Hollywood films you need to stay far away from this year.
The Darkness – 1.4/5 stars
“The Darkness” is so obsessed with being vaguely creepy and so caught up in its delusions of grandeur about making the next-best haunted house movie that it can’t be bothered about peripheral distractions like plot development, entertainment, originality, and logic. In his attempt to do all things “Poltergeist”, Director Greg McLean ends up shitting all over the legacy of the aforementioned classic, going to show that even if you blatantly derive from a superlative film, you need an astute mind with sound judgment at the helm of things. McLean throws everything from CGI phantoms to horrified looks to what’s-lurking-behind-the-bend our way, but they all do little to hold our attention. The scariest thing about this scary feature were its misleadingly scary previews. What in the world could have convinced the immensely talented Kevin Bacon to star in this unmitigated, soporific mess?
Pee-wee’s Big Holiday – 1.5/5 stars
It’s like one of those drab and juvenile “Muppets” or “Scooby-Doo” movies, where you’re happy to see the characters back on screen again, bet get quickly annoyed that the filmmakers forgot to add enough jokes to make it funny or at least some coherent humor for the adults to find it funny along with the kids, especially considering that the core audience would be adults who had watched it when they were kids. The character of Pee-wee Herman is still as startling and original and endearing as he ever was. In fact, I would have given “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday” a 1-star rating was it not for Paul Reubens being charming as ever in the role that made him a household name. He just deserves a funnier, more entertaining holiday to connect with today’s audience and reconnect with the audience who grew up enjoying his simple, innocent, silly brand of laughs that were by no means absurd or off-putting. There’s a difference between silly fun and sheer stupidity.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War – 1.7/5 stars
Three of Hollywood’s most powerful actresses at the moment get lost in a mosaic of bloated visual effects, which is as big as any crime a film could commit. Plus, by cramming far too much material into its 114-minute runtime, “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” feels rushed from the beginning and totally incomplete toward the end. This is the kind of trip they’re referring that makes people gripe about Hollywood’s reliance on sequels and cheap franchise cash-ins, which offer nothing but over-done, run-of-the mill CGI. In fact, if “Huntsman” does anything, it’s expose Chris Hemsworth’s acting shortcomings and seriously question his ability to carry a movie on his shoulders; in short, Hollywood needs to do a rethink about banking on him as leading-man material. (He’s good as Thor, but that’s Marvel, which almost sells itself.) On the whole, “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” is an entirely unnecessary sequel to what was already a weak first installment, which did very little in terms of setting up a franchise.
The Witch – 1.8/5 stars
Visually, “The Witch” looks damn creepy, and it builds immense atmosphere, but it all peters out well before any significant momentum can be reached. Yes, it’s different from your regular, modern horror movie, but it also fails miserably at capitalizing on being different. Plus, there’s too much of mumbo-jumbo about religion, sin, feminism, and other peripheral stuff going on for the film to get its head out of its own ass. In addition, “The Witch” commits the cardinal cinematic sin of misleading viewers because the trailer and posters sold it as a horror movie, but, in actuality, it’s a somber drama about familial discord and witchcraft. “The Witch” is like a boring, King James version of a horror movie. Many other critics are raving about it, but after watching it, I felt like going home and sitting through a Wes Craven or Dario Argento marathon.
Dirty Grandpa – 1.9/5 stars
Offensive in all the wrong ways, “Dirty Grandpa” desperately wants to be a raunchy, politically incorrect, gross-out comedy, with crude gags and a big heart, but all it ends up being is a desperately rehashed, piss-clone of some of the better works of Judd Apatow, Evan Goldberg and The Farrellys. Spare yourself the torment of having the image of cinema icon Robert De Niro tarnished forever, and go look for your does of dirty humor elsewhere.
The Boy – 1.9/5 stars
“The Boy” aims to set itself squarely in the fictional canon of Chucky and its brethren, but it ends up trying to do so much that it forgets to scare us. A heavy reliance on dream sequences for jump scares reveals that the plotline has nowhere to go, and the climactic twists are wholly dissatisfying and belie logic when drawn up against the (mildly scary) events that precede it. Fans of The Walking Dead’s gorgeous Lauren Cohan should wait for another feature that does justice to the actress’ talent. She tries her best to salvage whatever little she can from the drab screenplay and lackluster direction, but, then again, there’s only so much she or any other actor stuck in such an unimaginatively hauntless situation could do.