Sometimes it’s a dilemma: what DVD should you rent or what movie should you stream or order-on-demand? Do you want a date flick, an action caper, or a goofy comedy? Weekly Surge is here to help with our reviews of recent at-home movie releases, which we’ve watched from the comfort of that favorite recliner.
The best action movie of 2008 gets its sequel in the standard time - and the whole cast, those that didn’t get kill in the first one, are back for more. France’s best action writer/director, Luc Besson, returns to write the script and one of his protégé directors leads by proxy. The fight scenes and car chases are back. Liam Neeson keeps his eyes piercing, his dialogue tight/whispered and his straight-for-the-throat style. Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace play bigger roles. Rade Serbedzija gets one more chance to play a Russian-esque villain, one more time (talk about typecast). But sometimes when you put together all the parts that made a great film in the first place – you get pretty much the same film. And the additions are dangerously bad – Maggie Grace (the daughter) runs around Istanbul throwing grenades without one person getting hurt or trying to stop her. The bad guys are the dumb little brothers and cousins of the bad guys from the first movie – proving that you can’t be taken twice by the same scenario. It’s unoriginal but not unwatchable – barely worth a watch.
What do you get if you add one of the writers of the “Paranormal Activity” franchise with two writers from the “Paranormal Activity” rip-off, “Paranormal Entity” with a past-his-prime teenage heartthrob, Jesse McCartney, with a first-time director? The answer is a horrible movie. When you look at the components, it’s exactly what you should expect – terrible acting, missed opportunities with the script, melodramatic shifts and shaky cameras. It’s a mess that doesn’t even give you the five minutes of resolution the “Paranormal Activity” films do. In fact, you won’t even know what and where the killers come from. And that’s not some cool statement on tension or the ambiguity of life – it’s just a lazy way to get a buck from fans of McCartney or the other paranormal movies. This film should be treated like a victim of fallout – scrubbed clean and quarantined – pass.
David Frankel doesn’t make movies with a bang. Nor does he make movies that overwhelm. He makes subtle films with heart. Just look at his last three films – “The Big Year,” “Marley and Me” and “The Devil Wears Prada.” All these films deal with people growing through various stages in their lives. They’re films you relate to your own life. This time Frankel takes on Baby Boomer malaise and a couple whose sexual spark has been extinguished. Who does Frankel choose to relate this problem to audiences? Two of the best in the business – Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones – Steve Carell joins along as the deadpan voice of reason. Streep should’ve earned her 17th Oscar nomination. But Frankel’s movies don’t make a big splash. They instead cause a steady ripple as they show humans dealing with life by applying anger, depression, humor and understanding – worth a watch.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge