The Do-Over

'The Do Over' movie poster

Release: Friday, May 27, 2016 (Netflix)

[Netflix]

Written by: Kevin Barnett; Chris Pappas

Directed by: Steven Brill

I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again.

I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. They are terrible and unfunny. It’s only kind of funny if you think about Sandler using that pistol to put whatever’s left of his career out of its misery.

I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. There is zero acting in this movie. Cero. Nada.

I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. In this one, he (Max) and his friend (Charlie) fake their own deaths so they can escape their depressing current lives, for good. I wish Adam Sandler and David Spade faked their own deaths and they’d go be something different somewhere else.

I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. Paula Patton is seriously incredible looking in this movie though. Oh, that was a weird type-o. That was supposed to say something about how badly this film failed the Bechdel Test.

I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. Can I take the last hour and forty-whatever-minutes, and have a Do-Over? For the love of god man.

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Recommendation: You know what? It’s really painful to watch talent just go completely to Justin Bieber-levels of waste. If Adam Sandler doesn’t want to try, I’m not going to either.

Rated: NR

Running Time: way too long

Quoted: “What was so terrible about your life that you wanted a whole new one?”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.joblo.com; http://www.imdb.com

Stretch

Release: Friday, March 21, 2014

[Netflix]

Written by: Joe Carnahan

Directed by: Joe Carnahan

Where this guy’s going, he’s definitely going to need roads . . . and a lot of luck.

Joe Carnahan’s Stretch is best enjoyed when your guard is down, when you’re in the mood for watching something that, taken scene by scene, makes little to no sense but is a perfectly harmless distraction when looked at as a whole. It’s messy and clunky and clichéd and occasionally poorly acted but the whole point of Stretch is embracing the ridiculous. If having fun in a movie is all that you require, jump in the backseat and buckle in for a wild ride.

Patrick Wilson and Chris Pine make the most out of a rather bizarre script that has the former playing a down-on-his-luck L.A. limo driver and the latter a bearded whack job with more secrets than the American government. The driver (a.k.a. ‘Stretch’) has recently been dumped by his gorgeous girl Candace (Brooklyn Decker, ouch) and, reeling in the aftermath, has allowed himself to spiral out of control again, though careful not to reignite his cocaine and gambling addictions from years past.

One afternoon Stretch is pulled aside by his boss who tells him that their main competitor is putting them quickly out of business by stealing their clients. Making matters worse is a $6,000 gambling debt he owes to a thug who promises some very bad things if he doesn’t pay up by midnight that night. Desperate, Stretch begs an employee named Charlie (Jessica Alba) to help steal clients from the competition — a mysterious entity known only as The Jovi — to help him keep his job and to raise the money needed to . . . um, keep his life.

Over the course of the evening Stretch contends with a litany of oddballs and lunatics, starting with a very unhappy David Hasselhoff who, lo and behold, is swept off his feet by The Jovi at the last second. In retaliation, Charlie directs him to a client The Jovi usually picks up, the one and only Ray Liotta. Neither of these dramatized cameos compare to the eccentric billionaire playboy/lunatic that is Chris Pine’s Roger Karos, whose outrageous physical appearance conceals the Hollywood hunk inside (save for the piercing blue eyes). Karos promises he will make Stretch’s efforts worthwhile if he commits to not only being his chauffeur, but to retrieving a briefcase from a certain someone.

Stretch is packed to the brim with absurdities, but they mostly exist in the visual presentation and a few chance encounters. Narratively — as a story of redemption — the film couldn’t be more pedestrian. Wilson clearly relishes the opportunity to cut loose, to become the “fire starter” Karos believes he can be. Wilson brings the fire in his performance, becoming the glue that holds together a lot of delicate pieces and thankfully he is quite the amiable fellow despite his history. As he journeys through the night, an eye on the clock as his midnight deadline rapidly approaches, Stretch receives a crash course in confidence-boosting. He transforms from a drunken pushover (or a fatalist, as Charlie describes him) to a man pushing over a lot of drunks to get to what matters most to him: delivering on his promises.

Carnahan certainly makes some trade-offs in his enthusiastic, over-the-top approach. There are a few moments where the goofiness is overbearing — do we really need the foreign subtitles placed beside a villain as he shouts his threats in perfectly understandable English? — and where the acting isn’t really acting, it’s shouting lines excitedly. It’s nonchalance. A good time to be a paid actor or actress. It may stretch credulity to the breaking point but ultimately the film manages to get to the end with minimal bumps and bruises.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a quick Friday night jolt of entertainment, I suggest firing up Netflix and taking in all that Stretch has to offer: pure, unadulterated ridiculousness with fun cameos and an absolutely zany supporting role from Chris Pine. Fans of him and Patrick Wilson are sure to find them highly enjoyable.

