BRIDE FLIGHT, A LOFTY ROMANCE

A period piece with a lot of style, good acting and directing Bride Flight inspired by a true event provides a visual delight for romantics.  I liked the film for its characters, the interesting story and New Zealand photography.  If you take your romance served slowly yet gracefully then Bride Flight’s a delicious treat.

 

The story involves three intended brides, Ada (Karina Smulders) a young woman desperate for companionship, Esther (Anna Drijver) a holocaust survivor with dreams of being a designer and Marjorie (Elise Schaap) on her way to start a family, that travel to New Zealand following World War II.  The three become friends fast on their long trip from Holland.  During the flight Ada meets Frank (Waldemar Torenstra) who is on his way to start a new life in the far county and the two become enamored with each other.  When the four finally land at their destination they realize that a bond has been made, but to what end?

Ada Von Holland (Karina Smulders)

I like the way director Ben Sombogaart (his film Twin Sisters was nominated for an Oscar in 2002) weaves his tail making sure each of his characters are developed before throwing them into their new lives.  Although he takes a long time with the story his characters are amazingly addictive with charming qualities that induce you to want more.  Not overbearing with a single subject, he takes the three women and intertwines their relationships playing out each act as one story.

 

A fine cast lead by Smulders as the lovely yet romantically confused Ada graces the screen with a stunning performance that keeps the viewer wanting more. Smulders’ chemistry with Torenstra as Frank makes the romanticism realistic and compelling.  The two smolder up the screen with their love for each other.

Frank (Waldemar Torenstra) and Esther (Anna Drijver)

The cinematography of post WWII New Zealand showing the beauty and promise of the land helps the story along.  I liked the way Sombogaart fits his costumed actors into the rugged sets providing a step back into the past. Aided by some great natural formations, hot springs, 1940’s settlements and majestic mountains, the film becomes somewhat of a travelogue as well.

 

 

Bride Flight is rated R for a strong sex scene and some graphic nudity.  The film also contains a traumatic birthing scene and some violence.  Subtitles are provided for the Dutch language.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A nicely played out romantic adventure. (B)

 

AWARDS

Scottsdale Film Festival – Audience Award for Best Film
Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival – Audience Favorite Award
Rehoboth Beach Film Festival – Best Feature Audience Award
Newport Beach Film Festival – Best Feature Film, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Cinematographer, Best Screenplay

 


LARRY CROWNE, RIDES AGAIN

 

Opening up in a crowded market Larry Crowne takes a big chance that the romance filmgoer needs a break from all the explosive action now on the big screen.  But does this film have what it takes to go up against Transformers 3, Green Lantern, Super 8 and Bad Teacher?  Even Monte Carlo with its teen market will have a tough time.

The film centers on Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) a mild mannered man who is liked by his fellow employees at U-Mart.  In fact he has won Employee of the Month a lot of times.  On the last Friday of the Month he hears his name called over the store speaker to report to the break room.  The company is downsizing and since Larry doesn’t have a college degree they let him go.  Torn by this Larry goes home to rethink and downsize his life goals.  When the bank finds Larry with no job and late payments Larry decides to go to college and earn a degree.

Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks in LARRY CROWNE

From this point on the fun begins with Larry getting acclimated with the younger students and his new teachers.  But the movie wouldn’t be more than a average Indie if it weren’t for Tom Hanks (the film’s writer, producer, director and actor).  As an actor Hanks makes his character inquisitive, energetic, positive and involving the things that make a person interesting. As a writer he invests in the deplorable situation of job loss in order to capture his audience before showing them that there is always a way out.

 

His directing skills are not all that bad either, moving his characters in and out of the story after showing their lighter side of life.  Here he really stands out however, keeping his story tight, not giving his recognizable actor’s too much rope to take over the action and not spending a lot of time with Larry’s difficulties thus avoiding a sappy film.

 

Julia Roberts makes a good teacher and even provides a few Erin Brockovich moments that show her characters bold ilk.  Although the chemistry between her and Hanks is lacking in part, Roberts still sells herself well on the screen.

Hanks here with Cedric the Entertainer and Taraji P. Henson

Hanks throws in some good character actors like Cedric the Entertainer (his garage sale diva next door), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (a hottie fellow student), Bryan Cranston (Robert’s character’s husband in a midlife crisis), Wilder Valderamma (a jealous scooter ‘gang’ member), and many more recognizable faces to help his film with a comical touch.

