Rough Night: Movie Man Jackson

Rick James said it best: Cocaine is a hell of a drug. Ten years ago at George Washington University, Jess (Scarlett Johansson), Alice (Jillian Bell), Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and Blair (Zoë Kravitz) become lifelong friends during their freshman year. 10 years later, everyone’s in the real world living their own lives. Jess is striving to become a city official, Alice is educating little kids, Frankie is taking up activism, and Blair is working to get full custody of her son.

This doesn’t leave them time to hang out. But because Jess is getting married to fiancé, Peter (Paul W. Downs), this is the perfect time for the college foursome, plus Jess’ Australian study abroad friend, Pippa (Kate McKinnon), to get together again for a wild bachelorette weekend. The city of Miami is the playground for clubbing, cocaine, and a nightcap that involves a stripper. Too much of a good time leaves the hired stud dead, and the women struggle with what to do with the body. It’s a Rough Night, indeed, that can soon turn into a rough life if the ladies are convicted of involuntary murder.

Are in the midst of a female ensemble comedy boom? Bridemaids came many years ago, but in the last year films like Ghostbusters and Bad Moms arrived within weeks of each other. And now, Rough Night is here, with a somewhat similar looking-film in Girls Trip on the upcoming horizon. Rough Night is certainly the darkest of the bunch, put together by Broad City directors/writers Paul W. Downs and Lucia Aniello. While the cast possesses the chemistry to make for a good summer comedy, Rough Night is a shot that goes down a little rough but isn’t impossible to take.

For the first going, Rough Night takes most of its cues and inspirations from the aforementioned Paul Feig feature and the first Hangover, placing its subjects in a glitzy locale right before the knot’s getting tied for some grown up debauchery. It’s all pretty basic, and pretty forgettable. Once the instigating moment comes, the movie does kick up a tad. While the direction of the story and twist is very predictable, a fun and bizarre side-plot is introduced during it that becomes the absolute best part of the comedy.

In an ensemble comedy showcasing big names in the genre such as Bell and McKinnon, it’s actually a male who steals the show and is responsible for the laughs the elicit the biggest response. In a bit of a gender expectation swap, Paul W. Downs plays the worried, “boring” bachelor male in Peter, with the joke being that his wine party is much more lowkey and simplistic than his fiance’s. And that is only the tip of the iceberg, which eventually leads to Peter making a “Sad Astronaut” mad dash to Miami hopped on Xanax and Redbull to find out what’s going on with his woman. It’s a very much absurd B plot, yet somehow works thanks to Downs’ timing, delivery, and facial expressions.

Unfortunately, the female fivesome doesn’t reach the comedic heights Downs and his character’s literal journey does. They all do a great job with chemistry, general banter and even heavier drama moments; they’re highly believable as a close-knit group of women who have a lot of history together. Jillian Bell feels like an acquired taste at this point; her particular style does little for yours truly. Zoë Kravitz and Scarlett Johansson, even in basic straight (wo)men roles, feel somewhat miscast. The “best” lines belong to Ilana Glazer and Kate McKinnon, the latter hamming it up ever so slightly in an Australian accent.

Perhaps it’s the dissimilar tones that exist in Rough Night that do not allow it, and the main characters by extension, to be as funny as it could be. Definitely Hangover III-esque vibes at times, where the viewer doesn’t know if this is a complete ensemble romp, or a darker comedy-drama trying to have the occasional funnybone jolts.

Whatever the case may be, Rough Night isn’t a completely awful night. But highly doubtful it will be a night one will look fondly upon years down the line.

C-

Photo credits go to etonline.com, slate.com, and elitedaily.com

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47 Meters Down: Movie Man Jackson

If you’ve got to do this to win back an ex, he/she simply isn’t worth it. Two sisters in Lisa and Kate (Mandy Moore, Claire Holt) are vacationing in Mexico. Lisa has recently come off of a breakup, but still has feelings for her ex, Stewart, who broke things off because he found Lisa boring.

What better way to make Stewart jealous? By cage diving in a shark-infested ocean while taking pics of the expedition, of course! Despite Lisa’s reluctance and rightful unease, she agrees to do it. After a few calm and fun minutes, the cage breaks away from its rope, sending the sisters spiraling down to the ocean floor. Now, 47 Meters Down with limited radio contact, air supply, and numerous hidden sharks, Lisa and Kate must do whatever’s possible to stay alive and return to the surface.

