A Crazy Casting Idea For Captain Marvel That Just Might Work.

Captain_Marvel_Vol_8_1_Textless

Let’s face it, there are a whole lot of Marvel movies coming before we finally get to see their attempt at a female-led superhero films  in Captain Marvel, and while many of those other movies are sure to be fantastic, this project by far stands as one of the most interesting and important ones on the docket. Granted, DC is beating them to the punch a little bit by getting Wonder Woman out in 2017 with Gal Gadot in the title role, but at least for the moment, Marvel stands to make more of an impact. As such, the casting of this role becomes very important indeed. Do you get somebody like a Charlize Theron or Natalie Dormer, who have played this type of role before to step in, or do you step outside the box and grab an unknown. Well, I think I’ve found a solution that will not only work, but will act as a perfect counter to DC’s casting of Gadot, who certainly has potential in the role, but also comes off thus far as being cast more for her looks than anything.

IAS-S2-06-red-dress_0540_12

I want Amy Schumer to play Carol Danvers.

Now I can certainly imagine that at least some of you are wondering how I could come to this conclusion, especially since Schumer has only been in one major movie role, and has entirely stuck to comedy thus far. Well for starters, if we look back, a great deal of Marvel’s stars have been comedians. Robert Downey Jr started out on SNL, Chris Pratt fumbled around and shined shoes on Parks and Recreation, and Paul Rudd has spent almost thirty years in one romantic comedy or another. It just makes sense given the comedic tone of these films to cast somebody who already has natural comedic timing. However, it certainly is fair to point out that she has yet to truly take on a character outside her own persona. While this could certainly be a hurdle, I would argue that in Trainwreck, she showed a great deal of dramatic range within that persona and if she were to apply that to Carol, it would not be an issue at all.

However, the main reason I want Schumer playing Captain Marvel goes a little deeper than just how she would approach the role. While I would never claim to be an expert on the female perspective, I can certainly ascertain that especially in big Hollywood blockbusters, they often yearn for somebody more relateable. Hollywood is so obsessed with keeping their admittedly evolving slate of female characters as traditionally beautiful as possible, that it often blinds them from selecting actresses who are better suited for roles than others. If Marvel really wanted to keep up their reputation of being consistently innovative, here’s a huge opportunity to prove it once again. While Schumer is certainly easy on the eyes, she’s not exactly the traditional Hollywood starlet either. She’s an every-woman, and for something as trail-blazing as this film, perhaps that’s exactly what we need.

Mr. Holmes Review

mr_holmes_ver2_xlg

It’s hard to say exactly how many times an iconic character can be approached before they simply start to stale from overexposure. It doesn’t matter if it’s a legend that has been told since the beginning of time, or a new IP gracefully leaping from tale to tale. Eventually, they all get old. Mr. Holmes seems hyper aware of this, deciding to turn the potential weakness of having two currently running Sherlock franchises into it’s greatest strength, by aging it’s hero by as much as his appeal has likely aged for us. Fortunately for this detective, it seems as though he ages as gracefully as a fine wine.

mr-holmes-ian-mckellen

We find former detective Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) returning from a trip to Japan, to his quiet English home that he shares with his housekeeper Mrs. Monro (Laura Linney) and her son Roger (Milo Parker). Holmes has been attempting to keep his analytical mind sharp by beekeeping, but he finds himself fading. As he tries to write the story of his final mystery, which resulted in his retirement, he finds his memory of it fading to his great frustration. In fact, he finds that his main motivation to not give up entirely is his relationship with young Roger, who as it turns out is pretty intelligent in his own right. As such, the two start spending a lot of time together, much to the dismay of Mrs. Monro, who wants to prepare Roger for leaving Holmes behind.

MrHolmesScreenshot

Mr. Holmes is perhaps purposefully understated compared to it’s BBC and Warner Brothers counterparts. It’s not so much a mystery tale, as it is a character study of the smartest man in the world as he starts to fade away. How gracefully can one age when everyone expects them to consistently remain at the top of their game? Watching this dilemma is fascinating, thanks in no small part to yet another masterful turn by the seasoned McKellen. He utterly encapsulates the intellect and dry wit that has made Sherlock Holmes such a beloved figure, while adding an additional touch of sweetness that many versions of the character simply don’t have time for. After all, he’s a man humbled by a decaying mind, and as such can only really remain one step ahead of his fellow man, as opposed to six. It’s a performance that could very easily garner McKellen an Oscar nomination, and stands as some of his finest work.

