Baywatch: Movie Man Jackson

Defend the bay, at all costs. Lifeguard “lieutenant’ Mitch Buchanan (Dwayne Johnson) is the longtime protector of Emerald Bay, keeping its denizens safe and the bay the place to be, along with Emerald lifeguard veterans Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera) and CJ (Kelly Rohrbach). He and the others take their jobs seriously, which the community thanks them for.

Buchanan’s team has three openings on it, and they are filled by the sassy Summer (Alexandra Daddario), the dorky yet persistent Ronnie (Jon Bass), and the bad-boy, two-time Olympic gold medal swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron). The latter addition tests Buchanan’s patience. While the initiation of the newbies is occurring, shady activity and dead bodies are proliferating on the bay, and it seems to suggest that new beachfront owner Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) may be connected. Though this is a job clearly for the authorities, who better to crack the case than the lifeguards of Emerald Bay?

 

There’s value in setting the bar low. Or adapting from something in which the bar happened to be so low. That bar I’m talking about is Baywatch 2017, of course adapted from the 90’s television show. I certainly do not remember anything about the show, or recall watching one episode in full, but the slo-mo beefcakes and buxom beauties is as ‘Merican as apple pie. This iteration of Baywatch provides that, yet unfortunately, little else consistently to be a memorable comedy, even with a low bar.

It wouldn’t be Baywatch without gratuitous slow motion (a spectacular opening scene uses it the best) featuring shots that focus on both male and female anatomy. On that front, director Seth Gordon (Identity Thief, Horrible Bosses), succeeds. There’s ample eye candy for all moviegoers. Seth Gordon is in on the joke…at least for the first 30 or so minutes, focusing on the absurdity of it all. There’s a turning point however, that occurs around this 30-minute mark that makes Baywatch not completely serious, but more serious than one may anticipate.This is the point in which all of the lazy editing, sometimes horrid CGI, and boring action sequences are noticed and the near two-hour runtime felt. At least there’s a nice soundtrack.

So the direction isn’t great, but Gordon isn’t the biggest issue in Baywatch. That would be the writing. Is it as bad as CHiPs? Not a chance. However, the story, though clear with no frills, plays out as an uninteresting murder mystery. “Mystery” is a bit of a misnomer, as all the trailers have outlined each puzzle piece and how they fit. What’s left is some crude R rated humor—most of it unfortunately sinking like an anchor—and Johnson’s character making a lame running joke throughout by not calling Efron’s character by his name, instead referring to him as “Bieber,” “*NSYNC,” or some other similar boy band/group. Gets old fast.

This should be better just by the presence of the two leading men. Everyone knows Dwayne is charismatic (he still is here), and Zac has found his career destiny in comedies playing some variants of hollow, douchey, yet somewhat still layered guys. But, their chemistry and timing isn’t completely tight; then again, they’re not given much to take advantage of. The lines they’re asked to read and the skim characters they’re asked to play simply do not allow for much comedy to be delivered.

Out of the rest of the cast, the most humorous moments are actually delivered by Jon Bass and Kelly Rohrbach. As far as the other women go, Daddario and Hadera fill roles of love interests with little else, and Chopra’s character, despite the movie trying to build her up as an intelligent villainess in an industry full of men, is extremely one-note the moment she appears on screen. It’s a shame, too, for as much diversity as the film carries in its cast, none of it translates to interesting, or at least consistently amusing, characters.

Perhaps old television shows should just be left alone and untouched at sea. This new Baywatch isn’t worth stopping for or staring at.

D+

Photo credits go to movpins.com, fromthemovie.com, and slashfilm.com

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Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising-Movie Man Jackson

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I guess this is why living in a cardboard box wouldn’t be a bad thing. After defeating frat leader Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) in a truly epic battle for the neighborhood block, Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne) now live in peace, raising their youngster and prepping for another. The incoming newborn has prompted the family to buy a new house, and sell their own home. Luckily, they’ve found a buyer.

But, they do have to make it 30 days in escrow before the sale is official. Easy, right? Not anymore, because a new sorority has moved next door. Led by Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), she wants to throw parties that aren’t ones put together by douchey frat bros, and has no care if Mac and Kelly lose their sale. Once again, neighbors are fighting one another, and this time, the opposition the couple face appears stronger than before. To dethrone this “Buffalo Bill” sorority, they will need a “Hannibal Lecter” in Teddy, in order to prevail again.

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The first Neighbors (or Bad Neighbours as it seemed to be known throughout most of the world) was a relative surprise, both financially, critically, and even in the performance department. Yours truly didn’t love it, but all in all, some good laughs and a nice message were found. The money made warrants a sequel, and here it is with Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Is this installment of family versus college social organization as good as the first?

