For everyone anxiously awaiting the next installment of the Cross superhero film franchise, Cross: Rise of the Villains, it has arrived. Now that I have addressed the parents of family members with supporting roles in the film, I can address everyone else. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about this film beyond the paychecks it provided an assortment of washed up minor celebrities. And there is nothing impressive about the film beyond its ability to attract name actors, all of which sleepwalk through their performances.
The Swan Princess may be celebrating its 25th anniversary, but watching the Blu-ray release that coincided with this occasion was my first opportunity to see the film. I probably should have watched it for the first time at a younger age, because The Swan Princess is a film that is far easier to love with nostalgia attached. For me, I had no childhood connection and was simply able to see how dated both the narrative and the animation style truly is.
Despite being late additions to the franchise, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham have easily been the best part of the last few Fast and Furious films, so it must have seemed like a no-brainer to give them their own spin-off film. Unfortunately, even if the other characters have never been my favorite, it is hard to deny that something is missing from this endeavor. Worse yet, what the film does contain feels as though it was formulated by a committee of writers determined to mine and imitate the successful moments from the franchise, rather than attempting something innovative or original.
releases are merely about the status quo of entertainment standards these days.
As long as it makes for a good trailer, nothing else really matters.
With a title like Legend of the Demon Cat, I was uncertain what genre the narrative belonged to until I had already viewed a majority of the film. From the word ‘Legend’ one might assume martial arts or action of some sort, while the phrase ‘Demon Cat’ certainly brings to mind the horror genre. In reality, the film belongs to neither. There are sequences of action and a few gruesome deaths, but this film owes more to period costume dramas than either action or horror. The most difficult thing about the film is managing expectations, both brought from the title and expectations from Chinese epics. Well, that and the often unconvincing CGI cat.
It is difficult to tell if the re-release of the original film adaptations of the classic TV series is a way to promote the upcoming film reboot of Charlie’s Angels, or simply a way to capitalize on the anticipation of that film to sell a few past properties again. Either way, I am not sure that it was the best idea. For those looking forward to the new film, I suppose the release of the old ones is a double-edged-sword. On one hand, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle is so incredibly bad that it removes any interest in the franchise. On the other hand, this film is so incredibly bad that anything coming next will be an improvement.
At only 85-minutes, My Son doesn’t waste much time with exposition or sub-plots. Instead, it dives right into a storyline involving the frantic actions of a father after his son’s disappearance. This makes it a lean and effective thriller, even if it simultaneously limits the room for creative revision of a familiar storyline or intelligent explanations for character actions. It combines the mystery-suspense elements from Tell No One with the emotional impact of the separated father/son storyline of Come What May. In the end, My Son definitely feels like a Christian Carion film, though not his best.
Even with the popularity of zombie movies waning in culture, a Zombieland sequel has potential to reverse the recent failures in this particular undead subgenre of horror. What Zombieland: Double Tap promises is also it’s greatest asset, and something no new season of “The Walking Dead” has ever been able to guarantee; all of the original cast has returned. It has been ten years since the first movie, so the reunion of Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, and Jesse Eisenberg is an impressive feat. Their reunion is met with a screenplay (Dave Callaham, Rhett Reese, and Paul Wernick) that is clever one moment and a bit too obvious in the next, but it is an easy view at just under 100-minutes. The inconsistency in the material prevents Zombieland: Double Tap from reaching the level of the original, though this is without the added entertainment value of the 4DX experience.
There are a lot of things that don’t make sense in The Lingering, and that includes the basic premise of the film. What sounds like a generic haunted house narrative is complicated by the fact that ghosts and zombies are censored from art by the Chinese government. This explains the careful language describing the supernatural element as a “strange and dangerous presence” rather than a ghost or haunting, but this film still might now have been made if it weren’t for a bit of ambiguity and a shovelful of propaganda mixed in with the melodrama that inevitably replaces the horror.
One location, bad CGI, and a storyline that feels made for a pre-teen audience; these are the defining elements of Andy Lau’s Kung Fu Monster. It is disappointing in a way that a lot of Chinese cinema has become in recent years, and a way that should be familiar to American audiences. Try as they have to make this film entertaining to as broad of an audience as possible, the end result is too childish for adults and may even be too monotonous for the attention span of the modern child. It is hard to believe this filmmaker once made Infernal Affairs.
Yesterday has a great premise, joining the ranks of a special division of romantic comedies that are blended with a sci-fi premise. South Koreans have perfected this delicate balance with films like The Beauty Inside and How Long Will I Love You, but there are plenty of American ones as well. There are those that deal with time travel (Hot Tub Time Machine) and time loops (Groundhog’s Day), ones that take place in the future (Her), alternate worlds unlike ours (The Lobster) and alternate worlds similar to our own (The Invention of Lying, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), but all of these films made full use of their premise. Yesterday has a great concept that it seems to abandon for the romantic elements, rather than having them work in tandem. Even worse, the message of the movie becomes contradictory in its need to provide a satisfying and moral resolution.