Rated: R

Running Time: 94 mins.

Quoted: “If you like stories about chance and coincidence and fate, then here’s one you’d never heard. Boy meets girl. Girl almost kills boy by running a red light at rush hour. Boy is T-boned at over 60 miles an hour.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com  

Focus

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Release: Friday, February 27, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Glenn Ficarra; John Requa

Directed by: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

The scent of expensive colognes and perfumes robbing the theater of breathable air undoubtedly seduced me into thinking the new Will Smith movie was better than it really is.

To focus on the negatives in a film that is this much fun is to largely ignore the art of the con, though. As Smith’s Nicky Spurgeon explains nonchalantly, deceit is created by drawing attention away from the action and centering it around something that, at the time, seems significant. That sentiment so easily can backfire in a film that plays it so casually like this one does; in a film that twists and turns until the very last minute, leaving the less hypnotized to question whether the directing tandem actually have an answer to it all or if they’re just making this up on the spot.

Again, logic matters less when compared to sheer entertainment value. The Fresh Prince seems refreshed playing a middle-aged male model alongside the rapidly rising young Margot Robbie, herself representative of Australian beauty. With a pair like this front-and-center, can I please be forgiven for temporarily writing this off as a 90-minute advertisement for Glamour or Vanity Fair? Magazines are indeed falling to the wayside in an industry hell-bent on revolutionizing itself, so why shouldn’t they try their hand in repackaging themselves in celluloid form? This is a great-looking cast enveloped by exotic locations and expensive, even if not believably costly situations. Toss in the audience-supplied bottle of Chanel No. 5, and voila.

Focus comes down to a complicated con between a world-weary pro and his apparent understudy, a pair who have up until the film’s final third been playing chess with one another’s wit and checkmating when it comes to unforced sexual tension. They meet in a night club where Jess (Margot Robbie) attempts to pull one over on Nicky, but is spurned by his advanced skill set. From there it’s a matter of one-upmanship between the pair as they fall into an ambiguous (er, or is that underdeveloped?) romance. Not that the feeling of mutual attraction is to be doubted but the intent behind the attraction sort of is. However, nothing is as apparent as Nicky’s love for the assorted fruits of the rich life, as evidenced in an exceptionally exciting sequence during the Super Bowl in New Orleans. The scene functions to expose Nicky’s true character: he has a major problem with saying no to exceeding what’s already excessive. It’s microcosmic of the trickery that lays ahead of us.

Will Smith hasn’t played a character this engaging since the days when he proudly sat upon a crashed alien craft and, chiefing on a Cuban, greeted its extraterrestrial operator with that famous smile of his and a sarcastic “welcome to Earth.” Nicky Spurgeon is often a lunatic but a calculating lunatic and his ‘partner’ in crime, while perhaps not evenly-matched in terms of recklessness, certainly is with her steely-eyed intensity. And I might be biased, but she’s also better-looking. Robbie is sweet on the outside but internally there burns a desire to settle an unwritten score, to take whatever it is that Nicky has and make it her own.

Scams range from casual pickpocketing to betting millions on the jersey number assigned to a random player on the sidelines during the aforementioned big football game, to tricking an Australian racing club owner into purchasing a bogus piece of equipment for three million Euro in order to allow another team, owned by the shady Rafael Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro), the win. But when you think you’ve figured it all out, the script — and this really would have been easier to predict if I was focused on said plot and not on Jess’ revealing wardrobe — flips the dynamic between the two grifters, leaving us to wonder if there is to be an actual winner and a loser and whether it’s just going to be money lost in the exchange.

There is also a final reveal that comes close to burning Focus‘s reputation for being a non-stop joy ride. It’s one twist too many, one cliché too many and one development that’s nowhere near as delusory as the directors would have us believe given the convoluted network of scams and heists we patiently have sat through. Regardless of the risk involved in the long con, it’s not enough to dissolve the chemistry between Smith and Robbie. The two work from a pretty hastily-written screenplay and yet bubble over with charm and a natural ease with one another. Plus it’s just a lot of fun to see them screw over people deserving of it.

Focus isn’t a film to think about, unless of course your goal is to make your brain hurt from failed attempts at rationalizing plot holes that render the story as swiss cheese. It’ll make you think, but don’t con yourself. It’s a fun getaway but not much more. Not that it needed to be.

