Archive for the ‘2007’ Category

Awake (2007) review

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

A rich young cat (Christensen) gets foobarred when he winds up on the operating table for a little bit of that old heart surgery tango. To make things even worse, as the messy procedure unfolds he finds himself awake and “feeling everything” even though he was put under (they call it anesthetic awareness). A shit load of pain, interior monologues and harsh revelations ensues.

The only thing I knew about AWAKE before I barged into the theatre and let out a loud burp to mark my territory was that it starred hot assed, big lipped Jessica Alba. Actually, that in itself had my expectations on the low jive given that although Alba is one heck of a tasty looking trinket, I can’t say that I’ve dug many of her films beyond IDLE HANDS. So did AWAKE manage to keep me that way?
OUCH, what a rough way to start the day (it was a mornings screening). At the halfway mark, I almost McSpewed the Egg McMuffin I had gobbled beforehand onto the theatre floor. NOTE TO SELF: If I ever need heart surgery…F*CK THAT SHITE and just die! END OF NOTE. Now, AWAKE was an odd watch at first. I didn’t know where it was coming from or where it was going. Granted it hooked me right off the bat with its convincing love story (Christensen and Alba so made it happen), its likeable lead duder, the tantalizing glimpses into his shady past and his peculiar relationship with ma-ma (brilliantly played by Lena Olin). But for a while there, I actually didn’t think that this baby would be AITH material! It was coming off as some quasi artsy character study/relationship movie. An engrossing and affecting one but an artsy character study/relationship movie none the less.

Then the sucker punch was launched. The rug was pulled from under me and I gradually found out just how deep the rabbit-hole went! Yup, the time the flick slyly took to develop its characters and their relationships was all about setting me up for this “moment”. To make sure that when the hammer swung down, it smacked hard. And boy did it ever! Once the scalpel hit the flesh; the ride switched tones and revealed the morbid game it was playing. I was right there with our hero as layers were peeled away and revelations popped out of the wood work to back-hand him (and me) silly. Shite I even pulled a man-bitch and got teary eyed at one point (don’t tell anybody). Big props to the filmmakers for pulling off a thriller/mystery revolving around freaking “heart surgery” and “anesthetic awareness” while retaining emotional resonance. It didn’t work 100% all the time but when it did, I loved it and when it didn’t I still respected the “College try”.

Which brings me to my peeves. The film just wasn’t as smart as it thought it was. I didn’t fully buy into the whole thing, especially when looking back. The “bad guy” motive was damn weak, the “master plan” was filled with holes, a couple of suspense ploys didn’t feel true and everything unraveled a little too conveniently during the final act. Furthermore, I wish we had less Christensen on a slab talking in voice-overs and more Christensen in real time taking the bull by the horns. I found myself missing the guy, not good since…well… he was the lead! And was this movie over baked in the editing room or was it me? My Spidey-Sense kept telling me that “meat” was shaved off in the name of pacing (it clocks at 78 minutes BTW). Lastly, the finale although satisfying in a “neat and tidy” and artsy way left me craving a pinch more. Good old fashioned retribution came to mind… would’ve been swell…

For the most part though AWAKE was a pleasant surprise, a film with novel ideas and that pulled them off often enough. I’m happy I saw it, not sure if it’s big screen worthy, but definitely a rental when it’s out on DVD. Let’s dissect this bitch!

Hayden Christensen (Clay) nailed this one! Just goes to show how good he can be when George Lucas isn’t directing him. He had the quiet strength, heart on his sleeve thing going on and I lapped it up. Terrence Howard (Jack) took a fairly small role and brought nuances to it. Awesome! Jessica Alba (Sam) had the sweet girl thang down pat and shared genuine chemistry with Christensen. Lena Olin (Mother) brought the f*cker home with her focused, intense, internal and hypnotizing display. With the material this lady is quite the solid actress!

We get some uber realistic, wince inducing and graphic open heart surgery bits that made this hard nut crack. Yowzer!

T & A:
The closest we get to some Alba loving is her in a wet top and side shots of her breasts. The ladies get all the Christensen shirtless shots they could ask for!

Joby Harold showed lots of maturity behind the lens for a fairly new filmmaker. The flick had a smooth flow to it, very artistically inclined shots and a somber mood. Harold’s also handled his actors and the dramatic content like a champ! Sold!

The poignant score by Samuel Sim amplified the sadness, tragedy and dread of the story. Powerful.

AWAKE made me know and care for its people in depth, before dragging them and me down to hell. GREAT MOVE! It also put out a compelling premise, solid acting all around, an endearing artsy vibe and enough twists to keep me reeled in like the trout that I am. Sure the whole “what’s really going on” angle was shaky in terms of the ‘why” and the “how”, the plot devices didn’t always feel organic and I would’ve so boogied to having Christensen’s character be a bigger part of the actual action. With that yapped, it was a lot of fun, hence I couldn’t help to…well… have fun! Not the sharpest tool in the shed, but it had enough heart, balls and originality to please. Worth a gander!

Helen Mirren and Sigourney Weaver were bothup for Lena Olin part at some point.

Jared Leto was the original choice to play Clay.

Jessica Alba replaced Kate Bosworth when she booked out to do Superman Returns.


Picke: Dream cast keeps medical thriller taut

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

“Awake” is not the somnambulistic enterprise one might have expected.

A thriller with a gimmick that offers easy pickings for film critics and headline writers, “Awake” actually rejects predictability and provides a minor pleasure for those already tired of relentless holiday cheer.

Well-cast throughout, “Awake” takes advantage of the stars’ resumes to give viewers a sense of familiarity and order. Newcomer Joby Harold, who wrote and directed the film, cleverly uses the actors’ own images, letting some stand and others twist so that the usual signals don’t hold true.

“Awake” starts with a doctor, Jack Harper (Terrence Howard), mourning a friend who died on his operating table.

Then it’s on to what looks like one of the world’s beautiful couples, Clay Beresford (Hayden Christensen) and Sam Lockwood (Jessica Alba), blissfully in love and on top of the world. But things aren’t always what they seem. Clay is keeping his romance with Sam a secret - from his mother, Lilith (Lena Olin).

Lilith is a wealthy widow and a principal in the financial kingdom built by her late husband. Clay is the crown prince, so it’s natural that Lilith would worry about women wanting her son for his money. But Lilith has other reasons for being unhappy that Clay and Sam are together.

Sam is upset that Clay is keeping her in the shadows. But that takes a backseat to the fact that Clay has a bad heart and has been waiting months for a transplant. Everything comes to a head one night, and a donor heart finally arrives. But when Jack and his surgical team go to work on Clay, they don’t realize that the substitute anesthetist, Larry Lupin (Christopher McDonald), has messed up, and Clay is aware of everything that’s going on, though he’s paralyzed and unable to communicate.

