It has been more than a year since I attended a triple-header at the multiplex, but I wanted to be sure to catch a few of these on the big screen while I still could. Good timing too, because the X-FILES sequel is down to just two showings per night, just two weeks into its theatrical release. After seeing trailers for garbage like MADAGASCAR 2, THE SPIRIT and BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA, which might be the worst film ever shit out, I understand why I don't go to the multiplex more often.
I liked 1999's THE MUMMY, missed THE MUMMY RETURNS, and wish I had missed the second MUMMY sequel, THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR. It's a poorly directed, lazily scripted period adventure that is so badly cast, I spent most of the running time figuring how a 30-year-old man could have a 45-year-old wife and a 20-year-old son. I realize Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello (a good actress replacing Rachel Weisz who is hamstrung by both her newly dark locks and her wobbly British accent) are only a year apart, but they don't look or act it, and Luke Ford as their son looks and acts like Fraser's brother. The plot finds the O'Connells in China, where they fight an evil 2000-year-old Chinese despot (Jet Li) who has to get to Shangri-La and bathe in a pool of immortality in order to break the curse placed upon him by a witch (Michelle Yeoh) and summon his undead army to rule the world. Watching the mummy/zombies do battle at the climax reminded me of how much fun--and how much better the visual effects were--it was when ARMY OF DARKNESS did it fifteen years ago. Director Rob Cohen shoots too many closeups, and his shaky-cam action sequences are rendered incomprehensible, so much so that it might as well have been Seth Rogen performing martial arts as Jet Li. Li is rendered using CGI for most of the film, leaving only Yeoh coming through this bloated film with any elegance and dignity.
Speaking of Rogen, the lumpen KNOCKED UP star co-wrote and plays the co-lead in PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, an expertly produced throwback to the raucous action/comedies of the 1980s, such as MIDNIGHT RUN and BEVERLY HILLS COP. The old formula still works, as pot-loving process server Dale Denton (Rogen) and his space-case dealer Saul Silver (James Franco, reunited with his old "freak" buddy from FREAKS AND GEEKS) find themselves on the run from murderous drug dealers after Dale witnesses one of them (the great Gary Cole) and a corrupt policewoman (Rosie Perez...where has she been?) killing a business rival. Equally successful as a wild buddy comedy and as a crackerjack action flick, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS is the first venture into mainstream filmmaking by David Gordon Green, whose independent dramas UNDERTOW and GEORGE WASHINGTON made big stirs with critics. Seeing what Green has done with a $25 million budget, the idea of monsters like THE MUMMY 3 spending $140 million to create utter crap is enough to induce nausea. Adding to the film's '80s vibe: a jaunty new closing song by Huey Lewis and the News!
Also made on a small budget ($30 million), THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE has been criticized for being little more than an expanded TV episode, but considering that the Fox show was responsible more than any other for bringing feature-level production values to weekly television, I don't think it's valid criticism. It is, however, true. Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) are recruited by the FBI to investigate the case of a missing agent. A defrocked pedophile priest (Billy Connolly) claims to have psychic visions of the victim, which leads to the discovery of various body parts buried beneath snowy West Virginia. While Mulder tries to keep the faith in Connolly's wavering abilities, Scully questions her faith (again) in God while treating a young boy with a terminal illness. Although lacking in spectacle (it has only one real action sequence), THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE holds interest through its creepy atmosphere and the strong relationship between Mulder and Scully, who have graduated over the years from professional partners to personal ones. Both Duchovny and Anderson are extremely good together. Chris Carter, who created the TV series, makes his feature directing debut with a script he penned with Frank Spotnitz, another X-FILES veteran.