I Love You, Daddy: Movie Man Jackson

Art imitates life. TV writer and producer Glen Topher (Louis C.K.) has amassed much fame and fortune during his career. This success has come with a cost to his personal life, losing relationships with his ex-wife, Aura (Helen Hunt), and his girlfriend, Maggie (Pamela Adlon). He shares an enabling relationship with his seventeen-year-old daughter, China (Chloë Grace Moretz), seemingly always getting what she wants by asking her daddy and following it up with “I love you, Daddy.”

Their relationship becomes turbulent with the arrival of legendary filmmaker Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich) onto the scene, who just so happens to be Glen’s idol. The pushing-70 Leslie immediately takes a liking to Glen’s daughter, naturally creeping out the father. Glen struggles with how to approach this, in addition to trying to overcome writer’s block for a new television show and navigating a partnership with the starlet Grace Cullen (Rose Byrne).

Nothing ever completely exists in a vacuum, be it art, food, technology, humans—or in this case—-thoughts on a film. I Love You, Daddy doesn’t so much arrive on the scene as it does get shooed to the back like a kid working backstage on a school play who accidentally is made visible. The accidentally visible, in this case, being screeners sent ahead of the storm. It is impossible to view this Louis CK-helmed flick without thinking about the sexual misconduct news and admission that involves CK (as well as a bevvy of other known figures). It leaves his film as a weirdly fascinating yet mostly disturbing viewing for mostly the wrong reasons.

Let’s get this out of the way, however. I Love You, Daddy features a guy who’s done horrific things, but it is still far from a horrific movie. There is some good here, beginning with the black-and-white styled employed by C.K., paying homage to works done by Woody Allen (Manhattan, particularly) and Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita. While Louis’ editing as it pertains to telling a coherent story can be problematic at times, within scenes, his camera work can be quite good and steady accompanied by a old-school orchestral score. The cast featuring names like Byrne, Adlon, Moretz, Charlie Day, and Malkovich make for a solidly acted production with the writing for their characters that is given, with Byrne and Moretz turning in the best work and managing to hold interest.

Louis C.K. shot this film in secret, and after watching, easy to see why. “Art imitates life” has never felt as fitting as it does in I Love You, Daddy. This is not an exercise in subtly. In roughly 25 minutes of screentime, the viewer is subjected to 45 seconds of simulated masturbation, a “casting couch” scene that covers all the bases of power abuse from both sexes, and an open admission by a character calling another a pedophile. Finally, there’s the dialogue, which feels way too spot-on to be clever. Lines such as “He’s kind of gross, you know? But he’s hilarious,” and “I’m sorry to all women. I want all women to know I apologize for being me!” are akin to reading OJ Simpson’s If I Did It.

Which raises the ultimate question: Why was this film made? As a comedy, little is funny. As a drama, little is dramatic. Did we really need a movie representation of what 2017 is going to be known for? Thematically, there appears to be a desire on Louis C.K.’s part to make some pseudo-intellectual message about everyone being perverts in the world in one way or another. But, this holds no water, especially after the weak, tie-a-bow-on-it nice ending that leaves little resolved.

One can only surmise that Louis C.K. made I Love You, Daddy to serve as some sort of release therapy to himself that would be played across a national viewing audience that could potentially “understand” it. Some things aren’t meant to be understood, but taken at face value. I Love You, Daddy is one of those things.

C-

Photo credits go to vulture.com, rollingstone.com, en.wikipedia.org, and the malaymailonline.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Fist Fight: Movie Man Jackson

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Today is not a good day for high school English teach Andy Campbell (Charlie Day). At Roosevelt High, it’s the last day of school, and pranks are abound. As the mild-mannered pushover, Campbell is an easy mark for students to take advantage of. Doesn’t help that everyone in the high school is up for review, which means possible job losses. Not something Andy needs with a newborn on the way.

A most unfortunate situation that Campbell has with the volatile History teacher Strickland (Ice Cube) leads to the latter getting terminated. Fuming, Strickland challenges Campbell to an old school Fist Fight. Come 3pm in the parking lot, the entire school is going to see faculty members come to blows. Campbell worried about losing his job, but he needs to be worried about losing his life.

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Unbeknownst to yours truly, Fist Fight is an unofficial loose remake/re-telling of 1987’s Three O’Clock High, and even 2001’s Joe Somebody. That alone should tell anyone that isn’t a movie that is looking to reinvent the wheel, just provide some moderate entertainment. Moderate entertainment might not have been seen in the trailer, but Fist Fight is moderately surprising in its comedic effectiveness.

