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

 

 

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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-

January 2016 Quick Reviews

Sometimes it’s hard to keep up during Super Bowl week, but here are a few recent films worth checking out (or staying away from).


5th-Wave_posterTHE 5TH WAVE
Former Kick Ass star Chloe Grace Moretz stars as Cassie, a teenage girl whose life is turned upside down when aliens invade the planet. First, the aliens disable the entire world’s electronics then signal a string of natural disasters, before a plague wipes out nearly all of humanity. With the aliens, or “Others” as they’re called, now infiltrating the human race, a military colonel (Live Schrieber) looks to turn the world’s remaining children into an army to combat them.

The film, which is based on a book series by Rick Yancey, has a decent enough premise. The problem is that it is filled with too many young adult novel clichés, from characters that are quirky for the sake of being quirky, to a sappy romance that is as gag-inducing as something out of Twilight. And while there are a few plot twists, none of them are original enough to not see coming. A few likable sequences are sprinkled throughout to keep the film from being a complete bore, but at the end of it all there’s nothing that manages to make the movie memorable. FINAL GRADE: C

Kung_Fu_Panda_3_posterKUNG FU PANDA 3 A sequel to Kung Fu Panda 2 was imminent when at its conclusion it was revealed that the father of bumbling, lovable series hero, Po the Panda (Jack Black), was alive and living amongst a secret village of pandas. In this follow up, Po’s father (Bryan Cranston) seeks to reunite with his son, much to the dismay of Po’s adoptive goose father (James Hong). Meanwhile, an ancient warrior (J.K. Simmons) returns to exact his revenge and steal the life energy of the world’s greatest kung fu masters.

I admittedly went into this movie thinking it was going to be as bland as most sequels to successful movies. Too much screen time is spent with panda slapstick instead of kung fu action sequences and many of the new characters (Kate Hudson’s Mei-Mei) fall flat, but overall I was pleasantly surprised by how solid the story was. Kung Fu Panda 3 certainly doesn’t have the exhilarating plot of its predecessors, but it makes up for it with a solid dose of heart and a great family message. Combined with another formidable villain, the movie isn’t great but pretty good, and that’s enough to make for one of the finest animated trilogies since Toy Story. FINAL GRADE: B

The_Finest_Hours_posterTHE FINEST HOURS Titanic may be a classic, but anyone more interested in a disaster film than a romance had nearly two hours to fast forward through before things got interesting. For those people, The Finest Hours is the perfect film for you. The movie stars Chris Pine as real life Boston Coast Guard, Bernie Webber who is sent out amidst a dangerous storm to rescue a crew of a severed oil tanker. Casey Affleck costars as the crewmen charged with keeping the other survivors alive until they can be rescued and Holliday Grainger portrays Weber’s spunky fiancé Miriam.

The movie wastes little time getting into its suspense and unlike most films based on true stories it doesn’t drag on with an unruly run time. It is filled with fine performances and likable characters and also manages to be concise as well as exciting. The film also manages to deliver the other necessary elements, such as an endearing romance, that will entice a multitude of audiences.  While it does dip into a few genre clichés toward the end, The Finest Hours manages to be hours well spent. FINAL GRADE: B+

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-

Minions Quick Review

Minions_posterBack in 2010, Despicable Me became a hit among children and adults. And with that, the minions became an overnight sensation. The little yellow, gibberish spouting, characters weren’t the heart and soul of the film or its 2013 sequel, but they certainly were the biggest form of comic relief. So it only made sense for Illumination Pictures to cash in on their popularity with a spinoff/prequel adventure about those spunky critters.

Minions takes place in the 1960’s, as the titular characters search the world for a master to give their henchmen-like lifestyle purpose. Three of them; leader Kevin, goofball Stuart, and childish Bob, head to a Villain convention where they are united with super villainess Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and her husband, Herb (Jon Hamm). Together, they plot to steal the crown jewels from London.

