How to be Single: Movie Man Jackson

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Did Hollywood really need to make a movie about How to Be Single? They could have just came to me! In modern day New York City, finding companionship is hard. After four years of being in a college relationship, Alice (Dakota Johnson) feels the need to break up with her boyfriend, Josh (Nicholas Braun) upon graduation—temporarily. Her reason, being, that she needs to figure out some things in the Big Apple. Her paralegal job introduces her to a new friend named Robin (Rebel Wilson), who has no problems being a single lady.

Alice’s older sister Meg (Leslie Mann), also single, is all about her career as a doctor, having no desire to conform to society’s idea of having offspring at a certain age. But, she does begin to get an itch to have a baby after a routine patient delivery. And even Lucy (Alison Brie), a person who makes dating apps, has issues with finding a companion. Being single can be tough, but it also can be very eye-opening.

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Yours truly probably isn’t in the target demographic that How to Be Single, a film based off of a novel with the same name, is aiming to hit. It kind of feels like a prolonged episode of Sex in the City. Its release comes at a good time, with it being Valentine’s Day weekend, drawing in people that might latch on to it who are single simply because of its title. It’s an average ensemble piece rom-com that has similar issues to most rom-coms, with the occasional solid positive here and there.

Let’s start with some of the positives. It really isn’t saying much, but How to Be Single does feature a little more substance than many other ensemble romance-comedies. A high-brow analysis this isn’t, but it is a fairly interesting look at being single featuring a whole cast of characters who are single, instead of just the one story thread that often appears in these types of movies amid others. Although featuring many characters, the story connector is the same and makes it easy to follow along. Also, though an African-American male and not a Caucasian female (last time checked at least), still being currently single and around the general age of the lead characters, I can connect somewhat to what the main characters experience. Very possible that point alone plays into the fact of me finding some enjoyment in this.

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Directing-wise, this isn’t too bad either.  Christian Ditter brings some energy and some mild flair behind the camera with some nice lighting and solid song choices that match the story. Generally, he’s able to keep the movie moving at a solid pace, though at times, his reliance to jump ahead in time for a few months comes at the expense of character and true relationship development.

And honestly, it is the characters that How to Be Single gets mostly wrong. For a movie whose story seems to be pretty focused on reality and finding love in the 21st century, it’s odd as to why the characters could not be written with more layers. The obvious person that comes to mind first is Rebel Wilson, basically being Rebel Wilson throughout. If you find her funny, HtBS is going to be a riot. If not (like yours truly), this can be a chore sometimes as the comedy with her at the forefront never really lands.

Dakota Johnson is a fine actress, but it is hard to really feel anything for her Alice as she repeatedly makes the same mistakes. I understand that that is sort of the point, but her eventual awakening feels more predetermined, rather than earned. It sort of works, but it doesn’t hit emotionally as intended. The women aren’t the only ones who can feel fake. The lead male, Tom, played by Anders Holm, is just way too cartoonish to take seriously.

There’s a missed opportunity for Alison Brie, who appears in the marketing substantially but is clearly the fourth wheel after things get going. She’s off her kilter a tad too much and not exactly grounded, but kind of representative of some people finding love online nowadays. Leslie Mann’s character storyline is probably the most fulfilling, though her character can be a bit much with her “freneticness” and such.

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Credit where credit’s due. How to Be Single gets a rose or two for not being completely predictable, having a semi-interesting story about the difficulties of love, and subverting a few rom-com staples. However, it falls short of getting a full bouquet due to a majority of the cast of of characters showing why they deserve to be single.

Grade: C

Photo credits go to moviefone.com, YouTube.com, and aroundmovies.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

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Baggage Claim: Movie Man Jackson

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“The magic isn’t in getting married, it’s in staying married.”

Not exactly the Mile High Club, but still just as bizarre in practice is Baggage Claim. Montana Moore (Paula Patton) is a thirty-something year-old flight attendant who is tired of being alone and husband-less. Her mother has tied the knot many times, and even her younger college-aged sister will be doing so before her. She has no problems in dating men, but nothing ever sticks, and it seems like the only man who truly knows her is longtime childhood friend William Wright (Derek Luke).

Vowing to be engaged by the time of her sister’s wedding rehearsal dinner, Montana and co-worker friends Gail (Jill Scott) and Sam (Adam Brody) hatch out a plan that will place Montana on the flights of numerous ex-boyfriends, all in an effort to see if one of them is Mr. Right. Thirty days, 30,000 miles. Finding love must truly be in the air.

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Looking for a positive with Baggage Claim? Everyone has really, really white teeth that could blind even Helios. Otherwise, Baggage Claim is a movie that has been done before, but undoubtedly in better ways. Sure it is occasionally amusing in parts, but really, it is just on airplane mode throughout, providing the same narration, staples, and characters that are common to the genre.

Yours truly hates picking on premises for their believability, as the very act of watching a movie forces an audience to suspend disbelief at least a little, but this one pushes the limits. Finding a fiance amid a throng of failed exes is one “highly unlikely, but alright I can roll with this I guess” sort of acceptance (What’s Your Number did this mostly already), but doing this in 30 days on numerous flights is a little too much to buy into. Even with the odd setup, the ending is of no surprise, seen easily by the time the first third of the movie ends. The rest just serves as filler, a futile attempt to inject some uncertainty from the journey from point A to B.

But perhaps the real kicker is seeing Montana, played by Paula Patton, struggling so much with finding a man with her amazing beauty. This does happen a lot in romantic comedies with the actress being too gorgeous to imagine her struggling with finding a partner, but one cannot help but wonder here that with a more plain-looking woman, maybe the premise could be bought into easier. Paula Patton isn’t plain looking in the slightest. Robin Thicke, what were you thinking man?

