‘Mirrors 2’ fails to cast same reflection as its predecessor

Rating 2/5

Two years after ‘Mirrors’ was released, the sequel came and did not carry over any characters or story from the first film, but created new characters and a new story. However, the story and plot were very similar to the original film from which it is based, ‘Into the Mirror’ by Sung-ho Kim. A few changes where made to some of the characters’ backstory and plot lines, but the film did remain similar in tone and plot as the original ‘Into the Mirror.’

As I wrote in my review of the remake, ‘Mirrors,’ the original film droned on more like a slow moving suspenseful political thriller. But from the opening sequence of the 2010 remake to its final moments, ‘Mirrors’ captured my interest. This film didn’t. I think it was due in large part that it was very similar to the original. So, this sequel was basically a remake of the original, whereas the first remake was a little more inventive and creative in the retelling of the story.

The film centers around a man, Max Matheson (Nick Stahl), who is recovering from a traumatic car accident in which his fiancé is killed. This differs from the original Korean film and the 2010 remake in which the main character is a former detective recovering from the fatal accidental shooting of the main character’s former partner. In both the original and the 2010 remake, the main character has to deal with that incident and takes a job as a night security guard in the process.

Rounding out the cast are Emmanuelle Vaugier, Christy Carlson Romano, William Katt, Lawrence Turner, Jon Michael Davis, and Stephanie Honore’. These are the key players in the film. Katt plays Max’s father who gives him a job as a night guard at a new store reopening after a fire destroyed the first store. The store is called the Mayflower, as in the original. Here Max begins to see images of a girl, Eleanor Reigns (Horore’), and tries to unravel the mystery of her identity. Vaugier plays Elizabeth, Eleanor’s sister, who is trying to find her Eleanor. Three of Max’s work associates; Keller Landreaux (Turner), Jenna McCarty (Romano), and Ryan Parker (Jon Michael Davis), are all tied in with the girl’s disappearance.

I believe the film suffers here from Matt Venne’s script, which was trying to return to the original source and basically telling the same plot with a few changes. Victor Garcia directed the film at a pace that just appeared unimaginative and seemingly uneventful. I didn’t feel the characters were drawn out and three-dimensional enough to really care about them, except for Max, but even Stahl gave a lackluster performance.

To me this film’s ending seemed to wrap up the film in a somewhat happy ending. Although it was fairly gratifying to see it end as it did, I just didn’t care enough about the characters throughout to really appreciate it. The only seemingly redeeming quality was the fact that it was shorter than its predecessors and ran just under 90 minutes.

 

 

 

Reflections present a world of suspense in ‘Mirrors’

 

Rating 3.5/5

 In 2008, Alexandre Aja directed ‘Mirrors’ in which he co-wrote with Gregory Levasseur, and based on the film ‘Into the Mirror’ by Sung-ho Kim. ‘Mirrors’ did improve upon the seemingly droning original from 2003. And it wasn’t due to the fact it was Korean and subtitled.

The original played more like a slow moving suspenseful thriller than a horror film to me. ‘Mirrors’ took elements from the original and made a more intriguing story. I feel it still played more like a suspense film, but it contained more elements of horror and a little action thrown in for some good measure. From the opening of this film to its final moments, ‘Mirrors’ captured my interest.

The film stars Kiefer Sutherland (“The Lost Boys,” the “Young Guns” films, and most notably from acclaimed television series “24”) as Ben Carson, a former detective who is on leave for killing his partner in an accidental shooting. This follows the original film as well. Estranged from his wife, Amy (Paula Patton) and children Daisy (Erica Gluck) and Michael (Cameron Boyce) since the dismissal from the force while the matter is investigated, Ben crashes at his sister’s place, Angela (Amy Smart).

Ben attempts to build his life after taking to drugs and alcohol since his dismissal. He lands a job as a night watchman at a once regal department store, the Mayflower, which caught fire. As he begins his new job, he notices strange things happening and seeing other reflections in the mirrors that aren’t there.

Without going into great detail and avoiding many spoilers, an evil spirit inhabits the world inside the mirrors in which Ben systematically uncovers facts about the world behind the mirrors. The evil begins to target Ben’s family. This storyline differs from the original where it was focused on the main character who did not have a family as Ben Carson does in this remake. However, I’ll be remiss to not mention this film spawned a sequel in which the plot and story remained a little closer to the original.

