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Paper Towns movie review

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Average

“Paper Towns” offers a lukewarm teen dramedy that romanticizes a type of a geeky schoolboy’s lost-and-found teenage daydream tale. Packaged to appeal primarily to pre-teens, it maintains a consistently wholesome voice that greatly downplays the darker side of growing up. Although the paper-thin presentation doesn’t turn out as deeply moving as it intends to be, it occasionally manages to remain grounded with charming supporting details that can still warrant a slight recommendation.

Adapted from the bestselling young adult novel by author John Green, also the man behind the book “The Fault in Our Stars,” this coming-of-age tale looks at young, unrequited love, friendship, independence, adventure, breaking rules, seizing the day, and letting go through the eyes of a regular teenager who is in love with the mystery girl next door. The funny, frisky teen narrative centers on Quentin and his enigmatic neighbor Margo. After taking Quentin in a series of risk-taking tasks around their Orlando hometown for the whole night, Margo suddenly ends up gone the next day, only leaving behind some cryptic clues for Quentin to decipher. This leads Quentin and his closest friends in an exhilarating adventure to track down the missing Margo, the popular girl who loves mysteries too much that she eventually ends up being one herself.

This formulaic teen romance and melodrama directed by Jake Schreier may not be the most poignant nor groundbreaking in the way it handles its light and noble intentions, but it makes the clear choice of presenting the messiness of ordinary life to make its target audience identify more with the story. It focuses on the more literal than the more existential views about growing up, and along the way, make the simple pleasures of understanding true friendship as profound as finding genuine love in unexpected ways.

As this motion picture gets manicured to primarily appeal to the book’s teen fans, it makes the storytelling slightly too romanticized that the progression of the tale comes across as a little too polished and scripted. Despite a few resonant moments, the material gets weighed down by the meandering exercise in artifice and gloss in favor of the often too clean lines of fantasy and romance, rendering more contrivances in its make-believe world as the story moves on. With such issues, the gauzy plot’s series of behavioral puzzles find it difficult to provide authentic beats of awakening to really strike serious emotional chords, especially come resolution time. These make the picture a glazed down and a serenely bland adaptation piece that practically works better on paper than on screen.

It is worth noting that the characters didn’t opt for the unreasonably glamorous looks that many actors tend to prioritize in their on-screen performances for such a gloss-filled movie. Generally, each cast member possesses that everyday appearance that adds a more identifiable charm to the proceedings. However, this doesn’t make the actors free from the paper-thin characterizations from the script. Amidst the charming young cast’s attempt to help compensate on the shortcomings of the storytelling through a good number of likeable performances, their cardboard characters are still often too mundane to merit significant personal and social impact.

Nat Wolff as Quentin Jacobsen keeps up with the stereotype geek-and-goody high schooler character frequently featured in this type of coming-of-age spin. Overall, he delivers the needs of the story as a passionate young adult in search for his childhood sweetheart. His co-star Cara Delevingne as Margo Roth Spiegelman lives up to the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” archetype, but her monotone take on her role ultimately falls short in putting layers of depth to her character’s more mysterious demeanor. Interestingly, the supporting characters end up more charming than the two young leads in most scenes. The more compelling friendship between the three high school boys Quentin, Radar, the role played by Justice Smith, and Ben, the role played by Austin Abrams, offers more chemistry as screen buddies compared to the main characters Quentin and Margo.


‘Paper Towns’ Film Review: Paper-thin wholesome
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Magic Mike XXL movie review

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For the most part, “Magic Mike XXL” keeps its commitment to entertain. As a sequel that capitalizes on beefy charm and well-oiled performances, the franchise delivers another movie that is all too eager to please its target market. This raunchy road flick dives into some quick thrills that are not quite as psychologically curious as the original stripper opus “Magic Mike.” Shapeless but generally enjoyable, it renders an easy-going experience throughout, courtesy of its goofily gleeful male comrades who are clearly oozing with sex appeal, especially whenever they are on the limelight. Viewers are supposed to come for the stripping galore, stay for the laughs and giggles, but leave the demanding storytelling expectations behind.