“Awake” offers figures about the number of people who undergo surgery each year and the surprising number who experience “anesthetic awareness.” But that doesn’t prepare viewers for the suffocating, frightening nightmare Clay goes through.

Granted, Harold is using the phenomenon in service of a murder mystery. And some of the plot twists are more than a little absurd. But there’s still plenty of suspense, and it’s fun to watch the story unfold.

Christensen, never the most electrifying actor, is just right as the low-key Clay. Alba no doubt was chosen for her drop-dead-gorgeous looks, but that’s a vital aspect of her character, and she manages to emote when needed.

Olin is perfect as the mother who seems unwilling to cut the cord. Howard’s warm presence suits Jack admirably. McDonald, Fisher Stevens and Arliss Howard are solid support.

It isn’t Hitchcock, but “Awake” is clever enough to keep viewers from snoozing.

‘Awake’ will keep you up

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

You’re a hospital patient, you haven’t been given enough anesthesia, and the operation is about to begin.

I don’t know about you, but the mere thought certainly scares the daylights out of me.

The set-up should be all it takes to give you a major case of the willies about “Awake,” a modest little thriller with a built-in scare factor anyone can relate to.

Hayden Christensen, alias the youthful Anakin Skywalker in the “Star Wars” prequels, plays the patient in question — a young businessman in need of open-heart surgery. Before the procedure begins, he’s not given enough of the anesthetic to put him fully under, yet enough to effectively paralyze him.

He’s aware of everything that’s going on, but unable to communicate to others that he’s still awake. Worse still, it appears the doctors overseeing his operation are part of a conspiracy to ensure he doesn’t survive.

Just hearing the plot of “Awake” is enough to give me serious chills. Jessica Alba lends her ever-attractive presence as Christensen’s significant other, and Terrence Howard and Lena Olin also are on board, so the picture has the proper acting caliber.

In fact, the movie has all the right elements, so it would take a lot to mess up the result. Thankfully, writer-director Joby Harold doesn’t let that happen, and does so in a very tidy way that runs less than an hour-and-a-half. I’ve always found a bigger fear factor in films that delve into psychological terror, rather than those with actual monsters that extend tentacles or destroy Tokyo, so this certainly is up my alley of scares.

Like the recent parking-garage melodrama “P2,” “Awake” is one of those little holiday-season treats that sneaks in, aims straight and achieves what it intends.

Which, in this case, is to keep you awake long after it’s over.

(Rated R)

Awake Movie Review

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

If what frightens you best in real life makes for the scariest movies of all, then a medical thriller should certainly top that list. In other words, if surgery on any of your particular body parts isn’t enough to freak you out, then the bill for medical services rendered should do the trick.

The transplant terror thriller Awake covers all those bases with associated dread, and is not recommended as a viewing experience if you’re visiting your own doctor any time soon. Awake refers to an unusual phenomenon known as anesthetic awareness, claimed to be experienced by some patients during surgery, where their bodies are immobile but they see and feel everything.

The unfortunate patient in question in Awake is Clayton (Hayden Christensen), a Wall Street whiz kid living in the lap of luxury, though under the affectionate but domineering control of his billionaire socialite widow mom, Lilith (Lena Olin). That Lilith is better known in legend as a mythological storm demon and the bearer of disease and death, is likely no coincidence here.

Clayton appears to have a dream life, except for a bum heart that needs a replacement, and soon. At the same time, the ailing young plutocrat is very secretly engaged to Samantha (Jessica Alba), the family servant who is increasingly impatient playing the invisible ‘other woman’ to her boyfriend’s overly doting mother. The bossy matriarch also insists that Clayton allow an eminent surgeon and friend of the family to perform his heart transplant rather than Dr. Harper (Terrence Howard), a surgeon with a detailed malpractice rap sheet who befriends Clayton over at the hospital.

Besides that string of medical litigations, Dr. Harper has a weird bedside manner, urging Clayton during their fishing expedition on the banks of the polluted East River, to get married like right now to make the most of life, because he’s not going to live long, even with the transplant. It’s never clear if the doc is talking about an abbreviated life span due to consuming fish yanked out of those murky Manhattan waters, but in any case, he’s up to serving as best man in an overnight fast track ceremony, as well as his personal surgeon.

Awake is most creepy when taking medical procedures to extremes, as Clayton is treated to viewing his own chest being ripped open while the could-care-less surgical team seems to be telling jokes and partying around the operating table. Later, Clayton’s ghost wanders around the hospital and a nearby subway platform barefoot and in a hospital gown, mulling his own near death experience. Less convincing but still sufficiently yucky is a related yarn about medical treatment for profit brought to a new low, something we’ve all likely experienced.

Awake would make a swell double bill with Michael Moore’s Sicko or Tony Krantz’s recent intensive care malpractice chiller, Sublime, and their shared denunciation of patient abuse. This hospital horror fare also has a lot in common with another flick opening this week about patient paralysis, Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell And The Butterfly.

Suffice it to say, without giving too much away, the plot sickens in connection with a hospital coke machine and a coked up Santa. And that’s all I’m going to say upon penalty of being lynched by the movie company. Sex, Lies and Surgical Tape meets I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus.

The Weinstein Company
Rated R
2 1/2 stars

‘Awake’: The Rapid Pulse Of a Tell-Tale Heart

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Another reason to stay out of the hospital: You awake one day in the middle of your operation and find that they’ve cut open your tum-tum, can’t find the appendix and are playing strain-the-noodles with your intestines, giggling all the time.

Apparently, it could happen. “Awake,” a new medico-conspiracy thriller that opened yesterday without a critics’ screening, is based on the premise that a very small number of anesthetized patients awaken during their surgeries. Though paralyzed, they watch the docs cut out the goobers or ram in the new plastic or metal stuff, listen to the chitchat, watch the slow ticktock of the clock’s hands and otherwise suffer the pangs of hell. No, thank you very much, even if actress Jessica Alba is hanging around. I’ll take my intestines where they belong over a look at Alba any day of the week, no matter how beautiful she is. “Awake” takes this remote possibility — the awakening, not the idea that Alba would be in my hospital — and puts it in the center of a clever conspiracy by asking the question: Can you expect a quality investigation when the detective’s heart is in a jar next to the gurney? For it is indeed the operatee in a heart-transplant procedure who becomes the “detective,” this by way of a kind of ghostly invention: He “imagines” himself off the operating table, and roams, invisible though in hospital gown and barefoot, the world, passing through past and present. In this condition, he is able to assemble the plot behind the alarming news he acquires as his operating-room team banters between incisions and chest-cracking. (Note: Movie not for faint of heart.)

