Beasts run wild in this week’s new releases.
1. Rampage (Warner Brothers/New Line, 4,101 Theaters, 107 Minutes, Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language, and crude gestures, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer at press time: 52% fresh [141 reviews]): Adapting video games into film is problematic for a number of reason. One of which is that while games such as Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed provide cinema-ready backstories, Others don’t. Rampage was one of the latter.
The game featured a simple backstory–humans were mutated into giant animals. How? Well, that changed from game installment to game installment. But that was about as deep as it got. We learned nothing about the people, why they were attacking or anything that would get in the way of getting to the building-smashing action players paid their quarter for.
So, the filmmakers had to construct a backstory around the destruction that would keep audiences interested. But the fun of the game was that there really was no reason for the destruction. That’s what made it a classic. the film moving away from the morbid fun of the game might backfire for those fans of the game.
2. Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare (Universal, 3,029 Theaters, 100 Minutes, Rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing content, alcohol abuse, some sexuality, language and thematic material, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer at press time: 17% fresh [82 reviews]): In search of the next high concept to build a horror film around, we have finally made our way to a game of truth or dare. The game in itself is scary–it has been ruining friendships and relationships for decades.
However, in the film, there is a supernatural element added to it. A demon forces a group of kids to play the game with deadly rules–fail to follow through on the dare or fail to tell the truth, you die.
This is the first movie done by Blumhouse that had the production company’s name in the title. That would have been smart, if this film was as well received as their Get Out or Happy Death Day. Too bad it’s not.
3. Isle of Dogs (Opening Wide, Fox Searchlight, 1,939 Theaters, 101 Minutes, Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some violent images, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer at press time: 91% fresh [215 reviews]): I feel very conflicted about Wes Anderson. I recognize that he is a genius. Just the way he frames his shots shows a mastery of his craft. But his films seem less like stories than reasons for his ethereally weird characters to be ethereally weird.
Case in point, this one. It’s the story of a young Japanese boy trying to find his dog after all dogs were exiled to a garbage island off the coast of Japan. That’s a pretty out there story as it is, but one that could feature a lot of warmth and emotion. But the trailer features all of Anderson’s trademarks and all the characters in it seem emotionally detached from what is going on. That makes me not want to see it.
I am in the minority here. Critics love the film (as they do most of Anderson’s work) and he has no end of Hollywood superstars lining up to work with him. I feel I should love his work, but I don’t. And it leaves me antsy.
4. Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero (Fun Academy, 1,685 Theaters, 85 Minutes, Rated PG for war action and some thematic elements, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer at press time: 89% fresh [19 reviews]): If an esoteric animated dog movie is not to your liking, you have an alternative this week.
This film tells the true story of Stubby, a stray Boston Terrier who was adopted as a mascot by the 102nd Infantry Regiment (United States), 26th Infantry Division (United States) and travelled with them to the European theater during World War I.
Yes, I said true story. There really was a dog named Stubby, and he was given the rank of Sergeant by the U.S. Army for bravery while in battle. His acts of heroism included, but were not limited to, warning of impending gas attacks and finding injured soldiers on the battlefield.
I’ll be honest, the film looks cheap. But the reviews are great for the film. Albeit, it is a small sample size, but there are some pretty big outlets give the film its seal of approval.
Next week’s new releases offer a little bit of levity before Avengers: Infinity War arrives. Join us then.