Girls Trip (Full Review)

Just because the movie is called Girls Trip doesn’t mean this one is strictly for the ladies. After all, everyone enjoys taking a trip with their best friends. The comradery between friends can create for some great laughs. With a director in Malcolm D. Lee (Best Man Holiday, Barbershop 3) that has proven he knows how to handle comedies with ensemble casts, all of the ingredients are ripe for Girls Trip to be summer’s best comedy.

GirlsTripTeaserPosterRegina Hall stars as Ryan Pierce, a famous author whose high profile marriage to a former athlete (Mike Colter) has her career flourishing. When her Agent (Kate Walsh) sends her to be a key note speaker at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, Ryan takes it as an opportunity to reconnect with her best friends from college. Rounding out Hall’s group of friends known as the “Flossy Posse” are struggling celebrity gossip blogger Sasha (Queen Latifah), divorced mother Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith), and unfiltered party girl Dina (Tiffany Haddish). But once their girls trip has started, old arguments and personal struggles threaten to ruin their friendship.

It takes a moment for the heavy laughs to kick in, as the best jokes in the film’s first half come straight from the trailers. The funniest scenes come directly from the personalities of the actresses rather than the writing itself. Tiffany Haddish is no greater example of this. Her exuberant personality shines through to the point that you wonder if she even needed a script. Some of the gross out humor might be overwhelming for some, but it rarely comes in moments that don’t feel organic. Every ‘R’ rated comedy has outrageous scenes, but thankfully Girls Trip throws its gratuitousness at you in realistic ways to make them funny even if you feel like gagging or turning away.

The story, at times, does fall into formulaic tropes of the genre that make it feel wholly unoriginal. There’s the cheating husband, the  “nice guy” (Larenz Tate) who comes along just in time to make the scorned woman think twice about her lousy relationship, the random dance sequence to 90’s music, the inevitable moment where everyone lashes out at each other … it’s all there. But as the film goes along, those redundant themes become acceptable thanks to the performances of the cast. The arc that Hall’s Ryan Pierce goes through, while not a new concept, is dealt with in a very refreshingly real way. Treated as an Oprah-like icon, the fact that her character is able to show both strength and vulnerability is undoubtedly inspiring by the film’s end.

There are other distracting flaws to Girls Trip. Kate Walsh is mostly annoying as Hall’s white agent who uncomfortably uses black expressions. An actress who is actually used to doing comedy would have worked better here. The editing is also noticeably and abundantly lackluster.  In almost every wide shot you can tell that the dialogue and character’s lips aren’t matching up. Yet, these issues pale in comparison to the genuine fun of the movie. The cast looks like they’re having fun and the story, while predictable, stands on strong merits making Girls Trip a trip worth taking.

FINAL GRADE: B

 

 

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When the Bough Breaks (Full Review)

Morris Chestnut sure likes to make movies where he is engulfed in a love triangle with a murderous psychopath. Last fall, he was in The Perfect Guy (if you can call fifteen minutes of screen time being “in” the movie).That movie was awful. This time around Chestnut takes the lead role in a film with a much different twist on the fatal attraction thriller.

when_the_bough_breaks_2016_filmChestnut plays John, a lawyer on the verge of making partner at his firm who is married to a beautiful, successful chef named Laura (Regina Hall). After several unsuccessful attempts at conceiving a baby, the two place their last embryo in the hands (or uterus) of a shy girl named Anna (Jaz Sinclair) who is more than willing to be their surrogate. After a violent night with her abusive boyfriend (Theo Rossi), Anna is invited to live with John and Laura leading to a creepy obsession with John that threatens his career, his marriage, and his unborn child.

There is a certain soap opera, turn your brain off and watch, type of intrigue to films like this. So even when they’re awful audiences can find some type of enjoyment with them. And yet, When the Bough Breaks, barely manages to deliver on that aspect. The first half of the movie is mainly spent dealing with Anna’s crazy boyfriend, a man Chestnut’s character inexplicably lets off of the hook even with the golden opportunity to get him out of the picture. These movies usually involve stalker tendencies, blackmail, and the inevitable violent showdown at the end, but this movie does the bare minimum to even qualify as a thriller.

