Love and Friendship

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: The Angry Birds Movie; The Nice Guys; Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising; Love & Friendship; Sunset Song

The Angry Birds Movie – As one adult commented after watching this flick, “It was lamer than I expected. Awful. Though my 6-year-old daughter thought it was great.” There you have it in a nutshell. The Angry Birds Movie is the “origin story” of the birds that are propelled into all sorts of stuff in the once-popular Angry Birds mobile app, including the pigs, bombs, TNT, slingshots, etc. that appear in the addictive game that became a mindless timesuck for millions of smartphone users. The animated ‘action’ takes place on an island populated almost entirely by happy, flightless birds. One exception is the angry outcast Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) who becomes sort of an accidental hero when he uncovers a nefarious plot by visiting green pigs who aim to steal all the birds’ eggs. The movie has some clever lines and puns and plenty of decent vocal talent. But the story doesn’t add up to much and is likely to bore most anyone over the age of eight. Regardless, the 90-minute, 3D, PG-rated Birds far out-flew the competition at the box office in its opening weekend. So if the kids rule the roost where movies are concerned, don’t be angry if they demand (or ask nicely) to see it.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Money Monster; A Bigger Splash; High-Rise

Money Monster is a satisfying crowd-pleaser that definitely benefits from the established rapport between lead actors George Clooney and Julia Roberts and the solid direction of Jodie Foster. Clooney plays an outlandish, self-centered, Jim-Cramer-Mad-Money-type financial TV host named Lee Gates who shares stock tips with what he thinks is an adoring public. Roberts plays his producer/director Patty. She’s the one who keeps Gates and the show on track from her seat in the Control Room. Their usual routine is disrupted on live television when a disgruntled investor named Kyle (British actor Jack O’Connell looking and sounding as American as apple pie) gets into the studio, straps an explosive vest on Lee, and demands to know the source of a so-called ‘glitch’ that caused a particular stock – and his investment- to implode. The result is a tense conspiracy thriller with enough light moments peppered throughout (including some funky dance moves from Clooney) to boost the overall entertainment factor. Money Monster doesn’t really need to be seen on the big screen, but it’s the best of the week’s new offerings for anyone just looking for a solid, well-paced drama with star power.

Captain America: Civil War

I’ve always considered myself an Iron Man gal in the Avengers universe, but man oh man, Captain America is growing on me! So while I understand the marketing appeal of a #TeamCap v. #TeamIronMan rivalry, I am hereby declaring myself Switzerland in this Civil War! I refuse to choose. And as any Avengers fan is sure to guess, you don’t really have to. The marketing gimmick – like the movie itself – is all in good fun. That’s not to say there isn’t a decent story at the heart of this latest entry in Marvel’s Avengers franchise. There is. And that’s why this movie deserves to crush DC Comics’ Batman vs. Superman at the box office. It’s full of action, drama, Stark snark, superhero banter, a few unexpected twists, and good old-fashioned themes about friendship, conscience, and moral ambiguity. Can you tell I kinda liked it?

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Keanu; Mother’s Day; The Meddler; Dough; Papa: Hemingway in Cuba; Ratchet and Clank

Keanu: I never saw the television series featuring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (aka comedy duo Key & Peele) so I wasn’t familiar with their shtick heading into this flick. But I understand their appeal. Keanu is an absurd but entertaining R-rated action comedy that pokes brilliant fun at the action genre. Here’s the premise: Key and Peele play Clarence and Rell, straight-laced cousins who must impersonate ruthless killers in an effort to retrieve Rell’s adorable kitten, Keanu, after he’s cat-napped by members of the Blips gang (rejects from LA’s notorious Bloods and Crips). The kitten is a scene-stealing feline, and there’s a hilarious homage to George Michael’s ‘80s pop icon status. The movie isn’t for everyone, but Key and Peele fans won’t be disappointed, and the duo will likely gain some new fans as well.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Barbershop: The Next Cut; The Dark Horse; The First Monday in May

