Sign in | Register now | Like us on FacebookLike Us | Follow us on TwitterFollow Us

Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

Tue
Hi: 49
Lo: 39
Wed
Hi: 53
Lo: 39
Thu
Hi: 56
Lo: 47
Advertise on OnMilwaukee.com
Tom Hanks in Robert Zemeckis' "Forrest Gump."
Tom Hanks in Robert Zemeckis' "Forrest Gump."

The best of director Robert Zemeckis

"Return to form" is a phrase frequently tossed at the upcoming pilot drama, "Flight." It's not intended for the film's star, Denzel Washington; he's been on his A-game for about two decades now.

Nope, it's for director Robert Zemeckis. In the '80s and '90s, he was one of America's top directors, winning a Best Director Oscar in 1995. But then the new millennium hit, and Zemeckis hitched his creative wagon to the wrong horse, i.e. creepy motion capture movies like "The Polar Express" and "A Christmas Carol."

But why linger on those technological terrors? Let's look back at five films that show why Zemeckis' legacy deserves better than "the producer behind 'Mars Needs Moms.'"

"What Lies Beneath"

While Hollywood struggles today with making decent horror movies, it would be advised to head to Netflix and try out Zemeckis' 2000 domestic thriller "What Lies Beneath." The Harrison Ford-Michelle Pfeiffer film is a classic ghost story; in fact, much of the movie functions as a pretty clever tribute to the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. Similar to last year's "Super 8," sometimes the movie gets too in love with being an homage, which cuts back on the story's freshness, and the ending gets a bit goofy. However, it's not very often you see a horror flick as tautly directed as "What Lies Beneath." Just look at the horror options this year.

"Who Framed Roger Rabbit"

"Who Framed Roger Rabbit" can be enjoyed by almost anyone at almost any age. If you're a kid, you can enjoy "Roger Rabbit" for the zany animation-meets-human hijinks. When you grow up, it's fun to watch Zemeckis' film for the clever jokes and the film noir story. And if you're a film nerd, you can enjoy it for its revolutionary ability to get animation to interact so realistically with reality. Zemeckis always had an eye for technological wizardry; it's just too bad he thought the soulless faces of animated motion capture were the way to go.

That isn't to say that "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" is a p…

Read more...
Not-so-kid-friendly "Fun Size" is in theaters now.
Not-so-kid-friendly "Fun Size" is in theaters now.

No fun to be had in "Fun Size"

It seems only fitting that the last sound the audience hears in "Fun Size" before the end credits roll is a poop dropping into a toilet. The sad plop of fecal matter into water is the closing moment that director Josh Schwartz chose to send audiences out hopefully smiling and laughing. Instead, it serves as the final annoying punctuation to a previous 85 minutes of confused, exhaustingly "zany" and inept comedy. As Nickelodeon TV star Victoria Justice's first big-screen star vehicle, it's a Yugo.

Justice (cute but Disney Channel-brand generic) plays Wren Desantis, a chipper young Cleveland high school student who's planning on heading out of "the mistake by the lake" for NYU. This doesn't please her mother (Chelsea Handler), who's in the midst of a midlife crisis – mainly consisting of dating a college student who lives at his parents' house – due to her husband's sudden death. Raising a little hellion son Albert (Jackson Nicoll) probably doesn't help matters.

All the drama comes to a head on Halloween night, when Wren has to babysit Albert instead of going to the neighborhood hottie's (Thomas McDonell from "Prom") party. Of course, she and her requisite snarky comic relief best friend (Jane Levy, next to be seen in the "Evil Dead" remake) lose the tubby little prankster and must scour the city to find him.

Along the journey, they fall in with cliché nerds (Thomas Mann as the sweet inevitable romantic interest nerd, Osric Chau as the horny Asian nerd) and run into numerous other stereotypes along the way, including a bunch of 'roided up bullies and Mann's super left-wing lesbian parents. At one point, they have to borrow Mann's moms' prized car and promise not the scratch it. What could possibly happen to this automobile? Will "Fun Size"'s comedic innovation ever cease?

