Everyone involved with this dreary, weak and weary "Raven" should eat crow. The film casts a wan-looking John Cusack as the morbid scribbler and thrusts him into a plot involving a deranged fan drawing bloody inspiration from "The Pit and the Pendulum," "Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "The Mystery of Marie Roget."
Sickly, hungover Poe makes a bumbling sleuth, and his official sidekick Detective Fields (Luke Evans, strenuously overacting) is no better. The pair arrive at every atrocity just a beat too late.
As the wimpy writer's gorgeous, highborn lover, Alice Eve is even more unbelievable than the plot. As her father, a Baltimore potentate, Brendan Gleeson thunders to little effect. Director James McTeigue ("V for Vendetta") has no feel for humor or terror, making what could have been a witty pastiche into another cheesy slice-and-dice horror flick.
THE ISLAND PRESIDENT
The Maldives is a nation of tiny inhabited islands in the Indian Ocean, some just 5 feet above sea level. For former President Mohamed Nasheed, climate change and the height of the ocean's surface isn't a theoretical concern, it's a matter of survival.
This engaging, gorgeously photographed documentary follows his effort to save his homeland's sapphire coastline, pristine beaches and densely urbanized cities. He's a canny, charismatic student of public-relations jujitsu, taking advantage of his country's small size to make his opponents look like bullies.
With remarkable access, cameras follow him into strategy sessions and policy debates at the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, where he argued for binding international agreements to halt climate change. "If we can't come up with an understanding, God help us," he says. The sobering footnote on his political fate and the lukewarm agreement at the climate conference leave you hoping he has seawalls and sandbags lined up, as well.
THE SALT OF LIFE
Italian writer/director/comedian Gianni Di Gregorio ("Mid-August Lunch") plays browbeaten family men brilliantly, and in this film he's given himself a fine showcase. He stars as Gianni, a trim retiree who treads lightly around his wife and daughter, treating his home as a bed-and-board arrangement he's loath to disrupt. He's long suffering with his wealthy widowed mama, who is squandering his inheritance, but on his own he's a would-be Lothario drawn to every dazzling beauty he meets. His fruitless efforts to consummate one last fling before he calcifies into an untouchable old duffer is understandable, poignant and irresistibly silly. When a friend feeds Gianni a pep pill and sends him off to the red-light district, his flustered attempts to navigate Rome's notorious traffic is a hoot. The film plays like a postscript to Truffaut's domestic comedies as Gianni, age notwithstanding, continues to wrestle with selfish immaturity and emotional impulsiveness. A droll charmer with Di Gregorio as a live-action Pepé Le Pew.
A slow-building B-movie thriller, the plot is nothing new for star Jason Statham. There's a girl in need of his protection from assorted gangs of bad men. But the dialogue crackles with flinty one-liners.
What we have here is basically an American "Transporter," with Statham caught up in the most jaw-dropping, quick-cut fights you've seen in years. He plows through Russians on the subway, Chinese gangsters in a casino and cops in between, on the mean streets, which he navigates with dazzling automotive dexterity. Occasionally he stops long enough to make a threat. The dialogue and the characters are better than the plot. And the fights are better than even the one-liners. Statham never phones it in, though his roles can seem to be one long version of the same guy: haunted and hunted, in need of a shave. -ROGER MOORE, MCCLATCHY NEWS SERVICE