A romantic comedy with little romance. A commentary on the private takeover of the military and space. An indictment of how native peoples are taken advantage of by a big government. Yes, that it is all one movie, Cameron Crowe’s ALOHA. Crowe wrote and directed this mess. He needs someone to review his scripts. I’ll try to explain this, but it’s kind of unfathomable. Bradley Cooper is a washed up military contractor. He got seriously wounded in Afghanistan and got dumped by his boss, a kind of evil version of Elon Musk or Richard Branson (capably played by Bill Murray). Now he has some kind of relationship/expertise that requires him to return to Hawaii and negotiate with a native King about moving some bones. Then he meets up with two women as soon as he arrives at Hickam Air Force base. His ex-flame (Rachel McAdams) and a gung-ho Air Force Captain (Emma Stone). The pilot who flew him to Hawaii (John Krasinski) is married to McAdams. Stone’s character is one quarter Hawaiian and her name is Alison Ng. Yeah, they got the whitest actress you can think of to play a biracial fighter pilot. So, Cooper is a smooth talking, earnest womanizer. McAdams is fed up with her husband (Kransinski is probably the best thing in the movie) because he never talks to her. Stone is ambitious, but ambitious about what? Still don’t know. There is also a lot of talk about Hawaiian myth which flies by so fast that I really didn’t get much of what was happening. There are occasional laughs, some clever banter and non of it flows together. It’s like three different plots all fighting for dominance. An MMA of storylines. All we need is Rhonda Rousey to drop in and beat the crap out of all three and be done with it. It ends (mercifully) sweetly. There’s some more minor stuff going on, like McAdams’ oldest daughter was really fathered by Cooper, though no one know, yet Krasinski seems to know. Danny McBride is a bro-Air Force Colonel. Alec Baldwin is an angry General. Crowe’s last good movie was ALMOST FAMOUS. That was 15 years ago. Hopefully after this mess of a movie, we’re not saying aloha to Crowe’s career. — Alan Yudman



Going to Disneyland or going to see a Disney movie used to fill you with wonder. It was a sense of amazement and possibility. A feeling of what you imagined could actually could come true. That’s the sense I got seeing TOMORROWLAND. At least for the first half of the movie. It starts with an animated opening that reminded me of watching The Wonderful World of Disney when I was a kid. A pseudo documentary about something or someone that made it all seem wonderful. That feeling continued through much of the first half of the movie. What this movie is about has been kind of a mystery. It does get kind of convoluted but here goes: The world is nearing its end. Environmental collapse and nuclear proliferation are going to doom everyone to extinction in a matter of a couple of months. But there is hope in the form of one Florida teenager who is really smart and sees hope in everything. Casey Newton (get it?) played by Britt Robertson spends the first half of the movie discovering her role in saving the world. Part of it involve going to TOMORROWLAND, which she visits by touching a special pin. Eventually she hooks up with George Clooney’s Frank Walker, who we find out was taken to Tomorrowland as a kid because he held such promise. It’s hard to describe what Tomorrowland, the place is. It’s futuristic. It’s scientific. It’s a place of wonder. That was the most “Disney” part of the film. After Casey hooks up with Frank, the movie becomes more of your standard action adventure fare. Clooney is the disillusioned scientist and Robertson is the spunky kid that opens his eyes once again. Hugh Laurie is the “villain”. Villain in quotes because he’s not really that evil, and what exactly he is doing to end the world is a little muddled. Basically he’s not evil enough. He’s kind of sort of evil. That didn’t really work for me. The ending was satisfying and once again brought back that Disney feeling of wonder. The film also gets quite preachy about how we are killing our planet and doing little to stop it. It’s a message, but I didn’t feel pummeled by it. Overall TOMORROWLAND is a nice movie, one that only could come from Brad Bird’s imagination. But it’s misses a bit which is too bad because it could have been fantastic. — Alan Yudman


Great-hearted and totally sweet, this sequel calls to mind my favorite franchise, the STEP UP movies, in that plot and plot mechanics take a back seat to the music. How the characters get from one sing-off to the next is sometimes contrived, other times confusing, but it doesn’t matter a bit. All of the set pieces “crush it”, but my favorite was the can-you-top-this four-way competition at a private party hosted by David Cross in which each team has to immediately riff off the beats the previous team has put in motion. It’s such a rush, you almost wish it were its own concert film. And the overall cast is the stuff of comic dreams. Rebel Wilson and Ester Dean and Skylar Astin and Ben Platt and of course Adam DeVine are back, as are John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks (who directed). And wonderful newcomers as well, including the great Keegan-Michael Key as an abrasive (but not really) music producer, Birgitte Sørenson and Flula Borg, the two lead German villains from “Das Sound Machine”, and funny cameos from Snoop Dogg and the judges on “The Voice”. PP2 is sentimental, even mushy, but if you don’t find yourself rooting for Adam & Rebel and Ben & Hailee (Steinfeld) — not to mention the Barden Bellas — well, then you’re a savage beast for whom even this movie’s charms can never soothe. — Jeff Schultz


