Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2

"Pitch Perfect 2" (CCK: 6.2/10; AJ: 6.3/10; IMDB: 7.2; Rotten Tomatoes: 66%)

Premise: College a cappella group sets out to win the World a cappella championship to save the group from being disbanded after an embarrassing, highly-public performance snafu.

CCKReview:  Saw this with my friend Andrea, hence the addition of an AJ score and the lack of an RMM score this time.  I did not like the original "Pitch Perfect".  I should have.  I love Anna Kendrick.  I love bad pop music.  I like a cappella music.  But in the first movie I found some of the dialog and scenarios aggressively unpleasant for no apparent reason.  PP2 suffers from less of this off-key humor, possibly because there seem to be fewer scenes of the Elizabeth Banks/John Michael Higgins announcer characters, but why have any of the offhanded misogyny, racism or homophobia at all? There are movies where they could toss barbs out in the dialog and possibly pull it off because it's being done as obvious satire, but nothing else is subtle about this movie so these jokes fall flat for me here.   I did like the musical numbers and Anna Kendrick manages to be charming and hilarious throughout.  If you want to see a much better Anna Kendrick musical though I would recommend "Camp". Or if you want to see more music from Hailee Steinfeld, check out last year's "Begin Again".

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Hot Pursuit

"Hot Pursuit" (CCK: 5.2/10; RMM: 5.4/10; IMDB: 4.7; Rotten Tomatoes: 6%)

Premise: Uptight cop (Reese Witherspoon) discovers a web of corruption and an unexpected new BFF (Sofia Vergara) when assigned to protective duty for a Columbian couple testifying against a drug kingpin.

CCKReview:  I feel like I've seen this movie before, more then once actually, and I don't remember it sucking this bad.  Having said that, I do feel like part of the problem with this movie is that it had two fun lead actors who raised expectations for the film's potential and then failed to deliver, dismally.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

"Mad Max: Fury Road" (CCK: 8.2/10; RMM: 6.8/10; IMDB: 8.9; Rotten Tomatoes: 98%)

Premise: Woman tries to liberate sex slaves from their fate in a post-apocolyptic society.  She's helped by two dudes.

CCK Review:  Gorgeous.  Ugly.  Anxiety Producing.  Violent.  A bit repetitive in some of the many, many chase scenes, but I wasn't bothered by that (Ray was).  So many cool women.  Young, old, one-armed.  The sex slaves are super model gorgeous (probably because they're all played, WONDERFULLY might I add, by model/actors) and the person trying to save them is Charlize Theron, so it's not like beauty standards have totally been subverted, but overall this felt delightfully different in terms of the position and status of the female characters.  Tom Hardy as Mad Max is great.  He's got limited dialog, but what he's got makes an impact and he spends a good fifth of the movie behind a face mask because, Bane.  Nicholas Hoult, as a young, eager to succeed (but doomed to failure until he isn't) "Dead Boy", is once again, perfect in this role.  I always expect him to not be as good as the last time I saw him, but he has not disappointed me yet.  I will definitely need to see this again.  Bonus points for the insane rolling stereo vehicle which cracked me up every time.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Wild Tales

"Wild Tales" (CCK: 8.1/10; IMDB: 8.2; Rotten Tomatoes: 95%)

Premise: Six seperate stories linked by revenge or rage or being insanely, awesomely disturbing?  In Spanish with subtitles.

CCK Review: My favorite movie of the year so far.  So unexpected and shocking and, true to the title, wild.  Links between the stories are purely thematic, and the quality varies somewhat between the tales, but I found likeable/interesting things about each one.  Does contain lots of violence, but really, really personal violence which somehow seems less objectionable.  Or more objectionable.  I'm not sure.

Woman in Gold

"Woman in Gold"(CCK: 7.3/10, RMM: 7.6/10; IMDB: 7.6; Rotten Tomatoes: 53%)

Premise:  True story of Maria Altman's fight to have ownership of Klimt artworks stolen from her family by the Nazis returned to her by the Austrian government.

CCK Review:  Amazing story that has too many interesting elements resulting in only brief sketches of some of the characters and plot points.  Helen Mirren as Maria Altman is predictably watchable and wonderful, while Ryan Reynolds seems out of his depths here as the lawyer, Randol Schoenberg (who saw the case through to its succesful completion.)  The actors who play Maria Altman's family in flashbacks are so good you long to see more of them and find out more of the story behind the "Woman in Gold" herself, Adele Bloch-Bauer.  Made me cry at least twice.

Painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt.  Adele Bloch-Bauer was the aunt of Maria Altman.

The D Train

"The D Train" (CCK: 7.4/10, RMM: 6.7/10; IMDB: 6.1; Rotten Tomatoes: 48%)
Starring: Jack Black, James Marsden, Kathryn Hahn

Premise:  Not-quite likeable everyman, Daniel Landsman (Jack Black), is part of his 20 year highschool reunion planning committee.  He's desperate to be in charge, to be liked, to be included and is failing miserably when he comes up with a plan to be a hero by luring "celebrity" alumni, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden) to the reunion.

CCK Review:  I had already spoiled myself for the big twist of this movie ahead of time, because I cannot possibly survive not knowing, but I will not spoil you, currently gentle reader, possibly gentle viewer.  You can find the details on line if you are truly determined.  I think you would have more fun if you knew relatively little going into it.  However, even knowing what I knew about the movie, I still found myself rather shocked by some of the turns that Daniel Landsman's character takes on his way to seeking popularity.  The D Train goes off the rails, which made the movie better then what I was expecting in some ways, but nigh on impossible to believe in others.  If you have a low Jack Black threshold be warned, he is at his most spongy and slimey in this role, more toad than panda bear, but that did seem necessary to explain why he is so ignored/disliked by those around him.  It doesn't explain why Kathryn Hahn as his wife, Stacey Landsman, would be so actively in love/rooting for him or why his boss would have such implicit faith in him.  Very brief glimpses of Dan as a better man are going to have to be sufficient proof that he has earned their love.  James Marsden as the improbably named Oliver Lawless does an excellent job of being an awful but undeniably seductive character.  The movie gains points from me for defying expectations even if it doesn't always defy them very believably.