ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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The Village (2004)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring:
Joaquin Phoenix/Lucius
Bryce Howard /Ivy
Adrian Brody /Noah
William Hurt/Edward
PLOT-CRUNCH
In 1897, a small group of simpletons live in an isolated village. The Village itself is surrounded by borders where on the other side, mysterious creatures reside in the forbidden woods. When the truce between the inhabitants and the enigmatic beings is broken, the villagers’ way of life is put at risk. A brave soul has to venture into the unknown to save “one” and all.
THE LOWDOWN
The rules for the "The Village" should’ve been: 1) Let the bad color not be seen. It attracts them. 2) Never enter the woods. That is where they wait. 3) Heed the warning bell, for they are coming. 4) If you’re going to slap heavy twists and turns in a movie, don’t give them up too soon and make sure they hold up logically. Having loved all of M. Night’s emotional, genre-bending, gray matter stimulants, I was anxious to see his next “can you guess my game?” creation. Although not a complete disaster, this was easily M’s weakest slight of hand.

It all began mucho promisingly with an engrossing initial premise and a genuinely spooky setting. The first 40 minutes of the flick truly kept me within its iron fist. The acting in the shack was stellar, the poetic feel endearing, the suspense laid on thick, the cinematography sumptuous while M’s directorial flair was cranked up to “wow”. In my book of rules, the man is a genius when it comes to orchestrating tension, milking momentum and moving you via his visuals. Perfect example: there’s this one specific scene in the film that involved a threatening creature and the character of Ivy (Howard) extending her arm outside a doorway. That bit and its gripping slow-motion/silent outcome sent an army of shivers down half my spine, pit-stopping to my heart, to then travel down the rest of my spine. Those arresting two minutes alone were better than half of the full length feature films I’ve seen this summer. Now that’s directing!

The flick fared just as well on a human level with an appealing cast all around (go Billy Hurt...go!) upping my involvement in the picture. Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Howard, in particular, possessed the screen via the wonderful chemistry that they shared. Their gripping bond was my anchor to this story and Bryce’s presence specifically, kept me in the game even when the pacing of the affair shifted into “turtle mode”. Man, was I moved by the romantic angle here! Maybe I was having a "high hormone" day, or I was just feeling all "Hallmark" and shite, but I got "veklempt" a few times on this run. I have to single out the "porch sequence" as one of the heavy "sniff sniff" moments that got to me. That one was one for the mushy books of records! Talk about a flawless execution of an “ahhh” moment! Yes, I’m a sucker for that lovey-dovey shit! Why? Because it’s so rare to find in this insecurity-driven, shit hole of a society. To top all of this quality off, I genuinely grooved on the psychological layers that the late “big bad twist” brought to the whole. Once all the cards were on the table, I picked up on a slew of interesting themes and clues that I didn’t perceive while I was kept in the dark by M Night’s shenanigans. Good stuff!

Alas, much to my dismay, "The Village" proceeded to fall apart at the seams at about the halfway mark. Although the chain of events still kept my interest (even with its slow pace), the flick’s constant decline in intelligence grated me. I loathe it when spins are solely slapped in a movie to obviously force the narrative in one direction or to showcase "scary” moments at the expense of common sense. "The Village" had too many of those devices and made me feel like it was underestimating my IQ level. As for the big M. Night “I’ll whoop you sucka” final sucker punch…well, I dug it in theory. It was a slick concept, but in hindsight, it revealed way too many gaps in logic in what preceded it and asked too much suspension of disbelief from my jaded ass for it to have total impact on me.

On the whole, "The Village" was still superior to the norm via its amazing aesthetic style, its expert acting (Bryce Howard knocked me out my seat-- what a solid actress!), its cleverness and its thought-provoking subject matter. Too bad the script just wasn’t up to snuff to deliver all of its goods in a fully credible fashion. This one needed a good re-write to cover all of its bases strongly. BURN THIS VILLAGE OR MOVE IN?
GORE
We some light gore via skinned animals and a couple of stabbings. Looking for spicy chilly? Look elsewhere.
ACTING
Joaquin Phoenix (Lucius) gave a likeable and subdued show. He looked a little chubby though...somebody is going “method” on those burgers. Bryce Howard (Ivy) gave a charismatic, enthusiastic and heartfelt performance. She totally won me over and it also helped that she was beyond photogenic. I predict big things for this girl! Adrian Brody (Noah) played the village idiot well...too bad for "moi" that characters like this get on my nerves. Somebody put a leash on that mook! William Hurt (Edward) nailed his role with intensity. It should be said that he acted with his beard during some of the more quiet moments and let his disheveled hair take over during the more heated scenes. Sigourney Weaver (Alice) gave an admirable show within her limited screen time.
T & A
None of that sugar here.
DIRECTING
M. Night was in top form on a technical standpoint giving the picture a very unsettling feel while often using slow motion or silence to give specific scenes a ludicrous amount of power. The cinematography on hand was also beyond hypnotizing. A great looking and well constructed movie!
SOUNDTRACK
James Newton Howard's unorthodox score (for a film of this type) supported the action well, often adding extra emotional juice to the events at hand. I loved that “violin” stuff!
BOTTOM LINE
There was definitely a unique charm about "The Village" that swayed me on its side even when its weighty flaws slapped me around like I was one of Mike Tyson's dates. When out the theatre after the film, my friends and I talked about our experience for an hour or so, deconstructing and analyzing the hell out of the movie. Any celluloid offering that has me blab like Chris Tucker on cocaine afterwards is worth something to me. This overly ambitious tale almost hit the bull's-eye through its entrancing visual style, its heart, its solid cast, its daring ideas and its ballsy twists. Too bad the screenplay just couldn’t keep up, resulting in plot holes the size of my shoe-size and lapses in logic that were too obvious to overlook. It's all about details M! DETAILS! Not perfect, but at the same time...far from worthless.
BULL'S EYE
Kirsten Dunst was almost Ivy and Ashton Kutcher almost got a key role in the flick...THANK GOD that didn't happen!

The film's ending was re-shot, I said ending...not "big twist".

M. Night has a cameo in this film. See his face in the reflection of a glass door near the end.
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6:13AM on 10/14/2010
This is one of those movies that has really grown on me. The somber mood, the achingly beautiful score, and the first-rate acting (Bryce Dallas Howard is simply amazing here) all helped to pull me in further than I expected. Definitely flawed, but for some reason, it just really hit me harder after watching it again.
This is one of those movies that has really grown on me. The somber mood, the achingly beautiful score, and the first-rate acting (Bryce Dallas Howard is simply amazing here) all helped to pull me in further than I expected. Definitely flawed, but for some reason, it just really hit me harder after watching it again.
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