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

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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Office Christmas Party: Movie Man Jackson

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Ain’t no party like an Office Christmas Party cause an office Christmas party don’t stop. Christmas is coming around the corner at Zenotk, a Chicago-based technology company led by its manager Clay Vanstone (TJ Miller). Spirits aren’t exactly high in the office; the company isn’t meeting its profit goal, and the threat of layoffs and the branch being closed is high. Clay’s uptight CEO sister, Carol, (Jennifer Aniston), wouldn’t mind this, as she’s always had some jealousy towards her brother.

The only shot Clay has in saving his branch and the employees he loves is to land a big client. When the pitch he, CTO Josh Parker (Jason Bateman), and lead engineer Tracey Hughes (Olivia Munn) make to industry leader Walter Jones (Courtney B. Vance) fails, they have but one last card to play: Invite Walter to their annual “nondenominational holiday mixer,” aka Xmas party. Here, they can show why they are a company worth giving business to. Even if this fails, at least the company goes out in a blaze of glory, right?

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The party comedy. I never really think of that as a subgenre, but it absolutely is, whether as a launching pad to the rest of the movie, à la The Hangover or This Is the End, or the movie itself such as Project X, Sisters, and House Party. Throw the obviously-named Office Christmas Party into that subgenre, sharing similarities with the aforementioned titles. So what does this mean?

It means that Office Christmas Party is stretched pretty thin. Certainly, with a title like such, one’s not exactly expecting a well-woven screenplay. On one hand, kudos should be given to writers Justin Malen, Laura Solen, Dan Mazer, Jon Lucas, Scott Moore, and Timothy Dowling for trying to cobble up some story and character relationships around the massive party. And, they kind of achieve in the first act right before it.

On the other hand…that’s a lot of writers that have a hand in contributing to the story! Around the midpoint of the party, things start to go haywire in the script and not necessarily in the best comedic ways. Throw in some forced reconciliation and commensurate romances into mix as well. Some less interesting side characters and plots get promoted to “A” status while more interesting side characters and plots get cast to the storage closet. It does make a person wonder if a few less party planners  writers could make for a stronger offering.

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The party itself is riotous, maybe not full of non-stop hilarity, but definitely where Office Christmas Party gets the bulk of its laughs, supplied by a good portion of its all-star cast. Kate McKinnon and TJ Miller are probably the most valuable players, much more hit than miss anytime they’re on screen. Miller in particular brings the most honest-to-goodness nature, his manager reminiscent of a poor man’s Michael Scott which provides the movie with a little holiday sentimentality. Smaller character like Courtney B. Vance (huge surprise), Randall Park, and Rob Corddry steal scenes.

Not all of the all star cast is comedic fire though. There’s no bigger fan of straight man Jason Bateman than yours truly, but he is slightly dull here and not as funny as in previous films. Olivia Munn’s never really been comedic, and Jennifer Aniston, someone who’s proven to be legitimately funny numerous times (often with Bateman), is nothing more than a overly mean witch. The pimp character played by Jillian Bell sounds great in doses, but becomes annoying by film’s end once she becomes a central figure.

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Far from a fruitcake but not the best gift ever, Office Christmas Party is the proverbial gift card gift in movie comedy form. Won’t be mad with it and can certainly get some usage out of it, but not a gift to remember, either.

C+

Photo credits go to comingsoon.net, indiewire.com, and yahoo.com.

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The Angry Birds Movie: Movie Man Jackson

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Fly like an eagle. No wings? Use a slingshot. On Bird Island, birds without the ability to fly reside. One of them, Red (Jason Sudeikis), perpetually lives in a mental state of irritability. He’s different from everyone else, as this is an island of perpetual happiness. Needless to say, he doesn’t fit in.

One particular outburst lands him in anger management with other Angry Birds Terence (Sean Penn), Chuck (Josh Gad), and Bomb (Danny McBride). As they attempt to manage their tempers, pigs from Piggy Island make themselves welcome as explorers, and most of the population is accepting. Except for Red, who believes the pigs aren’t as kosher as they appear to be.

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It’s not so much a shock that The Angry Birds Movie is an actual thing (even if it is based on an application), it’s a shock that it has arrived in 2016 instead of striking while the iron was hot, like, say, in 2012 or something. Despite it being as lean as one could imagine a story-less smartphone game app to, Angry Birds the Movie is passable, every enjoyable here and there.

First-time directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly provide the movie with a vibrant and colorful palette. Sounds trivial, but sometimes a small part of an animated movie’s appeal is simply how well it looks, and the work the duo has done previously in works like Frozen, Wreck-It-Ralph, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs seems to aid them here. A highlight of their particular movie here is the climax, ripping right from the app, loaded with action and good fun.

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Angry Birds‘ script makes clear references to its original intellectual property, from small bits of dialogue to the beats of its plot. It works a little better than anticipated, and even has sort of a message about friendship. The truly cynical type may see this movie leaning one way or the other on the political spectrum, but I look at it more of the inoffensive variety .