42778_ppl

Also greatly aiding the proceedings are Linney and Parker, who pitch perfectly bring their opposing mother/son dynamic to life. Parker in particular is a live-wire for an actor his age. Roger starts to demonstrate some of the extraordinary traits as Holmes, but the movie never tries to make him a prodigy. He’s just a smart kid who still has a lot to learn, and since Holmes has a whole lot to teach, the dynamic remains an absolute pleasure to watch throughout. Meanwhile, Linney brings more of an icy sweetness to Mrs. Monro, as she tries to sabotage the boys’ growing bond to the point of irritation, while still making it clear that all of it is out of love for her son.

mr-homes-movie-review

Director Bill Condon of ‘Dreamgirls’ and ‘Gods and Monsters’ crafts his finest film in years with a light touch that gives off a sentimental energy while never getting too syrupy. He does a particularly wonderful job with several short sequences that have no dialogue at all, merely focusing on Holmes as he tries to deal with his fading memory. He lets McKellen breathe and perform rather than over-dose these sequences with imagery and symbolism, and the performance comes off all the stronger because of it. He does however let things run a little long, with a few too many flashbacks and side stories throwing off the momentum of the pace. It’s not awful, as the film still comes in at about two hours and five minutes, but perhaps at an hour and fifty, it would have been just perfect.

e83e543e-1059-11e5-_922849b

A refreshing break from the non-stop action extravaganzas that have taken over the summer, Mr Holmes is a wonderfully assembled swan song to one of literature’s greatest heroes, with McKellen only further cementing his legacy as one of the finest actors of our time. It has fun with the mythology of the character, while giving us a take on him that has never been done before. While Robert Downey Jr and Benedict Cumberbatch will almost certainly continue to carry the torch from here on out, if the world went up in flames tomorrow, I for one would be perfectly fine with this being the final Sherlock Holmes adventure.

Rating: A-

Paper Towns Review

paper-towns-movie-poster-cara-delevingne-mat-wolff

I really didn’t want to like John Green. Everything that I had read about The Fault In Our Stars before seeing it last year made it seem like the exact kind of movie that normally has me gagging in the aisles. However, despite all my initial resistance, I ended up being completely disarmed by that charming little story, mostly because of the breakout performances by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. So in approaching Paper Towns, I found myself going in with a bit more optimism, and even a little excitement in seeing how it turned out, even if the trailers certainly seemed a little less promising than the previous film. Was ‘Fault’ just a fluke smoke-screened by smart film-making, or should John perhaps consider changing his last name from Green to Hughes?

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 12.59.07 AM

Quentin (Nat Wolff), is for all intents and purposes your average high school outcast.  He mostly sticks by his two best friends Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith) as they hang out in the band room, sees himself as waiting to sprout in college, and has had an intense (some would say slightly creepy) infatuation with his next door neighbor Margo (Cara Delevingne). The two of them were friends when they were children, but eventually Margo’s adventurous spirit drew the more timid Quentin away from her lifestyle. That is until one night, when lo and behold, she comes knocking on his window asking him to be her get-away driver as she performs nine tasks against her group of friends who she sees as having betrayed her. Quentin has the time of his life on this night of mischief, hoping things will change now, and they do. Margot disappears into nothingness the very next day, leaving only a small trail of clues as to where she’s gone. Dragging his friends into the search, prefacing it as their last bonding experience of high school, the boys set off to unravel the mystery of where Margot has gone.

o-PAPER-TOWNS-facebook

Both the virtues and flaws of Paper Towns ultimately rest on Nat Wolff as Quentin, who’s performance is definitely a mixed bag. I suspect that the former Naked Brothers Band member simply isn’t much of an actor, as he brings very little of the natural charisma or charm that Quentin clearly needs to have judging by the lines he’s given. He’s just, there. Rarely seeming like more of a passive presence even in the scenes with the most urgency, which is a big problem since the film mainly centers on his quest for love. It doesn’t help that while Delevingne is certainly an alluring screen presence with a bit more range than Wolf, she’s not really in the movie enough to make much of an impression on us beyond simply being a charismatic criminal who can spin a sentence well. She dosen’t give off that magical feeling that makes the audience want to chase her along with Quentin. With all of that said, the rhythm of the movie picks up dramatically once the focus switches to Quentin’s two buddies. Abrams and Smith both happen to be absolute naturals who fill characters who very easily could have been tired types with a great deal of energy. Wolff can’t help but have a little chemistry with these guys, and once the mystery ultimately leads to a road-trip with these three, and a couple other friends, thing start getting very enjoyable.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 12.59.16 AM

The mostly stiff performances might ultimately be on director Jake Schreier, fresh off of his successful indie Robot and Frank. He really does not have a great deal of life behind the camera, making every sequence as generic looking as the last. In a film that needed to build up the majesty of one character in particular, this lack of flare becomes a issue, almost as if he wants us to care about as little as he does. It’s not a terribly directed movie by any means, but it is very lifeless, forcing these poor actors to have to almost entirely pull from the words on the page. With all of that said, what ultimately shifts his movie into decent territory is the way it resolves. Green seems to be very good at crafting endings that are infused with both sweetness, and reality. While the movie would have done well to have some of the supporting characters be more sober minded throughout, the turns the story takes in third act reflect exactly what I suspect many audience members will be thinking throughout. However, like many movies of this type, it turns down the very perfect spot to cut to black in order to slavishly resolve all the plot threads, which is a weak choice.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 12.58.52 AM

Paper Towns simply doesn’t come together in the way it should. Unlike Josh Boone with The Fault In Our Stars, Schreier seems more content to simply coast off of Green’s words without making a concerted effort to bring them to life. As such, our lead performances don’t register in the way they should, and the whole thing ultimately comes out a little flat. It certainly has it’s enjoyable moments, and definitely gets major props for the way this story resolves itself, but ultimately, perhaps it’s best to cross this town off your summer itinerary

