Spending your summer in the theater with the Avengers, wacky choral singers or unwieldy dinosaurs is as fine an investment as you want it to be, because the price of a movie ticket for something you enjoy is never a waste of money.
Summer 2015 selections
“Mad Max: Fury Road,” 3.5 out of 4 stars
“Tomorrowland,” 2 out of 4 stars
“Spy,” 3 out of 4 stars
“Ted 2,” 2 out of 4 stars
“Terminator Genisys,” 2 out of 4 stars
“Trainwreck,” 2.5 out of 4 stars
“Southpaw,” 2 out of 4 stars
“Vacation,” 2.5 out of 4 stars
“Fantastic Four,” 1 out of 4 stars
If you go...
“Straight Outta Compton,” rated R
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 147 minutes
Starring: O'Shea Jackson, Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell and Paul Giamatti.
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas and Craig’s West Theatre.
That being said, here’s my two cents on a selection of films from the past few months I didn’t get a chance to review for one reason or another.
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) has found himself in another predicament trying to survive in a barren wasteland. This time, the hardened former cop gets mixed up with a trucker (Charlize Theron) on a mission to save the best of humanity from an evil tyrant (Hugh Keays-Byrne).
The Down Under saga comes roaring back to life after a 30-year hiatus, with director George Miller outdoing himself with massive, immersive chase scenes beyond what was possible with “The Road Warrior.” The cast is perfection as well, with Hardy barely uttering a word — Mel who? — Theron a worthy heroine as the one-armed, strong-minded Furiosa, Nicholas Hoult as the zealous War Boy, Nux, and Keays-Byrne appropriately deplorable as the fearsome Immortan Joe.
The fact that this got under the skin of the men’s rights movement proves its value as a thought-provoking piece of cinema, but it’s undeniably thrilling and unique in every capacity.
A rebellious teen (Britt Robertson) with a mind for science seeks out the origin of a mysterious item that seems to provide a peek into the future. When she meets a meets frustrated inventor (George Clooney), she doesn’t get the answer she was expecting, but the two of them are bound for an adventure that could change the world.
With so much promise here, it’s disappointing that a visionary like Brad Bird can’t see beyond retro-chic visual effects and a preachy message about making the world a better place to give us a story that hasn’t been told dozens of times already.
Robertson is too old for her part, while Clooney hasn’t looked this bored since he played Bruce Wayne. However, there is a bright spot in Raffey Cassidy as a gynoid named Athena who refuses to let brilliance go to waste.
Next time, let the robot do the editing, Disney.
CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) and field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) make a great team in their operations, but when Fine is compromised and all the agency’s personnel are in danger, it’s up to Susan to go undercover and save the day.
McCarthy’s bombastic nature is her greatest asset in this often hilarious action-comedy, but it’s with support from other funny ladies Rose Byrne and Miranda Hart that it all comes together.
Never one to be outdone, Jason Statham is endlessly ridiculous as self-obsessed agent Rick Ford, who talks himself up as better than James Bond but has all the awareness of Mr. Bean.
Talking teddy bear Ted (voice of Seth MacFarlane) has just entered into marriage, and the next step with his new wife (Jessica Barth) is having a child. But, neither conception nor adoption are on the table when the government declares Ted has no legal rights or personhood.
With help from his best friend, John (Mark Wahlberg), and an eager lawyer (Amanda Seyfried), the immature stuffed animal has to prove himself a valuable member of society and earn his status as a person.
A timely premise is wasted in this sequel that overthinks the concept that made MacFarlane’s first movie work. Once you start pulling threads from the “talking teddy bear” genre and questioning it, you’ve done irreversible damage.
The “Family Guy” creator’s strategy of outlandishly crude jokes and reliance on cameos doesn’t help in a movie that’s just not funny.
