Tag Archives: remake

‘Mulan’ Review

Eventually Disney is going to run out of animated films to remake and be forced to come up with an original idea, but that day is not today.

“Mulan” is the live-action remake of the 1998 animated film of the same name, based on “The Ballad of Mulan” legend. The film stars Liu Yifei in the title role, as a young woman in rural China who pretends to be a man in order to take her father’s place in the Imperial Army. Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Gong Li, and Jet Li appear in supporting roles as Niki Caro directs.

The “Mulan” remake had its share of bumps and blockades before finally reaching audiences, including several delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lead actress Liu Yifei (a Chinese-born American citizen) supporting the police and Chinese government in the Hong Kong protests. Those on top of the announcement that this remake would be more in-line with the Mulan legend and not the original film (which meant no songs or talking dragons), angered and confused Disney fans. The cherry on top is this is the most expensive film ever directed by a woman (clocking in at $200 million) and won’t even get a theatrical release in the United States (it is a premium $30 rental on Disney+), so this is just a production full of question marks. And is it worth all the trouble and hype? I mean, no.

As Fa Mulan, Yifei is fine. She keeps the quiet demeanor that would be required of a woman impersonating a male soldier, however there is nothing really captivating or special about her screen presence. I really couldn’t give very many adjectives to describe her character, or any characters here for that matter, and that is just one of the many areas where this film falls flat both on its own and compared to the original. The rest of the cast is solid, even though some lines (and seemingly all of Jet Li’s dialogue?) have awkward post-dubbing.

With $200 million to play with, Niki Caro has constructed a film that mostly looks great, with huge sets and sprawling battle sequences. From what I read about the production and what it looks like on-screen, much of the shoot was practical effects, so when we see dozens upon dozens of soldiers sprinting into armed conflict, that is all happening and you feel the adrenaline. Caro and cinematographer Mandy Walker play with the camera, spinning it as bodies fall or weaving it between sparring men, and it certainly makes this one of the better-looking of the Disney live-action remakes.

The score by Harry Gregson-Williams is probably the standout here, having some nice epic moments but mostly nuanced (taking many beats from the original’s “Reflection” song). The original “Mulan” earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score (back when they separated comedy and dramatic music) and this could very well follow suit.

The film’s biggest issues come from both what it left out from the original and what it replaced those things with. The original film featured great songs (who doesn’t love “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” or “True to Your Heart?”) and a scene-stealing Eddie Murphy voicing Mulan’s loyal dragon Mushu. This film opted to stay closer to the original story, so it makes sense that talking mythical creatures and soldiers breaking out into song wouldn’t fit the tone; ok fine. However they added a magical witch assisting the bad guys army (which aren’t even Huns led by Shan Yu, another seemingly needless change) and Mulan is followed by a phoenix, a sign of her ancestors watching over her. Neither of those are based in reality either, so it begs the question: who were these changes made for? Also now Mulan’s specialness and skills come from her relationship with Qi (ch’i), which is literally this film’s version of The Force from “Star Wars;” it’s just lazy.

The 2020 “Mulan” remake is solid enough on its own merit. It has fine acting and impressive set pieces, but I just don’t know who this film is really for. Fans of the original won’t like the creative liberties Caro and the screenwriters have taken, modern children likely won’t get too immersed in a PG-13 battle epic, and history buffs like me can’t even watch it from that lens. It is just another film-by-committee blockbuster that seems to be plaguing the industry, and since it is so instantly forgettable (I saw it under an hour ago and only remember highlights), it is certainly not worth the $30 Disney is charging on-top of the Disney+ monthly rate. In December the film will be made available “for free” to all subscribers, and maybe then this is worth checking out just to cross it off you Disney remake bingo board; but until then, Mulan can pack it up, go home, she’s through.

Critics Rating: 5/10

‘Superfly’ is SuperFine Enough

As far as remakes of 20th century movies go, this has to be one of the more obscure choices…

“Superfly” is the updated telling of the 1972 blaxploitation film “Super Fly” and stars Trevor Jackson as an Atlanta drug dealer who tries to set up the infamous “one last job” before getting out of the criminal underworld. Jason Mitchell, Michael K. Williams, Lex Scott Davis and Jennifer Morrison also star as Director X, best known for helming music videos, makes his directorial debut.

We’ve seen music video directors try their hand of directing feature films, such as Benny Boom with last year’s Tupac biopic “All Eyez on Me,” “The Amazing Spider-Man’s” Marc Webb and even David Fincher (as you can tell, results vary).  Director X (real name Julien Christian Lutz) has worked with the likes of rappers Drake and Kendrick Lamar and here he is occasionally able to show the glitz and glamor of the Atlanta nightlife. Much like “Casino,” his characters live in a world of excess so the houses are too big, the clubs too busy and the cars too extravagant; but unlike “Casino,” he doesn’t really do anything with it, nor is there the “desert scene” that shows the empty contrast when a character comes close to losing it all.

The shootouts and fight scenes all seem to be shot competently but Director must’ve gone to the Zack Snyder film of action filming because every time a character is punched or shot the film instantly shifts into slow-motion for no reason whatsoever. As we are all wise to by this point in the game, this is a move by amateur directors to try and increase tension or seem artistic but in reality drains a scene of any real momentum or style.

The performances are mostly fine, in a film that builds itself off being just that: fine. Main man Trevor Jackson, best known for his work on the very good “Black-ish” spinoff “Grown-ish,” holds his own even if it is at times hard to take him completely serious as a kingpin who knows every inch of the Atlanta streets and commands respect (his hair is constantly perfect though, so props to the makeup team). Should be two-time Academy Award nominee Jason Mitchell and actual two-time Emmy nominee Michael K. Williams both add a sense of gravitas as partners-in-crime of Jackson, even if both are given nothing to do and know exactly what sort of movie they’re in.

Meanwhile the two police characters, played by Brian F. Durkin and Jennifer Morrison, are from a completely different movie than everyone else and are total cartoons. Morrison overacts a lot of her lines while Durkin is introduced making an arrest and is talk-singing the rap song “Ridin’ Dirty” and it is full-blown cringe and he only gets worse from there.

“Superfly” is super fine, like a low-ranking drug dealer. It may have grand ambitions but has no idea how to obtain them, may have the pieces in place to rise above but seems content just getting by on good enough. The “one last job” storyline is one we’ve seen over and over since the original “Super Fly” and this film, already showing us characters we’ve seen before, seems fine with not taking risks.

Critic’s Grade: C

Sony Pictures

‘Ocean’s 8’ is Simple Fun that Goes Down Smoothly

As far as all-female reboots/re-imaginings of classic film franchises go, the bar for this to beat “Ghostbusters” was not that high…

“Ocean’s 8” stars Sandra Bullock as the estranged sister of Danny Ocean, and follows her as she puts together a crew of women to steal a diamond necklace during the Met Gala in New York City. Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna and Helena Bonham Carter fill out the group as Gary Ross directs and co-writes.

I don’t think anyone was dying to see this franchise revisited but when it was announced with the gender-swap twist there really wasn’t much backlash like the “Ghostbusters” remake/reboot saw. This was mainly because the trailers weren’t historically bad and the fanbase isn’t as cutthroat as that of “Ghostbusters.” And for the most part, also unlike “Ghostbusters” (which I’ll stop comparing this to because it’s a lazy association), “Ocean’s 8” does a good job of setting itself apart from its predecessors and (mostly) never trying to duplicate or one-up them.

The cast is obviously top-notch, full of Oscar, Emmy and Grammy winners, and they for the most part get equal screen time to play around. Some of them do get pushed to the side save for a randomly inserted “look at the crew bonding!” clip, like when Awkwafina shows Mindy Kaling how to use Tinder in a scene that last 30 seconds and leads nowhere. Anne Hathaway, my first true Hollywood crush, comes close to stealing every scene she is in playing a ditsy celebrity who is the target of the heist. Hathaway is essentially the exaggerated meme that society and the Hathahaters have painted her out to be and it’s a blast watching her play into it.

Much like the heist itself the glue at the center of the film is Bullock, who carries herself with a cocky but still kind-hearted way about her. We aren’t given much to her character besides she’s a thief who likes thieving and has a few bad relationships from her past but that never really hinders our viewing experience. James Cordon also shows up toward the end of the film and while the plotline he’s involved in goes on for far too long, he provides some of the film’s biggest laughs.

Now the heist itself is alright, there are a few intense moments and a couple creative ways the crew works around problems, but there are also *a lot* of things we’ve seen before, not only in the previous “Ocean’s” films but just heist plots in general. There is also a twist that I did not think was handled well (or plausibly) and it was only made worse by the fact that the marketing campaign inadvertently spoils it.

The film is shot well with a nice gleam (this is the Met Gala, after all) and the editing is sometimes fun and quick but other times holds for too long or don’t create a beat for the dialogue to be delivered properly.

“Ocean’s 8” is light entertainment that for the most part does not try to be anything else. There a few fun cameos and amusing one-liners, but mostly this is a movie focused on letting several Hollywood stars have a great time and allow the audience to do the same and there’s usually nothing wrong with that.

Critic’s Grade: B–

‘Beauty and the Beast’ a Colorful but Pointless Remake

Beauty_and_the_Beast_2017_posterMaybe they should just let Jon Favreau direct all the live-action Disney remakes…

“Beauty and the Beast” is a remake of the 1991 animated film of the same name (first animated film ever nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, fun fact). Emma Watson and Dan Stevens star as the titular characters, with Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson filling out the rest of the ensemble cast. Bill Condon directs.

So far, Disney’s reimaginings of their classic animated films has been relatively successful, with each adaption being better than the last. “Maleficent” was met with mixed reviews, most people liked “Cinderella” and last year’s “The Jungle Book” was universally praised. Films like “Mulan” and “The Lion King” have already gotten the remake green light, but hopefully they do a better job bringing their stories to the real world than Condon does with “Beauty and the Beast,” which is a colorful and at times heart-warming, but also empty tale.

Emma Watson is our Belle, and while she’s no Paige O’Hara she is a solid leading lady. She can hold her own singing and is attractive but doesn’t stand out so much that it’s unbelievable, like someone with modern day Hollywood looks would in a mid-1700s French village may do. Dan Stevens is fine in a mostly motion-capture performance, although we never really feel any real reason to root for him other than we know the story. The Beast design is alright, but I can’t help but feel practical effects would have been better suited here (Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy compared to his “Hobbit” films forever showed us that practical > CGI).

The real stars of the show are Luke Evans as the dastardly Gaston and Josh Gad as the bumbling LeFou. Evans is pitch-perfect as the alpha-male villain and his chemistry with Gad is phenomenal; if the film did anything well it was its casting of these two in their respective roles. Gad, who can be annoying in some films but is undeniably talented, has some great one-liners and facial expressions and provides the film’s biggest laughs. Maybe you heard about censor-run countries like Russia and Malaysia threatening to boycott the film because Condon chose to make Gad’s character openly gay, but it’s a non-factor to the plot and you wouldn’t even notice if people made a big pout about it.

Quick sidenotes: there are two bits of irony with the casting of the film. Originally, Ryan Gosling was in talks to star as the Beast but he backed out to star in “La La Land,” which landed him an Oscar nod. Conversely, Emma Watson was set to star in “La La Land” but dropped out to star in this, and she ended up being a Disney princess and earning $15 million. Neither likely regrets their decision. Also, Gad’s LeFou marks the first gay character in a Disney film but ironically, the ultra-masculine red-blooded playboy Gaston is played by the openly gay Evans. All just things I found interesting.

Back to the review.

There are certain aspects and scenes that people are going to be interested to see, such as the “Be Our Guest” musical sequence. Most will find it charming, with the entire thing seemingly being shot-for-shot of the 1991 film, although it does get a little distracting by the end with so much getting thrown at the screen.

Almost all of the musical numbers have something wrong with them, to be honest. Each of the ensemble pieces get muddled together and it is hard to make out the lyrics, similar to the opening highway scene in “La La Land,” and Stevens has a solo which just comes off as awkward. Emma Thompson’s rendition of “Beauty and the Beast” is the most pitch-perfect and resonating of any of the songs, and the scene itself is sure to kick up the nostalgia feels. And the score by Alan Menken is as memorizing as anything.

The biggest problem with the film as a whole is Condon’s handling of the material, and not sure if he should be honoring, recreating or reimagining the original story. The animated film is 84 minutes long, this one is 129 and that extra 45 minutes of padding is felt. Belle is given a backstory about her mother we don’t care about and the film tries to be relevant to 2017 audiences but none of it seems important.

This whole film seems unimportant, in fact, it never gives us a reason for it to even exist outside pleasing die-hard fans of the original and having Disney make a few hundred million dollars. Remakes should have a purpose: “The Jungle Book” was revolutionary with its special effects and put a new spin on an old tale, and films like “The Departed” introduce a great story to American audiences. In 10 years, no one will be talking about the “Beauty and the Beast” remake, much less imploring anyone to watch it.

“Beauty and the Beast” has an A-list cast and pretty costumes, and at times they mesh well to create a fun, nostalgic trip. Josh Gad and Luke Evans are fantastic together (seriously, we need these two to star in a sitcom, “The Gaston and LeFou Show”) and Watson is solid in the leading role. However all-too-often Condon doesn’t know what he wants to do, and the pacing and delivery of the film suffer from it. “Beauty and the Beast” is not a bad movie, it’s just not particularly very good, and while Watson may be the belle of the ball, the film is the belle of the blah.

Critics Rating: 5/10

Walt Disney

Walt Disney

‘Magnificent Seven’ a Surprisingly Dull Western

Magnificent_Seven_2016Do yourself a favor and instead of watching this, go watch “3:10 to Yuma” and then “Seven Samurai” (after reading this review of course).


“The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of the 1960 western film of the same name, which in turn was a remake of the 1954 Japanese film, “Seven Samurai.” It stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier as seven outlaws in the 1870s Old West who are hired to save a town from a corrupt industrialist (Peter Sarsgaard). Antoine Fuqua directs.


Fuqua has always been a mixed bag with me. When he tries to make popcorn action films like “Shooter” or “Olympus Has Fallen” the results are good, and the films are fun. However when he tries to elevate his craft to a more serious tone like “The Equalizer” or “Southpaw,” the finished products are meh at best (the exception being “Training Day,” but I haven’t seen that film in a minute). And unfortunately, Fuqua tries to make “Seven” too serious but yet keep a playful tone, and much like “Suicide Squad” the end result is a monotonous mess.


Denzel Washington, much like Tom Hanks, will never turn in a bad performance, no matter what kind of role he is in and he again shows why he is one of the biggest actors of his generation. Washington plays a man with a clouded past and acts in his own self-interests, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a sympathetic heart. Chris Pratt, who is quickly becoming Hollywood’s next big action star, is pretty fun in his role and provides most of the film’s laughs, however at times his character comes off as annoying.


And that is one of the film’s biggest problems: most every character besides Denzel, to varying degrees, is a cartoon. Ethan Hawke hisses during a gunfight, Vincent D’Onofrio speaks in a high-pitch for the entire film and Peter Sarsgaard’s villain is straight out of a Western comic book. Often it gets tedious and at times it becomes laughable, because all these different and quirky personalities never gel.


Fuqua has always been able shoot action scenes well however he also is used to being able to play with an R rating, a luxury he is not allowed here. The film has two main shootout sequences and the final one at the climax (which runs for an ungodly 45 minutes) falls victim to “PG-13 violence,” meaning there is a lot (*a lot*) of rapid fire editing and close-ups of people getting killed.


And let’s talk about that end fight. I touched on how it lasts way too long but it is also the only thing to truly happen in the entire film. The first hour and a half consists of the Seven riding horses and training the townspeople to fire guns. It wasn’t until they were doing the obligatory “final supper before battle” that I realized we were about to enter the climax of the film and nothing had happened yet. The stakes don’t feel earned and since the one single event is dragged out for the entire runtime it makes it difficult for them to be acknowledged at all.


“The Magnificent Seven” is fun in small bursts, and there’s a “summer movie season” vibe about it that is inviting, but the whole film drags along and with its polished, attractive cast and elaborate set pieces, it feels very “2016,” not like a dirty, gritty Western. The film is not magnificent, nor does it score a 7, but look on the bright side: at least Pratt and Washington both get chances to redeem themselves with their new films come December…


Critics Rating: 5/10

Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures

‘Ben-Hur,’ Done That

Ben-Hur_2016_poster“Ben-Hur?” I hardly knew her! [cough] Well now that I got that out of my system (and I’ve wanted to use that line for a while now), on with the review!

“Ben-Hur” is the fifth adaption of the 1880 novel and the first live-action version since the famous 1959 film starring Charlton Heston. Jack Huston takes over the titular role as a Jewish prince who is betrayed by his adoptive brother (Toby Kebbell) and forced into slavery for the Roman Empire. Morgan Freeman also stars as Timur Bekmambetov directs.

There really is no reason for this film to exist, but if this summer has taught us anything it’s that sequels and remakes will always be made, even if there is no demand or purpose for them. But hey, it’s directed by the man who gave us “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” stars a guy who is best known for a small supporting role in an HBO series and is from the writer of “Undercover Brother” (in John Ridley’s defense, he also wrote the overrated “12 Years a Slave”)! The studio gave this picture a $100 million budget, so surely they had faith in it, right? Well if that were the case, any and all faith was horribly misplaced.

“Ben-Hur” the novel has been praised for nearly 150 years for its story, and rightfully so. At this point there are cliffnotes of things we have seen in films before (brother vs brother, slave against empire, etc) but somehow this latest “Ben-Hur” manages to squash all those interesting and possibly emotionally investing storylines beneath sluggish pacing. It takes nearly an hour for anything of note to truly occur, and even then still nothing truly engaging happens until the chariot race in the film’s climax.

This falls on the shoulders of director Bekmambetov, who all too often lets scenes drag on. He also implements *way* too much use of handheld shakycam, and for a film with a $100 million he sure loves to use GoPros. There was a film earlier this year, “Risen,” that cost $20 million and was set during the same time period, 33 AD; that film wasn’t very good but that’s not my point. What I’m getting at is “Ben-Hur” looks no better than that film yet it cost $80 million more.

I genuinely have no idea what all that money went to, because it certainly wasn’t on stars. Jack Huston is serviceable in the main role but he doesn’t convey the brutality or at least rage that the character of Ben-Hur should feel towards his brother and the Romans. His face is too pretty and his voice too soft (except when he’s growling) to really be taken as a threat; it is a role designed for Russell Crowe. Toby Kebbell is fine but he needs to stick to motion capture; he was great in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and the bright spot of “Warcraft” but live action isn’t his thing. Morgan Freeman, the film’s only recognizable name to mainstream audiences, cashes a paycheck while wearing hilarious dreadlocks. That’s really all I can say about him.

A few moments are genuinely thrilling and there are a couple scenes that do make you feel for the characters, but these are quickly stomped out by Bekmambetov’s heavy-handed attempts to create an epic story but try and keep it personable at the same time. The film also falls victim to being too “Hollywood.” Prior to the chariot race, Huston cuts his long hair and scraggly beard with a knife; the next scene he has a trimmed, gelled hairstyle and clean 5 o’clock shadow. It is just lazy filmmaking.

There is nothing special or truly great about “Ben-Hur” and it just feels like every other generic sword-and-sandal ever made (I guess you could say we’ve “Ben-Hur, done that”). It is going to flop hard at the box office for a dozen reasons, and it being a bad film is just one of them. It is boring, a lot of the time ugly to look at and doesn’t have any charismatic or gripping characters to hold your hand along the way.

Critics Rating: 3/10



‘Poltergeist’ Remake is Stupid, Clichéd Fun

Poltergeist_2015_posterHey, what do you know? A remake that doesn’t totally stink!

A remake/reboot/reimagining of the 1982 classic of the same name, “Poltergeist” stars Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt and Jared Harris and is directed by Gil Kenan. The film follows a family that is haunted by evil spirits, and must save their daughter when she is abducted by them.

If the plot to the film sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Not just because it is quite literally a remake, but also the original “Poltergeist” was so revolutionary that in the past 30 years since its release, dozens of horror films have copied plot points. But despite being stupid and cliché, I kind of dug this remake.

Most modern horror films are PG-13, found footage garbage, and consist more of jump scares and soundtrack explosions rather than genuine tension and frightening moments. So, despite being PG-13 and having its share of jump scares, it was nice to see a scary movie that built on tension rather than special effects or gore. There are some genuinely well-executed moments of tension in “Poltergeist,” brought on my dark shadows and some pretty creepy clown dolls.

Sam Rockwell is one of the actors many people know the face but not the name, but I am a big fan of his. Here he is able to elevate an otherwise cliché and at times pandering script, creating moments of charm while also delivering some emotional bits as a father who just wants his daughter back.

Speaking of said script, like I said, it’s pretty standard scary movie stuff. David Lindsay-Abaire, best known for penning “Oz the Great and Powerful,” has some interesting twists and bits of dialogue, but just as much, if not more, clichés. Oh, the little girl is talking to a wall but it’s actually a spirit? Brilliant! The dad recently lost his job so the family has to move and the haunted house is their only option? Revolutionary!

And of course, while the acting is better than most horror films, the character’s themselves are a few fries short of a Happy Meal. They move towards strange sounds in the dark, or don’t think it’s weird how a wooden stairwell can create static electricity, and you’ll groan every time they ignore the kid who of course knows what is going on.

Despite its clichés, however, I really enjoyed most of the “Poltergeist” remake. It has some great effects and production value in climax (I just reread that; I’m such a movie dork), and the acting and story are interesting enough to keep your attention when ghosts aren’t throwing chairs and flickering lights.

It won’t win any awards, and remains to be seen (or not seen, because ghosts. HA!) whether or not this remake was necessary, but for what it is, that being a 90 minute summer scary movie, “Poltergeist” gets the job done.

Critics Rating: 6/10



‘RoboCop’ Remake Needs Some Touch Ups


Another day, another Hollywood remake. It almost never ends well, with remakes like “Total Recall” and “Friday the 13th” receiving critical panning. However occasionally a remake is better than the original, such as “Dredd” and “3:10 to Yuma”.

This time around the film being remade is “RoboCop”, the 1987 movie that was well-received due to its over-the-top violence and satire of American society. And how does its remake fare? Well, it is honestly in between pass and fail.

Starring Joel Kinnaman in the titular role, this 2014 adaption is a retelling of the original film about Alex Murphy, a cop who is nearly killed but manages to be saved by being put inside a cyborg’s body. Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman and Samuel L. Jackson all co-star. Brazilian director José Padilha helms the film.

In a lot of ways, this new version of RoboCop is like “The Amazing Spider-Man” or “Man of Steel”. It is a movie retelling the origins of a character which features some great ideas and lofty ambitions, and while it hits some of them, it falls flat on others.

The strengths of the film are mainly its supporting cast. Keaton is great fun as the sinister CEO of the company that creates RoboCop. Oldman gives it his all as the doctor who tries to get Alex back into the line of duty after his accident. And Samuel L. Jackson has some entertaining monologues as the host of a talk show, which also serves to explain the movie’s plot narrative.

Another strong point is director Padilha’s ability to shoot entertaining PG-13 action scenes. Yes, in an effort to put more butts in chairs this RoboCop is PG-13 and not hard R like the original. But the styles of violence that are used, such as seeing a lot of the gunfights through RoboCop’s helmet vision, makes us see a high body count without all that close-up, shaky cam that normally accompanies a PG-13 film.

The film’s largest problem lies with RoboCop himself, Joel Kinnaman. It is not that Kinnaman is a bad actor I just believe he is horribly miscast here. His performance is, for lack of a better word, robotic. Even before his accident he shows no emotion or real likable traits, so when he becomes almost all robot and is struggling to regain his human emotional side, we don’t know or care if he succeeds. Unless Kinnaman gets some coaching from Peter Weller, the original RoboCop, this could spell huge trouble if the filmmakers want to make this into a new franchise.

The film’s climax is also somewhat rushed, as there are no real stakes until the very last minute. If there was a better villain or a tighter script, then this really may have been able to be one of those films that were able to brag that it was better than the original. Instead, it falls into generic PG-13 action film territory; but that doesn’t mean the film isn’t worth your time.

People who were alive at the time of the original may get a kick out of seeing how 27 years and $100 million can change a movie, and teenage boys will like seeing robots punch and shoot things. The RoboCop remake is nowhere near as bad as it could have been, but it also is not as much fun as it should have been.

Critics Rating: 6/10

‘Walter Mitty’ A Visually Ambitious Film


Sometimes a movie, such as “Avatar”, can rely too heavily on its special effects, sacrificing development of its plot and character development. But other times a movie successfully blends impressive effects with a solid plot. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, which is directed by and stars Ben Stiller, is such a film.

Based on the famous short story, “Walter Mitty” follows a day-dreamer (Stiller) who must go on worldwide quest to locate a lost photograph that will go on the cover of the final edition of LIFE magazine. Kristen Wiig and Sean Penn also star.

