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MTV Movie Awards: a night of titillation, tears and tons of trailers

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vin diesel sings mtv movie awards movie spoon

amy schumer fire mtv movie awards movie spoonThis year’s MTV Movie Awards were a real mixed bag of popcorn. Amy Schumer’s jokes were great, but her sketches lacked laughs. It was a night of “premiere clips” and “sneak peeks”, but the guest list seemed more elusive than exclusive – unlike MTV’s Video Music Awards, nominees who didn’t win weren’t in attendance. Sure, Zac Efron got his abs out, but what was going on with Channing Tatum’s hat? These are the highlights (and lowlights) of this year’s MTV Movie Awards.

Amy Schumer had an uneven night

From an archery malfunction during the intro to a more successful bit involving “flying for no reason”, Schumer was a peppy but imperfect host. While her opening monologue – which featured bits of her standup as well as new jokes tailored to the occasion – was funny and fearless, the sketches in between presenters failed to keep up the energy of the show.

Some of her better moments included jokes about herself (“Half of you don’t know who I am, and half of you think I’m Meaghan Trainor”) and other celebrity guests in attendance (“Kevin Hart’s been in a million movies this year. He was the baby in American Sniper”), but making out with Amber Rose seemed a bit desperate (not to mention tokenizing for bisexual Rose), and a racist bit about Gone Girl and “crazy Latinas” already has her in hot water on Twitter.

Schumer’s signature raunch seemed to pervade the entire affair, with Jessie J and Mark Wahlberg dropping butt-sex jokes, and Rebel Wilson introducing a sneak peek of Pitch Perfect 2 as a “super exclusive clit”. Efron and Dave Franco groped each other like teens after gym class, and one of the most successful sketches of the night was a delightfully dirty movie theater bit featuring Schumer, Rose and comedian Nikki Glaser all headed to see Magic Mike XXL and Fifty Shades of Grey, purses bursting with “personal massage devices”. Actually, Glaser just brought her Sonicare toothbrush and her shower head. Later, Bridget Everett skulked by, chained to her washing machine. Ahhh, cinema.

vin diesel sings mtv movie awards movie spoonVin Diesel commemorated Paul Walker through song

The first presenter of the night said the evening was bittersweet, because the last time he’d been on the MTV stage was as co-presenter with “my little brother Pablo”, a reference to his late Fast and Furious co-star Paul Walker. Diesel then, not for the first time, sang a few lines from the Furious 7 soundtrack in homage. It was weird but well-meaning, a sweet tribute if bizarre way to present Shailene Woodley with an award for best female performance.

J. Lo got a lap dance

What’s a girl to do when the cast of Magic Mike XXL is presenting your award (for “Best Scared as Shit Performance” in The Boy Next Door)? When Tatum, in costume as an extra from 2 Fast 2 Furious, tried to get a reciprocal shimmy from La Lopez, he was rebuffed: “Maybe next time.”

It was all about Shailene Woodley

One thing is certain: teens love Shailene Woodley. The 23-year-old, wearing perhaps the world’s highest-waisted pants, accepted the best female performance, best kiss and best movie awards for her role in The Fault in Our Stars. Woodley also won the Trailblazer award, given out every year to rising movie stars like Emma Stone and Emma Watson. This year’s winner and non-Emma dedicated her award to John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars, who was in the audience crying like a teen at a cancer drama. Woodley’s speech kind of got away from her at the end – to the point that even she realized she had no idea where it was going. She quickly wrapped it up by encouraging teens out there to “blaze on … I don’t know if I can say that … trailblaze on!”

Robert Downey Jr was a grownup

Hey – a grownup who matched his tie to his sunglasses is still a grownup. RDJ got some love from the Avengers: Age of Ultron cast, who joined forces to present him with the Generation award. During a speech which outed him as old enough to remember a time before MTV, Downey Jr said: “I’ve grown up, I’ve struggled, I’ve failed. I’ve partied way too much. I’ve squandered, resisted, repented … I begged for second chances, and literally clawed my way to the top.” It was a touching and honest moment amid a night of mostly movie trailers, and ended with some great advice for Hollywood’s young stars: “Dream big, work hard, keep your nose clean.”

The musical performances fell flat

Where was Vin for the encore when we needed him? Fall Out Boy performed Centuries and it felt like even they weren’t completely buying this comeback. Charli XCX fared a little better, donning a one-armed catsuit and rocking a giant inflatable guitar to perform her new single Famous with gusto. This second performance had more promise, but Ty Dolla Sign and Tinashe got about 30 seconds to add their bit of Drop That Kitty before the whole thing was over.

It was the night of a thousand trailers

These events are always, at best, advertising hidden in punchy packaging. But with less punch than previous years, the sheer number of trailers and preview clips in last night’s show felt ridiculous. Most presenters went straight to the promo of their newest project, without even the pretense of some good old-fashioned celebrity banter. Over the course of the night there were previews or promo clips from Pitch Perfect 2, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Scream, San Andreas and Paper Towns. Schumer even ended the night with “if we’ve learned anything from tonight it’s … to go see my movie, Trainwreck, in theatres this summer!” Can’t we at least pretend tonight is about honoring the voting choices of teens aged 13 and up?


