Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ted 2 (2015)

I know this will be shocking to hear, but it's not as good as the first one. It's pretty much exactly what you think it is, a so-so follow up to the original. This is all going to come down to whether or not you even liked Ted, and how much of a Seth MacFarlane fan you are.

Comedy sequels are almost always a huge step down, both in the laughs and the story. However, I'll give them a little bit of credit for actually having a direction that feels like it actually came organically from the first, with Ted trying to prove that he's a person. Here's my problem with this though, this takes place in a world where nobody seems to care or be in awe of the fact that there's a living teddy bear. He walks down the street and nobody gives him a second glance. Before you say, "Yeah, but he's not actually there. It's special effects", I'll counter with, "That's why it's called acting, and the director should also be directing them to pretend they see him". When people talk to him, they act as if they have no idea who he is. This lack of attention to detail shows you how lazy it all is.

As you'd guess, pretty hit or miss on the laughs. I did laugh out loud more than a few times, even had a few sustained ones well after the gag was over. There are just as many cringe worthy moments though, like when it relies on people behaving or doing things that simply wouldn't happen in reality, which is a giant pet peeve of mine. I was also surprised at the lack of non-sequiturs for a Seth MacFarlane property.

It's also fairly racist. Don't get me wrong, you can make jokes about race and it not be racist, but there's too many times where the jokes are all at the expense of certain groups and nothing else. This is something that Seth MacFarlane doesn't seem to get. He's always tried to toe that line, but he's just not as clever as other guys doing the same thing. Like when South Park does it, there's always some underlying point to it all that's pretty smart. MacFarlane seems to do it simply for shock value, and because he knows he can get away with.

Despite all the laziness, the one thing that impressed me the most was how committed Mark Wahlberg is. Here's a guy that never really seemed like he has much of a sense of humor, especially about himself, or gift for physical comedy, but he's really going for it. I guess he's lightened up as he's gotten older.

Anyway, it's worth a matinee if you were a fan of the first, but this is likely not going to move the needle otherwise.

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

Friday, June 19, 2015

Inside Out (2015)

This is old school Pixar right here! Like remember 15 years or so back when it seemed like every Pixar movie was near perfect? They were funny and hit all the right emotional notes. Inside Out feels like a return to that.

It's a very creative and inventive movie. I know just about every review is saying that, but it's really true. Throughout the film things would happen where you'd just go, "Ha, that's pretty clever!" Many of the film's biggest laughs come from these moments.

At it's heart it's a movie about feeling, and how emotions play off each other and are necessary, even the 'negative' ones. While it's ultimately not a sad movie, don't be surprised if you hear people crying at the end (I heard a bunch in the theater), if you aren't tearing up yourself (yeah, I did a little). It's very moving.

As you'd expect, the animation is great and the film is very colorful (although color is a big theme of the movie). I didn't see this in 3D, but this is the type of movie that wouldn't be hurt by that, so go for it if that's your only option.

Also, the voice cast is perfect! When you have Lewis Black as "Anger" and Phyllis Smith as "Sadness", that's about as spot on as you can get. Plus, Amy Poehler as "Joy", Bill Hader as "Fear", and Mindy Kaling as "Disgust". All of them are wonderful.

The only slight issue I had with the film is that it does drag a bit in the middle, but it recovers strongly.

Inside Out is the perfect example of the family film that will appeal to nearly everyone. There's as much in there for adults as there is for the kids. Expect this to be nominated for best animated film. I highly recommend this to everyone!

4.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jurassic World (2015)

The good news is that it's definitely the best Jurassic Park sequel. It's also, unfortunately, a recycled version of the original. How can you surpass the original Jurassic Park though? You can only hope to copy it well enough.

Jurassic World felt like more of a logical sequel to the vision of the original. There's a lot of direct references to the original, some very clever, in fact. It's basically fast forward 20 years, and despite their previous disasters, they went ahead and built a dinosaur resort on the original island anyway. I loved the design of the new park, too. Let's be honest, if they somehow did create a real Jurassic Park, I'd be saving every penny for my vacation there.