After the success of The Shallows, it appears that we could possibly be entering a phase in which shark movies are coming back to the big screen during the summer months. Enter 47 Meters Down, a movie that was supposed to go straight-to-DVD last August from Dimension Films, yet was purchased and saved for wide release this summer by Entertainment Studios films due to the success of that Blake Lively vehicle. While there’s baseline genre thrills, 47 Meters Down takes only an average bite in delivering a harrowing tale.

47 Meters Down‘s main problems start with the script, penned by director Johannes Roberts. Particularly the first 10-15 minutes, which set up why the two females feel compelled to do what is ultimately their undoing. The reason, stated before in the first paragraph, is extremely shallow and stupid, considering that we as the audience never see the ex-boyfriend Lisa is referring to. He only exists in a response to a text sent from Lisa when she tells him how much fun Mexico is and how much better it would be if he were there. His paraphrased text? “That’s really cool…I’m moving out my stuff tonight.” He’s totally worth trying to win back.

The few efforts to flesh out the two lead roles do not work, be it via early movie cringey dialogue, or mid-movie “sister-talk.” Mandy Moore and Claire Holt do their best—they’re not insufferable and they’re good at screaming and hyperventilating (Moore, especially) —but with lazy writing, neither is charismatic or talented enough to overcome script deficiencies and make audience truly care for their characters here. Every other person in 47 Meters Down is disposable or inconsequential, aside from Matthew Modine who exists to deliver status updates and key information via radio.

47 Meters Down can’t completely be dismissed, however, because it mostly gets the things right in a shark movie that audiences come to see. While not quite up to the technical quality of better Great White features, Roberts directs most moments and shark attacks with skill, and the addition of rapidly declining oxygen tanks adds some tension. The sharks look very believable, and many different types of shots are used to convey the disorienting and dark depths of the ocean. Most shark movies don’t go as “deep” as 47 does, so that in itself is sort of unique. Although predictable when it is first brought up, there’s a cool final act “twist” that gives some life to the film. Unfortunately, 47 ends flat, with no aftermath follow-up of what comprised most of the runtime.

 

47 Meters Down is OK enough to not be deep-sixed into oblivion, getting by with staple shark movie thrills. But, it’s better to wait and watch this in the format Dimensions Films originally intended.

C

Photo credits go to variety.com, dailymail.co.uk, and movieclips.com.

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It Comes At Night: Movie Man Jackson

So…what is It? Whatever it is, it’s best to stay inside. The world has suffered some unknown catastrophe, one in which it is easy for people to contract some mysterious disease that reduces individuals to a gray, sickly, unresponsive zombie-like state. Living in the woods is a family of three—patriarch Paul (Joel Edgerton), matriarch Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr). They only go out when absolutely necessary, and rarely at night.

The whole structure of the family gets thrown out of consistency when an intruder, Will (Christopher Abbott) comes into the family’s home. After initial distrust, Paul and company show Will hospitality when it’s determined all he’s looking for is a little food and shelter for his own family—wife Kim (Riley Keough) and son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner). However, hospitality eventually turns into hostility when doubt begin to creep into each person’s head as to how safe they ultimately are. Whatever’s out there at night isn’t comparable to what’s going on in this home.

It Comes At Night. Surely, that means that there’s something in this film that terrorizes the main characters at night, right? Well…not exactly. The latest feature from the little studio that could in A24 has become quite the polarizing one, critics appreciating it yet audiences being let down by it, evidenced by a “D” Cinemascore. Is it deserving of all of this audience criticism, much of it seemingly founded on bait and switch trailers?

From a production standpoint, It Comes At Night is damn impressive, possibly even spectacular. Sophomore director Trey Edward Shults (Krisha) clearly is a rising name in the genre of horror, possessing a great eye and technique for all that unnerves. And it isn’t blood and gore and demons and whatnot. Along with cinematographer Drew Daniels, the most unforgettable moments are ones like where only an electric lamp illuminates the path that Travis walks through in the isolated cabin, and lingering shots of an ominous red door. Plenty of long and methodical takes exist in this movie that only amp up the claustrophobia, along with a minimalist score courtesy of composer Brian McOmber.