Hayden Christensen, best known as Anakin Skywalker in the two most recent “Star Wars” installments, plays an extremely wealthy New Yorker named Clayton Beresford Jr., with a dangerously defective heart. He’s been on the donor list for a new ticker for a year or so and, having character (i.e., being the hero of the movie), he doesn’t pull rank or go to the black market as his domineering mother (Lena Olin) would prefer. Also against her preferences, he wants the young doctor (Terrence Howard) who saved his life on the occasion of his first attack to perform the operation, not the arrogant, seasoned professional his mother endorses.

Writer-director Joby Harold sets all this up so neatly and swiftly that it belies the fact it’s his first time calling the shots. What I liked about the movie was the unassuming nature of its craftsmanship, the way it never goes all stylish on us and becomes one of those films about being a film, as opposed to being about telling a story.

Its pi¿ce de r¿sistance is the real-time (about 40-minutes’ worth) ordeal by knife as the surgical staff — Howard, Fisher Stevens, Georgina Chapman and Christopher McDonald as an incompetent anesthesiologist — open the thoracic cavity (the film seems to find interesting ways to combine surgical footage with actors) and cuts to the waiting room where Ma Olin and the woman the young guy just secretly married- that would be the aforementioned Alba, in a sweet-as-sugar role — wait tensely. Harold goes back and forth between the two, tracking Clay’s anxiety, and his horror at making the discovery that, first, he is awake and, second, a plot (against him) is afoot. ad_icon

Let me give away the movie’s greatest surprise: It’s not a horror picture. It’s not “Saw With Wicked Surgical Blades” and there’s no Roscoe the Demon Surgeon of Bellevue (it was shot in New York) hacking up nurses in their lingerie. It’s an actual, rare mystery thriller, with no true supernatural overtones.

Given the fact that the hero’s heart is in a jar, the young director solves the problem of keeping the movie fluid and interesting in clever ways. Oh, and the twists: some nice ones. Wouldn’t have guessed that . . . well, never mind. “Awake” is a pleasing if negligible diversion.

Awake (80 minutes at area theaters) is rated R for intense emotional situations, profanity, brief drug use and vivid film of surgical procedures.

Down but Not Really Out

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

In the loopy medical thriller “Awake,” Hayden Christensen plays Clayton Beresford Jr., a wealthy young man who suffers a condition called anesthesia awareness during a heart transplant. Conscious but immobile, he gives us a voice-over play-by-play of the proceedings, and if you are one of those who viewed his portrayal of Anakin Skywalker as the ne plus ultra of lifelessness, prepare to be proven wrong. Before this trauma, Clayton’s heart is already overburdened. Nursing an overbearing mother (Lena Olin), suppressed memories of his father’s death and a clandestine relationship with the sultry Samantha (Jessica Alba), he is relieved when a donor organ becomes available. The last-minute appearance of a substitute anesthesiologist, however, is not quite so encouraging.

Shot partly at Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan, “Awake” is filled with risible medical behavior (the sterility of the operating room is repeatedly compromised) and a horizontal Mr. Christensen screaming variations on “Oh no, I can feel that!” Made bearable solely by the impeccable Terrence Howard as Clay’s troubled surgeon, the movie is ultimately likely to alarm only those responsible for paying medical malpractice premiums.

The writer and director, Joby Harold, claims to have been inspired to write the film while suffering from a particularly painful kidney stone. Watching it may be for some a comparable experience.

“Awake” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has bathtub sex and operating-table trauma.

‘Awake’ may not rouse sleepy week

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

This is the first of a new weekly feature that will project the weekend box-office performance and analyze marketing campaigns for movies opening and returning in theaters.

With the only major release hitting theaters this week, the backers of the medical thriller “Awake” hope to catch the competition napping.
It’s been six months since a wide release had a weekend to itself, when that friendly beast “Shrek the Third” frightened off any challengers.

But rival studios aren’t lying awake at night over Weinstein Co.’s “Awake,” starring Hayden Christensen as a patient whose failed anesthetic leaves him alert but paralyzed during open heart surgery and Jessica Alba as his troubled wife.

The movie opens today at 2,002 theaters in the U.S. and Canada and at best will be a distant second for the weekend behind Disney’s “Enchanted,” currently in theaters, but is more likely to end up in third or even fourth place, industry executives and analysts say.

What really spooks Hollywood executives is the light business films historically have scared up on the weekend after Thanksgiving — often the low point of the fourth quarter.

“This is the worst weekend of the year for releasing movies, in my opinion,” said David Tuckerman, New Line Cinema’s president of domestic distribution. “Maybe everybody is exhausted from Thanksgiving or busy turning their attention to the Christmas season.”

Tuckerman ought to know. A year ago, his studio’s “The Nativity Story” opened to mixed reviews and failed to spark any box-office magic while two competing releases, “Turistas” and “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj,” fared even worse.

Two years ago, the science-fiction tale “Aeon Flux,” starring Charlize Theron, flopped. Even the Tom Cruise epic “The Last Samurai,” which opened to $24 million domestically during this weekend in 2003, was deemed a disappointment by the star’s standards.

“Awake’s” target demographic is female viewers under 25, the sweet spot for the horror-suspense genre in recent years. Weinstein’s advertising shows off its handsome star, who played Anakin Skywalker in the latest “Star Wars” movies, and the romantic relationship between the Christensen and Alba characters.

The trailers and TV ads briskly set up the protagonist’s horrifying predicament, the hook that is one of “Awake’s” chief selling points. They note that 21 million Americans undergo general anesthesia every year, adding eerily, “One in 700 remain awake.”

“Awake,” however, is more a cautionary tale on the risk of getting one’s medical information from movie marketers, said Christopher Bettin, a spokesman for the American Assn. of Nurse Anesthetists in Park Ridge, Ill.

Anesthetic awareness, as the condition is called, happens less frequently than the figure cited and is usually fleeting, Bettin said, “although that wouldn’t make for a very long movie.” He said the ads could prompt patients to become “unduly alarmed” about the danger.

Weinstein declined to comment, but the company — never known for its understated marketing — put out a news release a few weeks ago playing up the film’s fear factor.

“This film will do to surgery what ‘Jaws’ did to swimming in the ocean,” producer Joana Vicente proclaimed. It even included a medical disclaimer: ” ‘Awake’ may not be suitable for those about to undergo anesthesia for surgery.”

Leftovers usually top the charts on the post-Thanksgiving weekend, and that trend is likely to continue.

Although “Awake” is the only newcomer, multiplexes will be crammed with about a dozen major returning movies also vying for attention.

Disney’s “Enchanted,” one of five major films that opened the day before the holiday, will repeat as the No. 1 grossing title. With a modest second week drop-off, the musical fairy tale starring Amy Adams could take in $18 million in the U.S. and Canada, say insiders and analysts, for a projected total to date of about $72 million.

The R-rated “Awake,” being distributed domestically by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., could vie for the No. 2 spot with two holdovers: Sony Pictures’ African American comedy-drama “This Christmas,” last weekend’s surprise runner-up, and Paramount Pictures’ animated epic “Beowulf,” whose box office has been boosted by its expensive 3-D screenings.

The three movies are expected to rake in about $8 million each.

For the last spot in the top five, 20th Century Fox’s thriller “Hitman,” based on the video game, could nose out Warner Bros.’ “Fred Claus” and DreamWorks Animation SKG’s “Bee Movie” with about $6 million in ticket sales at the weekend box office.

The lack of new release competition should enable “Awake,” which was made for less than $10 million, to eke out more business than it would have otherwise generated in today’s crowded marketplace. Grosses for holdover titles typically fall by 50% a week.

“This gives us our best window of opportunity,” said Clark Woods, president of domestic distribution at MGM. “Traditionally the box-office trend for the weekend is low-grossing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do some business.”

Specialty distributors, with an eye on the upcoming Oscars, will test the waters this weekend with a few limited releases, notably director Julian Schnabel’s wrenching real-life drama “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and Tamara Jenkins’ dark comedy “The Savages,” starring Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Fox Searchlight opened “The Savages” on Wednesday at four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, in a bid for a little breathing room of its own, said Steve Gilula, chief operating officer for the News Corp. unit.

As expected, critics have been kind to both “The Savages,” the story of a brother and sister who come together to care for their ailing father, and Miramax’s “The Diving Bell,” about a French magazine editor whose life is altered when he suffers a stroke.

“Both films are getting attention, so it was strategically prudent to separate the two,” Gilula said.

Film triggers patients’ fears of rare medical phenomenon

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

The film doesn’t open until today, but for weeks patients have been peppering anesthesiologists with the same question: “Will I wake up during my surgery?”

The source of these worries is the psychological thriller “Awake”, which depicts a patient who regains consciousness during a heart transplant; the patient is in agony but is unable to say anything.

Anesthesiologists say publicity for the movie greatly exaggerates the frequency of a rare phenomenon, and they are preparing for a surge of anxious patients after this weekend.

Anesthesia awareness, they say, occurs when medications have not fully taken effect or begin to wear off too soon, allowing patients to recall specific events or even conversations in the operating room.

“When awareness does occur, it is usually reports of patients with vague recollections or acknowledgment of discussion,” said Dr. Donald Ganim, president of the Massachusetts Society of Anesthesiologists and chief anesthesiologist at Beverly Hospital.

Patients receiving emergency caesarean sections, trauma, or cardiac surgery are the most likely to experience awareness during operations.

“The risk of awareness is higher in those extreme cases because the anesthetic could have a negative effect on the blood pressure,” and so doctors have to give lower doses, said Dr. Michael Entrup, chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at New England Medical Center and Tufts Medical School. “This is still very rare and patients should not be concerned.”

As the movie’s trailers began this month, anesthesiologists saw rising concern among patients. “Many patients have mentioned the movie trailer and say that they have found it terrifying,” said Dr. Alex Hannenberg, assistant chair of anesthesiology at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

The movie’s director, Joby Harold, defends the film, saying in a telephone interview that people should know of the possibility. “This film is alerting people of a real-life phenomenon, worse-case scenario, and promoting awareness,” Harold said.

Entrup said anesthesia awareness is a complication already explained in presurgery consent forms, “and we will probably go over them more with patients.”

“Every patient is under stress before surgery and I hope this movie does not increase that even more,” Hannenberg said. “Patients should not make important medical decisions about undergoing surgery treatments on the basis of a fictional movie story,” he added.

‘Awake’: Actors wake up anesthesia nightmare

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe to go under the knife …

Producer Joana Vicente tells Variety that her movie Awake “will do to surgery what Jaws did to swimming in the ocean.”

A three-martini lunch will do that to a producer disingenuously trying to hype a film that, despite lots of time spent in the operating room, is surprisingly bloodless.

Still, writer Joby Harold, in his directorial debut, has stitched together a reasonably engaging thriller about a billionaire scion (played by Hayden Christensen) with a defective heart and a monstrously outlandish plot to cash in on his untimely demise.

The story opens with some statistics about surgery rates to draw attention to the relatively rare syndrome anaesthetic awareness, in which some hapless patients remain fully aware or “awake” – though paralyzed and unable to communicate – while a medical team busily wields scalpels, ribs-spreaders, etc. Yipes! Ouch!

But Harold wisely spares us too much of Christensen’s silent screaming, which gets boring all too quickly, and decides rather to send him off on an out-of-body experience, precipitated when he hears the supposedly dedicated lifesavers overseeing his heart transplant planning ways to spend a sizeable share of his estate.

While the first half-hour or so of Awake tends towards the saccharine, Harold does manage to pick up the pace nicely once the game is truly afoot, weaving together flashbacks with the here-and-now to present a conspiracy that is dastardly and diabolical.

In fact, the plot has more holes in it than a tea bag and the film should come with a warning label: don’t go see with anyone with even a modicum of medical knowledge, because they’ll surely spend the film huffing and rolling their eyes skyward.

But the performances are strong enough – particularly Lena Olin as the overprotective matriarch and Jessica Alba playing well above her usual swimsuit-model game – that by film’s end, if nothing else, you’ll find yourself fully AWAKE.

Awake Review

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Have you ever been blindsided by a film before? One that you thought was going to be awful but it turned out to be actually very good? I think we all have. It’s happened to me countless times before. Awake is one of those films. Mostly in part to the two main leads, I wasn’t expecting very much out of the film. I was wrong. Awake is a clever and entertaining film, and one of the best the fall has had to offer so far.

On the surface, Clay Beresford is living the dream. He’s a twenty-something billionaire living in New York. He’s got a cute girlfriend (Jessica Alba), and he’s the head of his father’s company. Not everything is as it seems though. He has a judgmental mother (Lena Olin) who disapproves of his girlfriend, and is heart is quickly giving out on him. As a matter of fact, he recently had a massive heart attack and is in need of heart transplant according to his doctor and friend Jack (Terrence Howard).

Now, I don’t want to give much more plot description because if I reveal what happens leading up to the operation and anything after that point, you might be able to guess where the film is going. Any slightest detail could ruin the film, and that’s the exact opposite of what I want to do (if this was bad, maybe). All you really need to know is that Clay goes into surgery and he begins to suffer from anesthetic awareness, which we learn affects 30,000 people who undergo aesthesis. That number seems a little too high to me, but what do I know?

As I said before, I wasn’t expecting very much from this. I mean when you see the names Hayden Christensen and Jessica Alba up on a billboard, are you going to go rush out and see that? These are the two most wooden actors working in Hollywood today. But you know what? Both of them give good performances here. As a matter of fact, all of the performances are very good, especially from Terrence Howard and Lena Olin. I can’t really go into why though.

Aside from the performances, the reason why I liked the film so much is how the plot unfolds itself. It’s just one thing after the other. I really admired the structure of the film and how the story was told. I also liked the out of body experiences that Clay has during the film. The last one is especially good because of the lightning techniques used. There are a couple of problems when it comes to logic (like how can a regular person enter an operating room without getting stopped by a doctor or a guard?), but for the most part they can be easily ignored. You’ll be too busy enjoying how the film plays out.

When a film is not screened for critics, nine times out of ten it will be a bad film. Awake is that one time where a good film manages to slip through. This is the first time this year that I have been pleasantly surprised by a film. Many times this year I have walked out of film disappointed after I expected to like it (I‘m talking about you Spider-Man 3). It’s good to see that it can work the other way as well.

Grade: A-

It’ll keep you awake

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Before you read any further, disregard any other reviews you may have read about “Awake.” While other reviews may have pegged the movie as boring and predictable, this psychological thriller was anything but.

“Awake” brings to the silver screen a nightmare come true for anyone who’s ever gone under the knife: being awake during surgery. According to the tagline of the film, the phenomenon known as anesthetic awareness is more common than we would like to think.

Clay Beresford (Hayden Christensen) is the unfortunate victim of the film, an uber-rich businessman who lives with his controlling mother (Lena Olin). Fearing his mother’s disapproval, Clay avoids telling her of his engagement to Sam (Jessica Alba), his mother’s assistant.

After suffering a heart attack at a young age, Clay is placed on a waiting list for a transplant. His friend and the doctor who saved his life, Jack Harper (Terrence Howard), reminds him that life is short and he needs to marry Sam before he runs out of time.

Finally a match is found and Clay is prepped for surgery. As the doctor puts the knife to his chest, Clay realizes that he’s way too aware of his surroundings: He’s fully conscious, yet completely paralyzed and thus incapable of making anyone aware of his condition.

Although the filming of the procedure itself was rather comical, with an understaffed surgical team, a laughable operating room and some unlikely circumstances, the film has many redeeming qualities that more than make up for the shortcomings.

“Awake” features some fantastic plot twists, surprising “Wait, what?” moments that may cause audience members to turn to their movie-going pals with gaping mouths and wide eyes.

The twists keep coming too, building on one another and keeping audiences engrossed in the film.

Other reviewers apparently have ESP, because they claim that these same plot twists were completely predictable.

Though Christensen’s acting at first is rather understated - think Anakin Skywalker on sleep medication - he makes up for the drowsiness during his heart surgery, convincing audience members that he is indeed feeling his heart being removed from his chest.

“Awake” does have some gore - it is a movie about open-heart surgery, after all - but the most disturbing aspect is imagining the pain that Christensen’s character must be feeling as the surgical team preps him for surgery and performs the procedure. His screams are incredibly convincing.

Clocking in at 78 minutes, the film is the perfect length. It allows enough time to thoroughly introduce the characters, build audiences up, release some tension, build to a climax and come to a satisfying resolution, all without leaving time for viewers to lose interest.

Best of all is that the movie fully explains itself; audiences won’t be left with any hanging questions.

“Awake” is thoroughly satisfying; a 78-minute thrill ride capable of hooking viewers from the onset and keeping them interested.

Awake (2007) review

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Awake” (MGM/Weinstein) is a softheaded, somewhat sordid thriller combining medical malpractice, romance and over-possessive mothers. Those facing the prospect of surgery in the near future should steer clear, which isn’t to say that what transpires is very plausible.

But no matter how far-fetched the means, the unnerving film manages to subvert expectations and has a surprisingly upbeat and just resolution. Besides, there’s no danger of falling asleep.

Writer-director Joby Harold builds his story on a rare phenomenon in which patients under general anesthesia are conscious and able to feel pain yet are unable to move or communicate. According to text displayed at the outset, “Anesthesia Awareness” afflicts a small fraction of the 21 million people put under each year. Boyish billionaire Clay Beresford (Hayden Christensen) is one of them.

Shrewd in business but emotionally repressed, Clay runs his family’s Manhattan financial firm and is torn between his abnormally close mother, Lilith (Lena Olin), and his fiancee, Sam (Jessica Alba). He also has a bad heart and is awaiting a transplant, to be performed by his friend, Dr. Jack Harper (Terrence Howard).

Adding to his stress, Clay fears he’ll never gain the sterling reputation of his late father. He’s so afraid of disappointing his mother that he avoids telling her he’s been engaged to her attractive personal secretary, Sam, for six months. After finally revealing their relationship to Lilith, the couple gets married on an impulse, the same night a donor heart with Clay’s rare blood type becomes available.

Disapproving of his choice in wives and doctors, Lilith implores him to let a leading surgeon she knows perform the operation. Clay remains loyal to Harper and goes into surgery with new wife and mother in the waiting room. Courtesy of a drunken anesthesiologist (Christopher McDonald), he is awake during the procedure. He focuses on his love for Sam in hopes of enduring the ghastly physical and psychological ordeal, one which many viewers will find excruciating.

What happens then can’t be revealed. Suffice it to say, there are significant plot turns, some of which may be anticipated. Director Harold is fortunate to be working with a cast that lends some much-needed tone to the enterprise. His script is excessively foul-mouthed, and yet if a situation ever excused bad language it would be Clay’s.

“Awake” won’t receive a seal of approval from the American Medical Association but can be recommended, with reservations, to adults who relish nail-biting thrillers and aren’t easily made queasy.

The film contains frequent rough language and profanity, a sequence in which one character experiences intense physical and psychological pain, images of open-heart surgery, some violence, a fleeting instance of drug use, a few sexual references and partial upper nudity. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardia

‘Awake’ a surreal medical drama

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

It’s all about trust and timing the anesthesia. More than once, l have sat in a dentist’s chair with a numb sensation spreading in my mouth and wondered if the drilling and filling might outlast that tiny lidocaine shot. “Awake” takes that premise into major heart surgery but also adds in a conspiracy plot, sympathetic characters and top-notch performances for a full-fledged movie.

