Late August through early October usually is a fairly fallow period for movie-goers.
Films released this time of year are usually a mixture of ones not considered strong enough to compete in either the summer or the holiday seasons, cheap exploitation films that have a distinct and faithful audience, or special events like the re-release of a beloved concert film.
This year has been a bit different. The last two weeks, filmgoers have been treated to two solid sequels featuring two aging stars with Kenneth Branagh’s “A Haunting in Venice” (review) and Denzel Washington’s “Equalizer 3” (review). Both Washington and Branagh still know how to deliver the goods. Neither film will surprise you, but both are solid entertainments.
For my tastes, either one is a better option than the three movies opening this week, but opinions do vary.
I might have had a great time with this over-the-top action fest as a young teen after sneaking into an R-rated movie with my buddies in the early 1980s, but 40 years later, this lackluster schlock-fest was tough on my constitution.
It was all I could do not to walk out on this one.
The shaky cam ruins whatever decent action the movie might have provided, and while Jason Statham can be entertaining in a certain type of role, he just does not have the charisma or gravitas that Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger brought to these type of films in their hey days.
Stallone actually co-stars with other aging tough guys like Randy Couture and Dolph Lundgren, but his part is fairly small. The plot is the generic “we’ve got to put a team together” crutch, and as you might have guessed that squad has to stop a terrorist organization from using stolen nuclear warheads to incite a war between the United States and Russia.
As generic as that plot is, if well executed it could have made for an entertaining piece of action fluff, but the script has no life, the acting is wooden, and the CGI and special effects are of the straight-to-video variety.
If “Mystery Science Theater” were still a thing, “EXPEND4BLES” would be a strong candidate for its lineup. It’s the worst movie I’ve sat through in a while.
(R) 1 hr. 43 min.
It Lives Inside
From generic action, we move to generic horror with “It Lives Inside.”
That’s not actually fair.
While “It Lives Inside” isn’t exactly an original piece of film-making, first-time writer/director Bishal Dutta does have some creative flare in this cautionary tale of the ramifications of selling out one’s heritage to be like everyone else.
Samidha or Sam (Megan Suri) is an American high schooler who turns her back on her Indian heritage and a childhood friend in hopes of mixing with the popular crowd at school.
However, when a demonic spirit known as Pishach begins to vex her former friend Tamira (Mohana Krishnan), Sam gains a greater respect for her heritage and a lesson in being herself as she attempts to help her former friend buddy, who admittedly is a weirdo.
The movie is creepy following the basic possession film formula for the most part, but the push and pull of a young woman trying to reconcile her heritage with her longing to be accepted by her new friends is compelling. Most of us have felt a similar tug at some point in our lives. That brings the horror home.
Sam’s dad Inesh (Vik Sahay) dotes on seeing his daughter flourish in their new American culture, but her mom Poona (Neeru Bajwa) cherishes the customs, beliefs and courtesies of their culture of origin and is upset by Sam’s rejection of all that she holds dear.
When an ancient evil is released from a jar that Sam knocked out of Tamira’s hand, things get absolutely demonic.
The movie isn’t really a hard-core horror. It doesn’t overwhelm you with kills or gore, although there is some. Dutta is a crafty directer who builds tension and terror with stylish cinematography by Matthew Lynn and effective set design by Tyler Harron.
The movie isn’t ground-breaking in any way, but it is a solidly told spook tale with a useful moral of remembering where you come from.
(PG-13) 1 hr. 39 min.
Stop Making Sense
If you are fan of Talking Heads, I would imagine you have already seen this well-respected 1983 concert film that was shot during their tour to promote the classic album “Speaking in Tongues.”
The film, directed by Jonathan Demme, blankets the bands hits from 1977’s “Psycho Killer” to the classic “Burning Down the House,” which was Talking Heads’ latest hit when the film was released.
The concert features the bands’ key songs through 1983 as well as a few of David Byrne’s solo efforts and tunes from the Tom Tom Club, the side project of drummer Chris Frantz and bassist Tina Weymouth. Byrne and the rest of the members of the band put on an entertaining show, and I’m not even a true fan of their music. I just recognize the hits.
The concert film is available on Prime Video, but if you are a big fan of Talking Heads, it certainly would be fun to re-watch the movie on the biggest screen available in our area with arguably the best sound system.
(PG) 1 hr. 28 mins.
Classic Corner – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
If you need an escape from the current state of the national political scene, why not take a trip back to a simpler time?
How about back to 1939, which happens to be one of the greatest year of movies that Hollywood ever produced?
“Gone With the Wind” almost swept the Oscars that year, but director Frank Capra’s ode to the best intentions of our founding fathers, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, garnered 11 nominations and won an Academy Award for Best Writing for an Original Story.
The film is one of Capra’s best movies and features one of Jimmy Stewart’s best performances. That’s saying a lot in both cases. However, the supporting was is just as strong. Jean Arthur, Claude Rains and Edward Arnold also give standout performances among a cast filled with familiar faces to classic movie fans.
Stewart plays Jefferson Smith, a wide-eyed local activist who runs a children’s newspaper. He is picked to be the stooge for a political machine when it needs to replace a senator who died in office.
When Smith arrives in Washington, Stewart is naïve and overwhelmed by the monumental honor and task set before him, but he’s not weak or corrupt as his home-state political machine soon finds out. He mounts a filibuster to make sure his state finds out how corrupt its elected officials really are.
One good man stands up to fight for what’s right despite the crushing power of his opposition.
Yes, it’s Capra corn, but it sure is tasty. The movie plays a 7 p.m. Sunday on Turner Classic Movies.