2015 Summer Movie Review: Love & Mercy

Brian Wilson (Paul Dano) becomes disconnected with reality in Bill Pohlad's "Love & Mercy"

Brian Wilson (Paul Dano) becomes disconnected with reality in Bill Pohlad’s “Love & Mercy”

I have been waiting all summer to finally see Love & Mercy in theaters. As a fan of The Beach Boys, it would impossible not to miss this one. Their music truly defines the feeling of summer. When they start recording songs for Pet Sounds, considered as not only their best album but one of the best albums of all-time, leader Brian Wilson decided to do something different for the band. Instead of dance pop, he wanted to write pop songs that are suitable for listening. Furthermore, he stopped touring with his fellow band mates to focus on Pet Sounds.

The movie takes place in two different time periods. In the 1960s, Wilson (Paul Dano, in an Oscar-worthy performance) has been getting a lot of success being in The Beach Boys. After touring, he starts getting panic attacks while he is producing Pet Sounds. In the 1980s, he (John Cusack, equally terrific) is a washed-up middle-aged man under the watch of therapist Gene Landy (Paul Giamatti). He befriends Melinda (Elizabeth Banks), a Cadillac saleswoman. She begins to help Wilson every way she could.

The real Brian Wilson stated the events in the movie are factual. Director Bill Pohlad intended to make Love & Mercy as genuine as possible. This might be too good to be true. As a matter of fact, this is a devastatingly powerful film about the rise and fall of one of the greatest musicians ever. You can’t help feeling sorry for Brian Wilson being in this hellhole. Kudos to Pohlad’s confident direction and wonderful performances by an astounding cast, Love & Mercy is an experience I’ll never forget. Looking forward to getting the DVD.

4/4

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2015 Summer Movie Review: The End of the Tour

David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) interviews David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) in Sundance's big hit "The End of the Tour"

David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) interviews David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) in Sundance’s big hit “The End of the Tour”

Movies about conversations are a breath of fresh air. Particularly in the summer full of huge blockbusters with explosions. The End of the Tour, a big hit from this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is no exception. After starring as Marshall in the television show How I Met Your Mother, Jason Segel takes a dramatic turn as the late author David Foster Wallace, whose publication of his 1,000+ page novel Infinite Jest, made him a public figure. Despite rave reviews, very few people finished his book. The main focus is his complex yet compelling friendship with David Lipsky (played to damn near perfection by Jesse Eisenberg), a Rolling Stone reporter assigned to interview him after realizing there were no profiles on authors. They spend five days together having series of fascinating conversations, stopping at Illinois State University in Bloomington, Minneapolis for Wallace’s last stop of his book tour (hence the title), and the Mall of America. Through James Ponsoldt’s amazing direction and Donald Marguiles’ magnificent screenplay, this is a conversation that I never wanted to end.

4/4

2015 Summer Movie Review: American Ultra

Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) and Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) are about to go on the run in the stoner-action-comedy

Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) and Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) are about to go on the run in the stoner-action-comedy “American Ultra”

American Ultra is the closest we’ll get to seeing Jason Bourne as a stoner.

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, starring in their first movie since Adventureland, play two stoners living in a small West Virginia town. One night, Mike Howell is working at a convenience store until he sees two hitmen breaking into his car. He beats them up with a spoon and a bowl of ramen noodles. While he’s telling his girlfriend Phoebe on what happened, he doesn’t know that he is spy. Case in point, CIA agents Lasseter (Connie Britton) and Yates (Topher Grace) use him as an extermination target. His incredible abilities are activated and he is one step closer to propose to the girl of his dreams.

The end of August to the beginning of September is usually where it starts to quiet down, in terms of the box office. Even though it might flopped this past weekend, American Ultra somewhat delivers. It’s violent (maybe a little too violent), funny, and fun. However, when it tries to be funny, it really tries (sorry, Topher Grace). Jesse Eisenberg pulls off the off-beat, socially awkward guy well. Kristen Stewart gives a slightly wooden but surprisingly human supporting role as his girlfriend (throws Twilight out of the water). It might not be a classic, but I slightly enjoyed it.

2.5/4

2015 Summer Movie Review: Straight Outta Compton

The boys of N.W.A. encounter some cops in F. Gary Gray's biopic

The boys of N.W.A. encounter cops in F. Gary Gray’s biopic “Straight Outta Compton”

Even if you’re not a huge fan of rap music (I personally like Eminem and Spose, however), chances are that you are going to enjoy Straight Outta Compton. The biopic, directed to near perfection by F. Gary Gary, follows the lives of five men living in the dangerous Southern Los Angeles neighborhood of Compton. O’Shea Jackson a.k.a. Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr., son of Ice Cube), Eric Wright a.k.a. Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Andre Young a.k.a. Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Lorenzo Patterson a.k.a. MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), Antoine Carraby a.k.a. DJ Yen (Neil Brown Jr.) decide to express their frustrations of their hometown in music.

