Saturday, August 22, 2015

Quick Takes from Summer 2015

Yeah, it hasn't been an especially compelling summer movie season from where I'm standing, so I can count on two hands the total number of 2015 releases I've seen as of this posting.

As usual, I'll inevitably catch up with various titles later on, and when I do I'll often add some brief thoughts in this space. For now I'll start with my impressions of Trainwreck and Ricki and the Flash (female-centred movies are not common enough and they need your admission dollars!) with more to come...

While it can't sustain its comic energy (Apatow movies are often overlong), this debut star vehicle for Amy Schumer is riotous at the best of times; An odd blend of Allen-esque character study, adorkable rom-com and subversive self-parody thereof, peppered with moments that range from the sentimental to the absurd (some of which, frankly, should have been excised -- I'm looking at you, Marv Albert). It lands plenty of laughs, but its inability to settle on the movie it's trying to be can be maddening. WWE wrestler John Cena steals the show, albeit in a bit part that lasts no longer than the first half-hour.
**1/2 out of ****

Rick and the Flash
The movie is better than its reviews have been. Perhaps expectations were too high given the talent involved (Jonathan Demme, Diablo Cody, Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline have six Oscars between them!). But while this modest dramedy about an aging rocker trying to reconnect with the life she abandoned for her music is ragged and rough around the edges, it is also warm and generous and the music -- all of which were performed live for the camera by Streep and her Flash band mates -- is a treat. Cody's screenplay willfully evades the bittersweetness of Juno and the outright prickliness of Young Adult, instead strumming a power chord of straight schmaltz which some might gag on, but it's refreshing to see a story in which the conflict simply mellows as it progresses. Streep delivers her earthiest, least affected performance in years.
*** out of ****

The Last Five Years
Relying almost entirely on Jason Robert Brown's brilliant source material, this is a very good musical. But as interpreted somewhat unimaginatively by Richard LaGravenense -- often with long, uninterupted handheld shots and little to visually hold our attention -- it's not a very good musical film. Of course, the chance to listen to Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan virtually sing through a movie from start to finish is enticing enough for musical lovers, and it excels as a narrative album. The relatively modest piano-on-strings orchestrations are a nice throwback to its off-Broadway roots.
**1/2 out of ****

Pitch Perfect 2
There's no mistaking this for a good movie. It's silly and redundant (effectively echoing its predecessor beat for beat) with barely enough plot to sustain a 20-minute webisode. That said, even bad movies can be enjoyable if you're in the right mood. Pitch perfect tonic for the weekend lazies.
** out of ****


  1. That's so weird to say... a professional wrestler is the best part of a movie.

  2. I reccommend you check out Ant-Man. It's better than I thought it was going to be. It's better than Minions at the very least.