TAG | Red Lights
Around this time of year I read a lot of Top 10 Lists and compile a couple of my own, but rarely do you ever see a list featuring movies that people didn’t quite love and therefore get left off any end of year lists- that is unless they ended up on a bottom of list somehow. So briefly, I just wanted to take a few moments and highlight five films from 2012 that I really enjoyed, but they just couldn’t quite win me over by the end. Also, even though these are films I consider “so-so” by no means am I saying you should skip them as I believe they all deserve a fair shake. Some you may love more than me and you may indeed hate- either way let me know what you think!
(5) Red Lights - I was extremely excited to see Rodrigo Cortes’ follow-up to BURIED (a film that made my Top 10 the year it came out), which is why I was pretty disappointed once I finally saw it. The one thing that did kind of carryover was the sense of dread and tension throughout, but the emotional connection was completely missing and the logistics of the twist just did not hit home for me. The performances are good, not great and a lot of the film can seem pretty goofy. In spite of the flaws though, I still think this is a film worth at least a rental.
(4) Safe House - I’m not sure what to expect about this choice, but I kind of really enjoyed a lot of this film. Denzel Washington is rarely ever not fun in the movies he’s in and he soars with Ryan Reynolds is a pretty entertaining fashion here. In terms of an action movie with an incredibly dumb twist it leaves a little to be desired, but I would recommend watching for Washington alone and a few select action scenes that I enjoyed.
(3) Lawless - I have somewhat of a dude crush on Tom Hardy, although in a completely non creepy way- mostly because I thought he was phenomenal in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. It was a little tough to not look at him as Bane during LAWLESS and I felt that while he was good here, there’s just something that was missing for me. I also HATE the way this film ends, which is only its second crime against my personal tastes as the first is casting and using Shia LeBouf entirely too much. Guy Pearce is awesome and had the ending been tweaked and someone else cast in LeBouf’s role this could have had Top 10 potential for me.
(2) Headhunters - This is my fancy pants choice for the list as it’s the only foreign film to crack any list for this year. The funny thing being that as most foreign films go, this is probably the least elegant and hard hitting as most I’ve seen and loved. There are quite a few clever plot points weaved throughout, but also some pretty dumb and goofy things that drug it down for me. The performances are fun, the cat and mouse nature of the middle section is also a lot of fun- but ultimately there was just something about it I didn’t love.
(1) Chronicle - There are parts of this movie that I absolutely love- which is why I was a little disappointed with some really weak aspects of this film. It does a great job at justifying the found footage angle minus the incredibly stupid tacked on footage of a girl shooting footage for her online blog and the main character’s struggle is extremely effective especially going into the final act of the film. The special effects in a few spots are laughably bad, while others are pretty incredible which only made the bad effects detract from my enjoyment more. I may come to appreciate this more over time, but make no mistake, I don’t hate it by any means, since my point is to just point out films that fell just short of getting a bit more praise than I originally may have given them- you should definitely check this one out.
What are some of your disappointments from this year or some films that walked the line of being great, but fell just short?
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)
BURIED is a film I revisit time after time due to how well made it is considering the entire film takes place in nothing more than a box big enough to fit Ryan Reynolds. The single location film is acted superbly by Reynolds, it’s often surprisingly thrilling and in the end it struck an intense emotional chord with me along with just being plain intense. So going into RED LIGHTS I had pretty lofty expectations for Rodrigo Cortes’ film that comes out of the box and into the rest of the world. Even without heightened expectations it would be foolish to rain praise on this film the same way I did and am currently doing for BURIED. RED LIGHTS for all its really great elements still manages to be a mostly disappointing follow up that had the potential around every corner to transition into something great.
Cortes’ film follows two paranormal investigators Margaret (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom (Cillian Murphy) as they look into and debunk claims of people having extraordinary abilities or are suffering from supernatural happenings. When a famed psychic, Simon Silver (Robert DeNiro), comes out of retirement spawned from the mysterious death of his toughest critic, Tom cannot shake his obsession to investigate him which makes his life spiral out of control.
There are so many promising things about this film that it really is hard to say I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to many people. BURIED made great use of its limitations in a way that RED LIGHTS also at times manages to do, but with a script and a last act reveal that severely damages any of the good will I had for the performances and beautiful cinematography. The dark tone lends to some moments towards the end that are painfully awkward and unintentionally funny- also moments that dampen the presence of so many great performers giving the material all they’ve got.