If you’ve always found the antics of the minions to be cute and silly then you’ll feel no different watching this film. But, don’t expect a story that is coherent or even as heartfelt as the plots of the two Despicable Me films. With characters like Steve Carell’s Gru relegated to cameos and even Sandra Bullock’s Scarlett Overkill only appearing for about half of the movie, the slapstick goofiness of the minions gets old pretty quickly. Children will enjoy every second of this movie, but adults who were enamored with the quality storytelling of Despicable Me might find themselves nodding off every now and then.

FINAL GRADE: C-

May 2015 Quick Reviews

Summer movie season is in full swing. Here are some quick thoughts on some of the films that capped the month of May…

San_Andreas_posterSAN ANDREAS Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as rescue pilot Chief Ray Gaines in this earth quake disaster film about the San Andreas fault (mainly encompassing California) ripping apart. The film is pretty much everything you’d expect a disaster movie with The Rock to be. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

San Andreas is stuffed full of nearly every disaster movie cliché imaginable: A scientist that no one listens to until it’s too late (Paul Giamatti), a significant other that the main character must reconcile with (Carla Gugino), an offspring that needs saving (Alexandra Daddario), and a character who turns full a-hole when everything starts to go south (Ioan Gruffudd). But it’s still fairly entertaining. The action sequences are no less (or more) interesting than the events in films like 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow, but the 3D is a nice added touch. And as far as leads go, Dwayne Johnson is right in his element here, when he isn’t trying to show too much emotional depth. All in all, the film is decent time spent, but don’t expect anything earth shatteringly original. Pun intended. FINAL GRADE: C+

Tomorrowland_posterTOMORROWLAND In this day and age when spoilers are released via on-set cell phone footage and each movie gets four trailers to show you all of the interesting parts, Tomorrowland is an absolute breath of fresh air. Kept relatively under wraps, the story revolves around an intelligent, young girl (Britt Robertson) who is recruited to save a futuristic world kept secret by history’s best and brightest. George Clooney co-stars as the former child genius turned cynical recluse who reluctantly aids her on her journey.

The cast, especially Clooney, deserves credit for strong, emotionally grounded performances. The only problem is that this adventurous build-up comes to a highly underwhelming climax that manages to weigh down the entire film. And, although highly relevant, the movie beats you over the head with its overarching message. Still, kudos to Disney and director Brad Bird for withholding all of their secrets to make this film feel wildly original. FINAL GRADE: B-

Aloha_posterALOHA Where do I start with this one? I guess I’ll begin with the overly convoluted plot. Yes, a romantic comedy has a complicated story. Anywho, Bradley Cooper stars as a contractor for the military who returns to his hometown in Hawaii to help a billionaire (Bill Murray) with a satellite launch. Yes, that’s actually the plot. Emma Stone co-stars as his Air Force watchdog who falls in love with him and Rachel McAdams as his now married ex-girlfriend.

If the military and NASA dribble involving secret missiles and land negotiations with Hawaiian natives doesn’t make this film feel droll enough, the lack of chemistry between the characters will. The film is filled with awkward moments, and not the entertaining kind of awkward that makes you laugh, but rather those moments where you just want the scene to end. The most enjoyable moments in the movie come from Rachel McAdams’ husband, played by John Krasinksi who communicates non-verbally for nearly the entire movie. He provides some snickers in spurts, but other than that, this film is neither endearing or humorous. FINAL GRADE: D+

Spring Quick Reviews

While you were prepping for Furious 7 and watching the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer over and over again, some other movies came out. Here are some quick thoughts on the other films from this month.

It_Follows_(poster)IT FOLLOWS This supernatural horror flick by little known filmmaker David Robert Mitchell originally made the film festival rounds in 2014 before coming to wider audiences. It tells the story of a sexually transmitted curse that slowly, but constantly follows its victims until it can catch them and kill them. Maika Monroe stars as Jay, a girl who receives the curse from her boyfriend and must get her friends to believe her and help her before she is killed or driven mad by the creepy entity.

