News Column

Gory 'Evil Dead' Remake Tops New Releases

July 29, 2013

Midland Reporter-Telegram

July 29--Pick of the week:

"Evil Dead" (R) A group of young adults travel to the proverbial cabin in the woods, where they unwittingly unleash a series of horrific events. Had this godfather of slasher movies not been overseen by its original director, Sam Raime, and star, Bruce Campbell, who became a cult star thanks to the original trilogy of films, it probably would have been a disaster. But this offering not only stays true to the original story, it brings a new realm to the franchise. It is delightfully gory, bloody and gross. Slasher film fans who have not had a hero to speak of in the past few years can rejoice in this bloodbath. A-

"The Amazing Adventures of the Living Corpse" (R) After consuming his wife and daughter, a zombie suddenly has a change of heart and a memory of being alive when facing his son. Armed with his memories and desire to protect his son, the zombie jumps through a series of underworld hoops to reunite with his boy in this mostly clever animated feature based on "The Living Corpse" comic book series. The animation is disappointing -- think Ray Harryhausen on a bad day -- and the dialogue can be flat-out stupid and insulting. Yet there's something about the film -- probably the unexpected humor -- that made me root for it. B-

"Bullet to the Head" (R) A cop and a hitman team up to vanquish a common enemy. Listening to Sylvester Stallone's narration on this film was positively dizzying. I still have a headache. He hasn't made this negative an impression in this regard since the atrocious "Cobra" in 1987 when he uttered the immortal words, "Crime is a disease. I'm the cure" only it sounded more like "da cur," which made me think he was pursuing an errant dog. He's got a little better material to work with in this film but the result is the same. It's a so-so action flick that will barely please his fans; the rest of us might prefer another "Rocky" sequel. C

"Dead Man Down" (R) A mutual attraction forms between a thug's enforcer (Colin Farrell) and a neighbor (Noomi Rapace) who is blackmailing him to get a man who disfigured her killed. The story is above average. The acting is way above average. But the story stalls early and often and can also be difficult to follow. The result though, is worth the effort, particularly because of the chemistry between Farrell and Rapace. Casting Terrence Howard as the soft-spoken but evil crime boss brings it all together. B

"Erased" (R) A soft-spoken Aaron Eckhardt stars as a security expert forced to go on the run with his teenage daughter when everyone in his office is murdered. Eckhardt's near-whisper is meant to convey a calm, cool demeanor when faced with nearly impossible odds, but it becomes the film's biggest impediment. Well, that and all the near-death experiences he and his daughter have that would have crippled even the best CIA agents. I'm talking to you, Jason Bourne. Bless Hollywood's cold, black heart for trying to give us another CIA-based thriller, and this one is quite suspenseful. But it doesn't hold a candle to the Bourne series. B

"42" (PG-13) Heartwarming biopic about Jackie Robinson who, in 1947, became the first African-American to play Major League Baseball. This is a film that transcends the sports film genre and a fitting tribute to Robinson, who died in 1972. There have been documentaries and a film about the man, the latter of which, "The Jackie Robinson Story," was a well-meaning but fluff piece that actually starred Robinson. At last there is a fitting tribute to the man who revolutionized the sport along with Brooklyn Dodgers President and GM Branch Rickey, the man determined to equalize the sport. Robinson's feat and even temper not only transformed the sport but is rightly credited as a forebearer to the civil rights movement. It was tremendous to see a relative unknown, Chadwick Boseman, playing Robinson. It was a risk to not put a known actor in the role, someone who would draw people to the theater but would have detracted from the story. Boseman, by the way, is terrific, as is the ensemble cast. The story does not shirk from the horrors Robinson faced, either, so be warned that the PG-13 rating may be a little lenient. It's biggest flaw, though, might be the last 15 minutes of the film, which turns every game into a slow-motion manipulation to draw emotion. On that level, it fails. B

"Ginger & Rosa" (PG-13) Idealistic film set in the 1960s follows two British teenage girls terrified by the prospect of nuclear war. Deftly directed by Sally Potter -- whose startling "Orlando" made a star of Tilda Swinton -- the film is riveting but forgettable. I appreciate the perspective from which the story is told and impressed that the story follows real life and its real consequences. But I just saw it a few days ago and had to look it up on IMDb to remember the storyline. B

"Nailbiter" (R) A woman and her daughters traveling take shelter from a tornado in a storm cellar. After the storm passes, the woman and girls are trapped in the cellar with an evil entity. The premise was great. Keeping the secret was not on the filmmakers list of things to do to keep the movie interesting. In fact, it's achingly predictable. Perhaps it's because of director Patrick Rea's background making short films -- he's got more than 30 to his credit -- so he must be tempted to spill the beans early. C+

"The Rambler" (R) Dermot Mulroney plays a man recently released from a New Mexico prison who hits the road to go live with his brother and his family and encounters unusual people and circumstances along the way. Filmed in and around Roswell, N.M., the film is interesting in many ways, among them the landscapes familiar to local folks who have been to the small town. In keeping with the weirdness the city has embraced since the UFO incident of 1947, this film is one of the most bizarre I've ever seen. The title character -- always sporting a straw cowboy hat and aviator sunglasses -- rarely speaks but sees flashing lights in the sky and hallucinates other things quite frequently. Think of a cross between David Cronenberg's adaptation of William S. Burrough's "Naked Lunch" and Terrence Malick's divine 1974 feature debut, "Badlands." On second thought, using those films as reference points might imply this film is of the same caliber. That is surely not the case. While it's apparent the film's creator, Calvin Reedus, is quite the student of cinema and this effort is laudable in its ambition, it falls short in execution. It doesn't maintain a entertaining cohesiveness. I had to keep watching just to see where it would go but there were times I was more entertained by watching the grass grow outside my living room window. C+

"Solomon Kane" (R) An outcast prince whose soul has been cursed to hell is given the chance for redemption when a young girl is kidnapped. Leading man James Purefoy is spectacular as the warrior battling the inner and outer demons who want to claim his soul. The actor has been paying his dues for years in TV series ("The Following," "Rome"). Unfortunately, this vehicle to stardom may stall on the freeway. It tanked in its British theatrical run and was straight to video here. Add to that its many resemblances to "Game of Thrones" and it's practically doomed. But it deserves an audience so if medieval, supernatural themes are your thing, this is a film to ad to your must-see list. B-

"The Tower" (not rated) A helicopter caught in crosswinds crashes into a new high-rise tower in Seoul, Korea, endangering hundreds trapped inside during a Christmas Eve celebration. Though I liked this movie more in 1974 when it was called "The Towering Inferno," I must admit this Korean export is quite lively and suspenseful, despite its blatant "borrowing" from the landmark disaster film. Of course, nowadays, all the effects are CGI, and the filmmakers reportedly spared no expense in that department. The character development is lacking, though. All the wealthy are portrayed as whiny elitists who think they matter more than the cooks, secretaries and firefighters who are in the same predicament -- Ayn Rand would be livid -- while the "normal" people are all portrayed as caring, giving and willing to sacrifice. Otherwise, it's not going to fool anyone who has seen the American film but it's quite capable of holding its own, whether in the available subtitled or dubbed versions. B+

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(c)2013 the Midland Reporter-Telegram (Midland, Texas)

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