Tag Archives: sequel

‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ is a Predictably Lightweight but Fun Marvel Romp

Given the cultural significance of “Black Panther” and the sheer scope of “Avengers: Infinity War,” I feel this one was always going to play small-scale third fiddle…

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is the sequel to the 2015 film “Ant-Man” and features Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly reprising their roles as the title characters. Michael Peña, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Abby Ryder Fortson and Michael Douglas also return as Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen, Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer and Laurence Fishburne join the cast. In the film, Ant-Man and the Wasp must hunt down a stolen piece of technology in order to try and save Douglas’ wife from being trapped in the quantum realm (in layman’s terms, she shrunk so small she has been stuck between two atoms for 30 years). Peyton Reed returns to direct.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first “Ant-Man” film and actually think it is one of Marvel’s weaker outings. It just is never as inventive, clever or funny as it thinks it is and plays out like an “Iron Man” remake on a lesser scale. I wasn’t expecting too much from this sequel, even if Marvel is on a streak right now of putting out films that are changing the superhero landscape for good (“Thor: Ragnorok” and the aforementioned “Black Panther” and “Infinity War”), but maybe it was those low expectations that made “Ant-Man and the Wasp” pretty enjoyable.

Paul Rudd is perfect in most everything he does and is really one of the only actors who could pull off a superhero like Ant-Man. He is funny and reluctant yet brave and loyal and is able to have natural chemistry with anyone he is sharing a scene with. Michael Peña, a fan favorite from the first film, returns and again has some standout moments of ADD energy while Michael Douglas is given a few more chances to earn some laughs while also carrying the film’s more emotional scenes. Newcomer Randall Park was probably my favorite addition playing the FBI agent assigned to keep an eye on Rudd following his house arrest, and he without a doubt provides the film with its funniest moments (side note: get me a Park and Rudd “Odd Couple” spin-off show now, please).

Aside from Park, all the newcomers to the cast feel like useless additions that are only there to push the plot. Hannah John-Kamen is the film’s main antagonist but her goals almost feel like a side quest and really only exist to give the film a faux sense of urgency, while Michelle Pfeiffer and Laurence Fishburne portray people from Douglas’ past that, while the mention of their characters is important to the plot, their actual presence is not.

And that is really the film’s biggest issue, that there is no urgency or real weight. The entire plot takes place over about a day and there are certain characters that feel added for the sake of runtime or because the producers wanted to see a tiny car turn into a big car and hurt some bad guys.

That being said, the action sequences are cool (as far, few and in between as they sometimes seem to be) and the going from big-to small-to big again gag is still amusing form the first film.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” was never going to mean as much, have as much to say or be as charismatic as any of Marvel’s other tentpoles but that’s OK. Watching it is more often than not a blast and even if it fades quickly from mind a little (no ant pun intended) mid-summer distraction to hold us over until “Avengers 4” isn’t so much of a bad thing.

Critic’s Grade: B

Walt Disney

‘Sicario’ Sequel is a Step-Down on Most Every Level

Jim Carrey’s 1994 is usually accepted as the hottest year an actor has ever as he starred in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “The Mask” and “Dumb and Dumber.” I’d be willing to bet that history will look upon Josh Brolin’s 2018, between “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Deadpool 2” and now this, with equal amounts of praise.

“Sicario: Day of the Soldado” is a sequel to 2015’s “Sicario,” a film that starred Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro and received critical praise and three Oscar nominations. Brolin and del Toro return here as they get sanctioned by the US government to launch a false flag operation in order to start a war between the Mexican drug cartels. Stefano Sollima takes over directing duties from Denis Villeneuve while Taylor Sheridan returns to write the script.

I enjoyed the first “Sicario” film. Shot by now-Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins (it feels so good to say that) it looks gorgeous and features several brilliantly directed sequences including the border bridge scene (which has to be one of the most YouTube’d movie scenes in recent years). No one really felt a follow-up was necessary, although they tossed out the idea of del Toro’s hitman Alejandro Gillick getting a spin-off, yet here we are three years later. And does “Day of the Soldado” justify its existence? I mean, not really.