Rating: C+

Mission: Impossible 3 Review

Mission_Impossible_III

Mission: Impossible 3 could not have come out at a worse time. Not only was the previous installment almost unanimously perceived as weak, but Tom Cruise in the blink of an eye became a couch jumping, Scientology studying, Brooke Shields slamming PR nightmare. As such, while it certainly didn’t flop, it definitely didn’t over-perform either. It’s a shame really, because with fresh faced TV guru JJ Abrams at the helm of his very first feature, the entire creative team seemed determined to make up for the failings of their previous film. They promised a gritter, more exciting story that fit more within the vein of the wildly popular Bourne films and and Daniel Craig’s upcoming Bond debut, and man, did they ever deliver.

mission_impossible_3.05

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) starts this story having been out of the game for a few years, resigning to training new IMF agents. You see, he’s got a wedding to Julia (Michelle Monaghan) coming up, and he’s not planning on running into any gunfire anytime soon. That is until he finds out that Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell), the only trainee he ever approved for active duty, has been kidnapped by vicious arms dealer Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). After their attempt to rescue Farris goes horribly wrong, Ethan is thrown into a deeply personal game of cat and mouse with Davian, and must rely on his team to keep him out of danger until he tracks the mad-man down.

maxresdefault-2

It seems that a Mission: Impossible film is only as good as it’s director, and although his style is not fully refined in his directorial debut, JJ Abrams absolutely nails it in the director’s chair. The pace here is absolutely relentless, with either a massive action scene, or an important piece of character development standing front and center. No matter what is happening, it’s injected with enough spirit and energy to feel more like a roller coaster than a movie. That kind of pacing could easily wear thin in lesser hands, however, there is a simply perfect amount of attention paid to the characters to ensure that this doesn’t just feel like a bunch of action figures running around.

maxresdefault-1

Out of all the MI films, this is the one where Cruise shines the most. Unlike the forced romantic subplot in MI 2, Ethan’s relationship with Julia feels incredibly natural and human due to an easy chemistry with the endlessly watchable Monaghan. This not only grounds him as the vulnerable every-man that made him so compelling originally, but makes the personal stakes that much higher once Julia finds herself in danger. It’s also incredibly refreshing to finally see Ethan have a true team behind him, made up of characters played by Ving Rhames, Maggie Q, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. While they might not be the most three dimensional characters, they’re each charismatic and vital to the missions in their own way, particularly Rhames, who is given the most he’s ever had to do in the series. However, the biggest stand-out might just be the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the venomous Davian, who absolutely oozes hatred as he vows to destroy everything Ethan cares about. It’s a brilliant piece of unconventional casting by Abrams, only problematic by under-utilization. Hoffman isn’t in the film nearly as much as he should be, and if he had been, something tells me Davian could have been an all time great villain.

MV5BMTY5MDI3NzgxM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDExNTkyMw@@._V1_SX640_SY720_

The action sequences are not only constant, but beautifully put together. Gone are the over-stylized, slow motion filled bores of before, with Abrams taking on a much more Spielberg-like flavor. Complications are constantly building on each other, forcing our heroes to often adapt to three or four problems at a time, ensuring that the action never descends into repetitive shoot-outs as many spy movies unfortunately do. All of it brought to life with Cruise’s always impressive practical stunts, and just the right amount of hectic camera-work to keep up the pace while still keeping things clear. It also helps that because the characters are so well drawn, and the tone of the story is so dark, that it always feels like people are in danger.

screen-shot-2013-03-21-at-00-02-47

Mission: Impossible 3 is not only a perfect rebound for the franchise, but a rock-solid an action film in nearly every department. It’s a dark, character driven story that still never forgets to pepper in a little camaraderie and adventure to keep things going. The entire cast of top notch actors does a wonderful job, and Abrams proves himself to be a major force to be reckoned with. If it had just taken advantage of it’s stellar antagonist a little more, it could have even been the very best installment in the franchise, but believe it or not, we’re going up from here.

Rating: A-

Mission: Impossible 2 Review

MV5BODI4Mzk0NDU0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTczODQwNA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_

Even though the original Mission Impossible was doubtlessly a hit, it faced criticism for being a touch too convoluted and confusing for it’s own good. After all, as much as audiences love their movie spies, they sometimes just want to see them leap into action and get to the business of killing people that they know best. People wanted more Tom Cruise being blown off of a helicopter by an explosion, and less tense conversations about bank accounts and biblical verses. “Well,” Tom Cruise thought, “who better to transition this into a straight up action franchise than shoot em’ up proprietor, Jon Woo?” It was a decent prospect, as Woo’s films generally ride the line of extreme insanity while giving their crowds a little something to grab onto as well. As such, Cruise packed on some muscle mass, grew out his hair a few inches, and jumped into action with Woo, hoping that by throwing everything at the wall, a little more would stick with the general audience this time around.

