Friday, May 27, 2016

"X-Men: Apocalypse" Review

WARNING: This post may contain spoilers... unless you've seen an X-Men movie before.

Bryan Singer returns to bring us the third film in the X-Men: First Class trilogy; a film which, in title alone, promises to be the biggest X-Movie yet. And with the promise of so many fresh faces, surely X-Men: Apocalypse would be something special, right?



X-Men: Apocalypse is the biggest cinematic letdown of the year so far. It isn't entirely devoid of all merit, but the shocking lack of both action and stakes, as well as an empty blowhard of a villain, make this a middle-of-the-road superhero movie and easily the most underwhelming X-Men film since X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Seeming to backtrack once again from the ending of Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse takes place in the mid-1980s, so one can't help but wonder why Patrick Stewart never went back to warn James McAvoy that they'd eventually be pitted against an Egyptian god capable of decimating the entire world with little effort. The story here is that the world's first mutant, En Sabah Nur a.k.a. "Apocalypse" (Oscar Isaac), awakens after being preserved underground for 5,000 years. Back then, the Egyptians worshiped him because of his abilities. In the '80s, he comes to find that too much has changed, including the fact that nobody worships him anymore. To him, the only logical thing to do is cleanse the earth of mankind and "build a better world" where everyone will kneel to the might of En Sabah Nur and his "four horsemen." Since Pestilence, War, Famine and Death are no longer by his side, he recruits powerful mutants like Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender). From here, Apocalypse can be seen preening for the rest of the movie. On the other side of the coin, the X-Men have some bushy-tailed recruits of their own, including Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Quicksilver (Evan Peters). They join mainstays Professor X (McAvoy), Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in an effort to prevent yet another extinction-level event.

This is pretty standard superhero formula, and the script by Simon Kinberg (responsible for two different ends of the X-spectrum, including X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Days of Future Past) does precious little to deviate from that. That said, Magneto gets a bit of a fresh facelift as we pick up with him trying to live a normal, peaceful life in Poland. He has a wife, daughter, and steady job as a metalworker of all things. Fassbender gives another committed performance and has one of the best scenes in the entire franchise when Erik faces the consequences of revealing his powers during a workplace accident that would've killed a man without his help.

For the most part, however, nobody else in the cast is given strong material to work with. The performances aren't awful; there's just nothing here to make anybody in particular stand out. This is an ensemble packed with loads of exciting talent, and it will be awesome to see future installments with this cast. But there was nothing here that made me go "Man, I LOVED ______ ! I can't wait to see more of him/her in the next one!" Sure, Quicksilver gets a couple more great time-freezing sequences but nothing that lives up to the one in the Pentagon kitchen in DoFP. I will say that it would be ill-advised NOT to use Munn's Psylocke in a Deadpool sequel since she's basically Wade Wilson's female counterpart. She hardly gets to do anything in this movie anyway, so using her elsewhere might bring the fulfillment that fans (and the character) deserve. Perhaps more devastating than the actual apocalypse itself is the fact that Oscar Isaac's talents are essentially reduced to rubble along with everything else. En Sabah Nur, a guy who's supposed to single-handedly wipe everything out, ultimately does nothing with it. He destroys Cairo, and part of New York City, and sends the world's nuclear payloads to outer space, but in the grand scheme of things, he accomplishes literally nothing aside from getting a few mutants to listen to his incessant monologuing about how the world will soon fall and rise again in his image. Isaac could've made him an intriguing character, but it seems Kinberg failed to write him that way. We get no sense of stakes with his "evil" plan, and there's barely a shred of evolution for any of the characters. For the ones that do really change like Magneto, who actually makes an effort at a normal life, it feels like we've seen it all before. Characters like Magneto, Mystique and Professor X have shown shreds of various characteristics, both good and bad, in these movies for years now. So when Mystique takes on a role as a leader of the X-Men, Magneto flip-flops from good to bad to good yet again, and Storm moves to the good guys' side, it doesn't really feel like anything new.