The narrative picks up three years after the legendary headliner Mike bowed out of the stripper life, while still at the top of his game. Something rekindles his passion for it that he joins the rest of what’s left of the Kings of Tampa on the road for one last blowout performance at the male-stripper convention in Myrtle Beach. While on their way, the guys learn some new moves, as well as shake off the past and build new relationships in between unlikely turn of events. They meet new acquaintances and old friends, specifically during their whistle stops in Jacksonville and Savannah, allowing the viewers to take a tour of the best stripping venues around the southern states.

This follow-up to the 2012 hit utilizes the road-trip template to promote an amusement park-ride sort of experience for its intended demographic. Although it delivers the fantasy goods of formidable male bodies moving in provocative ways, the mediocre, a bit too cautious script, which puts irony to the fact that the movie explores the idea of taking risks, really pulls down the story. The already contrived tale gets stretched even thinner that the narrative really lacks much storytelling weight. The barebones plot barely bothers to scratch beneath the skin that there is a dire need for improved narrative thrust, especially by the time the bland and ultimately lame resolution gets revealed. The all-tease, no release type of ending doesn’t really arrive anywhere that it makes the mindless worship of male bodies in motion eventually nose-dive towards tedium.

For its strengths, this Gregory Jacobs-helmed buddy road comedy, which is undeniably tossed out for public consumption, proves how carnal pleasures can be served hot so the audience can enjoy some quick thrills and squeals. With admirable testosterone frequently on display, the rowdy picture deviates from the conventional movie masculinity where male characters are expected to rip out the big screen with stereotypical machismo. It has its own gung-ho way of celebrating masculinity, as well as celebrating female sexual desire, in flashy ways. The fun dance moves of barely dressed men simulating sexual acts are filled with an energetic dose of movie lust. They rightfully blend giddy aesthetics with gratuitous man-candy sexuality. Through the years, Hollywood has clearly spent much time objectifying women. So perhaps, in this film, it’s about time to return the favor to the ladies in such dazzling fashion.

Mike and his posse consistently sizzle throughout the movie’s running time. As usual, Channing Tatum’s dancing charm seems second nature in his role as Magic Mike. The rest of the virile boys including Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Richie, Matt Bomer as Ken, Kevin Nash as Tarzan, and Adam Rodriguez as Tito successfully coast through their own outrageously fun dance moves, which are often highlighted by pelvic thrusts and sticky looks. They are able to carry the need for a light, playful, and fun-filled presentation meant to tickle and titillate without having to border towards the seriously offensive. However, taking the characterization a couple of steps deeper would have placed more value to their campy roles.

‘Magic Mike XXL’ Film Review: Beefy magic
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Mad Max: Fury Road movie review

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“Mad Max: Fury Road” is supercharged with its own dose of resonant mythmaking. This action spectacle is not without flaws, but whatever narrative heft it lacks miraculously loses its ground in the storytelling — thanks to its adrenaline pill’s maximum overdrive of fun and pleasure. It proves a significant point that when done with the careful combination of heart, effort, and talent, a glorious symphony of violence, action, and manic flair can overcome the need for perfect story. The spectacle ends up so engrossing that it easily overshadows the questionable parts of the tale.

This “Mad Max” flick has more than just “What a lovely day” can offer.

This exhilarating piece of post-apocalyptic popcorn is loaded with fine madness in every nook and cranny of it. Early on, it readily gears up for a desert adventure full of mind-blowing action sequences to rival just about any other awesome action sequence ever to grace the big screen. Add up the subversive wit, propulsive momentum, feminist roar, and hilarious sexual politics and you get a full-throttle action flick that is inexplicably kick ass in every way.

Milking on the franchise for the fourth time after three decades, this “Mad Max” reboot, still helmed by the ultimate “Mad Max” hero George Miller, works as a road movie centering on the escape of an unlikely group from the greedy men in control of human’s basic resources. This leads to a feature film-long chase where a cult of manipulators and the manipulated do everything they can to catch the ragtag team led by Furiosa and Max.

This motion picture makes a stark statement about humanity’s violent tendencies. Imagine how these maniacs survived the world’s end and how they would probably blow it up again if they get the chance to take whatever’s left. Another interesting point in this film is how it becomes a testosterone and estrogen mash up. Max, Furiosa, and the rest of the escape group develop interactions and varying human relationships more than gender, culture, and beliefs and beyond what their wild society defines and dictates.

