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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Kevin Hart

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017)

Being comfy is key to fighting crime.

George Beard and Harold Hutchins (Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch) have been friends for as long as they can remember. Mostly, they’re love for comic-books and pranks have what kept them together and such good friends for so long, but it looks like that may all start to end, with Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms), the evil and pissed-off principle of their school, none too pleased with all of their hijinx. He plans on separating them and putting them into two different classes, which is a nightmare that Harold and George have had wanted to stay away from all of their lives, but now, may become all too real. However, the two decide to hypnotize Mr. Krupp into believing that he’s one of their creations, Captain Underpants, a superhero who, get this, fights crime, in his underpants. It’s something that George and Harold love to use to their advantage, but when an evil-doer like Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll) comes around, promising to rid the world of laughter, the two decide that it may be time for their little joke to be used for the greater-good.

How we picture all of our elementary school principals.

Needless to say, Captain Underpants, the books, were a great part of my childhood. Every edition was better than the last and while they were no doubt filled with insane deals of potty-humor, that was kind of the point. They were much smarter books than they were given credit for, sometimes not just making me laugh, but my dad as well. Which is why when I heard they were making a movie of it, immediately, I got so defensive.

That, or I just didn’t want to be reminded that I used to laugh at something so childish and silly as this.

But hey, that’s why Captain Underpants is pretty charming: It knows what it is, makes no mistakes, and definitely doesn’t ask for forgiveness. Instead, it’s a silly little movie aimed for the whole family, because while there are a chock full of jokes aimed at the kids, there are also plenty others that the parents will appreciate, too. It’s what every animated-movie should strive for, but in fear that the box-office returns won’t be so excellent, so many stay away from.

Two hipsters in-the-making.

Thankfully, director David Soren and writer Nicholas Stoller know what they’re working with and try not to go above and beyond what’s already here. If anything, the movie runs into the problem of never seeming to settle down, with constant jokes, visual-puns, and bright, big colors, shapes, sizes, and general craziness, coming out of nowhere. It helps when a movie is always moving, never slowing, but it can also help when a movie realizes that the best way to work is to not constantly throw everything including kitchen-sink, at us all at once, but instead, a few things, and maybe not the kitchen-sink, at us, one at a time. Call me a slow-poke and too grown-up, but I don’t know, I like my movies to take a chill-pill every so often.

Even in my kids movies.

Consensus: Keeping the same heart and soul of the goofy source-material, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie doesn’t forget about the kids, nor does it forget about the adults, either.

6 / 10

What’s so funny? Let the guy live!

Photos Courtesy of: 20th Century Fox

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The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

As long as they aren’t watching my Netflix, they can do whatever they want.

Max (Louis C.K.) has been as spoiled of a terrier as he can remember, living and enjoying his comfortable life in a New York building with his female owner. However, all of the coziness goes away once Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a giant and unruly canine, is adopted and made out to be the new hound of the pack. Max and Duke obviously don’t get along right away, mostly due to the fact that Max’s daily routine and general life is being disrupted and all of the singular love he had come to expect from his owner, may now be pushed onto this threatening Duke. But one fateful day, when they’re on their walk, they accidentally run down to where the alley-cats are at and, all of a sudden, they’re stuck in the sewers with a rebellious rabbit named Snowball (Kevin Hart) who believes that are all humans are bad and that no animal should be held into captivity. Meanwhile, the rest of Max’s pet pals are out there searching far and wide for Max and Duke, believing that they are in harm’s way and need to be desperately back in their households before their owner comes back and worries that something is up.

Always watch those cats around grub. Or small children.

Always watch those cats around grub. Or small children.

The Secret Life of Pets is the kind of so-so animation we can come to expect when Pixar is back on their game and kicking all sorts of booty in the animation world. It doesn’t necessarily break the mold, nor does it nearly bring us all to as many tears as the Pixar flicks do – they’re appealing enough to the whole family that they’re serviceable enough. And yeah, that’s pretty much it.

And this isn’t to say that the movie is “bad” per se, it just feels like a movie that has a smart idea on its mind, and doesn’t really run to the hills with it. Instead, it sits back, goes for the easy way out and doesn’t even try to challenge the norm. Some people may be perfectly fine with this and there’s nothing wrong with that, however, when you have Pixar taking some of the same brilliant plots, going as far as they can with them, and hitting homers out of the park, left and right, then it’s kind of hard not to compare and contrast the two.

In fact, it’s downright impossible.

That’s why, for what it’s worth, the Secret Life of Pets is just another rehash of Toy Story – however, in this case, you take out the toys and replace them with pets. It’s not the most original idea out there in the world, but hey, it works because who doesn’t love pets talking, moving around, and generally being smart, eh? That’s why it’s a passable movie that doesn’t get a whole lot of mileage out of its premise, but is it bad? No, not really. However, it can feel like a wasted opportunity, especially when you take into consideration today’s generation and how in-love each and every person seems to be with their pets and all of the goofy things that they do.

Don’t believe me? Check the internet and type in “funny dog video”, or even more so, “funny cat video. The results will astound. And honestly, that’s why I believe a good portion of the Secret Life of Pets is made for; it’s not necessarily because anyone had the brightest idea in their head and just needed to get it out there, on film, for the rest of the world to see, it’s more that powers that be saw a popular trend and decided to capitalize on it. That’s not to say that there wasn’t a popular trend of people loving their pets before, but now, it seems what with the internet and video-sharing being what it is today, that it would only make sense for people to be interested in a movie about what pets do when they aren’t home to take care of them and watch over every little thing that they do.

And yeah, for awhile, that joke does well.

The Secret Life of Pets isn’t the kind of movie that aims for the fences with its jokes, or gags; a few set-pieces are actually smart and well put-together, but the payoff is less than lovely. In a way, it almost feels like the movie was set-up in a way that it could get to these certain colorful and lively places, but never really detailing them with good humor. It just all feels like some people were more inspired than others, and unfortunately, those who were more inspired, were working on the animation.

Thanks to Todd Solondz, wiener-dogs will never look the same again.

Thanks to Todd Solondz, wiener-dogs will never look the same again.

And as it is, it looks great and yes, sounds even better, too. Louis C.K. may definitely be an odd choice for a kids movie, but he fits quite well as the lively and spirited dog Max. While it’s easy to picture Louis sitting behind a mic and saying all of his lines, while simultaneously rolling his eyes at the same time, it’s also not hard to picture him enjoying the fact that people want him for these movies, even if he is kind of a racy comedian and all. Then again, so is Kevin Hart and he’s here, being funny and wild as the evil bunny. Others show up and give their voices, too, but no one is really the shining spot; the voices are recognizable, but really, they could have been filled by anyone.

So why don’t we go to those golden days of animation, huh? After all, people like Kevin Hart, Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, and Jenny Slate, among others, are going to do just fine without voice-over roles – what about Billy West? Or better yet, anyone who ever voiced a character from the old days of Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon?

Pretty sure that they’re all in need of some love and admiration that comes in the form of cold hard cash.

Consensus: The Secret Life of Pets has a nifty idea, yet, doesn’t go anywhere exciting with it, but is entertaining enough to work as a passable, if altogether, forgettable piece of animation that, unfortunately, pales in comparison to everything and anything that Pixar is doing.

6 / 10

This is where jealousy and resentment in the household begins.

This is where jealousy and resentment in the household begins.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Ride Along 2 (2016)

Cops are so silly when they’re handling high-profile cases sometimes!

After the events that transpired two years ago, in which Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) went on a ride along with his soon-to-be-brother-in-law James Payton (Ice Cube) and basically solved a case, the two are still together, but not always getting along. Ben still annoys James, and James doesn’t have a single sense of humor to where he actually wants to give Ben a shot, even though, sooner or later, he’s going to be married to his sister (Tika Sumpter). But after much reluctance, James takes Ben to Miami to follow up on a lead that’s connected to a drug ring, and possibly, some heavy-duty drug smugglers. In Miami, Ben and James meet two important people that will help solve their case: a homicide detective (Olivia Munn) who has been looking after this case for quite some time and a computer hacker (Ken Jeong) who reveals evidence that implicates a respected businessman (Benjamin Bratt), who may also be doubling as a violent, sinister drug smuggler. Now, with these two people’s help, Ben and James will now try and solve this case, while also getting to come closer as friends and, well, family.

Are those real? Not the guns, but the cops.

