THE STAR review

Oh… oh, this is going to be rich. The Nativity as told by talking animals. Oh do I have an atheist friend that I’m dragging to see this. He’ll kick, he’ll scream, he’ll cry, he’ll claw the ground with bloodied fingernails to resist me getting him in the theater, but I’m getting his butt in that seat to suffer with me.

Alright, so a little background on me. For those that don’t know, I’m Agnostic. I neither believe, nor disbelieve in God. I don’t blindly accept what a book tells, despite being open to the idea. Having said that, I was raised for much of my childhood to be a Catholic. I went to church on Sundays, even briefly took little classes that talked about the Bible. I remember little animated movies of different animation styles that talked about The Last Supper and Judas’ betrayal. Other than that, and one viewing of PASSION OF THE CHRIST (2004) later, I know jack squat about the Bible. What can I say? Religion is boring and I prefer to distance myself from what far too many use as propaganda to spread intolerance and hate. I support the good fight that better Catholics and Christians do, but that’s their field of expertise, not mine.

The reason I bring this up is because I do not know the details of what is referred to as “The Nativity Story.” I probably know half of the bare bones basics. It’s the birth of Jesus Christ, three wise men give him gifts, and that’s it. So I have no idea if the movie is going to tell the story faithfully (Judging from the ratings I’m looking at, not likely), so I imagine even someone who doesn’t know the story will be able to pick up the inaccuracies and liberties. At the very worst, I’ll be able to pick up on what was made up… apart from the talking animals.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Steven Yeun (I ORIGINS [2014]. and TV shows VOLTRON [2016 – ongoing] and THE WALKING DEAD [2010 – ongoing]), Keegan-Michael Key (WHY HIM? [2016], DUE DATE [2010], MR 3000 [2004], and upcoming films HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 [2018] and THE PREDATOR [2018]), Gina Rodriguez (DEEPWATER HORIZON [2016], TV show JANE THE VIRGIN [2014 – ongoing], and upcoming films FERDINAND [2017] and TV show CARMEN SANDIEGO [2019]), Zachary Levi (THOR: RAGNAROK [2017], BIG MOMMA’S HOUSE [2006], TV show CHUCK [2007 – 2012], and the upcoming SHAZAM! [2019]), and Oprah Winfrey (SELMA [2014], BEE MOVIE [2007], THE COLOR PURPLE [1985], and the upcoming A WRINKLE IN TIME [2018]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Timothy Reckart, known for short films, making his feature film debut. Penning the screenplay is Carlos Kotkin, known for OPEN SEASON: SCARED SILLY (2015) and RIO 2 (2014). Finally, composing the score is John Paesano, known for SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME (2017), TV show DAREDEVIL (2015 – ongoing), video game MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA (2017), and upcoming films MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE (2018) and PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING (2018).

Overall, no, this ain’t gonna be good. But you know what? I know that. I really do.

This is my honest opinion of: THE STAR

(SUMMARY)

Bo (voiced by Steven Yeun) is a mill donkey whose life has strictly been grinding wheat. But he has dreams of joining the Royal Caravan and doing something important with his life alongside his best friend Dave (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) the dove. Turns out, they’re getting their chance at a new life when an angel descends from Heaven, tells Mary (voiced by Gina Rodriguez) that she’s going to be pregnant with the Messiah. The angel returns to Heaven, leaving a bright star in the sky and Bo decides that this is the sign he’s been needing to go on an adventure. Escaping his captivity and joining Mary and Joseph (voiced by Zachary Levi) on their journey to Bethlehem while being pursued by one of King Herod’s (voiced by Christopher Plummer) ruthless soldiers to kill the future Messiah.

(REVIEW)

Yup! It’s bad. But like I said before, I knew that going in. But if you’re going to be a parent and ask, “Well, is it suitable for children?” Yeah, sure, I guess. There’s nothing offensive, unless you count modern speech patterns, or phrases like, “Yeah, totally,” set 2,000 years ago, then kids will be fine. But adults like me will be in for a long eighty minutes.

Should I even bother mentioning anything positive? Eh, fine, I will, but I do it under protest as they don’t save the movie. The first positive thing I can say, the animation on the angel that visits Mary was pretty. And Ruth (voiced by Aidy Bryant) was occasionally not annoying.

That’s about it. The rest of the movie is so phoned in, you’d swear a free app created this movie but had a surprisingly large budget to warrant a star-studded cast, which might be the most impressive thing about the flick. Bo might as well be a Disney princess who thinks there must be more than this provincial life. Yeun certainly brings a comedic energy, but because his character is so bland and uninteresting that his talent is wasted here. This applies to the entire cast, really. Key isn’t funny, which is an accomplishment in of itself. Seriously, how does that happen? One would think having him in your movie would be a gift-wrapped bundle of comedy, but nope, his talents are wasted as well.

Oh man is the music annoying here. If there isn’t some obnoxious pop rendition of a public domain Christmas song playing, there’s original music, if you can call it that, that ruins scenes even more. Like, a scene that’s supposed to have drama and emotion at its core would be fine enough if there wasn’t any music, letting those emotions sink in. But because this movie talks down to kids, the music has to go all Randy Newman on us and sing about the emotions that we know the characters are feeling with obvious lyrics. To add insult to injury, there’s SO MANY OF THEM! Holy cow, I can’t believe how bad my headache got. I swear, it got to a point where a scene ends, a pop number plays. A scene ends, then a pop number plays. Ugh! Shut up, movie!

