Saturday, July 25, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW - Southpaw

The new boxing drama, Southpaw is out this week with an all-star cast and a ton of buzz.

This is directed by one of the really hot directors these days in Hollywood, Antoine Fuqua, and stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, and Rachel McAdams.  So everything seems to be in order for a really good movie.  And that is sort of true.

Southpaw a bit over two hours and being fair, about ninety minutes of this is thoroughly depressing and for the most part painfully slow. But being fair again, this movie does make a new move near the end, and does finish with an emotional flurry that saves this from being one of the biggest disappointments of the year. 

This is the fictional story of a boxer named Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal).  He is married to Maureen (McAdams).  He is the light heavyweight champion of the world and is a ticking time bomb mentally. His fighting style is self-destructive and so is his personality.   His short temper, fueled by his poor upbringing are his worst enemy in life, as well as his biggest asset in the ring. This combination leads him into a situation ends up with the death of his wife, and Billy becomes unglued. 

He looses everything.  All his money, possessions, his dignity and his young daughter to social services.  So, he must figure out how to get her back, and find his way back to the top, or at least to a normal life.  He hires an old goat of a boxing trainer Ted, (Whitaker), to help him find his way back. But will Ted do it? And will Billy accept the challenge?

There is a lot very underachieving about this flick.  This is very slow, and very dark and depressing for much of the first hour especially.  In fact, you may find yourself checking out of this early.  But if you hang with it, there is a nice finish.  This movie gets a real shot in the arm that it desperately needs from the introduction of Whitaker into it.  But that takes a while, in fact entirely too long. His character and his performance is without question the best thing in this movie. Most movies are better with him in it.

But the last thirty minutes is darn good, and very emotional that will speak directly to many patrons who go, who know nothing about boxing.  The relationship between our characters becomes very intense, especially between Billy and his daughter.  This is a more modern version of a Rocky type movie, with new camera techniques, and a solid soundtrack that features the likes of Eminem.  Somehow Fuqua finds a way to bore us and send us into the doldrums for most of this, but he also finds a way to pay us off handsomely at the end. 

Southpaw.  Add it all up, and it just is another movie that really should have been better than it is.

Friday, July 17, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW - Trainwreck

Lots of buzz about the new Amy Schumer written comedy, and Judd Apatow directed, Trainwreck.  

Have to admit, in an era when comedies have fallen by the wayside for the most part, this is a pretty darn funny and topical movie that will absolutely speak directly to a generation.  Although very edgy, this is done very well.

This is the story of Amy (Schumer).  She is a 30ish young professional woman living in New York City.  She comes from a broken home with a womanizing father, and she and her sister are left to go on with their lives.  Her sister has taken a more even path.  Getting married, and becoming a step mother, and also is having a baby of her own. Amy is a hard drinking, hard partying, extremely sexually active woman who pays little attention to who she sleeps with.  Amy has never really grown up, and relies on her extreme lifestyle for all of her enjoyment, and has little time for people or any real intimacy.

She meets Aaron (Bill Hader), who is a very talented doctor of the star athletes during an interview as she is writing an article on him. They hit is off, and end up sleeping together, and eventually dating. Problem is, Amy is not emotionally available to him and two worlds collide.  Aaron is grown up and Amy is not.  Can they work out their problems in this modern romantic comedy?  And yes, it's been a long time since When Harry Met Sally, or Sleepless in Seattle, but this is a great example of how good romantic comedies still can be if done properly.

This movie does a really nice job of addressing the issues and the pitfalls members of Schumer's age group have endured along the way. This is topical, and right on target.  This is a bit offensive at times to some, but overall they do a nice job of throttling back on the amount of raunchiness that I was sure was on the way.  Yes, this is edgy at times, and pushes an envelope or two, but nothing really blows by the line at 100 mph, and that's to its credit.  You do feel the whole time, they are checking themselves to make a different kind of movie.  Contemporary, but not too far gone.

Schumer is nice fresh face on the screen, and handles this first real starring role quite well. It's a long way from her standup as an actress, but it's still her.  You can feel though that this might be her new thing, and she may find future roles limiting and play the same character. There are a ton of cameos in this movie, including Lebron James who is entertaining in his small role.  Seeing him as we never have before. 

