Hello and welcome back to another year of Reel Reactions! Our staff is ready and eager for another year of films, and while there are some great ones to look forward to in the coming months, there were also some great ones we were unable to review at the times of their respective releases. Summer is always an active season for film, and we figured it would be a shame to ignore some of this year’s releases simply because of when they played in theaters. So think of this both as catch-up for what we missed, and a look forward at what is to come. Enjoy!
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
The much-anticipated reboot of the Mad Max franchise went above and beyond its expectations. The energy level was kept consistently high, and the film was peppered with epic and memorable quotes such as “What a day, WHAT A LOVELY DAY.” Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and Nicholas Hoult really bring their characters alive. The grungy-but-oddly-vibrant color palette made the entire show all the more captivating, creating a world that is both desolate yet oddly beautiful. The original Mad Max trilogy left fans wondering what George Miller could do with a serious budget and creative freedom, and “Fury Road” was the perfect answer.
When factoring in production and marketing expenses, Brad Bird’s “Tomorrowland” has currently lost The Walt Disney Company about $77 million, making it one of the studio’s biggest box office flops in recent years. Personally, I see that as a bit of a shame, since I enjoyed this movie. The film is about dreamers dreaming in a world that no longer sees value in it; Brittany Robertson plays Casey, a teenage girl who stumbles upon a world where scientific exploration and dreams are of the utmost importance, but finds that that world and her own are both in danger. With help from a disillusioned genius (George Clooney) and a mysterious girl (Raffey Cassidy), Casey must make everyone see the power of dreaming once again. The design of the world that the filmmakers create in this movie is inventive, drawing influence from Disney’s themed lands that share the same name as the film. The special effects are nothing to write home about, but they suit the world well enough. The actors play their roles well, especially Robertson as Casey and George Clooney as Frank. The villain, played by Hugh Laurie, was serviceable and even had a few funny moments here and there, but he was pretty forgettable in the grand scheme of the movie. The biggest thing that I can see bogging this film down is its message, which is a good message, but a message that is forced down without much subtlety. The film had a few laughs, some good acting, and an interesting world in which the story takes place, but I’d be lying if I said that the movie was without fault. If you go into this movie with few expectations one way or the other, you might find some enjoyment in “Tomorrowland.” Otherwise, keep dreaming for a better movie.
Jurassic World was a less attention worthy, but still entertaining, reboot. The characters were obvious tropes that were meant to appeal to and represent everyone their age (the grumpy teenage son was particularly groan-inducing) and the CG was borderline average for such a major film. Themes of anti-consumerism and family values were also delivered heavy-handedly at many points. However, the dinosaur fights were still a worthwhile spectacle, and Chris Pratt’s performance was good fun.
Seth MacFarlane’s third foray into the world of filmmaking, “Ted 2” follows Ted (Seth MacFarlane via motion capture) and John (Mark Wahlberg), along with lawyer Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) as they work to have Ted recognized as a human being in the eyes of the law. This movie, spoiler alert, is not as good as the original Ted. In some respects, this whole film played out like a live-action episode of MacFarlane’s Family Guy; but for fans of MacFarlane’s brand of humor, it can be a pretty fun and funny movie. MacFarlane and Wahlberg are still great as Ted and John, with their chemistry carrying a lot of the film. Amanda Seyfried does a great job as John’s love interest and Ted’s weed-loving lawyer. Some of the best jokes in this movie come from a couple of great supporting and cameo roles, such as Patrick Warburton returning from the last movie, and Liam Neeson making a small appearance that is so odd that you can’t help but laugh. It’s funny for what it is, and while the main villain is shoehorned into the plot, the actors continue to do a good job in their roles. Take it for what it’s worth. If you liked “Ted,” you just might find something to enjoy in “Ted 2.”
What impresses me most about “Amy” is that there is not one frame in the film in which the camera is on a talking head. If there is another two-hour plus documentary to pull this off, I am unaware of it. Each piece of insight is accompanied by overly personal home iPhone videos the filmmakers were somehow able to get their hands on. It is footage displaying everything from early glimpses of her energetic talent to frightening drug experiences to her relationships. The amount is so tremendous that it seems as if one friend or another had a camera pointed at everyday of her life. As Winehouse grows older and countless paparazzi feel the need to point their cameras at her as well, her downfall is understandable although no less tragic. “Amy” is entertaining, devastating, and emotionally resonant even if you’ve only ever come across her name in headlines.
“Trainwreck,” or Amy Schumer: The Movie, has generally been considered the comedy of the summer. Written by and starring Schumer herself, it’s refreshing to see such a big financial success led by someone other than the Hollywood mold of a thin and indisputably attractive star. It’s also perhaps director Judd Apatow’s funniest film since The 40-Year Old Virgin and performances from Schumer, Bill Hader, Tilda Swinton, and even LeBron James lift it to this lofty height. However, the standout performance here is surprisingly John Cena; despite an early departure from the story, a collective laugh followed nearly every line he delivers. In the end, it’s a shame to see “Trainwreck” ultimately fall into the standard structure that the large majority of romantic comedies follow. The final act is so predictable and unnecessarily sentimental that it almost takes the whole film with it on its way down.
