Kudos to Brian Helgeland’s 42 for not following Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) from cradle to grave. There’s enough story just in the telling of Robinson’s signing to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Spike Lee wanted to make this story for decades, so we’ll never know what his take would have been, but oddly enough, the film 42 most resembles is Malcolm X: it’s a textbook big studio bio-pic looking for Oscar gold, and while Harrison Ford’s performance as team executive Branch Rickey is the obvious award nominee, Christopher Meloni should definitely score a Best Supporting nod as Leo Durocher.
Fede Alvarez’s remake of Evil Dead isn’t really a fair fight, but then again none of the horror reboots do; they’re lobbing very comfortable budgets at new versions of films that were made for $1.98 and a prayer. Ideally, Alvarez should have been forced to make his Evil Dead for $500,000, just like Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Rob Tapert did back in 1979. He does find a fresh take on “kids go to a cabin in the woods, and they don’t come out” and he’s clearly playing to scare you—there’s not a trace of Campbell camp to be seen anywhere.
Olympus Has Fallen is about 20 times better than you think it’s gonna be. I felt as energized watching it as I did when I saw the original Die Hard. Fitting, since this is really Die Hard in the White House: Gerard Butler plays a secret service agent and pal to President Aaron Eckhart. He’s the capital’s only hope when North Korean terrorists seize the White House. A tumultuous thriller for the post 9/11 age, Olympus Has Fallen is a real pulse-pounder.
Action director Walter Hill hasn’t made a good movie since the original 48 HRS, though he has done fine TV work for HBO’s Tales from the Crypt and particularly Deadwood. Bullet to the Head is Hill’s first film since Undisputed in 2002, and if it’s not up to Hill’s '70s and '80s work, it’s a lean, efficient variation on Hill’s buddy flick formula: after watching their respective partners die, a New Orleans hit man (Sylvester Stallone) and a Washington D.C. detective (Jason Momoa) form an alliance in order to bring down their common enemy. I’d not seen Momoa before, but he more than holds his own against Stallone.
I’ve been a big fan of comedian Brian Posehn since his tenure on HBO’s Mr. Show. Posehn’s about the only comic left working the whole bodily fluids wheelhouse who can still make me laugh with a fart joke. Hence Posehn’s latest special on Netflix Instant View, Brian Posehn: The Fartist. Posehn takes the stage in front of a rowdy Seattle crowd and expounds about quitting strip clubs and weed, his continued loathing of Star Wars and a most embarrassing celebrity encounter with Christian Slater.
I’d never heard of Sound City, a Los Angeles recording studio, but I’d certainly heard a lot of the music recorded there, and so have you: Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Nirvana, to name just a few of the bands who passed through this nondescript, ratty Van Nuys studio. But as we learn in Dave Grohl’s excellent documentary Sound City, this particular studio had some of the finest recording gear in the world, particularly its Neve 8028 analog mixing console. In 1991, Grohl recorded Nevermind with Nirvana at Sound City Studios, and was inspired to create the documentary after he purchased several items from the studio when it closed in 2011. Famous musicians who recorded at Sound City reunite at Grohl’s studio for a jam session and to make an album of all-new all-original songs, each one composed and recorded exclusively for the film within its own 24-hour session on the Neve console.