Friday, February 20, 2015

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 - 1 star

The first Hot Tub Time Machine was a good movie.  Three friends – Adam (John Cusack), Lou (Rob Corddry) and Nick (Craig Robinson) – along with Adam’s nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) are magically transported back to 1986.  Unlike other time travel movies like Back to the Future, there is no danger of them running into their 1986 selves.  When they look in a mirror they see the young versions of themselves, except for Jacob who wasn’t born yet. 

The movie was funny and the filmmakers knew the premise was ridiculous.  By the end of the movie, they had all improved their lives.  Lou would use his knowledge of the future to invent Lougle (instead of Google) and become the father of the internet, and Nick became a successful musician. 

In the sequel, Lougle isn’t doing well and everyone hates Lou.  Nick became successful by recording hit songs himself before the original artist has a chance to record it.  We see him filming the video for Stay (I Missed You) and he runs into Lisa Loeb, who is working as the cat wrangler.  Lou’s story makes sense, since he stayed behind in 1986 at the end of the last movie.  But Nick went back to 2010, so I don’t understand how he could have the future knowledge to write and record all these songs.  Not to mention that Stay was recorded in 1994, not 2015.

But details like that aren’t important in a movie like this.  What is important is the laughs, and there are none in this movie.  I chuckled here and there, but this movie really isn’t funny.  The only funny moments are things they repeat from the first movie, like when Nick and Lou sing about Jacob being a nerd. 

The plot concerns someone coming back from the future and shooting Lou.  Nick and Jacob drag him into the hot tub intending to go back in time to prevent him being shot.  Instead, they end up in 2025 where Jacob is rich, bald and married to the hot girl who wouldn’t give him the time of day in 2015.  She also hasn’t aged a day in 10 years, but whatever.  Lou is now a homeless drunk and Nick has become a joke.  It seems he recorded an original song that nobody liked and his career never recovered.

Jacob figured out that someone from the future went back to 2015 to kill Lou, so now they have to figure out who that is and stop them.  Since the hot tub is the only form of time travel, it would seem like a good idea to stay near the hot tub and make sure nobody else uses it, but that doesn’t occur to them.  They decide to find Adam, thinking he might be the killer. 

They don’t find Adam – John Cusack either wanted too much money or he got a look at the script – but they do find Adam’s son, Adam Jr. (Adam Scott).  They arrive just in time for Lou to get Adam into drugs and mess up his wedding.  I wonder who the killer turns out to be?

The filmmakers throw a lot of futuristic ideas in this movie, like holographic phones and really cool transparent iPad things.  There are smart cars that drive themselves and have personalities, and the most popular game show involves contestants being forced to do humiliating things to themselves and other people.  None of these things are written with any wit or humor.  It’s like the screenwriter had a bunch of ideas but didn’t bother to develop them in any way. 

I’ve gone on far too long about this stupid movie.  It might be worth watching on Netflix one day if you can’t find anything else to watch, but don’t waste money on this movie.

Kingsman: The Secret Service - 3 stars

This is a really unique movie.  It’s kind of a parody of James Bond movies, but at the same time it’s also a pretty serious action movie.  For the first 45 minutes or so, the tone wasn’t working for me at all.  But then the movie got more and more fun, and by the end I was loving it.

The Kingsman is a secret service organization.  The members are all named after members of King Arthur’s knights – the trainer is even named Merlin.  Their headquarters is a tailor shop on Savile Row, because even when fighting for your life and saving the world, a spy should look and act like a gentleman.

The movie mostly focuses on Eggsy, a young troublemaker whose father was a kingsman.  Years ago his father was killed saving the life of fellow agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth), and Harry recruits Eggsy to join the service.  The training program is over-the-top ridiculous, involving things like their room suddenly filling up with water while they sleep.  They have only a minute to figure out how to escape or they’ll be drowned.  Another exercise involves them jumping out of a plane and one of them doesn’t have a parachute.

While Eggsy is being trained, internet billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) is threatening to unleash something that will kill like 99% of Earth’s population.  Jackson speaks in a weird lisp that was kind of off putting at first, but it grew on me.  Valentine has a henchwoman with mechanical legs loaded with machetes, which is just awesome.

As the movie gets closer to the climax, it gets crazy.  I couldn’t believe how far it was going, and it was hilarious.  I won’t spoil it, but just wait until the sequence in the church.  It brought the house down at the screening I attended.

Overall I liked the movie.  It took a while to get enjoyable for me, but the last half hour or so more than made up for the weaknesses in the first half. 

50 Shades of Grey - 1 1/2 stars

I admit I had reservations going in.  I haven’t read the book, but I heard that this series started out as Twilight fan fiction.  Two reasons to worry right there.

This is the story of how Anastasia, a virginal college student, begins a very messed up relationship with Christian Grey.  Christian is rich, good looking, runs his own company, and he’s also into BDSM.  Rather than date women, he likes to just have kinky bondage sex with them.  Since Anastasia hasn’t even had sex before, this is a big eye opener for her.

There isn’t much story here.  The screenwriter doesn’t sweat the details.  We don’t learn anything about Christian’s business or how he got so successful.  We don’t know much about Anastasia’s friends or family.  Even the two main characters aren’t developed very well.  The dialogue is bad and the characters’ motivations make no sense.

At times, the story did interest me.  It is interesting seeing Anastasia get more self confidence and stand up to Christian.  And I was curious to see where their relationships would go.  But I got tired of them having the same conversations over and over again.  She keeps asking why they can’t have a normal relationship, and all he’ll tell her is that that’s what he’s into.

This could have been an interesting story if it was written better.  But most of the time I was just bored.  Some of the lines were unintentionally funny, and even the 50 Shades fans who were there laughed quite a bit.  This movie is critic proof, meaning the people who want to see it will go no matter what I say.  But if you’re not a fan and you’re just curious, don’t bother.