I like Taylor Sheridan as a screenwriter and after some felt he was snubbed for his work on the first “Sicario” he earned an Oscar nomination for 2016’s “Hell or High Water;” I also really enjoyed his (“not”) directorial debut last year with “Wind River.” His scripts are all pretty straight-forward and based in reality, with tension and a take on the modern Western that engross the viewer and drop them into the world, whether that is dusty Mexico, the wide plains of Texas or the snowy northern US. This is his first script that doesn’t really have his staple on it, as the first act jumps around from Mexico to Kansas City to Africa and then back to the U.S. all in about ten minutes. So much is happening and it is easy to get lost, which like I said is unusual for a Sheridan script and it feels either he mailed this thing in as a sequel cash grab or the studio just accepted his first draft without polishing it.

The film is sold as, and starts out with, Josh Brolin’s CIA agent Matt Graver being tasked with turning the Mexican drug cartels against each other after the US labels them as official terrorist organizations. This may seem cool and interesting but once he and del Toro kidnap the daughter of a cartel leader (Isabela Moner) the film becomes something else entirely. I really think watching the CIA team continue to commit staged attacks and assassinations would have been a much more interesting (and exciting) film but instead most of the time is a “Logan”-esque road trip.

“Soldado” just feels like inferior to its predecessor in every way, like a student who loved “Sicario” wanted to pay homage to it as their final project. Not to say the quality is poor but the score by Hildur Guðnadóttir (who collaborated with the late/great Jóhann Jóhannsson on the first film) features a lot of the “Inception” style “BWONG!” sound effects but not much of the tension. While Deakins’ shots looked gritty yet beautiful Dariusz Wolski’s is just grim, which I supposed matches the tone and outlook on the world that the film is trying to depict. Neither of these are hindrances as a whole but in a film that so desperately wants to be compared to what came before, they can’t help but feel like steps down.

“Sicario: Day of the Soldado” is a well-crafted and well-enough acted and in some sense its bleak and brutal depictions of violence and the current immigration situation are to be commended. It is just sad that the film takes way too long to figure out what it truly wants to be and that creates some pacing issues. The first film was slow but it had a building sense of tension as the noose got tighter; here, it doesn’t build to much which just leaves the audience feeling bored. There are a few sequences I’m sure I’ll YouTube in the future and the least-demanding action-thriller fans may get their money’s worth, but by most accounts this is just a letdown of a film.

Critic’s Grade: C

‘Ocean’s 8’ is Simple Fun that Goes Down Smoothly

As far as all-female reboots/re-imaginings of classic film franchises go, the bar for this to beat “Ghostbusters” was not that high…

“Ocean’s 8” stars Sandra Bullock as the estranged sister of Danny Ocean, and follows her as she puts together a crew of women to steal a diamond necklace during the Met Gala in New York City. Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna and Helena Bonham Carter fill out the group as Gary Ross directs and co-writes.

I don’t think anyone was dying to see this franchise revisited but when it was announced with the gender-swap twist there really wasn’t much backlash like the “Ghostbusters” remake/reboot saw. This was mainly because the trailers weren’t historically bad and the fanbase isn’t as cutthroat as that of “Ghostbusters.” And for the most part, also unlike “Ghostbusters” (which I’ll stop comparing this to because it’s a lazy association), “Ocean’s 8” does a good job of setting itself apart from its predecessors and (mostly) never trying to duplicate or one-up them.

The cast is obviously top-notch, full of Oscar, Emmy and Grammy winners, and they for the most part get equal screen time to play around. Some of them do get pushed to the side save for a randomly inserted “look at the crew bonding!” clip, like when Awkwafina shows Mindy Kaling how to use Tinder in a scene that last 30 seconds and leads nowhere. Anne Hathaway, my first true Hollywood crush, comes close to stealing every scene she is in playing a ditsy celebrity who is the target of the heist. Hathaway is essentially the exaggerated meme that society and the Hathahaters have painted her out to be and it’s a blast watching her play into it.