The jokes aren’t funny and half the time, the characters have to explain their own jokes. Bad enough that they’re not funny, but everyone knows explaining the joke ruins it even more and makes it unbearable. A clear indication that there was zero effort put into the script itself. The slapstick is incredibly forced, only put in there because, you know, kids laugh at pain. And if the jokes aren’t getting explained, the plot is. There’s a scene with the camels overhearing what King Herod is plotting and then immediately are like, “Oh no! I knew that king was up to no good!” Yeah… it’s like the movie thinks the audience has the attention span of squirrels and they weren’t paying attention. Then again, the movie is pretty boring, so it’s probably a good thing that the movie thinks we fell asleep at some point because we probably did.

Some moments don’t even make sense. Like when the Three Wise Men visit King Herod, they present him with gifts. When he thanks them, the Wise Men say, “Oh they’re not for you. They’re for the Messiah.” Um… first off, why present him presents if they weren’t for him. Second, why mention there’s a Messiah on the horizon, who is likely a known threat to any king’s rule? Kind of a bonehead move, if you ask me. Look, again, I never read the Bible, nor do I know the Nativity Story in any way, so for all I know, the Wise Men never visited the King, but even if this was true, then I would think this amount of honesty would royally backfire. “Wise” Men indeed. Phooey!

I think the greatest insult that I was inflicted on me was how it rips off TANGLED (2010). No joke, it really does. Levi plays a character who doesn’t get along with the horse-like animal, but become friends toward the end of the story. Okay, so the similarities end there, and it’s more of a cute coincidence rather than a full-blown steal. But the fact that this movie made me think about TANGLED and desperately would have rather watched that, then this is a great insult! Curse you, movie!

Overall, it’s not a good movie. If you wanted an eighty minute cliffnote of the cliffnotes of what the Nativity story is, then this movie will do it for you. But if you’re expecting a good movie, with comedy, drama, and deep, thought-provoking ideas, then you’ll get it… if you’re a toddler, which I wager is who this movie is aimed for. I don’t recommend this movie, even if your kid begs you or you just want a family outing at the movies. COCO (2017) is out in theaters right now. Get yourself an upgrade. No, it’s not particularly insulting, there’s no bad or perverted morals, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. The story of the first Christmas is more of a black hole of quality storytelling than a star.

My honest rating for THE STAR: 2/5

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SISTERS (transfer) review

These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.

I don’t watch SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, so I can’t entirely say I’m a fan Tina Fey (not because I don’t like her, I’m just not familiar with her work), but I am a big fan of PARKS AND RECREATION, so I can say that I’m a fan of Amy Poehler. I know these two are best friends in real life and everyone seems to love them, both individually and together, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested in seeing their latest movie. And I have to admit, it looked funny. Also, since Disney still has tight restrictions on Star Wars viewings via free passes, it was either this or ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS. Yeah, fuck that noise.

Starring: Tina Fey (WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT [2016], MEGAMIND [2010], and MAN OF THE YEAR [2006]), Amy Poehler (THE HOUSE [2017], BLADES OF GLORY [2007], and TV show PARKS AND REC [2009 – 2015]), and Ike Barinholtz (MARK FELT [2017], NEIGHBORS [2014], DISASTER MOVIE [2008], and upcoming films BRIGHT [2017] and BLOCKERS [2018]).

Support: Maya Rudolph (THE NUT JOB 2 [2017], SHREK THE THIRD [2007], GATTACA [1997], and the upcoming THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS [2018]), James Brolin (CATCH ME IF YOU CAN [2002], PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE [1985], and TV show LIFE IN PIECES [2015 – ongoing]), Dianne Wiest (DAN IN REAL LIFE [2007], THE LOST BOYS [1987], and TV show LIFE IN PIECES), John Cena (DADDY’S HOME TWO [2017], THE REUNION [2011], THE MARINE [2006], and upcoming films FERDINAND [2017] and BLOCKERS [2018]), and John Leguizamo (JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 [2017], ICE AGE: THE MELTDOWN [2006], and SPAWN [1997]).

Director: Jason Moore (PITCH PERFECT [2012] and 3 episodes of TV show TROPHY WIFE [2013 – 2014]). Writer: Paula Pell (a ton of SNL). Composer: Christophe Beck (AMERICAN MADE [2017], THIS MEANS WAR [2012], CHARLIE BARTLETT [2007], and upcoming films HOLMES AND WATSON [2018] and ANT-MAN AND THE WASP [2018]). Cinematographer: Barry Peterson (THE SPACE BETWEEN US [2017], 21 JUMP STREET [2012], STARSKY & HUTCH [2004], and upcoming films JUST GETTING STARTED [2017] and GAME NIGHT [2018]).

This is my honest opinion of: SISTERS

(SUMMARY)

Maura (Amy Poehler) and Kate (Tina Fey) are sisters. Maura is the younger successful one, always responsible, but still fairly fresh off of a divorce. Kate is older and significantly more irresponsible and struggling with her relationship with her teenage daughter Haley (Madison Davenport), who is more mature than her mother. One day, Maura gets a call from her parents who break the news to her that they are selling their childhood home. In hopes of talking them out of it, Maura and Kate both visit them but have no luck on that front and must clean out their rooms. Neither wants this to happen, so while their parents are elsewhere, Maura and Kate decide to throw one last party to say goodbye to their home. But high jinks ensues as a romance blossoms between Maura and a local handyman named James (Ike Barinholtz), an age-old rivalry reignited between Kate and Brinda (Maya Rudolph), and the party becomes just a little too much for either sister to handle.