Plot, subtlety, logic, and character development get tossed out the window at the expense of staging a triumph of kinetic action in this motion picture. Interestingly, it succeeds in doing that as its hyper-accelerated rush of oil-fisted explosiveness spot-on hits that elusive nerve for insane entertainment to tickle the fanboys and the fangirls.

As an epitome of a badass thrill ride, this scrap-metal demolition derby makes it a point that the action never stops — unless a few good seconds of breathing time should be counted as such. The well-thought-of audio-visual frivolities are a lot of fun. They turn out as pure guilty pleasure from start to finish. The practical effects and stunts are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Knowing how much of the sets and props are real and completely functional, including the fire-wielding guitar and the speaker truck housing it, adds to that already bone-jarring, visceral impact of this limitlessly inventive masterpiece.

The spectacle promotes gloriously crackling entertainment envisioned by such a brilliant maestro. Full of relentless imagination aptly realized on screen, this two hours worth of rolling thunder is clearly targeted for action junkies. The presentation suggests that this picture is deliberately meant as an overdose of monumental thrills. An incredible array of physical objects moves through its cinematic space in unique ways that each frame can work as awesome wallpaper. Moreover, it lays out all the crazy on screen all at once without losing focus. Everything is an orgy of the loud, the louder, and the loudest.

From the cinematography to the production design, this towering, weird-ass heavy metal of a film suddenly redefines the action template. It sets a new gold standard for action cinema. Its action pieces make many other blockbusters, superhero flicks, and special effects-savvy offerings look like they were rough tests and B-movie projects.

Displaying a perfect balance of practical and CG effects, what primarily sets this movie apart from its contemporaries is how much it feels homegrown and handmade while still maximizing the benefit of digital wizardry. Its revved up vision showcases such a gloriously twisted design fitting its theme, story, and even its social context. It doesn’t try hard to incorporate its key messages and it just fits enough to make a hyper-accelerated rush of weirdness and insanity rightfully orchestrated to both entertain and tickle social values.

This gorgeously rendered warfare of a flick injects ferocious fuel into the franchise to fire up its sequel cylinders. If this is bait for another trilogy, looks like a good number of old and new patrons will be willing to line up for more adventures with George Miller and his team.

More than just its technical brilliance, the acting performances led by Ton Hardy as Max Rockatansky and Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa deliver a significant contribution in achieving the film’s revolutionary effect. While subjective, the ironically toned down madness of Max in the story works well with how he shares the stage with the equally toned down yet equally kick-ass Furiosa. Together, they shine amidst all the crazy elements around. They complement the insanity of their surroundings.

The way the rest of the characters are made to behave on screen promotes a strange kind of flavor for the storytelling, regardless of their level of acting skills. Miller really makes the ensemble work — making perfection even out of the imperfections. Supporting roles including those of Nicholas Hoult as Nux, Hugh Keays-Byrne as Immortan Joe, Josh Helman as Slit, Nathan Jones as Rictus Erectus, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough, Courtney Eaton, and Abbey Lee as The Wives keep up with the needs of the narrative accordingly.

“Fury Road” is beautifully strange, violent, and thrilling. It may be flawed in terms of character development and plot details, but it is undeniably a flawless piece of crazy entertainment. Its whirlwind of fire accelerates to breathtaking heights that nothing else matters.

So buckle up because this is one hell of a ride. It’s mad as hell, but it’s one wild ride worth taking.

‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Film Review: Mad symphony + feminine fury
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The Hangover movie review

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Average

“The Hangover” is a guilty pleasure comedy. Who knew a hangover could be this fun?

This guy flick about a bachelor party gone wrong is really nothing special; but the simplest reason for its comedic success is the fact that it achieves a rare balance between character and vulgarity. There is a sort of perverse brilliance, or maybe brilliant perversity, thrown by the characters against the gambling streets of Las Vegas.

Director Todd Phillips (“Starsky and Hutch,” “School for Scoundrels,” and “Old School”) is successful in promoting strong comic performances in the film. This Las Vegas-set movie centering around three groomsmen who lose their about-to-be-wed bud after their drunken misadventures proves that it’s not all about the big Hollywood names just to get the big laughs. While it would be misleading to claim this as a brilliant film, this cleverly vulgar bromantic comedy is an assured escapist offer.

