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Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Fans of Andy Samberg's film Hot Rod have waited a long time to see something that matched the humor and feel of that classic comedy. The Lonely Island has brought its unique brand of comedy to the small screen with SNL skits, and Popstar is a classic return to the big screen. While bizarre and goofy, it was filled with funny moments, especially to those who have seen all the music videos of The Lonely Island. With many references to previous skits, it will be enjoyable for fans of the show, but I could see how those unfamiliar with The Lonely Island will find the movie somewhat dumb and lacking in humor. I found Popstar fairly funny throughout, with a few laugh out loud moments. I will admit the story line was stretched and ridiculous, but it was never meant to be taken too seriously to begin with. I would probably see this again, and would recommend it to those who are familiar with Andy Samberg and Company's previous works.
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
In my opinion, what Bryan Singer has done for the X-Men universe could be considered one of the greatest feats of story weaving I have seen in modern film. For over 15 years he has been creating stories about the same characters, put into similar situations, but finds a way to make each more memorable than the last. At the root of what I found impressive about Apocalypse is the character driven plot. While there was plenty of action in the second half to please the casual movie-goer, the first half was more intriguing to me, because I was given a chance to see these characters before they really became who we know them to be. With a new ensemble cast, characters are tweaked and fiddled with, enough to make them fresh, but not enough that they don't have the same soul as the characters in the original trilogy. In an altered time line, before the X-Men were officially formed, they face the most powerful mutant ever to walk the earth, known as Apocalypse. At times I didn't understand his motives for wanting to wipe out the human race, but the only thing that really mattered was that he would stop at nothing. In the early moments of the film, we are "introduced" to younger versions of characters, and the actors who portrayed these characters, especially Sophie Turner, did an outstanding job. I felt the same way towards these characters as I did to their older selves, and noticed the same flaws and strengths that help each throughout previous films. At times X-Men: Apocalypse seemed a little overlong, but I never felt that I was watching a pointless scene. The X-Men movies have never had quite the same level of hand to hand combat that I've seen in recent films such as Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but that was never intended to be the focus of the story. The focus of the story is the story itself. While I don't think it quite lived up to Days of Future Past, the strong, character driven plot, and Singer's effortless way of connecting time lines makes this a film I will definitely see again.
The Nice Guys (2016)
The Nice Guys
I'll admit that I am unfamiliar with most of Shane Black's original works, watching The Nice Guys made me want to go back and take a look at his earlier films. The characters were well written, even better cast, and fit well with the theme of the film. There was rare a dull moment, it seemed I was either enjoying the dark comedic tone, or getting engaged in the plot. While the first two thirds of the film seemed excellent, the writers set themselves up for a fantastic finish, but were unable to capitalize on that potential. The script seemed to suddenly turn very basic, with things "falling" into place almost too miraculously to be true. I never felt like I had truly been given an ending worthy of a classic detective story, but the fast pace of the film and humor was enough to make it very enjoyable.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016)
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne and Zac Efron all reprise their roles in the second installment of the Neighbors series, this time taking on a rowdy sorority next door. While I have to admit, I thought the first Neighbors was hilarious, and trailers had me thinking this would be a fantastic follow up, I was let down. But only a little. While sometimes raunchy for no apparent reason (it is a Seth Rogen film so you have to expect that), Neighbors 2 had enough laughs to keep me reasonably entertained, but never rolling on the floor like I was while watching the first one. As the movie went on, I began to question more and more why a sequel was necessary, and it began to feel like a cookie cutter film based off of the first one's success. Those who enjoyed the first one will probably find something to laugh about with this sequel, but nothing to talk about the next day.
Comedy duo Key and Peele make their feature film debut with Keanu, an action comedy based around the kidnapping of a man's cat. Mel then descends into the drug underworld to track down his lost pet, only to find it is now in the hands of a tough kingpin. Though not as funny as some of their comedy skits, Key and Peele do an adequately humorous job as they will do anything it takes to get their cat back. The backbone of the story itself is a little stretched, and though it was intended to be this way it often seems so far fetched that grown men and women are killing each other over a kitten. While it was reasonably funny, fans of the show will be disappointed as it doesn't live up to it's expectations.
