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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Rebecca Olejniczak

The House (2017)

Cautionary tale?

Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) have been planning their whole lives for their daughter’s moment she goes off to college. However, when the scholarship money falls though, they have to think of something and something quick, which eventually involves their close buddy Frank (Jason Mantzoukas). In other words, they put their brains together and think of something so crazy, so barbaric, and so insane, that hell, it just might work. That’s right, an underground casino where adults from all over the little town can come together, get wild, get crazy, throw money at the walls, and have a grand old time, as if they were young, free and without any damn responsibilities anymore. The only issue is that, for Scott, Kate, Frank, and well, everybody else, they are old and have something resembling responsibilities, making this casino a much more dangerous and scary place than any of them ever wanted it to become.

Homage to Scorsese? Or once again, just improv? Who knows.

It’s crazy to think a comedy starring two of the best, funniest, and brightest talents in the game, with plenty others surrounding them, would come and land with an absolute thud like the House did, but unfortunately, that’s what happened. It wasn’t screened for critics, it was barely advertised, and oh yeah, it didn’t really do well at the box-office, even despite both Ferrell and Poehler still being draws. What happened?

Well, the short is that it’s not a very good comedy.

But the long is that it’s just like every other studio comedy out there made in the world in that it features barely any story, cohesion, or interesting-writing, but instead, features a bunch of funny, incredibly talented people, just making everything up as they go along. Normally, I’d be disappointed with this, but considering that we literally just got the same thing a few weeks ago with Rough Night, it’s hard to really expect much else; without having to actually put any thought or effort into how these movies play-out, how the jokes build, and eventually, play out, the general idea is that you get a bunch of funny people around, put a camera in front of them, film, and let the magic happen.

Magic can occasionally happen in cases such as these and even in the House, there are some slight glimmers of true fun comedy. But the issue is that the laughs and fun happen so very few and far between one that, even at 80 minutes, it still feels like a stretch. Hell, you’d think that with such a short movie to begin with, that we wouldn’t have to sit through much and make this feel like more of a slog, but somehow, that’s exactly what happens. And yes, it’s exactly what happens when you don’t really put much of any effort into anything, other than getting a solid cast of funny people together.

Then again, maybe I’m putting too much thought into a movie like the House.

Children. They’re the future and why we do the crazy shit that we do.

Then again, maybe I’m not. Maybe I just appreciate it when a movie with as funny and as promising as a premise as the House, actually delivers on not just the funny, but also the promise, and gives us a, get this, a solid comedy. It doesn’t have to change the world, it doesn’t have to break down any barriers, and it sure as hell doesn’t have to be perfect – all it has to do is be funny and feel like it was at least written more than half-way through. The House doesn’t feel like that, though, and it not only suffers because of it, but so does everybody else, too.

And yes, this is to say that Poehler, Ferrell, Mantzoukas, and so many other well-known, talented and reliably funny people here who show up and give it their all, are indeed funny, but at times, it can’t help but feel like their talents are being wasted. Literally, not a single one of them play an actual character that makes sense, or at the very least, works in this movie’s small world; sometimes, even the bittiest kind of character-development can go a long way into helping us realize just why a person is why they are and why watching them is so funny to begin with. It’s simple movie-writing 101 and honestly, I shouldn’t even have to state this, but unfortunately, movies like the House exist and continue to come out, therefore, making it all the more understandable to bring up why a script matters.

Even for, yes, a comedy.

Consensus: Although everyone tries and can occasionally be funny, the House doesn’t live up to the promise of its premise, nor does it really have all that many laughs to help guide along its incredibly short 80-minute run-time.

4.5 / 10

What? Is there anything else you ought to do with money?

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

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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

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

No Detox, but hey, at least we get a musical biopic!

Growing up as just a bunch of young bucks in Compton, Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.), all wanted to make a difference as the hip-hop group N.W.A. Sure, they wanted to rap, make money, party hard, and have a great time, but what they really wanted from life, was to have their voices be heard and, in some ways, maybe even change the world. Well, when music manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) gets ahold of them, that begins to happen. With the release of their seminal album, Straight Outta Compton, N.W.A. became one of the most notorious and controversial groups; most of it had to do with the fact that they’re songs were great, but also because they were so racy, that they attracted plenty of attention from law enforcement who didn’t appreciate their songs about police brutality and violence. But even though they were on top of the world and absolutely loving it, too, personal problems began to come into the fray where certain members weren’t getting as much money as they were promised, respect, or wanted to do something else with their careers.

