Death of a Tree
n 19th Century Scotland, Effie Gray (Dakota
Fanning) suffers from a sexless marriage to John Ruskin (Greg Wise), an art critic, while having an
affair with Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge). John has yet to remove himself from the clutches of his
over-protective mother (Julie Walters) and to admit that he's neglecting his wife's sexual needs and
Given its premise, Effie Gray sounds like it has the potential to be a sweeping, powerfully moving period drama with strong female characters. Yes, it does indeed have a strong female main character and, refreshingly, passed the Bechdel test, but, unfortunately, the screenplay by Emma Thompson fizzles out into blandness during the 2nd act before briefly picking up steam in the 3rd act. By then, though, it's too-little-too-late. Much of it lacks nuance and subtlety while somewhat compensating for that with the nuanced performances. The relationship between Effie and Everett lacks chemistry as does the chemistry between Effie and John, when it's needed the most. None of the characters come alive despite solid performances, especially from Dakota Fanning. The always-radiant Julie Walters and Emma Thompson have supporting roles, but they are too brief enough to enliven the film.
Fortunately, the cinematography, set/costume design and picturesque countryside scenery helps to keep you at least engaged on a marginal level. It might even be safe to say that the scenery becomes a character in itself. Even at a running time of 108 minutes, Effie Gray often drags and ultimately fails to pack enough of an emotional wallop.
Agent Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), Dom
(Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson, Tej *Ludacris)
and Mia (Jordana Brewster) are back together again to exact revenge on Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham)
who blew up Dom's house and injured Agent Hobbs enough to send him to the hospital. Before they can
hunt down Shaw, a mysterious government agent (Kurt Russell) persuades them to set a kidnapped
hacker free and to steal the hacker's computer program, a powerful surveillance system. That program, in turn, will help them to locate Shaw's precise whereabouts.
Are fast cars, sexy babes/hunks, over-the-top action stunts, lots of gunfire and loud explosions all you need for a movie to entertain you? If so, you'll probably be very entertained by Furious Seven. Anyone who's looking for an intelligent screenplay, decent acting, somewhat plausible action sequences, and a fine balance between action, comedy and drama will be sorely disappointed and, most likely, bored. None of the actors here resonate anything along the lines of charisma or even talent for that matter, but, to be fair, it's not like they have much to work with because of the shallow, sophomoric, lazy, contrived screenplay by Chris Morgan. It's ironic that, despite the film's fast pace, it never gets to the second act until roughly an hour into the film. One minute there's an outrageous action set piece, the next there's a schmaltzy dramatic scene or a silly attempt at lowbrow comedy. A note to future screenwriters: please save schmaltz for Passover matzo balls! Or at least find a way to integrate the schmaltz in a way that doesn't result in unevenness. When it comes to the "special" effects, they're not really "special" per se because you've already seen it all before. Truly special effects include warmth, charisma, nuance, panache, intelligence and wit, all of which Furious Seven lacks. For the sake of accuracy and fairness, CGI effects should merely be called "standard" effects because they lack a "wow" or "electrifying" factor, unless the viewer were very shallow and easily pleased by eye candy like a child at a candy shop.
Director James Wan and cinematographers Marc Spicer and Stephen F. Windon, together with four editors, make the film look like a slick, overly-edited music video most of the time, although the same can be said for most Hollywood films nowadays, so it's not surprising. Much of Furious Seven feels like it would be best suited as a video game rather than a movie. At a bloated running time of 140 minutes, it's a tedious, vapid and over-produced bore that will surely please the shallow masses who are unashamedly entertained by bread and circuses.
The Girl is in Trouble