Agent 47 is a perfect assassin, designed in a lab to kill with ruthless efficiency and accuracy. Mad scientists tweaked his genetics to enhance his toughness and diminish his emotions, because emotions make people weak. In his line of work — murdering people, all day, everyday, for money — it is better not to feel.
A late August release date typically means one of two things: A movie is terrible or a movie is weird — and therefore difficult to market. American Ultra is a classic example of the latter. The trailers and posters mostly sell it as a wacky stoner action comedy, but drug humor actually plays a fairly small part in the film, which cycles through scenes of bloody horror, government conspiracy, and sincere relationship melodrama. Audiences might go in to American Ultra expecting The Bourne Identity meets Half Baked. They’re going to find something much stranger and more interesting (with a bunch of First Blood and a smidge of rom-com tossed in the mix).
It’s hard to make an exciting action movie when you refuse to break a sweat.
Here’s the thing about this Fantastic Four movie: it was supposed to be horrible. This movie has been riding an almost unprecedented level of bad buzz since earlier this year. Strangely, it seems to have started over literally nothing. Fans were upset they hadn’t seen anything official from the movie and began to suspect it stunk. Then, depending on who you talk to, the director was fired, the actors were upset and the script was a mess. But, the days of speculation are over and none of that bad buzz matters any more; there’s an actual film that can be judged on its own merits. Sadly, Fantastic Four, on its own merits, is still horrible.
There are a fair number of scares in The Gift, but the most shocking part of the film isn’t the sudden appearance of a mysterious package or a creepy guy popping out of the shadows; it’s the way the film’s resident creepy guy is slowly revealed as a man with a broken heart and genuine feelings. When he’s introduced, Gordo (Joel Edgerton) gives off an unsettling vibe. His conversations are awkward and stilted; his clothes make him look like a time traveler from the early ’90s. But the more time The Gift spends with him the less threatening he appears — or at least the more threatening his supposed victims become.
Full disclosure: I missed the last 10 minutes of Vacation. Last night’s press screening started 20 minutes late, then began without any sound, which lead to a 10 minute delay to correct the technical difficulties. With an unbreakable engagement elsewhere, I had to sneak out right before the very last scene. So take this review with as many grains of salt as you’d like. If you think those final minutes might recontextualize everything that came before to transform a generally miserable comedy into a beacon of transcendent hilarity, so be it. Having sat through the previous 90 minutes, I’m of the opinion that nothing short of the long-lost missing footage from Orson Welles’ Magnificent Ambersons could have redeemed this dreadful film.
Alec Baldwin is just four years older than Tom Cruise. In the mid-’90s, they were both action stars. When the first Mission: Impossible movie came out in 1996, it would not have been inconceivable in the slightest for Baldwin to play super-spy Ethan Hunt; Baldwin was the first actor to play the role of super-spy Jack Ryan in 1990’s The Hunt For Red October; in 1994, he headlined a pair of big Hollywood productions, The Shadow and The Getaway.
Adam Sandler used to make comedies. Now he makes Adam Sandler movies; bland exercises in nostalgia where he hangs out with his actor buddies, cracks a few jokes, and exerts as little effort as is humanly possible to the sounds of early ’80s rock and pop. Pixels is the latest and canniest Adam Sandler movie yet. It mines his older audience’s affection for the classic arcade games of their youth, and his younger audience’s affection for the ideas of video games coming to life. The famous gaming cameos are sure to make Pixels a huge hit, even though it’s just as unfunny as everything else Sandler produces these days.
Marvel is all about bigness. In the last couple years, the comic-book company turned Hollywood goliath has become become synonymous with a certain kind of blockbuster that’s so large it metastasizes beyond its own borders and crosses over into others. Marvel doesn’t make movies; they make universes. But you can paint yourself into a corner by perpetually topping yourself. At a certain point, how much bigger can you get?
Magic Mike was a movie about strippers trying to make ends meet in the midst of the Great Recession, the difficulty of modern romance, and the dangers of drug use. Magic Mike XXL is a movie about strippers stripping. And not a whole lot else.