Comic book based superhero flick finds soldier Ray Garrison (Vin Diesal), murdered and his wife (Talulah Riley) killed by a vengeful terrorist (Toby Kebbell). They can rebuild him, they have the technology! Ray is brought back to life by Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) and made better, stronger, faster…you get the idea. Nanite technology almost instantly heals his wounds and his mind is now a supercomputer. Problem is, Harting is actually using Ray as an assassin, recreating the murder of Ray’s wife, over and over, with the face of each intended target, under the deception of returning memories. Suffice to say Ray isn’t going to be happy when he finds out…which he does.
Flick is directed by David S. F. Wilson from a script by Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer, based on the Valiant Comic. As such, it’s a very routine and by-the-numbers superhero/action flick. The FX are good and there is plenty of action, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, or presented in a way that makes it fresh. Diesel is a solid enough action hero, though even he seems to be going through the numbers here. At least it does liven up a bit for it’s free-for-all climax. Also stars Eiza González, Sam Heughan and Alex Hernandez as KT, Dalton and Tibbs, three other ex-soldiers enhanced by Harting’s Rising Spirit Tech and Wilfred Wigans as a computer genius, who helps Ray find the truth and get revenge. Not terrible, but not terribly special either.
When twelve ships of possible extraterrestrial origin park themselves over twelve random earth locations, the nations of the world become united in curiosity and concern. Linguistics expert Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is called upon to head the U.S. team responsible for finding a way to communicate with our visitors. But as tensions rise and world powers start to consider a military response, Louise races desperately to find a way to convince the world what she already knows, that the visitors mean no harm.
Arrival is an interesting and involving science fiction film from director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) from a script by Eric Heisserer based on Ted Chiang’s short story, Story Of Your Life. It’s refreshing to have a flick that views our first contact with an alien race as exactly that…a first contact, not as yet another alien invasion. The film is suspense-fully directed by Villeneuve who also gives it a bit of a sense of wonder, as we learn along with Louise how to talk to these octopus-like creatures and what their intentions are. He builds the tension very well as the nations of the world grow fearful, based on what could be initial miscommunication and then keeps us riveted as Louise figures things out and now races to keep world powers from starting an intergalactic conflict. The director gets really good performances out of his cast, primarily Adams, Jeremy Renner as a physicist and Forest Whitaker as an army officer in charge of the contact group. Sure things may get a little sappy in the last few minutes, but overall it is an intelligent and entertaining science fiction epic with no lasers and scant few explosions for once.
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Lights Out is based on the same name spooky 2013 short film by it’s director David F. Sandberg, expanded to feature film length by writer and producer Eric Heisserer. It tells the story of a women named Sophie (Maria Bello) who has a history of emotional problems that has her now talking to what her daughter, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) and son Martin (Gabriel Bateman) first think is an imaginary person. Soon, though, a malevolent entity starts to appear with harmful intent towards both Paul and Rebbeca. As they investigate this malicious presence, they find that “Diana” was once quite real and despite having a skin condition that made her allergic to sunlight, she had a reputation for being pure evil and was feared by those around her. She was also institutionalized as a girl at the same time as their mother and Sophie was her only friend till she died. Has Diana returned from the grave to bring grievous harm to anyone who stands between her and reuniting with Sophie, including Sophie’s own children?
While far from a masterpiece, Sandberg actually delivers a fairly effective and spooky little movie with some legitimately creepy sequences beyond the plethora of jump scares. For the most part he gives Diana (Alicia Vela-Bailey) a presence of malice and this helps make her a threat whenever the lights go out…and they often do. As she was allergic to the sun in life, Diana now cannot stand light, which gives Sandberg many opportunities to keep us looking nervously in dark corners and being wary when power outages occur or flashlights grow dim. And for the most part, he has a good time with it. There are a few silly moments too and there are far more jump scares than outright chills, but it’s entertaining enough and works more than it doesn’t. The PG-13 rating keeps things from getting too gruesome, but there is some violence and the film has an intense last act to keep us in our seats. Sandberg shows he might have some potential and we’ll have to wait to see if he can scare us beyond his original short concept and it’s feature film expansion.