Written by Van Robichaux, Evan Susser, and New Girl’s Max Greenfield, Fist Fight’s plot isn’t something to heap a ton of praise on, and the premise, taking place in one day, can get a little stretched in places. But, there’s nothing wrong with being simplistic. And, the writers deserve one gold star with the overall setup. By placing the film in an end-of-the-year, anything-can-be-done scenario, it allows the movie to be accepted in all of its zaniness much easier. And though there’s the requisite R rated penis jokes and toilet humor, some legitimate physical comedy hits the mark along with improvisational dialogue here and there. Any implied statements about today’s state of education falls flat, though. Blackboard Jungle, this is not.

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Thankfully, Fist Fight delivers on its title. Spoiler alert: There’s no bait and switch. What’s advertised actually does happen, and quite honestly, it’s better directed than the average Hollywood fisticuffs action scene. I hesitate to say that it is reason alone to give the movie a view, but, anyone wanting an Ali-Frazier throw down (which will be most of the paying audience, myself included) will get one and likely be very pleased with it. Hearkens memory to the 1995 end fight in another Ice Cube comedy, Friday. Not a bad way to kick off a silver screen directorial debut, Mr. Richie Keen.

The cast in Fist Fight doesn’t do a whole lot differently from what they’ve been known for in their careers. Good, if you’re a fan, bad if not. We all know Cube for being the angry, mean-mugging expletive-laden character in everything he does, and we know Charlie Day for being the loud, eccentric, weird sounding passive wimp. They resume these characters here, and are good for what they are, playing off of each other well. Of the two, the story is told from Andy’s perspective, and he gets more of a character arc, albeit a fairly rushed one in the last 20 or so minutes.

Side characters are a mixed bag. Tracy Morgan impresses in his first role back on-screen as an oblivious loser coach, and Silicon Valley‘s Kumali Nanjiani delivers straight man humor. Much like the leads, Jillian Bell has a style and delivery that can grate on a viewer, or ingratiates herself to a viewer. Personally, not a big fan, but fits in enough here. The odd person out of all of this is Christina Hendricks, more weird than hilarious.

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By no means does Fist Fight score a comedic knockout. But by the end of the film’s runtime, laughs hit enough to score a split decision.

C+

Photo credits go to darkhorizons.com, movieweb.com, and ca.sports.yahoo.com.

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Vacation: Movie Man Jackson

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“The journey sucks. That’s what makes you appreciate the destination.”

Like father, like son. Over 30 years have passed since Clark Griswold took his family cross country on a Vacation to Walley World. Through hell, high water, and Aunt Edna, he got them there. His son, Rusty (Ed Helms) is now a father of his own, with a wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), and two sons James and Kevin (Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins).

Even as a domestic pilot, Rusty feels like he is becoming more distant from his family than he would like. What is the remedy? Certainly not the annual vacation to Michigan. No, this time, Rusty decides to load up the clan in a 2015 “Tartan Prancer” and begin the journey to Walley World. Genetics are passed down from father to son, and so too are vacations from hell.

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National Lampoon’s Vacation arrived in theaters July 29th, 1983, and it really served as the template for most, if not all, road trip movies following it. Exactly 32 years later, the 2015 version also arrives on July 29th. It occupies a middle ground of being a direct sequel, but from a story structure aspect, it is a remake. Perhaps a “requel” or a “semake?” Hybrid words withstanding, yours truly completely understands why some will despise this, which I’ll obviously get into. Vacation—not a shocker—does not come close to the simplistic brillance of the 1983 installment. As a 2015 R-rated comedy, however, worse does exist.

In 1983 NLV was a comedy that earned its R-rating, but mostly relied on smart writing and dialogue. There are moments in the new Vacation, written and directed by John Frances Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (Horrible Bosses 1 & 2), that are reminiscent of old, where the material is crude but delivered with the lightest of touches; implied and not overt. Also found are some fairly clever homages to those familiar with the Chevy Chase vehicle, but they work for those who have yet to see it also. But, there are equal moments of dumb, blunt, and slapstick crudeness that often weigh things down.

That may sound like I have disdain for lewd and crude R-rated comedies, but I like to believe I don’t. Honestly, a few of those dumb moments had me laughing pretty hard. But what is a surprise is the reliance on the vulgarity, which can at times be very dark (suffocation, underage sex crimes) and more uncomfortable than it needs to be for something in the Vacation series. The charm is just harder to be found in this one.

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To get to Walley World is the true goal of Vacation, but it can become lost, mainly because this film never makes Walley World feel important. Let me explain. In the first, despite everything Clark and company went through, it was clear that all wanted to get to the theme park. Who can forgot the Marty Moose national anthem to illustrate this point? This go around, only Rusty truly wants to go, and Walley World is hardly brought up aside from the beginning and the end. It makes the film feel cobbled together in its craziness instead of building to something substantial.

