Mini Reviews (August 2007)
The Hills Have Eyes II, Conversations with Other Women, War
The Hills Have Eyes II (August 4/07)
Given the effectiveness of 2006's The Hills Have Eyes remake, it's impossible not to feel more than a twinge of disappointment at the shocking levels of incompetence this sequel reaches on an almost minute-to-minute basis. Where the original was tense and exciting, this one is dull and interminable; scripters Wes and Jonathan Craven have infused the movie with stock characters and placed them into increasingly banal situations. The plot - which follows several soldiers as they attempt to escape from the first film's mutant-infested landscape - doesn't really go anywhere beyond its initial premise, and while there are a few interesting kills spread thinly throughout the movie's overlong running time (ie the hapless victim who's pulled into an impossibly tiny hole), there's simply nothing holding the whole thing together. Exacerbating matters is the screenwriters' refusal to flesh out these people even a little bit; ie there's one soldier who's been nicknamed Spitter on account of his lisp, and that's what passes for character development within the film. Martin Weisz's competent direction is subsequently rendered moot, and it's ultimately clear that The Hills Have Eyes II belongs in the same category as such useless horror sequels as Jaws: The Revenge and Halloween 2.
Conversations with Other Women (August 4/07)
It's ultimately difficult to offer up an entirely hearty recommendation of Conversations with Other Women; although infused with a number of truthful moments and an awfully romantic atmosphere, director Hans Canosa's use of split-screen remains a distraction throughout the film's admittedly brisk running time. There's consequently no denying that the simple story - which revolves around a man (Aaron Eckhart) and a woman (Helena Bonham Carter) who encounter one another at a wedding and immediately hit it off - would've been far better served with a more conventional approach, as the viewer is consistently taken out of the movie by Canosa's relentlessly stylish visuals. This is despite the absolutely riveting work by Eckhart and Carter; the palpable chemistry between the two actors is heightened by Gabrielle Zevin's clever, authentic screenplay, while the inclusion of a few unexpected revelations brings some much needed dramatic heft to the proceedings. And although Canosa does occasionally use the split-screen to positive effect - particularly in the way he fills in the two central characters' backstory - the device ultimately proves to be too insurmountable an obstacle for the film to overcome.
War (August 19/07)
Further proof that the R-rated action flick is dead, War's relentlessly over-the-top visuals and hopelessly convoluted storyline ensure that it generally comes off as yet another needless entry within an exceedingly tired genre. The film's opening half hour promises an almost old-school approach, however, as grizzled cop Jack Crawford (Jason Statham) embarks on a mission of revenge after his partner is killed by a sociopathic assassin (Jet Li's Rogue). And although Philip G. Atwell's spastic directorial choices are problematic right from the get-go, the irresistible premise makes it easy enough to initially overlook such hyperactive shenanigans - until, that is, screenwriters Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory J. Bradley essentially transform the proceedings into a second-rate riff on Yojimbo (with Rogue playing two rival clans against each other). The scripters' inability to give the viewer a single reason to care about Rogue's efforts surely plays a significant role in the film's inevitable downfall, as the character remains an unsympathetic and sketchily-drawn figure for much of War's overlong running time (Statham's Jack is far more interesting, undoubtedly, though the actor's penchant for whispering his dialogue does become lamentable). The final confrontation between Jack and Rogue is admittedly fairly thrilling, yet there's no denying that it comes far too late to make any kind of a difference in War's fate.