Friday, August 29, 2014

AS ABOVE SO BELOW Review: 5 out of 10 (A Film Lost by Found Footage )

Less of a horror film and closer to a thriller, AS ABOVE SO BELOW has some really interesting ideas for a movie that are executed so poorly that it loses any chance at success.  Starring Ben Feldman (MAD MEN) as George and Perdita Weeks (THE TUDORS) as Scarlet--the two are fascinated with French alchemist Nicholas Flamel and his creation of the Philosopher's Stone.  Now though this might be a great opportunity to crossover into a Harry Potter horror film, alas, the movie opts to go the way of a bunch of French hipsters.  Legend has it that the stone carries miraculous powers of healing, eternal life, and unlimited wealth.  Feeling like a mixture of an Indiana Jones meets Da Vinci Code, the adventurers are interpreting signs, symbols, and maps to find the elusive treasure--buried in the hundreds of miles of catacombs underneath Paris.  However, as they begin their quest underground to seek the stone, the entire team begin to experience haunting visions of their past as well as some of their own deepest fears.  The catacombs themselves seem to be possessed by a sort of evil--and the stone itself seems to be feeding this ghastly beast.

Sounds like a fairly interesting premise, no?  That is until you consider the contrived side-plot of the film.  It seems that Scarlet is also being filmed by Benji  (Edwin Hodge) to create a documentary about her quest to find Flamel's stone.  That's right--another contrivance to create (yet) another found footage horror film.  Director John Erick Dowdle is no stranger to this process--as the director of QUARANTINE. Scarlet recruits George as an expert in dead languages to join their team.  In addition, they seek out some experts in the Paris catacombs who can help guide them through the miles of tunnels.  Of course, these additional cast members are French--with outrageous accents!  They are also all fodder for the film, and might as well all being wearing "red shirts" as the film carries on. 

Between all of the helmet cams and the tight spaces of the catacombs--the film induces both claustrophobia as well as a healthy case of motion sickness.  Typically not affected as much by "shaky-cam", there were several times where I had to avert my eyes from the screen just to re-adjust my vision.  It is frustratingly difficult to watch.  It seems that the formula for the film is to slow one character to a standstill, have them pause and center on some frightening image, just out of focus and beyond the dim flashlights--then run through the tunnels while the camera bumps, shorts out, and fizzles.  Rinse and repeat.  In the end, the interesting idea of these catacombs and their ancient secrets are all traded away for just another haunted house flick.  There are several other unexplained plot devices--not the least of which is the cause of all of the haunting visions, the power of the Philosopher's stone, and much of the film's perpetuated mythos.  It is unfortunate, because the story here does have some hooks that might have made for an above average horror/thriller.  There are some curious ideas behind the quest to find Flamel's secrets and the history of ancient alchemy.  However, by the end of the film, I just needed an alchemist to mix me up some Dramamine. 

AS ABOVE SO BELOW might have been a very compelling horror-adventure film, and does have a few chilling and out-right scary moments.  Unfortunately, because of the "found footage" device, it is more easily chucked into the forgettable bin.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

THE NOVEMBER MAN Review: 7 out of 10 (Bond+Bourne+an Ensure, 2 out of 3 ain't bad)

THE NOVEMBER MAN is the latest spy thriller starring Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey, and Olga Kurylenko and directed by Roger Donaldson.  It tells the story of Peter Devereaux--an ex-CIA operative who is brought back to face his own protégé David Mason in a complicated spy vs. spy plot.  The film is based on a series of novels built around "The November Man" character.  Brosnan himself has held the rights for the book adaptation since 2007 and is on here as producer as well as star.

Devereaux is contacted by the CIA to make contact with one of their operatives who is deep under cover in the Russian political system.  Called on to aid in her extraction and gain the information she has, Devereaux agrees.  Very quickly, the operation goes bad and Devereaux is suddenly face to face with his former partner and friend--David Mason.  As they each try to hunt down new leads, soon they are both tracking down a mystery woman who has vital information about the new Russian President Arkay Federov.  It is a race of older spy and younger spy as Devereaux looks to find and protect the witness with the help of Alice Fournier (Kurylenko). 

