Review: ‘Trainwreck’ (a raunchy R-rated rom-com by one wily wanton woman)

What do you call a female philanderer? There really should be a word for that.

As children, little Amy and Nikki got an earful from their dad (Colin Quinn) about the horrors of monogamy, a lesson Amy (Amy Schumer) has held to as a grown up. While her sister Nikki (Vanessa Bayer) has a kid, home, and husband, Amy drifts from guy to guy when not at work or enjoying her select collection of vices alone at home. After her publisher (Tilda Swinton) assigns her an interview with a charming sports doctor (Bill Hader), Amy begins to suspect that something might be missing in her life…and she intends to fight that feeling kicking and screaming all the way.

R-rated films for adults over the last decade have been hit and miss, creating images of pointless toilet humor, ultraviolence, or graphic horror. Awards season seems to be filled with quirky “real” characters but rarely in a believable way; too often, they seem like either a trailer-trash reality show or “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Movies like This is 40 have managed to break these conventions but still haven’t quite embraced the full potential of an R-rating without spilling over into This is The End territory. Enter Amy Schumer on the high heels of her successful television show with a pitch that must have sounded like “How to REALLY Lose a Guy in Ten Weeks or Whatever.”
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Review: ‘Minions’ (the prequel no one demanded that’s still sort of cool)

Ever wonder where those goggle-eyed Twinkies dressed in coveralls came from? Too bad; you’re finding out anyway.

Since the beginning of the world, Minions have existed. The male-ish creatures are driven to serve the biggest, baddest villain they can find (although no actual explanation of this is ever given). After accidentally killing every bad guy they’ve ever served, the Minions try settling down but find themselves aimless without a great evil to abide. Three Minions set out to find new a boss, settling for a dark mistress named Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) at Orlando’s VillainCon (this really should exist). Unfortunately, Minions will be Minions and end up on Scarlett’s bad side; mandatory hilarity ensues.

The original Despicable Me sneaked up on everyone, but even with Steve Carell voicing supervillain Gru, it was the secondary cast of characters who often stole the show…particularly his lovable oddball Minions. The sequel was okay but mostly deferred to zany sight gags, somehow giving rise to a prequel solo adventure making even less sense. There is some evidence the original idea may have been nixed at the last-minute by the eleventh-hour inclusion a familiar character; happily, it gives some degree of continuity to the film rather than just a stand-alone absurdity, but it also hints at what might have been the film we really wanted to see.
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Review: ‘Ant-Man’ (because Shrinkage-Man sounds worse)

You will believe that a man can ant.

Fresh out of prison after serving a sentence for a modern-day Robin Hood re-distribution of digital wealth, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) tries to make a clean break from crime to earn visitation rights to his daughter from her mother (Judy Greer). When his possibilities for a legal job fall short of his income requirements, Scott breaks into the house of an eccentric millionaire (Michael Douglas) on a tip to crack a hidden vault…only finding an unusual suit and helmet inside. Learning that the suit’s wearer has the ability to shrink down to the size of an ant, Scott willingly becomes the pawn in a plan to stop a meglomaniac from selling similar technology to the highest bidder…but he’s also keenly aware of the truth: his best job qualification is being expendable.

Fans of the Ant-Man comic will find plenty of winks and nods in his history, details slowly unveiled throughout the film; many of the revelations won’t be surprises for True Believers, but their order and their place in the Marvel Universe mixes in well with the current alternative MCU continuity. The biggest treat is the imaginative training and combat scenes, shifting from large to small-scale while incorporating memorable and hilarious product placements (sneaky Marvel!) It has been revealed that this isn’t the beginning of Phase 3 but rather the end of Phase 2; you’ll see once again just how far in advance Marvel must be planning these things for all of these plot points to fall so well into place (something that may have contributed to original director Edgar Wright exiting the project with only a writing credit).
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Review: ‘The Gallows’ (Respect Mah Thea-tah!)

All the shaky cam and low battery signals you could want in yet another found-footage film.

In 1993, a Nebraska high school put on a stage play involving a hanging…so, of course, one of the students is actually killed by (wait for it) hanging. Two decades later, a group of fools…sorry, STUDENTS revive the deadly play for “reasons.” Even worse, Theatre is a required class, providing the perfect opportunity for stereotypical jocks to screw everything up…also because “reasons.” To make matters worse, one of the jocks has fallen for one of the drama students; what terrible tragedy could possibly befall them? Spoiler: rope is involved…around necks.