Barbershop: The Next Cut is the second sequel (or maybe the third if you count the spin-off, Beauty Shop) to the 2002 surprise hit, Barbershop, about a day in the life of a barbershop on the South Side of Chicago. The shop, run by Calvin (Ice Cube) serves as a lifeline to the community. But the community is changing. And in The Next Cut, Calvin is contemplating moving his family, and the shop, to the North Side to protect his teenage son from the gang violence permeating the streets. Cedric the Entertainer is back as the comic relief, playing Eddie, a barber who can’t be trusted with scissors or a razor, but is there to tell it like it is. The movie gets a bit heavy-handed with the messaging and a few sub-plots are more of a distraction than a delight. But it means well. It’s got heart, and enough humor to prevent it from being another Chi-Raq. It ties up way too neatly in the end, given the current climate on the South Side, but overall, the movie provides an accessible and timely message worth sharing with teenagers, regardless of demographic and locale.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: The Boss; Demolition; Mr. Right

The Boss – Sadly, The Boss kinda sucks. Or, to put it more gently, it’s really weak. The R-rated comedy starts out with huge promise and some very funny moments, but fizzles rather fast. Here’s the gist: Melissa McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, a very successful but not-so-nice Suze Orman/Martha Stewart hybrid type who gets sent to prison for insider trading. She emerges from prison friendless and broke, but determined to rebrand herself and rebuild. Considering she screwed over a lot of people during her rise to the top, including her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell), Darnell’s road to redemption is sure to be a rocky one. The Boss is no Bridesmaids. The plot is extremely contrived, relying mostly on physical comedy gags to break the monotony. Without a doubt, the character of Michelle Darnell needs to stay relegated to smaller, SNL-style skits. This full-length feature film treatment doesn’t do her, or the audience, any justice. Case dismissed.

Eye in the Sky

I’d have gone to see this flim if only to see Alan Rickman for one last time, but fortunately it is an incredibly well done political thriller that forces the audience to ask some very hard questions about modern warfare. Headlining the wonderful ensemble cast is Helen Mirren playing Colonel Katherine Powell, a British officer on the trail of some of the world’s leading terrorists. Having found three of them in Kenya, she is leading a team of remote surveillance operatives around the world to track and capture them. The film cuts between her team in England, an American drone team near Las Vegas, the group that has the final say at Whitehall in London, and the people on the ground in Nairobi whose lives are on the line, including a Kenyan operative (Barkhad Abdi of Captain Phillips) who goes undercover in a very dangerous neighborhood. But when the mission changes from capture to kill, and a sweet little girl we’ve met in the opening scene is about to become “collateral damage”, not everyone is on board with the military leaders.

CinemaClash Podcast: Batman v Superman; My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2; Marguerite; Eye in the Sky

I recorded the latest CinemaClash podcast with Charlie Juhl before I had a chance to actually see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but I knew it would crush the competition at the box office, and it did. Fortunately, I think the expectations and insights shared during the podcast turned out to be right on target. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. I wasn’t going to skip it. Ben Affleck (Batman/Bruce Wayne) and Henry Cavill (Superman/Clark Kent) wore their suits sufficiently well, given what they were tasked with in setting up the whole ‘Justice League’ franchise. Batman v Superman throws a lot at you in 2 1/2 hours, and you really need to have seen Man of Steel and the Dark Knight movies to successfully process all the backstory, future plot points, super-heroes, and super-villains. If you’re a newbie to the genre, don’t expect to like this movie. It’ll seem like a hot mess. Anyway, check out the podcast for more (spoiler-free) debate about B v S, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, a French indie called Marguerite that foreign film and opera buffs may want to check out, and a timely, compelling film about drone warfare that stars Helen Mirren, Eye in the Sky. And more! Take a listen:

The Divergent Series: Allegiant

Here’s the deal. It doesn’t really matter what I think of Allegiant, the third installment of the Divergent series franchise, based on the best-selling books by Veronica Roth. It only matters what the target audience thinks. So, with that in mind (and due to a scheduling conflict on my part), I sent a member of said target audience to watch the movie in my place, and here’s what she had to say:

Creative Control

Before going to this film, you might want to look up augmented reality (AR). Yes, it’s a thing. Instead of virtual reality, which is entirely created in a computer, AR takes the real world and adds all kinds of digital visuals and sounds to make something new and, one might hope, better. Creative Control is about an ad executive in the very near future who is tasked with designing a campaign for a high-end AR company called Augmenta. To understand them better, he wears their glasses around for a while and experiments with all the bells and whistles and starts to lose track of the borders between his real and augmented lives.