Friday, March 24, 2017

3 for 1 Special

It's been a long time since I posted one of these short-but-sweet triple headers.  Since I'll be on vacation out of the country for the next two weeks cinema-free, I thought I'd get a quick one in while I can.
Life on Mars: A team of astronauts on the ISS recover a dormant and seemingly innocuous living organism from Mars and got themselves into a world of hurt (especially Ryan Reynolds).  While 'Life' is but the latest incarnation of the creature feature in space (or other claustrophobic environments) like 'Alien,' 'DeepStar Six' and 'Leviathan,' it is a suspenseful, tightly plotted and frightening flick made all the more believable by its contemporary setting and strong individual performances.  The tentacled starfish-like alien in 'Life' may not be a  seven-foot tall xenomorph encased in hardened carapace with sharp teeth and razor-like claws, but it is no less deadly for its survival imperative.  Curiosity kills not only cats and in space, no one can hear you say "we're fucked."
Grade: A-
Powerless: The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were all the rage in the 1990's.  This team of five teenage superheroes in color-coded costumes with chop-socky karate moves and cool transformer-like toys was one of the great Japanese pop cultural imports, spawning a hugely successful TV franchise and two feature films, not to mention all those action figures.  Like those pesky Ninja Turtles, now we get a reboot in Saban's 'Power Rangers.'  If you've already decided to see this movie because it brings back fond memories of your bygone childhood, I can't stop you, but if you're on the fence I can save you the trouble (and time and money) by telling you to just stay away.  Go see 'Life' instead.  This latest movie in the PR franchise may be glossy and packed with the cool visuals one would expect considering its $100 million budget, but it is so languid and boring that I was on the verge of falling asleep.  The five "chosen" teenagers are a clichéd bunch of misunderstood and angst-ridden rejects out of 'The Breakfast Club,' and although she isn't a bad actress by any measure, Elizabeth Banks had the misfortune of being miscast as one of the worst movie villains in cinematic history.
Grade: C-
Office Slays: In the tradition of 'Battle Royale,' 'Would You Rather?' and 'Saw,' the latest "people forced to do unspeakable things to other people by unknown people who play god" movie is 'The Belko Experiment,' a low budget B-horror movie about a group of office workers in Colombia who suddenly and inexplicably find themselves to be the guinea pigs of a sadistic and bloody "social experiment."  The devilish premise is deceptively simple and requires us to suspend our disbelief in no small degree, but once you sign on for this Fangoria and Bloody Disgusting gory ride you may find it to be a rather enjoyable guilty pleasure, even if its ending is a bit predictable.
Grade: B

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