The result is a story that feels like a cliff notes version of something fans of the genre might expect to be far more entertaining. The performances are decent enough for a glorified Lifetime movie. Jaz Sinclair at least gives emotional weight to a character that actually has motivation to be insane. But everything else about this movie is completely unlikable. Regina Hall’s Laura isn’t even endearing. She isn’t a great spouse and she has an unhealthy obsession with having the baby even after she learns Anna is a psychopath who tried to steal her husband. The ending is also anticlimactic. I gave The Perfect Guy an ‘F’ last year, and this movie is significantly less watchable. So guess where that leaves it.

FINAL GRADE: F

Barbershop: The Next Cut (Full Review)

220px-BarbershopTheNextCutposterApparently, It’s never too late to make a sequel. And in the case of Ice Cube, over a decade isn’t too late to resurrect his popular Barbershop films from the early 00’s. Picking up 10+ years later can be a tricky thing for any film franchise. Luckily, with Barbershop: The Next Cut, O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson has a Director who knows all about delivering under those circumstances, in Malcolm D. Lee (Best Man Holiday).

It’s been 14 years since Barbershop 2: Back in Business, a movie that was decent, but not remotely as good as the first. Calvin (Ice Cube) is still running the barbershop he inherited from his father while he and his wife (Jazsmin Lewis) raise their teenage son (Michael Rainey Jr.) on the dangerous southside of Chicago. Like before, the film features an ensemble cast of characters, some old and some new. Eve returns as volatile barber, Terri, although she’s traded in Michael Ealy for Common as a love interest. Cedric the Entertainer also returns as Eddie, the wise-cracking older statesmen of the shop who rarely ever actually cuts hair. Other characters from the older films (Sean Patrick Thomas, Troy Garity) are little more than cameos.

There are a bunch of refreshing new faces in the mix this time around. Regina Hall stars as Angie, Calvin’s partner who runs the beauty parlor half of the shop. Along with her are feminist, Bree (Margot Bingham), and Draya (Nicki Minaj) who seems hell bent on stealing Rashad (Common) from his wife (Eve). Rounding out the comedic cast are Lamorne Morris as black nerd, Jerrod, Utkarsh Ambudkar as token foreigner, Raja, Deon Cole as Dante, the customer who never leaves, and J.B. Smoove as Barbershop bootlegger, ‘One-Stop’.

On the surface it would seem as if there are too many characters crammed into the shop this time around, but the film actually does a more than amiable job giving each character their time to shine. Whether it’s chemistry or comedic timing, this Barbershop feels as funny and charming as the original from the moment we first step in. Even Nicki Minaj, who is clearly the odd ball on the acting front, manages to slip in more than a few heavy laughs to justify her presence. The lone exception is Anthony Anderson who reprises his role as hustler, AJ, from the first film. Not only does his character provide few, if any, comedic moments, but his presence is completely irrelevant to the overall story.

Speaking of the overall story, like the original Barbershop, this film seeks to be both entertaining and thought provoking. Woven between the jokes are important questions raised about street violence, misogyny, and relationships, all of which are relevant to the black community. And while the film doesn’t actually get around to answering many of these questions, they do manage to get people thinking, and there’s merit in that, at least in a comedy.

The dramatic moments don’t always hit. One particular scene meant to be the film’s most dramatic, falls somewhat flat due to the character involved not being fleshed out enough. And sometimes, the film’s attempt to hammer home lessons comes off feeling like an after school special. But, again, the movie didn’t have to address these types of issues at all. They could’ve hit us over the head with another plot about a rival barbershop or something along those lines. But instead, Barbershop: The Next Cut takes the high road, and manages to sublimate a horde of side splitting laughs with an endearing message.

