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.
Reporting from the Cannes Film Festival. The Sea of Trees is the latest from Gus Van Sant, a filmmaker with a very eclectic track record that proves he's not afraid to put himself out there and experiment. His movies may not always hit their mark but the passion and unique creative voice is always there. Despite early negative buzz at the festival, The Sea of Trees is far from the disaster Cannes audiences have made it out to be. The film is a bit long and flawed in some areas but extremely watchable. Cannes always needs a high-profile whipping boy and with its lush pedigree, this year Van Sant's The Sea of Trees fits the bill but in reality the opposite is true. This film is Gus Van Sant's best since Milk.
Reporting from the Cannes Film Festival. Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve is quickly becoming a crucial voice in cinema, crafting human stories of immense power and durability. His one-two-three punch of Incendies, Prisoners and Enemy has been enough to get him noticed in film-savvy circles, but his latest film Sicario may be his best work to date. It's a bleak drug-trade thriller on the surface but deep down it's really a dense character study with comments on the violence in this modern world. It's in the same ballpark as other modern commentaries like Traffic and Zero Dark Thirty but with its own unique flavor.
Reporting from the Cannes Film Festival. Most films depicting old age tell their stories slowly and move in a darker and depressing direction. While this isn't always a bad thing, director Paolo Sorrentino's new film Youth takes a more light-hearted approach to aging and it's a welcome departure. The Italian filmmaker recently won the Best Foreign Language Oscar for The Great Beauty and all the fun and whimsy of that previous endeavor is on full display here as well. Youth is also Sorrentino's second English-language film after the disastrous This Must Be the Place, a huge misfire that has paved the way for this return to form.
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.
Reporting from the Cannes Film Festival. The Pixar brand has lately been tarnished with unnecessary sequels and sub-par original fare making fans wonder if the magic has run out of the powerhouse. After all, this is the company that created classics like Toy Story, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Wall-E so after witnessing their recent output in the last few years, a cause for concern would make sense. The good news is the drought is over and Pixar has come roaring back with their latest Inside Out, which premiered in Cannes. It's an adventure built inside the mind of an eleven-year-old girl with her emotions as main characters. It's fast, funny and deeply touching in a way that will entertain kids and sucker punch adults.
Reporting from the Cannes Film Festival. Director Todd Haynes is best known for making the 2002 theatrical feature Far from Heaven and the HBO miniseries "Mildred Pierce", two works that probed deep into human emotion and hidden desires. His latest is the equally effective Carol, an unofficial companion piece that focuses on forbidden love in the 1950's and delivers top-notch performances from its two female leads. This should come as no surprise since Haynes is used to getting great performances from his actresses but this might be the first time the two ladies in question are so strong that they command the entire movie.
Reporting from the Cannes Film Festival. Two recurring themes in Woody Allen's filmography are murder and dangerous love affairs. His latest is Irrational Man and it continues this trend with mixed results. But mostly it will leave you with thoughts of revisiting Allen's better efforts like Crimes and Misdemeanors, Match Point and Cassandra's Dream. His latest film (which just premiered at Cannes) takes place in a concentrated college town where everyone seems to know each other and privacy is nonexistent. Insecure philosophy professor Abe Lucas (played by Joaquin Phoenix) has just been hired at the fictional Braylin College and it's treated like an atom bomb of gossip by the faculty and student body.
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.