The 20-something Clayton Beresford has a sharp, global-business mind but a flawed cardiac muscle. His heart is also weak for Samantha (the radiant Jessica Alba), his fiancée under wraps. Why hide their love? Well, he has a lot on his plate — giant corporate mergers, rich family politics, and oh yes, that major organ transplant the moment a suitable heart comes along.

Clayton’s mother, Lillith (Lena Olin), dotes on him with the steely eyed caution of a wealthy matriarch guarding the family fortune and her only son. It’s that mother and child bond that is at the root of Clay’s hesitance to reveal his engagement to mom’s personal assistant.

Yet another source of conflict is Clayton’s choice of surgeon for his transplant. Mom wants to install the cold expertise of Dr. Jonathan Neyer (Arliss Howard). However, Clay insists on Dr. Jack Harper (Terrence Howard), to whom he became close Harper saved him after his first heart attack.

While many films would skip character development and plug right into the gimmick of being alert but helpless as your own surgery unfolds, “Awake” allows us to know and care about everyone in Clayton’s life as he faces death.

As a character, Clay has that John F. Kennedy Jr./Bruce Wayne type of guilt over possibly not being able to live up to everyone’s expectations of them when compared to their departed fathers. But it’s that very sense of self-doubt that makes Clayton so sympathetic in a real world sort of way.

But despite the rich set up, the movie does turn the corner into the supernatural realm when Clayton goes under the scalpel and discovers that he is fully aware of the operating room discussions. Is the surgical team conspiring to kill him with a scheme to get his vast family fortune? Or is just a trippy anesthesia-induced dream?

However, it’s not just his ears that are working, as the first incision makes clear. Even as his body remains still, Clayton is screaming in pain in his own twilight zone. Eventually, his spirit slips out of his body and walks around investigating his own “murder’ in progress and who is really in on it.

He is not a powerful ghost but just a hapless observer, desperately struggling to piece the mystery together. This may sound like a dead end for a film, but watching him witness the hidden agendas revealed with his life on the line turns out to be more intoxicating than I had expected.

There are some neatly placed clues and plausible blind alleys that kept me intrigued all the way through to the end. The good news is that writer and director Joby Harold did it without taking me as an emotional hostage or letting me down with a clueless ending.

There is a brilliant and unexpected plot twist that truly changes dynamics in a surprising but believable way that is so rare in films that it was a joy when it came about in “Awake.”

This movie is a bit like a crafty blend of TV’s “Law & Order” and “The X Files” that should push drama buttons in your head and heart when you see it. “Awake” is not flawless, but it is sufficiently clever enough to make the overall ride a worthwhile movie ticket.

Studio Briefing

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Although ordinary moviegoers stayed away from theaters in droves over the weekend, the nation’s film critics returned to them to catch Awake, which was not previously screened for them. The movie concerns a man who undergoes an operation, but remains awake — although paralyzed — throughout. The critics apparently identified with the poor man. Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News warned that audiences “must silently endure agonizing pain and banal operating room dialogue while telling themselves that it will soon be over. Not soon enough in the case of Awake, possibly the worst movie of 2007.” Most other reviews were of a similar nature. But Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, no stranger, unhappily, to the operating room, pronounced it “a surprisingly effective thriller. I went to a regular theater to see it Friday afternoon, knowing nothing about it except that the buzz was lethal, and sat there completely absorbed.” Indeed, Ebert referred several times in his review to the poor advance reviews of the film that appeared on and elsewhere. He nevertheless concluded defensively: “But I felt what I felt, and there you have it.”

Awake provides a good story, strong cinematic twist

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Thousands of people go under the knife every day. Whether it’s a simple wisdom tooth removal or something as complex and dangerous as a heart transplant, millions of people have had some sort of surgical procedure performed on them at one time or another. With the aid of general anesthesia, the pain associated with these procedures is completely bypassed - in most cases. For an unlucky few, a condition known as anesthetic awareness takes place, a condition in which the paralysis agent of the anesthesia has worked, but the comatose agent has not. This terrifying concept is the subject of first-time director Joby Harold’s Awake.

Clayton Beresford (Hayden Christensen) is on top of the world. He and his mother (Lena Olin) run a multi-million dollar corporation, and he is set to marry his sweetheart, Sam (Jessica Alba). But Clayton has a very severe heart condition that will preclude his living much longer. In order to prolong his life for as long as possible, Clayton must receive a heart transplant. The surgery is to be performed by his close friend Jack (Terrence Howard). But as Clayton is slipping into the grips of anesthesia, he realizes something terrifying: he’s not fully anesthetized. He is paralyzed, but he can still hear and feel everything - and what he hears and feels in the operating room is disturbing.

While most research on the subject reveals that the film is grossly inaccurate in its depiction of anesthetic awareness and the number of people it affects, the film is nonetheless a well-made psycho-thriller. The first half hour of the movie is somewhat mired by seemingly no direction and more than a few clichés - both cinematically and in regard to dialogue - but after that the story really picks up. The film doesn’t seem too preoccupied with anything more than what audiences have already seen in the film’s trailers. While some mild ambiguity at first obscures narrative orientation, the film is not particularly The film blindsides the audience with one of the best movie twists seen in the past decade or so. Once the initial 180 takes place, it’s a narrative free-for-all as the film takes on an insidious quality. And some delightful little cinematic devices weave their way into the story and make the film visually satisfying. The end result is a movie that could have benefited from protagonists chosen based on their acting ability and not sex appeal, but is nonetheless an engaging psycho-thriller.

While both Christensen and Alba need to take a few more acting classes, Awake still manages to emerge as a surprising achievement in directing, cinematograph and story - quite an accomplishment for Joby Harold’s first film. Just when you think you know what’s going on, something else seems to shake things up and keeps you guessing as to just how this will all end. Some viewers might be deterred by the film’s profanity and graphic depiction of surgical procedures, but the labyrinthine path the film takes will keep you on the edge of your seat. The film’s best secrets will inevitably make it onto the street soon, so if you’d like to be surprised, see it sooner rather than later. But for what it’s worth, Awake is hopefully the beginning of a successful career for Harold.

