29 May 2009

Drag Me to Hell

The actress Alison Lohman is 29, six years removed from playing the 14-year-old daughter of Nicolas Cage in Matchstick Men, and she’ll probably still be able to pull it off a decade from now. She projects innocence and seems so delicate a mere touch might break her.

So while watching Drag Me to Hell, you can all but hear the mischievous cackling of director Sam Raimi and his trusted makeup artist Greg Nicotero as they drench her with blood and other, even less pleasant fluids, throw her into walls, turn her into a punching bag for an old gypsy—essentially subjecting her to one abuse after another through most of the movie’s 99 minutes.

28 May 2009

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

The director (Shawn Levy), writers (Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon), star (Ben Stiller) and several other actors (Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais) from Night at the Museum (2006) have returned for its sequel, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. No surprise then that what we get is more of the same—"more” being the key word.

That’s not such a bad thing in this case. The concept—a museum’s exhibits come to life each night—is flat-out cool (how much more fun would school field trips be?). That and the sheer likability of the returning cast and some of the new faces are enough to make the movie a pleasant enough way to pass 100 minutes on an uneventful weekend afternoon.

20 May 2009

Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation

It is telling that when McG, whose directing resume includes the two Charlie’s Angels movies, made his pilgrimage to James Cameron to ask for his blessing to make a fourth Terminator film, the writer-director of The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) refused.

The story was fully told after T2, its message one of hope for the future—“no fate but what we make for ourselves.”

Twelve years later, along came Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, under the direction of Jonathan Mostow. Now “Judgment Day,” the day the supercomputer Skynet becomes self-aware and declares war on the human race, is inevitable—optimism replaced by its opposite. You can see why Cameron wouldn’t want to be involved.

14 May 2009

Angels & Demons

Angels & Demons

Angels & Demons, the second film based on a novel by controversial author Dan Brown, is better than its predecessor, The Da Vinci Code (2006). But that’s not saying much.

Tom Hanks is back as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, and Ron Howard is again in the director’s chair working from a script co-written by Akiva Goldsman (with David Koepp).

The murder of a scientist experimenting with antimatter, the theft of said antimatter, the kidnapping of four cardinals (all leading candidates to become the next pope) and the threat of the antimatter being used as a bomb bring Langdon to the Vatican—at the request of the Roman Catholic Church, no less—to assist in the investigation. Though Brown wrote this novel first, the movie is positioned as a Da Vinci Code sequel and the church is aware of Langdon’s particular expertise as a result of his previous adventure. A secret society known as the Illuminati—of whom Langdon has extensive knowledge—appears to be behind the plot.

06 May 2009

Star Trek

Star Trek

“Space, the final frontier.”

Those are the famous first words of the narration heard at the start of every episode of the original Star Trek TV series. But that was the 1960s, and over the course of four decades, 10 feature films and four more TV series, Star Trek lost that sense of wonder. Boldly going “where no one has gone before” had gotten boring. The last movie, Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), grossed only $43 million at the domestic box office. The most recent TV series, Enterprise, became, in 2005, the first since the original to be canceled.

Paramount’s long-running cash cow appeared to have been milked dry.

Not so fast.

01 May 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

After the trilogy of X-Men films, I can't say I had any burning questions left regarding Wolverine, the mutton-chopped mutant who is a literal man of steel—er, adamantium—with razor-sharp claws that spring forth from his knuckles. In X2 (2003), he found not only the man responsible for fusing the metal to his skeleton and erasing his memory but also the place where it all went down.

Unless you're dying to find out exactly why he took the name "Wolverine" or how he got his stylish motorcycle jacket, you probably haven't thought too much about what had been left unsaid.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine then is really just an excuse to keep the big screen franchise rolling and introduce a few new mutants without the burden of explaining why some familiar faces have gone missing.

And you know what? I'm OK with that.