Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Episode 54

Disturbia - On their way home from a fishing trip, Kale (Shia LaBeouf) and his father Daniel (Matt Craven) are involved in an accident that leaves Daniel dead. Afterward, Kale becomes distant and rebellious, and his grades begin to drop. When confronted by a teacher at his school who brings up his father, Kale punches him in the face and is later sentenced to house arrest for the duration of his summer break. He is fitted with an ankle bracelet which alerts the police if he travels more than 100 feet from a device in his kitchen, and to make things worse, his mother Julie (Carrie-Anne Moss) has cancelled his Xbox Live and iTunes accounts. With nothing to do and nowhere to go, Kale begins casually spying on his neighbors, most notably the new girl named Ashley (Sarah Roemer) who has moved in next door. As time passes Kale not only begins a relationship with Ashley, but also starts to suspect that Mr. Turner (David Morse), another of his neighbors, may be murdering women and hiding their bodies in his home. Putting together clues that he's gathered by watching Mr. Turner from his bedroom windows and things that he has heard on the news about some missing girls, Kale soon drags Ashley and his friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) into his amateur investigation. No one believes him at first, least of which the police, but Kale won't be swayed from his belief that his neighbor is a cold-blooded killer. At the risk of breaking his probation and going to prison, Kale must discover whether his hunch is true or whether his imagination has gotten away from him, especially since his loved ones' lives may hang in the balance. Having watched and fallen in love with Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window shortly before Disturbia's release in theaters, I had the suspicion that, being so similar in premise to Hitchcock's masterpiece, it would be complete garbage. However, while not as good as Rear Window, I have found Disturbia to be a suspenseful, well-made, and all around enjoyable film. Rear Window was released in 1954 while Disturbia came out in 2007, leaving a lot of room for updating the premise. Making the main character a high school kid with a court-appointed ankle bracelet turned out to be a great way to not only modernize the story, but amp up the suspense. Whereas in Rear Window, Jimmy Stewart's character had a broken leg and was incapable of leaving his apartment, Shia LaBeouf's character has the ability to leave his home, but must be prepared to deal with the circumstances of this action. Speaking of Shia LaBeouf, much of Disturbia's quality rests firmly on his shoulders. The character of Kale is a relatable, likable character who can be humorous one moment and serious, angry, or sad the next. It is my firm belief that had this movie's lead been played by an actor even slightly less talented than LaBeouf, it would have fallen flat. This is not to say that he puts in the only worthwhile performance in Disturbia, though. Sarah Roemer is a great contrast and also a great compliment to LaBeouf's character. As just as much of the film's running time is devoted to the flirtation and romance between these two roles as it is to the suspenseful mystery, Roemer was required to help carry a lot of scenes, and she did so with ease for the most part. Also a great addition to the cast is Aaron Yoo who adds a lot of humor and one more likable character to the roster. Carrie-Anne Moss' role was a bit weak, but also didn't have much screen time. David Morse's character is the one that I'm really torn on. Sometimes he felt like he really fit into his role while other times he seemed completely out of character. This could just be because I still think of him as the nice pilot from The Langoliers, but regardless, he was occasionally one of the few weaknesses of the movie in my opinion. In addition to the top notch acting talent that Disturbia is packed with, director D.J. Caruso deserves credit for keeping this story from drifting into silly territory. With all of the modern gadgetry and teenage stereotypes employed in the film it could have quickly gone from believable and serious to dumb and predictable, but by a sheer exercise of his exceptional talent as a storyteller, Caruso keeps everything tied up into an unlikely, but acceptable and staid tale. In the end, Disturbia is just a fun movie. It has tons of humor, a sprinkling of romance, multiple doses of drama and scares and even a bit of shock value. After seeing how sloppily some horror/suspense films such as Hostel juggle their comical and serious elements, it is truly refreshing to witness the perfect balance of all of it's genres that Disturbia displays. The movie just has a really nice flow and an entertaining story that is held together by some terrific performances. It has it's flaws, but they are mostly overshadowed by it's successes.

Flyboys - By the year 1917 World War I had been underway for several years, but the United States had yet to enter the conflict. When Blaine Rawlings (James Franco) is forced to leave his home after the bank forecloses on the family ranch, he is left with nowhere to go and nothing to look forward to. After viewing a newsreel that shows French fighter pilots in battle, he goes for broke and decides to join the Lafayette Escadrille, a French fighter plane squadron. Along with a few other Americans, Blaine is trained by the French to operate a plane and hold his own in a dogfight. Over time the young men become friends as they fight alongside one another, though the average life-span for a pilot in active duty is only a few weeks. When Blaine's plane goes down in a field he is knocked unconscious and wakes up in a nearby French brothel where he meets a beautiful young woman named Lucienne (Jennifer Decker). Sneaking away from the base occasionally and learning some French in his free time, Blaine falls in love with Lucienne, which doesn't bode well for his flying career. As the Axis forces move closer and the war begins to heat up, the Lafayette Escadrille are once again called into action. Now Blaine must do his duty and save the woman he loves while avenging one of his fallen comrades against the pilot of a notorious black enemy plane. Going into Flyboys I was expecting it to be a World War I version of Pearl Harbor. As such, I was expecting it to have some good action, but a generally poor plot and weak characters. In many ways this movie was exactly the opposite of what I expected. The trailer for Flyboys is very misleading inasmuch as it shows primarily action scenes, which make up only a very small part of the actual film. In addition to this, much of the action is rather basic and unspectacular. The dramatic portions of the plot are in fact what make up the best moments of the movie. The love story that unfolds between Blaine and Lucienne is heartwarming and believable, and never goes into the overpowering direction that the same sort of scenes in Pearl Harbor did. Also, the camaraderie of the pilots was very entertaining to watch, albeit sometimes rather stereotypical. We have for example the veterans who don't accept the new recruits, the African American character who grows a bond with his rich, snobby roommate over time, the guy who really wants to fly, but can't shoot to save his life, etc. All of the characters are for the most part nothing the average movie-goer hasn't seen before, but in this way they are sort of immediately acceptable as the archetypes that normally fill a war movie. All in all, it's not something that I'd truly complain about. As far as the acting goes, this film is less reliant on the singular acting abilities of any one person than it is on the interaction of it's stable of characters as a whole. James Franco does a decent enough job of leading the cast, but is really nothing special. Martin Henderson gives a noteworthy performance while Jean Reno, the biggest name in the movie, is put to rather poor use. It's really hard to come up with a clear way to describe my feelings about Flyboys. It is a fairly forgettable film with no particularly memorable moments, but when I think back on watching it I recall having an alright time with it. I guess the best way to put it is that this movie is nothing special, but if you should find yourself in front of a television when it's on, you shouldn't be terribly disappointed.


Brian said...

Yeah! I really thought you were going to hate Disturbia. I liked it, and I'm glad you did too. Also, may I make a suggestion. When I read your blogs, sometimes, I have already seen the movie, and I'd like to just skip to what you thought of it and not have to read the synopsis. Maybe you can add headlines maybe?

Rian said...

brian - I'm as surprised that I liked Disturbia as you undoubtedly are. As for the review format, I don't have any plans to change it. The synopsis' aren't very long, so you should be able to skim them if they turn you off.