The Great Wall
Matt Damon, for some unknown reason, stars in The Great Wall as a mercenary sent to the East to retrieve black powder. He becomes imprisoned at the Great Wall for a time, but realizes he has just stepped into the forefront of a very unusual war where the Chinese must defend the country from horrific beasts.
First off, this movie is so strange that it feels like it would fit well in the ’80s fantasy genre. When Matt Damon and his Spaniard companion (played by Pedro Pascal) are captured by the Chinese Imperial Guard, it’s as if they entered the world of Crouching Tiger. Suddenly, the movies boasts vibrant colors and displays incredible wire work. Damon is apparently a better soldier than anyone in the military. He becomes the key to stopping the wave of lizards from space.
Yes, that’s right. Lizards from space.
The story does its best to fit into Chinese pseudo-folklore, but gets lost entirely. The rules regarding the space lizards all seems borrowed from Starship Troopers and Edge of Tomorrow. Who knows? Perhaps this is the prequel to those sci-fi cult classics.
I understand that without Matt Damon in the lead role that American audiences may not ever care to see this movie, but his inclusion feels a bit silly. He attempts a subtle Irish accent that casually drifts in and out. He does get to shine in the slow-motion action scenes (and yes, they’re mostly all in slow-motion).
Honestly, it’s impossible to hate this movie. Sure, it’s laughably bad at times and the space lizard CG isn’t great, but it’s a bizarre take on the stranger-in-a-strange-land dynamic that is fun to watch with the addition of the dynamic visuals of Chinese medieval martial arts movies.
I know that Gods of Egypt was panned last year and yes, it completely deserved it. However, that too was a ridiculous movie that thrived on bad CG and acting, but was tailor-made for the preteen inside us all.
Also, I have to credit the movie for definitely promoting the strength of women. Tian Jing, who plays Commander Lin Mae, gets nearly the same amount of screen time as Damon and is the real strength behind the Imperial Army.
Don’t see The Great Wall in the theater, but if you need a flick to watch on a lazy Saturday afternoon, seek this out. C-
A Cure for Wellness
Dane DeHaan plays a young aspiring executive in corporate America. In order to be elevated in his company he is sent on a task to retrieve the former CEO from a health retreat in the Swiss Alps. The only problem with the retreat is – patients check in, but they rarely check out…
The comparisons to Martin Scorsese’s fantastic 2010 film Shutter Island will surely be made here. Dane DeHaan even looks like a younger, angrier DiCaprio. This insane asylum holds plenty of secrets that the lead character realizes that only he can uncover. The only problem with curiosity is that it pulls him deeper to realize a truth that neither he or the audience really wants to see.
I always get a kick out of seeing Jason Isaacs in any role. His role as the retreat owner, Volmer, fits right in his wheelhouse. He always tries to maintain perfect composure and patience, but you can’t help but feel that he’d impulsively lose it if needed. I need to see Isaacs in more movies.
Gore Verbinski (director of The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean) attempts something quite grand here. The entire movie is overwhelmed by a pastel green tint that is constantly off-putting by reminding anyone watching of a sterile hospital room. While this movie is far from perfect or even good at times, it is visually incredible. Constant symbolism, foreshadowing cues and artistic shots will keep your eyes working, even if you are left scratching your head.
The story, as it slowly unfolds, it bug-nuts insane and a bit ridiculous. The mystery of it all should not be deciphered because you’ll be skipping over plotholes or huge leaps in logic. But the feeling of uneasiness and strange imagery combined with the bizarre themes make A Cure for Wellness feel like a modern Dario Argento movie. (He was a very unconventional horror director with successes in the ’70s, FYI)
By the end of the movie, you don’t know if what you just watched was more ambitious or just meandering. I wouldn’t watch it again, but would recommend it for fans of strange horror flicks of the ’70s. C-