Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Movie Review: Trance

So last night I watched Trance, starring James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel  & Rosario Dawson. It was... weird.

Spoiler-ish alert- if you want to actually see the movie

McAvoy stars as Simon, an art auctioneer. During a routine auction, the art gallery gets robbed by Franck (played by Cassel) and his goons. Simon tries to save a very expensive painting  (valued at over $25 million) from being taken, but fails. Or so it seems. The robbers get back to their lair and naturally this is the first time they decide to check their score. Surprise, surprise. The case is empty. Simon pulled a fast one. Unfortunately for him and the would-be robbers, a vicious blow to Simon's head leaves him with partial amnesia, and when the thieves comes to collect their loot, Simon can't remember where he stashed it.

Most of that you can gather from the trailer, which is why I said, Spoiler-ish. The rest of this is definite spoiler material.

This is classic Danny Boyle. If you’re not familiar with his films, they tend to have a lot of flashbacks, forwards and even sideways. They also take place in or around London quite a bit. ‘28 Days Later’, ‘Trainspotting’ and ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ are the films he’s best known for. So if you like those films, you might be able to sit through this one.

This is the first part of where the story goes off the rails a bit: Apparently, Simon was in on the heist. Which is fine, I guess, but felt like an unnecessary twist to add to a story that already has plenty. After a little torture to jog his memory (who needs finger nails?), Franck decides to enlist the help of a hypnotherapist to get Simon to remember where he put the painting. We don’t learn until later that the idea to steal the painting wasn’t even his.

 In walks Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson). It's obvious from the very first scene she's in that there is something more to her and her relationship with Simon. It doesn't take long (less than two sessions) for her to figure out what he's trying to recover and why. She decides to help him, but only for a piece of the profit.

Yes and all of them.

The movie soon takes an odd turn because throughout the first half we’re led to believe that Simon is the main character. He narrates the opening, he’s the first character we see, and we spend a good portion of the movie with him. But soon after Elizabeth walks into the picture she quickly becomes our main character.

Honestly, it gets more than a little ridiculous after this point. I can't tell what’s real or a hypnosis, and I guess that’s the feeling Boyle is trying to get across but I think he loses the audience in the process. By this point I'm just watching to see where the hell Simon put the damn painting.

So it turns out that Simon and Elizabeth were a couple. Simon went to her in hopes of curing him of his gambling addiction (and doing other generic bad guy things). They hit it off, almost instantly and against her better judgment (isn’t it always?), they began a relationship. Soon into it, though, he begins to act out, almost as if he’s bipolar (the movie never makes this statement, but it feels like that’s what they were going for). Simon started treating her like shit and she feared for her life. Instead of leaving or going to the authorities (the movie glances over that by saying the cops didn't care), she decided to hypnotize him into forgetting her and their relationship. But the crazy blow to the head at the beginning, during the heist, brought those memories back... in pieces. I told you, weird.

Remember when I said that the idea to steal the painting wasn’t even his… it was hers. Elizabeth wanted Simon to steal the painting for a woman he can’t remember. Oh and at this point, we’ve already seen Elizabeth sleep with Franck and Simon. Or at least I think she did; could’ve been in Simon’s head. Like I said, weird.  

Me, at this point in the film.

In one particularly odd scene, we flashback to Simon explaining art to Elizabeth. Specifically, the art of painting women without pubic hair. Flash-forward to Elizabeth shaving off camera (we can hear the electric razor) and coming back to give everyone a full frontal of her now smooth lady-parts. Three things: one- I thought she was shaving her head off camera and was relieved and confused when she came back out with a head full of hair. Two- who gets a completely smooth shave from an electric razor? And three, couldn’t she have easily just grabbed one of the many art books laying around and pointed to a picture of a pubeless lady, or better yet just say, “Brazilian”? Don’t get me wrong, I’m never going to snub female nudity in an otherwise boring movie (Kathy Bates in ‘About Schmidt’ being the exception) but it honestly wasn’t necessary and making me wait almost until the very end is just cruel and unusual.

What? Did you think you getting full frontal here? What kind of blog do you think this is? Google it if you want to see so bad, perv! Seriously, Google it.

Simon kidnaps Franck and Elizabeth at gunpoint and takes them to the painting. He stashed it in a car located in a police impound lot. After a little sweet talking from Elizabeth, they get the car and Simon says they have to drive somewhere before they can get the painting that’s in the trunk. He makes Franck drive and while on the way there he forces Elizabeth to explain the whole movie up until this point.
We flashback to Simon getting hit on the head. We see him stagger up and out of the building. He gets a text from Elizabeth and while checking his phone he is hit by a car. Nothing major, barely knocked him off his feet. But the girl gets out to help and Simon, being a bit concussed, sees only Elizabeth. This poor girl tries to help him and puts him in her car (the car they’re driving in the current scene) to take him to the hospital. Simon screams at her, “Why did you make me forget?!” The girl, clearly confused and frightened tries to bolt, but it’s too late. He jumps on her, choking the life out of her. In his mind he was killing Elizabeth, not the poor woman that just wanted to help him.

