Monthly Archives: August 2015

Ricki And The Flash (100th Movie Review!)

Movie:  Ricki And The Flash

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  Linda Rendazzo (Meryl Streep) doesn’t like to go by her given name.  She goes by Ricki, because in her heart she’s a rock and roll singer, and in fact she’s the lead singer for a local Los Angeles bar band Ricki and the Flash.  She has given her all to follow her dream of becoming a rock star, and recorded one album early in her career called Silk Nights.  But chasing that dream had a high cost.  She basically abandoned her husband Pete (Kevin Kline), as well as her daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer) and two sons, Adam and Josh.  Her family is back in Indianapolis living their lives, and Pete long ago got remarried to Maureen (Audra McDonald), and Ricki is grubbing out a life working by day as a grocery clerk, and at night rocking with her band and her boyfriend, bandmate Greg (Rick Springfield) at the Salt Well bar.

Ricki’s routine gets interrupted one day by an urgent phone call from the ex-hubby.  It seems daughter Julie’s world has come crashing down when her d-bag husband decided to dump her for a newer model.  So Ricki heeds the call for help, and trucks back to Indianapolis to save the day.  But life isn’t usually easy, or forgiving.   The only one that really seems happy to see Ricki is the family dog.  But for better or worse, Ricki is there to do her best for her family.

This is a tough sell for a film in the summer season.  It is a relationship movie, with a storyline dealing with a failed marriage, adult children full of resentment, and a middle aged woman dealing with a fading dream of becoming a rock star.  There are a few light moments that will let you laugh, and many more poignant scenes that are true to life where we look back and remember our failures and regrets in life.  And there are some uplifting moments where characters discover family ties can be surprisingly strong, no matter how long they have been dormant.  There is certainly chemistry between Meryl Streep and real life daughter Mamie Gummer.  Rick Springfield does a credible acting job as Meryl’s love interest, as well as bringing some street cred to the band.  Pretty decent sound track to boot.

Dialogue Nuggets:   Julie to Ricki – “Couldn’t make it for the wedding, but you’re right on time for the divorce.”

Ricki – “It’s hard to find a good cruller in California.”

Pete to Ricki – “Historically, you don’t give a damn.”

Julie to parents – “Hey, you guys are fighting like the 80s all over again.”

Adam – “Oh my God, she’s parenting!  Someone get a camera.”

Ricki to son – “I thought you were bi-sexual.”  Adam – “That was my cover story in college ten years ago.”

Bar Guy – “Even I need my Mommy sometimes, and she’s literally Satan!”

Sound Track:  Definitely some rocking songs in this movie.  But seriously, Paint It Black being performed by The Feelies?  The producers couldn’t spring for a few more bucks to get the Rolling Stones version?

 

 

 

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Trainwreck

Movie:  Trainwreck

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Amy Townsend (Amy Schumer) is a chip off the old block.  When she and her sister Kim (Brie Larson) were little girls, their daddy (Colin Quinn) gave them an abbreviated facts of life talk.  Essentially, daddy told them that it was unfair for mommy to think they could only play with one doll their whole lives, and likewise, it was unfair to think that he could only be with one woman his whole life.  This lesson stuck with Amy, as she is now in her 30s, and has never had a long term relationship.  Sleeping around with random men suits her needs, even if she sometimes has to make that walk of shame back into her apartment past the homeless guy who lives near her building.  She has her “regular dates” with Steven (John Cena), until he finds out that he’s basically a sex object for Amy.

Aside from her sexual needs, Amy is a career woman.  She is a writer for S’Nuff Magazine, a slick and provocative publication managed by editor Dianna (Tilda Swinton), and is working her way up the ladder to be considered for a major promotion.  Despite being clueless about sports, Dianna assigns Amy to do an in-depth article on trend setting sports medicine pioneer Dr. Aaron Connors (Bill Hader).  Dr. Connors is a bit of a geek and awkward around women, but somehow he and Amy click on their initial interview about his work.  They end up socializing, and this leads to complications in both their lives, especially Amy’s, as she is terrified of any relationship that could lead to commitment on her part.