Most of what is here is fairly boiler-plate stuff.  Exotic locations, chase scenes, an overly complicated spy plot, guns, explosions, and an innocent, beautiful, and sexy woman to drag about from place to place.  Brosnan does a serviceable job here.  At 61 years old, he fits the story of an ex-spy who is enjoying retirement--and called back to the job for personal reasons.  Donaldson as director has a strong track record of these type of films (THE GETAWAY, THE RECRUIT, THE BANK JOB) and there is enough kinetic energy to keep the film moving.  Where the film bogs down is in the younger agent played by Luke Bracey.  Though Brosnan still holds on-screen charisma as an ex-Bond, Bracey looks and acts pretty stiff here, and fails to act as a strong foil against the spy hero.  There are plenty of references to the older vs. younger dynamic, but it is clear that one of them oozes cool and the other one is just cold on camera.

Though some of the plot "twists" can be easily telegraphed, and there are several holes in the narrative, there is a lot to like here for fans of the genre. THE NOVEMBER MAN works as a nice placeholder for action fans who are waiting for Bond 24 or still pine for another chapter in the Bourne movie series.  A sequel has already been announced with this aging ex-CIA operative, and as franchises go these days, they could do worse.  Recommended.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL Review: 4 out of 10 (When the Movie falls Flat)

As football season begins each August, it seems as if Hollywood cranks out yet another sports inspirational gridiron movie.  This season, that film is WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL, which stars Jim Caviezel as Coach Bob Ladouceur, Laura Dern as Bev Ladouceur, Michael Chiklis as assistant coach Terry Eidson and Alexander Ludwig as running back Chris Ryan.  The film chronicles a football season of the De La Salle High School team, who achieved a record-setting 151-game winning streak from 1992–2003.  However, after the team loses its very first game in a dozen years, it creates a crisis of leadership, teamwork, and, dare I say it... faith.

Yes, this is yet another film where God, the Bible, and Christian principles are wrapped up into playing a football game.  Not unlike a high production version of FACING THE GIANTS, this movie is faith forward--no doubt.  Heck, they even cast Jesus as the coach.  However, what is most surprising about this movie is that despite its unique source material of the longest winning streak in football history, the film actually doesn't have much, well... Football.  Other than a short sequence at the beginning , the players don't take the field again for nearly an hour into the film.  Instead, the movie spends the bulk of its running time devoted to a paper chain of tragedies that include (but are not limited to): a grandpa with cancer, a player being shot and killed, the coach's heart attack, players living in squalor in poor neighborhoods, abusive fathers, and selfish snotty high school kids.  The film's response to all of these?  Why, cliché ridden speeches, of course.  Not one crisis is ever really developed or even dealt with. They just come like a full blitz, with one hit after another.  As a result, each scene asks for tears and emotion, but never earns them.  Instead, it is a sort of superficial combination of every other football movie--trying for far too much and never really gaining anything.  A sort of leftover meatloaf mash-up of sports inspiration, covered in layers and layers of cheese.

Caviezel himself stars--but is so sedate as the prayer warrior coach, that you wonder if he might be catching a nap behind those sunglasses on the sidelines.  And speaking of sun, one particular sequence in the film has the team playing in a game where heat is a factor.  We know this because the commentators mention it at least five times, and director Thomas Carter mixes in at least eight different shots of players and coaches staring up at the sun.  And since we all know that Sun=HOT... I said, the movie isn't exactly subtle.  Ironically, the players themselves are so unlikable that I was secretly rooting for them to lose.  One player in particular--the coach's own son--after his father has a near deadly heart attack, whines to his father that he isn't willing to put his own health at risk for the chance to coach him.  Jesus should have punched him in the face... with grace and love, of course. 

WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL is little more than a sappy, stale, and superficial football movie that doesn't actually have much football in it.  Even people willing to embrace this movie could easily come up with a dozen sports movies that are better.  And though it attempts to sermonize, even the Christian messaging fumbles the ball and never really deals with any of the real-world problems that the film challenges itself with.  Instead, these problems are solved with throwaway phrases like "It isn't about football..."  Well, maybe this movie should have been.