They all form the band N.W.A. (N****s Wit Attitudes) and their first studio album “Straight Outta Compton” becomes a smash record. Studio manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) helps them get their way out by gaining fame and fortune. Their music gains controversy worldwide. Particularly the cops, in one scene, where they cannot allow the members to perform “F*** tha Police” live because it’s unacceptable language for them. Ice Cube later refers to the first amendment of the Constitution (everyone has freedom of speech). This is a powerful moment given the members are in an era where prejudice still exists. They want to express the truth from their music.

The cast is all-around spot on; I hardly see actors. What I do see are members of N.W.A. becoming famous and going down to the gutter. Paul Giamatti’s Heller is one of his best performances. Despite the long running time, Straight Outta Compton is powerful stuff.

3.5/4

2015 Summer Movie Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) are forced to team up alongside Gabrielle Teller (Alicia Vikander) in Guy Ritchie's adaptation of the 1960s TV show "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."

Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) are forced to team up alongside Gabrielle Teller (Alicia Vikander) in Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of the TV show “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

This is the closest we’ll get to see Henry Cavill as James Bond.

After a handful of crappy movies coming out over the past few weeks, it’s nice to see something that is actually worth your time (even though The Gift was amazing). The Man from U.N.C.L.E., based on the television show from the 1960s, is one of those movies. Not to mention being a throwback to the 1960s spy flicks. Is it original? No; everyone is familiar with the story.

The Cold War is in full swing. A suave CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and a menacing KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) are forced to work together after a clever action sequence. As the two agents of U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement), they embark on a mission to stop an organization, led by the deliciously evil Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki, The Great Gatsby) from using nuclear weapons. The key to infiltrate the organization is Gabrielle Teller (Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina), the daughter of a deceased German scientist.

Guy Ritchie’s (Snatch, Sherlock Holmes) sleek visual style overshadows the genuinely inconsistent tone. The fast-paced action, the chemistry between between Cavill and Hammer, and the witty dialogue are pure fun. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is matinee entertainment at its finest. It’s great to see Hugh Grant again.

3/4

2015 Summer Movie Review: The Gift

Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are about to face their worst nightmare in Joel Edgerton's directorial debut "The Gift"

Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are about to face their worst nightmare in Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut “The Gift”

There have been a few movies that surprised me this summer. Then, The Gift, one of the greatest movies Alfred Hitchcock never made, came along. And my expectations threw right out of the window.

Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn are a happy couple who moved into a nice house near Los Angeles. One day, they get an unexpected visitor. Gordo (Joel Edgerton), who used to go to high school with Simon, gives them a series of nice gifts such as wine and fish to put in their pond. However, they begin to face their worst nightmare as they learn more about Gordo.

For his directorial debut, Joel Edgerton gives one heluva thrill-ride.¬†With a slow build-up, it leads to one shocking payoff. I hope he directs more movies because I love his style. It’s unnerving, unpredictable, and engaging in every way. He makes one creepy stalker. I’m surprised with Jason Bateman not playing himself for a change.

4/4

2015 Summer Movie Review: Fantastic Four

*sigh*

*sigh*

If you thought it was a good idea to reboot Fantastic Four, think again.

In 2005, the four superheroes hit the silver screen. Its overly campy tone and exposition made it one of the worst superhero movies of all-time (I’m glad Chris Evans went somewhere after that). 10 years later, a reboot emerges. Fantastic Four – stylized as Fant4stic – suffers from the same problem as before. All exposition and nothing else. With four gifted actors playing Mr. Fantastic (Miles Teller), Invisible Woman (Kate Mara), Human Torch (Michael B. Jordan), and the Thing (Jamie Bell) and Josh Trank (Chronicle) directing, there is nothing to truly appreciate. It takes itself way too seriously. The science-y stuff is not interesting. The effects are terrible (not to mention the painfully obvious green screen). Everything feels rushed and unfinished. The four actors have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever; they didn’t work together as a team. Don’t even get me started on that climax. It feels the movie has remained at autopilot throughout its duration. Not only is it one of the worst movies of the year, it’s also one of the worst superhero movies I’ve ever seen. Let’s hope the sequel will be much better than this tripe.

0/4