Here are 6 films that I saw during the first half of 2015. Some of them are on Netflix and some of them were major studio releases. Some of them are worth seeing. Some of them most definitely are not.
Avengers Grimm (dir by Jeremy M. Inman)
Obviously made to capitalize on the popularity of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers Grimm opens with a war in the world of fairy tales. Evil Rumpelstiltskin (Casper Van Dien) uses Snow White’s (Laura Parkinson) magic mirror to cross over into our world and he takes Snow White with him! It’s now up to Cinderella (Milynn Sharley), Sleeping Beauty (Marah Fairclough), and Rapunzel (Rileah Vanderbilt) to cross over into our world, save Snow White, and defeat Rumpelstiltskin. Also sneaking over is rebellious Red Riding Hood (Elizabeth Petersen) who is determined to kill Rumpelstiltskin’s henchman, The Wolf (Kimo Leopoldo).
Got all that?
Avengers Grimm is another enjoyably insane mockbuster from The Asylum. The budget’s low, the performances are intentionally melodramatic, and it’s all lot of fun. Casper Van Dien has a lot of fun playing evil, the women all get to kick ass, and Lou Ferrigno is well-cast as a labor leader named Iron John.
Avengers Grimm is currently available on Netflix.
Bad Asses On The Bayou (dir by Craig Moss)
Apparently, this is the third film in which Danny Trejo and Danny Glover have respectively played Frank Vega and Bernie Pope, two old guys who kick ass in between worrying about their prostates. I haven’t seen the previous two Bad Asses films but I imagine that it really doesn’t matter.
In this film, Trejo and Glover go to Louisiana to attend a friend’s wedding. When she’s kidnapped, they have to rescue her and impart some important life lessons to her younger brother. It’s all pretty predictable but then again, it’s also pretty good for a film called Bad Asses On The Bayou. This is a film that promises two things: Danny Trejo kicking ass and lots of bayou action. And it delivers on both counts.
In fact, I would say that Bad Asses On The Bayou is a better showcase for Danny Trejo’s unique style than the better known Machete films. Danny Trejo is a surprisingly adept comedic actor and he gives a performance here that shows his talent goes beyond mere physical presence.
Bad Asses On The Bayou is currently available on Netflix.
Hayride 2 (dir by Terron R. Parsons)
I should admit up front that I haven’t seen the first Hayride film. Luckily, Hayride 2 picks up directly from the end of the first film and is filled with so many flashbacks and so much conversation about what happened that it probably doesn’t matter.
Essentially, Pitchfork (Wayne Dean) is a murderous urban legend who turns out to be real. He killed a lot of people in the first film and he stalks those that escaped throughout the 2nd film. Like all good slasher villains, Pitchfork is a relentless killer. He’s also an unrepentant racist, which leads to a genuinely unpleasant scene where he attacks a black detective (Corlandos Scott). Say whatever else you will about the film, Hayride 2 deserves some credit for being on the side of the victims. No attempt is made to turn Pitchfork into an anti-hero and the movie is relentlessly grim.
Hayride 2 is an odd film. The film’s low-budget is obvious in every single scene. The pacing is abysmal and the performances are amateurish. And yet, when taken on its own meager terms, it has a dream-like intensity to it that I appreciated. Then again, I always have had a weakness for low-budget, regional horror films.
Hayride 2 is available on Netflix.
Insurgent (dir by Robert Schwentke)
Insurgent is both the sequel to Divergent and was also 2015’s first YA dystopia film. Shailene Woodley is as good as ever and I guess it’s good that she has a commercially successful franchise, which will hopefully inspire audiences to track down better Shailene Woodley films like The Spectacular Now.
All that said, Insurgent often felt even more pointless than Divergent. For a two-hour film featuring performers like Woodley, Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, Ansel Elgort, and Miles Teller, Insurgent has no excuse for being as forgettable and boring as it actually was. The next installment in The Hunger Games can not get here soon enough.
Poltergeist (dir by Gil Kenan)
When a family (led by Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt) move into a new house, they discover that everything is not what it seems. For one thing, they come across a bunch of creepy clown dolls. They also hear a lot of scary sounds. They discover that the house was built on an old cemetery. Their youngest daughter vanishes. And finally, someone says, “Isn’t this like that old movie that was on TCM last night?”
Okay, they don’t actually say that. However, as everyone knows, the 2015 Poltergeist is a remake of the 1982 Poltergeist. Since the 1982 Poltergeist still holds up fairly well, the 2015 Poltergeist feels incredibly unnecessary. It has a few good jump scenes and it’s always good to see Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt in lead roles but ultimately, who cares? It’s just all so pointless.
Watch the wall-dancing original. Ignore the remake.
Tomorrowland (dir by Brad Bird)
Welcome to the world of tomorrow! Wow, is it ever boring!
Actually, I feel a little bit bad about just how much I disliked Tomorrowland because this is a film that really did have the best intentions. Watching the film, you get the sinking feeling that the people involved actually did think that they were going to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, their idea of a better world is boring and almost oppressively optimistic. There is no room for cynicism in Tomorrowland. Bleh. What fun is that?
Anyway, the film basically steals its general idea from the Atlas Shrugged trilogy. Tomorrowland is a secret place that is inhabited by inventors, dreamers, and iconoclasts. Years ago, Frank (George Clooney) was banished from Tomorrowland because, after learning that the Earth was destined to end, he lost “hope” in mankind’s future. Fortunately, he meets Casey (Britt Robertson), who is full of hope and through her, he gets to return. They also get a chance to save the world and battle a cartoonish super villain played by Hugh Laurie. (Why is he a villain? Because he’s played by Hugh Laurie, of course!)
After all the hype and build-up, Tomorrowland turned out to be dull and predictable. What a shame. The Atlas Shrugged trilogy was at least fun because it annoyed the hipsters at the AV Club. Tomorrowland is just forgettable.