The Films of Stephen Sommers
Catch Me If You Can
The Adventures of Huck Finn
The Jungle Book
Deep Rising (January 6/07)
Though overlong and occasionally bogged down in special effects, Deep Rising is - more often than not - an old-fashioned and flat-out fun monster movie that benefits from Treat Williams' tremendously engaging lead performance. The film - which revolves around a ragtag group of characters (including Williams' John Finnegan and Famke Janssen's Trillian St. James) that find themselves under attack from a blood-thirsty sea monster - has been infused with a distinctly tongue-in-cheek sensibility by writer/director Stephen Sommers, and it's clear almost immediately that viewer isn't meant to take any of this seriously (with a premise like that, how could they?) Williams is perfectly cast as the Han Solo-esque hero, while the supporting cast has been peppered with a variety of familiar faces (including Djimon Hounsou, Cliff Curtis, and Anthony Heald). That being said, there's little doubt that the movie fares a whole lot better in its first half than in its second - primarily because the computer-generated monster just isn't very convincing (Sommers initially goes the Spielberg route and leaves the creature to the shadows). The flabby midsection doesn't do the film any favors, although - admittedly - Sommers does effectively pull everything together for an exciting and thoroughly rousing finale.
The Mummy Returns
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (September 24/09)
A typically frenetic actioner from Stephen Sommers, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra follows an elite group of commandoes - including Channing Tatum's Duke, Marlon Wayans' Ripcord, and Rachel Nichols' Scarlett - as they attempt to stop a nefarious arms dealer (Christopher Eccleston's Destro) from leveling several global cities. As expected, Sommers has infused G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra with a blistering pace that initially makes it easy enough to overlook the film's various deficiencies, as scripters Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, and Paul Lovett have infused the proceedings with a slick, downright superficial sensibility that's reflected in everything from the dialogue to the characters to the twists within the plot. The atmosphere of unapologetic cartoonishness is exacerbated by the almost eye-rolling overuse of computer-generated special effects, with the pervasive lack of reality ensuring that, more often than not, the experience of watching the movie is akin to the experience of watching somebody play a video game. And although Tatum delivers as hopelessly bland a performance as one might've anticipated, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra does boast impressive work from talented actors such as Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (with the latter's unabashedly over-the-top turn as a mad scientist ranking as one of the movie's most entertaining attributes). There inevitably reaches a point, however, at which Sommers' relentlessly broad modus operandi simply becomes too much to take, and the film slowly-but-surely morphs from an inoffensive time-waster to an interminable assault on the senses. The inclusion of a few better-than-expected action sequences - ie an impressive chase through the streets of Paris - ultimately ensures that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra never entirely sinks to the level of Transformers-like incompetence, yet it's clear that movies of this ilk simply have no business running this long (ie 80 minutes at the max would be ideal).
Based on the series of novels by Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas follows Anton Yelchin's title character, a young man with clairvoyant abilities, as he embarks on a perilous quest to prevent a worldwide apocalypse at the hands of a figure known as Fungus Bob (Shuler Hensley). Odd Thomas' premise seems, at the surface, somewhat of a departure for Stephen Sommers, as the director is primarily known for larger-than-life, summer-blockbuster fare like The Mummy and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. And yet it eventually becomes clear that Sommers is exactly the right choice for the material, with the filmmaker infusing large swaths of the proceedings with an appreciatively over-the-top sensibility that's heightened by a blistering pace. It's just as clear, however, that Odd Thomas suffers from an opening hour that, while entertaining, is perhaps a little more slick and plot-heavy than one might've liked, as Sommers, working from his own script, emphasizes the frenetic exploits of the central character without necessarily imbuing said character with compelling, sympathetic traits (ie it's initially difficult to wholeheartedly root for Odd's success). The movie's shift from passable to enthralling comes at around the one-hour mark, after which point Odd Thomas, infused with surprisingly top-notch action sequences and an almost shockingly emotional final stretch, becomes a gripping thriller that easily stands as Sommers' most accomplished work to date.