ENJOY THE SHOW
Imagine taking a punch from a professional-grade boxer. I'm not talking about one of those Mayweather jabs from out of nowhere that leave you woozy. The kind of hit I'm talking about is a George Foreman-sized power hook that you see coming from a mile down the road, but the broad sweep and sheer power behind the man's fist stuns you even before it knocks flat out. Southpaw, the latest film directed by Antoine Fuqua and the first feature written by Kurt Sutter, offers up that latter type of punch. A gritty sports drama blended with Sutter's level of hard-hitting melodrama, the film digs in exactly where you expect, but it does so in all the right ways. Southpaw is as subtle as a haymaker, but, damn, if it doesn't hit just as hard.
Marvel's Ant-Man could have been the strangest superhero movie to date. The comic character who can shrink himself down to minuscule sizes - and, in the comics, blow himself up to gigantic heights - and has a telekinetic link to our ant population had countless avenues in which to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Our minds could have been blown despite the inundation of superhero stories since Spider-Man first leapt onto the screen 13 years ago. Instead, fun as it might be, the Ant-Man we get is a basic, hardly-any-frills, comic book origin story. Its potential for strangeness aside, the movie delivers on all the surface-level excitement & adventure you've come to expect from Marvel. You just expect a bit more, as well.
Channing Tatum is America's sweetheart. All he does is win, win, win. Even when you think he has taken on a dud or a sequel that couldn't possibly live up to the original, he and the films in which he performs have a way of shocking you with excitement. This is true, as well, of Magic Mike XXL, a sequel to Tatum's coming out party to Hollywood stardom and a film that, biggest shock of them all, surpasses its predecessor. Smarter, sexier, and cooler, Magic Mike XXL is an invigorating piece of entertainment, a solid dramedy about friends and coworkers – even if those coworkers are fellow, male strippers – and a relevant and honest look at the current state of the sexes. Most important of all, it's a better film than the first one.
Heavy on hardware and low on CPU, Terminator Genisys blasts onto the screen marking the return of one of the action genre's kings, both in terms of star power and franchise. The fifth film in the series, there doesn't seem like much room to continue expanding on the inevitable war between man & machine. If that's your thinking, you've forgotten about the wonders a little time travel can do for a blockbuster franchise. You're also forgetting this is 2015, and the mantra of "bigger is always better" is in full swing. It's a shame that bigger usually means dumber, too. Terminator Genisys is both, briskly limping along the rails its idiotic script has laid down for it. Not even Arnold, welcome return as he is, can justify this film's presence.
I struggled putting together a satisfactory, opening paragraph about Ted 2. Struggled. Usually if that's the case, it means the rest of the review will be a nice run through a mud-field of narrative connections and sludgy adjectives… like "sludgy." Unfortunately there was really nothing to say about the follow-up to Seth MacFarlane's surprise hit that hadn't already been said about A Million Ways To Die In the West or the back-half years of "The Family Guy." MacFarlane has a very specific sense of humor, and the ridiculous, pop culture references and violent lunacy that make up 13 seasons – and two features so far – can only pull laughs from the audience for so long.
Just as the dinosaurs dominated the planet until 66 million years ago, the Jurassic Park series is king when it comes to putting these extinct creatures on film. This has been the case ever since 1993 when Steven Spielberg's original film swept through that Summer's box office. It only took two sequels before the bloom was decidedly knocked off the rose, but don't think a few missteps will put a heavy-hitter such as this on the franchise endangered species list. With the latest, Jurassic World directed by Colin Trevorrow, the park is back open, the dinosaurs are roaming once again, and the fodder park vacationers are getting lined up for lunch having the time of their lives. What could possibly go wrong that hasn't gone wrong already?
Let's start by making something very clear. Just because Melissa McCarthy is overweight does not make every joke in which she's involved an automatic "fat joke." Sure, the actress has been involved in some obesity-related humor over the course of her film career, but it's not the right attitude to inherently bring with you while watching one of her movies. Maybe it's the right attitude a Kevin James movie but not for Spy – McCarthy's latest – and a film that has comedy coming from all areas. It's an early favorite for the comedy event of the Summer thanks heavily to both McCarthy and the great hodgepodge of a cast with which she's working. At the very least, Spy has fewer "fat jokes" than even the trailer for Paul Blart 2.
The ground shakes. Buildings fall. Hope rises. The crowd falls asleep… That's about where we're at with disaster movies and have been under this same model since the aliens invaded on Independence Day nearly 20 years ago. Sure, gimmicks like found footage and the glorious discovery of 3D (Thanks, Cameron) have given disaster movies a glossy, new coat, but it's the same gears moving it all forward underneath. Did you really think San Andreas, the latest, disaster flick from Warner Bros, would shake things up? Don't let the assumed size of the film's title fool you. San Andreas keeps it right at that level we've all grown tired of.
For a film about avenues to a better future, Tomorrowland is sure working off a lot of yesterday's ideas. These are big ideas, to be sure, and they're ideas the film's director, Brad Bird, can easily back up with some incredibly big effects. None of that, however, makes up for the banal slate of messages and themes, a hokey sense of humor, and a convoluted narrative that seems to hang its hat on the word "mystery." Bird's co-writer on the screenplay may have had a little something to do with that last bit. Tomorrowland, is a classic case of a project looking really good on paper that fumbles its way to messy execution.
The Barden Bellas are back, and they're at it again. By "it," I'm referring to performing the most popular musical hits in the world acappella style, something the Bellas know quite a bit about. I'm also referring to the comedy found in Pitch Perfect 2, the sequel to 2012's surprise hit, which chooses to cover just about every joke made in that previous film. Overlong, oddly paced, and sometimes downright ugly, it's the latest example of Hollywood's attempt to catch lightning twice in a bottle. As with so many comedy failures in the past, Pitch Perfect 2 uses the same techniques to catch the same lightning. They even use the same bottle.
What a lovely day, indeed. It's been 30 years since we ventured out into the Wasteland with "Mad" Max Rockatansky, 34 if you're not counting the time he went Beyond Thunderdome. Who could blame you? With 30 years worth of hope and nearly 20 years of promise from series creator George Miller, a new adventure in Mad Max's dusty, brutal world had better deliver the goods. That adventure is now here for our sensory feasting. Mad Max: Fury Road delivers on your every, post-apocalyptic wish and with an endless supply of visual insanity. What more could you possibly hope for in Miller's vision for the world after the fall?
Meanwhile, back in the Marvel cinematic universe, it's business as usual. Iron Man soars through the air blasting tanks and terrorists with his repulser beams. Thor, immaculate hair flowing, tosses his hammer around controlling the lightning. Hulk, you know, smashes. Even Hawkeye, with his bow and arrows, flings his…arrows with his…bow. Yes, it's everything you've come to expect and anticipate when the Avengers get back together, and Avengers: Age of Ultron has familiarity in abundance. That's good and bad when you get down to it, and even with the bloom off the rose, Marvel sure knows how to entertain with the best.
It really will be a terrifying end to the world it when artificially intelligent machines choose to rise up and take us over. Until that day, though, we'll have to make due with films like Ex Machina to keep us up late at night staring at our computer while wondering, "Is it watching me back?" Alex Garland, screenwriter of some of the best modern sci-fi has to offer, makes his directorial debut with this terrifying, futuristic thriller that puts the fear of A.I. into you in ways you never even imagined. Intelligent, sleek, and with a small, thermal charge of a cast, Ex Machina is a can't-miss, future classic work of science fiction.
As far as the English dictionary goes, all the synonyms we have for the word "brutal" have a difficult time doing justice to the level of violence on display in New Zealand's The Dead Lands. From the visceral and energetic opening scene, the tribal actioner proves its worth in blood spilt and limbs lopped off. It's a virtual candy store for martial arts fanatics and hand-to-hand junkies, but this Maori tale of honor and vengeance slowly wears down under the weight of all that visual carnage. The level of brutality holds up in The Dead Lands. The story, though itself drenched with grand ideas of legends, Gods, and monsters, barely clicks.