Is it sacrilegious to remake a Sam Raimi film? The question isn’t as ridiculous as it might first sound. Imagine if some upstart filmmaker tried his hand at Evil Dead: II, Rebooted. Such audacity would surely be met with righteous indignation the world over, and a handful of us might even issue a fatwa, forcing said blasphemer into a Rushdie-style hiatus from public life. But that’s obviously an extreme example. Putting This is Spinal Tap to one side, Evil Dead II might be the greatest artistic creation of the 20th Century. And of course, Raimi’s follow-up Armies of Darkness was pure dreck – nevermind what all you loser fanboys have to say about it – so we know that Raimi’s oeuvre doesn’t quite deserve a presumption of divine perfection. Continue reading
Perhaps I’m just getting old. Or maybe I’m just much more of a Victorian moralist than I thought. Either way, here I am writing a second review in a week in which I praise a film, but temper said praise with prudish caveats. Continue reading
Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larrson died in 2004, but his Millenium trilogy was released posthumously to much fanfare and critical acclaim. The first novel in the series, Män som hatar kvinnor (“Men Who Hate Women”), was turned into a Swedish film in 2009, and an English language remake, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, hit U.S. theatres a couple weeks ago. I myself knew nothing about the film going in except that my wife loved the book and the previews looked interesting (though I grew a little sick of them over time). Note that I have not read any of Larrson’s trilogy, nor have I watched the original Swedish film. Continue reading
Watching an Adam Sandler movie is a lot like death. They say that right before you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes. In similar fashion, as you sit through the opening credits of a Sandler flick, his whole cinematic oeuvre runs through your head. And the inevitable questions arise: How many movies has this guy made that I’ve actually seen? How many hits has Sandler achieved among his sprawling sea of misses? Where will this one rank in the hierarchy of suckitude?
Let’s break it down: Continue reading
Tower Heist tells the story of Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) — the General Manager of an elite Manhattan apartment building — who, along with a motley crew of other building staff (including Eddie Murphy and Casey Affleck), plots to rob Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) — the Bernie Madoff-esque denizen of the resident penthouse — as payback for Shaw’s squandering of the building employees’ pension fund.
I attended a recent screening of Tower Heist with one burning question on my mind: Does Eddie Murphy still possess the comedic genius and onscreen charisma necessary to carry a major Hollywood film, and will this particular flick let him do it? After a series of seemingly odd career choices in recent years – ranging from a string of forgettable family fair, to the unbearable Norbit (possibly the worst film I’ve ever seen in a theatre, and I’ve seen Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, people) – the question was not an unreasonable one. The answer turned out to be yes, and no. Continue reading
Like most people (don’t deny it), I maintain a list of personal qualities and experiences that I periodically consult to remind me how awesome I am, especially when I’m feeling insecure or depressed. I’ve gone skydiving in Cuba! I’ve sung “Message in a Bottle” onstage with Stewart, Andy and Sting!! My personal knowledge of pointless Star Wars trivia is unsurpassed!!! But when the opportunity to catch an advance screening of “The Smurfs in 3D” fell into my lap, I knew my sacred list would have to be expanded. How could any other human being ever top this? What other social hierarchies are there left for me to climb? It’s like I’m atop the summit of Everest now, staring down at the rest of you losers stuck at basecamp. Seriously, if you see me on the street, don’t even bother saying hello, cause I won’t acknowledge you. I’ve become THAT important.
Receiving an A-list invite is life-changing, but it apparently isn’t for everyone. How else to explain the responses to my generous Facebook invitation — extended far and wide — for some other lucky soul to accompany me on my cinematic journey? Some sample responses:
“I’d rather be hit in the eye with a racquetball.”
“No way am I going to that steaming pile of poop.”
“I’d totally go, but I have to clean the hamster cage with my tongue.”
“I would go with you, except I’m not six or retarded, so I’m not the target audience.”
See what I mean? People are intimidated by opportunities like this. They just feel unworthy. Oh well. It’s their loss.
Anyway, in case you were wondering, this movie BLOWS.
Don’t get me wrong … this remake of George A. Romero’s 1973 flick of the same name (which I haven’t seen)Â is actually pretty good.Â By which I mean, I enjoyed myself well enough while watching it.Â No unforgiveably crappy dialogue, no egregious plot flaws, no interminable stretches of boredom, punctuated by zombie attacks.Â And best of all, there is plenty of suspense, a good helping of crazed zombie attacks, and lots of genuine scares.Â I actually put my hands to my eyes a couple times, which is embarrassing to admit, but usually a sign that the film is working as intended.Â And there are some pretty memorable gore scenes — the attack at the carwash is decent, the pitchfork attackÂ in the hospitalÂ is quite well-done, andÂ IÂ felt like I hadn’t seen these scenes 1,000 times before.Â The film is gory at times, but it isn’t going to set any records, and I appreciated both of these facts.
That said, myÂ problem with the film isÂ thatÂ it seems entirely derivative of other zombieÂ movies.Â This was 28 Days Later in a lot of ways,Â with a hefty dose ofÂ Outbreak for good measure.Â It wasn’t horribly dark like Evil Dead, nor was it rip-roaringly funny likeÂ Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland or Evil Dead II, but it does have its comedic moments.Â With few exceptions, you won’t see anything new, and you’ll find yourself saying “This is like X, but not quite as memorable.”Â Also, the zombies themselves aren’t that interesting.Â But that’s OK.Â The film still mostly works, as it does what it needs to do competently and effectively.
If you needÂ aÂ zombie fix this weekend, you won’t go wrong if you catch this flick.Â But whenÂ your friendsÂ ask you nextÂ month what you thought of the movie, you won’t remember,Â and you’ll have to tell them that.Â You’ll still be thinking about 28 Days Later, or Zombieland.
First there was Independence Day: Roland Emmerich’s cliche-ridden remake of Star Wars, War of the Worlds, and V: The Miniseries all rolled into one. Not a good film, by any stretch of the imagination, but at least it had Will Smith’s charm and acting chops to give it a modicum of watchability. Then there was The Day After Tomorrow, a true cinematic trainwreck, so silly it may have done more harm to the cause of global warming activism than 10 Michael Crichton novels, and deserving the Lifetime Oscar of Cheesiness for its unbearably corny final sequence in which the multi-racial citizens of Los Angeles are covered in volcanic ash that obscures their skin color, and the audience is actually supposed to be moved by the alleged symbolism of racial reconciliation and tolerance. Barf. Continue reading