The effects were pretty good as you'd expect. A few times it had that too much CG look, especially on some of the night scenes. I was happy to see some of the new additions, but I was kind of hoping the look would be updated to account for the more current research and theories. This is kind of explained away with a few lines of dialog though, so that didn't bother me too much.

I enjoyed the cast. I was worried that Chris Pratt might have been miscast (I thought the role need a more serious, action type), but I thought he was okay in the role and I thought he had good chemistry with Bryce Dallas Howard. It's more of an issue with the character(s) being really poorly written. It's not just the main characters either, like there's the older brother character that mopes around, not caring at all that he's on an island full of dinosaurs, ran by her aunt, at that. I couldn't buy that as realistic at all.

I think the biggest problem for me was that I wasn't invested in anything that was going on. I never was scared for any of the characters or concerned for their well being. You see enough of these types of movies and know that none of main characters are going to bite it, so that eliminates a lot of the tension. A few things bugged me here and there, like Bryce Dallas Howard running from a T-Rex in heels. Those must of been some super sturdy shoes in the first place considering they never broke despite all the running and falling around. There's a character death that's both unnecessarily brutal and unearned under normal movie rules. When I hear that Colin Trevorrow wanted to rewrite the script, you can really tell. It's very sloppy, and it's either due to scenes being cut out of the film or the script simply not developing things enough. Finally, there's a part at the end that really bugged me, but I can't really say why without spoiling it. Let's just say there's a huge safety concern considering the proximity of something that seems massively overlooked.

I have to say I was a little disappointed, but my expectations were super high. It's entertaining enough though, and I'd say it's still worth seeing in the theater.

3 (out of 5) Death Stars

Entourage (2015)

I've seen some reviews that claim you don't need to be an existing fan to enjoy the movie. As someone that's watched every season of Entourage, I'd have to say that's totally false. I can't see anyone that wasn't a fan of the show getting anything out of this (let alone having any desire to see it in the first place). What else would you expect? It's basically a four episode miniseries, and it hits the ground running. If you don't know who these characters are, or their relationships, you're going to be behind from the opening, and likely annoying your friends with questions throughout.

While I've watched every season of Entourage, I was never a huge fan. Most of the characters were so unlikeable, and situations they were in were so unrelatable, that it was hard for me to really get behind it. They seemed to know this as the film didn't seem to focus too much on any one character. I still didn't find it any more relatable though.

There are a few laughs here and there, but it was otherwise kind of meh overall. I never really thought that show was all that funny though. The movie seemed to hinge more on the cameos than clever writing.

That's really all I have to say about it. It's about as forgettable as any given episode, but if you're been really craving some new ones, then then film delivers on that. It's pretty much exactly what is advertised, so I'll give it credit for that. As said before, I'd only recommend this to fans of the show. I'd give it a pass otherwise.

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Aloha (2015)

Have you ever fallen asleep during a movie, just for like 15 minutes, and then wake up and wonder if you've missed something significant? That's how a good portion of Aloha felt like. Hell, the first 15 minutes of the movie I was wondering if maybe I had missed something. Was I late to the movie?

I can see why Aloha has been getting beat up by the critics. It's so scattered and disjointed. Most of the movie I'm trying to tie things together that the movie should be doing. I have no problem with having to figure things out on your own, but this was a case where it was just too distracting. It felt like large chunks of the movie and character interaction was missing. Left on the editing floor perhaps?

It's also super melodramatic, which is magnified by the fact that you don't have a deep understanding of all the character relationships. It's all forced and felt rushed. It's like when they bring out your entree at that same time as your salad and appetizers. Don't force feed me everything at once.

