Movie Review: “T2 Trainspotting”

Starring
Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner, Robert Carlyle, Anjela Nedyalkova, Kelly Macdonald
Director
Danny Boyle

Let’s set aside, for the moment, the fact that “T2 Trainspotting” is one of the most unnecessary sequels the world has ever seen. Instead, let’s discuss my pitch for what that sequel would look like:

Sick Boy and Begbie find Renton and spend the entire film beating him to death. Roll credits.

As it turns out, that is not far off from the reality. “T2 Trainspotting” is the culmination of a lifetime of bad decisions and the influence that they have on a person even when they know it’s time to make better ones. If “Trainspotting” was equal parts tragic and upbeat, “T2” is mostly pathetic, capped by a long-overdue dose of karma. That it still manages to be entertaining despite looking, sounding and feeling exactly like the original film is to the great credit of director Danny Boyle, with slightly less credit to screenwriter John Hodge for reasons which will soon become apparent.

Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to his childhood home of Edinburgh for the first time after stealing £16,000 from his junkie friends 20 years earlier. Life for those friends, sadly, is more of the same. His former bestie Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson (Jonny Lee Miller) is working extortion schemes with the help of pretty Bulgarian Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova), while Daniel “Spud” Murphy (Ewen Bremner), having recently lost his job, is attempting suicide via overdose when Mark visits and subsequently saves him, much to Spud’s chagrin.

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Blu Tuesday: Passengers and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on social media with your friends.

“Passengers”

Developed from one of the hottest scripts in Hollywood and starring two of its most bankable stars, “Passengers” should have been a slam dunk. But while the movie fails to reach its lofty ambitions, it’s still a thought-provoking piece of genre-hopping sci-fi that’s biggest misstep is the way in which it handles the story’s ethical dilemma. The world that director Morten Tyldum and writer Jon Spaihts have created is so captivating that it’s easy to see how their focus may have been derailed, but despite a few cool sequences in the latter half, the setup is much better than the payoff. Although it’s ultimately held together by some fantastic chemistry between Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, your mileage will vary depending on how you respond to the film’s polarizing plot twist.

Extras include a trio of featurettes on casting, production design and visual effects, as well as some outtakes, deleted scenes and more. FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Movie Review: “Kong: Skull Island”

Starring
Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Toby Kebbell, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann
Director
Jordan Vogt-Roberts

After the disappointment of 2014’s “Godzilla,” my expectations were pretty low going into “Kong: Skull Island” despite the talented cast and effective marketing campaign, but boy does it feel good to be proven wrong. Combining blockbuster filmmaking with the B-movie monster genre, “Kong: Skull Island” is Hollywood commercialism at its finest – a visually stunning adventure film that boasts great special effects, exciting set pieces and lots of humor. Though Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake was a decent but bloated take on the classic King Kong story, “Kong: Skull Island” is better in almost every way. This is what a modern day King Kong movie should look like, even one that has a foot firmly planted in the past.

The year is 1973, and with the Vietnam War drawing to a close, a pair of scientists (John Goodman and Corey Hawkins) from Monarch – the mysterious organization that unearthed Godzilla in the 2014 reboot – convinces the U.S. government to fund an expedition to an uncharted island in the South Pacific under the guise of a geological mapping mission. Joining them on their journey is former British SAS captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), war photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and a military escort led by the tightly-wound Lt. Col. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), who jumps at the chance to extend his deployment, even if the rest of his squadron (including Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham and Thomas Mann) don’t quite share his enthusiasm.

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Blu Tuesday: Moana and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on social media with your friends.

“Moana”

Disney has been on an incredible run of form lately, comfortably outperforming sister studio Pixar over the past five years with films like “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Frozen” and “Zootopia,” and that trend continues with “Moana.” Although it’s structured as a rather traditional hero’s journey, the movie sets itself apart thanks to more progressive characters that break from the typical Disney stereotypes. Both leads are great – Dwayne Johnson is super charming as the demigod Maui, while newcomer Auli’i Cravalho more than holds her own in the title role – and the soundtrack (co-written by “Hamilton” star Lin-Manuel Miranda) is packed with infectious tunes that give “Frozen” a run for its money. Also boasting some of Disney’s most detailed and vibrant animation yet, “Moana” is an instant classic that only gets better with each viewing.

Extras include an audio commentary by directors Ron Clements and John Musker, a series of featurettes on the movie’s technical achievements, interviews with the cast and crew, deleted scenes, two short films and much more. FINAL VERDICT: BUY

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The Films (and One TV Series) to See at SXSW 2017

In just a few days, the 2017 version of the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival will commence in Austin, TX. While many people come and fill the streets and bars of the live music capital of the world to see and hear their favorite bands performing at venues across the city, there is also a pretty great film component that happens. Running from March 10 through March 18, SXSW features world premieres of exciting new movies, as well as a chance for other festival favorites to be shown to more audiences. In preparation for those eager to check out the scene, here are nine promising films and one eagerly anticipated TV series debut that are worth seeking out.

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