Hollywood had long been obsessed with remaking popular films from the past, and the horror genre has often been the favorite testing ground for these updated adaptations. More often than not, the duplicate is just that, a pale imitation of the original, rarely capable of capturing the original magic, much less creating some of its own. With news of a Child’s Play remake, I expected this trend to continue, particularly with news of Don Mancini disassociated himself with the film. But considering the downward spiral of Mancini’s franchise (which continues simultaneously with home-entertainment releases), this turned out to be a good thing.
The way that superhero/comic book movies are received by audiences is beginning to feel a bit like high school. If a film is thought to be popular, there are those who make up their mind about it before they have even taken the time to get to figure out if their expectations will be met. And then there are those films that the masses decide are a waste even before they have been released. We have seen this fan-backlash before, and it seemed that every comic-book fan I knew would roll their eyes at the mention of Dark Phoenix, long before it was in theaters. I find this mob mentality to be ironically tantamount to the popularity cliques of high school that likely made life miserable for most of the same comic book fans without ever taking the time to get to know them.
The first two volumes of the Buster Keaton collection, following the release of a fantastic documentary to remind us all why he was such an icon of the silent comedy era, included some of the slapstick star’s most recognizable titles. The first one included The General, while the second featured Sherlock Jr. as headliner. While neither of the titles in Volume Three carry the same historical significance, it does include one of Keaton’s personal favorites and another with an unforgettable premise. Even if these aren’t the most famous of Keaton’s films, they are every bit as memorable as the ones in Volumes 1 and 2.
A few great action sequences alone do not make for a good movie. But when a film has good action, it becomes easier to dismiss minor flaws within the narrative. The Brink isn’t a film full of flaws so much as one that feels generic and forgettable save one or two carefully constructed action set pieces that impress. The action is good, but never so impressive that it is able to make the movie memorable. It doesn’t help that the simple premise is presented in a convoluted manner and the leading man seems to employ slight variations on a single emotion for the full run-time.
There was online outrage with the decision to turn Ghostbusters into a female franchise. Whether it was coincidence or design, the gender reversal of old films shifted to properties with far less of a devoted fanbase. This meant less controversy over the repurposing of the material for female protagonists, but it also meant far less interest. There may have been no pushback for a gender reversal Overboard or What Women Want, but that’s probably because few people had little interest in the original narrative to begin with. I’m afraid The Hustle falls under this category, with most younger audiences unlikely to have even heard of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and fewer the one that came before. The biggest problem with the film isn’t a derivative story, however, but the way that it loses all of its bite in an effort to make sure a feminist message lasts, even when it contradicts the themes and structure of the original film.
In the new world of
Hollywood blockbusters, which is
essentially all the industry seems interested in pursuing these days, two types
of audiences must be considered: the average moviegoers, and the fan. When
dealing with the average moviegoer, they are often reading film reviewers and
critics because they are ignorant or undecided. They turn to the expert opinion
(which is admittedly still subjective) in order to make a decision, whether it
is deciding to see a film or coming to a decision about how they feel about the
viewing experience/end product. Fans, on the other hand, mostly already have
their mind made up; they are reading the professionals to either reinforce
these preexisting beliefs, or to disagree with them. Often they only
recognizing expertise if it is confirming their own opinion, otherwise
insisting that all bad reviews must come from a bitter failed filmmaker rather
than admitting any validity to an opinion that besmirches something they love.
Poms reminded me of a student film. Not every student film; as a film professor, I have seen many, and there seem to be two different types. There are the ones that are taking the opportunity to experiment and test boundaries, which usually results in the prototypical art student film, seeming to point to aspirations in avant-garde and independent filmmaking. Poms falls under the other category, with the students aspiring to imitate the
formulas, despite budgetary limitations. While it is less noticeable than it
might be in a more action-oriented genre, there is much that appears amateur
within Poms, despite the best efforts
and good intentions by the cast and crew.
Shadow is a film that fulfills generic expectations while simultaneously, inexplicably, seemingly defies them to create something wholly unique, or at the very least revolutionary in its ability to revise a genre. We saw this before with the widespread success of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; a subtitled film which saw unprecedented success with Western audiences. Fittingly, Crouching Tiger was surpassed by Zhang Yimou’s Hero as the most profitable foreign film to be released in
(much of this success owed
to Lee’s film paving the way, as well as Quentin Tarantino’s name attached as a
seal of quality). Yimou’s career has rarely since met the same cultural
response, though he has had varied success with the critics. Shadow seems to
mark a return for both. America