The last major disappointment here is that the film suffers from Star Wars prequel syndrome - too much talking, not enough "doing." If Singer, Kinberg, and apparently Apocalypse himself had their way, humanity would end simply by talking everyone to death. There is one cool action scene mid-way through that doubles as an exciting cameo, and then there's the climactic fight scene which lasts maybe 10 minutes. That's it. Something isn't right if the X-Men are supposed to be facing their single biggest villain yet, and it all blows over like a dusty fart.

X-Men: Apocalypse earns a couple points for at least doing something interesting with Magneto and for Michael Fassbender acting the shit out of it. There are a handful of fun character moments, but that doesn't make up for a rote villain and a story with no sense of stakes or purpose. You should know already if you're going to see this movie or not, but my recommendation falls at the lower end of "average."


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Alice: Through the Looking Glass" Review

After Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland adaptation made over $1 billion worldwide in 2010, it was only a matter of time before Disney invested in a sequel. Though Burton has relegated himself to the producer's chair this time around, six years seems to have been long enough to get the ball rolling on Alice: Through the Looking Glass. James Bobin (Muppets Most Wanted) takes over directing duties with another script penned by Disney stalwart Linda Woolverton (Maleficent, The Lion King). Though it features some sharp dialogue and a stronger sense of urgency than its predecessor, the film largely ends up feeling like little more than sensory overload and motion sickness from a big-budget Disneyland ride. "Back to the Future on bath salts," as one fellow patron eloquently put it.

The story here is that Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) is the captain of her late father's merchant sea vessel, the "Wonder." Upon returning home from a voyage to the Far East, Alice is slapped with a proposition from her former betrothed, who now sits on the managing board of the bank: sign over the deed to the "Wonder" and surrender the position of captain lest Alice and her mother wish to have their home repossessed. Following an awkward confrontation at a party, Alice runs and hides in a room where she hears the voice of Absolem, the hookah-smoking caterpillar-turned-butterfly (voiced by Alan Rickman, in his last-ever role). Absolem appears to Alice in the room and flies straight into a mirror as if it were a barrier of water. Alice curiously follows and finds herself back in Underland where she learns that the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) has slipped into depression after discovering what he believes is a sign from his estranged family. Determined to help, Alice steals a device from Father Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) and uses it to travel back in time to save both Hatter and his family. Without this device, however, Time "himself" remains in constant jeopardy, and thus Alice ultimately jeopardizes the existence of time for everyone in Underland. Can she save the Hatter before "Time" literally fizzles out?

As expected, the cast of talented voice actors and character players turn in great performances with Depp standing out more here than he did in the last film. He's given more material to work with and thus crafts a more interesting, more conflicted character at odds with his past. Helena Bonham Carter also returns as the "red queen" Iracebeth and gets a deeper backstory. She's still as over-the-top as ever, and it seems like Bonham Carter is just having fun at this point.

The film suffers mostly from poorly rendered visuals. It looks like it could've been made alongside its predecessor six years (or even longer) ago. Following the mind-blowing realization of Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book, Disney's follow-up is a visual feast that left this reviewer hungry for something more. As Alice zooms across time and half-baked animated environments, it's difficult to avoid feeling like this is a roller coaster that you need to disembark immediately.

The plot moves quickly, barely leaving time to process what's happened up to any given point. That said, the film revels in a small handful of side moments. Tweedledee and Tweedledum (both played by Matt Lucas) are hilarious anytime they're on-screen. There's also a show-stealing scene where Father Time crashes one of Hatter's tea parties in a way that begets a series of riotous quips and sight gags.

Ultimately, Alice: Through the Looking Glass isn't for the faint of heart. It has some decent pieces, but nothing congeals quite how it should. Everything moves too fast to really be taken seriously. Granted it's "Alice in Wonderland," but a tale so classic deserves classic treatment. There's little of that to be had here.


"The Nice Guys" Review

Before he returns to the Predator franchise in 2018, Shane Black delivers another solid (albeit imperfect) comedy caper in The Nice Guys, starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling.

The stars play a pair of mismatched private detectives tasked with unraveling a mystery surrounding the death of a porn star in late-'70s Los Angeles. Crowe plays Jackson Healy, a seasoned tough-guy who prefers to get things done with fists and handguns. Gosling is Holland March, the more bumbling of the two who seems to always haphazardly get results at the expense of his personal relationships. His 13-year old daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) disapproves of her dad's drinking and disorganization. Throughout the film, she turns up to reign both her dad and Jackson in as they work towards solving the case.