It Comes At Night comes from a very personal place and experiences of of writer/director Shults. The underlying trepidation, and general unease of how the two families—almost tribe-like—interact with each other comes from personal experiences and inspirations of its director. It feels fresh. Humanity is the main question posed with a family dynamic essentially asking “How far would you go to save yours?” “Can a person go too far in doing so?” The ending, much talked about, works for me when looking at it through the prism of family and sticking by one another. Hopefully without spoiling, I compare it to a parent who deep down knows their kid is wrong in some matter, but refusing to believe so despite all of the evidence points against him or her.

All that being said, It Comes At Night is a mystery that mostly does well in leaving matters up to the viewer. This is a world that the characters know little about, as do we as the audience. Still, the storytelling and details deliberately left out can sometimes be frustrating. Certain plot points are introduced, but never go anywhere beyond their initial introduction. Some of the final act comes off as a little too vague and shapeless. Not a complete detriment to the film, but, even just one to two more moments of clarity for these respective parts in the film would be beneficial to the finale.

The cast works wonders together. Joel Edgerton is rapidly becoming one of those actors who can seemingly do no wrong, gravitating to smaller, ambiguous pictures. He’s a forceful alpha father presence in this one, who co-exists with Christopher Abbott, also playing an alpha patriarch. Scenes the two share together are full of tension. Can’t diminish the work Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keogh, and Kelvin Harrison, Jr contribute, either. Granted, there aren’t really any character arcs or characters to really latch onto, but this isn’t a story about characters; rather, it’s about people and basic human nature when confronted with massive unknowns.

Not as completely polished as it could be, nevertheless, It Comes At Night is an overall strong, well-put together and acted feature. Freaks may not come out at night, but fear and paranoia certainly do and that’s more than enough here.

B

Photo credits go to indiewire.com, highsnobiety.com, and cinemavine.com.

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The Mummy: Movie Man Jackson

Power isn’t given. It’s taken. In ancient Egypt resides Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). She has power, but she desires more, and goes about attaining it in a sinister way. She comes close to doing so, but is thwarted at the last moment, mummified into a tomb for her transgressions, and cast out of the ancient land.

Fast forward to present day Mesopotamia, aka Iraq, where soldier-of-fortune Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and accomplice Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are looking for the next big score to sell to the black market. After surviving a battle, they come across the massive tomb of Ahmanet. Unwittingly, Nick releases her back into this world, and as a result, becomes a target for the resurrected princess who looks to complete the sacrifice she was unable to thousands of years ago.

Peace and love and universes, man. That’s what it feels like in 2017, with Marvel leading the way, DC playing aggressive catch-up, while Warner Bros (on a vastly smaller scale despite ironically featuring two of the biggest monsters in the world) and Universal feeling like they’ve got the IP to launch their own interconnected offerings. Just in case one didn’t know, Universal wants to make sure it’s known that The Mummy is the launching pad of the “Dark Universe” by saying so before The Mummy even begins in Universal font. It’s a bit much. But the end feeling walking out of The Mummy is that of a competent, yet somewhat disposable, summer blockbuster.

The Mummy 2017 serves as director Alex Kurtzman’s (People Like Us) first big-budget feature. He’s got a little bit of a difficult task in not only reestablishing a major monster character, but a larger universe. He mostly succeeds in this, at least in the first two-thirds. Though getting off to a bit of a rough start with some overlong story exposition (more of a writing fault than anything), Kurtzman generally settles into a directorial groove, with the highlights being some thrillingly fun action sequences peppered throughout adjoined by a solid score from the popular Brian Tyler. There’s been better CGI in summer blockbusters, but what’s found here gets the job done. One caveat: Stay away from the 3D offering, as it does little to nothing to enhance the overall presentation.

Surprisingly, the movie handles its juggling of a singular world along with introducing bigger matters fairly well. But, by the end, The Mummy bookends itself with more obvious exposition and promises of “a world of gods and monsters,” just in case it wasn’t known already. A simple mid-credits scene may have worked just as efficiently. Any attempts at emotional or intellectual investment fails to register much of a pulse, such as an inorganic, hot-shotted romance that seems to be exist only because the two leads are good-looking. Humor is hit and miss—sometimes a really big hit—but other times undercutting what intensity may be there.

There aren’t many legitimate mega movie stars that exist nowadays, but Tom Cruise still serves as one of them. He’s playing a role that many people could play in Nick Morton, but Cruise still brings some excitement if only because he’s Tom Cruise, running and delivering comedic lines like only he can. However, he’s got the same problem that Jake Johnson (takes a while to realize anytime ‘Nick’ is said in The Mummy, they’re not referring to Jake), has in this movie: They’re playing themselves, which I don’t think The Mummy is going for. Johnson’s character in particular, though occasionally funny, would fit better in a different production, like a Halloween episode of New Girl or something.