Enough comparing though, which yours truly hates to do but it is hard not to. The Rusty role, always filled by a different actor in each installment, falls to Ed Helms this time around. He does serve up a lot of the movie’s comedy, and Helms fans should be pleased. Applegate is OK as her character gets a lot to do, as are the kids, though they are written weakly, especially the youngest Griswold who is a pest with 60% of his dialogue being curse words. The performances themselves are fine, but taken as a family unit, the four never seem to give that family feel. At least they ride in a hilarious (fictional) vehicle of the Tartan Prancer, which also provides quite a few laughs. It pokes fun at today’s latest technology and stuff, not knowing what everything does or needing the bells and whistles in the first place.

Many side characters filled by notable actors and actresses make their way into the Vacation universe as well, none being better than Chris Hemsworth as Stone Crandall. For basically his first comedy, he is very natural and charismatic, using his sex appeal to generate humor. Easy for sure, but effective. And of course, Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo make their grand appearance for a brief period in the runtime, serving to link the past to the present. Pleasure to see them, certainly, but nothing more than fan service.

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Rusty says at one point in a meta-line that the new Vacation will stand on its own. It is admittedly hard to look at it that way, as this post seems to indicate. But if one is able to, the trip does provide a humorous experience in stretches.

Grade: C-

Photo credits go to nytimes.com, tfcar.com, and mirror.co.uk.

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Horrible Bosses 2: Movie Man Jackson

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“Hello Nick, guy who saved my life, guy who f****d my wife.”

Hate your boss? Become one yourself. That there is the general idea of Horrible Bosses 2. After getting what they wanted in their bosses being gone one way or another, best buds Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), Dale Arbus (Charlie Day), and Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis) go all into a joint venture. The “Shower Buddy” is the result of an idea had over beers, and though it sounds like junk, there is potential to get this off the ground.

Some hustling and grinding by the threesome give way to an opportunity with an investor, and a meeting with father and son Bert and Rex Hanson (Christoph Waltz, Chris Pine), leads way to a partnership. The three appear to be on the path of living their dream until Burt decides to sever the business relationship in the 11th hour, leaving Nick, Dale, and Kurt with outstanding debt. With no feasible way to fight the tycoon in court, crime is the only way to get back control of the company. Except it isn’t murder this go-around, but a kidnapping and ransom of Rex. These things always go well.

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When it comes to comedy sequels, more times than not they just do not seem to be needed. Perhaps more than any other genre, they seem to really exist just for a quick and sometimes easy cash grab. True, everyone and all genres are in the business of making money, and almost all sequels come in with a built in fanbase, but at least other genres can more effectively operate under a guise of “this story needs to be continued.” So many comedy sequels feel like complete wrecks, missing what was special with the original. To yours truly at least, maybe the biggest positive to take away from Horrible Bosses 2 is that while its existence is highly debatable, it is still a generally amusing but overall uneven raunch comedy.

HB2 at least cannot be accused of the exact same plot structure of its predecessor…at least for most of the movie. While at the essence it is still about committing a crime of some sort on a working boss, there is a concerted effort to throw many unforeseen occurrences throughout. It can feel a little too much at times however. Only in the last 20 minutes or so does HB2 become pretty conventional, even carbon-copied in many respects (read: key respect) of the first, and as a result, the climax is more like a whimper.

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The usual lead suspects are back once again. The chemistry possessed with the three is still there, and all know what they are brought into do. Straight man Bateman is still one of the best dry comic actors today, Day comes with the moronic, overly-loud in places shtick, and Sudeikis brings no filter to the party.

They play off of each other well, but the assumed-to-be improvisation goes on far too long in places, almost as if there is nothing there in a scene but the director Sean Anders (Sex Drive, That’s My Boy) tells the trio to keep talking to try and make something funny. Uneven is what it is. Going off of the audience (and my) pattern, this film seemed to be loaded with consistent laughs in chunks, but not as a whole.

Of the new additions, Chris Pine either steals the show, or comes pretty close to doing so. Going off of what was shown in the trailer, I had no idea of how he would fit in here, but the fact is he easily holds his own with the other, more traditional comic actors and even outshines them in moments. More comedy roles may be in his future if he wants them. Christoph Waltz joins him as well, but he isn’t around enough to truly make an impression despite being key to the plot.

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Two of the three previous bosses make a return here in Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey. While it is nice for a short while to see these two return, one has to wonder why they are needed here. Aniston is still busy on a mission to get her holes filled by any man who is upright (or bedridden), but this time her character isn’t as fresh and just mainly comes off as a crazed 40-ish woman who has issues. Her comedic bits this time are more vulgar and offensive but not in a particularly laughable way.

For my money, Kevin Spacey is the definition of a horrible boss, and lo and behold he is back here. He possesses one of the funniest scenes in the film though, so he does have that going for him. And last but not least, everyone favorite motherf****r in Dean “MF” Jones is in the house portrayed by Jamie Foxx. Yours truly didn’t love him from the original so nothing really changed here, though he is cool in spots. He’s the same guy as before, nothing more or less. The big issue with this trio’s inclusion this time around is that when they turn up in the story’s confines, it never feels natural. Rather, it feels pretty forced, like some screentime quota was in the contracts of these actors to appear, even if it was during a time that didn’t make a ton of sense.

