Movie Revue: Ant-Man, Trainwreck, Amy, Southpaw, Mr. Holmes

Movie Revue: Ant-Man, Trainwreck, Amy, Southpaw, Mr. Holmes

Movie Revue is a collection of capsule reviews of some of the latest releases in theaters, On Demand, and everywhere in between.

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ANT-MAN.  Despite its troubled production history and the absence of original director Edgar Wright, Ant-Man succeeds by going small.  Literally so.  The Marvel machine is in full swing by now - Kevin Feige and company really know what they're doing over there and have perfected the winning formula.  This is Marvel working in a minor key.  If you thought that Avengers: Age of Ultron was a bloated mess, you'll appreciate the smaller stakes here.  Director Peyton Reed has called this a "palate cleanser" for the end of Phase 2, and that's exactly what it is.  Paul Rudd is great as Scott Lang, and makes a convincing, likeable hero.  The supporting cast is solid - particularly Michael Pena who earns most of the laughs.  While I didn't care for Corey Stoll's villainous Darren Cross/Yellow Jacket (Marvel still has a villain problem), and the heist at the center of the film is rather flimsy, Ant-Man is still fun and entertaining, and it leaves you wanting more.  The two end credits stingers are both excellent.  3.5/5

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TRAINWRECK.  I like both Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow.  They're both talented and funny people, and the prospect of seeing the two combine forces with Bill Hader for a romantic comedy is hugely enticing.  So, why didn't I like the movie more?  Comedy is always subjective, I guess, but while I recognize that a lot of the comedy here is witty and funny enough on paper, the execution wasn't up to snuff.  Most of that has to do with the tone.  Schumer's character is really unlikeable for most of the movie.  She treats people poorly to their face, and the script never gives her that "save the cat" moment early on, where we're meant to sympathize with her and want to go on her journey of self-discovery.  Like most Apatow movies, Trainwreck is about 20 minutes too long, and overstays its welcome.  There are certainly laughs to be had here, but I found them few and far between.  An average episode of a quality sitcom is funnier than this (so is Ant-Man, by the way).  2.5/5

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AMY. There is an inevitable air of sadness and dread that permeates much of this documentary.  We all know where Amy Winehouse winds up, and there are so many steps of her life along the way that point to that outcome.  The intimate footage of the singer that has been assembled here is just staggering - it puts Amy front and center, and allows her to tell her story long after she's left us.  Gone are the typical documentary talking heads, we just get voiceovers from interviewees over the footage, which helps to never take the focus off of Amy.  I walked away from the film in awe of her genius as a musician, and frustrated by her loss.  This is one of the best documentaries you'll see this year.  It leaves you wanting to revisit Amy's music, all of which takes on new meaning and impact when you know the full context in which it was made.  4.5/5

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SOUTHPAW.  Jake Gyllenhaal is the real story to emerge from Southpaw.  The guy has been on one hell of a roll lately, turning in great performances left and right (see Nightcrawler immediately, please).  He is quickly establishing himself as my favorite actor working today.  Southpaw gives him another fine role, and he commits himself fully to the part.  The anger, strength, and lack of intelligence of his character are expertly conveyed by the actor.  While the movie itself, written by Sons of Anarchy's Kurt Sutter and directed by Training Day's Antoine Fuqua, is a hodgepodge of boxing movie cliches that we've all seen countless times already, and doesn't really offer anything new, Gyllenhaal, along with Forest Whitaker and Rachel McAdams are admirably committed.  There are times when the script threatens to drown in sentimentality, but Fuqua and his actors rise above it.  Most people will enjoy this well-worn tale of redemption.  Eminem's catchy songs don't hurt either.  3/5

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MR. HOLMES.  There are so many iterations of Sherlock Holmes in the market today that I went into this hoping that the filmmakers could do something different.  I guess they did.  As played by the wonderful Ian McKellen, Holmes is old now and trying to solve mysteries despite the loss of his memory.  It's an interesting twist on the character, and McKellen gives it his all (he's the best thing here), but Mr. Holmes can't overcome the impression that it's just Masterpiece Theater lite.  This is basically a TV movie of the week, and a slow-paced, kinda boring one at that, with an uninvolving mystery at its center.  I didn't care too much for it (not my cup of tea), but I can certainly see the CBS/PBS viewer finding merit in it.  But, what's with all the bees?  2/5

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