A Sentry Spends a Summer Sunday at the Cinema

The weather was hot this summer. The movies were not.
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There are not a lot of people that can or want to sit through three consecutive movies at the theatre, but I enjoy it.

Of course, entering the theatre has changed a bit.  The recent shootings in theatres are horrible tragedies that have resulted in security measures being enforced when you enter the theatre.  My friend had to open her purse for a theatre employee when we entered.  I, carrying my hoodie because I hate being cold in the theatre, was not subjected to any type of security check. 

Here’s the problem; I believe all the theatre shootings were perpetrated by males.  I don’t believe that any of these males concealed their weapons in purses.  If Regal Cinemas sold Pretzel M&M’s at their theatres, I would happily buy them there when I purchase my trough of popcorn and barrel of soda.  Since they don’t sell Pretzel M&M’s and I was prepared to be there for seven hours, I had a party-size bag (30 oz.) in my hoodie and walked in with no problem.  Just sayin'.

So we started our day with American Ultra starring Jessie Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart as a stoner couple sharing what appears to be a stagnant life together.  The film takes an inordinate amount of time getting started as it spends a great deal of time establishing characters that aren’t particularly likable.   When the story finally starts to develop, it never really goes anywhere. The existence of Mike (Eisenberg) and Phoebe (Stewart) is interrupted when the government decides to eliminate Mike by sending hit men after him.  Mike dispatches his assailants in creative fashion utilizing abilities he didn’t know he had. 

Though combining Jason Bourne with Jeff Spicoli is an interesting premise, the execution, as orchestrated by director Nima Nourizadeh from a script by Max Landis, results in nothing more than brain candy.  Starting the movie with a rewind of the story you are about to tell, was annoying and since the primary vehicle for excitement here is to make the audience jump with crashes and explosions they don’t see coming, the film shoots itself in the foot quite early. Even more frustrating is the story ending with a conclusion that evaded the antagonists throughout the film yet was obvious to the audience quite early.

Feeling that we had started our day on a bad note, we stocked up on popcorn and soda and looked to Oscar-winners Jonathan Demme (director), Diablo Cody (writer) and Meryl Streep (actress) to turn things around with Ricki and the Flash.  Unfortunately, our day just got worse.   Apparently the thought was that if we make Meryl Streep an aging lead singer of a rock cover band, and throw in some classic music that the audience will enjoy, we don’t really need to create a new story. 

Ricki has apparently been an absent mother of three children who have been raised by their father (the always enjoyable Kevin Klein) and their step-mother (Audra McDonald who gives one of the best performances in the film) until she is called home when her daughter attempts suicide.  So Ricki is a fish-out-of-water in the affluent environment of her ex-husband and children.  The film also contains an unexplored relationship between Ricki and her lead guitarist (Rick Springfield).

Not really much need to describe the rest of the film as we’ve seen it before.  The children are bitter, Ricki is inept in her attempts to parent, there is still some chemistry between the exes, and Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) shows up as Ricki's ex-mother-in-law.  That’s about it.  This “uplifting comedy” was neither. We left thinking the band could have at least covered "Jessie’s Girl."

Could Amy Schumer save the day!?  Let’s refill the popcorn and soda and see if we can survive Trainwreck.  Schumer writes and stars in her first motion picture as Amy, a writer for a magazine and a young woman who was raised to believe that monogamy isn’t realistic. 

In a film that is ripe with potential and tries so desperately to have depth and heart, this effort consistently slips to the lowest common denominator to get laughs.  LeBron James actually provides the best comedic performance in the film as a good friend of successful sports doctor Aaron (Bill Hader), who is the subject of an article assigned to Amy.  Aaron and Amy start dating and the awkward aspects of a somewhat traditional guy being with a woman not familiar with a healthy relationship should have yielded much comedic material.  Unfortunately, it feels like Schumer chickened out and did not trust the audience enough.  We liked it Amy.  You didn’t need to resort to rank humor.

The weather was hot this summer.  The movies were not.  There is much optimism to be found in the pending fall releases.  I guess I’ll watch for sales on pretzel M&M’s, hope they opt for metal detectors rather than checking hoodies for candy, and hope you’ll keep checking Ron’s Reviews to know what’s worth your time and money in the theatre.

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