Wednesday, May 27, 2015

SPY movie review

There are about seven secret agent/spy movies coming out in 2015, so of course, one of them had to surprise us with a different and inspired title.

Spy is another Paul Feig-directed comedy starring Melissa McCarthy. Instead of playing a bridesmaid or a police officer, this time, she's playing a desk-bound agent at the CIA. She gets the opportunity to head out into the field for the first time to take down a terrorist, and spy shenanigans ensue.

Feig is a great director when it comes to comedy and I love how passionate he is about giving his lead roles to women and showcasing all the talented comedic actresses we have; the cast of Bridesmaids, Sandra Bullock in The Heat, and of course, Melissa McCarthy.

McCarthy has had some misses (mostly when her roles aren't anything other than 'fat' and 'obnoxious'), but I feel that Feig really gets how to utilize her, as this is yet another triumph of their collaboration.

This isn't a role you've seen McCarthy do before. She isn't spitting out insults at other characters anymore.  She plays a sweet and harmless-looking woman, who is tossed in this dangerous world of secret agents, and it proves to be pretty hysterical. She's great in the role, the comedic moments really hit, and she actually kicks all sorts of ass.

You can say this film was more of a parody of the spy genre, with the Agent Fine (Jude Law) parodying James Bond and Agent Ford (Jason Statham) parodying every Statham role ever, but really, the film has much more to say than that. Feig makes a strong point that women can sustain the leads in a spy film, as women fill most of the featured roles here and they're all incredible, which makes me love the movie more.

That supporting cast is just excellent. Rose Byrne re-teams with Feig after her amazing work in Bridesmaids and Neighbors and continues to prove how awesome she is, Miranda Hart steals quite  a few scenes herself, and I was completely shocked by what Jason Statham was able to bring to this. He was exceptionally hilarious. I'm convinced this is what his career was building up to, and the payoff was marvelous. 

Unlike the disaster of a comedy that came out a couple weeks ago, Hot Pursuit, the film doesn't take itself too seriously, and offers up moments of levity to remind that they're first and foremost an entertaining comedy. There are a few fun action sequences in there, that are a bit heavy on the slow-mo (like, Zack Snyder-heavy)  but fun nonetheless. The story is rather heartwarming as well.

Spy is a very fun and hilarious comedy that makes you wonder why we don't have more female spy movies, because this is honestly one of the better spy movies in general that has come out in the past couple years.

Friday, May 22, 2015

TOMORROWLAND movie review

In Tomorrowland, Disney controls all movie franchises and thus, the entire world.

Tomorrowland is a Disney film sort-of based off their theme park in Disneyland. The film follows Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), a bright teenage girl who finds out about this wonderful futuristic land called Tomorrowland. She wants to go there and along the way, she meets Frank Walker (George Clooney) and Athena (Raffey Cassidy), people who may or may not help her get there.

Brad Bird is one visionary director that exceeds at creating lively worlds with fun characters for multi-layered stories that manage to be both thought-provoking and emotional. This film is not so far off from that. At its core, there is a lot of Brad Bird. The film has an ensemble of unique characters, who are played splendidly by their respective actors, and who play around in this wonderful world created by Bird. You can really feel Bird's stamp on the world-building, through the many nerdy-fun action sequences and this one beautiful, breath-taking tracking shot. Clearly, the visionary director who brought audiences the Burj Khalifa action sequence in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and the fantastic world of heroes in The Incredibles has not lost his touch.

However, a great cast and Bird's directing is probably the height of the film's positive attributes, because there's a glaring amount of Damon Lindelof influence that really brings the film down.

The film is too convoluted for its own good. They thinly stretched out a rather simple "get from point A to point B" story and the plot and the villain's motivation don't make any sense. The finale unveils the mystery, and reveals a poorly developed villain and stakes. Then just as it starts going, it ends. It felt like the film was cut off at the middle and wrapped up. It's pretty trademark Lindelof poor writing and underdevelopment. 

I get what Bird was going for, and I feel like he was able to deliver an optimistic, hopeful sci-fi flick. The cast is stellar, and Bird still remains one of the more interesting and visionary directors working on blockbusters today. Just maybe you keep Lindelof away from the 190 million dollar blockbuster next time?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

PITCH PERFECT 2 movie review


Pitch Perfect 2  is the sequel to the 2012 surprise hit, Pitch Perfect. The Bellas are back once again, and after a Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) commando fiasco, they have to win an international a capella championship so that their team isn't disbanded.

