Amy Schumer joins the comedy ranks of Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig in her debut film “Trainwreck.” Based somewhat on her life, the story begins with an outrageous comic rif/ explanation by grizzled Colin Quinn to his two young daughters of why he is divorcing their mother. That awkward moment leaves Amy convinced monogamy is impossible. We flash forward to Amy as a young woman working for a snarky magazine, drinking to excess and participating in copious amounts of casual sex. Amy insists her partners never stay the night. So imagine her surprise when she’s assigned to interview a sports doctor played by the very appealing Bill Hader. They hook up and she stays over and now must deal with the confusion the possibility of relationship causes her. The writing in “Trainwreck” (Schumer wrote the script) is as satisfying and hilarious as movies comedies get. I put it alongside “Bridesmaids” and “The 40 Year old Virgin.” Both are Judd Apatow projects and he directs “Trainwreck” and most certainly influenced the final product. “Bridesmaids” made Melissa McCarthy a star and “Virgin” launched Steve Carroll’s career. “Trainwreck” gives some wonderful moments to a great cast including Tilda Swinton as the world’s harshest editor, Bree Larson as Amy’s more settled little sister, and LeBron James as Hader’s best friend. LeBron plays an exaggerated version of himself and steals almost every scene. The dialog marches right up to sentimentality and then pops a zinger so good you almost miss the next one. I can’t wait to see where Amy Schumer’s career takes her. Does it deliver what it promises? Relationship comedy. Is it entertaining? Delightful in a very “R” rated way. Is it worth the price of admission? Absolutely except for the non “R” crowd.
“Ant-Man” proves once again that the Marvel movie machine knows what they’re doing. The film follows a proven formula. Paul Rudd plays a down on his luck Robin Hood thief who lands in jail and loses his wife and daughter. Recruited by super scientist Michael Douglas, Rudd fits into a special suit in which he can shrink to the size of an art or burst back into human form. Several fight scenes include Rudd shrinking and unshrinking. The suit also lets him communicate with ants whom we learn have many skillful traits–they fly, they work collectively, they sting when necessary. Evangeline Lilly adds a love interest as Douglas’ daughter. Character actor Corey Stoll — one of those guys you see and think “who is that guy?” — makes a nice foil as Yellowjacket. Michael Pena adds great humor as an over talkative fellow burglar working with Rudd. The plot boils down to saving the world and impressing Rudd’s ex-wife and daughter. “An-Man” delivers a better than expected movie thanks to Paul Rudd who makes this fellow quite likeable. Does it deliver what it promises? Another character for the Marvel stable. Is it entertaining? Easy to watch although about twenty minutes too long. Is it worth the price of admission? For Marvel fans complete with two teaser scenes after the end credits.
I really want to like the kind of science fiction Hollywood churns out these days but give me a break. “Self/Less” begins with the great Ben Kingsley as a mega wealthy developer who discovers a very expensive process which will give him a new body and a new lease on life. Plus the process has the added bonus of giving Kingsley — Ryan Reynolds face and bod. Starting his new life as a young wealthy retiree in New Orleans Reynolds enjoys his new lease on life — a lease dependent on a supply of little red pills that keep his brain from turning to mush. But, oh those flashbacks from another life. Soon Reynolds investigates and the rest of the movie turns into one long unimaginative chase. “Self/Less” runs almost two hours and loses its spark during the first thirty minutes. Does it deliver what it promises? Sci fi tale of immortality gone sour. Is it entertaining? Slow and predictable. Is it worth the price of admission? Not even for free.
“Dope” begins with the definitions which set you up for a hilarious coming of age in the ‘hood comedy. There’s dope that people take, and dope as the name for the less than smart, and dope as slang for those who really get it. Shamik Moore plays a high school nerd trying to get through his days without getting shot or getting his shoes taken. One night on a detour home he catches the eye of the neighborhood drug dealers and thanks to a pretty girl and a comedy of errors winds up with a back pack full of drugs which interfere with his plans to makes his way to Harvard. “Dope” showcases current music, slang, sly comedy about white and black worlds and gives you a cast of characters to love. I think “Dope” will be remembered as a great reflection of 2015. Does it deliver what it promises? Fun and funny. Is it entertaining? A delight. Is it worth the price of admission? This is one of the movies you need to see this year.
Arnold said he’d be back but this is getting ridiculous. “Terminator Genisys” reboots the terminator story this time with an aging Arnold Schwarznegger making several stops back in time to save Sarah Conner — who appears this time in the very appealing Emilia Clark. If you remember the original you know that Linda Hamilton was living a dull life when suddenly this big hunk came back from the future to kill her thus preventing her from giving birth to John Conner who would lead the revolution against the machines that take over and nuke the world. Jason Clark plays the grown up John with the kind of swagger usually seen in your average high school bully. Jail Courtney plays Kyle Reese who fathers the child who leads the revolution. I got confused in the second movie when they made Arnold’s autobot a good guy. This time they stop in parallel universes visit several different years and leave enough holes in the script to drive a truck through. Good guys become bad guys and bad guys become good guys and the fighting goes on forever. “Terminator Genisys” is long and loud and confusing and no match for the dinos in “Jurassic World.” How about next time you don’t come back. Does it deliver what it promises? Confusing terminator redux. Is it entertaining? Long and confusing. Is it worth the price of admission? A resounding no.
