Daddy’s Home 2: Movie Man Jackson

The dads are back in town. After going to war over who would be the rightful dad to Dusty’s (Mark Wahlberg) kids, stepfather Brad (Will Ferrell) and biological father Dusty have reached an understanding and one could even call them friends. There’s a clear understanding of schedules and needs, and everything’s working out, aside from Christmas-time. To make for a more enriching X-mas, Brad suggests a “together Christmas” between the two families with everyone around to celebrate the holiday in the same house.

The only thing that could screw this up is the presence of their dads. And what do you know, Dusty’s dad, macho Kurt (Mel Gibson) and Brad’s dad, mushy Don (John Lithgow) arrive. The basic Christmas has turned into an elaborate cabin vacation getaway at the push of a phone button by Kurt. All the great progression Brad and Dusty made turns into regression, and threatens to ruin Christmas and their friendship forever.

If it feels like we just got Daddy’s Home 2 last week, it’s because we did. Technically, this is the same movie give or take as A Bad Moms Christmas, only flipping the genders. Neither sequel should really exist, but Bad Moms 2 at least feels a little more inspired and carries a little more of a good time. The same cannot be said for the sequel to Daddy’s Home. Comparisons or not, this is simply a bad, low-rung comedy.

Nary a plot exists in Daddy’s Home 2. There’s the whole dysfunctional parents and a “will they, won’t they” breakup aspect between Dusty and Brad, but most of the movie’s runtime is comprised of various slapstick moments fluffed with bad writing. For every OK-to-good line of funny dialogue, there seems to be two or three lines plus an unfunny/telegraphed/callback sight gag that fails to do the trick. At least the word “scoff” is used liberally. Par for the course for many of these Christmas movies, the themes of family and forgiveness are prevalent and made to be wrapped up and addressed via a “heartwarming” finale that speaks to the holiday season. It happens so fast, however, that the effect is lost, further speaking to the cash-in feel of the movie.

Returning writer/director Sean Anders (Horrible Bosses 2) had to know this, which is perhaps why the sequel is beefed up with a bigger cast, with Gibson, Lithgow, and John Cena (very underutilized, by the way) of course being the main attractions after Wahlberg and Ferrell. Problem is, there are too many characters for the film to get into a comedic groove. It’s weird, too; it’s hard to really consider Daddy’s Home 2 an ensemble movie, but throw in Gibson, Lithgow, Cena, Ferrell, Wahlberg and Linda Cardellini, Alessandra Ambrosio, and an additional three to four other kids and it just gets to be way too much. Easier to overlook if more of the comedy did the job, which it doesn’t.

 

Most of the coal goes to the script or lack thereof, but that doesn’t mean that the cast is absolved of all holiday sins. Of the cast, Lithgow probably has the best moment or two. Ferrell and Wahlberg have obvious chemistry, but it alone cannot elevate what is present. The other big name in Mel Gibson screams miscast and/or laziness. Mel’s been funny before as the smug, masculine asshole with an underlying heart (see: What Women Want), but that ship likely has sailed, and put more succinctly, there’s no heart at all in his character in Daddy’s Home 2.

What’s left is Gibson spouting annoying insults and statements going on about what makes a man a man. I wonder if the two grandfather roles in Gibson and Lithgow would have made for more comedy if they were flip-flopped and had each actor go against type. He kind of epitomizes another huge problem with the sequel. It’s darker than it needs to be, with two scenes played for laughs yet being more disturbing than intended. As for the rest of the cast, there’s too many of them as previously stated to build comedic chemistry and worthwhile scenes.

And so, enough scoffing been said about Daddy’s Home 2. There are other funnier and heartwarming films about the Christmas time that don’t leave the viewer in a depressed state.

D-

Photo credits go to collider.com, itunes.apple.com, and hellogiggles.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 Wall: Movie Man Jackson

I’ll let someone else make a witty connection between this film’s title and the 45th president of the United States of America. In 2007, the Iraq War isn’t exactly over, but the pullout of American troops is beginning. Called to lookout after U.S. contractors building a pipeline are killed, Army sniper “Eyes” Issac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and spotter Sergeant Matthews (John Cena), make a move away from their protected positions to scope out the site. It’s been 22 hours, and they’re ready to be evacuated.

Shortly after inspection, all hell breaks loose. Scrambling from the open space fire, Issac finds protection in the form of an unsteady wall. Desperately trying to request help, his radio is not only damaged in the attack, but tapped by the enemy sniper. It becomes clear that Issac and Matthews are in grave danger, but their stalking assailant wants to play wretched mind games before launching a fatal salvo.

In the vein of 2016’s lean thrillers such as The Shallows and Don’t Breathe is The Wall. Director Doug Liman’s most recent film uses the backdrop of Iraq and the war to provide a movie that is technically a war movie, but sharing much more in common with those aforementioned films than a Hacksaw Ridge, Saving Private Ryan, and the like. The Wall ends up summer 2017’s first 100% lean thriller.

