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The Raven: murders inspired by Edgar Allan Poe stories mark him as a suspect, however he and the police must use his specific knowledge to crack the case and find the real killer. Despite Renner, McGregor and Phoenix being marked for the lead, I don’t think any would have been as entertaining as Cusack, who film heavily relies on to elevate it above a standard thriller – he nailed the hard job of playing a watchable, likable asshole. Supporting cast are also solid, from Evans doing a Nelson Van Alden to Alice Eve‘s boobs and teeth – Gleeson‘s accent though, WTF?! The story’s dark, accompanied with some explicit gore and graphic death scenes. There’s some sneaky misdirection towards the end, and the killer could have been anyone really; the post script in Paris is also a little out of tone with the rest of the movie. It’s well-directed, with some great suspense built up, particularly in the pursuit and masked ball scenes – it also never drags. The script is generally good, although there’s some tactical swearing and spats of dialogue that seemed a little obvious and uninspired for such a great mind. Sure, a killer looming over foggy candle-lit 1800s streets isn’t a new idea, but I’m surprised at the heavy critical bashing this has taken; although perhaps it’s because this is only my first Poe movie, so have no comparison? For me, The Raven was a thoroughly enjoyable, old-fashioned, ‘classical’, gothic, Hammer-esque, atmospheric murder mystery romp with a hint of Giallo – and all the better for being a blend of fact, fiction and Poe’s famous works.

Score: 7.5/10

The Grey (AKA Wolf Punch): a suicidal wolf-sniper must lead a group of plane crash survivors back to safety when they ditch near a wolf den in Alaska. The biggest shock to me was Neeson‘s star appeal; it was the busiest screening I’ve seen in a long time – and the poster for this is just a close-up of his coupon. While there’s no other A-list actors, they’ve all been around the block and are a solid bunch of hands. The film has surprisingly artistic sensibilities; in particular the opening character building with voiceover, and overall focus / investment on the group, their dynamics, (& latterly the scenery) – instead of fighting wolves every 20 seconds.  The plane crash is overwhelming, there’s couple of solid jumps, the CGI wolves look great, the gore is pretty visual, and overall the continuous threat of attack keeps you guessing. The only real downside is that there’s not a whole lot of wolf-punching to be had, and when it happens the frenetic action cam makes a mess of it all. As for the final scene, I still can’t tell if it is the bravest, dumbest, or most disappointing in memory – definitely a bold move. Neeson gets his token action line ‘let’s sharpen a big stick and ram it up this wolf’s ass’…  as well a several emotional runs through the poem below, oh, and Taglet looks identical to Half Life’s Dr Freeman. The Grey isn’t the action-packed wolf-punching cheese-fest that you walk in expecting; instead it’s a tense, character driven well-made survival thriller; this will be a nice surprise to some, but a disappointment to others.

Score: 7/10

Once more into the fray.
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.
Live or die on this day.
Live or die on this day.