Terminator Genisys

He’s back! In this Terminator reboot, Arnold Schwarzenegger reprises his iconic T-800 cyborg, only this time he gets to age. Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones) steps easily into the role of Sarah Connor and Jason Clarke (no relation) plays a grown up John Connor. Jai Courtney (Insurgent & Divergent) is the hero Kyle Reese sent back from the dystopian future to save humanity and fall in love with Sarah. A lot of the original elements are the same, but thankfully, the writers liked playing with the concept of time travel and they serve up a new story with a lot of familiar beats. It works as a stand alone, though probably is more fun if you’ve seen the original.

Magic Mike XXL

In brief… so to speak… Magic Mike XXL is pure guy candy – a sort of Hangover with male strippers. Unlike the 2012 surprise hit, the sequel doesn’t take a dark turn. It stays fairly fun throughout – despite having virtually zero plot, and dialogue so cheesy you may need to stock up on Lactaid. But c’mon, what did you expect? Have you SEEN the trailer?! (Scroll down. You’re welcome.)

XXL picks up the story three years after stripper extraordinaire Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) leaves his beefy ‘Kings of Tampa’ stage buddies to pursue his true passion – making furniture. Life isn’t going quite according to plan. Business is slow. His girlfriend has bolted (for some inexplicable reason). And Mike is feeling kinda sorry for himself. And then: his buddies show up to lure Mike back in the fold for one last hurrah at a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach. And off they go! They make a few stops along the way, learn some new moves, shake off some demons, get involved in various mishaps, and um, dance – a lot – for an interesting array of women.

Inside Out

What were the Pixar folks thinking, making a film about the conflicting emotions in a little girl’s head? It might seem like a pretty cerebral premise for a kids’ flick, but from this very unlikely subject matter comes a fun for the whole family film. I went with my nephews (ages 6,8, and 17), my sister in law (40ish), and my mother (age 89), and we all appreciated it for different reasons depending on our ages. There are funny and thoughtful bits that only an adult will get, but the kids and the teenager were thoroughly entertained.

AFI DOCS (Days 3 & 4)

So many films, so little time. Running back and forth from DC to Silver Spring, it was impossible to see all the films that were available. Anyone who can, should go next year. I’ll let you know when, and we can see them all then compare notes! Here are my short takes on the films I saw the last two days. Trailers are below.

AFI DOCS 2015 (Days 1 & 2)

Another year, another great set of documentaries! Last year it seemed the festival had more of a theme. This time around, I saw a lot of different kinds of stories. Some were political. Several felt like advocacy pieces. There were many about music and quite a few from Middle Eastern countries. As usual, there were too many to fit in and I missed quite a few that I really wanted to see. I am hoping to get a few screeners from filmmakers that I met at the festival to rectify that situation. This post is of my first two days of viewing.

Jurassic World

I came really late to the Jurassic party, finally catching the original in re-release in 2013 — 20 years after its theatrical debut. So it’s kind of a big deal that I sat through a screening of the fourth installment, pre-release, despite recovering from shingles (note to all: if you have a chance to get the shingles vaccine, do it!). Anyway, Jurassic World is frighteningly entertaining, though like the original, not for the very young or faint of heart. If you’re into dinosaurs and a fan of Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Parks and Rec), then JW is a fun ride. However if you’re a purist or over-analyzing type, you should probably skip it. The crowd I saw it with seemed quite divided between indifference, disappointment, and elation.

The Salt of the Earth

I’ve been a fan of Sebastião Salgado’s work for decades, probably beginning with his photographs of the gold miners of Brazil’s Serra Pelada in the mid-80s. Beyond being beautiful images, they are powerful statements about humanity and as such are incredible social documentary. The Salt of the Earth looks at his entire career and the ways that his work has influenced his life, as well as its impact on international audiences who view starving refugees in Africa or Bosnians fleeing to Croatia through his lens. He is truly one of the greatest living photojournalists and this documentary directed by Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, Pina, Buena Vista Social Club) along with Juliano Ribeiro Salgado takes you on his incredible life journey. It is beautiful, adventure-filled, and both heartbreaking and uplifting.

San Andreas

It’s really not my fault that I cracked up a few times while the ground was shaking and buildings were collapsing out the wazoo. San Andreas is totally cheesy – and knows it. And that sort of makes it okay. It doesn’t have the same guilty-pleasure appeal as Furious 7 (that other recently-released action-adventure movie with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson), but it is what it claims to be: a formulaic disaster movie that showcases the Rock’s ‘sensitive’ side.

Far from the Madding Crowd

What a simply horrid problem Bathsheba Everdene (Katniss’s great-great grandmother?) has to contend with! She’s young and pretty and has inherited a big old house in the British countryside with its own working farm and the money to run it, and she has three, count them, THREE men who want to marry her. The downside to her situation is that she lives in Victorian England and women are not supposed to be independent or headstrong. In this latest adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel, Carey Mulligan plays Bathsheba with a decidedly 21st century vibe. And that works because really at its core Far from the Madding Crowd is a timeless tale of recognizing the love that is right in front of you, no matter what anyone thinks.

Tomorrowland

Oh George, you’re killin’ me! I really wanted to love this movie, or at least like it a lot. Instead, I liked it a little. It’s certainly a fine choice for a family flick this long holiday weekend; It has a commendable message, and a decent shot of girl power. But the two-hour journey borders on bland and boring, despite the appearance of flying saucers, jet packs, magical pins, George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, and glimpses of a Disney-utopia-esque place known as “Tomorrowland” that exists somewhere in time and space.