Liman, who knows his way around big-budget features in The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow, seems to relish in directing on this minuscule scale that The Wall carries, reportedly made somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-5 million dollars. The minimalist approach is deployed, and it does immerse the viewer into its setting rather quickly. Music is entirely absent in the movie; one may forget they’re watching one. Swirling winds, the desert heat, and just the general fear of being in a person’s literal crosshairs make for a harrowing viewing experience, and Liman chooses to give little away as it pertains to his villain’s position. It’s a clever use of space, illustrating that distance between characters may be far, but still very claustrophobic.

However, even at a tight 81 minutes, I’d be lying if I failed to say that The Wall did not meander occasionally. Gradually, the audience does find out more about Issac and his reason for still being in Iraq as the war is winding down, giving a little bit of an emotional component. As the film goes on, some attempts are made to parallel—and in the case of the antagonist, somewhat humanize—the characters who lie on each side of the wall divide through Edgar Allen Poe and Shakespeare lines. At best, these parallels are broad, at worst, nonexistent. Not exactly painful-to-listen-to dialogue, but the type of dialogue that doesn’t accomplish as much as it wants to, either. As for the ending, it’s a bold direction, if a little farfetched for a realism-focused movie.

Keeping up his hot momentum after his marvelous turn in Nocturnal Animals is Aaron Taylor-Johnson here. His performance isn’t so much character-driven, but draws more upon the overall fatigue and hopelessness, mental, physical, and emotional, soldiers may find themselves into. This is unequivocally his movie, with the bulk of the camera focused on him, though John Cena provides adequate dramatic support in what is easily his best dramatic performance to date. Laith Nakli is the standard, sinister voice that’s needed for this type of feature when a mysterious character is unseen, think Kiefer Sutherfland in Phone Booth and Ted Levine in Joy Ride.

The first real surprise of the year? With a pretty limited script, a good director and strong performances keep The Wall from toppling over, ultimately making for an efficient war-set thriller.

B-

Photo credits go to Youtube.com, muscleandfitness.com, and liveforfilms.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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Sisters: Movie Man Jackson

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“A house is just a building. A home is a feeling.”

Luther Vandross, take it away. Sisters Maura and Kate Ellis (Amy Poehler, Tina Fey) have made many memories in their family home, most of which were parties growing up. While older and irresponsible sister Kate’s memories are more wild, younger and dependable sis Maura’s memories are more non-eventful. Regardless, the house has meant a lot to them.

Which is why it is a shock when they discover that their parents are not only selling the house, but have, for all intents and purposes, sold it when the two return to Florida. Efforts to talk them out of the decision are unsuccessful. But, with the house still in the family’s possession for another day or two, the siblings decide to go out in a blaze of glory by throwing the ultimate rager for old friends and potential new ones.

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With the rise of female comedians ascending to superstardom like Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer, it almost feels like stalwarts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, even with the massive success had in hosting the Golden Globes and appearing in other comedies, have taken a backseat when it comes to silver screen features. Reunited in a film for the first time since 2008’s Baby Mama, Fey and Poehler show that even with an average script, they’ll still draw laughs out of an audience more times than not.

It’s Fey and Poehler! Which means that their chemistry is just about second to none. The ladies are completely believable as sisters, and so is their banter. Hearing the two go back and forth is going to be comedic heaven for big-time fans of the two, but for others who aren’t complete diehard fans, it can be very much hit-and-miss, especially in the first 30 or so minutes. The only people they are allowed to play off of in the early goings, aside from each other, are esteemed actors James Brolin and Dianne Wiest, who happen to do OK with being the butt of jokes, but nothing to truly split the sides.

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Like any good party though, Sisters starts picking up until after some time has passed and the patrons start rolling in. Honestly, it’s like Project X-lite with all of its structural destruction, directed by Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect), but with better talent/characters, better production, and an actual plot. That doesn’t mean it is a great plot, it just does what it needs to do as the party escalates beyond containment. Like quite a few comedies, the length of the runtime is felt in the third act. And, the themes of growing up/being responsible, and learning to live a little are, on a frequency scale of 1-10 for commonly used themes, about a 9. But, they work, and some people will surely connect with them.

But again, it’s the numerous other characters that drop in that give Sisters most of its hilarity. Maya Rudolph is wonderfully over-the-top and plays Fey’s foil perfectly. The appearances by those who have starred/are starring in other well-known comedy sketch series doesn’t stop there, with Greta Lee (Inside Amy Schumer), Rachel Dratch and Bobby Moynihan (SNL), and Ike Barinholtz (MAD TV) getting ample time to add to the hijinks.