(REVIEW)

Meh.

My taste in comedy is pretty black and white. Either it has to be insane and weird, like Monty Python, or it has to be intelligent, like HOT FUZZ. Raunchy humor is always hit or miss, but never have I seen that brand of comedy be just straight funny. There has to be heart in the story, likable characters, intelligence. Here, I got a weak story, somewhat likable characters, and one or two smart jokes, all of which played out in the trailers.

At first, I’m fine with the characters being totally different and I get that Maura feels like she wants to let loose all of her pent-up wild-girl that she never was in her youth like Kate was, but… why is she spontaneously going for drugs as the answer? She’s established as the smart one, and she’s a nurse. Not even a beat of debating whether or not this was a good idea? This makes no sense regarding her character. It’s such a leap in character and that gap of logic is not explained.

Honestly, most of this plot isn’t really explained. Bitches, I’ve lived in my Calabasas house nearly twenty years. I’m not going to care about moving out. This movie wants to make the proclamation that “a house is a building, but a home is a feeling,” but these characters don’t give us a reason to care about this house that they love so much. They just say they love it and don’t want their parents to get rid of it. But even these characters don’t show they care too much about it. When something breaks, they don’t care. When the roof collapses, they laugh. They even make a big deal about this “sister tree” that just… I don’t fucking know where to start with that. Short version, their love for that tree doesn’t mean diddly.

Honestly, my favorite parts of the movie are Fey (a little ironic) and John Cena as the drug dealer, Pazuzu. Kate being forced to be sober and let Maura be the wild child is incredibly funny and the way she constantly flirts and fails with Pazuzu had me howling. I think Kate is the only character that has a real arc. Seriously, she tries to be more responsible, which makes her the more sympathetic character. Yeah, she makes bad choices later on, but they’re totally understandable. And like I said, Cena is just hilarious without even really trying to be. Yeah, dude, stick with comedy. Your action movies are hilarious, but for all the wrong reasons.

I can’t say I hate this movie. There’s a couple jokes here and there that I got a giggle out of me, and Poehler and Fey do have great chemistry together, but I feel like the theme of the movie was “middle-aged people can party too.” So… get rid of the bullshit nonexistent emotional attachment to a house and a random-ass romance that no one gives a fuck about and just tell the story you want to tell. Oh I’m sure those who are hardcore fans of this kind of humor and the lead actresses, and they will rave about how hilarious it is, but I’m siding with the minority that doesn’t think too highly of this film. There was potential in this movie, but I’m sticking with the trailer to get a solid laugh.

My honest rating for SISTERSa weak 3/5

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THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI review

This is one of those rare trailers where I’m going to be sad to never see it again. Yeah, no joke. In a way, it’s almost sad to see the movie actually come out because the trailer was so funny and enjoyable. Frances McDormand kicks a teenage boy in the balls and then kicks a teenage girl in the vagina right after! What’s not to enjoy?!

Anyway, the story looks like it’s about this older woman who is grieving the death of her teen daughter and the killer hasn’t been apprehended, blaming her town’s police chief, causing a particular ruckus when she puts up three billboards up that call him out by name for the lack of results. Boy… this doesn’t sound like a movie that’d be a comedy.

Anyway, here’s the cast. Starring, we have Frances McDormand (HAIL, CAESAR! [2016], ÆON FLUX [2005], FARGO [1996], and RAISING ARIZONA [1987]) and Woody Harrelson (THE GLASS CASTLE [2017], NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN [2007], TV show CHEERS [1985 – 1993], and the upcoming SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY [2018]). In support, we have Sam Rockwell (POLTERGEIST [2015], SNOW ANGELS [2007], BASQUIAT [1996], and the upcoming BACKSEAT [2018]), Peter Dinklage (ANGRY BIRDS [2016], ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT [2012], DEATH AT A FUNERAL [2007], and is rumored to be in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]), Abbie Cornish (GEOSTORM [2017], SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS [2012], ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE [2007], and the upcoming TV show Tom Clancy’s JACK RYAN [2017]), Lucas Hedges (LADY BIRD [2017], MOONRISE KINGDOM [2012], DAN IN REAL LIFE [2007], and upcoming films BEN IS BACK [2018] and BOY ERASED [2018]), and John Hawkes (EVEREST [2015], AMERICAN GANGSTER [2007], STEEL [1997], and the upcoming END OF SENTENCE [2018]).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Martin McDonagh, known for SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS and IN BRUGES (2008). Composing the score is Carter Burwell, known for WONDERSTRUCK (2017), NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, THE JACKAL (1997), RAISING ARIZONA, and the upcoming BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, no release date announced. Finally, the cinematographer is Ben Davis, known for DOCTOR STRANGE (2016), WRATH OF THE TITANS (2012), STARDUST (2007), and the upcoming DUMBO (2019).

Overall, I think this is going to be great and I’m going to love it. That’s the hope, right?

This is my honest opinion of: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

(SUMMARY)

Mildred Haze (Frances McDormand) is an older woman, formerly a mother of two, now one after her teenager daughter, Angela (Kathryn Newton), was raped and murdered several months ago. In an effort to refocus the police department, whom she believes is slacking in trying find her daughter’s murderer, she purchases the use of three billboards that call out police Chief Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) by name and how the town reacts to Mildred’s actions, some supportive, others against.