Much like the heist itself the glue at the center of the film is Bullock, who carries herself with a cocky but still kind-hearted way about her. We aren’t given much to her character besides she’s a thief who likes thieving and has a few bad relationships from her past but that never really hinders our viewing experience. James Cordon also shows up toward the end of the film and while the plotline he’s involved in goes on for far too long, he provides some of the film’s biggest laughs.

Now the heist itself is alright, there are a few intense moments and a couple creative ways the crew works around problems, but there are also *a lot* of things we’ve seen before, not only in the previous “Ocean’s” films but just heist plots in general. There is also a twist that I did not think was handled well (or plausibly) and it was only made worse by the fact that the marketing campaign inadvertently spoils it.

The film is shot well with a nice gleam (this is the Met Gala, after all) and the editing is sometimes fun and quick but other times holds for too long or don’t create a beat for the dialogue to be delivered properly.

“Ocean’s 8” is light entertainment that for the most part does not try to be anything else. There a few fun cameos and amusing one-liners, but mostly this is a movie focused on letting several Hollywood stars have a great time and allow the audience to do the same and there’s usually nothing wrong with that.

Critic’s Grade: B–

‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ Is Laughably Bad

Independence-Day-2-posterHahahahahahahahahah… [exhales] ok. Let’s do this.


“Independence Day: Resurgence” is the sequel to 1996’s “Independence Day,” a film that exploded in popularity and has come to define pretty much everything about 90s action films and the summer blockbuster in general. The plot of this movie is: the aliens come back. That’s truly all that is going on. Liam Hemsworth stars as Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman return and Will Smith does not. Roland Emmerich co-writes and directs.


Despite what the nostalgic teenager in you may want to think, the original “Independence Day” is not a good movie by any means, but it is a solid summer action movie led by a “popular as an actor can be” 1990s Will Smith. Did it need a sequel? Absolutely not. Did the 20 years between films give Emmerich and his team the time needed to create a worthy follow-up anyways? Even less so.


There are movies that are so bad they are good and then there is this thing. It isn’t watchable, it’s incredibly boring and a chore to sit through, but my god does it have some of the biggest laughs of 2016. I am not kidding, there is a death scene here that is so over-the-top and overly dramatic that my friend and I were in genuine tears for over a minute.


But unintentional laughs aside, this thing is a mess and a stupid one at that. Look, there are dumb fun movies, the first “Independence Day” is proof of that, but this movie is just dumb. Half the dialogue is just people screaming while they fire blasters or cheering because we blew up an alien ship. It just comes off as cheesy and unrealistic and, again, unintentionally funny. It takes 40 minutes before something besides exposition and set-up happens, which would be fine if we cared about any of these characters.


The thing that worked for the original film was we were an unprepared human race who used our modern technology to unite and defeat an invading alien race. This time around we have learned from the defeated aliens and used their weapons to create blaster guns, flying cars and gravity-defying trains. It is no longer that “relatable” (as much as an alien invasion film can be relatable) and becomes full-blown sci-fi fantasy, and if I wanted that I would just play one of the new Call of Dutys that no one asked for.


“Independence Day: Resurgence” may have its (brief, fleeting) share of fun destruction sequences and Jeff Goldblum offers a little bit of nostalgic comfort, but he and most of the rest of the cast look bored, and that is reflected in the excitement level of the audiences who have the misfortune of purchasing a ticket to this film.


The final shot of the film is a set up for another sequel (all that is missing is the characters turning and saying, “see you guys in ‘Independence Day 3!’”), and I just pray to God aliens come and wipe us out before that day comes.

