Dog’s Movie House: “What To Watch This Week!”
Let’s start with “Gemini Man”, Ang Lee’s latest starring Will Smith. Smith plays an elite assassin getting ready to retire. Unfortunately his boss (Clive Owen) decides that killing him with a younger clone of himself is preferable to paying that pesky pension. This flick features to decent action set pieces and some cool de-aging tech, but Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) forgets the crucial ingredient of telling a compelling story with interesting characters. The result is a semi-interesting effects reel masquerading as a film. Everyone involved has done better work and will probably do better work in the future. Skip It!
Next we have “Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil” the inevitable sequel to 2014’s hit “Maleficent” with Angelina Jolie reprising her role as Sleeping Beauty’s not-so-villainous villain. In this one she has to deal with her beloved Aurora (Elle Fanning) getting married to a human prince. He’s not so bad, but her mother, the Queen (a scenery-chewing Michelle Pfeiffer) is all about making war on Maleficent’s fairy folk. What follows is a tale even slighter than the first film that’s filled wall-to-wall with CGI fiddle faddle. (God, do I sound old or what?). Like the first film, the main attraction here is Jolie, who manages to be fierce and funny in equal measure. But this film neuters the character even more than the first movie and wastes a role Jolie was born to play. Skip It!
Next we have “Zombieland: Double Tap” a sequel to a film that took ten years to make. The original cast returns, with Woody Harrelson leading the way to keep the zombie apocalypse at bay. The dysfunctional family of zombie slayers (Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin) start at the abandoned White House and end up on a journey that takes them from Memphis to a commune known as Babylon. If you liked the first film, you’ll like this one, though it plays to a list of diminishing comic returns. The main highlight of the film is newcomer Zooey Deutch as Madison, the air-headed blond Eisenberg hooks up with. As written Madison doesn’t even qualify as a character, but Deutch is wonderfully adept at drawing big laughs and sympathy in equal measure. Also, stay for a hilarious mid-credits scene that references the first film beautifully. See It!
Next we get to “Countdown” which may go down as one of the worst horror films I’ve scene in a loooong time. This sucker is poorly acted, poorly written, and relies on so many jump scares that the Dolby surround sound becomes the film’s most valuable player by default. The story involves a group of vacantly pretty people who discover an app that accurately predicts the deaths of the people who are stupid enough to use the damn thing. When our heroine Quinn (Elizabeth Lail) finds out she has but three days to live, she has to use the three brain cells available to try and survive. This could have been an interesting premise involving the evils of technology, but writer/director Justin Dec decides to revel in the clichés of the genre and the result is pure disappointment. Skip It!
Finally, this week sees the release of “Black And Blue” a cop thriller featuring Naomie Harris as a rookie cop who runs afoul of a group of corrupt cops and criminals alike when her bodycam records the killing of a drug dealer by one of those corrupt cops. She ends up on the run from her former “blue” brethren as well as the vicious criminals who inhabit the rundown New Orleans neighborhood in which the story takes place.
Director Deon Taylor has a good eye for action camera work and the cast, including Mike Colter, Frank Grillo, and Tyrese Gibson, is uniformly excellent, but the script by Peter A. Dowling makes the mistake of dangling deeper narratives in front of the audience before jerking them away in service to a rather predictable redo of “Training Day.” There’s a terrifically intense opening scene in which Harris’ rookie cop is out running and is profiled and roughly harassed by two white cops who only let her go when they find out she’s one of them. It’s the best scene in the movie and it takes place five minutes in. It also promises some real drama that the rest of the film rarely delivers. It’s a competent action film but could have been so much more. See It. . . but at a matinee! So Sayeth The Kendog!