Sunday, November 30, 2014

Abduction 1/2 Star

    "Abduction," is a 2011 thriller that attempts to cash in on the popularity of a young, and inexperienced actor, who starred in a series of blockbuster films that comprise the "Twilight" saga. Now, on the surface of things, this may seem like a logical decision, and maybe even downright brilliant. I can hear the casting director now: "Let's cast an actor, who helped contribute to the financial gain of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, and who has posters in every teenage girl's room all over the country."  What could go wrong?

    Well, in the case of "Abduction," everything. Beyond the uninspired script, which exhibits a lack of understanding as to what makes a picture worth watching, you will find: lackadaisical performances, horrid execution of computer graphic imaging, and a story that is as idiotic as some of the worst plot lines in cinema history.

    However, to say that Taylor Lautner is a terrible actor, or even to claim that he is a promising one, is clearly misguided, and much of his performance here is irrelevant in regard to those notions. Sure, his delivery of lines are not masterful to say the least, and his looks of reaction seem mostly like strained, and relatively overemphasized, looks of smolder. Yet, this is partly due to the conditioning received in the above-mentioned set of films, in which Lautner was required to project such demeaning qualities. These constraints surely exist here, as this picture becomes nothing more than an outlet for the hormonal frustrations of thousands of young women.

    The plot (which I have already designated as idiotic, and you will most certainly understand why), consists of the mysterious identity of a certain teenage male, Nathan Harper, who lives in a quiet suburban area of Pittsburgh. Nathan seemingly has it all: a cool motorcycle, a loving set of parents, and the affectionate gazes of a popular high school cheerleader. This all becomes consigned to oblivion, however, when Nathan is assigned to work on a ten-page sociology report, where a chance event turns into international intrigue.

    Apparently, our protagonist's real father, (he soon learns that he is adopted) has stolen a key piece of information from a ruthless foreign mastermind, who subsequently sets up an elaborate, and completely half-baked, scheme, to ransom Nathan and retrieve the purloined data. The Serbian terrorist, Nikola Kozlow, is obviously a hard determinist or he has a hand in the agenda of the local high school. Let's break it down here; a sociology report warrants Lautner to search a missing persons' website, where he stumbles upon a picture of himself, which in turn, triggers the plot, because Kozlow set up this faux site in hopes that our main character will miraculously find it, and thus, give away his location.

    Besides the obvious fact that this could have taken years to unfold, (I guess an anonymous e-mail, with a link to the website, was too straightforward) numerous other questions arise. Why not just go after the man who stole the much sought after encrypted code in the first place? Why, after all these many years, would the father even care if his son is ransomed? Our leading persona questions the latter concept as well and receives an answer of, "You must not know your father." No, we do not, and this is much of the problem.

    "Abduction" is the epitome of carelessness. Case in point: there is a scene in which the antagonists shoot up a small diner, where our lead character is having a meal with the CIA, and the stock characters are entirely absent. There is no waitress present, although their food has already been served, and no cook, although they evidently have food on their plates. The only quality of a cinematic film that "Abduction" displays, is continuous motion, which is not to say anything at all, considering any amateur home video has the same attributes.

    Nevertheless, this picture did indeed capture two awards, albeit at the Teenage Movie Awards, for Best Action Film and Best Action Star, which of course, would seem successful in the minds of those whose intent was to squeeze the pockets of naive (certainly with regard to the art of film) youngsters. Much like his co-stars in the "Twilight" pictures, I would not expect much productivity for the rest of Mr. Lautner's career--and if I'm wrong, then we know where to see the young actor accept his awards.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dumb and Dumber To ★

    Chances are that if you enjoyed the original "Dumb and Dumber," you may find the sequel to be forced, repetitive and all-around unfortunate. Granted, the humor that accentuated the first film is still present, albeit in smaller doses. This time, however, it seems as if the dumbfounded duo that warmed our hearts all those years ago was just an illusion, and now every gag in the book is in use to strain a dry laugh from anyone they can obtain it from. How brainless can these antiheroes become?

    You might find yourself in an unadulterated hysteria of amusement if you find certain things, such as these situations, humorous.

An individual pulling on another individual's catheter, causing much pain in the lower extremities.
The distasteful act of sexually violating an elderly woman.
An adult male changing another adult male's diaper, complete with excretion humor. 
The utilization of computer-graphic imaging to create "snot bubbles." 

    The point is that physical humor (a Jim Carrey specialty) has replaced that of situational comedy, the latter of which indeed fueled the first film. Now we have to watch Carrey wolf down a hot dog in hopes that someone will emit a sound of laughter. Numerous scenes are overdone and are blatantly repulsive, and it reminded me of a stand-up comedian who had run out of jokes and proceeded to discharge bodily sounds to get some form of reaction from the audience.   
    Our premise here consists of Harry returning to the mental institution in which he regularly visits to check on his partner in crime, Lloyd, who has become a shell of his former self. Lloyd reveals that it has been a gag all along, twenty years and running, and the twosome shove off into the sunset. The remainder of the storyline centers on Harry and the newly revealed fact that he has a daughter, and much like the original installment, they must embark on a long road trip to find her. Other aspects of the plot are negligible considering the quality of the film itselfthings are not what they seem, and there is a plethora of disagreeable jocularity along the way.

    Viewing "Dumb and Dumber To" is like watching an individual struggle to find their way into a pair of jeans that is ten times too small. It is amusing at times, mostly tedious, and, ultimately, it is a futile attempt. The atmosphere is there, mind you, but instead of justifying laughter, it warrants feelings of sympathy for both the characters on screen and the actors portraying them. Carrey and Daniels have crafted this picture over a decade too late and with little incentive for enjoyment. 

    The only positive stemming from this uninspired project is the simple fact that the film's release date preceded that of the "Hunger Games" franchise so that it at least earned a sufficient financial return, even if it was less than deserving. There is a juncture in the film where Lloyd guesses the identity of an object in a package that is to be delivered to Harry's daughter. His assumption is that it's a baked potato, although he isn't certain why. Harry responds with, "I'm sure you'll get it, Lloyd." My bet is that he never will.       

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mr. Peabody & Sherman ★★

    Dreamworks' "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" is a children's film that gives rise to a curious notion-- that seemingly anything can be made into a 90-minute production. Just imagine: A subset of a popular 1960s animated television show, in which the duration of the segments were incredibly short, becoming a full-featured adventure. Well, considering the mindset of modern-day production companies, this idea surely meets the established criteria.

    Not to give off the impression that Mr. Peabody isn't a lovable character; let's face it, who can resist the attraction to a dog, who wears glasses and has more knowledge than the most brilliant minds left on Earth, combined. And if you were not already aware, Mr. Peabody reads off his accomplishments and accolades, at the beginning of the picture as if his life depended on it. This includes: being a Harvard graduate, a developer of alternative energy sources, a geopolitical conflict resolver, and inventor of numerous twenty-first-century fads, including Zumba, among other things. (Not to mention the size of his penthouse, which would have even the likes of Donald Trump swimming in a pool of envy.)

    This film essentially relies on the extended use of tawdry humor, including the unamusing puns of Mr. Peabody and the duel injected storyline, which only distracts us from the more heartwarming of the two, being the relationship between a father and son. (if you are in dire need of a plot summary, here it is: Sherman's ineptness causes a rift in time, and it is up to Mr. Peabody to fix it. On a side note, Sherman begins school, and Mr. Peabody must prove to Mrs. Grunion, a cantankerous school official, and terrific illustration of name typing, that he is indeed, fit to be a father.) This complication all leads up to a quip of very poor taste. That's right folks, a masturbation joke.

    And yet, that is not the sole instance in which all insensitivity is lost. There is the use of a Stephen Hawking lunchbox, that warrants the designation of inconsiderate, along with several other witticisms, including the very popular, among adolescents, "poop" and "boob" jokes. They even find time in the script to poke fun at Disney characters, such as Pinocchio, and former President Bill Clinton, as he claims, "I've done worse," in a particular circumstance.    

    The exotic locations, in which we are escorted to, via the WABAC, comprise of France, Egypt, and Italy, all of which are aligned with a time period that would lend the opportunity for educational material. However, this seems to be the hindmost motivation of the picture, and we are left with nothing more than plot driven action, and as mentioned above, bad puns. (It was a staple of the old animated cartoon that Sherman never understood the wordplays; unfortunately for us, we do.)

    "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" fails to capture the quirkiness of the original animation, and completely misses the mark. Although this is not uncommon, when it comes to reboots, it still remains a disappointing condition, especially for those parents who brought their children to the theater, looking for a portion of educational value, and at least, in some sense, tasteful humor. (Just another cause for the live-action television program, entitled "Wishbone," which features a small terrier with a big imagination, to get a re-run deal.)

    There is a scene in which Mr. Peabody reminisces on his first encounters with Sherman, and the affections of the past, accompanied by John Lennon's beloved "Beautiful Boy." It truly is the most promising scene for the entire duration and is regrettably short-lived. If the filmmakers had continued with this idea of presentation, then we would have another discussion altogether.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sabotage ★1/2

    If someone were to tell me five years ago that Arnold Schwarzenegger would still be producing films at this stage in his career, I might have just brushed off the utterance, and went about my daily affairs. After all, why would a man who has accomplished so much, aside from the silver screen, accept trivial roles of seemingly misguided intentions? I guess this is a question only he can answer.

    David Ayer's "Sabotage" is a misfortune, to say the least, both for the leading actor, and the director, himself. Ayer has been at the helm of numerous scripts, most of which center on the underlining fabric of police corruption. Although the heart of this picture lies with one of the most gifted actors, (not necessarily for his delicate approach to subject matter, but for his heroic, and at times larger than life aura) it falls flat in many ways than one, and becomes the embodiment of most things that we would deem repugnant with regard to film-making.

    The story line here is one of an arbitrary fashion, and only satisfies the most basic instincts of human capacity, that being, sight and hearing. Schwarzenegger becomes John "Breacher" Wharton, the head of a renegade police force, who bring down the country's most notorious drug lords and still find time to indulge in recreational abuses, among other things. (If you like spending your time watching men quench their thirst with cheap beer and displaying vast depths of vulgar language, then these personas may become of some interest.)

    An opening scene features a drug bust that turns into a display of situational irony, as our team attempts to steal a portion of the narcotic profiteering they ultimately seize, (hence the above usage of the term "renegade") although the money is found missing moments later. Consequently, the focus shifts to the question of: who stole the loot, and once the members of Wharton's team become the victims of graphic slayings, the concern veers in the direction of the identity of these murderers. The logical answer would be the constituents of the cartel, in which the money was stolen although that would obviously be too undemanding.

    From here, the plot divulges into the intricacies of these homicide investigations, in an endeavor to distract the audience from who may actually have the ample motivation to commit such heinous acts. By this juncture, even the most rudimentary individual would have lost interest, although I may be underestimating the audience's need to view senseless violence and monotonous dialogue.

    The direction is uneven, to put it nicely, as Ayer's execution of numerous close-ups and zoom outs come to symbolize the film as a whole, and that would be poorly done. There is a scene in which Wharton is conferring with the lead investigator, and the camera, pans back and forth between each individual, as they read their next uninspired line. Although it does give off the sense of being a third occupant in the room, (much like how your head would turn its attention to whoever is speaking) it is not suitable here. If anything, it just reminds us that there was a lack of editing involved. As far as any extraction of knowledge from the picture is concerned, if David Ayer is attempting to suggest a moral implication (such as "money is the root of all evil"), or to display the truth of human nature, it is structurally not conducive.

    Of all the dialogue that is belched out among the choir, the lines that Schwarzenegger is forced to recite, are undoubtedly the most unflattering. (These are mostly composed of obscenities and references to male genitalia.) Much like a director, who chooses to work in a studio because of the products of the 1930s, and 1940s, in which he or she grew up with (in an attempt to replicate the same ambiance), I believe Schwarzenegger reduces himself to roles of this stature, in an albeit futile venture, to capture the essence of what he has created in the past. Unfortunately, this journey is proving to be fruitless, and it is becoming almost unbearable to watch.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Interstellar ★★★★

    Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar" is a film that requires patience and an understanding of human nature. It places humanity in an eleventh-hour quandary and sends a small group of individuals, forming a microcosm, into the infinite cold and darkness that is our universe--a journey that almost certainly will not transpire within my lifetime, and one that would only reside in the pages of a science fiction novel.

    A picture of this magnitude must be molded by a sense of truth and by a sincerity that can only be delivered by a skilled filmmaker. Nolan has crafted a delicate product here; one that tries to persuade us of many things: that love transcends all realms of time and physical space; that the heart of human dignity is in a constant struggle between utilitarian and egoist thought; that conquering fear and death is in the pioneer infused blood of us all; that time is an aspect of life that we still do not understand and can never manipulate to our advantage. Not only does Nolan coax you into believing these romanticized notions, but he does so in an emotionally driven and aesthetically pleasing way. Literally, a daydream among the stars.