One thing is for certain with Neighbors 2, most people will not be able to claim it to be offensive. Even as an R rated comedy, take out the F bombs and requisite graphic nudity and it is quite harmless when compared to similar movies. It is rather postmodern and wears it on its sleeve from the first few minutes on and throughout. Whether it be interracial marriage, gay marriage, or gender equality, returning director Nicholas Stoller takes the previous template but switches the point-of-view to prevent it from being a complete rehash with a bit more social commentary.

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While the plot is generally in the same mold as the first, Neighbors 2‘s plot sadly feels a lot more stretched than the original, not to mention just lacking the laugh out loud humor. A few slapstick gags are effective, but much of the dialogue fails to elicit more than a mild chuckle, at least in the theater I was in. Repeated jokes about Jews, Minions (because Universal is the distributor!) and feminism are amusing the first time, but boring the fifth and sixth times. After a while, the progressive approach, as good-natured as it is, comes off as more of a crutch for lackluster writing as opposed to a support for genuinely funny moments strung together.

The writing does the cast no favors, but all try to do what they can with what is given. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne still have chemistry, and as such, it hurts more to see their jokes not land because they really are trying. Much more supporting this time is Zac Efron, as self-deprecating as ever. Though he is a supporting character, his entire character arc is most fulfilling and complete, which makes Neighbors 2 as much of his story as the two clashing groups.

Chloe Moretz is talented, but here, she looks to be a little out of her element in comedy, actually somewhat dull in this. Her character has meat, but she’s not the type that one necessarily thinks of when having a huge role in a comedy, and her being in the cast feels more like having a big name attached for the hell of it as opposed to contributing real value. That can be said for most of the rest of the cast, whether returning or new. Many are just there.

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Aside from the themes, Neighbors 2′s best thing it may have going for it is how it ends. There’s real finality that would be undone if another film were to be made. Even good-natured neighbors can become old after a while, right?

D

Photo credits go to newsflow24.com, comingsoon.net,and uni.com

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Dirty Grandpa: Movie Man Jackson

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How long does grieving over a soulmate take? Not long if you’re ready to bone. Retired Army General Dick Kelly (Robert De Niro) has just lost his wife of about 40 years to cancer. Most in his family are worried about him, including his grandson, Jason (Zac Efron), a young lawyer who specializes in “LSC agreements and SEC contracts.” Or something like that. Jason’s also a week away from getting married to Meredith (Julianne Hough), who is something of a control freak, but still so perfect for Jason.

Dick and his wife always used to go to Florida around a specific time in the year, and that isn’t changing with her no longer on this Earth. Only issue is, Dick doesn’t have a license, and convinces Jason to drive him. Reluctant, he does so, thinking that Gramps just needs to do this as part of the grieving process. Turns out, this is no grieving trip. Gramps is a Dirty Grandpa, looking to have the single fun he wasn’t afforded when in a union. In the process of trying to hook up with women as young as Jason, Dick hopes to show his grandson that it is never too late to live a little.

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It is acceptance that the months of January and February, known as Dumpuary in some corners, must feature a few stink bombs released in cinemas amid the award hopefuls and previous year holdovers. In 2016 Dumpuary, Dirty Grandpa is one of those stink bombs.

Not all is deplorable, though. With a name like Dirty Grandpa, no confusion is had as to what is to be expected. In fact, yours truly would say that the ‘Dirty’ part in the title doesn’t encapsulate just how crass, blunt, and simple-minded this movie is. OK, that sounded like a huge negative, but in a way…it is sort of a positive. Director Dan Mazer (Da Ali G Show, writer of Borat) certainly has no shame/fear in potentially offending a lot of groups. Every bit of the R rating is utilized and not gone to waste, if that sort of thing counts.

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However, using every bit of the R rating does no good if your comedy isn’t funny. Dirty Grandpa struggles to build substantial momentum in the laugh department, and there just isn’t one scene that is standout or ball-busting with the humor. There are a few scenes worth some chuckles, but with little consistency, the crassness begins to feel like cheap laziness at shock value, hoping that it alone will spark some laughs. It doesn’t help that the story and its endgame is seen about 10 minutes in, a love child of The HangoverThe Wedding Ringer, and any road trip movie (for the hell of it, let’s say Sex Drive) ever seen.

