Having replaced The Hangover as everyone's favorite R-rated comedy… MoreHaving replaced The Hangover as everyone's favorite R-rated comedy franchise, 22 Jump Street succeeds where every other comedy sequel has failed by actually being a notably superior follow-up. This is largely accomplished by it being a reflexive satire of high budget sequels. As abused as the term has become, 22 Jump Street is a deconstruction of comedy sequels and the problems surrounding their existence in today's cluttered film industry. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum once again succeed as the world's most ridiculous and funny buddy cop duo and credit must be given to some of the best writing and direction for a comedy this year so far. Action packed and crass without being crude or disgusting, this is easily some of the most fun you can have watching a comedy right now. It also proves that not every R-rated comedy requires urine or feces humor. (Audience looks angrily at Seth MacFarlane and Adam Sandler.) Imagine that.
Following up on the joy-filled awesomeness that was How To Train Your… MoreFollowing up on the joy-filled awesomeness that was How To Train Your Dragon, this sequel manages to marry whimsy with some quite dark elements and come out all the better for it. Something that other movies aimed at children lately have completely failed to do. (*Cough*Cough* Maleficent *Cough*Cough*) Our returning heroes Toothless (the most adorable lethal dragon ever) and Hiccup (a cross between Woody Allen and Luke Skywalker) are even more fun and badass than before. But what really helps this franchise succeed where other DreamWorks efforts have fallen on their face is the cast of colorful characters, the amazing creature design, the wonderful and relatable messages provided for children, and some of the most amazing CGI in children's animation today. And good god was that villain something else. If it sounds like I am gushing here and have lost all critical objectivity concerning this movie then you would be correct. But I don't care. And neither should you. Go and take your offspring to see this movie now and not another mindless Madagascar or Planes sequel. This is a contender for best animated movie of the year on par with The Lego Movie. See? Movies can still be fun. They're just harder and harder to find these days.
Sleeping Beauty was always my favorite of the classic Disney Princess… MoreSleeping Beauty was always my favorite of the classic Disney Princess films. Perhaps because of its bizarre medieval themed art style. Or the fact that the prince actually had to hack his way through a hellish forest of thorns and use his sword to kill A MOTHERFUCKING DRAGON. But on a deeper level it was probably because the villain (Maleficent) was just so unapologetically evil and brought an entire kingdom to near ruin...because she felt like it. Why not? So of course half a century later a team of douchebags thought it was a great idea to make a modern live-action adaptation of it, because Snow White and the Huntsman actually made money. Oh sure, many people will tell me that they have little in common. Bullshit. In both Maleficent and Snow White we have a crappy re-jiggering of a tale popularized by a Disney movie whose most notable feature is an over-the-top performance from a well-liked actress as the villain which almost saves the movie, a lifeless female hero character opposite her, all other characters are reduced to their names and nothing more, a weak subversion of the "kiss" subplot, and some liberal borrowing from better fantasy movies. (Lord of the Rings for Snow White while this movie imitates the Chronicles of Narnia.)
What little redeeming value to be found lies with Angelina Jolie's performance as she was born to play the part it seems, but in a movie with a script that would do her justice. She finds a worthy opponent in Sharlto Copley, one of our best character actors period. And of course the first thirty minutes manages to be quite fascinating, with its bizarre, colorful world and an interesting backstory for Maleficent. But this energy does not survive into the second and third acts. No other character, subplot, event, or visual manages to hold water or have consequence after the famous "curse" scene. It falls apart. SPECTACULARLY. This movie makes the critical mistake of trying to make Maleficent into a hero. Yes. You heard me. She becomes THE GODDAMN HERO. Now I understand if the creators wanted a tragic backstory for our main villain so that when it came time to gut her in the third act we would feel sympathy. It would add weight and emotion to that final clash. But that is not the case here. When you completely change a story's main point, you have officially destroyed the reason it actually existed in the first place - which is the exact stated intention of this movie, apparently.
It's bad enough that every hero has to be an anti-hero these days and that every villain needs a tragic backstory, but THIS? What is this shit? Let a villain be a fuckin villain. Can't we just have fun anymore? This is not some brave deconstruction of unfair misogynist archetypes. This is commercial diarrhea masquerading as pseudo-feminist fan fiction drivel that succeeds only in taking a dump on the whole premise of why the original tale was so well known in the first place. Frozen this is not. FUCK THIS MOVIE.
Boasting a tone and feel that's more Starship Troopers (1959) than… MoreBoasting a tone and feel that's more Starship Troopers (1959) than Starship Troopers (1997), Edge of Tomorrow just may be the great underappreciated blockbuster of this summer a la Dredd. Seriously. WATCH THIS MOVIE. While many may feel inclined to avoid this one due to its Groundhog Day like premise and Tom Cruise aka "The Space Pope," all the elements work together magnificently. Cruise can act when he wants to and once in a while he will make a good movie. This is one of those movies. The light sci-fi setting, the dark humor, the great insidious alien design, the really cool exo suits, the restrained performance from Cruise and supporting characters make this far more memorable then you would expect. Emily Blunt is amazing here - her hard-as-nails character (nicknamed "The Full Metal Bitch") is a great contrast to the initially unlikable, unprepared protagonist and she enjoys killing him as much she does the "mimics." Through their forced partnership he toughens up and essentially becomes Commander Shepard/Master Chief. Once again we have the perfect woman. I am so messed up. There's also a distinct Operation Overlord vibe going on here. An attempt to liberate occupied France from across the English Channel via a beachhead while Russian armies push toward Germany from the east? Nope. No World War II connection there. (It works.) Many have complained about the ending finding it too neat and tidy. I didn't mind. This movie deserves more attention than its getting so it's worth your time. But I'm not a real critic so who cares.
Largely considered one of the more disappointing ventures of this… MoreLargely considered one of the more disappointing ventures of this summer, A Million Ways to Die in the West is a diverting, but ultimately mediocre effort with a few laughs, but way too many groans. When it pokes fun at western tropes or how nineteenth century frontier life was dull and dangerous, it can be actually quite brilliant. A two minute soliloquy by Seth MacFarlane illustrating how life sucks breaks the forth wall and is easily the highlight of the movie. And many of the absurd death sequences are hilarious. "People die at the fair" became the only repeated joke I tolerated. But when West resorts to sex jokes and physical comedy (including an overdose of scatological humor) it fall apart. Half of this movie is painfully unfunny. I cringed every time Sarah Silverman was on screen. Her joke got beaten to death.
After a discussion with a friend, I came to the conclusion that Seth MacFarlane was trying to break free of the Family Guy formula. Remember - Ted was essentially an extended Family Guy episode with a foul mouthed stoner teddy bear. But it's obvious that numerous concessions were made to appeal to general audiences and his fanbase - hence all the stupid humor. Which is a shame because this thing had so much damn potential. Obligatory MVP goes to Charlize Theron as the perfect woman. Which means she mostly plays herself. (Yes I am secretly in love with her. Don't judge.) But this movie needed a bit of a push toward darkness a la Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz. It would have made this a bit more substantial. To put it in comparative terms to other western comedies, A Million Ways to Die in the West never approaches the raunchy brilliance of Blazing Saddles, but never stoops to the awkward and embarrassing stupidity of 1999's Wild Wild West, but admittedly it comes much closer to the latter than the former. Flip a peso people.