    The exposition centers on a small family, who live on a food and resource starved Earth. (A time that would make Thomas Hobbes' state of nature proud.) NASA has moved underground, and former space pilots, including our protagonist, have been reduced to mere farmers, as agriculture becomes the insatiable need of the planet's inhabitants. And this is where the film takes its first leap into the boundaries of an unrelenting aspiration.

    Cooper, our widower turned hero, must say goodbye to his family, which consists of a son and a young daughter, and shove off into space with little room for error. We travel with Cooper through the perilous stillness, which essentially lends the opportunity for Nolan to exercise his magic: Once absolved of Earth's atmosphere, the setting becomes a vessel of sheer visual delight and wonderment. Rotating external shots of the spaceship's hull and planetary backdrops become a reality, along with the terrain of foreign worlds that have features as marvelous as frozen clouds.

    Nolan's exercision of symbolism is subtle, yet never wavering in emotion. Messages from home come to symbolize the delicacy of life and feelings of heartache. Extrinsic metaphors showcase the idea of impending doom and unadulterated hope. If there is one skill set in the arsenal of Nolan that can summarize this experience, it is his use of the indirect-subjective point of view. The camera loses its physical constraints and becomes a gateway to adventure. Thus, pulverizing the audience with an intense fervor, which is accentuated masterfully by composer Hans Zimmer.

    Naturally, with any science fiction film comes the toil of pleasing astronomers and astrophysicists everywhere. I'm sure there is an abundance of articles traveling the internet freeway at this moment that refute some aspect of the plot or the inconsistency of one equation or another. The fact of the matter is that you will not read any discrepancies of this fashion here. Of course, the dialogue is rich in astronomical terminology, as time becomes nothing more than an expendable concept. However, relativity is the foremost subject matter, and the characters do their best to explain such vices with quick summaries and lines that read "that's relativity folks."  Much like a "Star Trek" episode, one has to learn the parameters and move on.

    Matthew McConaughey has come a long way as an actor. His career has progressed in a rather peculiar manner, and it has surely seen a number of missteps and debacles. Unlike most actors who come into the business with guns blazing, McConaughey has eased into the waters of Hollywood like an old man slipping into a warm bath. (What other box-office headliners can say they started their career on "Unsolved Mysteries?") Most stars burn brightly in their younger years and begrudgingly fizzle out--most of which with a string of inadequate performances. Yet here is McConaughey, in the latter portion of his acting career, shimmering as brightly as ever.

    His performance in "Interstellar" is unquestionably remarkable. There are numerous scenes that could have gone sour, if not for the brilliant acting provided by McConaughey; this is a genuine role for a genuine man. His intensity and emotion is right on cue and never fails to deliver the utmost power and authenticity. McConaughey's approach here is very well prepared and well calculated. Additionally, Michael Caine provides an exhilarating performance, albeit less lengthy and of a lesser importance--nevertheless noteworthy. His role only adds to the engrossing study of human nature and gives the picture a poetic sense of enlightenment, as his character's leitmotif becomes the repetition of the Dylan Thomas poem, aptly entitled, "Do not go gentle into that good night."

    There are many discernible flaws and illogical sequences that would have any perfectionist cringing at the thought: Emotional restraint is thrown to the wind and becomes virtually non-existent, yet scenes that suffer from this syndrome are undeniably held together by the strong performances of McConaughey and others. Some scenes of plot significance are drowned out by the, at times, overbearing score. Furthermore, there is the inconceivability of how long a human being can go without oxygen, as well as the puzzling production design of the robotic intelligence entities that accompany our human equivalents. (With regard to the latter, there are many times that these obtrusive and rather unappealing machines litter the background of an otherwise alluring setting.) Lastly, there is the philosophical issue of Cooper's display of courage and bravery; a train of thought proposed by the dialogues of one, Plato. Is he really brave if his expertise is with regard to the circumstances at hand?

    So, how does "Interstellar" counter these seemingly destructive imperfections? Well, it is quite simple--with a "suspension of disbelief." A phrase coined by the highly influential poet of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Nolan has crafted a tale so engulfed in human interest and truth, that the implausibilities that surround its structure are simply negligible.

    The problem with today's film industry is its inability to dare to dream. What child hasn't slumped his or her head back, while admiring the night sky, in pure awe and wonder? What adolescent, along with countless adults, has not wondered what is beyond the stars of our galaxy? My guess is all but a relative few, who probably remain attached to their tedious lives without a single thought to this subject. It is within these metaphysical boundaries that "Interstellar" excels and never looks back.

    Do not read any further if you have not seen the film.

    There is a scene in the denouement of this picture, which consists of the last meeting between Cooper and his daughter, where the theme will melt over all the senses like a warm blanket. It is a theme concerned with the complexity of human relationships--and more specifically--the relationship between a father and a daughter. It is a very strenuous scene and the most important in the entire film. McConaughey's execution here is perfectly orchestrated, and the beauty of this moment has lasted with me since the film's ending. A very wise man once told me that dreams are everything. Without them, we are nothing more than a misguided spawn of nature. Here is a dream that we can all enjoy.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Nightcrawler ★★★1/2

    Originality, in terms of Hollywood's perception, seems anomalous to say the least, and regrettably has become a peculiar language to us all. Barring few exceptions, the study of character has become a lost art; to be admired in the halls of cinematic history, only appreciated by sight, and never to be touched again. However, Louis Bloom is a man that gives us hope. He is a man that defines what it means to present a delineation of character like no other and to give rise to a darker side of human nature.

    Inner city Los Angeles is a playground for an individual of Louis Bloom's stature and psyche. It is the quintessential backdrop to reflect the inner dwellings of his mind. Restlessness, withdrawal, and loneliness, highlight Bloom's life, as we are first introduced to him as a small-time peddler.

    He can be found in the hidden darkness of night, scouring construction sites for redeemable material, in hopes that he can sell it back to another, unsuspecting construction crew. After his latest gatherings are rejected, it warrants a scene that remarkably highlights his intelligence and creepiness, as Bloom recites an oral résumé that showcases his attention to detail and his unbelievable calculatedness.

    Jake Gyllenhaal is infinitely superb in a role that requires a heavy tongue, to contrast a gloomy appearance. He channels his inner Robert De Niro, via "Taxi Driver," with his quiet, yet aggressive personality, and with a head full of black hair, slicked back to reveal a face filled with curiosity and deception. He's the type of guy who shies away from a conversation, but once indulged, will talk your head off until the sun comes up.

    The conflict surrounding Louis' life is one consisting of a struggle for human dignity--both internally and externally. After a fateful ride home finds Louis face to face with a roadside accident, a miraculous intrigue sets in upon his wandering mind, as late night renegade film crews record the misfortune (in which we are later told in so many words that blood and graphic material sells), and prepare to offer it to overnight news station management for morning ledes. Hence, an amateur business opportunity is born.

    Bloom hires an associate, in which he deems an "intern," to help him navigate the dreary and blackness enshrouded streets of late night L.A. and to watch the car while he, sometimes without positive results, attempts to film petty crimes and unfortunate incidents. This only leads to toil as Bloom inevitably schemes to work his way up the rungs of the invisible ladder of night crawler popularity, also known as "stingers," and to get his small business adequate recognition.

    A sensational directorial debut is far and few between, but Dan Gilroy, a man who is very familiar with the film process, undoubtedly has one here. His direction is a thing of beauty, as the crime scenes in which our central character receives his material brim with verisimilitude and truly create a feeling of being "there" and a heightened sense of reality. Beyond that, Gilroy has essentially created an ambiance that suits the distance of Louis' personality.

    Our anti-hero, albeit a man who is not readily acquainted with empathy, is consistently depicted in low key lighting, which only accentuates the enigmatic facets of his mien. Additionally, he is portrayed in a harsh or "hard" diffusion of light, molding the contours of his facial features through the subtle play of light and shadow. I have not seen a character so engulfed in dimness, since Michael Corleone in "The Godfather Part II."

    There is an abundance of symbolism in this picture that takes many shapes and tends to progress in intensity as the events play out in a suspenseful fashion. The director charges his symbolic ideas through musical emphasis, which culminates in one particularly brilliant scene where Bloom plays "the artist" and manipulates the remains of a vehicular homicide to produce better footage, and by the relationship of one object to another in a singular shot.

    The most notable of the latter being a scene in which an empty chair is nestled in the background, while Bloom expresses his self-loathing for failure, and a closing scene, where we are bombarded with the truth of our beloved main character's depravity--which ultimately leads us to ponder more intricately into the depths of human thought.

