Whiteout


Kate Beckinsale

This is Kate Beckinsale looking concerned. Later, she'll look perplexed.

(Warner Brothers) Kate Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht, Columbus Short, Tom Skerritt, Alex O’Laughlin, Shawn Doyle, Joel Keller, Jesse Todd, Arthur Holden, Erin Hickock. Directed by Dominic Sena

In space, no one can hear you scream; by the same token, at the South Pole, nobody can see a maniac coming either. At least, not in this movie.

It all starts with a plane full of Soviet Russians circa 1955 transporting a mysterious box over the South Pole to God knows where (Ummm…not to make too fine a point of it, but isn’t the USSR closer to the North Pole? Just asking…) when a gunfight breaks out on the transport plane. As anyone who knows airplanes can tell you, a gunfight on an airplane in midflight is usually a very bad idea. This scene would bear that out – so remember the next time you feel the urge to shoot someone on a plane, no matter how irritating they are.

Fifty years later another body turns up, and like the Russians, this one was killed on purpose but nobody knows who it was or what the body was doing all the way to Hell and gone. U.S. Marshall Carrie Stetko (Beckinsale) has maybe the cushiest and worst job in the U.S. Marshall service – the most she ever has to deal with are a couple of geologists arguing about whose theory about igneous rocks is more accurate. Now, she has to deal with a murder – and only two days to solve it before the researchers fly north for the winter.

She will be aided by the wise, kindly Dr. Fury (Skerritt) who has nothing to do with Nick Fury other than they both originated in comic books, an FBI agent (Macht) who shows up conveniently, a wisecracking pilot (Short) and umm…other guys. As other bodies start turning up and an investigation of the original crime scene turns up that Russian transport plane from the prologue, it appears that the murders have something to do with whatever was in that mysterious box. What was so valuable that people would be killing for it fifty years later? The Ark of the Covenant maybe?

The movie started out life as a tautly written graphic novel that was way more suspenseful than this mess. The fact that it was shelved for nearly a decade before it was made, then sat on the studio shelf an additional two years after it was made should have told you something; well, obviously you took it to heart because this bombed at the box office in a hailstorm of negative reviews.

Part of the movie’s problem is endemic to the location, which is ironically one of the things that sets this movie apart from other thrillers. The whiteout conditions at the conclusion of the movie make it nearly impossible to tell who’s fighting who, or see what the characters are doing. I’ve seen plenty of movies so underlit that you can’t make out what’s going on; here, the action is obscured in a blizzard of studio snow.

The other problem is that much of the tension that made the graphic novel so enjoyable is largely missing here. Beckinsale, who can be a strong actress when given the right material (see Snow Angels), has been given absolutely nothing to work with here. Oh, there’s a backstory about a near-death experience while working for the Marshall Service in Miami that Haunts our Heroine Even Now, but largely she is given no personality and spends most of the movie looking perplexed, surprised, bundled up beyond recognition in fur jackets or stripping down for a gratuitous shower.

Likewise, most of the other characters are given no personalities and all kind of blend together with the exception of Skerritt’s Doc Fury who comes off a bit like a skinny Wilford Brimley. As such, you’re given no reason to care a whit about any of them, even after the maniac with the pickaxe comes calling.

There were four writers credited with the screenplay, which makes for patchwork screenwriting. This was a difficult graphic novel to translate to the motion picture medium at best for the reasons outlined above, but it basically had no chance with so many fingers in its pie. Hopefully, the studios and producer Joel Silver will have learned a lesson; avoid action sequences in a snowstorm and focus on character development if you want the suspense to really go off the scale and in the future, try to inject a little suspense into a suspense movie.

WHY RENT THIS: Kate Beckinsale is a beautiful woman.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Not a lot of suspense and quite frankly some of the action is hard to see.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a bit of violence but not to excess, some rather grisly images and a bit of nudity. Probably not for the kids, unless they’re crazy mature.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The Lake Manitoba exterior location was occasionally colder than the South Pole it was doubling for.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: The Expendables

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New Releases for the Week of April 23, 2010


April 23, 2010

Don't be fooled; those fingers are loaded!!

THE LOSERS

(Warner Brothers) Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Holt McCallany, Oscar Jaenada, Jason Patric. Directed by Sylvain White

An elite Special Forces team that gets the job done when nobody else can is betrayed by a high-level government functionary and left for dead. Thought to be out of the picture, the Losers plot their revenge against a man they know only as Max. They are joined by Aisha, a lovely but deadly operative who may have her own agenda. Working as only they can, they must stop Max from dragging the world into a new kind of global high-tech war.

See the trailer, featurettes and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense action and violence, a scene of sensuality and language)

The Back-Up Plan

(CBS) Jennifer Lopez, Alex O’Laughlin, Eric Christian Olsen, Michaela Watkins. Zoe is a veteran of the dating wars and has yet to find the right guy. Still, her biological clock is ticking and the noise is getting louder. She decides to go to Plan B, artificial insemination and it looks like the procedure is a success. Of course, life being what it is, that’s the time when Mr. Right shows up. Can the relationship grow properly with a baby on the way, one that’s not even his?

See the trailer, featurette and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content including references, some crude material and language)

Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D

(Hot Ticket/Sony) Kenny Chesney. 3D footage shot from the country singer’s Sun City Carnival tour last summer will give viewers a unique concert film experience, experiencing more closely than ever what it’s like to be there.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: 3D Special Engagement

Rating: Unrated but suitable for general audiences

Mother

(Magnolia) Hye-ja Kim, Bin Won, Goo Jin, Yoon Jae-Moon. When a feckless young man is convicted of the vicious murder of a young girl, his mother sets out to prove her son’s innocence and is instead drawn into something far darker than she ever expected to be. From the award-winning director of The Host.  

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for language, some sexual content, violence and drug use)

Oceans

(DisneyNature) Pierce Brosnan. From the filmmakers who brought you Earth comes the second in the new Disney nature documentary series. Opening on Earth Day, the film will take us below the waves to see, for the first time, some of the wonderful and strange creatures that live there.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: G

A Prophet

(Sony Classics) Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif, Hichem Yacoubi. A young illiterate Frenchmen of Arabic descent is imprisoned and attracts the attention of a powerful Corsican crime lord who gives the young man an ultimatum; kill a fellow inmate or be killed himself. This turns young Malik down a path that will change him forever. This film swept the Cesar awards (the French Oscars) and has won acclaim everywhere it has been shown.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for strong violence, sexual content, nudity, language and drug material)