Are those real? Not the guns, but the cops.

Say what you will about the first Ride Along, it wasn’t a great movie, but it at least had some laughs. Sure, most of that was definitely because it gave absolute free reign to Kevin Hart to do whatever he oh so pleased, and therefore, created some laughs, but hey, it sort of worked for me. It was the kind of January movie that didn’t do much, ask for much, nor try to be anything ground-breaking or life-changing – it just wanted to offer up some fun, some laughs, some action, and a possibly solid duo between Ice Cube and Kevin Hart.

For that, it worked.

And in every way imaginable, that’s why Ride Along 2 doesn’t come close to working.

I don’t know what happened, either. It seems like with Ride Along 2, director Tim Story’s idea was that he’s got a bigger budget to work with, he’s in Miami, and his movie’s a sequel, so that means everything has to be bigger, louder, over-done, and more action-packed than before. After all, the first movie did have a few impressive action set-pieces that took me by surprise. However, here, it just feels like the movie’s reliance on constant explosions, bullets and violent deaths get to be a bit overwhelming; after awhile, you may, or may not, begin to wonder, “Hey, where’s the comedy at?”

Well, I too wondered the same thing probably throughout the whole entire hour-and-40-minutes of Ride Along 2. You could say that there was maybe one or two chuckles to be had throughout the movie, but really, that’s pushing it. In all honesty, sitting down and watching Ride Along 2, I wondered just where any of the laughs where, especially when their seemed to be some actually funny people involved. Granted, a lot of the movie is just Kevin Hart flailing around, yelling, and asking for other people’s approval and love, but he does that in almost everyone of his other crappy movies.

Surely, that has to bring out at least one laugh, right?

Well, that doesn’t happen. Instead, a lot of the scenes with him just run on too long, or feel as if there was no script at all to be found, so instead of even trying, they just gave Hart a mic and let him do his thing. Except that it doesn’t fully work this time and mostly feels like it’s taking away from the rest of what the movie/actors, have to do and offer. After all, people like Ice Cube, Olivia Munn, Ken Jeong, and yes, even Benjamin Bratt, have all proven themselves to be charming and funny before, so why on Earth are they not given anything even remotely funny to work with? Is it because the movie cares less about them, and more about the fiery and explosive action-sequences that, yes, look nice, but happen way too often?

Or, is it just the Kevin Hart Show and everyone else can suck it?

Kevin Hart: Mall Cop

Kevin Hart: Mall Cop

Honestly, I don’t know which one it is, but what I do know is that Ride Along 2, for what it’s worth, doesn’t work. It doesn’t work as a comedy; it doesn’t work as an action movie; it doesn’t work as an action-comedy; and it sure as hell doesn’t work as a buddy-comedy. If anything, it just works at showing us further why Kevin Hart will continue to kick ass at the box-office, even if his movies suck, and his talent constantly goes wasted.

And everybody else’s talents go wasted, too. Cube doesn’t have much to do except just growl, stare and look like somebody just tooted; Olivia Munn shows up as the possible love-interest and may be an interesting character to work with, except that she’s in Ride Along 2, a movie where no one cares about character-development, especially that of a female character; Ken Jeong tones it down a smidge, but yeah, still isn’t very funny, with the exception of maybe one scene he and Hart share in the back of a car (but seriously, I’m grasping at straws here); and Benjamin Bratt plays the villain, who may or may not be a vicious human being, except that he’s in Ride Along 2, where the movie cares more about how Kevin Hart’s character uses video-games to relate to real life, actual crimes where the life or death consequences are as realistic as they can be.

But hey, who cares about realism or anything of that nature? Just have Kevin Hart yell, scream and holler some more! *snorts line of cocaine off of hooker’s rump

Consensus: Though it didn’t have much to live up to in the first place, Ride Along 2 is still a mess of a movie that wastes the talents of everyone involved, but will most definitely get a three-quel in another year, so be prepared.

1.5 / 10

Two black guys and a half-Asian chick. Somewhere, there's a punch-line.

Two black guys and a half-Asian chick. Somewhere, there’s a punch-line.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Get Hard (2015)

Just watch any season of Oz and you’ll be fully prepared for all the lovely surprises prison has for you.

When wealthy businessman James King (Will Ferrell) is wrongfully convicted of tax evasion, rather than taking the plea deal that would have him serve less time, in a far more secure institution, and also have him accept the blame, James goes down the harder-route: 10 years in San Quentin State Prison. Which, for anybody who knows anything about prisons, is pretty hardcore if you’re just a simple white fella who only knows jail through episodes of Lockup. But to make sure that he survives his whole, 10-year-sentence, James calls on his car-washer, Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart), who he thinks went to jail, only because of his skin color and not because of his actual criminal-record – which, had James read it, he would’ve realized that Darnell’s record is as clean as a whistle. Still, James makes Darnell an offer that he can’t refuse: He will pay him $30,000 if he teaches him how to be rough and tough to survive in prison. Darnell agrees, but he also knows that maybe there’s something to James that may actually be innocent in the first place, regardless of what the papers may be saying.

Get it? Because Kevin Hart is tiny.

Get it? Because Kevin Hart is tiny.

Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell are two of the most talented acts we have in comedy today, although, they still have their own brand that works. Hart is like a new-age Eddie Murphy in that he makes everything around him funny, no matter what the hell piece of crap he’s actually starring in, whereas with Ferrell, his humor tends to lean more towards the wicked side of life, with his occasional outlandishness taking center-stage. There’s no problem with either of these acts, in fact, they’re quite superb. They both make whatever it is that they’re doing better, and show that, if you give the time, they will make you laugh.

You’d think that putting them together would be an absolute home-run though, right? And not just for audiences all over the world, but each other, right?

Well, that’s the problem with Get Hard right from the get-go – while it boasts these two top-tier comedic talents, the movie saddles them with hardly anything funny to do, or say. Like, at all. Instead, we get to listen to Hart constantly yell at Ferrell for being nerdy and white, which then leads Ferrell to start crying and acting scared because his character isn’t used to this sort of thing. It sounds funny, but it isn’t, not to mention that it’s downright repetitive once you realize that practically the whole movie is just going to feature them two performing all sorts of stuff that happens in prison.

While that, on paper, sounds like absolute fun and ripe with laugh-out-loud moments, there’s something strange about Get Hard that feels like it wants to make fun of the whole prison world, yet, still not say anything about it either. Though I may be looking into this thing a bit too deeply, there’s a part of me that believes somewhere deep down inside of Get Hard, lies a flick that wants to discuss racial-roles and stereotypes, as well as those that lie within the prison-system, and how ridiculous it can sometimes get, that any typical, peaceful citizen would have to drop all senses of morality and act as violent as humanly possible. Maybe that’s all just me, but I feel like there are elements to this movie that want to shed some light on that and leave it up to the audience to make up their own decisions on it. But more or less, the movie doesn’t actually do that and relies on Hart and Ferrell’s improvs to steal the spotlight from everything else going on.

Which brings me to another problem with this movie and that’s the improv-element of this movie Hart and Ferrell were clearly told to do and have absolute free reign with, no matter where the story went. Normally, I am fine when certain comedians show up in movies to just improv and make things up as they go along; sometimes, it detracts from what’s really happening in the story, but other times, it provides plenty of wacky, wild and zany laughs that you can’t really get with when somebody’s writing it all out. Sometimes, you just have to let the performers do their stuff and if it works, then you’re golden.

Who says blacks and whites can get along? Look at that!

“Dude, what are we doing here?”

However, if it doesn’t work, then you, your cast, and your whole movie, may be screwed. Which is exactly the problem with Get Hard. Too often than not, the movie allows for Hart or Ferrell to take a crazy scene, and have it go to even crazier extremes, which should all be funny, but instead, just feel repetitive and tiresome.

Take for instance, a scene in which Hart’s character is describing to Ferrell’s about the yard in prison and how it is sometimes the most dangerous area of prison. Hart gets the chance to impersonate what seems to be a black gang-banger, a Hispanic one, and a gay prisoner, which all seems like it could be really funny, but goes on way too long and leaves Hart to just say the same thing, again and again. I’ll give it to Hart throughout this scene, as well as the rest of the movie, the dude goes for it all and lets it be known to us that he clearly wants us to laugh, but he just gets too carried away here. Maybe that has less to do with Hart, and more to do with the fact that director Etan Cohen should have known when the time was to pull the curtain and call it a wrap, but either way, it doesn’t work as well as it did in something like, I don’t know, say Ride Along.