Mission-Impossible-II

We find Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) scaling a massive canyon when we first reunite with him. He seems to be having a grand old time on his vacation when he receives yet another assignment through a pair of sunglasses (not kidding). His task, stop former IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) from distributing a deadly experimental virus to the masses, planning to make bank on the cure. In order to infiltrate Ambrose, Hunt tracks down Naya Hall (Thandie Newton), a thief who recently ended a relationship with the traitorous agent, and asks her to shack up with him once again to gain intel. However, Ethan almost instantly becomes enamored with Naya, harming both parties’ ability to get the job done as well as they’d like.

MISSION-IMPOSSIBLE-2_612x380_0

From the very first frame, Mission Impossible 2 almost completely throws out the intrigue and deliberate pacing of De Palma’s original. You see, this one is all about style. Style over substance, story, character, or just about anything that makes a movie worth watching. Woo, who in other efforts has let his actors breathe and create characters underneath his insane action sequences, goes completely off the rails here. There are hardly any scenes of dialogue here that aren’t essentially montages with talking spliced into them. It’s as if Woo is worried about losing the audience’s attention for even a second, often cutting to things like the salsa dancers in a club or the roaring ocean as opposed of focusing in on what the characters have to say. Between that, and Woo’s obsession with having characters perform tiny actions as slowly and lovingly as possible, the pacing in almost every scene just feels completely off, the movie never really gaining any true momentum until the very end.

1117_5

The characters are so horribly composed by the screenplay, which was amazingly enough written by Robert Towne who penned Chinatown, that the actors suffer as a result. While Cruise as always gives it everything he has, the character of Ethan Hunt is so completely butchered here that he feels like an entirely different person. While Hunt certainly did have his fair share of emotional turmoil in the first movie, he never really let get in the way of him acting like an efficient spy. He was a human being who still knew exactly what he had to do to get the job done. Here, because for some reason he’s found himself in love with a woman who he’s known for all of five minutes, he spends the entire movie making some of the stupidest moves a spy could ever possibly make for her sake. With his long flowing hair and dark shades, he seems more like a model posing as a spy than anything else. While certainly looking beautiful, Newton also suffers from this slapdash relationship plot-line, her initially icy persona melted in almost a minute by this smoldering action hero. Dougray Scott also falls completely flat as a generic bad guy who is never given a chance to establish any personality traits besides, “I want to do bad things for money,” and never really finds any moments to establish any believable chemistry with Cruise. They’re just two mad dogs fighting over a girl.

missionimpossible24

As for the action set-pieces, they stand as the only reasonably entertaining aspect of the film, even if they are incredibly silly and over stylized. We’re talking shoot outs where people twirl on the ground, kung-fu fights between two injured men on the beech, and a motorcycle chase that goes on for so long that it’s a miracle the bikes don’t run out of gas. It’s all reasonably well filmed, with clear camera angles and practical effects bringing all the mayhem to live. However, it’s hard to really care about what’s going on since the rest of the story is so badly paced and written that almost all the action is just slapped into the last thirty minutes. It feels more like a ballet then anything, and while this has worked for Woo in the past, in the context of a spy story, it just feels out of place.

dougray_featured_photo_gallery

Mission: Impossible 2 is a classic case of “trying to please everybody.” It feels like a little kid who is desperately trying to prove to his parents how much cooler he is than his “boring” older brother. None of the humanity that made the first film so engaging is found here at all, instead settling for the same over the top action movie that has been made a million times, while not even particularly excelling in that department. If all of the ‘Mission’ sequels turned out to be like this one, something tells me that the franchise would have been dead a long time ago. All I can say is, thank heaven for JJ Abrams.

Rating: D

Mission: Impossible Review

url

Let’s hop into a time machine for a moment, and head back to 1996. Bill Clinton was still a faithful husband, the internet was still coming into it’s own, and Tom Cruise, hot off of Interview With The Vampire and The Firm, was the biggest movie star in the world. Naturally when you have such a big star, the next step is to put them in some kind of adaptation. Cruise had his pick of the litter, but opted to bring one of his favorite television shows to life, a kitschy little espionage series by the name of Mission Impossible. The virtue of Cruise in a spy role, along with ‘Scarface’ director Brian De Palma taking on this kind of story certainly had all the makings of a perfect franchise kick-off.

mission-impossible-1996-16-g

The story kicks off with a covert agency called the Impossible Missions Force sending a group of operatives into Prague, lead by senior agent Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) and point-man Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). Their objective, stop a mole from within the agency from selling a list with the names of all the active IMF agents to an interested bidder. Unfortunately, the operation goes horribly wrong, and Ethan finds the majority of his team killed off before his eyes, Phelps included. Due to the mysteriously perfect execution of these assassinations, IMF now suspects Ethan of being the mole, and they will stop at nothing to hunt him down. However, Hunt won’t give up. After collecting Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Franz Krieger (Jean Reno), two disavowed agents looking for redemption, Ethan goes on a hell-bent quest to clear his name and find the shadowy figure who caused all of this.