The premise itself is very interesting and also lays out the immense potential very well. The undertones of the characters involvement with each other and the threat that Silver poses to Tom and Margaret create greats amount of tension. The first two acts of the film as slow as they are feel like something truly extraordinary could be lurking in the last act so the slow and brooding nature of the film was excised by me for most of the runtime. Then in the last act it felt like more of the same and the final twist is so hackneyed and poorly conceived that it only makes me question how good if at all everything leading up to it was. That in and of itself is frustrating enough, but even the finale has moments I really enjoyed outside of the implications the twist presented.
Robert DeNiro is actually pretty great here- surprising given how much I have disliked him in the Focker sequels and his other recent works. Cillian Murphy and Sigourney Weaver are great together even if both of them adhere a little too faithfully to a script that requires them at times to deliver very mediocre and silly dialogue. Elizabeth Olsen also has a presence here to be nothing other than a generic love interest and given nothing interesting to do except be present for one of the most embarrassing scenes in the film. The finale act of the film is where the scene in question lurks involving Olsen and a psychology student analyzing footage from a study of Silver done by the school Tom and Margaret work for. The dialogue given to the two of them is terrible, but where Olsen at least is convincing, the student in the scene is absolutely horrible, making me wish I had shut the film off before that point.
As hateful as I’m sure I sound toward the aspects of the film I didn’t like I don’t want to sound too misleading as I did enjoy the film to a certain extent. I’m not opposed to slow burn films, which this is for the most part; it’s just that the angering element to RED LIGHTS is the twist that makes almost everything else in the film makes no sense no matter how much Cortes tries to frame the reveal. My instincts say to not bother with the film as most probably won’t be able to get the same amount of enjoyment I did considering the amount of vile I have for the really terrible elements. However, from an opinion fit solely to my own likings I found RED LIGHTS to be a well performed and beautiful looking disappointment. The depths of my disappointment are not at disastrous levels to the point that this is a film I would watch again if only to enjoy the performances and the imagery and hold a middle finger to the screen for the majority of the last act. RED LIGHTS is imperfect and ridiculous but I’ll be damned if I still don’t feel the need to defend it.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)
Richard Roeper reviews this week's DVD and Blu-ray releases
Dark Shadows | Red Lights | People Like Us | Richard Roeper | Roeper's Movie Reviews | Hollywood Dailies
Robert De Niro has the time of his life as psychic Simon Silver in Red Lights starring alongside Cillian Murphy in Rodrigo Cortes' latest stunner.
As seen in the Red Lights poster, De Niro is a background figure in the story as a whole, but his presence is felt like an approaching storm. He portrays a man who has made millions as a blind psychic until tragedy forces him into retirement. Silver mysteriously returns to the spotlight as a team set to discredit him goes into full swing.
Led by Murphy and Sigourney Weaver, they are university professors attempting to use fact to explain the supposedly unexplainable.
This is one of those come-quickly movie reviews and it is solely due to the performance of Murphy. The Irish actor rips the scenery off the walls, even when he is going toe-to-toe with De Niro. He portrays Tom Buckley, a man who lost his parents to a group he vengefully calls "supernatural charlatans." It is easy to see his motivation as he is set on a collision course with De Niro's Silver.
And in the hands of Murphy, it is a performance that should put the actor on a whole new level -- especially after getting a vision of him in the MTV The Dark Knight Rises footage.
At certain points, the plot wanders. If it had stayed with the De Niro-Murphy tete-a-tete, the film would have been leagues better and more of what it should have been, instead of how it turned out. There are subplots that are never followed up on; the audience is just asked to forget those points, and it is honestly too difficult to ignore.
Yet, in the hands of director Cortes, Red Lights still rivets as a whole.
The title could not be more perfect and, in many ways, holds the key to the entire story. At the time it seemed like a throw-away line when it was uttered, but pay close attention to the use of "red lights" throughout the film and how it plays out as the drama takes unexpected twists and turns.
Although Murphy is the true star of the film and steals scenes from De Niro, don't misjudge that as us saying that De Niro is mailing this one in. Just the opposite, the actor relishes in a part that recalls his turn in Angel Heart in terms of losing himself in a role of supernatural power.
