A giant, prehistoric, man-eating shark and a perpetually unshaven, furrowed-brow Jason Statham: A premise-actor combo that practically writes itself. Except it doesn’t, unfortunately, or rather didn’t. Screenwriters were, in fact, needed.
Despite spending the better part of two decades in development, Steve Alten’s inexplicably best-selling dino-shark novel, “Meg,” probably needed another twenty years getting worked over and over by waves of screenwriting teams before it was ready for a big-screen adaptation. No such luck, though. Directed by Jon Turteltaub (Last Vegas, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, National Treasure, Cool Runnings) from a screenplay credited to Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, and Erich Hoeber, The Meg, somehow manages the unlikely feat of taking itself too seriously and not seriously enough simultaneously, leaving a tonally messy, short-on-humor, long-on-passable-CGI disappointment in its wake.
Not all (super) heroes wear spandex, capes, or cowls. Some (super) heroes don’t even wear pants or even underwear, preferring to go au natural from the waist down and a too-short, tight-fitting sweater up top.
Their powers don’t involve flight, super-strength, or invisibility, just the seemingly endless appetite for honey and waxing philosophical just when their human counterparts need them the most (i.e., during a mid-life personal and professional crisis).
That might sound like a curious mash-up of A.A. Milne’s beloved, self-aware, ambulatory teddy bear and Steven Spielberg’s much-maligned Peter-Pan-as-an-adult misfire, Hook, but Christopher Robin, directed by Marc Forster (World War Z, Finding Neverland, Monster’s Ball) from a screenplay credited to Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy, and Allison Schroeder, easily one-ups Hook, delivering a poignant, moving paean to the carefree joys of childhood, the positives and negatives of nostalgia, the importance of family over work, and the value of people over profits (no, the irony isn’t lost on this writer, given mega-studio Disney’s involvement).
There are spoilers…
There’s “derivative” with a small “d” and then there’s “derivative” with a capital “D.”
The Darkest Minds, the latest – and late by a half-decade – big-screen adaptation of a dystopian YA novel, falls into the second category. Look hard, look long, and you won’t find a single character, plot element, or theme you haven’t seen before. Most of it shamelessly cribbed by screenwriter Chad Hodge, adapting the first book in Alexandra Bracken’s series, and director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, making her live-action debut after directing Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3, from five or six decades of X-Men stories (minus spandex, capes, and cowls), including the feature-film series credited with kick-starting the dormant superhero genre (shout out too, of course, to Blade).
Even a young, spirited cast, led by Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games), can’t lift The Darkest Minds from a story so lacking in originality, imagination, or invention that will leave the targeted teen demo bored, indifferent, or near comatose.
It took more than two decades and a big-screen adaptation/semi-sequel/standalone feature for Nicolas Cage, the world’s biggest Superman fan (he named his firstborn Kal-El), he finally got the chance to slip into the Big Blue Boy Scout’s tights, albeit in cartoon form. Cage’s Superman only plays a minor, tangential role in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, but it’s the clearest example of co-directors Aaron Horvath and Peter Rida Michail’s mega-meta-take on a superhero genre (DC Edition) in need of the occasional takedown or skewering. Nothing’s sacred to Horvath and Michail, not Superman, not Batman, not Wonder Woman (DC’s Holy Trinity), and definitely not the (Pre) Teen Titans who lend their name to Teen Titans Go! To the Movies and provide moviegoers, young and old alike, with an almost infinite supply of verbal jokes, physical gags, and everything in between (including periodic, self-aware musical numbers). (more…)
Hyperbole isn’t hyperbole if it’s true and calling Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth entry in the seemingly never-ending spy-action films starring the ageless Tom Cruise, one of the best, if not the best, action film of the last decade isn’t hyperbole (because it’s true). Comparing Mission: Impossible – Fallout to The Dark Knight, rightly considered one of the best action films of the new millennium, isn’t out of bounds either. It’s not inaccurate to call Mission: Impossible – Fallout the equivalent of The Dark Knight in the Mission: Impossible series. It just took six films and two decades to accomplish what Christopher Nolan did in two films spread across three years. That’s not a knock on Mission: Impossible, Tom Cruise, the fittest 56-year-old in human history, or his manic, otherwise questionable willingness to risk life and limb to deliver CGI-free (mostly) physical stunts without equal in modern moviemaking, but simply a recognition that the Mission: Impossible series, for all of their commercial and critical success, have leaned too hard on Cruise’s charisma and risk-taking personality.
