Comedy sequels aren’t easy, and “Zoolander 2” has a whole lot stacked against it. For one thing, “Zoolander” came out in 2001, so the teens and twentysomethings who liked it then (myself included) are now 30-somethings. With that different an audience, but the tacit expectation that a sequel should be the same but more than its predecessor, “Zoolander 2” seems doomed. I went in without having rewatched the original in the intervening decade and a half, and with very low expectations – a combination that mostly succeeded in letting me have a good time.
Directed by: Jason Zada Starring: Natalie Dormer, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Taylor Kinney, Eoin Macken, Rated: PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and images “The Forest” feels like a mediocre remake of a Japanese horror movie. Alas, it is not a remake (which would at least point us toward a possible good time), it’s just a mediocre movie. The plot has some promise: a woman looking for her lost twin sister in a forest widely reputed to be full of angry ghosts. Unfortunately, the filmmakers went the route of jump-scares and “scary” makeup we’ve seen a million times, and set the movie in Japan for no apparent reason. To make matters worse, the film never really addresses the fact that suicide is the second leading cause of death in Japan, and that the forest is not only real but one of the most popular locations for suicides in the world. Our heroine, blonde and serious Sarah (Natalie Dormer),
Directed by: Breck Eisner Starring: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Julie Engelbrecht, Michael Caine, Elijah Wood Rated: PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images Vin Diesel is famous for his work in movies where he generally plays a big, strong guy who speaks softly but can kick you across the country and back. He’s also famous among nerds for being a huge, huge nerd himself. In fact, the story and titular character in “The Last Witch Hunter” grew out of Diesel talking about one of his Dungeons and Dragons characters with a filmmaker friend. Even better, it’s a surprisingly good film if you like supernatural action stories. In the world of “The Last Witch Hunter,” witches aren’t human. They look human when they want to, and in the modern day many of them live peacefully among humans. The peace is kept by a longstanding truce between the Witch Council and The Axe and Cross,
Directed by: Ridley Scott Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Askel Hennie, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean Rated: PG-13 for some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity. The castaway tale is not a new one, but “The Martian” brings us a sci-fi take on it: rather than being stranded on a deserted island, our protagonist is stranded on Mars. While experts and enthusiastic amateurs will doubtless find plenty of errors to point out, this is a ripping yarn suitable for anybody who likes to see human spirit and ingenuity overcome impossible situations. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is one of six astronauts on a manned mission to Mars when a dust storm forces them to abandon their base and cut the planned month-long expedition short. When Watney is blown away by debris and they can’t find him or any trace of his various signals, Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) makes
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Ealasaid A. Haas Directed by: Guy Ritchie Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alici Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki Rated: Rated PG-13 for action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity Guy Ritchie, fresh off his Sherlock Holmes movies, continues his trend of period pieces by bringing us a new incarnation of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” a TV show made and set in the 60s. The film version is set in the 60s as well, and everything from the clothes to the lighting is clearly aimed at putting us in that time.. You don’t need to have seen the show or even lived through the Cold War to have fun with the movie, though – Ritchie wisely opens the film with a sequence making it perfectly clear how well the West and the Soviets got along at the time. Our protagonists Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) could not be more
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Omar Sy, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, BD Wong, Irrfan Khan Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril It’s been 22 years since “Jurassic Park” came out, and “Jurassic World” brings us a vision of what things might be like 22 years after the catastrophe at the dinosaur zoo. If you just want to sit in a cool, dark theater and admire CGI dinosaurs, you will not be disappointed. If you want a film with character development, actual characters, or any semblance of good writing, stay far, far away. Mr. Masrani (Irrfan Khan) has turned the island into a theme park with more dinosaurs and what superficially looks like better security. His director of operations, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), is very good at running things from the control room, but not so good with people. Her nephews Gray (Ty Simpkins) and
Written and Directed by: Joss Whedon Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments. At this point, Marvel Comics knows that people know about the Avengers. The newest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn’t spend time establishing who everyone is with long backstories – we open with a fight sequence that gives each member of the team a chance to show off their abilities, then proceed directly onward with the story. If you haven’t seen any of the ten previous films and are willing to hold on for the ride, you can enjoy “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” but it’s going to make a lot more sense if you’ve seen at least a few. Wisely, Marvel has given the films their own continuity line – they take
Directed by: James Wan Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Jordana Brewster, Dwayne Johnson Rated: PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language After six “Fast and Furious” movies, it seems almost redundant to review the newest one. The franchise has a very successful formula: fast cars, awesome action scenes, big brawls between huge muscular dudes, and ladies in bikinis. The filmmakers know their target audience and don’t waste time trying to make anything but huge action flicks. This is another solid entry in a solid series. If you like this kind of movie, you’ll like this one.
Directed by: Peter Jackson Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans Rated: PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images Peter Jackson appears to have finally run out of Hobbit. “The Battle of Five Armies” is the third and final film in his prequel trilogy, which uses J.R.R. Tolkiens’ book The Hobbit as a framework from which to hang a bunch of material from the appendices to The Lord of the Rings, along with a bunch of his own material. If you saw the previous films in the Hobbit trilogy, this one is essentially more of the same, just dialed up in intensity. There’s more fighting, more outside material, more fancy effects. If you like that sort of thing, it will deliver in spades. If Jackson’s style of adaptation makes you tear your hair, stay away. All
Vampires are nothing new. Dracula in particular is nothing new. “Dracula Untold” gives us an entire film of what we saw only briefly in Francis Ford Coppala’s version of the famed vampire’s life: the (rather brief) mortal life of Prince Vlad III – the national hero who saved his people and became a monster. This is definitely not a film for scholars of the historical Vlad, but if you know a little and are interested in another take on the vampire flick, it will sate your appetite.