Review in a Flash: Tomorrowland

TOMORROWLAND one sheetSometimes I’m too lazy for a full-out piece. Sometimes everything I’ve got to say about a film can be summarized in a sentence or two. Sometimes it’s both.  So herewith, a quick-n-dirty on Tomorrowland!

Nutshell: Tomorrowland is an interesting film.  But not an engaging one.  With actors like Clooney and Laurie, and the whole of the Mouse House behind it, I expected more than a bland, yet morally heavyhanded, story.  Grade: C

Before:  I’m not sure about this film.  The trailer looks beautiful, but it’s Disney; of course it’s gonna be gorgeous.  However, the story looks like it’s nothing more than “touch a pin, see George Clooney.”  Though I’m sure there are a lot of gals who’d love that, I’ma need more.  But that’s me I guess; ticked off if I don’t get enough about the film from a trailer, ticked off if they show to much.  I’m an enigma wrapped in disgruntlement.  Sprinkled with stardust and licorice.

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Baltimore Screening Pass-palooza: San Andreas!

san andreas onesheetC’mon, admit it.  You’re secretly glad you live on the East Coast, because there’s never been a threat of our state crumbling apart and falling into the ocean.  (Of course we’re all in it together with this pollen tsunami though…)

As we sit back in our fantasy of natural disaster superiority, how about enjoying a little CGI shakedown?  Because I’ve got passes for the Baltimore area screening of San Andreas!  Can you smell what the Rock is saving in this film?  ‘Cause here’s a synopsis:

After the infamous San Andreas Fault finally gives, triggering a magnitude 9 earthquake in California, a search and rescue helicopter pilot (Dwayne Johnson) and his estranged wife make their way together from Los Angeles to San Francisco to save their only daughter. But their treacherous journey north is only the beginning.  And when they think the worst may be over…it’s just getting started.

Boom!  In more ways than one.  Gotta admit I’m stoked for this one; y’all know I’m a huge fan of quality destruction ala quality CGI.  And with a story about a megathrust earthquake, this film looks like it’s got both.  Read on for passes!

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Baltimore Screening Pass-palooza: Spy!

SpyDo you like your popcorn shaken, not stirred?  Is your shoe actually a phone?  Then you’re just the kinda fan that’s ready for today’s giveaway; screening passes for Spy!  Here’s the synopsis, should you choose to read it…

Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is an unassuming, deskbound CIA analyst, and the unsung hero behind the Agency’s most dangerous missions. But when her partner (Jude Law) falls off the grid and another top agent (Jason Statham) is compromised, she volunteers to go deep undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent a global disaster.

Gotta love an “Everyman” storyline, amirite?  Of course I am.  Read on for how to score a pass for you and your own Ms. Moneypenny…

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5 Stupid Questions for: Wasted

wasted-3I love zombie movies. I love silly jokes. And who doesn’t love Grandma’s Boy? So when I heard about a short film (looking to become a longer one) that rolled up all three and lit ’em up, I had to talk to creators Satheesan Nagenthiram, Steve Kasan and Lance Fernandes.  And ask them really stupid questions. Because you could find out all about their film Wasted at their various social media sites. But will you find out what they think about pandas over there?  No.  No, you won’t.  But you will  here.

I saw the short, and liked the mashup of survival cheet-sheet story, zombiness and stoner humor.  The gore is pretty sweet, with a cartoonish excess that I’ve always been a fan of. Think a low-budget Shaun of the Dead, but with more survival tips.  And weed.  Definitely more weed.

Though voting is closed, why not head over to their CineCoup page and check out a few of their vids?  Because I’m sure this gang ain’t finished yet.  And someone’s gotta one-up Pot Zombies

Here’s a bit of 411 about the project, straight from the stoners themselves:

Wasted is about a group of friends break away from their mundane routines of regular life and have high adventures when the one event they have been waiting for occurs, the Zombie Apocalypse. A hybrid joint of high zombie action, comedy, geek references and plain insanity. It is Scott Pilgrim meets Mad Max.
Follow us on Twitter @Wastedtheshow
On Facebook Wastedshow
Also find more videos here http://www.cinecoup.com/wasted
The Skull & Cross Blunts is us.
No work, No rules and No responsibilities, well, you get Wasted.