Little can be said for the person Annabelle Wallis stars as. Initially appearing to be an interesting, do-it-herself character, her character is ultimately revealed to a basic damsel archetype with no chemistry had with Cruise. Two standout performances come from Russell Crowe and Sofia Boutella. The trailers have done a great at hiding who exactly is Crowe, and the reveal as to how he fits into this upcoming world may be the best aspect of The Mummy. It’s excellent casting and perhaps the biggest reason to get excited about this future universe and a few age-old monsters. Boutella’s been knocking it out of the park recently in Kingsman and Star Trek: Beyond; this role doesn’t allow her to be as physical as those, but her presence is notable.

 

There’s absolutely nothing new or overly impressive hiding in the tomb of The Mummy. But for a 110 minute feature in the heat of the blockbuster season, there are worse fates than being a middling big-budget film made for eating popcorn during and not thinking much about afterwards.

C+

Photo credits go to flickeringmyth.com, impawards.com, indiewire.com, and cheatsheet.com.

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Wonder Woman: Movie Man Jackson

Men, who needs them? Growing up on the world of Themyscira is young Diana, daughter of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson). This world of Themyscira is inhabited by nothing but females. Females who are Amazon warriors and quite adept at defending their home turf. They’re in a relative time of peace, and as a result, the Queen doesn’t wish for her daughter to be trained as a warrior, but rather to enjoy her childhood despite the daughter ever so wanting to get her hands dirty. In secret, Diana trains with her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright) in preparation for the end of peace.

That time comes when World War II soldier Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) washes up on their home world telling stories of the horrors of the war he’s been fighting. Believing WWI to be the fault of God of War, Ares, mature Diana (Gal Gadot) sets out to extinguish him and bring eternal peace to the world, even it it means leaving Themyscira behind forever.

Electra and Catwoman. That’s it as far as super-heroines go as it pertains to getting their own features in the last 15 years. Yours truly doesn’t need to summarize the quality—or lack thereof—of those films. Wonder Woman arrives carrying the sizable burden of possibly ushering in more female protagonist superhero blockbusters depending on its quality. Even more of a burden than that is placed on Wonder Woman in the hopes that this is the film that course corrects the DC Extended Universe out of dark beginning waters. So, there’s only one question. Is it good? Absolutely.

Make no mistake, Wonder Woman is the basic superhero origin story. But, it’s the type of story needed when developing a massive, interconnected universe and getting audiences to care about its heroes who make it up. Its basic superhero story does play out a little more uniquely than most of its contemporaries. First, from a visual aspect, utilizing World War I and London and seeing a vibrant island world such as Themyscira in all of its gold hues and lushness simply makes for a more compelling watch, even before director Patty Jenkins (Monster) showcases the equally compelling action sequences.

Second, the fish-out-of-water approach works brilliantly, and more importantly, it allows Wonder Woman to distance itself from the “it’s so doom and gloom” complaints many rightfully had with most of the DCEU’s features up to this point. There’s legitimate comedy, and it comes off as organic, instead of feeling written in at the last moment. Aside from a noticeable period in the middle third, the movie rarely comes to a complete halt in its pace.

As a whole, Wonder Woman is endearing, partly because Prince isn’t written as a perfect, infallible character, but also, because Gal Gadot makes her so. Once again, her amazing work as the titular character is a reminder that the Internet more often than not needs to just let casting decisions play out before casting judgement on them. Gadot’s come a long way from Giselle in the Fast and Furious movies. She owns the screen, and is asked to convey a fair deal of emotion, all done in convincing fashion. Just as importantly, she looks the part.

The job she does here is that spectacular that it is a struggle to consider who else could play Diana Prince. After Gadot, Pine brings a lot; carrying the film’s message about humanity not being perfect, but very salvageable. The chemistry the two possess between each other, and among the bit characters played by Ewen Bremmer and Saïd Taghmaoui, is infections. As for the villain, akin to similar comic origin movies, the adversary—in this case, adversaries—leave a little to be desired. They’re adequate, but extremely basic stock cutouts that never feel like a true threat to our hero.

In Wonder Woman, DC finally manages to corral a fun and emotional origins story together. Maybe all it takes is a strong woman to make things better.