At 63, two-time Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington doesn’t need a franchise, superhero-related or otherwise, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to participate in an ongoing series, if mostly for box-office viability (just ask Tom Cruise and an A-list career sustained in large part due to the continuing success of the Mission: Impossible series). Not surprisingly, the Washington we meet in The Equalizer 2 is older, slower, even heavier, but that doesn’t stop his character, Robert McCall, an ex-CIA black ops operative, from easily dispatching men several decades younger without breaking as much as a sweat or suffering superficial paper cuts. Believable? Maybe, maybe not, but with Washington contributing the focus, commitment, and dedication typical of an Oscar-worthy or Oscar-caliber effort, believability almost doesn’t matter. What does matter, though, is The Equalizer 2 suffers from a been-there, seen-it-all-before quality that ultimately delivers minimal, marginal entertainment value (one or two or three scenes excepted).
Hulu hit a home run when in June, 2017 they premiered The Handmaid’s Tale as a Hulu Original. A classic sci-fi dystopian novel, the story’s transition to tv show sizzled across the internet. Once it aired, people were even more abuzz. The show became a drama darling, praised by casual and critical viewers alike.
This summer, The Handmaid’s Tale came back for another round. And boy was it something. But is the second season able to live up to the praises of the first?
Yes and no. (more…)
After sitting through Dwayne “No Longer The Rock” Johnson’s third film in less than a year, Skyscraper, you won’t believe a man can fly – Christopher Reeve as Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent got there first forty years ago and he was wearing spandex and a cape – but you’ll believe Johnson’s one-legged character, Will Sawyer, can leap tall buildings (not leap over, however) to save his family from a burning mega-skyscraper and the rando, vaguely European terrorists who started the fire to steal an ultra-high value MacGuffin. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before from one of the hardest working performers in Hollywood (three films in seven months, with another half-dozen on the way over the next two or three years), but for Johnson’s super-fans, it’ll be more than enough to overlook Skyscraper’s paper-thin, second-rate plot – a mash-up of Die Hard, The Towering Inferno and every action-film cliché in between – forgettable, throwaway villains, a plot and setting deliberately geared toward Asian-Pacific audiences, and mediocre action scenes lathered in CGI spectacle.
Five years ago, a C- or even D-level superhero carrying his own standalone franchise seemed like a risky proposition, but where Marvel – and more specifically the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) – goes, moviegoers have followed (10 years, 20 movies, and counting), with little or no signs of boredom. It’s helped that the MCU has Marvel’s 60-year (give or take a few years) history to pick and choose from, but it’s also helped that Marvel’s leadership, specifically uber-producer Kevin Feige, have pushed the boundaries of what the superhero genre can offer mainstream audiences, while giving an increasingly diverse group of filmmakers creative opportunities unusual for corporate-owned, billion-dollar franchises. For Edgar Wright and his long-in-the-making Ant-Man, that didn’t happen. He left the production months before shooting began over “creative differences,” but Marvel being Marvel, they pushed on with Peyton Reed taking over for Wright. Wright’s fans might have been disappointed, but the Reed-directed Ant-Man still managed to deliver quality superhero thrills. Spoiler alert: Ant-Man and the Wasp (the first MCU film to headline a female character) does Ant-Man better in just about every way (e.g., story, character, and visuals). (more…)
“You only live as long as the last person who remembers you,” Akecheta, played by Fargo alum Zahn McClarnon, tells Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) at the midpoint of episode four. Sounds like wise words and that advice received some clarification in this episode: “Kiksuya,” directed by Uta Briesewitz.
The title of this week’s episode translates from the Lakota language as “remember.” The episode is almost exclusively the story of the Lakota tribe in Westworld and specifically Akecheta.
Here is a recap and as usual SPOILERS abound!!!