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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How to be a Latin Lover: Movie Man Jackson

One gets what they work for, not what they wish for. Growing up at a young age and believing that his father’s hard work got their family absolutely nothing, Maximo (Eugenio Derbez) makes a decision to never have to work a day in his life. How will he go about this, exactly? By finding an extremely wealthy and older woman. He’s achieved his goal by courting and marrying Peggy (Renée Taylor), which lasts 25 years before Maximo is kicked to the curb. 

Now in his 40’s with no job skills and an inflated sense of worth, the gigolo has nowhere to go except to his estranged sister, Sara (Salma Hayek), and her son, Hugo (Raphael Alejandro). Discovering that his nephew has a crush on a classmate who just so happens to be the granddaughter of a very rich socialite, Maximo sees his opportunity to get back onto the gravy train…while simultaneously assisting Hugo in getting his crush to notice him.

Remember the old Chappelle’s Show skit, where Dave gets lucky enough to impregnate Oprah Winfrey, and then proceeds to live like a king until he finds out the baby actually isn’t his? Minus the baby part, How to Be a Latin Lover is essentially that Chappelle’s Show skit, with an effort to throw in some heartfelt moments. There’s probably a reason this works better as a short compared to a full-fledged feature.

Latin Lover happens to be the directorial debut of comedy actor Ken Marino, and written by Jon Zack (The Perfect Score) and Chris Spain, filmed in English and dubbed to Spanish. There are certainly worse written comedy screenplays, but a lack of meat and substance make for a movie that feels every bit of its one hour and fifty five minute runtime. Mainly, because the comedy rarely hits big, whether it be of the physical slapstick variety (one gag in a pool does hit its mark), or traditional dialogue (generally, the characters speaking in Spanish for some reason makes the movie slightly funnier as compared to when they do not).

How to Be a Latin Lover is designed to be a vehicle of introduction tp Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez, consistently recognized as one of the most recognized actors in the Latin American community, to the U.S. audience. As yours truly watched him for the 1st time, it’s easy to see why he’s so popular. The man has substantial charisma and presence, and it will be interesting to see what comes of his career in the Americas.

If only the character he plays were a little easier to find humor in, instead of being either a complete buffoon or just generally unlikable. Like these comedies go sometimes, the redemption arc for the main character can end up feeling rushed and unearned, which is the case with Latin Lover.

However, the ageless beauty Salma Hayek and Raphael Alejandro do a good job at delivering sentimentality and being honest people the audience should root for. On a supporting cast level, How to Be a Latin Lover assembles names that many audiences will be pretty familiar with. Every Rob in Hollywood appears in this feature (Rob Corddry, Rob Riggle, Rob Huebel, and Rob Lowe) and are joined by Raquel Welch, Kristen Bell, and Michael Cera. As interesting as it is to see all of these names in this comedy, there are a lot of characters and most don’t really add much to the proceedings, unfortunately, outside of a small laugh here and there.

Cómo es? Though showcasing some good performances, How to Be a Latin Lover doesn’t have enough comedic heat to support its long runtime.

D+

Photo credits go to moviefone.com, fandango.com, and themoviemylife.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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Keanu: Movie Man Jackson

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Keanu is a F-B-I agent!  Okay, not quite. Keanu is a kitty cat who has wandered the streets of Los Angeles before making his way on the doorstep of Rell (Jordan Peele), a stoner who is going nowhere. Right on cue, all of the frustration and sadness in Rell’s life is taken away after one look at the irresistible feline.

However, after one night hanging with his cousin, uptight and semi-pushover Clarence (Keegan Michael Key), Rell comes back to a broken-in apartment with no sight of Keanu. Their only lead leads them to hardened gang-leader Cheddar (Method Man), who has possession of Rell’s baby, and is willing to give it back. But, only if the duo, mistaken as two legendary hitmen, is willing to carry out some jobs to further Cheddar’s criminal empire.

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Since the conclusion of Chappelle’s Show, the world (and by world, I really mean Comedy Central) has looked for that one comedy sketch series that could match Dave Chappelle’s apex reach on popular culture and national relevance. And to be honest, the station has failed with attempts like Kroll Show, Mind of Mencia, and even Inside Amy Schumer, even though Schumer is one of today’s “It” girls. The long and short of it is that the popularity of Chappelle’s Show will likely never be replicated. But, out of all shows to follow Dave’s, Key and Peele seemed to be the “closest” to it as it pertains to cultural relevance and popularity. With their show now ended, it’s only fitting that the talented duo make a movie in Keanu, their first full-length feature together.

Most fans (I’m one of them) of the style that Michael Peele and Keegan Michael Key put out should be right at home in this movie. Hell, director Peter Atentio has even directed multiple sketches from the show, and the beginning looks exactly like the beginning of one of their bits. With that said, fans may be a little disappointed when it is all said and done. The story is very much of the fish out of the water variety, with a little bit of a John Wick element thrown in for good measure.

It isn’t completely stretched, and seeing everyone put everything on the line for this adorable kitten is amusing, but it is drawn out very thin in places.  It does get better as it goes on, however, after a lukewarm start. Perhaps a few easter eggs that reference a few of their notable sketches could have been implemented, and anyone who remembers Strike Force Eagle 3 will see a massive opportunity to use a call back there in the climax. I know, doing that may be derided as lazy; I suppose it is just impossible to not see moments where they could have been used. One has to believe that the two have much stronger material to delve into down the line. Maybe this is the case of leaving your audience wanting more?

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Aside from artist George Michael being present in the way that other artists/icons of yesteryear are used for neverending jokes in R rated comedies, (seemingly starting with Ted), just about all of the laughs come courtesy of Key & Peele. Whether they are moonlighting as hardcore gangsters with a healthy love of the N word, or suburbanites who have no place in the criminal underworld, they are consistently funny, Once the script allows them to toggle back and forth between what they are and aren’t, the hilarity comes more frequently. Their comedic chemistry is second to none, and they deliver the humor in multiple ways, which isn’t always easy.

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Compared to many of their short sketches, the 98 minute runtime of Keanu lacks the potency and flat out hilarity. Still, there’s more than enough here that shows that Key & Peele are comedy cats that are going to be around for as long as they want to on the silver screen.

Grade: B-

Photo credits go to collider.com, esquire.com, and rollingstone.com.

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