Friday, August 22, 2014

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR Review: 7 out of 10 ( Eye Candy of Iniquity)

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR is the sequel to the 2005 film SIN CITY. Co-directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, the script is written by Miller, and is primarily based on the second book in the Sin City graphic novel series by Miller.  The film features a large ensemble cast that includes returning cast members Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Powers Boothe, Mickey Rourke, and Bruce Willis;  Newcomers to the series include Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh BrolinDennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, and Stacy KeachLike its predecessor, this film weaves together a few different stories from the series. Including the aforementioned subtitle of the sequel, the film also offers two original stories ("The Long Bad Night" and "Nancy's Last Dance") that were created exclusively for the film and written by Miller. 

For fans of the original film, there is a lot here to like.  Though it is difficult to match the initial shock and awe of the visual noir style that the first film delivered, the sequel brings more of the same.  A monochromatic palette to match the deep noir tones, there are flashes of color to signify emotion, violence, and sexuality.  It is both brutish and beautiful.  Each story also brings those familiar noir story devices: Lust, power, and revenge.  Though the central story "A Dame to Kill For" lacks the punch of some of the previous movie's offerings, its story arc is satisfying.  A sort of prequel of sorts, the movie follows the character Dwight (Josh Brolin), as well as Marv (Rourke) who work to settle a grudge with the leading femme fatale played Ava Lord (Eva Green). The other main stories follow an unusually lucky (and unlucky) gambler named Johnny (Gordon-Levitt) and a follow up to "That Yellow Bastard" from the original film with Nancy (Alba) looking to right some of the previous film's wrongs.  Each mini-movie is fine, but the overall experience is a bit less than the sum of its parts.  On the one hand, the pulpy nature of the material demands a sort of over-the-top approach with characters that are fairly flimsy.  Powers Boothe continues to bring power and sleaze to life as the film's baddie Senator Roark.  There are also some really nice cameos--one of which comes in the center of the film that is nearly worth the price of the ticket alone.  However, unlike Marv and Hartigan's stories from the initial movie, there isn't much back story or even motivation coming from the rest of the primary characters.  However, for those who appreciate the visual style, hyper-violence, and roller coaster ride of sex and revenge this is still a nice trip back to Sin City. 

IF I STAY Review: 3 out of 10 (A Manipulative Mess)

IF I STAY...will this get any better?
IF I STAY... am I going to regret sitting through this?
IF I STAY...ought to be the question audiences are asking themselves about a half hour in to this movie.

IF I STAY is the latest in YA novel weepy teen romance adaptations. (see: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS).  It is the first feature film directed by R. J. Cutler and based on the novel of the same name by Gayle Forman. The film stars Chloë Grace Moretz and Jamie Blackley as Mia and Adam--two high school kids who fall in love but are faced with a desperate tragedy that will affect the lives of them both.  And if you think that sounds should watch the movie.

Clearly designed for tweener girls and women over 50, IF I STAY is a film that essentially tells its entire story in the 2:29 trailer.  So if you want to save yourself an extra two hours and some cash, you can click the link above and get on with it.  Suffice to say that the premise is as banal as it comes. Mia is an introverted and awkward teenager who happens to adore classical music and has become a sort of cello prodigy. Her parents (Mirelle Enos, Joshua Leonard) are a couple of rock-n-roll burnouts that have given up everything so Mia can follow her dreams.  Mia meets Adam--an older boy who happens to be in a rock band that is part of the local Portland music scene and on their way to making it big.  Two opposites--who fall in love.  Not surprisingly, over time, they grow apart.  Adam tours with his band, while Mia considers a move to New York to attend Julliard.  All of this is in retrospect.  The film actually opens with a tragedy.  One fateful day, Mia and her family are in a car crash, killing her parents and leaving Mia in a coma.  However, Mia has an out of body experience for one full day and is able to witness her own life hanging in the balance.  With Adam, her grandfather (Stacy Keach) and her friends at her bedside, Mia has to decide if she goes into "the light" to join her parents or stay and attend Julliard and rekindle the romance with her rocker boyfriend.  While her ghostly self wanders the hospital and listens to everyone talking about how awesome she is, we watch the previous year of her life in flashbacks: her year long romance with Adam, her family's support, her dreams of Julliard, the obligatory "we are growing apart" breakup, and on and on.