Say what you will about that movie, but at least it had a few laughs, mostly thanks to Hart. Here, however, that hardly happens.

Which wouldn’t have been so bad to begin with, had Ferrell been there to save the day and make everything funny by just simply being there, but that doesn’t even happen. More or less, we’re treated to scenes where Ferrell acts like the typical goof-ball we normally see him as in many movies, but it’s never quite funny here. Like with Hart, his improv goes hardly anywhere fun or inspiring; it’s just him saying stupid stuff, as if he was definitely making it all up on the fly, but didn’t want the actual good bits in this movie so that he could possibly save them for another, far better movie.

And a far better movie, I hope, there is past after Get Hard. Not just for Hart or Ferrell, but for us all.

Consensus: Occasionally funny due to the talents of both Hart and Ferrell, Get Hard takes a neat premise, and hardly goes anywhere with it that’s hilarious, or even interesting. It’s just silly is all.

3 / 10 

Ah, racism. Gotta love it.

Cause Ferrell’s character wants to fit in and seem “gangster”. Get it? Ah, racism.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Wedding Ringer (2015)

When “Shout” just doesn’t get them out of their seats, always depend on tiny, black men.

Jimmy (Kevin Hart) provides best man services to those who need ones the most. In this case, it’s groom-to-be Doug (Josh Gad) who is not only in serious need of a best man, but also needs a whole group of other groomsmen to help give his fiancee (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) the impression that he actually has friends. Jimmy agrees, although he doesn’t typically do what some people in the biz call, “the Golden Tux”. Meaning that rather than just being there for his wedding day, Jimmy will now have to show his face off to the whole family and be there for nearly a week with Doug as he goes through all sorts of pre-wedding shenanigans. Though this is supposed to be on a strictly professional-basis, Jimmy begins to realize that maybe Doug actually deserves a good buddy like Jimmy after all, even if that totally goes against his codes and ethics. However, there may be bigger problems on both of their hands as it seems like Doug’s all-too-perfect wedding may not actually go according to plan, due to certain disputes he and his bride-to-be have been having so frequently as of late.

Of course they're all best-friends.

Of course they’re all best-friends.

For the second year in-a-row, on MLK weekend, Kevin Hart has a movie opening and that’s neither a good, or bad thing. More or less, it’s just a thing that allows one of the funnier talents working in Hollywood today, to constantly take up junk scripts and movies that don’t serve any other purpose to him other than to just allow for him to star in it, act like his lovable, goofy-self, and just reel in the dough. It worked with Ride Along, and from what it seems like, it’ll most likely work with the Wedding Ringer.

But for all the crap it gets thrown at it, Ride Along was a tad bit of a better movie, if only because it actually had a few big laughs to remember. Everything else about it was rubbish, or at least quite close to it, but when I got to revieiwing it and I thought long and hard, I remembered that there were a few moments where I actually laughed quite heartily. Less of that had to do with the script, and more of just Hart’s seemingly improvised antics, but theyu were laughs nonetheless. When a comedy is able to make me do that, then it definitely deserves some consideration from me – especially with a January one, no less.

However, that kind of movie isn’t the Wedding Ringer, although it tries very, very hard.

And honestly, that’s a damn shame because, on paper, everything about this movie should work. Kevin Hart’s normally funny with anything he touches; Josh Gad, when given the chance to do so, can be occasionally funny; Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting is great-looking, but is also actually quite funny, even if she is still being apart of that grating show I will not speak of here and now; and the premise, as crazy as it may seem, does have some appeal to it in that it contains both a wedding. and partying. So yeah, seriously, what’s not to like?

For one, the movie just isn’t all that funny. There were maybe a few moments I maybe chuckled or at least thought I did, but overall, they came and went as they pleased and I didn’t think about them long after. Heck, even if I wanted to, I probably wouldn’t have remembered them in the first place; I just would have remembered that I chuckled and that was about it.

Secondly, the movie wastes its talented-cast. Hart, as expected, does get a few moments off the ground by just adding a huge amount of energy that may not have been needed, but is at least worth the effort because it has people laughing. However, that’s the extent of his appeal in here. The character he’s playing is already thinly-done as is, and then, once we’re introduced to his back-story and why he does what he does, in this case, act like a groom’s best-friend, it doesn’t really do much for him, or the movie as a whole. Sure, it’s nice to see that the movie’s at least trying on some level, but it doesn’t add anything special – it’s just uninteresting depth that hardly goes anywhere.

Notice how I didn't include Whitney Cummings at all in this review because NO.

Notice how I didn’t include Whitney Cummings at all in this review because NO.

Same goes for Gad’s character who has a bit more of sustainable depth surrounding him and his character, but is ultimately, just the kind of geek you see in these types of comedies, who they then try to shape, shift and change in so many which ways, that he becomes a whoring, blowing, and unabashed dick. Which would have been fine had the movie already introduced him as such, but as it turns out, the guy was actually quite sweet and lovable.

Actually, Gad and Hart both try here, more often than they probably ought to. Their chemistry may sometimes seem awkward and off-putting, but actually works when the movie focuses on how them two may, or may not, eventually end up become something of friends outside of this whole predicament. But honestly, this is just me grasping at straws here, because while the movie likes to think it’s really developing these characters and giving some heft to their interactions together, it’s just giving them even more painful-to-watch scenarios as they fall down, get hit with something, and come close to almost dying, only to then get right back up and continue to party on.

If only real life was actually like that.

But while Gad and Hart aren’t given much to do here, which is a shame, it’s even more of a shame that highly-talented supporting cast that they have on-display here aren’t really given much of a substance to do either. Cuoco-Sweeting (hate calling her that, but whatever) is initially sympathetic as the eventual-bride, but then, out of nowhere, we start to see her become more and more of an ego-maniacal a-hole and it not only seems like a manipulative way at creating some sort of conflict for the movie to then have a resolution for, but doesn’t really make sense for the way her and her character’s been acting for the past hour or so. And trust me, don’t even get me started on the fact that the likes of Cloris Leachman, Mimi Rodgers, Affion Crockett, Ken Howard (who actually has some funny moments as an old school racist and bigot), Jorge Garcia (yes, Hurley), and even, of all people, Olivia Thirlby. Why Thirlby would even bother taking up this kind of script is beyond me, but the fact that she doesn’t get anything more interesting to do than just sit around and be initially cautious of Jimmy and his whole act, just makes me think there may have been more going on behind-the-scenes with her.

Probably money. Poor girl.

Consensus: Despite the effort by mostly everyone, the Wedding Ringer just doesn’t give them enough to do, or even enough to make the audience actually laugh more than a handful of times.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

The B&W connection, baby. How it so deserves something better; something not in January.

The B&W connection, baby. How it so deserves something better; something not in January.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Top Five (2014)

Man, sometimes I wish that more people other than my mom thought I was funny.

Mega-superstar Andre Allen (Chris Rock) has a lot going on in his life right now. For one thing, he’s got a new movie coming out that may, or may not, signal his change from being in/apart of “comedies”, and doing more dramatic, emotional pieces that show him in a serious-manner. He’s also supposed to be getting married to his rich and famous fiancee, Erica (Gabrielle Union), even though some of it seems like it’s all being made up for the reality show they have on Bravo. And, to make matters slightly a bit worse, Andre’s now got to promote his new movie in this one weekend, where he’s going to be interviewed and accompanied by New York Times writer Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson). Though the two don’t get along at first, they eventually start to hit it off where they learn more and more about one another, and eventually, try to help each other with their own respective careers. Even if both of them feel like they don’t need much help to begin with, whether they realize it or not.

If Charlie Rose thinks you're funny, then hell, you must be!

If Charlie Rose thinks you’re funny, then hell, you must be!

I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again for any of you out there keeping score at home: Chris Rock is by far one of the funniest comedians we have working today. Sure, the man has had his flops and has definitely gotten a bit too comfy and cozy with the likes of Adam Sandler as of late, but for the most part, when Rock brings his A-game, the laughs just never end. Take for instance, his relatively recent SNL hosting gig where, during his opening monologue, he went on and on about such controversial topics as 9/11, the Boston Marathon,the Freedom Tower, and guns. While some cried foul and felt as if it was in poor taste from SNL to let somebody like Rock not just go on about this, but to do so with his own writing.

