Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Rapid Reviews: In the Heart of the Sea and Krampus

Ron Howard is a living legend of Hollywood, plain and simple. And for reasons unknown to me, the accomplished actor, director and producer never seems to end up in the same discussion as cinema's greatest filmmakers.You can't argue against his impressive credentials which include A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13 and his most recent and, perhaps, most overlooked film, 2013's thrilling Formula One racing biopic, Rush. However, with Howard's latest endeavor, In the Heart of the Sea, we certainly aren't handed his most prolific feature.

Author Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) sets out to interview an older Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), a crew member on the whaling ship Essex that was rumored to have encountered an enormous beast. And after a reluctant start to his recollection of the harrowing true story surrounding the sinking of the Essex, Nickerson finally buckles down and relives the events of his childhood. He tells of the power struggle on-board between the ship's captain, George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), and his first mate, Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth). prior to their encounter with the most massive whale any of the crew had ever seen.

Unfortunately, In the Heart of the Sea fails to break ground as either a survival film or a dramatic biopic. Instead, the film serves as a visual spectacle and very little else. Filled with hokey dramatics that never capture the core emotions of the audience, Ron Howard's newest film falls flat of its revived Oscar hopes. In the Heart of the Sea surprisingly pushed it release date back from March of 2015 until this December, and many were expecting an awards season contender. However, outside of its marvelous CGI and a memorable small supporting turn from Cillian Murphy, this origin tale for Herman Melville's classic American novel, Moby Dick, is nowhere near tbe whale-sized masterpiece that many desired.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C+

As a lifelong fan of the comedy-horror genre, generally positive reviews immediately perked my interest in Michael Dougherty's Krampus. Boasting a surprisingly respectable cast including Oscar Nominee Toni Collette and comedy regulars Adam Scott and Anchorman's David Koechner, I was really hoping that Krampus could deliver a rare, but enjoyable, holiday scare.

Youngster Max, (Chef's Emjay Anthony), wants nothing more than to spread the Christmas cheer to his mother (Collette), father (Scott) and sister. However, when his extended family stops over for some festivities and their destructive behavior spoils the holiday, Max loses his Christmas spirit and makes a nasty wish that summons a dark and ancient abomination known as Krampus. This demonic force and his evil helpers unleash on the family and force them to work together to survive the ordeal.

I know what you're thinking, "who heard this movie pitch and though it was a good idea"? Well, truth be told, Krampus attempts to model itself in the vein of Gremlins, a holiday comedy-horror that plays well to the audience. And while the humor is infectious and clearly eases the viewer through the film, the lack of authentic scares and an awfully weak finale spoil Dougherty's naughty Christmas tale. Krampus does contain a few exceptional moments, yet the film's closing climactic sequence leaves too big of a blemish to overcome.

Stars: 2 stars out  of 4

Grade: C

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