The classics of this genre featured danger and destruction on a scale a guy could wrap his head around; a hijacked airplane, a skyscraper on fire, a capsized ocean liner filling with water. But when you live by spectacle, you die by it too. And so the disasters got bigger and bigger, one movie trying to top the next, until it became an arms race of planetary devastation. One movie blows up the White House, the next one washes it away in a tidal wave. Where do you go from there? An exploding tidal wave? At this point, if your disaster movie isn’t eradicating a large portion of the globe, don’t even waste your time.
Everything that goes wrong in Poltergeist stems from an act of desecration; the building of a cookie-cutter housing development on top of an old cemetery. Some might find the sheer act of attempting a remake of Poltergeist similarly disrespectful; the 1982 original is something of a masterpiece of suburban terror. But if viewers can look past the sheer audacity of attempting another Poltergeist, they’ll find a solid modernization, the cinematic equivalent of a decent cover version of a great rock song. It’s totally superfluous, and not nearly as satisfying as the original, but well-performed and effective in its own way. It’s nice (or, in this case, deeply unsettling) to revisit an old classic in a new arrangement.
The best argument for Tomorrowland is its release date; a week after Mad Max: Fury Road, about a world destroyed by an oil war, and a week before San Andreas, in which an apocalyptic earthquake destroys half of North America. Less a blockbuster action film than a stern but well-intentioned lecture accompanied by an elaborate audiovisual presentation, Tomorrowland argues that rampant cynicism is actively poisoning our future. People become so convinced by movies like Mad Max and San Andreas that the world is doomed that they start to believe it really is. So they give up, and dystopia becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“This is a movie that strains at the leash of the possible, a movie of great visionary wonders.” That lovely sentence concluded Roger Ebert’s 1985 review of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Thirty years later, Mad Max is finally back in a new sequel, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Ebert’s words feel truer than ever. Fury Road is an incredible achievement, one that strains so hard at the leash of the possible that it eventually breaks free and barrels headlong into the realm of insane genius. Forget Max Rockatansky; director George Miller, the guy who co-conceived and shot this gorgeous, glorious lunacy, is the true madman here. And the true hero for having pulled it off.
Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara are talented actors, but they’re not miracle workers. Hot Pursuit asks them to perform the cinematic equivalent of turning water into wine by wringing laughs out of 90 minutes of shrill screaming matches and goofy costumes. The movie ends with what’s essentially an admission of guilt: end credit outtakes, which are almost always an indication that a comedy isn’t funny and knows it and is trying to hide that fact by sending the audience out of the theater with a couple desperate snickers and a warm feeling over the fact that the actors had a good time making the film. Good for them. Hot Pursuit is still a clunker.
Through most of Schwarzenegger’s film career, whatever his character’s stated profession — retired army commando, undercover FBI agent, super spy — his unspoken profession was unstoppable murderer. It was his job, and he took pride in it. Pleasure, too; killing was so effortless and uncomplicated for ’80s-era Schwarzenegger that he’d crack jokes while he did it. All that changes in Maggie, in which Schwarzenegger’s character can’t bring himself to kill a single person, one he cares deeply about: His daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin), who’s been infected with a slow-acting zombie virus.
There’s a lot to like about Avengers: Age of Ultron, but the coolest thing about it is the way it reclaims the comic book part of the phrase “comic-book movie.” Rather than using these characters to do something “edgy” or “adult” or “important,” or sanding down their quirkier edges to appeal to as broad and mainstream an audience as possible, Age of Ultron doubles down on its source material’s geeky origins.
Almost every Hollywood movie ends with a disclaimer from the American Humane Association promising that “no animals were harmed” during its production. The new re-release poster for Roar, a shocking 1981 oddity about a family whose house is overrun...
Look at this movie’s cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace. Joel Kinnaman. Gary Oldman. Vincent Cassel. Paddy Considine. Even Jason Clarke shows up for a couple scenes. That’s a staggering roster of acting talent. It shouldn’t be possible to make a movie this bad with a cast that good. And yet somehow it is. And Child 44 is the proof.
In more self-indulgent moments, I Google myself and find there are many Matt Singers in the world. There’s a folk singer, a fashion designer, a liberal blogger, and a former Canadian professional football player for the Manitoba Bisons. Though I’ve never met any of these men, their mere existence infuriates me. Who the hell are these jerks trying to steal my name? How can they be Matt Singer? I’m Matt Singer.