I had very high hopes for RZA’s “The Man with the Iron Fists.” The rapper’s directorial debut appeared to be a love song to the genre, one that was packed with an impressive cast and a staggering amount of violence. However, there’s something about the film that didn’t connect with me. While RZA’s direction isn’t solid — the fight scenes are a little too choppy for my liking — it isn’t the worst aspect of the feature. While I’m used to martial arts films having ridiculous storylines, this one seems a little too convoluted for its own good. At the end of the day, “The Man with the Iron Fists” wasn’t the kung fu movie I was hoping it would be. I do think RZA is going places as a director, and I’ll probably pick up the film when it lands on Blu-ray next February. Be that as it may, I can’t help but feel the experience was just mediocre.
Directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell’s animated horror/comedy “ParaNorman” is one of the biggest surprises of 2012. Although the movie is obviously geared towards kids, the story is actually much more adult in nature. The film tells the delightful story of a boy named Norman who can communicate with ghosts. According to his crazy uncle, this unusual supernatural gift will be instrumental in preventing the dead from coming back to life. However, once the zombies make their appearance, Chris Butler’s script takes an unexpected turn towards darker waters. What starts out as a light-hearted comedy becomes something else entirely by the time the end credits roll. “ParaNorman” is intelligent, hilarious, and, at times, downright scary. What’s more, the film looks exceptional on Blu-ray; the attention to detail is astonishing to an almost overwhelming degree. One of the best movies of 2012, hands down.
Total Recall (2012)
Did you request a remake of director Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 sci-fi actioner “Total Recall?” Did your friends or family ask Hollywood to tinker with a film that should have been left alone? I didn’t think so. However, that didn’t stop “Underworld” director Len Wiseman from taking a crack at the story. Outside of a few cosmetic differences, the plot is essentially the same. Here’s the problem: Wisemen’s version is hollow. Verhoeven’s flick was sleazy, violent, and darkly funny. The remake ditches all of that stuff for glossy special effects and Kate Beckinsale’s shapely million dollar ass. It feels unnecessary, a sensation that becomes much more apparent as the film wears on. Am I allowing nostalgia for the original “Total Recall” to cloud my judgment of the remake? Maybe a little. Even if I’d never heard of Verhoeven’s movie, I’d still think Wisemen’s misguided effort was nothing more than mediocre. Bryan Cranston, I’m sorry.