"Yo Dre?"

“Yo Dre?”

Basically, what happens to every band ever formed.

Everything about Straight Outta Compton is as generic as you can get with a musical biopic. The rusted, ragged roots; the first taste of fame; the money; the expensive cars; the lavish mansions; the wildly kick-ass bangers; the tension between members; the idea of “selling out; the break-up; and of course, the eventual reconciliation are all fine points of the musical biopic that are covered here and even then some. In other words, Straight Outta Compton is nothing more than a dramatization of a Behind the Music episode and while that sounds terrible, director F. Gary Gray surprisingly keeps it away from being so.

I say “surprisingly” not because it’s hard to make a musical biopic enjoyable; in all honesty, all you really need is good music, good acting, and a good pace, and everything’s all fine and dandy despite the conventionality of it all. But the reason I say “surprisingly” is because having seen Gray’s past movies, I’m surprised to see that he didn’t lose any sort of conviction with this story and how it handles each and every bit of it. While it would have been easy to just end Straight Outta Compton as soon as N.W.A. breaks up and fill-in the blanks with post-script (as most musical biopics do), Gray takes it one step further and focuses on what happened to each and every member after the break-up. It’s a wise choice on Gray’s part because half of the story of N.W.A. is how they went from being the best of friends, to openly dissing and ripping one another apart in harsh, but legendary diss-tracks, that nobody in their right minds would ever forgive somebody over.

And this is all to say that the movie is nearly two-and-a-half hours long and honestly, it does not need to be.

Though, the interesting aspect behind the long-winding run-time is even though it’s clearly long and definitely needs to be trimmed-down, the movie moves so quickly and enjoyably, that it’s hardly noticeable. There were plenty of moments in the later-half of the movie where I felt like they could have definitely wrapped things up more efficiently than they did, but all in all, the movie never had me checking my watch. Gray keeps the story moving and constantly interesting, even if it does seem to cover the same ground and get a little phony after awhile.

But like I said, it’s a musical biopic that went through all of the same hoops and holes that most others do, and still, it felt fresh, if only because it was actually fun. Even when the hearts and emotions get heavy by the end, the movie still never loses its sense of entertainment; which is to say that it’s a treat for anyone who has been clamoring for this story to be brought to the big screen. There are the occasional flip-ups where its obvious that Dr. Dre and Ice Cube had some influence over which light a certain occurrence was shown in, but overall, it seems to paint a full picture that makes you feel like you know why this group was so important to the world of music, why they didn’t last, and why their own respective members deserved to be praised until the end of time.

"What up, Cube?"

“What up, Cube?”

Hell, it’s even better than some documentaries I’ve seen.

And while I’m sort of on the subject of Dr. Dre and Ice Cube producing this, it should be noted that they did a nice job of getting a good cast in these roles, even if none of them really have to stretch themselves too hard. Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., is an absolute spitting-image of his daddy that you may have to wipe your eyes every so often to remind yourself that it isn’t actually Ice Cube up there on the screen, but his living, breathing, walking, talking and rapping sperm. Corey Hawkins is also a good fit as Dre, not because he looks a little like him (even with a slight hint of Asian), but because he handles the material well when we see the “true” Dre come out. And then, as Eazy-E, the heart and soul of the group, Jason Mitchell is very good and perhaps the most impressive of the young fellas, showing a huge level of depth to a person who would sometimes be classified as a “goof-ball” and all around “lady’s man”.

But whenever these guys are up on the screen next to Paul Giamatti, there’s almost no comparison. Clearly, Giamatti’s the most skilled actor out of everyone here and he shows that off, each and every scene he gets, because he’s constantly evolving into a human being you don’t want to believe exists, but sadly does. All problems with Jerry Heller aside, the movie paints him in a portrait that’s fair; Heller himself has even on occasion spoke of how he’s “just a man for money”, but the movie never makes him out to be sniveling, evil person that most of these movies like to paint the manager as being. He’s just another guy in California trying to make a quick and easy buck, no matter at what costs; sometimes, he’s nice about it, sometimes, he’s not. But he’s a businessman through and through, and Giamatti plays every side of that perfectly.

But poor Suge Knight! What did that guy ever do!

Consensus: Conventional and overlong, Straight Outta Compton feels like it could fall apart at the seams, but somehow, director F. Gary Gray keeps it all together in an entertaining way that makes it feel like the story of N.W.A. is, once and for all, complete.

7 / 10

"We've got somethin' to say."

“We’ve got somethin’ to say.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz