Sunday, February 20, 2011

“Lifetime plays fair in Amanda Knox movie - MySanAntonio” plus 1 more

“Lifetime plays fair in Amanda Knox movie - MySanAntonio” plus 1 more

Lifetime plays fair in Amanda Knox movie - MySanAntonio


My name is Jeanne, and I'm a true-crime addict.

At bedtime, I fall asleep to grisly murder cases on either Investigative Discovery — my new guilty pleasure — or that other crime destination, truTV.

My husband constantly shakes his head over how I can possibly find peaceful slumber this way. He's got a point, but — what can I say? — it works.

I bring this up because, before the controversy erupted this month over Lifetime's Amanda Knox movie, I'd seen several documentaries on the real case and was very familiar with the conviction in an Italian court of American exchange student Knox in the 2007 murder of her college roommate. In short, I went into "Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy" prepared to question how true this dramatization, starring Hayden Panettiere ("Heroes"), was to the real story. I came away fairly satisfied.

Granted, the timing of the film, which premieres at 8 p.m. Monday on Lifetime, is questionable; after all, Knox is in the midst of appealing her conviction and 26-year prison sentence.

Also, complaints about graphic scenes voiced by families of both Knox and the victim, Meredith Kercher, are justified to an extent. The movie does present chilling depictions of how the rape and brutal knife slaying may have happened. There's also a steamy sex scene between Knox and Raffaele Sollecito ( Paolo Romio), the boyfriend who also was convicted of participating in the crime.

To the movie's credit, however, it, like the real case, raises lots of questions about the guilt or innocence of Knox and Sollecito, based on the facts. Should the DNA evidence used to convict them have been judged inadmissible because of possible contamination? The movie doesn't shy away from this issue, which also is part of Knox's and Sollecito's current appeal. (The forensic evidence that convicted drifter Rudy Guede was stronger, and his guilt was upheld in his last appeal.)

The movie's depiction of the character assassination of Knox both in the tabloids — "Foxy Knoxy" and the like — and in court does make us question whether justice was truly done. On balance, however, we see prosecutor Giuliani Mignini ( Vincent Riotta) and another police investigator as dedicated figures seemingly interested in getting at the truth.

The movie also can be lauded for the justice it does to victim Kercher, thanks in part to an appealing performance by Amanda Fernando Stevens. She's shown not only as serious and studious, but also fun and charming. An important scene occurs in a bar where she whips up a rocking mojito as Amanda looks on with a bit of envy.

As for Panettiere's portrayal, I'd describe it as convincing; she effectively vacillates between the horrific angst Knox must have felt and the weirdly cheery attitude she projected during the trial. The actress indicated in a recent media session that she opted to play Knox without forming an opinion on guilt or innocence.

"It's one of those really riveting stories where you just don't know," she said, adding that she spent every day for five weeks talking about it and reading about it and looking at new evidence, trying to form some sort of opinion. "It's like she's innocent; she's guilty; she's innocent; she's guilty; she's innocent."

So, how did she play her?

"My job was to play a girl who, regardless of what happened, was innocent in who she was," Panettiere said. "She's not a malicious girl. She didn't have any intention to do this. Whatever it was that happened that night, four people's lives were ruined. But it was my job to stay pretty true to form in who she seemed to be as a person."

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Movie review: ‘I am Number Four' goes beyond by-the-numbers teen action - Daily Oklahoman


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"I Am Number Four" might not achieve greatness on any level, but it moves fast and pulls the viewer into its teen-alien mythology with all the requisite parts in order: magic, romantic entanglement and the dogged pursuit by seemingly all-powerful villains. It plays like the male counterpoint to "Twilight," downplaying the brooding, longing and jealous tantrums and pumping up the action, and for the most part, it works.

More Info


"I Am Number Four"

PG-131:443 stars

Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Callan McAuliffe.

(Intense sequences of violence and action, and for brief language)


Alex Pettyfer plays Number Four, a teenager from Lorien, a peaceful planet that was invaded by the noxious Mogadorians, who killed most of the population and rendered the planet nearly uninhabitable. Eight Lorien kids were spirited away and sent to Earth, each under the care of a "Cepan" or guardian, and these survivors are imbued with a magic spell: all are assigned numbers, and if the Mogadorians come after them, they can only be killed in numerical order. As "I Am Number Four" begins, poor Number Three has bitten the dust and a group of Mogadorians, towering baddies with bad teeth and gill-like slits around their noses, are zeroing in on Number Four.

Number Four's Cepan is Henri (Timothy Olyphant), who poses as the boy's father and keeps them on the run, spiriting him away from their Florida home once his otherworldly characteristics literally come to light in the form of glowing hands and extraordinary strength. Henri tries to stay one step ahead of human discovery, taking Number Four to Paradise, Ohio, where he assigns him the most common male name in the English language: John Smith.

Paradise does not live up to its name, but it has its perks. On his first day of school, John immediately draws the ire of star quarterback Mark (Jake Abel), but he also finds allies, including Sam (Callan McAuliffe), an outcast fascinated with the possibility of alien visitors, and Sarah (Dianna Agron of "Glee"), who used to date Mark before she wised up and discovered candid photography as a means of expression. As his powers are starting to become more prominent and less easy to control, the Mogadorians (led by Kevin Durand of "Lost") soon become wise to his whereabouts and unleash their giant lizard-dogs on John and his friends.

Pettyfer's limited on-screen emotional range keeps "I Am Number Four" from achieving anything truly celestial — in most cases, brow furrowing is roughly the extent of his facial response. Agron is far better, giving Sarah a sly intelligence, but the true star of "I Am Number Four" arrives in the third act: Number Six (Teresa Palmer), a caustic-witted stunner whose Lorien powers ("legacies") make Number Four's abilities look paltry. The Australian Palmer was less impressive in last year's "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," but in "I Am Number Four," she steals the show.

Director D.J. Caruso is operating in the same late-adolescent emotional territory he explored in his 2007 "Rear Window" homage, "Disturbia," eschewing the high-speed, Michael Bay-style stupidity of his last film, "Eagle Eye," in favor of coherent, engaging storytelling. Authors James Frey and Jobie Hughes designed "I Am Number Four" as the first in a series of six books, and since the second installment has yet to hit bookshelves, there are no real signposts as to where these characters are going. But "I Am Number Four" indicates that aliens can hold their own against vampires when it comes to supernatural teen angst.

George Lang

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