For me though, it was a hilarious monologue that yeah, may have definitely been a tad bit uncomfortable to sit through at times, but that’s sometimes where the best bits of comedy comes from. If somebody says something you’ve been thinking your whole life, but had never mustered up the courage to actually get out and say yourself, it’s automatically hilarious. Not because what the person said is actually funny, but because they’re bringing out something within you that you’ve been keeping bottled-up inside for so very, very long, and it was about time that it got out there for the whole world to see.

However, that was nearly a month ago and now, we have Rock’s new movie, Top Five, which, once again, proves my point to the rest of the world out there: Chris Rock is one of the funniest comedians working today.

And because this is Rock’s baby right here (he wrote, directed, starred, and made love to this movie), this is a huge aspect in judging how much one person can enjoy this movie. Because while, on paper, it seems like what Rock is doing is trying to make bygones for all of the silly decisions he’s made over his storied-career, it’s more of a piece that shows us why he still deserves to be taken in by the current mainstream audience and not just forgotten about. Rock wants us to remember the simple fact that he’s still got the funny in him, and he spends nearly the whole movie showing us this.

Thankfully, too, it all works. Without ever seeming desperate or as if he doesn’t have his own laugh-track, Rock allows his Andre Allen character to be a perfect example of what Rock does best; the guy riffs on everything around him, and seems to never ever take anything around him seriously. However, he still wants to be taken seriously – not just as an actor, but as a person. While this could have definitely been another one of those “oh great, here we go” moments we normally see in these kinds of movies, Rock steers clear of this and actually seems genuine when he’s being dramatic. He doesn’t try too hard, but more or less, allows himself to just be seen by the audience, picked apart as much as they choose to do so, and looked at in a different light. This doesn’t mean that Rock spends the whole movie just moping around, begging people to love him like it was New Jack City all over again, but he’s more or less utilizing some of those dramatic-skills of his that may have been there his whole life, and we’re just finding out about now.

But I don’t want to make it seem like Rock makes it all about him, his specialties, or even what he wants to get across, because this here movie is a joint-effort and it’s nice to see Rock sit aside and let the rest of his star-studded cast just take matters into their own hands and see what magic can happen. It’s a sign that not only is Rock a lenient director, but that he’s also a nice guy who is willing to let his fellow friends and confidantes take over his show. Even if it is for only slightly a bit.

Rosario Dawson gets the biggest role out of the whole supporting cast and does a great job as Chelsea Brown – the kind of journalist that makes some people, such as myself, who are in that line of profession a bit sick, but is still charming enough, that it’s okay to get past many of the unethical journalistic moves she makes throughout. What’s so interesting about the way in how Brown is written, is that, on paper, she seems conventional; she’s the simple, easygoing gal that’s going to save the big time Hollywood actor from all of the spotlight, glitz and glamour. But while she may seem like this, at first, Dawson builds her to be something of a genuine character with hopes, feelings, and emotions that wants nearly as more from life as Andre does. The movie never tries to look down upon her, or even the sort of effect she’s having on Andre, as much as it just looks at them two together, smiles, and lets them do their thing.

The perfect Hollywood romance. Somewhere, I know there lies a sex tape.

The perfect Hollywood romance. Somewhere, I know there lies a sex tape.

Which already means that yes, Dawson and Rock are great together and seem like they’re actually good pals off the screen. Whatever the inspiration may have been behind Dawson’s casting for Rock is definitely interesting, because she fits into this role perfectly and it becomes abundantly clear whenever the two are walking around the streets of New York City, talking about life, romance, kids, sex, parties, and yes, their top five favorite rappers. But, like I said before, it isn’t just Dawson and Rock’s show, as they’re more than willing to share the spotlight and let the rest of the cast do their thing, shine a little bit, and continue to allow the movie to move on as it so pleases to do so.

J.B. Smoove plays Rock’s bodyguard/assistant and is great in a role that has him being the guy who hits on every woman he sees, in the most casual, innocent way possible; Gabrielle Union plays a character that seems very shallow and one-dimensional at the beginning, but actually has one scene where we see her for the person she truly is and it’s not only a surprisingly effective dramatic scene here, but puts her whole character into perspective and allows us, the audience, to gain just a smidgen of sympathy for her; Cedric the Entertainer also shows up here and reminds everybody that he’s still funny, especially now that he’s away from that strange Who Wants to be a Millionaire? gig; current SNL cast-members, Leslie Jones, Michael Che and Jay Pharoah all make it clear why they should get better material to work with every time we turn on the tube to see them; and last, but certainly not least, Tracy Morgan’s here in a very comedic-role that shows him being the big, lovable goof that he was, making it all the more of a travesty that we may never get to see him acting like this again.

But while I may have only touched upon a few or so people here from this cast, I can assure you, there’s plenty more where these ones came from (especially an amazing cameo from a personal hero of mine). Which is hard for me to not go into further detail about, because everybody who shows up here is, in one way, shape or form, funny. Some of it seems like they’re funny because of what Rock has wrote for them to be funny with, but some of it also seems like they’re all just riffing with reckless abandon. While this would seem pretentious and almost too self-important to be considered “entertainment”; it’s not only just that, but assures us that Rock, along with his very funny friends, are here to stay.

Thank heavens.

Consensus: As ambitious as it is thought-provoking, Top Five finds Chris Rock not just back in his comfort-zone as a comedian, but as a guy who is willing to remind people of the very hilarious talents that are out there, just waiting to be discovered, or at least found again.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Subway romance: So cute, but please, shut up so that I can rock out to my RATM before work.

Subway romance: Cute and all, but please, shut up so that I can rock out to my RATM before work.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

About Last Night (2014)

Let’s face it, all meaningful relationships start with a one night stand.

Danny (Michael Ealy) and Bernie (Kevin Hart) are best friends who work together, go to the clubs and bars together, party together and even pick-up women together. Sure, Bernie’s a bit more of a loose-cannon than Danny is, but they enjoy each other’s company and never let a nice screw with a woman get in the way of their undying friendship. However, things change for both of these guys when they end-up getting involved with two women that not only take themselves by surprise, but each other as well. Danny starts seeing and getting very serious with Debbie (Joy Bryant), the type of girl that seems perfect for him, that is, until he starts having doubts about giving up his freedom and not being his own man; whereas Bernie has a bit of a “friends with benefits” thing going on with Joan (Regina Hall), all until she decides to drop the dreaded, “L word” and screw everything up for all of them. Not just her and Bernie, but Danny and Debbie, too, as they begin to run into more and more fights as they grow more accustomed to one another and realize that maybe there are still more fish out there in the sea.

As most of you may already know by now, I disliked the hell out of the 1986 original with practically most of my heart. So, that’s why, even though I had my reservations, I went into this with a slightly better mind-set. I knew it would be more of a “modern re-boot” of that story, change-up the humor a bit and, if at all possible, make me believe in any of these people banging, loving one another and deciding as to whether or not they should spend the rest of their lives with on another. The fact that I couldn’t believe that for a single second in the original, really killed it, but could they improve that problem here?

Oh no! She's wearing your shirt, man! SHE'S WEARING YOUR SHIRT!! Game over, man!

Oh no! She’s wearing your shirt, man! SHE’S WEARING YOUR SHIRT!! Game over, man!

Well, sorta, but not really. See, here’s the thing with this movie: While it isn’t a note-by-note remake of the original (thank heavens for that), there’s still plenty of times where they lift lines from that movie and it just comes off as a bit awkward. Especially if you take into consideration that the original source material is taken from a David Mamet play, which already makes me laugh thinking of people like Kevin Hart and Regina Hall actually delivering lines from that guy’s writing-style. But anyway, it’s not like the movie at all suffers for trying to be like the original, because in ways, it really isn’t.

It’s just your traditional, love-story that doesn’t start-off other than a simple meeting between two people who get to know one another, talk, have sex and see where they can go with their lives, and then into something very romantic, passionate and, well, melodramatic. I’ve seen this done once, twice and a hundred, million other times, but here, it felt a tad bit refreshing, if only because the movie was funny and took its approach to modern-day relationships in a very understandable manner. The movie wasn’t trying to tell us that one must find that right person for them, get married, have a whole bunch of kids and live like that way for the rest of their lives – it’s more or less saying that “Hey, if you find that special-someone for you, give it a try and see where it goes! If it doesn’t amount to much, at least you can say that you tried, right?” And I think that’s what makes this movie easy-going and a lot less preachy than the original, where that one tried too hard to stuff down our throats that these two people need a love in their life, regardless as to whether they were happy or not before.