A high school theater at night? Sounds like a great location for a horror film: hidden rooms, secret passageways, places to fall from and disappear into, audio-visual equipment, trap doors, and costume closets. Sure, it’s all a little meta, like those award-nominated movies about Hollywood has-beens trying to become relevant again (Birdman, anyone?) but is this the best we can come up with? The lighting looks okay and the acting is good enough, but wow…the excuses for using found footage has officially hit a new low; last I checked, you didn’t have to turn on your phone’s camera to use the flashlight feature. Also, are teens so narcissistic today that they film themselves crying into their phones waiting to be killed off? Yeah, not buying that either. Oh wait: most of the cast is actually named after themselves. Really? Maybe they should have called this “The Shallows.”
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Review: ‘Inside Out’ (psych 101 infotainment)

Your emotions…hilariously personified.

After Joy (Amy Poehler) appears in the mind of a newborn named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), it isn’t long before another emotion appears: Sadness (Phyllis Smith). As little Riley grows up, more emotions appear: Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Anger (Lewis Black). The emotions guide Riley’s personality one memory at a time as she grows up, including a few special core memories that create “islands” of key personality traits. While Fear, Disgust, and Anger all challenge Joy from time to time, Sadness seems to infect everything she touches, even memories made by other emotions. At a critical time in Riley’s life enduring a move from her childhood midwestern home to a coastal city, Sadness begins to assert herself. When Joy attempts to stop her, they are both ejected from central control along with all of Riley’s core memories…leaving Fear, Disgust, and Anger in charge. What could go wrong?

From the people who made you cry when you watched Pixar’s Up…well, they’re going to make you cry again – TWICE. Writers have known about those little voices for a while now, but for the rest of the population, this may be a bit of a revelation. The voice cast is pitch perfect, especially Lewis Black as Anger…although it could possibly been better if comedian Sam Kinison was still alive. There have been similar ideas before – anyone remember Chris Rock voicing Osmosis Jones? – but instead of germ warfare, this is all about feelings, and Disney/Pixar has no qualms about manipulating yours.
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Review: ‘Terminator Genisys’ (aka The REAL Terminator 3: Fan Service)

Critics seem to hate it while audiences mostly approve…but why?

WARNING: minor spoilers herein, but little more than you’ve seen in the final trailers.

The year is 2029, and the war against the machines is all but over. Using future knowledge provided by his mother, John Connor (Jason Clark) has led the resistance to victory…but may have already lost. Failing to stop Skynet from using time travel tech to send a T-800 model 101 terminator cyborg back to 1984, John sends his second-in-command Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect the future. As Reese is caught up in the temporal vortex, he watches in horror as someone attacks John and is helpless to warn anyone or stop it; is that why he’s suddenly having new memories that conflict with his own timeline? As a lone terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) arrives in 1984 to kill John’s mother, Reese materializes elsewhere in Los Angeles running from a cop…that turns out to be a T-1000! When the woman he was sent to protect (Emilia Clarke) ends up saving him instead, Reese slowly begins to realize everything has changed…again.

Name someone who didn’t love the original Terminator. Small list, huh? How about T2? Shorter list, right? Then came Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines with Kristanna Loken as “The Terminatrix.” Not a bad start, so-so ending…but no Sarah Connor? Hmm. After watching Edward Furlong’s teen John Connor, Rise of the Machines already felt like it was taking a step backward in showing John as less capable, and casting Christian Bale as the hero of the human resistance didn’t seem to help much, either. Forgetting the fact that the only reason for rebooting or continuing the Terminator franchise is to make money, what essential element was missing from these continuing films?

The plight and tragedy of Sarah Connor, of course.
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Review: ‘Interstellar’ (Deus Ex Cinema)

Is Christopher Nolan becoming the new M. Night Shyamalan?

Dust storms sweeping across the midplains are choking off civilization as crops are going extinct in a global blight. In this doomed future world, government education is pushing for more farmers while denying that science programs ever accomplished anything (ie the moon landings were faked). A frustrated once-aspiring astronaut (Matthew McConaughey) is given the chance to find a habital world for all of mankind after discovering that NASA has gone underground – and they have a plan. Unfortunately, the real problem is one of logistics, and even as one man’s hope for his family pushes him beyond our solar system, the stark reality of what he must do to save his species may be more than any human being should be asked.

Setting his bigger-than-life sights on a high-concept space genre flick, director Christopher Nolan appears to have cribbed the smarter parts of the scripted Lost in Space movie before retrofitting it with The Hand of God. If you can get past this bit of Looper-esque science fiction, the movie isn’t bad so much as it’s overlong. Triumph of the human spirit, survival at any cost, and more end-of-humanity drama than you can shake a stick at is underwhelmed by running time and jumps in the narrative almost as confusing as jumps in space-time continuity. If you thought Inception was tough to follow through layers of dreams, try keeping up with when “now” is from beginning to end.
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