“Alien” meets “Gravity” meets a smattering of other sci-fi thrillers in “Life,” a space tale that suffers from the lack of originality, but makes up for it in thrills.
Taking place almost entirely aboard the International Space Station, a crew of astronauts from around the globe (including Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds) marvel at the creation of a Martian organism, which rapidly grows into squid-like creature that’s hell-bent on killing each one of them.
Director Daniel Espinosa (“Safe Room”) creates a tense atmosphere as the film builds to an inevitable conclusion with a “Twilight Zone”-like twist. Espinosa gets high marks especially for creating a pair of on-screen demises that may never have been done before. It’s too bad the rest of the film couldn’t have been as inspired.
Director Danny Boyle reunites his incredible cast from the original “Trainspotting” 21 years ago with the cheekily titled “T2,” a compelling sequel to the original crime tale about the dangers surrounding a group of heroin junkies in Scotland in the 1990s.
“T2” appropriately picks up 20 years after the events of the first film, where Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), returns to Scotland after he stole 16 thousand pounds from his friends to bolt from the country and build a new life in Amsterdam.
But when that life falls apart, he decides to try to make amends with two members of the group (Jonny Lee Miller and Ewen Bremer); a move that puts him in peril because the other friend, the psychotic Franco Begbie (Robert Carlyle, who is frightening and funny at the same time) wants Renton dead in the worst way.
Marked by great performances, fantastic tunes and inventive direction by Boyle, fans of the original will especially love “T2,” which perfectly brings the tale of Renton and his mates completely full circle after a 20-year wait.
Johnny Depp gives a frightening, transformative performance in “Black Mass,” a fascinating look at the rise of real-life Irish-American mobster James “Whitey” Bulger in South Boston. Concentrating on a 20-year period of Bulger’s life beginning in 1975, director Scott Cooper’s period thriller may not be as polished as Martin Scorsese’s sprawling gangster thriller “Goodfellas,” but there’s no question “Black Mass” is easily one best movies of the year to date.
“Black Mass” concentrates on the complicated “alliance” of Bulger and FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who offers the man who he grew on with and admired an opportunity to provide information to the agency to bring down Italian mafia in New England. But while the FBI was deconstructing Bulger’s rivals, the mobster ran his operation unabated and built a criminal empire of his own in brutal fashion.
Depp, like he has many times before, becomes his character. Fitted with piercing blue contacts, Depp is menacing with his piercing stare, giving one of his most frightening and fascinating performances to date. Edgerton is also brilliant as Connolly, as is Benedict Cumberbatch as Billy Bulger, Whitey’s influential state Senator brother. The great thing is, Cooper and Depp allow for several other per
formers to deliver the goods, including Kevin Bacon as Connolly’s skeptical FBI boss; Jesse Plemons as Kevin Weeks, a pivotal member of Bulger’s Winter Hill gang; and Corey Stoll as assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak – the man who confronted Connolly and began an arduous 25-year operation to apprehend Bulger.
“Everest” (PG-13) 3 1/2 stars (out of four)
Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin skillfully guide us on one of the most compelling action adventure movies of the year with “Everest,” a dramatic re-telling of a tragic Mount Everest expedition in 1996. Even though the tragedy – which involved two climbing parties – has been well documented, it’s completely engrossing from the get-go, as expeditions led by Rob Hall (Clarke) and Scott Fischer (Gyllenhaal) are doomed by a brutal blizzard that hits Everest just as the climbers hit the summit. Keira Knightley also gives a heartbreaking performance as Hall’s pregnant wife, Jan Hall, who struggles to keep in touch with her husband in the face of doom. While Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur’s visuals in the film are thrilling, they never trump the human emotion of the characters in their hours of desperation.
Adam Sandler and Kevin James take a byte out of their pasts as a pair nostalgic video arcade game nerds in “Pixels,” a visually-pleasing action comedy that will quickly make you forget the painful “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” from James, and about the last 10 movies from Sandler. It’s far from a perfect movie, but under the steady direction of Chris Columbus, “Pixels” is entertaining and nostalgic enough to more than pass as pleasing summer popcorn fare.