I know I’m harping on the original a bit too much, but I think that’s the main reason why I did enjoy myself with this movie. It’s not totally different, but in the places that director Steve Pink actually “updates it”, makes it worth your while. It may not be the most insightful thing ever made about relationships, but with what this movie has to say about them, it’s funny to listen to and see play-out, especially since we actually have characters to care about here. And I’m not just saying because most of them fall in love with one another, which automatically means that we sympathize with their feelings and emotions, but because they’re actually well-written and three-dimensional people this time around.

The biggest improvement in terms of characters between this movie and the original is definitely within Danny and Debbie – they’re development as characters, as well as their relationship together. It probably helps that both Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant have a bit of a better chemistry than either Rob Lowe or Demi Moore had together, but even when they aren’t together and just doing their own thing, they’re still pretty entertaining to watch. Ealy has a laid-back, cool and suave charm about him that makes it seem like he’s ready to get tied-down at any moment, yet not want to sacrifice his partying-ways; whereas Bryant is a sweet, lovable and energetic presence to watch since she always tries to make her man happy and feel better about his life, while also making sure that she doesn’t get treated like crap in the equation neither. Together, they’re a believable couple that doesn’t always say or do the right things to one another, but their happy times together, more than make up for the stupid-decisions each one makes towards the other. That’s why it is easy to not only hope that they stay together until the very end, but at least be able to find somewhere, some place in their lives where they can be ultimately happy.

Sex in the bathroom-stall: We've all been there before, right guys? Come on! Help me out here!

Sex in the bathroom-stall: We’ve all been there before, right guys? Come on! Help me out here!

I know it sounds all sappy and whatnot, but hey, I liked these two together. They remind me of my younger-self when I was making all the ladies weak at the knees, but rather than making it with the loving, caring ones, I decided to go for the school slut. Typical move by yours truly, people. Don’t worry though, I’ve paid the price since then.

Boy, have I ever….

Anyway, everything that I said about Danny and Debbie’s relationship, can easily be said for Bernie and Joan’s, which is one of the biggest improvements/differences between this and the original. Not only did Joan or Bernie not seem to get together in the original, but they also were a bit too one-note for their own good (although it didn’t matter for Bernie’s case, because Jim Belushi is the man). Here though, both Regina Hall and Kevin Hart are great, not just by giving us plenty of laughs to hold our stomachs because of, but because they actually build real, fully-dimensional characters that you know are too crazy, too wild and too energetic to not be together by the end. I’ve always been a fan of Kevin Hart, and here, he made me laugh my ass off more than a few times, and the same goes for Regina Hall who seems to make everything more exciting whenever she just shows up. Put them together in one movie where they have a relationship full of all sorts of sex, passion, alcohol and heated-debates, you’ve got what many could consider “comedic gold”. Though the rest of the movie may not be able to match-up to them, what they both do when they’re given free reign to improvise, go wild and just be funny, it’s great to watch and definitely makes this movie a whole lot better than that shit-piece of an original. I know I keep going back to that, but it’s the truth: Just see this, and screw that bundle of crap. You’ll be doing yourself, as well as your significant-other a huge solid.

Consensus: Not the most unpredictable, nor game-changing rom-com seen in recent-time, but with sticking straight to its characters, their relationships and what makes them who they are, About Last Night is a lot better than the original and makes your time with these people not just quick and easy, but a good time nonetheless. And on Valentine’s Day, trust me, that’s all you’re going to want, you little romantics.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

He likes going to Dodgers games. Yeah, so unique.

He likes going to and enjoying a nice, simple game of baseball game. So unique!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Ride Along (2014)

More reasons as to why we shouldn’t trust our current police-force.

Ben (Kevin Hart) is a fast-talking, very eccentric and slightly goofy that longs for the day he gets his chance to be in the Police Academy. He thinks he is able to do so, all because of the constant video-games he plays on his XBOX, and also because his girlfriend’s brother, James (Ice Cube), also happens to be a cop, and a pretty bad-ass one at that. So if there’s any problems Ben may have, he can always count on his girl’s big bro. Then again though, no he can’t, considering that this said brother doesn’t particularly like Ben, nor even think he’s “man enough” to be the man who takes his baby sister’s hand in marriage. That’s when James gets the bright idea that he’s going to take Ben out on what the task-force calls a “ride along”l which means that the two are going to spend a whole day together where they try and solve crimes, maintain peace and basically, get done all the jobs a normal policeman would normally do. However, there is this case that’s been eating at James for quite some time and it’s starting to all make some sense to him now with Ben around, the only problem is that he may be a bit too in over his head.

Take last year’s the Heat, get rid of the two female leads, as well as their skin-color, and you have Ride Along.

Anybody else find it strange that a member of the NWA is now playing a loyal, by-the-numbers cop?

Anybody else find it strange that a member of the NWA is now playing a loyal, by-the-numbers cop?

And there you have it. That’s all there is to know about this movie and that’s all that you need to know, in order to judge whether or not you should see this flick. Personally, I like a good, old-fashioned, buddy-cop flick when it’s done right, and I thought that with the inclusion of both Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, that things would be a lot better.

However, they aren’t, they’re just mildly acceptable, which is fine, especially considering that we’re in the month of January and, as we all know, the movies released during this uneventful month usually suck terribly. While I definitely would like to say that this movie is “absolute garbage”, I can’t help but think that there were a few times that I actually laughed, and more often than not, had a nice, measly chuckle to go along with the fun as well. For me, that’s all I want in a comedy and if that’s good enough for me, then hell, I think it ought to be good enough for you.

But like I was saying before, this movie definitely isn’t great nor should it be recommended for those who are looking for something that’s going to re-invent the wheel, or even throw them a few surprises they weren’t expecting to see from something that looked as conventional as this. There are a whole bunch of twists concerning certain characters that are easy to pick out right from one of the movie’s earlier-shots; and hell, even the biggest surprise this movie may have had to offer (a cameo from a certain, well-known “someone”) is practically spoiled to us when we the person’s name pops-up in the opening-credits.

And aside from those issues, the plot doesn’t really make much of a difference, because even at an hour-and-40-minutes, the thing still does seem a bit long and lag very, VERY heavily in the middle. It actually lagged so much, that I caught myself dozing-off a few times and barely woke-up from my slumber, despite a crowd of 50-somethings laughing their assess off like hyena’s around me. Almost rarely ever happens to me, hence why I’ve took the time out of this review to make a very big note of it. May not happen to you out there, but it definitely happened to me and it reminds me why coffee comes in so much handy before these types of movies. That, or the fact that the movie itself that I am watching has to be even remotely entertaining.

I wonder why there's so much focus on these guys in the first--half of the movie............

I wonder why there’s so much focus on these guys throughout the movie…………

What’s strange though is that even though I did doze-off during this movie, which would usually kill any other one from getting even the slightest recommendation, this flick had just enough charm and energy about it to where I didn’t mind that it put me to sleep for, oh, I don’t know, say seven or eight minutes. Which means that most of the praise for this movie has to go to both Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, who seem to perfectly placed together as the type of buddy-cop duo we usually see. Cube is very stern, serious and dismissive most of the time; whereas Hart is wild, crazy, energetic, always able to have fun and even take some chances. Together, they make for a very entertaining dynamic, in which you can actually see Cube try his damn near-hardest not to crack a smile whenever Hart is around and doing his thing. And while Cube himself may not be acting his ass off or really lighting the screen-up with his charisma, he’s still fine keeping it as straight-laced as he can be, without ever seeming like a total square that doesn’t know how to have fun.

But as for Hart, the guy’s very fun to watch; although, I do have to admit that some of his screeching and hollering did get to the point of where it was over-bearing. In fact, he reminded me a lot of Chris Tucker in that way, but a lot smaller. And his size, as you could expect, does get a lot of jokes thrown at it from all ends, but Hart’s down with it enough to suck it up and let himself be on the butt-end of a joke. Actually, that’s how he practically is throughout this whole movie, constantly throwing himself everywhere and anywhere, desperately trying to get even the slightest hint of a chuckle out of the audience. Though some may see this as “annoying”, or “over-the-top”, it worked for me and showed me that when in doubt, just trust Kevin Hart to make some goofy, whiny noise to make you laugh. It may not always work and have you soiling your pants, but in the off-chance that it does work, you’ll laugh, you’ll hoot, you’ll holler and most of all, you’ll appreciate that there is a comedian like Kevin Hart out there who is more than willing to sacrifice life and limb for a laugh. Or, even a chuckle. He’ll take what he can get, run with it and leave us enjoying ourselves. True comedian, right there.

