The Film Fix – March 2018
What to Binge: The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale – There are enough laughs to make comedian McHale’s return to the cheesy talk show format (he once hosted the popular “The Soup”) worth watching. But Netflix is an odd fit for McHale, who stands before a green screen and gets laughs from a supposedly live audience. Like Chelsea Handler showed with her show “Chelsea,” getting the talk format right on a platform where all episodes are usually dumped en masse can be tricky. In episodes available to date, McHale manages to bring his irreverent form of humor to the streaming giant with uneven results, but it serves a purpose as he riffs on reality television skewering other shows. For those who don’t have the time or patience to take in the shows referenced by McHale, he aptly gives you your cheat sheet featuring noteworthy moments.
What Movie to Watch: Moon – Filmmaker Duncan Joes (“Source Code” and “Warcraft: The Beginning”) burst onto the scene with “Moon.” This intelligent science fiction entry has an astronaut named Sam (played by Sam Rockwell) finishing up his work mining on the moon, and loosing his mind in the process. Along side his computer GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey), Sam has to sort through his problems in hopes of returning to Earth. Instead of taking in Jones’ bigger budgeted Netflix film “Mute,” I suggest start with “Moon” for a sci-fi fix.
What Movie to Avoid: Let Me In – This 2010 remake of the fantastic 2008 foreign film “Let the Right One In” isn’t a bad film really, it’s just completely unnecessary. Sure, Chloë Grace Moretz (“Kick Ass’” Hit Girl) is solid as the ageless vampire child opposite the smitten Kodi Smit-McPhee, but there is no point in wasting time with a lesser version of a better film. Let’s hope that no one ever remakes “The Babadook.”
What to Binge: Hard Sun – I’ve not seen this series slated to be released on March 7th, but based on the trailer alone, I’m stoked. Created by Neil Cross (“Luther”), “Hard Sun” has an intriguing premise, as the Earth readies for an apocalyptic event (expected to occur in the next five years), two detectives get drawn into a criminal investigation that may have wide-ranging implications. The trailer is really impressive, let’s hope that it proves to be binge-worthy.
What Movie to Watch: Young Adult – Charlize Theron is in rare form as a neurotic fiction writer who returns home hoping to get things started again with her ex-boyfriend. From the directing and writing team of Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody (“Juno”), “Young Adult” is for a narrow group of viewers, but the rewards are there, especially in Theron’s tweaked performance. As Reitman/Cody/Theron’s new film “Tully” is about to make its way into theaters next month, “Young Adult” is a great place to start.
What Movie to Avoid: Four Rooms – This anthology film is no “Creepshow.” In fact, it isn’t even “Grindhouse” worthy. Only worth visiting if you are a Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino completest. Mild entertainment can be found in eclectic casting (including a sexy Madonna), but the pay off makes this a pass.
What to Binge: The Dangerous Book for Boys – This one drops on Amazon on March 30, and all I’ve seen is the trailer, and naturally, it’s based on a best-selling book. Produced by actor Bryan Cranston and “Adventureland” director Greg Mottola, the story is about three young boys who suddenly lose their inventor father. When their mother shares with them a custom book written by their father, the world of the three boys changes forever. From the trailer, this looks whimsical and heartfelt and should be something you can watch with your little ones.
What Movie to Watch: Bad Influence (1990) – The late director Curtis Hanson had a knack for taking derivative and familiar material and making something really special out of it. The filmmaker responsible for “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle,” “L.A. Confidential,” and the fantastic “Wonder Boys,” made the exploitative “Bad Influence” into a bit of a guilty pleasure. The screenplay is from scribe David Koepp (“Jurassic Park”). And it certainly helped that he was blessed with a killer combination of Rob Lowe and James Spader at a time with those two were young and hot. The story here is about a dangerous sociopath (Lowe) who has a bad influence on a timid young executive (Spader).
What Movie to Avoid: The Devil Inside – This 2012 horror film is a mishmash of other genre elements that play out ugly. It’s fake documentary style does it no favors as the familiar exorcism story unfolds. But as a calling card, the movie worked for director William Brent Bell, who went on to make the much better “The Boy” in 2016. Watch that one instead.
The Cured (March 9)
Just when you thought the zombie genre was all played out, we get “The Cured,” which tries to grapple with what happens when the zombies become human again. Following an outbreak that turns people into zombies, a cure is miraculously discovered. Slowly, the cured are returned to society only to discover that society doesn’t want or trust them anymore.
Ellen Page (“Juno”) stars as a single mother, whose husband was a zombie victim. When her brother in law returns having been cured, she has to learn to live with what he may or may not have done as a zombie. One interesting concept is that once cured of the disease, the survivor remembers the terrible things that he or she did as a zombie. Intelligent and pretty scary as things begin to unravel, “The Cured” is a worthy addition to the zombie canon.
Death Wish (2018)
Not edgy enough, comically violent, flatly shot, and lacking a point, “Death Wish (2018)” is an unnecessary and perfunctory remake of the 1974 shocker.
In the original “Death Wish,” catching the killers of Paul Kersey’s wife wasn’t what drove the narrative. Killing bad guys just made Kersey feel better. Happiness became a warm gun. But in 2018, Kersey (Bruce Willis taking over the role made famous by Charles Bronson) is given purpose, he wants answers, and he is willing to carry out violent justice. But this new focus is completely wrong-headed. Screenwriter Joe Carnahan and director Eli Roth turn the novel source material by Brian Garfield into just another subpar home invasion thriller, and a contrived one at that.
Like in the film that inspired it, Kersey does descend into madness, but the updated story never goes far enough to capture the shock value of its predecessor. Ultimately, it’s a watered down mainstream version of a much more edgier original. And by polishing the edges off, “Death Wish (2018)” fails to distinguish itself. That make it just another revenge tale, where the deafening sound of gunfire neatly ties up all the loose ends.
(Jonathan W. Hickman is an entertainment attorney, filmmaker, college professor and novelist. Find out more at https://filmproductionlaw.com)