Snatched (Full Review)

Amy Schumer can be an acquired taste. Her stand ups are hit or miss, but her last film, Trainwreck was a charming and enjoyable romantic comedy thanks to solid help from Bill Hader and, oddly enough, Lebron James. In her new film, Schumer enlists the help of long time American sweetheart Goldie Hawn.

Snatched2017posterSnatched stars Schumer as Emily, a lazy middle aged woman who is justifiably dumped by her boyfriend and fired from her retail job in the same day. Instead of canceling a romantic getaway out of the country, she decides to take her sweet, but annoying mother (Hawn).  On their trip, Emily’s carelessness naivety leads to the two being kidnapped by a Columbian Drug lord (Oscar Jaenada).

There are certainly some good laughs to be had in spurts and it’s always good when those moments come in scenes that aren’t in the trailers, but Snatched ultimately suffers from almost trying too hard. It works best when its able to play off of Goldie Hawn’s ditsy charm and Schumer’s raunchiness. Too often, though, the film gets overtly wacky. From Ike Barinholtz’s over the top portrayal of Emily’s nerdy mama’s boy brother to a nonsensical and ill fitting scene where an alien-like warm has to be extracted from Schumer’s mouth, the movie doesn’t seem to know what kind of comedy it wants to be.

Christopher Meloni, Wanda Sykes, and Joan Cusack pop in with some fairly comedic supporting roles, but none of them are on screen long enough to fully compensate for the movie’s overall cartoonish tone. If you aren’t a fan of Amy Schumer, this film won’t come close to winning you over, but if you are, Snatched won’t be a bad viewing even if you do forget about it existing in a year or two.

FINAL GRADE: C

Snatched (Full Review)

Holiday Quick Reviews

trolls_film_logoTROLLS One of the most popular children’s toys of the 90’s becomes a kids movie, ‘cause why not? Anna Kendrick stars as Poppie, princess of the happy-go lucky singing trolls who must team up with surly troll Branch (Justin Timberlake) to rescue her friends from big goblins who believe that eating the trolls are the only way to be happy. The movie is filled with covers of popular songs and a message about true happiness being something that comes from within not from what you put into your body or what you materially gain.

Filled with bright colors and enough pep to make even the most whimsical person gag a little, Trolls can be a bit much to any viewer over the age of five. Most of it I found downright annoying (the Trolls literally hug every hour). The plot, which feels almost exactly like the Smurfs, doesn’t take very many risks and none of the supporting characters do anything of significance. So while it may be a movie to take your kids to, if you don’t have any little ones, you might want to pass. FINAL GRADE: C

allied_filmALLIED Brad Pitt stars as Max, a Canadian spy who infiltrates Casablanca with a French spy (Marian Cotillard) named Marianne on a mission to assassinate a Nazi general. While posing as husband and wife, the two fall in love and once their mission is over, they marry in London and give birth to a baby girl in the midst of World War II. A year later, Max’s superiors suspect that his wife is actually a German spy and give him orders to kill her if their suspicions turn out to be true.

The film is intriguing throughout and carries a mysterious tone that makes it a worthy thriller. The problems stem from the relationship between Pitt and Cotillard’s characters. The two are great actors with solid chemistry, but the romance never truly has time to develop. Everything seems rushed in the beginning so it takes Pitt’s amicably desperate performance to even make us care whether Marianne lives or dies. Things wrap up well in the climax, but a better conceived construction of the romance would’ve made the film stand out much more. FINAL GRADE: B

nocturnal_animals_posterNOCTURNAL ANIMALS This dark and gritty film stars Amy Adams as Susan Morrow, an art gallery owner who’s marriage to a wealthy businessman (Armie Hammer) is slowly fading. One day, Susan receives an early copy of her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal)’s novel, Nocturnal Animals. In the story within a story, a husband (Gyllenhaal) on a road trip encounters thugs (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who kidnap his wife (Isla Fisher) and daughter, forcing him to get the help of a local sheriff (Michael Shannon) to find them. As Susan reads the violently grim story, she begins to notice the undertones that hearken to her past relationship.

