How to be Single: Movie Man Jackson

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Did Hollywood really need to make a movie about How to Be Single? They could have just came to me! In modern day New York City, finding companionship is hard. After four years of being in a college relationship, Alice (Dakota Johnson) feels the need to break up with her boyfriend, Josh (Nicholas Braun) upon graduation—temporarily. Her reason, being, that she needs to figure out some things in the Big Apple. Her paralegal job introduces her to a new friend named Robin (Rebel Wilson), who has no problems being a single lady.

Alice’s older sister Meg (Leslie Mann), also single, is all about her career as a doctor, having no desire to conform to society’s idea of having offspring at a certain age. But, she does begin to get an itch to have a baby after a routine patient delivery. And even Lucy (Alison Brie), a person who makes dating apps, has issues with finding a companion. Being single can be tough, but it also can be very eye-opening.

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Yours truly probably isn’t in the target demographic that How to Be Single, a film based off of a novel with the same name, is aiming to hit. It kind of feels like a prolonged episode of Sex in the City. Its release comes at a good time, with it being Valentine’s Day weekend, drawing in people that might latch on to it who are single simply because of its title. It’s an average ensemble piece rom-com that has similar issues to most rom-coms, with the occasional solid positive here and there.

Let’s start with some of the positives. It really isn’t saying much, but How to Be Single does feature a little more substance than many other ensemble romance-comedies. A high-brow analysis this isn’t, but it is a fairly interesting look at being single featuring a whole cast of characters who are single, instead of just the one story thread that often appears in these types of movies amid others. Although featuring many characters, the story connector is the same and makes it easy to follow along. Also, though an African-American male and not a Caucasian female (last time checked at least), still being currently single and around the general age of the lead characters, I can connect somewhat to what the main characters experience. Very possible that point alone plays into the fact of me finding some enjoyment in this.

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Directing-wise, this isn’t too bad either.  Christian Ditter brings some energy and some mild flair behind the camera with some nice lighting and solid song choices that match the story. Generally, he’s able to keep the movie moving at a solid pace, though at times, his reliance to jump ahead in time for a few months comes at the expense of character and true relationship development.

And honestly, it is the characters that How to Be Single gets mostly wrong. For a movie whose story seems to be pretty focused on reality and finding love in the 21st century, it’s odd as to why the characters could not be written with more layers. The obvious person that comes to mind first is Rebel Wilson, basically being Rebel Wilson throughout. If you find her funny, HtBS is going to be a riot. If not (like yours truly), this can be a chore sometimes as the comedy with her at the forefront never really lands.

Dakota Johnson is a fine actress, but it is hard to really feel anything for her Alice as she repeatedly makes the same mistakes. I understand that that is sort of the point, but her eventual awakening feels more predetermined, rather than earned. It sort of works, but it doesn’t hit emotionally as intended. The women aren’t the only ones who can feel fake. The lead male, Tom, played by Anders Holm, is just way too cartoonish to take seriously.

There’s a missed opportunity for Alison Brie, who appears in the marketing substantially but is clearly the fourth wheel after things get going. She’s off her kilter a tad too much and not exactly grounded, but kind of representative of some people finding love online nowadays. Leslie Mann’s character storyline is probably the most fulfilling, though her character can be a bit much with her “freneticness” and such.

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Credit where credit’s due. How to Be Single gets a rose or two for not being completely predictable, having a semi-interesting story about the difficulties of love, and subverting a few rom-com staples. However, it falls short of getting a full bouquet due to a majority of the cast of of characters showing why they deserve to be single.

Grade: C

Photo credits go to moviefone.com, YouTube.com, and aroundmovies.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

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Big Hero 6: Movie Man Jackson

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“I am satisfied with my care.”

A note to the U.S. Congress and the administration after seeing Big Hero 6: Do whatever is needed to get Baymaxcare implemented. In the city of San Fransokyo, adolescent Hiro Hamada (voice of Ryan Potter), isn’t your average adolescent. At 14, he is already a high school graduate. Needless to say, he is brilliant in the mind, but lacks the focus needed to truly harness his talents. As such, he spends many a nights competing in Robot Wars-like events while his older, also super-smart brother Tadashi attends college.

