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In The Heart Of The Sea


December 10, 2015

In the Heart of the Sea (** ½) PG-13

Veteran filmmaker Ron Howard’s latest cinematic entry, In the Heart of the Sea, is an admirable, if workmanlike, effort that never quite catches fire on an emotional level the way you know that it should. Technically, the film is superb but it unfortunately leaves the viewer in a state of emotional aloofness where its characters are concerned. For a story that almost requires some sort of emotional connection with the people involved in its story, this is a cardinal sin that stops the film from becoming the home run you want it to be and, as a result, sinks-no pun intended-the film to a certain degree.

In The Heart of the Sea, based on the novel by Nathaniel Philbrick, is structured in such a way that it can relate two stories during its running time. The first story, and the one which serves as the framing device for the film, is the story of author Herman Melville. It’s the mid 1800s and Melville wants to write the great American novel for which he’ll be remembered long after his passing. He openly admits that he’s no Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of the most celebrated authors of the time, but secretly believes he has the ability to churn out at least one great novel that will stand the test of time.

Melville finds his opportunity with the story of The Essex, a ship that was turned into rubble by an encounter with a gigantic sperm whale.

Chris Hemsworth in In The Heart Of The Sea

The crew had hoped to use the whale for the purpose of obtaining whale oil but we all know that a ship and its crew are no match for a gigantic creature of the sea. The lone survivor of the maritime disaster, Tom Nickerson, is the subject Melville hopes to interview to gain enough information from the man on which to base his novel, a novel that eventually becomes Moby Dick.

The core of the film is told in flashback from the aforementioned lone survivor’s point of view, the character who is portrayed in contemporary scenes by Brendan Gleeson and in flashbacks by Chris Hemsworth. Both actors do a fine enough job, as does Ben Whishaw in his portrayal of author Herman Melville, but the film offers them little in the way of connecting the audience with these characters on a more humanistic level.

What the film does offer are some truly spectacular action sequences that make great use of the 3-D format in which the film was shot. Unfortunately, technical details can save a film so much. In the Heart of the Sea is decent enough but not likely to make a dent in a sea of other films more deserving of your attention at this time of the year.
Krampus (** ½) PG-13

The latest entry in the genre known as ‘Christmas Horror,’ Krampus, is at the very least half a good movie. In the film’s early scenes, the emphasis is not on horror and more on humor. There are more than a fair share of darkly cynical and comedic scenes depicting the real life horrors of holiday shopping and dealing with unruly relatives that will certainly ring true with most viewers. The film, unfortunately, begins to lose steam when it switches gears to outright horror during the latter half. Still, this is a holiday film that actually manages to work occasionally which is certainly more than I was expecting. I suppose that’s faint, maybe very faint, praise.

Adam Scott and Toni Collette have the leads in the film and appear to be, on the surface at least, a happily married couple. They have two offspring and live in a cozy, two-story house that perfectly serves the purpose of the film’s holiday backdrop.

It’s the kind of house that seems to populate most holiday films of this type that deal with familial get togethers and the terrors of socializing with relatives you really have nothing in common with other than the fact that you happen to be blood kin.

Toni Collette & Adam Scott in Krampus

The sister of Collette’s character shows up with her raucous family in tow and before you know it the house becomes the setting for one of those family gatherings that’s clearly influenced by National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Scott and Collette’s son still believes in Santa Claus, which results in lots of ribbing from the kid’s cousins. He writes a letter to ole Saint Nick but then, as an afterthought, shreds it and tosses it to the four winds. This seemingly innocent act becomes the catalyst for the unleashing of the title creature, which we are told, exists in German folklore and whose sole purpose is to take away rather than to give.

The Krampus of the film’s title is a creature not unlike the ones found in director Joe Dante’s Gremlins films from many years ago. If you’ll recall, the original Gremlins film actually had a Christmas setting as its backdrop, which will led one to wonder if the filmmakers of Krampus weren’t more than a little inspired by that earlier film. I’m prone to say they were, if pressed.

Part of the problem with the film is its jarring shift in tone from comedy to horror. Personally, the comedic stuff worked best for me but when the film settled into its routine horror setup, I started checking my watch. I suppose it all depends on what your feelings are about Christmas horror films. Krampus tries but fails on that level—though not as badly as expected—in terms of what it really seems to want to accomplish.

Both films are playing in Hickory and area theaters.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.



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