B+

Photo credits go to dailydot.com, comicbook.com, and dccomics.com

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: Movie Man Jackson

Loud noises! After coming together to save the galaxy the first time, Guardians of the Galaxy Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) this find themselves assisting an intergalactic species known as the Sovereigns, taking down a dangerous beast in exchange for Gamora’s recently captured sister, the treacherous Nebula (Karen Gillan).

A misguided theft attempt by one of the Guardians (guess who) leads the Soverigns to come after the fivesome, who look to be dead-to-rights until a mysterious figure comes out of nowhere to save them from instadeath. Who is this figure? Only Quill’s/Star-Lord’s long lost and enigmatic father, Ego (Kurt Russell), who whisks away Quill, Gamora, and Drax to his home planet in an effort to ingratiate himself to his son and friends, while leaving Groot and Rocket behind to repair their broken spaceship. Even split up, the Guardians are still wanted, and the Sovereigns send Yondu to collect them all for proper punishment.

At this writing, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 has been covered at length by many a great bloggers and websites. Yours truly can’t add too much to what has already been stated, but I’ll do my best. The first Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t supposed to succeed at the level it did; looking destined to be Marvel’s first true whiff (critically and commercially) in their MCU.

First trailer thoughts: Who in the blue hell are these jabronis? What is with all of this retro music in a comic book movie? To the tune of the almost 774 million worldwide and rave reviews, GoTG is hailed by a noticeable size of Marvel fans as the best the universe has to offer. A significant part of this feeling was simply due to the fact that we had never seen anything like it before in a comic book feature. To an extent, GoTG V2, possibly more than most sequels, was doomed to underwhelm more than most, not from a financial perspective, but from a quality one.

Guardians Vol 2 isn’t a complete rehashing of the movie that came before. James Gunn, returning to both direct and write the sequel, is more interested this time around with delving deeper into what makes the characters who they are. In particular, Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, and surprisingly, Yondu are standouts, and respectively, Pratt, Saldana, the voice of Cooper, and Rooker get to deliver some very good character moments, the type of moments that will lead this franchise into the future.

But, it is a little disappointing to see Bautista chained to the comedic role for much of the movie’s runtime. Drax, a standout before, gets the biggest laughs but also the most attempts to do so. Whereas before he was the perfect blend of ass-kicker and humor, the percentage is much more weighted towards comedy this time, neutering the character somewhat. Baby Groot does one note extremely well. Other supporting characters, like Mantis, get lost in the shuffle, while Russell, though a figure with purpose, is reduced to exposition more times than not.

And as a whole, Guardians Vol 2 feels overstuffed from a character standpoint. Or maybe it’s the endless Ravagers, gold-painted, bland Sovereigns, and five post-credits scenes that make me feel as such. Story wise, aimless is the word yours truly would use for the first hour. The script seems content to have the characters spit jokes at one another, or talk a bit about unspoken chemistry. It’s clear where this is going and what the final act is going to consist of, but it takes pretty long in getting there. The importance of family, whether blood or makeshift, is the theme (Guardians of the Furious? The Fate of the Guardians?). And as stated, there are a few good, even poignant, moments, but also a lot of yelling and angst that becomes a little old after a while.

The action still serves as a solid point, and the vibrant, trippy colors make for a good palette. We know that the Guardians and Doctor Strange, along with every major Marvel player, will interact in Infinity War, but consider it a missed opportunity, Marvel, if the Sorcerer and the ultimate ragtag bunch don’t get extended time together in their respective sequels. From a set piece standpoint, not much actually stands out in the way the chase scene, prison breakout, and “Guardians assemble” moment did in the original. Gunn’s direction isn’t bad or mediocre, but just uninteresting.

Uninteresting kind of sums up the overall thoughts that yours truly has of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Doesn’t mean I don’t want want more adventures, just not hooked on this particular one.

C

Photo credits go to hollywoodreporter.com, movieweb.com, and cinemavine.com.

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The Dinner: Movie Man Jackson

This stuff never happens during brunch. The Lohman family—politician Stan (Richard Gere), his wife, Katelyn (Rebecca Hall), Stan’s brother Paul (Steve Coogan), and his wife, Claire (Laura Linney), are getting together one night for dinner at an upscale restaurant. It’s a busy time for Stan, who’s hoping to get a bill passed and retain his public office role.

