Saturday, May 1, 2010

Freddy's Dead

Or maybe not. Despite critical hatred from nearly all corners and a feeble 15% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, the new Nightmare on Elm Street made about $32 million this weekend. Expect it to drop big time, however. Reviewers generally agreed with what I was skeptical about in my previous post. Selected quotes:

"...although much screen time is devoted to helping us 'understand' Freddy’s motivations, the child molesting angle is just too creepy for comfort and deflates the movie’s 'fun' factor considerably."

—Pete Hammond, Boxoffice

"Bayer surprisingly traffics in factory-level horror atmospherics and loud, saw-it-coming shocks. In the end, your last fever dream about failing to study for an exam was probably scarier."

—Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

"Bottom Line: Good luck staying awake." —Michael Rechtshaffen, Hollywood Reporter

What really ticks me off about opportunistic movies like this and other recent remakes is that they're meant to be disposable, intending to grab as much cash as they can in one weekend and then become a "director's cut" DVD. The cynicism shows in the films themselves: tired, uninspired and enervating.

It looks like Wes Craven was right to steer clear of this turkey.

The Losers Are Winners

Again, we have a film that averaged 43% fresh (meaning rotten) on Rotten Tomatoes, and I'm really having trouble understanding the critics now. They set their snooty bar so high, and yet they fall all over themselves for cliched dreck like How To Train Your Black Blotch That Acts Like a Cat.

All I have to say to them is: "Take it easy, pal! You got in for free. Do you see the audience around you having a good time? What did you think this was, a Godard film?" Again, good ol' Roger Ebert was the voice of reason. He took the film for what it was and enjoyed it.

I have to admit that I'm a sucker for comic book (or graphic novel) adaptations. X-Men? Love it. Spiderman? Terrific. Watchmen? Dark and complicated but I enjoyed combing through its many layers to figure out what was going on. The Dark Knight was brilliant for two-thirds of its running time but really didn't need 17 endings.

I also confess that I haven't read the source material of any of these films, but that's my point. Readers of the books endlessly flame the film adaptations, but you can't expect to please hardcore devotees and the uninitiated simultaneously. Filmmakers who take on these projects necessarily have to take into consideration those viewers who aren't readers of the books if they want to make more than $10,000 opening weekend.

The Losers sets up its story nicely, has an appealing, game cast and is just a heck of a lot of fun. Of course, it has the usual Matrix-style freeze frame action (mostly to avoid violence that would push it past PG-13), but it's brisk and stylish and has a lot of humor.

An elite special forces unit headed by Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is sent into the jungles of Bolivia on a search-and-destroy mission, only to discover they've been double-crossed by a mysterious man known only as Max, who orders their helicopter to be blown out of the sky. The only problem is they're not in it. Allowing everyone back in the States to believe they're dead, they plot their revenge. Their opportunity arrives when Aisha ( Zoe Saldana), a beautiful operative with an agenda of her own, offers to fund their mission.

Morgan, Saldana and Chris Evans all seem to be having a lot of fun, but it's the normally intense Jason Patric who's the real surprise here. Given the opportunity to play comedy, he takes full advantage of it. His Max is sadistic, cruel, and drunk with power, but he also possesses a wry sense of the ridiculous.

Morgan and Saldana have a hilariously violent brawl in a burning hotel room, lots of things blow up really good, Evans provides his "I'm goofy but not as goofy as Owen Wilson" character, and it has nice graphic novel-style transitions. What more do you need? And compared to what I'm sure the new Elm Street is like, at least there's some creative enthusiasm involved here.

The Losers (2010) Official Trailer - These bloopers are hilarious

1 comment:

Russell Adams said...

I loved THE LOSERS, too. The film reminds me very much in comic tone and set-up of TNT's series, LEVERAGE, which I enjoy for all the same reasons.


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