Starting Over (The Stepfather, 2009)

stepfather_remake_posterThis is a pretty slick and glossy remake.  It begins much like the original, right down to the Stepfather clearing a fogged up mirror and shaving off a bushy beard.  It is a little extended, but the idea is the same.  Admittedly, it was a pretty iconic moment, and I get wanting to use it again.

In his new town he meets Sela Ward’s Susan.  She has three children, one of whom is in military school (Michael, played by Penn Badgley).  He returns six months after his mom and David (the Stepfather) met and they are already engaged.  Michael instantly does not trust David.  David tries to get him to trust him with a private conversation about they will heal the family together (over shots).

The film establishes that his back story is that his wife and daughter were killed in an accident by a drunk driver.  And quickly, he starts to slip up, confusing names of his dead daughter while talking to Michael.

Unlike the first film, David needs to fix his problems very quickly.  A little old lady in the neighborhood told everyone about how this police sketch of the family killer she saw on a TV show looked just like David.  So, of course he has to kill her.  Susan’s ex-husband gets inquisitive.  So, He has to die.  The film tends to take it’s kill count from the third Stepfather films, going for big numbers, rather than a nuanced exploration of the Stepfather’s psychosis.

The Stepfather of this remake is kind of confusing.  The original films he was a very strict traditionalist.  He believed in hardcore moral values.  He did not believe in sex before marriage or living together before marriage.  His rigid morality was a code he lived by and refused to falter on.  When he did falter, that is when he started to crack.  This version sees a guy who is accused of being to old fashioned, but he seems to have pretty modern attitudes.  He lives with Susan and her kids, they are having sex.  In a scene reminiscent of the original, Michael puts on headphones to drown out the sounds of sex.  In the 1987 version, part of what makes the scene work is when we see O’Quinn and Hack together, O’Quinn has an expression of wanting to be anywhere but there having sex.

Anytime Amber Heard is on the screen, it feels like the director forgot he was making a movie…the film lingers on Heard in a bikini a lot…I mean, it is necessary I am sure…because Michael is a swimmer, so they spend a ton of by the pool.  I get it, Heard is attractive…but it is just s obvious that it distracts from the film.  It seems to have been distracting enough that we meet some detectives at the beginning working the case.  And we never see them again.

Sure, this film is far more action picked, with a big fight, but everything that is no really does not add to the story, everything that links back to the original just feels like a pale imitation.  While it is certainly better that Stepfather 3, this remake does nothing to improve on the original.

Theeeeeeey’re Back (Independence Day: Resurgence, 2016)

independence_day_resurgence_posterTwenty Years between sequels is a long time.  There has been longer, but twenty years is nothing to sneeze at.  The reviews that proceed me have been harsh, many suggesting that this is the worst film of the summer.  But honestly?  It’s an OK film.  There are some decent quips.  The effects are good.  Goldblum slips into his role pretty seamlessly.  Spiner pops back up and gets a beefed up role.  Bill Pullman is the tortured Ex-President.  Sela Ward is thr tough current president.  Replacing Will Smith’s Captain Steven Hiller is his son Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher).  He is apparently annoyed with Jake (Liam Hemsworth) for almost killing him (accidentally) a few years before.  Jake is the hotshot risk taker who saves the moon base (but getting no thanks for it).  He is also engaged to President Whitmore’s now grown daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe), who works for the current President and is a former pilot.  Then there is Floyd (Nicholas Wright, also one of the writers).  He is in love with Rain Lao (Angelababy) the top Chinese pilot.  Towards the beginning of the film, we are also introduced to Warlord Dikembi Umbutu (Deobia Oparei) and the standard sparring love interest for Goldblum, Catherine Marceaux (Charlotte Gainsbourg).  If this seems like a long introductory paragraph?  It is a lot longer in the film.

One of the big problems this film has?  So much of the personal conflict feels entirely unnecessary.  The conflict between Dylan and Jake could be removed entirely and not impact the film at all.  Their relationship would not be lessened without it.    What makes it worse is that really, the new character lack charisma and have terrible lines.  The quips in the film are largely duds.

The movie follows the first film’s formula pretty closely.  We spend an hour being introduced, or re-introduced to the leads (or at least, it feels like a long slow hour).  We get a lot of destruction as the ship arrives.  An “exciting” battle that fails, heroes stuck in the alien ship, heroes flying alien ship.  A road trip with Judd Hirsch.  Sure, some it is a bit jumbled around and it is all amped up a bit, because, well, it is a sequel.

The creature design is surprisingly pedestrian.  The Alien Queen is suspiciously like the Alien Queen from Aliens, especially in her movements. The world building is a bit lazy.  Yeah, they have alien technology, but it seems to be mostly applied to weapons and vehicles.  How does it change other things?  Communication technology seems to basically be smart phones, laptops and tablets.  The world has been united since 1996, and I guess there might be some plausibility there, but the world is basically America, except for the continent of Africa, still run by Warlords.

The film also just ends very weirdly.  No big speech, Spiner just runs into frame to set up the next film.  And the screen goes black.  So, no, this is not the worst movie of the summer (surely we cannot make such a claim seven days into summer).  It is not the best either.  It is an okay and underwhelming sequel.

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