Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
The original Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs got high marks for innovation, marking new ground both in creative storytelling and technical skill, proving popular with both grownups and children. It wore its sophistication lightly. Not so Cloudy 2, which takes the ideas of the first movie and uses them to set up a simple take on videogame cinema. Flink Lockwood (Bill Hader), whose machine that turns water into all kinds of food was the key narrative driver of the first movie, has had his talent recognized. Cloudy 2 kicks off with the realization that the machine is now creating food-animal hybrids — foodimals — and Flint and his friends set out on a dangerous mission to battle hungry tacodiles, shrimpanzees, hippotatomuses, and other food creatures to save the world. These puns and visual gags, amusing enough at first, become the central comic trope of the movie. Colorful if prodigiously un-innovative entertainment.
Starring Paul Walker, probably best known as Vin Diesel’s sidekick in a film that makes Fast & Furious 6 look like a nuanced psychological drama. In Vehicle 19, any pretense of acting is given up, and the screenplay by director Mukunda Michael Dewil explores new realms of clunky, unconvincing silliness. Fortunately, for those who don’t much care about coherent narrative and believable characters, there is plenty of automotive action that is well choreographed, well shot and in its way, quite exciting to watch. It’s just that for the most part, you really don’t care whether the people in the cars live or die, and even at 85 minutes, it is hard to stay involved with the fate of bewildered ex-con Michael who finds himself in a rental van that contains a kidnapped woman, and which is being chased by criminals and the police.
Thanks for Sharing
There is way too much talent on and behind the screens of Thanks for Sharing for it to be an unmitigated disaster, and for some, the mitigation provided by the outstanding performances and occasional bursts of brilliance in the screenplay, will be enough. This is Shame, but as a comedy, and the whole idea is a bit off kilter from the get go, and the best efforts of Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow and singer Pink don’t really bring it together. Director Stuart Blumberg, who also has a screenwriting credit on the film, doesn’t seem to be able to settle on the film’s tone, and pathos often drifts into bathos, and laughs into uncomfortable sniggers, making Thanks for Sharing a rather uncomfortable experience.
The Starving Games
Do we really need a Scary Movie type spoof of The Hunger Games? Clearly directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, who created the increasingly desperate Scary Movie series, along with Meet the Spartans and Epic Movie, think so. And so we have a range of minor league actors working through the story of The Hunger Games, with occasional references to other recent movies, such as The Avengers, to make something that is clearly supposed to be funny and even clever. Some of the gags might be worth a couple of minutes on Youtube, but you’d have to be desperate to sit through this as a full length cinema feature.
Rigor Mortis (殭屍)
Hong Kong supernatural horror by actor-turned-director Juno Mak (麥浚龍). Starring Chin Siu-ho (錢小豪), best known for his collaboration with Jet Lee in the martial arts classics The Tai-Chi Master and Fist of Legend. Chin plays a former action star whose fame has dwindled, who finds himself in insalubrious housing where he aims to end his life. He meets up with old acquaintances and makes new friends, and faced with an infestation of zombies, Chin’s character must draw on his action hero experience to defeat the threat. Chin’s own star as a cinema actor has been in decline over recent years, and Mak makes a clever play with this for those who follow Hong Kong celebrity culture, but for the most part, Rigor Mortis is a by-the-numbers horror, competently made, but without much originality.