Black has always written interesting child characters and directed great performances from the actors playing them. That's the case here as Rice delivers a strong performance of a solid character. It's just that Holly feels so superfluous at times. Something's wrong with the script if you've got two of the biggest movie stars in the world constantly leaning on an unknown kid to move the plot forward and keep the audience engaged.

That said, Crowe and Gosling still have ample room to flesh their characters out in this world. They display excellent chemistry even if Gosling remains the more comically inclined of the two.

Things don't really go awry for the film itself until the last 20 or 30 minutes in which a conspiracy between Los Angeles city officials and Detroit auto makers reveals itself. Black creates a very vivid world here that's distinctly '70s West Coast, and then the story betrays it by shoehorning in some weak L.A.-based villains who suddenly seem obsessed with the city of Detroit. This culminates in an underwhelming climax that left me with far more questions than answers.

On the whole, Crowe and Gosling serve up a satisfying number of belly laughs while Black delivers plenty of solid action sequences. The Nice Guys just needs a script with a less hackneyed payoff.


Monday, May 23, 2016

"Miles Ahead" Review

Oscar-nominated actor Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda, Captain America: Civil War) makes his feature writing and directorial debut with Miles Ahead, a fictionalized account of a few days in the life of jazz musician Miles Davis during his self-imposed "retirement" in the late 1970s.

Miles Ahead bucks traditional "biopic" formula by charting a very specific period as opposed to an entire life / career. It's actually more of a crime caper with biopic elements, such as flashbacks to his tumultuous relationship with ex-wife Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi). Cheadle weaves these elements together in a way that's far more engaging than your typical "Behind the Music" movie, and his performance as Davis is the electricity that keeps the whole thing crackling. That said, I walked out of the theater as if I had seen nothing spectacular. Nothing bad, mind you; just nothing that's going to go down in history as a towering cinematic achievement.

The story is actually quite interesting even if it isn't all necessarily true. Davis (Cheadle) is living as a bitter recluse at his home in New York City when he is visited by Dave Brill (Ewan McGregor), a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine who hopes to get a scoop on the musician's comeback story. Turns out, Davis has actually recorded new music since falling off the scene, and the record company wants it badly. Harper Hamilton (Michael Stuhlbarg) manages a new up-and-comer (Keith Stanfield) whom everyone hopes will replace Davis. To seal their deal with Columbia Records, Harper and his cronies attempt to get their hands on Miles' new tape by any means necessary.

The film was shot entirely in my home city of Cincinnati, which makes a fine double for mid-to-late 20th century New York. Between this film and last year's Carol, I hope the city continues to attract A-list talent. The production design is great. Between that and the 16mm film stock Cheadle shot much of the movie on, Miles Ahead boasts a palpably gritty, 1970s feel that's evocative of some "blaxploitation" films of the era.

What ultimately killed the film for me was the #SocialMusic concert playing over the credits. At the end of the film, Dave speaks to Miles about what's next, to which Miles replies "A comeback." The second he says that, the film cuts straight to live footage of a present-day concert with Cheadle in full makeup playing onstage with Herbie Hancock, complete with modern light show and social media blurbs. It just feels too far out of context to make any sense whatsoever. A final title card shows Davis' silhouette with the text "1926 -." The real Miles Davis died in 1991, but the film makes an odd way of ultimately saying that even if you manage to "kill the trumpet player," his music and legacy will live forever. I ended up getting it, but that's a nice message that didn't need to be muddled so.

In the end Miles Ahead is a decent picture, albeit something of a letdown. Cheadle shows promise as a filmmaker, however, and should eventually produce a more confidently executed piece. It's worth seeing, but this won't be an Oscar hopeful.


Friday, May 20, 2016

"The Angry Birds Movie" Review

Your favorite smartphone app from 2011 finally has its own feature-length animated movie! And to be honest, it isn't nearly as godawful as expected. It's not great either, but Sony Pictures Animation's The Angry Birds Movie proves to be a colorful, consistently hilarious, early-Summer diversion.