 

The film is good and enjoyable to watch and though it received a PG-13 rating for brief strong language and some sexual content (a sensual kiss) should not be too over the top for mature pre-teens.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: It’s a film the older crowd will probably appreciate most. (B)

 


TREE OF LIFE, A MOODY SAGA

Could one compare the Cosmos with a 1950’s conflicted family?  With Tree of Life director writer Terrence Malick tries to do just that.  Although he may succeed on an existential level, a general audience will just see a family in disparaging change that picks at the heart and soul of their relationships.  I am not a big fan of the film and found Tree of Life to be preachy and more of a meditation on my own life problems.

 

The movie opens with grown up Jack (Sean Penn) now a successful architect thinking back on his life.  It quickly moves into the 1950’s where we are introduced to his father, Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt) starting a family in a rural American town.  As time goes by O’Brien starts to spiral down from a life-changing problem taking his frustrations and deep seeded pain out on his children.  With only his wife (Jessica Chastain) as a barrier young Jack resists his father’s domination while trying to hold his place in the family.

Mr. O'Brien (Pitt) repremands his son while Mrs. O'Brien (Chastain) looks on

The acting is superb with Pitt as the high-strung domineering father and husband.  His emotional state changes in the film from loving to a man with a rattrap inside ready to spring shut with the drop of a foot.  He brings up his children with a strong hand never showing any real emotion beyond contempt and anger during his discipline.  Jessica Chastain as the children’s mother takes as much of the focus off the boys as she can in an attempt to ease the anger displayed by O’Brien.  Her ability to show weakness and yet protect her children is just one of Chastain’s acting strengths she brings to the film.

 

Many films come to mind involving domineering males but most recently Revolutionary Road where changing times and employment affect a couple trying to raise their two children.  In Tree of Life Terrence Malick goes another step further and shows the hostile situation between father and son that forces a distancing of their love and a scar that remains forever.

 

Using Sean Penn as older Jack really doesn’t make any sense. In fact it is quite distracting since it is such a small part.  It tends to make me believe that there must be a shortage of good acting in the acting pool.

 

As the film opens and intermittent throughout Malick interjects flashbacks to the beginning of time, dinosaurs, the universe, long underwater shots and lofty moody hypnotic music that seems to indicate the presence of God.  I’m not too sure that the entire splendor is needed in the film and tends to bring to mind 2001: A Space Odyssey a film that almost put me to sleep with the Blue Danube Waltz music.

 

Tree of Life is rated PG-13 for some thematic material, but in my opinion parents should be cautioned that verbal abuse is quite excessive in the film.

 

FINAL ANALYISIS:  A preachy film with a derivative story. (C+)


 

 

THE ART OF GETTING BY, SIZZLES THEN FIZZLES

Take your time with The Art Of Getting By although the story has a simple plot Director Gavin Weisen spools his movie out slowly providing an abundance of character development.  Although this may be a good thing for film buffs, it’s not the kind of entertainment for those who like their romance with a lot less buildup.

 

The plot centers on George (Freddie Highmore), a conflicted teen that believes life has little meaning, especially when it comes to schoolwork.  Having reached his final high school year doing very little homework he still seems to eke through.  But, with finals coming just weeks away his teachers are demanding he turn in a year’s worth of reports and a passing grade on his finals or there will be no diploma.  Lost in a world of his grotesque drawings and contemplating giving up any future endeavors, he meets Sally (Emma Roberts) a defeatist person like himself.  This bonding takes the two on a course of apprehension then exploration and optimism.

Sally (Emma Roberts) and George (Freddie Highmore)

 

I personally did not care much for the film finding it repetitive and overwhelmingly dark.  Wiesen’s direction spends way too much time on character build up, divorce guilt and school conflicts leaving little time for the coming of age relationship for both Sally and George.

Emma Roberts in a scene from THE ART OF GETTING BY

The acting however shines with Highmore and Roberts making credible emotional teens that deal with age-old problems. And I’m impressed with Michael Angarano as the starving artist Dustin who takes George under his wing only to screw up his relationship with Sally.

 

The Art of Getting By is rated PG-13 for sexual content, language, teen drinking, partying.  The film, however, does depict an over abundance of teen drinking without penalty so be cautious when approving pre-teens to early teens attending the film.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A little less would be more in The Art of Getting By. (C-)


 

INCENDIES, A Captivating drama

Stunned can be the only word to describe my reaction to Incendies an incredible story that shocks with disbelief.  Extremely well acted and directed the foreign language film was nominated for an Oscar and in my opinion should have taken home the gold.  If you are up for a drama that’s passionate, interesting and revealing then this movie should be at the top of your list.

