“How Did Faith Work Out For Those People..?”
Acting as a more than unnecessary reboot of the Michael Winner 1974 film of the same name, torture porn aficionado, Eli Roth (Hostel, Knock Knock) takes control of Death Wish, a ridiculously mainstream B-Movie attempt which swaps Charles Bronson for Bruce Willis as Dr. Paul Kersey who wreaks havoc on the criminal fraternities of Chicago after his wife and daughter are caught up in a robbery gone violently wrong. Forged around a screenplay by Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces, The Grey), Roth’s latest is a strangely inert and viciously edited piece of nonsense which although fails to live up to perhaps the levels of incompetence many would suspect, is still a cliched and generously predictable ninety minutes with a Bruce Willis on hilarious form with arguably his worst on-screen performance in his entire career thus far. With vigilante justice a mainstay of cinema and television alike, with John Wick: Chapter Two and Netflix’s thoroughly entertaining The Punisher released in the past year, albeit one delayed due to questionable murmurings regarding its’ violent tendencies, the argument for whether yet another film depicting the horrors of U.S gun control in a day and age ripe with high profile massacres and murders is simply one I tend to stay away from, with instead focus directed primarily on the film as a work of cinema, rather its’ place in the overriding social stratosphere.
Unfortunately for Roth however, his decision to focus wholly on the power of violence and delights of retribution without any flip-side or depth to the film’s leading character is where the movie ultimately fails, with Death Wish oh so quickly falling into a pattern of an on-screen violent murder followed by minimalist discussion through random radio off-cuts and then quickly back to yet another violent death without any real sense of purpose or character development other than just Willis’ Kersey simply acting as cannon fodder for the film’s plodding progression. For example, in a remarkably misjudged scene, Willis’ Kersey enters a gun store with a busty, flirty female sales assistant happily flouting the power of the many weapons on show with Kersey questioning how easy it is for him to purchase such weapons, a question which I, and perhaps the entire audience, assumed would then proceed to satire the sordid state of affairs American gun control is currently in. Shockingly however, this discussion then leads to a scene later in the movie when Kersey returns hand in glove with a desire to purchase everything and anything in order to violently massacre whom he sees fit, showing that in fact, Roth’s view of the American weapon fascination is only for the greater good. With the film so obviously edited to fit under the umbrella of the 15 certificate that at times the picture jumps frames so violently you feel as if you’ve been shot yourself, Death Wish is still not exactly terrible and at just over ninety minutes, is sort of bearable to some degree, but with lazy decisions and a god-awful Willis, Roth’s movie is still utter nonsense.
Overall Score: 4/10
“Welcome To A New World Of Gods And Monsters…”
Adding a new layer to the ongoing genre of Universal Horror, a cinematic legacy which began all the way back in the 1920’s. the newest blockbuster franchise comes in the form of the so-called “Dark Universe”, a directed step into another legion of remakes and re-imaginings which begins this week with The Mummy and is set to continue into the future with fresh interpretations of classic monster movies which are reported to include the likes of Van Helsing, Frankenstein’s Monster and of course, Dracula. Taking the time away from beating the heck out of people in Jack Reacher and flying super speedy jet planes in the upcoming Top Gun sequel, Tom Cruise leads the way as the flagship star of the franchise’s beginnings in the latest incarnation of The Mummy, a well-known and well-versed adventure tale, with arguably the most popular representation being the Stephen Sommers led take in 1999 which featured a clean shaven Brendan Fraser and a pre-Daniel Craig infused Rachel Weisz. With Alex Kurtzman on directorial duty, a filmmaker with a background in the likes of movies such as Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness and Mission: Impossible III, the latest incarnation of The Mummy is unfortunately a generic, overblown snooze-fest, ultimately resulting in a movie which begins the Dark Universe franchise in a rather mediocre manner to say the least.
With a narrative which is more than familiar in terms of the overall set-up of the titular bandaged antagonist, The Mummy suffers too from a wild scope in tonal bipolar, changing from B-Movie horror to cringe-inducing comedy in between an array of soulless set pieces which either consist of endless CGI hollowness or people wildly screaming whilst being shot at with both never actually managing to induce a sense of threat into the proceedings. At the heart of the action, the duo star power of both Tom Cruise and Russel Crowe never really have anything juicy to work with either, and although Crowe’s character reveal was quite charming in a in-joke, canon kind of way, Cruise’s overly cocky and quite annoying leading character is at its’ best a poor depiction of Brendan Fraser. Similarly, although Boutella has all the hallmarks of a beautifully seductive Egyptian princess, her campy leading villain is ultimately a dead rubber alongside a long list of supporting characters who are either there for cannon fodder or for cranking the creaky narrative into place. The Mummy isn’t exactly terrible, it just reeks of laziness, and for a movie which is meant to propel a new franchise into some sort of success, Kurtzman’s movie doesn’t do the job effectively enough to wonder where it ultimately goes next.