FINAL GRADE: B+

Think Like A Man Too… Full Review

ImageDo I even need to say it? *Sigh* I think I do…. *Stands on soap box and clears throat*. EVERY MOVIE DOES NOT NEED OR WARRANT A SEQUEL!!! Ok, now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest, I feel like I can proceed forward with my actual review of Think Like A Man Too.

Based on Steve Harvey’s book Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man, the first movie was a romantic comedy built around the archetypal personalities of men and women in relationships. Comedian Kevin Hart, as the happily divorced comic relief, served as narrator in a story about: The Mama’s Boy (Terrence J) and the single mom (Regina Hall), the dreamer (Michael Ealy) and the Independent woman (Taraji Henson), the player (Romany Malco) and the wholesome girl (Meagan Good), and lastly the man-child (Jerry Ferrera) and the woman who wants him to grow up (Gabrielle Union). Despite some flawed logic and falling into the usual romantic comedy clichés, the first movie was actually comically enjoying.

This time around the whole gang and a few new faces, some necessary and some not, head to Las Vegas for the mama’s boy and single mom’s wedding. Antics ensue when the Best Man, Kevin Hart’s Cedric, goes over the top to make bachelor party night a success. Meanwhile the girls just want to get away from the overbearing mother-in-law to be (Jenifer Lewis).

It isn’t that Think Like A Man Too is a bad movie. That isn’t the case at all. Kevin Hart is still funny, perhaps even more so than in his previous big screen outings this year. The problem is that not an ounce of it is necessary. None of the characters go through anything that isn’t just an extension of the same problems they had in the previous movie. And for a movie set in Las Vegas, the plot sure is bland and uneven. Maybe it’s just me setting the bar too high, after all, every unnecessary sequel can’t be as great as Best Man Holiday. Still, I can’t help feeling like this was something I could’ve waited for on Red Box.

FINAL GRADE: C+

Kevin Hart Movie #2… I mean… About Last Night Full Review

If Ride Along proved anything, it’s that throwing Kevin Hart on a movie screen does not guarantee worthwhile entertainment. And while it’s hard to argue that Kevin Hart is Hollywood’s reigning king of comedy, even his antics can get stale after an hour and a half. That is, if you don’t focus the entire story and film around said antics. Enter About Last Night.

ImageThe film is a remake of the 1986 film by the same name that included Rob Lowe, Jim Belushi, and Demi Moore in the starring roles.  Just like the original, it follows a year in the love lives of two sets of friends. Only this time, the major characters are African American and reside in Los Angeles instead of Chicago. The character names, personalities, and major events of the two films are all pretty much the same. But I know you haven’t seen the original, so let’s explain it anyway.

While on a double date with his fun loving best friend, Bernie (Kevin Hart… duh), recently dumped Danny (Michael Ealy) is introduced to Debbie (Joy Bryant), roommate and best fried of Bernie’s new fling, Joan (Regina Hall). The relationship that evolves from a one night stand between Danny and Debbie is the focal point, but there’s nothing they do or go through that you won’t see in every other romantic comedy. Pig headed fights, irresponsibility, the inevitable return of the ex (Paula Patton in a fairly comedic cameo)… yeah, it’s all that jazz.

But obviously, whether they’ll end up together (c’mon… you know they will) isn’t what makes the movie worth viewing (Unless you are swooning over Ealy or Bryant’s physical attractiveness… which is perfectly reasonable). And believe it or not, Kevin Hart’s presence isn’t quite the winning factor either. It’s actually his partnering with Regina Hall that manages to make this movie comedic gold. They’ve got fantastic onscreen chemistry from start to finish. Her ability to hold her own opposite Hart should come as no surprise as Hall got her start in comedic roles with the Wayans Brothers in Scary Movies 1, 2, and 3 (Ya know… the watchable ones). Romantic comedies may be a dime in a dozen, but anytime you can combine two solid comedic performers, you can set yourself apart from the rest.

FINAL GRADE: B+