Deadpool

Though we haven’t posted in a while, here’s our take on the very popular Deadpool. Directed by Tim Miller and starring Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, and T.J. Miller, it is Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity

From IMDB: This is the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life.

9 out of 10

Comic book movies has never been popular. But with this slew of both solo and team up superhero films in the past few years as well as in the future has brought in an oversaturation of the genre. So seeing a film like Deadpool that flips the cliches of this genre on its, similarly like in Guardians of the Galaxy a few years ago, feels very refreshing even to the most die hard comic book fans. Deadpool stars Ryan Reynolds as the titular anti­hero character Wade Wilson who becomes the “merc with a mouth” after a set of crazy experiments on him that gives him a healing factor. He then sets on a revenge plot on the man who did these experiments on him and save his fiancee, played by Morena Baccarin. The film has gotten a lot of buzz because of its R rating and its hilarious marketing campaign that included marketing the film has a romantic comedy.

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Firstly, Reynolds is outstanding as both Wade Wilson and Deadpool. He had technically played the character before in X­-Men Origins: Wolverine, a film with so much studio involvement that they really butchered the character of Deadpool. So ever since, Reynolds has been fighting to get his own solo movie made alongside first time director Tim Miller because of their love for the character. And it shows in Reynolds quick wit and constant fourth wall breaks. Deadpool, in the comics, knows that he’s in a comic book and so will talk directly to the audience about what is happening. So it is only fitting that in this movie, Wade Wilson knows he’s in a movie and constantly makes references to the events of the film as well as the superhero genre as a whole, which is flat out hilarious. The comedy in this film is so fast and frequent that it took me multiple viewings to pick up on all of it, including the dialogue between Reynolds and his best friend Weasel, played by T.J. Miller. It is easily the funniest comic book movie I can remember in a long time.

The action and direction is also very well done. This movie is a hard R in its rating with much blood and hilarious gore as well as some great use of swears. The film only had a budget of $58 million, small compared to other superhero films, but forced the filmmaker to use practical effects and a smaller scale over a CGI­fest, which makes the film more condensed and tight that doesn’t overshadow its story. This is for good reason because the story smartly weaves in his origin and the present day rather than giving the character’s backstory all at once. It also is able to create an honest relationship between Wilson and Baccarin’s characters that makes you care about how the two will end up, which is pretty surprising from a comic book movie.

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But this does lead into one of my criticisms in that the story separates the two for contrived reasons that seemed more necessarily for the plot than anything. Also, the section of Wade going through the experiments felt a little long and self­serious for the rest of the film. But these are really just nitpicks because Deadpool is a much needed new take on the comic book genre and a very well executed film as well from both sides of the camera.
~Seth

8 out of 10

Are you sick of the superhero setup? Does the endless franchise-building and table-setting nauseate you? Are you quite literally one Samuel L. Jackson post-credits scene away from spewing? What about those formulaic plots driven by characters whose action figures have more personality?

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If you just nodded at your screen and fumed over the latest $11 you gave to Warner Brothers or Buena Vista, have I got the film for you. What if I told you there is a feature out there that’s gleefully dark and profane enough to make Tarantino blush a little? What if I told you that it lampoons its own genre with expert precision while still managing to be a totally exemplary comic book film? My jaded friends, the voice of your cynicism has arrived and its name is Deadpool. It’s f—-ing hilarious.

Deadpool expertly targets the tropes and cliches present in every superhero film today and fires at will, dropping several meta references and regularly taking digs at itself. Even the opening credits for example find a way to attack the all too common casting cliches we audiences have mercilessly been bombarded with. Yet, at the same time, Deadpool is a labor of love for the comic book antics it sets its sights on; no film would lunge at a genre this hard without being a bit of a romantic letter for the category.

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With this following the spectacularly mindbending X-Men retcon Days of Futures Past, Fox has proven it can self-evaluate and clean up its own series as the studio reintroduces Ryan Reynolds’s portrayal of the Merc with a Mouth with all the umph it was sorely missing the first round (Don’t remember it? Neither do I.). Reynolds is given more than enough rollicking dialogue to chew on and, boy, does he do it justice, nailing every cue, snatching the screen every second and making the extremely well-designed (props to the wardrobe department here) scarlet suit work for him.

But it’s not only our namesake hero who gets a touchup with the reboot, the steel goliath Colossus breaks back into film, this time sporting his original design and bonafide Russian accent (If you read X-Men, either of those additions is enough to make you swoon a little). Colossus’s role in the film actually cements that Deadpool is actually a bit of an effective X-Men movie in and of itself: the mutants may not get boatloads of screentime but they actually play their part well as punch-clock, dispatched heroes.

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Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) pauses from a life-and-death battle to break the fourth wall, much to the dismay of his comrades Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic).

Deadpool’s plot is relatively standard and predictable but there’s enough humor and subversion to carry one through. As far as my desire for a sequel goes, I honestly do think this would work best as a one-shot satire but, obviously, Hollywood moguls probably won’t agree. Whether there’s enough fun fodder for a few more installments is anyone’s guess but, hey, we’ll probably get a few good sequel jokes in at the very least. For now, let’s just enjoy Deadpool for the beautiful project it is (And lament that there was no Wolverine cameo).
~Zach

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Hail, Caesar!

Our first review post-Oscars is the Coen Brother’s newest feature film, Hail, Caeser! Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, and Alden Ehrenreich, it is rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and smoking.

From IMDB: Hail, Caesar! follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix (Brolin), a Hollywood fixer for Capitol Pictures in the 1950s, who cleans up and solves problems for big names and stars in the industry. But when studio star Baird Whitlock  (Clooney) disappears, Mannix has to deal with more than just the fix.

6 out of 10

I knew something was up when this movie was set for release in February. We all knows what happens when movies are released in February. They either suck or are rom-coms. Or Deadpool (more on that next week!). Unfortunately for Hail, Caesar!, it fell into the first category. Suck may be a rather strong word, so for a Coen Brothers film with a slew of stars— Brolin, Clooney, Fiennes, Johansson, Tatum, Hill, Swinton, McDormand, to go through pretty much the entire cast— disappointing might be the most appropriate adjective. 

I will say, there are plenty of really funny moments, largely due to the commitment from the cast to the period. The period style is maintained throughout, buoyed by great costumes and production design but solidified by some really solid performances all around.The entire cast does a very good job; there is no true weak point. Everyone does a fantastic job of staying in the era and dramatizing the time period. Clooney and Fiennes were both hilarious, poking fun of the 1950s Hollywood with perfection. Tatum’s musical number was a sight to behold. Even newcomer Alden Ehrenreich, playing young movie star Hobie Doyle, holds his ground and is pretty funny in what ends up being a sizable role.

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But the acting can only get it so far; the screenplay was relatively weak, incorporating many characters who ended up being useless (namely Johansson and Hill). I kept expecting them to have something to do with the conclusion of the film, but they literally just disappeared. The plot was very scattered; there were a lot of characters without a purpose and a climax that made absolutely no sense and was uninteresting. What was the deal with communism? I still don’t understand. Hail, Caeser!’s primary issue was its failure to amount to anything as a film; the ending was not satisfying nor did it make any sense. A movie with a great cast and so much potential was ruined by its failed storyline, a shame because the Coen Brother’s are usually so good with that.

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The Coen Brothers style is prevalent, from the quirky dialogue to the signature Roger Deakins cinematography. And I personally am a huge fan of them, so the eccentric nature of the film was not unexpected. In fact, I think without that signature style, the film would have lacked any charm at all. Hail, Ceaser! is a Coen Brother’s film that is funny and decent entertainment for six dollar movie Tuesday, but not a movie that I’ll remember years from now.
~Vig

8 out of 10

The Coen Brothers are some of my favorite directors making movies today. With films like Fargo and The Big Lebowski, they make some of the most wonderfully strange and critically­ acclaimed movies in the last thirty years. Now there latest film is Hail, Caesar!, takes place in 1950s Hollywood, focusing on Josh Brolin’s character, who is the head of the fictional Capitol Pictures and his adventures. The trailers focused on the production of the film “Hail, Caesar” and their troubles as their leading man, played by George Clooney, is kidnapped by a odd group of people.

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But the film is more about a day in the life of Brolin’s character in its craziness, and moreover, the Coen Brothers’ love letter to this interesting period of cinema. Brolin links us in between incredible set pieces like Scarlett Johansson in a fantastical swimming dance and Channing Tatum in a sailor’s’ musical number. And it is quite interesting to watch. The film has been getting some mixed reviews from fans who are confused about what the movie is and its unsatisfying ending. And I did walk out wanting closure, with a few plot elements that are picked up and put down before being fully explored, but it made me thinking about the film in a way that I wouldn’t have before.

I also found myself laughing consistently throughout the film. It isn’t like normal comedy with big over the top gags, but is more understated and happens in the really quick dialogue. Many well known actors, like Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton, come in for little scenes and are hilarious in the simplicity of these characters in the overall world of the film. It also appears like really famous actors, like Brolin and Clooney, are genuinely having a really great time acting in this film.

The film is lensed by great cinematographer Roger Deakins, who once again knocks it out of the park by putting real vibrancy in the world and making the set pieces actually feel like you are watching a film in the 1950s, which is truly incredible.

