It would be easy to blame the ineptitude of “Game of Death” on its most disinterested star, Wesley Snipes. The latest entry in his string of career-killing DTV actioners, Snipes is intensely stationary here, stiffly going through the neck-snapping motions while paying moderate attention to the development of his character. Truthfully, Snipes is a bore, but director Giorgio Serafini is the man responsible for the film’s transition from a mindless bruiser to an unsightly wreck.
One could look at “Just Go with It” as a semi-remake of the 1969 comedy “The Cactus Flower” (itself adapted from an Abe Burrows play) or as a chance for Adam Sandler to take a paid Hawaiian vacation for a few months, mingling with pals and flirting with his gorgeous co-stars. It’s a relief to report that some of the old Sandler magic is back for this farcical romantic comedy, but his aim remains crooked, leaving the film eager to please but not always consumed with providing first-rate goofballery.
Technically, we’ve already been here, and recently too. Last summer, Neil Marshall’s blood-drenched “Centurion” took viewers into the mystery of Rome’s legendary Ninth Legion, a group of soldiers who disappeared into Northern British territory after encountering ferocious Pict warriors. “The Eagle” doesn’t exactly replay these events, instead it lurches ahead a few decades to study the aftermath, only here there’s more of a slack poetic edge instead of merciless slaughter, with director Kevin Macdonald unable to secure a riveting pace as he struggles to depict profound stances of honor and absolution.
Stepping in the substantial cinematic footsteps of titans Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers, pop starlet Justin Bieber assumes command of her own big screen 3D concert film. Actually, “Never Say Never” more of a sweet sixteen birthday celebration for the adolescent singer, showcasing Bieber commemorating her ascent into adulthood, surrounded by screaming hordes of blushing tween girls ready to pledge their everlasting allegiance to the Beeb, at least until something hotter comes along. Somehow, I doubt that’s ever going to happen.
Even by animated filmmaking standards, “Gnomeo & Juliet” is a strange picture. Imagine William Shakespeare’s immortal classic of love and death acted out by a society of garden gnomes, scored to the music of Elton John. And the voice cast includes Hulk Hogan, Dolly Parton, Ozzy Osbourne, and Maggie Smith. Feeling a bit dizzy? While thoroughly bizarre, “Gnomeo” is a vibrant bit of cheeky entertainment, a beautifully animated romp that plays better cute than clever, offering miniature merriment and cheerful blasts of classic rock while pantsing the Bard.
Writer/director Julian Kemp faces an uphill battle with “My Last Five Girlfriends.” In this day and age of the ubiquitous romantic comedy, there’s little originality to be found, leaving the average filmmaker scrambling for cliché just to maintain basic likability. Curiously, “Girlfriends” isn’t looking to be warmly received, instead lurching for a breakneck pace of sly whimsy, investigating the fragments of a broken heart through elaborate fantasy, with enough visual effect shots to rival a “Transformers” picture. And what does the screen blizzard amount to? An intolerable ride of self-importance and easily avoidable emotional trauma.
“Glorious 39” has the proper ambition and a gifted cast to transform into a spellbinding British WWII thriller, working out a stimulating story of paranoia and bleak family ties. It’s maddening to find the film stubbornly refuse to attempt soaring beats of intrigue, preferring to remain in a melodramatic coma while stupendous locations and a range of expressive faces do all the heavy lifting. Despite a few convincing turns, the feature is disappointingly winded, eventually going off on a few needless tangents that derail the whole production.
“You Again” is insufferable. It’s a glorified sitcom burning through the hoariest of comedic circumstances with a cast not known for their jester gifts. Because when you think of laughs, you think of Odette Yustman. It’s almost shocking to witness how derivative the feature is, often begging on bloodied knees for a laugh, while displaying a cringingly broad sense of humor that would make Carol Burnett wince. This picture is a baffling, excruciating, cancerous lump. A complete waste of time for everyone involved.
“The Roommate” is a dreadful motion picture, but do you really need me to tell you that? From top to bottom, the film is an unimaginative, unbearable moviegoing event, playing directly to easily startled teen girls who have nothing better to do with their allowance money. There once was a time when trashy thrillers could be counted on to deliver trashy thrills. Now we have Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester. Blah. Crazy bitch, PG-13-o-nized cinema deserves a more captivating representation than these two wet-lipped paper dolls.
“Frankie & Alice” is a turbulent psychological examination that urges viewers to feel bad for the fractured protagonist and her myriad of personalities. I spent much of the movie feeling bad for the film’s potential audience, forced to endure this shamelessly Oscar-baiting motion picture, which proudly spotlights a strident, exaggerated lead performance from Halle Berry. It’s a feature so eager for statues it practically provides a pen and a reading light to help with any potential award ballot situation that might arise after watching it.
One would think that a simple spelunking disaster scenario would be enough to fill the running time of “Sanctum.” After all, the inherent danger of caves and raging waters is a compelling cinematic obstacle course on its own, supplying vital chills and spills needed to mount a successful thriller. “Sanctum” isn’t satisfied with the visceral basics, instead looking to engage the audience through dramatic cliché, leaving a nifty premise to wither while lifeless actors spout rotten dialogue and an unimaginative director stages substandard action set pieces. While teeming with promise and the marquee value of James Cameron as an executive producer, “Sanctum” is a deathly dull, criminally obvious feature film. In 3D. But of course.
Creating suspense from the creep of shadows takes a special filmmaker, and director Brad Anderson is certainly capable of pulling out chills from nothingness. While flawed and perhaps a bit too elusive, “Vanishing on 7th Street” is an interesting little sci-fi/horror hybrid that urges the viewer to fear the dark, skillfully executed with a healthy amount of scares and inviting confusion.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse than 2008’s loathsome “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” “Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2” comes around to completely spoil my low expectations. Simple, genuinely funny (in spurts), and crammed with canine tomfoolery, this DTV offering is an affable surprise, sure to give family audiences a charming ride. Without even breaking a sweat, this sequel easily surpasses the original’s distasteful screenwriting and lethargic sense of star power.