Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Huntsman: Winter's War

I found Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan’s The Huntsman: Winter’s War a thoroughly enjoyable romantic action picture.
Screenwriter’s Evan Spiliotopolous and Craig Mazin wrote an interesting story based on Evan Daugherty’s characters and Casting Director Lucy Bevan could not have provided Nicolas-Troyan a more engaging cast than Charlize Theron, reprising her role as the wicked queen Ravenna in Snow White and the Huntsman, Chris Hemsworth, reprising his role as Eric the Huntsman from that same film, plus Jessica Chastain, playing his love-interest Sara, and Emily Blunt, playing Ravenna’s younger sister Queen Freya.

I saw the film in what is known as 4SX, which is not 3D, but more like a Disneyland experience where the seats are able to tip, shoot air and water (those with glasses may wish to turn that aspect off) and allow the viewer to feel the thrusts of fists and weapons in the battle scenes.  I give this experience 70/30 success rate; most often fun, but sometimes a bit obtrusive.  (You definitely won’t be able to fall asleep.)
Not that that would be the case with this film, however.  In addition to the romance and action, there’s delightful humor provided by the dwarves played by Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach, plus Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael’s fabulous images and Production Designer Dominic Watkins’ exciting sets to add to the enjoyment.

If you liked Snow White and the Huntsman, I think you’ll like The Huntsman: Winter’s War even more.  I give it a 4 out of 5.

The Jungle Book

Producer/Director Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book is a triumph of CGI animation. 

A young boy named Mowgli (Neel Sethi) whas been marooned in the jungle as a baby and, quite remarkably, is the only live action character in the film. 
Rescued by Bagheera, a panther (Ben Kingsley’s voice), Mowgli was, subsequently raised by wolves.

The problem comes with Shere Khan, the ferocious tiger (Idris Elba’s voice), who wants to kill the offspring of the human, who gave him the burns scarring his face.

The story follows a fairly typical revenge plot that is not as strong as the craft of making the images.  Fortunately, however, the character of a bear named Baloo (Bill Murray’s voice) enters the scene and saves the day.  Murray is at his absolute best, making the plot secondary and his character’s humor and antics worth the price of admission.

For Murray and the craft, I give The Jungle Book a 4 out of 5.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sing Street

Two years ago, Writer/Producer/Director John Carney created my favorite movie of 2014, Begin Again.  This week, he scored once more with my, so far, favorite movie of 2016, Sing Street.
The story concerns a 15-year-old Dublin boy named Cosmo (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) in 1985, who is forced to switch to a less expensive high school…Synge Street…, run by the tough Christian Brothers, because his family has fallen on hard times.

When Cosmo’s heart strings are plucked on seeing Raphina (Lucy Boynton), he claims he is putting together a band and wants to use her in their video.
Creating a band and shooting the video while having to deal with his crazy parents (Aidan Gillen & Maria Doyle Kennedy) and the malicious school disciplinarian (Don Wycherley) plus his school nemesis Barry (Ian Kenny), provides a great adventure for Cosmo and a fun-filled cinematic experience for us.

Director Carney has created his magic with the help of his Begin Again team, including Cinematographer Yaron Orbach and Editors Andrew Marcus and Julian Ulrichs.   

Together with Casting Director Louise Kiely, who had done a masterful job in finding first-time actors like the exceedingly talented Walsh-Peelo, Sing Street will warm your heart while keeping your toes tapping to the band’s music.

I give Sing Street a 4.7 out of 5.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Boss

Writer/Producer/Director Ben Falcone’s The Boss is a totally inappropriate gross-out comedy that is often hysterically funny and even has a sweet story.
Melissa McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, the 47th richest woman in America, who grew up in foster families that returned her every 5 years of her youth.  She trusts no one but herself.

Shady financial dealing lands her in the penitentiary for a 5-month stint during which her entire fortune is lost.  With nowhere to go after her release, she winds up at the apartment of her former assistant (Kristen Bell) and her young daughter (Ella Anderson).

That’s when the fun begins.

Forced to babysit the young girl, Darnell discovers the tyke is part of Girl Scout-type cookie sales and develops the adolescent team into brownie-based empire. 

Yes, it’s weird and you might not want to have your own adolescents see this, but, if you liked the recent Sisters, you’ll thoroughly enjoy The Boss.  I give it a 3.7 out of 5.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Everybody Wants Some

Despite its rather ineffectual title, Writer/Producer/Director Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some is a rather charming and sweet piece which, though it touts itself as ‘80s nostalgia, is more reminiscent of the late ‘50s or early ‘60s…or, perhaps nothing really changed amongst college frat boys in the last half of the 20th Century.

The cast of 20-something actors playing late-teen members of a championship baseball team is truly appealing, especially Blake Jenner, Justin Street, J. Quinton Johnson, Glen Powell, Wyatt Russell and Zoey Deutch.

Cinematographer Shane F. Kelly and Editor Sandra Adair both have eyes for the delightful and keep the action of the 3 days prior to the start of classes moving, briskly.

Though this is a much-ado-about-nothing story of young men blissfully oblivious of what’s happening in the outside world, it is a pleasant respite from the raucous bang-bang fare currently on most screens.

If you want to have some harmless fun, I heartily recommend Everybody Wants Some and give it a 3.8 out of 5.