Fearing his kid brother’s talents aren’t being cultivated like they need to be, Tadashi introduces Hiro to what smart people in college are capable of, showing that higher education may be what he needs. Most importantly, Hiro is introduced to Baymax, a robot created by Tadashi to provide health care to those in need. The college tour works, as Hiro becomes inspired and gets into university. Things are looking up until an mysterious incident one night recalibrates Hiro’s enthusiasm and he becomes a recluse. Luckily, Baymax is around to give support, and he along with Hiro’s friends begin to discover the truth of what happened.

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With Marvel being under the umbrella of Disney now, it was only a matter of time before Disney would fully dive into the vault and use some source material in a fully animated feature. That time has come with Big Hero 6, an animated feature that succeeds greatly in most places, not so much in others, but as a whole should be quite enough for many.

Really, that whole is made up primarily of the big guy known as Baymax. From his first second on screen, his minimalist appearance and oversized exterior makes it impossible to not have a strong liking towards. All he desires is to provide care for those in need, even to the detriment of his own being. It is a very endearing character, but also an extremely funny one. Voiced by Scott Adsit, the rotund robot speaks in a dry and straightforward tone throughout. Baymax only knows one thing, and his duty to uphold that one thing leads to many hilarious situations. He is the MVP of BH6 without question.

While Baymax may be the most entertaining and recognizable character, Hiro Hamada ain’t too bad either as the Robin to the proverbial Batman in Baymax. What is cool about him is the fact that he isn’t a traditional youngster found in similar animated works. He comes with layers and undergoes more than a few changes across the film’s simple plot. At times, he is even rather unlikable, but for what the character experiences, it is a semi-realistic portrayal of an adolescent still trying to find the way through the world amid tumultuous circumstances.

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For a movie named Big Hero 6 though, the name implies that there will likely be six characters that will be feature. Not exactly the case here; even though BH6 does have four characters joining the two leads to make up the six, at the end of the day these four honestly feel like afterthoughts. They look impressive in battle and have nice design and voiced by sound, but when the movie slows down with all six on screen, it is still the Baymax (and Hiro) show, with only the random, occasionally humorous quip serving purpose to remind the audience that they are not complete wallflowers.

Like other superhero movies, especially the first in a franchise, the “ABC-ish” story present here works fine, and it was a nice tough to show a focus on science. In fact, it isn’t crazy to imagine this spurning youngsters on learning more about the various fields.  But, how the story sets up the event to get where it needs to get to could be seen from far away in the distance. The moment itself is emotional sure, but one can only think that maybe it would have had even more gravitas if it was held off for slightly longer.

This gives the story a rushed feel in spots, sort of like the antagonist here. Visually, he is intriguing and relatively threatening; think a mix of Doctor Octopus, The Masked Magician, and Noob Saibot rolled into one. However, the way he appears with no indication or even small explanation minimizes his impact as well, and when the motivations are finally revealed, the story falters substantially and stays deflated until a very solid climax. A little tighter writing in the aforementioned place may have made a big difference in creating a more well-rounded tale.

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Aside from Baymax and Hiro, the other stars of note are directors Don Hall and Chris Williams, simply because of what they are able to create. San Fransokyo is one of the more fully realized places in film all year, despite being fictional. The hybrid of Tokyo and San Francisco also serves as a perfect backdrop to the action found here. In these set pieces, the feel of the Marvel films is wholly achieved on an animated, bite-sized level.

Big Hero 6 is a very enjoyable flick for the whole family and for solid reasons. But, no reasons loom as large as the lovable, huggable Baymax and his presence. For 102 minutes, yours truly was under the care of Baymax, and I must admit I was pretty satisfied.

Grade: B+

Photo credits go to villains.wikia.com, and realmomsofvegas.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson.

Let’s Be Cops: Movie Man Jackson

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“F*** you, I’m using the lingo. The lingo is half the fun.”

It is the age old question: Does the uniform make the man, or does the man make the uniform? Both views can be seen in Let’s Be Cops. In it, Justin and Ryan (Damon Wayans Jr., Jake Johnson) are best friends and almost 30-ish roommates who are unsure of where their lives are going in the bright lights and big city of Los Angeles. One random day, the duo get invited  to a “costume” party and with their options limited, decide to go as boys in blue.