(REVIEW)

A quick story before I get into my review. So, I’ve been wanting to see this movie for some time. I was excited from the very first trailer, but I’ve been seeing other films with family and friends, which has kept me away. So yesterday, I decided to see the movie before my shift at work. I left at a reasonable time that could have been cutting it close, but guess what my stupid-ass did? I absent-mindedly didn’t get off the correct freeway exit. I missed my showtime. Fine, I looked up the showtime for anything that would come out after my shift, right? I get off at 9 PM, or around that time, and there’s a 10:45 showtime. Sweet, I’m good with that. Go home, get out of my work clothes, even be a weirdo and go in my pajamas so I wouldn’t have to change out of three sets of clothes in a day and go home and just flop on my bed. Sounded easy enough. Once again, I leave to go to the theater, but upon my arrival, guess what my seriously dumb-ass did? I left my phone at home. What does that matter? I have MoviePass (yes, it really works), and you NEED the app in order to see the movie without paying for it out of your own pocket. I never do that! I always leave home without my phone! Fucking Christ, I hate when life tells me “no” to seeing a movie. So seeing this the following morning feels a hell of a lot more victorious.

Anyway, on to the review.

While I’m still processing the film as a whole, I really like it.

What I definitely like and appreciate the most about this movie is that it starts off almost clearly defining who we root for and hate. Mildred is the frustrated grieving mother whose daughter was raped and murdered and the police are a bunch of apathetic racist assholes who don’t seem concerned with finding out who did it. In fact, it’s done so well that you’re 100 percent on board with who the good and bad guys are. But it doesn’t take long for the rug to be pulled up from under the audience and the lines are a little more blurred than originally thought. While the audience certainly understands why Mildred puts up the billboards, the movie doesn’t sugarcoat how it affects other people, both in support of and against her. Her son Robbie certainly has his feelings about it. Constantly looking up at the words, not enough knowing that she was raped, or murdered, but knowing that these were her final moments of life right there for him to know everyday, deepening his already deep depression.

Furthermore, we establish that Chief Willoughby is about the only decent cop among the bunch of badges who truly is sympathetic toward Mildred’s pain, and he’s got cancer. Something the entire town, including Mildred, knew. You can probably guess why much of the town would be in an uproar. The signs are in poor taste and not showing the same sympathy for Willoughby that he shows her. And she is wholly unapologetic for her actions. As a result, the movie by this point shows that there is no real good or bad guy (except maybe Dixon [Sam Rockwell]), it’s just people who have their own personal struggles and they’re dealing, or not dealing, with it in their own way. No one’s particularly right, no one’s particularly wrong – well, okay, plenty of wrong to go around, but you get a sense that this is just that kind of small town and its people are just that, people. It’s a complex community with complex people dealing with a complex situation.

I’m probably not painting a very comedic picture, as this movie is toted as a dark comedy. While the drama is certainly the centerfold, there is wickedly sinister comedy that I was rolling in the aisles for. So we know that Mildred was once married to a former cop and abusive drunken husband named Charlie (John Hawkes), who would eventually start dating a ditzy nineteen year old girl named Penelope (Samara Weaving). Soon after the billboards are put up, Charlie pays Mildred a visit with Robbie home and confronts her about it, resulting in things getting physical, Charlie holding Mildred by her throat against a wall. But then Robbie steps in and holds a knife to his own father’s throat, demanding that he let her go. Pretty intense, right? But then the intensity comes to a screeching halt when Penelope walks in and is all like, “Hi, is this a bad time? I really need to use the bathroom. I feel like I’m interrupting. You know what? I can hold it.” And then everyone’s all like, “Oh for God’s sake, just go!” “The bathroom is down the hall, to the left,” or whatever the line is. I swear my sides were splitting. I won’t give away every joke, but when the movie’s comedy needs to shine through, it shines through beautifully.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

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What I also really love as well is the ending. The final twenty or so minutes is perfectly tense and chock-full of nail-biting, and it’s not even an action movie. This asshole stranger, making both Mildred and Dixon that he’s the one who may have raped and killed Angela. So when Dixon is gathering evidence to try and prove that he’s the one who did it, we’re all eagerly hoping for a happy ending. But Willoughby said it best. Sometimes, these things happen and there is no resolution. There’s just not enough to go off of if there’s no lead to trace. The movie doesn’t wrap this story up in a pretty pink bow. No justice is given for Angela. But there’s still something hopeful about the ending when we see Mildred and Dixon riding off to Idaho with the notion of killing this man anyway, as Dixon does firmly believe that he’s a rapist, and they’re going off to play vigilante, but aren’t sure if they really want to carry through with it.

 

Of course, I also love how Mildred admits to setting the police station on fire, accidentally setting Dixon on fire in the process. But his only response is, “Well who the hell else would it be?” He barely gives a fuck and it’s quite funny. Though… how he never noticed that fire obviously burning behind him when it was happening is anybody’s guess.

 

The only problem I have with the movie is Dixon. I get what the writers were trying to do with him. Make him an incredibly unlikable character, downright built up to be the villain of the flick, but give him such an arch that by the end of the movie you see him in a different light. Maybe he’s not forgiven, but you don’t hate him anymore. And for all intents and purposes, it was successful, but there’s a bit of a… I don’t know what to call it, a “disjointedness” about how he got to that place.

