Saturday, February 6, 2016

Capsule Movie Reviews by Bill Johnson for 2016


These capsule reviews of current movies offer a basic overview of what these stories did (or didn't do) to engage an audience. They are not meant to convey a full review of the movie, or a scene by scene breakdown. All reviews by Bill Johnson, copyright 2016.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

posted 2/6/16

The conceit in this movie is that it's the same characters from Jane Austen's novel, with the addition of a zombie plague. What makes for a great horror film, however, is that it says something about the human condition. Alien with its issue of male rape and the corporation being the real alien killing the crew. Zombies in this film are just a plot device, and could have been changed to a different plot device (alien invasion, demons rising, birds attacking humans) without changing anything. Which means half the movie carries no dramatic weight connected to what the story is about and what the characters are reacting to.

Early in the film, a character encounters a young mother and baby zombie. The moment seems about to suggest something deeper about life in that situation, but the moment is just another plot device conveying nothing more than a plot question, how will this play out?

The mixture of horror and literary fiction is amusing, but not really that amusing until Parson Collins shows up.

In the end, there are no universal truths in this movie, although for a moment it seemed someone had an idea about zombie servants rising up against their masters, and another scene tosses in the four horsemen of the apocalypse, but to what story purpose, who knows.

The Fifth Wave

posted 1/30/16

The Fifth Wave begins with waves of exposition that explain the first four waves. The underlying problem with the movie is that its impulses all seem to come from TV production, so it looks like a pilot for a tv series created about 2008. So it doesn't look as good as what's on tv now. It's not bad, so much as it's like watching an episode from an old tv series. This is movie studios pushing product through metro plexes to fill screen slots.

Joy

posted 1/3/16

This film demonstrates the problems with being realistic. Joy the main character is a single mother in a dysfunctional environment. It takes a good twenty five minutes to set out all those characters and their many issues and get to a significant turning point, Joy inventing a mop and then getting onto one of the early cable TV sales channels to promote it into a huge success. By the end of the film, still surrounded by dysfuctional family members trying to sabotage her, Joy has created and manages a business empire.

That's all plot, but what's the story about? That remains buried under the ruble composed of all those dysfuctional relationships and events. It's probably something to do with Joy overcoming all her disadvantages to make something of herself, encouraged by her grandmother. But I'm not sure. And, based on the reviews and audience reactions, I don't think others were sure, either.

There's not enough else going on to make up for that.