Critics Rating: 2/10

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Horrible Editing, Pretty Scenery Highlight ‘Transporter Refueled’

_The_Transporter_Refueled__posterIf the 85% humidity didn’t have me thinking it’s still August, the release of crap movies sure would have.

“The Transporter Refueled” is a reboot (I think? It has never really been confirmed if this is a reboot or prequel) of the Transporter franchise, but this time Ed Skrein gets behind the wheel to play the titular character instead of Jason Statham. Here the Transporter must help out four call girls who are looking to get revenge on a kingpin (or something along those lines; this film is a mess). Editor-turned-director Carmille Delamarre directs.

The last Transporter film was in 2008 and in the seven years since I haven’t heard a single person clamoring for another sequel. In fact, “Transporter 3” is often referred to as one of the worst edited action films of all-time, alongside “Taken 2.” So naturally it makes sense that they hire the guy who edited those two films to direct this one, right?

Like I said above, this movie is a mess and I have no idea where to start with it. I guess I’ll begin with how lazy and stupid it is. In the film’s opening scene, a bunch of men are shot in front of a group of prostitutes. The pimp then orders the girls to get back to work…with the massacred bodies still lying on the pavement. I’m not an expert in how ladies-of-the-night operate, but I have to imagine corpses are bad for business.

That scene takes place in 1995, and then we are transported (get it?) 15 years later, which after a quick calculation means it’s 2010. That would be fine and dandy, except characters use iPhone 6’s and drive 2015 vehicles. So either the movie was too lazy to add 15 to 1995, or they didn’t care about being accurate to the time period, both of which are sins.

The action in the film is at times fine, there are a few well-choreographed car chases, but those moments are diluted and ruined by constant slow-motion and quick edits. And when I say quick edits, I’m talking five shots in less than four second. The same type of edits you may find in, say, “Taken 2” or “Transporter 3.”

The man behind this film, and other gems such as the Taken trilogy, “The Family” and the worst film of last year, “Lucy,” is Luc Besson and he is the Adam Sandler of the action world. He continuously gives his friends jobs, and his films are usually awful, featuring near no plot, shoddy editing and villains with horrible accents and even worse motivations; and Besson makes no effort to try and change formula this time around.

The best part of “Refueled” was when Skrein is fighting a group of henchmen and he sticks a floatation ring around one of them and the bad guy yells, “you jerk!”. I laughed out loud. Obviously not the film’s intention, but most of the writing is that bad throughout.

I was never bored while watching “The Transporter Refueled” per se, but I was also almost never interested. I checked my phone at least five times and at one point even responded to a text, which I *never* do. The film is set in the incredibly beautiful Monaco, so every establishing shot is gorgeous, but honestly aside from that there isn’t much this movie does right. It’s not frustratingly awful like “Fantastic Four” or annoyingly bad like “Pixels,” but “The Transporter Refueled” fails to accomplish what it set out to do, whatever the heck that aspiration was.

Critics Rating: 4/10



‘Fantastic Bore’ Is Frustratingly Awful

Fantastic_Four_2015_posterI am at a loss for words on how uneventful this movie is, so no time for a clever opening. Let’s just get right into this evisceration.

“Fantastic Four” is the latest attempt to reboot the Marvel Comics team of the same name, and stars Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell as Mr. Fantastic, the Human Torch, the Invisible Woman and The Thing, respectively. [Normally this is where I would insert a brief plot summary, but truly this film is so massively uneventful that I couldn’t give you a storyline if I tried]. Josh Trank, who directed “Chronicle,” directs and co-writes here.

Right from its conception, this film was a mess. It was no secret that Sony made it simply to hold onto the rights, and then there are plenty of stories of Trank showing up on set stoned and drunk, or not showing up at all (for legal reasons, I should say “allegedly”). Then they had to do extensive reshoots, which are painfully obvious due to haircuts/wigs and awkward dialogue dubs. In all honesty, look up all the behind-the-scenes drama involving the director and producers; it is 100x more entertaining than the movie they ended up creating.