But, matters need to be attended to that involve the respective sons of these families. They’ve done something that can land not only themselves in hot water, but undo all of the goodwill and public standing the Lohman family has. Over the course of a few hours, a five course meal is served, but that’s merely a backdrop for a conversation to ascertain what actions—if any—should be taken with their children.

First World Problems? White Privileged? These could also be titles for The Dinner, albeit pointed ones. Director Oren Moverman takes a look at a family in disarray, while asking some questions about parenting, affluenza, and even mental health. These are elements that could make up a compelling movie overall, but, The Dinner isn’t really so.

It’s no surprise that The Dinner is driven by dialogue. Dinner tables have often served for many uncomfortable conversations, and Moverman nails that quality very easily, using the upscale locale and dim lighting to create a stuffy atmosphere. The atmosphere, pretentious and artificial, comes to serve as the representation of the bulk of the four characters. At the actual table is where The Dinner is most intriguing and a tasty bite.

 

Whenever The Dinner leaves the table—not literally, but figuratively—is where the film loses its storytelling and structure. Based off a Dutch novel with the same name, I imagine certain plot points and moments come off better in written word compared to the silver screen. As stated, the mental health of one particular character is a pretty important piece of this film, and at times, the story is told from this character’s viewpoint.

There are a lot of prolonged flashbacks that are designed to give context to characters, but end up breaking the pace and flow. Maybe Moverman was going for a disjointed approach to mirror the mental health issues the character was having, narration is occasionally used as well, but it becomes hard to follow. One flashback in particular involving a Gettysburg memorial visit may be up there as one of the more painful scenes in recent memory, making one question why it was left in the final cut (and it goes on and on and on). The Dinner also seems to struggle a little with point of view, initially beginning with one character, but switching to another in the final act. With that said, the ending isn’t bad, but it would have been nice to see a little more aftermath of it.

The Dinner may be arriving in theaters with little fanfare, but, it does possess an impressive cast to boot. Sadly, Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall can do much more than what they’re gifted with here, which essentially amounts to entitled ice queens. But, each does get a moment or two in the last act to show off their talents. Much of the meat belongs to Richard Gere and Steve Coogan. Gere should run for office; he’s easy to buy into as a politician, and is the one character out of the foursome who garners some sympathy from the viewing audience. Coogan, who may be known more for comedy in some circles, does good as darker details are revealed about his Paul. But the biggest issue may be simply finding one person to truly side with in this morality story, and no amount of solid acting can overcome this.

All of this leaves The Dinner feeling like it should have been prepared more in the kitchen before being served on a plate. Some aspects on it are tasty, but most others are overcooked/undercooked.

D+

Photo credits go to IMDB.com, YouTube.com, and Ew.com

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How to be a Latin Lover: Movie Man Jackson

One gets what they work for, not what they wish for. Growing up at a young age and believing that his father’s hard work got their family absolutely nothing, Maximo (Eugenio Derbez) makes a decision to never have to work a day in his life. How will he go about this, exactly? By finding an extremely wealthy and older woman. He’s achieved his goal by courting and marrying Peggy (Renée Taylor), which lasts 25 years before Maximo is kicked to the curb. 

Now in his 40’s with no job skills and an inflated sense of worth, the gigolo has nowhere to go except to his estranged sister, Sara (Salma Hayek), and her son, Hugo (Raphael Alejandro). Discovering that his nephew has a crush on a classmate who just so happens to be the granddaughter of a very rich socialite, Maximo sees his opportunity to get back onto the gravy train…while simultaneously assisting Hugo in getting his crush to notice him.

Remember the old Chappelle’s Show skit, where Dave gets lucky enough to impregnate Oprah Winfrey, and then proceeds to live like a king until he finds out the baby actually isn’t his? Minus the baby part, How to Be a Latin Lover is essentially that Chappelle’s Show skit, with an effort to throw in some heartfelt moments. There’s probably a reason this works better as a short compared to a full-fledged feature.

Latin Lover happens to be the directorial debut of comedy actor Ken Marino, and written by Jon Zack (The Perfect Score) and Chris Spain, filmed in English and dubbed to Spanish. There are certainly worse written comedy screenplays, but a lack of meat and substance make for a movie that feels every bit of its one hour and fifty five minute runtime. Mainly, because the comedy rarely hits big, whether it be of the physical slapstick variety (one gag in a pool does hit its mark), or traditional dialogue (generally, the characters speaking in Spanish for some reason makes the movie slightly funnier as compared to when they do not).