The cast also helps make this work by presenting very likable characters. Palmer, already a prolifically working actress at 30, is a strong-willed and very endearing heroine. Rebecca comes across as a bit selfish at first, but her feelings toward her family come though as she takes on this vicious specter to save her mother and little brother. Gabriel Bateman is very likable as the young Paul. He is a brave little boy who loves and sticks by his mom despite her illness and is ready to fight along with his big sister. Maria Bello is sympathetic as the mentally troubled mother, Sophie. She knows she isn’t well and that she is under Diana’s influence and Bello portrays her conflict and emotional pain well. Rounding out is Alexander DiPersia as Rebecca’s boyfriend, Bret, who is caught in the middle of the paranormal drama. Another likable edition to the cast of characters. The film’s spooky opening scene features an appearance by Lotta Losten, who was the star of Sandberg’s original Light’s Out short. (Which is posted below the trailer.)
As said, this is not a great film by any stretch, but is an effective and sometimes spooky little flick that knows how to manipulate us with it’s plot elements. It is a bit formula, but director Sandberg shows some potential and keeps us creeped out enough to forgive him when he falls back on familiar tropes and jump scares. A good cast helps him along and makes this a fun flick for a night on the couch…with the lights out, of course.
3 light switches.
BONUS VIDEO: Here is both the trailer and the original short on which the film is based…
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2010’s remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street isn’t really a bad movie, it’s just a very unremarkable movie that doesn’t bring enough new to the franchise to justify it’s existence. To a degree it’s just another sequel with a new Freddy and new characters, including a new Nancy in name only.
The story follows that of the original film very closely with a group of teens having nightmares of a horribly scarred man with a gloved hand fitted with knives. He is murdering them in their dreams and they are all now afraid to sleep as their numbers dwindle. The man is Freddy Krueger (now played by Jackie Earle Hayley) and he is a child molester that their parents hunted down and burned alive…and he has returned to exact his revenge against the teens he preyed upon as children.
The film is actually directed fairly well by Samuel Bayer from a script by Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer and does have a few effective sequences. One of the main problems here is the fact that it just comes across as another series entry with very little new, other than a new actor as Freddy and a brief period of time where they try…but don’t succeed…in making us have doubts surrounding Freddy’s guilt. It’s obvious from the get-go how horrible he is and that this is not a nice guy done wrong. The dream sequences are well filmed, but again, offer nothing really new and it wouldn’t seem like a remake at all if it weren’t for a couple of sequences lifted from the original, a heroine named Nancy (Rooney Mara) and rehashing Freddy’s origin, adding little new to that. Why not just make this another series entry and keep Robert Englund as Freddy? There lies another big problem, despite a strong turn in Watchmen as Rorschach, Haley does not impress or scare as Freddy. He comes across as someone’s sleazy, perv of an uncle and he is never as threatening as Englund in the early installments and certainly not as charismatic as Englund was in the later installments, when Freddy became more of a wise-cracking gremlin. Haley is just a generic boogie man and that legendary persona is all but gone. He’s bland and the film is neutered without a strong villain. The make-up and visual FX are top notch, as is most of the production, but it’s kinda hollow without a stronger story and more fearsome villain.
Aside from Hayley not living up to the challenge as Freddy, there at least is a strong lead from Rooney Mara as Nancy. She makes a strong heroine with her own inner turmoil and pain and it’s too bad she’s not in a better film to play her character in. Her character is so different from Langenkamp’s Nancy, that she could had been re-named and it would have had no effect on the story. Kyle Gallner is good as Nancy’s friend Quentin. He helps her uncover the truth behind who this dream specter is who is hunting them and killing their friends. As those friends, we have Katie Cassidy as Kris, Kellan Lutz as Dean and Thomas Dekker as Jesse and they all do a suitable job as Freddy fodder. We also have good performances by Connie Britton as Nancy’s mom and Clancy Brown as Quentin’s dad. A decent cast, but wasted in a ho-hum reboot attempt.
I’ll admit this mediocre attempt to restart the series is still better than the worst of the original series (2 & 6 in my opinion), but far from the best of the bunch and can’t hold a candle to the original. The film is well enough directed by Samuel Bayer, who has a nice visual eye, but doesn’t deviate nearly far enough from what has come before it to justify it being made. It plays it safe and gives us little new except recast Freddy unsuccessfully. I didn’t hate this flick, but it is unremarkable and quite forgettable and certainly nothing worthy of building a new franchise over. It lacks the kind of intensity that made the familiar yet, entertaining Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake one of the better of this remake trend. Not the worst, but far from the best and makes you appreciate the great Robert Englund even more.
Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) Freddys…and the real one, might I add.