Little background on this movie, it has languished in development hell for years. When plans first arose for the film back in 1994, Jim Carrey was attached to star, with Ron Howard to direct. Since then, it has gone through names such as Owen Wilson, Mike Myers and Sacha Baron Cohen in the lead role, and Gore Verbinski, Mark Walters and Steven Spielberg as director. Finally Stiller signed on to be the lead, and eventually became the director as well.

What makes this film was enjoyable as it is is the scenery. There were some scenes that are gorgeous, such as when Walter is hiking along the Himalayan Mountains. Stiller (as the director) uses a lot of wide shots and you really feel immersed into the film, and realize how small we really are compared to everything else on this planet.

Some of the performances are very solid as well. Stiller is always reliable for a few chuckles, and makes Walter a calm, relatable person. Kristen Wiig plays Walter’s love interest and it was nice to see her play an actual person, not an over-the-top character like she does in most of her films (not that she ever does a bad job, but things can get stale). Sean Penn is entertaining in his few minutes of scene time.

Some other characters, however, hold the film back. Adam Scott plays Walter’s new boss and he’s just a cartoon villain. He’s too mean and too snarky to take seriously. But Scott is nowhere near as strange as Walter’s sister, played by Kathryn Hahn. She is just unlike any human being on this earth. She says things that no one would ever say, and she talks to everyone as if they’re four years old.

The script is hit-or-miss. Sometimes the dialogue is witty and some scenes are very clever. But other times jokes seem forced or an attempt at a dramatic moment comes off as awkward.

Overall “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is a fun, albeit flawed movie. Like I said, visually it is a very impressive film, and oth Stiller’s direction and performance are steady. The film’s biggest problem is the uneven script, but that doesn’t stop the film from being enjoyable. It has messages about life and how we should go beyond our comfort zones every now and again, and leans on its exciting imagery to push that message across.

Critics Rating: 7/10

‘Delivery Man’ Brings Laughs and Charm


         It is often said that Vince Vaughn plays the same character in every one of his movies, and that that shtick is getting pretty tiresome. Well Vince Vaughn must read people’s reviews of Vince Vaughn movies because all of a sudden in “Delivery Man” he drops the quick talking, used car salesman-like attitude and shows a much deeper side.

Based on a Canadian film entitled “Starbuck”, “Delivery Man” follows an underachieving middle aged man (Vaughn) who discovers that, due to a mix up at a fertility clinic, he is the father of 533 children, and that 142 of them are suing to find out his identity. Ken Scott, who wrote and directed the original film, has the same duties here.

I’m not too shy about the fact that I am not a Vince Vaughn fan. Much like Adam Sandler, I find many of his films lazy, uninspired and above all not funny. But it is strange; every movie that Vaughn only acts in (so doesn’t write or produce as well), I find enjoyable. Vaughn only acted in “Dodgeball” and “Wedding Crashers”: I like those films. He wrote and produced “Couple’s Retreat” and “The Internship”: ehh, not so much a fan. Vaughn only did work in front of the camera in “Delivery Man”, and maybe that is one reason I enjoyed it so much.

Vaughn is more relatable and sympathetic in this movie than many of his other roles. I was rooting for him the whole time as he attempts to connect with his 142 children without exposing himself. He never breaks out into those trademark fast-talking Vaughn rants, despite having several opportunities to, so I have to commend him for that. He had charm and heart and some solid chuckles, and that was enough for me.

What makes the movie as pleasant as it is, however, is Chris Pratt, who pays Vaughn’s lawyer friend and overstressed father of 4. Pratt just has a great screen presence and a couple great pieces of dialogue, and each and every big laugh in the film comes from him. Without Pratt, the movie would have just been another feel-good dramedy; he pushes it the extra mile.

There really isn’t anything wrong with the movie except for some its construction. There are a few plot points that seem forced, and others that just go away without any real reason, such as Vaughn owing money to the mob.

“Delivery Man” is pretty much what the holiday season is all about: spending time with your family, some of whom you may have never met, and having moments that are funny, awkward and heartwarming, sometimes all at once. A hat off to Vaughn for having a change of pace in his films, and hopefully it is a trend that continues.

Critics Rating: 7/10