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Monday, 16 May 2022 14:55

‘Firestarter’ a lukewarm remake

Stephen King is having a … well, what exactly? It’s hard to call it a moment when it feels like we’ve been watching a steady stream of adaptations of his work for years now. And you can’t really call it a Renaissance or a comeback, if only because his popularity never really waned in any real way.

Anyway – whatever it is, he sure is having it.

The latest adaptation (or re-adaptation) is “Firestarter,” based on King’s 1980 novel. This new film – directed by Keith Thomas from a screenplay by Scott Teems – is the second cinematic adaptation of the work, following the 1984 version that, among other things, helped catapult young Drew Barrymore into superstardom. With Jason Blum’s Blumhouse productions on board, you might expect a leap forward in quality; they do have a knack for solid horror offerings.

Unfortunately, this new version instead fails to capture the spirit of the source material, leaving the viewer with a film that – ironically – lacks heat. There’s a flatness to the proceedings that undercuts the possibilities inherent to King’s work; parts of the film feel rushed and/or unfinished, with those cohesion-lacking moments impacting the rest of the film.

It’s not a BAD film – I’d argue that it’s better than the 1984 version, though that might be damning it with faint praise – but neither is it a particularly good one. Instead, we get something that feels disposable and unnecessary; if you’re not going to try and do anything new, why bother with a remake at all?

Correction: if you’re not going to try and do anything AT ALL, why bother?

Published in Movies
Monday, 14 March 2022 14:59

Zac Efron glitters in ‘Gold’

It’s not easy for actors who get an early start in the business to overcome the stigma that can come from the sorts of roles that lead to said early start. We’ve seen a number of young performers get chewed up by the fallout from the constant churn of the content machine, leading to them getting saddled with perceptions of their abilities that could be considered unfair.

Take Zac Efron, for instance. The actor shot to stardom as the brightest light in the massively popular “High School Musical” franchise, and while that stardom led to steady work in Hollywood, the truth is that he has struggled to be taken seriously due to his origins in the business.

(I’ll confess that I’m as guilty of that dismissal as anyone, though in my defense, Mr. Efron has made some real stinkers.)

However, when these former child stars get their chance to engage with serious work, sometimes they’ll surprise you.

This brings us to “Gold,” an Australian film directed by Anthony Hayes. In addition, Hayes co-wrote the screenplay with Polly Smyth, and oh yeah, he co-stars in the film as well. It’s a survival thriller set against the harsh environs of the Australian Outback – environs rendered all the harsher by the extreme circumstances.

It’s a film that really features just three performers, with Efron as the actor doing the majority of the heavy lifting. And despite being alone onscreen for much of the film’s running time, he more than holds his own, crafting a haunting and surprisingly captivating performance of a man committed to doing whatever it takes to seize an unanticipated opportunity.

Published in Movies
Monday, 18 May 2020 14:21

‘Scoob!’ a doggone good time

Full disclosure: it is difficult for me to be objective with regards to Scooby Doo. I have had a deep-seated love for all things Hanna-Barbera since I was a kid; those characters are all beloved parts of my childhood pop culture consumption.

That being said, I was unsure how to feel about “Scoob!” The latest attempt to bring the character to the big screen – now available for rent or purchase via VOD – was an unabashed update, an origin story that I wasn’t at all sure that I needed or wanted. Of course, no IP is safe in the current cinematic landscape, so an update/reboot was all but assured.

Surprisingly, “Scoob!” is … not that bad. It’s an engaging enough take on the source material, making an effort to stay true to the spirit of the original. There’s a whiff of the formulaic here, but everything is executed with good faith effort. It’s certainly not going to alienate nostalgic fans, while also having a shot and bringing new ones into the fold.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 13:47

‘The Greatest Showman’ not that great

Musical has its moments, but mostly falls short

Published in Movies

Reboot has plenty of T&A, but not enough heart

Published in Movies

The past few years have seen the rise of a subgenre of comedic film, movies marked by the foul-mouthed, ludicrous and largely consequence-free antics of idiotic man-boys, overgrown children whose ability to function in any semblance of the real world strains the bounds of suspension of disbelief. They feature long, improv-driven riffs and plenty of raunchy moments.

Published in Movies

'Sorority Rising' a rehash, but not without its own crass charms

Here in the summer season, we talk a lot about the relative necessity of sequels; we see plenty of them during this segment of the cinematic calendar, after all. To be clear, this isn't about franchise-building. This is about sequels to films that, while successful to some degree, don't appear to really invite revisiting.

Published in Movies
Thursday, 26 April 2012 09:22

The Unlucky One

Sparks adaptation overwrought, underdeveloped

There are few writers out there who have mastered the art of emotional manipulation quite like Nicholas Sparks. And Hollywood has taken notice, adapting seven of his books to the big screen. He's responsible for such tearjerkers as 'A Walk To Remember,' 'Dear John,' 'Message in a Bottle' and of course, the Sparksiest of them all, 'The Notebook.' Number seven just hit the big screen with the opening of 'The Lucky One.'

Logan Thibeault (Zac Efron, 'The Lorax') is a Marine sergeant serving in Iraq. One day while standing guard, he catches a glimpse of something half buried in the sand. He goes to retrieve it; it turns out to be a laminated picture of a woman. As he looks at it, a rocket attack hits precisely where he had just been standing. From then on, Logan views it as a sort of lucky charm.

When he gets out of the service, Logan is determined to track down the woman from the photo. His journey takes him from Colorado to Louisiana, where he finally finds Beth Green (Taylor Schilling, 'Atlas Shrugged: Part I'). She runs a pet boarding kennel along with her grandmother Ellie (Blythe Danner, 'What's Your Number?'). When Logan arrives, he intends to tell Beth about the picture but instead gets swept into the idyllic small-town life of the Greens.

Published in Movies

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