Movie Reviews 

Terminator: Genisys

by Alan Rapp on July 3, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Terminator: Genisys
  • IMDb: link

Terminator: GenisysHe told you he’d be back. Given the crippling disappointment of Terminator Salvation, which if not for the existence of A Good Day to Die Hard would unquestionably be the worst action sequel ever made, it’s inconceivable that somebody thought making another Terminator movie was a good idea. No less shocking is the fact that Terminator: Genisys, despite several plot points and awful title, is actually fun.

Recognizing after four films and a TV-series how screwed-up the Terminator timeline has become screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier deliver not so much a sequel as a reboot that jumbles the events of the first two Terminator films, heavily condensing them to occurring simultaneously in 1984 while introducing a face to SkyNet and new villain to hunt down Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) in 2017.

One of the (many) flaws of Terminator: Salvation was its headstrong determination for John Connor to run from who the previous films had molded the character into. Here John (Jason Clarke) is the once again the prophet general of the human resistance that defeats the machines in the opening scene but not before time travel can be introduced into the equation.

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Inside Out

by Alan Rapp on June 19, 2015

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  • Title: Inside Out
  • IMDb: link

Inside OutWhat’s going on in an 11 year-old girl’s head? That’s the question writers/directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen seek to answer in Inside Out where young Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is uprooted from her home in Minnesota to San Fransisco without warning causing chaos both inside her mind and in the real world.

In a summer loaded with sequels, franchises, and reboots, Inside Out stands out as refreshingly original. Inside Riley’s mind we meet the aptly named Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) who work in concert to manage Riley’s reaction to any possible situation. When Joy and Sadness get lost in the outer region of Riley’s mind during the most tumultuous time of the young girl’s life Riley’s happiness is put at risk leaving the other three emotions to try their best to keep her on track.

The filmmakers allow the emotions to humorously interact, playing to the younger audience, while using the concept to delve into deeper themes about how a person’s mind works and what happens when something goes wrong.

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Jurassic World

by Alan Rapp on June 10, 2015

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  • Title: Jurassic World
  • IMDb: link

Jurassic WorldFor the first time in 14 years we get a new entry into the Jurassic Park franchise with Jurassic World. Far from a reboot, Jurassic World takes place in the same world as the previous films (and even has a few homages to the original), although no human characters return. Jurassic World doesn’t stray far from the template of the previous three films (and not nearly as much as I’d like recycling the same themes already well-mined by the franchise), but it does offer a new twist or two to give the latest sequel a fresh feel.

The set-up is roughly the same as something inevitably goes wrong and people run for their lives from dinosaurs for two-hours or more. What Jurassic World adds to the mix is to fully fill the operating theme park this time around with thousands of innocent bystanders (something the script sadly doesn’t use to its full advantage). The new film also offers up a new beastie in Indominus Rex which is more movie monster than true dinosaur cooked up in a lab to be the ultimate attraction. If the movie fails to use the vast crowd to up the carnage (most of the action takes place off in the wilderness with a small group of characters running for their lives) the film certainly trumpets the big bad selling it as the most dangerous creature the park has ever produced.

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San Andreas

by Alan Rapp on May 29, 2015

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  • Title: San Andreas
  • IMDb: link

San AndreasIt’s hard to make either a great or truly awful disaster movie. Even setting out to craft memorable disaster porn (unless it’s centered around a completely ridiculous premise like sending oil riggers into space) is a challenge. Bucking the trend of world-ending disaster films where characters are fighting asteroids, a new Ice Age, or the core of the Earth disrupting all life on the planet, San Andreas is a bit of a throwback focusing just on California, and, for the most part, San Fransisco. A more localized disaster doesn’t have the doomsday cache of something like 2012 but San Andreas turns out to be a far better film.

Our main characters are fire and rescue expert Ray (Dwayne “It’s Okay to Call Me The Rock Again” Johnson), his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino), and their college-age daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) who are separated when California begins experiencing a series of increasingly harsh earthquakes and spend the film working back to each other as, once again, a huge disaster seems to magically fix all relationship issues over two hours. Disaster couples counseling has been used so often in movies it has become its own cliche.

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Tomorrowland

by Alan Rapp on May 22, 2015

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  • Title: Tomorrowland
  • IMDb: link

TomorrowlandIn tone, message, and design Tomorrowland feels very much like an old school Disney live-action film albeit with far better special effects. With a hopeful message, and heart penned to its sleeve, the screenplay by Damon Lindelof and director Brad Bird offers a look at the wonders and dangerous of technology which will bring two strangers together to a place where imagination is the only limitation of what is possible.

Presented with dueling narration by Frank Walker (George Clooney, played as a child by Thomas Robinson) and Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), Tomorrowland informs the audience of how each first learned of a scientific wonderland just outside our dimension before throwing the pair together to save the city and all of Earth from a mistake that continues to haunt the older scientist.

Clooney’s charm helps soften Frank’ rougher edges and Robertson plays well off of him. The real star, however, is Raffey Cassidy as the android who brings the pair together in an effort to put right what went wrong more than two decades before which got Frank expelled from Tomorrowland forever.