If you're wondering how they ever made a story out of Angry Birds, here's the gist - Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) has problems controlling his temper. After blowing up at a child's birthday party, Judge Peckinpah (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) sentences Red to anger management classes where he meets Chuck (voiced by Josh Gad) and Bomb (voiced by Danny McBride). In the throes of their rehabilitation, the birds' idyllic island is visited by a band of boisterous pigs from across the sea. Led by their king, Leonard (voiced by Bill Hader), the pigs quickly assimilate with the birds. This seems fishy to Red, who stumbles on the pigs' plot to distract the birds and steal their eggs. When an inquiry with the bird hero Mighty Eagle (voiced by Peter Dinklage) proves fruitless, it's up to Red, Chuck, Bomb, and the rest of the birds to hatch a rescue mission to retrieve the eggs from Piggy Island.

I was surprised to find that the film lends more of itself to character development and story than trying to recreate gameplay. Although we get some of that during the gonzo third act, I found myself caring more about Red's redemption and how the filmmakers cleverly and humorously integrate "angry" into the solution. That isn't to say that anger and violence are always the answer, or that outsiders should never be trusted, but let's be honest. This is The Angry Birds Movie based on an iPhone game. On principle alone, one should have an easy time suspending disbelief.

I think the film's biggest issue is that it doesn't manage to contribute anything meaningful to the animated movie canon. It lacks the brains to afford it a place alongside Pixar's finest and features a couple of extremely crude jokes that don't need to be in a movie marketed to 6, 7 and 8 year olds. Granted, one of them made me laugh harder than I have in a while, but the film is packed with enough cheeky sight gags and puns that some inessential laughs could've probably afforded to fly the coop.

The voice acting is generally solid, with one very curious standout. During the opening titles, you'll notice the name "Sean Penn" at fifth or sixth billing. I said to myself "They got freaking Sean Penn for The Angry Birds Movie?" IMDb confirms this is THE Sean Penn. He plays a character called Terence, who is like Red on steroids. Fans of the game should place him as "the big brother bird" or, as I call him, the giant, heavy, wrecking-ball bird. Terence is also in the anger management program with Red, Chuck, and Bomb. Terence spends the entire movie sitting there grumbling. Talking about beginning-to-end hilarity, this joke didn't hit me until after I left the theater: Sony must've given THE Sean Penn $1 million to literally walk into a sound booth and growl. This may be the film's biggest joke of all.

So is The Angry Birds Movie essential? Not by a long shot, but it's here now and can never be erased from this world. It's not as clever a piece of commercial art as something like The Lego Movie, but it offers plenty of laughs and some dazzling animation. You could do worse.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"Money Monster" Review

Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster returns to the director's chair for her fourth feature, Money Monster starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Unbroken's Jack O'Connell.

Money Monster is a timely, original thriller the likes of which Hollywood doesn't make anymore. Taut, well-acted and corny in the best way, it's precisely the kind of star-driven moviemaking the mainstream desperately needs more of these days.

The story (from an original concept by the writers of NBC's Grimm series Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf) examines the consequences of greed and misinformation in the digital age. Lee Gates (Clooney) is the host of a nightly financial news show called "Money Monster." Picture Jim Cramer on "Mad Money," and you've got a solid idea of Gates' character and the tone of the "Money Monster" show. Keeping all that charisma in check is Patty (Roberts), the show's program director. Another hectic day in the studio becomes even more dire when an assailant named Kyle (O'Connell) charges the stage with a gun pointed at Gates' head during a live broadcast. Turns out, Kyle lost his nest egg on a stock that Gates touted as a "sure thing," and now the distressed young man wants answers. Together, Gates and Patty use every resource at their disposal to get Kyle what he wants, even if that means haphazardly uncovering an $800 million corporate conspiracy.

Though the film eventually devolves from a tense chamber piece into a far-fetched climax, it's come to this reviewer's attention that the main scenario depicted in Money Monster isn't at all hard to believe. In fact, the threat of something like this is very real for grassroots reporters and commentators who can't afford Jim Cramer's security team. In that sense, Money Monster should serve as a cautionary tale for anyone reporting on the financial landscape, anyone involved in potential illicit corporate activity, and for the rest of us out looking for our next solid investment.