Some chemistry is forged with Zac Efron and Robert De Niro, and these two do serve as the highest points of a low flick. Efron isn’t all that different from most of his adult roles, and I’m sure that many scenes he has in this will become gif-ed to the end of time appearing on women’s Pinterest and Tumblr walls. But as he’s shown recently, he has no issue being the butt of jokes. And as the straight man here, he’s privy to tons of them. It is a shame that the writing is so shoddy, because he and De Niro do try hard. Make no mistake, if this aint the rear of De Niro’s filmography, it is close. Still, it does seem like Robert is having fun with the role, and as such, even with the material is falling flat, he draws some enjoyment out of things.

With their chemistry relatively strong, it would have been better to rely on the duo more. Because, Dirty Grandpa may feature the worst cast of supporting characters to appear in a comedy in quite some time, from Aubrey Plaza (horny co-ed), to Julianne Hough (uptight fiancée) and Adam Pally (stoned cousin). They are all unfunny, but they pale in comparison to Jason Mantzoukas, playing a character of “Tan-Pam.” He’s dull as soon as he appears on the screen, and sadly, he stays on the screen way too much.

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Despite its stars’ efforts, Dirty Grandpa has little comedic vitality, and no amount of Viagra, Efron, or De Niro can change that. Not worth venturing out of the home into Snowmageddon 2016 to view this.

Grade: D-

Photo credits go to maxim.com, aceshowbiz.com,and filmonic.com.

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We Are Your Friends: Movie Man Jackson

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“Are we ever gonna be better than this?”

Friends. How many of us have them? In San Fernando, hustler Mason (Jonny Weston), club promoter Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez), chauffeur Squirrel (Alex Shaffer), and aspiring EDM DJ Cole (Zac Efron) are four cash-strapped buddies working together who are attempting to make it out of the valley and into better lives. All it takes is one big break.

That big break comes for Cole by way of a random encounter with James (Wes Bentley), an older DJ who knows the ins and outs of the music business. Quickly, the two take a liking to each other and the elder serves as a mentor for young Cole. More time spent around James exposes Cole to James’ assistant/girlfriend, Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), who both take a liking to one another also. Things may be looking to snap into place for Cole, but it is a balancing act between placating the people he grew up with and the people he needs to get to the next level.

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Unlike the recent Straight Outta Compton, where non-rap and non-N.W.A fans can still get a lot out of, if not more than (because they’re not nitpicking for what is not there—like yours truly), rap fans, the enjoyment of We Are Your Friends may simply come down to how much one enjoys electronic dance music. That may be a bold assumption, or an weak and obvious assumption depending on how you look at it, but the reality is there is a fair amount of EDM in this feature, and not a ton of much else that hasn’t already been bettered before.

WAYF is well-produced, fun to listen to, and occasionally watch. Directed by Max Joseph of Catfish fame, all of the good scenes are ones that bring the electronic music to the forefront. This does happen quite a bit, and one particular super sappy scene in the middle gets drawn out, but fans of the genre are going to love most, if not all, of the music that accompanies them, particularly the end. I can already see a few tracks from here making their way on to my phone. With that said, these scenes do feel more like music videos snippets that belong on the jumbotron of the Ultra Music Festival or something, as opposed to a part of a movie if that makes sense.

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Unfortunately, it is the rest of the movie that, to steal from YouTuber Jeremy Jahns, you’re not gonna remember in T-minus whatever days. Is the script, penned by Joseph and others, awful? No, it isn’t, but it is nothing more than a generic coming-of-age story once the EDM element is stripped away. And even “generic” is more of a compliment than the WAYF script deserves, because at least some of those tens and thousands of movies about finding yourself have entertaining characters to support the well-worn narrative.

The film doesn’t exactly makes Cole’s cast of friends interesting, people to get behind, or even give reasons as to why they are all friends. One is just supposed to believe it to be so because there is a brief voice-over monologue that says so. In yours truly eyes, it is a very easy choice when tension is teased in regards to what way Cole should go, especially when the friends themselves go MIA for a large portion of the runtime. Even Cole himself is kind of bland; for a brief second he implies why he has lived with one of his buds since 15, but it is very vague and the film never comes back to giving more to his character, and why he needs this.

As a result, his journey, already a cookie cutter one, never feels like he truly overcomes anything. Where the crew lives doesn’t seem that bad. There is a subplot about home foreclosure that feels odd from the inclusion point, and it is clear that it’s only in there to provide a feel-good moment down the line. Everything else touches upon similar beats found in the genre, from characters, to tragedy, to eventual victory. As such, most of the cast, especially Efron, appear to be on cruise control with the work turned in. There is little to explore in any of their roles.

