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Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday's Top 5... My Favorite Movies of Summer 2015

#5: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

It was a close call between Rogue Nation and Jurassic World as I whittled the long list down to the final list, but ultimately I've got to give Tom Cruise's big summer hit the slightest of edges over Chris Pratt's. Jurassic may have had dinosaurs, but it also had one of the dumbest endings I've ever seen in a movie I otherwise really liked, whereas Rogue Nation is a film I thought was consistently awesome from beginning to end, and I sincerely hope that Rebecca Ferguson returns for the next M:I installment.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Review: Ex Machina (2015)

* * * 1/2

Director: Alex Garland
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac

Word of advice: if an eccentric (and possibly insane) billionaire invites you to spend a week at his isolated, Bond villain style lair, even under the guise of it being the prize in a contest, don't go. Just don't. Nothing good will happen there. Especially if there are robots involved. Someone is going to die, there's no way around it. Best case scenario, you spend a week on an estate so vast that it takes over two hours to travel the length of it by helicopter, yet feels as claustrophobic as a prison cell. It makes for a bad vacation - but a pretty solid science fiction psychological thriller in the hands of writer/director Alex Garland.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Review: 30 Minutes or Less (2011)

* 1/2

Director: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson

There are plenty of movies that leave you wondering how they ever got made, they're so ill-conceived and poorly rendered. Somewhat less common are movies that leave you wondering why they got made, as everyone in it seems so disengaged from and disinterested in the material. I mean, I can speculate as to why each of the principal actors showed up for this - Jesse Eisenberg to reteam with his Zombieland director Ruben Fleisher, Aziz Ansari because it's not like Hollywood makes a ton of roles available to actors of color, Danny McBride because the character he plays is basically the "Danny McBride character" so why not?, and Nick Swardson because the character he plays here is marginally less grotesque than the ones he usually gets to play in Happy Madison productions so this must have been a nice change of pace - but that still doesn't explain why anyone paid to make it happen. Even if 30 Minutes of Less didn't have strong similarities to a real life incident that ended tragically, this would be an oddly joyless comedy, and one that doesn't even seem to know what its actual story is, let alone what tone it ought to be aiming for.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Summer Not-Busters: Pacific Rim (2013)

Director: Guillermo del Torro
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba
Domestic Gross: $101,802,906

Pacific Rim is a curious case among summer not-busters. With a domestic gross of $101 million, it didn't make an insignificant amount of money, but it also didn't come anywhere near its $190 million production budget. Under normal circumstances, it would be written off as a bomb and rarely spoken of again except as a cautionary tale. It certainly wouldn't have earned the greenlight for a sequel, and yet thanks to Pacific Rim's success internationally (to the tune of $309 million), a sequel is indeed coming in 2017. Pacific Rim is not the first movie to do disappointing business domestically and big business overseas, but it's extremely rare that a film that couldn't find an audience in North America, even if it found one elsewhere, would get a sequel. It's perhaps a sign of the international box office supplanting the domestic in importance from Hollywood's point of view, or maybe it's just Warner Bros.' way of giving the domestic audience a second chance to get on board with this awesome spectacle. Either way, this is a film that both is and isn't a box office bomb, which is sort of fascinating in and of itself.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

* * *

Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander

It's a shame that The Man from U.N.C.L.E. seems destined for the summer movie season's remainder bin. While it is, at best, the third best spy movie of the summer of 2015, it's the sort of inconsequential, fluffy fun that can really hit the spot during the summer season, particularly this close to the end. It's a film that coasts on style and on charisma, but what is the summer movie season without a few entries like that? U.N.C.L.E. isn't going to knock your socks off and you'll probably have forgotten all about it by the time the holiday movie season rolls around (which doesn't bode well for the studio's obvious hope to turn this into a multi-film franchise), but it's plenty of fun while you're experiencing it.