Sanctum – Review

Sanctum 3D (2011) 

Directed by Alister Grierson. Starring Richard RoxburghIoan GruffuddRhys Wakefield.

I don’t think this film really deserves a proper analysis nor a proper review, mainly because I don’t think anyone involved must have taken it too seriously, so why should I? I am however surprised to find James Cameron‘s name attached to this pretty average (actually below average) effort. Doesn’t he have any shame to advertise this film with his name so big on the poster? Well, on a second though, considering that this is the guy who shouted at the 1997 Oscars “I’m the King of the World!!”, you should probably scrap my previous question! We know the answer.

Sanctum in the end is just a pretty pointless exercise in 3D: yes, the 3D cinematography works very well: the director was obviously very keen to make sure every single shot in the film was composed for it: there’s always something in the foreground or in the background (or even both) to give the right sense of prospective, whether it’s a plant, or a piece of rock or some water dripping between the audience and the actors. I must say that is possibly the only redeeming feature of this film: I suspect once the movie is out on DVD or BluRay (in 2D) is going to be even duller! (and before you ask, no, I’m NOT suggesting that you watch this in a cinema, but if you really must, then yes, the 3D cinema is the only way you can possibly digest it).

Obviously if you go and watch a film like this, you certainly don’t go for the characters, or the script, you just go for the action and the thrill of the adventure. But as all know, there’s no point in creating any action scene if you don’t really care about any of the characters on the screen! And in “Sanctum” it’s really hard to care for anyone (except maybe for the kid, who’s the only half decent actor, and given the material he’s given, he does actually a pretty good job). All characters are so annoying, one-dimensional, uninteresting and they behave so badly that I ended up really hating them and actually waiting for them to die as quickly as possible!

I mean, with all those producers attached to this project, why didn’t anyone at any point say “ehm… excuse me, should we try to get our audience to actually like these people?”. I guess not, especially because some of the producers are also behind the writing… if we can call it “writing”

I must confess some of them were also so badly defined that when the first few started to die I wasn’t even quite sure which ones they were… (but then again, I had a long day at work, please forgive me).

The script is so weak that makes even the dialogue in Cameron’s Avatar sound “deep and clever”. This is one of those films where they actually do say lines like “It’s just caving, what could possibly go wrong?”, “I’ll see you on the other side”, “remember, trust the cave”, “this cave is not going to have me!” and “down here I can hold a mirror in front of myself and see who I really am” and other rubbish like that. And the problem is that they take themselves very seriously tool

Between one clichés after another and a whole series of scenes full of exposition, the awful characters move about in one the most predictable story I’ve seen since the 80s. There’s no prize at the end for guessing who’s the one who’ll survive.

The film is also quite badly paced: at 109 minutes it feels even longer. Even that “action scene” where everyone gets trapped at the beginning feels long and boring.

But the most amazing thing for a film like this, is the absolute lack of any sense of claustrophobia. I mean, let’s face it, I knew this film was going to be rubbish, but at least I thought “well, it’s a mindless action flick and if caving worked on the low-budget The Descent“, on this multi-million dollar budget 3D extravaganza produced by Cameron it’s going to work even better”. How wrong I was!! The Descent might have had its faults too (mainly to do with the creatures living in the caves.. though, even those were pretty scary!) but my God, it was one of the most claustrophobic experiences I ever had to sit through (probably on the same level as Buried). In this one there was none of that. The reason is probably a mixture of the wrong camera angles, the wrong choice of cuts in the editing and most importantly an ever-present bombastic musical score that felt it had to spell everything out for you and killed any sense of enclosure and claustrophobia by drowning all the other sound effects which could have been so effective in creating more tension: the echo, for example, the heavy breathing, the noise of the rocks underneath the feet. All this was missing and replaced by music all the way through the film.

In other words, a pretty good disappointment, even on a movie popcorn level. Go and watch the Descent instead.


The Dilemma – Review

The Dilemma (2010)  

Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Vince VaughnKevin JamesJennifer Connelly

The truth might hurt, as the poster says, but so does this film!

In a way I should have known better, but in my defense I really wanted to go out and watch a movie tonight and it seemed like I had already seen everything else that my multiplex was showing. Ron Howard‘s latest comedy sounded like an easy watch for a Sunday night… How wrong I was!

This is one of the most misjudged film I have seen in a very long time and the possibly worse since I’ve started writing on this blog (I didn’t see “Vampires suck” last year, which I hear could have taken the crown).

The biggest crime of all, for a comedy of this kind, is that not only it’s just  un-funny (I probably chuckled once or twice at the most), but also it’s really boring. In fact I don’t even think it can be called a comedy… and yet it’s so superficial that it can hardly be considered a drama.

It has the longest introduction ever but I sort of decided to go for it anyway, hoping that the more time the film would spend setting up the scenes and its characters, the more engaging I would find it all once the “dilemma” would come.

Finally a good 30/40 minutes into the film (though it surely felt like a lot longer) the dilemma does arrive. Unfortunately that is almost the moment when I realized that the film was not going to improve and I plunged into complete boredom.

Everything about this film is wrong: Vince Vaughn’s monotone acting and his ludicrous religious moments, the pacing of the scenes, the lack of jokes and the complete misfires of the few that are actually there (the long speech at the 40th anniversary being the most glaring example of something which is supposed to be funny but fails on every level), the casting of Kevin James (who should clearly stay on TV) randomly paired up with Winona Ryder (never for a moment I believed that those 2 could have got married), the wasted use of Jennifer Connelly (she probably owed Ron Howard a favor from the time they did “A beautiful Mind” together: nothing else would explain why she should have taken this thin-paper part), and even Queen Latifah feels like it’s a character added in at the last moment, even on a half day re-shoot) because they felt the film didn’t have enough laughter.

What on earth happened to Ron Howard?!? I mean, only a few years ago he did Frost/Nixon, which I really loved and whatever you thought of A Beautiful Mind (over-rated Oscar bait in my view) at least it had a style and it felt as if it actually had been “directed” by somebody who knew what he was doing. Ransom was a fairly competent film too, edge of the seat drama/thriller (completely ruined by one of the worse trailer ever, which gave away 9/10 of the plot). Apollo 13 (which I haven’t seen in ages) was huge at the time and quite engaging. I even remember liking Cocoon back in the 80s (though I haven’t seen it since…).Despite all this he’s not the kind of director I would expect to see behind a comedy, but then again with Parenthood and even Edtv, he did prove  that at least he knew how to make entertaining light films… And after all, he was one of the forces behind “Arrested Development“, or was he? I’m beginning to doubt he was even involved with  the photocopying of the scripts in that series!

I’m not even sure Howard himself knew what kind of film he was making, as the film switches from bad slapstick to slow melodrama (a balance that as the New York Magazine noted “Perhaps the late Blake Edwards could have got right, but not Ron Howard”).

The general un-likability of the (potentially good) cast and the fact that this is a Ron Howard’s film makes the failure even greater.

I probably shouldn’t even waste anymore words on this.

The real dilemma for me was whether to give the film more than 1 star! In the end 4.5  will do.


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