Director Kasper Barfoed’s The Numbers Station is an incomprehensibly boorish cinematic experience that feels totally devoid of ambition. I despise using sports metaphors, yet this is the sort of movie where everyone seems to be content in getting base hits rather than aiming for a home run. This general lackadaisical attitude permeates every aspect of the film from murky ill-lit environments to John Cusack’s bored visage to even the screenplay which is so shoddily constructed from genre spare parts that it feels as if it is about to break down in virtually every scene. It is no surprise that the movie has been graced with a limited global rollout as box office prospects are decidedly dim even from rentals.
Director Roland Emmerich is well-known for his grand disaster movies from an alien invasion in Independence Day to the world basically ending in 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow, this is a man who clearly revels in blowing things up in an epic scale which is why his newest film White House Down actually feels like an indie movie as there’s not as much destruction going on. Sure, the White House and a few other buildings get knocked around a bit but that’s nothing new considering Emmerich has made a career out of blowing up the White House and this time around the focus isn’t global calamity but rather in concocting a movie that feels inspired by Die Hard except with a more family-oriented PG-13 rating. It just doesn’t work.
Unless a miracle happens Keanu Reeves will probably never win an Academy Award for Best Actor but if Man of Tai Chi proves anything it is that Reeves might have a different career path behind the camera once his wooden acting days are over. Reeves has never been considered as an acting giant but give the man some credit as his laid back attitude works depending on the material he is given. Man of Tai Chi has Reeves doing double duty playing the film’s major antagonist as well as being its director. Yes, this is his directorial debut and while it isn’t anything special there are a few hints that perhaps Reeves really has been paying attention to all the good directors he has had the pleasure of working with.
Epic is not exactly a bad movie but its mediocrity is a total bore. Parents will probably mentally check out around the ten minute mark and although kids might be entertained I doubt most of them will even remember what they saw once they leave the cinema. If you are going to do an adventure yarn targeted to kids at least don’t stick so closely to the traditional formula and if you really are going to lift material from elsewhere you better put your own spin on it or else many will call you out as a total hack.
Director Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen is an exasperatingly dumb movie with an altogether ridiculous plot focusing on North Korean terrorists taking over the White House and holding the President and his staff hostage in order to force America to withdraw its forces from South Korea. However, as hackneyed as the plot sounds, the movie actually works because it never pretends to be anything more than a modern update of the Die Hard formula that pits one man against insurmountable odds.
Derivative, wildly uneven and incredibly desolate, director Joseph Kosinski’s new science fiction film Oblivion barely manages to stay afloat due to an energetic performance from Tom Cruise and sumptuous production design. Diehard genre fans will have to decide if the narrative’s mish-mash plot that liberally picks and chooses from past science fiction films is a boon or a curse. On one hand there really isn’t anything wrong in revisiting the same tropes and themes yet the works that they are inspired from tower over this production in nearly every facet.
Anyone who has been following this movie, yes there are a few, will realize that it was originally scheduled to open last summer 2012 but pulled virtually at the last minute even though distributor Paramount Pictures had already spent millions advertising a firm release date. The reason given for the delay revolved around the rather flimsy excuse that studio executives thought it was a good idea to convert the film into 3D presumably to earn more money from the added surcharge. As expected, no one really believed their reasoning and it soon came to light that Paramount had ordered a series of reshoots due to poor previews as well as the fact that they needed more beefcake, in this case represented by actor Channing Tatum. Did their last minute gamble pay off? No.
Despite the believably intense acting from Ed Harris, a strong supporting cast that includes William Fichtner and Lance Henriksen as well as a convincing claustrophobic atmosphere born from the film’s usage of a real Russian diesel submarine Phantom isn’t particularly memorable nor is it well-constructed with a rather maudlin pace and an altogether embarrassing last ten minutes that is so overwrought that it ruins the exact mood it is trying to convey.