Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
After surprising audiences with the 2012 sleeper hit, Tom Cruise has taken up the reins of Reacher again. He seems to be taking up random contracts, more for sport than responsibility. These jobs lead him to start a relationship-by-phone with General Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders). He soon finds himself embroiled in a military conspiracy and ends up fleeing as a fugitive.
As this is a regular day for Jack Reacher, it should be no problem for him. However, he quickly becomes responsible for the life of Samantha (Danika Yarosh), who is directly tied to his past.
Expectations for Never Go Back are huge based on the success of the first movie. It’s almost impossible to duplicate the level of surprise Jack Reacher provided. It was thrilling, while being campy. Honestly, it made 5’7” Tom Cruise the intimidating character that the 6’5” Jack Reacher was meant to be. He was cool and nothing fazed him.
The biggest failure of Never Go Back is that it is nothing more than a standard action thriller. There’s little outstanding about it. Reacher is on the run throughout the movie, and it feels like a betrayal to the character. I’d rather see Reacher be far more proactive as a fugitive, than simply reacting to eventual threats. The gimmick of protecting a nuclear family instead of allowing the strong-silent Reacher to unleash violence, feels like a retread of everything the Taken series did wrong.
All that said, Reacher has some great moments of extreme violence whenever he feels cornered. This action is shown in short spurts, until the end. Those waiting for Jack Reacher to go all out will be rewarded with a fantastic knock-down-drag-out fight. It’s a satisfying conclusion and may, sadly, not be enough for those who were bored by everything beforehand. This is a great rental that your dad will surely enjoy. Quality-wise, it’s a C+, but it’s one I’ll revisit with a smile.
Ouija: Origin of Evil
In 2014, the board game cinematic craze ended with Ouija. I’m not sure who sold their soul to get that movie made, but apparently it did well enough to warrant a sequel, or prequel in this case, because we’d all like to find out what the actual origin of evil is with this Parker Brother satanic board game.
Ouija: Origin of Evil doesn’t actually tell you what the origin is.
Instead, we visit a family in the 1960s. A widowed mother runs a shady séance business in her home, with the help of her two daughters, Lina and Doris. She decides to spice things up by purchasing a Ouija board for the girls and it quickly disrupts everything. The youngest daughter, Doris, is possessed by a demon and causes all sorts of mischief.
The thing about Ouija is that is a sequel to an already terrible flick. Expectations were somewhere in the creepy crawlspace in the basement. So, when it managed to be halfway good, it comes off as an overwhelming success.
Once Doris is overtaken, she is completely creepy. Kudos to Lulu Wilson for being a standout in a crowded club of creepy horror kids. There are minor effects applied, but even displaying an unhinged grin while staring through white eyes, is incredibly unsettling. Even when minor characters are in the room with her, your fear for their safety is real. Unfortunately, the filmmakers didn’t feel this was good enough and kept relying on the jump scare Doris appearing behind people.
For most of the 99 minutes runtime, director/writer Mike Flanagan treats the mom and oldest sister better than a typical horror flick. These characters know exactly what’s happening to Doris and are dealing with it in their own ways. There’s very little “Oh, sure she was speaking in tongues, but maybe she’s just feeling under the weather,” as happens in most possession flicks.
Much like the status quo happy life of this family, all good things must come to an end. The half-decent horror of Ouija 2: Electric Boogaloo is undone in the final act. If you’ve seen any other PG-13 rushed scary movie with a loud ending, you’ve seen this one. It’s a shame too. I wanted a great horror surprise this October. This is, most likely, best watched at a sleepover with friends. C-
Keeping Up with the Joneses
Jeff and Karen Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher) are a sweet, typical suburban couple. Their lives are as monotonous as it gets. This all changes when Tim and Natalie Jones (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot) move into the quiet cul-de-sac. The Gaffneys find out the Joneses are spies and their fascination embroils them in a life-threatening situation.
Director Greg Mottola is typically ahead of the curve when it comes to comedy. Whether he’s directing TV episodes of Arrested Development and Undeclared or movies like Superbad and Adventureland, he knows how to set up great comedic timing. Unfortunately, in this case he only seems to be doing his best impression of ‘90s style Farrelly Brothers comedy.
That’s not to say the cast does a poor job, it comes down to the material they have to work with. Also, if you have a low tolerance of Zach Galifianakis’s naïve guy act, it’s best to avoid this flick. He’s stuck in the Will Ferrell rut, basically taking roles that are a minor interpretation of what he is famous for. For Galifianakis (my spell check is going crazy), he enjoys being the unassuming nice guy, who fears losing his temper, and even when he does, he’ll blurt out a grade-school insult.
As for Hamm, Gadot and Fisher, they know what kind of movie they’re in and they all seem to be having a blast. This is Isla Fisher’s movie and she should have been featured far more than she was. Her role as the paranoid wife that is clearly smarter than her husband is the highlight. Hamm and Gadot, as the spies leading a double life, are there to essentially smolder at the camera with every chance they get. Sure, they’re one-dimensional characters, but they play it as if they belong in a zany ‘60s spy spoof.
Good performances aside, Keeping Up with the Joneses just isn’t very funny. The jokes are tone-deaf. PG-13 comedies are quite rare these days, and Joneses doesn’t make a great case for them, unfortunately. D