As I mentioned, this remake by Aja (who previously teamed with Levasseur and wrote and directed 2006’s “The Hills Have Eyes”), brought in a different storyline that brought more into the film. I don’t think the film was perfect, but still brought an element of suspense and horror that the original failed to do. I think it nearly created the kind of suspense as Alfred Hitchcock in that it seemed to build the mystery and suspense throughout the film, which kept me in it. Although, I don’t think there is anyone who built suspense as well as Hitchcock did. Where the film somewhat failed was in the characters. While I do believe the film had good characters and they all played a part in the developing story, some of the characters seemed a little underdeveloped for my taste. Since the story revolved around Ben and his family, those where the primary characters, but Ben’s wife and sister did not appear as three-dimensional as I thought could have been.

I also feel the film’s ending was, to some extent, ambiguous. That part of the film remained close to the original’s ending, but I’m not sure if it was warranted with the overall theme and story of the remake. The special features from this film showed an alternate ending, which I think I liked even less. I do think the ending they chose was a little more gratifying than the alternative though. Overall, I enjoyed the film. I found it to be interesting and entertaining with a good concept, story, characters, and dialogue.

Hitchcock presents crafty suspense in ‘North by Northwest’

Rating 4/5

In the 1950’s, there were a string of suspenseful thrillers by the Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock. Starting in 1950, he released “Stage Fright,” followed by “Strangers on a Train” the next year. Then came “I Confess” (1953), “Rear Window” (1954), “Dial M for Murder” (1954), “To Catch a Thief” (1955), “The Wrong Man” (1956), “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956), “Vertigo” (1958), and finally “North by Northwest” in 1959. All of these films have elements of suspense within them, while some lean more towards being strictly in the murder mystery/thriller genre.

The latter serves the suspense genre well. A simple logline for “North by Northwest” is given from the Internet Movie Database (IMDB): A New York advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive.

The plot tells the story about Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) who must unravel the mystery of why he is being mistaken as a man named Kaplan. Grant has a charm about him. His physique seems remarkable for a man in his 50’s and plays Thornhill as kind of an action hero in this particular film, which seems to sort of contrast the look of today’s contemporary action hero like John McClane (Bruce Willis) in the “Die Hard” films. Through this journey, he meets Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) who appears to be a pleasant woman he meets on a train, then turns out to be someone else, who turns out to be someone else. All the while, not knowing if Thornhill should trust her. Grant and Saint have chemistry together and work well as she joins his quest to unravel the mystery to his mistaken identity.

The cinematography work so well in this film and add to the story from grand hotels and estates to the United Nations, and from a train ride across the country to a corn field fleeing from a mysterious plane out to kill him to the climactic scene on Mount Rushmore. Hitchcock’s use of sound in this film (and all of his films), also adds to the thrilling suspense and action as depicted by the musical score or by the simple silence used as Thornhill stands on the side of the road as he waits for the mysterious Kaplan. The only sound comes from a few passing vehicles and another car on the other side of the highway. A man steps out and waits as the car speeds away. Thornhill crosses to him and strikes a conversation. He is not Kaplan, just a man waiting for the bus. He notices a plane in the distance dusting crops and states, before he boards the bus, “That plane’s dusting crops where there ain’t no crops.” Thornhill then notices the plane getting closer and closer and lower, thus leading to the iconic sequence as he runs and ducks from the plane.

Hitchcock weaves the story elements, character and plot of the script by Ernest Lehman into an engaging suspenseful yarn as he tells his story, revealing little by little until the climactic ending with single camera shots. He focuses on objects, people, and things to tell the story of this masterful tale. It did seem the story slowed in places but quickly picked up in another exciting chase or dramatic action. I believe Hitchcock skillfully paces the film as to keep the audience entertained and informed about the story and plot while not revealing too much at one time.

 

 

 

‘Olympus’ sequel, ‘London Has Fallen,’ falls under its predecessor

Rating 2.5/5

Last July I reviewed ‘Olympus Has Fallen,’ which was released in 2013, in anticipation of the sequel that has just been released. Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt who penned ‘Olympus,’ wrote this sequel with a new director, Babak Najafi. His previous directing credits are mostly short films. Together, they seemed to fail to deliver a tense action-drama from three years ago. Don’t get me wrong. The film did have some tense moments and it did deliver explosions, gunfire, and car chases, but did not seem to be any different than previously seen in most any other film in the genre.

The film sets up the players and introduces the antagonist Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul), an arms dealer who is a very bad man. Well, what arms dealer is a good man? Tragedy strikes Barkawi and his family and he then blames the United States, primarily President Benjamin Asher, portrayed once again by Aaron Eckhart. After the tragedy, it flashes forward two years later where we see Asher jogging with Secret Service Agent Mike Banning. Gerard Butler reprises his role as ex-special forces turned Secret Service Agent. There’s the usual banter between the two and they have picked up nicely from the events of ‘Olympus.’ Banning and his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) are expecting a child. We also learn that Banning is considering his resignation.

