Movie Review: Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

Running time: 114 minutes

Director: Elizabeth Banks

screen-shot-2015-05-24-at-17-01-52After the unexpected success of Pitch Perfect in 2012, co-star and producer Elizabeth Banks takes charge behind the camera to bring this highly anticipated sequel. And now that Pitch Perfect 2 has made in its opening weekend more money at the box office than the first movie did in its entire run, it will be no surprise at all if another sequel is announced soon. So get ready to see all of this again for a third time.

Three years after winning the a capella Finals and becoming legends, the Barden Bellas are humiliated while performing for the President of the United States due to a wardrobe malfunction involving Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) that costs them their title. To clear their names, they will have to win the world’s championship that no American group has ever won. In order to accomplish this task they will have to focus on their goal and have no distractions though graduation is quickly approaching and Beca (Anna Kendrick) starts to wonder what she will do after college.

1416508461_pitch-perfect-2-zoomSo yes, it is practically the same as the first movie, recycling a lot of the main plot points: something bad happens and the Bellas need to win a competition to redeem themselves but first they have to find their voice again. Also, there’s a riff-off in the middle, though the music in the film doesn’t make the same impression as in the first one. Basically, Pitch Perfect 2 takes all the elements that worked in the first movie and gives you more of it, when the whole reason it was so beloved in the first place was how refreshing it felt.

This is the case with Rebel Wilson. Fat Amy was definitely the scene-stealer in Pitch Perfect and she became the most iconic character of the film. There is no doubt she is always fun to watch but, let’s be honest, she does the exact same thing every time. She gets the laughs though, which is the point, so now she is practically the star of the movie and therefore gets a more developed romance with Adam Devine.

pitch-perfect-2Anna Kendrick’s Beca, now leader of the Bellas, sees her role considerably diminished from the first one as there are more characters and her romance with Skylar Astin is portrayed next to nothing. But, while Beca may not make the same impression, her storyline, dealing with what to do after college and getting an internship was one of the most interesting parts of the film. Keegan-Michael Key as the producer she works for only helped to elevate those moments. They could have focus with what to do after college a bit more especially when is a subject a lot of people can relate to and you have a character like Chloe (Brittany Murphy), who is so afraid of the real world, she has been in college for seven years.

Taking the place of Anna Kendrick as the new-comer is Hailee Steinfeld as Emily, a singer-songwriter and a legacy whose mother was one of the Bellas when she was in college. The end of the movie suggests a possible sequel with her as the lead character and I’m not very excited about that. Every time she tried to be funny I found her annoying and awkward and the romance she is involved in (because there was a romance in the first one, so there must be a romance here) felt really forced and with nothing to it.

pitch_perfect_sd3Also back are the sharp-tongued commentators played by Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins and they are even more offensive this time but they went for it, they owned it and somehow it worked (at least most of the times), even though the majority of the jokes were completely sexists and racists.

There is a moment where Fat Amy is trying to cross the road and a truck keeps getting in her way that it is hilarious. It felt organic, realistic and I wished there had been more of that because sometimes it tried to be overly funny and some of the jokes did not land. Especially those involving some of the secondary characters of the group who are all playing some kind of stereotype.

Some people may criticize Age of Ultron for not being as good as the first Avengers. The main problem with Pitch Perfect 2 is that not only it isn’t as good as its predecessor, is that it didn’t even try to do something new with it. I can’t say that it is a bad movie at all, it’s just that it plays it too safe and I would have liked to see it evolve and not just be a moneymaker. Still, it is funny, there’s a lot of energy and it is entertaining. In the end, if you liked the first Pitch Perfect, you’ll enjoy this one.

7’5/10

Movie Review: Ex Machina (2015)

Running time: 108 minutes

Director: Alex Garland

ex-machinaEx Machina is the directional debut of Alex Garland, better known for his work as a writer in 28 Days Later and Dredd and in a time where most sci-fi movies seem to follow the statement ” the bigger, the better”, Ex Machina is a pure sci-fi thriller that combines elements of romance and horror, while being surprisingly stylish and where the great acting involved makes it even more appealing. I am coming a bit late to the party but it is sad that not many people have heard about this movie because it is probably one of the best movies of the year so far.

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer working in one of the largest internet companies in the world, wins a competition to spend a week in the remote house of the company’s owner, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). When he arrives there, he discovers he is to take part in Nathan’s last project by evaluating the human qualities of the world’s first artificial intelligence, housed in a beautiful female body called Ava (Alicia Vikander).

Ex-Machina-01-GQ-22Jan15_rex_b_1083x658Right from the very first moment we meet Nathan, it is clear there is something off about him. From the beautiful but claustrophobic setting of his house, that fits with the enigmatic personality of this reclusive genius, to a lot of his character traits, like getting wasted every night and then purging himself on the morning. Oscar Isaac’s performance is both fascinating and suspicious. In his interactions with Caleb, who is completely the opposite of him, you are never sure who is testing who in each scene.

Domhnall Gleeson’s Caleb is the empathetic character of the movie that serves us as a guide through the story as he tests Ava, played by Alicia Vikander. I didn’t like her that much in the Seventh Son earlier this year, but she is absolutely fantastic here. She gives a subtle performance that is on the brink of human and robotic, with the help of the excellent visual effects that create her body but it is her air of vulnerability that makes it impossible not to sympathize with her..

