Mike at the Movies

Get Out (R) ****

This film is an amalgam of several forms, ranging from sci fi to romance to thriller to horror. On balance, Jason Peele, the writer and director, got it about right—though a bit less of the science fiction element would not be missed.

Briefly, Chris and Rose (Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams) are in love, black and white, and handling their first meeting with Rose’s parents. Things do not start off well as a deer rams the car they are riding in, knocking off the side rear view mirror and a brake light. Rose’s parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), seem congenial though there is some hostility from son Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones). There are expressions of an odd nature from the staff (both black; Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel), but all-in-all things start off OK.

The real trouble comes when the family and friends get together the next day for a family celebration. Remarks like “I love Tiger,” and “Is it better?” (sex with Chris for Rose) abound and father Dean takes pains to explain that a family member lost to Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympic trials. Chris handles it all well but the strangeness begins to mount up. Georgina, the maid, seems incapable of understanding any black references and her husband, Walter, is similarly limited.

Finally, there is a bizarre form of bingo game with the picture of Chris appearing to be some sort of prize. Shortly after that, Missy hypnotizes Chris, using a clinking spoon in a teacup as the trigger, setting Chris back to the night his mother died. Soon Chris is in the basement, confronting a mounted deer’s head and triggering to the teacup.

Meanwhile, the only real comic relief, TSA officer Rod Williams (LilRay Howery), keeps trying to get in touch with Chris while he is undergoing some difficult moments in the basement. The mysteries mount up, as do Chris’s problems until the climactic scene in which all is solved, more or less. Subtle prejudice against Chris in the affluent white neighborhood gets more oppressive, though Dean assures Chris, “I voted for Obama twice.” So much for politics. The suspense is handled well, the evil maintains its darkness, and Kaluuya and Williams have good chemistry together. Leave the kids at home for this one.

The Great Wall (PG-13) ***

A perfect CGI movie, this one features millions of “Tao Teis” or prehistoric lizard fighters as they assault The Great Wall and the forces of the “Nameless Order,” a highly militaristic group. They are decked out in a different color for each function. The nice thing for Matt Damon (William) is that the Blues (for spear throwers) are all female and the head of the Blues is a radiantly beautiful Commander Lin (Tian Jing).

Matt’s buddy, Tovar (Pablo Pascal), accompanied him to China in order to find vast supplies of gunpowder and barely makes it back without being blown up. Willem Dafoe has a mostly useless filler role as a seeker after “the black powder” himself, and it’s great when he departs the scene.

Most of the film is taken up with battles and portrayals of imaginative and deadly defenses against the monsters. There is hardly time to develop the love interest between William and Lin. Soulful looks have to suffice. They might have overdone the CGI on this one as the hordes seem to go on into infinity and there are only so many people you can get on top of The Great Wall, especially when they are armed with all manner of weapons.

This is a colorful film and billed as one of many Chinese legends, so a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is allowed. And Tian Jing is a truly lovely actress with potential for a big career in the West. A bit bloody for the younger set, but tolerable with explanations from the folks.

A Cure for Wellness (R) *

If you like eels, this is the film for you. For all others, this is not a cure for anything you want to have. Bluntly put, starring a vacuous, tubercular Dane DeHaan as Lockhart, a trader at some stock firm, Jason Isaacs as Volmer, the head of a strange sanatorium in the mountains, and the vacuous Mia Goth as Hannah, this is a straight-ahead spooky sanatorium film in the old style—with the exception of the eels, which I suppose are new.

The beginning is predictable, the ending hokey if spectacular, and the plot hitches and glitches along as any film with a lot of corridors and dark rooms must. I found the film so boringly predictable, silly (anytime someone in a sanatorium tells you to drink a lot of their water, something’s afoot!) and way too long (2 1/2 hours).

This movie is certainly not a cure for anything I want wrong with me and as for wellness? Drink some more water.

Fist Fight (R) *

This movie springs from the background and dreams of the newly appointed Secretary of Education and the Commander in Chief, both of whom have talked about the public school as if they, not the media, are the “enemies of America.” Amazing, for two people who have never attended a public school, but it got her appointed and helped get him elected so they must be accurate in their vision, right?

Films like this are popular because they use the public schools as punching bags, always guilty as charged. All teachers are corrupt, administrations incompetent, and the students? Foul-mouthed juvenile delinquents, of course. This is the model set by this junkyard of a movie. Charlie Day is execrable as the lead, Andy, who gets in a fight with Ice Cube (Strickland) with the whole school watching. The film even exploits a younger student as Day’s daughter, Ally, becomes a hero at her school by singing an obscene song with her father and throwing a bird at her rival at the end.

The best group to get the finger in this film is the entire production crew and writers. And if you get tired of the obscenity, you’ll be doubly tired of the ham-acting, especially that of Day, who seems to believe that there are two ways to act: hysterical and high-voiced and as loud as possible. If you go to this, you deserve an F.

Collide (PG-13) *

Another Chinese-produced chase movie with lots of loud gunfire and no meaningful plot, even though it has Anthony Hopkins as a well-educated villain and Ben Kingsley as a sub-villain, not so educated. Felicity Jones is a blond victim of violence and kidney disease (Juliette) and is totally wasted in the film. She is loved and defended by Casey Stein (Nicholas Hoult) whose main strength is car theft. I frankly lost count, but he steals a couple of Mercedes, (one a convertible and very cool but in the next scene he’s driving a coupe), a couple of trucks, a motorcycle, a yellow Mustang and something red. As I say, I lost count, but all of them end up shot full of holes or totaled.

How Casey is not totaled is a mystery to all except the Chinese producers who mount horsepower instead of horse sense in this hopeless mélange. There are cocaine-filled golf balls, weapons galore (all of the “not necessary to reload” variety), and lots of scenes of Cologne (not all of them complimentary), and oodles of car crashes, none of which could be survived by anybody except a Hollywood hero. Just stick to the popcorn on this one.

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