Spider-Man 3” (2007) packs too many villains and character threads into the last chapter of the saga starring Tobey Maguire. Many of these elements are engaging on their own, but we don’t get to absorb everything like we do in parts one and two. There are also more shortcuts via conveniences or barely explained happenings, and many of the conflicts are built on that lazy screenwriting tactic of someone not communicating a fact to the person who needs to know it. That said, I don’t think “Spider-Man 3” is one for the garbage heap; director Sam Raimi and his team ultimately find their way back to the relationship between Peter and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) at the trilogy’s heart.
The Perfection” (Netflix) has one of those trailers that seems to give away the whole movie, so after making the mistake of watching the trailer, I let it fade from my mind a bit before watching the film. As it turns out, this horror thriller from director/co-writer Richard Shepard – who has a lot of credits but not many “wow” credits before this – is only partly like the trailer suggests. “The Perfection” so smoothly toys with and contradicts our narrative expectations that I wonder why more movies don’t use this tactic.
For the first 90 minutes or so, “The Karate Kid Part III” (1989) is shaping up to be the worst of the trilogy chronicling the coming of age and burgeoning karate skills of Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio). The last half-hour redefines the film – somehow written and directed by the returning team of Robert Mark Kamen and John G. Avildsen – as a hilarious unintentional comedy. At least I think it’s unintentional; I suppose it’s possible the film was shot in sequence and the filmmakers decided to lean into the absurdities at this point. It’s still the worst of the trilogy, but at least it gives me my recommended weekly allowance of laughs in one sitting.
As “Harper’s Island,” “Dead of Summer,” “Scream” and other slasher TV series have found, this medium can’t escape the law of diminishing returns the way a brisk movie can. As the story goes forward, the cast of characters gets dwindled until the mystery has evaporated: The killer is whoever is left. Also, we might get to really liking a character only to see them killed off, thus lessening our interest from that point forward.
Nancy Holder’s status as an elite Buffyverse author was already secured, but disappointingly – especially considering she’s coming off the outstanding “Queen of the Slayers” (2005) — she wraps up her run with the forgettable “Carnival of Souls” (April 2006). This Season 2-set novel calls to mind John Vornholt’s “Coyote Moon” (1998), which has some problems but more evocatively portrays the colorful mood of a carnival than this book does. It also makes me think of Holder’s excellent first adult “Buffy” novel, “Child of the Hunt” (1998, co-written with Christopher Golden), wherein a pack of roving demons comes to town during a Renaissance fair, like a twisted version of a traveling carnival.
David Mamet’s screenplays are among the most accessible in cinema because he writes – and his actors speak – in a heightened, rhythmic way that’s a pleasure to listen to even as it still feels natural. His dialog in “Chicago” (2018), his fourth novel but first of this millennium, is challenging because his characters talk in a 1920s Windy City fashion that has no rhythm and initially presents a stumbling block. I stuck with the book, though, and I’m glad I did because this is ultimately a horrifying and fascinating portrayal of the ins and outs of merchant-city corruption that sticks with a reader.
From the opening credits that recap the first film’s narrative with pencil drawings to the closing moments of Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) deciding to give it a go with Peter (Tobey Maguire) even though he’s Spider-Man, “Spider-Man 2” (2004) is a totally engrossing and satisfying sequel. Director Sam Raimi puts a viewer in the shoes of Peter the whole way as he hits his lowest lows – losing his powers while also feeling all alone in the world – then rises up again.
It’s accurate to call “Happy Death Day 2U” a dumb movie, and accurate to call it a smart movie. It seems as if Blumhouse studio asked writer-director Christopher Landon (who also directed the 2017 original, from Scott Lobdell’s screenplay) to go hog-wild building on the premise from the first entry, and Landon does just that. This sequel isn’t nearly as much of a straight rehash as the horrible trailers suggest.
When Robert Pattinson was recently announced as a frontrunner to be the new Batman in DC’s movie roster, people scoured his resume for something other than “Twilight” and many pointed to 2017’s “Good Time” as a prime example of his acting ability. Pattinson (also known as Cedric Diggory in “Harry Potter”) is indeed good in it, calling to mind Jared Leto and Jake Gyllenhaal as the bearded and greasy-haired Connie, who gets himself further and further into trouble with the law over the course of an insane night on the dark backstreets in New York City.
The Karate Kid Part II” (1986) is definitely a less sloppy film than the original, without its forbearer’s editing errors, but it’s also a slightly less interesting one. The sequel is often entertaining, but it’s disappointing to see that “The Karate Kid” is apparently going to be a follow-the-formula film series where Daniel (Ralph Macchio) encounters a group of bullies and ultimately defeats them with a special trick move. On the other hand, I can’t quibble about Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) being the focal point of “Part II,” as he is the saga’s best character.