Consensus: Shouldn’t be your first, nor your second pick at the movies this weekend, but if worse comes to worse and you end up finding yourself sitting in the same theater that’s showing Ride Along, don’t be alarmed because it’s funny for what it is, without doing much else out-of-this-world. Aka, a typical January movie.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

He is from Philly, so the fact that he wouldn't be able to handle a gun correctly was just a totally unbelievable plot-point. At least for me it was.

Make a note that he knows how to hold that gun through “playing video-games”. Yup, definitely not a movie for the kids.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Grudge Match (2013)

The fight we all wanted and prayed for is finally here! Thirty-years later, of course.

Back in the good old days of the 80’s, two famed-boxers, Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy “the Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro), had one of the biggest, and best rivalries anyone sports fan had ever seen. They both had a win on the other, which obviously meant that there would be begs and pleads for a the all-time classic “rubber match”, but sadly, that didn’t happen. Razor ended-up retiring, retreating to his suburban-roots in Pittsburgh PA., and ultimately, leaving the spotlight forever; whereas the Kid just continued doing what it was that he was doing with boxing, still fighting, still collecting paychecks, still wooing the ladies, all up until the time came for him to retire and buy his own bar, in which he still makes money off of and have a great time with. Now, after nearly thirty-years, through a series of strange events, the modern-day media all of a sudden wants the end-all, be-all rematch two happen between these two, and some head-shot promoter (Kevin Hart) is the one to get it all back together. The only problem would actually be getting these two in the same ring together at all, which holds more problems than what may seem on the surface, all because of some personal issues the two ran into with a girl (Kim Basinger) they both had relations with.

Here it is, everybody! The fight we all waited so desperately for: Jake LaMotta vs. Rocky Balboa! Except, take about thirty, some-odd years later, and Grudge Match is what we have.

Oh my! So meta!

Oh my! So meta!

Disappointed? I’d sure as hell say so!

Basically, what it is that we have on our hands here is a joke movie that seems like it was solely made so that these two aging, but still-popular stars can get in the ring together, and do what every movie-nerd has been chatting on and on about for years. But, since they are in fact old (Sly is 67, Bob is 70), that means we get a whole bunch of “old people jokes” that include rectal exams, Viagra, boners, menopause, heart-attacks, Alzheimer, and so on and so forth. Which, needless to say, aren’t all that funny, but yet, also aren’t that harmless neither. In fact, I’d say that some of these jokes are a bit funnier than what I’ve seen in many other “old people” comedies; much more so than Stand Up Guys or Last Vegas.

However though, it was once the movie started diving into such comedic-territory like racism, or homophobia, or even rape, is where I began to draw the line and realize that hey, maybe this movie needs to calm it down and get on with the story. And if it isn’t going to get on with its story, then at least get on with its character. And well, hell, if it sure as hell isn’t going to get on with its characters, then it surely might as well get on with the actual boxing match itself. You know? The same boxing match most fans have been desperately clamming over thirty-years for? Yeah, well they do get on with that, but it takes us about two-hours to get there. In the meantime, we’re subject to all sorts of jokes that either hit hard (anything with Kevin Hart and/or Alan Arkin doing what it is that they do best), or miss terribly (the whole idea of making blow job jokes in front of a seven-year-old was a terrible one in the first place, but to have it play out the way it did, just added insult to injury).

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not like I’m saying that this movie isn’t funny, because it can be, it just takes some standard jokes that we’ve seen and/or heard a million-hundred times before, and doesn’t really put a new spin on them. That’s all. And if this were an-hour-and-a-half-movie where all we got was some back-story, and some of this over-the-top comedy, I’d be all fine and dandy with that. However, the movie piles one element, on top of the other, all up until it’s two-hour-mark, and then the movie itself realizes that it actually has to include the boxing match we were all initially promised.

Which, even when it does show up, it’s so poorly-done, you can’t help but to get past its several obvious problems. For instance, it’s very clear who has the better body of the two, but I won’t even bother to dive into that. Instead, I’ll just yammer-on about the obvious difference in weight-classes between De Niro and Stallone and how, in the real world of professional-boxing, this fight would: a) Never happen, and b) not at all go down the way it did. I don’t want to give away what it is that exactly happens in this brawl between these two, as it actually may bring some fun and enjoyment for you peeps out there, but needless to say, the fight goes down the exact way you’d expect a sports movie to have itself go down, and already, it just never works.

Some may say I’m an a-hole for going into a movie like this where two old-as-hell men are battling in the ring and actually got “some” medical clearance for this, expecting some sense of realism, but I say I’m just a guy who wants his entertainment done right. Especially when it concerns two stars like De Niro and Stallone who have both been way, way better than they are here, and not too long ago neither. Stallone hasn’t really been stretching his acting-muscles much lately, but he’s still shown that he’s able to turn that charm on, make us laugh and make us still think of him as the lovable, goofy meathead that he was all those years ago.

I see plenty of timeouts in that little seven-year-old's future.

I see plenty of timeouts in that seven-year-old’s future.

As for De Niro, he’s had better luck in terms of being able to show us what it is that he can still do with dramatic, worthy-enough material; the only problem is, is that it just hasn’t been too often. Sure, he’ll knock it out of the park with something like Silver Linings Playbook, but for every dramatic, subtle-turn he gives, there’s about two or three Fockers sequels just waiting in line. De Niro can usually charm his way into making anything good, and he does his job well here, but after awhile, it becomes painfully clear to us that he’s slumming it for this role, and slumming it hard. The fact that he’s still considered this hardcore womanizer and boozer, and still actually living all of these years later, is a bit ridiculous, but De Niro sells it for all that it’s worth. It just doesn’t work as well as it should for a guy of De Niro’s talents, and it makes me wish he’d just take better work. It’s not like he can’t get it, either!

Perhaps having a dedicated solely to the developing-relationship between the Kid’s son, played very-well by a favorite of mine, Jon Bernthal, and the Kid himself would have been a smarter move on the movie’s part, because it’s quite clear that’s where most of the interesting elements are. It helps that Bernthal is good as the Kid’s son and provides a maybe too-dramatic look at a grown-up man just trying to find a common-ground between he and his estranged daddy, but it also helps that he and De Niro work together, which makes plenty more sense once you realize that Bernthal was in Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, too! See the connection!?!? Woo, I’m good!

Anyway, as good as the two are together, the movie doesn’t really do them much justice and instead, decides to splice their scenes alongside those of Razor’s and his budding-romance with an old-fling of his, played by a still-looking-good Kim Basinger. In all honesty, Basinger and Stallone are good enough together to make their scenes work, but after awhile, it’s obvious that they’re what’s sucking most of the wind out of this movie and eventually, it gets to the point of where you just want someone to throw on the gloves, get in the ring and start pummeling another person. Was that too much to ask for in a boxing movie? I mean, really?!!?

Consensus: Fanboys from all over the globe who have been awaiting for this bout to actually happen, may be a bit disappointed with Grudge Match, and how it takes too long to get where it needs to go, and provides us with too much filler that’s either too desperately funny, or just not funny at all.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Quick! Somebody throw the first punch before the other one keels over!

Quick! Somebody throw the first punch before the other one keels over!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

This Is the End (2013)

If the world is going to end, please let me be surrounded by at least one of these guys.

Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and a whole slew of other celebrities and friends come to a party at James Franco’s house and what’s supposed to be just a normal, get-shitty-with-it bash, all of a sudden turns into something incredibly deadly and dangerous. It’s actually the apocalypse that is occurring, but rather than going outside and running the chance of possibly getting killed, the guys decide to stay in the house in hopes that help will eventually come their way. What actually ends up happening is that the guys get absolutely sick and tired of one another and just pray that they get killed as soon as possible.