A solid and riveting sci fi/drama that depends more on performances and script than effects and gimmicks. While this doesn’t break any real new ground in the A.I. department (what makes us human?, do machines feel emotion? ), it’s impossible to not be sucked into the premise. A quieter Blade Runner, I have one complaint here that I had with that classic: too many long shots where the story grinds to a halt because the director has fallen in love with the mechanics of the moment instead of the movie as a whole. Not quite the new classic many have hailed it…but a welcome grown up movie in a summer of comic book/reboots/franchise flicks.

Stormy Curry


This strenuous, noisy remake is just too much. Literally. It suffers from VAN HELSING Syndome, packed to the gills with action that’s repetitious and often boring. Sure, the chase sequences are accomplished. All of them. Each and every one after another after another. That’s the whole point, right? But the movie left me numb and uninvolved. Credit to Tom Hardy for taking a nothing part and injecting a little wit. (His subtle comic “takes” are a treat.) But where the previous three Max’s were an effective blend of desolation and insanity, this one comes off as driven there, killed that. The fight sequences go on so long it’s the audience who gets battle-weary. And the closest thing to a human connection is the non-chemistry between Hardy and the reliably uninteresting Charlize Theron. I’m mad about MAX. — Jeff Schultz


Going to see a sequel of a movie you love is a dicey proposition. Especially a comedy. Will the jokes still feel fresh? Will they move the characters in an appealing direction? Are all the funny bits in the trailer? All of this filled my head as I sat down to see PITCH PERFECT 2. I can breathe a sigh of relief. I was easily as entertained by the sequel as I was by the original. It’s now three years later and the Barden University Bellas have won the national collegiate acapella championships three times. Because they are so good, they are invited to perform for the President’s birthday at the Kennedy Center. It all goes sideways when Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) pants rip and she has gone commando, exposing herself to the world. The Bellas are suspended, basically destined to just go away and fold. The only way they can survive is by winning the world title, something an American group has never done. And, so we’re off on another adventure featuring Becca (Anna Kendrick), Fat Amy, Chloe, and the rest of the Bellas. But, it’s the same adventure, or damn close. The jokes are new, but cut from the same cloth as the first movie. The comedy goes for the outrageous laugh. And that’s where the movie finds its strength. When it tried to get all touchy-feely, or deal with real emotions, it lost me. The Bellas are bickering, not sure how to defeat a German powerhouse group. They go on a retreat to find their voice, but that whole sequence was simply weird and eye-rolling. It seemed like it was just an excuse to get Aubrey (Anna Camp) into the movie. Credit to Elizabeth Banks for getting it back on track with more singing and more hysterical comedy. The dynamic between Rebel Wilson and Adam Devine is fantastic. Keegan Michael Key steals every scene as a record producer mentoring Anna Kendrick. And John Michael Higgins and Banks are glowing as the acapella commentators. The thing that makes PITCH PERFECT 2 great is knowing what its strengths are and playing to those. The music is good, the comedy is better. Oh god, will they make a PITCH PERFECT 3. I hope not, lets leave well enough alone. — Alan Yudman


I am exhausted. Physically and mentally whipped. Picked up, turned around, shaken, slapped and gut punched. And I loved every minute of it. That is the way MAD MAX: FURY ROAD leaves you after two hours. Here’s the scenario. Mad Max (Tom Hardy, a welcome change from the terminally overacting Mel Gibson) continues to roam the post apocalyptic landscape searching for meaning and trying to escape the tragedies that continue to haunt him. He is captured by a gang of well, I’m not sure what they are. Survivors, who follow a leader named Immortan Joe who wears a breathing mask adorned with skeleton teeth. So yeah, he’s a bad dude. They are scouring the landscape for healthy people to keep them alive. Max is captured and taken to the Citadel, Joe’s, well Citadel. He’s being used for his blood to keep Nicholas Hoult’s character alive. At the same time, Imperator Furiosa is driving a war rig to get fuel. At least that’s what everyone thinks. She is really stealing Joe’s “wives” (just breeding stock) and taking them to freedom. And here is where MAD MAX separates from the usual fare in this genre. Max really isn’t the driving force of this film. It’s Furiosa. Her force and power are what pushes these rebels across the landscape seeking escape. Max is there and he is decidedly Mad, but he is merely along for the ride here, helping Furiosa find what they are both really seeking… redemption. The story is great. The action is greater. This isn’t a CGI-fest. Most of this is actual cars and real actors. As good as the computer stuff can be, nothing is as good as real set pieces. And FURY ROAD is packed with them. Wall to wall. Loud. Furious. Stunning. It sucks you into its world and you feel everything. It’s visually stunning. It looks and feels dry and desperate. George Miller took it to the next level to make his masterpiece. Miller co-wrote the script and directed this and it’s mind blowing. How someone can come up with all of this is unfathomable to me. It’s psycho and wacko and brilliant. It has heart and action, proof the two are not mutually exclusive (I’ll once again throw Michael Bay to the wolves here, since this is his milieu). This movie is pure genius and pure entertainment. Climb on your own war rig and race to a theater. You’d be mad not to see FURY ROAD. — Alan Yudman


EX MACHINA is more commonly read as part of the expression Deux Ex Machina. Literal translation is god from a machine. In movies it is when a writer introduces a new device or ability that solves a seemingly unsolvable dilemma. I think in Alex Garland’s (writer behind 28 DAYS LATER and DREDD) directing debut, it is referring to the more literal meaning. Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a contest at his Google-inspired workplace to spend a week at the company founder’s secluded home. When he arrives, he meets Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Nathan believes he is smarter than everyone else, and he probably is. He’s created what he believes is true artificial intelligence. Ava (Alicia Vikander) is a machine, but her brain seems to function as that of a human. Caleb’s job is to perform a Turing test. Can he interact with Ava and forget that she is not truly a computer? The genius of EX MACHINA is that it takes your expectations and turns them on their head. You think you know where the film is going, and it does go there in a most interesting and intelligent fashion. But just when you think you’ve got it all figured out and you’re patting yourself on the back for being so smart, something else happens that makes you question everything that happened before. Caleb and Nathan get into philosophical discussions about the ethics of playing god, about the true nature of search engines and what the hell Jackson Pollock was really trying to accomplish. Gleeson turns in a good performance as the lonely programmer who initially feels like Alice in Wonderland. Vikander is also quite good as Ava. But, Isaac truly steals this movie with a scene chewing performance (in a great way). Is he good? Is he evil? Is he mad? He does prove to be smarter, but is that also going to be his undoing? I’m not going to reveal anything about that. Garland does a great job making us think and keeping this movie where not much happens action-wise visually interesting. This is truly excellent sci-fi. It addresses a modern issue and asks what the natural evolution is and whether that is such a great idea. After seeing EX MACHINA I’m not so sure. — Alan Yudman


When I saw AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, the final trailer shown before the movie was for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. When the first note and image appeared on screen (the Lucasfilm logo) the packed house went bananas, cheering wildly and even screaming for joy when Han and Chewy show up at the end of the trailer. This is a cautionary tale. The original STAR WARS trilogy is epic. The prequels were much anticipated but sucked harder than any three movies ever made. So, all that could be a cautionary tale for Marvel’s flagship franchise. Be careful, expectations are dangerous business. Rest easy, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is not even close to Phantom Menace level suckitude. In some ways, I liked it better than THE AVENGERS. Yeah, I know you’re saying, “hold on there Alan, have you lost your mind?” Maybe I have. I went back and read my review of THE AVENGERS and I still agree with much of what I wrote. AGE OF ULTRON goes in a slightly different direction. It’s not so much about trying to bring these outsized egos together for the greater good. They are already a team. But how strong is the team? Will Tony Stark’s ego tear it all apart? Will demons from each of their pasts undermine their mission to save the world? I think you can probably guess the answer to all of that. We are introduced to three new characters: Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and a third which I won’t reveal to not give up a spoiler. There is heart here that I don’t recall from the first film. Making these heroes somewhat vulnerable only enhances their hero status. There is also more of Hawkeye, which means there is more Jeremy Renner. Never a bad thing. The voice and slight motion capture that James Spader brings to Ultron make him a great villain, a “good” guy turned bad by his demented vision. There are also comments on war and technology throughout. The addition of Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch) is fantastic. Like I pointed out in my review of the original, casting great actors simply makes for a better movie. There were moments where I found my jaw on the floor. I think that’s saying something, when a film in a genre where you think you’ve seen everything, can still amaze and surprise you. All credit to Joss Whedon for making another fantastic film and to Kevin Feige for having the vision to run with it. Up next, ANT-MAN and THE FANTASTIC FOUR. It’s going to be a fun, hero-filled summer!. — Alan Yudman