The Films of Jeff Wadlow
Cry_Wolf (December 10/05)
Given that the entire premise behind Cry_Wolf doesn't make a whole lot of sense, it's no small feat that the film turns out to be a thoroughly watchable (yet ultimately unsatisfactory) piece of work. The story revolves around a group of friends at an exclusive prep school who pass the time by playing a game in which participants must guess who's telling the truth and who's lying, and eventually decide to kick it up a notch by tricking the entire student body into believing that a mass murderer is on the loose. Of course, it's not long before a killer matching the description they made up arrives on the scene and begins stalking each of the collaborators. Cry_Wolf's been directed by Jeff Wadlow, who generally avoids the flashy style that often accompanies movies of this ilk - though the filmmaker can't quite resist the urge to throw in some needlessly quick edits towards the end (a tactic undoubtedly employed to disguise the sparse gore shots, thanks to an inexplicable PG-13 rating). And while the mystery element initially goes a long way towards keeping things interesting, the movie nevertheless runs out of steam about halfway through (a problem exacerbated by a final 20-minutes that's essentially one long chase sequence). Still, you could certainly do a whole lot worse in terms of a contemporary teen slasher flick; any movie that throws in both a Ferris Bueller's Day Off reference and a cameo appearance by Gary Cole (sporting a British accent, no less!) can't be all bad.
Never Back Down
Kick-Ass 2 (November 7/13)
A disappointingly half-baked sequel, Kick-Ass 2 follows Aaron Taylor-Johnson's title character as he and Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) are reluctantly forced to team up after Christopher Mintz-Plasse's Chris D'Amico transforms himself into a reprehensible supervillain named The Motherfucker. There's little doubt that Kick-Ass 2 fares relatively well in its opening stretch, as writer/director Jeff Wadlow does an effective job of catching up with the various characters from 2010's Kick-Ass and, as well, introducing scores of new (and admittedly) intriguing figures - including Donald Faison's Dr. Gravity, John Leguizamo's Javier, and Jim Carrey's Colonel Stars and Stripes. (The latter is especially good here and it is, as a result, disappointing to note that Carrey's role amounts to less than 10 minutes of screen time.) Wadlow's first major misstep is his continuing emphasis on Hit-Girl's tedious high-school-based exploits, as it's virtually impossible to work up any real interest in the character's efforts at ingratiating herself among several popular students (ie such elements are unreasonably familiar and hackneyed, to be sure). It's clear, to an increasingly problematic extent, that Wadlow simply doesn't have enough material to sustain a full-length feature, with the lack of momentum ensuring that the film's midsection generally progresses at a crawl. (It doesn't help, either, that the movie's many action scenes are rather underwhelming, which is especially disappointing given the strength of such moments in the original.) And although the film does improve slightly in its final stretch, Kick-Ass 2 has long-since established itself as an entirely needless followup that adds very little to the universe laid out in the original.
True Memoirs of an International Assassin
Blumhouse's Truth or Dare (April 24/18)
A predictably erratic PG-13 horror flick, Blumhouse's Truth or Dare follows several friends (including Lucy Hale's Olivia and Tyler Posey's Lucas) as they're forced to play the title game by a vicious supernatural entity. It's ultimately clear that Blumhouse's Truth or Dare doesn't possess enough material to wholeheartedly justify a feature-length running time, and there's little doubt, too, that the film fares especially poorly in its aggressively bland and uninvolving opening stretch - with the less-than-captivating vibe compounded by an almost astonishing assortment of one-dimensional, interchangeable characters. (Hale and Posey, despite their best efforts, prove utterly unable to transform their respective protagonists into sympathetic or even plausible figures.) Having said that, Blumhouse's Truth or Dare admittedly does improve once it progresses into its comparatively engrossing midsection - as director Jeff Wadlow finally begins to have some fun with the silly premise and suffuses the narrative with appreciatively over-the-top kill sequences (eg the surviving friends attempt to prevent one of their own from jumping off a roof). The improved vibe persists right up until around the one-hour mark, after which point the emphasis is placed on the heroes' incredibly tedious investigation into the aforementioned supernatural entity - which ensures that the picture runs out of steam to a fairly egregious extent. The end result is a frustratingly hit-and-miss endeavor that is, to an increasingly pronounced extent, more miss than hit, and it does seem that the whole thing would've been far better off as a short within a horror anthology.