Acting performances are first-rate with all three leads melding perfectly with their roles. Gates is tailor-written for a star with Clooney's looks and stage presence, so it's actually quite easy to watch him here and see Lee Gates as opposed to George Clooney talking about stocks. Roberts is once again Clooney's perfect foil as the two have effortless chemistry, even in the film's most intense moments. It never feels like we're watching two of the world's biggest movie stars. O'Connell embodies the voice of "the 99 percent" as Kyle, and he pulls off the gritty New Yorker thing with some nuance. As for the direction, Foster's hand feels confident in every scene and proves she knows how to assemble a tight, engaging narrative. I'd love to see her in the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Captain Marvel, perhaps.

Money Monster needs to be seen by anyone working in a fast-paced market and/or anyone who appreciates the Hollywood crime thrillers of the early 1990s (i.e. The Fugitive, Clear and Present Danger, etc.). Go support this movie because we simply need more like it.


Monday, May 16, 2016

"High-Rise" Review

Filmmaker Ben Wheatley's controversial and highly-anticipated thriller High-Rise is finally here for us common folk to behold. It's based on a J.G. Ballard story once believed to be "unfilmable." Though Wheatley's aspirations are certainly commendable, the film feels like something of a missed opportunity. It comes off like a bastard cousin to the oeuvre of Stanley Kubrick. In all honesty, it probably could've been a masterpiece in that guy's hands.

The concept of the story is that an architect named Mr. Royal (Jeremy Irons) has designed four high-rise apartment complexes, each complete with a public swimming pool and supermarket. Unbeknownst to the residents, however, each high-rise houses a different social experiment of Royal's own design. The film smartly explores only one. There are so many supporting characters that the narrative feels pretty bloated as it is; this would only be exacerbated if more characters in the other towers were introduced. The main protagonist in this dystopia is Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston), a university psychiatrist. He acquaints himself with a colorful cast of characters, including love interest Charlotte (Sienna Miller), the unstable documentarian/lothario Wilder (Luke Evans), and Wilder's wife/other possible love interest Helen (Elisabeth Moss). They are our main lens into life on the "lower floors" of the high-rise. They contend with the likes of Royal and the bourgeoisie around him on the upper floors. (In case the class warfare thing wasn't clear, these folks regularly throw parties where everyone dresses as 18th-century nobility.) As Royal's experiment reveals itself, the lives of everyone on the lower and upper floors descend into chaos.

Wheatley has a talent for setting up striking images, of which there are plenty here. The problem is that he doesn't always allow them to breathe, with edits placed just a tad too short for us to fully process what we're seeing. This translates to how the story is handled as well. With so many characters on so many different tangents, Laing is something of a letdown as a protagonist. He's supposed to be the audience's window into this world, and he's never given any relatable qualities. The most normal-headed character in the bunch turns out to be Toby (Louis Suc), Charlotte's son, but he's given precious-little screen time in order for him to be a satisfying presence for the audience in this dystopia. That said, Hiddleston gives a committed performance as Laing and continues to make a case for being my new favorite actor. It's simply through misguided filmmaking decisions that the story's complicated sociopolitical and socioeconomic themes don't resonate with as much force as they're meant to.

Perhaps the best thing about High-Rise is the production design. It exists on a retro-futuristic plane circa 1978. The architecture, cars, costumes and hairstyles all work for the time but also never feel out of place in moments where the period is meant to be less obvious. The set dressing is also impeccable, from the penthouse decked in white, to the lived-in feel of the Wilder family flat, to Laing's manic grey-scale painting day.

All in all, High-Rise leaves us with the wrong kind of uneasy feeling. The film didn't force me to think about how its themes resonate in my own world so much as it got me thinking how they might have if Kubrick had made it instead. There are some excellent pieces here, and it's truly unlike anything else out there right now, but some of Wheatley's decisions ultimately render High-Rise a missed opportunity that's hard to recommend.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Sing Street" Review

Irish writer/director John Carney (Once) follows up his 2012 feature Begin Again with yet another rip-roaring, soul-soaring, heartwarming love story. This is Sing Street.

Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is a 15-year-old boy living in mid-'80s Dublin. His parents (Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy) are often too absorbed in money and fidelity issues to give Conor, his older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) and sister Ann (Kelly Thornton) the love they deserve. Facing tough economic times, the parents decide to move Conor to the real-life Synge Street school run by the Congregation of Christian Brothers. There he faces down bullies and a fascist headmaster who forces him to go barefoot because he doesn't own dress code shoes. One day after a confrontation with a bully, Conor meets Darren (Ben Carolan), an ally and aspiring businessman. As the two walk off school grounds at the end of the day, Conor spots a beautiful girl named Raphina (Lucy Boynton) on the stoop across the street. He tries to impress her by saying that he needs a model for his band's latest music video and that she would be perfect. With few resources and even fewer friends, Conor decides he needs to make the gig legit by actually starting a band good enough to record an original song by the weekend.

The rest, as they say, is rock-n-roll history.

The film gets its name from that of the band Conor forms; the boys all attend Synge Street School, so "Sing Street" feels like a natural re-appropriation for such a group.

As he's proved with his previous films, Carney knows how to craft an engaging love story. This one feels decidedly fresh for a couple of reasons. The first is that it never seems like Raphina is an unobtainable object, like a princess locked in a faraway tower. She's practically another member of the band. The second is because their story never feels schmaltzy, and even when it dabbles in that territory, it does so with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek as exemplified by perhaps the coolest scene of the film. One day while playing in an empty gymnasium, Conor imagines a music video for one of the band's songs "Drive It Like You Stole It" which takes place during a 1950s high school prom like the one in Back To the Future. The idea is for Raphina to walk into the prom, have the crowd part, and the two of them run off into the moonlight together.

This is of course what Conor really wants in real life - for the two of them to run off and be together. It isn't necessarily a fantasy for him, which is why it's such a stellar, heartbreaking artistic expression on Carney's part to bookend that colorful scene with the band in the cold, grey gym after school with just a handful of offbeat backup performers. In truth, it's actually an incredible self-contained music video that Carney masterfully weaves into the fabric of the story.

It should go without saying then that Carney's script and direction are first-rate, and his original songs live up to that as well. "The Riddle of the Model" is a solid tribute to New Wave acts like Duran Duran and Depeche Mode, while "Drive It Like You Stole It" could be one of the top songs of the summer if it got radio play in the U.S.

Acting performances across the board are wonderful, with Reynor standing out as Conor's brother Brendan. He brings a crucial sense of "been-there, failed-at-that, but-that-doesn't-mean-you-have-to" gravitas to the character which reigns in, but also facilitates, the controlled chaos that Conor, Raphina and Sing Street represent. You'll leave wishing this guy was your big brother.

Truly everything about Sing Street (from the catchy songs to the terrific acting, to Carney's smart, funny script and assured direction) works in conjunction with everything else, and nothing feels half-assed. Sing Street is the perfect feel-good film to kickstart the summer season. This is one of the most complete and all-around solid films I've seen in some time. It certainly earns a spot near the top of my "Best of 2016" list so far. '


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

"Everybody Wants Some!!" Review

Writer/director Richard Linklater follows up his ambitious, 12-year project Boyhood with a film that acts as kind of a spiritual sequel to both Boyhood as well as the slacker comedy classic Dazed & Confused.

Despite sharing a similar tone and character archetypes with Dazed and Confused, the story picks up almost exactly where Boyhood leaves off. College freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) arrives on campus and quickly assimilates with his housemates who are all members of the baseball team. The film follows the young men during the first weekend before classes as they troll for girls, booze and a good time.

Everybody Wants Some!! reaffirms Linklater's status as the king of engaging coming-of-age storytelling, even if this time around it doesn't feel as fresh or as funny as it ought to. It's a better movie than Old School but can barely hold a candle to Animal House. Despite a strong cast of young players including Step Up's Ryan Guzman, 22 Jump Street's Wyatt Russell, and Scream Queens' Glen Powell, none of them offer the quiet freneticism of John Belushi.

If nothing else, Linklater's script is well-written, despite literally spelling out its message for us on a blackboard during Jake's first class on Monday.

Fans of Linklater's work should see Everybody Wants Some!! It's a good movie albeit an inessential one.