Nope, and Albert's adventures with a revenge-seeking gas station attendant (Thomas Middleditch, providing the film's few laughs) don't provide much more relie…

Read more...
Gerard Butler stars in "Chasing Mavericks."
Gerard Butler stars in "Chasing Mavericks."

"Chasing Mavericks" hits viewers with wave of boredom

I've never been surfing (Wisconsin has a limited supply of gnarly waves), but it seems like an awesome adrenaline rush. Balancing yourself physically and mentally while flying down a torrent of water on a chunk of polystyrene seems pretty terrific. Plus, if you get tired of falling off your board and getting tossed around by waves, you can just kill some time on the warm and sandy beach, and soak in the beautiful scenery.

So why in the name of Laird Hamilton is "Chasing Mavericks" so boring? It's the sleepiest on-screen presentation of an extreme sport possible, riding a current of bland characters and dull inspirational drama without a hint of what makes surfing or the surfing lifestyle alluring.

The film follows real-life surfing legend Jay Moriarity (newcomer Jonny Weston). Before he became hero, though, he was just another high school student, coping with an emotionally absent mother (Elisabeth Shue), memories of his father who abandoned them and an awkward crush on his childhood sweetheart ("The Hunger Games"' District 1 tribute Leven Rambin).

Life gets more exciting for Jay, though, when he discovers the famous Mavericks surf break in Northern California and a band of surfing veterans tackling its mammoth waves. One of the local legends, Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler), decides to take Jay under his wing and help him muster up the skills and mental preparation to ride Mavericks' dangerous waves.

Of course, the two form a bond that goes beyond the beach. Jay gains the father figure that he never had at home and learns to move on from his real father's abandonment; Frosty learns how to get closer to his own children. It's all very sweet and nice and decently acted ... and ridiculously bland. Frosty's life lessons are all generic inspirational movie hokum (conquering fears, etc.), and the story goes nowhere you couldn't predict from reading a Wikipedia summary.

There are plenty of subplots flooding "Chasing Mavericks"' running time, but none of them add much c…

Read more...
Adelaide Clemens stars in "Silent Hill: Revelation."
Adelaide Clemens stars in "Silent Hill: Revelation."

The revelation in "Silent Hill: Revelation?" It's really bad

"Silent Hill: Revelation" sounds like a terrible film on paper. It's based on a video game, and as we know, they have yet to make a good video game movie. To make matters worse, it's a sequel, seemingly made to cash in on whatever name recognition the games and the mostly forgotten 2006 theatrical adaptation may have. Oh, and it's in 3-D.

Unfortunately, the second "Silent Hill" plays like a terrible film on screen as well. Fans of the games may be happy to see their favorite demon monstrosities loitering down dimly lit corridors, but the only thing really scary about "Revelation" is how it managed to avoid direct-to-DVD status.

Several years after the events of the first movie, Heather (Adelaide Clemens) is now travelling around the country with her father ("Game of Thrones"' Sean Bean, battling demons and his English accent). Heather is trying to get acquainted to a new school, but it's hard to make friends when she keeps getting teleported to Silent Hill, normally whenever the screenwriter is getting bored.

Eventually, the town's demonic cult members (led by Carrie-Anne Moss) kidnap Heather's dad in order to lure her back to the haunted city and complete a ritual to vanquish their resident stringy black-haired evil girl, Alessa. With the help her new friend Vincent (Kit Harington, another "Game of Thrones" alum battling his own English accent), Heather waltzes into Silent Hill and battles its various baddies, including a mannequin spider, murderous nurses and everyone's favorite geometry-themed murderer, Pyramid Head.

While certainly not a good movie, the original Christophe Gans-helmed "Silent Hill" did have a sense of mood and atmosphere that almost compensated for its convoluted, scare-less story. New writer/director Michael J. Bassett unfortunately has no patience for atmosphere, replacing it with cheap editing tricks, some overly bombastic "scary" scenes and a lot of flickering lights (apparently, there are no electricians in the evil cult).

Bassett's ma…

Read more...