For one reason or another, everyone totally buys into them as cops. Trepidation on Justin’s part be dammed, the two ride with it and revel in their new roles, which brings an excitement that was previously lacking in their day-to-day routines. Of course, the innocuous fun can only last for so long until the guise becomes dangerous.

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It has taken me longer to view this and give thoughts on it, but MMJ keeps his eye on the streets  movie blogosphere. The complaints have been read, from a lazy script to it simply not being funny. Going in with tempered expectations, I just wanted something average, and yet I got more. Comedy is truly more taste based than other genres, which segues perfectly into the next statement: Let’s Be Cops may just be my favorite comedy of the year so far.

Buddy cop films, whether comedy, action, or a fusion of the two, have been around for seemingly forever. Most if not all follow the same template that everyone is familiar with, especially in story and main characters. LBC is really no different at its core and the wheel isn’t exactly reinvented. But one thing it does possess is an original premise that gives the usual tropes found in these films sort of a slightly different twist. People impersonating other figures has definitely been done, but civilians impersonating cops? If it has been done before in film, never to the length these two take it to.

The biggest reason why this works so well is the chemistry stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. possess. Clearly, the time these two spend on the FOX TV show New Girl has paid dividends here. They may not be as well known as say those guys who set up shop on a certain well known street, but no matter. Both play off each other impeccably, made more impressive that reportedly 70% of the dialogue was improvised. It is a comedy that relies more on its dialogue and less on slapstick. There are some great lines, and there is a lot of future potential with the duo. Another movie (not a sequel) featuring the two would be welcomed in a heartbeat.

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It is also a nice touch to see Damon playing the relative straight guy of the two, while Jake is the lovable douche and idiot, which is a bit different from their characters they play on TV. Their comedy roles are dynamic enough though in that each gets the chance to be the dunce and the sane one when the situation calls for it. The idea that these guys commit so quickly to being cops (mainly Ryan) is disturbing…and utterly hilarious. Is it far-fetched that no one questions these guys? Sure, but realism shouldn’t be expected in most comedies. The fact that no one does so made the movie that much more of a riot in my opinion. There was hardly a dull moment in this.

Supporting comedic fire is laid down by Rob Riggle and Keegan-Michael Key, who both meld nicely with the stars of the feature. While she doesn’t offer much more than a cute face, Nina Dobrev is alright in her role as one of the guys’ love interest. Really, the only weak part of the cast are those villains. They are as stereotypical as you could imagine, from the crimes they commit to the general look they have. They are passable enough when things naturally go down. As seen in many buddy cop movies, sometimes the third act can be somewhat different than the first two. (SLIGHT SPOILER) The shift is noticeable in Let’s Be Cops, but it is also a shift that was needed, because it plays into the movie’s subtle theme of taking responsibility for your actions. For this reason, it wasn’t as forced or drastic as other similar movies, and it felt right in place here. (END SPOILER)

At 104 minutes, LBC moves at a steady clip but at the same time the first 10 minutes come off as slightly rushed. We know that the film wants to get into the meat as fast as possible, but the early writing in this is akin to putting something on a fast-moving conveyor belt to get it to the next station as fast as possible. Additionally, there aren’t necessarily gaps in storytelling but there are two or three times where the film more or less assumes things have been happening or already happened, so it isn’t always tight. There are some pleasant surprises in the directing, and while this won’t win any awards for cinematography, certain locales and shots techniques seize the mood in the respective scene. Even the soundtrack snaps wonderfully into the film, which wasn’t something expected. Many of the tracks are definitely making their way on my phone.

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As crazy as it sounds, Let’s Be Cops is one of the better comedies of the year…subjectively speaking of course. Its absurdity can be picked apart, but on laughs supplied it does the job a comedy is supposed to do. More than enough for me, and I think I know what I want to be for Halloween.

Grade: B+

Photo credits go to filmhdwallpapers.com, usatoday.com, and flicksandbitscom.

Follow the MovieMan @MovieManJackson.