This shaggy superhero spoof doesn’t consistently live up to its best moments, but at least those moments are there, with most of them stemming from the hilarious interplay between McCarthy and Octavia Spencer.
Sam Raimi is a producer here, and it’s hard not to think about how he might have mined this material both for provocation and for fright; his “Drag Me to Hell” remains the gold standard of how to scare the heck out of an audience within the restrictions of PG-13. What we get instead here is a tepid little chiller with an overqualified cast.
Yes, obviously, no one goes to these movies for the deep human characters or for plot machinations or even for the metaphors about the environment and industrialization. Here’s the thing, though — they come in handy to fill in the gaps between the monster battles, and you miss them when they’re not there. And since even those battles are somewhat perfunctory, what are we even doing here?
There are certainly far more despicable franchises in the world of children’s entertainment than the “Peter Rabbit” series, but there are few this negligible, particularly considering the talent involved. Just because you don’t have to aim higher doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
Nobody is more violent lark than probing satire, but between Bob Odenkirk’s smartly underplayed performance, the surprises in the screenplay by Derek Kolstad (the “John Wick” series) and the puckishly brutal direction of Ilya Naishuller (“Hardcore Henry”), it’s a wonderfully paced and consistently clever action movie that ups the ante of a genre that’s been dominated by Liam Neeson clones.
Zack Snyder superhero movies are the black licorice of cinema: Those who like the taste can’t understand why everyone doesn’t, and those who don’t like the taste grimace at the thought. And now the streaming wars and online clamor have brought us Zack Snyder’s Justice League. It’s four hours of black licorice.
This feels less like a movie and more like one of those reunion specials where the cast of a beloved old TV show returns to play their characters again, recreating their pratfalls and repeating their catchphrases.
There’s no shortage of imaginative sci-fi details or of talented actors on-hand, but the film boils down to characters we barely get to know chasing each other and yelling. That it hardly matters who’s being chased or what, exactly, is being yelled — mostly “Stop her!” and “AAAUUUGGGHHH!” — is just part of the trouble here.
The Father is an unsettling film, but it’s also a compassionate one; family members of those suffering with dementia can turn to it for an empathetic portrait of how that disorientation must feel on the inside. It’s one of the most disturbing films in recent memory, but it’s both understanding and unforgettable.
From its facile depiction of the role of incarceration in the rehab process — addiction is a health issue that we keep mistakenly treating as a criminal issue — to the under-writing of the characters, what should be a harrowing drama instead comes off as an anti-drug pamphlet.
The United States vs. Billie Holiday never completely works as a drama, but it does ultimately succeed in two important ways: The film provides a launchpad for Andra Day’s exceptional acting talents as well as her gifts as a singer, and enriches the public understanding of Holiday’s persecution, funded by taxpayer dollars, for daring to speak truth to power through her art.
All comedy is subjective, of course, and Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar is aggressive in being true to itself and its own vision. Those not on board will roll their eyes and wonder what the fuss is about, while fans will watch it repeatedly, quote it forever, and dress as the characters for Halloween.
Tweens who are less familiar with temporal-anomaly cinema and TV will no doubt be entranced by this concept and by the talented cast that brings it to fruition. More seasoned viewers who have seen this kind of thing before have seen this kind of thing before, have seen this kind of thing before.