Movie Reviews February 2017

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RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER
(2016)
* *1/2 (B-)
Directed By Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring Milla Jovovich, Iain Glen, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose
Sony//Rated R//Horror//106 minutes
Set a mere three weeks after the fifth chapter from 2012, Alice (Jovovich) gathers old and new allies to help her destroy the evil Umbrella corporation, now seeking to exterminate all mankind. Why a sixth “Resident Evil” film? The first five were penned and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson whose wife, Milla Jovovich, stars. The pair returns for this one. Sony distributes the movies, and makes the Playstation platform on which the six versions of the popular video game series is played. A lukewarm North American reception means little since a majority of its box office is earned overseas. The first five films cost $250 million dollars, collectively grossing $900 million. With this entry, film sales will surpass one billion. Cha-ching.
GOLD
(2016)
CR: * *1/2 (B-)
Directed By Stephen Gaghan
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramirez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Toby Kebbell, Corey Stoll, Bruce Greenwood, Stacy Keach
Weinstein Co.//Rated R//Action//121 minutes
“Gold” is adapted from an incredible true story. In 1993, Kenny Wells (McConaughey), a down-on-his-luck American salesman, inherits a gold mine in Indonesia. Hiring geologist Michael Acosta (Ramirez) to help investigate, Wells travels to the mine, and soon announces enormous gold deposits. Investors push Wells’s stock over six billion dollars before trouble sets in. The Indonesian government intends to seize the mine and lease it to a large corporation. Yet, these problems are only the tip of the iceberg. Playing fast and loose with some of the facts, the film boasts McConaughey portraying the sort of larger-than-life character that has become his specialty.
A DOG’S PURPOSE
(2017)
CR: * * (C)
Directed By Lasse Hallstrom
Starring Britt Robertson, Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton, Juliet Rylance
Voiced By Josh Gad
Amblin Entertainment//Rated PG//Fantasy, Drama//120 minutes
After a lifetime happily spent as young Ethan’s constant companion, a golden retriever (voice of Gad) dies, only to be reborn as a German Shepherd working with police. When that canine life ends, the dog returns as a different breed, living with yet another owner. The cycle repeats until, eventually the dog returns to a now middle-aged Ethan (Quaid). Each chapter spawns its own feel-good story, with the best saved for last. As for a dog’s purpose? As any dog owner knows, it’s to bring us joy. Here’s hoping this family-friendly movie does more of the same.
SPLIT
(2016)
*1/2 (C-)
Directed By M. Night Shyamalan
Starring James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Betty Buckley
Universal//Rated  PG-13//Horror, Thriller//116 minutes
M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film “Split,”  attempts to recreate an old-fashioned horror by merging supernatural elements with murder and mayhem — minimizing on camera bloodshed. McAvoy chews the scenery with the multiple personalities of Kevin, displaying a half-dozen of them after kidnaps three teen girls. Popular girls Claire (Richardson) and Marcia (Sula), panic following their abduction, but their companion, moody outsider Casey (Taylor-Joy), remains watchful in hopes of finding their captor’s weaknesses. Despite leaving the locked, underground bunker, for regular visits to his psychiatrist (Buckley), Kevin manages to foil their repeated efforts to escape. With an evil, as-yet-unseen personality, ready to purge his other personalities, the women are unaware how imminent the danger is becoming. Betty Buckley is the film’s most unexpected and worthy protagonist, nearly making this slogfest watchable.
XXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE
(2017)
CR: * * (C)
Directed By D.J. Caruso
Starring Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson, Tony Jaa, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, Kris Wu, Toni Collette
Paramount//Rated PG-13//Action//107 minutes
The CIA recruits Xander Cage (Diesel) to retrieve “Pandora’s Box,” a stolen weapon capable of causing military satellites to literally drop from the sky. To out-compete cyber-baddie Xiang (Yen), Xander recruits a handful of thrill-seeking cohorts (including an ex-girlfriend played by Bollywood hottie Padukone). Together, they learn of a deadly government conspiracy behind the weapon’s theft. Though the plot makes little sense, franchise viewers come for the action setpieces and stunt work. An international cast should increase global appeal, adding to expectations that the film’s overseas box office will exceed its domestic take.
