The House: Movie Man Jackson

Welcome to their house. Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler) are two good parents who have a lot to be proud of. Their daughter, Alex (Ryan Simpkins), has been accepted into the prestigious Bucknell University. And the best thing about it is that she happens to be a straight-A student, a virtual lock for the town’s full ride scholarship.

At least, that’s what they thought, until city councilman Nick Kroll takes away her award immediately upon granting it to her, claiming “budget cuts” as the reason. After an unfruitful trip to Las Vegas with friend Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) to win the money needed to support Alex’s college bills, the three concoct a plan to raise her money by running an underground casino in Frank’s home. The House always wins, but the house also attracts unwanted clientele that can make life very miserable for the Johansens.

Does Hollywood have a mid/big-budget comedy problem? Obviously, the genre is the most subjective there is—one person’s laughing trash is another’s laughing treasure. Still, since 22 Jump Street and possibly Trainwreck, there hasn’t been that big pure comedy that audiences and critics agree upon and flock in droves to see and spend money on. Even with the comedy stalwarts in Ferrell and Poehler, The House, proven by its box office results as of this writing, definitely isn’t that comedy.

Any enjoyment of The House may likely come down to how much one enjoys the typical antics of Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler. A good chunk of their interactions, both together and with others, appear to be improvised, for better and for worse. Out of the two, Ferrell delivers more consistently with the laughs; two running gags involve his character struggling with the most basic of math problems and channeling a dark alter ego known as “The Butcher.” Still, both have been better before.

It’s probably Mantzoukas who has the best parts tied to his character. His total arc comes up pretty flat, but he absolutely steals scenes as the gambling addict Frank, the divorcee trying to win back his love by…running a casino. Nick Kroll is amusing playing the shady councilman, but others in the cast are pretty worthless, even Alex, who the story is supposed to revolve around.

The House suffers from predictability. This isn’t a bad thing in of itself—especially in a comedy—but when the jokes are folding at the table, it can be. Additionally, The House takes a long time to set up the opposition, often shifting between villains in its last act. The SNL skit feeling is hard to escape when watching. First-time director Andrew J. Cohen (writer of Neighbors) makes a basic, standard-looking feature that takes story and scene inspiration from Casino. Nothing shoddy or praiseworthy particularly stands out.

And ultimately, that last sentence sums up The House pretty succinctly. It’s an average hand in a genre in desperate need of a flush.

C

Photo credits go to theplaylist.net, movpins.com, and slashfilm.com. Article credit to Variety.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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The LEGO Batman Movie: Movie Man Jackson

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Shamone!  In Gotham City, of course, resides Bruce Wayne, aka Batman (Will Arnett). As he’s done for the past 78 or so years, the Caped Crusader defends his city from all of its evil-doers, most notably The Joker (Zach Galifianakis). Despite always “beating” Joker and the rest of Gotham’s criminal denizens, Batman has never fully eradicated, or lessened the city’s crime.

Perhaps it’s because he always works alone. When new police commissioner Barbara Gordon proposes a plan to reduce crime that involves Batman working with the community, he balks. But as The Joker crafts a plan to unleash all of Gotham’s worst at once (and command R-E-S-P-E-C-T) from Batman, The Dark Knight may have to learn how to work together with a team to save the day again.

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Deadpool for a PG-crowd? Not entirely, but The Lego Batman Movie does share some of the same self-referential tone that last year’s movie possessed, not taking itself too seriously and making light of comic book conventions, often to hilarious levels. Heck, it even features fourth-wall breaking beginning and end credit sequences. Overall, it’s a whimsical and all-ages pleasing type of watch.

Lego Batman not only captures all ages, but almost all fans who fall on every notch on the spectrum as it pertains to comic book enjoyment. Sure, the understanding of some jokes and visual shots here and there may lend themselves better to those who are immaculate in their Batman lore, but one doesn’t necessarily have to be a Batman fan to have a good time with this movie. The jokes fly fast, sometimes too fast to completely digest and take appreciation in, but that also means that little time goes by without someone laughing in the audience, lest yourself.

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From a story perspective, The LEGO Batman Movie comes off as the inverse of the movie that preceded it. If The LEGO Movie was ultimately about embracing individuality in a philosophical way, LEGO Batman Movie addresses the importance of teamwork and collaboration using Batman’s immense backstory to often amusing effect. Not a particularly fresh story, but few mainstream animation movies really are. The story gets the job done, but feels like it was written around jokes for a large portion of it. For the first and final acts, Batman’s full foray into Lego Land rarely bogs down, but a fairly significant portion in the middle of the movie does.

