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Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.

Angry Birds
Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Sean Penn, and Peter Dinkledge
Synopsis: It's no surprise to see a glut of animated movies during the summer season. Kids are out of school, the days are hot, and distractions are welcome. "Angry Birds," based off the popular game, was one of the first to debut this summer, coming out in late May. During the long, hot weekend, I went to give it a try. I was excited about the voice cast and potential here. But the film didn't live up to that hype. First off, I'd note that it's borderline inappropriate for kids. I'm thinking the target audience might have been teens and young adults. Second, though it's full of plenty of funny people, the film itself is a little dull. I didn't love the jokes or the story. There's some funny moments in it, but it isn't a great movie. With all the talent involved, I think they could have done better.
Rating: PG for rude humor and action.
Verdict: Two stars out of four.

Central Intelligence
Starring: Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Amy Ryan, Aaron Paul, and Jason Bateman
Synopsis: Summer is a season where people want something different from the movies. We expect big, loud action films. We want animated films that are good for the whole family as an outing when it’s 100-degrees. And we want some light, comedic fare that’s good entertainment. Often summer comedies end up being big, broad and profane. It’s a season full of more R-rated fare to draw in the adults on those long summer nights. That’s what makes “Central Intelligence” something out of the ordinary. The film brings two bankable stars — Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson — and pairs them in an easy to follow story. It brings plenty of jokes, but it keeps things at a PG-13, broadening its base. That’s what helps it be one of the sneaky success of the summer. “Central Intelligence” is about what you’d expect based on the trailers, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s consistently amusing, and the two stars have great rapport on screen. It plays well, like Hart’s other comedies, which is what helps to build it a following. It’s also something unexpected. It’s directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who is no stranger to broad comedies. He directed “Dodgeball” and “We’re The Millers,” two funny movies that definitely earn their R-rating. But “Central Intelligence” doesn’t go there, it stays in the family-friendly zone, which will help it draw a broader audience during the summer. But it doesn’t sacrifice all it’s comedy to do it. This might be the best role Johnson has ever had. Not only does he get to play the action hero, he lets his comedic side shine. I could see this being a great route for him to go with his talent in the future. And he finds a great partner in Hart, who can play the straight man here with ease. It’s clear he and Johnson were having fun with the movie, and that translates to the screen. The film also has some nice supporting and cameo roles from actors like Jason Bateman, Amy Ryan and Aaron Paul that help round out the story. “Central Intelligence” isn’t an incredibly unique or complex movie, but it’s perfect summer entertainment. It’s light, funny and moves along at a good pace. It’s perfect for those long, hot days when you just want a little diversion.
Rating: PG-13 for crude and suggestive humor, some nudity, action violence and brief strong language.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Starring: Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Will Arnett, and Laura Linney
Synopsis: In 2014 the Ninja Turtles made their way back to the big screen. It was a fine summer film. It was loud, noisy, effects-driven, filled with corny one-liners, and deep as a puddle. And it made money. I loved the Turtles when I was growing up. I watched the cartoons and fondly remember the original live-action films (though I'll admit they weren't great). The first film in 2014 and this follow up sequel are on par with that. They bring these characters to life for a new generation while fulfilling the nostalgic desires of late 20s and early 30 somethings like myself who fondly remember the Turtles as part of our childhood. I liked this second film a touch better than the first — and Amell is a welcome addition to the cast, though he doesn't totally fit the Casey Jones mold. These movies aren't great, but they're entertaining and fun. I could see this as a franchise that continues in the future.
Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.
Verdict: Two stars out of four.

Warcraft
Starring: Ruth Negga, Dominic Cooper, Ben Foster, Paula Patton, Toby Kebbell, and Travis Fimmel
Synopsis: Movies based on video games are tricky business. They flop more often than they succeed. Director Duncan Jones has made some fascinating films, and you get a sense of what he was going for with "Warcraft." But it doesn't quite work. I'll admit to not having played the popular game, so I wasn't as familiar with the characters or the world. But I struggled with this film for a couple reasons. First, the story isn't really clear. What are the motivations? What is the point? This feels like a cross between a watered down "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter," and it doesn't quite work. If you weren't familiar with the world of the game, the characters and story would be hard to access given how the film is structured. Second, it's too reliant on special effects. The entire film has the look of being built in the computer. I think Jones was trying to give it a unique visual style, but it doesn't quite work. Finally, the film feels like one giant advertisement for a sequel. The film doesn't really resolve so much as sets up what might be to come. But if you're not sold on what you're seeing in the first place, it's hard to get too excited about a sequel.
Rating: PG - 13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy violence.
Verdict: Two stars out of four.

Upcoming Releases:
Friday, June 24 — "Independence Day: Resurgence," "The Shallows," "Free State of Jones"

Comments

  1. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Central Intelligence, because I thought the trailer was awful.

    Nice reviews.

    - Zach (fadetozach.blogspot.com)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, it had weird trailers. I had pretty low expectations going in, but I liked what they did. Those two make a pretty good duo.

      Delete

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