Reviewed: Awake

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

What the hell is Awake? I had never even heard of this film until about a month ago. It just sort of came out of nowhere. One thing is certain. This thriller had the luxury of being the only film to open during the movie light Nov. 30th weekend. Would being the solo release help this little movie’s box office tally? As it turns out, not really. It was buried by the plethora of films that opened the weekend before, but it still managed six million dollars. Not bad for a movie with very little advertising. Is Awake any good? Well, it isn’t great, but it is efficient and with a minuscule seventy minute running time, at least you won’t feel like you wasted too much time. In Awake, Hayden Christensen plays Clay Beresford, a well liked business man with a heart condition.Ultimately, Clay opts to have open heart surgery by the hands of his good friend Dr. Jack Harper (Terrence Howard) instead of taking advice from his overbearing mother (Lena Olin) and allowing her reputable surgeon pal to perform the procedure. Backing up Clay in his decision is his loving fiancee Sam (played by Jessica Alba). Clay does go in for surgery, but as he lay there waiting for his anesthesia to take effect, a horrific reveal comes to the surface; he can feel the entire procedure. He looks unconscious, but he’s actually completely aware of what’s happening to him. This terrifying condition is known as “anesthetic awareness.”

Of course, Awake has no interest in relying on this one plot gimmick alone. There are several devices at play here and while many of them are silly beyond belief, the film is never boring. At the very least it kept me, if you’ll pardon the pun, awake. And I’d be lying if I said this flick didn’t fool me a couple of times. I guess there’s something to be said about a film that comes with no expectations. At its heart, Awake is an overstuffed thriller that doesn’t know when to quit. It has elements of Coma, Vanilla Sky, and Malice, but it isn’t as classy as those pictures, nor does it really try to be.

Director Joby Harold is actually quite competent. He comes up with a few creative ways to get inside Christensen’s head during the surgery scenes. The performances are adequate. Jessica Alba is actually quite good in the early goings of the picture. She’s sexy and confident, and I was quite surprised by her effectiveness. By the final act, I was kind of chuckling at her. I just couldn’t buy into her whole persona. Christensen is decent, although his voice over work leaves a bit to be desired. Awake is a straight up thriller with twists galore, but it’s also a story about a nice guy who really should be more careful when it comes to issues of trust. As dumb as this movie got, I still found myself somewhat entertained by it.

Awake’ a surprise right up to the twist

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

THE FIRST HALF — It isn’t Hitchcock, it isn’t an Oscar contender, it isn’t even the best film of the last three weeks. But “Awake” also isn’t the trash a lot of critics are calling it.

First-time writer-director Joby Harold still has a few things to learn about sweating the details of an operating room and getting inside the heart and mind of a torn man, but he knows how to create an intriguing plot and a mother-son relationship that moves the mystery along.

The son is Clay Beresford (Hayden Christensen), the wealthy heir to his international businessman father’s fortune who feels he forever falls short of dad’s standing. The mother is Lilith Beresford (Lena Olin, a fine actor who raises this film), who at first seems to mirror the Angela Lansbury character in “The Manchurian Candidate.”

In the middle of this Oedipus complex comes Sam (Jessica Alba), Lilith’s personal assistant and Clay’s secret love. He finally lets the secret out to his mother’s dismay, and Clay and Sam are wed in a late night ceremony.

But Clay still has a broken heart, literally, and faces a heart transplant under the care of his trusted doctor and friend, Dr. Jack Harper (Terrence Howard). That’s when things get sticky for Clay and queasy for the audience.

The Terrence Howard character narrates the beginning and end of the story, and he should have been a more compelling figure. The surgical proceedings also seem far too spare for a heart transplant, with unrealistic details such as a whisky-sipping doctor on the team.

But this is a capable and creative thriller otherwise, with a twist in the plot and in the stomach. Three-and-a-half hearts.

THE BETTER HALF: It’s a widely-assumed fact in movie reviewer circles that when filmmakers don’t show their movies to critics beforehand, it’s usually a dog.

Well, the new thriller “Awake” didn’t preview for critics, and it may have shot itself in the foot by doing so. The film, which only earned $6 million in its opening weekend, is actually quite good, especially for its genre.

I wouldn’t advise going to see “Awake” if you or someone close to you is facing surgery anytime soon, but otherwise most moviegoers will find it suspenseful, surprising and entertaining.

Be warned, though, it is very graphic and disturbing, with open heart surgery being performed on someone who is not completely under during anesthesia.

I can’t give too much of the plot without ruining some of the twists and turns, which even I didn’t expect, and frankly the previews and ads give away too much as it is.

The film revolves around a very wealthy young businessman, Clay Beresford (Hayden Christensen), who has a protective and controlling mother (Lena Olin). Clay is in love with and secretly engaged to Sam (Jessica Alba), but he’s afraid to tell his mom.

Further complicating the situation is the fact that Clay needs a heart transplant and has a rare blood type. Urged by his doctor (Terrence Howard) to stop wasting time, Clay ties the knot with Sam and lo and behold a heart becomes available the very same night.

Soon Clay is in a nightmare, not fully knocked out during his transplant and learning some things he believed and people he trusted are not who and what they seemed.

You could get nitpicky with some of the details in “Awake” afterwards, but watching it you are caught up in an engaging thriller a cut above most. Three-and-a-half hearts.

Stay ‘Awake’ for unusual thriller

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

“Awake” is a different kind of thriller - one in which the victim can see what’s about to happen to him but can do nothing about it.

The victim is Clay (Hayden Christensen), a very wealthy heir to the family business who has a bad heart and needs a transplant. But when he goes in for the operation, the anesthetic doesn’t knock him out. Rather, he develops “anesthetic awareness” - he remains fully conscious during surgery, but is paralyzed.

For the picture to be a thriller, something nefarious has to be going on during the surgery. In order to not give away the entire movie - and this one is so cleverly tied together that revealing just one element will unravel the whole thing - about the only thing that can be further said is that a handful of other characters play critical roles in the story.First there’s Sam, Clay’s new wife. Played by Jessica Alba, who actually does well in a role that demands she be more than a pretty face and body, Sam is about as conflicted as movie characters come. The first of her conflicts - and one which gives little away - she is the personal assistant to Clay’s overbearing mother (Lena Olin), who is none too thrilled to find out that her upper crust Manhattan boy is attracted to a girl from Brooklyn.

Mom is also determined to force Clay to change doctors for his operation. She, of course, is friends with the leading heart transplant surgeon in the world (Arliss Howard). But Clay is loyal to Jack (Terrence Howard), a rather shaky practitioner who works at a public hospital who saved his life during a previous episode with his ticker.

Because Clay is paralyzed, much of “Awake” takes place in flashbacks and in his mind, which races around, sometimes believably, other times not so much so. There’s also plenty of drama that takes place in the hospital’s operating and waiting rooms.

