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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Hacksaw Ridge: Movie Man Jackson

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Going to need a strong drink after this one. Maybe four or five. Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) has long been a God-fearing Christian, and all-around good guy, who’s seen a few things growing up that has shaped him to be who he is. Who he is happens to be a pacifist; he doesn’t believe in killing people or even handling a firearm.

Being a pacifist isn’t an issue…except when Doss decides to join the Army as a medic in an effort to serve his country during its most important time in World War II. Even carrying the status of a conscientious objector, many in his squadron don’t believe Doss will be there when the chips are down and bully him into quitting. But a man of such strong conviction is one people should want on their side when the going gets tough, and it gets no tougher than Hacksaw Ridge, a battleground on the island of Okinawa that could turn the tide of the war if won.

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There’s really no point in comparing the two, but I can’t help it, as it is something that has stuck with me since early in the movie. Isn’t Hacksaw Ridge sort of like The Birth of a Nation? Not story-wise or anything, but both movies arrived in theaters with biographical subject matter, as well as controversial actions done by their directors. It can be argued (even likely) that Mel Gibson, director of Hacksaw Ridge, is much more controversial than director Nat Turner, for the simple fact that he’s been in the limelight longer for his actions to be unfurled. But like many things in life, winning cures a lot of ill will, and the same goes in cinema. Mel Gibson has a winner in Hacksaw Ridge.

How does he do it? A multitude of ways, but it starts with the writing. Gibson’s not a writer in this, but co-writers Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan are. Together, they pen a compelling story about being convicted in one’s beliefs. Though Christianity is an important characteristic of the main character Desmond, this isn’t a film that pushes that, it pushes more the strength of the human spirit, and how anything can be done with the right determination. Granted, it isn’t a groundbreaking story, but it feels very authentic. Know how true stories and stories about biographical historical figures can be very Hollywoodized? Hacksaw Ridge doesn’t really feel as such, maybe because for all intents and purposes, this is a screenplay that is not exactly original, but by no means adapted, either.

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This does not mean that Hacksaw Ridge‘s screenplay is perfect, however. Some of the first third of the movie is a little too clunky for my personal liking. And though this is clearly a story about Doss, the second act of the movie (if ever so briefly but still) seems to want to explore a few other characters in the squadron, but the third act comes and hardly anything is known about any of them aside from some endearing nicknames. Otherwise, they are somewhat faceless entities.

So not every character gets a lot of meat. But character shortcomings are not due to any fault of the cast. As Desmond Doss, Andrew Garfield turns in the work of his career, and it comes across so effortless. Okay, his accent isn’t completely on point, but it is more than passable and after a while, you stop listening to vocal oddities because he just sinks into the role. Every other actor/actress around him is firmly of the support fashion, but all stand out in whatever screentime they possess. Teresa Palmer can do so much more, yet she very captivating the moment she steps on screen, and Hugo Weaving could have an entire film anchored by his character, he’s that good here.

One has to give it to Gibson to coaxing great performances from guys who aren’t known for dramatic work. The troika of Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, and Luke Bracey all fit in perfectly. Out of the three, Bracey is the only other character in the entire feature who gets somewhat solid development.

But being honest here, as great as the acting and as good as the overall story is, Hacksaw Ridge is going to be remembered for its unrelenting war action ultraviolence that dominates the 3rd act. It comes so sudden and doesn’t let up once it does. The Hacksaw Ridge battleground itself is extremely frightening, a mix of uneven geography, perpetual haze, and depressing grey. Gibson gets a little too slo-mo happy in the final moments, but otherwise, the comparisons to Saving Private Ryan are warranted.

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10 years is a long time to be away from the directing chair, but it’s clear Gibson hasn’t lost much, if anything. Succeeding as first a stirring drama and then a visceral wartime action, Hacksaw Ridge isn’t likely to be forgotten anytime soon.

A-

Photo credits go to metro.co.uk, theplaylist.net, and screencrush.com

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The Expendables 3: Movie Man Jackson

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“It’s hard to beat an enemy when he’s inside your own head.”

As long as there are untouchable missions, you can rest assured the Expendables will always have work. Once again, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) is the leader in The Expendables 3, the gang of gung-ho mercenaries. The location where the stuff hits the fan this time is Somalia, where Barney and his team are attempting to stop the transfer of explosives to a dangerous warlord. Average day in the life of an expendable.