In the year 2013, when the Wolf Pack doesn’t even seem concerned with squirting out a laugh or two; Owen and Vince can’t recapture the glory days they once had; and that the only thing funny going on with Melissa McCarthy is how a critic refers to her as a “Hippo”, it’s nice to be reminded that comedy is yes, still alive and well, and best of all: still able to make a person hold their stomach while laughing. Then again, with everybody from the Judd Apatow crew, could I have expected anything less? Seriously, everybody here has, and probably will forever always be funny, but if you put them together in one movie, with one inspired-premise that makes them have to be around each other, and give them plenty of lee-way with who the director is (in this case, it’s both Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg); then you have absolute hilarity that does not disappoint for a single bit.

Hyped it up quite enough for ya?

Somehow, something tells me that the actual party would be more horrific and insane.

Somehow, something tells me that the actual party would be more horrific and insane.

Well good, because this movie is the best comedy of the year so far, and judging by what seems to be coming up in the future, probably the rest of the year. It’s well deserved too because year-after-year, we get a comedy that’s funny, makes us laugh, makes us have a good time, and reminds us why we like going to the movies, but never really does anything that’s worth remembering except for maybe a couple of chuckles here and there. Which means we rarely so often actually get a comedy that’s hilarious, is a hoot-and-a-half, and reminds us why comedies can be enjoyed so much, no matter what they’re about or who’s in them. Oh, and to make that even better; it’s an R-rated comedy at that.

It’s not a comedy that wants to appeal to a mass-audience and it’s sure as hell not a comedy that takes it’s R-rating with a grain of salt; this is a very, very hard-R, and rightfully so because when you have these dudes, playing caricaturized-versions of themselves, you need all the cursing, nudity, grotesqueness, smugness, evil, etc. you can get to really make a person laugh. In this movie’s case; it makes you laugh plenty more than you expected and that’s what I loved so much about this movie. It makes you laugh, and always has you guessing what’s going to come of next with this story, direction, humor, or just what the hell these guys are going to pull out of their sleeves next. After the first 10-15 minutes where we see Franco’s party get destroyed and there actually becomes a big-ass hole in the Earth’s crust, we are just hanging around a bunch of funny dudes that can’t take themselves as seriously as they would like to be portrayed and do whatever the hell they feel like doing next. And by “whatever the hell they feel like doing next”, I do mean, “WHATEVER THE HELL THEY FEEL LIKE DOING NEXT.”

This is an aspect of movies, never mind comedies, that we rarely see and it’s so hard to actually see a movie as blatant and obvious as this to take full-on pleasure in it. And trust me, I don’t mean “blatant” and “obvious” in the bad way either, I mean it in the way that these guys know that they’re making jokes out of themselves, and we know it too, so why not just join in the fun and have a couple of laughs while you’re at it? That’s how I felt throughout this whole movie, as each and every line that these guys dropped, whether it be improv or actual-dialogue written down on a page, just came at my stomach like a knife and had me howling for day’s on end. I’m still laughing thinking of some of the lines, and it’s almost too quotable to even remember. Everything everybody says in this movie, is either hilarious, random, or just so-stupid-it’s-funny, and it makes you wish that more and more comedies had the pride and joy to goof around with itself, almost as much as these guys are able to.

So, yeah, everything you’d expect to see and hear in a comedy coming from these dudes; you will see and hear. There’s plenty of drinking, dick-jokes, drug-induced trips, weed-smoking, violence, jerking-off, uses of the word “fuck”, pop-culture references (even to their own movies), and lines that come and leave so quickly, that you almost feel as if you have to watch it all over again just to see what you missed out on or what you think you heard correctly the first time, only to find out differently the second. It’s what to expect from these guys, and it only gets better, funnier, and more and more unpredictable, almost where it’s anybody’s game for the taking, it’s just time until somebody actually walks away with it all.

That’s why it’s so rare to get a comedy as brilliant and crazy as this that makes you laugh and hold your gut, but also one that still works even when it gets a bit sympathetic and action-y by the end. Since this is a horror-comedy flick, you have to expect there to be plenty of action, explosions, special-effects, and random bouts of violence you don’t see coming, but surprisingly, it works well with the rest of the tone as the movie seems to take itself just seriously enough that we are invested in what happens. It never gets serious to the point of where you need a tissue handy, but it does get a somewhat serious to where you can see that these guys still care about the story and the characters they’ve written, even if they are essentially themselves, just in a more Hollywood-ized version.

However, with top-notch comedy acts like these dudes, you can’t ever expect them to do anything serious or honest; you just have to let them roll and continue to make us laugh, which is exactly what each and every one of them does, in their own ways. James Franco plays up the whole “serious, artsy actor”-aspect to his public-image in the way that he’s obviously been the most successful and most respected out of the whole clan, yet, still acts like an idiot as if he was still playing that cool mofo, Daniel Desario. It’s funny to see Franco, who’s at the height of his career, still be able to make a joke or two at himself (I’m down for any Flyboys reference!), without really going too far that it seems like he’s desperate to gain back the respect from the comedy-crowd. Oh, and “the gay rumors” aren’t put to rest either, so take with that what you will.

Jonah Hill also plays up the whole fact that he got quite the big head around the parks when he got nominated for an Oscar those two years ago, and shows that he’s soften-up a mighty-bit since then. As time goes on though, Hill gets meaner and meaner, while still being able to maintain that softness to him that makes him so loveable, even when he is randomly being a dick. Seth Rogen is probably the one who doesn’t really get the most shine from the spot-light, but I think that was fine as hell for him since he was just sitting-back, relaxing, and directing the hell out of his buds, but also still having a great time while doing so. Even he gets a chance to make fun of himself as well, especially when, early on, a paparazzo says  “You play the same guy in every movie, right?” Classic, classic line.

They even get him to do the laugh. Yay!

"Stop, stop, stop! Let me fetch my make-up before you get this shot. Why? Cause I'm James Franco beitch!!!"

“Stop, stop, stop! Let me fetch my make-up before you get this shot. Why? Cause I’m James Franco beitch!!!”

Jay Baruchel plays what is essentially the Canadian outsider of the group that hasn’t really connected much with any of these guys, and has only lingered around Rogen for so long, that it’s almost became smothering. He’s funny, even though he is typically playing the straight-dude who’s thrown into a do-or-die situation with a bunch of idiots. Fun idiots, but idiots nonetheless. Danny McBride shows up and acts like the self-centered dick who’s upset with cumming everywhere like you’d expect from his latest-bouts with comedy, and shows that raw-edge we all love and know him for (except for maybe in Your Highness, which they even make another reference to as well!). And last, but sure as hell not the muthafuckin’ least is Craig Robinson as the sex-addled, black dude of the group that always yells, sweats, and says dirty things like “get your panties off baby!” Robinson is always hilarious in the shit that he does, which is why it’s such a joy to see him back in his prime, without anybody telling him exactly what to do and how to do it. He just free-balls it, and surprisingly comes up with the biggest laughs of all.

Of course, the movie is cameo-central which, as you could probably tell by the trailer, is hilarious and as unpredictable as the rest of the movie (Michael Cera’s as the coked-up, sex-fiend version of himself had me laughing long before the 20 minute mark). However, the movie doesn’t focus on that as much as you’d expect, and instead stays with these guys throughout the whole movie and shows that even though they have changed, gotten a bit more serious with their careers, and have “sold out” in ways they didn’t expect to when they first started out as young, brass, and ambitious funny-men, that they are still there for one another and will go-to-bat for anyone. Granted, there are on-screen relationships in this movie that aren’t as friendly (Franco and McBride hate each other and show it in probably the funniest scene out of the whole movie), but it’s the under-lining thoughts and feelings that count. You can tell that everybody here loves hanging out with one another and using a movie as an excuse to hang-out and pal-around, but whereas other times, it feels manipulative and cheap; this time, it feels right and deserved. Well deserved, actually. Keep comedy alive, guys. Please!

Consensus: Like with most comedies of this nature, it’s usually more sporadic than it is gut-bustingly hilarious, but with This is the End, it doesn’t matter since the comedy, as well as the rest of the movie, fires on all cylinders, takes no names, leaves none in return, and has you laughing until you seriously don’t know what’s next for these guys to make fun of. Then they make fun of it, and have you laughing even more since they pulled it off, and did it with flying colors.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

No comedy, nor movie, is complete without the signature Craig Robinson yell. Comedy gold.

No comedy, nor movie, is complete without the signature Craig Robinson yell. Comedy gold.

