Sunday, November 29, 2015

Vacation

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Well, at the very least, this film isn't Christmas Vacation 2.



Vacation – 3 out of 5

It’s been over 30 years since the Griswolds first took their original vacation to Wally World in John Hughes’ National Lampoon’s Vacation.   It was a classic trip that still holds up today and even gave us more laughs when the Griswalds went to Europe and, in my opinion, hit their highest note when the holidays came and we got Christmas Vacation.  Since that time of egg nog and good cheer, we had some a more forgettable trip to Vegas but how does this new trip hold up?  How does this non-reboot that’s sort of a reboot but also is a remake but not really remake sequel that is simple titled Vacation rank?  Well, long story short, it’s better than Vegas Vacation, I can tell ya that.

Chase, taking on the Mad Scientist look now.
 

Rusty Griswold is now an adult and is being portrayed, once again, by a different actor (this time it’s Ed Helms).  Well, it seems his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) isn’t the happiest in their marriage and isn’t looking forward to their yearly vacation to a boring old cabin by the lake.  So, Rusty decides to pack the car, grab his boys; James (Skylar Gisondo) and Kevin (Stelle Stebbins), and recreate the vacation his father took him on years ago and head to Wally World.  Well, things don't go quite as planned and life makes sure to throw a wrench in the gears as often as it can.  Can the Griswalds survive the trip, and each other, and make it to the greatest theme park in the country?  Or will everything go down in flames?

And the "Holiday Road" song should be cemented in your brain right about now.

Whenever I review a comedy that I don’t feel strongly about, I always feel the need to remind myself that comedy is very subjective—in fact, the two most subjective genres in the world of film, in my opinion, are comedy and horror because the experiences are way more personal than other types of films.  When it comes to what makes us laugh and what makes us scared, so much of what we see and hear can result in a wide variety of reactions.  What scares or makes one person laugh can be annoying or lame to others.  With that being said, I won’t say that Vacation is an instant classic like the first trip so many years ago.  The film isn’t terrible but it is very hit or miss.

One of the misses is that Christina Applegate doesn't really feel like she's
contributing at all.

It'll be a cold day in hell when Charlie Day is
not funny.
Some of the film’s strongest points involved the wide variety of characters that come into play on the trip and the actors who portrayed them.  Proven funny-makers like Leslie Mann, Charlie Day, Keegan-Michael Key, Nick Kroll, Tim Heidecker, Kaitlin Olson, Michael Peña and Colin Hanks show up and provide some very amusing and outright hilarious sequences that really help move the film along and make up for the less-than-funny moments that bog the story down.  Additionally, there are times when actors who aren’t traditionally known for doing silly comedies come in and really had me rolling.  Actors like Chris Hemsworth and Norman Reedus had some incredible solid scenes that proved to steal the moment and became excellently written and incredibly performed bits of comedy gold.

See the gag is he has a big dick--which, honestly, could have been a terrible
joke if Hemsworth didn't nail it just right.  Yep, that line sounded weird to me, too.

Another element that worked fantastically well with the film was Steele Stebbins as Kevin, the younger sibling in the Griswold family.  Without a hint of doubt in my book, this kid was the funniest member of the family and had so many extremely hilarious moments.  His character would constantly antagonize and berate his older brother and the vulgar things that would come out of his mouth proved to be the right amount of shock value to be hysterical but without crossing the line and feeling like it was being vulgar to get the cheap laugh.

Also, the kid tries to murder people by suffocating them.  That's just Comedy 101.

The parts that slowed the film down and weakened it to the point it was nearly as bad as Vegas is that a lot of the jokes were really poorly written.  There are some gags that try to poke fun at our digital and social media age but come off less like a rousing send up of this reality and more like an aging stand-up comedian in a dark, smoking and sparsely filled nightclub saying things like, “What’s the deal with Facebook?  It’s not a face that you can see in a book, is it?”  Then, when you don’t have these weak bits, you have the even weaker bits of being gross for the sake of a cheap laugh—only the laughs didn’t arrive for me.  I stated that Stebbins’ character of Kevin was written incredible well and was able to be that balanced of a character that could say and do shocking things without feeling like a cheap shocking bit but this balance isn’t seen in such parts as the family bathing in sewage run-off.  Instead, these parts just felt like diving down to the lowest common denominator in order to get a quick laugh but they came off more desperate or like throw-away gags so they ended up more groan-inducing than chuckle worthy.

This was definitely the lowest of the low points with the humor.