Ex-Machina-Download-WallpapersEx Machina doesn’t need to rely on big special effects or crazy action sequences to keep the audience engaged. Just the intrigue, the sharp dialogue and the brilliant execution is enough to build up the tension in this thought-provoking movie where the story constantly goes to unpredictable directions. It keeps changing and surprising you. I never saw any twist coming but everything makes completely sense at the end. Dealing with the intellectual exploration of AI, Ex Machina succeeds at every level other films tackling the same ideas, like Transcendence and Chappie, have failed. This is a gem of a movie.

9’5/10

Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Running time: 141 minutes

Director: Joss Whedon

avengers-age-ultron-one-sheetOne of the most anticipated movies of the year and the sequel to the third highest-grossing movie of all time is finally here and this time, director Joss Whedon has the impossible task of juggling six main characters, introducing four more, wrapping-up Phase 2 and plant the seeds for several movies of Phase 3. All of this still trying to maintain the charm, the action and the endless chemistry between the characters that conquered so many people with The Avengers.

When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for a global adventure.  

Avengers-2-Age-of-Ultron-Captain-America-Thor-Chris-Evans-Chris-HemsworthAge of Ultron starts right in the thick of the action as the Avengers attempt to break into one of Hydra’s compounds where Baron Von Strucker is hiding Loki’s scepter. A scene that is fun and mind-blowing where every character has its moment to shine and we get to know how the team works together. Robert Downey Jr keeps bringing so much charisma to Tony Stark and his suave, brilliant and vain personality never gets old. He and Cap had some really good moments together though I would have liked to see some set up for Civil War. Chris Evans is fantastic and after Captain America: The Winter Soldier there has been a considerable improvement in the character. Also, the fighting dynamic he has developed with Thor worked very well and makes for some really cool sequences.

Speaking of Thor, who is often overshadowed in his own movies by Loki, this is the best he has ever been and Chris Hemsworth has never been this funny in the role of the God of Thunder. I don’t think his quest was necessary, it was just an excuse to set up Ragnarok and Infinity War and it could have been enough with his vision. Another character that has stepped up his game is Hawkeye. Joss Whedon knows he let Hawkeye down when the character spent most of the first film under mind control and never had the opportunity to prove why he should be an Avenger. This time, he let himself have fun with all of that and Clint is probably the character that has more development in the film.

Avengers-2-Age-of-Ultron-Mark-Ruffalo-Robert-Downey-JrI wasn’t a big fan of the Brutasha romance. I feel like Joss Whedon did a fantastic job with this two characters in the first film but in this one, even though they have a bigger role, they kind of end up being just each other’s romantic interest. I loved the peek at Black Widow’s past but after how well handled she was in The Winter Soldier, I was expecting much more. Same with Banner. The Hulkbuster fight is incredibly epic but I missed the Hulk’s funny moments and Banner’s attitude.

The new additions fitted perfectly with the already stablished team. The accent of the twins is a bit distracting at first but makes them quite unique. Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver is very different from the one in Days of Future Past but has some great lines and comedic moments. As for Scarlet Witch, I ended up loving her set of powers and it worked because Elizabeth Olsen was fantastic and really embraced the weird hand movements. They could have been a bit more developed but there is so many people in it, it was impossible as the movie has also to introduce Vision. This is a character that could have been a complete disaster and could have looked ridiculous but worked surprisingly well. His ambiguity added a lot and is great to see Paul Bettany being more than the voice of JARVIS.

avengers-age-of-ultron-twinsNow, if there is something the MCU hasn’t been able to achieve yet is to make a proper villain. The only memorable one is Loki but he is more of an anti-hero and has become a fan-favourite because it is impossible not to like Tom Hiddlestion. But with Ultron, Marvel has finally done it right. He is intimidating but also quite sassy and there is no one who could have done a better job than James Spader. Quick, sharp and sarcastic, Ultron has everything needed to go toe to toe with Iron Man both physically and mentally. My only complain with him is that his creation was way too rushed.

But there is still so many more characters. Maria Hill, Nick Fury in a minor role, War Machine being more funny than ever, and it was great to see Falcon. Andy Serkis is absolutely fantastic and helps build the excitement for Black Panther. And here is the thing, knowing the slate of films Marvel has for the next five years, it is hard to fear for the characters because you already know who is coming back for their solo films, but Joss Whedon managed to make some unexpected turns. I’ll go as far as to say that he plays with the audience during the entire film and that is awesome.

Avengers_groupBut everyone is asking the same question. Is it better than The Avengers? And it is hard to compare ir because they are so different. The magic of seeing the Avengers come together for the first time and how they learn to get along is of course gone but with witty dialogue, non-stop action and humour all the way through, Joss Whedon nails the characters and their chemistry is even better than in the first one and there is more complexity to all of them. Loki is such a different villain than Ultron and that makes for a completely different tone. The stakes are higher and, while The Avengers had quite an easy plot to follow, there is too much going on in Age of Ultron.

That would be the main problem with the film. The first time I saw it, I would have said that as much as I loved it, it wasn’t as good as The Avengers. With the second viewing, I’ll say that despite its many flaws, it’s up there. Yes, it is too crowded and due to the fact that the original cut was over three hours some things feel rushed and at times the pacing is off. It’s not a perfect movie but the things that gets right are spectacular. Out of any other genre movie, Age of Ultron is the one that feels the most like a comic book brought to life. I had a blast and I adored it.

9/10