The Five-Year Engagement (2012)

Just wait for Russell Brand to ruin this chick, too.

The Five-Year Engagement is a romantic comedy following Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) as their relationship becomes strained from the continued delays of their wedding an prolonged engagement.

When you get a movie that seems like it’s going to be a mixture of something from Bridesmaids (producers),  Forgetting Sarah Marshall (director), and straight-up Judd Apatow (also producer) comedy, you would think think that this would be laugh out loud funny, right? Ehhh, who knows!

Director Nick Stoller does do what he does best; and that is, keep the laughs going even when the plot seems like it’s starting to float away. There’s definitely a great sense of improv here, which is what makes this cast so damn good; but regardless of whether or not this film’s jokes were actually written, I still laughed many more times here than I did with Stoller’s last flick. Yes, I know a lot of people praise Get Him to the Greek as if it was his end-all, be-all masterpiece, but I guess I’m just not with you on that one.

I also thought that it was cool to see this premise go down and show us something about two people in love, which is something I haven’t seen much in flicks that are about a happy-happy couple such as this. The film shows what it’s like for two people to be together and less of how easy it is to love the other person for all that they are, but at the same time gets into how hard it is to be happy for that other person when they’re doing the things that they’re doing as you’re in total and complete misery. I know this isn’t anything that’s necessarily ground-breaking or inventive to talk about, especially when you talk about half of the rom-coms that have come out within the past 10 years, but it’s still a subject/theme that is done very well here, and I don’t think you see too much of that in rom-coms nowadays.

However, that theme, along with a lot of the jokes, seem to somehow get lost in the shuffle of this 2 hour and 4 minute movie. It seems like every rom-com lately has started to fall into this path where they aren’t just about being a funny, romantic movie, but they also have to have a huge deal of drama in it too, just so it can even things out. The film seems very disjointed in parts, as it was more just a bunch of sketches put together, but they were still funny enough to hold me over and get past it. But by last couple of acts where the film shows Violet and Tom’s relationship starting to crumble down, the film starts to get a bit darker and focus more on the sadness these two have away from each other, rather than focus on some cool moments of comedy. It’s actually a big downer when these two aren’t together because not only does it take a lot of steam out of the comedy, but the idea of these two being perfect for each other is uprooted as well.

Also, did I mention that it’s a 2 hour and 4 minute movie?!? Only Judd Apatow can do comedies like that people so stop trying to hop all over that skill cause it ain’t happenin’, ight? I don’t know why I started talking like that but I guess I got so much love for my homeboy Judd Apatow, I had to back him up. Anywhoo, back to what I was talking about…

Another quibble I had with this flick was that since the film shows 5 years passing, you would think that these characters would change or look a bit older in anyway, but instead, the movie feels more like it’s happening in about 5 months rather than 5 years. Tom gets a caveman beard and Violet gets bangs later on, but other than that, nothing else really changes between these characters and they all sort of just stay the same without any difference in change, look, or act. Then again, not every person in the world needs to change every single day that goes by, but 5 years is a pretty long time.

What I can say about the pairing of Emily Blunt and Jason Segel is that they both have obvious chemistry and use it well with the surprisingly slim amount of scenes they get together. Segel plays more of the straight-man role and Blunt pretty much plays his somewhat goofy, psychiatrist honey and both display a lot of fun working together on-screen, but the film shows more scenes of them apart than together. I wish the film focused more on them just hangin’ out, goofin’ off, or just simply being a loving couple, rather than just worrying they’re going to go next with their relationship and whether or not they’re going to work out. Just be happy and loving you damn kids! Even though you are both older than me!

But since a lot of these scenes are dedicated to what’s going on around these two, the film gets to show more scenes with its awesome supporting cast. Chris Pratt (who looks like Patrick Wilson, if he just got back from an all-you-can-eat buffet) is hilarious as Tom’s bro-bro and steals just about every scene he has; and I probably would have liked to see a whole film dedicated to just him and his wife, Suzie, aka Violet’s sister, aka the hilarious and very sexy Alison Brie. Rhys Ifans is pretty slimy but good as Violet’s charismatic supervisor, Winton Childs. And there are so many others here that are worth mentioning but it’s really just such a huge supporting cast that it’s really hard to name them all.

Consensus: The tone may be a disjointed, the laughs may not be constant, and the run-time may be about 30 minutes too long, but The Five-Year Engagement still entertains enough with it’s very funny laughs, and it’s charming leads, that are backed by an amazing supporting cast that steals the scenes almost every chance they get.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Think Like a Man (2012)

Whoever knew that the dude who hosts family feud is a lady killer.

The film is based on four friends who have their love lives shaken up after the women they are pursuing buy Harvey’s book and start taking his advice to heart. When the band of brothers find out that they have been betrayed by one of their own, they conspire to use the book’s teachings to turn the tables.

Steve Harvey is a dude that I think is pretty funny and cool but never did I know that he had this much shit on men, or even African American men for that matter. This man is not only betraying all men but also his own race as well. Harvey better keep on checking behind his back from now on.

Instead of telling off the whole self-help book for a whole 2 hours, the film revolves around a bunch of people who get into relationships and do the normal thing that people in relationships usually do: go out, fall in love, get into a big fight, break-up, then get back together. This is the formula for almost every rom-com and just because this one is based on an actual best-seller, doesn’t mean that there’s much new to see here either. However, it is still a pleasant comedy none the less. I won’t lie, I definitely did have a couple of pretty good laughs here and there and what liked most about this film’s humor was that it had a lot of scenes where guys would just constantly mess with each other about their woman and love lives. It’s always fun to see this kind of stuff be portrayed in movies because with guys, it happens all the time and is usually very funny for the guys that aren’t getting picked on.

The problem is that it can only go so far because once these “romantic” stories start up, things start to fall apart for this film real quickly. It’s biggest problem here is that since there are about 4 or 5 stories here, that means we have 4 o 5 stories that basically all play out the same, exact way with little, different variations here and there. The relationships starts out exactly like each person wanted, but then the males start to realize that “their game” is being taken from them, courtesy of Harvey’s book. Therefore, they go out and find a way to turn the tables on the ladies and give them what they want and tell them what they want to hear, even if they don’t do what they say in the first place. This gets repetitive after awhile as we see almost every story just turn out the same as the one before it. It doesn’t matter if you watch rom-coms or not, you can pretty much guess what’s going to happen to these characters and their relationships just by noticing the formula here.

This probably wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the really lame-ass characters that are all pretty much one-dimensional with the exception of a few. These characters get put into these categories early on in the film and then we see how they interact with the opposite sex, and that’s pretty much all of the charisma and development to them. Sometimes this film will try and correct this mistake by giving us a background check on some of these characters like when Romany Malco’s character starts to miss his R&B band that he used to play with, or like how Jerry Ferrara’s character can’t get rid of his geekdom, or that for some odd reason, Terrence J can’t get past the fact that he’s a momma’s boy and she isn’t going to appreciate anybody he brings home. Honestly, none of these characters have much going for them and as much as these stars may try their hardest to make it work, the thin script just sort of ends up taking over.

The characters that I did like and could at least appreciate were also the best performances in this cast, which isn’t saying much but still, it’s worth some sort of praise. I liked Michael Ealy a lot as the chef with dreams, Dominic. Ealy has always been a pretty solid actor for the longest time but keeps on getting put in crap that doesn’t show what he can do with his depth but I think his performance here is pretty good and gives us a character that is easy to like and identify with since we all want to do something with our lives and achieve our dreams one day. Just like me, maybe one day I can hope of being the next Roger Ebert. Then again, it’s very unlikely.

The other great performance was from fellow Philadelphian, Kevin Hart, who plays the “happily” divorced Cedric. Hart is so funny here with this material because he has this great comedic timing where he can make a script like this even more ridiculous than it already is. Hart has always been funny but he gets the biggest laughs here and also has the best character that obviously is bitter towards his divorce, but every time he shows up on-screen, he pretty much just steals it from everybody else who shares it with him. Hopefully, this film may get him some more attention and place him in better comedies because with his charm and over-the-top small guy shtick, he can go pretty far.

Consensus: Think Like a Man has a couple of good laughs, mainly because of Kevin Hart and many others in this large cast, but what really takes away from this flick is its predictable and cliched solutions, that wouldn’t be so bad in the first place if these characters weren’t so damn one-dimensional in the first place.

5/10=Rental!!