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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.
It’s been 14 years since The Fast and the Furious was released, and the franchise that followed has taken more crazy, left turns than the adrenaline-craving gear heads in its character roster. Good, bad, and even tragic changes have brought the series to this finish line. Furious 7 continues the insane and wholly entertaining level of action these films have taken on for the last couple of entries, and while the excitement level is clearly on par, it’s in the tribute to its characters where Furious 7 takes that step above and beyond.
It Follows, indie writer/director David Robert Mitchell's follow-up to his acclaimed 2010 debut, The Myth of the American Sleepover, couldn't be further from the coming-of-age-in-suburbia drama. In terms of tone, that is. His latest is similar in that it deals with teens in suburban Detroit, but the comparisons end there. It Follows is a nightmarish tale of one girl and the unstoppable curse that has latched itself onto her, a ghost who's hauntings can only be transferred by some good old hanky-panky. The entity follows her relentlessly until it either catches her or she can pass the curse onto another, unlucky person. Mitchell utilizes these two simple ideas to create one of the scariest, cinematic experiences to come along in awhile.
The first thing we see, the first thing we hear, in Get Hard, the new comedy vehicle for Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, is Ferrell himself crying uncontrollably into the camera, more screams coming from him than actual tears. It’s a good, and early, indication of where the comedy in Get Hard lies. The comedic co-leads combine their greatest hits for the film, Hart’s size and stature coming up a time or two in humorous conversation and Ferrell, well, being Will Ferrell. The schtick may be wearing thin, but the two certainly know how to get the laugh-track going. It may never rise to the heights of Ferrell’s better, earlier efforts, and Hart has definitely accomplished more with less. Though the film never finds its way to full-blown belly laughs, Get Hard definitely knows how to make an audience keep chuckling consistently. More below!
Director Robert Rodriguez has possibly come up with the coolest idea for a TV interview show, especially for fans of cinema. "The Director's Chair," airing on Rodriguez's El Rey Network, shows the Desperado filmmaker sitting down for a casual chat with some of the best filmmakers alive. Previous episodes already showed discussions with John Carpenter, Guillermo del Toro, and a Quentin Tarantino two-parter. For his fifth and latest installment, premiering this week, Rodriguez talks with director Francis Ford Coppola, one of the greatest maverick filmmakers who gave us some of the very best the art form has to offer.
Yes, you're tired of "fresh" takes on the vampire myth, and you're sick to death of the found footage/faux documentary filmmaking style. Both have been driven well into the ground, especially in recent years, but there's a good reason these types of films continue on for so long. The simple reason is that films like What We Do in the Shadows come along once in a while achieving something that is as simple as it is clever, as hilarious as it is atmospheric, and as revitalizing as it is genuine. Not only is it the first must-see movie of 2015, it's sure to have a hand in lengthening the shelf lives of vampire movies and found footage horror.
What could be more ridiculous than a Hot Tub Time Machine? How about a sequel? Gratuitous as it may seem, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 has found its way to theaters five short years after its absurd and hysterical predecessor. Extraneous? Sure. Once you’re familiar with the title of the film all questions of whether or not it’s called for get swept aside. The real question here is, “Is this film funny in the slightest?” Simply, yes, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is hilarious. Bringing three of the four leads back from the first film – the funniest three, by the way – this second film twists the aggressive comedy dial hard to the right and with a brazen attitude. It’s as if the film dares you to be disgusted, and, to an extent, it succeeds. More below!
Fifty Shades of Grey is not the disgusting trainwreck of awful filmmaking and horrendous acting some of you were expecting. It’s not even the steamy, sexually enlightening handbook for which some of you were hoping. The adaptation to E.L. James’ nationwide bestseller – itself based from Twilight fan fiction – was inevitably going to stir up controversy of all manner before its release, but the film, itself, is both tamer and, surprisingly, more accomplished than the preemptive lack of credit being given. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, it’s is a freshly-shot film telling a weakly-crafted story, the latter criticism of which seems to be built in to today’s Hollywood release structure. It’s the first of a three act story, but Fifty Shades of Grey brings enough visual style – and one solid lead performer – to keep you on board for the eventual trilogy.