There’s a way to be poignant and powerful without being overtly graphic. And here, director Tom Ford (yes the fashion designer) doesn’t seem to know whether he’s making a drama, a thriller, or a horror film. The overall narrative is void of subtlety and he seems hell bent on beating you over the head with blunt imagery that horrifies more than intrigues culminating in an equally depressing, albeit fitting, climax. The performances are strong, and sure, not all movie need to have a happy message, but watching a film should never feel as uncomfortable as it does here. FINAL GRADE: C-

office_christmas_partyOFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY It isn’t the holidays without a Rated-R holiday comedy. This year’s designated film in the genre unites an all-star cast  (Jenifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, Kate McKinnon, T.J. Miller, and Courtney B. Vance) in an outrageous twist on a holiday tradition. In the film, a failing software company seeks to avoid the closing of their branch by wooing a high end client with a Project X style party in their New York office building.

But, this isn’t remotely as charismatic or fun as Project X. None of the characters seem to have chemistry and most of them aren’t effective in this style of comedy. The ones that are (specifically Miller and McKinnon) seem bogged down by a script that doesn’t know how to flesh out characters. Even the party scenes that are supposed to be hilarious, seem recycled or forced. Last year’s The Night Before was a goofy, but fun romp that gave each of it’s leads time to be funny in their own way, but Office Christmas Party seems to inefficiently operate with the idea that loud and outrageous always equals funny. It doesn’t. FINAL GRADE: D

Holiday Quick Reviews

Quick Reviews (November 2016)

There are a couple of movies that have come out recently that are worth checking out (The AccountantKevin Hart: What Now?) and one you should wait for on Red Box or not see at all (Keeping up with the Joneses). Here are some quick thoughts for the film critic and critic reader on the go.

keeping_up_with_the_joneses_filmKEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES At one point in the movie, during a neighborhood barbecue, Zach Galifianakis’ character hands Jon Hamm’s character a beer bottle. Hamm’s undercover secret agent uses his wedding band to suavely open the bottle with ease. When Galifianakis’ wholesome character tries to imitate, he ends up turning his hand into a bloody mess. There. That’s the only time I did anything more than a light chuckle while watching this movie.

There are other slightly humorous moments. Most of them are from the trailers and the rest you’ll forget as soon as you walk out of the theater. Keeping Up with Joneses,  a movie about a boring couple (Galifianakis and Isla Fisher) who get caught up in a generic spy flick with their undercover neighbors (Hamm and Wonder Woman), is as bland as can be. It almost feels like a Saturday Night Live parody of something more interesting. The plot has no twists or unexpected turns making it feel like something written in a day and even the action is less inspiring than Kevin Hart’s lousy Ride Along movies. FINAL GRADE: D- 

the_accountant_2016_filmTHE ACCOUNTANT Batman… I mean Ben Affleck, stars as Christian Wolff, a high functioning autistic who is an accountant by day and a highly skilled vigilante by night. When auditing a tech company lands him in the crosshairs of a dangerous assassin (Jon Bernthal), he and a middling company accountant (Anna Kendrick) must go on the run. Also on his trail are two government agents (J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson) who are coming close to uncovering his secrets.

The film is fun and entertaining until its final act, when it goes from thriller to predictable B-movie. Twists can be seen a mile away and the moment meant to be the biggest reveal (at the very end) seems too farfetched even more than the idea of an autistic superspy. But overall, the movie is exciting and filled with a likable central cast, headlined by Affleck’s admirable performance. The action is also as thrilling as a Jason Bourne movie. FINAL GRADE: B

fb_img_1424255884706KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW? Kevin Hart hasn’t made too many memorable movies, but his stand up specials are always laugh out loud funny. Hart returns to his niche with his latest stand up special taped at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. Complete with more bells and whistles than any stand up show should have, Hart navigates through hilarious stories about his family and newfound mega stardom.