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A predictable plot can be overlooked with solid laughs, which Baggage Claim does not possess much of. Only Jenifer Lewis (mother of Patton’s character) and Taye Diggs have solid experience in comedy, and while the former is nothing to write home about, the latter’s appearance is probably the funniest thing of the entire film. Patton is certainly a pleasure to look at, but as the focal point, she struggles both comically and dramatically . She can’t be knocked for a lack of trying, but little of it comes natural.

Being a leading lady might not be in her cards. Acting probably shouldn’t be in the cards of Christina Milian and Trey Songz either, adding to the list of most singers/rappers/musicians who appear to lack the skills to hit the desired notes on the silver screen. Jill Scott, also a singer, isn’t as terrible and makes an average tandem with Adam Brody, but their character are familiar templates seen way too often before (sex-crazed woman best friend, gay male best friend). They wear thin quickly.

About the only people who are solid in this from a traditional drama standpoint are Dijmon Hounsou (in a limited role) and Derek Luke. And with that said, it is kind of sad that they are even in this for yours truly, because both can and should be doing so much bigger projects in Hollywood. It seems like just yesterday both were turning in amazing work in Blood Diamond and Antwone Fisher, respectively.

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Largely unfunny and feeling longer than it is, Baggage Claim is just another routine romantic comedy missing a lot of the comedy part. Expect a lot of turbulence with this viewing.

Grade: D-

Photo credits go to rottentomatoes.com, blackfilm.com, and vibevixen.com.

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And So It Goes: Movie Man Jackson

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“Do people really let you get away with being you?”

You can’t change a tiger’s stripes. Or can you? In And So It Goes, the old tiger is named Oren Little (Michael Douglas), a cynical and sharp-tongued old man who has become even more rooted in his ways over time after the passing of his wife. He is near the end of his career as he tries to sell his mansion for $8.6 million—not a penny more or less. In the interim he stays in a fourplex with neighbors who are the recipients of his douchebaggery, one of which happens to be an similarly aged woman known as Leah (Diane Keaton),who Oren obviously has feelings for.

His simple life is turned upside down when his troubled son comes back into his life needing a favor. Committing to getting sober by turning himself in, he pleads with his father to take care of his daughter Sarah while he is locked up. Though not keen on the idea, Oren reluctantly accepts as she is essentially left on his doorstep. With the help of Leah and his granddaughter, Oren begins to reinvent himself in his twilight years, and even find some possible companionship.

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With little to no marketing whatsoever, and hitting theaters with Lucy and Hercules, no one should be condemmed for not knowing this arrived. Clearly I am not the targeted demographic for this, and walking into my theater this morning confirmed this. Shocker I know. One look at the poster should let you know how And So It Goes will play out, and if that isn’t enough, surely the first 20 minutes will do so. It is a feel good romantic dramedy that will have a niche appeal to elder moviegoers, while most others will probably desire more.

Rob Reiner is at the helm here, the man with directing credits such as When Harry Met Sally, Misery, and A Few Good Men. In recent years, he appears to have found a comfort zone with this type of “elderly” genre, with The Bucket List and The Magic of Bella Isle as prime examples. This particular effort comes off as really phoned in, from the writing to the execution to the direction. There are the overly sappy emotional moments joined with accompanying musical cues, and the familiar awkward exchanges between main characters, often more miss than hit. Aesthetically, it is comparable to something you would see on Lifetime. The movie not only plays like that, it looks exactly like that. I wasn’t expecting some Tour-de-Force visually, but with a reported $30 million budget, it seems like minimal effort was placed in the technical department.

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It is much more plausible that the budget went to the film’s headliners, Douglas and Keaton. As a complete and utter jerk, Douglas’ Oren is hard to pull for. He’s cold, contemptible, and even racist, whether intentionally or not, and the reason for his oft-putting personality is tied to the death of his wife. To me personally, this was a weak explanation; not saying how people should grieve, but many do no go 10 years after a loved one’s passing hating the world and spewing insults at everyone on it.

To the film’s credit, there is an effort to redeem Oren’s character, and it sort of works, even if he does turn pretty quickly. Initially though, so much of And So It Goes is predicated upon Douglas and his character’s ill-spirited comedy. It generally falls flat, because it is nothing more than Oren being an asshole to everyone. Later in the movie, the humor works somewhat better because the people around Oren are more active, giving Douglas someone to go back and forth with. It isn’t riotous laughter, but solid chuckles were had. Overall, Douglas is good if slightly over the top in a few of the film’s dramatic moments.

Diane Keaton brings a large chunk of the heart to the movie. She is solid if unspectacular, but the chemistry between her and Douglas is believable enough. At this point in her career, this appears to be Keaton’s future if starring in movies. It is not necessarily the same role as Something’s Gotta Give but the vibes are there, and she definitely isn’t stretching herself. Even the child playing Sarah is respectable, and there is an older lady in this who says the most bizarre things in the entire movie. Everyone else is very forgettable, and the role Reiner gives himself makes me believe that he really wanted to see himself on screen. It is that unneeded.

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This is going to feel right at home in a few years on E! or Lifetime as it is predictable, linear, and slightly heartwarming. As it stands now though, And So It Goes is just too hard to recommend spending money on to view in theaters, particularly if you’re outside of the demographic. It is the type of film my mother would love (sorry Mom!) while I ask myself what I just did by paying to see this on the silver screen. And so it goes, this is best saved for home viewing.

Grade: D

Photo credits go to teaser-trailer.com& usatoday.com.

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