The mission gets a monkey wrench thrown at it when a old ally and now foe Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) reveals himself to be the supplier of the explosives. Assumed to be dead, the once co-founder of The Expendables now makes his living on the black market. This enrages Barney, but his men are overmatched and outgunned. Not wanting to put his original crew in harm’s way and expressing a desire to shake things up, Barney seeks out younger, progressive talent to employ in efforts to go to war against his old friend.

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When it comes to movie franchises, there is a fine line in knowing when it is time to reinvent the franchise or stick with what got the franchise a sizable following. It is tough to know what direction to take, and when to pull the trigger, and usually both are often no-win situations. Stick with the status quo too long and people say you’re getting lazy, or go more radical and people state that things change too much. Once of the best recent examples of a solid redesign is The Fast and The Furious franchise, effectively shifting its tone effortlessly sort of midway in its life cycle to the point that the latter three movies are accepted by most as the best in the series. Back to the feature at hand though. Sadly, The Expendables 3 tries to do new things, but gets away from its roots too much.

With these films, the draw or more fittingly the gimmick of past-their-prime action stars performing ultra-violent bloody acts make The Expendables what it is: Unadulterated entertainment. When these aspects are removed, what is left is a nondescript action film. If you don’t know by now, this installment introduces more characters to the crew, and for a minute it looks like new blood is going to mesh with the old guard. While that happens eventually, a sizable chunk of the runtime is solely devoted to introducing us to these new characters and seeing them do what the old guys used to do.

There is just no awe seeing these newbies in this film, because they have little to no prior history in the genre. The previous two films didn’t have and didn’t need character development, but the stars playing the characters were essentially themselves, which sort of gave some “depth” to them in an odd way. With the new blood, this simply doesn’t exist, and the characters are either bland but acceptable (Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell) or grating and stereotypical (Kellan Lutz). Additionally there are some newer older guys like Wesley Snipes making a return to acting, and Antonio Banderas (in a highly annoying role), but their inclusion feels like nothing more than to add more big names to appear in the trailer and film. It is a little of a downer for Snipes, because if he had more to do in here, the role could have conceivably gave his post-tax career some momentum.

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One of the biggest talking points prior to the release of The Expendables 3 was the fact that Sly and the studio were going to go with a PG-13 rating with this one. Sometimes too much is made about what a movie is rated, often pertaining to action movies, looking past the fact that effective action can still be created and utilized with a softer rating. Again however, these movies were built around occasionally graphic and over the top action, which the PG-13 rating cannot capture. When that is taken away, much of the soul of The Expendables 3 is as well. The move to a PG-13 is actually a puzzling one. The softer rating potentially expands the viewing audience, but it really doesn’t upon further analysis. It can even be argued that it pushes its core fan base away, and the new targeted demographic doesn’t move the money needle like anticipated.

Since the film was originally shot as a R, many cuts had to be made to get it to the desired mark, and it is here that the dulling of the action is most clearly seen. That isn’t to say all is a disappointment; there are a few impressive looking sequences here and there. More often than not though, so much shaky cam and janky cuts are used to minimize the violence, to the point that much is happening but little of it is actually seen. Even some that is seen is just plain boring and devoid of excitement. Aside from the action, there are more than a few occasions where some set pieces, be it driving or escaping from burning rubble, never appear to leave the green room, adding a layer of unintentional humor.

In totality, most involved for one reason or another appear to be going through the motions, whether this is their first go around or third. Unfortunate matter, because this movie actually has the most intriguing villain out of the three. Mel Gibson isn’t reason alone to see this, but he does steal the show as much as one could in a movie like this. His character is a bad guy, but is cerebral enough to get you to see some of his side. The plot is benefited from a beefed up foe and seems to have slightly more direction than its predecessors, but it does have some pacing issues. Honestly, it is longer than it needs to be, and there are a few stretches where nothing truly occurs but recruiting members or getting to know them. This was most likely done to give some weight to the new people in an effort to get us to care, but the characters themselves are ones to be forgotten.

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Whether a victim of franchise fatigue or doing too much to a relatively tried and true template, The Expendables 3 isn’t good any way you slice it. But the bigger issue is that it just isn’t that memorable or fun.

Grade: D

Photo credits go to movpins.com, whoatv.com, and cinemablend.com.

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