A Cure for Wellness, Charlie Day, Fist Fight, Gore Verbinski, Richie Keen, The Great Wall, Zhang Yimou
CURE FOR WELLNESS [R] D
There is a quirkiness to the narrative sensibilities of director Gore Verbinski that can be utterly surprising and quite charming, when employed in the service of original material. I am an undying fan of the criminally underrated action-comedy “The Mexican,” which featured one of the most emotionally engaging performances from the late James Gandolfini and I have much love for the trippy animated feature “Rango,” on which he also shared a story credit. Sadly, the desire to tap into the surreal got the best of him in “A Cure For Wellness,” his latest, leading to a colossal trainwreck of psychological horror tropes and would-be creepy effects that grew more outsized and bloated as the movie progressed. Dane DeHaan admirably stays afloat as the narrative flood threatens to drown any and everyone else in the frames, but he clearly cannot drag the dead carcass of a film ashore.
FIST FIGHT [R] D+
Charlie Day and director Richie Keen obviously have a strong working rapport based on their collaborations on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” the heedlessly juvenile FX comedy series, which serves to bolster the slight premise of “Fist Fight,” a sitcom-styled feature that pits a shy unassuming teacher (Day) against a strict bullying authoritarian colleague (Ice Cube). The two are set to battle on the last day of school, after the bell rings and the movie frames their conflict in the broadest of terms possible, relying on the contrasting personalities of the leads to provide the punch. The problem here is that at just shy of 90 minutes, the movie is over an hour too long; it barely registers as being worthy of earning consideration as a 20-minute TV episode.
THE GREAT WALL [PG-13] C+
It took a veritable village of storytellers – Max Brooks and Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz drafted the story, which was handed off to Carlo Bernard & Doug Miro and Tony Gilroy for screenplay duties – to present this alternative legendary fantasy about the Great Wall serving as the final barrier against the assault of a monstrous invading army. Yet the story barely matters, even its inclusion of a pair of Western mercenaries (Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal) who wind up in the midst of the invasion and must choose to join the fight or run away with stolen goods and their lives. Viewers will settle in for the epic pageantry and thrilling action sequences staged by director Zhang Yimou (“Hero” & “House of Flying Daggers”) whose vision doesn’t get lost in the CGI cavalcade. “The Great Wall” isn’t on par with the graceful beauty we expect from his martial arts gems, but it is a solid and somewhat entertaining brick in the entertainment wall.