Money Monster (2016)
While Money Monster started out as a very well done thriller, the third act differs greatly from its original theme, by giving the film a very blatant political agenda. While I don't mind films that push ideas and philosophies (in fact I believe that it is very important to stand behind something), but the climax of this film was not only very unbelievable, it differed so greatly from the feel of the first half of the movie it felt very strained. George Clooney does an acceptable job in the lead role, but I never felt that Julia Roberts did anything to progress the story. Jack O'Connell was probably the only performer who did anything to stand out, though it didn't take much. Much of the script was unnecessary, it felt longer than it needed to be, and there were more than a few times where I wondered if the film really needed a certain scene. In most cases I don't think they did. Sadly though, I think my biggest disappointment was that it started out with such a grand idea, and such a gripping beginning that I expected more.
Brooklyn tells the touching love story of an Irish immigrant, Ellis Lacey, as she explores a new world, and leaves behind an old. After moving to Brooklyn, Ellis at first feels alone, and struggles to find happiness in her new life. She struggles until she meets Tony, an Italian boy who she falls in love with after meeting at a dance. The story itself is moving and heartfelt, with a very solid script to help drive home the emotions. The music and acting came together to create a film that not only is immersing, it feels real. Saoirse Ronan does a particularly spectacular job, by making the lead character very relate- able and adorable. Emory Cohen plays opposite her, as the sometimes awkward but very likable Tony, and he performs in a way that compliments the two leads as a couple while highlighting how their differences in character make them stronger together. The camera work was my only complaint, some shots felt somewhat unimportant or irrelevant, but overall this was a very excellent and memorable film.
In the Heart of the Sea (2015)
Above Average Historical Epic
Ron Howard's historical epic In the Heart of the Sea features Chris Hemsworth as a savvy first mate on the whaling ship "The Essex." Based on the true story that inspired the classic novel Moby Dick, the film follows the fated journey of The Essex and its crew, who is eventually stranded after an encounter with a giant whale. Led by a strong script and good direction from Howard, it was an emotional and intense film. While some of the camera work and coloring seemed to not fit with the period of the piece, the set design and decoration was enough to make it feel authentic and real. It lacked some of the grit and emotion that separate a good film from a great one, but this is definitely worth your time.
Unemotional, Overlong Thriller
In Criminal, Kevin Costner plays Jerico Stewart, a sociopath, who feels no empathy, emotion or regret. Imprisoned as a violent criminal, he is given a second chance when a CIA operative is killed in action, and "transplanting" his memories into Jericho's head could be the only way to complete the mission. In a cast full of talent such as Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones, Costner's portrayal of Jerico is over the top, unnecessarily brutal and slightly moronic. Don't get your hopes up about the rest of the cast either, they do little to shine. Tommy Lee Jones is used sparingly in his role of a doctor who provides little to the story outside of performing the surgery, yet somehow is deemed important enough to tag along the rest of the film. Gary Oldman's character also probably has some psychological issues as well, and it feels as though his only purpose is to drive the nonexistent story line with his impatient mistakes. Overall, Criminal fails to deliver any emotional moments, provides poor characters who I was never able to relate to, and quite frankly, never even liked. I never fully decided whether or not I was supposed to root for this violent, blood thirsty beast or if he was intended as the antagonist. The most disappointing aspect of the film is that it is based on the very interesting, thought provoking subject of transferring memories, and the morality of such actions. Never once did they question should they be doing this, or what kind of adverse effects it could have on society. A bland and stereotypical script fails to delve into what could have made this a very thoughtful and enjoyable film.
The Departed (2006)
In The Departed, Martin Scorsese makes his return to the mob underworld, and he does it with a thrilling intensity that overshadows his previous films. From the start, to the closing credits, The Departed is an incredibly exciting film, and there is rarely a slow moment. Unlike GoodFellas and Casino, the characters were written in a way that makes the viewer relate to them in a very personal way. Their trials and struggles make them very human, and I found myself very emotionally involved, hoping for the best for the major characters. Speaking of characters, give credit to the acting cast for filling the roles emotionally and intensely. DiCaprio and Damon were excellent in the lead roles, but Baldwin and Wahlberg were an absolute joy to watch as supporting characters. While the writing was intense, I sometimes felt that the plot had no central point, and it seemed to go on and on without resolve. It is sure to keep the audience guessing, but at times this was frustrating and I wanted to know more that wasn't being given to me. The finale, while intense to say the least, didn't fill all the holes created throughout the film, and is sure to leave many questions with viewers. I would go as far to say the acting is some of the best I've seen though, and if you're a classic Scorsese fan, this is definitely a movie well worth your time.