Mad Max: Fury Road

What a ride! From the beginning to the end, there is hardly a static scene in this film. It begins as Max (Tom Hardy) is contemplating the vast scorched earth that the world has become in its not so distant dystopian future. But before you can say “Where’s Mel?” the crazy car caravan arrives filled with even crazier warriors. They snatch him up and take him back to their stronghold called the Citadel to become a “blood bag” that keeps their troops at fighting strength. But when the evil leader Immortan Joe’s wives are stolen and his war boys take chase, one of them who just happens to be receiving his refresher blood directly from Max, decides to join the fight and takes his supply along for the ride, cleverly attaching him to the front of his vehicle. It probably isn’t the safest place to be in a road war. Especially when the person you’re up against is the super bad-ass fem-warrior Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron.)

Pitch Perfect 2

Pitch Perfect 2 is a perfectly entertaining movie. From a plot perspective, it doesn’t measure up to its 2012 surprise-hit predecessor Pitch Perfect, but what it lacks in story, it makes up for in gleeful fun. Here’s the gist: the Bellas of Barden University are riding high as three-time national a capella champions. But an embarrassing faux pas and wardrobe malfunction during a performance at the Kennedy Center (for the POTUS no less) results in the school suspending the all-girl singing group, now comprised mostly of seniors who really need to be thinking about life after college anyway. The gals strike a deal with the school – and the a capella governing body – that if they can pull off an upset victory at an International competition that no American group has ever won, then the Bellas will be reinstated, and all will be forgiven. Ready, set, cue the music! What follows is pure fun, with informal sing-offs, bonding exercises, surprise cameos, and the return of Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins in all their satirical glory as professional commentators for the singing competitions. They are hysterically inappropriate.

Hot Pursuit

Hot Pursuit is a lukewarm comedy that tries to be funny – but isn’t – despite the star power of Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon and Modern Family sexpot, Sofia Vergara. The acting isn’t nearly as bad as the script, but it’s a moot point. The movie is simply lame – and couldn’t come at a worse time for the nation’s men and women in blue.

Welcome to Me

What happens when a mentally ill woman who is obsessed with Oprah wins the lottery? She buys her way onto television and her very own talk show, of course. In Welcome to Me, Kristin Wiig plays Alice Klieg. She lives her quirky little life in a California desert town and spends most of her time watching and memorizing Oprah shows (on VHS) and devouring infomercials. She is in court-mandated therapy, but has decided that she doesn’t need any meds because she can control her emotions through other means, or so she firmly believes. So when she suddenly comes into $86 million, she decides to live out her dream to have her own talk show and finds a struggling production company that is more than happy to take a huge chunk of her winnings. And what is the show about? It is all about her. And it’s called “Welcome to Me.”

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Adapted from the best-selling novel by Jonas Jonasson, which I thoroughly enjoyed, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is a fun little Swedish flick about an old man who, just before his nursing home keepers can sing him happy 100th, climbs out the window and has a big adventure. It is in Swedish, feels kind of Forrest Gumpish, and it involves a biker gang and an elephant.

Ex Machina

In his directorial debut Alex Garland, the writer of 28 Days Later and Sunshine, has served up an intriguing minimalist sci-fi thriller that is more about what isn’t onscreen than what is. It’s a very simple story about an evil genius’s quest to design a sentient robot and the pawns he uses in the perfection of his plan. The cast of three (Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac) spends most of the film sequestered away in a remote house/research facility and the audience spends most of its time wondering if things can possibly end well, as layer upon layer of artifice is stripped away.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Fans of the Avengers – assemble! My guess is they’re already packing the midnight showings and putting this superhero superflick in prime position to knock those Fast and Furious folks from the top of the Box Office. And rightly so. Avengers: Age of Ultron delivers the goods. It’s not as good as the first one, but it serves the purpose of advancing the Marvel mythology and providing pure escapist entertainment by bringing together, once again, the world’s mightiest heroes, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Eye candy, sarcasm, action. What’s not to like?

The Age of Adeline

The Age of Adeline is a satisfactory romantic drama that is best enjoyed by those who can suspend all sense of logic and tolerate a bit of an ‘ick’ factor for reasons that are implied if not fully explored, or exploited, onscreen. More on that later. The lovely and talented Blake Lively plays Adeline Bowman, a young widow and mother in San Francisco who stopped aging after a freak car accident in the 1930s. An overlong voiceover narration explains, in flashback, how it all happened… something about a confluence of events involving water, lightning, and shifting molecular structure. Anyway, to avoid being labeled a freak or subjected to secret government testing, Adeline goes on the run for decades – constantly moving, and changing her identity, to hide her bizarre immortality from the world, including potential suitors. And there are plenty of those, because whatever name she goes by, Adeline presents as a beautiful old soul with a soft, lilting voice, a throwback wardrobe, and a phenomenal knowledge of modern history (go figure). The only one who knows Adeline’s secret is her daughter, who ages at a normal pace and could easily pass for Adeline’s mother or grandmother.

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2015

Film festivals are a lot of fun, but kind of exhausting, too. I headed to Durham, NC last weekend for the Full Frame Festival, one of the premier documentary festivals in the country. The program included world premieres, some big time invited docs, and some thematic selections. Now in its 18th year, I kind of wish I’d attend this festival years ago, before it got so big and popular and crowded. I was only able to fit in eleven films in four days, and a few that I really was looking forward to seeing were sold out before I even had a chance to select tickets, but I was happy I got to see most of what I did. And here are my minireviews!

True Story

True Story is based on, well, a true story. But I suspect the actual events were more gripping than this somewhat interesting, but often boring psychological crime drama starring James Franco as accused family killer Christian Longo and Jonah Hill as disgraced New York Times reporter Michael Finkel. For some reason, Longo took on Finkel’s identity while on the run for the gruesome murders of his wife and three young children. When he was caught, Finkel was the only one that Longo was willing to tell his story to.