Review: Edge of Tomorrow

Tom Cruise delivers in an original action blockbuster (shocking these days!). (Warner Bros/aceshowbiz.com)

Tom Cruise delivers in this creative action blockbuster (shocking these days!). (Warner Bros/aceshowbiz.com)

In a summer where Transformers 5, Spiderman 2 (but really like, 5), X-Men 2 (again, 5), Planet of the Apes 2 (4? 5?), How to Train Your Dragon 2, Godzilla (so many), and countless other remakes and sequels are hitting the box office, it’s really quite difficult to find something creative and original. In Hollywood, if it makes money, keep making the same thing, no matter how watered down the product becomes. So when a blockbuster action movie comes along with a roughly 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it makes me raise an eyebrow to be sure. And as it would turn out, Edge of Tomorrow was smart, funny, aesthetically pleasing, and an exciting breath of fresh air in this polluted cinematic summer.

The movie begins with shots from 24 hour news channels around the world reporting a growing invasion stemming from a meteor that crash landed in Germany. As you might expect, the aliens have quickly taken a liking to Earth and have nearly annihilated most of Europe. Tom Cruise’s character is a marketer, an advertiser, for the coalition of army forces, encouraging young men and women to join up and fight back this enemy. But when he suddenly has to black mail a superior, he winds up on the front lines of the biggest surge the army has planned. From there, well, he dies. He’s not a soldier, and he can barely handle dealing with his fellow troops, let alone a gun. But a funny thing happens when he dies: he wakes up, in the same place, and in the same circumstances as the day before. The day has reset. Shocked and confused, he is forced to live the same day over, and over, and over, as the plot thickens, Emily Blunt comes into play, and a master plan to finally destroy the entire alien race is realized. So, yes, it’s a far more original story that draws you in from the first few minutes and keeps the intrigue going until the credits being to roll.

One of the best parts of the film, and probably the most important that the creators of it had to protect against, was keeping it from becoming boring as we view the same day time and time again. That mission was accomplished pretty successfully, with the use of (surprisingly useful) humor, terrific action, and a story that grows into something pretty fun and extraordinary to watch. And, I think it’s pretty fair to say (for me at least) that Tom Cruise comes out sort of…unlikeable, to put it nicely, in the first fourth or so of the film. Not the character really, but Cruise himself. But as the movie went on, he became less obnoxious, and more likable and funny. Plus, the guy is over 50 and still doing some of his own stunts. Impressive stuff. Toss in a talented supporting actress in Blunt, good special effects, and an ending you’ll be discussing and arguing over, and you’ve got one heck of a summer action ride.

 

EDGE OF TOMORROW:original_barnstar original_barnstar original_barnstar (out of 4)

 

Review: 22 Jump Street

Hill and Tatum, once again, prove to be an incredible comedic duo. (Columbia Pictures/aceshowbiz.com)

Hill and Tatum, once again, prove to be an incredible comedic duo. (Columbia Pictures/aceshowbiz.com)

There have been very few comedies, or movies in general, that have surprised me in such a good way like 21 Jump Street did a few years back. It was such a perfect buddy comedy, and I never expected it to be so damn funny. So with a sequel coming out (the original made money, so this is a given), I was cautiously optimistic at the start. Then the trailers came out, and the really good reviews, and my hopes continued to go up, up, up. And after finally viewing the much anticipated return to Jump Street, I can safely say that this is not a disappointing second installment whatsoever. While I won’t say it’s superior to its predecessor, the bromance is as strong as ever, the jokes as frequent and funny, and an immense amount of fun.

The story picks up with Jump Street, now situated in sweet new digs (at a church with Vietnamese Jesus, not Korean Jesus) in another abandoned church, with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum tracking a new case. When the first ten minutes of your movie have Jonah Hill doing some sort of Puerto Rican imitation, Tatum doing an even worse/hilarious one, and an octopus spraying into Hill’s mouth, you know you’re in for a good ride. Eventually, our two heroes get assigned a case incredibly similar to the one from their high school days in the first movie, but this time…in college. The directors take multiple jabs at themselves for making something exactly the same the way as the original, which is refreshing to see and hear from Hollywood – where studios act like films such as Transformers 2 are still incredibly unique.

But the absolute best and most prominent feature of the movie is the duo of Hill and Tatum. Somehow, someway, the chemistry between the chubby kid from Knocked Up and the star of Magic Mike is just perfection. The two play off of each other so well throughout the entire movie, and there are so many subtle or ‘throwaway’ jokes that heighten the film to new levels of hilarity. And really, how is Channing Tatum so funny? Not sure I understand how that happened. Regardless, I don’t know if there’s going to be a third Jump Street, but if there is, you can count me in. Because while 22 wasn’t quite as good as 21, it’s still better than almost any comedy I’ve seen recently.

 

22 JUMP STREET: original_barnstar original_barnstar original_barnstar (out of 4)

Review: Neighbors

Efron and Rogen bring together some funny co-stars in this enjoyably raunchy comedy. (Universal Pictures/aceshowbiz.com)

Efron and Rogen bring together some funny co-stars in this enjoyably raunchy comedy. (Universal Pictures/aceshowbiz.com)

It has Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne (from Bridesmaids fame), and Dave Franco. It’s got dildo fights, weed parties, and pube jokes. It has writers that worked on 40-Year-Old Virgin. In other words, how could this movie ever fail me? How could it miss? But despite all of that, and despite some seriously good scenes throughout, Neighbors never completely came together as a home-run comedy. While it had more than its fair share of moments, I would never call it ‘great’, and overall, isn’t up to par with any modern-day comedy classics either.

From the never-ending marketing blitz that’s taken place the past couple of months, I’m sure just about everyone knows the premise by now. Frat boys versus family. Let me focus on the family first of all, and that of course includes Seth Rogen. Pudgy, weed-loving, immature adult is who he plays – in other words, pretty much the same character as every film he’s ever been a part of. But with that said, he still manages to make it funny for the most part, and that’s impressive. Rose Byrne, who was surprisingly funny in the breakout comedy Bridesmaids, certainly held her own too. The chemistry between the two, even in the very sparse serious moments, was pretty decent for a stoner/frat comedy. I’ll take it.

Over to the frat…I knew Dave Franco would be solid, and he was, but it was the supporting characters that brought the most humor. Mintz-Plasse, aka ‘McLovin’ was good, Jerrod Carmichael and his memorable Garfield scene was great, and Craig Roberts who played ‘Ass Juice’ was good as well. Zac Efron, who accounted for 90% of the female ticket sales to this movie, was decent. I can’t remember anything hysterical generated from him alone, but he played off of Rogen pretty well (watch for the Batman scenes).

Did the movie drag a bit a times, especially as it got towards the end? Sure it did. And were the truly laugh-out-loud scenes spread just too apart to make it a next-level comedy? Absolutely. But I never truly expected this to be fantastic. I never though it would be elite, despite the early outstanding reviews from Rotten Tomatoes. So while it fell short of greatness, it was funny, it was enjoyable, and it’s worth seeing.

 

NEIGHBORS: original_barnstar  original_barnstar original_barnstar  (out of 4)

Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I'm not going to use a picture that doesn't have Scarlett. (Walt Disney Pictures/aceshowbiz.com)

I’m not going to use a picture that doesn’t have Scarlett. (Walt Disney Pictures/aceshowbiz.com)

The first Captain America from a few years back was a decent film. It was…well I can’t really say much more than that. All told, it was mildly enjoyable, but nothing good and certainly nothing great. The villain was sort of laughable, the story…decent, but didn’t pull me in, and the visuals were pretty well done. But after the success of Cap in The Avengers, I suppose Marvel knew they had to pull out all the stops for the sequel. With a much more interesting story, great action sequences, good character chemistry, and fantastic visuals, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a seriously big upgrade from its predecessor.

I think it’s fair to say, even before viewing this movie, that Hollywood has become far too saturated with comic book movies, and there seems to be no slowing down in how many are being released. My interest level coming into Winter Soldier was cautiously optimistic after all the positive reviews I had been reading. But, no matter how I view this movie, I think my brain is becoming just a bit tired of superhero after superhero.

With that out of the way, it’s time to give the film props where they’re due. The characters were much more dynamic, funny, and all around entertaining. The addition of Mackie’s ‘Falcon’, plus loads more screen time for Scarlett Johansson and Sam Jackson eased the bad jokes and bland superhero nature of our title character. The story, which many are comparing to modern-day transparency/government issues, was thoughtful and well-written – something that certainly can’t be said for every superhero movie to be sure. And one issue that I found fault with in the first installment – the visual effects and action sequences – were improved in a huge, huge way. This film looked excellent from start to finish.

 

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIERoriginal_barnstar original_barnstar original_barnstar (out of 4)  

 

 

Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

An outrageously fun ride, led by an incredible performance from Ralph Fiennes. (Fox Searchlight/aceshowbiz.com)

An outrageously fun ride, led by an incredible performance from Ralph Fiennes. (Fox Searchlight/aceshowbiz.com)

Wes Anderson, you’ve won me back. After seeing his last effort, Moonrise Kingdom‘,  back in 2012, I was left feeling underwhelmed and mostly disappointed. Perhaps I had put it on too high a pedestal, comparing it to his earlier, fantastic movies. I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d see his next release in the theaters. But after watching The Grand Budapest Hotel, I am fully aboard the Wes Anderson train once again. Outrageously fun, remarkably unique, gleefully entertaining - it was such a good movie front beginning to end.

I know that most of Anderson’s movies are stacked with talent, but this one was off the charts. When Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, and Bill Murray, among others, are only in a handful of scenes, it’s going to be a good thing. The biggest stars of the journey were Ralph Fiennes, Adrian Brody, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, etc etc etc. Also, there was newcomer and co-star, Tony Revolori.

The story is told in such a unique fashion, as an older version of “Zero”, the former lobby boy and current owner of the Grand Budapest, describes his life surrounding this lavish hotel to a young journalist played by Jude Law (yes, the Hollywood elite keep on coming). There are times when they cut back to present day, of the two men chatting over dinner, which certainly added a nice break between scenes and more serious emotion at times. But the wild adventures that Fiennes and crew go through are so incredible to watch. I really can’t say there was a single moment during this movie that I felt bored – it was all just so much fun to watch. There were moments of laugh-out-loud laughter and a lot of chuckling too, but more than anything, I felt like I was having the time of my life sitting back and enjoying the ride.

As with all of Anderson’s movies, from past to present, there is such a level of originality, quirkiness, and artistic brilliance that set it apart from pretty much anything else you can see on the silver screen. Hotel is no different, as the backdrops, “effects”, wardrobe, and everything else are so insanely and oddly amusing. He truly is a creative genius of a director, and gets everything out of all the actors he employs. For all that shined so bright, it was Fiennes that stood out to be certain. A wonderful performance in such an amazing amount of fun.

I’ll see you for next movie, Wes.

 

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL: original_barnstar original_barnstar original_barnstar (out of 4)

Review: Her

Great acting and a unique look at the future more than make up for final third that drags just a bit. (Warner Bros./aceshowbiz.com)

Great acting and a unique look at the future more than make up for final third that drags just a bit. (Warner Bros./aceshowbiz.com)

I’ll have to admit that my interest level in Her was never quite high enough that I planned to go see it in theaters. Then there was the 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the praise and suggestions from friends, and an Oscar nomination for best picture. Well, after just a moment or two of consideration, I decided it was time to give the new film from Spike Jonze a chance. But a man falling in love with a computer…this couldn’t be that good…right?

Set in future day Los Angeles, the first thing this movie impressed me with was its visualization of how the world will look and how we as people will interact – or, cease to interact. It’s not a sci-fi picture, but the view of everything, from a hotel, to a train, to a phone booth, showed just how much technology has changed the look and feel of society. Then there’s the continuing disconnect of personal relationships among us as humans. Everyone is attached to their phones and devices on a seemingly 24/7 basis, which isn’t exactly a stretch to believe if you look at how we treat iPhones today.

Joaquin Phoenix plays a recently divorced, very melancholy man, whose job is to write personal love letters for people so they don’t have to put in that effort (again, this future is quite impersonal). He does a truly fine job at showing the heartbreak of divorce, the strain of emptiness, and loner mentality. But after purchasing the OS 1, the new operating system that’s more than just a computer program, everything is changed. The OS 1, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, feels and acts like a real person. Throughout the film, we witness Phoenix’s character go through the ups and downs of a real relationship with this OS 1 – or, Samantha. It begs certain questions: is what they have a real relationship? Is this a real and acceptable form of love? These topics, of which I’ve never seen put on film before, are touched on quite beautifully at times by Jonze and crew.

I gave praise to Joaquin Phoenix, as a man who literally falls deeply in love with a computer operating system, but I must also give a lot of credit to Amy Adams, who plays his neighbor. None of these roles are easy, and she gives a great performance of a wife at wit’s end, struggling to balance her sanity, love life, and career. It’s not surprising that the acting roles in a Spike Jonze film are tremendous, as we’ve seen a history of this is his previous efforts.

Were there a few moments of awkwardness, watching a man fall quite in love with an operating system? Sure. Did the last third of the movie drag on too much? Yes it did. But there was such a surprising amount of tender, emotional scenes, plenty of laugh out loud moments, and a truly bittersweet and fantastic ending as well. If you couple all of that with the great acting jobs, I can’t argue that Her was a success, that I never would have expected.

 

HER:original_barnstar original_barnstar original_barnstar (out of 4)

Review: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

With repetitious jokes, bad cameos, and everything else that could go wrong, Anchorman 2 turned out to be a complete bomb. (Paramount Pictures/aceshowiz.com)

With repetitious jokes, bad cameos, and everything else that could go wrong, ‘Anchorman 2′ turned out to be a complete bomb and waste of talent. (Paramount Pictures/aceshowiz.com)

The original Anchorman is widely regarded as a modern-day comedy classic of sorts, and has a ferocious cult like following. I, for one, never considered the original installment ‘great’, but rather a fun, good movie with a tremendous amount of quotable lines, and a great platform for Steve Carell. My expectations were only mild, if you will, coming into the much-anticipated, decade in the making sequel: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Well, consider me shocked, and in the worst possible way. This was not only a bad movie, it had to be one of the poorer films I’ve seen in recent memory.

All of the key players were back in this one – the big four (Ferrell, Carell, Rudd, and Koechner) – as well as a downright stupid amount of celebrity cameos. From understandable choices in Kristen Wiig or Vince Vaughn (again), to head scratchers like Kanye West, Drake, and Kirsten Dunst. For much of the movie I felt as if they were just plugging in big-time names just to have…big-time names. What’s the point of having Kanye West in this? He’s not funny whatsoever, and brings nothing but slightly cringe-worthy moments from his ‘acting’. The original movie had the classic TV station battle, with perfect cameos from hilarious comedians and actors. It didn’t need to rely on A-listers to grace the screen. This movie? Big name after big name, and useless appearance after useless appearance.

Speaking of the big four…they too, weren’t funny this time around. All of the jokes were exactly the same as the first film (a bit of a Hangover Part II syndrome) and maybe it’s because I’m 26 and not 16, but the humor just wasn’t clicking. I chuckled a few times and laughed once or twice, but everything seemed so forced and so repetitious. If the movie was a lot of improvisation, then I suppose you can blame the actors for the terrible jokes. But at some point, the script (as loose as it may have been) has to be questioned as well. Sure, the Anchorman movies are supposed to be goofy and bizarre…but this felt weird for the sake of being weird, and was terrible as a result.

It truly is a shame to see a good (again, not great) first movie get somewhat tainted by this horrible sequel. But, I suppose that is the normal course of action in Hollywood these days. My sincere hope is that Anchorman is officially done with, and Ferrell, Rudd, and Carell can all move on to other comedic projects where they’ll likely flourish (this one is a rare bomb for this kind of comedic ensemble). If there is a third installment, you can surely count me out.

 

ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES: original_barnstar (out of 4)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.