John Cena fans, rejoice! Just like in Trainwreck, Cena’s appearance is one of the funniest scenes in the entire film; unfortunately, his screentime is less than what he had in Schumer’s feature. It’s a shame, too, because there’s potential to be had with both Fey and Poehler. Still, the old “Doctor of Thuganomics” has proven in 2015 that he’s game for bigger roles in comedies should he get tired of the WWE thing.

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In a nutshell, Sisters is essentially like any other comedy that revolves around a huge shindig, save for the older attendees and the strong sisterly chemistry Poehler and Fey bring to the party. Sisters ain’t the party of the century, but spending two hours at it is far from the worst thing in the world.

Grade: C+

Photo credits go to youtube.com, theguardian.com, and lamag.com.

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Trainwreck: Movie Man Jackson

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“Monogamy isn’t realistic.”

Quite the words to live a life by. At young ages, sisters Amy and Kim Townsend (Amy Schumer, Brie Larson) have it beat in their heads by their cheating father (Colin Quinn), that people weren’t meant to stay with one person. As the women have grown into adulthood, sister Kim finds happiness in a traditional, monogamous lifestyle. Sister Amy has heeded the advice of her kooky father.

Magazine writer Amy has all of the fun—mostly sexual—that is afforded to a successful career woman living in New York City–without the commitment of being tied down. Things seem to work for her, but to most around her, she is in a neverending cycle that may be called a Trainwreck. On assignment to write a story on world-renowned sports doctor Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), Amy tries to abide by the initial cycle of hanging out, sexing, and never seeing male friend again. But with Aaron, feelings exist that had never previously before. Could it really be the L word?

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How much can the script honestly be flipped in a romantic comedy? Not a lot. But, with Trainwreck, the simple flip of making the woman the one afraid of commitment instead of a man does, in some ways, make for a relatively fresh romantic-comedy. A groundbreaking one it isn’t, but a solid quality one that delivers pretty consistently in the laugh department.

If Trainwreck is to be remembered for one thing only, the official arrival of Amy Schumer would likely be it. Even with Judd Apatow directing (editing feels a little off with this one), he feels more along for the ride as opposed to putting his imprint on this. This serves as her first real film appearance in a feature, save for a bit part in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and all in all, it is a great and successful effort. Yours truly hasn’t seen a ton Schumer’s work on Comedy Central, but from what has been seen, the stuff has been not bad, and she brings the same unfiltered and blue comedy found on the show. However, she gets the chance to show some versatility as well with non-comedic moments, which could be a precursor for things to come down the line. In only one leading film, she should be set for life with these roles if she wants them.

Acting only is one part of her contribution here, with the other being writing. It’s quite the credit to be the sole writer on anything, regardless of experience, and she once again does a sound job in keeping the story running along and creating entertaining characters. But, it may not be as strong as her performance. The over two-hour length begins to be felt, as one would expect, near the end. Some bits run on a tad too long for my liking; not that the the last 30 or so minutes are lacking funny parts, just that two or three scenes could have been trimmed in length, and still been as funny. And as alluded to before, Trainwreck is more routine than anticipated, but again, how much can really be changed when working within the confines of the rom-com genre?

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Sort of like Melissa McCarthy’s Spy (though one may have to be more of a Schumer fan to enjoy this in contrast to a non-McCarthy fan enjoying Spy), Trainwreck gives ample opportunity for the lead’s supporting cast to shine. Just about all are game for it. Bill Hader is not completely a straight man, but he is, aside from Brie Larson, the most sensible person throughout while being funny when asked to be. As the father who puts Amy down her life path, Colin Quinn starts the movie on a riot, and though his emotional part of the story fell sort of flat for yours truly, it was a cool thing to see his relationship, or lack thereof, with his daughters. Even Tilda Swinton, once again sort of unrecognizable, has no issues assigning the worst possible stories for her magazine writers. The only characters who could be done without are played by Ezra Miller (weird intern), and Vanessa Bayer (placemat that everyone walks over).

The real scene stealers for my money are easily John Cena, and LeBron James. The former is only in for a maximum of probably 10 minutes and plays the character in a fitness nut/bodybuilder expected, but man, the champ is certainly here as a comedic force. Ohio’s own is nothing more than a fictional version of himself (why is he spending so much time in New York though?), but he is impressive and has many awesome moments of deadpan humor. Most importantly, he is natural and enaging, which many athletes fail at when on camera in movies or TV. Hader and LeBron share just as much chemistry, if not more, than Hader and Schumer, and their friendship is sweet and hilarious.

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With just the simple role reversal of wild woman being incapable of commitment instead of the man, Trainwreck is a fun look at an age-old rom-com convention, despite it not being that different with how things play out. As raunchy comedies go, it is one of the better ones of late, and if any doubts were had about Schumer being capable of being a comedy lead, they should be put to rest.

Grade: B+

Photo credits go to nerdist.com, screenslam.com, and businessinsider.com.