Eight years ago the first attempt at adapting the Hitman series of games hit the big screen. I do not remember much of it other than I did not like it. There had been some hope for it, the lead was decent actor (Timothy Olyphant), plus it was helmed by Xavier Gens, who was coming off the excellent horror film Frontier(s). However, that is neither here nor there. What we are faced with now is a reboot of the franchise with a new lead and a new director, not to mention a new story. Unfortunately, the results are not any better.
Three years ago Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill brought us Sinister. It was a horror movie that drew me and unsettled my core. It was a movie that, like Insidious, proved there is life and quality in mainstream horror. It was a haunted house tale, it was a demonic tale, it was a missing person mystery, and it succeeded in making skin crawl. It was a movie that took a different angle on the idea of found footage, having the main character find film that pertains to the mystery at hand. It was quite effective. Sadly, the sequel did not live up to its predecessors promise.
Exhumed Films is a group based out of the Philadelphia area that put on genre film marathons and other special events on an annual basis. Last year they started a new tradition, the Guilty Pleasures Marathon. They take five films that had positive play at one of their prior shows and put them together in a marathon of their own. Last year's event included such films as 1990: The Bronx Warriors, No Mercy Man, and Night of a Thousand Cats. It is all held within the friendly confines of the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY. Having such a good time last year, it was a given that I was going to be at this year's event!
If you are looking for someone writing about how this modern cinematic reboot of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. relates to the original 1960's series, you've come to the wrong place. Frankly, the only thing I know about the original is the title, that it was an east meets west spy series, and it starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. I am also fairly certain the two relate in only the broadest of terms. With that being said, this new take is actually better than I was expecting. It is not a great film, mind you, but it is a fun stylish modern take on an old formula. Simply put, this was an entertaining two hours in a movie theater.
There are times when I go to a movie and while I watch the film unfold, I think to myself how there is no way that it could have been made by a big studio. If I know it is going to be a small release, I will frequently think how there is no way that it will play for a wide mainstream audience. Now, this is for movies I like, mind you. I hate to think like this, but it is true. For those of you who are really into movies, have you not had thoughts like that while watching a movie? You can be smiling giddily, enjoying every moment, but deep down, you know there is no way an average audience is going to latch on to it. It can be for any reason, but you know it is true, and it makes you sad.
I must admit, I am not the biggest fan of hip hop. Sure, I have really enjoyed some albums, but for the most part I wrote it off as a youngster, never paying it any mind. I think it was just really a matter of timing and location. Metal and rock spoke to me more. However, as I have gotten older my tastes have greatly widened in terms of enjoyment and respect for various artists, styles, and genres. This is not to say I am well schooled on gangsta rap, its origins, or its artists, but there is a lot of positive to be said about it. This brings me to NWA, a group I know little of, but I do remember loving Dr. Dre's album The Chronic, as well as a number of Ice Cube tracks. Now we have a movie chronicling their rise in Straight Outta Compton.
When I was a kid, I joined the Cub Scouts. It just seemed like the thing to do. I do not remember what led to me joining, but I do remember completing tasks for beads and pins and badges and things. I remember whittling a zood block into a car. I remember Den “parents” who did not seem all that involved, and I remember losing interest and never making it to the actual Boy Scouts. Oh yes, there was also the Tom Wat boxes filled with junk to sell (the equivalent of Girl Scout cookies), and that one camping trip that had cabins and someone got in trouble for showing us Friday the 13th, there was a cool bonfire, though. What is the point of all this? Well, I had a camping trip, but it was nothing like Cub.
Once again, I made the trek to the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY, to bear witness to a screening of a rare old movie projected from 35mm elements. The movie is Marta and it is one that I knew absolutely nothing about before sitting down in the theater. Now, having seen the entire movie, I still know absolutely nothing about it. It is the sort of film that when it is over, you look at the person next to you and say: What the hell was that?. It was a bizarre experience of watching a movie I can say I like but am not sure exactly why. It is not particularly good, but it has these strange qualities that make it eminently watchable.
Well, the opening weekend of the Fantastic Four debacle is now in the rear view mirror. After a little (very little) reflection, I decided I should probably put down a few words before the screening gets too far into the past. Now, I did not like the movie, but I also do not completely hate it. That is to say it is not the worst movie I have seen this year (The Upper Footage), nor is it the worst I have seen theatrically this year (The Gallows). It strikes me as a movie that suffers from studio interference and seriously troubled production. Honestly, when I first saw the teaser I felt some hope. Oh well.
The Gift is a mediocre summer thriller that feels like what it must be like to read an airport drugstore thriller. It has all the elements needed to tell the story and on the surface is compelling enough, but it fails to really do anything other than go through the motions. It is a movie that involves the audience, but while it gives the semblance of depth, it seems more content to just sit on the surface and let the audience bring their own ideas to it, like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, only it gives the plot and you have to give it character.
Pixels.... here is a movie I am not going to spend much time on. While I have definitely seen worse movies this year, that is not saying much. I think the worst thing is that from the time I saw the trailer right on up through its release until I was able to see it, I was a defender of Pixels. I thought it looked like a fun summer movie based on a pretty solid idea. Unfortunately, now that I have seen the movie, I can no longer defend it. I still think the idea is a good one, but the execution is just terrible. Pixels is not a good movie, it is lazy and boring.
I find it hard to believe that it has been almost 20-years since the first Mission Impossible movie hit the big screen. I thought it was pretty odd at the time considering the whole team aspect of the old series and how this seemed to focus, primarily, on a single person. Of course that person is Tom Cruise, think what you will about his personal life, he is one of the last of the true movie stars and in this series, he is electric. For nearly two decades the Mission Impossible franchise has delivered consistent action to theaters and through it all, Cruise has been there to lead us through.
I am not against the idea of remakes or reboots. Sure, the majority seem to turn out rubbish, but some of them actually turn out to be good. It's all right, you can stop laughing now. Now, the idea of giving the Vacation franchise some life by having the kids take over is a good one. The problem is that the execution of this idea is just awful. I suspect it is a product of its time, but that doesn't make it any better. This new take on Vacation follows a very similar path of the original, only meaner. It just doesn't work. Yes, there are a couple of chuckles to be had, but I was more looking forward to the end credits.
Another Monstermania is in the rearview. These weekends are always sad to see fade away into the history books. They are among my favorite events of the year and this past one (my tenth) is right up there with the best of them. Besides having a phenomenal guest list, I got to see old friends, make new friends, and just have an all around great weekend escaping from reality. From Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon I do not have to think of anything outside the walls of that hotel. Sure, it is not exactly designed for healthy eating, but so what? There is fun to be had.