 

Okay, Dixon is a despicable person. He’s got a rumored reputation of beating and torturing black people, but as there was no evidence to prove it, it’s just speculation. What isn’t speculation is that he’s a violent weasel of an asshole who is incredibly racist. This is laid out plain and bare. Here’s the thing, his arch is supposed to be when he reads the letter Bill leaves him, urging him to be calm and nice, just to try it out for a change. And because they were so close and Bill’s suicide affected Dixon so profoundly, he decides to do just that, leading him to apologize to Red Welby and to take the initiative to see if this stranger from town who described events that seemed awfully similar to Angela’s rape and death, and at around the same time of her rape and death, he puts himself in that position to seek the truth, even if it wasn’t the outcome he was hoping for.

 

Here’s the thing, as much as I liked this idea, and its execution isn’t the worst, it’s still not… a perfect execution. First off, you can already tell that he’s got some change in his character when Abercrombie fires him. I mean, okay, you can’t exactly predict that he’ll go in the direction that he ultimately goes in, but his personality does go through a change of some kind and there’s something about the way he’s shot, the way he’s acted, it’s obvious that the audience is supposed to have sympathy toward him. But literally one or scene scenes ago, he threw Red out of a window, causing property damage, and sending that poor kid to the hospital for something that he had absolutely nothing to do with. First of all, I know this is a small town and everything, the law can get away with a sadly large amount of shit, but aren’t there people that the average citizen can report heinous acts like these cops to? Everyone in law enforcement answers to someone right? But more focused on the story and Dixon, I don’t care about him getting fired, so I didn’t really care about him.

 

Also, I don’t think the relationship between Dixon and Bill was properly explored to warrant the emotional letter. We never really see the humanity in Dixon, so I never agreed with Bill when he wrote that he has great potential deep down. We never really see the two characters interact outside of a professional setting, so we never see the two really connect. Why does Bill see potential in this racist prick? The audience is never made privy to it, so why are we supposed to care?

 

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, I can’t say that I agree with the the mass ravings for the film, but I can honestly say that it is a pretty damn good movie and I do highly recommend it if you’re into dark comedies. The acting and direction is phenomenal. The writing is stupendous. The cinematography is outstanding. It’s a really good film that shouldn’t be missed. Three billboards aren’t enough to advertise just how good this really is.

My honest rating for THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI: a strong 4/5

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DADDY’S HOME TWO review

Ugh… WHYYYYY?????? No, seriously, I need to know. Who the @#$% asked for this?! Was the first movie such a modern classic that people were rioting in the streets for a sequel?! Were the producers held at gunpoint by ISIS, threatening their families if they didn’t get another team up of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as dads?! No! No, I refuse to believe that this… thing… it’s not a movie, it’s an unidentifiable piece of filth disguised as a motion picture, hence giving it a generalized name, “thing.” I refuse to believe this thing made such a profit that it warranted a sequel. No! I’m not going online to see if it grossed a profit, I refuse to acknowledge the truth!

*sigh* Okay, here’s the thing. For those of you that don’t know, I am not a Will Ferrell fan. In fact, as an actor, I detest him. All he does is play the same role over and over again. He always plays the socially awkward, fowl-mouthed man-child who somehow scored a woman that is leagues beyond his… league. I am, however, a slight fan of Mark Wahlberg. He’s been a reliable bad-ass and funnyman throughout his acting career.

But, again, for those of you that don’t know, I HATED the first film. It failed to understand that concept of a “joke.” You have to have a set-up, and then a punchline. As any real comedian will tell you, those are the basic building blocks of comedy. DADDY’S HOME (2015) failed to understand a single element of that fact. All that movie was, was punchlines with predictable outcomes that even a toddler could see coming. Hell, only a toddler would find it funny.

Well, fast-forward a couple years later and now we have… this…

The story looks like it’s about Brad and Dusty having found the perfect balance of raising the kids together. Christmas is fast-approaching, which can only mean one thing: visiting parents, specifically Brad and Dusty’s respective dads. Dusty’s dad is a man’s man, tough as nails and cynical, whereas Brad’s dad is just as bubbly and childishly happy, causing lots of heads to butt.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Will Ferrell (THE HOUSE [2017], BLADES OF GLORY [2007], AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY [1997], and upcoming films ZEROVILLE [2018] and HOLMES AND WATSON [2018]), Mark Wahlberg (TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT [2017], WE OWN THE NIGHT [2007], and BOOGIE NIGHTS [1997]), Mel Gibson (BLOOD FATHER [2016], SIGNS [2002], and LETHAL WEAPON [1987]), and John Lithgow (BEATRIZ AT DINNER [2017], DREAMGIRLS [2006], HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS [1987], and the upcoming PITCH PERFECT 3 [2017]). In support, we have Linda Cardellini (THE FOUNDER [2017], BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN [2005], and GOOD BURGER [1997]), John Cena (THE WALL [2017], FRED 3: CAMP FRED [2012], THE MARINE [2006], and upcoming films FERDINAND [2017] and BUMBLEBEE [2018]), and kids Owen Vaccaro (MOTHER’S DAY [2016] and DADDY’S HOME [2015]), Scarlett Estevez (DADDY’S HOME and TV show LUCIFER [2015 – ongoing]), and Didi Costine (THE HOLLARS [2016]).