    Although the cinematic concern, or theme, of this film, is unquestionably one of character, it is tempting to delve deeper into the mindset of one, Louis Bloom. It would be enticing to say that he almost takes on a role larger than himself, producing a theme of the often brutal truth of human nature. His actions of depravity, which in essence is a corruption of the human soul through original sin, could be considered representative of humanity as a whole, centralizing on our fascination with gore and death, along with the startling reality that we are all selfish creatures of a brutish nature. (A staple in Protestant Reformation thought.)

    Still, the symbolic patterns and motifs (there is a strategically placed motif consisting of a billboard that reads "focus" to remind us of his obsessive mentality) guide us to the heart of this picture's intentions; the delineation of this irregular character study. And what an exhibition it is.

The Stepfather ★1/2

    There are some pictures that should never, in the realm of logic and sound reasoning, be re-fashioned in any sense of the word. Rationally, there are two conditions in which this notion should be fulfilled. Firstly, if the original, in which this burden now bestowed is based upon, was simply not thought provoking or structurally significant. Secondly, and most importantly, a film should never be revamped if it is to offer nothing to the dominion that is film-making.

    "The Stepfather" is unequivocally an offender of this train of thought.

    We are introduced to our antagonist, a man of numerous faces, in a surprisingly somber and tragic mood. It is here that this film executes two methods of irony. Dramatic irony, which gains its power from the contrast of ignorance and knowledge, as the audience is conscious of some fact that our characters on screen have no awareness. In this particular instance, the reality that David Harris is a cold blooded killer, who is eagerly wanted for his involvement in a family's murder.

    Additionally, there is the issuance of irony of tone, as Harris makes a light breakfast while the pleasant tune of "Holy Night" can be heard and the family, in which he has savagely murdered, lie in pools of their own blood. Thus, these two techniques are arguably the only thing that resembles quality craftsmanship. The rest of the picture is plagued by many handicaps, most notably acting or the lack thereof, and does little to add suspense to an already lethargic atmosphere.

    Subsequently, Harris makes his way to Portland, Oregon, where he begins this sadistic cycle, yet again, of romanticizing widowed or divorced mothers, gaining their trust, and killing them with seemingly no motivation other than individual despondency. He lurks in local supermarkets and garners his victim's attention through the use of good manners and an innocent demeanor. (A collection of traits eerily similar to a real life, and rather inhuman individual, in Ted Bundy.)

    The unfortunate family this time around consists of Susan, a loving and completely naive mother, who doesn't seem the bit unnerved by David's mysterious past, as long as he fulfills her emotional, and assumingly, her physical needs. Susan has two children, which have little to do with anything, and an older son who just arrived back from military school. Michael, who is designated the black sheep of the family, spurs our conflict as he struggles to accept the proclaimed nobility of Harris.

    Consequently, the remainder of the picture remains static and builds upon the son's mistrust. He confers with his air-headed blonde girlfriend (who trounces around in a bikini for blatantly obvious and shallow reasons) about his suspicions, to no avail. Of course, there has to be some way Michael's intuition is justified. Inevitably, we receive this justification through the dialogue of the stepfather. His pessimistic views and insensitive remarks are causes for concern, along with his stalking mentalities and the ability to appear and disappear at the speed of light.

    There are two aspects of the film, among countless other things, that truly highlight its ineptness. One is in regard to plot unification, and the other involves the delicate approach to lighting. Harris is a very detail-orientated person. (This is perceived through several actions, the most humorous of which, involves him correcting the position of a misplaced stapler on a family desk.) And yet, he forgets to close a basement door, as he carries on a barbarous act, and fails to clear the search history of the family computer, after he finds himself on the America's Most Wanted web page.

    This brings us to the fine art of lighting: There is a scene at the family dinner table, in which the overhead lighting provides a horrid result. The stepfather is draped in a bright aura of light and the son, sitting at the opposite end of the table, is enshrouded in darkness, even though the overhead fixture is above the center of the table. Now, if this was to promote a symbolic effect, although highly unlikely, then I will revoke my comments. Nevertheless, "The Stepfather" is an uninspired product and it truly is a mystery how the antagonist never suffered from a stomach ulcer, while he continually repressed his psychotic expressions. Maybe that can be the subject of another hapless enduring.