On top of those red flags, ear-piercing alarms should have been sounding when it was announced the film wouldn’t allow reviews to be posted until the day before release (which is as sure a sign that a movie is terrible as dark clouds mean it’s going to rain), and lead actor Miles Teller saying that none of the stars had seen the finished film, and that “rarely are films of this size critically well received”. That’s…comforting.

Boy, halfway done with this review and all I’ve done is give reasons why we all thought it would fail. Where are my manners? Who knows? Maybe all the reshoots and on-set tension created something truly special, and we were worrying for nothing! (We weren’t, though, this movie is awful)

I truly, honestly, sincerely have no idea where to begin. I am genuinely at a loss for words, and that isn’t a great thing to be considering my God-given talent (and livelihood) is putting pen to paper. I guess we can start with how badly they botched the amazing cast. I am a huge Miles Teller fan; I’ve had a man-crush on him ever since “21 & Over.” But here? Oh boy, did Trank and Co. try their very hardest to make him awful. The entire cast, in fact; they’re all talented young actors who together have no chemistry. I hate to compare this to the 2005 film because I think reboots should be judged on their own accord, but say what you will about the old F4 films, at least the four members seemed like they were friends.

Next is the “plot.” If you’ve seen the trailer you’ve seen the film. I remember watching the trailers and every time I would think, “this looks like it’s spliced from just three scenes, what’s the plot?” And I was right to question; there is no plot. What shred of a narrative there is revolves around the group building an interdimensional transportation device (because simply going to space nowadays is too mainstream), getting their powers, and then everything kind of rushes an oh-my-god awful ending.

Seriously, though, the ending to this movie is just…I don’t even know. To steal a quote from Michael Scott: “It’s simply beyond words. It’s incalculable”. The first third of the film is innocent enough, showing a young Teller trying to crack all the science, and then there’s a few (I stress, A FEW) interesting and fun moments. Then they get their powers by traveling to “Planet Zero” (named after how much interest I had left in the film by this point) and Trank treats it like a horror film, which for a second I liked. The idea of finding your one friend burning alive and another trapped in a pile of rocks is enough to break a psyche. But then they skip ahead a year (because who wants to watch them struggle and learn to control their new powers, right?) and everything gets worse. You get bored and the film goes nowhere.

Then the climax happens, and oh my God. I didn’t think it was possible to have negative amount of suspense or emotional attachment to a film, but give “Fantastic Four” credit because it did just that. When Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) arrives to be the villain (after all, with a name like that, he had a limited pool of career choices), you don’t care. There is one fun tracking shot of him walking down a hallway and he makes everyone he passes’ head explode, but then he engages in a horrible CGI battle with the Four. And you just. don’t. care.

Look, I could go on for days about why this movie is awful, but my head may just explode like one of those poor people Dr. Doom strolls past. The film plays out as one big (boring) trailer for future films, which, based on critical and fanboy reception, I doubt we’ll ever see, and it’s adorable the filmmakers thought they ever would. “The Incredibles” remains the only truly good Fantastic Four film, and this makes the 2005 film and its sequel look like “The Dark Knight.”

I thought critic Ben Mankiewicz’s description of the film perfectly sums everything up: “it feels like the first episode of a TV series that you are certain to not watch the second episode of.” Amen, brother. “Fantastic Four” is not fun, it’s not exciting and it’s certainly not good. Just go plop yourself down in front of the dryer for an hour 45; you’ll get more entertainment and odds are more character development than this film could ever offer.

Critics Rating: 2/10



‘Vacation’ Is Bumpy but Often Funny Road Trip

Vacation_posterEvery summer there is a comedy that is underappreciated by critics but is actually pretty funny. 2013 had “We’re the Millers,” last year featured “Let’s Be Cops,” and now we have “Vacation.”

