Terminator Genesys

 

The effects are awesome. The Governator looks good in his various forms. The Khaleesi looks good with her natural brown hair. The chases are exciting. The pace is breakneck.

 

Terminator Genesys has all the things you want in a summertime action pic. Okay, the 3-D doesn’t add much. But, the gunplay, the explosions, the battles are all epic. Still, TG is not quite a must-see.

 

The story leaves a bit to be desired. Here’s the scoop: In 2029, John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the resistance against the machines (who took control of the humans on “Judgment Day” in 2017), sends right-hand man Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to reset history.

 

When he gets there, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke, AKA Daenerys Targaryon on Game of Thrones) is expecting him. At her side is a good guy robot guardian she calls Pop (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Kyle’s mission is immediately complicated when a machine disguised as an LA cop (played beautifully by Korean actor Byung-hun Lee) begins a violent assault.

 

Kyle and Sarah time-travel to 2017 to prevent Judgment Day by taking down the giant Genisys organization. (The dominance San Francisco based Genisys has over all of communication and life may bring to mind Google or other similar giant real-life entities.) Pop meets Kyle and Sarah is 2017 SF, but while they jumped ahead three decades, Pop lived those years and aged enough to become gray-haired.

 

As our heroes pursue their world-saving goal, they hijack a school bus on the Marin side of the Golden Gate Bridge and soon become precariously perched on the edge of the bridge, just above the water below, before making their escape. Later, a copter chase provides thrills and provides a chance for Arnold to deliver a famous line. (Although he does not get to say, “Get to da choppah!”)

 

Another time-jump at the film’s climax is an attempt to try to put things in order, but time travel has a way of gumming up the works.

 

Director Alan Taylor has directed several Game of Thrones episodes, which may explain Emilia Clarke’s casting as Sarah Connor. On Game, she has an imperial look with her blonde hair. But in TG, as a brunette, she brings the approachable girl-next-door look.

 

Terminator Genesys has what it takes to rock your holiday weekend with exciting action and cool effects. But whether you feel an urgent need to see this film (as you and others have with several movies in recent weeks) remains to be seen.

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Ted 2

 

Seth MacFarlane, you genius! The man is a quadruple threat as producer/co-writer/director of Ted 2, as well as providing the voice of the title character. He scores well in each of those jobs and delivers a worthy sequel to 2012’s Ted.

I am happy to report that Ted 2 is just as funny as the original. Ted’s campaign for personhood is totally ridiculous, as is the whole concept of this teddy bear who came to life in the 80s and is now a foul-mouthed, pot-smoking smartass. As before, Ted looks and acts just as real as his best friend John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), which helps make the film work.

The story begins with Ted’s wedding to Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). When they argue as young couples do, they decide to cement their relationship by becoming parents. So begins a search for a sperm donor, which ends with a hilarious visit to a fertility clinic.

After their effort to adopt is squelched, Ted’s legal status is challenged. He and John retain rookie lawyer Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) to defend him in court. Ted and John are skeptical of her inexperience but take an instant liking when she whips out a bong and lights up to help calm her “migraines.”

After a Boston jury deems Ted to be “property” and not a person, the trio drive to New York to meet civil rights attorney Patrick Meighan (Morgan Freeman). The journey becomes perilous when Ted drives. An overnight stop allows Samantha to serenade John as their flirty relationship begins to simmer.

When Meighan says no to representing Ted, our furry friend heads to the NYC Comic Con where he is kidnapped by nemesis from the earlier film, Donnie (Giovanni Ribisi), and rescued by John and Samantha. Which leads to the film’s final resolution.

The laughs come quickly and frequently in Ted 2. And, as expected, the jokes are rude and crude, earning the film its R rating. Targets of MacFarlane’s jests include Google searches, improv comics, the Law and Order theme song and joggers, among many others. (Not to mention a suddenly timely dig at the guy who wrote the Constitution.)

Ted 2 opens with a spectacular dance number which outdoes the opening bit on MacFarlane’s Family Guy—mainly because this one uses real people. And Ted.

Even though Seth MacFarlane never appears on screen, it’s easy to imagine him with his smirking grin, just about to burst out in laughter, which is the appropriate response to Ted 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me And Earl And The Dying Girl

Sweet and touching and funny.

Clever and cool and different.

Writer and director and actors.

Me And Earl And The Dying Girl.

Can a movie about a teenage girl with leukemia be fun? Actually, yes.

First credit goes to the story’s source, Jesse Andrews, who wrote the novel and the screenplay. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, with a bit of Wes Anderson quirkiness, gives the film a look that’s full of visual surprises.

And there are the actors. The characters are high school seniors: Greg (Thomas Mann), Earl (RJ Cyler) and Rachel (Olivia Cooke). Greg is just trying to make it through his senior year, keeping peace with all his school’s factions. His mom (Connie Britton) tells him that Rachel is ill and urges him to visit her, even though she is not a close friend. Over time, they become chums. Cooke’s strong performance could net awards at year’s end.

Greg and Earl make film parodies of movie classics. They’re the kind of silly thing teenagers would do. (The fact that they shoot these on film, not video, is interesting.) They don’t freely share the films they make, although Greg’s dad (Nick Offerman) is a fan. As the boys become closer to Rachel, she also gets to see the films.

Among notable supporting performers is Molly Shannon as Rachel’s wine gulping, flirty mom. Jon Bernthal as favorite teacher Mr. McCarthy provides Greg and Earl with a safe place to eat lunch and useful life lessons.

Me And Earl And The Dying Girl could’ve fallen into the “too cute” category of movies whose directors want to show off what they learned in film school. Yes, there are some goofy angles and uncomfortable two-shots that direct attention from what’s on the screen to the guy behind the camera. But those long static shots of Greg and Rachel talking are effective, if slightly tedious.

It has been a few years since I was a high school senior but I recognized many of the characters among the student population. The uncomfortable feeling one has around age 18 is depicted well in MAEATDG.

Me And Earl And The Dying Girl will be embraced by teens and young adults, but is a movie older adults can enjoy, too. Nice story, entertainingly told.

Inside Out

Okay, Pixar is back. They’ve made a great movie again. Inside Out has many things to like and will appeal to audiences of all ages. Unless you are a total curmudgeon, you will be charmed.

The concept, in case you’ve missed the zillion or so TV ads for the film, is a trip inside a young girl’s mind where her various personified emotions face off with one another. It’s a fresh expansion of the old “devil versus angel” bit (fighting for control of a character’s conscience) we saw in numerous mid-20th century cartoons.

Inside the head of young Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) reside Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black). Riley’s preteen life is jarred when her parents (Kyle MacLachlan and Diane Lane) move from Minnesota to San Francisco.

Riley’s interior world features: a giant control panel where the five emotions interact, a huge repository of memories (each depicted by balls of various colors) and her islands of personality (representing family, hockey, goofball behavior, etc.). It’s a clever depiction of the many facets of thought that rule our brains.

Inside Out is funny early and late with touchy, feely stuff in middle and, naturally, toward the end. The film moves at an acceptable pace, though portions of the film’s middle section (when Joy and Sadness go deep into Riley’s psyche) become a bit tedious.

Among the voice actors, Amy Poehler as Joy is the film’s perfect anchor. Lewis Black as Anger takes full advantage of the many good opportunities to make his presence known. The others handle their roles adequately. Richard Kind gets silly while voicing Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong.

The cynical voices inside my head are urging me not to succumb to the sappy sweetness and manipulative storytelling of Inside Out, designed to diddle with my softer emotional side. But those directives are being drowned out by the upbeat voices that are encouraging me to give in to the gooey, warm, fuzzy feelings Inside Out evokes. This cool head trip requires no drugs to get you high. Welcome back, Pixar!