“Awake” was written and directed by Joby Harold, who is making the jump to feature films from videos. He fares far better than most first timers, keeping things taut and fast moving, even when the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo gets to be a bit much.

He also gets surprisingly good performances from Christensen, who stank up “Star Wars: Episodes II and III,” and from the aforementioned Alba. Olin is always solid, and Terrence Howard, who is among the best actors working today, again makes an impression in a small role.

But the success or failure of “Awake” depends on whether you’re able to suspend disbelief and buy the story as Clay’s mind races in an effort at self-preservation. I was able to buy into the movie enough to enjoy it while it was going on. But Harold’s house of cards starts to fall down on closer examination.

Perhaps the biggest oddity for “Awake” is that it has an entire holiday weekend to itself, with no other major releases hitting screens anywhere in the country. That alone will guarantee decent box office for a movie that, on a more crowded Friday, might have rapidly disappeared.

“Awake” is rated R for language, an intense, disturbing situation and brief drug use).

Source: Northwestcountyjournal.

Lots of Heart

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Awake, the latest film to sneak into theaters courtesy of the Weinstein brothers, is actually a halfway decent thriller. It’s ridiculous, for sure, and at less than 80 minutes, it hardly qualifies as feature-length. But it’s also much better than the studio releasing it would have you believe.

Filmed a couple of years ago, it’s been sitting on a shelf collecting dust. Its distributors probably had more than a few arguments about releasing it straight to DVD, but it got its theatrical release in a December week when no other major releases were offered. Sending a distinct signal that the film was junk, the movie was not screened for critics.

Bad move. That automatically raises the ire of some critics, who basically slather their nasty pens with pine tar and swing away. There is no way that this film is as bad as the critical consensus is saying (last I checked, Awake had 12 percent at It’s no movie miracle, but it engages from start to finish, offers some great twists and boasts a handful of decent performances.

Hayden Christensen, aka Darth Vader, stars as Clay, a rich boy with a bad heart. He’s on a donor list for a transplant while living with his dominating mother, Lilith (Lena Olin) and dating Sam (Jessica Alba). He’s chosen Dr. Jack Harper (Terrence Howard) as his transplant surgeon, much to the dismay of mother, who wants Dr. Jonathan Neyer (Arliss Howard; no relation to Terrence) to perform the procedure. He’s “had his hands in presidents,” but he talks in slimy tones, which puts Clay off. In the end, Dr. Harper gets the scalpel.

Clay goes in for his operation and gets put under with anesthesia-yet he fails to fall completely asleep. He’s aware of the conversations in the room, and even feels excruciating pain as they slice open his chest and spread his ribs apart. In a nifty plot device, Clay essentially gets up in his own brain and runs around in his memories, wearing hospital garments and noticing things he didn’t see before.

I won’t reveal any of the big plot twists, though some of them are rather obvious. Obvious or not, writer-director Joby Harold delivers them competently.

Jack Mathews, a movie critic for the New York Daily News, says this is “possibly the worst movie of 2007,” and he is most certainly high. In a year when crap like Kickin’ in Old Skool and August Rush has been smeared across the screen, making a statement like this in regards to Awake seems a bit farfetched. I can understand not liking it, but the film is structurally sound, somewhat innovative and well-acted.

Alba is good as the new wife who carries her beau’s meds and desperately wants the approval of her mother-in-law. Olin gets a great role as the mysterious mom with dark secrets and perhaps an unhealthy relationship with her son. Howard is also good as the doctor with a few malpractice suits being filed against him. Awake really does have a decent ensemble cast that does good work with a ridiculous premise. It feels like a quality episode of The Twilight Zone.

I must warn you: The advertising campaigns reveal way too many plot twists. Had I not seen the preview for Awake, I probably would’ve enjoyed it even more. As it stands, it’s a fairly good medical thriller, containing some gnarly open-heart surgery gore to balance out the joy of looking at Alba. (Damn, she’s pretty!) It has some plot holes, and it takes some major creative license when it comes to spirituality, the dream state and mortality. I don’t have a problem with that.

Harold, making his writing and directing debut, deserves credit for a decent first effort. Instead, he’s getting the humiliation of having his movie dumped into theaters with the “no critic screening” stigma stamped on it. Welcome to the big leagues, Joby!

Source: Tucsonweekly

Reel Time: ‘Awake’ keeps you guessing ’til the end

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

“Awake” is a psychological thriller that follows the life of Clayton, played by Hayden Christensen. Clayton, who is in need of a heart transplant, trusts his good friend and doctor, Jack Harper, played by Terrance Howard, to complete his surgery.

Clayton, or Clay to whom he is referred to in most of the movie, is secretly dating Sam, played by Jessica Alba. He hides dating Sam for over a year from his mother. Sam has been pressuring Clay to tell his mother about her but he can’t just seem to bring himself to do it.

Clay has been waiting for over a year for a heart donor and on the night in which Clay and Sam secretly get married is the same night in which Clay gets a heart donor.

Throughout the movie the viewer is lead to believe many things about the relationship between Clay and his mother. They grew closer over the years after his dad died and his mom was very much involved in his life. She never knew of Clay and Sam until the night of Clay’s surgery.

One important aspect of the movie is that Clay and his mother are rich. Clay is a successful stock investor and is worth millions of dollars. This makes for a very interesting movie when your life is in the hands of a doctor who is a great friend of yours until a sudden twist spoils his plan of a smooth heart transplant.

While going into this movie I was a little disturbed by the first scene- Clay in the bathtub appearing to drown himself. Obviously, I was mistaken though- otherwise there wouldn’t be a movie. Sam is by his side while he’s in the tub and you see this relationship is strong while he pulls her into the tub and of course engage in some R-rated action.

If this doesn’t draw you into the movie, then the twists and turns will. While Clay is being prepped for surgery his anesthesia isn’t strong enough and is still awake. While by real world standards, Clay would have gone into shock due to his alertness, the anticipation of seeing what was going to happen next was overwhelming.

Viewers were constantly at the edge of their seats waiting to see what was going to happen. These little tidbits can’t be given away purely for the fact that they were so good.

There are many times in the movie in which I second guessed myself but I didn’t see everything that was coming. Clay has an out of body experience in which he witnesses situations from a different perspective and can see past events that have happened. This allows the audience to get a completely different view of the events that happened which changes a lot of things in the movie and makes for some interesting twists.

This movie is a great suspense thriller and the storyline is really well planned out. You will fall in love with certain characters, but by the end of the movie your opinion may have changed. In the end, the message is simple: Be careful who you trust.

4 out of 5 stars.