Craig Mazin

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The Huntsman: Winter's War Review

Weak

Aside from success at the box office, there was nothing about 2012's rather uneven fantasy Snow White and the Huntsman that screamed out for a sequel. And indeed, this prequel/sequel hybrid doesn't quite make sense, muddling its premise by straining to keep Snow White herself out of the story (she's always just off screen) while spinning a tale that feels so derivative that we feel like we've seen it all before. The powerhouse cast does what it can, aided by some fabulous costumes, but it's impossible to escape the feeling that there's nothing to it.

Decades before her encounter with Snow White, Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) was just beginning her violent march toward power when her sister Freya (Emily Blunt) suffered a terrible tragedy. Believing that love itself betrayed her, Freya moves to another kingdom and inflicts a frozen winter on her subjects, raiding the surrounding lands for children she will raise to fight, with love between them forbidden. When her two top fighters, Eric and Sara (Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain), can't help but fall for each other, they are severely punished. Years later, after Eric's adventure with Ravenna and Snow White, he sets out to get rid of Ravenna's pesky magic mirror, accompanied by four frisky dwarfs (Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach). And this puts them all on a collision course with the icy Freya.

The script feels like it was written by a committee desperate to get something, anything on-screen. The first half of the film is essentially the backstory, and the second half is a Hobbit-style quest with moments of random Game of Thrones-style action thrown in simply to give the special effects team a workout. This isn't too surprising considering that the movie is the directing debut of effects expert Cedric Nicolas-Troyan. So if it makes little logical sense, at least it looks achingly cool, especially when the duelling divas are clad in spectacular frocks by Colleen Atwood.

Continue reading: The Huntsman: Winter's War Review

The Hangover Part III Review


Bad

For the final instalment of the trilogy, filmmaker Todd Phillips takes a sharp left turn, abandoning the formula of the first two movies to send the Wolf Pack on a road thriller that isn't remotely funny. A few wacky moments are provided by the actors, but there isn't one punchline in the entire film. And it doesn't really work as a thriller either, since there's no real suspense.

Once again it starts in Los Angeles, where everyone has recovered from their antics in Bangkok. But Phil, Stu and Doug (Cooper, Helms and Bartha) are worried that Alan (Galifianakis) is refusing to grow up, so they hold an intervention and set out to drive him to a desert retreat. On the way, they're waylaid by mobster Marshall (Goodman), who holds Doug hostage to force the the Wolf Pack to find renegade nutcase Chow (Jeong), who has stolen Marshall's stash of gold bars. They track Chow to Mexico, but things quickly get even messier as Chow slips through their fingers. And to catch him, they'll have to return to the scene of their original adventure: Las Vegas.

There isn't much to the screenplay, which is a series of action scenes and caper-style set-pieces strung together with rapid-fire dialog and general vulgarity. But while the film is expertly shot and edited, with a solid cast and terrific settings, there simply isn't any actual humour. No one gets drunk, so there's no hangover this time. And the only amusing moments are offhanded character bits that are utterly irrelevant to the nonsensical chaos of the plot. Which kind of makes us wonder why we ever found these losers so hilarious to begin with.

Continue reading: The Hangover Part III Review

Identity Thief Review


OK

There's real potential in this premise for a ripping screwball comedy anchored by two likeable actors, but the filmmakers simply don't trust the material, stirring in constant elements of action mayhem that don't work at all. Pointless car chases, over-violent fight scenes, murderous henchmen, a ruthless bounty hunter and even a full-on heist: all of these things feel like irrelevant distractions for a movie that's essentially just a remake of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, with an identity-theft twist.

Bateman plays the androgynously named Sandy Patterson, a Denver accountant struggling to make ends meet when he's offered a great new job with a colleague (Cho) that will better help him support his pregnant wife (Peet) and their two precocious daughters. Then suddenly everything is jeopardised when someone steals his identity and, for some inexplicable reason, he has to go to Florida and bring the culprit back to Denver himself. The con artist turns out to be Diana (McCarthy), who's a lot feistier than Sandy expects. And as they begin the long road trip to Colorado, he discovers that she's also being chased by two mob goons (Harris and Rodriguez) and a bounty hunter (Patrick).

Plenty of films manage to mix violence and comedy effectively, but director Gordon and writer Mazin seem to flail at every turn, wildly veering from corny sentimentality to ugly brutality, punctuated by humour that only occasionally makes us laugh. And at nearly two hours, the film feels far too long even though the pace is frenetic. The various set pieces simply don't fit in with the basic premise, leaving the plot in tatters. All of these nasty villains chasing Diana are utterly meaningless, and many of the action sequences feel both inexplicable and implausible.

Continue reading: Identity Thief Review

Scary Movie 3 Review


Good
There are lots of ways to churn out sequels, particularly comedies. You can speed along like a runaway train to capitalize on a surprise hit -- Miramax rushed Scary Movie 2 into theaters one year after the original's release -- or you can reset and go for broke. The latter approach seems to be the Scary Movie 3 motive, with new writers and veteran parody director David Zucker (Airplane!, The Naked Gun) joining the fray. For its efforts, Miramax gets a perfectly average movie, with fresh moments, lame retreads, and more opportunity for big box office.

Scary Movie 3 sticks with the program: mind-bogglingly dumb characters hustle their way through spoofs of the industry's most popular recent films. It's no mistake that the roasted movies -- in this case: Signs, The Ring, and 8 Mile -- all pull in huge money and attract a young audience.

Continue reading: Scary Movie 3 Review

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Craig Mazin Movies

The Huntsman: Winter's War Movie Review

The Huntsman: Winter's War Movie Review

Aside from success at the box office, there was nothing about 2012's rather uneven fantasy...

The Hangover Part III Movie Review

The Hangover Part III Movie Review

For the final instalment of the trilogy, filmmaker Todd Phillips takes a sharp left turn,...

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Identity Thief Movie Review

Identity Thief Movie Review

There's real potential in this premise for a ripping screwball comedy anchored by two likeable...

Scary Movie 3 Movie Review

Scary Movie 3 Movie Review

There are lots of ways to churn out sequels, particularly comedies. You can speed along...

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