And herewith, 5 stupid questions. Take it away, fellas!

1) So, what’s up with Aquaman?
If you’re talking about Momoa Aquaman, I personally love it. I like that they changed everything mainly making Aquaman of Samoan/Maori heritage.

2) If you could be any vegetable you wanted to be, what would you be?  Why?
Tomato because Tomatoes can be in everything. And, if a tomato becomes radioactive it will come to life and kill. It would be, dare I say, an Attack of Killer Tomatoes!!

3) Pandas. Discuss.
They know Kung Fu at least that is what the movies and Jack Black tells me.

4) Is Winter really coming?
Yes. In Canada we only have two seasons Construction and Winter. But, I really hope Winter is coming otherwise poor Ned & Rob got beheaded for bullshit.

5) Is it really always 4:20 somewhere?
Yes. Quite true I believe NATO has decreed that somewhere in the world at all times must be obliged and inhaled.

Movie Review: Pitch Perfect 2

PP2 poster is BEST POSTER.

Nutshell: The Barden Bellas are back, and still awesome?  Well, kinda.  Pitch Perfect 2 is a crazy, messy blend of songs, funky cameo appearances and strange subplots that will have you laughing out loud. But those moments can’t cover up a weak screenplay and weaker direction.  Still, it’s able to pull itself together often enough to be an enjoyable, if not perfect, film for fans of the first film, and folks who won’t ask for much. Grade: B-

“What kind of white shit is this?”

Indeed, Cynthia Rose, indeed.  The Barden Bellas, now three-time National Champions, are asked to perform for POTUS’s birthday celebration.  Things do not go as planned (read: “Muffgate”.)  Now humiliated and on the verge of being forever banned, the Bellas have one last shot; the International Championship.  That’s not going to stop Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), a Legacy Bella, from trying to join. However, this is senior year for the Bellas, and at least one of the team has plans to move on after college (read: Beca’s got an internship with a talented music producer.)  And then there’s the competition; a group of absurdly beautiful, completely self-absorbed Teutonic vocalists called Das Sound Machine. The Bellas have their work cut out for them.

Unfortunately, the script isn’t so cut and dry.  In fact Kay Cannon’s screenplay feels like a dream board by a lovesick highschooler with ADD. There are so many subplots and offshoots that the film often loses focus.  Let’s roll-call ’em, shall we?

  • a super-secret acapella “Laser Ninja Dragon League” singoff, hosted by a guy with more dollars than sense. (David Cross)
  • a talented but completely crazy music producer who serves as Beca’s mentor. (Keegan-Michael Key)
  • Emily’s mother Katherine, former Bella and creator of a famous booty shimmer…that we never get to see. (Katey Sagal)
  • Acapella commentators John and Gail, being even more inappropriate than in the first film. (John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks)
  • Fat Amy’s hate-boink Bumper (Adam DeVine), tries to take their relationship to the next level while settling in as a new campus security guard.
  • Former Bella Aubrey (Anna Camp) hosting the Bellas at her team-building retreat.
  • Snoop Lion recording his Christmas album.
  • Benji becomes enamored of Emily and acts like a toddler with a concussion.
  • Oh god I need all the beer.

Storylines, cameos and characters from the first film are thrown at viewers with lightning speed; by the time you recognize who someone is, it’s off to the next thing.  Nothing sticks around long enough to click beyond a joke or two.  (Though Fat Amy’s “We Belong” solo breaks the trend and lingers for a bit too long in proportion to the rest of the speedway of stories.) Halfway through I felt like someone had slipped E into my water bottle.  I knew where I was, I knew I was having a good time, but I didn’t understand a bloody thing that was going on.

Missed opportunities hang onto this film like fruit one day too long on the tree.  Beca and Jesse barely get any screentime as a couple. Fat Amy and Bumper rock,  and Benji and Emily are adorable, but these romances feel like more things that could have been jettisoned/pared down in order to focus on a more cohesive plot.  Where’s Emily/Hailee’s big number, where we get to see her chops in full effect?  On the cutting room floor, apparently.  And while Sagal is trotted out as a former Bella and her first scene feels like we’ll get to see more of her, she’s barely onscreen and we never get to hear her voice (even though the actress has an amazing set of pipes.)

