Review – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Excerpt: “There are few actors in all of Hollywood with the consistency (and stamina) to be the lead in big budget action films AND still, voluntarily, perform their own stunts. In all of Hollywood, Tom Cruise continues to be that gem, and boy does he shine in this film. Cruise can still convincingly play an action because he is, in fact, a real action star. I’m not just referring to him doing his own stunts, because that alone is beyond impressive (maybe a little reckless). I’m referring to his absolute conviction and impressive consistency for every character he portrays, including Ethan Hunt. Last year he reminded us how he became such a well-known action star with his role in Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow (also written by McQuarrie), and this year he continues his precedent.”

RATING: ★★★★★★★★ (8/10 stars)

To read my full review, go to The Young Folks

Review: The End of the Tour

Excerpt:The End of the Tour is a powerful cautionary tale about fame, addiction, and all the evils inherent in the American Dream. The entire film is magnificently performance driven and that is why this film works so well. Director James Pondsoldt is no novice when it comes to bringing to life complex characters through conscientious and veracious exposition. In his previous films (Smashed and Spectacular Now), he was able to draw out career-making performances from now-stars Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller, and this film is no exception. Jason Segel showcases an intensity we had yet to see 31from him, embodying Wallace’s mannerisms and down-to-earth demeanor while still providing deep insight through conversations.”

RATING: ★★★★★★★★★ (9/10 stars)

To read my full review, go to The Young Folks

Review: Unexpected

Excerpt: “While Unexpected doesn’t actively pursue a greater conversation on race and privilege, or even the state of Chicago’s education system, it does spark a conversation. Swanberg makes use of her familiar surroundings, and her very adept cast, to craft a story about sisterhood that goes beyond the borders of race and politics and into the intrinsic responsibilities of the community we are all a part of: humanity.”

RATING: ★★★★★★ (6/10 stars)

To read my full review, go to The Young Folks

Review: Samba

Excerpt: “The compromises made to the story’s tone benefits the great cast that manages to bring this story to life. Samba takes a more attractive approach to the ugly situations it is trying to present by focusing on the unconventional relationship between the two leads. This gives the relationship between Charlotte Gainsbourg and Omar Sy a chance to take center stage but instead ends up dominating the entire film.”

RATING: ★★★★★★ (6/10 stars)

To read my full review, go to The Young Folks

Review: Pixels

Excerpt: “These man-child hero films haven’t worked since the late 90s. It’s time for Sandler’s comedy to evolve and show audiences and critics that there are still a few creative surprises left to be delivered; that the films will stop following their calculable formula for financial success and instead truly entertain. I continue voluntarily watching his films, including this year’s disappointing, but promising The Cobbler, in hopes that I will be proven wrong, forced to admit my mistake and eat my words while simultaneously praising Adam Sandler’s relevance in today’s cinema. That moment has yet to arrive. Sandler is similar to his character in Pixels, except, when he gets a chance to explore his full potential in his most recent releases, he ends up ruining the day rather than saving it. Instead, watch the entertaining short film it is based on. Otherwise, it’s Game Over.”

RATING: ★ (1/10 stars)

To read my full review, go to The Young Folks

Review: Ant-Man

Bigger is not always better. That mantra really only applies to pizzas and paychecks. We’ve seen this notion fail more recently in the Marvel cinematic universe with Thor: The Dark World and the should-be juggernaut Avengers: Age of Ultron, that didn’t have a strong enough story to slay its many shortcomings. Ant-Man has been a pipedream for the last several years, but Edgar Wright’s (Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) tenacity turned this unlikely dream into a reality. He was then kicked off the project. Creative differences aside, this film was much more entertaining than originally anticipated and served the singular purpose of introducing the world to the newest Avenger: Ant-Man.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a recently released convict who went to prison for stealing money back from a company that was stealing from its customers. Technically, it was a burglary, he would argue. Either way, after some mandatory Baskin Robbins product placement and a lost job later, Scott is forced (really more manipulated) back into a life of crime, but this time with bigger stakes and a much smaller score. One tangential story from his friend Luis (Michael Pena) and he unwittingly falls into a plan set up by scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly). Their goal is to stop Pym’s protege turned super villain Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from completing Pym’s original shrinking formula or else the entire world will be full of miniature minions that could cause immeasurable havoc.

