2015: Half-Time Report

6 months of 2015 have provided an interesting assortment of dystopian scifi, spy satire, and blockbuster sequelitus. Here’s the round-up:

The BestInside Out

Fifteen movies in and Pixar has crafted their greatest masterpiece yet. Better than Toy Story. Better than Finding Nemo. Better than Wall-E. “Inside Out” is an emotional tour de force, a wonderful psychology lesson for kids, and like every Pixar picture worth its salt, it appeals to the wee ones and the adults in equal measure.

The WorstInsurgent

The follow-up to that Hunger Games knock-off Divergent is an even more predictable trip through young adult dystopia. Hampered by a campier Kate Winslet, a more wooden Theo James, and a less convincing Shailene Woodley, “Insurgent” doesn’t seem to harbor a single original idea through its entire two-hour running time.

Most OverratedKingsman: The Secret Service

Violent to a fault, “Kingsman” is an entertaining romp, but far too enamored with itself to be of much use in a world where spy satire is so prolific. Perhaps Matthew Vaughn’s actioner is a victim of circumstance then, surrounded by so many similar parodies. The sardonic presence of Colin Firth certainly helps, but I preferred the pure comedy of “Spy.”

Most UnderratedTomorrowland

Gorgeously shot, impeccably detailed, and populated with a mix of the famous and not-so-famous, all of whom are perfectly cast in a children’s narrative about hope, nostalgia, and the harrowing fun of jet-packs, killer robots, and an irascible George Clooney. Despite its variable shortcomings, this movie deserves some eyeballs.

Biggest SurpriseTed 2

“Ted 2” continues the tradition of comedy as the most subjective genre on Earth. While others seem to be recoiling at the mere mention of Seth MacFarlane, I found his latest sophomoric fare to be his funniest project yet. Funnier than the first Ted, and far and away from the misfire that was “A Million Ways,” this sequel delivered the goods, both clever and puerile.

Biggest DisappointmentAloha

It’s like Cameron Crowe forgot how to make movies. With the exception of a few sparks between its talented cast members, Crowe’s latest rom-com-cum-drama is a mess in every way. It’s a severely flawed attempt at capturing the culture of Hawaii, but all of that mystical mojo is overshadowed by a convoluted plot and the sheer number of white people.

Biggest Sign I’ve Changed in the Last 20 YearsEntourage

“Entourage,” that Hollywood male fantasy that dominated HBO for a few years, was a seminal show for yours truly, embodying everything I thought I wanted out of a movie career. Flash-forward seven years and the show’s cinematic climax is no ego rush, but a diverting if deservedly passe pass time. The rah-rah fist-bumping and lady-humping just ain’t my thing anymore.

Biggest Sign I Haven’t Changed in the Last 20 YearsJurassic World

“Jurassic World” may be accidentally sexist, and it may be riddled with plot holes the size of Indominus Rex, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t have a good time feeling like a kid again. Director Colin Trevorrow is no Spielberg, evident in his inability to craft anything truly iconic, but he does possess the old wunderkind’s penchant for exhilarating set pieces.

All of it

The Wedding Ringer – C
Kingsman: The Secret Service – B
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 – D+
Chappie – B-
Insurgent – D
Get Hard – C+
It Follows – A
Furious 7 – B-
Slow West – B
Scientology and the Prison of Belief – B+
Maps to the Stars – C+
The Avengers: Age of Ultron – B+
Mad Max: Fury Road – A-
Tomorrowland – B
Aloha – C-
Spy – B
Entourage – C
Jurassic World – B+
Inside Out – A
Ted 2 – A-

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