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3-0Recommendation: With more twists than a Coney Island roller coaster, this glamorous little romp starts to lose focus (or effectiveness, either way you want to look at it) over time but the performances and high spirit are too great to bring the ride to a grinding halt. A perfectly acceptable Saturday night diversion for anyone looking to see Will Smith back to form and Margot Robbie for another solid lead performance. Theatrical attendance not required, unless you just want to choke on perfume. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 105 mins.

Quoted: “Where are the black people?!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

Fifty Shades of Grey

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Release: Friday, February 13, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Kelly Marcel

Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson

The reaction to the filmic adaptation of E.L. James’ best-selling phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey has been like a car wreck. And so here I am, craning my neck to see just how bad. Fifty Shards, excuse me — Fifty Shades of Grey — is more like Fifty Shades of Lame. Pinpointing the moment where this wannabe eroticism begins to slide in the direction of unintended comedy is difficult, but in the spirit of the car wreck metaphor, it was like me sliding into a tree the other night on an ice-covered road — slow but definitely noticeable.

For as much as I hated the awkwardness that pervades this movie like a prom couple getting it on for the first (and quite possibly last) time, I can’t really say that the entire thing is a car wreck. The concept is juvenile, sure, but there’s something actually watchable about this magnetism Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), a college-aged virgin, feels toward a self-made Seattle billionaire who takes pride in having sex as emotionlessly as possible. (Seriously, The Terminator could learn a lesson from Christian Grey — played with all the stiffness of a you-know-what by Jamie Dornan — with the way he so naturally disregards the fuck out of humanity.)

What has undeniably been car wreck-y is everything that has gone on behind the scenes. The level of dysfunction quite clearly bleeds onto the screen here. That’s no news item. Exhibit A: the more intimate scenes manifesting as tidy bits of daytime soap opera fantasies that are hinted at but never shown. Exhibit B: tension behind the camera developing into something so ugly that the director herself, Sam Taylor-Johnson, seems only to be semi-joking that this experience had put her “in the headspace that I’m never making a movie again.” Any passion has been essentially castrated from the film reel; our reason for cramming theaters (I guess not so much anymore) cleverly disguised, without our consent, as a quick cash grab for E.L. James and Universal Studios alike.

Sure, there is some fun jet-setting to all these different, exotic locations. Living the high life for a brief, fleeting, orgasmic moment. But I draw the line at the point where themes of friendly torture (a.k.a. BDSM) take up more space than scenes of character growth and any meaningful exchange of dialogues. This is where I pay my respects to the careers of stars Johnson and Dornan (and it’s annoying how I keep mistaking this guy for Justin Timberlake). If this movie and the foul stench of disagreements during the making of hasn’t damaged either reputation for the long-term then it has arguably crippled them for the short-term.

In fairness, Fifty Shades of Grey has bigger problems than the notable lack of chemistry between the two leads. I’ll stop short of describing the central performances as flaccid; after all they are professional actors working from a script foisted upon them by a horny teen post-menopausal woman who thinks an ‘inner goddess’ is the best way to describe feelings of intense pleasure. Again I call upon the word awkward because it takes a lot of confidence to strip down to one’s skivvies and beyond, and in that moment you’re not mentally preparing to take the brunt of laughter and a level of criticism my (admittedly harsh) review has nothing on. I can only imagine Johnson (the director, that is) et al were anticipating moans of satisfaction, not audible LOLZ from their audiences.

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1-5

Recommendation: Given I’ve taken my sweet time to put this review up, I’m pretty sure the only ones I’ll be writing this section for are the crickets chirping in the parking lot outside any theater still playing this. Difficult to label as a disappointment since it’s not really my bag. 

Rated: this should have been NC-17, but it submits itself to the nice, cuddly R-rating

Running Time: 125 unsatisfying minutes

Quoted: “You’re here because I’m incapable of leaving you alone.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

A.C.O.D. (Adult Children of Divorce)

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Release: Friday, October 4, 2013

[Redbox]

If ever you wanted to test the limits of your moviegoing patience and goodwill, rent a little flick by the name of Adult Children of Divorce, or A.C.O.D. for short.

A nail biter, a fist-clencher, an intensely palm-sweating experience for all of the wrong reasons, first-time director Stu Zicherman’s romantic comedy is the most unromantic comedy this reviewer has seen in ages. So why the nail biting, fist-clenching, etcetera? Though not an exhaustive list, these are the physical reactions a viewer is likely to have while enduring a film like this. (See also: head-bashing, eyeball-gouging, and the immediate chugging of rubbing alcohol to induce permanent blindness.)