So, the question is asked again. Did Horrible Bosses 2 really need to be made? The short answer is probably no, but it is here and there is nothing that can be done about it. There have been worse comedy sequels, but the performance review on this one is pretty middling.

Grade: C

Photo credits go to whysearch.com, technologytell.com, and flicksandthecity.com.

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Horrible Bosses: Movie Man Jackson

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 “Technically, I think it’s immoral not to kill him.”

As long as there are jobs to be done, there will always be bosses to answer to. Dealing with many is solid enough, while others inspire sickness and anger just at the thought of them. For Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), Dale Arbus (Charlie Day), and Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis), their thoughts of their superiors fall in the latter category. Nick’s boss (Kevin Spacey) is cold and uncompromising, Dale’s boss (Jennifer Aniston) continuously crosses the unwanted sexual line with no regard, and Kurt’s boss (Colin Farrell) is a jerk with no respect for his father’s company.

For what seems like every day, the trio meets at the bar to vent and think about how much life would be better without these extremely difficult characters. The thought of killing their head honchos is brought up in a hypothetical scenario, until it starts to crystallize into a plan. Employing the help of a hitman only known as “Motherf***er Jones” (Jamie Foxx), the friends set out to do what so many have thought of: Offing their bosses.

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In what has probably been said millions of times, and will continue to be said by most who look at this film, Horrible Bosses succeeds in being worth the time and pretty hilarious because it is something many can connect to. Having someone you have to report to who is so difficult and disrespectful is almost a fate worse than death itself, and while there may be films that have featured complete pricks in power, none have truly went to the lengths that Horrible Bosses goes to. It almost is a wonder that a movie with this basic premise hadn’t been done earlier.

With stuff like this, the casting can really make or break the movie. In every role, each person fits into their character as well as could be desired. All of the three actors playing the tormented should be pretty familiar to comedy fans. Jason Bateman is one of the better straight men in the funny business right now, even-keeled and dry in both delivery and expression. Jason Sudeikis is the more cool person of the trio; witty and charismatic. Both play off of each other naturally and show a real sense of timing.

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Charlie Day’s character of Dale rounds out the suffering trio, and to yours truly, he was sort of the odd man out and a mixed bag. He definitely has some funny moments without a doubt, but in many spots he feels like he is trying too hard to be funny by being loud and boisterous. True, his character is much more eccentric and over-the-top than Bateman’s or Sudeikis’, but he appears to ham it up more than needed. I’ll admit, I have never seen It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, to which I’m told his character in that shares some resemblance to the character he portrays here. If that is the case, it may just be very possible he is an acquired taste that I haven’t exposed myself enough to yet. Nevertheless, all three do a very solid job at getting the audience to side with them.

While these guys turn in good work, the scene-stealers are those who play the tool, the maneater, and the psycho on the movie’s poster. They, after all, have to be completely crazy and despicable for us to pull for the heroes and see these authority figures get their comeuppance. Colin Farrell is so visually distorted and totally gives off the feeling like he is on something whenever he shows up here, and Jennifer Aniston shows sides (and skin) never before seen in her previous work. Neither shows any hesitation in tapping into lunacy. Even Jamie Foxx, not a true boss in this but sort of if you think about it, gets back to his comedic roots for this one. He’s perfect in the short doses when needed.

These three deserve kudos for sure, but Kevin Spacey is brilliant here. It takes real ability to make an audience hate a character in minutes, if not seconds, upon seeing and hearing him speak. Yet, that is what Spacey is able to get across. His Dave Harken is a complete douchebag of a man; slimy and rotten to the core. His demands and the way he carries himself is a riot. He completely owns this role, and the movie seems to know this too as time goes on.

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Under the direction of Seth Gordon, Horrible Bosses is definitely absurd and even ludicrous. But it is a comedy about killing bosses, which is as dumb as it sounds and it never forgets it. There’s no sappiness or sentimentality, from beginning to end everything here is played for laughs. It is paced pretty consistently, even in the final third. About the only part that feels disjointed is the ending. The tie-up was great, just out of sequence, as if it would have felt more resolute with a specific “story thread” ending the flick. How and who it ended with fell flat.

Still, filled with recognizable stars in non-recognizable roles, Horrible Bosses provides consistent and many large laughs throughout. The concept of an asshole for a boss is something many have been exposed to, and if the fantasy of offing (hypothetically) the man/woman in power has ever floated around in the brain, watching these characters’ desire to do should be a vicarious, consequence-free, and worthwhile option.

Grade: B+

Photo credits go to aceshowbiz.com, ifc.com, and movies.about.com.

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