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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Mad Max: Fury Road & The Longest Ride





Dearest Blog, yesterday it was off to the cinema for the unlikely pairing of Mad Max: Fury Road and The Longest Ride.

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.

First on my agenda: Mad Max: Fury Road.

A pair of unlikely allies flees a pack of brutal baddies across a futuristic desert wasteland.

Dear reader(s), I have long known the summer of 2015 would mean one thing for me: admitting I haven't seen the original Mad Max, Jurassic Park, or Terminator movies since their theatrical releases.

My recollection of the three franchises is limited to one (1) Tina Turner video (from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome) and Izzy from Miami Vice being killed whilst sitting on the toilet (in the first Jurassic Park).

Therefore, 'twas not any residual affection for the original, nor any delight at seeing it resurrected, that led to my excitement for the new Mad Max; the credit for that can be laid solely at the feet of one of the most amazing trailers in recent memory. In fact, I frequently said if the movie were half as good as said trailer, we'd be in good shape.

Note to self: refrain from such statements in the future.

First, let's get to what Mad Max: Fury Road gets right, because there's plenty, and it's absolutely worth the price of admission. This is a magnificent-looking movie. Full marks across the board for cinematography, art direction, costumes and makeup, effects, stunts, locations, and set design.

Even the 3D is spectacular, and I assure you, dear reader(s), I generally have no love for 3D. Explosive maximum carnage--both human and vehicular--is up-close and enormous. The acting, such as it is, is far less cringeworthy than the original trilogy.

Tom Hardy makes a fair replacement for Mel Gibson, though, even as the titular good guy, he has less to do than Charlize Theron, a tough and able hero. Nicholas Hoult is surprisingly un-annoying (for Nicholas Hoult), and Jason Statham's woman is serviceable in just her second big-screen appearance, at least as far as I could tell between giving her the stinkeye. A grand score by Junkie XL perfectly complements the huge action.

Now...here's the problem: you know when you hop in the car to go on vacation? At first it's so exciting, but, after about 30 minutes, it's all, "Are we there yet?" That's this movie. It's essentially just one overlong car chase, and it is unspeakably exhausting. I was all but done by the halfway point and wishing it *were* just a Tina Turner video. There's barely enough plot for a short, and, in the end, I'd say the movie is almost exactly half as good as that trailer that raised my hopes so very high.

Mad Max: Fury Road runs two hours on the dot (but seems much longer) and is rated R for "intense sequences of violence throughout, and disturbing images."

It's a disappointment in many ways, but Mad Max: Fury Road is still more than worth seeing in 3D on the biggest screen you can find.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Mad Max: Fury Road gets six.

Next up was the most recent Nicholas Sparks gag-fest, The Longest Ride.

A young bullrider and his art-student girlfriend find valuable lessons in some old love letters.
Alrighty, in the interest of full and fair disclosure: whatever a "fair shake" is for a dog turd like The Longest Ride, you may rest assured it isn't getting one here. I'm not one to sign on for a movie I know I'm going to hate, just for the privilege of hating it, but sometimes my hand is forced by a beloved actor, so...thank Jack Huston for what follows.

The Longest Ride kicks off with more lower-lip-biting and demure-looking-through-lashes than the best 50 Shades parody.

Fifteen minutes in I'm cursing the half-dozen other patrons keeping me from getting out my phone and piddling on Facebook during the non-Jack Huston parts.

Then we're off to watch Real Men participate in the barbaric "sport" of bull riding. Cue the groupies in their short skirts and cowboy boots--our squeaky-clean hero has eyes for just one--cut to dirty looks from the other women in attendance. Is there an app that tells me when my favorite actor is onscreen? I could always go hide in the bathroom for awhile... He's come to pick her up at the sorority house for their first date. Preppy college kids giggle and whisper at his boots and hat, but when he presents flowers (my gosh, no guy has ever thought of THAT before!) the entire sorority squeals, "I want a cowboy!"

Who writes this shit? Is there money in it? Sign me up!

On their way home, the couple happens upon a car accident. Sexy Cowboy pulls a victim from the burning car, while the Damsel rescues a box about which he seems concerned, even in his gravely-injured state.

Perhaps the car will blow up? This movie would be a lot more tolerable if only something would blow up.

She elects to stay at the ER with the elderly accident victim, sneaking a peek in his precious box, which is filled with old love letters.

When he awakes, he instantly takes to her--despite being supremely grouchy to everyone else--and sadly confesses he can no longer read the letters. Thus begins an epic friendship that consists of her reading the letters aloud while he lies there looking like death-warmed-over.

Is it poor form to riff out loud at the movies? Asking for a friend. The rest of the so-called plot consists of romantic standards such as running on the beach and vanilla, rating-conscious love scenes. (Folks, if you send your women off to see this, thinking they'll come home in a lather, forget about it.

The sex is no more explicit than your average broadcast TV show, and they're more likely to come home and demand you purchase a priceless work of art to prove your undying love.) Leads Scott Eastwood (Clint's son, apparently) and Britt Robertson are about as bland and predictable as the story itself.

The terrific Jack Huston and Oona Chaplin are pitifully wasted as the younger version of the couple in the love letters. It goes without saying Alan Alda is slumming in crap like this, but feigning life-threatening injury does at least give him a little bit of acting to do. By the end I was actively pondering whether the straw from my soda could be used to perform ritual suicide.

The Longest Ride clocks in at a bloated 139 minutes and is rated PG13 for "some sexuality, partial nudity, and some war and sports action."

It won't take long before you're rooting for the bull, trust me.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, The Longest Ride gets two, both of which are awarded for Jack Huston's only 2015 big-screen appearance.

Until next time.




















Pen name: Nicholas Sparks.

MOVIE REVIEW: PITCH PERFECT 2













































In this sequel to Pitch Perfect, the collegiate a cappella group called the Barden Bellas enter into an international competition, but they are told it will be impossible to win because they are from the U.S. The girls refuse to give up and vow to be the first Americans to take home the top prize. Directed by Elizabeth Banks, the film stars Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, and Hailee Steinfeld. ~ Erin Demers, Rovi

Director: Elizabeth Banks

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Hailee Steinfeld, Katey Sagal

Release Date: May 15, 2015

Rated: PG-13 Innuendo and Language

Runtime: 1 hr. 55 min.

Genres: Comedy

Review:

Pitch Perfect was one of those films that surprised me when I first saw it and has become a personal favorite.  It was a fun film with some great comedic bite along with some great characters.  A sequel seemed a bit of an odd sale mainly because recapturing that kind of magic is difficult especially in a musical comedy.  The sequel will leave fans content for the most part.  The characters are so much fun that you can kind of ignore the fact that the plot is kind of pedestrian there’s really not much going on.  The film is an overlong by at least 20 minutes.  Thankfully it’s still funny more times than not and all the actresses ease back into their roles comfortably.  Elizabeth Banks does a solid job behind the directors chair delivering some impressively staged musical numbers that are impressively rousing.  Hailee Steinfeld joins the cast and her character is a tad bland for my taste which is a shame since her character is tasked with carrying the torch in an eventual sequel.

B+

MOVIE REVIEW: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD








































From director George Miller, originator of the post-apocalyptic genre and mastermind behind the legendary “Mad Max” franchise, comes “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a return to the world of the Road Warrior, Max Rockatansky.Haunted by his turbulent past, Mad Max believes the best way to survive is to wander alone. Nevertheless, he becomes swept up with a group fleeing across the Wasteland in a War Rig driven by an elite Imperator, Furiosa. They are escaping a Citadel tyrannized by the Immortan Joe, from whom something irreplaceable has been taken. Enraged, the Warlord marshals all his gangs and pursues the rebels ruthlessly in the high-octane Road War that follows.

Director: George Miller

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz, Adelaide Clemens 

Release Date: May 15, 2015 RealD 3D 

Rated R for Intense Sequences of Violence Throughout, and for Disturbing Images

Runtime: 2 hr. 0 min.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review:

George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road is an assault on the senses from the opening scene and pretty much through its entire runtime.  Its action is the kind of stuff that is rather jaw dropping due to its sheer size and scope.  Miller’s film is proudly ridiculous and over the top while taking a minimalist approach on the story side.  What’s really surprising about the film is that even though it seems like story and characters would end up being 1 dimensional there is a steady amount of emotional resonance when it’s all said and done.  Tom Hardy is a fine successor for Mel Gibson in the titular role bringing the appropriate amount of quiet intensity required by the role.  Charlize Theron, though, is the real star here.  The character and Theron’s performance makes Furiosa the most interesting character on screen throughout the film.  The pair makes for an engaging twosome that grounds the film from some of its insanity.  It’s a simplistic film with some of the most complex action that I’ve ever seen put to the screen, the type really deserves to be seen on the screen.

A-




Saturday, May 2, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON








































Joss Whedon returns to write and direct the follow-up to the ultra successful Joss Whedon film. The picture completes Marvel Studios' Phase 2 films, which includes Joss Whedon, Joss Whedon, Joss Whedon, and Joss Whedon. ~ Jeremy Wheeler, Rovi

Director: Joss Whedon  

Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson

Release Date: May 01, 2015

Rated PG-13 for intense Sequences of Sci-Fi Sction, Violence and Destruction, and Some Suggestive 
Comments 

Runtime: 2 hr. 21 min. 

Genres: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy 

Review:

Avengers: Age of Ultron is successful enough to keep the status quo established by the first team up film.  It doesn’t do anything spectacularly more impressive that its predecessor and some of the beats and moments feel similar for good reason.  The old saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is incredibly fitting.  The new characters add a smattering of freshness to it but all of them feel as underdeveloped as Elizabeth Olsen’s variable accent.  Ultron is an interesting villain but I couldn’t help feeling his characterization was rather rushed throughout.  James Spader does a fine job of keeping the character interesting even if he’s not as devilishly charismatic as Loki.  The main cast of characters all slip into their roles easily and honestly by this point it’s old hat.  Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo share some of the film’s quieter moments which also deliver the biggest emotional impact.  Jeremy Renner gets a deeper back story and some of the film’s best lines; one can’t help but wonder if Joss Whedon was making up for his limited role in the first film.  As for Whedon, you can’t help but admire the guy’s dexterity at keeping most of the ball in the air all throughout.  It’s not perfect and you can’t help but feel like some subplots got left on the cutting room floor, even then the film’s a tad overlong.  Still, it’s an enjoyable Marvel superhero film which does everything you want from a solid blockbuster.

B
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