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'The Great Wall' excels in cinematography; 'Fist Fight' has familiar faces, but thin plot

Movie Theater (Alexandre Chassignon / CC BY-SA 2.0/MGN Online)

THE GREAT WALL (2016)

Score: C

Rated PG-13 (for sex and nudity; violence and gore) -- 103 minutes

"What were they trying to keep out?"

THE GREAT WALL is a flawed project. America's film critics are going to have a field day picking apart this major motion picture. First of all, what is Matt Damon doing there? And secondly, the screenplay is so messy that none of the complicated plot lines are ever fully fleshed out. At times it seems like you are watching three different movies.

Full disclosure: I struggled wanting to give a higher rating to THE GREAT WALL. I heard many audience members who seemed to really enjoy the movie. I certainly did. I was not expecting this towering epic to be as good as it was, and frankly – it is a perfect Saturday matinee movie to escape from all the negativity coming out of Washington, D.C.

THE GREAT WALL is the most expensive Chinese production in history, with the largest support coming from Hollywood in history. Chinese director Zhang Yimou has a vision, and his images on the IMAX screen will take your breath away. His talent is unique and what he is able to do with a camera and bring to a film no other director can even come close to doing. This is a blockbuster epic.

This is a fantasy story with what seems like millions of dragons that is based on Chinese mythology. It blows the mind to think that the Great Wall of China goes for over 5,000 miles. You cannot help but question what the Chinese were trying to keep out. Enter Matt Damon, who plays a mercenary soldier who literally stumbles into fighting and defending against these beasts, while learning about the Chinese virtues of bravery, selflessness, discipline, and invention. Damon has a strong partner played by Chilean-born actor Pedro Pascal. Pascal is best known for his work in "Game of Thrones."

This is a first class film when it comes to cinematography, editing, and production design. If this is your kind of escape movie, you will probably not be disappointed.

FIST FIGHT (2017)

Score: D

Rated R (for language throughout, sexual content/nudity, and drug material) -- 91 minutes

"Is this a practical joke? Well, the joke is on us!"

The Las Vegas residents who created and operate CinemaScore believe that their "score" measures the most accurate audience responses to newly released motion pictures. Their large sampling from around the country is gathered from audiences who pay for their admission ticket! CinemaScore is followed closely and respected by the motion picture industry.

I write this introduction because the majority of our press screenings here in Las Vegas include hundreds of audience members who get in to see the latest and the greatest films for free. I listened very carefully to the oral audience responses following the public screening of FIST FIGHT. All that I consistently heard was, "Hysterical! So funny! A great movie!"

I am uncomfortable denigrating any movie that the audience seems to love, so instead of a failing grade, I will be generous and rate FIST FIGHT with a “D”. As a (respected) film critic, I take my reviews very seriously, because I respect your trust in my honesty and candor.

The plot is so thin: one school teacher (played by Charlie Day) gets the other teacher (played by Ice Cube) fired. "After school. Parking lot." The fist fight is on.

That's it, folks. So for 90 minutes of mostly foul language, we find one teacher running away from what will be a very public fight in the school yard – in front of the entire school. If you find a public high school teacher being threatened with a fire ax funny, then you will like this toilet humor. I did not. You will see a lot of familiar faces in the cast. Tracy Morgan makes his return to the silver screen and he looks and sounds terrific.

The film is directed by Richie Keen.

PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS

Next week, the 2017 Academy Awards Scorecard.

The top six Oscar categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. WHO SHOULD WIN. WHO WILL WIN.

There will also be a focus on one of the nominees for Best Animated Film, THE RED TURTLE.


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