I was a big fan of the first film. I was really taken by how clever and well-rounded it was. It's a really good musical comedy, so I was definitely excited for the sequel, a little skeptical on Elizabeth Banks directing, but excited nonetheless.

One aspect both of these movies get really right is understanding their characters. The individual character storylines are just as good as the story arc of the whole team and each character's comedic moments really hit the mark, because they understand the character and how to approach each one. Sure, most of them are stereotypes, but they're not lazily thrown-in stereotypes, they're handled playfully with an amount of self-awareness. Thus, characters like Fat Amy, Cynthia-Rose, or even the two back-up singers whose names no one can remember all get great comedic moments.

Beca (Anna Kendrick) and Emily "Legacy" (Hailee Steinfeld) get more of the meat of the story, with Beca looking forward to her future outside of the Bellas and Emily trying to prove herself worthy of being a Bella. Much like the first film, the individual character arcs are well-rounded, and they weave together with the arc of the whole team, culminating nicely in a fun finale.

There a couple of heart-warming moments in the film and the musical numbers are still very entertaining. However, other than a Fat Amy solo, there's no new or differing musical number from the first film, which I feel is part of the overall problem of the film: Elizabeth Banks' directing.

I don't think Banks knows what makes a movie fun. She just throws in some random montages of people dancing at parties, random practices, and girls pillow-fighting, with "fun" party music in the background, and it's just not that fun to watch. It's nowhere close to the fun energy you felt watching freshmen audition for the a capella groups back in the first film. It's pretty B-movie directing that the first film was able to avoid.

Even the finale comes down to a battle between opposing forces, while in the first film, it didn't matter who won anymore. Beca and Jesse get together after Beca sings Don't You Forget About Me and Benji proves his talent to everyone else when he (greatly) performs I Got the Magic in Me. This film's finale is fun and there is a heart-warming moment in there, but it literally doesn't capture the magic of the first film.

While Pitch Perfect 2 doesn't capture the magic of the first film, it still manages to deliver on funny characters, a well-rounded story, and an aca-amusing film.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD movie review

A world gone mad. I love it.

Mad Max: Fury Road is the fourth film of the Mad Max series. The last film, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, came out thirty years ago, and now, director/mastermind George Miller has returned to create a world gone mad. The plot is relatively simple; Furiosa (Charlize Theron) must deliver a tanker to from one point to another, but along the way she encounters Mad Max (Tom Hardy), Nux (Nicholas Hoult), Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), and a lot of out-of-their-mind crazies.

While Mad Max was more of a character study of a man trying to physically and psychologically survive in an insane world, Mad Max: Fury Road is more along the lines of Mad Max: The Road Warrior, the second film of the series, turning in high-octane and beautifully action-packed thrill rides, but it also surprisingly has an emotionally investing narrative.

I don't think I've adored a modern action blockbuster as much as I do Fury Road. The film is action-packed and chaotic (but not all over the place); it's insane. Miller really delivered on the "world gone mad". I mean, there's a war envoy that has drummers and an electric guitar playing psychopath play music for them whilst battling. Oh, and the guitar shoots fire. It's high-octane, adrenaline pumping madness.

It's purposely constructed like that, and you can see Miller's vision and style there. The action sequences are shot beautifully, with eye-popping colors and landscapes. No bleak dystopian future here (I'm looking at you, Insurgent). Miller also constructs the action sequences to serve the story and the characters. The film isn't fun action sequence followed by exposition followed by a bigger action sequence then exposition, etc. Miller ingeniously constructs his action sequences to tell the story and develop his characters.

Hardy takes over Mel Gibson as the titular character Max Rockatansky. He did a great, great job taking over, and he continues to prove himself a badass, capable actor/action star. Hoult really wowed me with his performance as the crazy war boy, Nux. He just disappeared into that character. I was surprisingly really invested in his character too. He only has one or two non-action scenes where he has a full lengthy conversation (the rest are all during action sequences), but they were able to tell a complete and fulfilling character arc, and that really surprised me. Same could be said for Max and Furiosa, which goes back to my earlier point about the action sequences telling the story and getting you invested in the characters.

Mad Max is the titular character, but hands down, Furiosa steals the movie. Theron is amazing in the almost unrecognizable role. In my eyes, she's the hero of this story. Women in general are the heroes of this story. All I'll say is that the film showcases how desperately they're needed in a man's world gone mad.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a visionary, adrenaline pumping, emotionally investing feminist action blockbuster. Thank you, mastermind George Miller. This is one of the best action blockbusters of the last decade.