In recent years there has been an increase in the number of films taking place in the mansions of extremely wealthy families, and they are often the villains of the narrative. It wasn’t long ago that the wealthy family of You’re Next suffered a home invasion plot, and we recently saw these same themes with the successful murder-mystery Knives Out. And earlier this year was the horror-comedy, Ready or Not. While Knives Out takes the social commentary a step further by making the outsider protagonist an immigrant and lower class employee of the family, Ready or Not features a beautiful blonde bride who has just married into the family. If it weren’t for a supernatural deal with the devil, one can imagine that Ready or Not’s protagonist might have been welcomed into the villainous circle of wealth, which comes with the implication that it was built upon blood of those outside the family.
It is a positive thing to see a Hollywood film with an Asian lead, especially when it doesn’t have “Asian” in the title, and somehow even more so when it is in a role of sex appeal. It is also extremely positive that a film can be made to take place predominately in a strip club, but somehow manage to avoid objectification of its stripper characters. It is also extremely relevant to tell this story of hustling during a time when much of the population feels disenfranchised, and likely to enjoy the vicarious thrills of the narrative. And somehow even with all of those positives, Hustlers still felt like a movie about a group of women who decided that they were entitled to money from men simply for their unfortunate possession of a penis.
These days I usually have to avoid trailers and other promotional materials for new film releases, as the marketing departments are more interested in selling tickets than preserving the integrity of the storytelling. As a result, I often find plot points and narrative twists spoiled long before I have even entered the theater. However, despite having watched the trailer for Where’d You Go, Bernadette, I still had little idea what to expect from the film. Was it a comedy? Was it a drama? Was it a thriller? It ends up being all of these things, and also none of them.
The idea of combining action with a demon possession narrative is not exactly original, although this is the first time I have seen an MMA-fighting character punch the demon-possessed in the face as a way of combating the evil. At the same time, although the possession narrative may have added action elements, this never removes the dramatic core of the story in the South Korean horror film, The Divine Fury, which fittingly deals with issues of faith lost and regained. William Friedkin has long said that he considers The Exorcist to be more of a film about faith than horror, and The Divine Fury follows in that tradition. It just adds some enjoyable fight choreography along the way.
Typically the films I am most excited about experiencing in 4DX are the ones that promise the widest variety of effects. Sure, it is nice to have the seats move, but that is pretty a much a constant through most 4DX experiences. The additional effects like snow, rain, or fog machine only occur at key moments, making their use that much more impactful. With that being said, I was sold on seeing Ford v Ferrari in 4DX after seeing the trailer in the format, and it was able to convince me with the use of seat motion alone. Some of the other effects are used sparingly, but the primary reason for seeing this film in the immersive format of 4DX is for the experience of feeling every gear shift, acceleration, and curve in the road, through the motion of the seats.
Good Boys knows how to push the boundaries just enough to guarantee an R-rating and the possibility to offend some of the more conservative audience members, but at its core this is a carefully calculated studio film that makes sure to toe the line without ever coming close to crossing it. In other words, Good Boys likes to play at being shocking and offensive in the same way its protagonists are playing at being grown ups. It is laughable when compared to any truly edgy films. Even studio films of the past have been willing to take more risks, while the main source of edginess in Good Boys is the involvement of young actors.
Less of a documentary and more of a soundscape film in the tradition of the Quatsi trilogy, and the other films by Godfrey Reggio and Ron Fricke, Aquarela is a distinct cinematic experience. Sequences are linked thematically by spectacular high definition photography, careful editing, and a mood-inducing score. But while the Quatsi trilogy often considered the impact of human development, Aquarela remains solely interested in the terrifying power and simultaneous beauty of nature.
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.