Phew. Well, after flushing the system of those reactions, I have to concede that A.C.O.D. is not quite that despicable. But it’s not a good film, not by any stretch. It strands a talented cast in a story that is exasperatingly dull, one that misses its potential like the Titanic missed its final destination. The snail’s pace and amateur plot development together result in some of the longest 87 minutes you’re likely to experience, at least while watching a comedy.

Let’s back up a little bit before I go into a full-fledged rant. The premise is about a grown man, Carter (played by Adam Scott) whose parents have been divorced for most of his life and haven’t so much as spoken for the majority of that time. When his younger brother Trey (Clark Duke) drops the news of his upcoming wedding to his “super hot girlfriend,” Carter’s horrified to learn that Trey wants their now-remarried parents to attend the wedding. That sounds awkward enough, but the nature of Hugh (Richard Jenkins) and Melissa (Catherine O’Hara)’s separation has rubbed salt into the wound. And thus, the movie being the most unromantic romantic-comedy created in years. A family dynamic that’s this dysfunctional begs the question as to who decided this would fit the description of a rom-com.

Making matters worse, Carter learns one day that a family friend who is also a psychotherapist (Jane Lynch) has been studying people like him for years, tracking the rippling effects a divorce has on the children of separated parents. He’s unwittingly become a caricature in Dr. Judith’s book, titled ‘Children of Divorce.’ Though Carter wants to believe he only shares physical traits of those who raised him, the doc thinks there’s something lurking underneath the surface that makes him more like his parents than he’d care to admit. So she approaches him for a follow-up, a sequel to her highly successful book. She’ll call it ‘Adult Children of Divorce,’ with the intent being. . .well, that much isn’t so clear. The movie falls down on its knees in this department, providing the greatest flaw in the design.

Not only does the movie not take advantage of what appears to be, on paper anyway, a poignant statement on the nature of love and commitment in modern society, the damn thing’s not funny. Save for the odd guffaw caused by good old Richard Jenkins, everyone else in this film suffers from over-dramatization (Amy Poehler’s bitchy sorority alum Sondra, who is also Hugh’s latest wife, being the worst offender — seriously, can we please go back to the days of SNL, where she was actually funny. . .and live in that time?) and limited character development.

There’s a goldmine that Zicherman fails to tap into here. One cannot deny the appeal of the film’s title. It has real potential, although a comedic approach to the matter is questionable in the first place. With the divorce rate — as it pertains to the United States — hovering at or around 50%, a statement on the alarming rate at which the phrase ‘for as long as you both shall live’ is being cast aside- in present-day marriages should make for a really great movie. Channelling my inner Arnold Schwarzenegger here: negative.

Despite a select few moments in which Jenkins and O’Hara try their hardest to pull a rabbit out of the hat with regards to this conceit-, the vast majority of the story is bogged down in footage that would seem more useful in B-roll takes. Adult children of divorce is apparently a ‘real’ concept, as the end credits introduces the viewer to people involved in the making of the film who describe themselves as such; it’s a shame we can’t really care by the time they introduce themselves.

A.C.O.D.

2-0Recommendation: This is a frustratingly mediocre product that begins with promise and steadily declines over the course of less than 90 minutes — and to reiterate, the film feels more like a two-hour affair than something that registers just shy of a standard full-length feature. Performances all around aren’t that memorable. If you are a die-hard Richard Jenkins fan, you might check this out but that is the most positive recommendation I can really give the film. Otherwise, it’s a squandering of potential in any other way.

Rated: R

Running Time: 87 mins.

Quoted: “You know, the thing about Portuguese whores is some are born in Portugal, some are born in Africa. It’s a real mix.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.moviefone.com; http://www.imdb.com 

RoboCop

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Release: Wednesday, February 12, 2014

[Theater]

It takes guts to be RoboCop. Almost quite literally, nothing more and nothing less.

Swedish hunk Joel Kinnaman assumes the iconic role of Detroit police officer Alex Murphy in José Padilha’s controversial decision to ignore the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, as it were. Kinnaman (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Easy Money) trusted in the material enough to provide his signature on this modern reboot — a film that features impressive visual flare but perhaps not quite enough intelligence to fully justify its existence for the legions of fans of the original.