Anyone need an insulin injection yet? 

Easily the worst film to date for Chloe Grace Moretz, IF I STAY is intended only for audiences who enjoy being emotionally manipulated.  Alternately, you could say that it is a sort of visual version of "Should I Stay or Should I Go" that would likely cause any member of The Clash to want to punch someone in the face.  What is painfully clear early on is the studio's attempt to sell the film's soundtrack with several song cuts from Adam's struggling rock band.  The problem is the music in the film is absolutely terrible.  It is a mystery to me how the movie follows his band rocketing to success, because the tunes they play are both unimaginative and clichéd as the movie they are sunk into.  The film is rife with a visual flair that is hackneyed, at best.  From the blazing white light representing death, the camera whizzing in a circle around Mia to elicit panic, and the montage of appearing and disappearing visitors over several hours at Mia's bedside.  The script is sentimental in achingly sweet fashion. Though it may bring tears for some, they are wet Kleenex that aren't honestly earned. The idea that this young girl can sit outside of her body and essentially *decide* if she will stay or go is so false that it cheapens whatever melodramatic punch it is going for.  If she did decides to "go" and die, as a conscious choice, wouldn't that essentially be killing herself? A sort of ghost assisted suicide?  If she does stay--because her teenage boyfriend wants her to--would she always remember this out-of-body experience for the rest of her life?  If so, I would love to see the sequel: I DID STAY...AND WE BROKE UP ANYWAY AFTER YOU SLEPT WITH A GROUPIE ON TOUR.  Yeah, it is a long title, but I bet the same audience that is fishooked into this film would likely turn out in droves for that one too.  In short, the movie wants to control an audience by romanticizing the age old one-two combo punch of death and teenagers.  And though that is not exactly a new literary device, here the premise feels incredibly artificial.  For those looking for a romantically infused film about struggling musicians, make a better choice--like this summer's BEGIN AGAIN

IF I STAY is a trite and forgettable film.  For those who venture in to see it, my advice is to go toward the light...move to the will be happy in the light...the bright lights of the theater lobby, that is.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT Review: 6 out of 10 (Charming but Forgettable)

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT is the latest comedy written and directed by Woody Allen. Taking place in the late 1920s, the movie has a sort of Gatsby-like quality to it.  Set on the French coastline, the film stars Emma Stone as Sophie Baker, a spiritualist medium from America who has taken in with a wealthy family, presumably to take advantage of their naïve ways.  Colin Firth is Stanley Crawford--a magician who masks his own identity with makeup and wigs to star on stage as the mystical alter ego Wei Ling Soo.  He is also garnered a reputation for debunking spiritualists like Sophie the world round.  With the help of his magician friend Howard, Stanley and Sophie are introduced at the wealthy estate of the Cateledge family.  The youngest, Brice is smitten with Sophie and her powers to go into a sort of fugue state and peer deep into the mystic.  Large sums of money are already changing hands, and Sophie and her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) are looking to establish foundations, schools of the occult, and more with all the future profits.

Though Stanley is initially skeptical, over time Sophie wins him over--both emotionally and spiritually.  As a cynic, born again--Stanley begins to see life through a new lens, and is beginning to give his heart over to the young seer.  However, when his aging aunt is in an accident and Stanley finds himself in an agnostic crisis with spiritual faith creeping in, he begins to question everything he believes--including the validity of Sophie herself.

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT is a nice and comfortable matinee for a Sunday afternoon... which is when I actually saw this coincidentally.  The idea of debunking a spiritualist who might be the "real thing" has its hooks into spirituality, mortality, and yes--even magic.  There is a hazy green and gold visual quality to the film too, bringing its beauty to a sort of dreamlike state.  However, the biggest buy in that the film asks for is like an ice bucket wake up call.  The romantic involvement of our two lead characters.  Facts: Colin Firth is 53 years old.  Emma Stone--25.  With a 28 year difference in age, it is an onscreen romance that would even make the likes of Cary Grant or Roger Moore blush.  However, coming from a director who was 56 when he married his bride Soon Yi at 19...I guess it is less of a narrative leap.  However, knowing where the movie is clearly headed, it is hard not to get the "EEEEEWWWwwwww" factor to subside.  For a director who has worked with countless actors in a wide range of ages, it is hard to understand why the two were cast together in a romantic film where they are more believable as father and daughter.