In the entire film, Hope is forced to train Scott so that he can master what Hope is already a pro at. Why Hope couldn’t just don the suit with her already exclusive access to the laboratory is just one of many plot holes in this film, but even the most well-built ant hills are full of holes. What else can you expect from a film that has been through preproduction upheavals and has had four writers give the screenplay their own treatment? To my great surprise, this Frankenstein’s monster comes together in spite of its many cooks. The approach Peyton Reed gives the film is a fairly conventional one for the Marvel universe. It is an origin story, and it doesn’t aspire to be more than that. Ant-Man keeps its ambitions small because it realizes that its only real purpose is to introduce Ant-Man as the newest member of the second generation of Avengers. Also, I’m sure the money these kinds of films generate was also a great motivator.

Marvel’s creative (or lack thereof) decision to part ways with Wright just makes the entire film a huge “what-if” scenario that will always be picked apart. What if Marvel had stuck with the guy who has a proven cinematic style and spent years of his life trying to bring this film to life? What if Wright had set a new standard for Marvel films much like James Gunn did for Guardians of the Galaxy? We will never know the answers to these questions, but the closest we got to even the tiniest essence of Edgar Wright in Ant-Man are the flashback sequences involving Michael Peña. This completely conventional treatment is made entertaining/bearable thanks to Peña’s comical schtick and Rudd’s natural charm.

It is obvious that everything falls on the Ant-Man actor’s tiny shoulders because his charm begins to wear off the closer you get to the end of the film. Sometimes it feels like Ant-Man is only a secondary character in his own film, just there for the ride. It becomes all the more obvious when you are forced to question why Hope wasn’t the one to confront the villain since she was more than capable. You never truly believe any of the excuses the characters make in favor of Hope’s exclusion, but then you remember that the Marvel universe itself is full of these same excuses for their lack of female presence and overall subpar treatment of strong, non-sexualized females.

Ant-Man‘s control helps it fit Marvel’s model for superhero films almost a little too well. This innocuously entertaining film does exactly what it was made to do, which is both a gift and a curse.

RATING: ★★★★★★★ (7/10 stars)

Review: Trainwreck

Excerpt: “The only thing Trainwreck has in common with its name is that it is something you can’t turn away from. Amy Schumer, with the direction of Judd Apatow, creates a film that delivers riotous laughter with earnest drama, creating a new standard for rom-coms. Although it does break most of the romantic comedy conventions, its overarching theme proved more conventional than you would come to expect from Schumer.”

RATING: ★★★★★★★★ (8/10 stars)

To read my full review, go to The Young Folks

Review: What We Did on Our Holiday

Excerpt:What We Did on Our Holiday is British comedy at its best and most awkward. They use children to deal with very adult situations in a more grown up way than the adults would have dealt with them. Writers/directors Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin show us they excel in family-centered comedies like they did with the series Outnumbered. They have shown that they can weave delicately embarrassing situations into comedic gold. The children were more the vehicles for the humor, but the adults were the ones that kept this film grounded.”

RATING: ★★★★★★★ (7/10 stars)

To read my full review, go to The Young Folks

Review: Self/less

Excerpt: “Visual maestro Tarsem Singh directs this film, even though there are practically no signs of his expected visual style anywhere to be seen. The only morsels we receive are near the beginning of the film, when we see the golden decadence of Damian’s home and an upscale restaurant where everything seems curated with care. With Singh, there always seems to be a disproportionate compromise between the artistic imagery and an engaging story. We usually get one, but not the other, with the close exception being The Fall. Typically, the films have favored visual flair over an intriguing story, but Self/less gives us the rare case of an outwardly interesting premise becoming underwhelming, while the anticipated avant-garde style is all but nonexistent. Singh’s signature style over substance approach leaves us with nothing but empty gestures on both sides.”

RATING: ★★ (2/10 stars)

To read my full review, go to The Young Folks

Review: Terminator Genisys

Excerpt: “Where Terminator Genisys both fails and succeeds is in the way it panders to us as if we could be subdued with nostalgia and reworked references to the first film. They hold little charm this time around and only serve to undermine any original thought that was put into the creation of this film. Instead, the film comes off as a vehicle to restart a once-great franchise. Even though the vehicle is packaged nicely, it won’t get anywhere without an engine. The nostalgia is great at first, reminding you of why you originally fell in love with the franchise. Yet, as the film continues to bludgeon you with more references and the same gags (like Arnold’s terrifying smile), they become tragic reminders of how far these films have strayed. At the end of the film, you’re left with a sour, metallic taste in your mouth and a longing to re-watch the first two films (maybe even the third one), trying to forget this one exists. Unfortunately, like Skynet’s threat of complete human annihilation, nothing is more terrifying than the already confirmed threat of more Terminator sequels.”

RATING: ★★★ (3/10 stars)

To read my full review, go to The Young Folks