Based on the popular international comic book created by Tiziano Sclavi, “Dylan Dog: Dead of Night” is a monster movie trapped inside an exposition hurricane. It’s a winded movie of relentless explanation, eager to guide newcomers safely into a world of the comically undead, absurdly underlining every single move it makes. The thoughtfulness is commendable but the storytelling is atrocious, wrecking a perfectly low-fi creature feature.
Well, it took the producers long enough, but they’ve finally made a “Fast and the Furious” film that didn’t immediately trigger my gag reflex. “Fast Five” is the fifth installment of this unlikely saga of cars and bros, and while dopey as ever, the fun factor has increased exponentially now that certain plot elements and subculture porn has been ditched to roughhouse in Rio with a band of crooks who’ve blossomed into a family. The acting remains atrocious, but the formula has been altered dramatically, injecting needed restlessness into a comatose franchise.
Many films claim reverence for the work of John Hughes, insisting their high school scripts match the idiosyncratic tone and wit of the late filmmaker. “Prom” is an unassuming dramedy that also genuflects before the “Breakfast Club” architect, only this reserved production actually manages to replicate a minor amount of Hughesian DNA. Though at times unforgivably plodding, this gentle teen picture keeps matters surprisingly human, evading abrasive Disney Channel trappings to play more sensitively, thus encouraging a heartier emotional investment.
Now here’s a sequel nobody asked for. A modest box office hit, “Hoodwinked” cut through the competition with its brand of fairy tale satire and sarcasm, providing a budget “Shrek” experience for families hungry for something to see in January, 2006. The sequel limps to screens five years later (after a year gathering dust on the shelf), and while the technical effort shows some badly needed improvement, the jokes are as stale and dated as ever, making the second round a sleepy viewing event, despite the presence of a splashy 3D makeover to pinch a few more bucks out of paying customers.
George Lucas. The name alone elicits quite a response in today’s geek community. The “Star Wars” universe of appreciation is no longer about starry-eyed fandom, instead transformed into a full-fledged religion, sparking a passion within its congregation that’s so profound, so damn testy, it’s easy to miss the sense of love so many swear they’re upholding with their criticisms. “The People vs. George Lucas” is a documentary covering the stormy reaction to filmmaker and his controversial artistic choices, debating the merits of his career and the perversion of his greatest success. In other words, it’s “Internet Forum: The Movie.”
“Fly Away” details the experience of autism in a stressful manner I’ve never seen before, outside of the occasional documentary. It’s a stimulating sense of realism that helps to shape a raw, compassionate portrait of life lived with the disorder, finding pauses of behavior and response that shock and enlighten. It’s not an easy film to watch, but it’s a picture of immense importance, capturing an intimate state of mind few are allowed to visit.
It seems rather odd that there’s a DTV sequel to the 2008 police drama, “Street Kings,” but perhaps 20th Century Fox knows more about the original film’s bottom line than I do. As strange as the film’s existence is, the procedural and thriller mechanics are well oiled in the compelling distraction, which returns to the black heart of cops and robbers and their mutual interest in stolen money and dirty deeds.
Just when I thought Thai cinema couldn’t get any stranger, I come across “Muay Thai Giant,” a 2008 action-comedy finally making its debut in America. A highly bizarre mix of “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Little Rascals,” and the average knee-to-the-face martial arts extravaganza, the film is a refreshingly nutty family film that probably shouldn’t be shown to families. Loud, broad, and always aiming to please, “Muay Thai Giant” is an unpredictable charmer that delivers on every silly promise.
“The Way Back” features more walking than I’ve ever seen from a film. Combine all three “Lord of the Rings” pictures, and there’s still less arduous trekking than found in this movie. It’s a true-life tale of endurance and unimaginable distance brought to the screen by filmmaker Peter Weir, who captures the agony and companionship of life on the move, where a group of strangers faced the fight of their life hiking through debilitating environmental challenges.
The lottery is a powerful thing. For some, it’s a method of achieving a better life, flush with enough cash to permit the indulgence of any imaginable dream. For a few of the winners, the jackpot is a burden, distancing them from the life they once knew, forcing them to pull back on loved ones and the public at large. “Lucky” surveys lottery tales of winning and losing, observing the emotional strain and social discomfort that goes along with the gamble. For some, money doesn’t even begin to cover some of their troubles.