Red Lights is quite the original concept, that much is true. Its performances are top notch from its entire cast. Yet, the story's wandering way handicaps a good movie that could have been great.
Robert De Niro and Sigourney Weaver star in Red Lights and we catch up with the movie's director about working with the pair.
Red Lights | Robert De Niro | Sigourney Weaver | Rodrigo Cortés | Cillian Murphy | Hollywood Dailies
With half of 2012 behind us I’ve already had a chance to share what I feel are my favorite films of the year so far. I’ve also had a chance to knock off several of the movies that were on my Most Anticipated List of 2012, but as expected as the year has progressed there have been several new movies that have caught my attention that I either wasn’t fully aware of when the year started or just escaped my memory at the time.
Here’s my chance to maybe even bring some movies to someone else’s attention that they weren’t aware of and in a different sort of twist I’m going to attempt to give my best shot at being a psychic by sharing how I think the outcome of the film will be at least from my point of view. The list will be made up movies not previously picked for my Most Anticipated List as well- so here we go.
Killer Joe – When a debt puts a young man’s life in danger, he turns to putting a hit out on his evil mother in order to collect the insurance.
Prediction: I haven’t fully thought this one out, but based on the trailer I have a feeling that when I come out of this one I’m going to have nothing but glowing things to say about McConaughey’s performance, well everyone’s performance and the rest will is laying on the shoulder of the direction and the way it all plays out in the end.
Django Unchained - With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
Prediction: I’m a little ashamed this wasn’t on my picks initially to start the year, but honestly it just kind of slipped my consciousness. I absolutely loved Tarantino’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS not to mention almost everyone else in his filmography and after seeing the trailer I was sold on this one as well. Granted, it sort of depends on the strength of Jamie Foxx’s performance as Django because I have no doubt Waltz will be awesome along with DiCaprio.
Lawless - Set in the Depression-era Franklin County, Virginia, a bootlegging gang is threatened by authorities who want a cut of their profits.
Prediction: Honestly, I’m a bit tired of LaBeouf so this one is riding high on my enthusiasm for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and Hardy’s turn as Bane. I really dig the trailer and the film has pretty good buzz coming out of Cannes. The acting looks to be top notch even from LaBeouf and it looks to be a fun little piece of time period action.
Sinister - Found footage helps a true-crime novelist realize how and why a family was murdered in his new home, though his discoveries put his entire family in the path of a supernatural entity.
Prediction: Another film getting solid buzz out from a film festival, SINISTER has the look of a film that could be as under your skin creepy as PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and the better parts of INSIDIOUS plus something all its own as well. I usually like Ethan Hawke, but the trailer has some pretty spooky things going on with a hint of something even worse lurking beneath the surface.
V/H/S - When a group of misfits is hired by an unknown third party to burglarize a desolate house and acquire a rare VHS tape, they discover more found footage than they bargained for.
Prediction: I’m riding a lot of film festival waves here and this is no exception. V/H/S is a found footage horror anthology that has some pretty insane looking stuff going down in the red band trailer. The quality of the footage even has the classic VHS look which adds a hint of nostalgia to boot. I’m betting like most anthology films this will come with the good and the bad, but just from the trailer I have a feeling this is going to be one horror fans will be clamoring about come the end of the year.
Looper - In the year 2042, a mob hitman assassinates targets that arrive from the future of 2072. For him it’s just a job… till he receives a new target: himself from the future.
Prediction: I really liked Rian Johnson’s BRICK and have yet to see THE BROTHER’S BLOOM but this one looks to be a really fun slice of sci fi action. Obviously I don’t know if Johnson has the chops to direct really interesting and easy to follow action, but I definitely know he’s got what it takes to put forth a visually interesting and intriguing film, plus the addition of time travel into the mix can’t hurt.
Red Lights - Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic who has resurfaced years after his toughest critic mysteriously passed away.
Prediction: RED LIGHTS got a lot of mixed buzz coming out of Sundance this year, but the film comes to us from the director behind BURIED, a film I love quite a bit. Sounds as though there’s something in that’s likely to split the audience in a profound way and to be honest, those are the movies I tend to gravitate towards rather I end up liking them or not. I’m seeing some very good performances in this one, and given that Rodrigo Cortes was able to build tension beautifully in the confines of a wooden box in BURIED, I have pretty high hopes for what he can do here.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)