The film opens up with a James Bond spoof where Hart works with Halle Berry to secure funds for his global tour. This part serves only to make the movie worthy of a feature length film, but it is just as funny as the stand up. Several actors make cameos and it actually made me wonder why Hart’s narrative films often aren’t as enjoyable. Some jokes aren’t as fresh as those from his older specials, and the repetitive need to create quotables is a bit too obvious, but nonetheless What Now? manages to have enough gut busting laughs to exemplify why he’s the current king of comedy. FINAL GRADE: B+

 

 

Quick Reviews (November 2016)

NEIGHBORS 2/ANGRY BIRDS REVIEWS

Unless you were smart enough to watch The Nice Guys this past weekend, or were catching Captain America: Civil War for the fifth time, you might not have had the best weekend at the movies. I had the unfortunate experience of catching a double feature of disappointments. But that’s why I’m here: To experience the hour and a half letdowns so you don’t have to!

Neighbors_2_Sorority_RisingNEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING The first Neighbors film (2014), about a couple (Seth Rogen and Rosy Byrne) and their newborn baby being tormented by a relentlessly partying fraternity next door, was pretty decent enough. My biggest gripe was that the film’s funniest moments were given away in the trailers, but Zac Efron and Dave Franco provided enough laughs to make the movie worth seeing at least once. Now comes the inevitable sequel, which finds the couple a few years later, expecting another child and preparing to sell their house. The only problem is that a new partying sorority is moving in next door. Now the couple must team up with Efron in a prank war to rid themselves of their new female adversaries (Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein) in 30 days before the new home buyers back out.

I had high hopes for this film, mainly because the trailers were full of laughs. Unfortunately, like its predecessor, the funniest moments like Chloe Graze Moretz trying to run away with a phone she thinks is cordless, are all in the trailers. Zac Efron along with cameos from Dave Franco and the rest of the main Delta Psi frat members from the previous film provide some welcomed humor, but otherwise the movie is a massive step backwards. For one, the sorority members aren’t remotely funny and despite a feminist context to their existence, they’re not that likable either. Some of the gags work (such as the air bag scene which is funnier than the one in the first movie), but there’s also a ton of gross out jokes that are unpleasant even for those with the most immature senses of humor. The plot also fumbles over itself from the start. In the first film, Efron and company were mostly college seniors so a noise complaint was the best a call to the police could warrant. But this time around, the antagonists are minors who nightly engage in underage drinking and drug conception, making all of this seem absolutely unnecessary even if it is a comedy. FINAL GRADE: C-

 

The_Angry_Birds_Movie_posterANGRY BIRDS In a world where Emoji’s and Play-Doh are getting their own feature length films (it’s true, Google it), it isn’t in the least bit surprising that a popular cell phone game could get the animated kids movie treatment. Somehow, a game where tiny, flightless birds are fired via slingshot into structures created by green pigs is good enough source material for an hour and a half movie. Thus, we get the story of Red (Jason Sudeikis), an angry loner who teams up with his anger management classmates Bomb (Danny McBride) and Chuck (Josh Gad) to stop a Pig King (Bill Hader) and his minions from stealing all of the eggs from their bird village.

Despite its ridiculous premise, the movie lends itself to at least some form of success. Lessons about acceptance and friendship are decent takeaways for all of the little ones who may be watching this movie. The action in the final portion of the movie that harkens back to the video game, also looks good in 3D. But everything else about the film, from its relatively flat sight gags and slapstick humor to the overly kinetic plot, is an absolute mess. The story flows like a concept being pitched by an imaginative 4th grader who’s making it all up as he’s playing the game for the first time. Characters have inexplicable superpowers and random motives, and even the film’s principal conflict seemingly takes forever to actually manifest. There is so much good content available for kids these days, so a movie with a goofy premise, manic flow, and weak comedy is something anyone older than 7 years old might want to skip out on.

FINAL GRADE: D

 

 

NEIGHBORS 2/ANGRY BIRDS REVIEWS

Perfect Match/The Boss Quick Reviews

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus (somewhat recovering from the disappointment of Batman v Superman). But I’ve still been doing my best to keep up with all of the new releases. Here are two films to avoid if you haven’t spent money on them already.

ThePerfectMatchPosterTHE PERFECT MATCH 106 and Park host turned actor, Terrence J gets the star treatment in his first leading role. Fresh off getting significant screen time in the Think Like A Man films as a humble, church going Mama’s boy, Terrence switches things up this time as Charlie, a successful bachelor who wants anything but a serious relationship despite the fact that his best friends (Donald Faison, Lauren London, Robert Riley, Dascha Polanco) are all married. Believing that he is immune to love, and ignoring the counsel of his older sister (Paula Patton), Charlie takes a bet that he can withstand a sexual relationship with new flame, Eva (Cassie Ventura), without falling for her and wanting something more.

