12:34 AM EDT, August 22, 2013
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Sony Pictures didn’t wait for the release of "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" to announce plans for a sequel. Let’s hope the filmmakers learn at least a few lessons from this first adaptation of the popular teen fantasy series of novels.
To be fair, there are elements worth celebrating. The movie is thankfully less self-serious than the mopey "Twilight" films. "The Mortal Instruments" revels in its own camp.
But there is plenty of room for improvement. The action flick is overly long, complicated and, even by teen romance standards, cringe-worthy in its cheesiness.
Based on a series of novels by Cassandra Clare,the main protagonist is Clary (Lily Collins), a seemingly typical teenager who begins drawing strange symbols in her sleep and seeing violent images that her best friend, Simon (Robert Sheehan), cannot. It turns out Clary is a shadow hunter, or a half-human, half-angel predestined to track and kill demons. Her realization coincides with the disappearance of her mother (Lena Headey), another such vigilante who’s been masquerading as an artist in Brooklyn.
To find her mom, Clary teams up with Simon and another shadow hunter, the snarky, smoldering Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower). Their quest coincides with the demon-killer network’s larger goal of finding a magical cup that could save or destroy humanity; Clary’s mother was the only person who knew its whereabouts, but the information may also be hiding somewhere in Clary’s cloudy memory. The plot gets more convoluted from there, with vampires, werewolves, witches and grotesque, oozy monsters joining the mix. The special effects are good for the most part, and the chase scenes are thrilling. If only it were clearer what everyone was running from and why.
The characters are plucky and quick-witted, which is a welcome change from the brooding Edward Cullen and monotone Bella Swan. Simon has a wry sense of humor, and Jace offers up his hokey lines with a knowing wink. If only she’d acknowledged the corniness when she and Jace share an intimate late-night moment in a greenhouse amid blooming computer-generated flowers and twinkling lights.
When an overhead sprinkler system turns on, drenching the pair during their first kiss, is it a sly nod to romantic shlock or just another example of it? There were loads of laughs during an early screening of the film, but it was difficult to tell whether the movie was vying for them or not. (PG-13, 130 minutes)
— Stephanie Merry, Washington Post
The decades-long glut of horror movies cannot help but numb the regular filmgoer — especially the horror film fan — to the shocks, effects and jolts that are standard issue in this weary genre.
Too many vampires, serial killers, zombies or alien beasties, too many shrieking, bleeding coeds or gutted jocks and eviscerated cops and the movies lose their sting.
Then a film like "You’re Next" comes along and reminds us that all you need to suck fans into your movie are people in jeopardy, pitiless killers and those one or two victims who fight back and win our sympathy, give us someone to root for. All you need to scare the willies out of us, to get that visceral hair-raising reaction, are masked killers and splashes of well-placed viscera.
The adult children of a wealthy couple (Barbara Crampton, Rob Moran) gather in their country house to help them celebrate a wedding anniversary. We barely have time to pick up on the friction over Crispian (A.J. Bowen), an academic, dating a student (Sharni Vinson) — something brother Drake (Joe Swanberg) disapproves of — and the disconnect between hipster brother Felix (Nicholas Tucci), his Goth girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn) and bubbly sister Aimee (Amy Seimetz), who is dating a filmmaker (real-life horror filmmaker Ti West).
Then the crossbow bolts come crashing through the window, nobody’s cellphone works, and people in the house start dying at the hands of hooded, animal-masked intruders. Is it a random act, part of a spree (we’ve seen neighbors slaughtered in the opening scene) or some sort of Satanic ritual?
"You’re Next" reaches for laughs with its cheap scares and bizarre reactions to life-or-death situations. People volunteer to "go out there" where the killers are, and get in a car to fetch help, or go upstairs— alone — to check out a noise.
They shout "It’s OK, it’s OK" after some horrific bit of butchery, and "Maybe it’s over," when the latest slice of slaughter has ended. The one or two hysterics in their ranks are the ones reacting with the proper sense of urgency.
One or two of the family assume a defensive posture, arm themselves, cover windows and try to reason or fight their way out of this. The bad guys have their sheep or wolf masks, crossbows and machetes. Let’s find us some knives, and maybe a blender or meat tenderizer!
"You’re Next" was shelved for a couple of years. But not because it is damaged goods. The frights are passable, the foreshadowing (extreme close-ups of nails being pounded through boards, etc.) telling and the humor — sick as it is — quite funny.
So seriously, if you see just one slaughterhouse horror picture this year . . . (R, 97 minutes)
— Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
The story is inspired by a Washington Post profile of Eugene Allen, a White House butler from 1952 to 1986. Some anecdotes remain, but much is different. Most importantly, Daniels and screenwriter Danny Strong create a father-son dynamic between Gaines and a rebellious older son, Louis (a terrific David Oyelowo) that serves as a backdrop against which the civil rights struggle can play out — through the eyes of black characters, not white ones, for a refreshing change. (PG-13, 132 minutes)
— Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press
Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz reprise their roles as the teenaged superheroes in this sequel to 2010’s unapologetically rude and violent original. The sequel is apparently so bloody that even Jim Carrey, who plays the main heavy, has spoken out against the movie. (R, 107 minutes)
Ashton Kutcher portrays the temperamental genius Steve Jobs from his days as a college dropout to his creation of Apple, which today is considered the most valuable company in the world. (PG-13, 127 minutes)
The two most powerful tech billionaires in the world (Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman) are bitter rivals with a complicated past who will stop at nothing to destroy each other. A young superstar, Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth), seduced by unlimited wealth and power, falls between them and becomes trapped in their twisting, turning, life-and-death game of corporate espionage. By the time Adam realizes his life is in danger, he is in far too deep and knows far too much for them to let him walk away. (PG-13, 106 minutes)
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, In 2-D and 3-D. (PG, 106 minutes)
We’re the Millers, (R, 109 minutes)
Elysium, (R, 109 minutes)
Planes, In 2-D and 3-D. (PG, 92 minutes)
2 Guns, R, 109 minutes
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