Finally, the last element that really hurt this feature is the fact that some members of the cast didn’t feel right or just didn’t need to be there.  For example, the bloated corpse that appears to be Chevy Chase (seriously, he now looks like he could play a drowned mad scientist on an episode of C.S.I.).  I’d hate to kick a man when he’s down but the reality is Chase’s glory days are long behind him and matters are only made worse during his short scene when you see that he is trying way, way, WAY too hard to make jokes out of nothing.  It’s sorta sad and depressing to watch.  Almost as sad as seeing Ed Helms not really channeling even anything remotely close to what other actors brought when they played Rusty.  As much as I like the guy in the right role, Helms just didn’t work as Rusty because he simply wasn’t Rusty.  He was playing the same role he always plays and that is basically just being Ed Helms.

#NotMyRusty
At times, Vacation is super hysterical and a laugh-out-loud riot that is a lot of fun and filled with hte nostalgia of the 1983 cult classic and, at other times, it is a weak, unfunny mess of bottom-of-the-barrel gags that flounder around in a desperate grab for attention and pity laughs.  I won’t call the film a waste of time because when it works, it works insanely well but, in the end, the film doesn’t stand much of a chance at holding its own against some of the better films in this franchise.  But it’s still way better than Vegas.  I can’t emphasize that enough.

Spy

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Next movie needs a crossover with Jason Bourne and James Bond.



Spy – 5 out of 5

Spy comedies are nothing new.  There’s been a few of them and they often vary in the quality department.  However, when I heard that a writer/director I really enjoy; Paul Feig (the man who is, according to people of the internet, super evil because he’s being the Ghostbusters reboot—the remake that, also according to people on the internet, will erase all memories and copies of the original film due to the lack of dicks in the story), was creating a spy comedy with a comedic actress I really enjoy; Melissa McCarthy, I was very excited but never got the opportunity to see it until it came out on Home Media (but that’s because of my own spy stuff I had to do—but don’t look too much into that because I might have to kill you if you learn too much…or give you a stern talking to and have you pinky swear you know nothing about my job).  

But if you tell anyone, I will threaten you by vigorously shaking my fists.

Jude is here to lay down some law...I'm truly sorry for
that one.
Spy tells the story of CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) hitting the field after the agent she works with; Bradley Fine (Jude Law), is murdered while on operative must try to find a suitcase nuke that’s in a location known only by the daughter of an international terrorist (Rose Byrne)—who, just so happens to be, the same person who killed Fine.  However, along the way, Cooper must compete with an irritate and rambunctious agent who keeps mucking things up (played by Jason Statham).  Now Cooper must find the location of the nuke before it’s sold to the highest bidder and is unleashed on the world and avenge her friend’s death.

It's hard to make killing a man funny but Feig and McCarthy did so and made
it look so easy.

Bobby Cannavale is in the film...and seems to be
rocking some guyliner.
I figured that Spy would be funny because I’m a fan of Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy but I don’t think I was prepared for exactly how funny it was going to be.  The story is incredible solid and build on a foundation that creates a decent spy thriller with surprisingly good action but, at the same time, does a great job of poking fun at the genre.  The cast is incredible and a fantastic mix of proven funny-makers like McCarthy and other actors not necessarily known for comedies but all doing an amazing job of bringing the laughs—for example, Jason Statham was absolutely hysterical as he played a slapstick-y and goofy character that I’ve never ever seen him play before.  Finally, the comedy is unrelenting and gags and jokes are coming at you fast and nonstop.  Everything from simple jokes that rib spy and action film clichés to slapstick humor to gross out jokes to more vulgar insult based lines litter almost every second of the film and it had me laughing so hard and so often that I was brought to tears every few minutes and found myself actually exhausted from how much I laughed.  I slept like a baby that night.

Every time I see Rose Byrne is in a comedy, I always try to convince myself she won't
be funny but I'm always wrong.  I really need to end this ridiculous preconceived notion.

I have a lot of friends who aren’t fans of McCarthy because they see her as a one trick pony who only does films that involve her falling down and making cracks about her being fat (yet, when Chris Farley made this his career, it was considered brilliant—but I won’t get into the systemic sexism of comedy and the entertainment business here) but while those gags can be seen in the film on an occasion (and they are funny), this film also makes fun of those tropes with jokes about McCarthy not wanting to be seen that way and gags about her actually being a true badass.  Some characters want to light her up as the funny fat person but her character is actually a dedicated agent who wants to do a good job and is actually really handy with a gun and in a fight.  In fact, this film even does one better by making her be the tough one and having the man who usually is doing the fighting (Jason Statham) be the one who messes up and falls down.  It’s honestly some immensely brilliant comedy writing and just another reason that I am such a fan of Paul Feig and his work…and, just to incite the rage of the internet, I’m excited as hell for his Ghostbusters reboot.  Yes, hate me for not hating a film that hasn’t even been released in trailer form yet.  I know it’s weird that I’m excited for something rather than hating it based entirely on casting decisions alone.  I’m a rarity on the ‘net.

