The Films of Iain Softley
The Wings of the Dove
The Skeleton Key (August 14/05)
Interminable from minute one, The Skeleton Key is a hopelessly misguided, utterly pointless horror flick that's nothing less than a colossal bore. Kate Hudson plays a young caregiver whose latest gig takes her to a rickety old mansion in New Orleans, where she is to look after the decrepit Ben Devereaux (John Hurt). Ben's wife, Violet (Gena Rowlands), is a mysterious woman who mistrusts Hudson's character instantly, while their lawyer, Luke (Peter Sarsgaard), seems to have a sinister agenda of his own. The most obvious problem with The Skeleton Key is its lack of a cohesive storyline; Ehren Kruger's screenplay offers little for Hudson to do except investigate the unusual house and creep around in the dark wearing as little clothing as possible. And though the film's cinematography and sound design effectively creates a spooky ambiance, there's no disguising the fact that none of this is even remotely interesting. Worse yet, it's virtually impossible to sympathize with Hudson's plight thanks to the absurd storyline which becomes more and more ridiculous as the movie progresses. The Skeleton Key is easily the worst mainstream horror flick to hit cinemas since Boogeyman earlier this year, and there's nothing here that can save it (not even the presence of the always-reliable Peter Sarsgaard, in a role that's essentially a cameo).
Though saddled with as uneven a sensibility as one could possibly imagine, Inkheart nevertheless comes off as an agreeable fantasy epic that's generally elevated by the strength of the various performances - with Brendan Fraser's solid work backed up by an eclectic supporting cast that features, among others, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, and Jim Broadbent. The film follows Fraser's Mo Folchart as he and his young daughter (Eliza Bennett's Meggie) attempt to free Resa (Sienna Guillory) - his wife and her mother - from the confines of a novel entitled Inkheart, as Mo's ability to bring fictional characters and situations to life simply by reading aloud trapped Resa within the book and brought to life several less-than-reputable characters (including Andy Serkis' arch-villain Capricorn). There's little doubt that Inkheart is generally at its best in its more overtly light-hearted and adventurous moments, with the irresistible premise initially carrying the proceedings through a few admittedly dull spots (ie Mo and his cohorts wind up imprisoned alongside several familiar characters from literature). Inkheart's relentlessly erratic narrative results in a lack of momentum that only worsens as the story unfolds, and it ultimately does go without saying that the action-packed (yet hopelessly chaotic) finale ensures that the movie ends on a regrettably anti-climactic note. The end result is an endeavor that's often more effective in bits and pieces than as a fully-realized, consistently engaging whole, although - as far as January releases go - one could certainly do far worse.
Trap for Cinderella
Curve (February 1/16)
Curve casts Julianne Hough as Mallory Rutledge, a young woman driving towards her wedding whose decision to pick up a charming hitchhiker (Teddy Sears' Christian) ultimately has disastrous consequences. It's a decidedly familiar premise that's employed to alternatingly dull and enthralling effect by filmmaker Iain Softley, as the movie boasts strong first and third acts but a midsection that palpably drags - with the emphasis, during the latter stretch, placed almost entirely on Mallory's solo exploits as she's trapped within the confines of a flipped SUV. This is despite a fairly strong opening that benefits substantially from an undercurrent of suspense and tension (ie it's obvious that Sears' character is up to something but what exactly?), with the promising vibe heightened by the better-than-expected performances from both Hough and Sears. (The latter is just about dripping with smarm and malevolence.) And while the aforementioned middle section of the proceedings tests one's patience, Curve bounces back with a tremendously entertaining climactic stretch that's as silly as it is engaging - as Softley, working from Kimberly Lofstrom Johnson and Lee Patterson's screenplay, abandons any pretense of plausibility and offers up a gloriously broad final half hour that ensures that the movie does end on an exceedingly positive note. (It's impossible not to wish, ultimately, that the remainder of Curve had been similarly over the top.)