Summer Movie Swing Part 2

Independence Day: Resurgence

Available on BluRay and DVD Oct. 18

The movie has garnered a lot of negative attention from critics but it is a pretty good action movie and the ending magnifies the movie in tone and scope

This summer both Hemsworth brother get the spotlight (Chris steals the show while Liam is the new generation of leading men). Liam is the handsome face of the new American generations (with the required darkness of course). He joins a team of returning cast (including Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman) and newbies (Sela Ward, Jesse T. Usher) that are awesome combination of past and present (but be prepared to say goodbye to some beloved characters)independence-day-resurgence when the next threat hits. Earth has been planning for the aliens return and has used the alien’s technology to benefit the entire planet. As the movie opens they are working one a new weapon while an elite team of pilots are getting ready for just about anything. Their patience is rewarded when the mother ship comes home. But what we haven’t anticipated? Earth wasn’t to the first to be attacked by these monsters.

Many critics have killed Resurgence which surprises me. It’s pure Hollywood Action Movie Recipe and manages to produce a capable action flick. I must agree that it doesn’t live up to the original but it has all the same pieces: great action, characters you like, and a final outlandish attack (there’s even a pretty moving speech). I enjoyed the action and was interested in where the alien’s history will take us.

Resurgence is notable because it is the perfect sequel/reboot. There is the passing of the crown to the younger generation while honoring those that came before. Integrating characters from the first movie and having several of them survive is a key in keeping the franchise consistent but their rolls make it easier for the new characters to become center stage. Viewers get to say goodbye and hello without feeling cheated (unlike other recent reboots).

I was unhappy with the forced franchise set up. As the plot develops there is no doubt that the franchise could continue so it was rather tacky and cliché as the ending is set up for an ensured sequel. I guess, at this point, Hollywood hasn’t had time to learn from Divergent. I’ll see the sequel (if the producers decided this one made enough money), but don’t expect it to be as good as the first or even as good as this one.

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Suicide Squad

Available on BluRay and DVD Dec. 13

Suicide Squad gets a few things right and a few wrong. It’s nowhere near the best comic based movie this year and it is not the worst.

Suicide Squad follows a group of villains who have been put together to fight the new growing supernatural threat in the world. In the wake of Superman the government is scared and somehow letting lunatics out to fight those like him is a great idea. When Enchantress (one of the squad’s own) goes berserk, the team is called out for their trail one. The team proves they can battle the forces of evil while being (mostly) evil themselves.suicidesquad

Suicide Squad is the best when it’s using its sound track to personify the characters and getting viewers into the mood for a good ass kicking. The music gives death to the many one dimensional characters. That’s not to say they are all one demission. Diablo is the most compelling of the stories and we do get flashbacks into what Harley Quinn once was and a small look into what actually motivates her.

The writing of the characters isn’t the only problem; casting cripples character like Deadshot and Flag. No matter what Will Smith thinks, this was an ensemble movie and his desire to push his leading man status down our throats harms the movie. Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag is the poor man’s Tom Hardy, literally. After Hardy left the project (I knew there would be problems with this movie when he walked out), the production set out to find someone who could be Hardy and since that’s impossible, ___ is slammed between a rock and a hard place. Outside of the Human Flame, the best characters are regulated to a just a few lines; Boomerang and Croc get to make a few wisecracks and stand around taking up space instead of being integrated into a cohesive team. I would have rather have seen more of them and less of characters like the Joker.

Ah, Jared Leto, the most controversial of all of this. He was a horrible Joker playing him as a strung out meth head who paraded around as a mob boss. It was painful to watch and you just waited for his over-the-top scenes to be over. Everyone involved wanted Joker to be different and he is, in fact, very different but no one bothered to ask if it was any good.

Suicide Squad is an entertaining romp that needs a lot of fine tuning before its next foray.

 

Ghostbusters

Now available on BluRay and DVD

Ghostbuster also reboots an old story. The Ghostbusters crew dedicated the movie to original writer and star Harold Ramiz but the movie doesn’t live up to the Ramis’ reputation.

A team of estranged researcher reunite when a local historic location has shown evidence of haunting. While the team easily sees through the gimmicks, they suddenly find themselves face to face with real ghosts. The two must expand their team (including their research assistant, an outspoken subway work, and a model of receptionist) to get to the bottom of the disturbance. And they quickly find that it’s not isolated. New York City has a ghost problem!

The movie had some great parts but the biggest issue is that it isn’t Ghostbusters. The tone is not the ghostbusters2016image004same, the movie is super CGed and the only real connection is some icon images and gear. The movie would have been better standing on its own as a Ghostbusters inspired movie; the four ladies get together to bring back the old idea and gear and set up their own movie with tone and vision. The overly CGed world of this Ghostbuster isn’t scary at all and is just another C level reboot.

But there are some fabulous parts to the movie and those are the two characters that get the most laugh. Leslie Jones starts out as stereotypical hysterical black women but quickly she starts saying and doing what we as normal people think. The prime example is the “room of nightmares”; she refuses to go in a room of mannequins because she knows how it will end. But the move is propelled by Chris Hemsworth who gives his best performance ever as the dumb secretary that throws gender roles on its head. He is hilarious but turns on the gravitas in a heartbeat (it also helps he was allowed to use his own accent).

I’m not a Trump supporter (screw you Apatow), but I still believe the quality wasn’t very good. Hollywood stuck with a gimmick but lacked substance. Women are funny, especially when you let them be.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

Available on BluRay and DVD Nov. 29

It is interesting that Hollywood is finally getting behind female centric comedies when other countries have been doing it for years. It’s hard to look at BBC comedy without noting the plethora of female comedians. AbFab’s returns continue to prove that women are funny and can pull the big screen attendants.

Edina Monsoon is desperate not it sink into oblivion and continues to struggle with her PR firm. She is always on the edge of the next big get or the next big trend but never fully lands. Eddie has finally lands something and it’s not good. When it is revealed Kate Moss is looking for a new PR director, Eddie accidently kills Moss in her scramble to get the position. Eddie and Patsy must escape before she can be crucified for the fashion world’s biggest death ever. But Eddie and Patsy don’t know how to do low key and their situation continues to sink and sink and get funnier and funnier.

English movies based on TV show like to recycle old materials from their shows (see Are You Being Served and Bean for examples) but AbFab is more subtle about how it does this. Instead of pulling whole gags from the series, running gags appear at every corner. Mother is still being verbally trashed; her nurse still thinks Eddie’s fat and Eddie has finally added a second verse to her “walking down the road” song! This is wonderful treats for long time fans without trying their patience. And as always, the movie is star studded with a variety of cameos from Game of Thrones Gwendoline Christie to the “really hot right absolutely-fabulous-the-movieartnow” Rebel Wilson. And, of course, there’s Lulu!

The movie largely secedes because Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley become Eddie and Patsy and they give it their all. They don’t inject anything PC into this character taking women’s issues as basis and then exaggerates them to the point of being funny. A movie about woman insecure about her weight is usually a Lifetime movie with a sad sound track. Instead Saunders takes Edina and makes her larger than life, and it is at that point we can connect to Eddie; while some of us may have done dumb stuff, none of us are as dumb as Eddie.

Many of today’s comedians such as Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham need to take note. It’s ok to be honest, foul mouthed and talk about our vagina without sinking to likes of their male counter parts. (I mean, I don’t want another Sausage Party from men let alone something like that from women. Ick. That genre of comedy should just die out.) Saunders and Lumley do it right, they do it real, and they do it with a lot more class.

 

Summer Movie Swing Part 1

Now You See Me 2

The trailer wasn’t strong for this second installment causing the movie to seem more spectacle than heist, but the film itself it’s actually a pretty good follow-up to its predecessor.

10NOWYOUSEE-master768A year after the original heist, The Horsemen are stalling for time, waiting for the right time to reappear after their original heist (sans one member who they just write off). Atlas is anxious to get back into the world even going behind Dylan’s back to talk to The Eye on his own. He is ecstatic when he receives a new mission: take down Owen Case and his all-seeing technology. But all does not go along their well thought out plan so they must out to trick the men who first tricked them.

The trailer captured some the biggest showy moments but the movie is more than just spectacle. There is character growth as each character shows them to be human and not just show men. The plot delves into the back story of Dylan, the almost mythical character that helps the team in the first film. The audience learns why magic is so important to him and his involvement with The Eye

The humor adds a great layer keeping things from becoming melodramatic. These moments are some of the best as tension is relieved through this humor for a great balance in mood. It’s a fun movie and worth the ticket price.

The Conjuring 2

Movies like The Conjuring intrigue me. I like things that are based on actual events but they often disappoint because the movies embellish. I have found that real life if often more scary than the clichés used in horror films. While the first movie was enjoyable, the second movie tries to up the ante but really just makes a spectacle of it.

In England, a girl is possessed by a ghost of a man that died at their home. Levitationhttps-%2F%2Fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fuploads%2Fstory%2Fthumbnail%2F12071%2FThe-Conjuring-2, teleportation and telekinetic events terrorize the poor family. The Warrens are called in to investigate before the church will perform an exorcism. But Lorraine brings personal baggage into the case keeping answers veiled.

The Conjuring isn’t scary unless you are awake at two in the clock in the morning and are envisioning the nun’s face next to yours. The movie depends on clichés of scary faces, creepy voices, and standard horror fare. While it is not gory (a plus), there isn’t much to distinguish this movie from the many that have come before it. While the first one kept afloat by great casting, this installment does not; it feels like a B movie peddled by Hollywood.

The one thing I did enjoy was the way the writers spun the Amityville Horror and the Enfield Poltergeist. T used hey used Lorraine to explain the portion of the cases that were documented hoaxes .The movie uses Lorraine’s personal issues with a spirit to explain why she feels the spirit is at both places. This allows the Warrens to have some credibility after backing the mockery that was Amityville. (While I know Amityville was faked as a publicity stunt, there is still a picture that was taken in that house that haunts me. I’m sure there are emotions from the family murder that hang in the air at that house.) But otherwise this movie is a dud.

X-Men Apocalypse

The third in the story of the younger X-men turns out to be a lot better than was anticipated. Overshadowing and making fun of X-Men 3, this story follows ten years after the events portrayed in Days of Future Past. Mystique is now a hero, Magneto has a family and Xavier’s school is full of students. But when the First Mutant is revived, the world changes for all whether on the side of good or evil.

x-men-apocalypseThe movie does have some problems. The love story of Scott and Jean is shoved down our throats from the beginning. Its makes the love story artificial and staged. The movie also depends too much on the two starlets who producers consider hot right now. Jennifer Lawrence is a great actress but her character has evolved from the comics to make her a central character only because Lawrence won an Oscar and draws in crowds. The tale of her and Erick is repeated over and over, and it’s boring. The addition of Sophie Turner does nothing for the movie. High off her role as an annoying (but now fan loved) Sansa Stark, she is cast as Jean Grey but brings nothing to the characters and gives the same stilted performance she gives in Game of Thrones. The movie finally remembers that it the relationship between Erik and Xavier that truly propel these line of stories and that’s where the best acting and most interesting arcs lie.

But there are a lot of things the film gets right including the relationship between Xavier and Moira, and Erik’s desire to be a normal person. The two best scenes feature appearance by some of the best characters of the X-Men world. Wolverine makes a cameo and the writers did well explaining his intense love for Jean. The second features Quicksilver and the Eurhythmics. Sweet dreams ARE made of this.

Fun, exciting and often meta, Apocalypse is one of the better of the X-Men movies. Not as good as the first film or First Class, it never the less stands on its own.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Tim Burton does not return for this installment but his vision of the world is alive and well. The writing, on the other hand, needs a coffin.

Through the Looking Glass creates its own story instead of taking from the source material. The Mad Hatter is dying and the only way to save him is to find his family; heAlice_Through_Looking_Glass_tea_240516_620_347_100 believes they did not die like he had originally believed. So Alice, fresh off a sea voyage and looking at disaster in her personal life, descends deep into imagination and time to save him. She must steal the Chrono Sphere from Time to find out what really happened to the Hatter’s family.

My first thought was this was supposed to be a movie about Hatter and would let Johnny Depp shine. But The Hatter is not Jack Sparrow, and his entire performance is subpar. As the movie unfolds it seems to be more about the Queens than about Hatter and his family drama. While it was interesting to see how the Queen of Hearts got such big head, the story drags.

The best sequences are those featuring Time. Sacha Baren Cohen is hilarious and great at character acting and he outshines Depp like a supernova. A semi-villain, Time is given only moderate screen time and not enough chances to break up the monotony of the film.

The only other thing that stands out is the Alan Rickman; but don’t get too excited. His butter fly gets two lines at the beginning of the movie. It’s rather sad that this was all there was. I still have not completely mourned for this great and Alice did nothing to help me.

The Boys Are Back in Town

The speakers blast the opening beats to “Pony”. It can only be one thing: The summer movie that calls to women and lures them in the theaters with the promise of rock hard abs and nice tushes. It’s Magic Mike back in theaters and this time it’s XXL!

In the previous installment, too much time was spent on a lack luster plot that was forced down the audience throats. We didn’t go for a dramatic movie: we went for a good time. Magic Mike XXL learned from the original’s strengths and weaknesses. The second romp is fun with a few moments of sentiment that will put a smile on your face.

Dallas sells out the boy leaving them stranded on their own before the big stripper convention in Myrtle Beach (is this even a real thing, because well….). Mike sees an opportunity to have some fun and re-galvanize his life. The team (Richie, Ken, Tarzan, Tito, and Tobias) set out in a food truck once the prodigal son returns for their last performance. But the ride isn’t that easy. Drag queens, drugs, and girls set the boys off the beaten path as they struggle to find a new MC and some new routines to go out in a “tsunami of dollar bills.”

This movie is pure fun with laughs abound. The plot centers around the Kings of Tampa themselves and not just on Mike and his an unworthy protege. Instead its a buddy movie focusing on the male entertainers themselves. Joe Manganiello kills it as Richie who becomes a de facto leader for the team and has some of the best one liners. He also has one of the best dance sequences in the entire movie.

There are a few moments of tenderness which reminds everyone why women seek out male entertainers. We want to be reminded that we are wanted, that we are beautiful. In the most touching (and one of the few dramatic scenes in the film), Matt Bomber’s Ken breaks out the Bryan Adams to serenade a middle aged Southern Belle reminding her that she is worth love and to have her fantasies come true.magic_mike_joe_manganiello.0

The other thing the movie does well is bringing in strong women. Jada Pinkett Smith is Rome, a feisty
and feminine strip club owner who rules every scene she’s in. Amer Heard plays the scorned photographer who just needs her smile back. And Elizabeth Banks, well, she’s just spectacular. These character balance out the testosterone and proves male entertainment isn’t an all boys club.

What does it do wrong? Well, the plot is as thin as the men’s thongs but its those thongs we came to see. Will it when the actors any acting awards? No, but someone needs to give these boys kudos for their dancing moves. This movie is pure movie escapism.

Magic Mike helps level the playing field when it comes to female sexuality. Forget 50 Shades of Grey where women have to submit to be sexy. These men remind we are beautiful just the way we are and that we should embrace to our sexuality (and those one dollar bills). Hate it if you must, but Magic Mike XXL is great summer movie fun.

Summer Showdown Part 2

Movies walk a fine line when using surrealism. The producers have to encourage viewers to suspend disbelief without them questioning it. Films have notoriously bombed when it didn’t understood when they crossed this line. The Lone Ranger and Furious 6 go head to head as surreal, and, therefore fun, summer flicks.

Johnny and His Horse

771313_017The Long Ranger is a decent film but overall it lacks the true “legend” of what we know as The Lone Ranger. Though Johnny Deep and Armie Hammer are fabulous together, the movie fails to bewitch viewers.

The Lone Ranger is an origins story. Hammer plays John Reid as lawyer who looks like the Western version How I Met Your Mother‘s Marshal. When he joins his brother to tail a villain (William Fichtner) it means both their deaths, but John is chosen to come back. Ostracized Native American Tonto finds the law man and helps him on his quest to take down the villain and become the man in the mask.

The film is strongest when Depp and Hammer are allowed to flex their humor muscles. Their chemistry is reminiscent of Jackie Chan’s and Owen Wilson’s comradeship in Shanghai Noon. They are a hoot to watch, especially when discussing “kemo sabe” actually meant. In fact, Depp is the shining star of the movie. Tonto injects humor when the plot becomes bland and, with Silver, moves the story forward.

The movie suffers because it fails to perpetuate the legend that is the Lone Ranger. Until the conflict/resolution scene towards the end, there is nothing very mythical about the Lone Ranger. This action sequence was pure Western fantasy that delights like the old stories. We know it could never possibly be real and we love that about it. Everything that comes before plot wise is just a crappy Western with a titular character who was Mostly Dead. The audience leaves unsatisfied.

Ride or Die

fast_and_furious_6Fast & Furious 6 does not suffer from the lack of surrealism. It shines brightly as an insane action flick that is just about fun and spectacle. While some seriousness is injected into the film, the creators never lose track of what the movie was made for: blowing up fast cars.

The plot? Who the hell cares? But here’s a recap for you. Dom and Brian (or in my world Paul Walker and Vin Diesel; they have no other names) are living the high life after the heist featured in Fast Five. Brian is a father, and Dom seems happy with his new girlfriend.  They have no interest in changing the status quo when Hobbs asks for their help with a military robbery. But when they find out Letty is alive, all bets are off. The two pull together the majority of their heist team to take down the perpetrators and rescue Letty.

The film is full of the absurd action sequences fans love. Use a Mustang to anchor a tank? No problem. Bring down a military grade plane? We got this. The script contains plenty of asinine dialogue but many of them are truly funny (this is the only time I will ever profess love for Ludacris). The story gets a little heavy but then Brian arranges to go to prison one night and then ridiculousness returns. The movie is high adrenaline fun, causing exclamations of amazement and astonishment leaking from viewer’s lips at every turn.

The franchise isn’t over yet. In a year, audience will get their high octane high with a sixth entry (excuse me, seventh installment; Tokyo Drift actually happened, huh?). This is welcome as long as producers remove what makes these movies so popular. The only thing weighing them down is the producers’ wish to add B-list action stars with nominal acting talent. SPOILER ALERT: I’ve had to put up with Dwayne Johnson in the last two and now to add Jason Statham into the mix? Give me a break. Here’s what makes these movies work: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel and Michele Rodriguez. We don’t need anything else.

F&F6 speeds away in this competition leaving Tonto and the Lone Ranger hobbling along on Silver’s crippled legs.

Summer Showdown Part 1

Expectation can make or break a movie. No matter how good or bad it is, if it’s not what the fans are expecting the value of the movie changes. Expectations have a huge impact on Sometimes movies are sadly disappointing (like Monster University) while other surprised you (World War Z).

Mike Wazowski Gets Braces

The movie I have most been excited for was Monsters University. I loved the original and couldn’t wait to see how Mike and Sully became best friends. I imagined the movie taking place as a bed time story to little Boo (arguably the best character in the series). What I got was disappointment.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITYThe film starts with Mike and Sully as young children visiting the Monster’s Inc. In a brief tale of the popular vs. unpopular, Mike decides he wants to be a scarer. Fast forward to college and Mike is majoring in scaring though he is not at all scary. Sully waltzes through classes discounting rhetoric because he is naturally scary. Young Mike and Sully clash as their philosophies in life affect their course work. They learn to be friends when they compete in the Scare Games, a Revenge of the Nerd style Greek games with very little humor and a lot of heart ache.

In fact, the movie focuses so much on the ideas of popularity, that it drags the film down. Mike’s underdog is heart breaking but at the same time you don’t like him. It’s hard to like Sully either. He’s mean, disrespectful, and a cheater.  The resolution ends with hippie rhetoric that friends are more important than your life goals.

Meant to be a heartwarming tale of teamwork and friendship, Monster’s University lacks the humor and originality of the first film. While it is entertaining to see why Randall hates Sully and Mike, the loss of Boo and screams of “Mike Wazowski” cause this tale to fall flat.  Don’t expect a tale as charming and funny as the first, and you may enjoy it more.

Pitt’s Best Movie since Interview with a Vampire

My boyfriend talked me into World War Z. I had no interest. Super-fast zombies dog piling up a wall with no regards for the book? Pass; I’d rather watch cartoon monsters.  But then I was glad he convinces me.

Brad Pitt plays a former United Nations investigator who sees the zombie attacks first hand. He, his wife and daughters daughters manage to escape the city and are transported to a military ship. Gerry is asked to visit South Korea where the word “zombie” was first used.  What he finds is are other leads taking him around the world. Shipped from place to place and escaping zombies, Pitt actually finds a way to deter the undead.a_560x375
The book is set up as an oral history. Characters describe events that happened before, during, and after the zombie war.  For an action movie to move forward there should be central characters moving in the present. Pitt goes from the static UN interviewer to an investigator actively trying to find the cause of the zombie plague. Taking some bits and pieces of content from the book, the story moves forward briskly and keeps viewers involved. The stories are collected in a fluid tale.

The movie focuses less on the action and more on the drama. Taking a page out of The Walking Dead’s playbook, the movie is at its best when you can cut the tension with a knife. The final scenes when Gerry is in the lab are terrifying and keep you on the edge of your seat.

Reflecting on the book, it is sad the movie is not a faithful adaptation. But what would be the best way to do so? I think it would make a fabulous TV series. TV would handle the format well and real time could be spent on developing each history, the events and the character.  While not faithful, the movie is entertaining.

Surprisingly I choose zombies over cartoon monsters this time.