Jump back to now, and we see they’ve pulled up to an abandoned building on the docks. Franck is zip-tied to the steering wheel, so Simon and Elizabeth go back to the trunk to reveal the painting rolled up next to the rotting body of the woman he killed. I’m pretty sure they would’ve smelled her inside the car. Simon takes it, then hands it to Elizabeth, saying he never wanted it.

He grabs a full gas can and empties it on the car and Franck inside. Elizabeth pleads with him to stop but he shoots the trail of gasoline (Mythbusters proved this wouldn’t work) and sets the car on fire. 

This boy is on fire!!

But it doesn't end there. Elizabeth runs off and finds a truck with the keys still inside. She rams into Simon, slamming him into the burning car, and both him and the car into the water. Franck’s able to cut his wrist loose and we see him come up for air. She asks if he is okay but before he can answer, she’s gone.

Flash-forward (again, maybe?) to Franck swimming at home. He gets a delivery and it’s an iPad with a video from Elizabeth programmed on it. She has the painting hanging on a wall. She explains that if he wants to forget all this, there is a video he can listen to and she can make it all go away. It fades to black as we see him debating on whether or not he wants to forget.

Sooo many things wrong with this scene. First, the iPad being used was something that played during one of Simon’s hypnotic scenes. So is this real or another hypnosis? Second, why would a guy willing to kill, rob an art gallery (etc.) to get a painting, just give up? He never came across as sentimental. It was obvious he only wanted the money. So why would he just stop hunting for it? Sigh.

A little McAvoy on McAvoy action

The plot jumps around like it was written by someone who was hypnotized into forgetting the story they were trying to tell. I get what Boyle is trying to convey but I honestly think it falls flat. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone. Even if you’re a diehard fan of McAvoy or Dawson, you’d be better off watching 'Wanted' and/or 'Josie and the Pussycats'.

Spice up your life! Wait, that's not right...

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Movie Review: Vampire Academy

So, I’ve been stewing over my thoughts of Vampire Academy for nearly a month and I think it’s safe to post this now (without much spoilers I hope for those that haven’t even read the books).

Well, it took around four years for it to finally make its way from the pages and into a visual life. Having been a fan since practically the very beginning of the books releasing when the series began, I’d been insanely excited when the announcement first broke a few years ago that book one of the series had been optioned for film, and shortly afterward picked up by Preger to seriously discuss producing the movie.

This excitement began to deflate within a year though. Maybe I made the mistake by joining the fan page at the start, I’m not sure. This announcement also happened not too long after the whole Twilight craze was starting to finally die down and it was hard to be part of any fandom involving vampires without that comparison from those that hadn't read it (i.e. "Is it like Twilight?" "Ugh, love triangle and vampires... it must be like Twilight." Etc.). 
Then the eagerness began to really turn into being an annoyance with the constant excuses and posts by the producers about the “project still being worked on” and “we’re getting there soon” and basically “oh we know it’s been two years, but we’re still looking at how we’re going to do this.” It just all began to feel extremely unprofessional and frustrating from a fan’s perspective. I mean, sure it was exciting that it’d been sold for movie production… but since they generally didn’t have any means to start casting, filming, etc. until the last year or so, I just felt like maybe after the first initial announcement, we could’ve sat on our excitement from there until it was time to make other really important posts (like official casting, first photos from filming, first trailers, etc.). Otherwise, all I felt they kept doing for the longest was building hopes, consistently letting them down, building them back up, and repeat. By the time it got to the real deal and they'd started making all the casting and filming posts, I'd lost most of my desire to care.

Also, I could’ve done without the note from Preger indicating how a “true fan” would love the movie. Because no. That was wrong on many levels to say to fans (or any potential future fan).

To try to get back on topic here and quit much of my ranting, I’d have to say the movie itself wasn’t as disappointing as I thought it’d be. At the same time though, it didn’t WOW me like I’d hoped either, but I didn’t go into the theater with high expectations after seeing the previews. Whether I loved it or not, there was one stand-out thing I noticed: the cast. One awesome cast--the majority fitting to their roles (if you’ve read the book series). For me it was like seeing the book quite nearly come to life.

It's pretty rare for me to like a cast so much when it comes to a book-movie adaptation since we all have our general idea who we imagine to play a certain character.
I wasn't fond of every cast member, but they were at least quite close to being fitting so I didn't complain when it came down to it.

This was not perfect, no where near it. An entertaining rush of excitement with some added humor--and when I say rush, I do mean rush. It was unfortunate that timing felt too fast and often found areas barely brushed over. Especially when it came to the development of Rose and Dimitri's relationship/romance. I didn't feel the build-up too much throughout the movie, not much of that tension, like we get through the book from the start. With the film, it rushed through this for me and I didn't get that "aww, sweeeeet" feeling until toward the end. For a non-reader, it might even be confusing at times with various areas.

Would I watch it again? Sure. Would I watch a sequel if they make it? Yes. And I hope they do… because the fans are screaming for Adrian. 

If you've seen the movie, would love to hear your thoughts as well!