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Review: “Skyscraper” Lumbers With Thrills Pulsating and Passive

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Dwayne Johnson can work wonders on a lackluster script, but there’s only so much he can do in a Die Hard retread. There’s nothing inherently wrong with taking from such an iconic source and weave something thrilling out of that foundation. But when that irresistible Johnson charm can’t break through the towering theatrics, all we’re left with is a spectacle that is more big and loud than bright and exhilarating, never fully embracing the silliness of scaling a ludicrously built tower.

Johnson plays Will Sawyer with a unique backstory but little personality. He was once an FBI agent that lost his leg in a hideous hostage situation. Now he has taken a safer job as a safety inspector for China’s most massive towers due to open upper residential floors, bringing along his family for a working vacation. Johnson’s brighter smile and warm presence don’t come through as well this time, due in part to his character having a darker past and a tougher time getting around with an artificial leg. Fair enough, but when the tower is set aflame by gun-toting terrorists, I really wished that giddier Dwayne could come out and play, past some pleasing pulsations of his muscles jumping great distances and fighting the bad guys.

The setup to the grand showpiece of Dwayne clinging to windows and narrowly escaping explosions is fairly pedestrian, casually concocting all the elements and never harping on them too long, lest we be drowned in cliches. Chin Han plays the wealthy builder of the structure, concealing a secret and a MacGuffin that the villain want so badly they’ll cause a public scene to get it. The lead terrorist is played by Roland Møller with a sinister look and a Scandinavian accent, so blandly conceived it’s no wonder he works for someone higher up. Even more bland is his female cohort (Hannah Quinlivan), kicked to the curb of the tower excitement with her tight black outfit and sexy looking hair dangling off the side of her face. There’s also a cowardly English investor (Noah Taylor) and a long-time pal of Will played by Pablo Schreiber to fill out the twist fodder.

This is a film that really does require your brain to be shut off given how much lost potential and generic action-movie-isms crowd the screen. The first act is the biggest slog, holding the hand of the audience for everything that will follow. Will stresses to his wife that the easiest way to fix a smartphone is to turn it off and on again. I fully expected this to play a role in the climax but hoped Neve Campbell wouldn’t literally say those words. Chris Han shows off his holographic room that is little more than a hall of mirrors; seems like a good place for a disorienting shootout. As Hannah Quinlivan watches a hired hacker sabotage the tower’s fire suppression systems, the hacker states boastfully that only he can shut it down from that point forward. Take a wild guess what Quinlivan will do next when she hears this information.

Okay, but that’s all the plotty stuff and, let’s be honest, nobody is watching this picture for a stirring thriller about criminal bank accounts and tracking software. They want to Dwayne do stunts, and he delivers plenty, from jumping off a crane to swinging like Tarzan to escape a blaze. That’s all well and good, but we know Johnson is capable of these impressive theatrics, including some brutal fights that lead to much smashing. We also know he can be charming and has a great personality. So why is he strangely silent during these sequences? He seems to only talk when he has some forgettable one-liner to sling, making commentary on fixability with duct tape and telling himself he’s crazy for crawling along windows. This role feels as though it would be better suited for a beefy actor with more muscle than speech; not someone who can exude enthusiasm with more than enough wit to match his strength.

Neve Campbell surprisingly gets to do quite a bit more than cowering in corners with the kids. She takes charge in scenes where’s she’ll stab terrorists, smack them with car doors, and get in some good kicks and punches. While it’s fun watching Campbell take charge, I questioned where she learned all these stellar fighting skills for having previously been a surgeon. Perhaps Johnson inducted her in his action hero training program, coming standard with their marriage.

Skyscraper is sufficient as mindless summer entertainment but it does little more than that when I know it could do more. Johnson has the smarts to be a more charming hero than a mindless brute that can hoist himself across a building or literally hold up a crumbling bridge with little more than his buff arms. A massive tower with thousands of technological features could lead to an array of astonishing action sequences, but the most we see is a gripping dash through a burning wildlife enclosure. If there only a few more fun bits of dialogue, more outlandish stunts, and a braver embrace of the dumb, this big blockbuster could have been more audacious than obligatory.


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Incredibles 2 Blast Box Office Records of Animated Film

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It may have been 14 years since the first Incredibles movie, but its impression has remained. The appeal was strong enough to make its sequel not only the #1 movie of the weekend but one of the most profitable animated film on its debut. For its premiere weekend, Incredibles 2 ranked in an astounding $180 million. This makes it one of Pixar’s best openings, easily dwarfing the previous film’s opening take of $70 million. With a considerable lack of family films in the next few weeks, expect Incredibles 2 to linger for quite some time for boasting such a powerful opening.

The rest of the debut films were left in the dust. Tag, an ensemble comedy based on a never-ending game of tag, only made $14 million, coming in at #3. The modern remake of blaxploitation classic Superfly premiered to a low $6 million debut. And falling outside the top 10 at #12 is Gotti, the based on true events drama starring John Travolta that made headlines for ridiculously low critic scores.

