Reviews: I Am Number 4; Unknown

I Am Number 4
I Am Number 4

I Am Number Four

 

Directed by D.J. Caruso

Starring Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron, Timothy Olyphant & Teresa Palmer

When I first saw the trailer, I remember thinking, “Isn’t this Jumper?” And the closer I got to the release date, the less I looked forward to sitting through it. Well… it was slightly better than Jumper.

An alien teen with extraordinary powers is on the run from the rival aliens bent on destroying him. He eventually settles in a small Ohio town  with his guardian, Henri. Taking the name John, he not only has to fight aliens to stay alive, but also fight to survive high school.

I know… cheesy summary. It’s a kind of cheesy story. On its surface, it seems a bit like Twilight, but with aliens. But it won me over. Not completely, it’s still a paper-thin plot with mediocre acting and a ridiculous mythos. But I think with the right tinkering, it would have been a completely acceptable addition to the 1998 WB line-up, as a companion piece to Buffy, The Vampire Slayer (but not a lead-in).

But that’s the good. And the only good. There’s obviously cannon and mythos at work in this tale, being based on the first of a proposed six novel series, and the film was left open for sequels. Chalk it up to studios trying to find the next Harry Potter or Twilight. The problem is that it’s not very well laid out. I feel like there’s back story we’re missing, and the current story feels undeveloped, yet at the same time completely closed out. That there’s no real reason to keep an overall arc going.

Pettyfer is an unproven leading man. Granted so were (are) Daniel Radcliffe and Robert Pattinson, but this whole franchise is starting from scratch. The book was just released in August, there’s no built-in audience wave to ride. He had already starred in one failed franchise start-up (Alex Rider). And this doesn’t bode well for the young Brit who’s all looks, little charm or talent.

Really, it’s Timothy Olyphant who holds the film together. He’s got the talent to do better (and has done better), but he seems out-of-place amongst a sea of flavour of the month pretty faces (including Glee‘s secondary female lead, Dianna Agron).

Overall, it’s a noble and not completely atrocious effort, but it ultimately falls flat and fails to make the viewer really get invested in the story. Mostly due to poor execution, and I could see this work as a TV show.

2.5 stars

Unknown
Unknown

Unknown

 

Directed by Juame Collet-Serra

Starring Liam Neeson, January Jones and Diane Kruger

After Taken and the criminally underrated A-Team, it’s now a fact that one should not fuck with Liam Neeson. While it does seem like a retread of the former film, it’s still an exciting thriller that, until the last 10 minutes, keeps you on the edge of your seat.

A man travelling to Berlin with his wife is in a traffic accident, only to awaken from a four-day coma with a fuzzy memory of his recent actions, and no one else seems to have memory of who he is. He teams up with the cab driver he was with during the accident to solve the mystery of who he is.

While it’s aided by the fact that it’s a wild ride of a film, a lot of things don’t add up until the end, and that works to the entire film’s detriment. But let’s get through the good. It’s a fun cat and mouse, very much in the vain of 2009’s Taken, set on the backdrop of a beautiful European city (which makes me think Neeson picks his movies based on his vacation desires). The twists keep coming, but they never get too over the top to lose you (again, until the last 10 minutes). Liam Neeson is solid, if not great, as always and Diane Kruger continues to remind us that she should be a bigger name (what can I say, I’m a fan). Jones seems out of her element, but she’s still slowly working her way into major billing.

Then there’s the final twist, what ties it all together. I’m glad it’s not supernatural, as is the trend lately, as director Collet-Serra knows how to keep it grounded in reality, as evidenced by his previous film, the better than expected Orphan. But it seems a little too God-of-gaps. It doesn’t have the same build up or final execution or satisfying payoff of great twist endings of thrillers past. The twist feels just too contrived. But everything up until then is good, that’s gotta count for something, right?

Come for the fun action/thriller, but don’t expect to be challenged.

3.5 stars

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