Sunday, July 26, 2015


    I first saw Amy Schumer on "Last Comic Standing" many years ago. She was pretty funny but she didn't win. That's how I feel about her new movie, pretty funny in spots but not a winner.

    In her first starring role, Ms. Schumer plays Amy, an alcoholic, promiscuous single girl in the city, not really looking for love. She is a writer for a tabloid magazine  run by the always wonderful, Tilda Swinton.  I don't think I've ever seen Ms. Swinton in such a loose, contemporary role and she is clearly having a blast as the crude head of the magazine.

    The film plays like an anti-romantic comedy with Ms. Schumer in a role reversal of the usual male part.  The first half of the film is a series of encounters that allow Ms. Schumer to sleep around and toss off great one-liners.  When she is assigned to write a story about a sports doctor played by Bill Hader, love hits her when she least expects it. Not knowing how to deal with this new emotion is the basis of the rest of the film.

     Mr. Hader is a terrific comedian but having him play the straight man is a complete bore. It may be right for the character but it's disappointing for the audience. The "actor" who steals the movie is LeBron James, playing himself as a close friend of Mr. Hader's. He is a natural and their scenes together are very funny.

      There is a subplot involving Amy's sick father, played by Colin Quinn and her sister, played by Brie Larson. Mr. Quinn basically plays himself, making Ms. Larson one of the few truly professional actors in the film and it shows. She has matured into a fine young actress who is always a pleasure to watch. Mike Birbiglia plays her husband and Evan Brinkman plays her stepson, Allister, in a role written for awkward laughs.

       There are some funny scenes throughout the overlong film but they are far and few between the awkward moments. Ms. Schumer's character is not likable. The "showstopper" at the finale made me what to scream "enough, make it stop". This is a film that will appeal to a very particular audience. Luckily for Ms, Schumer, she can always fall back on her very funny TV show.

Monday, July 20, 2015


       Big things do come in small packages. Marvel Comics continues it's movie domination with it's latest and most unexpected hero, Ant-Man.

        The film stars Paul Rudd (an unlikely action hero but as it turns out, the right man for the job) as Scott Lang, Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym, Evangeline Lilly as Hope Pym, Hank's daughter and Corey Stoll as Darren Cross. Co-starring are Michael Pena, Bobby Cannavale, Wood Harris and the rapper T. I. There are also some familiar cameos and some surprise stars from the Marvel Universe.

          Since this is an origin film, the first half is very dialogue heavy with just a few short action sequences to keep you interested in what's to come. Mr. Rudd is not quite his usual snarky self but he is never the less, charming and fun to watch. The real fun is the special effects. The small (no pun intended) visual taste in the beginning really pops in the second half of the film. Clearly the CGI artists had fun with their work as many scenes will have you laughing out loud.

          The CGI ants look a bit too metallic but they are quite detailed and fun to watch as Ant-Man leads them into battle. There are many clever action sequences making use of environments you wouldn't expect and one terrific fight with a surprise Marvel hero. Speaking of which, the film references the Marvel universe multiple times and keeps Ant-Man firmly rooted in the same reality. As to what added to the success of "Guardians of The Galaxy", the film doesn't take itself that seriously which is why Mr. Rudd is a perfect choice for the lead.  The self deprecating humor keeps the film lively and things never get too heavy.

          Make sure you stay through all the credits as there are two additional scenes once the film ends and they are both significant to the continuity of future Marvel films.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Me and Earl and The Dying Girl

     Yes, there is a dying girl but this clever new Indie film tries it's best to present an honest, unmelodramatic portrait of teen angst in a refreshing way. For the most part it succeeds although it does occasionally slip into said melodrama.

       Thomas Mann plays the "Me" in the title, a high School senior named Greg who is perfectly at home navigating his final school year staying invisible to the cliques around him. His "friend" is Earl (RJ Cyler), a black teen Greg has known since they were little kids. When Greg's mom learns of Rachel, a girl in Greg's school has been diagnosed with Leukemia, she tells Greg to befriend her, even though he barely knows her. Rachel is played by Olivia Cooke. The film also co-stars Connie Britton, Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon and Jon Bernthal as the various adults.

        Greg narrates the story with the plot separated into chapters (like the novel it is based on). The three soon become platonic friends and Greg and Earl entertain Rachel with videos of their home made movies, spoofs of Hollywood greats. These spoofs are some of the funniest scenes in the film. 

        The story remains upbeat, filled with odd ball humor and avoids, for the most part, the trappings of a typical teen comedy/drama. Greg is a quirky character that takes some time to warm up to but Earl is a likable character from the start. Their relationship with Rachel is interesting from a fresh perspective.

        "Me and Earl and The Dying Girl" deserved it's Audience Award at Sundance earlier this year. It is a funny, heartfelt film that will surprise you.

Inside Out

       Pixar films have an uncanny knack for entertaining with a strong emotional core, This new film continues that tradition with a story that is smart and deeply heartfelt.  Be warned however, this is not a film for small children. It attempts to deal with basic emotions in a kid friendly anthropomorphic way but the concepts introduced are complex and may not be easily understood.

         For older children and adults, it is a very rewarding experience with an excellent message that will tug at your heartstrings. The animation is, of course, brilliantly rendered and the colors and physical comedy will appeal to the little ones ( They just won't grasp what's actually happening and may be frightened during certain scenes).

         When eleven year old Riley and her parents move from the comfort of their home in Minnesota to a new home in San Francisco, it triggers a massive reaction of emotions, portrayed by Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), and Anger (Lewis Black).  When Joy and Sadness are separated by the others, Riley goes deeper into a tailspin and it's up to her emotions to all work together to save the day. It's a heady concept (pun intended) and it works brilliantly. An imaginary friend, Bing Bong, voiced by Richard Kind, almost steals the film and helps it reach it's emotional core. As always, the vocal casting is spot on.

          As with most Pixar films, "inside Out" can easily be enjoyed by adults with or without children. Writers and co-directors Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen get inside our heads and our hearts.

Friday, July 03, 2015


            Not a sequel and not quite a reboot, but rather a recharge of the whole series. If you are familiar with the mythology, "Genisys" will blow your mind. If you don't know the story, rent the original before you go or you may have a hard time keeping up.

              This is a perfect film for IMAX 3-D as the visual and sound effects will knock you right out of your seat. There are terrific action sequences throughout the film and plenty of surprises that I don't intend to spoil. Needless to say, this installment is a game changer.

               Arnold Schwarzenegger is terrific, reprising his role as the original Terminator. It's as if he never left. He can still handle the action and adds a great deal of humor throughout the film. Sarah Connor is played by Emilia Clarke and who better than "the Khaleesi" of "Game of Thrones" to tackle the role. Kyle Reese is played by Jai Courtney in his biggest part to date and he does an admirable job in this major role. John Connor, the other main character in the series is played this time by Jason Clarke, who is becoming the "go to" actor for sci-fi reboots ( see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes).

              Credit writers Patrick Lussier and Laeta Kalogridis for a script that is familiar and yet, turns the whole Terminator mythology on it's head. It is a very welcome addition to the series.