Within the first 10 minutes of “Madea’s Big Happy Family” a doctor is groped, the lead character is handed a cancer death sentence, and perennial boob Mr. Brown (David Mann) threatens to beat a woman. In other words, it’s business as usual for writer/director Tyler Perry, last seen slinging Oscar bait with the sobering drama, “For Colored Girls.” Receiving a frosty response to his “mature” motion picture, Perry has hurriedly returned to the cross-dressing comfort of Madea, slapping together a half-finished vehicle for his most popular character. It’s back to threats, stress, and Jesus, with this latest film a slapdash, tedious reworking of old business.
Disneynature has taken on “Earth” and “Oceans” with reasonable box office success, but a story was clearly missing, something substantial to support the glorious images of life unleashed. “African Cats” attempts to rectify the situation by assigning personalities to an assortment of wild creatures, manufacturing a human drama to compliment the animal one. Thankfully, the producers stopped at exaggerated narration from Samuel L. Jackson, turning down the opportunity to have these regal creatures of Africa speak or possibly rap.
Whatever magic was included in Sara Gruen’s 2006 novel, “Water for Elephants,” has not made the arduous journey to the big screen. An excruciatingly labored and uneven melodrama, the cinematic incarnation of the best-seller takes a vivid tale of romance and revenge and bleeds it dry of tension, electing to hang tight to a trio of miscast actors instead of developing the rich world and characterizations of the story. The best part of the picture is the elephant, and even she looks embarrassed to be a part of this charmless snoozer.
These days, sci-fi conventions are big business, held in cavernous convention centers where the proudly geeky pay big bucks to come within slapping distance of their television and movie heroes. And let’s not forget the merchandise, with rows and rows of dealers selling everything they can get their hands on. Conventions have become a machine of commerce and promotion, but it wasn’t always this way. Zip back to the 1970s, and these gatherings displayed sincerity and passion, stitched together by individuals who adored “Star Trek” and wanted to share their particular interests with others.
A few years back, I was pushed into seeing the “High School Musical” movies, and, boy howdy, I wasn’t looking forward to the assured sensorial punishment. The trilogy turned out to be a charming, jaunty experience, teeming with happy feet and fresh-faced young talent, kicking up a Disney Channel-approved storm that, while outrageously broad, provided the essentials in terms of tween melodrama. While Vanessa Hudgens is out there appearing in awful movies (“Beastly,” “Sucker Punch”) and Zac Efron looks to butch up in indie cinema, Ashley Tisdale is perfectly content to continue on with her own starring vehicle, once again taking command of Sharpay as she looks to make her mark on the Great White Way.
The box art for “Blood Out” trumpets the participation of Val Kilmer, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, and Vinnie Jones, though these men are hardly in the film. The true star is actor Luke Goss, who’s built a career for himself as a poor man’s Jason Statham, accepting roles as a buzz-cut bruiser in a myriad of DTV product, working hard to look cool in motion pictures that are nearly comedic in their ineptitude -- the highly ludicrous “Blood Out” being the latest to join his career hall of shame.
While Michael J. Fox was thrust into the media spotlight when “Back to the Future” blew up the box office in the summer of 1985, it wasn’t his only picture released during the season. Shot before “Future” and released shortly afterwards to capitalize on its massive success, “Teen Wolf” was a decidedly low-tech teen comedy, less about dazzling Spielbergian pace and time travel, and more about hairy teens and pubescent allegory. Despite the inexcusable lack of a DeLorean, “Teen Wolf” is a modest, digestible comedy, guided by a perfectly itchy Fox performance as the titular beast.
In 2000, Mark Hogancamp was beaten senseless outside of a bar by a group of brutes. The resulting brain injury wiped his mind clean, forcing the 38-year-old man to relearn basic functions, rebuilding his life after an extended hospital stay. Instead of feeding into an understandable rage over what was lost, Mark reclaimed what was left of his life through a curious hobby: photographs of 1/6-scale dolls engaged in a large-scale WWII recreation that reflects Mark’s own dreams of community support, filling his vast emotional needs.