How to Be a Latin Lover is designed to be a vehicle of introduction tp Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez, consistently recognized as one of the most recognized actors in the Latin American community, to the U.S. audience. As yours truly watched him for the 1st time, it’s easy to see why he’s so popular. The man has substantial charisma and presence, and it will be interesting to see what comes of his career in the Americas.

If only the character he plays were a little easier to find humor in, instead of being either a complete buffoon or just generally unlikable. Like these comedies go sometimes, the redemption arc for the main character can end up feeling rushed and unearned, which is the case with Latin Lover.

However, the ageless beauty Salma Hayek and Raphael Alejandro do a good job at delivering sentimentality and being honest people the audience should root for. On a supporting cast level, How to Be a Latin Lover assembles names that many audiences will be pretty familiar with. Every Rob in Hollywood appears in this feature (Rob Corddry, Rob Riggle, Rob Huebel, and Rob Lowe) and are joined by Raquel Welch, Kristen Bell, and Michael Cera. As interesting as it is to see all of these names in this comedy, there are a lot of characters and most don’t really add much to the proceedings, unfortunately, outside of a small laugh here and there.

Cómo es? Though showcasing some good performances, How to Be a Latin Lover doesn’t have enough comedic heat to support its long runtime.

D+

Photo credits go to moviefone.com, fandango.com, and themoviemylife.com

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Unforgettable: Movie Man Jackson

What will Unforgettable teach a person? Have a Facebook account, Twitter account, something. For Julia Banks (Rosario Dawson), everything seems to be fitting into place. She’s just taken the next step in her editorial career, moving to the sunny West Coast. Her personal life couldn’t be any better, finally meeting the man of her dreams, David (Geoff Stults), and set to be a stepmom to his daughter, Lily (Isabella Kai Rice).

Julia has an unfortunate past that she’s managed to put behind her. If only others, such as David’s ex-wife Tessa (Katherine Heigl) could possess her resolve. Instead, Tessa seems consumed with trying to win David back and disparage his new flame (often subtly) at every opportunity. This suburbia ain’t big enough for the three of them.

As I’ve stated before, one of my guilty pleasure film subgenres is that of the psycholover-ex thriller variety. Most never do reach the heights of, say Fatal Attraction or Play Misty for Me, but they can be—sometimes—enjoyable and ridiculous diversions. Well, except for The Boy Next Door, and now, Unforgettable.

There’s an unofficial theory that yours truly has subscribed to when it comes to what makes these types of these movies successful, or at least worthy enough of a Saturday afternoon Oxygen/Lifetime view. It all comes down to the individual playing the antagonist, and how adept they are at playing crazy. Are they easy to buy as being bonkers? Do they find that early movie sweet spot where there’s something just a bit off about them, but still feel enough like a real person and not a caricature?

Being the antagonist in Unforgettable, this pressure falls unto Katherine Heigl to make this fun and…ahem…unforgettable. Sadly, she will not get a gold star for her work here. Not all of the failure in making this enjoyable falls at her feet, as some of the dialogue is tough for any actress to deliver confidently. But for most of the runtime, Heigl comes off more as a spoiled, privileged, word that rhymes with “witch” as opposed to a terrifying psychopath. And she does nothing memorable to try to be dynamic.

As a result, Unforgettable quickly becomes a dull affair with the typical moments befitting a film like this, with the only slight difference in storytelling being an in media res start from first-time feature director Denise Di Novi (producer of Edward Scissorhands and Crazy.Stupid.Love). It would be one thing if the movie and/or some of its stars recognized some of its schlock and just went with it (à la The Perfect Guy and Michael Ealy), but everything is played so rigid one does wonder the point of its existence.

It’s a shame to see Rosario Dawson in such a tepid production. Still, she manages to play her role as best as she can, providing an adequate protagonist to get behind with a little bit of interesting character backstory. Her chemistry with Geoff Stults is fine, Stults being the average man who is laughably oblivious to just how insane his ex is. There’s the occasionally amusing line from comedian Whitney Cummings, but by and large, characters do and say exactly what you think they would, which gives everything a overly mechanical feeling.

What does Unforgettable even mean in the context of this film? Not sure, but outside of it, it’s a horrid title. Even removing the “un” and calling this Forgettable is probably being too nice.

D-

Photo credits go to collider.com, dailymotion.com, and etonline.com.

