Movie Roundup: Films I didn’t have time to do full reviews for, in handy capsule format, as is all the rage.
Drag Me To Hell. You can tell when most filmmakers are having a grand time, and with Sam Raimi, it’s plaintively obvious. (Evil Dead films, A Simple Plan = fun. For The Love Of The Game, the third Spider-Man = not so much.) I’m not sure why Raimi gets credit for the joy on display in Drag Me To Hell — hey, Sam, congratulations for trying! Good for you! — but it’s awfully contagious. To be clear: Drag Me To Hell is little more than a succession of clank-clank-what’s-that-noise? shock cuts that exist solely to toy with the audience, but Raimi’s unusually skilled at it, and delightfully witty. It’s strange how bright the film is for a horror flick, like Raimi wants to make us jump with fear but not sink into our chairs in dread. On the whole, the set pieces don’t add up to much, until the end, when Raimi pulls our shirts over our head and kicks us off the cliff. In retrospect, I don’t remember much about this film other than the gutpunch of the last scene … but my, what a gutpunch it is. Grade: B+.
The Hangover. When it comes to Dude Comedies, I’m more a Forgetting Sarah Marshall guy than a Wedding Crashers one: What can I tell you, I wasn’t in a frat. There’s a certain lax amorality in The Hangover that isn’t there even in Old School: Little human touches like Vince Vaughn’s rich suburban dad covering his kids’ ears (“Earmuffs!”) softened some of the anarchy going on elsewhere. Not so here: Everyone here is either a He-Man asshole, a dweebish eunich, a shrewish arugula addict or certifiably insane. This movie has no soul. Thankfully, it’s uproarious, thanks mostly to Zach Galifianakis, who had me screaming pretty much every second he’s on screen. He has imagined a tortured, bonkers backstory to his character — I loved this interview, and his theory as to why Alan Garner is not allowed within 200 feet of a school — and carries it fearlessly toward its logical batshit conclusion. The galaxy Galifianakis is beaming in from is infinitely more fascinating than the one this film occupies, but his visits from Beserko World are more than worth it. The movie doesn’t quite know what to do with this psychedelic lifeforce, but that’s OK: It’s enough that it found a place for it. Grade: B.
Terminator: Salvation. Unlike the other franchise reboots, there was really no major reason to hit reset on the Terminator franchise: All three of the original films are pretty good, including the underrated last installment, which features one of the more gloriously overwraught car chases of the last few years. That movie also had a sense of humor, something Terminator: Salvation desperately needs. This is big empty turgid gunk, coming more from the brainless Transformers school than the Cameron Big Art Pop philoso-candy cloth. This movie needs to lighten up. Oh, and as much as I enjoy Christian Bale in the Batman films — he doesn’t receive enough credit for anchoring them in a believable, obsessive place — he’s all wrong here: His trademark growling now reeks of “intensity” schtick. The movie’s one nod to what made the franchise enjoyable in the first place is the digital insertion of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a proto-Terminator, and it’s a rather terrible sign that your film only comes to life when it gives us a digital copy of a slightly expressive block of wood. (Whatever your thoughts on Arnold, his alien deadpan always signaled it was OK to be in on the joke.) I mean, really: Did the Terminator films need a shot of gritty realism? Come on, it’s a big summer explosions movie. It’s all right to goof around, people. Grade: C.
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