‘The Great Wall’ is spectacular nonsense; ‘Why Him?’ banks entirely on its leads


Karen Kunawicz

The main reason I went to see The Great Wall is Pedro Pascal. He stars opposite this fellow named Matt Damon and yet, his name doesn’t appear in the movie poster credits. What’s up with that, movie poster people?

When the movie was announced over a year ago, I thought it was going to be serious and historical as on top of those two, it also had Willem Dafoe and Andy Lau. Gravitas, right? And Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers) was directing.

But then you figure, Max Brooks (World War Z, Zombie Survival Guide) is one of the screenplay writers. The end result is really some beautiful nonsense. It was colorful, spectacular and also absolutely silly and funny. A few people found elements of Attack on Titan in the film, since I haven’t seen it, I offer the following alternative titles: “Legolas and Gimli in China,” “Caucasian 13th Warrior” and “Latino Last Samurai.”

Imagine the Battle of Helm’s Deep from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers with elegant costumes worthy of grand elf armies and foes resembling a cross between wargs and dinosaurs.

Rising star Tian Jing appears as Commander Lin Mei in the movie—get ready to see her next in two big Hollywood franchises: Kong: Skull Island and Pacific Rim: Maelstrom. Thankfully, there was no forced / mandatory romance angle.

Bryan Cranston and James Franco play in-laws-to be in ‘Why Him?’

The comedy Why Him? really banks on the talent of its leads, Bryan Cranston and James Franco—they are among the best at what they do. You almost can’t lose with them. Even if the story sort of just rehashes Father of the Bride and Meet the Parents (dad vs. future husband) plot. Both of those movies, by the way, had less than stellar sequels—Father of the Bride 2 and Meet the Fockers.

It does start out funny, but sputters in the second half. It tries to be irreverent but oddly enough seems set to please the very conservative. It celebrates family values, true love, staying in school and yes, even a daughter’s right to choose.

The irreverence comes from James Franco’s character, Laird Mayhew—a tattooed, evasive parkour practicing tech multimillionaire who has no filter and collects strange art. The thing he longs for most though is family and he does everything he can to please his girlfriend’s including her predictably old fashioned dad, Ned Fleming (Cranston).

Non major spoiler: Why Him? also has a rather sad cameo by an incomplete Kiss.

‘The Great Wall’ opened January 25 and is available in 2D, 3D, 3D IMAX and 4DX formats. ‘Why Him?’ opens today.


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