Director Elizabeth Banks may have her heart in the right place, but she’s unable to focus on a coherent storyline and get that story across.  Instead, Pitch Perfect 2 gets lost in wave after wave of new scenes with new people doing new things.  The core Bellas seem to be thrown into the mix just to keep fans on their toes.  By the time the competition comes around, it barely makes a difference.  (Or a ripple in the story; the competition is a series of montages, the obligatory but incredible performance by the Bellas, and then a cut to graduation.)  Pitch Perfect 2 isn’t so much a film as it is a loving tribute to/for fans of the first film.  You liked Pitch Perfect?  Then woohoo — we’ve got more stuff, y’all!

That’s not to say that I didn’t like the film.  In fact, I enjoyed the hell out of it. Why did I have fun during Pitch Perfect 2?  Because it got me to laugh myself sick.  Because I’m a huge fan of the first film, so I could jump right in.  Because I could see where this story was going from early on, and I got the goosebumps anyway.  Because 100% less vomit! But I can’t get past the mess of a script.  Just can’t.

But oh, the songs!  “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy”, “Timber”, “Wrecking Ball”, “Lady Marmalade”, “MMMBop”, “Never Gonna Get It”, and a mashup of “Winter Wonderland” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” that I want on my holiday playlist.  The original song “Flashlight” is primed as the “Cups” of PP2, and it’s got great potential.  It’s tough to capture lightning in a bottle though.  Especially if you just made a wobbly bottle. 

And that’s the main problem with Pitch Perfect 2; it forgets it’s roots, in the hopes of becoming another insta-hit.  If a sequel plays too much to fans of the first film, it’s got to work twice as hard to become it’s own kind of awesome.  Pitch Perfect 2 simply hopes you like the original enough to go for more. That’s not enough.

Max Max: Fury Road delivers dazzling destruction. Say that five times fast.

Mad Max Fury Road onesheetNutshell: Fury Road is a worthy successor to the original films, thanks to a dedicated director, incredible performances and tons of on-screen stuntwork.  Grade: A+

“My name is Max.  My world is fire and blood.”

No, this isn’t a secret Targaryen scion looking to take over the Iron Throne (not that that isn’t always a possibility with GRRM).  It’s Max Rockatansky, former cop and current loner badass.  AKA Mad Max.  Yep, it’s reboot time, and before you roll your eyes and sigh know this; Mad Max: Fury Road is helmed by George Miller, who directed the original trilogy.  And he’s still got a whole lot of post-apocalyptic throwdown left in him.  Fury Road is the kind of high quality popcorn fest that should have folks lining up to see the glorious damage of a world gone to hell.  At two hours, at least 90% of that is driving, blowing up while driving, chasing someone who’s driving, or running over things in gigantic machines that make Odd Rods look like believable concept cars.

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Baltimore Screening Pass-palooza: Tomorrowland!

TOMORROWLAND one sheetEver wonder what’d it be like to live in the future (future, future, future…)? Well here’s your chance.  Passes for the Baltimore area screening of Tomorrowland! Here’s the synopsis:

From Disney comes two-time Oscar® winner Brad Bird’s riveting, mystery adventure “Tomorrowland,” starring Academy Award® winner George Clooney. Bound by a shared destiny, former boy-genius Frank (Clooney), jaded by disillusionment, and Casey (Britt Robertson), a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity, embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space known only as “Tomorrowland.” What they must do there changes the world—and them—forever.

Featuring a screenplay by “Lost” writer and co-creator Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird, from a story by Lindelof & Bird & Jeff Jensen, “Tomorrowland” promises to take audiences on a thrill ride of nonstop adventures through new dimensions that have only been dreamed of.

I’m wondering if it’ll be as twisty and turn-y as Lost.  But y’know, shorter in length and with fewer polar bears.  Anyway, if you’re interested, read on…

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