The movie isn’t unwatchable, but there are numerous qualities that may make you feel like you overspent for the price of admission. A cast of mainly B-listers and a relatively flimsy script that for some reason includes a subplot involving rapper French Montana as himself, don’t help the mediocre production value and cinematography that are both best suited for a BET original movie. But the biggest problem is Terrence J. After watching him hold his own in an ensemble cast as a choir boy, seeing him here as a womanizing playboy just never feels right. And when your lead actor isn’t quite believable, even a few funny jokes and a pleasantly surprising twist in the final act can’t save this movie from feeling like something best suited for Redbox and a rainy day. FINAL GRADE: C-

 

The_Boss_posterTHE BOSS I’m beginning to wonder if Melissa McCarthy is doing this on purpose. We know McCarthy can be downright hilarious (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy). And yet, she continues to put out a stinker (Identity Thief, Tammy) every so often to make you that much more skeptical about her next film. This newest unfunny, cash grab sees McCarthy taking on the role of  orphan turned despicable, rich mogul Michele Darnell.  After being ratted out for insider stock trading by her ex (Peter Dinklage), Darnell hits rock bottom and must room with her former assistant (Kristen Bell) who is a single mother raising a teenage daughter.

This may very well be McCarthy’s worst film. I spent the first 45 minutes waiting to laugh and even after the movie was over I had trouble recollecting a single funny moment. The fact that this movie is a comedy makes it unwatchable for that reason alone and makes the tiny dose of heart toward the end seem like an afterthought. Then there’s Peter Dinklage, who absolutely phones it in with a role so cartoonish, it makes his performance in last summer’s Pixels seem Oscar worthy. I’ll give McCarthy a pass on this one, so long as she never does anything like it again. FINAL GRADE: D-

Perfect Match/The Boss Quick Reviews

Black Mass/The Walk Quick Reviews

Black_Mass_(film)_posterBLACK MASS Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace) helms this biographical film about South Boston criminal Whitey Bulger and his time as an informant for the FBI in the late 1970’s. The film features an all star cast that includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson, and Peter Sarsgaard. Professional changeling Johnny Depp goes bald, puts in blue contact lenses, and conjures up a Boston accent to play the lead role.

As expected, Depp does an amicable job as does the rest of the cast. But this story is lacking something. I love a good mob movie, and Black Mass features most of the good elements of one, but somehow the structuring makes everything feel a bit dull and dated. Sure, this is a true story and the filmmakers are relatively at the mercy of the actual events that took place, but one can only think that better pacing and perhaps a livelier soundtrack would’ve made this film stand out more. It isn’t boring, but it does end up being a bit forgettable when stacked up to other films in the genre. FINAL GRADE: B-

The_Walk_(2015_film)_posterTHE WALK 3D There’s a reason I included the ‘3D’ moniker. For the most part, 3D technology has become an tired gimmick used only to squeeze every dollar out of moviegoers. But every once in a while, when the technology is used to its actual potential, a movie is made that is meant to be viewed in the format (Tron: LegacyAnt-Man). And seeing the movie without the 3D means doing yourself a disservice. The Walk is one of those movies.

Telling the true story of high-wire artist Phillipe Petit’s daring 1974 walk between the twin towers of The World Trade Center, this film is one of the reasons why 3D filmmaking was created. The imagery creates a true sense of vertigo and does nothing but add to the movie’s beautifully intense tone. But the awe inspiring visuals aren’t the only reason to see the movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, through a relatively mediocre French accent, does a wonderful job of bringing passion and charisma to the screen that feeds off on the rest of the cast. It results in a movie that at times feels more like Ocean’s Eleven than a biopic. The fact that these events actually took place is a mere footnote to the overall tone and scope of a surprisingly satisfying two hour journey. FINAL GRADE: A-

Black Mass/The Walk Quick Reviews

End of Summer Quick Reviews

While you eagerly anticipate my Straight Outta Compton Review, here are a couple of Summer films that might’ve fallen under the radar that you might want to check out (or avoid).

