Movie Mini-reviews: Mad Max, Ex Machina, Jurassic World and…

So I’ll admit, I’ve been a bit tardy. Some readers have complained (and I’m flattered) that they are yet to know what I’ve thought of Mad Max (2015) and Jurassic World (2015). Two days ago a message came in for “Straight Outta Compton” (2015). Hold your horses I haven’t even thought of that one yet, let alone seen it. Now the dilemma is how do I catch up?
Well… I’ve come up with a solution.

Maybe it’s a onetime thing or maybe, depending on the reception, it might evolve into more of a recurring creature. Mini-reviews. Yes, like those Mini-Cinnabons you love. They’ll taste the same, but as soon as you pop them in they vanish while they tease. Much easier to digest, and, you can have a handful of them in one sit down. So here’s what’s on the light menu today:

1. Ex Machina 
2. Jurasic World
3. Spy
4. Trainwreck
5. Mad Max
6. Imitation Game
Bon apetit. 
1. Ex Machina (2015): 8.7/10
Every now and again you need a movie that will give you a good mind f***. 2015 meet Ex Machina.
Stephen Troughton via Flikr

The psychological titillations remind one of DiCaprio’s Inception (2010) and Shutter Island (2010). This is what an example of good writing is: it makes you work to understand instead of you guessing the outcome by the 30thminute. Domhnall Gleeson (Caleb) and Alicia Vikander (Ava) take you into a stop-go, binary-ish trance that could be tango, if robots did tango. Alex Garland’s (Director) artistic choice of chapters to move the storyline is brilliant. The stark transitions, like switching something on and off, add onto the stop-go feel just like how we never know if AI is on or off. The isolation created in the film by setting, writing, characterization and technology is chilling yet also teasing enough to make you last through the whole movie. That we can fall in love with AI and root for the other side is interestingly scary, and in this truth resides one of the biggest successes of the movie. A definite must-watch for 2015.

2. Jurassic World (2015): 6.8/10
Jiffo1 via Flikr

It was good; not good enough. I think you walk out of it thinking ‘that was great, oh wait, could that have been better? Hmm…’ It’s not a matter of whether you should go see it. Oh no, you are going to see this movie. It’s been 14 years since Jurassic Park 3 (2001) and freaking 22 years since Jurassic Park (1993)—man that makes me feel old. A new sibling has come to us and we, the World, will go greet it. That’s not the problem; it’s more along the lines of making the screenplay credible in all its incredibility (I mean we come in already believing that dinosaurs exist so how hard can it be). The idea of controlling Velociraptors and then giving them characters? Only so much you can do. Apart from Chris Pratt’s (Owen) traffic police hands, and Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire) and her ever-clicking heels, a characteristic of this movie that audiences will appreciate is the homage paid to Jurassic Park—from nostalgic references and ruins of the first park to the epic resurrection at the end. No spoilers here. There are great moments in the movie, and Pratt is definitely suited for the franchise. I just wish the larger movie atmosphere could do better to give us better writing for a world that is so loved. Could have been better.    

3. Spy (2015): 7.2/10
JPAvocat via Flikr

The difference between this one and Trainwreck (as you’ll see below) are tantamount, which is why this one isn’t as funny but it still is pretty funny. Buried mostly in slapstick comedy and occasional wit, what intrudes upon the film is Melissa McCarthy’s (Susan Cooper) trademark character—the same one you saw in Tammy (2014), The Heat (2013), and Identity Thief (2013), but with a different wig and costume. There is nothing wrong with having that type of repetition it’s just that sometimes maybe we’d like a bit of range to see what else she’s got in her creative arsenal. This movie does have its moments and it gets really funny pretty fast. Having the star-studded cast of Jude Law (Agent Fine), Jason Statham (Agent Ford) and the others does help. It’s really light on content and less believable on the infrastructure (I mean really, did that look like a CIA headquarters to you? Looked more like a budget storeroom on Set D) but as for a few good laughs—it delivers. Satisfactory, and sometimes that’s all you need.