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The Fate of the Furious: Movie Man Jackson

Racing may have left the franchise, but bald heads never will. With Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) finally remembering everything, she and husband Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) are spending some much needed R&R time in Cuba, thinking about what the future holds for them in making a family of their own. It would appear that the Dom certainly doesn’t miss the bullets like Brian once did.

Unfortunately, the bullets and high-risk scenarios always seem to find him; this time, via an enigmatic woman known as “Cipher” (Charlize Theron). Cipher, having secret information on Toretto that puts who he loves at risk, forces him to carry out her dangerous plans by using his own team/family to capture a world-altering device…only to take it from them and deliver it into her hands.

Being crossed, Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Letty, Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) are left to pick up the pieces. And that means going after Dom and figuring out why, with an uneasy ally in Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) added into the fray.

If Fast Five was Universal doing Marvel’s The Avengers before that movie happened, the latest in the F&F universe, The Fate of the Furious, feels a little like Captain America: Civil War, or The Avengers 3 or whatever. How so? It manages to bring back almost everyone of note while introducing new characters that are sure to play roles in future offerings, and flips the script a little in making a central character a major antagonist. It definitely lacks the emotional aspect of Furious 7, as well as and the large stakes, character moments, and insane thrill ride that was Fast Five. But, “F8,” though skidding more on the road than past predecessors, doesn’t completely wreck itself.

At eight films deep, the Fast and Furious universe has lore. Lots of it, and the eighth installment uses every inch of trunk space it has to accommodate it. In other words, it has continuity…in a way. Thought God’s Eye was just a MacGuffin to never be seen or referred to again? Put to actual good use here! Believed Elena would just slip into the background? Think again. Everyone knows how ridiculous this franchise can be, proudly wearing that ridiculousness as a badge of honor. But credit to where it’s due; writer Chris Morgan continues to draw up new scenarios that give mileage to the universe.

Don’t mistake that praise as complete support for The Fate of the Furious‘ script. It does enough to get by (a poor man’s version of Civil War, even with a bit of The Winter Soldier), with a familiar theme and intriguing reveal. But for some reason, its story holes and matters unexplained actually make one think about them more in a logical way. That’s not supposed to happen with a F&F movie! And as stated before, the continuity generally works, but the end scene (as well as a few others) does betray much of what the prior movie(s) established in the way of character relationships, making it hard to accept that some sins in this world are somehow forgivable.

Director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton, Friday) makes the third new different director in the last three Fast and Furious movies to helm the film’s physics-defying action. Having some experience in action with The Italian Job, Gray, like Wan, mostly impresses. It’s hard not to be impressed with the massive set pieces, in large part done practically. CGI gets a little iffy at times for such a big budget production. Like Wan, however, Gray comes up short compared to Lin on a hand-to-hand combat level. Not quite shaky cam, but the angles used can sometimes be disorienting. Still, he makes a case to direct the next one if need be.

Perhaps Vin should give directing a shot, with the amount of power he seems to be wielding as of late. Performance-wise, Diesel simultaneously serves up a surprising job in spots, as well as an unintentionally funny one, often in the same scenes. Unfortunately, Paul Walker is missed, not necessarily in the action scenes where he more than held his own, but in the slower scenes. He brought an everyman presence that is lacking here, especially as the lengthy movie grinds to a halt in spots.

The real news coming into F8 was the legit beef between Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, with rumors being that Vin wasn’t happy with Dwayne stealing some franchise thunder. After seeing F8, I can see why. Johnson is the clear star of this series now, bringing his trademark energy, dead-eye one-liners, and larger-than-life persona to the Hobbs character. Jason Statham eclipses Vin as well, his dry and rugged Deckard meshing well with Hobbs and generating interest in a future teamup. Out of the newcomers, Charlize Theron is the most menacing villain the franchise has ever had, if only her Cipher wasn’t as vague in her motivations. Scott Eastwood and Helen Mirren add name value, little else, but they’re fun enough. Returnees Ludacris, Tyrese, Michelle Rodriguez, and Kurt Russell get little spots to shine, though ultimately take backseats to Johnson, Diesel, Statham, and Theron.

If the Furious series is a mile represented by 10 movies at 1/10th of a mile each, it’s not inconceivable to think it hit top speed a few movies ago, and is decelerating as it approaches the purported finish line. One thing’s for certain, though. There’s no stopping before that line comes, and every drop of gas will be used before it comes.

C+

Photo credits go to irishexaminer.com, birthmoviesdeath.com, and moviepilot.com.

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