Vacation_posterVACATION A reboot/sequel of National Lampoon’s popular 1980’s ‘R’ rated comedies about family vacations gone wrong. Ed Helms takes over the lead role as Rusty Griswold, a pushover air pilot in a floundering marriage to his former sorority girl wife (Christina Applegate) and the father to a sensitive nerd (Skyler Gisondo) who is bullied by his foul mouthed younger brother. To bring the family closer, Rusty decides to take all of them on the same cross-country road trip his father (Chevy Chase) once took his family on.

Beware of comparing this movie to Chevy Chase’s classics. Tonally this film is a bit raunchier and the family members themselves aren’t remotely as likable. The story is also uneven and lacks any real surprises. But as a stand alone comedy, this movie has plenty of laughs to outweigh the few moments when the slapstick falls flat. Cameos from Chris Hemsworth and Charlie Day add some hysterical moments that overall make this Vacation film feel like time well spent, even if it isn’t too memorable. FINAL GRADE: B-

Temple_Hill_Entertainment_-_Paper_TownsPAPER TOWNS Based on a novel written by the same author of The Fault in Our Stars, this story follows a high school senior named ‘Q’ (Nat Wolff) who pines after his wild child next door neighbor, Margo (Cara Delevingne). After a night of elaborate pranks on her cheating ex-boyfriend, Margo disappears. With the help of his two quirky best friends (Austin Abrams and Justice Smith) and Margo’s best friend (Halston Sage), Q connects clues to try and find Margo so that he can profess his love for her.

The film doubles as a mystery and a coming of age teen dramedy. It’s only interesting when it focuses on the latter. The mystery aspect is long and drawn out and hardly believable and things only get intriguing when Q finds her supposed whereabouts and goes on a road trip with his friends to find her. That’s when we get to discover some great chemistry between the cast. The story isn’t nearly as grounded as The Fault in Our Stars, but like it, the film does provide some solid insight on its subject matter that’ll at least leave the audience with some knowledge if they haven’t been confused or bored to death by the plot and execution. FINAL GRADE: C

Shaun_the_Sheep_MoviePosterSHAUN THE SHEEP The makers of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run bring another stop motion story to life in the form of their TV show about a rambunctious sheep. In this film, after getting fed up with his farmer owner’s routine, Shaun and his sheep brethren hatch a plan to escape from the farmer and his dog and explore the big city. But they soon find out that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

An important disclaimer should come with this film: THERE IS NO DIALOGUE. ZERO. NONE. WHATSOEVER. With that, it takes a strong attention span to keep from dozing off once or twice even if you feel interested going in. Children used to the manic pacing of Spongebob and Minions will probably not enjoy this, but young children who don’t understand words anyway, should love it. The lessons should also hit home and adults, who can stomach a film void of dialogue will also find several moments in the film to chuckle at, making Shaun the Sheep a solid niche family film. FINAL GRADE: B

The_Man_from_U.N.C.L.E._posterTHE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. A British actor plays an American spy and an American actor plays a Russian spy? If they can pull it off… sure, why not? Based on an old 1960’s television series, this film unites the two Cold War rival countries on a mission to stop a socialite/megalomaniac (Elizabeth Debicki) from selling a nuclear bomb. The Americans have suave former thief, Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and the Russians have tough, temperamental KGB agent Illya Kuryikan (Armie Hammer). Together, they must put aside their obvious disdain for one another to protect a former Nazi scientist’s daughter (Alicia Vikander) and use her to find their nemesis.

Part classic James Bond, but more historical buddy cop movie, Man from U.N.C.L.E. manages to deliver with action, style, a smooth soundtrack and some charismatic comedy. The camaraderie of its lead actors is overwhelmingly enjoyable from start to finish. The plot is a bit feeble, but who cares when you’ve got magnetic characters who have great chemistry. You probably ended up watching Straight Outta Compton this weekend, but if you feel like one last dose of summer fun before the season ends, Man from U.N.C.L.E. is definitely worth a look. FINAL GRADE: A-

End of Summer Quick Reviews