“Vacation” is the latest film in the National Lampoon franchise of the same name. The film follows Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) who takes his family on a cross-country road trip to Walley World, the same theme park that he went to as a child. Christina Applegate plays Helms’ wife, as John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein write and make their directorial debuts.

I am a fan of Francis Daley and Goldstein’s writing. “Horrible Bosses” is one of my favorite comedies of all-time, and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” has more than its fair share of laughs. So maybe I’m biased when I say it, but “Vacation” is a very amusing time at the movies, even though it’s not without its share of flaws.

In case people like Adam Sander have forgotten, the first and foremost thing a comedy should do is produce laughs, and “Vacation” does that in large quantities. There is one scene in the film where I was actually rolling in my seat holding back tears I was laughing so hard, and that does not happen with me very often. Many of the jokes in the film are based off of awkward interactions and uncomfortable pauses, and directors Francis Daley and Goldstein do a good job knowing how long to hold the camera on an actor to get the proper reaction shot.

By and far the best part of the film is the younger son, played by Steele Stebbins. He curses, he verbally and physically abuses his older brother and he has wisecracking responses to most anything people say. His character may come off as too mean-spirited for some, but I bought it and thought he made the film.

A scene-stealing performance, however, comes from Charlie Day, who plays a white water rafting instructor. Day infuses some energy into the film just as it was starting to sag, and he produces several hardy laughs.

The film isn’t necessarily *good* like “Trainwreck” or “Spy,” and the plot is pretty thin. You get you standard road trip comedy hijinks, like crazy truck drivers and the car breaking down, so don’t go in expecting the re-invention of the wheel. You know how the film is going to play out, and at some parts that does make some scenes feel like byproducts of the sake of a single joke.

Some characters also are almost unbelievably stupid and naive, and even as someone who is forgiving of many things in dumb comedies, even I sometimes grew annoyed by their ignorance to certain situations.

I can best compare “Vacation” to “We’re the Millers,” in that if you are willing to overlook the implausible and cliché plot and just enjoy the film for being funny, then you’ll have a good time. I personally found the film an amusing way to enjoy two hours of my life, and compared to some of the other “comedies” from this summer like “Entourage” and “Pixels,” this is comic gold.

Critics Rating: 6/10



Someone Please Terminate ‘Genisys’

Terminator_GenisysCalifornia just can’t seem to catch a break at the movies this summer. First an earthquake tears it apart in “San Andreas,” then Los Angeles is again soiled by the trash that was “Entourage,” and now it is the host of the nuclear apocalypse. And we thought a drought was their biggest problem.

“Terminator Genisys” is the fifth film in the Terminator franchise and the first since 2009. When Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) is sent back to 1984 to protect Sarah Conner (Emilia Clarke), he finds out that he has entered an alternate timeline, and must team up with Sarah and the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to stop Judgement Day from ever happening. Alan Taylor directs.

I don’t really know where to start with “Genisys”. I guess a fair place would be with the name, which isn’t even technically a word. In the film Genisys is the name of a program, but even then they don’t explain why it couldn’t be “Geneses”. I suppose that perfectly sums up “Terminator Genisys”: is doesn’t fully know what it wants to be, and is just a rip-off of a better, more coherent item.

“Genisys” [sigh] starts off in the events leading up to the opening moments of the original “Terminator” film, which was kind of cool. We get to see the other side of the time portal and what really led to the machines sending back Arnie, and why Reese was selected for the mission. Then everything starts to go downhill.

I got the feeling from the trailers and seeing the film just confirmed it: there is nothing special about this film, on any level. By that I mean it is just a cookie-cutter, PG-13 summer action flick, filled with standard, cliché action sequences and some cringe-worthy dialogue (which makes sense seeing as one of the film’s screenwriters has spent most of his career as an editor). And when lines aren’t clunky, they’re attempts at humor that are just that: attempts.

The biggest swing-and-a-miss at a joke was when Reese is fighting the 1984 Schwarzenegger Terminator he says, “I didn’t volunteer for this”. Oh, really? Because last time I checked you signed up to go back in time and protect Sarah Conner from the very Terminator you are currently fighting.

Not helping the cause is Jai Courtney, who plays Reese. Courtney seems like a cool guy in real life, but in movies he has done little to establish himself as a charismatic leading man. He delivers each line of serious dialogue with unintentional laughs, and botches every attempt at comedic relief. You never for a second buy that there is romantic chemistry between him and Sarah, and the absolute only reason you even window shop the idea is because you know in the first film they fell in love.

Alan Taylor directs this and I want to know the name of the studio executive that watched “Thor: The Dark World” and went, “Yes! Know the guy who directed the only bad Marvel film? Get me him; he’s the man to save the Terminator franchise!” Alan does nothing inspiring with his camera or narrative, and by the halfway point of the 30 minute climax I just kept rolling my eyes and thinking “oh my God, movie, end!”

The special effects aren’t even great, and if your special effects aren’t good in 2015, you really messed up. The film has a few nice twists (even though most are ruined in the trailer for whatever reason), and almost has an interesting bit of social commentary on what led to the apocalypse, but these are all squashed under the cardboard characters and increasingly frustrating tangled web that is a plot.

“Terminator Genisys” starts off well, and for a few minutes in the middle showed a glimpse at maybe getting good, but it quickly makes a detour back into Snoozeville…Population: the audience. Seeing Arnold back in his most famous role was fun for a second, but he’s ironically said “I’ll be back” in every film he’s been in since 1985, so my face remained stoic when the line was delivered here.

If you’re a diehard Terminator fan, then watch “Genisys” (that name, man, I’m telling you) when it comes out on DVD. If you could care less about the mythology of the franchise and just want some summer fun, go see “Jurassic World” again. Or throw two robot action figures at each other for two hours. I’m sure there’s more of narrative and fun to be found doing that than watching this.

Critics Rating: 3/10



‘Ted 2’ a Bearable but Bumpy Sequel

Ted_2_posterAs far as 2015 sequels go, “Ted 2” lies somewhere in the middle.

The follow-up to “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane’s 2012 hit, “Ted 2” follows John (Mark Wahlberg) and his talking teddy bear (voiced and motion captured by MacFarlane), who must prove Ted is human in a court of law in order for him to have a child with his wife. Amanda Seyfried also stars as MacFarlane directs and co-writes.

The first “Ted” was an entertaining bromance flick that made $550 million; so in other words, a sequel was inevitable. While I found MacFarlane’s last film “A Million Ways to Die in the West” amusing enough, I have been reminded on numerous occasions by various people that I am wrong and it is awful. So I walked into “Ted 2” just hoping this wouldn’t be another step back for MacFarlane.

The opening sequence of “Ted 2” had me worried. Very worried. Because there’s no joke to ruin, I’ll just tell you what happens: after the film opens with Ted getting married, it breaks out into a dance number. But it’s not for laughs, it’s played completely straight. I kept waiting for the joke to come or for someone to trip, but no one does. Then when it wrapped up I expected some one-liner acknowledging how dumb what we just sat through was, but it never comes. The movie just begins.

MacFarlane is a very talented guy, and as his hosting of the Oscars showed he can make song-and-dance amusing, but I really have no clue what the dance routine was doing in here, unless he lost a bet with the head of some tap dance studio.

But luckily, the film gets (sorta) better. Wahlberg and MacFarlane maintain the same quick chemistry from the first film, and some of the jokes are inspired and clever. There is one scene that may offend some viewers–but then again if you’re easily offended, don’t go to a Seth MacFarlane film–where John and Ted yell off-color suggestions to an improve group. It’s awful and in bad taste and I loved every second of it.

