Just when it seemed like comic book films were unstoppable, Fantastic Four proved that even high-flying superheroes can be brought down to earth. Despite a promising cast of up-and-comers like Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller and Kate Mara, director Josh Trank’s film trotted out a dull origin story with laughable special effects (poor Jamie Bell is forced to serve out three-quarters of the movie as a heap of rocks that look like they were designed on a 1998 iMac) and absolutely no wit.
Cameron Crowe let his ambition get the best of him with Aloha. The film starring Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and Bill Murray feels more like several movies—a predictable rom-com, a meditation on the Space Age and, as with all Crowe films, a case for unabashed sincerity—haphazardly cut into one confusing story. Oh, and casting Emma Stone as a character who is a quarter Asian didn’t exactly help.
The Wachowski siblings’ commitment to telling original stories at a grand scale is admirable. Unfortunately, this time, they got perhaps a little too grand, and certainly far too original. This story of a cleaning lady who is genetically predestined to become queen of the universe has everything: Channing Tatum as a genetically spliced dog-man, the most elaborately overdone costuming since the heyday of Queen Amidala, Eddie Redmayne giving the sort of manic performance we’ve come to expect from a late-in-life Pacino. It’s overstuffed fun, but the lack of coherence, character development, or common sense make it a bit of an endurance test, too.
The Age of Adaline
Blake Lively’s long-awaited return to the screen after a three-year absence was probably too conceptual to work—her character, a woman doomed never to age, was living the sort of surreal sci-fi premise that’s hard to sustain at full length. But Lively herself didn’t help matters by playing the role of a woman suffering through an incomprehensible curse as though her motivation was “I’m a little stressed out!”
Roland Emmerich took a break from the action fare that’s been his bread and butter to tell the story of the uprising that gave rise to the modern gay movement. It was a worthy goal, but Emmerich’s film minimized the contributions of real people of color in order to depict a fantasy white farmboy who crashes the party and immediately becomes the instigator of the riots. Too revealing of its creator’s own quirks, perhaps, to truly wound, Stonewall was still offensive, juvenile, and at times, just plain silly.
National Lampoon’s Vacation, released in 1983, at least offered the occasional shot of big, stupid energy. This year’s Vacation—in which Ed Helms plays Rusty Griswold, Anthony Michael Hall’s character in the original, all grown up—offers something much worse: Halfhearted stupidity. Strangely misplaced homoerotic humor, a lame girls-gone-wild sorority keg party—Vacation has it all. Just staying at home never looked so good.
It’s surprising that a buddy comedy featuring two of Hollywood’s funniest ladies—Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara and the film’s producer, Reese Witherspoon, who hasn’t flexed her comedy muscles often since Election and Legally Blonde—could be so un-funny. The odd couple duo of uptight Witherspoon and wild Vergara falls flat. The gags are lazy—Witherspoon is short, Vergara has an accent—and the result is surprisingly chauvinist.
A Walk in the Woods
A Walk in the Woods could have been an exploration of one man’s interior life through his reckoning with external challenges. It could have done for the existential crisis of aging what Wild did for grief or what Into the Wild did for ascetic wilderness living. Instead, it unfolds like a series of fuddy-duddy gags—trying to escape a maddeningly chatty fellow hiker or facing off with a hungry bear—played for cheap chuckles with no emotional payoff. The Appalachian Trail has never seemed longer.
In the beginning, Burnt seemed like a recipe for success: Bradley Cooper simmers as a reformed bad boy chef amid sumptuous shots of food, sharp London scenery and appealing supporting players like Alicia Vikander and Emma Thompson. But the film, which reportedly underwent cuts and cast changes, has so many ingredients that it ends up feeling undercooked: It’s a high-stakes culinary competition, a character study of a tortured genius, a journey through addiction, a workplace dramedy and a love story—all of which fail to raise the stakes for what’s ultimately a tale of redemption. You’ve probably felt more invested in a midseason episode of MasterChef Junior.