Fathom Events, best known for their in-theater simulcasts of opera and ballet stage performances, concerts and classic films, has something rather unique on next month's schedule. Tuesday, June 16, Fathom will screen Disney/Pixar's latest animated adventure, "Inside Out", in select movie theaters across the country - three days before it opens nationwide (Friday, June 19).
Preceding the film will be a behind-the-scenes look at Pixar, including some "Making of Inside Out" footage. Then comes the theatrical debut of Pixar's latest short, "Lava". And following the movie, director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera ("Up") will take part in a LIVE Q&A - and they'll be joined by the great Amy Poehler, who voices the character Joy in the film. As a bonus, everyone in attendance will receive a special poster and lanyard.
It's pretty rare for Pixar to do a pre-release screening of one of their films. In fact, to date, "Ratatouille" is the only Disney/Pixar movie to receive such treament. Back in 2007 the future Oscar-winner was shown nationwide two Saturdays before its official release date.
For diehard Pixar fans (including yours truly ) "Insider Access to Inside Out" is a must-attend event. And considering the strong early reviews from both CinemaCon and Cannes, getting to see "Inside Out" 72-hours beforehand should bring plenty of joy to me and everyone in attendance.
"Insider Access to Inside Out" runs two and a half hours. "Inside Out" itself is 95 minutes. Tickets are available online @ fathomevents.com and at theater box offices for $25 per person.
The latest sci-fi adventure from "The Incredibles" director Brad Bird is Disney's "Tomorrowland", which is very loosely based on the theme park attraction. Outside of a brief and flat-out awful narration tactic at the start of the film, star George Clooney is missing for the first 45 minutes. His Frank Walker character is introduced to us as a boy, or as I call him, Lil' Clooney), a young inventor who takes his jet pack invention to the 1964 New York World's Fair. Frank meets a mysterious young girl and ends-up riding the classic ride "It's a Small World" (there's some inside marketing for you), and is soon transported to Tomorrowland - a wondrous place between the present and the future where anything is possible.
The story then shifts to present day, where teenager Casey ("The Longest Ride"'s Britt Robertson) is arrested and when she's released from jail recevives a Tomorrowland pin. When she touches it, she's physically transported to this strange place, in brief flashes that only she can experience.
Eventually, following a "Men in Black"-esque stretch involving Casey and the mysterious girl, Athena, from 1964 (who hasn't aged a day), Casey makes it to Frank Walker's house. He's now an adult (and Clooney). Clearly he's no longer in Tomorrowland, for complicated reasons yet to be explained, but these three end-up having to return to Tomorrowland, for more complicated reasons that I won't explain, to - literally - save the world.
"Tomorrowland" features an original story, though it's far from unique. Bird not only directed and produced it, but also co-wrote the script, which includes a few nice touches such as "Iron Giant" and "Incredibles" figures in a sci-fi store Casey visits. Some of the themes, particularly in the homestretch, are fairly heavy for a PG Disney movie. There are no legitimate surprises, and sadly only one element (the relationship between Frank and Athena, seen in both flashbacks and their present-day reunion) actually works, albeit on the low side of the emotion spectrum and slightly creepy.
Clooney himself gives a few solid speeches, though I felt like he was copycatting his own death bed performance from "The Descendants" in a late crying scene. Just about everyone else overacts, and the soundtrack is way too intrusive. The showstoppers of "Tomorrowland", by far, are the visual effects. A sequence involving the Eiffel Tower will blow you away. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for just about everything else.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, "Tomorrowland" gets a disappointing C.
“Pitch Perfect” only made $65 million back in 2012, but a cult “Girl Power” following along with the growth in popularity of stars Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson helped convince Universal that they were A Ca-ready for “Pitch Perfect 2”.
Elizabeth Banks, who reprises her role as A Cappella competition co-commentator Gail, also directs this sequel, which is bigger and slightly better than the original. Once again there are no huge laughs - but several entertaining song renditions, some solid performances and a few genuine surprises help “Pitch Perfect 2” avoid hitting the low notes.
After a performance for the President and Mrs. Obama goes horribly wrong, (the First Couple is actually shown more than once) the Barden University Bellas are suspended and face termination unless they can win the World A Cappella Championship, which no U.S. group has ever done. Among the teams they’ll have to defeat is the German group Das Sound Machine - easily the frontrunners for the title.
That’s pretty much the plot, and so, at just under two hours, “Pitch Perfect 2” is longer than it needed to be. A song battle featuring David Cross as emcee and members of the Green Bay Packers belting-out pop tunes, along with a Bellas bonding retreat (the perfect setting for some over-the-top antics from Wilson), are drawn-out and don’t advance the story much.
The strongest element of “PP2” is a subplot involving Beca (Kendrick) secretly interning at a recording studio. Keegan Michael Key puts a more grounded spin on the typical demanding music producer role (and has some of the film’s best lines). And a scene involving him, Kendrick and none other than Snoop Dogg, who’s in a booth working on his upcoming Christmas album, is my favorite of the entire movie.
Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”, “Ender’s Game”) is a nice addition to the cast as Emily, the newest Bella. Kendrick’s original song “Cups”, from the first film, became a pop hit. This time, it’s Steinfeld and Kendrick’s “Flashlight” that you’ll likely be hearing everywhere.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Pitch Perfect 2” gets a B-. In a summer packed with action films, this light and fun version of escapism is a nice alternative.
Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon and "Modern Family"'s Sofia Vergara team-up for the action comedy "Hot Pursuit". It's such a cliche considering the title, but this really is one hot mess.
Witherspoon, complete with an annoying southern accent, plays Cooper, a Texas police officer. She's a plucky, non-stop talker who hasn't been out in the field since she tazed (and set on fire) the son of a mayor over a wacky misunderstanding. But now she's been asked to escort the wife of a drug trial witness to Dallas so she can also testify.
Things get complicated fast when Cooper and a fellow officer arrive at the mansion of Mr. and Mrs. Riva and within minutes, two different sets of gunmen show-up and open fire. Cooper barely escapes with the loud and flamboyant Mrs. Riva (played by Vergara). They're now on the run - wanted by the bad guys and the bad cops. Will this unlikely pair make it to Dallas by morning without getting caught and killed? Of course, with a premise like this, it's not going to be easy.
"Hot Pursuit" is directed by "The Proposal"'s Anne Fletcher. I wasn't a huge fan of that 2009 rom-com, but I'd sit through it a couple more times before going anywhere near this film again. The first half does have a handful of random, chuckle-worthy one-liners. But then the over-the-top gags and goofy situations start piling-up, including a guy shooting-off his own finger and Witherspoon then giving a dog the Heimlich because she thought he swallowed it.
As terrible as that scene is, nothing comes close to the escapade on a senior citizen tour bus, which is so flat-out ridiculous that I'm stunned the writers thought people would actually find it entertaining. At least "Hot Pursuit" is only 87 minutes, though it would've simply been a half-hour sitcom pilot if not for all the tiresome, double-crossing/triple-crossing, "Let me explain" scenes.
Vergara can be very funny in small doses on TV, but here proves she can't handle a co-leading film role. As for Witherspoon, going from career-high work in "Wild" to an embarrassing role like this is a shame. However, she does provide the true gem of the film in the closing credits outtakes. She delivers a line, but that take can't be used because a crew member quickly tells her she has to check something. Witherspoon responds, "God, I was giving the performance of a lifetime" and sarcastically laughs out loud. I did the same thing.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, "Hot Pursuit" gets a D.
Marvel’s superhero sequel “Avengers: Age of Ultron” kicks-off the Summer 2015 Movie Season. And while it’s sure to break box office records, this follow-up to 2012’s original is more grim and less entertaining on practically every level.
“Age of Ultron” begins promisingly with a solid action scene. Returning director Joss Whedon stages the mighty heroes coming together in slow-motion, with dramatic music behind them, to enhance the excitement. And we quickly learn that Ultron - Tony Stark’s secret defense system created assure world peace - will be the centerpiece of this story.
Ultron gets into enemy hands - and comes “alive” - in the form of a metal maniac. James Spader provides excellent voice work as the genuinely evil villain. His goal? First to destroy The Avengers, and then the entire human race. That’s the best Whedon and the writers could come-up with for this evil villain - to destroy the world? Also, Ultron isn’t given nearly enough to do in the story and his reasoning for all of the madness that ensues is never properly exposed.
“Age of Ultron” is a difficult film to actually enjoy. Whedon clearly set-out to make a different, darker film than the last - and maybe that’s also in reaction to last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”, which was just so much fun. Here, we get a lot of “mind games” and psychological mumbo-jumbo. I get enough of this stuff in dramas and documentaries. I want my Marvel Movies filled with gags and wisecracks and laughs and action scenes I’ve never seen before. You get none of that here.
There is a romance between Bruce Banner aka The Hulk aka Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow, so at least that’s something new. It’s Marvel’s version of “Beauty and the Beast”, a perfect marriage, now that they’re part of Disney.
Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye actually gets the most screen time of any of the Avengers, and some new recruits join the team, including two who part of a very weak plot development. The overall story lacks compelling elements and includes practically no surprises. I kept waiting for that cool twist - and I’m still waiting.
This is the fifth film Robert Downey, Jr. has starred in as Iron Man, and you can tell, just as his Tony Stark is getting weary of having to save the world, Downey, Jr. is starting to get tired of playing this role. His signature, sarcastic one-liners are beginning to wear thin. And considering how “Age of Ultron” ends, don’t be surprised if his screen time decreases for future “Avengers” installments, including next one, teased with a brief clip during the closing credits.
Thankfully, the visual effects are stellar - probably the best of any Marvel movie ever. Several of the action scenes, including a Hulk-sized Iron Man fighting the green guy himself, are worthy of the franchise, but the grand finale is unspectacular and a major letdown.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, "Avengers: Age of Ultron" gets a C+.