The film’s stumbles and slurs become effective with a fine ensemble cast. Lewd and rude, the gags generally come from a fun script from Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. This aptly titled movie has some spirited moments of devilishly smart absurdity. It turns out to be every bit as crass, offensive, and incorrect as people would expect, but they are victimized by its bizarrely gripping comedy.

Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galafianakis are a great comedic trio with each one bringing a different element to the movie. Justin Bartha as the groom-to-be Doug Billings blends his matinee idol appeal with the thoughtfully funny twist in the end. The good chemistry extends to the solid performances of the other supporting characters, including the cameos — Heather Graham as the stripper Jade, Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow, Mike Tyson as himself, among others.

What makes this flick work is how the antics seem innocently awkward rather than deliberately awkward. And that’s what makes the movie so funny. Yes, it’s not in any way pleasing the way it handles the female characters. And that’s the not so good thing about it. Yet, the jokes can really victimize the general viewer. Anyway, the audience knows that it has no other major intention but to provide dim-witted comedy with immoral, ruthless characters not to be taken too seriously.

But where exactly did the chicken inside the hotel room really come from? At least, the tiger has a pretty clear role with Mike Tyson…

‘The Hangover’ Film Review: Hanging Over a Guy Flick
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The Bucket List movie review

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Average

A dramedy working on a very simple premise and favoring humor and poignant conversations over weepy developments, “The Bucket List” is a heartfelt, wickedly funny film about two dying men who travel the world to discover the joy in their lives.

Choosing to treat its serious theme on the lighter side may not inspire thorough philosophical introspection about mortality, but it can mildly make you re-examine your life priorities. And the film is undoubtedly elevated by the performances of two acting powerhouses: the angry and antic Jack Nicholson as Edward Cole and the laid back and serene Morgan Freeman as Carter Chambers.

This motion picture fills its bucket with enormous skill and presence through its two leads. It generates both humor and drama about two terminally ill men who heads off outdoors to go for a trip around the world and explore a wish list of to-do’s before they die. They go on a round-the-world junket towards their dream places including the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Mount Everest and the Great Wall of China. They indulge and splurge with an Abercrombie and Kent luxury travel with “Hemingway-style” tents complete with lush carpets, flush toilets and lavish beds. They go sky diving in Perris Valley in Los Angeles. And they experience the best cars to ever drive including a 600-horsepower NASCAR-style race car in the California Speedway in Fontana.

Director Rob Reiner is often successful in eliminating the too sweet taste of sentimentality by allowing the two acting heavyweights to coast through their characters without having to do much heavy hitting. Their companionable roles transcend the typical material into a reasonably entertaining venture. Their gracefully charismatic portrayals celebrate an enthralling character study about the universal things that really matter in life. Their poignant exchanges elevate the film to the point that you would probably ignore the contrivances of the film and just go with the flow as the two actors squeeze the right emotions for the film. Indeed, their excellent chemistry, along with the dialogue that is hilarious even while it borders on the heartbreaking, goes a long way towards a decent and reasonable entertainment.

The film is treated very lightly, which is effectively carried out by the inimitable techniques of Nicholson and Freeman. Nicholson’s Edward Cole proudly wears a billionaire hospital owner character who is filled with sarcasm and cynicism. Freeman’s Carter Chambers accentuates his knack for worldly, wise, and good-natured characters offering homespun bits of wisdom at every turn. Sean Hayes as Thomas adds a dose of fun to the interactions of Edward and Carter. From the comedy parts to the strikingly dramatic moments (mainly the scenes of Edward and Carter, Carter and his wife Virginia played by Beverly Todd, and Edward and his estranged daughter and granddaughter), the film becomes meaningful and affecting.

“The Bucket List” flows naturally. It becomes a sort of an escapist movie minus the ultimate happy ending. Amidst the deaths, it does not exude itself as a tragic film. There are the expected mortality issues, and yet, what really fills the story is the human companionship that makes life worth living. Despite some emotional dips and loads of schmaltz especially by its end, this is an enthralling actor’s movie.

‘The Bucket List’ Film Review: Filling the Bucket
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