Posts tagged 2015 Summer Movies
MOVIE REVIEW: Digging for Fire

Joe Swanberg is a leader of the "mumblecore" movement, which primarily employs naturalistic everyday settings with improvisational dialogue and a loose story structure.  Such an approach has been found to be a double-edged sword of open-endedness.  Either it's fresh and interesting enough to keep you guessing or it's maddeningly lost and too unstructured for not really coming to a conclusion or making a point.  This film adds another miss to the list for Swanberg.  This writer loves what he stands for, but hates the underwhelming results.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Z for Zachariah

Playing concurrently in limited theatrical release and on Video On Demand outlets after debuting at January's Sundance Film Festival, "Z for Zachariah" is based on Robert C. O'Brien's 1974 novel of the same name.  Written in the form of a diary during the paranoid peak of the 1970's, the post-apocalyptic novel reverberated with tension and clashes of survival.  Even with a trio of talented actors that turn heads, you would never know such crackle existed from the resulting film that falls flat at every turn.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Before We Go

"Before We Go" premiered in the special presentation undercard section of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and got a second public look at the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival.  It landed on Video on Demand in July and finally gets a chance to shine in a limited theatrical release starting on September 4.  Borrowing way too much from the "Before..." series works of Richard Linklater to be a flattering mild homage or influence, "Before We Go" is a cute, approachable, yet flawed romantic comedy.  The weak chemistry can't match an innate charm to honor its simple premise.

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MOVIE REVIEW: No Escape

"No Escape," the rudderless and violent thriller can't muster a strong political statement to back up what it's selling.  This is a horror film disguised as an expat drama.  To its credit, the action is unpredictable, unnerving, and flies at a white-knuckle pace.  However, its purpose and delivery is senseless and nearly reprehensible.  It lacks the spine to make the proverbial wringer the characters are put through matter in some way, shape, or form outside of exploiting our fears and senses.  "No Escape" undoubtedly has an edge, but it's a raw and misshapen one.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Because of the box office clout of James Bond and Ethan Hunt and plenty of failed imitators in between, "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and its small stature roots already have difficulty standing out as a ripe property for viable franchise possibilities.  It would have to hit on its own unique style to succeed and stand out.  Ritchie's film does exactly that to be an easy and breezy companion to the foreboding likes of the modern spies.  If you feel the spy game has gotten too ominous over the years, slide over to "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and have a good time.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Gift

Movies are the place of fantasy where the realities of normal domestic life can be bent and distorted.  In the genre of thrillers, that quality can swing from peaks like "Rosemary's Baby" and "Fatal Attraction" to the gutter of cheesy TV films on the Lifetime Channel.  Independent of their quality is their suspension of disbelief towards the fictional elements of each film.  Some movies do too much and descend towards ridiculousness from a sharp premise that is supposed to hook us in.  Every now and then, a mystery/thriller hits the right chords to haunt you just enough to both harrowing and still tangible. 

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MOVIE REVIEW: Vacation

To this writer, the success of a remake, reboot, or sequel is contingent upon matching the tone of the original work to the best of its ability.  If a film gets that tone right, it can be a drastic revision full of changes and updates and still feel respectfully aware and in tune with the previous well-remembered greatness the new film is trying to emulate.  That's the taste test that should be put on "Vacation," the new long distance sequel/update of the 1983 National Lampoon comedy classic.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Trainwreck

The amount of love and appreciation you will garner for "Trainwreck" will entirely depend on your taste and tolerance level for its star, Amy Schumer.  The groundbreaking comedienne wrote this screenplay as a fictionalized take on herself.  If you love her brash comedy and clever subversive feminism, "Trainwreck" is a star-making arrival and a triumph as rare female-centered romantic comedy.  If you're not into the crassness and randomness of her act, the film is going to feel like episodic fits and starts within a flawed romantic comedy that feels like pieces from different and better films.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Minions

I watch "Minions" and I don't see anything fresh or fun.  I see a bloated adventure film that steals good ideas from better films because its own originality is tremendously limited.  I hear and see repeated cliches around every corner that are only played for laughs because of mild physical comedy.  I see a movie so annoying that I would punch my own child in the face for wanting to watch it over and over.  I'll be the one that says it.  This film is terrible and we can do better with family entertainment.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Self/less

WARNING: The following picture attached this website's review is an actual image from the film "Self/less" but it may indicate what your own facial expression will look like either live while watching "Self/less" or after seeing the film in its entirety.  The timing and severity of this effect will vary among each audience member, but, make no mistake, this is the end result.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Love and Mercy

Come to "Love and Mercy" for the music but stay for the involving double-barreled saga of creative energy, new-found redemption, and growing companionship.  This film relishes the understated vibe it seeks.  It's not earth-shatteringly profound as a story or a film.  It's not going to jump off the screen or crush your emotions.  However, this film will impress you and gain your respect.  That's better than 90% of the tired biographical films that hit cinemas every year.  Enjoy a winner right here.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Terminator Genisys

As flashy as it is with tremendous and eye-popping special effects, "Terminator: Genisys" has created an extremely convoluted mess of merged timelines and revisionist storytelling that treads all over what made the 1984 original and superior 1991 sequel so great.  This is more of an attempt of retcon than of homage.  Even if you find yourself entertained by the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to his signature franchise, you may be asking, maybe even screaming in outrage, why this revision exercise was even necessary.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Big Game

Bankrolled overseas for just under $10 million, the new film "Big Game," playing concurrently in limited theatrical release and Video On Demand, stars a sizable cast of Hollywood players stealing easy money and cashing quick paychecks.  "Big Game" is a dumpster fire.  It might be so incredibly terrible that it's too bad to ever become a "so-bad-it's-good" guilty pleasure and cult favorite.  This might be beyond the boys at RiffTrax to mock, and that's saying something.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

By tackling the subject of cancer and doing so in the guise of a quirky high school comedy, "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" stands out as proof that a movie can be earnest and humorous at the same time.  It can be understated in one moment and then completely outgoing the next.  It is a film that can feel facetious and yet still be profound.  It takes the modern high school setting that is deliberately riddled with innate tropes, stereotypes, and cliches and masterfully steers around every single one of them to offer you something smart, touching, and, most of all, original.  That is no small feat and something to stand up and celebrate.

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COLUMN: 2015 Late Summer Movie Preview

Boy, I'm just going to come out and say it.  Contrary to prior expectations, there is not much worthwhile left in the 2015 summer movie season.  May and June were loaded and delivered a plethora of hits.  Outside of some noteworthy big hitters, the slates for July and August don't look all that strong.  Here's a complete preview of the final two months and second half of the 2015 summer movie season.  

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MOVIE REVIEW: Dope

The next sure-fire addition to any list of possibly great coming-of-age films is "Dope," the fifth feature film from writer-director Rich Famuyiwa ("Brown Sugar," "The Wood').  "Dope" debuted in dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival and was selected as the prestigious closing film of the Director's Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in France last month.  Those are prominent feathers to have in any film's cap.  Better yet, they are kudos that are more than earned by this film's energetic brilliance.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Inside Out

The prevailing feeling has been that the hallmark extra level of magic and poignancy that used to be Pixar's calling cards have been lost while they milked dollars from lackluster sequels and prequels like "Cars 2" and "Monsters University."  We have missed the visual originality from "Monsters Inc." and "Cars."  We have missed the sense of wonder from "Wall-E" and "Ratatouille."  Most of all, we have sorely missed the strong familial dynamics of the "Up," the "Toy Story" series, and "Finding Nemo."  "Inside Out" is exactly the redemptive return to form that Pixar desperately needed.  The film rivals each of those prior greats in each of those areas.  This is exactly what you loved and were missing while being something truly great that can stand on its own merits.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Jurassic World

Spectacle defines "Jurassic World" perfectly.  Just as the dictionary definition states, the blockbuster is unusual, notable, and entertaining in an eye-catching, dramatic, and very public way.  It is loud and dumb, but, hot damn, it sure is fun.  More discerning tastes will definitely gravitate to the "object of curiosity and contempt" version of the definition and they wouldn't be wrong in doing so.  In the end, the simple definitions seal "Jurassic World" too.  It is an very impressive monster movie and it will indeed attract attention and shock.

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