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 12.26.08 PM

The strongest virtue of Mission: Impossible is in its grimy, nior-like tone. This isn’t a colorful spy romp with crazy gadgets and weapons of world domination like the Pierce Brosnan Bond films it was trying to offset. It’s a story of deception and investigation above all, and in that sense it feels very reserved and old fashioned.  While the narrative is certainly a winding one, with a lot of twists and turns that may come off a bit confusing, it’s never so much so that the momentum of the story is thrown off.  It’s that perfect, just convoluted enough, style of storytelling that made the early spy films so fun to watch. We not only feel completely thrown into this world, but just as confused and disoriented as Ethan does when that world is flipped upside down.

mission

Speaking of Ethan, Cruise anchors this movie wonderfully. He doesn’t quite have the screen presence that make his later runs as Hunt such a delight, but as a trade we get a fresher-faced, more vulnerable character. He hasn’t developed the thick skin that lets him become a true leader in the later films yet, but we start to see the pieces of that fall into place. Even though he never stops believing that he’ll find a solution to this mystery, he’s not an unbreakable superhero, his guilt over letting his team die driving him above all else. Meanwhile, the supporting cast is just as strong. While Voight ultimately isn’t in the movie a whole lot, he provides some solid gravitas and has solid chemistry with Cruise, with whom we get a sense there is a deeper relationship that goes mostly unspoken. Rhames and Reno make for fun chess pieces in the various action sequences, and Henry Czerny has a great time chewing up the scenery as the head of IMF.

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 12.24.35 PM

Brian De Palma’s direction isn’t so much focussed on slam-bang action sequences as it is on extended moments of suspense. He lives in the moment before the big action beat, where all the characters slowly fall into place, leaving the audience on edge as to when the explosion will happen. Even though it takes place in an era of lesser technology, there’s a over-arching sense of paranoia that runs through every scene, with danger potentially around every corner. In fact, by far the strongest sequence of the film is a scene where Cruise infiltrates a room in the IMF base with a computer that he needs to hack in. The ground in this room cannot have a shift in weight, so he cannot let even a tear-drop come to the ground, repelling in from a vent. It’s a simply masterful heist sequence that grabs you by the lungs and does not let go. In fact, one of the only truly weak moments here is the climax, which does descend into standard action territory with Cruise hanging by the side of a train. Simply put, the current technology was simply not ready to properly put this sequence together, and it shows. While that sequence certainly puts a damper on what’s come before, it also highlights just how intelligently De Palma approached the rest of the story.

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 12.24.11 PM

Mission: Impossible might not ever ascend into territory beyond ‘very good’, but it does exactly what it sets out to do very well, and establishes a great deal of the precedents that make this franchise so unique. De Palma was given great freedom to make a film that fit within his style and sensibility, and Cruise literally jumps at the chance to put himself in outlandishly dangerous situations. It may not be as bombastic and fun to watch as some of it’s later counterparts, but as an introduction to the IMF, consider it a mission well accomplished.

Rating: B+

Ant-Man Review

MV5BMjM2NTQ5Mzc2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTcxMDI2NTE@._V1_SX640_SY720_

One of the biggest casualties of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far is most definitely losing the opportunity to see what Edgar Wright would have done with Ant-Man. Throughout the early development process of this film, it was clear that the Hot Fuzz/Scott Pilgrim director was on to something that would create something subversive, and new for the ever expanding superhero genre. Well so much for that, as he and Marvel parted ways after nine years of collaboration, presumably because Wright was not a fan of the added in story elements that tie the characters into the greater Marvel universe. In the wake of this split, star Paul Rudd and frequent collaborator Adam McKay had to come in and polish up a new script from Wright’s scraps, and Yes Man director Peyton Reed was brought in as a replacement behind the camera. In other words, it seemed like this might be one of Marvel’s few disasters if they didn’t pull of a miracle, but hey, they’ve certainly reached higher before.

Ant-Man-Movie-Image-Gallery-Photos

We start off with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) being released from prison for burglarizing (he doesn’t like the term robbing) a wealthy business tycoon. Desperate for money to pay his daughter’s child support , Scott tries just about everything he can to make money legitimately, before turning right back to crime. One night, he enters a house that his partner Luis (Michael Pena) claims has a massive score inside. However, once Scott cracks the safe, all he finds is a strange suit, which as it turns out, is a shrinking suit that belongs to scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Hank, as it turns out has a job for Scott. Scott must learn how to use the suit, which can also be used to communicate with ants, to sneak into Hank’s former laboratory, now run by former protegee gone mad Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), and steal a variation of the technology called the Yellowjacket that will be used for military purposes. This comes much to the dismay of Hope (Evangeline Lilly), Hank’s estranged daughter, who feels that she is more than prepared to preform the heist on her own.

ant-man_movie_image_collection

Ant-Man is a film powered heavily by the charisma of it’s performers. Rudd proves himself a perfectly suited leading man here, giving us a slyly funny but deeply empathetic character in Scott. Above all else, the love he has for his daughter runs through all this guy does, and unlike certain other elements of the film, this piece never gets cheesy thanks in large part to Rudd’s performance. In fact, he seems much more comfortable in the role than a lot of other Marvel leading men did on their first time out, and will surly be a nice presence to watch develop over the years. Meanwhile, Douglas nicely adapts to the mentor role, even if the script often doesn’t utilize his wry sense of humor as much as it should have. The mentor/student relationship here should have been incredible, but instead it’s mostly just Pym speechifying about various plot elements he finds important, with only a few opportunities for banter used. Most of that humor ends up going to Pena, who has a surprisingly hysterical turn as Scott’s overly energetic partner. Lilly and Stoll are stuck with the fairly stock roles of the stoic love interest and scornful villain, but both overcome these troupes to a degree by infusing an above average amount of emotion into their characters. Just by sheer virtue of having any development at all, Stoll’s Darren Cross is one of the best baddies in the Marvel Universe thus far.