The drops for the weekend were somewhat predictable, with the superhero epic Avengers: Infinity War descending the least with a 26% drop. It’s also sitting at a total domestic gross of $664 million, edging closer to toppling Black Panther’s immense numbers of $699 million. It’s going to come down to the last few days in theaters to see if Black Panther will finally reach $700 million, considering its home video release and quickly-descending theater count. And, unfortunately, Hotel Artemis is pretty much a dud, descending 70% to place it well out of the top 10.

View the full top 10 below:

Incredibles 2 ($180,000,000)
Ocean’s 8 ($19,555,000)
Tag ($14,600,000)
Solo: A Star Wars Story ($9,081,000)
Deadpool 2 ($8,800,000)
Hereditary ($7,026,000)
Superfly ($6,300,000)
Avengers: Infinity War ($5,296,000)
Adrift ($2,100,000)
Book Club ($1,850,000)

Next weekend will find superheroes battling dinosaurs as Incredibles 2 weathers the storm of the upcoming summer blockbuster, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The sequel to Jurassic World, starring Chris Pratt and Jeff Goldblum, will be premiering in the same amount of theaters as Incredibles 2. And considering how insanely profitable Jurassic World ended up being, it’ll be interesting to see who takes the weekend and by how much.


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Review: “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is Lost in its World

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The tagline for Fallen Kingdom revises the previous film’s tagline of “the park is open” to “the park is gone.” Okay, now what? With the global public now fearful of dinosaurs after the massacre at the park, it’s a whole new world of possibilities. Some activists want to preserve dino life, tycoons who want to buy them for military purposes, and governments that shrug in confusion at what to do next. All these aspects give the movie plenty to do with its prehistoric showcase; so much that it forgets to put a little heart and brain in with its dinosaur romp.

There’s an even greater distance from the human characters this time, lost in their doubling plot arcs and love of dinosaurs. Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) return from the last film but are now on a break in their relationship. Why they split up is briefly addressed, and their inevitable rekindling is even more rushed as they race towards the action. Clearly, Owen’s more defined relationship is with the raptor Blue, this time given even more background and tenderness. There’s rarely a moment of romantic tension between Pratt and Howard but place Pratt next to a wounded raptor, and you have some emotion fit for a blockbuster too tedious for tears.

In the battle between good dino doctors versus bad dino doctors, and eventually good dinos versus bad dinos, there are supporting characters that provide little support past quips and kills. There’s an intern duo of the meek screamer Franklin (Justice Smith) and the wise and snarky Doctor Zia (Daniella Pineda). They’re not quite young enough to fill that Amblin brand requirement, so there’s an English orphan of an aged, sage, and wealthy businessman (James Cromwell). There’s the cold Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) that is trying to build an empire off dinosaurs. You can probably guess his fate. And you certainly don’t need a crystal ball to see things are not going to work out for the violent poacher (Ted Levine) who can’t resist pulling the teeth out of captured dinosaurs.

If that seems like too many humans in a film about dinosaur action, worry not. Director J. A. Bayona crowds the screen with many species romping, stomping and chomping about. Too many that there’s a scene of prehistoric creatures crammed into a tight space, fighting for screen time. When they’re not caught in stampedes, there are a few impressive moments of adventure and terror. Easily my favorite sequence features the human heroes fleeing from a hungry dinosaur that corners them in a room flooding with lava, a shimmering wall of red and orange separating the two species. Another stellar shot is one where a newly bred hybrid dino slowly extends its claws to a girl cowering in her bed, horror movie style.

Part of what made the first Jurassic World so engaging was the simplicity of its adventure. A park full of dinosaurs goes awry, and there’s a mad dash for the exits, with some military involvement and cloning controversy peppered into the run. Fallen Kingdom has far too much going on that none it resonates enough to make Pratt’s tender touch during raptor surgery stick. There’s commentary on everything from government silence to environmentalism to war-hungry investors to cloning gone too far. But it’s all so rushed that several of these twists come crashing in at the last minute and struggle to strike with shock and excitement. The movie doesn’t have time to slow down for everything, leaving the secret villain of Doctor Wu (B.D. Wong) and the experienced Doctor Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) in the dust.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has its moments of thrills that resonate enough to be pleasing popcorn entertainment, as with Chris Pratt narrowly avoiding a volcanic flood and a rich snob that gets a deserving munch by two dinosaurs. Sadly, it’s all so muddled and forced into theatrics that even Pratt’s reliable charm can barely make a dent in a script too dense with set pieces and cliches. I remember I enjoyed Jurassic World for being a pleasing throwback to Jurassic Park, returning that same wonder I had as a child. Fallen Kingdom replicates the familiar disappointing sensation of Park’s sequel The Lost World. It’s a mistake that I’m sure Doctor Malcolm would criticize for the producers who were so preoccupied with making a blockbuster sequel to the profitable Jurassic World, asking if they could rather than if they should.


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