BIG-SCREEN SEQUEL CRAZE CONTINUES UNABATED
Creepy girl returns in Rings and Training Day gets the TV treatment, writes Chris Lackner.
Big releases on Feb. 3: Rings; The
Space Between Us.
Big picture: The 2017 viral case of sequelitis keeps spreading. Fittingly, this week in the horror genre. The creepy, crawling, sopping well girl is back — the one that still haunts your nightmares from 2002’s Ring.
Ghost girl is back to ooze, climb and slip her way through more screens. On one hand, with the prominence of flat-screen TV’s, the tiny demon’s job has got far easier. On the other hand, does she have to shrink down to Smurf size when her cursed video is played on tablets and smartphones? (And what happens if you post the deadly clip on your Facebook feed? Does anti-Casper claw her way out of all your friends’ screens simultaneously seven days after they “liked” your video in a scrolling daze? On a side note, I think I just hashed movie No. 3.) Without revealing too much, Rings finds our viral phantom killing machine more ambitious: She wants to be reborn.
Meanwhile, The Space Between Us is just like The Martian only with 14 more people, plus a heartfelt teenage online love story. An astronaut dies in childbirth on Mars, thus beginning the out-ofthis-world life of Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) — a quirky, brilliant kid who reaches age 16 having only met 14 other people on Mars. His online friendship with an eccentric Earthling girl named Tulsa leads to a seemingly doomed love affair once Gardner finally gets to visit Ma’s native soil. Sadly, Gardner’s Red Planet organs can’t handle our atmosphere, so he races against time to fall in love, and find his father. This movie makes the phrase “I love you to the moon and back” seem like a handshake. Forecast: Rings will rule them all, but it was an unnecessary sequel. I would have preferred Rings as a meta urban fantasy in which we learn that Sauron and MiddleEarth are real, and his monstrous armies cross into our world to conquer Lower-Earth. Sure, Sauron is pure evil. But in an age of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” I think he’d be a refreshingly straight-shooting planetary emperor. (I also would have accepted a special Feb. 2 release of Groundhog Day 2. I’d pay a small fortune for the comedic pleasures of watching Bill Murray escape another time loop.)
Big events: Powerless (Feb. 2, NBC); Training Day (Feb. 2, CBS/ CTV); Santa Clarita Diet (Feb. 3, Netflix); 24: Legacy (Feb. 5, after the Super Bowl).
Big picture: Powerless is a workplace comedy set in a world of caped crusaders and beings faster than a speeding bullet, but it focuses on the ordinary folks who have to deal with the colossal mess superheroes leave behind. A top-notch cast brings to life the characters in a special claims adjusters office as they safeguard the world against souped-up calamities. Vanessa Hudgens and the ever-reliable Danny Pudi (Community) anchor the series, set in the DC Comics universe. Watch these insurance champs make statements like, “I want to nail Aquaman so hard,” and debate whether Wonder Womaninflicted damage classifies as an act of God given she is only a demi-god.
Meanwhile, speaking of remakes you could do without, Training Day rehashes the 2001 Denzel Washington vehicle into a drama about an idealistic rookie cop and his corrupt, effective veteran partner (Bill Paxton). Expect edgy bromantic banter like, “Police work is like sex: It’s more effective when it isn’t pretty.”
Finally, Drew Barrymore phones home in the dark Netflix horror-comedy, Santa Clarita Diet. She plays a real estate agent turned into a murderous pseudo-zombie. Her loyal husband (Timothy Olyphant) and children decide to help feed and cover up their supermom’s new habit. The pro side of being undead? Ma has endless energy, only needs two hours sleep and can suddenly parallel park with confidence.
On the other hand, she also chows down on human limbs like corn on the cob. In an ode to Dexter, the suburban foursome opt to kill people who deserve it because “the family that slays together stays together.”
An on to a final reboot in 24: Legacy, Jack Bauer’s long, terrible days are finally inflicted on a newcomer Corey Hawkins (The Walking Dead). The drama moves to its regular Monday slot on Feb. 6.
Forecast: Powerless will soar up, up and away, and Santa Clarita Diet will have bite. As for 24: Legacy, we now all live in a reality show called 48 (Months) where the daily lies, plot twists, dangers and melodrama beat anything 24 will ever deliver onscreen.
Big releases on Feb. 3: Big Wreck (Grace); Big Sean (I Decided); Rose Cousins (Natural Conclusion).
Big picture: It’s a big week for Big acts. First, frontman Ian Thornley and company release their third effort since their 2010 reunion, including the epic instrumental Skybunk Marché. Meanwhile, popular Detroit rapper Big Sean releases an album centred on his reinvention and rebirth (once she’s out of her ghastly purgatory, Sean and the Ring Girl should really do lunch).
But the best bet this week is Halifax’s Rose Cousins, an East Coast countrified folk-pop singer with siren vocals. This is her first studio album in five years. The last won netted a Juno Award.
Forecast: My natural conclusion is to listen to Cousins. (Question: Now that Trump is president, should every musician with the word Big in their name change it to Huge? Discuss).
Drew Barrymore stars in Santa Clarita Diet, out Feb. 3 on Netflix.