In the end, MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT is a decent Woody Allen film that suffers from miscasting, and is a bit thin in its storytelling.  Count this one only as a decent rental down the road or Netflix watch.

THE EXPENDABLES 3 Review: 8 out of 10 (More like #1...with a bullet!)

For a true child of the 80s, the stars of this franchise offer a real taste of nostalgia.  From Stallone to Lundgren to Schwarzenegger, their filmographies range from guilty pleasures to... well, more guilty pleasures.  The EXPENDABLES series has offered a sort of resurgence to these stars to flex their aging cinematic muscles--as well as to give a bit of wink and a nod to all those films that have come before.  In the end, these films are an homage, and just nearly satiric in their approach.

They are also a lot of fun--particularly for action junkies like myself.  To truly prepare me for the premiere, I attended the recent Alamo Drafthouse's Expendapalooza event--a marathon of 80s and 90s action films that ranged from the cartoon-like to street level schlock.  Watching movies like the original LETHAL WEAPON, I COME IN PEACE, and DEMOLITION MAN certainly had my T-levels to an appropriate high as the titles began for the third installment of this franchise.  Directed by newcomer Patrick Hughes, the film features returning cast members Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Additions to this particular chapter include Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford along with some younger blood in the form of Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell, UFC's own Ronda Rousey, and former boxing welterweight champion Victor Ortiz.

The biggest surprise here is that there is actually more to the plot and story than the previous films in the franchise.  The same mercenary group known as "The Expendables" are on a mission overseas when they come into conflict with ruthless arms dealer Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), who also happens to be the Expendables' former co-founder.  After one of the team is mortally wounded on the mission, Barney (Stallone) takes on a mission to destroy Stonebanks, who alternately himself is determined to destroy the Expendables team forever.  Feeling the stakes are high, Barney eliminates the aging veterans and recruits a new and younger team, including those listed above.  But when things go bad, the old veterans are back to step in and join the fray.  Though that sounds very boiler plate standard for an action film, the movie does bring some fresh faces to the franchise.  Ronda Rousey in particular shows her action skills and a strong screen presence that ought to add her to any casting director's short list for future action/super heroine fare.  Wesley Snipes also is here to steal nearly every scene he is in--including a rousing prison break as the film's opening sequence.  The rest of the plot does follow a familiar pattern, but in its genre footprint, these films offer far more in explosions, fists to the face, and automatic gunfire to please even the most cynical action movie fan. 

Unfortunately, the compromise of the movie comes in its attempt to gain the elusive PG-13 rating.  Though the body count of the film skyrockets well into the hundreds, the omission of any digitized blood spatter on screen (somehow) tones the film down to accommodate teenagers who happen to be four years younger.  The film ends up standing as a great example of a growing need to have the MPAA radically altered.  Even the demographic of the film itself is to an 18-45 year old male crowd anyhow.  Though one might question if one less ticket would be sold if the franchise embraced its own R-rated qualities, no doubt some bean counter at Lionsgate would disagree. 

In the end, the plot and casting make this third chapter the most enjoyable in the franchise, despite its ratings compromises.  For those looking for escapism, the film does it well.  Loud, brash, and out of control--THE EXPENDABLES 3 delivers more like number one--with a bullet.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

WHAT IF Review: 8 out of 10 ( Revitalizing the Rom Com)

WHAT IF is a romantic comedy directed by Michael Dowse. (GOON, TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT) Originally titled THE F WORD when it was released in Canada--the movie opted for a bit more friendly, if not generic, title for American audiences.  The film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Wallace and Zoe Kazan as Chantry--two twenty somethings who meet and are immediately attracted to one another.  Alas, Chantry is in a long term relationship  with her boyfriend Ben, played by Rafe Spall.  Wallace is terribly cynical about love because of his own past heartaches.  He spends his free time talking relationships with his best friend Allan, played by Adam Driver (HBO's GIRLS) who also happens to be Chantry's cousin.  Because of their star crossed scenario, Chantry and Wallace spend a good bit of the film in "the friend zone", having conversations with one another, all of which are stacked with plenty of quips and witticisms.  As the attraction and chemistry builds, Chantry's boyfriend is called to work overseas for six months.  Wallace wants to avoid any semblance of attempting to break the two up, so continues to support Chantry with visits to local coffee houses, keeping her company, and going clubbing with her on the weekends.  