LillyBar640

Peyton Reed does a competent job behind the camera here, especially for somebody who was forced to come on board somebody else’s movie way late in it’s development. While most of the action sequences were undoubtedly pre-visualized by Wright, Reed does a competent job of bringing them to life. The shrinking sequences here simply look great, the sense of scale jaw dropping as Scott flies and falls through massive objects that would look microscopic to you or I. Fights that take place inside of a briefcase, or a child’s room are certainly if nothing else a refreshing break from the destruction porn we’ve been getting all summer. It’s something we haven’t really seen before in a superhero movie, and Reed makes sure that there are constantly clever little tricks being used in each sequence. Especially in the third act when the heist really kicks in, this is one of Marvel’s most visually stunning movies.

antman-paul-rudd-jpg

Before we can get to that third act though, there’s quite a bit of sloppiness to slog through. Reed constantly throws of the light, comedic momentum of the story to have long scenes where characters spew out paragraphs of exposition, subtext be dammed. In fact, there are so many moments like this, particularly between Lilly and Douglass, that it descends into borderline soap opera territory. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for developing emotional arcs for characters, but this really could have used a little help from the old policy of ‘show, don’t tell’. While never truly becoming boring, as there will often be a good scene to follow up a lesser one, it takes a lot of energy to constantly have to re-establish the lightheartedness that works much better for a movie like this one.

url

There is also a great deal of fan service shoved into the story to set up future movies, and frankly, it wasn’t worth losing Wright over. Sure it will be fun for hardcore fans like myself to see certain characters from other movies pop up (one in particular has a surprisingly extended part here), but it is definitely an alienating factor for those who are not as engaged in this universe. It makes this story feel more like a stepping stone to another movie, than one that was plainly worth telling on it’s own merits. With that said, make especially sure to stay after the credits this time, as both sequences shown are an absolute treat.

There is certainly plenty of fun to be had with Ant-Man. It’s visually stunning, often very funny, and introduces a character who could definitely become one of the big boys in the future. However, it is not nearly as good as it could have been, and definitely feels like it’s been cobbled together from a million different drafts of one story. Even as a good movie, it feels like something that Marvel just wanted to get over with before they got to the mega bonanza that is Civil War. With that said, it’s certainly the better of the two offerings they’ve had this year, and if you get your expectations to just the right size, you’ll likely have a great time.

Rating: B+

Trainwreck Review

eC3xhc4

At this moment and time, the comedian who has their finger most prominently on America’s funny bone is Amy Schumer. The constantly trending funny-woman not only greatly advanced her own career through her wildly popular sketch show ‘Inside Amy Schumer,’ but used it as something of a battering ram against stereotypes against females in both comedy and entertainment as a whole. It was only a matter of time before she found herself a leading woman vehicle. With comedy mastermind Judd Apatow at the helm of a self-written screenplay, Trainwreck certainly seems like the best case scenario for Schumer’s debut, particularly in a summer that thus far has only had one comedy that has gone above average. In other words, the ball’s in your court Amy.

trainwreck-judd-apatow-amy-schumer

The story centers on Amy (Amy Schumer), a thirty something single gal who intends on living a life on a rotating wheel of booze and boys for as long as she is able. With that said, she’s in something of a rut, with her sister Kim (Bre Larson) starting to loose patience with her, and the magazine she works for sending her out to interview a sports doctor named Aaron (Bill Hader), despite Amy having no interest in sports. However, as she starts to get to know Aaron, Amy finds herself doubting the virtues of her lifestyle, even if she’s determined to do everything in her power to keep those pesky emotions below the surface. After all, why keep a guy who really likes you around when flopping around on top of John Cena is an option, am I right?

trainwreck2

Trainwreck certainly gets a lot of millage out of Schumer’s natural charisma. She has a laid back, yet lovably vulgar demeanor that makes her endlessly watchable. She perfectly balances this bravado, with the under-current of sadness that comes with being such a lone wolf. While this character isn’t particularly a stretch for her, essentially a slight remodeling of herself, she’s also given a couple moments to show some deeper emotion that come off extremely genuine. Meanwhile, she’s paired up with some really game supporting players. Hader continues his streak of more reserved performances here, giving Amy a very sweet, if not overly so, counterpart, while Tilda Swinton is an unrecognizable joy as Amy’s judgmental boss. However, special mention must be given to John Cena, who is an absolute riot as he skewers his macho persona. He’s only in a few scenes, but he lets his surprisingly strong comedic timing shine through in each and every one. Here’s hoping there’s no more Marines or Twelve Rounds in our future, and that he sticks to these comedic roles.