This also had the distinction of have a fantastic cast, but somehow nearly everyone (except maybe for Rachel McAdams) felt miscast. It's a shame because I felt like the actors were trying, but the direction, or the script, or the editing really let them down. On the other hand, can you imagine Emma Stone or Rachel McAdams instead of Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire?

I will admit that I kind of liked the ending. It was surprisingly emotional, but in a better movie where I was more invested, it would have affected me more. I also really liked the music, but that doesn't give the story a pass.

Aloha is one of those films that feels a lot longer than it actually is. I thought I'd been watching the film for well over two hours by the time it was all over (it's a hour and 45 minutes).

It's not the kind of bad where you feel insulted or anything like that, it just doesn't work as well as you'd like. This is a rental. Maybe if we get a director's cut it might flow a little better, so hopefully we'll get something like that. Otherwise, watch The Descendants instead. It's a better movie set in Hawaii.

2 (out of 5) Death Stars

I'll See You in My Dreams (2015)

Here's a perfect example of a small, independent character drama with no real plot or story. That's not necessarily a bad thing though.

I'll See You in My Dreams is a relatively short film, just about 90 minutes, but it's because there's not much of a story to tell. Once the film establishes everything, it just seems to go in a loop of watching Blythe Danner's character hang out, drink, play cards with friends, get freaked out by a rat in her house, and then go on an occasional date with Sam Elliott.

The aforementioned Sam Elliott was one of my favorite things about the film. You know how you see an older character from time to time and say to yourself, "I wanna be like that when I grow up"? I was saying that about Sam Elliott in this film. The rest of the cast is great, but I could have used a little more Rhea Perlman. I need a little more Carla Tortelli in my life.

For a movie that's billed as a dramedy, there's a lot of downer moments. Hell, the opening scene is of Blythe Danner putting her dog to sleep. That's a cheery moment to begin a movie on, right? I even heard people crying. You want people crying during the opening scene?

This is the kind of movie that you start to forget right after seeing it. There's no big laughs, nothing that stands out. The only thing that really stuck with me is that they show you a picture of Blythe Danner when she was much younger and it's crazy how much the picture looked like Gwyneth Paltrow (Danner is her mother, if you didn't know).

I actually got the most entertainment out of the audience I saw this with. I was definitely at the Senior matinee showing. I don't know if it's because of hearing loss, but I've never heard a crowd collectively talk through a movie as much as they did. At one point when Sam Elliott asks Blythe Danner if he can go out with her again, a few rows behind me I hear an older lady yell, "Oh, hell yeah!" That was probably the biggest laugh of the film.

It's maybe little too cute for it's own good, but I'll See You in My Dreams is fairly entertaining, harmless and inoffensive. Save it for a rental. Decent date movie.

3 (out of 5) Death Stars

Tomorrowland (2015)

I mainly saw this because I'm a huge Brad Bird fan. The guy has had an amazing track record so far, and I can't wait for The Incredibles 2. Unfortunately, Tomorrowland is the first bump in the road for Bird.

It's not all bad. I love good world building and creative design. There's a lot of that here. There are some creative effects, and for the most part the look of the film is polished. I saw this on IMAX, and while it wasn't in 3D (probably a good thing), I enjoyed the visual experience.

It also has a great cast with some charismatic kid actors for a change. It's uncommon to see a movie where most of the main characters are kids and it's not terrible or the acting seems amateurish. I would say to watch out for Raffey Cassidy as she gets older. Maybe it's because she's English, but I can see her popping up in a few period pieces. She kind of reminds me of Saoirse Ronan. Even Pierce Gagnon from Looper has a small role. As if hearing my wishes after watching Pitch Perfect 2, Keegan-Michael Key has a small and funny cameo, along with Kathryn Hahn. Thank you for that.

The story's a little too ambitious and a little all over the place, but I'd say that the main problem with Tomorrowland is that it's a little too preachy. I felt like I was being lectured by the end of it. It's not that it's a bad message, but it doesn't hit with any real impact. It's not like you leave the theater wanting to change the world.

The pacing is a little off as well. There are times where the action is fun and timed perfectly, but then it gets weighed down with exposition. At a little over two hours, cutting a few minutes here and there I think would have helped.

It's fairly entertaining though, but overall feels like more of a kid's film that's trying too hard. A good rental, and I do think kids will really enjoy it. This strikes me as the kind of movie I would have really loved when I was around 10.

3 (out of 5) Death Stars

Poltergeist (2015)

There's really not much I can say about this. How can you possibly hope to remake one of the all-time classic horror films and expect to surpass it any single way? To do anything that stands out? I don't even know why they tried.

I understand that a shot-by-shot remake would have been kind of lazy, but they changed things for no reason. Why did they bother with changing the character names? Did the story gain anything from it? Did the added family drama make the audience more invested in the story? I probably would have been more entertained if they had just copied the original. At least it would have had updated effects.

They didn't even have the one scene that scared me most as a kid: the infamous skin peeling scene. I did take a bathroom break at one point though, so it's possible I could have missed it if it was there. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I still found the original clow and tree scenes more terrifying in the original version.

My biggest disappointment was the waste of such a great cast. I could watch Sam Rockwell in anything, but he, along with Jared Harris and Rosemarie DeWitt, are totally wasted here. The cast is the only real draw here. It's unfortunate.

The only way I can recommend this is to rent it, along with the original, and do a back to back watch and comparison of them. Otherwise, just rent the original again and forget this remake exists.

1.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

First off, let me start by saying that I really enjoyed the first Pitch Perfect. However, I'm always a little leery of comedy sequels, especially when they come out so soon after the original. Is this a cash grab or do they really have a story to tell?

Unfortunately, Pitch Perfect 2 feels like something from the cash grab category. There just wasn't anything new here, just recycled material that was done better in the first. To illustrate, they didn't bother to expand on the existing cast, giving them even less to do this time around. Instead, they added more characters that also had nothing to do (with the exception of Hailee Steinfeld). Just look at the poster. See how the girl in the front looks a little off, like the scale and perspective doesn't match? It's as if she wasn't actually in the original picture and then they photoshopped her in. Her presence in the film felt about as photoshopped in. It also bugs me that the original antagonist is given almost no screen time, when he was one of the best things about the first. The only good addition was Keegan-Michael Key. He needs to be in everything.

It bugs me that they seemed to forget what made the first film so fun. They also forgot the core of the frigging movie. A capella means no music, something that was pointed out quite a bit in the first film, yet it's completely forgotten here. The first few performances were punctuated by a backing musical track, making it just a musical performance, not an award winning a capella group. I also find it weird that there's no stand out singer in the group. No, Anna Kendrick does not count. There's nothing wrong with her voice, but I don't see her as a powerhouse singer.

Then, there are things in the story that just don't make any sense. Like why does Beca have a secret internship? She's about to graduate, so it makes sense that she'd be trying to get some work experience, especially in the music industry (which seemed to be her goal even in the first film). Why the secrecy? If they're not thinking about the future, then why are they going to college? Just to hang out and sing? This does come out later in the film with pretty much the expected outcome (after they are mad at her first, for no legitimate reason). Oh jeez, I guess we need to move on with our lives. Duh! I hate when I see character behavior in film that isn't consistent with what I see in real life, or "drama" that could be avoided with a two minute conversation. Like it takes Fat Amy three years to figure out she's in love with Bumper. Really? Three whole years?

I'm curious as to why they'd hand the reigns to Elizabeth Banks to direct the sequel. Does she have directing experience that isn't on her IMDB page? Seems like a risky move and I don't think it paid off at all. They couldn't have paid a few extra bucks to bring Jason Moore back?

It's not completely terrible. There were at least a few funny parts, but it's definitely a big step down from the first. If you're a huge fan, I suppose there's enough here to warrant a matinee, but otherwise this is a rental, or even wait for streaming.

2 (out of 5) Death Stars