Yes, that man is Jason Statham...and the look actually works for him.

Any complaints I have about the film are minor and involve a couple of missteps in the story.  Occasionally, a plot point felt superfluous and unneeded but it never took away from the immensely entertaining experience.  And sure, there was a joke or two where I laughed very slightly less hard than other times but, seriously, from beginning to end I was laughing my ass off to this film and was intensely entertained.

The longer you stare at the look on McCarthy's face the funnier this screenshot
gets.

Paul Feig wrote and crafted a spy comedy that takes itself seriously enough to look like a legit spy film (seriously, the action in this film is really, really good) but, at the same time, balanced itself out with some of the best humor I’ve seen in a film this year.  Spy is definitely one of those comedies that I will turn to repeatedly in the future because it is just that well put-together and just that hysterical.  And, if it’s not asking too much, I would very much love to see this turn into a regular franchise and see more wild and funny adventures of Susan Cooper.  I'll consider it a personal favor, Mr. Feig.

The Final Girls

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  The Final Girls kinda sounds like an all-girl punk band.



The Final Girls – 4 out of 5

There was a dark time where Meta humor was completely misunderstood or just plain hated.  Had a film like The Final Girls came out a decade or so ago, it would have probably been overlooked or ignored but thanks to the internet making satire the It Thing now with comedy, features like this one can now flourish and find a bigger audience (and get better reviews) than it would have years previous.  With that being said, let’s re-release Last Action Hero for today’s audience because that was a Meta comedy about action films that I always felt never got its fair shake.

"It's called The Final Girls but there are guys, too.  This is sexist." - What a
Men's Rights Activist is no doubt saying about this film right now...and in a fedora.

Max Cartwright (Taissa Farmiga) is a teenager who lost her mother Nancy (Malin Akerman) to a car accident a few years back.  However, Max can always see her because she once starred in what is hailed as the greatest 80s slasher film; Camp Bloodbath.  At the behest of the film’s biggest fan; Duncan (Thomas Middleditch), Max and her friends Chris (Alexander Ludwig), Vicki (Nina Dobrev) and Gertie (Alia Shawkat), head to a double feature screening of the film and its sequel but, after a terrible incident sets the theater ablaze, the group mysteriously find themselves stuck in the film.  While it’s an emotional experience for Max to be, in a roundabout way, reunited with her mother, the group must also face the reality that they are stuck in a horror film and have to survive in order to get out.  So, as Duncan puts it, they have to find the girl who survives it all and kills the bad guy and stick with her.  The only problem is that the rules of the film have changed because of their presence.

I wonder if Camp Bloodbath has a plot twist similar to Sleepaway Camp.

The chemistry between mother and daughter in this film
will give you, what the internet says, the feels.
The Final Girls is a fairly creative send up of the slasher genre.  While not as smart or as witty as such films as the first Scream or Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, The Final Girls is a lot of fun and plays well enough on the clichés that crafted the genre that contained such features as Friday the 13th and Halloween.  The cast is great, visually the film looks terrific as it easily (and creatively) differentiates the “real world” from the “movie world” and the film goes the extra mile of adding a decent level of emotion thanks to the plotline of Max reuniting with her mother.  Overall it’s a very fun film that isn’t trying to insult the slasher films it is lightly ribbing but rather lovingly spoofing them.

The movie world is so bright and pretty.

Honestly, it wouldn't have hurt to have at least a dozen
more scenes with Middleditch...and two or so less with
DeVine.
The only real downsides to the film is the fact that much of the comedy is a bit weak and the best bits are seen in the trailer.  Thomas Middleditch is a fantastically talented comedian (check out Silicon Valley, yo) and his few scenes are terrifically hilarious but he was sorely needed through much of the film.  Fans of Adam DeVine might enjoy his few scenes but that man always comes off like he’s trying too hard to be funny so I never really find him that amusing, only grating.  However, the biggest complaint I have and something that really hurt the film, in my opinion, is the fact this feature really needed to be rated R.  Making it a PG-13 film really waters a lot of its potential down and doesn’t really honor the source material it is lampooning.  This rating ended up eliminating a lot the elements you expect to see in slasher films; things like gore and pointless nudity.  Sure, they make fun of these films and their love of showing off naked flesh and it works (it didn’t really need boobies and butts to make this entertaining) but this movie really needed more guts and gore.  It just didn't feel like a proper slasher without copious amounts of blood.

I really wanted to make a pithy one-liner here about the burning arrows but
I just don't see the point.  It's not really a burning issue for me right now.

Despite its flaws, The Final Girls is creative and entertaining.  I didn’t find it as funny as I hoped it would have been and making it PG-13 really felt like a disservice and made it come off like it was a edited-for-television version of a more ballsy film but it’s still fun.  Its plays off the idea of regular people being thrown into a film extremely well and is definitely worth a watch for those who love dark comedies or are fans of the horror/thriller/slasher genres.