4. Trainwreck (2015): 8.4/10
Had no idea what this movie would be about. When it started playing I then vaguely remembered having seen the trailer in some other movie. The end outcome? My discovery of Amy Schumer—which was worth everything. I know I know, how did I not know about her before? Well I do now and that’s all that matters.
Amy Schumer by Mario Santor 

Why this movie succeeds is because it has potent quantities of realism that are mixed well into its larger comic blend. There are jokes in there that you never saw coming, and things that happen that you think would only happen in real life but they ended up putting it into film—which is great! From the get-go the movie starts off on a high note (so random for an opening shot) with the father-daughter scene, and it carries that quality throughout. I’ll warn you that there are some raunchy scenes, and the endless cast of famous people only adds to the hilarity. I had no expectations for this movie and I walked out thoroughly satisfied. Initially I had my doubts about Bill Hader (Aaron) being able to pull off a whole role to himself but I never thought he could be so lovable by the end of it. Seeing some of the SNL cast in there was also another treat. They really do keep pulling for each other don’t they? Like some big cult—which they are. All in all, if you need a good edgy comedy, give this is a shot.  

5. Mad Max (2015): 7.4/10
Am I missing something here? Everyone kept talking about how great this George Miller (Director) movie was. Poetry on wheels someone wrote, but honestly I thought it was just a good action movie. Think I just heard the “thuds” of people fainting from indignation. Whoops.
Viipeer via Flikr

Maybe I feel this way because I was watching it at 2 A.M with a friend who was already snoring by the first half, but I do think, that to say it was overrated isn’t really too far off. Don’t get me wrong, there are stunning action scenes of the like that we have never seen before, and I liked that the whole movie was filmed in motion via tracking shots (not the first one to do so) making it not your average movie. Also the villains were graphically original and Jenny Beavan’s (costume designer) work with dressing them up is stellar. The feminist tenor wasn’t missed either—Charlize Theron (Imperator Furiosa) does kick ass, and the depth in character in addition to action is laudable. The plot is simple when you look at it by the end, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. It was good. I think it would only qualify as a must-watch because everyone keeps saying “you must watch”.

6. Imitation Game (2014): 8.9/10
BagoGames via Flikr

This movie is brilliant. You didn’t need me to say that, I’m sure all the Oscar nods gave you that precious piece of information. Benedict Cumberbatch as the until recently unknown mathematician, Alan Turing, who broke the Nazi Germany’s Enigma code to help win World War II, is so fitting. After seeing him in his element I am now a fan of his adroit acting capabilities. I found myself (and I’m sure others did too) appreciating the attention and balance paid to Turing’s personal and public struggles. The film really does a great job of not only humanizing Turing but accomplishing the hardest feat of all—making the audience empathize with the “monster”. A rather timely feat for our world today. Keira Knightley (Joan) is also solid in the role accompanied by Mathew Goode (Hugh)—who we should see more of in film. The story is told tastefully, and is a definite must-watch movie in your lifetime. Know your history, and who did what, people!

And guess what, there’s a bonus dish—call it dessert!

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

If you’ve watched the first one, you can’t miss the second one. For me personally, it’s not the story or the vocals that draw me in but more so the characters, or a character (cough* “Fat Amy”). This rendition is definitely more politically incorrect than its predecessor and it lampoons itself throughout the movie for that via the dance commentators’ ‘oh-my-God-he-did-not-just-say-that!’ remarks. The vocals aren’t killer, but flashlight, there’s one original song in there that you’ll realize that you like after the movie has ended, or right at the end. There is a nice arc to the story though, that sweetly ties in the generational gap. Brittany Snow (Chloe) looks incredibly cute yet again—big surprise there (not). I’m not the least bit embarrassed to admit that I am a fan of these Barden Bellas, because, they are randomly weird and hilarious when malfunctioning as one unit. We’ll give Pitch Perfect 2 a 7.1/10. Adieu.

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