Contagion’s PG-13 rating predicts
the film’s less-than-horrific nature following a promising opening
sequence. Director Steven Soderbergh inflects his beautifully
photographed compositions with a slick Techno Pop score yet can’t
compensate for a script splintered into too many subplots.
Exploiting the found footage
trend (triggered by The Blair Witch Project on through the recent Paranormal Activity series) that has carved out a niche in the
horror-thriller genre, Apollo 18 documents the story of a 1974 lost lunar mission. Two American astronauts
(Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen) pilot a probe to the moon with a Department of
Defense payload of cameras and equipment and little additional information
regarding their mission, which seems strange to these men — especially since
exploration of the moon has been officially cancelled — but they race off,
driven by their own innate curiosity and the chance to take the once-in-a-lifetime journey.
Three women of very different backgrounds find themselves on the same
flight to New Zealand, joined in part by the fact that they are all post-WWII
war bride on their way to start new lives in director Ben Sombogaart’s soapy drama.
Instead of allowing death or
fate or some other philosophically cosmic notion to cut a swath through a group
of anonymous teens and early twentysomethings, David R. Ellis (a couple of Final
Destinations, Snakes on a Plane) outsources the task to a random collection of sharks
hanging around a Louisiana Gulf lake house.
The summer movie season shows us, more than any other time of year, how supremely good and how horribly bad the medium can be. This summer gave us some good, a few mediocre and several downright awful options. But no matter how asggravating it can be to look back on the summer that was, an assessment is in order. After all, there were some diamonds in the rough.
Director John Madden delves into the tricky landscape of the post-Holocaust world in 'The Debt,' which explores the consequences of actions taken by a three-man team of Mossad agents in 1965, charged with extracting a notorious Nazi doctor lurking in East Germany under a false name and identity back to Israel for trial and inevitably swift justice. Grade: B.
The devil in this story is Uday Hussein, the notoriously decadent and monstrous elder son of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein. The story’s double is Latif Yahia, a valorous Iraqi soldier whose recently published memoir about his experiences serving as Uday’s body double provides the source material for this film. Grade: C.
With a pinch of 'Trainspotting' irreverence and a dose of 'Pulp Fiction' social satire, debut director John Michael McDonagh cobbles together this lilting black comedy set in the Gaelic region of County Galway. Grade: B.
Producer/co-writer Guillermo del Toro performs the neat trick of adapting the original 1973 television horror shocker Don't Be Afraid of the Dark into a tastefully suspenseful work of kid-friendly art, kid-friendly art. Grade: B.
We all bring certain baggage to movies, and here’s one of my too-big-for-carry-on pieces: I hate holy fools. Film history is full of stories about cynical and/or Type-A people whose lives are changed for the better through their experiences with plot devices in the shape of a simple-minded person. Your Rain Mans and your Forrest Gumps charmed audiences, sure, but largely on the basis of the brutally anti-intellectual notion that real wisdom only comes from the mouths and hearts of those who aren’t all about the book smarts.
Robert Rodriguez attempts to continue his family-friendly junior spy series with Jessica Alba as a top-level spy/stepmother who recruits her stepchildren into the business of saving the world from the nefarious schemes of the Time Keeper. Grade: D-.
Jason Momoa replaces Arnold Schwarzenegger in Marcus Nispel’s reboot of this would-be swords-and-sorcery franchise. Nispel, thanks to 3-D, throws axes, fireballs and likely everything else including the kitchen sink at audiences. Grade: C.
Digging back into the movie archives, director Craig Gillespie sinks his teeth into this unconvincing tale of an awkward teen (Anton Yelchin) who comes to realize that his new next-door neighbor (Colin Farrell) might be a vampire. Grade: D-.