The Films of Stephen Hopkins
A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child
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Judgment Night (July 30/18)
Judgment Night follows four friends (Emilio Estevez's Frank, Cuba Gooding Jr's Mike, Jeremy Piven's Ray, and Stephen Dorff's John) as they embark on a boisterous trip to a boxing match in a rented RV, with the gang's decision to leave the highway in search of a quicker route ultimately proving disastrous - as the four men unwittingly witness a gang-style execution and are subsequently pursued by the men responsible (led by Denis Leary's Fallon). It's a pretty solid premise that's employed to watchable yet strangely flat effect by director Stephen Hopkins, as the filmmaker proves unable to engender any real sympathy for the somewhat one-dimensional protagonists among viewers - with this vibe certainly heightened and perpetuated by the actors' ongoing difficulties in wholeheartedly stepping into the shoes of their respective characters (ie they all seem to be playing caricatures rather than characters). It's clear, too, that the movie suffers from a curious lack of momentum that only exacerbates the disappointingly arms-length atmosphere, although Judgment Night certainly does benefit from a continuing inclusion of relatively tense sequences (including a strong interlude in which the heroes attempt to hide within a freight car occupied by homeless men). The lackluster cat-and-mouse climax ensures that the picture concludes on a decidedly underwhelming note, and it does seem, ultimately, that many of the film's problems could've been fixed (or at least diminished) by a shorter running time (ie this is certainly not a movie that needs to be a minute over an hour and a half) - with the end result a passable thriller that's rarely as engrossing and suspenseful as its setup might've indicated.
The Ghost and the Darkness
Lost in Space
The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
Race (March 24/16)
Based on true events, Race follows 1930s athlete Jesse Owens (Stephan James) as he overcomes a series of obstacles to dominate the 1936 Olympic Games in the track and field category (much to the chagrin of no less than Adolf Hitler himself). Filmmaker Stephen Hopkins is certainly not looking to deliver anything other than a traditional and often by-the-numbers biopic here, as Race boasts virtually all of the conventions that one has come to expect from movies of this ilk - with the underdog-makes-good narrative heightened by Peter Levy's sweeping visuals and Rachel Portman's rousing score. It's clear, too, that Hopkins does a superb job of initially drawing the viewer into the slow-moving proceedings, with the early part of Race containing a number of better-than-expected sequences that effectively cultivate a promising atmosphere. (Ranking high on the movie's list of effective first-half moments are an exciting qualification trial for Jesse and a fascinating meeting between an Olympics official and Joseph Goebbels.) The movie, however, segues into a disappointingly (and palpably) flabby midsection that's rife with padded-out and needless segments, which ensures that Race's second half, which suffers from a series of lulls, finds itself saddled with a get-on-with-it-already sort of vibe that proves rather disastrous. And although James delivers a sympathetic, engaging performance, Owens' eventual success isn't, as a result, quite as exciting and attention-grabbing as one might've anticipated - which ultimately dulls the impact of the feel-good finale, to put it mildly, and confirms Race's place as a passable yet somewhat disappointing look at an iconic American figure.