2015 Summer Movie Review: Tomorrowland

Casey (Britt Robertson) enters Tomorrowland in Brad Bird’s latest sci-fi adventure

In a time of sequels, remakes, and unoriginal ideas, it’s refreshing to see something original and based on a Disneyland theme park. It’s also refreshing to see a trailer that doesn’t give away too much. Brad Bird (who directed the best of the Mission: Impossible series) and co-writer Damon Lindelof were inspired by Walt Disney’s theory on utopia. They introduce a visually busy but dazzling world in Tomorrowland.

As a child, Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) dreams of going into space. She lives in Cape Canaveral with her father (Tim McGraw), who used to be a NASA engineer until the Kennedy Space Pad launch pad closed. When she gets out of jail for trespassing, Casey comes across a mysterious pin with a ‘T’ on it. Every time she picks it up, she gets transported in the futuristic utopia of Tomorrowland, where the best minds use science to keep the future stable. Unfortunately, she only has a limited amount of time to experience the world for herself. Then, she meets Frank Walker (George Clooney), a former boy genius who once entered Tomorrowland as a child but became a recluse years after he got banished by Governor Nix (Hugh Laurie, House). Casey shows him the pin. They embark on a journey to this world free from politics with droid Athena (Raffey Cassidy). Those are the basics of what the movie is about. I want you to see the movie for yourselves.

Even though its tone goes all over the place, Bird makes the audience get sucked into this world he creates that is full of wonder and amazement. Every good sci-fi needs to have a complex concept. Tomorrowland delivers with its great ideas concerning the future and being able to fix it for the better. Robertson, Clooney, and Laurie bring the optimistic energy into this wry, thrilling, whimsical, and thought-provoking story that would be more suitable for older kids and adults. Bird never drags the pace during the action and philosophy, especially when Nix gives his monologue about the future. If this movie came out ten years ago, it would have blown my mind. Is it a perfect movie? No. But it’s a damn good movie. I predict 20 years from now, Tomorrowland will become a Disney sci-fi classic. This is an invitation to something extraordinary.


2015 Summer Movie Review: Poltergeist

Evil forces return in the remake of "Poltergeist"

Evil spirits return to bring terror in the remake of “Poltergeist”

They’re here…to waste our time.

Since 1982, Poltergeist has scared audiences for generations. Director Tobe Hooper and producer Steven Spielberg (who also wrote the screenplay) changed the face of the haunted house genre with its slow buildup, great tension, eerie atmosphere, and genuinely horrifying images. The realistic portrayal of a middle-class suburban family being haunted by spirits made it one of the best horror movies of all-time (review of the original coming this October). Because the movie was rated PG, the MPAA didn’t have the PG-13 rating until Steven Spielberg suggested it after the releases of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins. I’m glad the new remake is PG-13 because it would scare the living hell out of young kids.

The biggest problem with horror movies today is coming up with a good scare. Not only do I despise it when movies intend to use blood and gore to scare audiences, but I also hate it when movies don’t have a proper buildup of the scare. there have been countless horror movies that seem to use the haunted house formula to death. A family moving into a new house, they think it’s perfect until they realize an entity is haunting the house, the family leaves, the end. Even though some movies are executed well (The Conjuring), it quickly becomes tiresome. Seeing the remake of Poltergeist last night doesn’t change my opinion of horror.

Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell) gets laid off from his job. He moves his family to a nice suburban neighborhood in Illinois. The youngest daughter Madison (Kennedi Clemens) is excited to live in the house. She immediately makes new friends, but they are unseen. In fact, they are spirits, or the “lost people”. On their first night, Maddy wakes up to stare at a malfunctioning television set. “They’re here,” she says to her parents and her anxious older brother Griffin (Kyle Catlett). After the spirits hold Maddy captive, the family calls upon paranormal expert Brooke Powell (Jane Adams) and famous reality TV ghostbuster Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris) to bring her back.

Director Gil Kenan (Monster House, City of Ember) makes several changes that makes the remake stand on it own. For instance, the use of modern technology, such as iPads, iPhones, and computers, comes into play when the spirits start to terrorize the family. The Burke family isn’t quite as happy as the Freelings in the original. They are a poor family who try to make a living. Despite getting laid off, Eric tries to hide his anguish by being the goofball he usually is. But, how he is able to afford a nice house is beyond me. Rockwell leads the cast who deliver nothing but ‘meh’ performances, even though they are thinly written. However, Burke is the most interesting character in the movie. He tells his stories about his past investigations, which I think would turn out to be a better movie than this.

There are some decent scares in Poltergeist. In one particular scene, Eric hallucinates worms crawling out his face after taking a sip of his liquor. It reminded me of the scene in the original where one of the investigators hallucinates him peeling his face off. However, most of the “scares” in Poltergeist have appeared in the trailer. The evil clown doll has been everywhere in advertisements and the posters. It seems like the movie is giving a reminder for the people who have a massive fear of clowns. During the screening, one person, who sat two rows in front of me, was so afraid of clowns he left when he attacked Griffin. I don’t have a problem with people who cannot stand the sight of clowns. However, the clown doll in the original movie was absolutely terrifying. At first, you see an innocent-looking doll with an innocent smile until it attacks the boy. In this version, however, not only is he less scary, the entire sequence is an anticlimax of all anticlimaxes. If you want scares, watch the original.


2015 Summer Movie Review: Pitch Perfect 2

The Bellas return in "Pitch Perfect 2"

The Bellas return in “Pitch Perfect 2”

Pitch Perfect became the sleeper hit of 2012. It had the laughs, the charm, the songs I’m familiar with, and it made me have a big crush on Anna Kendrick. It also gained the popularity of a cappella. The sequel, Pitch Perfect 2, might not be better than the first, but it’s just as aca-fun. Who cares if these movies are formulaic as hell?

Beca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick) helped the Barden Bellas win their first national a cappella title. The medley including Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from The Breakfast Club made her win Jesse’s (Skylar Astin) heart. After a humiliating performance in Washington, D.C., the Bellas try to redeem themselves when they enter an international a cappella competition in Copenhagen, which no American group has ever won. Emily Junk (Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit)–I know, silly name–a Barden freshman becomes the new member of the Bellas, following the footsteps of her mother (Katey Sagal), who used to be a Bella years ago. While working as an intern at a record label, Beca steps up her game when she, along with Fat Amy (the scene-stealing Rebel Wilson), Chloe (Brittany Snow), and the others, compete with other groups from all over the world.

Star Elizabeth Banks directs the sequel with fun results. Featuring amusing cameos including the Green Bay Packers and Pentatonix, well-choreographed musical numbers, jokes that are mostly a hit, but a miss at times, and a touching finale, Pitch Perfect 2 is a show you don’t want to miss, only if you enjoyed the first film.

I have a sense that Anna Kendrick is going to hit Broadway. Not only is she adorable, she has an astounding voice.


2015 Summer Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

It's literally a mad, mad, mad, mad, world for Max in George Miller's latest reboot

It’s literally a mad, mad, mad, mad, world for Max in George Miller’s latest reboot “Mad Max: Fury Road”

If there is a movie that everyone should see this summer, Mad Max: Fury Road would be it.

For someone who has not seen the original Mad Max trilogy starring Mel Gibson, I think Mad Max: Fury Road stands on its own. Aussie director George Miller returns to the franchise 30 years after the release of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. It lives up to the hype by giving what the audiences want: an insane thrill-ride with a surprisingly convincing narrative. What can be more awesome than flames shooting out of the neck of a guitar?

In a post-apocalyptic future, humanity has been broken and the remaining survivors are driven mad in need of  necessary resources such as food, water, and gas. Max Rockanstansky (Tom Hardy), one of the survivors, is haunted by his past. He believes the only way to live in the desert wasteland is survive. However, he gets kidnapped by a cult led by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Max is held captive as a blood bag for Nux (Nicholas Hoult), one of the “War Boys” working for Joe. After realizing his five “breeders” are missing, Joe sends his cult to drive through the desert – in one of the best action sequences of the year – in pursuit of a rig carrying 3,000 gallons of gasoline driven by the Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). Then, Max joins forces with Furiosa to help the “breeders” to safety.

Nowadays, summer blockbusters have been overstuffed with CGI and shaky camera work. What Miller does with Fury Road is none of that. Most of the effects are practical, giving the sense of realism and insanity of the action. It’s refreshing to see what is going on during the action with the steady camera work (although a little shaky) and fast-paced editing. There is great tension; making the audience feel like they are in the rig with Max and Furiosa.

Miller started filming in his native Australia. But after the amount of rainfall changing the landscape, he moved the production to no better place than in the deserts of Namibia. The scenery is downright gorgeous; with the shades of orange capturing scenes in which take place during the day and blue capturing the scenes taking place at night. The majority of the film takes place on the go, but it’s more than just a two-hour chase sequence. It’s a story of hope for humanity, willing to survive, and a chance for redemption. Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult kick ass in one of the best action films ever made.


2015 Summer Movie Review: Hot Pursuit

Yep. Those facial expressions pretty much sum up how I feel about  "Hot Pursuit"

Yep. Those facial expressions pretty much sum up how I feel about “Hot Pursuit”

What if Thelma and Louise and any other buddy comedy had a baby? It would be Hot Pursuit.

Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara are two great actresses. Witherspoon delivered the best performance of her career in last year’s excellent Wild. Vergara, the star of Modern Family (a contemporary sitcom classic), is a laugh riot. In Hot Pursuit, however, they don’t showcase any of their talents whatsoever, and portray two of the most unlikable characters in recent movie history. If Sofia Vergara occasionally yells at the top of her lungs in a half-hour episode of Modern Family, it becomes hilarious. What happens if she yells for the majority of the film? It becomes a nuisance within the first 20 minutes after she is introduced. There are a few laughs given, but the jokes fall flat and the writing is beyond lazy. There’s barely any fun given throughout the 90-minute duration. This is a disaster of big proportions.


2015 Summer Movie Review: The Avengers: Age of Ultron

The Avengers are back to spring into action in

The Avengers are back to spring into action in “Age of Ultron”

The Avengers was a movie buff’s dream come true. It brought all of the superheroes that were introduced in the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, like Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America, to team up in one gigantic battle for humanity. The movie had everything a superhero movie should be: hilarious, action-packed, and miraculously entertaining. Phase two hit plenty of bumps in the road (Thor: The Dark World), but it was nice to see how each member has hold up after that battle in New York City. The Avengers are back in the highly anticipated sequel, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, to give us more of the fun as well as some emotion. And prepares the audience what has yet to come in phase three.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) create Ultron (James Spader), an artificial intelligence who would protect humanity. Things go awry when Ultron becomes dangerous plans to take over the world (much better dealt with here than in Chappie). Stark and Banner, along with Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), spring into action again.

Without spoiling too much, Joss Whedon hits it out of the park with sensational action (especially a visually dazzling and hilarious stand-off between Iron Man and the Hulk), witty-as-hell dialogue, and beautiful cinematography. The movie had more laughs than most mainstream comedies today. It’s refreshing to see Hawkeye more as a character. However, it isn’t a perfect movie. Whedon introduces new characters, like the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Even though they are well in-depth characters, I think I prefer Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past. I would like to see more of the subplot with Ultron planning to take over the world. Despite that, I had an absolute blast!

Some day, I would like to see a crossover between The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. Who’s with me?