In some ways this is a predictable romantic comedy.  What sets it apart from being run of the mill is the sharp writing by Amy Schumer, who has had a meteoric rise in fame within the comedy world.  She has great acting talent beside her, with Bill Hader giving another winning performance following his dramatic turn in The Skeleton Twins last year.  Look for bigger roles for Brie Larson, as she shines in every scene she appears in this film.  Then there is the well publicized supporting role of NBA star LeBron James who play himself, so no acting stretch required.  Look for the movie within a movie starring Daniel Radcliff and Marisa Tomei, as well as a famous trio who stage a hilarious intervention for one of the leads.  All in all, a refreshing comedy spiced with no guilt sex, plenty of snappy dialogue, and a few dramatic scenes that hit home as family members cope with the slings and arrows life shoots at them.  Best comedy of the year.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Amy – “This is not my first rodeo.  The key is to never, ever let them sleep over.”

Amy’s Dad – “Every twelve year old kid in the Dominican Republic could probably beat Babe Ruth.”

Cheap-Ass LeBron – “Do you validate parking?”

Jealous Steven to other man – “We’ll make a movie starring my fist in your dick-hole!”

LeBron – “Did you know Superman was created in Cleveland?”

Cheap-Ass LeBron – “Why do I have to pay the bill?”  Dr. Connors – “Because you’re LeBron James!”

(Basketball court, one on one game)  Dr. Connors – “Did I just score on you?  You are my bitch, LeBron James!”

Kim – “You don’t want Best Sex You’ve Ever Had Guy.  That guy is in jail!”

Chris Evert – “Don’t be a cock blocker!”

Amy in bed – “I’m sorry for nitpicking, but you’re breathing on me.  Could you breath toward the ceiling?”

Homeless Guy’s cardboard sign:  “I accept Pay Pal.”

 

Vacation

Movie:  Vacation

Rating:  2 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) is a success.  Kind of.  He is an airline pilot, albeit for a 3rd rate outfit called Econofare.  He is married to still attractive Debbie (Christina Applegate), though after 20 years the relationship feels stale.   Then there is his pride and joy, sons James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins).  But elder son James is a bit of a dweeb and hopeless with girls, while pre-teen Kevin is hopelessly foul-mouthed and possibly displaying serial killer tendencies.  After some consideration, Rusty knows exactly what the family needs: a cross-country road trip like his dad Clark (Chevy Chase) took the family on.  So it is off from Chicago on a 2560 mile spiritual journey to find Walley World, and on the way bond as a family.

Even before the epic journey is to begin, there are harbingers of disaster to come.  One being the vehicle Rusty has chosen for the family, the Tartan Prancer, manufactured in Albania.  It has all sorts of interesting remote control features, most of which are utilized during the trip.  Soon the family hits the open road, but since they are on vacation why not take a few detours for family activities and to make new memories.  So the family stops off at the college where Rusty and Debbie met, including Debbie’s old sorority house.  And how could you resist stopping in Hot Springs, Arkansas to enjoy those springs?  Then a ways down the road Rusty laments that 30 years ago they hardly took time to appreciate the Grand Canyon, so this time they will stop and take a leisurely trip down the river with Chad (Charlie Day) as their veteran raft guide.  The Griswolds even squeeze in a quick stop to see Rusty’s sister Audrey (Leslie Mann), who is married to the impossibly hunky TV weatherman Stone Crandall (Chris Hemsworth).  But ultimately, the family indeed makes it to the promised land, Walley World.  And their date with destiny on the Velociraptor rollercoaster….

As far as crude comedies go, this film is pretty average.  It does have a few genuinely funny scenes, but mostly it feels like Ed Helms and Christina Applegate are working too hard to squeeze a little humor out of scenarios that are frequently heavy-handed and/or scatological.   Not sure why Chris Hemsworth, otherwise known as Thor, opted to do this movie, but he is definitely eye candy for the ladies.  There are a few good cameos, such as Colin Hanks and one of the leads from The Walking Dead.  So if you’re looking for some R rated ham-fisted yuks, this one is for you.

