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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Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising-Movie Man Jackson

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I guess this is why living in a cardboard box wouldn’t be a bad thing. After defeating frat leader Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) in a truly epic battle for the neighborhood block, Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne) now live in peace, raising their youngster and prepping for another. The incoming newborn has prompted the family to buy a new house, and sell their own home. Luckily, they’ve found a buyer.

But, they do have to make it 30 days in escrow before the sale is official. Easy, right? Not anymore, because a new sorority has moved next door. Led by Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), she wants to throw parties that aren’t ones put together by douchey frat bros, and has no care if Mac and Kelly lose their sale. Once again, neighbors are fighting one another, and this time, the opposition the couple face appears stronger than before. To dethrone this “Buffalo Bill” sorority, they will need a “Hannibal Lecter” in Teddy, in order to prevail again.

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The first Neighbors (or Bad Neighbours as it seemed to be known throughout most of the world) was a relative surprise, both financially, critically, and even in the performance department. Yours truly didn’t love it, but all in all, some good laughs and a nice message were found. The money made warrants a sequel, and here it is with Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Is this installment of family versus college social organization as good as the first?

One thing is for certain with Neighbors 2, most people will not be able to claim it to be offensive. Even as an R rated comedy, take out the F bombs and requisite graphic nudity and it is quite harmless when compared to similar movies. It is rather postmodern and wears it on its sleeve from the first few minutes on and throughout. Whether it be interracial marriage, gay marriage, or gender equality, returning director Nicholas Stoller takes the previous template but switches the point-of-view to prevent it from being a complete rehash with a bit more social commentary.

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While the plot is generally in the same mold as the first, Neighbors 2‘s plot sadly feels a lot more stretched than the original, not to mention just lacking the laugh out loud humor. A few slapstick gags are effective, but much of the dialogue fails to elicit more than a mild chuckle, at least in the theater I was in. Repeated jokes about Jews, Minions (because Universal is the distributor!) and feminism are amusing the first time, but boring the fifth and sixth times. After a while, the progressive approach, as good-natured as it is, comes off as more of a crutch for lackluster writing as opposed to a support for genuinely funny moments strung together.

The writing does the cast no favors, but all try to do what they can with what is given. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne still have chemistry, and as such, it hurts more to see their jokes not land because they really are trying. Much more supporting this time is Zac Efron, as self-deprecating as ever. Though he is a supporting character, his entire character arc is most fulfilling and complete, which makes Neighbors 2 as much of his story as the two clashing groups.

Chloe Moretz is talented, but here, she looks to be a little out of her element in comedy, actually somewhat dull in this. Her character has meat, but she’s not the type that one necessarily thinks of when having a huge role in a comedy, and her being in the cast feels more like having a big name attached for the hell of it as opposed to contributing real value. That can be said for most of the rest of the cast, whether returning or new. Many are just there.

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Aside from the themes, Neighbors 2′s best thing it may have going for it is how it ends. There’s real finality that would be undone if another film were to be made. Even good-natured neighbors can become old after a while, right?

D

Photo credits go to newsflow24.com, comingsoon.net,and uni.com

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The Equalizer: Movie Man Jackson

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“I don’t have a lot of time. Which means you don’t have any.”

It is often the quiet, unassuming people who end up being the ones you will never see coming. Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is this type of person in The Equalizer. In his elder stage of living, McCall lives a traditional and perhaps even boring life to some looking in on the outside as a department store manager. You get the feeling that Bob doesn’t mind the lack of excitement so much, as he appears content with his routine of wake up, bus ride to work, work, ride home, eat, and read at the local diner.

Over time, this routine does get a shake-up when a troubled young girl making a living in a rough profession named Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz) befriends McCall. The two begin to share something close until her Russian handlers get in the way and threaten Teri’s well being. Obviously, this does not sit well with Robert and he will not stand idly by. No one knows what this man is capable of, but when odds are insurmountable, he may just be the equalizing force needed to overcome them.

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If the Internet didn’t exist, I never would have known that this film was based on a mid to late 80’s television show of the same name. The first thing I always thought of when hearing “The Equalizer” was never a TV show, but rather, the famous tune composed by Sam Spence found in NFL Films productions and many commercials. So even though this film isn’t exactly original, since the TV show came before my time this is basically new stuff to yours truly. After getting into it, The Equalizer isn’t exactly breaking new ground in the action genre, but it does offer a mostly solid two hour viewing experience.

There is no underlying message or nuanced storytelling within The Equalizer. Stereotypical villains and their well-worn operations are present here, with nary a surprise. It certainly works, and it is probably better this way than trying to go for an “epic” story. With that said, there does appear to be some minor untapped potential in that particular department. However, much like its main character, the story does the job in the quickest and systematic way possible. It is a reminder that revenge movies do not need to be elaborate, just effective.

In a surprise to no one, Denzel Washington again turns in a screen-seizing performance as mysterious Robert McCall, proving that he is as close a thing to a bankable movie star in Hollywood today. Bob McCall is mild-mannered, reserved, but deeply involved and invested with the lives of those around them. McCall is always at equilibrium in the most dangerous of situations, which come pretty often here. If there were one word to describe his performance here, placid fits the bill. His character is the type of guy who could literally be stuck in a furnace and not be visibly affected.

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The only issue with the character in my opinion, and it isn’t Denzel’s fault, is that Robert McCall is just as mysterious at the end as he is at the beginning for all intents and purposes. He is a man with a complicated past and an impressive skill-set yet this complicated past or impressive skill-set is never really examined or even hinted at where it came from. Well, there is a scene in the movie that attempts to give McCall some backstory but that itself runs needlessly long with hardly any explanation made as to the origins of McCall. I am making him sound like a superhero now but the fact is, while what he can do is awesome, at best it is fuzzy as to how and why he is so deadly.

Without a doubt this is Denzel’s movie, but the main opposition his character clashes with is nothing to scoff at. Martin Csokas plays Teddy, a ruthless Russian crime lord with no compassion for anyone. He just looks and sounds like a creepy man and is everything McCall opposes. His character isn’t fleshed out too thoroughly but neither is this film, and he does a wonderful job of giving the audience someone to despise.

Csokas even holds his own against Washington in the tense confrontation scenes, especially one near the end which is superbly acted. Similar to most crime lords, he’s flanked with an army of henchman but all are indistinguishable and dispensable, just fodder for McCall until the ultimate showdown. Chloe Grace Moretz is probably the 2nd most recognizable name in the cast and while she is good in her very limited screen time, it is almost as if she doesn’t exist for a large part of it, despite her character putting the events in motion.

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The Equalizer reunites Denzel Washington with the man who directed his Oscar winning Training Day performance in Antoine Fuqua. While both movies are brutal, Fuqua’s latest is much more in-your-face graphic than his 2001 offering. McCall dispatches his foes in many ways, and Fuqua showcases a unique way of capturing it all. There is this nice, almost Hitman: Absolution/pseudo bullet time-like effect utilized to showcase how McCall assesses a situation. When he (as well as others) does attack, little is left to the imagination. The first few action scenes are good in their own right, but it is the climax that is may be worth the price of admission. It is filmed in a noir-ish style, set to a magnificent musical piece that syncs perfectly with the action. Score-wise, The Equalizer is high quality, with many highlights interspersed throughout.

The main highlight is Washington though, and he is right at home in this type of film, and he gives The Equalizer the credibility it may not possess with another actor in the star role. Though it may not stand on equal ground with legendary action films, the odds are favorable enough for enjoyment.

Grade: B-

Photo credits go to blackfilm.com, cinemablend.com, and beliefnet.com

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson