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 Accountant: Movie Man Jackson

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*Blows fingers two times before typing this.* Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) makes his money as an accountant, balancing spreadsheets, doing audits, the like. He’s The Accountant for some of the world’s most dangerous individuals and organizations, working behind an unassuming storefront to conduct his business.

How does he do it, lying in bed with such shady bedfellows? Christian lives with a high-functioning level of autism, which allows him to simply focus on the numbers and do his job, while simultaneously making it difficult to be sociable with people. Seeing some weird activity, the U.S. Treasury Department works night and day to figure out who is working behind the scenes for these organizations, which prompts Wolff to invest his talents in a real client—a state of the art robotics company. However, after clearing the books, something doesn’t add up. But the dead people certainly do, and if Christian isn’t careful, he could be next.

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Attention Bryan Mills, John Wick, Jason Bourne, Robert McCall: It is time to welcome Christian Wolff into your badass circle of ass-kickery. Director Gavin O’Connor’s (Warrior, Jane Got a Gun) latest in The Accountant is a lot of things. It’s a drama, it’s an action, it’s a crime, it’s a romance, it’s a character study. Truth be told, not all of it meshes well, but it somehow works…just enough.

In Christian Wolff, The Accountant showcases a very intriguing character. The “exploration” of autism—in this specific case, Asperger’s—isn’t something seen often in movies, so it still feels fresh when done. Going beyond the repetitiveness and physical cues that sometimes define autism, O’Connor fleshes out his lead character with well-timed flashbacks that do their job in understanding who Wolff is and how he has the skills he does. Visually and even musically, the style is pretty cold in its cool blues and dark hues, (in a good way) in what seems to be a direct reflection of it main, mostly expressionless, character.

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And one has to give it up to Ben Affleck, who in recent years appears to have found his groove as an actor. No, he’ll never be dynamic or a complete chameleon, but there’s a benefit in knowing how to stay in your own lane and play to your strengths, his in particular being good at being stoic. Affleck is undoubtedly the strongest aspect of The Accountant. He’s not all cold and gloom, though, as O’Connor gives Affleck a few opportunities for dry humor that build a connection with his character, especially when he’s with Anna Kendrick. Kendrick doesn’t have a meaty role, but it is important, and her chemistry with Affleck and how she plays off of him is wonderful without being sappy.

Where the film loses its balance is around the second half mark, in which all of the plot strands, balanced imperfectly but adequately in the first half, start to become a little messy and/or possibly unneeded. The biggest offender is a strand involving two characters played by J.K Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson who are looking for the accountant. It’s a plot that appears important, but is eventually revealed to only be present as exposition that is drawn out to an agonizing length, and at the end, one may be left wondering why this strand was really needed. 

As The Accountant moves away from its jack-of-all-trades approach to genre and more into action territory as it goes along, I do believe that the focus on its central character becomes lost. Well, not completely lost, but relegated to the backseat. By the end, what makes Wolff all that different from a Wick, Bourne, Mills, or McCall, all films that are decidedly action? I thought less about the person and more about the action said person committed. With that said, the action itself is well-filmed.

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What’s the final audit report on The Accountant? Not a liability, but in need of a few execution adjustments.

C+

Photo credits go to drafthouse.com, geeknation.com, and comingsoon.net.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Movie Man Jackson

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“Ape alone…weak. Apes together…strong.”

Hello people, I am back! And what better way to reintroduce myself than by looking at a 2011 movie whose fast approaching sequel may be number one on my summer radar? Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a reboot of the beloved but maybe now slightly cheesy late 60’s and 70’s movies, serving to essentially tell the same story but in a much more modern setting.

Brilliant scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) is at the cusp of a major breakthrough in the field. For years, he and his colleagues have been testing on apes in an effort to find a cure to degenerative brain disorders, like Alzheimer’s. On the day they are to bring in their test subject to display their progress, the female chimp goes berserk in the facility, which results in “Bright Eyes” and other experimental apes being put to sleep.

Her behavior, initially attributed to side effects from testing, instead shows to be correlated to protecting her newborn. Like his mother, this young chimp, exposed to the “mind repair” drug, shows amazing cognition far beyond humans in similar development stages. Forced to take him in or put him down, Will and his ailing father name him Caesar. By the end of the film, you’ll see why.

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Featuring outstanding CGI, excellence in motion capture, and a satisfying plot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is simply one of the better reboots of all time and really just a very entertaining piece of cinema. It is definitely great in a multitude of areas, but RPtA excels most in the technical department. For most of the movie, CGI isn’t really “seen” if that makes sense.

What I am saying is that it never feels as if there are graphics or images transplanted into scenes that look like something or someone caked over digitally to resemble primates. Long I know, but every orangutan, silverback, chimpanzee, etc. does appear and move as if it is the real thing.

Even the setting of San Francisco is an aspect of this movie that doesn’t receive a ton of acclaim, but it should. Of course, not all is filmed in “The City by the Bay,” but the bulk of the important scenes are. Something about seeing the apes scale Redwood Forest and the Golden Gate Bridge feels right from an aesthetic standpoint in a way that seeing these same apes run rampant in Chicago or New York wouldn’t, in my opinion at least.

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It is pretty clear what the climax will consist of with this movie. This predictability would be a problem and render the meat of the plot useless if there was no reason to get invested in anything or anyone. Thankfully, RPtA doesn’t have this issue, and proves that the journey can be just as important as the destination, if not more so.

Rise takes the time to build its main characters, why they do the things they do, and their resulting relationships, which makes the end all the more emotional as a result. Is it a slow burn? Sort of, but there are enough “Whoa!” moments injected sparingly during these slow happenings that whet the appetite. Additionally, while the themes of oppression and self-categorization are not groundbreaking and have been touched before in earlier installments, the inclusion of them never feels heavy handed.

Among the human characters of most importance, James Franco is the most prominent here. As stated, there is a strong motivation to what he does, even if it may be unethical, that makes him relatable. From a performance perspective, Franco is pretty average. He’s turned in great roles before, but nothing of great value in this.

Still, he adds a known name to the film that a lesser unknown could not. Underrated in many circles, here John Lithgow perhaps hits the highest emotional note. In many ways, he is the catalyst for much of what occurs. Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionairre) unfortunately serves as a pretty face with little to do, and it is not hard to imagine the movie without her.

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Without a doubt though, the star of the show is clearly Andy Serkis as Caesar. It has been a minute since I felt so invested in a “live” animal on film, but Serkis is that good. From Caesar’s infancy to his galvanizing young adulthood, all of his trials and tribulations are felt by the audience, without spoken words. Serkis is able to bring charisma, intensity, and introspection through body language and eyes alone. Truly a marvel.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a great blockbuster film all around. Not relying solely on amazing visual effects, but also a very engaging and emotional plot spearheaded by Caesar and his ape nation. A wonderful way to reestablish the PoTA universe and build anticipation for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Grade: A-

Photo credits go to shopstak.com, collider.com, highdefdisknews.com, and imageevent.com.

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