Actress To Watch:  Teenage Catherine Missa pops up in a few places to excite young Skyler in this story.  I expect to see her in bigger and better roles in the near future.  Just something about her….

Dialogue Nuggets:  Griswold family – “Why did you get an Albanian car?”  Rusty – “It has six ashtrays.”

James – “Why is Mom puking so much?”  Rusty – “She’s teaching those bitches a lesson.”

Rusty to Debbie – “How come you never told me about the Debbie-Do-Anything thing?”

“DO NOT PRESS THE MUFFIN BUTTON!”

Rusty – “I was crazy to think I could bring this family together by locking them in a car for a week.”

Griswold Boy – “Our family f**ked that family up!”

Best Scene:  There is a clever tribute scene to the original National Lampoon Vacation movie that featured beautiful Christie Brinkley in a hot red Ferrari teasing an aroused Clark Griswold.  In this film, a gorgeous Hannah Davis in a hot red Ferrari flirts with Rusty Griswold with much different consequences.

Credits:  The before and after the movie credits display pictures on screen that are apparently from real family vacations that proves all does not come out perfectly in family photos.  For similar photos, go to:  http://www.awkwardfamilyphotos.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Movie:  Mission Impossible:  Rogue Nation

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Some very bad people in a cargo plane are starting to taxi down a runway in Minsk, Belarus, with a load of deadly nerve gas on board.  If they get airborne, there is no telling what mayhem will be unleased on an unsuspecting population, but there is no stopping them now.  But wait!  We see Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) sprinting after the plane and grabbing onto the fuselage just as the plane takes off!  What was Hunt thinking?  Can he do anything about the nerve gas, and how is he going to survive this reckless act of bravado?

Meanwhile, in the sterile but cutthroat world of Washington D.C. bureaucracy, CIA Director Alan Hurley (Alec Baldwin) is making a case for the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) to be disbanded.  Despite defender William Brandt’s (Jeremy Renner) best efforts, the IMF is officially shut down and team leader Ethan Hunt is officially sanctioned and becomes a fugitive from the U.S. Government.  After six months on the run from a worldwide search, Hunt manages to summon Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) to Vienna, where they encounter a mysterious agent, the beautiful Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson).  While Faust’s intentions remain unknown, they all are seeking the dangerous head of a criminal organization known as the Syndicate, and its diabolical leader Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).  Unless Hunt and his renegade band of IMF operatives can somehow foil the shadowy and ultra-powerful Syndicate, violence and chaos will be the order of the day around the world.

This film is jam packed with insane stunts that will amaze and thrill the audience from the opening scene to the end of the movie.  Tom Cruise at 53 years old is still able to perform all these stunts himself (there’s gotta be a billion dollar insurance policy on the guy).  Ethan Hunt is the closest thing America has to James Bond, and dammit, that’s a good thing!  All of the supporting characters have game, and the pace of the movie careens from one locale to the next at breakneck speed.  The plot might not hold up to the harshest scrutiny, but no one will care.  It’s just a very satisfying rollercoaster thrill ride you will be glad to take.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Hunt – “Can you open the door?”  “That’s the wrong door!”

Hunt – “You were officially declared dead two years ago.  Nice shoes, by the way.”

Brandt – “This may very well be our last mission, Ethan.  Make it count.”

Hurley – “Ethan Hunt is living his last days as a free man!”

Dunn – “I didn’t win those free opera tickets, did I?”  Hunt – “I’m afraid not.”

Dunn – “She tried to shoot me!”  Hunt – “That doesn’t make her a bad person.”

Dunn to Hunt – “Are you okay to drive?  A minute ago you were dead!  This is not going to end well.”

Ilsa Faust – “I’ve saved your life twice.  I won’t be able to do it again.”

Huh?  What the….:  There is a scene where a person is trapped in a small bullet-proof area and fires multiple bullets inside.  Hello?  There is something called ricochets!  Ouch!

Existential Thought – This is the fifth Mission Impossible movie.  Just who is the Secretary, and why is he willing to disavow the IMF team if they are caught or killed?  Who would want to work for him?