PATRIOTS DAY
(2017)
* * * (B)
Directed by Peter Berg
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Monaghan, J.K. Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, Alex Wolff, Themo Melikidze
CBS Films//Rated R//Drama//133 minutes
Wahlberg portrays Sgt. Tommy Saunders, a fictionalized character useful for recounting the 2013, Boston Marathon bombings and its ensuing investigation. Composited from several cops, Saunders serves as our conduit to the attack and pursuit of the perpetrators. We meet officials, potential victims, and several citizens, the latter of whom prove instrumental in preventing the brother bombers from mounting a second attack. The film spends considerable, memorable time with the Tsarnaevs (Wolff and Melikidze), young men chillingly unable to comprehend the horror of their actions.
SLEEPLESS
(2017)
CR: *1/2 (C-)
ected By Baran bo Odar
Starring Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Dermot Mulroney, Gabrielle Union
Open Road Films//Rated R//Thriller//95 minutes
Corrupt cop Vincent Downs (Foxx) is accused of stealing a drug lord’s cocaine. To get his drugs back, the gangster kidnaps Vincent’s son. The action plays out in Las Vegas where Vincent must elude a tough internal affairs cop (Monaghan), rescue his son, and bring the mobster to justice. This remake is based on the 2011, Western European thriller “Sleepless Night,” which received a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A comparable score is unlikely here, although Foxx knows his way around the action genre. Meanwhile, India released its own remake in November, 2015.
THE BYE BYE MAN
(2017)
CR: *1/2 (C-)
Directed By Stacy Title
Starring Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas, Michael Trucco, Doug Jones
Intrepid Pictures//Rated PG-13//Horror//96 minutes
Three college students encounter an evil spirit called “The Bye Bye Man.” Too late, they discover that saying his name is a death warrant. Wearing the Grim Reaper’s black cloak, the Bye Bye Man is able to alter reality, creating delusions that cause his victims to kill themselves or others. Can these young people circumvent the spirit’s mind control? “Don’t say it, don’t think it…”  is the film’s catchphrase. If the film is as silly as it looks, moviegoers will add “…don’t see it.”
MONSTER TRUCKS
(2016)
CR: * * (C)
Directed By Chris Wedge
Starring Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Thomas Lennon, Barry Pepper, Rob Lowe, Amy Ryan
Paramount//Rated PG//Animated, Family//104 minutes
Teen Tripp (Till) lives in a small town, scavenging parts for the old truck he’s rebuilding from a junkyard. While working on his vehicle Tripp discovers a large subterranean creature has taken up residence in its engine. Able and willing to power Tripp’s truck in return for the gasoline he loves to consume, the creature, whom Tripp names Creech, needs to escape the story’s villain (Lowe), intent upon capturing the creature at any cost. Past Paramount president, Adam Goodman, conceived this film with his 4-year-old son. Goodman should be thankful he now works for China’s Le Vision Pictures that won’t be presiding over this clunker.
PASSENGERS
(2016)
* * * (B)
Directed By Morten Tyldum
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne
Sony//Rated PG-13//Sci-Fi//116 minutes
The 5,000 passengers on Avalon space ship are scheduled to hibernate during its 120-year journey to an Earthlike planet. Then, 30 years in, mechanical engineer Jim (Pratt) is mysteriously awakened. Unable to return to hibernation, Jim wakes beautiful Aurora (Lawrence) — to provide him with companionship. He claims the ship accidentally awakened them both, but as the pair fall in love, will the truth remain his secret? Meanwhile, the ship begins malfunctioning in strange ways, endangering the lives of all on board. Lawrence is luminous while Pratt seems every inch a sensitive and capable hunk. Yes, ticket prices are escalating, but so are movie-star paychecks. Pratt was paid $12 million while Lawrence shrewdly negotiated a $20 million salary that will balloon to include 30 percent of the film’s profits.
ASSASSIN’S CREED
(2016)
CR: * * (C)
Directed By Justin Kurzel
Starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons
Fox//Rated PG-13//Action//116 minutes
Fassbender portrays Callum Lynch, a criminal saved from execution by Alan Rikkin (Irons), CEO of Abstergo Industries. Rikkin uses his proprietary technology “Animus,” to help Lynch experience the memories of an assassin who is Lynch’s ancestor and lived during the Spanish Inquisition. The process feeds Lynch the knowledge and teaches him the skills needed to battle the Knights Templar. Meanwhile, Lynch falls for Rikkin’s daughter Sophia (Cotillard), the company’s lead scientist. Based on a best-selling (93 million copies) Canadian video game series, the film adaptation offers an original storyline and strives to launch a complimentary film franchise.

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