Women On Film – “Knowing” – Susan Granger reviews

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Apocalyptic sci-fi thrillers are supposed to be thought-provoking and supernaturally suspenseful but this is just paranormally dopey.

In 1958, as part of the dedication ceremony for a new elementary school in Massachusetts, a group of students is asked to draw pictures of what they envision for the future. Their artwork will be sealed in a time capsule and stored for a half-century. But one creepy little girl, Lucinda Embry (Lara Robinson), scribbles rows of numbers which she says are being relayed into her mind.

In 2008, a new generation of students examines the time capsule’s contents. Caleb Koestler (Chandler Canterbury) shows the girl’s cryptic numbers to his widower M.I.T. astrophysicst dad, John (Nicolas Cage), who, fueled by whiskey, freaks out. The encoded message predicts the dates, death tolls and coordinates of every major cataclysm of the past 50 years with astonishing accuracy, plus there are three additional catastrophes waiting to happen, perhaps global destruction. Unable to get anyone in authority to take him seriously, John maniacally enlists the help of prophetic Lucinda Embry’s troubled daughter Diana (Rose Byrne of “Damages”) and granddaughter Abby (Lara Robinson, again) in an attempt to prevent the calamities. Meanwhile, four ominous, unearthly men with shiny blond hair seem to be observing everything.

Stuffed with too little structure and too many cloying clichés by screenwriters Ryne Douglas Pearson, Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, it’s additionally hampered by Alex Proyas’ (“Dark City,” “The Crow”) overwrought, if atmospheric direction. While the two major disaster sequences, featuring a subway and an airliner, are well photographed by Simon Duggan with admirable CG effects, their emotional effect is minimal. And the allegorical, “X-Files”-like conclusion ineptly attempts to fuse a religious parable based on Christianity’s Book of Revelations and the Rapture with “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Knowing” is a weird, far-fetched 4. Knowing the future is one thing, changing it is another. Or, as someone next to me, muttered, “It’s a duh-saster.”

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).