Somebody airbrush this on the side of my van...also buy me a van.

Tomorrowland

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Well, it's better than Yesterdayland or BackInMyDayLand--that land is very racist and misogynistic.



Tomorrowland – 3 out of 5

This was one of those films that I was pretty excited to watch when I saw the trailer.  Not only was it co-written by Brad Bird—the man who gave us The Iron Giant and The Incredibles—but it had George Clooney and it had that throwback sci-fi feel that gave off an impression of wonderment and fun.  I had planned to see it in the theater but life always seems to get in the way—and by “life,” I mean finding that extra cash needed to go to the theater.  Well, it never happened where I was able to get to the cinema but once it arrived on home media, I jumped at the opportunity to watch this one…and I was less than impressed.

You don't even have to hear anything and that "It's A Small World After All" song is
already stuck in your head.

Casey (Britt Robertson) is a brilliant but troublesome girl who is doing all she can to help her father keep his engineering job with NASA but, after getting arrested, she finds a mysterious pin end up in her belongings.  When she touches the pin, she is transported to a fantastical world of science and wonder beyond all imagination.  When she investigates the source of this piece of flair, she is attacked by human-looking robots and is rescued by a child calling herself Athena (Raffey Cassidy).  Athena tells her that the world she saw is a utopia but she is needed to help save the world.  She takes Casey to meet with a man named Frank Walker (George Clooney); an individual who was banished from the utopia and together, they make it to this new dimension called Tomorrowland and learn from an official named Nix (Hugh Laurie) that Casey’s world is doomed.  However, Frank hypothesizes that Casey has what it takes to save the world and change everything that Tomorrowland has become.

 Check it out, Gondor is off in the distance!

Ah crap, that powerful creepy kid from Looper is in
the film.
From a concept perspective, Tomorrowland is a decent film that has some great performances from the cast, some absolutely incredible special effects and some really surprisingly entertaining action sequences.  The feature is also beautifully optimistic with its themes of protecting the environment and preaching the importance of education and curiosity.  Finally, Brad Bird does a tremendous job of mixing dynamic camera work and clever editing to make the story really flow.  Tomorrowland is never really boring and is serviceable as an entertaining movie but the film gets incredibly sloppy with its story and plot.

Put your hands down.  None of the movie's problems are your fault.

He's just here to say it's not Lupus.
One thing I should have realized going into the film was the fact it was co-written by the man who is partially responsible for Lost (as well as being partially responsible for the dive the series took after its epic first season); Damon Lindelof.  I won’t go as far as to say that Lindelof’s writing is terrible because he does craft some interesting ideas but he does clearly have problems with the development of those ideas.  Too often his writing goes too vague and feels way underdeveloped to the point that too many plot points and story elements go unexplained and results in strange character decisions or turns in the story that never feel natural or organic.  While I don’t know if the problems with this film are his fault, the issues with the film’s conflict being way too vague to feel threatening, the lack of an adequate or even apparent antagonist and the sloppy way things get explained, take too long to be explained or go completely unexplained are complaints that are seen way too often in his work and it feels like way too big of a coincidence to not have the responsibility of the messy story fall on his shoulders.  Like other projects he’s been on, many of these issues might have been caused because of editing for time but, as it is, the film already feels like it is taking way too long to really get going and I’d hate to see the length of the cut where everything is explained perfectly well and contains a story that makes sense.

Story problems aside, the action did really kick ass in this one.

This is really the killing blow to Tomorrowland but it also suffers from some more minor problems.  For example, the film is way too preoccupied with trying to sound futuristic and include sci-fi elements like alternate dimensions and playing with time than worrying about the human element.  The emphasis of style over substance ends up making the emotional scenes feel empty and vacuous and really made for characters that felt flat and one-dimensional.  

*Gasp*  It's like Clooney is looking right at me.  Quick, do I have something on my face?

Overall, Tomorrowland is a watchable and half-way fun feature that has a great cast, cool special effects and a nice throwback look that is mixed with hints of Steampunk and a dash of Cyberpunk but the film is weighed down by a story that feels uneven and meandering.  Too many elements that need more depth are never developed upon and the parts that need less expansion are expanding upon like there is no tomorrow(land).  I really wanted to see this film and was very excited for it but I won’t go as far as to call it a disappointment.  Heck, the film has George Clooney in it and that man is so talented that he already makes it worth it (I could watch a film that was just him folding laundry and think it was the coolest and most well-acted thing I’ve ever seen) and there was no denying the ambition this film clearly held but, in the end, the film just fell vastly short of the potential it had.

Also, I'm not entirely sure why Robbie Rotten suddenly showed up in it.