Still, the film is a visual treat to look at, even during slow periods. It actually is a notch under the impressiveness that was 2014’s LEGO Movie, if only because the color palette is a little darker (duh) and we’ve now seen it before. But consistency is important, and Chris McKay, animation co-director of the previous film, makes sure that the stop-motion continues to look fluid.

Stealing the show before as a side character, Will Arnett and Batman return as the feature character this go around, with an actual arc. Arnett gives stellar delivery at all times, never missing a beat. This is important, because the rest of the cast isn’t all consistent. Zach Galifianakis isn’t a bad Joker, and Ellie Kemper is memorable in a bit part. Ralph Fiennes is marvelous as Alfred. But some of the other important characters in Robin (Michael Cera) and Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) are a little disappointing. Feels like a missed opportunity to have some notable star power powering the vocals of the other key characters.

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Why so serious? The LEGO Batman Movie isn’t. Mostly fast-paced, light, and committed to its source material, The LEGO Batman Movie may lack in substance, but not in style.

B-

Photo credits go to geektyrant.com, gameinformer.com, and moviepilot.com

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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.

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Dirty Grandpa: Movie Man Jackson

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How long does grieving over a soulmate take? Not long if you’re ready to bone. Retired Army General Dick Kelly (Robert De Niro) has just lost his wife of about 40 years to cancer. Most in his family are worried about him, including his grandson, Jason (Zac Efron), a young lawyer who specializes in “LSC agreements and SEC contracts.” Or something like that. Jason’s also a week away from getting married to Meredith (Julianne Hough), who is something of a control freak, but still so perfect for Jason.

Dick and his wife always used to go to Florida around a specific time in the year, and that isn’t changing with her no longer on this Earth. Only issue is, Dick doesn’t have a license, and convinces Jason to drive him. Reluctant, he does so, thinking that Gramps just needs to do this as part of the grieving process. Turns out, this is no grieving trip. Gramps is a Dirty Grandpa, looking to have the single fun he wasn’t afforded when in a union. In the process of trying to hook up with women as young as Jason, Dick hopes to show his grandson that it is never too late to live a little.

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It is acceptance that the months of January and February, known as Dumpuary in some corners, must feature a few stink bombs released in cinemas amid the award hopefuls and previous year holdovers. In 2016 Dumpuary, Dirty Grandpa is one of those stink bombs.

Not all is deplorable, though. With a name like Dirty Grandpa, no confusion is had as to what is to be expected. In fact, yours truly would say that the ‘Dirty’ part in the title doesn’t encapsulate just how crass, blunt, and simple-minded this movie is. OK, that sounded like a huge negative, but in a way…it is sort of a positive. Director Dan Mazer (Da Ali G Show, writer of Borat) certainly has no shame/fear in potentially offending a lot of groups. Every bit of the R rating is utilized and not gone to waste, if that sort of thing counts.

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However, using every bit of the R rating does no good if your comedy isn’t funny. Dirty Grandpa struggles to build substantial momentum in the laugh department, and there just isn’t one scene that is standout or ball-busting with the humor. There are a few scenes worth some chuckles, but with little consistency, the crassness begins to feel like cheap laziness at shock value, hoping that it alone will spark some laughs. It doesn’t help that the story and its endgame is seen about 10 minutes in, a love child of The HangoverThe Wedding Ringer, and any road trip movie (for the hell of it, let’s say Sex Drive) ever seen.

Some chemistry is forged with Zac Efron and Robert De Niro, and these two do serve as the highest points of a low flick. Efron isn’t all that different from most of his adult roles, and I’m sure that many scenes he has in this will become gif-ed to the end of time appearing on women’s Pinterest and Tumblr walls. But as he’s shown recently, he has no issue being the butt of jokes. And as the straight man here, he’s privy to tons of them. It is a shame that the writing is so shoddy, because he and De Niro do try hard. Make no mistake, if this aint the rear of De Niro’s filmography, it is close. Still, it does seem like Robert is having fun with the role, and as such, even with the material is falling flat, he draws some enjoyment out of things.

With their chemistry relatively strong, it would have been better to rely on the duo more. Because, Dirty Grandpa may feature the worst cast of supporting characters to appear in a comedy in quite some time, from Aubrey Plaza (horny co-ed), to Julianne Hough (uptight fiancée) and Adam Pally (stoned cousin). They are all unfunny, but they pale in comparison to Jason Mantzoukas, playing a character of “Tan-Pam.” He’s dull as soon as he appears on the screen, and sadly, he stays on the screen way too much.

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Despite its stars’ efforts, Dirty Grandpa has little comedic vitality, and no amount of Viagra, Efron, or De Niro can change that. Not worth venturing out of the home into Snowmageddon 2016 to view this.

Grade: D-

Photo credits go to maxim.com, aceshowbiz.com,and filmonic.com.

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