 

The children of Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal), Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) sit down for the reading of their mother’s last will and testament in their Canadian hometown. The final codicil requires the notary to hand over two letters, one to their father they never knew and one for a brother they don’t know exists.  The notary asks that the letters be delivered to the respective parties before the will can be consummated.  While Simon feels unmoved by the gesture, Jeanne is more inquisitive and decides to travel to the Middle East to uncover the mystery. After months of searching, Simon decides to join Jeanne.  When things get heated up over their last name, their ancestral heritage consumes both.

 

The movie uses flashbacks to take us through Nawal Marwan’s life during one of the most despicable times in history where people were killed for political reasons.  Caught up in fight for survival, Nawal shows the anger, distrust and reality of an awful war.

 

Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin as Jeanne

The acting, directing and storyline provide an excellent drama and the twists add surprises at every turn.  Adapted from a play by the Lebanese born Wajdi Mouawad, director Denis Villeneuve gives an emotional live production a Hollywood makeover adding a Middle East background that enhances the unusual storyline.  Providing a confrontational aura Villeneuve plunges his audience into a controversial world while manipulating his characters in the deeply moving story.

 

The acting here is superb and reminiscent to the outstanding performances in the movie The Stoning of Soraya M. in which Shohreh Aghdashloo shined as an Iranian woman falsely accused of adultery.  Here Lubna Azabal as Marwan captures her audience depicting the torture and harsh cruelty forced upon her.

 

Incendies is rated R for some strong violence and language. The movie nominated for an academy award in the foreign film category, is Canadian produced.  Scenes of the Middle East contain some foreign language with subtitles.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: An outstanding film that captivates. (A)


Watch the STARZ Official Trailer for Torchwood: Miracle Day

 

Hey, did you see the STARZ official full length trailer for the new “Torchwood: Miracle Day” series? Well, it’s here, and it’s amazing! With a bigger budget and some big American co-stars (Mekhi Phefir, Bill Pullman, Lauren Ambrose) joining original favs John Barrowman and Eve Myles, the hit BBC sci-fi TV series looks better than ever thanks to the STARZ re-vamp and it’s got us practically gagging. Come on in, take a look, and get excited!

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EVERYTHING MUST GO, Ferrell to a higher level

Looking for a shot at huge recognition in acting, Will Ferrell takes on a dramatic role in the film Everything Must Go.  The deep seeded movie puts him in a setting far from his comical fame and he nails the character with aplomb.  If you like drama that deals with personal problems, marriage difficulties or psychological hardships, then Everything Must Go has it all for you.

 

The story centers on Nick Porter (Will Ferrell) a salesman who after 16 years with his company gets fired due to his drinking problem.  Arriving home he finds the house locks changed and all his belongings out on the front lawn.  His downward spiral has hit a low point in his life and it’s at this moment that he chooses to take a stand.  Organizing his office furniture, exercise equipment and other things he has accumulated in life, he decides to live on his front lawn.  When he meets Samantha (Rebecca Hall), a pregnant woman who moves in across the street, and Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace) a young boy that’s willing to help, Nick starts to come to grips with his situation.

Dan Rush goes over a scene with Ferrell in EVERYTHING MUST GO

Ferrell gives a strong performance as the latent alcoholic who can’t seem to shrug the addiction.  Under the direction of Dan Rush who adapted the film from a short story by Raymond Carver, Ferrell shows that arrogant comedy isn’t his only path to fame.  The deep slow moving storyline of Everything Must Go could have surly tested the comedian’s ability to hold back a smirk in some scenes, (and there are probably several takes where he doesn’t) but Ferrell holds his own throughout.

 

His support cast does an exceptional job in light of the fact that Ferrell finds himself flying solo during most of the film. As Kenny a youngster who joins in to help Nick in spite of the circumstances, Wallace proves he can deliver with the best.  Helping Nick on the chance he can make some money during his boring summer, Kenny finds out that even he can give a hand up.

 

If I had to point out a weakness in the film it would be the poor fleshing out of the character of Frank Garcia played by Michael Pena. Although a pivotal role in Nick’s alcohol rehabilitation and marital separation, Frank’s character gets treated more as a second thought than a major player.

