Movie Review: “The Lazarus Effect”

Starring
Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Evan Peters, Donald Glover, Sarah Bolger
Director
David Gelb

A group of scientists are working on a serum that, combined with the right stimuli, can bring someone back from the dead. Their argument for creating this is that it would enable doctors to have a little more time to find a cure for whatever is ailing someone. That is a terrible, terrible idea, and the rationale for the idea is even worse. But here’s the worst part: “The Lazarus Effect” actually has some interesting bits mixed in with all of the stupid ones, and the ending is kind of fantastic. To get there, though, we have to slog through a bunch of home video and security camera footage (this looks like it started life as a found footage movie, which makes sense considering the film’s producers also worked on the “Paranormal Activity” films) and an ungodly number of faulty light fixtures. The only thing it was missing was a cat.

Frank (Mark Duplass), his fiancé Zoe (Olivia Wilde), and their assistants Clay (Evan Peters) and Neko (Donald Glover), are working in a basement lab at a school in Berkeley to perfect their Lazarus serum. They bring in student Eva (Sarah Bolger) to document their work on video. They test the process on a dog, and it works, though the dog doesn’t really act like a dog once alive, and there are numerous medical red flags that suggest the dog could become extremely aggressive at any moment. Soon after their success in resurrecting someone, which is only known to those five, the lab is raided by a pharmaceutical company that, according to the terms of the grant that was funding Frank and Zoe’s research, owns all intellectual property in the event the terms of the grant are broken, which happened once they started testing on animals.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to February

february

It may only be February, and half of the country may still be buried under a foot of snow, but there’s a decidedly pre-summer feel to this month’s releases – the time of year when studios unleash a barrage of popcorn-friendly movies on audiences that aren’t deemed important enough for the summer season. Delayed blockbusters with big-name stars? Check. Unnecessary sequels to cult comedies? Check. Edgy comic book adaptations with breakout potential? Check and check. In fact, the February slate is so different from what we typically expect that instead of the usual hoard of Valentine’s Day shlock, women get a film about BDSM instead. How kinky.

“Jupiter Ascending”

Who: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, James D’Arcy and Sean Bean
What: A lowly caretaker who is actually intergalactic royalty teams up with a genetically engineered warrior to stop a tyrant from taking control of Earth.
When: February 6th
Why: It’s never a good sign when a movie gets postponed, especially one as big as “Jupiter Ascending,” but what really set off alarm bells was the decision to move it from a prime summer release date to the dead zone of February. The studio claims that the delay was to provide the Wachowskis with extra time to polish the visual effects, but that’s just Hollywood talk for covering up a deeper issue. Whether it’s because “Jupiter Ascending” isn’t very good, or because the sibling duo’s last film (“Cloud Atlas”) performed so poorly at the box office, there’s a reason why Warner Bros. suddenly lost confidence in the movie. And when you have Channing Tatum playing a half-werewolf bounty hunter, that’s bound to happen.

“Seventh Son”

Who: Ben Barnes, Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander
What: A young man is apprenticed to the local Spook to learn to fight evil spirits, and his first great challenge comes when the powerful Mother Malkin escapes her confinement.
When: February 6th
Why: If you thought the delay of “Jupiter Ascending” was bad, that’s nothing compared to “Seventh Son,” which has seen its release date change three times over the past two years. Originally scheduled for early 2013, the fantasy film – which is based on the first book in Joseph Delaney’s young adult series – actually boasts a really good cast, including Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Olivia Williams and Kit Harrington of “Game of Thrones” fame. Unfortunately, this looks like pretty standard sword-and-sorcery fare, with Bridges basically playing a variation of the Rooster Cogburn character from “True Grit” and “R.I.P.D.” Fans of the genre will probably get a kick out of it, but it’s unlikely that “Seventh Son” will have much life beyond that.

“Kingsman: The Secret Service”

Who: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong and Michael Caine
What: A veteran secret agent takes a young upstart under his wing just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.
When: February 13th
Why: After satirizing the superhero genre with “Kick-Ass,” the creative team behind that film (director Matthew Vaughn, co-writer Jane Goldman and comic book writer Mark Millar) returns with an equally over-the-top take on spy films. Developed separately from the Millar-penned comic on which it’s loosely based, Vaughn’s big screen adaptation looks a lot more fun, bursting with the energy and humor that was lacking in Millar’s version. It’s incredible to think that Colin Firth was never considered for the James Bond gig, because he’s perfectly cast as the badass super-spy, while newcomer Taron Egerton is already garnering acclaim for his debut role. Early buzz for this one is through the roof, and if you’ve seen the trailer, then you can understand why.

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