After this year’s highly divisive Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, Warner Brothers and DC Studios keep the DC Cinematic Universe going with Suicide Squad. Picking up directly after the events of Batman vs Superman, the story finds the U.S. Government in the unenviable position of being unable to defend the country against attacks by what they call meta-humans. Meta-humans are, of course, humans with super powers or unique abilities. With so many meta-humans appearing, the government decides to recruit some unlikely assistants into their ranks.
I’ve never seen a remake refer to its source material so often and with such reverence that it felt like a two hour suggestion that maybe you should, in fact, be watching the original film. That is exactly what Paul Feig’s 2016 Ghostbusters reboot feels like.
At every opportunity, a cameo or wink-wink/nudge-nudge moment is trotted out and everytime it somehow refers to the original Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis script. There is nary a single original idea in Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold’s script. Everything from the origins of the Ghostbusters’ logo, their headquarters or even their advertising methods makes references to the original film.
I grew up on a steady diet of Tarzan as a child. Whether it was the old Johnny Weissmuller films from the 1930s and 40s, the Ron Ely television series from the 1960s, or the 1970s DC Comics version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ character, I was constantly being exposed to him. The idea of a boy raised by apes and then growing up to become a guardian of the jungle and its animal inhabitants just struck a chord with me. The fact that he was also connected to aristocracy and had immense riches was just the icing on the cake.
I was skeptical when I heard that another reboot of the character was headed to theaters. Recent attempts to modernize older characters, for the most part, haven’t fared very well. (Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series, which was the inspiration for Disney’s ill-fated John Carter, immediately comes to mind.) However, the trailers for The Legend of Tarzan looked interesting enough so I decided to give it the chance to rekindle my interest in John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke.
The film opens with an explanation of Belgium’s King Leopold and his failed attempts to colonize the African Congo. Debt-ridden and desperate for cash, Leopold sends Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz, in fine cartoony villain mode), into the jungle searching for a long-rumored source of diamonds. Rom finds that these diamonds are in a territory called Opar, which is controlled by Chief Mbonga and his warriors. Mbonga is willing to trade access to the diamonds for the capture of Tarzan.
Nearly 22 years to the day of the release of Jurassic Park, a third sequel has hit movie screens. Jurassic World, almost as much a reboot as it is a sequel, begins with Isla Nublar – the site of the previous three films – having finally been turned into a fully operational and successful dinosaur-filled theme park.
Everything has been running smoothly for the last 10 years but attendance has plateaued. In order to spur renewed interest in the park, now named Jurassic World, inGen management has decided to begin creating new species of dinosaurs through DNA manipulation. Based on focus group research, which seems to indicate that the public prefers large, carnivorous dinosaurs, the company creates Indominus Rex, a 50 foot long predator that dwarves the first film’s big dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus Rex. The company, however, does not reveal the source of the new dinosaur’s genetic material. As one might expect from a Jurassic Park sequel, this does not bode well for the park’s guests.
Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) is an American podcaster who, along with his assistant, Teddy (Haley Joel Osment,) brings his listeners “real and raunchy” humor every week by interviewing hapless individuals he finds online. When his most recent interview subject – a man who cut off his own leg imitating sword play from Kill Bill – dies from his injuries, Wallace finds himself in the middle of the Canadian countryside desperate to find someone interesting to interview for his next show.
While in the bathroom of a bar, Wallace spies a handbill from a man offering free room and board to anyone willing to come and listen to his adventure stories. Seeing this as an opportunity to save this week’s show, Wallace calls the number on the flyer and travels to meet Howard Howe (Michael Parks), a strange, reclusive man who lives in a large house in Bifrost, Manitoba.
When most people think of Hammer Films, they’ll remember Christopher Lee as Dracula or Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. Hammer Horror is practically a genre in and of itself. But, Hammer Studios made more than just updated (for their time) versions of classics like Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Mummy. They created a few psychological thrillers of note as well. Paranoiac is one of them.
Simon Ashby (Oliver Reed) is about to gain full control over his deceased parents’ estate. Frustrated that the monthly allowance he receives from the executor of the estate until he is of legal age cannot keep up with his love of fast cars, hard booze, and fast women, Simon becomes even more distraught when a man claiming to be his older brother, Tony (Alexander Davion), appears at the Ashby mansion. If the man is Tony, then he will gain control of the family trust and Simon will not be able to continue the lavish lifestyle to which he’s become addicted.
Chris (Ron Livingston) and Kate (Olivia Wilde) are one of those couples that shouldn’t work. He is a socially awkward bookworm and she is an outgoing, social butterfly. Similarly, Jill (Anna Kendrick) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are equally mismatched. She’s an artist and he works in a brewery. Luke and Kate work together and they introduce their significant others to one another. Unsurprisingly, they hit it off. So much so, in fact, that a weekend getaway to a cabin in the woods starts a series of events that will leave them all changed by the end of the film.
When I heard about an updated version of Superman, directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) and produced by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises, The Prestige), I thought, “This is going to be awesome!”
Sadly, the end product is not awesome. It’s entertaining to be sure but I wouldn’t count it as one of the best superhero movies ever made. Or even the best Superman movie ever made. (That title still goes to Richard Donner’s 1978 classic, Superman.)
First, I’ll list the good things.
Henry Cavill was a good choice to play Superman. He physically looks the part and he bridges the many generations of Superman in his appearance. He recalls Christopher Reeve as often as he does Tom Welling while still being an improvement over Brandon Routh. (Who really wasn’t that bad in 2006’s Superman Returns.)
James Bond has been an iconic character for 50 years. To celebrate his golden anniversary, Bond returns to the screen in what may be one of the best films in a series that’s seen as many ups as downs.
Daniel Craig returns for the third time as the legendary Agent 007 and, as in his previous two outings, he makes for a great incarnation of the character. Although some fans thought he may have been too grim for the role, Craig lightens up a bit in Skyfall.
This time around, MI6 faces a threat from a cyber-terrorist who seems to have a personal vendetta against M (Dame Judi Dench). As usual, Bond is the only agent on the roster who can step up to the challenge. He gets some assistance from a new Q (Ben Whishaw) and a sexy assistant partner, Eve (Naomie Harris, 28 Days Later.)
Willem Dafoe is an actor who, despite his craggy features, can alternately play unconventionally handsome leading men as well as near-freakish villains. In Daniel Nettheim’s The Hunter, Dafoe plays Martin David, a mercenary hunter who is hired by Red Leaf, a biotech company, to hunt down and obtain genetic material from the Tasmanian Tiger. The problem is that the the tiger is long thought to have been extinct, with the last known specimen dying in captivity in 1936. Red Leaf wants to obtain the exclusive rights to the Tasmanian Tiger’s genetic material as it could be worth a fortune if the animal could be cloned.
Martin travels from Paris to the Tasmanian wilderness posing as a scientist researching Tasmanian Devils. His presence in the small out-of-the-middle-of-nowhere town immediately is perceived as a threat by local loggers. Anyone who shows up from overseas tends to be working for the “greenies”, environmentalists who threaten to halt the logging industry and therefore cost them jobs. David’s lodging arrangements also give Martin pause as he’s given room and board with a woman named Lucy (Frances O’Connor) and her two precocious children, Sass (Morgana Davies) and Bike (Finn Woodlock). Lucy’s husband disappeared while doing environmental work in the Tasmanian wilderness the previous summer.