trainwreck6

Unfortunately, the highly game cast is let down but Apatow, who’s once razor sharp touch seems to dull a little with each succeeding film. The movie never really finds a consistent tone, constantly riding the line between a raunchy sex comedy, and a sweet romantic comedy. It never quite turns into the skid of either, and as such it just feels like a whole lot of everything on the screen. Even though it presents itself as something of a reverse of typical gender roles in romantic comedies, that’s really all the uniqueness it really has to offer. There are so many opportunities here to take subversive turns through this new perspective that just aren’t followed through on. Also, Apatow’s typical pacing problems are back again, needlessly extending this fairly simple story to two hours when it does not need to be. While there are certainly some scenes here that are absolutely hysterical, for every one of those there are three that just sink.

images

Trainwreck certainly has it’s shining moments, and is certainly good for a few hearty laughs. However, it’s also plagued by just how generic it ends up being, particularly disappointing considering the talent involved. It seems as though Apatow made this movie more as a favor, not putting forth the effort in his direction that we usually see from his work. I have no doubt that Schumer has a long career ahead of her in film, but hopefully when we look back on it, this will be the first adorable little stumble out of the gate of a great run. One thing is for sure, it’s certainly not a Trainwreck, because seeing one of those can be rather hard to forget.

Rating: C+

Magic Mike XXL Review

rs_634x946-150415061526-634.Magic-Mike-JR-41515

Back in 2012, the meteoric rise of Channing Tatum from disrespected pretty-boy to legitimate movie star was cemented with a pulpy little stripper film by the name of Magic Mike. Based on Tatum’s own experiences as a male stripper, the film proved to be an alluring choice for many who find themselves swooning under the gleam of the star’s incredible physique. While I personally found the movie a bit empty and plot-less, it seemed as though many critics were impressed, praising director Steven Soderbergh’s sensitive take on the material. Now, three years later, the boys are back with a brand new batch of routines, and although Soderbergh has now taken a backseat to his longtime assistant director Gregory Jacobs, the hope is to recapture the very same magic that drew people in before.

The story picks up three years after the first one. Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) is struggling to run his own contracting company, hoping to get his own retail space sooner than later. However, when he receives a call from his old stripper buddies, saying that Dallas (formally played by Matthew McConaughey, who sits this one out) has passed away, Mike heads to the wake. Fortunately, it turns out that Dallas isn’t dead after all, and the boys just needed an excuse to bring Mike back for one last run, as Dallas has ditched them right before a big stripper convention in Florida. Begrudgingly eager to pick up where he left off, Mike joins the guys on their adventure, and a whole lot of the old sexy dancing and debauchery ensue.

thumbnail_20683

Perhaps the biggest weakness of the original Magic Mike was that despite the film’s attempt to develop Mike as a three dimensional character, it completely forgot about the other members of the group. This made it hard to get particularly attached to these guys, and in turn care about their demons. Fortunately, Magic Mike XXL makes up for this in spades, finally giving Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Matt Bomer, and Adam Rodriguez some personality and chemistry. A great deal of this movie is spent just watching these guys talk, and their conversations are often very funny and always authentic. Meanwhile, Tatum continues his streak of solid performances here, with the perfect amount of understated charm needed to give Mike that leading man spark. Meanwhile, there are  plenty of new supporting players here to make up for the lack of McConaughey. Jada Pinkett Smith has a whole lot of fun as the icy and sexy woman the guys find to be their new MC, Amber Heard is a great deal more believable in the love interest role than the cardboard cutout that was Cody Horn, and Donald Glover has a couple truly shining moments as a guy who is more of a nude serenader than a stripper.

boys-Adam-Rodriguez-Matt-Bomer-Channing-Tatum-Joe

As soon as I saw Tatum welding to the tune of ‘Pony’, it became clear that this was going to be lighter and more absurd in tone than the original, which works really well. While there certainly are some well played emotional beats, it seems as though everyone involved has realized that at heart, a movie about a bunch of male strippers should be as nimble and light on its feet as the dancers themselves.  There is constantly something funny happening here, even if it’s just an enjoyable conversation, keeping things from getting bogged down in extended scenes of nothing, a huge problem before. In fact, there are several scenes where things just go full out weird, to perfect effect. While there certainly is a lull here and there, more often than not it will quickly be wiggled out of on the way to something entertaining.

Loving-every-second-routine

As for the dancing itself, it’s an absolute treat even if it doesn’t exactly tingle your loins. Tatum is a master at movement, and watching him and the other guys at work is nothing short of astonishing. While there might not be as much of it throughout as one might expect, the final dance sequence, which goes on for about twenty minutes, is one of non-stop creativity and choreography, and since these guys are now easy to care about, it makes those moves all the more sweet.

