10/8/13: Resolution, Curse of Chucky, Ingenious, After Earth, The Hangover Part III

Resolution (NR, 2013, Cinedigm)
There probably are better ways to pull your friend from the clutches of methamphetamine addiction than to dodge his gunfire, tase him and tie him up in a squatted cabin smack atop a Native American reservation. But this is the road taken by Mike (Peter Cilella) to save Chris (Vinny Curran), who is, paranoia about birds stealing his things and propensities to fire his rifle just because notwithstanding, a man who may possibly listen to reason. Remarkably, amid a fast start that establishes Chris as potentially insane before it establishes any single other thing, “Resolution” still conveys this possibility of reason. The grace with which it skates around this and other tricky edges is all it needs to command total confidence in its endeavor to tell a no-frills but engrossing story about two friends, one crummy cabin and the acute hell standing between Chris’s present condition and his ability to see the light Mike sees for him. So some measure of bonus points is in order for “Resolution’s” ability to keep riding that edge while a mysterious audio recording leads it down a wholly separate, genre-hopping path that should change everything but somehow — amazingly or exasperatingly, take your pick — does not. It’s best not to give away what “Resolution” becomes, because in addition to turning a buddy drama into something else entirely, it also doesn’t necessarily change anything at all. We are, for the most part, kept in the same boat in which Mike and Chris find themselves, and their mission doesn’t necessarily change even when everything else kind of does. Fair warning right now for the neat-and-tidy-ending-that-explains-everything crowd: “Resolution” doesn’t have one. But the sheer volume of stuff it leaves behind and leaves audiences to ponder and argue about is as integral to the experience as the 93 excellent minutes that take us there.
Extras: Cast/crew commentary, filmmakers interview, outtakes/deleted footage, introductions to the film, parody videos.

Curse of Chucky (R/NR, 2013, Universal)
“It’s a doll. What’s the worst that can happen?” The line is so overtly daft and wink-laden, one almost expects this to be the point where the “Child’s Play” saga finally goes all the way and just drops in a laugh track. Chucky’s gotten married, become a father and bullrushed beyond horror, past self-aware and into full-blown dark comedy territory, so what else can he really pull nine years after his last stunt? Turns out, it’s an upset, because amid all the flat reboots, remakes and comebacks that produced countless 21st century shadows of 20th century horror classics, it’s this one that finds a way to rise to the occasion by not only reasserting its place in the annals of actual horror, but by somehow also folding all that preceding craziness into a timeline that’s stunningly attentive to the tenets of fan service and storyline continuity. “Curse of Chucky’s” first half plays it unsettlingly straight, almost as if to mimic a reboot that’s severed all ties to its past. But as the fresh-faced Chucky literally peels away the grafts hiding his trophy case of scars from past films, “Curse” does the same with a wild weaving of its present mess into the scary and funny messes that piled up over five preceding movies. Plot holes are inevitable, as are the leaps of faith “Curse” occasionally asks fans to take in the service of what it’s trying to do here. But the effort is so commendable, and the payoff so outrageously devoted to its mission, that going along with it is no favor to ask.
Extras: Cast/crew commentary, deleted scenes, three behind-the-scenes features, storyboards, bloopers.