An international incident (the death of London’s Prime Minister) then propels the story forward, which prompts the gathering of world leaders and the U. S. President to London for the funeral. The President and his staff have days to plan the trip to London, unknown to them the Prime Minister’s death was just a ploy to gather the world leaders. The day arrives and the leaders gather in London making. Moments later, the attacks begin. As the story unfolds, plot points are revealed and the audience learns of the plot as information is revealed to the U. S. and London officials. Morgan Freeman returns and now is Vice President, Secret Service Director Lynn Jacobs (Angela Bassett) returns, Robert Forster reprises his role as Gen. Edward Clegg, and returning Defense Secretary Ruth McMillan (Melissa Leo) rounds out the key players for the United States. However, they all seem to take a back seat to the action as Banning and Asher are at the forefront this time around. Charlotte Riley is introduced as MI-6 Operative Jacqueline Marshall, who helps Banning and works with the rest of MI-6 and others to uncover the threats from Barkawi.

Butler portrays his character with the same intensity as before. But it didn’t work as well this time around because, as stated, the driving action was similar to other films in the genre. Eckhart’s President Asher did get a little more action in this film as he was running and firing guns as opposed to just being tied up and pushed around, and was believable but just not anything special. The rest of the supporting cast, from the United States personnel or the London operatives were decent in their respective roles. Aboutboul was not real convincing as the antagonist Barkawi. The fault there, I think, was that it didn’t feel like the character was written with enough dimension. Even his son, Kamran Barkawi (Waleed Zuaiter) appeared as a carbon copy of most other terrorists in action films such as this one.

From the onset, one can see the opening attack was a well-coordinated attack. As with ‘Olympus,’ there might have been a couple of things that might make you scratch your head. For example, knowing where the world leaders would be at the exact moment of the planned attack might have been questionable. But again, like its predecessor, it follows the idea that this was a well-planned attack. But if it took Barkawi two years to plan this attack, he must not be as good as an antagonist. This film, while it had its moments, seemed to have missed the mark on creating a worthy sequel.

Action, Humor Deliver for Marvel’s ‘Anti-Hero’

Rating 4/5

Even though ‘Deadpool’ was released a few weeks ago, there is no time like the present to put into words my thoughts on the film. It’s been a while since my last post, so needless to say I have been busy and got sidetracked for a while. Anyhoo, on with the review.

This is the second superhero film I reviewed. The last one was Marvel’s ‘Ant-Man’ last summer. So, again, it’s been a while. See the review of that film below.

Ant-Man

As I mentioned before, I am not an avid comic book reader. I know some essentials, but not every little quirk or plot point of many superheroes. And honestly, I really knew nothing about the character Deadpool until the film and other overheard conversations of comic book readers.

The premise is Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), a former Special Forces operative, is diagnosed with cancer and decides to undergo an experimental procedure from a supposed government agent known as Ajax (Ed Ekrein) in order to stay with the love of his life, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). The procedure gives Wilson regenerative healing powers, disfigured and nearly left for dead. Wilson decides he can’t go back to her and lets her think he is dead. Thus, he goes on a killing spree, with the help from his friend Weasel (T. J. Miller), as he tracks down Ajax to hopefully restore himself to what he was before the procedure.

With a budget of $58 million, it has grossed more than $285 million in just three weeks, so obviously it getting a following. The character is one of Marvel’s comical characters who seems to make fun of himself and the fact that he’s in a comic book (or in this case a film). He’s been labeled as the “merc with a mouth.” The character likes to talk and make sarcastic quips and jokes at his opponents all the while shooting up bad guys and getting his own type of vigilante justice.

Deadpool seems to be far from a superhero, he’s an anit-hero. And I believe that’s what makes the character work in this film. He’s not a superhero and he knows it. He periodically breaking the fourth wall and talks to the camera (the audience), and continuously cracking jokes and being a smartass. Breaking the fourth wall, I feel, is similar to the “play within a play” convention in some theatrical stage productions. That convention I’ve always found humorous and it worked well in this film.

What also worked for me in the film was the story structure and how it creatively and efficiently went back and forth between present and past and wove it into an entertaining non-linear story. Wilson gave much voice over narration throughout the film, which added humor and insight to the entertaining story and characters. Fast paced action, elaborate highway chases, finely choreographed fight scenes, and impeccable dialogue make ‘Deadpool’ a treat to watch as it mixes these elements into an enjoyable film.

Tim Miller made his directorial debut, and an outstanding debut it was, with this film. Previously he has worked as an animator and visual effects artist. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick wrote the script and it was produced by Simon Kinberg and Ryan Reynolds and executive produced by John J. Kelly and Stan Lee. It is rated R with a run time of 1 hour and 48 minutes.