Wednesday, July 1, 2015
As a lifelong resident of the greater Philadelphia region, the Rocky franchise has always been embedded in my culture. In 2015 the iconic series will receive a face-lift from budding filmmaker, Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), with the latest inclusion, Creed. Michael B. Jordan stars as Adonis Creed, the son of fallen former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed. And as the youngster gets his boxing career off the ground, he turns to Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to help train and take him to the next level. The Rocky franchise has been down for the count over the last couple decades, but perhaps the November release, Creed, can rejuvenate the series.
Another debut trailer was recently unveiled, this time it's for Billy Ray's crime-thriller, Secret in Their Eyes. Boasting an all-star cast including Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), the film follows a group of tight-knit FBI investigators and a District Attorney who experience inner turmoil after one of their children are murdered. In the vein of Law Abiding Citizen, the killer walks free and the mother of the victim seeks vengeance on the perpetrator while the rest of the team tries to interject and bring him down lawfully. Arriving in theaters in October, check out the first look into Secret in Their Eyes.
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Film: Magic Mike XXL
Starring: Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher) and Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike)
Director: Gregory Jacobs (Wind Chill)
U.S. Release: July 1st, 2015 (Rated R)
Runtime: 115 minutes
It's hard to believe, but it's been three years since critics fawned over filmmaker Steven Soderbergh's "male entertainer" drama, Magic Mike. While the movie sparked the rejuvenation of Matthew McConaughey's career, one that ultimately landed him in Oscar history after his Best Actor win for Dallas Buyers Club, I was one of the rare voices that recommended audiences to look elsewhere. However, with a continuation of Magic Mike XXL that's sure to bring the ladies to movie theaters in massive numbers, I must admit that this second go-around is a more fun and engaging adventure than the original.
The story picks up in real time and Mike's (Channing Tatum) been out of the stripping game for a trio of years, working hard to keep up with production and costs at his custom furniture company. But after a shocking voicemail puts him back in touch with some "Kings of Tampa" friends from his old job, he learns that the remaining guys plan to take their talents to the Myrtle Beach strippers convention for one last money-raining blowout. Torn between whether or not to join them on the trip, Mike decides he can't say "no" to a final adventure with his boys.
First things first, I need to give credit where credit it fully due. As someone who religiously bashed Channing Tatum throughout the early stages of his career, it's about time that I vocalize my new-found respect for him as an actor. Tatum stood toe-to-toe with the Oscar nominated performances of both Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo in last year's Foxcatcher, and he backs it up with a funny and heartwarming reprise in Magic Mike XXL. The sequel succeeds as a wild bachelor-style road trip where hysterical bro-mance banter paves the way for countless unforgettable onscreen moments. Yes, at the end of the day Magic Mike XXL targets lustful female moviegoers, but there are enough hilarious "boys will be boys" moments to keep the after-thought boyfriends and husbands content with the selection as well.
Despite the film's modest ceiling, there aren't many hindrances to Magic Mike XXL's overall quality. Clocking in at a lofty 115 minutes of screen time, the movie is paced surprisingly well. Although there's a noticeable lull in the feature's mid-section that's held together by a cameo from former NFL Hall of Famer, Michael Strahan, like you've never seen him before, it becomes a distant memory once the story picks back up. Outside of that tiny blemish, my only other miscue would be that Magic Mike XXL provides a somewhat anti-climactic finale. However, these shortcomings are merely bumps in the road for an otherwise effective film.
The franchise's first installment harped on a more dramatic angle while this new inclusion allows the guys to let loose. As a result, we're given a highly entertaining and laugh out loud experience. Channing Tatum's largely developed acting skills lead a collection of odd-ball characters that audiences of all genders will connect with automatically. Magic Mike XXL isn't anything groundbreaking, but it embraces its absurdity and delivers all the necessary ingredients of a fun-filled summer-time title.
Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4
Sunday, June 28, 2015
Considering Tom Hardy is remarkable in just about every role he plays, who wouldn't be excited for him in a dual part playing notorious twin-brother gangsters in Brian Helgeland's Legend. Ronald and Reginald Kray (Hardy) were infamous identical twins that terrorized the streets of London during the 1950s and 1960s while trying to turn the city into the Las Vegas of the east. Given Helgeland's Oscar-winning credentials as screenwriter of L.A. Confidential and Tom Hardy's immaculate track record as a performer, there's plenty to be excited about with Legend.
Another new trailer that recently dropped is for Leslye Headland's romantic comedy, Sleeping with Other People. Jason Sudekis and Alison Brie star as a friendly womanizer and a chronic cheater who cross paths at a Sex Addicts meeting years after they knew each other, But this time around, their platonic friendship helps overcome their habitual sexual deviancy until a mutual attraction blossoms. Sleeping with Other People appears to have the makings of a solid and hearty romantic comedy, so check out the trailer for this September release.
Saturday, June 27, 2015
Film: Ted 2
Starring: Mark Wahlberg (Lone Survivors) and Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables)
Director: Seth MacFarlane (Ted)
U.S. Release: June 26th, 2015 (Rated R)
Runtime: 115 minutes
Animation guru, Seth MacFarlane, proved once and for all with his 2012 comedy hit, Ted, that he was capable of transitioning to a big screen director. And while his sophomore effort, A Million Ways to Die in the West, was an absolute disappointment, MacFarland attempts to get back to his comfort zone with the highly anticipated sequel, Ted 2. Regrettably, though, MacFarlane will have to continue trying to top his original work.
A few years have passed and John (Mark Wahlberg) has divorced while Ted's ties the knot with his grocery store check-out co-worker, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). With a shaky marriage brewing between the Teddy bear and his foul-mouthed wife, they decide that having a child is the only way to reconcile. However, in order to adopt a child (due to Tami-Lynn's drug-destroyed ovaries), Ted must prove that he's a person in a court of law. So they enlist the help of a novice trial lawyer named Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) and take on the almighty powers that be.
Ted 2's brightest moments occur when Seth MacFarlane sticks to his mantra of one-liners and merciless zingers regarding pop culture icons. The writer-director is massively effective when it comes to constructing these kinds of jokes. However, MacFarlane struggles to develop a cohesive and sensible story to help put his comedic prowess on display. He completely misses by continuing his blind loyalty to actor Giovanni Ribisi. After Ribisi's character nearly spoiled the franchise's first installment, there is absolutely no need to revive "Donny" in this sequel. While the blame deserves to land solely on MacFarlane's shoulders, as Ribisi has proven that he's a capable actor, Ted 2 suffers from an unforgivable second act that's plagued by unnecessary subplots and an over-extended script that pushes the comedy far past its desirable limits.
The third feature from Seth MacFarlane isn't all doom and gloom, however. Just like the original, Mark Wahlberg gives a fully committed performance once again and demonstrates his natural ability for eliciting laughs. Yet, despite Wahlberg's fine work in the film, trading Mila Kunis for Amanda Seyfriend is ultimately a bit of a loss. While Seyfriend is merely serviceable, Ted 2 uses a long list of cameos from Liam Neeson, Jay Leno and Tom Brady to keep the jokes fresh. But in the end, all of these shining bright spots become inevitably overshadowed by a flimsy story that provides a brittle foundation for the comedy.
Of course Ted 2 will make you laugh, much like anything MacFarlane has his hand in. Nevertheless, you're honestly better off revisiting the first film or soaking in some classic Family Guy episodes. This latest effort from Seth MacFarlane is by no means a complete bombshell, but it's definitely a long-winded affair that offers very little more than a solid barrage of first-half laughs and a steady stream of second-half yawns.
Stars: 2 stars out of 4
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Comedian Amy Schumer has taken Hollywood by storm in anticipation of her big screen debut in Judd Apatow's summer comedy, Trainwreck. Schumer stars as a writer for a men's magazine that refuses to settle down with a man. Yet, once she experiences an intimate evening with a sports surgeon (Bill Hader) who also happens to be the subject of her next article, she tries to fight the urge to become monogamous. As expected with any Judd Apatow film, Trainwreck's running time hovers around the two-hour mark and all we can hope is that the laughs keep coming to help ease the mounting minutes. Trainwreck arrives in theaters everywhere on July 17th.
While Zach Galifianakis' comedy shtick has certainly grown tiresome over the passing years, the prospect of his latest based on a true story crime-comedy, Masterminds, has me intrigued. The film tells the story of David Ghantt (Galifianakis), a dim-witted driver of an armored car who breaks from his monotonous lifestyle and pulls off the largest heist in American history with the aid of his flirtatious co-worker, Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig), and the not-so criminal mastermind, Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson). Masterminds only boasts a PG-13 rating, which gives me a bit of skepticism for the August 19th release.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
By now we've all seen the typical coming-of-age story where a teenager discovers his voice and, in all honesty, many of them never set themselves apart from the herd. Yet, Rick Famuyiwa's unique vision, Dope, is anything but typical. Using a rare blend of originality and character development, the former Sundance selection provides a singular voice in an often derivative-filled genre.
Set in the rough streets of Inglewood, California, Dope follows a geeky high school senior named Malcolm (played by Shameik Moore) who dreams of one day attending Harvard. But when Malcolm finds himself haphazardly caught up in a drug selling operation that he can't escape, he looks to his fellow nerd friends, Diggy and Jib, to help rid him of his product and return to the straight and narrow path. Unfortunately, many obstacles lie in his way that force Malcolm to recognize that the world isn't always black and white.
Dope uses the rare vantage point of a brainy African American teen growing up in the slums of California, possessing absolutely zero street-smarts, to bring a compassionate and effective story of self discovery to light. As both director and writer of this fine script, Rick Famuyiwa excels in both departments. His sometimes unrealistic and far-fetched developments in the plot become overshadowed by phenomenal performances from his trio of intellectual goofballs. Shameik Moore shines in a breakout role, while The Grand Budapest Hotel's Tony Revolori and Kiersey Clemons bring a completeness to the group with their noteworthy co-starring work.
Stars: 3 stars out of 4
If you're adventurous enough to seek out Patrick Brice's uproarious and sometimes uncomfortable indie comedy, The Overnight, then brace yourself for impact because it's one hell of an unforeseen experience. Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling and Jason Schwartzman throw everything on the line in this sexually-infused story of two romantically struggling couples.
A couple weeks after Alex and Emily (Scott and Schilling) move to Los Angeles with their son RJ, they quickly meet friends at the local park. And what they anticipate as a nice and painless dinner party together with the other family, hastily evolves into a free for all that forces the couple decide just how far their willing to take this evening with their hosts (Schwartzman and Judith Godreche).
Despite the indie comedy's fond fascination with the male reproductive organ, so much so that it actually becomes a subplot to the feature, The Overnight uses all of its awkwardness to tell an otherwise interesting story of our own insecurities and deficiencies communicating with the ones we love. Sometimes our likes and dislikes can be extremely difficult to verbalize, especially when it comes to sex. Brice relentlessly forces the audience to hurdle that obstacle of discomfort alongside his genuine set of characters and, by the film's conclusion, it's a breath of fresh air for everyone involved.
Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4