 

The film is rated R for language and some sexual content.  The use of alcohol is prevalent along with a scene of attempted robbery.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A good acting job does not a great film make. (C+)

 

 

THERE BE DRAGONS, Torches the screen

The gripping story based on Saint Josemaria Escriva called There Be Dragons opens in theaters and it’s a must see for drama lovers.  It’s a film of Saints and sinners, war and romance that puts its weight on the power to forgive.  I liked the film for the knowledge of the period, the development of characters and direction by writer Roland Joffe.

Wes Bentley as Manolo

The biographical story follows Robert Torres (Dougray Scott), a young journalist writing a story on Josemaria Escriva (Charlie Cox) a Spanish priest about to be canonized as a Saint.  In his investigation of the facts he finds that his estranged father Manolo (Wes Bentley) was associated with Josemaria.  After some soul searching the long separated Robert decides to contact Manolo in a last ditch effort to get at the truth of Josemaria’s past.  During this interaction we see the story flashed back through Manolo, now a dieing man, who harbors a dark secret about his sins and the Saint.

Charlie Cox as Josemaria

The story consumes you from the very start as we meet the young Manolo and Josemaria growing up in the same town.  Both living different kinds of lives of upper class vs. middleclass they find themselves growing apart.  Manolo’s parents push him away from those beneath him until the final separation, one going to the priesthood and the other taking refuge with his family.  When the Spanish Civil War starts to rear it’s ugly head, Joffe’s characters chose sides.

Rodrigo Santoro as Oriol

Joffe (The Killing Fields, Vatel) does a brilliant job with his story intertwining war, politics and religious suffrage.   Making his characters fighters in all facets I felt like I was being dragged between fascism, communism and Christianity.  When he brings the threads of deceit, deception, cruelty and honor together in his finale, the climax puts your mind in a wringer of sorrow and disbelief.  It plays out like a novel you cant put down till the last page is turned.

 

There Be Dragons is rated PG 13 for Violence and combat sequences, some language and thematic elements.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A thought-provoking drama that torches the screen. (A)

WINTER IN WARTIME, A POWERFUL DRAMA

The Dutch drama Winter In Wartime is a gripping story that depicts a challenging time during World War II when the Germans occupied Holland.  Extremely well acted, brilliant cinematography and a suspenseful storyline make this film a must see.  The compelling film is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Dutch author JAN TERLOUW who experienced five years under German occupation.

The film centers on Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) a young teenager growing up in a time were the world has lost touch with brotherhood and moved on to an evil time of occupation and hostility.  World War II has entered a tailspin, but for small towns in Holland the resistance still lives on trying to hold out until an end to the German atrocities.  With most of his village on edge, Michiel tries to keep out of danger.  But with his discovery a downed British flyer (Jamie Campbell Bower) and his Uncle (Yorick van Wageningen) a member of the resistance moving into his home, it isn’t very easy not to get involved.  When the Germans arrest his father (Raymond Thiry) after finding a dead soldier, Michiel has to make some challenging decisions that could put his family in jeopardy.

I enjoyed the story for its shocking elements involving the youngster who has to come of age during an appalling time in history.  Well acted by Lakemeier as the boy who looses a chance to grow up in a normal society and face the atrocities of a cruel occupation by the Nazis filled with greed and a lust for power. Lakemeier makes his character strong and willing to sacrifice all for his country even if it may affect his own future.

Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) resists German intervention

The keen direction by Martin Koolhoven shows the suspenseful and distasteful time with which his characters have to deal.  He weaves the story around young Michiel making him the thread that ties the script together.  His strict control of the brilliant camera crew to get his movie gives the viewer an opportunity to feel the effects of the damning war.

Winter In Wartime is rated R for some language.  It also contains war related violence and a scene of sexuality.  The film is acted out in the Dutch language with English subtitles.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A powerful drama that changes innocence into manhood. (B+)

SOUL SURFER, EMOTIONAL & INSPIRATIONAL

Emotional and moving the true story of Bethany Hamilton called Soul Surfer makes its way into movie theaters across the nation.  Without a doubt the best film about recovery from a tragedy I’ve seen in decade.  If there is one film you see this year, make it be Soul Surfer, you will be truly inspired.

 

In December of 2004 a tsunami pounded the coastal region of Thailand causing much death and massive destruction.  In the middle of the crisis a group of volunteers from Hawaii went to help the survivors.  Included in the group is Bethany Hamilton, a one armed 14-year-old youngster who believes in herself and a chance to help others.