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Character-wise, and by extension performance-wise, the biggest pluses go to Emily Ratajkowski (surprisingly), and Wes Bentley (unsurprisingly). The former is nothing to get excited about, and her chemistry with Efron is lacking, but she’s tolerable. The latter easily has the best character. Kind of a has-been, both a villain and a hero, but clearly knowledgeable and someone who can impart so much wisdom to anyone he chooses to. Though Cole is the lead and it is his story, the more intriguing story is James’.

EDM beats are comprised of a bunch of layers. But when those layers are stripped away, there is one important core to which the rest of the sounds meld around to make something electric to move to. For We Are Your Friends, the EDM is a good layer. But the core that exists of it makes for a stiff party watch.

Grade: C-

Photo credits go to rollingstone.com, dailynews.com, and biggaypictureshow.com.

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Neighbors: Movie Man Jackson

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“You call the cops, you violate the Circle of Trust, Focker.”

Is it Neighbors or Bad Neighbours? Regardless, at least we know the presence of neighbors in some shape or form is evident. In this new film, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are Mac and Kelly Radner, a married couple with a newborn in tow. Though uneventful, life is good. Mac has a solid job, Kelly is a stay at home mom, and the neighborhood they reside in is very conducive for the raising of a child.

All that changes when a college fraternity moves into the neighborhood. It would bad enough but possibly doable if they were houses down, but no. This frat is right next door to this couple, and this is not one of the polite business networking frats. Led by its legend-seeking president Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), this organization majors in raging. An initial effort to exist in the same vicinity is made, but this effort doesn’t last long. There can be only one way this ends. Who will be forced to move first?

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I didn’t have high hopes for Neighbors, but a few takes here and there from some of my favorite reviewers upticked my expectations. After watching, I do not share the overwhelming love that others may, but by and large it works. While not a complete laugh riot, it is amusing enough as a whole.

The premise sounds familiar, but it really isn’t. There may be films that have moments and subplots of feuding neighbors, but none that base their entirety around it. For that alone, it was different. Even if some humor appeared forced, respect is given for straying away from the same old same old in a story sense.

And the story itself has got some heart to it. It is an unexpected look at two men who despite seemingly being at different points in life, are really similar. In short, the movie alludes to the fact that nothing lasts forever. Both have fear of the unknown and end up masking it in various ways, and Neighbors does a good job at examining what each man is afraid of. This is just a small part of the movie’s high production. It never looks cheap, and there is some nice looking editing and action shots, especially when the party elements are at a fever pitch. Pretty nice stuff for a raunch comedy.

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If only the humor was more prevalent. It is far from a comedic bore, but there are some stretches where nothing more than a slight chuckle was had. The movie is not a non-stop laugh fest, and not every comedy has to be. But with no humor to be had in certain scenes, some sections moved slower than others.

Pure conjecture, but the first half of the movie felt less humorous than the second. Makes sense somewhat; this half and mainly the first third is rather mundane in introducing us to these main characters. Still, things do not truly take off until the “bros before hoes” party. At this point on, the laughs were had consistently.

Oddly enough, the slapstick elememt in this is much more memorable than the dialogue. I say oddly because slapstick often invokes sentimemts of lazy effort (to me at least), but here it was funny! From a physical standpoint, there are many noteworthy scenes, known immediately when viewed. If only the dialogue matched the hilarity found in the gags. Not devoid of humor, but not laden with it either.

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Three main stars make up the bulk of Neighbors. At this point in his career, Seth Rogen is who he is, and that is not a bad thing. He plays the well-meaning, occasional pot smoking, lovable man-child that has been done by him before. He is generally funny and endearing if a bit too loud during various instances. His wife, played by Rose Byrne, has some solid material in this one. Generally I have never been a fan and even hated her in most of her roles, but she is tolerable here and gets many chances to shine.  Lastly, Mr. Zac Efron may be starting to find his way in comedy. He has some really good lines and reactions in multiple situations, and it should be intriguing to see where he goes from here.

Other bit players include Dave Franco as Efron’s right hand man, Ike Baronholtz as Rogen’s work buddy, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as a frat member. Franco has comedic talent, and also more of the poignant and reflective moments in the movie. Barinholtz may be a little too over the top, but not completely grating. It feels like CMP has been around for ages, yet he is my age. His career is still young, but these are his types of roles minus Fright Night and Kick-Ass. Nothing that hasn’t been seen before.

Neighbors may not be a top notch comedy, but it has genuine heart and enough humorous moments to recommend a view. It should serve as a nice change of pace amid the superhero films and monster movies already in theaters or scheduled to arrive shortly.

Grade: C+

Photo credits go to beyondhollywood.com, designtrend.com, & wallpaper series.com.

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