Yet again, Hollywood mistakes vulgarity for wit. Charlie Day and Ice Cube star in “Fist Fight,” an R-rated comedy about a wimpy teacher challenged to an afterschool brawl by a testy fellow educator. This mean-spirited vehicle manages to pummel a few crass laughs from the audience, but it may make you want to punch the screenwriters.
Style over substance isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But in the case of the gothic horror flick “A Cure for Wellness,” the style chokes out any substance. Filmmaker Gore Verbinski, best known for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, allows the visual razzle-dazzle to overwhelm an interesting premise and a strong cast. Dane DeHann is a business executive who travels to a creepy health resort in the Swiss Alps to bring back his vacationing boss, but winds up a patient instead. Overlong and overblown, “A Cure for Wellness” is too dark to be campy fun.
“Toni Erdmann” is an Oscar-nominated black comedy from Germany about a man who creates a fake persona to worm his way back into the life of his estranged daughter, an ambitious corporate type. It’s brilliant in a number of ways, but its deliberate pace, considerable length and frank sexuality may be off-putting to many viewers.
“Neruda” is a Chilean film about a policeman, played by Gael Garcia Bernal, who pursues the titular Communist poet who went into hiding in the 1940s to escape persecution by Chile’s right wing government. Beautifully shot and produced, Pablo Larrain’s film isn’t so much about the title character as it is a poetic view of obsession.
The great Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou tries his hand at an English-language, Hollywood-style spectacle, complete with hoards of monsters and an American star, Matt Damon. The visuals are spectacular, but this fantasy action movie lacks the depth of most of Zhang Yimou’s work.