It takes a lot of nerve to try and re-make Sam Raimi's "The Evil Dead". Made in 1979-1980, it was Raimi's feature length debut and was overflowing with creativity and passion, in spite of it's low budget. It attained a "cult status", becoming banned in several countries for it's brutality (but in reality, much of the horror came from the film-maker's technique, rather than cheap, exploitative shock). But Raimi is no longer a fresh-faced kid making exuberant movies just to satisfy some inner passion, he's an established hollywood producer, and making movies is a big time, money-making endeavor. Along with fellow producer Bruce Campbell (star of the original "Evil Dead" series), and a screenplay co-written by the director, Fede Alvarez and Diablo Cody (the ex-stripper best known for writing the oscar-winning screenplay for "Juno"), Raimi gives us a re-make that is tailor-made for today's horror movie box office. As released, it's one of the purest examples of torture porn I've seen in awhile, and I've seen Hostel, the Rob Zombie Halloween re-make, Chainsaw Massacre 3D, The Devil's Rejects, House of 1000 Corpses (Rob Zombie's films excel in this particular field), Cabin Fever (which this especially reminded me of), etc etc, the list goes on and on.
As the movie opens, five good-looking twenty-somethings go off to stay in some secluded cabin wayyy up in the woods somewhere. "Why?", you ask? It's not to party, but to help one of their friends recover from a drug addiction. While they sit around, comforting her, the dog uncovers a blood-stained trap door under the rug, that leads down into a pit filled with animal carcasses and an evil book. One of the particularly bright kids opens up the book, bleeds on it, and then recites the ancient resurrection passage that is clearly marked "do not read". Of course you know what happens after that. What you don't know is just how indifferent it all seems. As limbs are hacked off and eyeballs stabbed with needles, the characters seem less involved with what's going on up on the screen than the audience is expected to be. Look, I'm not making a value judgement: if you get off on seeing people sadistically murdered, or even if you're terrified by it, fine, but can't filmmakers just come up with new ideas instead of retreading the same waters over and over and over again? I didn't enjoy this re-make, and if it's not going to be better than the original, why bother with it at all?
Director Neill Blomkamp's last film, "District 9" was a lot of fun, it was different, intelligent and exciting. "Elysium" is populist trash that's neither fun nor intelligent. It provides the viewer with no enjoyment at any level. The people of Mexico, er, I mean Earth, are trying to get into California, oops I mean Elysium, in order to take advantage of their excellent health care system (that part needs no addendum). Of course the wealthy californians don't want the dirty eartheans coming aboard their clean space ship and taking advandage of their miracle space machines because... well, because they're dicks, of course, as all rich people are. Matt Damon is living in some dirty village, working at the robot plant, wearing a house arrest bracelet as he is on parole for being a car thief. His is the section of the robot plant where they bathe the robot bodies in radiation. One day, a crate gets stuck in the door of the radiation booth, and his boss makes him go in there to move it "or else". As he does, he gets caught in the booth and receives a lethal dose of radiation that gives him only 5 days to live. His only chance of survival is getting to Elysium and taking advantage of their excellent health care system. From here the plot just starts getting more and more convoluted, with Damon being wired into some sort of super-powered exoskeleton that makes him as strong as a robot and escaping evil bounty hunters with all the data of Elysium programmed into his brain.
I recognize which group of murderers and thieves I'm supposed to root for here, but I'll be damned if I can muster much enthusiasm to root for them. Even the preferred method of disposing of characters (blowing them up) fails to generate much excitement in a film that is tedious to sit through. Even Sharlto Copley, doing his best poor man's Daniel Day Lewis imitation, can't give the movie much personality. Elysim represents the lower section of science fiction film, and has the low brow appeal to match.
A Tyler Perry-produced version of "Meet The Parents"? Sure, why not? Wade (Craig Robinson of "The Office" and "Hot Tub Time Machine") is heading up to the Hamptons to meet his girlfriend's family and to propose marriage. The girlfriend's dad is Judge Virgil Peeples (David Alan Grier), a control freak who feels that Wade is a big loser. Wade must somehow prove to the dad that he's not a loser and is indeed fit for his daughter's hand in marriage, but with the rest of the Peeples family throwing monkey wrenches into the works, it's going to be difficult.
No, I wasn't being flippant when I said this was Tyler Perry's "Meet The Parents". Much like the interaction between Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller, it's the relationship between David Alan Grier and Craig Robinson that's the focus. The other characters may have a moment or two, but for the most part remain in the background. Of course, what Peeples has over Meet the Parents is that David Alan Grier is actually funny compared to Robert DeNiro. Like Bob Hope or even Chevy Chase, Grier plays his part simultaneously straight and winking at the camera. Grier is so adept at deadpan that some might mistake his performance as overly dramatic and unnecessarily heavy. I can assure you this is not the case. Apart from that particular performance, Peeples is your typical dumb summer comedy. Being dumb isn't necessarily bad for a movie like this, as long as it provides laughs or at the least entertainment. I laughed at times, and for the most part was entertained, and so this film was a success in that aspect.
The first "post-Avengers" film from Marvel Studios (another Thor movie is on the way later this year, as well as another Hugh Jackman "Wolverine" picture) features Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) dealing with the events of New York City, in which the Avengers repelled an alien invasion. Stark was so traumatized by the events that even the mere mention of the words "New York" sends him into a panic attack. He finds comfort in designing new iron man suits (of which there are many), but girlfriend Pepper Potts (Paltrow) can only be ignored for so long. Suddenly, there is a new threat to the world in the form of Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a terrorist of "Bane"-like proportions. Mandarin seems to control an army of super-powered soldiers who can generate some sort of intense thermal heat within their bodies (their powers include super-strength, speed and regeneration). It's quite an intense challenge, to say the least.
If there's one thing these Iron Man films have in common, it's that Tony Stark has been more interesting outside of the armor than in it, and the build up to the big, computer-effects driven fight scenes is more entertaining the the fight scenes themselves. This, perhaps more than anything, exemplifies "Iron Man 3", where the climactic battle is a little underwhelming when compared to the journey to that point. Well, there's another thing these Iron Man films have in common (so it's two things), and that's humor. This might be the funniest and fun-est of the three films, and there are several "wtf" moments where it's clear this film doesn't take itself very seriously (as opposed to something like, I don't know... "The Dark Knight Rises"). And really, I have to think Mandarin is a little jab at Bane, and the Dark Knight Rises in general. Look, you liked Iron Man and Iron Man 2, you will probably like Iron Man 3. There aren't any major deviations from the others. It's a good, fun action movie.
In 1962, the film version of the popular musical "West Side Story" won not one, not two, but ten academy awards. The American Film Institute placed it second on it's list of the greatest film Musicals of all Time, right after "Singin' In the Rain" (and above The Wizard of Oz). Obviously a film of this caliber doesn't need me or my praise, but I will share my opinion regardless. The premise of the film (and I assume of the stage version) is simple: what if Romeo and Juliet took place in modern (1961) New York, and instead of rival families separating the two lovers, it was rival gangs? The Jets vs. the Sharks, Americans vs. Puerto Ricans, white vs. hispanic, the barriers separating the two factions are distinct and seemingly uncrossable. So Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) find themselves falling in love at first sight when they meet at a dance, oblivious to the world around them. I'm sure the film version has technical advantages over the stage version, and the "first meeting" scene is a perfect example of this. It's a great piece of direction and artistry, undeniable artistry. Whatever your feelings about singing, prancing gang members, it would be impossible to ignore the artistry of the film on display. Add to this musical numbers that have entered into the cultural lexicon, and you have a near flawless film.