the plane, are a protracted but engaging build-up but he justifies them with a taut, climactic ending.

This is how B-movie thrillers should be made.