 

Flash back a year and two months earlier where in a freak accident Bethany is attacked by a shark while practicing for a surfing tournament off the coast of Hawaii.  The bite takes off her left arm and nearly kills her.  With the help of her surfing companions she gets rushed to the hospital where doctors save her life.

AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany Hamilton in SOUL SURFER

Being a surfer with plans on becoming a professional one-day, you would think that this terrible act of nature would be a career ender.  Not many have survived such a tragedy and been able to pull themselves up and get back on the job.  A similar Hollywood movie last year called 127 Hours received a lot of acclaim when through perseverance a young rock climber Aron Ralston had to remove his own arm to save his life.  That man went on to climb many mountains including Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It’s this kind of inspiration that I felt from the Bethany Hamilton story in the movie Soul Surfer.

 

In Bethany’s story we find not only inspiration, but also an abiding faith in a divine reason for the tragic attack.  This faith, and witnessing how others such as the people in Thailand have the desire to recover from tragedy, compelled her to regain her strength and become a world-class surfing champion.

 

The acting in Soul Surfer by AnnaSophia Robb shines as the young girl who has to raise herself up, shrug off pity and move on to her goal. Being able to project the emotional trauma, pain and suffering, Robb makes the story work.  Her ability to express the disappointment from the results of the attack, accept the fact that she must move on and then rise above the tragedy to become a champion is impressive.

 

A stellar support cast that includes Denis Quaid as Tom Hamilton, Helen Hunt as Cheri Hamilton and Lorraine Nicholson as Alana Blanchard provide emotional performances as parents and friend.  Never giving up on Bethany, Tom supports her belief that she can still become a professional surfer in spite of her loss of limb. And, Alana never turns away from her friend, encouraging her to work hard at conditioning herself, getting up on the board and becoming a champion.

 

As a closing point, the making of the movie with the use of advanced filming techniques provides the realism that is necessary for a winning project such as this. It’s amazing how through the use of green screen applications Robb is able to go though all the motions armless.

 

Stay after the credits start to roll to see real footage of Bethany in action on a surfboard, many of her videos of growing up and her trip to Thailand.

 

Soul Surfer is rated PG for an intense accident sequence and some thematic material.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: See this movie and feel the inspiration. (A)

 

 

 

 

Bethany Hamilton, the ‘Soul Surfer’, an Interview

On October 31, 2003, Hamilton went for a morning surf along Tunnels Beach, Kauai with friend Alana Blanchard, and Blanchard’s father and brother. Around 7:30 a.m., she was lying sideways on her surfboard with her left arm dangling in the water, when a 15 ft tiger shark attacked her,ripping her left arm off just below the shoulder. If the shark had bitten two inches further in, the attack would have been fatal. Hamilton had lost almost 60% of her blood that morning. Her friends helped paddle her back to shore, and fashioned a tourniquet out of a surfboard leash around what was left of her arm before rushing her to Wilcox Memorial Hospital… She then spent seven more days in recovery at the hospital.

Despite the trauma of the incident, Hamilton was determined to return to surfing. Less than one month after the incident, she returned to her board and went surfing again. Initially, she adopted a custom-made board that was longer and slightly thicker which made it easier to paddle. She has observed that she has to kick a lot more to make up for the loss of her left arm. After teaching herself to surf with one arm, she has again begun surfing competitively. She is now back to using competitive performance short-boards again.- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethany_Hamilton Read more

JANE EYRE, AN EXCELLENT REMAKE

Captivating and as the British would say utterly romantic, the movie version of the Charlotte Bronte novel Jane Eyre moves into theaters this weekend. I enjoyed the acting, the amazing landscapes and period costumes.  If you like the book, enjoy period piece films, dream about those who live in huge estates, then wake up and go see Jane Eyre.

 

At the center of the plot is a young Jane Eyre (Amelia Clarkson) who finds herself living with her aunt after her parents die.  At odds with her male cousin, her aunt feels that Jane should be put in a private school.  Fast-forward to the 17 years of age Jane (Mia Wasikowska) who escapes the confines of her dull life and finds her way to the home of the wealthy Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender) where she takes on the job of governess.  When a romance starts between Jane and Edward, her life starts to change in a direction she did not anticipate.

Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender in Jane Eyre

Even though the age differences between Jane and Edward are distances apart, the actors are able to show the fire that burns between them.  You can see the change on Wasikowska’s innocent face when she realizes that Edward can be hers. The chemistry between the two burns a hole in the screen.