In 2029, the human resistance against the artificial intelligence system Skynet is inevitable, but leader John Connor (Jason Clarke) learns a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) was sent back in time to prevent his birth. His second-in-command, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), volunteers to follow the machine back to 1984, but when he meets John’s mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke), something is clearly different.
Arnie is the best thing about the fifth entry in the series, which needs to cut its losses at this point. The time travel element is being so overused, it’s amazing we haven’t all been affected by the space-time continuum.
A freewheeling New York magazine writer (Amy Schumer) finds her outlook on life changing when she is forced to interview a sports doctor (Bill Hader) she can’t help but fall for despite years of resistance to a serious relationship.
Schumer’s unapologetic screenplay is insightful, and Judd Apatow’s direction helps bring the laughs, but the further this goes, the more it becomes a very ordinary romantic comedy, albeit an enjoyable one.
If you’re hoping for a date night movie, here it is. If you want to really get your funny bone tickled, watch Amy’s Comedy Central show or standup specials.
After a difficult early life, boxer Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) has it made as the light heavyweight world champion, a status that allows the good life for his wife and daughter (Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence). When his spouse is killed during a needless scuffle between Billy and his rival (Miguel Gomez), the pugilist spirals into a destructive mode, ruining his career and eventually losing custody of his child.
Only with the help of a no-nonsense trainer (Forest Whitaker) can he possibly step up and be a champ again.
Gyllenhaal gives a great performance as a warrior of the ring who’s simply not smart, forgoing blocking during his fights for turning pummeling against him into brutal punishment against his opponent, a tactic that only works for so long.
The same punchy approach is true of filmmaker Antoine Fuqua, who borrows form virtually every other boxing movie until he KO’s any dramatic resonance this would have had.
Now a husband and father, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) hopes to bring his wife (Christina Applegate) and kids (Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins) for a memorable summer trip to Walley World. But, the phrase “getting there is half the fun” doesn’t apply when all the stops en route to the famed amusement park test their durability, not to mention their sanity.
You knew a new generation of the franchise was coming, and while it has nothing on the 1980s Chevy Chase classic — dear old dad Clark does appear here, thankfully — the sequel drops the National Lampoon banner but not the edgy, hard-R humor associated with it.
You might not laugh, but you’ll at least smile, particularly at Chris Hemsworth as Rusty’s hugely obnoxious brother-in-law, weatherman and über-patriot Stone Crandall.
Young genius Reed Richards (Miles Teller) has created an interdimensional teleporter, a breakthrough that lands him in the Baxter Foundation, alongside other gifted minds. When he is finally able to test his work, he knows it will mean something incredible for him and friends Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) and Sue and Johnny Storm (Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan).
But, something goes horribly wrong…
Without a doubt, this is the worst adaptation of Marvel Comics to date, maybe the worst superhero movie of all time. Besides characters who have no personality, let alone any resemblance to Marvel’s First Family, 20th Century Fox manages to do everything wrong with ugly effects, terrible casting — the controversy over a black Human Torch is the least of your worries — and an attitude that five decades of comics history needs to be rewritten.
If the studio’s goal was to make its earlier misfires look better, mission accomplished. Genuine Marvel films — like the better-than-expected “Ant-Man” — have no problem picking up the slack.
“Straight Outta Compton”
In 1980s Compton, California, the tense environment between law enforcement and the African-American community yields a new form of expression as five musicians popularize gangsta rap and find an audience across the nation. No sooner do they achieve huge fame and notoriety than artistic differences, personal matters and other factors start to splinter the group known as NWA.
The biopic of the innovators who pushed all kinds of boundaries back in the day is a solid one with O’Shea Jackson, Jr. a chip off the old frozen block playing his pops, Ice Cube; Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre; and Jason Mitchell in a groundbreaking performance as drug dealer turned superstar Eazy-E.
Some of the history might be questionable the way it’s portrayed by director F. Gary Gray and writers Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff, but if you know what NWA stands for, you had to know this wasn’t going to be tidied up to make everyone comfortable.