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.
Paul Weitz is old-hat at turning drama/comedy novels into films. He’s sharpened his skills with adaptations of “About a Boy” and “Being Flynn.” He’s capable of great translations if given the right ingredients, and Tina Fey and Paul Rudd bringing Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel to life is just that. Not to be overlooked, Lily Tomlin adds her special dramady spice. And Nat Wolff douses the mix with more quirk as a weird kid trying to get into Princeton. There’s plenty of goodness about this movie – Rudd and Fey are great together and the script highlights both the brainy and emotional laughs they are both known for. But there’s a lot of bad with this movie too – it relies too much on over-familiar subplots and stock secondary characters. The story gets messy and cleans itself up too easily. In other words, the comedy portion of the film works and drama portion doesn’t. But you should admit it anyway, because it squeaks by and into the worth a watch category.
“The Last Stand”
The new trend in action movies seems to be old guys doing unfathomable acts. This is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first warm-up fight since leaving public office and before he gets down and dirty with nine movies scheduled over the next two years – including new films in the “Terminator” and “Conan” franchises. This one uses your standard plotline – an over-qualified, small-town cop takes on a group of highly trained mercenaries. It uses the standard issue villains and heroes, who say the standard issues lines. It uses tired story structures. It costars the over-serious Forest Whitaker and the over-zany Johnny Knoxville to balance the rest of the cast. You’ll go into this one wanting to hate it, but chances are you won’t. Because no matter how big an asshole Schwarzenegger is, he’s capable of producing a delicious action film when he surrounds himself with the right people. This one is not delicious, but it’s a nice warm-up – barely worth a watch.
Writer/director Andrew Niccol makes a good film about every eight years. His debut “Gattaca” in 1997 was a slow-burn sci-fi film that relied on character development. In 2005, he released “Lord of War,” which combined layered characters with stylish filmmaking. Enter the young actress Saoirse Ronan – she has displayed moments of brilliance in great films such as “Hanna” and mediocre films including “The Lovely Bones.” To add another angle to this theorem – this is an adaptation of the first Stephenie Meyer novel after her “Twilight” series. So how do these three fit together? Well, to put it simply, it’s not as bad as the “Twilight” films, but it’s still pretty bad. Ronan makes a valiant effort for naught. Niccol builds another stylish sci-fi world only to fill it with forgettable characters. It’s like putting new, pretty clothes on the same ugly baby. Meyer’s story boils down to a clumsy love triangle and a clunky allegory about tolerance...again. By the end of this party, “The Host” is a senseless mess that you’re glad to walk away from – pass.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge