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.

 

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Paranoia Ain’t the Way to Live Your Life From Day to Day

maxresdefaultRight off the bat, Paranoia alienates some people. Mainly older people, especially the older rich. But for people in my generation, it pulls you in from the very beginning.  Paranoia looks at the current generation and how we work, and one man’s effort to over throw the elder regime.

Liam “Baby” Hemsworth plays Adam Cassidy a young post college graduation with the naive attitude that the whole world is in front of him. When his world is suddenly pulled out from under him, he finds himself working for the older, lying, rich, and a group he despises. His ethics are strained even more as he is asked to steal corporate secrets from his boss’ rival. Caught between Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford, Adam woes the girl of his dreams strives to take care of his father, and to be more than his parents were. Going against this could mean his life or the life of his father.

The movie is a taunt psychological thriller. Viewers watch Adam change from a naive college graduate to one of the men he never wanted to become. But Adam never loses sight of his goals, outsmart the villains and save his father’s life. This combined with a love affair gives a second layer to corporate espionage thrillers. It’s not just about getting ahead; it’s about getting out with relationships intact.

What truly carries these relationships is the genuinely talented cast. Ford and Oldman are great as warring tech companies trying to manipulate the newbie into doing what they want. They have a dry evilness that scares you without pulling out guns or violence. They are great at the hint of violence. Amber Heard plays Adam’s love interest who works for Ford. Heard is an amazing actress and easily play both the emotional lover and shrewd business woman. Nip/Tuck’s Julian McMahon gives a side of toughness putting Adam on the run. But it is Baby Hemsworth who carries the movie. Watching him you forget how young he really is as his character emotionally ages before your eyes. He leaves no trace of accent pulling off the All American Boy. In fact, dare I say it; he is a much better actor than his brother.

Foparanoia-movie-poster-10r me personally, it was an allegory of my generation. I come from a generation that believes that with a degree we are ready to take on the world and make big money. But when we get to the real world, the shock knocks us down.  Everything we were told about what having an education would be is false; too many people have it these days. Besides, those newly in the work force shouldn’t expect such an easy work life; we have to do our time. Adam tries to circumnavigate this and fails. The difference between him and me? His consequences affected every aspect of his life to a deadly degree.

The biggest issue with Paranoia is its name. There were moments when they played with the idea that Adam was just seeing things. But this was short lived. People really were following and threatening him. It’s like Abduction; how can you come a movie something when the title doesn’t happen at all.

While not the best movie, Paranoia is thrilling and engaging. The cast truly personify their characters drawing viewers into a world that is very foreign to them.  But most of all, Liam stands out from his brother and on his own two feet.

The Hunger Games is a Technical Wonder

Blu-Ray, DVD, Wal-Mart version with mocking jay pendant, Target version with a third disk of extras

Usually, in a movie review, I break down the plot and break down the quality of the story and then talk about a few technical aspects. But everyone knows what The Hunger Games is about and about the quality of it as a film. So I want to spend some time discussing the technical aspects that really make this film stand out.

It’s hard no to discuss violence when talking about The Hunger Games. Some people boycotted the movie based on the ideas, but these people hadn’t seen the film. They are totally unaware of how the violence is downplayed in the theatrical version. In an effort to keep the film rated PG-13 and bring in its target audience, very little of the violence is shown. While you see the action of the tributes, you never see them as they make contact with their target. For example, you may see a spear in a body but you don’t see it actually impale the tribute. Deaths are shown after the fact and the only tribute you actually watch die is little Rue. And even this is not gory or showy. It keeps things simple for the emotional impact.

In the same vein, the movie even minimizes Haymitch’s drunkenness. Gone is the scene where he falls of the stage drunk and when Peeta has to clean him up. The film makers only show him drinking long enough to establish his characters background and what he has to overcome to help Katniss and Peeta.

Director Gary Ross seems to have spent a lot of time deciding how to film the movie in order to effectively portray each scene. When filming Katniss, the Districts, and the games themselves, the handicam adds a very documentary fill to the arena and the uprising. Though it makes me nauseous for the first twenty minutes, it helps portray the urgency and fear that Katniss feels. This are contrasted with the smooth shots as the tributes move through the Capital giving a sense of peace in calm in the city that has no fear of these games.

The filming technique is not the only thing that sets the Capital apart. The set designers, costumers, and make-up and hair artists worked hard to develop the distinct look of the capital. The grays, greens, and browns of the Districts and the Arena, are not seen in the capital. The jewel toned, futuristic city stands out vividly in all aspects from Effie’s voice, to the Tribute’s costumes, to the prep team’s make-up.  It truly is a whole other world.

The editing is done well combining a mix of shots that tell the whole story. Breaking from the first person view of the book, the audience is able to see the full affect of the 74th annual Hunger Games. Mixed in with action of the arena are shots of Snow and his commands concerning the games and the game makers themselves adding logs and muttinations to the grounds. Including footage from the District 11 uprising really gives a feel of what is riding on the games, so we’re not surprised when President Snow is very mad at Katniss in the end.

But the movie couldn’t survive without quality actors. It’s refreshing to see a young casted movie with quality acting. Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men First Class) is excellent as Katniss. She manages the variety of emotion well and never seems as cynical as the book’s version of Katniss. Josh Hutcherson (The Vampire’s Assistant) is perfect as the lovable Peeta. He and Lawrence have a great chemistry that propels the star struck lover’s story line.  Liam Hemsworth (my favorite Hemsworth brother) was both lovable and stony as Gale, and I can’t wait to see what he does with his expanded role in Catching Fire. Of course, I can’t leave out the adult cast that gave life to their characters: Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and Stanley Tucci give amazing performances. Wes Bentley is fabulous as the Head Game maker, and he made you even feel sorry for him.

The Hunger Games tells a brilliant story. The quality of characters and the plot draw you in, but it’s the technical aspects of the movie that give it its flair.

Extras:

A second disc of extras gives viewers the most generic features: making of featurettes, an interview with the author and photo gallery. The best extra is the full version of the Capital propaganda give, giving viewers a look at the destroyed District 13. In fact the most fun feature is the previews on the main disc. The screen states that viewing of the previews is “mandatory” and the Capital takes “control” of the TV to make you watch them. You can fast forward through them but don’t miss the trailer for Breaking Dawn Part 2.

Honestly, the second disc of extras could have been eliminated and a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack established instead.

Bottom Line: A great story, a strong cast, and a technical beauty.

Make sure to pick this on up on Blu-ray.