Magic-Mike-XXL-Pictures

While Magic Mike XXL certainly isn’t a perfect movie, it improves heavily on the original in almost every way. It’s a much more accessible, and enjoyable movie, that finally gives each and every one of it’s charismatic cast members something to do. It doesn’t matter if you’re a screaming Tatum fan-girl, a guy who’s been dragged by his girlfriend, or something in between, you’re likely to find something to enjoy in this surprisingly delicious piece of beefcake.

Rating: B+

Terminator Genisys Review

terminator-genisys-poster

There are certain franchises in Hollywood that are taken care of like gorgeous old cars. They’re taken out rarely, and when they are, they run just as well as ever and are driven with with carefulness and pride. Well, unfortunately the Terminator series is more like a really expensive ride that at one time was the best running machine in town until the owner’s son slammed it into a wall. Since then, it finds itself sold to some easily swayed dope who takes it out for a spin, and slams it into yet another wall, or maybe a ravine, so they can say they’re being creative. Yes, for over a decade now we’ve been treated to diminishing returns from James Cameron’s once fantastically original science fiction franchise. In what seems like a last ditch effort to salvage things, the creators of Terminator Genisys have opted to go back to the franchise’s roots in order to give it a fresh start. It’s a novel idea, but unfortunately, some novels should just remain on the shelf.

terminator-genisys-arnold-schwarzenegger

We open once again in the near future, as a human resistance lead by John Connor (Jason Clarke) fights against the last pockets of the all powerful artificial intelligence called Skynet. In the final battle of this years long war, the humans find themselves victorious, but with a bit of a catch. Skynet has sent a terminator back in time to kill John’s mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke), and in order to stop it, John sends back Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) to protect her, and outside of Kyle’s knowledge, father him. However, as he travels back in time, an unforeseen ripple creates a new timeline, and instead of the scared waitress Kyle is told he will find, he comes across a battle ready Sarah who already has full knowledge of what she has to do thanks to a guardian Terminator called Pops (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who has raised her since her parents were murdered when she was nine.

Terminator-Genisys-TV-spots-Arnold-Schwarzenegger-Header

Terminator Genisys tries to have it’s cake and eat it too by re-hashing the plot of the original Terminator, while creating this alternate timeline to allegedly play in. All of that is well in good in theory, however it seems as though nobody involved with the writing of the film actually knew what the word “play” means. If this movie were to make more nods to the original films, it would break it’s neck. Despite having every opportunity to do something different with the mythology of this world, we get the same “mean metal guys chase the good people and their friendly robot” movie that has already been done a few times times before, without the flair that made the first two films in the franchise so great. Even the supposed twists (which have almost entirely been spoiled by the trailers) feel milk-tossed, acting more as lazy attempts by the filmmakers to blind the audience to the fact that they are still telling the exact same story. Themes that were once so powerful, particularly those involving the flexibility of the future depending on the will of those in the present, now seem more like set-ups for further sequels than anything else, since we know that is exactly what is being planned.

maxresdefault

Meanwhile, every single actor suffers under the weight of a plodding script and borderline non-existent direction from Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World). Starting off with the worst, Courtney is absolute poison as Kyle Reese, unable to sell either the dramatic heft nor the supposed comedic side of his character. See, the script would really like us to think that this guy has charisma, as he keeps making jokes, but none of them are funny. Every line out of his mouth sounds so much like cardboard that he might as well spit packing peanuts. Jason Clarke isn’t given much of a chance to characterize John Connor beyond a couple of generic “oo rah” speeches before his character takes the aforementioned brutally spoiled villainous turn. Although he certainly seems to be having fun, he just never quite clicks with it, and is never particularly threatening. On the slightly more positive end, Emilia Clarke makes for a solid Sarah Connor, with both heart and brawn to spare. However, even she struggles with making some of this dialogue sound good, especially when she is forced to attempt chemistry with Courtney. Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger is as loveable a ham as ever, but his character lacks the presence that he had before, almost feeling like a non-entity. His relationship with Sarah is the only slightly interesting thing about him, and that is not explored nearly enough to make an impact.

terminator-genisys-emilia-clarke-2

If there’s anything all of the Terminator movies have excelled at, it’s been the crafting of spectacular action. Well, Genisys certainly distinguishes itself here, with what are by far the worst combat sequences the series have seen. Not only are the same robotic effects and fighting styles recycled from previous entries, but they’re brought to life with the flair of a tumbleweed. It just feels like hallow CGI objects hitting and shooting at each other, especially considering that the visual effects are some of the worst that have been in a big budget movie in quite some time. If this thing were to air on Sci Fy, it would not be out of place, some of the bigger set-pieces resembling Playstation 2 games from 2004 more than anything we’re used to in this day and age.

sarah-connor-terminator-genisys-new

It’s one thing for a movie like this to be bad, but Terminator Genisys stretches beyond that into borderline insulting territory. The sheer laziness of just about every aspect of this story is simply astounding, the filmmakers seemingly thinking that if one or two tiny spots are freshly washed on an old windshield, we will just happily drive off none the wiser. We won’t. Perhaps next time, a T-1000 should take the form of a dead horse, just so when Arnold goes to fight it, at least those involved will show some honesty.

Rating: D-