This film gets tons of points from a filmmaking aspect. Beautifully shot and edited despite a budget obviously not up to the usual horror film standards, if it were a project done by a college student, it might be the greatest ever created. But it isn’t, it’s a major motion picture. And it’s well crafted production, solid 80’s vibe, and intriguing premise can’t save it from being a bore. The characters are dull, the suspense is rarely suspenseful, and by the end I felt appreciative, but hardly entertained. FINAL GRADE: C+

Home_(2015_film)_posterHOME Dreamworks’ latest animated adventure is actually based on a 2007 Children’s book about an alien race called the Boov that invade earth and put all of the humans in zoo like captivity, led by their vain and pompous leader Captain Schmeck (voiced here by Steve Martin). This film follows a little girl named Tip (Rihanna) who, along with her cat named Pig, are the only non Boov left behind. After a chance encounter with a clumsy, socially awkward outcast Boov called Oh (Jim Parsans of Big Bang Theory) the two must learn to put their differences aside to find Tip’s mother (Jennifer Lopez) and save the planet from another hostile alien race.

Unless you have a heart of coal, you’ll find little Oh to be a captivatingly charming character. Children of all ages should be able to identify with his story of being a social outcast who just wants to make friends and be liked. Unfortunately, the first half of the movie feels sloppy and rushed as the two main characters go from odd couple to best friends far too quickly. Still, if you can mange to stay awake through the jokes only a toddler will find funny, the end will be as heartwarming of a finale as I can remember from any recent animated film. FINAL GRADE: B-

Get_Hard_film_posterGET HARD Comedic gurus Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell team up for this film about a wealthy investment manager (Ferrell) who is sentenced to 10 years in a maximum security prison for embezzlement and fraud. After mistaking his car washer (Hart) for an ex-con he hires him to toughen him up before prison life. Craig T. Nelson stars as Ferrell’s shady boss and rapper Tip “T.I.” Harris cameos as Hart’s actual gangster cousin.

We know these two men can be funny. All you need to do is watch Anchorman or any Kevin Hart stand up. But together the chemistry isn’t quite up to par. There are plenty of chuckle worthy moments, but not a single part was laugh out loud funny. Most of the movie is the two men giving their usual routines: Kevin Hart being little and screaming and Will Ferrell saying something random and being socially awkward. The other parts are filled with penis jokes or homophobia (which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise based on the film title). The story is a bit predictable, so the laughs should be what get you through. That’s hardly the case… and now I wonder if these two comedic All-stars are past their best days. FINAL GRADE: D+

Winter Quick Reviews (John Wick, Horrible Bosses 2, Penguins of Madagascar)

Here are a few quick reviews. Better late than never…

John_Wick_TeaserPoster Keanu Reeves stars as a former mob assassin who gives up his dangerous lifestyle when he falls in love. Before an illness claims her life, his wife leaves him with an adorable puppy to help him mourn. But, after a Russian mobster’s son (Alfie Allen) kills the dog and steals his car out of spite, John Wick is forced to come out of retirement. With the help of a secret hotel for assassins (run by Ian McShane) and an old friend (Willem Dafoe), he embarks on one last vengeful rampage against the Russian (why is it always Russians?) organization that used to employ him.

Yes, the plot is as B-Movie as you can get, but director Chad Stahelski knows what he has. If you enjoyed Denzel Washington’s Equalizer, you’ll enjoy this one even more. John Wick delivers its cartoonishly thin plot with vigorous, frenetic action and a comic book sleakness that makes it fun from beginning to end. Even stoic Keanu Reeves is right in his element, delivering just enough of the necessary emotion to make the titular character one we root for.

