Ant-Man

Ant-Man is Iron Man light. Right down to the teeny tiny suit. And since I’m a huge fan of Iron Man (due mostly to Robert Downey Jr.), I couldn’t help but like Ant-Man. It’s rather weak on the grand scale of Marvel comic superhero movies (i.e. those featuring the various “Avengers” including Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, etc.) but Paul Rudd is still fun to watch as Scott Lang, a smart, sarcastic and kind-hearted master thief looking for redemption.

Trainwreck

Trainwreck cruises along at a raunchy but entertaining clip for a solid hour or so. Then – about two-thirds of the way through – it veers off track. Not catastrophically. But enough to derail what might otherwise be a more enthusiastic review. Fans of the suddenly-everywhere Amy Schumer will likely get a kick out of her first foray into leading actress territory. After all, she wrote the movie. So it’s pure Schumer shtick, guided by the direction of Judd Apatow, known for movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Bridesmaids, This is 40, and Pineapple Express. If those titles don’t ring a bell – or ring the wrong one – then you should probably skip Trainwreck. If you’re in the mood for a bawdy romantic dramedy that reverses the conventional gender roles but is otherwise quite formulaic, then punch your ticket for Trainwreck. Or wait for the rental. It doesn’t really need to be seen on the big screen.

Steak (R)evolution

Vegetarians need not bother with this one. This gustatory documentary is lovingly prepared for steak lovers around the world. French writer-director Franck Ribière travels the globe in search of the best steak, since according to him they don’t do it well in France. (Who knew?) He flits from France to Scotland, to Argentina and Brazil, to the US and Sweden and many other out of the way spots. Along the way he talks with ranchers, butchers, food writers, and chefs. He meets their cattle and sees how and what they are fed. And he tastes all manner of great steaks, ranking the top 10 steak restaurants in the world. It is truly drool worthy!

Amy

A star is born and then she self-destructs. Amy is the utterly tragic tale of singer Amy Winehouse, who was so full of talent and entirely unprepared or more likely incapable of dealing with the fame that came with her gifts. It is yet another story of addiction and greed and media frenzy killing a young performer. This devastating documentary is like the proverbial train wreck. You know what is going to happen, and you can’t stop it, but you can’t look away.

Minions

Within the context of the Despicable Me movies, minions are a breath of fresh air – entertaining, silly, musical misfits. But give them a movie of their own, and the yellow thingamajigs obsessed with ‘bananas’ simply lose much of their appeal. Kids will still be moderately entertained by the gibberish-speaking blobs, but older kids and adults may find the Minions movie a bit of a bore.

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.