Saturday, July 25, 2015

Paper Town

Director Jake Schreier’s Paper Town is a charming coming-of-age film about two high school seniors, Quentin (Nat Wolff), who has his life planned out, and Margo (Cara Delevingne), who is playing the role of the “it” girl, but hasn’t a clue of who she is or what to do with her life. 
Neighbors since childhood, straight-laced Quentin is in love with Margo and, when she disappears, follows clues to where she may be. 

The cast includes some talented newcomers, including Quentin’s best friends (Austin Abrams and Justin Smith) and their girlfriends (Halston Sage and Jaz Sinclair).

Writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber have woven a clever tale that’s fun to watch.

FYI, a Paper Town is a fake place cartographers put on their maps to protect them from having someone copying their work and claiming it’s theirs.

I give Paper Town a 3.8 out of 5.


The degree to which you’ll like Director Judd Apetow’s Trainwreck is the degree to which you enter as a fan of his lead actress Amy Schumer.  Not really familiar with her work, I tried to keep a neutral point of view.

Amy plays a vapid, slovenly, Millennial inebriate with a negative point of view.  After 20 minutes of her shtick, if you were crazy and had a gun, you might start shooting fellow viewers.  (Oh, it happened.)

Too negative?  Well, that will give you an idea of the level of the humor and the workings of the magazine for which Amy’s character works.
Early on, when Amy is given the assignment to write about a sports doctor (Bill Hader), she says that people who follow sports are stupid.  I would put forth that the audience members, who laughed at much of her humor, make sports enthusiasts seem like doctoral candidates.

A revelation arose, when I noticed that the scenes without Ms. Schumer, including both professionals like Brie Larson, Bill Hader, Tilda Swinton and Colin Quinn, as well as amateurs like basketball stars LeBron James and Amar’e Stoudemire, were very good.  It became obvious that Schumer is quite a talented writer.  But, acting is another matter.  Quinn’s and Swinton’s characters were both very negative, yet they were able to be engaging and funny at the same time. 
Since Schumer’s character was named Amy, I realized (duh) that this was a vanity piece and began to think of who should have played Amy.  Kristen Bell, Anna Kendrick and even co-star Larson came to mind.

If Schumer wants to be in front of the camera, she needs to study Melissa McCarthy’s work for timing, engagement and watchability.  

In the very last scene, she showed potential.  And, the reason was because she was, finally, energetic.  In comedy, energy is everything.

I give Trainwreck a 2.9 out of 5.  

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Felix Culpa or Happy Fault is when something unexpectedly good happens.  
I confess I had not intended to see Director Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man.  After all, a previous film of his was one of the very few I had ever walked out of. However, circumstances forced me to “kill some time” and I elected to see this new work of his. It was a Felix Culpa.

As compared to films like Interstellar and Terminator Genisys, the writing team of Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and Paul Rudd made the conceit of shrinking objects and humans simple and easy to understand.  Press this, get smaller.  Press this, get bigger.  Nothing to think about.  We go with it.

And, not only is the film exciting with fine performances by Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly (except for her hair style), Corey Stoll, Judy Greer, Abby Ryder Fortson and Michael Peña, but it has some very funny moments, as well.
The film has appeal to young and old alike.  It’s way better than your average popcorn movie.

I give Ant-Man a 4+ out of 5.

Irrational Man

Writer/Director Woody Allen’s Irrational Man is a morality tale in which a philosophy professor (Joaquin Phoenix), who has given up on life finds renewal with the plot to kill a crooked judge.
With Darius Khondji Cinematography, Santo Loquasto’s Production Design plus Allen’s Dialogue and Direction, this is a well-made movie.  The problem is the story.

 It’s not very entertaining to see a depressive mope around for half the film.  Too much angst is boring.  If it weren’t for the watchability of co-stars Emma Stone and Parker Posey whose characters were throwing themselves at Mr. Mope, this film really would have been disastrous.  Then, when the main character “finds” himself, you have no interest in him getting away with murder.

 It is a dilemma even the great Woody Allen could not solve.

So, I can only give Irrational Man a 3 out of 5.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Mr. Holmes

Director Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes is a beautiful and intelligent film about Sherlock Holmes in his early 90s, slipping into dementia while trying to piece together the memories of his last case…one which has sent him into nearly 30 years of retirement, not only from his cases, but from the world as a whole.
It’s a story about the fault of being too analytical and the fear of opening one’s heart.

Ian McKellan gives a superb performance of Holmes both in his early 60s and his 90s.  Laura Linney is excellent as his housekeeper and young Milo Parker is a true find by Casting Director Lucy Bevan as the housekeeper’s son.

Writer Jeffrey Hatcher’s script, based on Mitch Cullin’s book, hits the mark in revealing the inner workings of Holmes’ aging mind and Carter Burwell’s music provides a perfect background to the story.  Kudos also go to Cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler and Production Designer Martin Childs.

I give Mr. Holmes a 4+ out of 5.