FINAL GRADE: A-

Horrible_Bosses_2I guess… if it isn’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it. Horrible Bosses 2 carries this concept almost as much as Hangover 2 did… and just as much to a fault. Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day return as the group of friends who tried to murder their bosses in the previous film. This time around, after they are hustled out of their invention and left for broke by a sleazy billionaire (Christoph Waltz) they concoct the ludicrous idea of kidnapping his spoiled, manic son (Chris Pine). Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey return in smaller roles while Jamie Foxx also returns as “Motherfucker” Jones… probably the only consistently funny character.

It isn’t that Horrible Bosses 2 isn’t funny, because it is. But it isn’t nearly as funny as the first one, which in itself wasn’t too memorable. The antics go from laugh out loud hysterical to flat out moronic and stale. Sometimes the characters’ stupidity is so over the top that it makes it impossible to believe they’d succeed at any task, let alone a felony. Nevertheless, there are far more unwatchable comedies out there. If you liked the first, you’ll at least find this one watchable.

FINAL GRADE: C+

 

Penguins_of_Madagascar_posterI was never a big fan of the Madagascar movies. In fact, I want to punch anyone who plays or sings that stupid “Move it, move it” song. But I can admit that the most watchable thing about any of the movies were the four penguins who carried themselves like an animal A-team. Brainy Kowalski, muted maniac Rico, leader Skipper, and young Private return for their own adventure that pits them against a league of secret agent animals known as the North Wind (Bendedict Cumberbatch, Ken Jeong, Annet Mahendru, and Peter Stormare) in a race to save penguins across the world.

The story and animation are just as frenzied as they are in the Madagascar movies, but the humor is much more sophisticated. Kids may enjoy the slapstick gags but many of the jokes will be good enough to make even the most straight laced adults chuckle. The villain, Dave (voiced by John Malkovich) also manages to provide enough humorous moments to move an otherwise forgettable story that is best suited for a an episode of the TV show. The four penguins themselves all get there moments to shine, and are all likable all on screen (which is more than I can say for the leads of Madagascar) so in the end, the movie is a fun flick worth watching if you’re into animated adventures.

FINAL GRADE: B

2 Bad Movie Reviews

I chose the title to kill the suspense on this one. Saw two movies recently that were so forgettable that I didn’t care to post about them. Alas… I had people ask me my thoughts on them, so I suppose I should be fair to the other lousy films I’ve seen this year, and share.

Into The Storm

Into_the_Storm_2014_filmInstead of calling this movie Into the Storm, they should’ve called it “Into the lives of stock characters who ignore the weather channel”. For all of the thrills and spectacular moments advertised by the trailer, this movie is incredibly boring. It spends the entire first half introducing you to people you mostly don’t care about, who are going through things that you see in almost every disaster movie (Single father trying to reconnect with his son, money hungry jerk willing to risk the lives of his team for fame, parent trying to get back to their young child, etc.) If these types of characters and situations don’t sound familiar, it’s probably because you don’t watch enough movies.

Weak characters would be forgiven if we were actually given a movie where the action and adventure dominates the story. But that is not remotely the case in Into the Storm. Many of the adverse situations stem from pure stupidity; Why not cancel a graduation ceremony after you’ve just watched a severe storm warning on the News? Why do you need to film a flaming vortex from a few feet away with a heavy duty camera with professional zoom? There are even two moronic characters who run on foot to take pictures of the storms so they can get famous on Youtube. The only saving grace from this movie is that once the actual superstorm hits, the visuals are thrilling and the action is suspenseful. But none of that happens until the last 15 minutes. So you’re better off just ignoring the whole thing. Trust me, it isn’t worth it. FINAL GRADE: D

 

Let’ s Be Cops

Let's_Be_Cops_posterA movie about two friends who pull pranks dressed as policeman is a fairly funny premise. Too bad Let’s Be Cops has a not so funny script. I am a fan of the Fox sitcom New Girl, which is where the film’s stars, Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr., honed their chops as a comedic duo. So, I know that the two can be funny. But despite their chemistry, the humor falls flat more times than not. It might be because the movie tries to take itself too seriously with a plot driven by a killer gangster and illegal weapons trafficking. Old police comedies like Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop series had serious cop action and drama, but the humor in those movies was driven by the quips of the lead actor, not by zany, unrealistic antics like this film.

