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Weekend Movies: A Not-So-Great Slate

Four new wide-release movies are collectively taking over more than 11,000 screens this weekend – yet there’s not a single one I’d bother seeing. Rather, if I was lucky enough to live near a theater showing it, I’d go see the grandest of this week’s limited releases.

Today’s widest release belongs to Bryan Singer’s 3D fairy tale ‘Jack the Giant Slayer‘. Following the current trend of fairy tale rehashes, Nicholas Hoult plays the simple-minded Jack from ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. In this variation, while Jack flirts with a princess, a magical bean takes roots beneath his cottage floor and shoots his home into the sky. Although Jack is left on the ground, the stalk takes the princess up to Giantland. Once there, she’s not frightened by the floating world or the giant stone skulls that welcome visitors. No, instead of climbing down to safety, she heads into danger just so she can conveniently become the damsel in distress that Jack and the princess’s shady fiancé (Stanley Tucci) and bodyguard (Ewan McGregor) have to rescue. Be prepared for a tonally inconsistent movie that shifts across the spectrum from the fluffy ‘Mirror Mirror‘ side to the dark ‘Snow White and the Huntsman‘ side. Poor CGI and scenes much too dark for 3D ensue.

Next up is the directorial debut of the lousy writers who gave us the fluke blockbuster comedy ‘The Hangover‘ and the even more (financially) successful ‘The Hangover, Part II‘. We cannot forget that they also wrote the tragically formulaic titles ‘The Change-Up‘, ‘Ghosts of Girlfriends Past‘ and ‘Four Christmases‘. Produced by Todd Phillips, ‘21 and Over‘ looks like little more than ‘Project X‘ with equally dumbass characters who happen to be of legal age this time. Let me guess how ’21 and Over’ flows: A group of guys party too hard, crazy shit happens, the end.

Apparently, ‘The Last Exorcism‘ wasn’t actually the last exorcism. Somewhere in the shadow of Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth is once again begging audiences to save his latest production, ‘The Last Exorcism Part II‘. (Promotional screenings of the first movie opened with a video of Roth asking the audience to text, Tweet and Facebook about how awesome it was.) Even though I saw the first one, I only remember that it was a found-footage movie, that it was boring, and that the CGI during its ‘Blair Witch‘ ending was terrible. I don’t remember any characters surviving, but IMDb tells me otherwise. In ‘Part II’, the sole survivor tries to cope with the events of the forgettable first film, but the demonic possessor is back for yet another last exorcism. Word has it that this will be the last, last exorcism movie… until someone decides to make ‘The Lastest Exorcism’.

I had no idea that this next movie existed until I saw the poster while walking through the lobby of a local theater. From a writer/director with only one credit of note (he wrote ‘White Squall’) comes the Cold War submarine thriller ‘Phantom‘. Because the Cold War never came to a head, I’m guessing that ‘Phantom’ doesn’t either – unless the writer is rewriting history a la ‘Inglourious Basterds‘. Ed Harris is a Russian captain who takes a nuclear sub on a secret mission. Fox Mulder plays a rogue KGB agent who wants the sub’s nukes for himself.

Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook is back with more twisted craziness in ‘Stoker‘. This time, he’s made an English-language movie that earned great reviews at Sundance. (Our own Aaron Peck gave it a four-star review.) The film stars Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode as a super dysfunctional and possible incestuous family. What else would you expect from the director of ‘Oldboy‘? While ‘Stoker’ is only opening on seven screens this weekend, Fox Searchlight will expand its release over the next several weeks.

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