The original “Ted” is a tough act to follow. “Ted 2″ tries but doesn’t quite succeed. In case you missed it Ted is a trash talking teddy bear who grows up with Mark Wahlberg after Mark’s wish that his bear become real is fulfilled. The two friends smoke weed, drink beer and chase girls together. As the sequel opens Ted has married his grocery store checker girlfriend and Wahlberg has divorced Mila Kunis I guess because she didn’t want to appear in the sequel. The opening features a wedding and a musical number worthy of Busby Berkeley in his prime. Ted marries Tami-Lynn and after a year of fighting they decide to try for a child. Since the Teddy bear can’t reproduce they turn to adoption. This brings Ted to court to prove he’s a person. “Ted 2″ starts with a series of outrageous scream out loud funny gags including a visit to Tom Brady. But soon the movie runs out of gags. The big conclusion is satisfying but might have been great if they cut thirty minutes or so leading up to it. It’s hard to recreate the shock and delight of the first movie. The very funny Seth MacFarlane came up with the original idea and brings life to the sequel as the voice of Ted. MacFarlane’s parody of “Blazing Saddles” flopped last summer. I’ll be interested to see what he does next. Does it deliver what it promises? More adventures of the trash talking bear. Is it entertaining? Funny but runs too long. Is it worth the price of admission? Nah.
When Pixar makes a movie, fans should take notice. “Inside Out” starts with a creative idea — showing the emotional life of a child — and gives it their best twist. We meet the emotions Joy – Sadness – Fear – Disgust – and Anger. In Pixar’s world the emotions operate in a tower where they operate a console of feelings and actions. The story follows a girl named Riley whose world turns upside down when her parents leave Minnesota for San Francisco. At the age of 11 everything Riley knows and loves gets turned inside out. Her emotions run so wild that Joy and Sadness get pulled out of master control. In the tradition of great childhood story telling they must find their way home and come to an understanding of each other. You’ll want to stay and read the credits to identify the voices in the story. My favorite belonged to Lewis Black as – what else? – Anger. Occasionally “Inside Out” gets a little frenetic but the pay off is worth the time. I came out with a tear in my eye and a laugh stuck in my throat and a head full of my own childhood memories. Does it deliver what it promises? Pixar comedy done well. Is it entertaining? Works on a child’s level as well as on an adult level. Is it worth the price of admission? Another winner in a summer of good movies.
A forced friendship with a girl dying of leukemia turns into an unsentimental comedy and coming of age event in “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” Starring mostly unknown actors, Thomas Mann hits just the right note as the teen required to befriend Olivia Cooke. The boy and his best friend RJ Cyler love movies and spend their days remaking classics as comic rifs such as “A Sockwork Orange.” Adults include the always brusk Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, and Molly Shannon in an especially strong role as the dying girl’s mother. “Me and Earl” finds unusual laughter while avoiding cheap sentiment. Does it deliver what it promises? Unusual comedy. Is it entertaining? Suprisingly good. Is it worth the price of admission? One of the summer’s best.
Alicia Vikander got a lot of attention this spring in “Ex-Machina”—now she shows her acting chops in “Testament of Youth” based on the deeply respected World War One memoir of pacifist Vera Brittain. The story begins as she pins her hopes on getting into Oxford – a daunting task in pre-feminist England. Once enrolled, she falls in love with her brother’s friend but war begins, and her brother and her boyfriend leave for France. She leaves Oxford to work as a nurse on the front. ”Testament of Youth” takes it’s time to great effect pausing for moments beautiful and horrific. There are occasional moments when the film gets a little too arty for its own good. Vikander proves herself one of the best actresses in film today. Does it deliver what it promises? World War One epic. Is it entertaining? Beautifully crafted. Is it worth the price of admission. They don’t make movies like this anymore.
Jurassic World reboots the Jurassic Park franchise with surprisingly good results. Once again science goes wrong with a little help from money hungry stockholders and a black ops proposal headed by the intense Vincent D’Onofrio. Chris Pratt gets the he man hero role as a dino trainer with a way with young raptors. Dallas Bryce Howard begins in her usual uptight alpha woman role but comes around to Pratt’s charms once the dino get on the run. In this episode BD Wong returns as the scientist able to clone the creatures. Demands for buzz at the new Jurassic World park push him to breed a super dino with some unanticipated abilities. Sure enough the giant gets out of his escape proof cage and starts killing just for the fun of it. Two cute kids – played by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins – come to visit their marketing genius Auntie played by Dallas Bruce Howard and wind up getting on the super dino’s radar. Chris Pratt saves the day as special effects take over with great effect. The earth moves and the theater rattles as we head toward a conclusion right out of Darwin. This reboot requires no prior knowledge, it delivers fabulous special effects and a serviceable story. It’s awfully violent even for a PG-13. Your kids won’t care. Does it deliver what it promises? Yes but a little long. Is it entertaining? Yes but a little long and a lot violent. Is it worth the price of admission? I think it’s a blockbuster.