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Overall, the film is definitely not the Coen Brothers best in its meandering through 1950s Hollywood, but I found myself incredibly engaged until the abrupt ending. It is another strangely structured and plotted Coen Brothers film that may have some audiences feeling sour when they leave, but is definitely not one to fully dismiss in its ambition. And being a huge fan of their offbeat style, I fully enjoyed it.
~Seth

The Big Short

Up first on our countdown to the Oscars is The Big Short, directed by Adam KcKay and starring Steve Carell, Christian Bale, and Ryan Gosling. It is rated R for pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity.

From IMDB: Four denizens of the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight.

8 out of 10

Full disclaimer: I had a lot of trouble following what was going on in the movie. The dense terminology plus the complicated nature of finance completely lost me. But somehow, I still managed to really enjoyed The Big Short, probably because Adam McKay does an excellent job of recognizing that many regular people lack the ability to keep up and plays on it.

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For instance, cutting to Margot Robbie in a bubble bath explaining financial terms to simplify it is a genius move— it was a hilarious change of pace that allowed me to catch my breath (Though it probably would have been more helpful if Margot Robbie in a bubble bath hadn’t distracted me). McKay does this twice more, giving a movie that is essentially a documentary on finance some personality.

It also breaks the fourth wall a lot, furthering easing regular viewers into the new world of confusing finance terms. Gosling opens the movie by doing this, and it is continued throughout the movie by man different characters. I personally loved when one of the actors broke the fourth wall to recognize when something in the movie differed from the real life account. Recognizing and exposing the subtle lies of movies ‘based on true stories’… Brilliant.

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Of course, The Big Short would be nothing without its trio of male stars that play extremely unique men emerged in this crisis. Carrell continues to prove that he is more than capable in dramatic roles, following up last year’s Foxcatcher with a sparkling performance as the cynical, hardened Mark Baum. Gosling acts as the films narrator in a way, opening the film with narration that draws us in and keeps us there. But the best performance of the film is that of Christian Bale’s, playing socially awkward genius Michael Burry. Bale is known for his attention to detail and it is no different here, nailing every quirk that Burry has.

The most impressive part of the film had to be how te structure and style reflected its message. The main point is that none of the American public had any idea what was going on (ex. the strippers), but instead remained obsessed with pop culture, much like how a regular audience does not have the slightest idea of what is going on in the movie and only pay attentions to the glamorized scenes with celebrities. The problem with the financial crisis is that Americans had no idea what was going on, this theme reverberating throughout the film.

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That being said, I think there was a lot of fluff that contributed to the movie being rather slow towards the middle. I thought a lot of the scenes were repetitive in terms of structure; essentially, I felt a bit of deja vu while watching the film. This, paired with the density of the material, led to some pacing issues that lulled me to sleep at one point. 

For a film that is essentially Inside Job with a bit more flavor, it is extremely well crafted. With a unique style and compelling narration, The Big Short is successfully comedic but full of grim implications, making it one of the best movies of the year.
~Vig

 

9.5 out of 10

“Anyone can make something complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple.”

(Have I used that epitaph in a review before? Of course I have! I can’t remember which but I’d imagine it was something that clunked around under its own weight like Interstellar.)

Here’s a shocker for you: economics is not exciting. It’s pencil pushing and number crunching. It’s some brokers shouting and squawking before some red and green arrows on Wall St. It’s those contracts you never read and those acronyms you never cared to understand. Finance. Ain’t. Fun.*

I’ve previously expressed though that the highest of movie magic is when a film transfigures something from enormously complex to accessible without losing any of the topic at hand’s weight (Think Moneyball’s treatment of the nitty-gritty of teambuilding or even how the recent spectacle Spotlight deliberately paces but one protracted piece of reporting). The jargon and prolonged process is all there to bolster the accuracy yet there’s enough style, talent and deft delivery to make it (What else?) digest-able.

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Damned if Big Short doesn’t fit that bill. Comedy champion Adam McKay’s latest feature is smart as it is succinct and humorous as it is horrifying. It’s a movie that fully embraces the confusing nature of its subject (The shady swaps that all but consumed the American economy in 2008) in the hopes that you will too (Trust me, with writing this sharp and scenes this self-aware, you’ll succumb to all the monetary mayhem). This masterwork is the better blend of Inside Job (2010) and Wolf of Wall Street.

We’ll start with the all-star cast, of course, which sits at the heart of this cinematic juggernaut: comedy veteran Steve Carell wows as the curiously capricious Mark Baum. Ryan Gosling kills it as swift salesman Jared Vennet who sees the crisis coming (and exploits the living hell out of it). Even seasoned dramatics Christian Bale and Brad Pitt command more than a few snickers as their characters (savant and cynic respectively) carve through the Wall St. B.S.. Are all these characters and their antics pulled from real life? Of course, mostly (The film will gladly tell you when it diverges from nonfiction though).

