This Rotten Week: Predicting Focus and The Lazarus Effect Reviews

The Academy Awards are on tonight. In honor of this great Sunday we bring you two movies that have absolutely no chance of ever being mentioned in the same sentence as the Oscars. It’s time to get in focus with The Lazarus Effect.

Just remember, I'm not reviewing these movies, but rather predicting where they'll end up on the Tomatometer. Let's take a look at what This Rotten Week has to offer.




Rotten Watch Prediction


Running a con can’t be easy, keeping up appearances and all. I suspect it’s even harder for a guy like Will Smith to run a con. After all, he’s super famous. Wouldn’t everyone see him coming from a mile away? He shows up at a party, sidling up to some muckity-muck looking to start the grifting and the big wig is like, "Hey aren’t you Will Smith? Holy sh@#, look everyone! It’s Will Smith! I loved you in Independence Day." And that’s the end of that con. He’s already been outed.

See how the Fresh Prince pulls it off in the trailer for Focus...

Focus focuses on a group of con men and women who are running this scam and that with Smith apparently their de facto leader. He teams up with Margot Robbie (or is pitted against her, it wasn’t entirely clear) in a huge con. This film has that Bad Boys-Will Smith feel to it, at least from a visual standpoint. Those kinds of roles for Smith seem to work the best, where he can bring some of his comedic chops to round out over-the-top stories and action. He’s a talent of course, and had the repertoire to pull off dramas. But a dude of his stature might be best keeping things big and ostentatious. It fits with his star power. I’m not convinced Focus is that specific film. But it seems in line with what works for him.

Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love-78%, I Love You Phillip Morris-72%), Focus appears to have a light-hearted feel with some gravity coming in when Smith possibly runs afoul of the run people. Again, it seems like Bad Boys in that way. Over the top, outlandish, but ultimately entertaining.

But we need to consider that Will Smith hasn’t exactly been a critical darling in the short term. Sure, Men in Black III (68%) did fine. But then there are films like After Earth (11%), Hancock (41%) and Seven Pounds (27%). This is all to say that the Will Smith stamp on a movie doesn’t guarantee it rocks with critics. But when he gets the tone right, I think folks are much more inclined to believe and warm to the Will Smith experience. I don’t think Focus blows people away. But I think it will have enough legs to finish above the halfway point. Even with Smith pulling the cons.

The Lazarus Effect


Rotten Watch Prediction


Here comes another case of characters in a movie not learning from other movies. Horror films have taught us many things. Among them, don’t take over residence in a house if it’s been the site of some kind of horrific murder. Don’t perform ceremonies that might possibly call a demon out from another world. And don’t try and bring things/ people back from the dead. It always -- repeat, always -- ends up bad. The Lazarus folks didn’t get this memo and try the latter. Predictably, it doesn't go well.

See a few mistakes made in the trailer for The Lazarus Effect

Like I said, bringing people back from the dead might seem like a solid idea on the surface. After all, you get to spend more time with the people and pets you loved so much. But the downsides always outweigh the positives. They never come back to this world alone. There’s almost always something sinister going on. From the minute Olivia Wilde sits up with the bed sheet over her face after getting electrocuted and dying, Mark Duplass’ character has to just put her right back down. It’s the only sane thing to do. Nope, he tries to get things "back to normal" in their relationship. Failing to realize that she’s now a possessed, demonic psycho killer. See what love does to you? It blinds you to the obvious.

Horror movies like this can turn to epic pieces of trash quick when they fall back on the myriad of horror cliches that run rampant through the genre. This one probably falls victim to some of that, but I can see it turning out on the positive side nonetheless. First off, the cast is strong with Wilde, Duplass, Donald Glover and Evan Peters rounding it out. I don’t often focus on the cast of a flick, but that this many quasi-quality names attached to a thriller is probably a decent sign it isn’t outright terrible.

To boot, there were some legit stomach-turning moments in the trailer that didn’t totally rely on getting you to jump out of your seat. Instead, some of the horror looks like the slow build variety and this always works better. I think all in all it turns out okay. Now if people would just start learning more from movies, they wouldn’t run into these kinds of issues.


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last rotten week

Very rough week for the Rotten Watch. I was all over the map and had some huge swings and misses. To start, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (Predicted: 48% Actual: 14%) bombed critically. Where CB’s Sean O’Connell saw a funny flick, giving it three stars in his review, most critics went the completely opposite direction. The majority took a collective dump on the film, generally just hating it. I suppose a movie like this depends on your frame of mind going in. There’s no doubt the leads are hilarious dudes, and if you are willing to suspend your need for actual gravity in a film this might be your bag. But man, this thing got slaughtered and I was way off.

Another big miss was The DUFF (Predicted: 18% Actual: 62%). This one blew me away. I trashed the concept of this movie last week, shredding the idea that a film should revolve around the remaking of the "Designated Ugly Fat Friend". It seemed like it would set certain aspects of young female empowerment back some. Either the movie conveys a much different message than the trailers, or there’s something societally amiss. Critics thought the the story sent a positive message and had a firm grasp on modern day teens. Mike Reyes gave it four stars in his review. Again, I’m totally shocked on this one and it makes for one of my biggest misses ever.

And finally, McFarland, USA (Predicted: 74% Actual: 77%) kept the week from being a total loss. I had a little head start here which helped. And an inspirational story about latino runners overcoming their circumstances to become decorated cross country champions doesn’t seem like something critics would want to kill. I’ll take the prediction as a win, but man it only makes up a bit for an otherwise disaster of a week.

Next time around we meet Chappie and take care of unfinished business. It’s going to be a Rotten Week!

Doug Norrie

Doug began writing for CinemaBlend back when Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles actually existed. Since then he's been writing This Rotten Week, predicting RottenTomatoes scores for movies you don't even remember for the better part of a decade. He can be found re-watching The Office for the infinity time.