Overall Score: 5/10
“I Seek Righteousness. But I’ll Take Revenge…”
As with the release of Ben-Hur only recently, Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven can easily be regarded simply as a 21st century take on the 1960 classic, itself a re-imagining of Akira Kurosawa’s epic Seven Samurai, with Fuqua’s latest perhaps only having a sole purpose of making a quick buck rather than attempting to do something interesting and ultimately different than its’ 1960 counterpart. Swapping the likes of Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson for the current crop of A-List stars such as Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke and Chris Pratt, The Magnificent Seven ultimately does not live up to its’ titular superlative, arriving at an all-too familiar plot, one with a rafter of genre cliches and a lesser developed crop of characters than its’ predecessor, albeit being a movie which indeed features some good all-round direction, particularly in its’ final explosive act which saves the film from ultimately being just another dull Hollywood conveyor belt of a movie.
Replacing the distinctive figure of Yul Brynner from the original, we now have Denzel Washington in the leading role, one again teaming up with Fuqua after Training Day and The Equalizer, with the former of course giving Washington his second Oscar win, and whilst the pairing have tasted success in the past, it is almost certain that their latest venture will indeed hit the box office for a time being and then simply fade into nonexistence like many previous cinematic attempts to reinvent classic Hollywood pictures. With the famous theme playing out during the end credits, The Magnificent Seven plays out no attempt at all to indifferent itself from the 1960 version aside from a few minor character changes in the titular band of killers, and whilst the touches of nostalgia are cute, it simply reminds you how much you actually might as well have been watching the original. For the newly converted however, Fuqua’s latest may indeed be a successful action thriller, yet for those with previous knowledge of the story, The Magnificent Seven is yet another taste of remake mediocrity. The blowing up stuff scenes are pretty cool though.
Overall Score: 5/10
“We’re The Ghostbusters!”
Perhaps gathering the craziest amount of sexist-hate since the birth of mankind itself, it is fair to say that Paul Feig’s revival of the Ghostbusters is that strange case of a film being seemingly given up on before one reel of the final footage has even been released. Of course, being of sound and sane mind like many die-hard cinephiles, the hatred towards the idea of a female-led, 21st century take on Ivan Reitman’s cult classic is one that seemed exciting, interesting and inherently different in a day and age when many remakes or reboots simply repeat the formula of their predecessor in order to simply make a quick buck, destroying the legacy of the original in its’ wake. Point Break most recently pointed out how, when done wrong, remakes can be viewed as just plain stupid and nonsensical, and whilst Ghostbusters is most definitely not as good as the 1984 original, it is nowhere near the disaster many believed it was set to become. That’s right haters, we have a new team in town.
Perhaps relying too much on the uneven plot of CGI set piece after CGI set piece, Ghostbusters indeed is the summer blockbuster you would expect, led by a confident quartet of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon, whose barmy Jillian Holtzmann is arguably the standout of the four, a confident introduction when up against the famous faces of both McCarthy and Wiig. Comedic elements throughout also help the film in times when it verges on the edge of weariness, whilst one scene in particular effectively managed to make me jump out of my seat in horror, perhaps due to the rather obvious 3-D, which, I say with a slice of humble pie, was actually rather effective with scenes in which we witness spectres upon spectres break the frame and reach out into the audience being a rather inventive surprise. Ghostbusters is indeed not the flop many regarded it as before it hit the big screen, but it is nowhere near as good as it perhaps should have been. Light entertainment which will pass the time nicely, Ghostbusters is solid, but not spectacular.
Overall Score: 6/10
“The Only Law That Matters Is Gravity…”
The first real remake of 2016 is upon us and what a shame it is to witness one of my favourite action cult classics of the 1990’s being the latest to be swiftly put through the Hollywood meat-churner for the sake of a quick buck. When remembering the original Point Break, the classic crime caper directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring the one-two of a younger and fresher Keanu Reeves as FBI Agent Johnny Utah alongside Patrick Swayze as Bodhi in arguably his most iconic role aside from Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing and Jim Cunningham in the truly masterful Donnie Darko, it is hard to deny its’ fundamental likability with the two leads both weighing heavily in enough personality and swagger to distract from its’ rather ludicrous plot, all of which is played out strangely perfectly in the grungy, surfer-dude era of the early 1990’s where Hendrix and L.A. Guns made up the soundtrack and Gary Busey chews up the scenery in his role as Agent Pappas, Utah’s partner. Now in 2016 however, we have a completely unnecessary remake, helmed by second time director Ericson Core and featuring Luke Bracey in the role of Utah and Edgar Ramirez as Bodhi, an actor who recently impressed in David O. Russell’s Joy. In rather inevitable fashion however, the remake of Point Break is a film that includes none of the charm, the character or in fact the enjoyment factor of the original and instead takes a cherished cult classic and erodes its’ once untouchable reputation as a certain guilty pleasure.