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing, we have Sean Anders, known for DADDY’S HOME, HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (2014), and SEX DRIVE (2008). Anders’ partner-in-pen is John Morris, known for DADDY’S HOME, MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS (2011), and SEX DRIVE. Composing the score is Michael Andrews, known for THE BIG SICK (2017), WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY (2007), and DONNIE DARKO (2001). Finally, the cinematographer is Julio Macat, known for MIDDLE SCHOOL (2016), BECAUSE I SAID SO (2007), and HOME ALONE 3 (1997).

Overall… no. Just… no.

This is my honest opinion of: DADDY’S HOME TWO

meme
image from: SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004)

(SUMMARY)

Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) do a decent job of being parents to their shared kids. But there is plenty of room for improvement, and the perfect time to do it is during the holidays and keeping the entire family together. But the family is getting a lot bigger when Brad’s dad Don (John Lithgow) and Dusty’s dad Kurt (Mel Gibson) come to visit for the holidays. Needing to get out of town, they head for a ski resort for some quality family bonding. The bliss doesn’t last long before family secrets unravel and tension between all of them comes to a boiling point.

(REVIEW)

*bashing my head against the wall* It’s even worse than I thought! ARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!

I don’t even know where to start with this schlock. Best to just swing away at anything and I’m sure I’ll start rambling like nuts.

As per usual, Ferrell is annoying as ever. What more can I say? How many times can I possibly complain and say that he plays a man-child and he’s not funny? How many times can I say how unrealistic it is that he scored such an attractive woman to marry when there’s nothing appealing or charming about his character?

*sigh* Perhaps in hindsight, it’s not entirely his fault. In retrospect, he doesn’t write most of his movies. Some he has, such as the Anchorman movies, TALLADEGA NIGHTS (2006), and STEP BROTHERS (2008). Granted, I’m not a fan of any of those movies, but it’s still not fair to hate the man’s work because of someone else’s writing. IE, they’re not his jokes. After all, when an actor does a great job in a movie, we credit the actor, not the writer, and that’s not always fair either. But see, here’s the thing for me. The films that Ferrell is a part of have a reputation of being open with improv, so unless his scripts are open to the public for reading, there’s no way to know which jokes were from the writers and which were from the actors. In any case, it’d be more appropriate to keep my hatred for the characters that he plays directed at the characters themselves, not him.

With that said, Brad is not a funny character and he is countless kinds of annoying. Why does it matter if Dusty wants to go to the bakery and pick up treats, as opposed to having them homemade? It’s one things if you would rather serve healthier and more nutritious treats, but when the intention is that they’re not on the healthy and nutritious side, kids won’t care or notice any difference! And when you’re bowling, who the hell throws the ball in the air?! Maybe a kid would do that, but that bowling ball is going to cause serious damage to the bowling lanes. But because this movie is desperate to be more like a live-action cartoon and logic and realism be damned, there’s no consequences, which I will be bitching and moaning about in great detail later.

And to make matters worse, there’s two of Brad in this and I can’t decide who’s more annoying, him or Don. At least Ferrell has never really portrayed himself as a dignified actor with a broad range of emotion, so I expect him to play annoying characters. But Lithgow? Dude! Lithgow is essentially doing his best Will Ferrell impression and it’s painful and Don isn’t a more likable character. There’s a running gag throughout the film with the two kissing on the lips. Oh yeah, if you’ve seen the trailers, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe for some, that could be a funny one-off joke, but as per usual with movies of this caliber, they thing the image is so hilarious that have to do it again. Not just one more time, not even two more times, but as far as I was paying attention to, there is a grand total of five @#$%ing dad-son mouth kissing in this movie! Once was enough! Holy shit!

And if there was any other set of characters outside of the adults that I seriously had no idea what the writers were going for, it was the kid characters, who range from being ass-annoying, inconsistently written, and so disrespectful that it’s a wonder how this kid hasn’t been violently spanked with a belt.

The least annoying of the kids is Dylan (Owen Vaccaro). But make no mistake, “least annoying” doesn’t mean the kid is likable or the least bit interesting. The first gag with him is when the family arrives at the resort and almost as soon as he jumps out of the car, he spots a cute girl his age, Casey (Yamilah Saravong), and it’s immediately implied that it’s love at first sight. And as if he’s only ever been surrounded by ugly witches his entire life and having never seen a cute girl before, he has this near-zombified look, mouth agape and everything, with the most awkward wave that he could muster to her. Also, he is such a crybaby. There’s a bowling scene where Kurt urges Dylan to bowl without the bumpers. Thing is, he sucks big time and gets the ball in the gutter every throw. First off, it’s obvious that the actor is aiming for the gutter. It’s not like he’s twisting his wrist, causing the ball to roll to the side, no, he’s straight up aiming for it. To make matters worse, literally none of the parents step in to help. Neither taking pity on the kid’s self-esteem and just putting up the bumpers for him, or trying to coach him on correcting his technique. They just merrily let him bowl nine sets of zero, resulting in him literally flopping to the ground like a toddler, kicking and slapping the floor, crying. When the hell was I supposed to care about anyone in this scene?

***SPOILERS***

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And where the hell did this ending come from?! Throughout the entire movie, Dylan’s been crushing on Casey, but in a bizarre and kind of gross twist at the end, Dylan completely walks by Casey to kiss Adriana on the mouth and spanks in triumph, a move that Kurt encouraged early on in the movie. Yes, you’re reading this correctly. This kissing of Adriana, someone who has only ever been cruel and mean to him, suddenly gets the center of his affection from literally out of nowhere. AND SHE’S HIS SISTER!!! Fine! Step-sister, half-sister, who gives a shit?! There’s an icky factor to it and it’s not funny in the slightest.

