What similarities do The Reaping, The Hoax and The Lookout share (besides the obvious fact they all begin with “the”)? I paid for one but saw all three on Sunday.
The concept behind The Reaping had a simmer of promise, but the end results very anything but that. Its usually compelling leading lady won two Oscars. Stephen Hopkins, the film’s director, won an Emmy in 2005 for HBO’s The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.
Regrettably, though, The Reaping is another horror flick, filled with such genre clichés as crashing noise whenever there’s an intended shock and people, bodies, etc., popping out of nowhere.
Swank stars as an LSU professor who travels the world disproving miracles. She’s never met a miracle she can’t debunk. The film offers a hallucinogenic back story for this wonder-buster, scenes of the character in Sudan, where she worked as a missionary. But when her daughter and husband are killed by superstitious tribesmen, Swank loses her faith and turns to science to disprove the existence of miracles.
The Reaping manages to summon some creepy moments, but its horror-flick tricks lack big frights.
Swank learns that the townsfolk believe a girl who lives at the river’s edge is the root of Haven’s troubles. The professor smells a scapegoat.
Finally gaining momentum, The Reaping grows frantically busy as it races to a flashy climax. But this rising action comes too late and, furious and noisy as the climax is, it’s also empty and anticlimactic.
Despite the impressive, well-intentioned talent behind and in front of the cameras, The Reaping harvests no scares and little interest.
In 1971, writer Clifford Irving (Richard Gere) – financially desperate after the publication of his breakthrough novel is cancelled – tells his editor (Hope Davis) that he has been authorized to write the autobiography of the world’s most notorious mystery man, Howard Hughes. In fact, his claim is a total fraud, but he figures that
Hughes is so averse to appearing in public that the book will go unchallenged. Together with his wife (Marcia Gay Harden) and his best friend (Alfred Molina), he bases his manuscript on research, going so far as to illegally photocopy the unpublished memoir of longtime Hughes confidante Noah Dietrich (Eli Wallach, still a consummate actor at 91).
Anyone old enough to remember the case, which was one of the great amusing news stories in a period dominated by Vietnam, is likely to spot some major liberties with the facts in this film from Lasse Hallström (My Life as a Dog, Casanova); to the filmmakers’ credit, the press notes list many of the major ones. In most cases, Hallström and screenwriter William Wheeler have wisely chosen dramatic effectiveness over slavish loyalty to details. They are aided by a terrific cast, which also includes Stanley Tucci and Julie Delpy (playing Irving mistress Nina Van Pallandt, who coincidentally costarred with Gere in American Gigolo). Told almost entirely from Irving’s POV, the film is able to incorporate a host of possibilities that may or may not be the author’s delusions or playful inventions, e.g., that the Watergate break-in was the result of Nixon’s paranoid concern that the Democratic National Committee might have a copy of the manuscript, which revealed political hankypanky between Nixon and Hughes. Gere delivers totally here, and, for all the liberties, this is a fascinating look at a doomed fraud.
Former 3rd Rock From the Sun star Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a stunning performance in this character-driven crime thriller. He plays Chris Pratt, a star in high school who suffers brain damage in a car accident that renders him a bit “slow.”
Chris works the graveyard shift as a janitor at a Kansas bank, and shares an apartment with a perceptive blind man (Jeff Daniels as Lewis). The day to day struggles of these disabled characters by itself is enough to make for an interesting movie, but The Lookout turns into a thriller once a group of criminals dupe Chris into helping them rob the bank where he works.
And the underrated Daniels is also very convincing as his worldly-wise roommate. The Lookout is definitely worth a look.
Full Length reviews of Grindhouse, The Hills Have Eyes 2, 300 and The Namesake.