This is quite funny from start to finish. There is not a signature scene here like many comedies, this is just consistently entertaining.  It does grow a heart after a while, and allows are characters to be so, and not simply caricatures.  That was a great decision. You root for our stars, and find them generally likeable through their flaws. This is well written, and well done.

Trainwreck.  Not for everyone, but overall this is pretty fun stuff. 


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW - The Gallows

Summer time means scary teen movies that are supposed to draw large dollars, and create repeat visits by patrons at the movies.  This will do neither one.

The Gallows is another attempt to start a series that looks like about 20 other franchises.  They try to create a character that is dead, and his spirit lives on to terrorize those left behind for some reason.  And he goes on a teen killing rampage because...well they are there... and they are always stupid enough to put them selves in harms way for no apparent reason.

This is the story of a high school that in 1993 put on a play called  The Gallows.   During the live performance, the hanging scene goes horribly wrong, and a student is actually hung in front of a live audience.  Now his ghost, or spirit or whatever the heck it is, is back and haunting the school again.

And the reason is beyond ridiculous.  For some reason, the same high school thinks it's a good idea to put on a 20th anniversary edition of The Gallows again in 2013. (What school would even consider that??)   But as we move on they do, and the killing begins.  Yes, this is set up for more to be made and we can all just sit around and hope this doesn't happen.

You have seen his movie in one way shape or form about a thousand times before. There is not one shred of originality here, and being honest, not one scary moment. This is one or those hand held herky-jerky (Blair Witch / Paranormal Activity)  type of movie which also makes this fatiguing to watch.  Can we just put an end to all of this please?  This is just dumb and hard to watch, thankfully only 80 minutes.

The Gallows.  Stop!  Please!

MOVIE REVIEW - Self / Less

Among all the big action and comedy flicks out this summer, there is a drama or two. A shame there isn't a better one.

Self / Less is a drama that on the surface appears to be a pretty interesting idea, but it fizzles shortly after the opening credits.  This stars Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kingsley, but it doesn't matter. All that does his have two darn good actors, performing in this dreadfully slow piece.  And when I say slow, I mean slow.

S/L is the story of a rich New York City tycoon named Damien (Kingsley).   He is dying of lung cancer and since he has unlimited funds, he hears of this new procedure called "shedding."  It is a highly covert medical operation where the healthy mind of a dying person is put into a new "biologically engineered" new body to live on.  When you have this done, you can have no contact with any part of your old life.  You also have to take anti-rejection meds to keep you sane.

Damien has the procedure done, and ends up in the body of "Mark" (Reynolds).  Problem is, we find out that these newer bodies are not engineered at all.  When in fact they are other bodies that somehow end up dead and available for shedding.  These doctors are not good people and they will go to great lengths to protect their secret, and business.  So the action is on, that is Self / Less.

Problem is, this is so painfully slow you really don't know what to do with yourself.  To say this is boring is being incredibly kind.  This is a series of dull scenes, with whispered dialogue, and insanely stiff as this is supposed to be compelling to us.  Clearly, this is a movie designed to make you think about medicine, and the ethics and morality of those ambitious enough to attempt to manipulate life. 

But it's all you can to to stay awake during this thing, let alone think about it ramifications and the message it is trying to convey.  Let's just call this a waste of time,  money and talent and move on to the next thing as fast as we can.

Self / Less .  This just does not work.  A sleeping pill special.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW - Terminator: Genisys

The Terminator series has been cranked up again, and although it's harmless enough this is an expensive money grab.  That's all.

This movie was made for one reason and one reason only.  To reboot this series and simply introduce it as an original idea to a new generation of movie fans that were not born when the originals were out.  Being honest, this is not really a bad movie. There is some to like. The effects are great of course.  The action is fine, and the story has some new twists and turns that keep you in the game.

Problem is, the whole time is just reeks of making a movie for no other reason to give Arnold Schwarzenegger a job, and make a ton of money hopefully from a new box office generation and some from those who remember the glory days of this series.

As much as they try, there really is nothing hew here to get excited about.  The war with the machines is trying to be avoided by protecting Sarah Conner who hasn't given birth to the leader of the resistance yet, by time travel.  Then there is time travel here, and there, and everywhere....enough please.