Where the original flourished under the charisma of both Reeves and Swayze as Utah and Bodhi respectively, the relationship between the two was not only one that was entirely believable, so much so it verged on the edge of bromance, it was also a friendship that was incredibly delicate with the deception of Utah’s real purpose always in danger of seeping out and causing chaos between the two and the rest of the Ex-Presidents, the merciless gang of thieves hell bent on destroying the system that was “killing the human spirit” whilst chasing the rush of adrenaline fueled pastimes such as surfing and skydiving. Where these pastimes were demonstrably the second-hand plot strand of the original, the remake has taken upon itself to disregard any possible hope of characterisation, whether it be between the two leads, between Utah and Ray Winstone’s laughable interpretation of Agent Pappas, or even the unbelievably paper thin relationship between Utah and love interest Samsara, a partnership embarrassingly shallow in comparison to the one between Reeves and Lori Petty in the original, and instead has decided to play out in favour of completely focusing on the sport end of the original, with most of the film portraying endless scenes of skydiving, snowboarding, surfing, all of which are as shallow and empty as the films’ attempts at characterisation, resulting in scenes that are strangely low in tension and thrills when the sport itself is one of fundamental adrenaline-fueled power.
With two-dimensional characters and a shallow core relationship as the main basis of the film, Point Break is not saved by the terrible, ear-scraping dialogue, resulting in Ray Winstone taking the plaudits for producing one of the worst supporting acting roles I have seen in a long time due in part to his seemingly called-in cameo as Agent Pappas, a portrayal far away from the charismatic and highly enjoyable one by Gary Busey in the 1991 original. Add into the equation a soundtrack combining stoner rock and Jimi Hendrix being replaced by boring house music and a strange cameo from renowned DJ Steve Aoki, Point Break is the sequel I feared it was going to be; undeniably pointless, pointless in a similar vein to last years’ Poltergeist, and like Poltergeist, Point Break has a strong chance of being left behind in cinematic history and simply forgotten. Want my advice? Do so, forget it and watch the superior 1991 original instead.
Overall Score: 3/10
I really have no idea why film producers, directors, executives etc. in the 21st century feel the need to constantly regurgitate, remake and ultimately ruin classic horror movies of the century previous aside from the notion that hopefully it will make them a quick buck. Not only is it annoying that every-time you speak to someone about films such as Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and even The Wicker Man (Not the bees!) you have to prepare yourself to constantly remind them you are speaking about the original, not the remake, but that the quality of such is so terrifyingly bad it begs the question whether they will ever stop murdering films of a classic nature that mean so much to the horror fans in the world, me included. For the time being, it seems like the answer is no, with the latest entry into such an unwanted genre of movies is Poltergeist, a “terrifying new vision” of the 1982 classic, which back then had Spielberg on screenplay and production duties whilst Tobe Hooper, of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame, was on board as director. Replacing them is Sam Raimi, who I am a massive fan of, and Gil Kenan of Monster House respectively, but even with the mastermind of Evil Dead behind it, the 2015 version of Poltergeist is everything I feared it to be; turgid.
Haunted house? Check. Creepy child? Check. Bad script? Check. Unnecessary from the outset? Check. If you need a plot synopsis, I implore you to please go and watch the original Poltergeist which although may seem rather dated in terms of effects and dodgy haircuts, is the Citizen Kane of horror movies in comparison to this turkey of a movie. Half way through the film I actually decided to have a little sleep, with the film not attempting in the slightest to come across as a “new vision” of the Poltergeist franchise, but instead being an almost uncanny, shot-for-shot remake of the original except with much more boring characters, a much more boring and limp script, a badly CGI’d scene in which a child’s drone is flown into the “other side”, which obviously was shafted in to make the use of 3D retrofitting seem acceptable, and Sam Rockwell seemingly looking like he has just walked off a set in which he was portraying Brad Pitt’s stoner character from True Romance. His decision to act with as little acting ability as possible was actually quite startling to see, with the choice to embrace the character of a beleaguered father seemingly caught in the crossfire with the cheque he picked up on his way out the set.
As you can tell, I am pretty peeved with Poltergeist. It is just so sad to see a supposed horror-movie lover such as Sam Raimi just seemingly not give a care in the world in trashing one of the 20th century’s greatest horror movies. Please, save your money, go and watch A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night instead and gaze at a proper horror movie, one that doesn’t blatantly copy every scene and line from a much better film and one that will live long in the memory of those who watch it, unlike Poltergeist, which should be forgotten and denied it ever even existed as soon as humanly possible. It takes a really bad film to get a score of zero, and Poltergeist isn’t that, its’ a film that begs the question of its’ own existence. Did we really need it? Of course not. Will it be left alone forever more from this day on? I really, really hope so.