It’s both a calculated attempt to recapture some of the emotional magic of his successes, and a clinical analysis of how exactly humanistic but effects-driven filmmaking is supposed to work. These qualities make it fascinating, but ineffectual as a narrative — or even as a demo reel. Zemeckis seems to think he’s showing heart. Instead, he’s messily dissecting it.
Thematic muddles would matter less if Bumblebee delivered more as an action movie, but despite some neat car-chase complications, this series remains stubbornly averse to shaping its action barrages into satisfying set pieces.
The heroes are noble but believable, the villains appropriately loathsome, and the violent clashes, particularly a turning-point castle infiltration, are exciting without indulging in a Gibson-style wallow in torture and gore. But the moments of offbeat personality that animate Mackenzie’s best work are fewer and farther between.
Ultimately, Creed II feels a little muffled by its workmanlike touches, especially when it gets in the ring. Just as Rocky was too low-key and charming to spawn a fully worthy successor for several decades, Creed so elevates its franchise roots that even a pretty good sequel can’t land with the same impact. Then again, a 2018 movie called Creed II expanding on Rocky IV to become one of the better Rocky movies may be another minor miracle on its own.
When his zany cast of characters (many but not all played by Perry himself) takes leave of his material, as in Nobody’s Fool, his movie’s faults start to look more congruent with less auteur-driven studio comedies.
In the best scenes, the filmmakers make the case that Queen’s musical decisions grew out of the musicians’ restless inability to fit in with either pop conventional wisdom or, sometimes, each other. The rest of the movie fits in all too well.
What Hill hasn’t yet mastered, despite considerable skill as a first-time filmmaker, is how to impose a narrative more quietly, especially in finding the right ending. He also doesn’t seem to fully trust his sense of humor.
In The Oath, his first feature as a writer-director, comic actor Ike Barinholtz zeroes in on an approach somewhere between caustic stage comedy and "The Purge." The movie isn’t always up to the delicacy of that ambitious balancing act, but even the attempt is engaging.
The best moments toy with a kind of superhero body horror, but the movie never fully commits to that angle, maybe to appease a ratings board and perceived audience of 13-year-olds (isn’t that who Venom was designed to please?), or maybe because director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) is more interested in the comic possibilities than the horrific ones.
The emotional impact is ultimately surprisingly muted; she dies too soon, and the movie ends. Then again, it’s hard to blame anyone for assuming that consistent access to Radner’s voice, in moments both public and candid, would be enough. She radiates such joy, all these years later, that it nearly is.
Alpha has been sold, to some degree, as a family-friendly film, and while it’s too violent and perhaps too heavily subtitled for young kids (or, for that matter, some adults, who may notice how superfluous much of the dialogue is), it’s easy to picture some 10-year-olds taking to its exciting, cornball charms.