10 Cloverfield Lane
Many thrillers confine their cast in a building, even if it doesn’t appear to have done so. This is sometimes accomplished through isolation, such as the classic cabin in the woods or the deadly manors of Agatha Christie novels. So having a thriller set in a bomb shelter isn’t functionally all that different, right? Still, it lends an air of claustrophobia that these other settings lack.
The main concept of 10 Cloverfield Lane is that our point-of-view character was rescued by a stranger (John Goodman) from a massive disaster she was unconscious for. Because neither she nor the audience witnessed this apocalypse, we’re all left to wonder whether we can trust what Goodman has to say about it. It doesn’t help that he’s acting like a total creep the whole time.
The bunker’s other unexpected resident knows a little more about the situation, but not much. He trusts the story but does little to help the rest of us trust it. But his knowledge is enough to blow wide open another mystery that crops up while underground… that aggravatingly gets dropped right as we’re getting close to the answer.
While the script’s 10th-hour adaptation to a Cloverfield sequel makes for a fun twist somewhat in the vein of Hot Fuzz, I can’t help but wonder how the original mystery surrounding Goodman’s past actions was supposed to have wrapped up. This is not just some idle musing, but by far my biggest complaint about the movie. It could have benefitted from an extra five minutes, but it seems they wanted to maximize the whiplash.
Verdict: Rental (3/5). Not bad, but not exceptional, save for Goodman’s acting. The rewrites could have coexisted peacefully with the original story, but unfortunately went for the jugular instead.
I swear, I never intended to watch this one. I’m sure Robert De Niro never intended to act in it either, so things didn’t really work out for the both of us.
Dirty Grandpa more-or-less takes all the flubs I griped about in Vacation and decides to build an entire movie around them.
You have one assy character forcing the other uptight character through a long list of questionable hijinks until the uptight charicter’s life becomes so thoroughly messed up that he has no choice but to give in to the assy character. There’s about 20 of these a year, all of which with the same sense of humor.
What sets Dirty Grandpa apart from the pack? Star power. Aside from De Niro, the filmmakers got Zach Efron, Aubrey Plaza and Danny Glover to sign on as well. If that will make the difference to you, go nuts. On the other hand, if you want a 2016 star-studded sophomoric comedy that has some creativity and is actually — you know — funny, perhaps you should try Sausage Party instead.
(We’ll talk about that later…)
Verdict: Flat (2/5). A direct-to-video movie that Lionsgate put in the theater for some reason.
Ouija: Origin of Evil
As far as horror movies go, you could do worse.
There’s a nice theme of the supernatural being a sham business by single mother “spirit medium” Alice and her accomplice children, Lina and Doris contrasted against Hasbro selling a $10 piece of cardboard that can actually contact the dead.
Sure, it’s got a silly premise but Ouija has waaaaaaaaaaaay more to do with the movie that shares its name than the ill-fated attempt at turning Battleship into a movie.
The movie makes a big deal about the three laws of Ouija (
a Ouija board may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm never play alone, never play in a graveyard, always say goodbye), so, predictably, all three must be broken accidentally as soon as possible. When the “twist” comes that there were dead bodies in/under the main charicters’ house the whole time, thus qualifying it as a graveyard, you really can’t muster much shock.
The youngest actress playing Doris is surprisingly good for a low-budget movie. Which is good, as she really needs to do some heavy lifting for the plot. The family in general does well; being understandable if not likeable. The same can’t be true of the slate of uninteresting side-charicters, though.
Verdict: Rental (3/5). Nothing special, but might scratch your horror itch.