Rest in peace, Ryan Reynolds' movie career.
The 2013 summer movie season saw its fair share of bombs, but the biggest epic fail had to be Robert Schwentke's lavish adaptation of a cult Dark Horse comic, which cost some $130 million to make and grossed a mere $30 million, effectively ending star Ryan Reynolds's already checkered career in comic book cinema. And as much as I'd like to avoid kicking a movie when its down, R.I.P.D. is pretty disastrous: a tonal misfire drowning in a sea of CGI that plays like an ineptly executed mash-up of RoboCop and Men in Black. Reynolds plays Boston cop Nick, who is killed five minutes into the movie by his corrupt partner (Kevin Bacon) and ends up patrolling the streets as a ghostly officer for the Rest in Peace Department, which keeps the world free of spirits who escape the Great Beyond for Earth. Riding shotgun next to veteran R.I.P.D. foot soldier, Roy (Jeff Bridges, clearly not giving a crap), Nick tries to adjust to his new (after)life while tackling a case that shares some connections with the messy circumstances of his death. Clearly an example of a movie that was written on the fly, R.I.P.D. is just barely comprehensible on a narrative level and Schwentke tries to compensate for that by throwing cartoonish special effects at the screen in an effort to convince the audience that they're having fun. But the grim, humorless expression that Reynolds has on his face throughout the movie is a more accurate reflection of how viewers will feel as the credits roll.
Extras: Deleted scenes, including a pair of alternate openings, four featurettes and motion comics.
Falling somewhere between Cars 2 and Toy Story 3 on the Pixar Sequel Scale, Monsters University repurposes the '80s favorite Revenge of the Nerds as a family friendly animated comedy starring the two leads from Monsters Inc. It's roughly a decade before the events of that picture and future dynamic duo Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) are students at the prestigious MU, where they both hope to be part of its top-notch Scare Program. When they bomb out on their first attempt, they strike an unprecedented bargain with the university's president (Helen Mirren): if they lead the campus's worst fraternity, Oozma Kappa, to victory in the annual Scare Games, they'll be welcomed back into the Program. Fail, and they go home for good. The Games occupy the bulk of the movie, and they're amusing enough particularly for older viewers who have fond memories of their first brush with Lewis, Gilbert and the rest of those vintage screen nerds. But it's not until the last half-hour that Monsters University approaches the level of complexity that we've come to expect from Pixar, heading for a quiet, emotional resolution that has a lot to say about friendship and fair play. (As appropriately subdued as this finale is, I gotta say that I missed the wild roller-coaster climax that closed out the previous film.) Monsters University is mostly fine, but based on the studio's track record it's hard to consider "fine" good enough.
Extras: A commentary track, deleted scenes, an art gallery, assorted featurettes, the theatrical short The Blue Umbrella and play-at-home Scare Games.
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Almost two decades after Interview with the Vampire, Neil Jordan returns to the bloodsucking realm with a vampiric take on a traditional mother/daughter drama. Centuries ago, high-end prostitute Clara (Gemma Arterton, in her first genuinely great performance) discovered the secret of life eternal -- which, in this version of vampire lore, resides in a cave on a remote island off the coast of England -- and passes it along to her child Eleanor (Saorise Ronan). 216 years later, the two are still traveling the world together, trying to stay one step ahead of the male-dominated vampire army on their heels. Settling in a seaside town, Clara returns to her hooking ways, while Eleanor goes through some old-fashioned teen rebellion, revealing their secret to anyone willing to listen. Frankly, the parent/child stuff is a non-starter dramatically; far more interesting is Clara's backstory and her relation to the patriarchal vampire coven she defied to attain her current existence. There's so much rich material here to mine, Byzantium is the rare movie that would actually benefit from the prequel treatment.
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Home Alone: The Holiday Heist
A good idea executed lousily, the direct-to-DVD post-apocalyptic action flick Bounty Killer sets viewers down in a future where Earth is controlled by corporations, whose corrupt employees answer to no one… no one that is, except heavily-armed outlaws, who patrol the resources-starved wasteland that America has become. Two of these freelance assassins, ex-lovers Mary Death (Christian Pitre) and Drifter (Matthew Marsden), are in the process of hunting some very big game and getting into all manner of trouble in the process. Co-writer/director Henry Saine seems out to make an action-laden satire, but there's a big problem: the movie isn't funny. It's not particularly exciting either, with Saine unable to demonstrate the resourcefulness that, say, George Miller employed on his similarly low-budget action classics Mad Max and The Road Warrior, which are obvious inspirations for this movie. Even less amusing is the latest attempt to continue the Home Alone franchise, The Holiday Heist, which casts voiceover actor Christian Martyn as the newest Kevin McCallister, Finn Baxter, a Maine-based tyke who protects his house guerilla-style from three robbers headed up by… Malcolm McDowell, who is sadly not reprising his role as droogish home invader, Alex. Now that would be a Home Alone movie worth making.
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