With 'Star Trek Into Darkness,' Abrams' follow up to the 2009 'Star Trek' reboot (or continuation of the series, if you are Spock Prime) he has solidified his position as a master of propulsive, visceral filmmaking. Dude knows where to put the camera, when the music should swell, when the characters should zing each another or when they should project pathos to the cheap seats. The 'Star Wars' films are mostly gut and little brains and, unfortunately, that is what we have here. The movie still works as an exemplary thrill ride – I laughed, I cried, I cheered – but woe be to anyone who gets caught in a conversation afterwards trying to explain the overly complicated and, at times, silly plot. If you expect something a little sharper out of 'Star Trek' you may come away with some mixed emotions.
My disdain of the 'Scary Movie' franchise came early. I distinctly recall seeing the 'Scary Movie 2' poster, which featured Kathleen Robertson wearing a t-shirt that says "I See Dead People." This isn't a joke. It's just a reference. It isn't clever, it isn't witty - it's just saying a thing from another movie. It's not funny.
Almost 10 years later, 'Scary Movie 5' still suffers from this debilitating problem. There is absolutely nothing funny about going 'Inception'-style into Christian Grey's S&M room and having Mike Tyson show up. Yet, if you are somehow able to ignore the lowest common denominator pop culture appearances (I hesitate to even call them jokes) there are a great number of truly amusing gags and examples of rapid fire dialogue zings. Put bluntly: when the film is freed from the shackles of its referencing mandate, there's some good, dopey humor in here. Much to my surprise, I laughed out loud a good half-dozen times.
You can buy replicas of Richard Attenborough's amber-tipped cane or you can listen to ten minute loops of Jeff Goldblum's oddball laugh but there's something you haven't been able to do in twenty years: hear the roar of a T. rex fighting two Velociraptors from thunderous, surround sound of big cinema speakers. Something you've never been able to do is see it in 3D or in IMAX. Until now. And you don't want to miss it.
I stand before you, humbled, and tasked with explaining, in comprehensible terms, just what the heck 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' is all about. Attaining comprehensibility, however, is a chore the filmmakers didn't wrestle with, doubling-down on pure adrenaline and big movie star charisma. It's a risky move and sometimes it works. Sadly, this is not one of those cases.
While there are chuckles to be had (I mean, that Cobra Commander helmet is just too incredible to dismiss) there isn't enough whiz-bang in this film to fully deflect the utter lack of a story or absence of intriguing characters. It is, surprisingly, the lesser of the two 'G.I. Joe' films, with Stephen Sommers' 2009 'The Rise of Cobra' featuring much more team spirit, pep and fun.
Cartesian Dualism lights up the screen in 'The Host' as Saoirse Ronan's alien-possessed soul loudly thinks, "don't you smile at him! Uch! You are not goin' there!" Then she leans to smooch #TeamIan. And who said there was nothing deep happening in mainstream cinema?
Let's not kid ourselves about this. Part of consuming Hollywood entertainment is that, on some level, we like these people. It's strange, but I probably like Tina Fey and Paul Rudd more than actual live humans I've met and have to deal with on a regular basis. Yes, I recognize that I only know them through the characters they play (and that includes their "as themselves" appearances on Letterman's couch or the Golden Globes stage) but their finely sculpted personas of vibrant, clever, likable people automatically gives them lift in any project they choose. When they star together in 'Admission' - a romantic comedy that is just a little bit smarter than the other leading brands - and one where they find a degree of happiness together, well, this puts the movie far off the likability charts.
To watch 'The Place Beyond the Pines' is to observe characters making discoveries. Discoveries about their past, their environment, their heritage. When the revelations come they aren't met with gasps or dropped objects, but with an understanding, an acceptance that, yes, this is, indeed, the way things are.
While you'd swear with every bone in your body that this vast, rich, symbol-heavy tale was surely based on a thick doorstopper of a novel, the surprising fact remains that it is, actually, an original screenplay. It seems, though, a natural progression after the character portraiture of Derek Cianfrance's last film 'Blue Valentine.' This new one has the essence of 'Blue Valentine' but blown open far and wide.
A few titters wafted through the screening of 'Dead Man Down' as the WWE Studios logo came up on the screen. “Prejudice!” I thought. “Who is to say that Vince McMahon's new(ish) venture can't produce a quality piece of filmed entertainment?” Turns out all skepticism was justified.
'Dead Man Down,' a tiresome, predictable slog through every “in too deep” crime story cliché you've ever seen has as much subtlety as the average Face or Heel shouting into the mic during a Monday Night Raw. This is a dull movie that only perks up when it veers into the laughable, as when Noomi Rapace's character intentionally spikes Colin Farrell's character's two-years-in-the-making vengeance plot because she “had a moment,” but then bounces back into plan five minutes later anyway. Yes, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Nobody asked for this movie. But someone was going to make it. I'm just glad it was Matthew Johnson, a young (but not as young as he looks!) Canadian director/co-writer/co-star who has the chutzpah to take on a really difficult subject and the chops to deliver without coming off as crass or exploitative. There are plenty who will refuse to give 'The Dirties' the time of day, and that's somewhat understandable, but if you believe that, in order to correct a problem it must first be discussed, 'The Dirties' is, I feel, a noble mix of entertainment and social importance.
'Warm Bodies' is a supernatural teen love story with a brain. (Excuse me. . .BRAINS!) It is hardly a memorable film, and certainly a step back for director Jonathan Levine after the masterful '50/50,' but it's cute, and if you are a high schooler looking for a date flick or slightly older and chaperoning your niece you could do a hell of a lot worse.
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