The biggest flaw “Ted 2” has is its pacing. There are times when the film just seems to drag, and it honestly becomes un…bear-able, to sit through (I’ll be here all week). It’s not so much the fault of the editing as much as the narrative. The plot of Ted wanting a kid and needing to prove he’s human only lasts about half the film; the second half is like the lovechild of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” and the first “Ted.” That’s to say it becomes a buddy roadtrip film with the sideplot of the creepy stalker from the original film (Giovanni Ribisi) trying to kidnap Ted (*sigh* again). The final 25 minutes of the film had me getting anxious for it to just be over with.

Look, “Ted 2” is one of those films that you already knew whether or not you were going to see it before the trailers even came out; no review is going to alter your decision. That being said, I can still prepare you for what you’re walking into (or what you’re skipping). Like MacFarlane’s last film, “Million Ways to Die,” “Ted 2” suffers from pacing and a stretched-thin plot, however it is relatively funny. If you only care about watching a teddy bear say the f-bomb while throwing apples at joggers, then go enjoy yourself. If you need any real depth, development or surprises in your comedies, then you need not apply. I personally found enough enjoyment in “Ted 2” to avoid disappointment, but still not quite enough to feel satisfied.

Critics Rating: 5/10



‘Pitch Perfect’ Sequel Mostly a Success

Pitch_Perfect_2_posterNever have I enjoyed a film with so many flaws so much.

“Pitch Perfect 2” is the sequel to, you guessed it, “Pitch Perfect,” a 2012 sleeper hit that has since become a little bit of a cult classic. This time around, most of the Bellas are graduating college, and after getting suspended they must come together to win the a capella World Championship for reinstatement. All of the main cast, including Anna Kendrick, Skyalr Astin and Rebel Wilson, return, and Elizabeth Banks makes her technical directorial debut (she directed a segment in “Movie 43” for which she won a Razzie, so let’s not count that).

The first “Pitch Perfect” is a little bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. It is far from a great film, but it is so darn watchable and the cast is just so darn charming that it is impossible to not enjoy. I was a little worried when I saw the trailers for this sequel, but it wasn’t going to take away from my (albeit hidden) excitement to see it. And thankfully, my fears were mostly wrong.

Let me get this out of the way right now: much like its predecessor, “Pitch Perfect 2” is far from a great film. It is stitched together, and the narrative is all over the place, and at times the whole thing feels very forced, but it is an immensely enjoyable summer film that doesn’t smudge the reputation of the first film (here’s looking at you, “Taken 2”).

The film features the same awkward, random interactions that made the first film so enjoyable. John Michael Higgins once again steals the show as a misogynistic a capella commentator, and Keegan-Michael Key has some great one-liners as a music producer.

The musical numbers are also very engaging and well-shot, and had me tapping my toes. There are different groups and styles that inject the film with different flavors and flair, including a German group that serves as the film’s antagonists.

Which brings me to my main complaint with the film. Many scenes simply happen to happen, and hold no real weight; much of the film simply feels like a compilation of subplots. Example: the Bellas are suspended simply because Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) pants accidentally tear during a performance (sure, I guess?). As part of their punishment, the group is not allowed to take in any new members, but they take a new member and no one ever questions it.

It is things like this, and believe me there are more head-scratching moments, that hold “Pitch Perfect 2” back from being anything than breezy enjoyment, and that frustrates me a bit. Also, we get it. Fat Amy is fat. We don’t need a joke reminding us every five minutes.

The sequel continues to perfectly walk the line between praising a capella singing and mocking it, and after all, you’re paying the price of admission to see fun musical numbers and humorous banter, so I’m likely the only cynical person out here who will even think to mention the narrative flaws.

Here’s the bottom line: whether you’ve seen the first film or not, “Pitch Perfect 2” sings in sweet comedic harmony, even of a few of its notes fall flat. …Get it? Notes? And harmony? Because, singing? [sighhhh] I’m telling ya, I slay even myself sometimes…

Critics Rating: 6/10pitchperfect2