Hancock must have sounded great--at least on paper. Hancock (Smith) is the anti-superhero a crime fighter with a bad attitude in contemporary Los Angeles who drinks way too much dresses like skid row and doesn’t give a hoot what anyone thinks about him. Of course since he can fly like Superman stop a speeding train with his fist and take care of just about any badass gang member with his little finger he is invaluable to the police. But the public hates him--so into his life comes PR wizard Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) who is determined to remake Hancock into the image of a hero the city can embrace including getting a spandex outfit. When Hancock comes over to Embrey’s house his wife Mary (Charlize Theron) gets an immediate bad vibe about the guy. There’s good reason and therein lies the film’s big twist which comes at the half-way point of the very tight 92-minute running time. To say much else about where the plot goes would put us in spoiler hell and for a movie so reliant on the sudden turn it takes you’ll just have to figure it out yourself. They call the 4th of July “Big Willie Weekend” because Smith has been responsible for opening so many blockbusters during this time frame including Independence Day Bad Boys Men In Black among others. The movie-going public obviously loves him (so do we) and he’s coming off two strong recent performances in I Am Legend and The Pursuit of Happyness. On the surface the role of Hancock--a complicated reluctant superhero who is all ’tude-- fits right in with the rest of the resume but despite the star’s best efforts Hancock comes off a little too contrived and affected. Will’s charisma is going to have to work overtime for eager audiences to completely buy this character. An abrupt tonal shift halfway through presents a strong challenge to Theron who suddenly isn’t who she appears to be at first. Credit must go to this fine actress for making the awkward transition Mary Embrey seamless. And thank God for Jason Bateman whose innate charm and ability to play comedy makes Ray a guy in a REAL quandary--the most likeable of all the main stars as he is caught in a Twilight Zone of superhero antics. Actor-turned-director Peter Berg (The Kingdom Friday Night Lights) is all flash and style with Hancock. He moves his shaky camera right up into the stars faces and back again awkwardly shifting the tone from comedy to maudlin drama and trying to ramp up a story that just doesn’t make a whole lot of narrative sense. Films about comic-book superheroes are a dime a dozen in the summer months and audiences have shown they can easily suspend disbelief if they have a protagonist to root for. Berg’s failure here is to present Will Smith in such a way that we don’t care. The movie is full of botched opportunities with the whole arc collapsing as the thin screenplay recklessly takes off in unexpected directions--including a ridiculous scene in which Hancock goes to prison (for no good reason) that gives new meaning to the term “butting heads.” Not only do sequences like this seriously challenge the viability of the film’s PG-13 rating they test our patience for all its worth. Even though there are some nice special effects and its faults do not lie in our stars (we still love you Will) Hancock does not set off the kind of fireworks you may have been expecting this Big Willie Weekend.
This prequel-ish remake of John Carpenter’s Halloween finds a 10-year-old Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) looking like Dennis the Menace—but still acting like the Antichrist. Who could blame the kid? His older sister (Hanna Hall) makes fun of him when not ignoring him his alcoholic stepdad (William Forsythe) hurls food and profanity at him and the school bullies harass him endlessly. Young Michael’s only allies are his mom (Sheri Moon) and baby sister. Which explains why their lives are spared when Michael goes on a Halloween night killing spree. Fifteen years pass and Michael’s hatred of speaking and love of mask-wearing have reached an all-time high. When the guards at the instititution Michael has called home for the past decade and a half make the fatal mistake of trying to transport him to a new location—on his favorite night of the year no less—Michael busts out without a hitch. With his mom having committed suicide years ago Michael has but one person to pay a visit to: his now teenage sister (Scout Taylor-Compton) who has long since been adopted and not informed of her family tree. But with Michael’s longtime psychologist Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) hot on his trail it won’t be so easy to get to his baby sis. OK so maybe it'll be somewhat easy. The only members of the cast to turn in actual performances are Moon wife/frequent collaborator of Halloween writer-director Rob Zombie and McDowell. It’s not that the others can’t act but rather that they spend the movie screaming (Taylor-Compton) or hiding dialogue-less under a mask (Tyler Mane) or some other form of non-acting—which is admittedly neither here nor there since the same could be said about most slasher movies. Moon lends a certain humanity to an otherwise emotionless affair and it makes her stand out in more than one way but sadly her performance is rather short-lived. Elsewhere young actress Taylor-Compton certainly has nothing on Jamie Lee Curtis’ original Laurie Strode except for perhaps the decibels and amount of her screams. Filling in for Donald Pleasence McDowell wasn’t a bad casting choice to deliver cryptic if dubious dialogue but his performance is rarely more than funny—which could sum up most of the acting here. Such humor culminates with Danny Trejo’s tiny performance as a janitor who cheerily calls the grown-up Myers “Mikey”—even when being savagely murdered by him. Thought shock-rocker Rob Zombie would be the right man for the job of updating John Carpenter’s Halloween? You weren’t alone but alas it is only an update by the standards of today’s “horror” directors who mistake gore for fear factor. In the prologue featuring the young Myers the laughability of the young actor’s dialogue is only exceeded by how unscary his actions are. Blame Zombie’s screenplay which is often unfunny when it’s supposed to be funny—primarily during his trademark clichéd-white-trash-family scenes—and funny when it’s not supposed to be. In the second half at least the talking turns into screams and the pace picks up but it’s all for naught because the older Michael has become a superhuman monster instead of a troubled institutionalized human. The psychological scares have been completely drained from this remake as Zombie appears more intent on stylistically depicting the murders than setting them up; any shred of subtlety as a result is gone. Although maybe the director thought he fulfilled the psychological-scare quota when the psychologist’s life is put in grave danger. As Zombie’s Halloween limps on it becomes a sad commentary on the state of the genre: Elaborate throat-slittings and blood trajectories are no longer even flinch-inducing.