Monday, June 29, 2015

Terminator Genisys

As someone who despised Thor: The Dark World, it's understandable that I wasn't expecting much when I walked into the Alan Taylor-directed Terminator Genisys. But perhaps those lowered expectations worked in my favor, because I ended up enjoying Genisys quite a bit. It has some issues involving dialogue and some questionable action sequences, but overall, I found it to be a satisfying sequel to a franchise that was essentially dead in the water after the horrendous Terminator Salvation. This is a movie worthy of the Terminator name.

Terminator Genisys
Director: Alan Taylor
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Trainwreck

Comedian Amy Schumer has her first starring role in Trainwreck, the latest film from director Judd Apatow, and this movie heralds the arrival of a true movie star. This is the first time Apatow has directed a feature he didn't also write — Schumer took scripting duties on this one — and, coincidentally or not, it also might be Apatow's best movie. Trainwreck is consistently funny, but it's also a personal, emotional film that surprised me with its mixture of heart and hilarity.

Trainwreck
Director: Judd Apatow
Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, LeBron James


Big Game

As nostalgia continues to fuel decisions of what films to greenlight these days, there are two different ways filmmakers can play on audiences' memories of films from years past: they can either directly reference older movies, or they can try to capture their vibe and incorporate that style into their storytelling. Big Game is a perfect example of the latter, a self-aware, idiotic '90s throwback full of B-movie fun.

Big Game
Writer/Director: Jalmari Helander
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Ray Stevenson


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ted 2

There was a time when I found Seth MacFarlane's style of humor to be hysterical, back when his non-sequiturs and cutaways were still considered groundbreaking. I couldn't get enough of the so-called "random" comedy he was pushing. But that time has long passed, and though I still tune in to Family Guy, the show is a shadow of its former self. With Ted 2, MacFarlane confirms that he has no interest in evolving as an artist, and that's tough for me to come to grips with because I feel like he's not living up to his full potential. He appears to be a smart guy in real life, but that intelligence hardly ever translates to the screen; in every scene, it seems as if he makes a beeline for the quickest, most obvious joke, and while that approach will get a few laughs, I find myself wrestling with accepting him for the filmmaker he is and holding out hope for the filmmaker I want him to be.

Ted 2
Co-Writer/Director: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried


Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Final Girls (LA Film Fest 2015)

In a post-Scream world, it seems like there have been hundreds of horror films that offer meta-commentary about the genre. But movies that make that commentary essential to the story instead of just "look how clever we are" asides are rare, and now we can add The Final Girls to that camp. Todd Strauss-Schulson's film sends up horror tropes while also being genuinely emotional and deeply moving, which are aspects of storytelling normally avoided in a genre celebrated for its over-the-top kills and terrible puns. The Final Girls is the last movie of LA Film Fest 2015 for me, and it's also hands-down the best movie I saw at this year's festival.

The Final Girls
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Middleditch



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Inside Out

After taking a year off, Pixar returns with an animated effort that ranks among the best of the studio's mostly terrific filmography. Like the rest of Pixar's classics, Inside Out is bursting with creativity and full of recognizable, relatable characters. Poignant, imaginative, fun, and funny, this is a must-see film for people of all ages.

Inside Out
Co-Writer/Director: Pete Docter
Starring: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Lewis Black


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Drew: No Excuse, Just Produce (LA Film Fest 2015)

Former L.A. Clippers star Baron Davis co-directed and produced this up-tempo documentary about The Drew, an amateur basketball league that’s been situated in South Central Los Angeles for over forty years. Tracing the history of the league through the eyes of its long-time commissioner Dino Smiley, The Drew: No Excuse, Just Produce details how the small, scrappy organization became a safe haven for South Central residents during the gang warfare of the ‘80s and ’90s.

The Drew: No Excuse, Just Produce
Co-Directors: Baron Davis, Chad Gordon


Monday, June 15, 2015

Flock of Dudes (LA Film Fest 2015)

I get no joy from writing a negative review of an indie film at a film festival. The movies that play at places like LA Film Fest are often the kinds that won’t have distinguished futures or impressive theatrical runs; if anything, you’ll likely have a chance to see a few of them when they pop up on Netflix in a few months. I have no problem writing a negative review of a huge studio movie because I feel like those filmmakers and studios should know better and be held to a higher standard. But if I see a bad film at a festival, chances are I won’t even write a review of it at all, simply because I prefer to be a champion of small movies I love instead of tearing down small films that don’t have much of a chance at a long life anyway.

There’s an exception to every rule.

Flock of Dudes
Co-writer/Director: Bob Castrone
Starring: Chris D'Elia, Brett Gelman, Bryan Greenberg, Eric Andre


Dude Bro Party Massacre III (LA Film Fest 2015)

The toughest kinds of films to review are the ones that are all over the place, tonally inconsistent, and seem to not be aware of what kind of movie they want to be. Thankfully, this is not one of those projects. Dude Bro Party Massacre III, from the team behind 5 Second Films, knows exactly what kind of movie it wants to be and delivers on that in spades. It's an '80s slasher movie homage that doesn't make the mistake of getting hung up on referencing specific horror movies from the '80s, instead using the genre as a springboard for its own knowingly stupid jokes.

Dude Bro Party Massacre III
Co-Writers/Directors: Tomm Jacobsen, Jon Salmon, Michael Rousselet
Starring: Alec Owen, Patton Oswalt, Paul Prado


Saturday, June 13, 2015

It's Already Tomorrow In Hong Kong (LA Film Fest 2015)

Two charming leads explore a gorgeous foreign city on foot while talking about life and developing a romance: It's Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong seems destined to draw comparisons to Richard Linklater's Before films, so I may as well address that in the first sentence of this review. While not quite as overtly philosophical as Linklater's trilogy, writer/director Emily Ting's own riff on the concept has a lot of the same magic, and for those who are looking for a film that explores modern love without relying on excessive cliches of the genre, this should work just fine.

It's Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong
Writer/Director: Emily Ting
Starring: Jamie Chung, Bryan Greenberg




Thursday, June 11, 2015

Jurassic World

Right before my screening started, I told my wife there was absolutely no way this movie was going to be great: based on the dialogue featured in the trailers, I was convinced it was either going to be just passable or an outright disaster. Thankfully, I can't remember a time when I've been more wrong. Jurassic World is a thrilling, breathless, edge-of-your-seat adventure with some of the best action of the year.

Jurassic World
Co-Writer/Director: Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins




Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Entourage

In its eight seasons on the air, Entourage went from a relatively small HBO series about the inner workings of Hollywood to the go-to bastion of bro culture. Its surface-level elements — the cars, the women, the gay jokes — have overtaken any relic of what the show may have once tried to be, and creator/showrunner Doug Ellin didn't do much to change that perception. The result is a property that carries a lot of baggage with it, and a dividing line has been drawn. Love it or hate it, Entourage is back — and it's the same as it always was. This is not a complicated adaptation: if you loved the show, you'll love the movie. It's a feature-length episode of the show, complete with all of the baggage that entails.

Entourage
Writer/Director: Doug Ellin
Starring: Adrian Grenier, Jeremy Piven, Kevin Dillon