Grown Ups 2
Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade are four childhood buddies, as you would already know if you saw the first installment of Grown Ups, which already had little to recommend it other than as an opportunity of indulging a taste for toilet humor and unsophisticated slapstick. In Grown Ups 2, the friends decide to move back to their hometown and there they discover that things have moved on since they lived there as kids. As with the first movie, the cast seems to have quite a lot of fun, but unfortunately, this joy is so self-consciously labored that it fails to be passed on to the audience. The jokes come thick and fast as the comedic four do their best to entertain, but there is no buildup in the story, and the film comes off as a series of competent comic sketches rather than a real movie.
Another dose of Vin Diesel in a film inspired by The Chronicles of Riddick franchise. If you have seen the earlier films in this loosely cobbled together series, you will pretty much know what to expect, with Diesel trying to sound cryptic and menacing, though the posturing is getting old and Riddick does not even have a shred of humor to lighten the mood. Director David Twohy seems to have taken considerable inspiration from the film Aliens, but has failed to put his own spin and even the trailer comes off as lazy and derivative.
Pain & Gain
Mark Wahlberg has proved that he is an actor with a wide range, putting in solid performances in everything from Boogie Nights to The Fighter, but he also likes to go slumming with easy action flicks like Contraband. In Pain & Gain, about a trio of bodybuilders in Florida who get caught up in an extortion and kidnap scheme that goes terribly wrong, Wahlberg tries to go deep while also playing up, and perhaps poking a little fun at, the Hollywood action film. It doesn’t quite come off, partly because ultimately Pain & Gain, directed by Michael Bay, can’t break free of action film conventions. There are some truly memorable moments, and compared to Bay’s usual sledgehammer approach to filmmaking, Pain & Gain has some really amusing lines and the occasional flash of insight, but for the most part, Bay’s idea of a joke is someone being punched in the face.
Bridge Over Troubled Water (拔一條河)
A feature documentary by award-winning director Yang Li-chou (楊力州) that looks at the town of Chiahsien (甲仙) in Kaohsiung County in the aftermath of the destruction caused by Typhoon Morakot in 2009. The director filmed in the town for over a year, and the film captures many aspects of life in an area recovering from devastation. Particularly, he focuses on a group of children who are training for a tug-of-war competition. The team and their efforts become a beacon of hope in the local community, helping them recover from the grief caused by the destruction of their homes by the storm.
The English Teacher
You see the cast list and the concept you hope that The English Teacher is going to be one of those sympathetic, intelligent movies about life and art that manages to be humorous and serious both at the same time. There is Julianne Moore as the teacher of the title who becomes fascinated by a play written by a former student, played by Michael Angarano. Romance rears its ugly head, and a father-son conflict is squeezed in for no very good reason. It is telling that it is in fact Nathan Lane, who is better known for his TV work, who provides the standout performance. There are some fun literary jokes, but these don’t sit very comfortably with the rest of the film, which never rises much above that of a not-very-inspiring situation comedy.