But, the film is stretched pretty thin, evidenced by more than a few musical montages and some flashback gags that are not all needed. And, Angry Birds is kind of relentlessly loud. Only few moments of quiet exist; otherwise, the mode is GO! GO! GO! like the bird Chuck. There is some amusing humor to be found, most is slapstick in nature. The crudeness of a few jokes is a little off-putting for a family-targeted flick, however.

The Angry Birds Movie does employ some sound voice work, some being better in an animated movie than others. Jason Sudeikis is reminiscent of his character in Horrible Bosses on a PG-level, with a good amount of quick wit, with the only real complaint being that he doesn’t come off as angry but rather detached and aloof. Gad, Keegan-Michael Key, Bill Hader, and Peter Dinklage are here and noticeable in that way that adds to a character but not to the point where their vocals stand out in a weird incongruence to their characters. On the other end, one could go throughout the entire film without knowing that Danny McBride, Jillian Hall, or Maya Rudolph contributed to the movie. “Easy-money-of the-year while-being-top-billed award” goes to Sean Penn, who grumbles for 98% of his screentime. Must already be working on his post-El Chapo career, not wanting to be seen or definitively identified via voice.

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Not completely flightless, The Angry Birds Movie isn’t exactly flying high in the sky either. But technically as a video game movie, the quality isn’t bad. The real question is what is coming next. Sugar Smash, maybe?

C+

Photo credits go to cgmeetup.net ,thewrap.com, and filmonic.com

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22 Jump Street: Movie Man Jackson

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“Ladies, nobody gave a s*** about the Jump Street reboot but you got lucky.”

What is the next step after successfully assimilating into high school, and stopping a drug outbreak? Doing the same thing in college. 22 Jump Street starts off exactly as pointed to at the end of its predecessor, in which Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) mentions that our heroes Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) are going to college for their next mission. Sounds cool, expect it is of the online variety.

It does not take long for this to change though. A new drug known as WHYPHY is threatening to run rampant on a nearby campus, forcing the tandem to go undercover again amidst younger people. Their partnership, once unbreakable, begins to show signs of fracture when college clearly seems to be more up Jenko’s alley. To infiltrate the dealers and find the supplier once more, they will have to be on the same page.

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Going to try and keep this relatively short and simple. 22 Jump Street is definitely more of the same. Following a similar setup to 21 Jump Street with only the mildest of plot tweaks and flip flops, it will not win any awards for originality. But is that important here? No, not at all!

Once again, and it is ad nauseam at this point, the film knows what it is. It’s a sequel that probably shouldn’t even exist must like the first, but it does. As Deputy Hardy (Nick Offerman) outlines within the confines of the film, the first assignment (movie) was successful, which means more money has to be poured into the next assignment (sequel) to make it bigger and more substantial. It may be a rehash, but this is how these things go.

It is this meta-ness and self-referential humor that this installment brings to its arsenal once again, poking fun at the absurdity of the premise, the existence of sequels, and even Hollywood itself. Eventually, this reminder that everyone is in on the joke does wear a bit thin after a while in my opinion, but it is a fabric of the franchise.

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Even with the referential humor which is pretty funny itself, 22 Jump Street works because it is just funny consistently from beginning to end, which is the first goal for any comedy. Sure, some laughs are bigger than others (and there are some big ones), but the mild laughs keep investment in the movie and keeps hold of attention. And it is not just the meta humor either. Tons of physical gags, verbal banter, and reactionary comedy work just as well, if not better.

The constant hilariousness can be attributed to three people: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, and Ice Cube. As a duo, Hill and Tatum as Schmidt and Jenko have something special in the way of chemistry, like two basketball players utilizing the pick and roll so effectively because they know where the other is almost always going to be. The movie does allow for the two to be separated at times, and it is during these times where both get to shine respectively in their given situations. Also, the movie delves more into their relationship and why it doesn’t always work, giving Jenko and Schmidt character aspects that the audience can relate to.

As a benefit to everyone, Ice Cube’s role is definitely larger in this sequel. He is back as the stereotypical angry black captain, spitting his profane insults and mean mugging faces to our favorite tandem, which is just as gut-busting as before. This time however, he must become more a part of the mission, for support reasons and personal reasons, the latter resulting in arguably the funniest moment in the entire film. The rest of the cast comes off as more miss than hit. Not to say that they are completely devoid of amusing moments, but they are more one-note, compared to the supporting characters of Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, and Brie Larson from the first.

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Though the premise is the same, it has been improved upon. Directors Christopher Miller & Phil Lord make sure that this sequel is tighter, mainly in its pacing and presentation. This movie never drags and moves along at a brisk pace. Additionally, the action sequences look like more attention was spent on them, and they too are spaced throughout as opposed to the last third of runtime, giving the movie a true comedy-action feel. Depending on how many times the trailer has been seen, it may make the events of the movie slightly predictable, so keep that in mind.

All in all though, 22 Jump Street is easily the best comedy of the year to this point simply because at the core it succeeds in making you laugh, and laugh a lot. Can’t ask for much more.

Grade: B+

Photo credits go to forbes.com, acesshowbiz.com, and movieplusnews.com.

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