I’ll admit, this review may be a bit biased. Besides Charlie Chaplin, I strongly believe that no one has had a larger impact on comedic filmmaking than Woody Allen. I have never finished one of his films and wished I had those 90 minutes back as the credits rolled. Even in his weaker efforts, there is always one scene, one idea that you’re certain no one else could have conceived. “Irrational Man” is indeed one of his weaker efforts. However, for a director that has made a movie a year since 1977 including a handful of both classics and modern masterpieces, weaker does not necessarily mean bad.
As perhaps two of the most consistent actors working today, Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone both do their best with what they have to work with. Uncharacteristically for Allen, the script contains spurts of unnatural dialogue and forced voiceovers. What saves the film is the ridiculous plot revolving around an unconventional murder. It takes some time to settle, but when it hits its stride, the situations are so improbable and unpredictable that it’s easy to just sit back and laugh. It’s enjoyable, but Allen has proven for decades that he capable of much more.
About two-thirds of the way through “Pixels,” a gala of sorts is thrown in celebration of the victory against the alien antagonists. So far, the movie has been unfunny and unbearable in the worst bang-your-head-against-the-wall kind of way. At one point, however, Ludlow (Josh Gad), one of the video game warriors, gets up on stage and, accompanied by the band hired for the event, begins singing. His voice is beautiful, the song is fantastic, and as a viewer you begins to sit up in your seat, the first piece of viable entertainment upon you. And then Josh Gad begins humping the stage. You slouch against the back of your chair and pray for some divine intervention—a broken projector, a false fire alarm, the Angel of Death—anything. “Pixels” takes an amusing premise and bogs it down with a group of performers so bland and uninterested that one wonders if there weren’t large X’s taped to the ground to mark where they were supposed to start and stop, and large cue cards feeding them their lines off-screen. No one, least of all Adam Sandler, could be bothered to do anything more than show up.
“Shaun the Sheep”
It might be nearly impossible to dislike this movie. Without a single line of dialogue, “Shaun the Sheep Movie” made me laugh unlike any other movie I saw in theaters this summer. This stop-action homage to silent films requires visual gags to carry the film, and these are pulled of beautifully through handcrafted claymation, a form of filmmaking that has become somewhat of a rarity with the rise of CGI. The story never seems to lose its impressive pace and no frame is wasted from start to finish. I have a feeling that every time I blinked I may have missed one of the film’s many clever references. It’s disappointing that my family and I were the only ones in the theater only a few days after its release while “Minions” is making over a billion dollars at the box office.
When taken in thirds, “Fantastic Four” is all the more regrettable as a final product. The first third of the movie is personal, warm even, as we see Reed Richards (Miles Teller) and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) kindle their friendship via the shared experience of the former’s teleportation device. Taking place in a garage in Oyster Bay, NY, there is a feeling of smallness yet a grandness of things to come; humble beginnings let onto more significant events. This promise is built upon with the introduction of Sue Storm (Kate Mara) and her father, scientist Franklin Storm (Reg. E Cathey), who invites Richards to work at his laboratory on inter-dimensional travel. It’s almost tragic how quickly things fall apart from here. Reshoots were obvious thanks to Kate Mara’s awful wig, and the difference in the actors’ investment between the first half and second half is startling. “Fantastic Four” feels like half of one vision and half of another completely different vision. The pieces are all there, but the filmmakers have haphazardly pushed them together, and it leaves the viewer without want to decipher what the big picture could possibly be.
The original “Sinister” thrived on Ethan Hawke’s performance and a growing sense of dread, a mystery that became all the more horrific the more it unfolded. “Sinister 2” has no such performances and no such patience. The mystique of the first film is ripped from the shadows and thrust into the light, creating one of the least scary and least suspenseful horror movies of recent memory. Everything is forced, from the jump scares to the romantic subplot between the mother and the detective to the family drama to the entirety of the movie itself. It’s as if the film is bored of itself, as if its existence is nothing more than an obligation it can’t wait to fulfill. Projects like these are usually nothing more than cash grabs, and “Sinister 2” leaves no doubt about its intentions.
“Attack on Titan”
The movie adaptation of “Attack on Titan” was nothing but a disappointment. For a franchise with a mainstream following, the low budget was glaringly obvious, especially when the titans first appeared. There are a variety of silly and unnecessary changes to the plot such as Mikasa disappearing halfway through the film and the setting being modern post-apocalyptic instead of medieval. (There’s even a redundant scene involving statutory rape, which did nothing but make the audience feel even more uncomfortable than they already were.) The characters speak and act as if they were still in an anime, which was painfully awkward. What upsets me most is that, despite all of its titanic flaws, there are still moments when the giants appear genuinely terrifying. Unfortunately, they serve only as a cherry on top of a cup of steaming sh*t sundae.
Written by Lucas Dispoto, William Park, Harrison Jeffs, and Joey Sack