Ingenious (R, 2009, Lions Gate)
A cynic might deduce that Lions Gate pulled the four-year-old “Ingenious” — the dramatized story of the invention of the novelty talking beer opener and the two friends (Renner as Sam, Dallas Roberts as Matt) who endured a trail of bad ideas, bad luck and broken relationships to bring it to market — out of movie purgatory because one of its stars, Jeremy Renner, is now an actual star. And a cynic would probably be right about that. As for why “Ingenious” was stashed away for so long before marketing saved it, theories abound. It could be the delving into Matt’s gambling problem (or rather, the film’s odd ability to alternate between applying melodramatic pressure to the problem and kind of brushing it off), or it could be the so-large-it-arguably-IS-the-plot subplot of Matt and wife Gina’s (Ayelet Zurer) marriage and the toll his dreams and failings take on it. It could be “Ingenious’s” trouble with balancing moods, managing time or finding a way to reconcile its loving ode to trailblazers and inventors with the creation of a beer opener that says a goofy phrase when it pulls the cap off a bottle. Not exactly the polio vaccine. All balled up, “Ingenious” is an altogether likable movie with two likable leads, one reasonably likable spouse and a supporting cast (Marguerite Moreau, Richard Kind, Judith Scott) ranging from pleasant to rotten in a way that nearly registers as polite. But it’s a likable movie that feels continually stuck in some stage of misalignment, and it’s a story that plays like a true story with all the sharp edges and fine details sanded away and simplified. In other words, it’s the prototypical forgettable movie, which likely is why its studio forgot about it until money on the table jogged its memory.
Extras: Behind-the-scenes feature, interviews.

After Earth (PG-13, 2013, Sony Pictures)
Imagine signing Peyton Manning to do anything with a football but throw it, or commissioning Salvador Dalí to do anything with a sheet of canvas but paint on it. Now imagine hiring Will Smith to appear in your movie and supply anything but his charisma, or just check out “After Earth” and see exactly what it looks like. As “Earth” begins, humanity is a millennium past abandoning Earth, which has, despite looking rather lush here, became too toxic for humans to endure. (Animals, it seems, got along just fine and even evolved to kill humans on sight despite there being none to see.) There’s obviously more to it than that, including a new planet and a combative alien race with a tricky but gaping weakness. But it’s best to leave something for “Earth” to introduce, because once Cypher (Smith) and Kitai’s (Jaden Smith) ship crash-lands on Earth and leaves Cypher incapacitated and the terrified Kitai to find the rescue beacon that can save them, there’s precious little else for it to do. As implied earlier, “Earth” is visually striking. But it’s also strikingly calculated, with the younger Smith alternating between fearfully mugging and belting tearjerker speeches into his radio while Dad returns fire with all the heat of a wet match. If the goal was for Will Smith to set a nepotistic stage for his son’s Oscar reel, it backfired magnificently. Cypher’s dreadfully boring, Kitai’s obnoxious, and a computer-animated bird outshines both by an embarrassing margin in terms of conveying humanity in the face of adversity. Had “Earth” followed that bird instead of the straight line connecting two sides of this mostly non-story about two mostly non-characters, it may have gone somewhere worth going. Sadly, like the rest of us, she had better things to do than stick around to see this one ends.
Extras: Alternate opening, six behind-the-scenes features.

The Hangover Part III (R, 2013, Warner Bros.)
Following the first in a surprisingly large series of scenes in which animals die awful deaths, “The Hangover Part III” concocts yet another excuse for our four non-heroes (Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha) to go on yet another ill-advised trip. When things quickly go awry, it’s due to a callback to events from the original “Hangover.” This both follows and precedes scenes in which the characters talk about moments from “The Hangover,” it eventually leads to a return to the “The Hangover’s” host city of Las Vegas, and gosh you guys, remember how great “The Hangover” was and how much you loved it? This needless sequel to the needless sequel that preceded it sure does, and it effectively operates on the notion that if you remember enough times how much you enjoyed that original movie all those many (four) years ago, you’ll forgive this (hopefully!) final chapter for having next to nothing to offer beyond a striking level of nostalgia for a film from 2009. “The Hangover” is the crutch on which “Part III” leans for dear life, but it’s also its worst enemy, pressuring it to outshock its predecessors and accidentally turn its pack of likable imbeciles into scumbags whose stupidity and bad behavior have grown too exaggerated and tiresome to entertain like they once so easily did. John Goodman, Melissa McCarthy and — of course — Ken Jeong also star.
Extras: Five behind-the-scenes features (some real, some fake), extended scenes, outtakes, action mash-up.