Given the overwhelming disappointment associated with the 2012 repackaging of Total Recall, the cause for concern over revisiting another of Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi classics is more than understandable. Fortunately, it was mostly overblown. Padilha doesn’t do anything with the material that’s revolutionary, but, like the predicament facing the half-machine, half-human protagonist, there are just enough parts laying about to construct something out of what appears to be nothing.

Alex Murphy is one of many of Detroit’s finest, seen at the beginning of the film tracking down a local crime boss named Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow). He’s patrolling dangerous streets in the year 2028, in an era where great controversy has been stirred over the concept of replacing entire (human) police forces with robots and machines. Fueling the debate is the immense tech conglomeration OmniCorp whose CEO, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), is particularly interested in adopting a new method for keeping the domestic peace. The United States has already been implementing robots-as-soldiers over seas, where they have proved to be effective at eliminating threats, while preserving the lives of soldiers who would ordinarily be in their place. But it goes a little beyond that for Sellars. He’s looking for not just another blunt instrument, he’s searching for the right gimmick that he can sell to the public in an effort to increase his company’s (ergo his personal) stock.

As luck would have it, it would be an early Christmas for Sellars. When a bomb that Vallon’s men plant underneath Detective Murphy’s car detonates upon his opening of the driver’s side door, the officer is left with fourth degree burns over 80% of his body and a slim chance of survival. OmniCorp’s brilliant medical staff, spearheaded by Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), pounces on the opportunity to put a man inside a machine. It is hoped that the marriage of a human conscience to the calculating perfection of advanced robot technology would create the ideal law enforcer. And so begins the film’s ethical tug-of-war: at what point does man stop and machine begin? Does it make sense to strip away some of Murphy’s stronger emotions so as to ensure the organic part of the robot complies with “company policy?” Is ‘ideal’ really the right word to describe Murphy’s unique situation?

The moral dilemma at hand, which is emphasized by the performance of the reliable-as-ever Gary Oldman, is this contemporary crime satire’s real strengths. (Well, that and the suit — it is entirely badass.) Joshua Zetumer’s screenplay strikes an uncomfortable balance (in a good way) between medical, social and political ethics. All three converge at a point, through Kinnaman’s portrayal of Murphy’s struggle. He turns out to be an incredibly effective weapon that quickly cleans up Detroit’s streets, but he lacks virtually everything else that once made him a father, a husband, and a good partner in the police force.

To a lesser effect, the cold and heartless way in which OmniCorp operates seems to echo society’s demands for keeping crime at zero percent. Those who portray the company’s head honchos aren’t exactly inspired. Keaton is bad at playing the human with a metaphorical robotic heart and without a conscience; ditto that to anyone else in that building not named Dennett Norton and Tom Pope (played by a surprisingly charismatic Jay Baruchel). Supporting actors are minimally used and unconvincing as well, including Murphy’s wife Clara (Abbie Cornish). Jackie Earle Haley has a little bit of fun with his role as the inexplicably hostile Rick Mattox, though his demise is supremely underwhelming.

Samuel L. Jackson plays the humorous pundit, Pat Novak, whose presence bookends the film. Though he does offer the film its few bits of comedy, he’s too distracting and ultimately plays a more trumped-up version of his real-life persona. He is an odd selection for the tone of this film.

The RoboCop of the new age is actually pretty ironic. Like it’s 27-year-old predecessor, it attempts to satirize the ineffectiveness of real-world crime-solving. Whereas Verhoeven’s much bloodier film used excessive gore to make a point, this version tones down the violence significantly to make room for a more general audience, but in so doing it loses heart. It comes across far more mechanical and seems to go through the motions in far too many scenes to generate much of a sense of identity.

That said, there are numerous action sequences throughout that provide heightened tension and cause heart rates to rise rapidly; a battle sequence in a darkened warehouse sits atop the pile of memorable scenes. Moments like this and the revelation of what Officer Murphy’s guts look like without his high-tech gadgetry protecting them allow RoboCop to squeak by and into acceptable territory, even if a great deal of the material remains as emotionally distant junk metal.

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3-0Recommendation: For anyone who hasn’t seen the 1987 version, going into the 2014 edition would prove to be a great advantage. On its own, Padilha’s vision is somewhat exciting but it’s not outstanding. As an action film, it suits just fine, especially on a day like Valentine’s Day if you’re sitting by yourself getting irritated by seeing a bunch of pink stuff all over the place. RoboCop offers a great alternative on this day in particular, but if you want a truly imaginative satirization of crime, best stick with the original on any other day.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 108 mins.

Quoted: “Why is America so robo-phobic?”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com