We all know where this is going right?  Of course we do.  This film is so deeply embedded in the Rom-Com template that each movement in the film can clearly be telegraphed.  The difference here is the characters.  Radcliffe and Kazan have some nice on screen chemistry here.  Beyond that, the script is filled with several mundane, yet highly entertaining, conversations between the two.  The friendship between these two characters feels very natural.  Adam Driver continues to show his acting chops here in a supporting role.  (I can't wait to see him in the upcoming Star Wars movies as well as director Jeff Nichols new project)  Radcliffe continues to drop his wizard robes (literally and metaphorically) and recreate a long term acting career.  This film is certainly one to help him turn the corner.  The result is a movie that feels familiar, and the narrative roadmap is clearly marked to a particular ending.  However the telling of the tale is where the satisfaction lies.  

A great choice for a date movie, there is quite a bit of charm here--with avoiding the cloying sweet clichés. Several times throughout I was reminded of the vibe of 500 DAYS OF SUMMER, with its sort of postmodern  feel and attempt to revive a genre for a younger generation.  The difference here is WHAT IF offers a bit more happy than hipster.  And for this reviewer, that is a good thing.    


Friday, August 15, 2014

THE GIVER Review: 6 out of 10 (Shades of Gray)

THE GIVER is a dystopian science fiction film that offers social problems...and potential solutions. Directed by Phillip Noyce, the film is based on the 1993 novel of same name that populates middle school curriculums everywhere.   The film stars Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Katie Holmes and offers a very small cameo by music pop sensation Taylor Swift.  Bridges has promoted the film as a passion project for several years but had several roadblocks before finally getting the film produced.  Bridges himself is cast here as "The Giver," though he originally had his father Lloyd Bridges in mind.  Certain to be another popular Young Adult novel book-to-film translation, the movie portrays a perfect world where there is no conflict, racism or sickness, and every member of society has a specific role.  Residents live in carefully orchestrated communities, portrayed in a visual black and white palette, suggesting that all the "color" of emotion and feelings have been removed from the world.  16-year-old Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is selected to be the Receiver of Memory. He is transferred with memories of the past from his teacher, The Giver (Bridges). This role is to serve the greater community by being a sort of human archive of the past.  As Jonas uncovers the truth behind his world's past, he discovers that many years earlier, his forefathers gave up humanity in order to have a stable society.  However, these new societal standards have sacrifices and compromises that Jonas cannot live with. Jonas refuses daily injections (designed to repress emotions) and the monotone world around him begins to show color, emotion, and depth.  Jonas makes a bold choice to change the entire society he lives in forever.  The society's Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) and Jonas' own mother (Katie Holmes) move to stop Jonas from restoring the truth and emotion to society.

Wait--Katie Holmes is in a film where she is forced to use precise language and live without emotion in a hyper controlled society?!?  Sounds like perfect casting based on her marriage to Tom Cruise.  (Ba-dum-bum!  I'm here all week!  Try the veal!)

THE GIVER is a serviceable science fiction movie.  While lacking any originality to set it apart, the film also doesn't explain much in terms of much of its own whys and hows.  How does the "giver" impart knowledge to the "receiver" exactly?  How is it that Jonas' plan to venture to the far edge of society will work to free the rest of the larger community?  There are others--but I am not sure that even the book chooses to address some of these logical conundrums.  According to an avid fan of the book (my youngest daughter), the film works as a very faithful adaptation.  Fans of the book should be satisfied here.  Beyond that, the film is a good choice for a matinee--particularly for the family and tweener audiences looking for a fix.  For me, give me Brenton Thwaites other dystopian thriller THE SIGNAL from earlier this summer for great thrills and action.