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***END SPOILERS***

The worst offenders are Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Adriana (Didi Costine) and it’s hard to decide who’s more of an obnoxious brat because Megan gets more screen time, but any time Adriana’s on screen, you just want to punch her right in her bratty face. When Megan meets Adriana for the first time in the flick, she notices her midriff showing and immediately tries to tie her shirt to show off her own midriff. This girl can’t be any older than nine years old, so why the hell is she trying to be like Adriana? There’s no reason to like what she likes. And that she nonchalantly doesn’t listen to her mom when she tells her to wear her clothes properly, and shows off her midriff on a stage in front of dozens upon dozens of people. Where were the teachers in that scene?! She leaps at the opportunity to drink spiked egg nog, again, not condoned by her mother, joins Adriana in teasing Dylan rather relentlessly, and hell, you have to watch Casey get forced under mistletoe so Dyan can have his opportunity to kiss her. Sure, it’s implied that Casey is having fun, but I don’t think any real girl of that age would be having fun being forced to kiss a boy, whether she liked him or not. Not to mention, I’m pretty sure Megan is a sociopath. Somehow, she goes hunting for a wild turkey. I say “somehow” because I literally have no idea when she was given a rifle. She’s being coached on killing the turkey, but the turkey charges as her, scaring her, and accidentally shoots Kurt in the arm. With nearly zero remorse for her actions, she then kills the turkey. The very next scene, we’re in the hospital and I shit you not, this is what Megan says with the biggest psycho smile on her face:

MEGAN
I shot a turkey and a man. Guess which one’s dead.

I’m pretty sure any kid who just family with a loaded firearm would be traumatized. And this is one of the biggest problems that I have with Megan. In theory, this could work, but here’s the changes that would have to be made to make it work. THIS MOVIE NEEDS TO BE DARKER!!! This is not the proper tone to be introducing psychotic possible-murdering children into a movie that’s supposed to be celebrating family-togetherness during the holidays.

Come to think of it now, I’d say Megan is worse than Adriana because of this “personality trait.” But Adriana is just as unbearable to deal with. She’s always on her phone, ignoring everyone. When she’s not, she’s either being a huge bitch to both Dylan and Dusty. Another running gag in this movie is that, at night, she raises the thermostat to something like eighty-seven degrees, or some such shit. Despite three sets of adults telling her not to do that, she refuses to listen. She waits for all of them to leave and she’ll raise it back up, just because “she likes to sleep with her window open.”

And this is my biggest problem with this movie. There are no consequences for any of the kids’ actions. The parents, despite being in every scene that they’re in, are completely nonexistent in their punishments. When Megan shows off her midriff, Sara (Linda Cardinelli) does nothing. When she’s brutally teasing Dylan about his crush, Sara does nothing. When she drinks the spiked egg nog, despite being told no the first time, SARA DOES NOTHING!!! So when she’s in that hospital after Kurt gets shot by Megan, and she’s sitting in the waiting room with Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio) and blurts out that she’s the worst mom in the world, I am having a legit hard time arguing this point. Yes, Sara, you are the worst mother in the world. You have no concept on how to discipline your kids, which is why they’re running around being both crybabies or mentally unstable psychotics.

And seriously, I don’t think Seth MacFarlane could write a movie this misogynistic. No joke, the mothers are completely absent from any decision-making that the men do in the movie. They have no say in what is said to the children, or how to deal with their problems. And before you “defenders of Will Ferrell” come out to say that it’s all in good fun and it’s not supposed to be taken seriously, um… first off, misogyny is always something to take seriously, and second, IT’S ADDRESSED IN THE MOVIE!!! Oh yeah, once or twice, Sara remarks that she had no say in the decision-making. And that’s as far as the addressing goes. Once it’s mentioned, the men ignore her. This is never resolved, this is never rectified, it’s completely pushed to the wayside because “the sensitive men just want to be loved by their daddies.” Fuck you, movie! Fuck you!

There are maybe things that made me giggle. The first, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the famed pilot who saved the passengers of his place that crashed in the Hudson river in 2009, has a cameo at the end of the film, which was pretty funny. Also, there’s a gag in the beginning of the film where Kurt comes into Brad’s house and meets the kids. He opens his arms for a hug, but the kids are super uncomfortable with it. What had me rolling in the isles was less about the context of the joke, which wasn’t funny to begin with, but rather in the real-world context of seeing a couple of young kids being horribly uncomfortable with hugging Mel Gibson.

Twice, this movie shows me something I’d rather watch: SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS (1999 – ongoing) and a fictional movie about Liam Neeson saving Christmas in an over-the-top action movie. And the fact that I wasn’t watching these made watching this all the more painful. Between sexualizing children who haven’t reached their teens, telling little girls that they’re responsible for their parents divorcing, possible blowjob jokes with their kids, this movie is quite possibly one of the worst comedies I’ve ever had the misfortune of sitting through. Just like the last movie, I really wanted to walk out, but I just can’t. I’m a glutton for punishment and if I’m going to properly hate something, I need to see it in its entirety to know the many different levels of hate I will have for it. You fans of Ferrell have likely already decided you’re going to see it, and honestly… I don’t know what the appeal is. I really don’t. As for everyone else, DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE!!! AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE!!! Don’t rent it, don’t borrow it, don’t watch it online, don’t waste your gas, don’t waste your money, don’t waste your time. The tagline should tell you everything you need to know. “More daddies. More problems.” No shit, you stupid-ass movie!