One of the many costumes in Jane Eyre

The costuming and sets are a major part of the story and here no expense has been spared to provide the look and flavor of the early English period.  The camera captures every bit of the countryside, the worn English manor and the clothes that are as important to the entertainment as the actors.  The camera lens even instills a cold damp feeling during Jane’s trek through an unforgiving forest during a horrendous rainstorm.  Jane Eyre is a feeling and director Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) provides the complete experience from script to actor to the big screen.

 

Jane Eyre has been produced some seventeen times on television and film starting as far back as 1914 according to the International Movie Data Base.  But with today’s technology, special cameras and creative sets, I found this Jane Eyre to be the amazingly good.

 

The film is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements including a nude image in a painting and brief violent content.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A classy look at an old plot. (A-)

POETRY, RHYME FOR A REASON

Bringing to light a heinous crime, Poetry does a good job of making a case against bullying.  The acting, directing and cinematography all connect in this South Korean tale that is heartbreaking and revealing.  Acting saves the lengthy wondering film.

Mi-ja (Yoon Jung-hee) leads a hand-to-mouth life raising her teenage grandson by herself. She nevertheless, retains a childlike innocence and curiosity, and becomes immersed in the world of poetry and beauty when she enrolls in a local writing class. But when she learns of a shocking revelation, she must confront the ugly side of life, and take matters into her own hands.

Delivering a wonderful performance, Yoon Jung-hee shows the devastating affects her character faces in a dreadful situation.  I love the way she moves through the film sometimes aware, other times oblivious to what life has dealt her.  Finding grief not only in what her grandson has done, but feeling the effects of a debilitating disease manipulating her brain.

Writer/Director Chang-dong Lee

Making  a mesmerizing tale writer/director Chang-dong Lee dives into every angle of his main character’s plight.  So much so, however, that the film takes a long time to develop making his project almost unending.  A problem with most directors that write their own pieces, it’s never done until every last word, character, incident and bit of information has been filmed.  Although I liked the film, it gets way too long to be perfect.

The cinematography showing the landscapes and villages of South Korea becomes part of the entertainment.  Working the characters through the plot with a National Geographic background keeps the film from being dreary in light of the subject matter.

Poetry is unrated but contains adult content and disturbing images.  The foreign film is in Korean with English Subtitles.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A very good drama with stellar acting. (B)

Red Riding Hood, Hardwicke Hoodwink

 

 

Alright Twilight fans here’s a little change a of pace called Red Riding Hood with romance and werewolves that should fulfill your cravings until you can get more of Stephanie Meyer. However, don’t be too quick to jump into this one if you are a reasonable adult that’s looking for some horror that chills. The fright is fleeting and the terror no more scary than a large devilish dog.  Mostly shot on two sets, the film could have easily been a theatrical play.

Valerie (Ananda Seyfried) leads townfolks into square

Most everyone remembers the story of Little Red Riding Hood and this film uses it in a very dark way. In a small isolated village in the deep forest live several families who have been fighting off a werewolf for years.  Young Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) has reached the age of being married, but her older sister who has been promised to Henri (Max Irons) must be first.  In the meantime Valerie has accepted the charms of Peter (Shiloh Fernandez )and is quite content on waiting.  Suddenly the werewolf kills her sister and Valerie gets ordered to marry Henri.  When the town comes under siege by the howling daemon, Valerie devises a plan to escape her fate.

Valerie travel to grandma's house in her red hoodie

 

The costume film takes on a striking aura with fairytale garb, ‘gingerbread’ cottages and thick forests.  But, all the above looked like a theatre set perfectly placed and lifeless, even sand covers the ground in an attempt to resemble snow.  Two main locations make up the film, the small town square with lower class buildings and an isolated house where grandma lives.  The actors move about the sets reciting lines that direct all the action.  I found this a little boring and listless at times.

Julie Christie as Grandma

Saving the film from total loss is the beast and the fight.  Cruel and with a vengeance it attacks the townspeople for food.  The battle against the creature and the intermittent love triangle keep Red Riding Hood interesting and palatable.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Julie Christi’s brilliant performance as grandma and Amanda Seyfried’s pervasive screen presence.

But, that’s not enough to make up for the lines Valerie has to say to her grandmother that add a feel of silliness during an important scene. A look at grandma’s eyes, ears and teeth by Valerie is all that’s needed here, but director Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) goes for the punch, but looses the fight.

The film is rated PG-13 for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality.  Immature youngsters may get easily freighted so take this into consideration before allowing them to go with siblings.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A teen chick flick that suffers from over indulgence in the fairy tale. (C-)