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The film also stylishly zips from proceeding to proceeding, taking full advantage of an early 2000’s-dominated soundtrack (I forgot how much I loved “Feel Good Inc.”) and making some (at first) pretty jarring pacing choices. Does it suffer from these timing decisions? It stumbles a little at first but either it found its groove or I just got more absorbed by it. I’m fine with either.

Yet despite all the laughs, I left this movie feeling utterly punched in the gut. Make no mistake, it’s a muckraker disguised as a comedy. God help you when you suddenly realize the sketchy skylarking playing out onscreen did happen and, even worse, the only victim at the end of the day is you (Or so the movie seems to conclude). And all the wisecracks and keenly crafted montages in the world can’t even seem to conceal the ugliness of Adam Smith’s system today.

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*What do you call a cross between a jet plane and an accountant? A Boring 747! (I desperately wanted to fit this in the review but I have to confine it to a footnote.
~Zac

Sisters

We are happy to announce that today will be our good friend Jen Gouchoe’s debut, providing her take on the new Tina Fey-Amy Poehler comedy Sisters. Directed by Jason Moore and starring Fey, Poehler and Maya Rudolph, it is rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and for drug use.

From IMDB: Two sisters, Kate (Fey) and Maura Ellis (Poehler) decide to throw one last house party before their parents sell their family home.

7 out of 10

I won’t lie, I had low expectations for this movie. Of course, I wanted my two main gals, Tina and Amy, to hit a home-run, but the plot seemed a little tiresome. Two sisters with two completely different personalities learn from each other and find themselves — by partying! Blah, blah, blah… But I have to hand it to them; they managed to take a seemingly cliche plotline and turn it into a smash comedy (and one that doesn’t just appeal to females, I might add).

When Kate and Maura Ellis (Fey and Amy Poehler) find out their parents have sold their cherished childhood home, they decide to go out with a bang and throw one last “Ellis Island” party. What could go wrong?

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As I mentioned before, the plot was nothing to write home about. The subplot with Kate’s precocious teenage daughter was a bit boring, but I suppose they needed to throw in some friction so the movie didn’t seem like one giant party (which, it mostly was). But what made the movie so great was Tina and Amy’s banter. They are an unstoppable duo, and they manage to produce the wittiest one-liners on the spot. There’s something to be said for on-screen chemistry, and the two of them sure have it.

The main event of this movie was the epic party scene. It was mesmerizing. I’m pretty sure every teenager, myself included, dreams of having a party this nicely decorated. While this movie may not be highly commended for its cinematography, I was impressed by the lighting and overall camerawork. From the fluorescent stringed lights to the aerial shots of the pool, the movie beautifully illustrated a party jacked up on steroids (or maybe Flintstones gummy vitamins, in this case) before the inevitable mess is to come.

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You would think you would get tired of watching a bunch of middle-aged people party for over an hour, but it was surprisingly enthralling. From the awkward beginning, where they perfectly capture the painful accuracies of middle-aged life, to the eventual demise, Tina and Amy take you through a journey of love, loss, and many #relatable moments (having to be the “Party Mom” deeply resonated with me).

While the development of Kate and Maura was the main focus, the ancillary characters were the hidden gems of this film. It was an SNL reunion in disguise, and it couldn’t have been executed better. Bobby Moynihan played the cringe-worthy comedian who takes his “Stevia”-fueled antics a little too far. Kate McKinnon was dressed in bermuda jorts, leading her brigade of lesbians. And Maya Rudolph… Oh, Maya Rudolph. Just her facial expressions alone won me over.

Though I was disappointed when the party scene finally concluded and the movie continued with its corny plot-line, I wasn’t bored at all towards the end. Despite the lack of partying in the final scenes, I was still interested in seeing how Kate and Maura would work out their sister issues. Sure, it may have all wrapped up in a perfect, predictable little bow, but the dynamic duo’s humor overpowered the lackluster plot. I have not laughed out loud during a movie in a long time, so thank you, Tina and Amy. Keep up the good work, ladies.
~Jen

6.5 out of 10

I usually shy away from picking the funny films to review since I find dissecting comedy to be rather dicey business but (after a slight, six-month, post-Trainwreck respite) I was actually quite glad I sprung for the latest Fey-Poehler powerhour, Sisters.

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Is it comedic genius? Certainly not. If you’re looking for some classy comedy, steer clear from here (Just not towards Daddy’s Home) because Sisters is unadulterated raunchfest. If I’m being particularly honest with the Anton Ego in me, there were dozens of parts that pulled a giggle or two out of me that really shouldn’t have but, hey, sometimes you just have to unleash that immature twelve year old inside to have to have a little fun at the theatre.

Yes, the jokes in here are far from grown-up (and some are definitely aching to keep up with the times) but they more often than not hit bullseyes, boosted from the sheer, real chemistry between our two leads who can naturally inject comedy into any situation with some pitch-perfect pacing and awkward acting. In fact, all of the actors in this are well-chosen, with those on the sidelines carrying their smaller scenes with especial hilarity. For example, John Cena (Need I link you to this clip?) pops in this one as a drug dealer and justifies his dive into acting once again, flexing both his comedic chops and actual muscles, of course. Maya Rudolph shows as the film’s antagonist and pleasantly surprises as she actually steals the show with some solid delivery.

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This one also achieves that beat of mean comedy well. The party that rages through a third of the movie (which actually boasts a killer, booming soundtrack) and (minor spoilers) gets pretty out of hand takes off in a fun way similar movies like Project X or The Hangover sequels couldn’t quite pull off in their stories and the selfishness of some of the characters is played deftly for laughs. None of the out-of-hand antics feel too contrived or overstay their welcome. In short, they go too far enough.

Of course, there has to be an emotional subplot and we’re definitely not spared here. Some of the drama is pretty shoehorned and, yes, you’re just waiting for them to get back to the comedy the whole time, you do know where it’s all going as it unfolds. That being said though, it’s relatively brisk and our colorful characters are likable enough to carry it out.

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So, in between trillion-ton heavy features like Spotlight and Big Short, Sisters was just the immature breather I needed. It’s fresh, fast fun amidst the glut of Academy Award epics rolling out right now (Don’t worry, we’ll get to those in a few days.) even if it’s not the highest brow brand of humor. If you want a non-lightsaber-laden cinematic escape in the coming weeks, give Sisters a shot and rediscover how nice it is to see Poehler and Fey team up on the silver screen.
~Zach

Trainwreck

Up next is Amy Schumer’s potential breakout film, Trainwreck. Directed by Judd Apatow, starring Schumer, Bill Hader, and Brie Larson, the romantic comedy is rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use.

Trainwreck tells the story of magazine writer Amy– a woman living a life without commitment, without inhibitions, and without shame. She sleeps around, drinks, and smokes pot all without limits. However, when she falls for for the subject of her new article, renowned sports doctor Aaron Connors, she starts to wonder if its time to change her ways.

7 out of 10

Amy Schumer is an extremely polarizing figure in entertainment. You either hate her, or you love her. Her first feature film, Trainwreck, has been getting a lot of buzz, albeit positive buzz. Does it deserve that buzz though, is the question at hand. In my mind, Trainwreck is a solid movie with plenty of laughs– but nothing more than just that.

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I’ll start with the headliner of the film: Ms. Schumer herself. I personally am not a fan of her. I just don’t really like the whole gimmick she has going on. She is very clearly a sketch comedian and I don’t think that kind of sketch acting translated over to the film. Every scene felt like an individual sketch largely due to Schumer’s acting. It’s very detached. The same thing goes with Vanessa Bayer– an actress primarily known for Saturday Night Live, a sketch comedy show. She’s just in her own little universe out there. That same thing is prevalent in Schumer, but less noticeable, since she basically is the movie. 

This being said, I did find Trainwreck really funny. I think the script is really well written, had a nice arc, and managed to not grow stale. The movie trusted that we would continue to laugh at this semi-alcoholic, promiscuous pot-head. That her gimmick wouldn’t get exhausting. And surprisingly, it didn’t. I think what made it funny is that, the individual character arc went off the rails– meaning, she started as the women who had to get her life together, and by the end… she really didn’t, now that I think about it. She was still an alcoholic and smoking pot at the end of the film, it was just accepted. I think thats what makes this film funny; the stereotypical hero’s arc is kinda thrown out the window.

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Bill Hader pleasantly surprised me. Typically a sketch comedian like Bayer (he was on SNL for a long time too), I really liked him in this film. He was excellent, as his character was awkward but likable. He did a really good job with the serious moments of the film as well, something I’d imagine is a bit more difficult for comedians such as him.

In the end though, the most memorable thing about this movie was easily LeBron James. Boy he is just incredible, isn’t he. His scenes were probably the most hilarious part of this film for me, though it definitely helps that I’m an extremely passionate sports fan. Power to him.

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Trainwreck is a pretty funny movie. Does it have flaws? Definitely. At times it feels more like a collection of sketches than an actually film. But there’s no overlooking the fact that it’ guaranteed to make you laugh. Amy Schumer’s first feature film is far from perfect, but anything but a train wreck.
~Vig

8.5 out of 10

I’m not a rom-com man. I think it’s the same thing everytime. I think it’s a good fifteen minutes of something being off in the main character’s life, thirty minutes of them falling for someone unexpected and their cutesy antics then twenty minutes of a misunderstanding or moping then the remained is just them reforming and getting back together.
Yeah, no rom-com’s ever done it for me except Fever Pitch (which was of course saved by its own admiration for the city of Boston and my dear Red Sox) so I wasn’t the happiest camper in the world headed into Trainwreck. But, magically, only a few minutes in, Amy Schumer’s magnum opus won me over.

There’s no bones about it: Schumer’s writing is crass, candid, and crude (perhaps too much so for some viewers’ palettes but certainly not mine). It takes a lot of raunchy plot detours that serve for nothing but pure, ugly entertainment. There’s really no doubt though that the film earns respect for its sheer honesty. The character’s are pretty much vehicles for these sideways shenanigans.

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That’s not to say they aren’t fun though. I was shocked with how well these actors were used. Schumer is, of course, pitch perfect as our leading, not so ladylike-lady; Bill Hader is her solid foil. John Cena (I know, right?), Brie Larson and Ezra Miller just to name a few are all as likable or unlikable as they should be.

That’s not to mention the celebrity cameos which the film is littered with. There are plenty (maybe too much for it’s own good; just enough for some enjoyable wheel-spinning) and so many of them hit bullseyes. And I must say LeBron James started his acting career off with a sonic bang here that has sharply peaked my interest in a second Space Jam feature. Each star is given enough material and thrown in at the right time.

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Those plot points we talked about early? The deadly rom-com tropes? Yeah, they’re there. The film is clever enough though that I can actually question whether it’s visiting them ironically or not. It’s so solid I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt but I will mention I let out a few groans when it really took its time. Those sighs were few and far between though, I assure you.

There’s also a pretty serious plotline throughout and it’s weaved in relatively well. It can feel like the movie is trying to gain a little depth but the actors pull it off well enough and it’s eased in with the comedy nicely. Overall, I don’t feel too strongly about it either way but I guess I’m glad it was there.

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If you’re not a rom-com-friendly viewer, don’t worry, you’ll most certainly enjoy this latest Apatow-sponsored feature. If you love yourself a “chick flick”, take a few friends who don’t and you may convert them to the dark side. All I know is that I’m a hundred times more excited for the next Schumer picture….and Space Jam 2 too apparently.
~Zach

Ant-Man

Up next is our take on Marvel’s next feature film, Ant-Man. Directed by Peyton Reed, and starring Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, and Evangeline Lily, this film is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

The next installment in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man, introduces us to Scott Lang (Rudd), an ex-con trying to care for his daughter. Dr. Hank Pym (Douglas), creator of a super suit called the Ant-Man suit, asks Lang to be his successor as the hero known as Ant-Man. Lang, at first reluctant, takes over the responsibilities, his first task fitting his niche: robbery.

7 out of 10

In recent years, American moviegoers have had urgent hunger pangs for comic book movies, and Marvel Studios is more than happy to serve move after action stuffed movie. Their recent release, Ant­Man, highlights the lesser known hero from his reintroduction into the world as an ex­-convict and eventually follows his journey to save the world. Scott Lang is the unassuming hero who teams up with scientist Henry Pym and uses Pym’s shrinking technology to become the Ant­-Man and avert imminent global destruction at the hands of insect sized weaponry.

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As all superhero movies carry out, the protagonist must become accustomed to his/her newly acquired powers and then fight overwhelming odds to save the world and their loved ones whom the villain has placed in mortal peril. From Spiderman to Iron Man, and finally to this latest installment, the same pathway of events dictates Marvel’s feature films and you would think we are all sick of the repetition. But the box office says otherwise­ and for that matter so do I. The painfully predictable screenplay is no new curveball, but how can any audience member be too critical of the entertaining action adventure flick? It has fist fights, high speed chases, guns, rockets, and explosions that blow up both the enemies and your mind. Only the most crotchety, grumpy, pouty old man would refuse to enjoy a fun movie like this one.

Marvel did a good job creating the miniature world of Ant­-Man; the enormous bathtub that Scott first finds himself was a fun perspective. Special effects and CGI animations certainly lent a hand towards the world of the insect sized hero as he runs through ant tunnels, ventilation shafts, and even keyholes. However some stunts in this movie were leaning towards being too ridiculous to appreciate, including the large, winged ant that became Scott’s trusty flying steed, and the clever but silly means of their breaking and entering that included titanic references and floating rafts built from ants. But when all said and done, Ant-­Man certainly boasted fun and exciting scenes; however, the humorous personality that Marvel wrote in was perhaps my favorite aspect of the movie.

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Similar to what I enjoyed in Guardians of the Galaxy, there was a slight carefree and self-teasing tone that Ant-­Man showcased; proof that director Peyton Reed was still willing to poke fun at the absurdity of a tiny hero. The A-list actors all brought along their own sense of light and dark humour, with Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, Michael Douglas as the infamous and somewhat mysterious Henry Pym, and Corey Stoll playing Darren Cross, a brilliant but power obsessed scientist the main ANTagonist… (Heh). The whole cast partakes in the funny, sarcastic tone of the movie that brings a necessary and humorous air to the film. Douglas’s witty chides and ironic jokes towards the under qualified and overwhelmed Paul Rudd reminded the viewer of the silliness when the plot line began to intensify.

Ant­-Man is not my favorite superhero movie and it seems somewhat unjust to call it in itself a “great” movie, but the new take on a Marvel film does not go unappreciated. Good acting and funny interludes appropriately accented the insect hero movie, and although the plot could get tedious given the theme of ants, the action remained fun and engaging, while the slightly self-deprecating tone enables this feature to soar into the box offices and even into my happy  memories as a fun night out with friends.
~Simon

6 out of 10

Since the exhaustion of all superheroes is sadly (or not, depending on how you see it) within realm of possibility these days, Marvel is now tasked with taking some of the comics’ spacier ideas and crunching them down to realistic, bite-size editions for audiences.

A thunder god? No problem. A frozen Captain America from the 40’s? Sure thing. That weird team of space outcasts with the tree and the talking raccoon? Surprisingly, that one turned out fine.

Marvel's Ant-Man..Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..? Marvel 2014

But they’ve hit a bit of a snag with “the guy who can shrink and talk to ants” it seems. It’s a tough sell. Marvel used to escape with less stupid than cool (The latter usually negates the former) but now Ant Man has presented a noticeable uptick in goofiness. By the time I walked out of this, I was shaking my head and confirmed the stupidity of it all with my friends,
in fact.

I was still laughing though and that counts for something. While there was a lot (and I mean a lot) of suspension of disbelief required, I can’t help but feel the movie’s aware of a lot of its ridiculousness and it toys with it from scene to scene. This is Marvel after all and it’s junk food. As long as you know you’re paying for junk food by now, you should be fine.

The sheer wackiness of Scott Lang (played by an A-game Paul Rudd) and his funsized misadventures is also galvanized by the Marvel Universe stuff that plays out in the background of the film. We’ve established Disney and the Marvel Cinematic Universe are great at table setting and, voila, its larger story has become a safety net for any of the film at hand’s shortcomings (I can always leave one Marvel film excited for the next regardless of what the center stage character delivers). This is the beginning of the third wave (or “phase”) of the Marvel Universe and it’s the first to kick off without a major hero lead; for the most part, it does a solid enough job.

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There are also just some pretty cool, creative scenes where Rudd’s character learns the ropes of (nearly) being an Avenger. They definitely have fun with the shrinking and growing powers of his suit and, for what it’s worth, they do actually make some of the more outlandish powers easy to swallow and interesting.

The villain is pretty forgettable but over the top, goofy and fun enough (Same for the sideline characters). Villains do tend to be the soft spot for the dear MCU and Ant Man sadly isn’t an exception. It looks like Loki is gonna keep his throne as the best Marvel antagonist on the block for a while longer.

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Was this movie more evidence that Marvel is phoning in a formula of cheeky jokes and references to smooth over stupidity? Maybe but I’ve been anxious about that as a fan for a while now. I’m still not quite tired of it yet and neither is the viewing public it seems. People are starting to notice it though and that could maybe spell a bit of trouble for our superhero framers and their investors in a good few years.

(I still never tire of some good SHIELD drama though).
~Zach

Inside Out

Hey everyone! This week we take a look at Pixar’s latest feature film, Inside Out. Starring Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, and Mindy Kaling, the film is rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action.

Inside Out takes a look at Riley, a teenage girl growing up, and the emotions- Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness- that control her. Life is good for Riley until her family suddenly uproots and moves to San Francisco. Riley has to leave everything behind, and her emotions have to adjust to a new life.

9 out of 10

As gut-wrenching as it is to say, Pixar has slipped these past couple years. With mediocre releases such as Monsters University and Cars 2, they lost the innovation and quality that a Pixar feature film has always had. However, Inside Out has brought them back to the high level that we’re used to seeing. Not only was the animation excellent, per usual, but the film featured exceptionally strong characters and a moving, innovative story.

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Though it goes without saying that Pixar does a good job with the animation of their films, I was especially impressed here. The one thing that made this film so appealing was the incredibly intricate use of color, and the animation allowed that to pop. Not to mention, there was a scene in which the characters literally shifted to being two-dimensional, which was done really done. All the little details created by the animators were what allowed this movie to be so visually appealing. Props to them.

 If you want to get technical, then calling this film a road-trip would be appropriate. The two main characters, Joy and Sadness, played by Poehler and Smith respectively, find themselves miles away from their headquarters with a desperate need to get back. I found myself fighting for them to get back, probably with a greater sense of panic that they were. Every objective that they faced, I was as frustrated with. My point is, I was invested and along for the ride. Tears were indeed shed. The movie’s plot was unique like no other– I was astounded by the creativity of the entire thing. The premise was incredibly inventive; I mean, the emotions inside of our body actually being alive? Who comes up with that stuff?

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They did a very nice job on all the characters too. Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith (Phyllis from The Office!) were on point and had really great chemistry. The supporting cast of Bill Hader, Lewis Black, and Mindy Kaling were hilarious and provided great support. Even more so, the way that each of the emotions were personified was incredibly well done. The characters were probably the most well executed aspect of this film, end to end.

The most powerful thing about the film was its deeper meaning. The whole connotation surrounding love and family was perfectly executed, especially as this film was able to recognize its audience. Slightly more mature kids, but still younger children. And even more impressively, though this film was not intended for angsty 17 year olds, it still hit hard. It featured a universal message that appeals to all age groups, and did it with perfect execution.

Now Inside Out did have minor flaws- at times it felt like they were desperate to add another obstacle for Joy and Sadness to encounter, undoubtedly making it feel a bit stretched. I’d say 5-10 minutes could be cut out without any of the important substance being lost. That being said, this can be easily forgiven. While it could have been shorter, those 5-10 minutes were still entertaining and well worth my time.

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When it gets down to it, Inside Out is one of my favorite films of the year so far. It is moving, charming, and an incredibly innovative film. Inside Out is definitely a film that will ultimately rank among Pixar’s bests, not to mention one that puts the studio back on track after 3 years of (relative) duds.
~Vig

9.0 out of 10

Inside Out has been widely heralded as a return to form for Pixar following the studio’s misfires with Cars, Cars 2, and Monsters University. The studio has pledged a number of sequels, including Finding Dory, Cars 3 (yikes), The Incredibles 2, and Toy Story 4, all set to be released in the coming years. But with Inside Out, Pixar proves that it still has the glorious creativity and originality that has defined it for more than a decade.

And yes, Inside Out is as inventive as a film can get. Many have chided it for following the perceived Pixar formula – what if _____ had feelings? – but Inside Out manages to find its own niche even within its classic mold. It takes an inventive look inside the mind of a young girl nearing her teenage years and introduces us to the feelings that, for better and for worse, control her emotions.

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It has all the winning energy, animation, and gags necessary to keep the attention of its younger target audience. The emotions are all gorgeously animated, the vocal work is fantastic, and the scenery is bright and full of action and adventure. Sequences with Bing Bong, the protagonist’s childhood imaginary friend, are dazzling and fully entertaining. The story is easy enough to follow, with potentially confusing plot structures thoroughly explained at the beginning of the movie in a way that doesn’t feel forced. The movie’s relatively short runtime ensures that it doesn’t overstay its welcome and bore its potentially fidgety young audience members.

Beyond that, though, Inside Out has all the deeper meaning that has come to characterize the upper echelon of Pixar films. It has plenty of puns and subtle word play (Anger’s head lights on fire because he’s a hothead, Sadness is shaped like a teardrop) and references and situations that will hit home only for audiences who have been through the emotional development Riley is beginning to experience. Inside Out also makes a real inquiry into hour our brains function and how our actions can be dictated by our emotions. We take rides on the train of thought, see memories fade into blackness, and see the struggle for control our emotions wage within our minds.

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The only place Inside Out loses some points is in its middle stages. The beginning of the movie, where we are introduced to the emotions and each has its hilarious moment in the spotlight, is absolutely amazing. The ending, where each finds its new, more complex role within Riley’s mind, is again absolutely amazing. In the middle though, it seems almost as if the director was looking for a way to extend the running time, and we were met with a number of seemingly meaningless plot details which, while entirely entertaining, were ultimately unnecessary for the conclusion of the story and had the sense of prolonging the natural course of the story.

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These minor hitches cannot undermine the sheer brilliance of Inside Out. It is simultaneously uproariously funny and heartbreakingly sad, blissfully slapstick and pensively subtle. It is a win for audiences of all ages and all but a guarantee for Best Animated Feature of the Year. Maybe it can even score a Best Picture nomination.
~Will