Three Reviews in Three Cinemas

300ReviewThe sun is starting to shine, so it’s time for my dark couch potato vampire brethren to flee to the multiplex. Here’s a completely forgettable way to go for the hat trick: one movie each at all three of our local theaters on the same day.

Carmike 12, 1:30 p.m.
300: Rise of an Empire
Frank Miller’s legendary graphic novel 300 spawned the epic slow-mo experience that launched a thousand tribal armband tattoos in 2007 when Zack Snyder adapted it for the big screen. Now his source material is again immortalized with the less stylistically iconic snorefest, 300: Rise of an Empire.

Part of what made the first 300 film so successful was the semi-groundbreaking effects and style that Snyder pioneered; the other part was supplied by the breathtaking and brilliant source material. Miller’s original work is a classic of comic lore. Seeing it unfold on the big screen in page-for-page accuracy was an exhilarating experience the first time around.

This time around, they’re adapting Miller again; his sequel to the original comic is called Xerxes, but it hasn’t been released yet. So there goes the source material to compare it to. And the effects and style that were so iconic when Snyder executed them six years ago? Not as impressive this time around.

Regal Cinemas, 4:15 p.m.

Jeez, okay Liam Neeson, we get it: you’re grizzled as hell and fond of destroying guys with superior hand-to-hand technique and a flare for the improbable.

But seriously, if you have been enjoying the Neeson ascension to the top of the action star heap, you probably won’t be too disappointed with this thriller that is no doubt being described as a “white-knuckled, adrenaline-fueled thrill ride” by someone else. I didn’t love it, but I have to say, I didn’t hate it. It’s basically Flightplan (2005), the Jodie Foster airplane thriller, mixed with Unknown (2011), another hardboiled Neeson action thriller by Jaume Collet-Serra, the director of this film.

Neeson plays an air marshal who starts getting text messages on a secure network threatening passengers’ lives for a ransom. Neeson predictably springs into action beating people to death with his bare hands and being surly in general. The whole thing is pretty forgettable, but slickly put together. I can think of much worse ways to spend an afternoon.

Darkside Cinema, 8 p.m.
The Art of the Steal

Before you get excited—no, this is not the 2009 documentary The Art of the Steal, which documented the $25 billion Barnes art collection’s fate. It’s not even Art of the Steel, the short documentary on the making of the 1997 superhero film Steel starring Shaquille O’Neal… that I would like to make someday. Sorry, I should have finished that thought.

But rest assured, this film is significantly less interesting then either of those real or imagined classics.

Kurt Russell is a former thief and ex-con who gets roped into a familiar old scam by his familiar old brother, played by familiar old Matt Dillon. The twist this time is that the whole thing is a Canadian production, so it all seems… familiar. We’ve seen this heist/con film a thousand times at this point, and at least the last 200 times were forgettable. When your movie is seen as more or less a child of Entrapment (1999), you’re probably not in great shape. This movie should be shown in a double feature with David Mamet’s Heist (2001) just to make the guys behind Art of the Steal feel bad.

It did help the hat trick reference that the last movie is Canadian, though. They love hockey and crappy movies up there.