There are a few funny parts. Then again, most comedies have a few chuckles to pull you in from the trailer. But, like with Sex Tape and Tammy, you have to have either a worthy story or a ton of humorous, unadvertised moments, for a comedy to resonate after the credits have rolled. Let’s Be Cops doesn’t really have either. FINAL GRADE: C-

 

REDBOX REVIEWS

Starting something new for all my friends who enjoy that weekly trip to the good ole’ Redbox. There are a lot of movies that don’t get wide releases so you might not catch them in theaters. So here are a few reviews of some limited release films currently available to own and rent.

 

The Raid 2

The_Raid_2_Berandal_teaser_bannerBack in December, I listed this Indonesian martial arts film as one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Anyone who has seen the previous film, The Raid Redemption, completely understands why. It may be the greatest action film ever created. I was fortunately able to catch the sequel in theaters and it didn’t disappoint. Iko Uwais reprises his role as Rama, one of the few surviving officers from the police raid on mob owned slums in the first film. This time around, following the death of a loved one, Rama is forced to go deep undercover in order to infiltrate an even deadlier and more powerful crime syndicate.

Fans of the first might find this one slow at times, but when the action hits, it is as good if not better than the mind blowing sequences of its predecessor. Many of the action sequences, taking place on trains, prison yards, highways, are more vibrant than the ones in Redemption, which all took place in one location. And the new villains, specifically two named “Baseball Bat Man” and “Hammer Girl” (can you guess what they use as weapons), provide some of the most jaw dropping fight scenes you’ll ever see. Bottom line, if you are a fan of action or crime films with actual plot (sorry Expendables), then you won’t find a better watch than The Raid 2. FINAL GRADE: A

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The_Grand_Budapest_Hotel_PosterIf you’re looking for something quirky but infectiously smart and entertaining, then this movie is definitely for you. It is one of the most beautifully made films of the year from both a story telling and visual aspect. In this story, within a story, within a story, within a story (got all of that?) Ralph Fiennes stars as a Hotel concierge who is framed for murder after his elderly lover leaves her most treasured possession to him. Fiennes was magnificent as Voldermort in the Harry Potter saga and I loved him in the most recent James Bond film. But here, Fiennes is as magnetic as I’ve ever seen him, perfectly matching wit, arrogance, and genuine warmth in the role of Gustave. The brotherly relationship between the character and his new, excessively dedicated lobby boy, Moustafa (relative newcomer Tony Revolori) is what drives the story and gives it its charm.

As mentioned before, the film is shot beautifully, using miniatures to give the movie the look of a children’s book while also using techniques to give it the proper classic feel of a murder mystery. And even through its predominantly comedic tone, it manages to strike the perfect heartwarming and soulful tone at its climax. The numerous cameos (Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jude Law, Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton… just to name a few) are pretty comical too. FINAL GRADE: A

 

Under the Skin

Under_the_Skin_posterThis is without a doubt one of the top five most bizarre films I have ever witnessed. The incredibly attractive Scarlett Johannson stars as an incredibly attractive alien in human form who seduces men and leads them back to a creepy black void where their skin is harvested. Sound interesting enough? The beginning of the film, which seems more music and nat sound than dialogue, plays like a documentary which certainly adds to the eerie tone, but also makes the movie incredibly dull for the first hour.

But if you can sit through the same repeated act, the second half of the movie is far more intriguing. Although I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you couldn’t, as I nearly gave up on it. Eventually though, Johannson’s alien character defies her intended purpose and ventures out on her own. By the end of the film, the message should come across powerfully and I unexpectedly found myself appreciating the artistic nature of it all, but there’s still a strong chance you may find it boring and weird even if you persevere through it. FINAL GRADE: B-