Film Review: Priest

Adapted from a graphic novel, Priest is a mildly entertaining action flick. Nevertheless, the film suffers from the same pitfalls as many of its contemporaries.

In a world where humans faced a constant battle against vampires, a band of priests were charged with protecting the population against the undead. Having defeated their nemesis, the group are disbanded. When a group of vampires attack Priest’s family and kidnap his niece, he disobeys the Church and goes in search of young Lucy…

Priest offers very little to differentiate it from numerous films in the same vein. Moreover, the flaws are all too familiar. There is a lack of character development; it is difficult to respond to the one-dimensional protagonist, and even more so to the villain with no depth or motivation. The dialogue is awful at times, which does not help to generate the necessary tension. The little attempts to add a modicum of humour fall entirely flat.

Scott Charles Stewart’s film is an amalgamation of various genres. Priest points to Gothic horror with its vampires and religious overtones, although it is not at all frightening. The dystopian vision of the future is pure science fiction, while the narrative and even the landscape are suggestive of a Western. Despite the presence of the supernatural, the plot of Priest is incredibly similar to John Ford’s The Searchers.

Perhaps the best part of the movie is the animated sequence at the beginning. Giving a brief history of the battle between human and vampire, the segment has a delightfully rustic quality in its style. It is reminiscent of a similar sequence at the beginning of Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. References to numerous other films are also palpable. The city scenes are unmistakably influenced by Blade Runner, while the isolated and uninhabited landscape is evocative of more recent fare such as The Book of Eli and The Road.

The highly stylised look of Priest gives the film an artificiality that is presumably the desired affect. Some of the underground sequences are so dark it is difficult to decipher what is happening. Special effects are fine, but unremarkable. The use of 3D seems wasteful; it adds nothing to the film.

Paul Bettany’s Priest is more Blade than Dracula‘s Van Helsing. A near-silent type, the character is more concerned with action than emotion. Cam Gigandet has suffered in some dud roles recently, but his delivery here is especially pained. Lily Collins has little to do as damsel-in-distress Lucy.

Priest‘s main failure is the feeling of déjà vu it generates. From the plot to the look to the flaws, it is all too familiar. The suggestion of a sequel at the end of the film is lamentable.

Film Review: The Roommate

The Roommate is the illegitimate progeny of a number female psychopath movies. Nevertheless, this is not to say the film isn’t enjoyable.

Sara Matthews moves into her college dorm, looking forward to meeting her new roommate. When they meet later that evening, Rebecca seems sweet and amiable. However, their budding friendship quickly turns to obsession for Rebecca. Jealous of everyone else in Sara’s life, Rebecca goes to extreme measures to maintain her friendship with her roommate…

The Roommate references several other films. Most prominent of these is Single White Female, which features a near-identical plot. References to Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct are also palpable. The Roommate acts almost as a wry homage to these films by making allusions so overt. Unfortunately, director Christian E. Christiansen does nothing particularly interesting with these influences; they are in no way contorted or refreshed.

The Roommate is a very predictable film. There is little in the narrative that viewers familiar with its predecessors will not see coming. However, the film works well as a guilty pleasure, if you allow yourself to wallow in the trashiness of it all. The Roommate has no delusions of grandeur, and is a better film for not taking itself too seriously.

Except for Rebecca and Sarah, the characters in the film appear rather one-dimensional. Love interest Stephen is little more than a support buffer for Sara; there is not much more to the character than this. Likewise, Irene is brought in to serve a function, as is Tracey, who effectively disappears after the first half of the film. Rebecca is at least given some thought; the Thanksgiving scenes providing some background and context to her disturbed personality.

The Roommate is a glossy production. The lush surroundings of the campus are juxtaposed with the darkness of Rebecca’s mind. The bright and pleasant campus setting is often contrasted with the frequently dark and shadowy shared room. The soundtrack to the film is good, and very much in keeping with the style and youthfulness of The Roommate.

Leighton Meester makes a convincing psychopath as Rebecca. Her name is likely to bring in teen Gossip Girl fans, and perhaps older admirers. Minka Kelly shares a striking resemblance to Meester, and is suitable cast as Sara. Cam Giganet is enthusiastic as Stephen, but is given little to work with.

The Roommate is not exactly inspired work. Nonetheless the movie is fun, in a distracting rather than engrossing way. Decimate expectations and enjoy The Roommate for what it is.

Film Review: Burlesque

It is a little disappointing that Burlesque does not fall into the ‘it’s so bad, it’s good’ category, despite its casting and premise. Sure, the plot is predictable and the writing uninspired, but the musical numbers are incredibly fun and overall Burlesque is an enjoyable enough movie.

Small-town girl Ali buys a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, with dreams of making it big. She finds a job waitressing at a burlesque club run by Tess, who is having financial difficulties. Ali dreams of performing on the stage, while Tess is desperate for a solution to her difficulties…

Given a renaissance by the likes of Dita von Teese, burlesque seems a ripe subject for a film. Christina Aguilera is a sound choice for the protagonist. She has the look and the attitude necessary, together with a tremendous set of lungs. The film is a great showcase for her performing talents, if not for her acting skills. Cher, also, is an appropriate choice for the grand-dame matriarch figure. Yet despite this, Burlesque is not as camp as you might expect; the glitter and garishness are present, but the film lacks flamboyancy.

Burlesque functions as a ‘small-town girl trying to make it big’ movie, very much in the same vein as Coyote Ugly. The storyline is very predictable; there is little innovation in this aspect of the film. Several of the jokes fall flat; although Burlesque tries to be humorous, it does not really succeed. Some of the segue ways prior to the next musical number appear wooden, particularly the introduction to ‘You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me’.

Director and writer Steve Antin adds little depth to his characters. Ali is very one-dimensional; precious little is garnered about her background, or what triggers her to make a life-changing move. Likewise, Jack appears to be a very standard love interest for Ali. There is nothing particularly interesting about this character; he functions predominantly as eye candy for the audience (largely made up of women and gay men, presumably).

Where Burlesque excels is in its lavish production numbers. The choreography is fun and enticing, and the music is excellent. The other scenes seem like intermissions before another song; the musical numbers certainly hold the film together. Costume designer Michael Kaplan has created some fantastic costumes, which are pivotal to certain routines.

Christina Aguilera is adequate as Ali; the role is not a great measurement of her acting capabilities. Cher has a commanding presence in the film. Her appearance in musical sequence ‘Welcome to Burlesque’ is a great introduction. Stanley Tucci and Cam Gigandet, meanwhile, do their best given the limitations of the material.

Burlesque is at times by-the-numbers and at other times flashy and entertaining. The film features great production on the musical numbers, and can be described as mediocre at worst in the other scenes.