This movie tries to be smarter than the originals, but it's not.  It tries to be original, but it can't. And it tries to be up dated, but it isn't.  There is nothing wrong with the originals, and this is simply new box office fodder to try to profit off and old idea again.  I say, save a ton of production costs and put the originals back in theaters with them digitally enhanced.  They would do just as well, and be far more entertaining as they were made by far more skilled filmmakers.

Terminator:Genisys.  A rental if you must in 90 days.

MOVIE REVIEW - Max

Max is the new movie about a wonderful military dog named Max who is suffering from PTSD.  This is a very original and good idea.  Too bad the writers went ahead and messed the entire premise up.

This great idea needed to be turned over to a much more in touch, and skilled set of writers who would have been far more interested in making a good family movie and not ones intent on grinding their own personal ax. All at a dogs expense.  To say this was a wonderful idea thrown away, is the understatement of the movie year so far.

Max is in the Middle East with his marine handler Kyle, when the marine is killed in a firefight.  Max survives and returns to America where the family of the fallen marine adopts him and his younger and troubled brother takes him over.  Max is troubled, and is suffering too.  The whole idea is for Max to somehow bring this family together and find himself again, all while honoring the memory of  Kyle.  At least that should have been the idea.

Instead, the writers demonize the military.  They develop a subplot where a returning marine who was a friend of Kyles lies to the family about Kyle's death.  Then proceeds to use the family for money, and a location so he can run an arms running racket to the Mexican Drug Cartel.  He then kidnaps Kyles father and is bound and determined to kill him because he knows too much.  The marine also wants to kill the younger brother, Max and the rest of the brothers 14 year old friends by executing them.  What the heck are we doing?????

Also they make the marines in this country look like a bunch of boneheads, as they give "classified" information to a 14 year old they hardly know and asks him "not to tell anyone or I could get in big trouble". And they somehow can't even handle a dog on a leash.  This movie also makes law enforcement look like dunderheads as well at many and various times during this agonizing film.  What a great idea wasted on a few complete and total boneheaded writers.

This movie is ridiculously violent for a PG-13, where kids and animals are continuously in dire peril.  Long dog fighting scenes that are brutal and downright sad.  14 year old's are encouraged to take on the gun and machine gun toting drug cartel with bicycles and a dog. What are these morons thinking??

The character of Max is developed nicely and is easily the best thing in this movie. The actual dog, (or dogs) bring a real nice character to life that you understand and like. That is well done, but that's where I will stop and tell you this is simply good idea flushed down the can.

Max.  Idiotic writers.  Sad and lousy product that started out as a really good idea.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW - Ted 2

Sequels are a tricky thing sometimes. And the new Seth MacFarlane sequel Ted 2, is suffering from just that.

The offensive, wise cracking teddy bear is back, and being honest there are some really hilarious moments and lines in this movie.  I mean laugh out loud funny.  But they are few and far between, and mostly this shows there are only so many offensive things that a teddy bear can say and do.  It is much like the original.  And being honest again, this sequel is far more offensive than the original. 

In this edition, Ted is involved in a court case where they are saying he is not a person.  He wants to become a father with his new human wife, and they need to either adopt or go artificial.   That whole basic premise is stupid to say the least, but who cares?  The core audience that goes to see this could care less about that.  They just want to hear Ted be funny, offensive and they want to see him to drugs and be the life of the party. And he is!

The main problem with this movie is simply it doesn't match up with what it preaches.  It's a story about what it means to be human, but it could not have less soul. It just swims on the surface where it's safe and doesn't dare to go deeper.  It simply sells out the lowest bidder again.  I did love some of the really funny cameos in this movie, and much of the satire and parody of current life and pop culture was pretty darn funny.

Word of caution.  I saw a few very young patrons (under 10 years of age or so) at the theater today and it baffled me. Yes, they were with their parents, but in all honesty this is so insanely offensive it is amazingly not for children.  This a laced with hard, harsh profane language and incredibly offensive terms and labels.  Plus, there is a ton of recreational drug use, and other highly adult visuals that young viewers will certainly be curious about.  Just sayin'.

The trailer you'll see and the movie you get are two different things. And don't let the cute talking bear thing fool you. This is harsh, and sometimes very funny stuff, but it is nothing short of highly adult.

Ted 2.  On par with the first.  Funny at times, but more of the same.