A comedy, an adventure and a suspense-thriller offer up something for everyone this weekend. But are any of them worth your time?
Here are reviews of the movies opening on Feb. 17, 2017:
"Fist Fight" is not going to deliver a knock-out blow as far as comedies go, but it puts up a pretty good fight. Charlie Day and Ice Cube star as two teachers at a failing public school on the last day of classes, which also happens to be "Senior Prank Day." Cube's Mr. Strickland is a mean, gruff enforcer and the sort of teacher that strikes fear into the hearts of students and faculty alike. Day's Mr. Campbell is a lowly push-over, who somehow ends up being blamed for the firing of Mr. Strickland. Having nothing to lose but a few things to prove, Strickland challenges Campbell to an old-school fist fight in the parking lot after school, and this challenge literally becomes the talk of the town. Now, you should never judge a comedy by its plot, or even its plausibility, and I wouldn't advise you do so here either. Anybody who knows Charlie Day from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" knows that he is an extremely talented comedian, and he brings the laughs full-throttle. Ice Cube is funny in his own right, and surrounded by Tracy Morgan and Jillian Bell as two other teachers at the school, this film is brimming with comedic talent. Now does every joke work? Hardly. Is this stupid comedy for stupid comedy's sake? You betcha. "Fist Fight" is raunchy and down-right wrong at times, and if you stop and think about some of its messages (the glorification of violence, drug-use and statutory rape come to mind), it may make you a bit uncomfortable. There were enough laughs throughout, culminating in a knock-em-down, drag-em-out brawl that somehow felt cathartic for both the characters and the audience. In today's political climate, we all may have a little bit of rage cooped up inside of us, and "Fist Fight" seems to have come along at just the right time, despite much of it feeling oh so wrong. Can't we just all get along? Grade: B.
Genre: Comedy. Run Time: 1 hour 31 minutes. Starring: Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Dean Norris, Christina Hendricks, Kumail Nanjiani. Directed by Richie Keen (feature-film debut).
“The Great Wall”
From the first glance at the trailer or any promotional material for "The Great Wall," something about Matt Damon in a Chinese adventure movie just feels off. That feeling carries into the film and never goes away in this hasty, sloppy CG adventure. Damon is sporting long locks and an indiscernible accent as the hero in this "legend," where he must try to help defend The Great Wall of China from permitting a large swarm of horrible monsters into the homeland. I guess the film isn't as bad as you might think it is, but it seems to be missing some key ingredients. Everything about it feels rushed and incomplete, and the story itself is cliched and boring, where the entire army of creatures is controlled by one Queen, and like the Star Wars droid army, if you can just take out this central "brain," all of the minions will simply buckle over. Much of the action is repetitive and even cartoonish, and despite the film's massive budget, many of the effects seem to have taken place in front of a green screen circa the 1990s. This is a real shame considering the film's director, Yimou Zhang, has crafted some of the most fantastically brilliant, beautiful cinematic treasures of our time, especially with his films, "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers." But characters in "The Great Wall" are all just under-cooked, like Willem Dafoe's ; what's his purpose in this thing anyways? The film includes what should have been multiple emotional pay-offs, but we never quite care about anything that's happening, and much of the film is just bland and flat. The real Great Wall of China apparently took over a thousand years to build, but in only 91 minutes, it's legend has been tarnished irreversibly. Grade: C-.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy. Run Time: 1 hour 31 minutes. Starring: Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Willem Dafoe, Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau. Directed by Yimou Zhang (“Coming Home,” “House of Flying Daggers,” “Hero,”).
“A Cure for Wellness”
Dane DeHaan - a poor man's Leonardo DiCaprio - stars in what is without a doubt one of the strangest, bizarre films so far this year. In "A Cure for Wellness," director Gore Verbinski (who helmed all of the "Pirates of the Caribbean movies and who most recently dropped a bomb with "The Lone Ranger") tries to create a suspenseful, tension-building thriller but instead leaves us with a meandering, dreadful cinematic experience. DeHaan plays an ambitious executive who is sent to a reknowned but mysterious "wellness center" in the Alps, to try to find out what has happened to a colleague who went there but never returned. This "spa" is ran by a dude played by Jason Isaacs, who claims to have found some miraculous cures for his patients. Just don't drink the water! The real mystery here is why Verbinksi was allowed to make this film so long; it is two hours and 26 minutes long, and contains about five ending spots where the credits could have rolled and it would have been a tighter, better film. But surprisingly, the film just keeps going, and the longer it goes on the worse and more implausible it gets. Usually an audience will stick with a film that is building towards something, but "A Cure for Wellness" just builds and builds and builds...and then nothing. What exactly was going on at this crazy place? Some things are better left unsaid, and the more we learn about the plot, the characters and the purpose of "A Cure for Wellness," the less we care. Grade: C-.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller. Run Time: 2 hours 26 minutes. Starring: Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth, Ivo Nandi, Celia Imrie. Directed by Gore Verbinski ("The Lone Ranger," "Rango," "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," "The Ring," "The Mexican").
All of these movies open locally on Friday, Feb 17, 2017 (check for showtimes).
Next week reviews include: "Get Out," "The Red Turtle" and "A United Kingdom."