Sandler stars as Brenner, a home theater set-up man whose never quite been able to live down his loss in an arcade championship to video game hotshot Eddie (Peter Dinklage).While his life has gone sideways, his longtime friend, Cooper (James), has gone straight to the top as president of the United States. Still close with his arcade buddy, Cooper calls on Brenner and his expertise when aliens take the shape of 8-bit, ’80s video game characters and begin to attack different places throughout the world on their way to the nation’s capital.
A combination of “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Independence Day” and “Ghostbusters,” “Pixels” will be a huge trip down memory lane for arcade enthusiasts, as the pixilated characters from such video game creations as “Centiped
e,” “Pac-Man” and “Donkey Kong” come to life. Visually, it’s stunning, even if the story gets sillier as the film goes along. It’s clear from the outset that “Pixels” isn’t supposed to be deep, just fun.
The best part about “Pixels” is its ensemble cast, as Sandler and James step back from their normal lead roles to let people like Dinklage and Josh Gad (as another one of their early ’80s video arcade buddies) do the heavy-lifting, comedy-wise. Gad is especially hilarious as a conspiracy theorist who has long lusted after Lady Lisa, the video game warrior babe of his dreams. Filling out the cast is the always sweet Michelle Monaghan as Violet, a single mom who holds a top military position at the White House, and her son, Matt Lintz as Matty, a pre-teen who takes an immediate liking to Brenner and roots for him to win his mom’s heart.
“Southpaw” (R) 3 stars (out of four)
Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a bruising performance in “Southpaw,” a gritty boxing drama that delivers some devastating blows, yet ultimately is a by-the-numbers “Rocky”-inspired sports movie that benefits from a stellar cast.
Gyllenhaal stars as Billy Hope, the undefeated light-heavyweight world champion whose career appears to be on the ropes as he emerges from his latest bout bloodied and battered. Taunted by a would-be challenger Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez) for a shot at the title, Billy’s hot-tempered response leads to a tragic personal loss; and before too long, his once charmed personal and professional life is a complete shambles.
Left destitute and suspended from the ring after an ill-advised comeback, Billy is literally left with nothing as his young daughter (Oona Laurence) is taken by child protective services and all of his assets are taken. Befriending former trainer Tick Willis (Forrest Whitaker) at his small-time inner-city gym, Billy slowly rebuilds his life, personally and professionally, and with any luck, he’ll get a shot at his former glory.
Gyllenhaal is ferocious as Billy, and clearly put his all into physically and mentally transforming into the battered former champion. Apart from one wicked left hook in the narrative early on, the plot is hopelessly predictable; yet the energetic direction by Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) and inspired supporting performances by Whitaker, Laurence and Rachel McAdams (in a small but pivotal performance as Billy’s wife) contribute to the film’s big payoff.
“Paper Towns” (PG-13) 3 stars (out of four)
“The Fault in Our Stars” author John Green has scored another big-screen winner with “Paper Towns,” a poignant, coming-of-age dramedy that’s not quite as emotionally heavy as the teen cancer drama starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, yet is as emotionally satisfying.
Nat Wolff, one of the pivotal co-stars in “The Fault in Our Stars,” takes the lead role in “Paper Towns,” which chronicles the longtime friendship of Quentin and Margo (Cara Delevingne) — a pair who bonded as youths but drifted apart as teens as Quentin stayed in his comfort zone and Margo’s free-spirited, adventurous ways grew. Literally strangers as their senior year draws to a close, Quentin and Margo — whom he instantly fell in love with the day they met — are oddly reunited, leading to Margo’s planned disappearance and her potential suitor’s search for her to reveal his true feelings for her.
Smartly scripted by “The Fault in Our Stars” scribes Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, “Paper Towns,” while ultimately a coming of age dramedy, manages to avoid the trappings of most of today’s teen movie fare. It’s sweet, meaningful and poignant material, which is punctuated by terrific performances by Wolff and Delevingne, even though the latter’s screen time is limited. It’s also a road-trip movie with unpredictable results, which is refreshing in the world of the Hollywood retreads that populates today’s theaters.
Tim reviews the crime thriller “Nightcrawler” and the horror thriller “Horns” on KARE-TVin Minneapolis with Diana Pierce below. Also, you can read Tim’s review on BringMeTheNews.com and hear Tim review the films on WCCO-AM and KSCR-FM. Also read Tim’s interview with “Horns” star Daniel Radcliffe HERE.
Original Interviews, Reviews & More By Tim Lammers