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Mad Max: Fury Road

by Alan Rapp on May 15, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Mad Max: Fury Road
  • IMDb: link

Mad Max: Fury RoadReturning to his creation for the first time since 1985, director George Miller‘s Mad Max: Fury Road is highly-stylized insanity that is easily one of the most visually-stunning movies of 2015 so far. More engaging than fun, Miller delivers something akin to an action art film rather than summer popcorn movie. And, despite Tom Hardy getting top billing, it’s one hell of a star vehicle for Charlize Theron who proves to any doubters out there that a woman can indeed be the lead character in a big-budget action adventure.

Taking place an indeterminate amount of time following the events of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Max (Hardy) is captured by a cult known as the War Boys, led by the bizarre Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who decide to put the wanderer to use as a universal blood donor. A series of events involving Imperator Furiosa (Theron) stealing Joe’s most precious cargo loaded up in one of the warlord’s war rigs provide the opportunity for Max’s escape and an uneasy partnership with Furiosa and Joes concubines (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoë Kravitz, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton) as the small group attempts to stay alive in harsh desert with enemies in every direction and a mad man’s army chomping at their heels.

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Still Slightly Out of Tune

by Alan Rapp on May 15, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Pitch Perfect 2
  • IMDb: link

Pitch Perfect 2Based on the book by Mickey Rapkin 2012’s Pitch Perfect was an occasionally fun, if wildly inconsistent, story glorifying a bizarre college subculture where a capella groups were the biggest celebrities on a college campus. Picking up three years later, loner Freshman Becca (Anna Kendrick) has grown into the Senior leader of the three-time defending a capella champions who face new adversity when a complicated stunt goes wrong at a public event.

Barred from competing, touring, or defending their national championship by the announcers (John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks) who cover the sport (and also run it now?), the Barden Bellas’ only chance for redemption is to become the first American group to win at the World A capella Tournament.

If you thought it was bizarre seeing colleges go wild over a capella singing in the first film you haven’t seen anything yet as, in typical sequel fashion, Pitch Perfect 2 goes bigger this time around. The results are much the same as the first film with awkward romantic subplots and an odd storyline designed to make Becca the outsider of the group once more as she is the only member of the Bellas planning for life after college.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

by Alan Rapp on May 1, 2015

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  • Title: Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • IMDb: link

Avengers: Age of UltronDespite the build-up to an Infinity War Avengers film, Marvel Studio threw everyone for a loop when they announced fascist robot Ultron (James Spader) would be the villain of The Avengers sequel. Unlike 2012’s The Avengers which was the culmination and payoff for the entirety of Marvel’s Phase One films (everything from Iron Man to Captain America: The First Avenger), Avengers: Age of Ultron suffers from some of the same problems that weighed down Iron Man 2.

Not only does the film have to introduce a brand-new villain (something The Avengers didn’t have to spend time on) and three new supporting characters (with vastly different origins than their comic counterparts), and weave in ongoing events from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. while providing separate in-depth character moments for every single Avenger, Age of Ultron also has to lay the groundwork for the next two Avengers films, Captain America: Civil War, and Thor: Ragnarok. While also throwing in supporting characters from pretty much every Marvel film so far it’s something of a marvel, if you’ll forgive the pun, that Avengers: Age of Ultron doesn’t buckle under its own considerable weight.

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The Age of Adaline

by Alan Rapp on April 24, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Age of Adaline
  • IMDb: link

The Age of Adaline

The Age of Adaline takes an intriguing premise about a woman who has lived for more than a century, through the rise of women’s rights, technological booms, two world wars, and the rise of an Information Age all of which it effectively turns into a Nicholas Sparks trashy romance novel. Blake Lively stars as Adaline Bowman who, through a ridiculous premise of laughable pseudo-science a narrator (Hugh Ross) is needed to help explain, stopped aging and looks the same today as she did in 1929. Hiding for most of her life with only a daughter (Ellen Burstyn) who knows her secret, Adaline sheds her identity every ten years to hide her condition. Preparing for just such a move, Adaline encounters a wealthy artist (Michiel Huisman) and, for the second time in her life, falls in love.

Despite the film’s sci-fi set-up neither director Lee Toland Krieger nor screenwriters J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz are interested in exploring the various times and lives Adaline has lived except in the most superficial of ways. It’s sad because the film casts an actress that looks at home in a variety of styles and the period set direction (what little we see) is competently done.

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Woman in Gold

by Alan Rapp on April 10, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Woman in Gold
  • IMDb: link

Woman in GoldDirector Simon CurtisWoman in Gold is an odd film not good enough for awards consideration but also choosing not to become an action-suspense film about stolen Nazi art. Much more a straightforward drama, I’d compare it to 1998’s A Civil Action, a more engaging film with a similar arc of a lawyer whose money-first philosophy is changed by taking on an emotional case he can’t possibly win.

Based on the true story of Maria Altmann‘s (Helen Mirren) attempts to regain possession of her family’s lost masterpiece from the Austrian government, Woman in Gold is a slow-moving drama starring Ryan Reynolds as the lawyer hired by Maria to take on a foreign government. Reynolds and Mirren work well together as the unlikely pair to take on Austria (even if Reynolds casting seems like an odd choice). Well-acted and shot against the backdrops of Vienna and southern California, the story is intriguing if never fully engaging. Despite its cast (which also includes Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany, Elizabeth McGovern, and Jonathan Pryce) Woman in Gold is a good film that never fully lives up to the promise it offers flashes of early on.

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