My honest rating for DADDY’S HOME TWO: 1/5

daddyshome2poster

LADY BIRD review

There’s not much to say about how I found this film. Saw a trailer, it looked charming, it’s starring Saoirse Ronan, and it’s got some major critical praise. What can a guy like me do, but be interested? I know, brief as hell, but it’s all I got.

The story looks like it’s about this young woman and her single mother, both have strong personalities and are moving to a new home in California, and the girl is just not having it. She’s basically just trying to prove that she’s smart and knows what she’s doing, but probably faces obstacles that prove that she’s got a ways to go.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Saoirse Ronan (LOVING VINCENT [2017], THE HOST [2013], THE LOVELY BONES [2009], and the upcoming MARY QUEEN OF THE SCOTS [2018]), Laurie Metcalf (TOY STORY 3 [2010], TREASURE PLANET [2002], TV show ROSANNE [1988 – 1997], and upcoming TV revival ROSANNE [2018] and film TOY STORY 4 [2019]), Tracy Letts (THE LOVERS [2017], INDIGNATION [2016], THE BIG SHORT [2015], and the upcoming THE POST [2018]), and Beanie Feldstein (NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY ROW [2016]). In support, we have Lucas Hedges (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA [2016], LABOR DAY [2013], MOONRISE KINGDOM [2012], and the upcoming THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI [2017]), Lois Smith (THE COMEDIAN [2017], MINORITY REPORT [2002], TWISTER [1996], and the upcoming THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS [2018]), Odeya Rush (GOOSEBUMPS [2015], THE GIVER [2014], and THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN [2012]), and Kathryn Newton (PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 [2012], BAD TEACHER [2011], TV show LITTLE BIG LIES [2017], and the upcoming THREE BILLBOARDS).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing is actress Greta Gerwig, known for directing NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS (2008), but has been in films 20TH CENTURY WOMEN (2016) and JACKIE (2016). Composing the score is Jon Brion, known for WILSON (2017), ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004), and PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002). Finally, the cinematographer is Sam Levy, known for WHILE WE’RE YOUNG (2014) and a bunch of documentaries.

Overall, I’m sure I’ll like this movie fine. It looks good, interesting cast, I’m on board.

This is my honest opinion of: LADY BIRD

(SUMMARY)

Set in 2002. The story follows the young pretentious, yet well-meaning Christine, or as she prefers to be called, “Lady Bird” (Soarise Ronan). She and her family just moved to California, somewhere she doesn’t want to be. It follows her life of trying to live like a normal teenager, dating boys, going to school, as well as trying to be the person that she wants to be, mostly just not being anchored down by her loving, but strict mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf).

(REVIEW)

I’m actually not too sure how I feel about this movie. On the one hand, I don’t have any particular problems with it. In fact, it says a lot about a movie where I can’t take notes on it and just lose myself in the story. On the other hand, I don’t think this is a movie that I haven’t seen before.

Well, let’s take a look at the positives. First off, Ronan knocks it out of the park. Holy hell is she amazing. One of her finest performances of her career. She brings such power to her performance, from the softer, more vulnerable scenes, to the teen angst, she continues to prove that she’s a heavyweight of her generation. It’s also one of her more distinguished looks of her career, which is saying something as she does a great job being memorable in most of her projects. The winter-wear bad-ass assassin in HANNA (2011), the 1930’s style in BROOKLYN (2015), now we have the catholic schoolgirl with red hair who gave herself the name “Lady Bird.”

Metcalf is also incredible as the mother who feels unappreciated in her efforts to provide a decent life for her family. She works her ass off as a nurse, comes home to a rebellious teen daughter that she butts heads with, it’s almost a wonder why the movie doesn’t split the focus of its story with the two ladies. Though… maybe in a brilliant sort of way, even though this is Lady Bird’s story, they still work in just how integral she is to the story. I mean, no duh, it’s about a daughter and her mother, so of course the mother would be integral, but Marion feels a little more humanized here. She works her ass off, gets almost zero credit from her daughter, her husband goes behind her back to do Lady Bird favors, which betrays her trust, and all these other things that make her feel small and useless.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

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Although I do have to ask the question, did I miss the part where it was a bad thing that Lady Bird got into a college and one of her more preferred ones at that? Maybe it’s because I was hopped up on two long island iced teas, but aren’t parents generally happy when their kids get into colleges, no matter how far away it’d be. And hell, I don’t even remember if distance was the issue with Marion. I think I remember the two arguing about other colleges she can get into, but you’d think Lady Bird’s happiness would be paramount in that department.

 

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***END SPOILERS***

The comedy also really shines through. There’s a bit where you see Lady Bird and Julie (Beanie Feldstein) snacking on Sacramental bread (they go to a Catholic school), which I found hilarious. There’s also the acting exercises for their school’s play and one of the games was “first to cry.” I won’t give away the punchline, but… I was howling. And even some other dramatic moments stand out. Like, Lady Bird was dating this cute boy Danny (Lucas Hedges), and they really had a nice relationship, but then finds him making out with another boy. Quite a shock in of itself, which naturally sent Lady Bird’s emotions through the proverbial woodchipper. But in a later scene, we see him trying to talk to her about the incident and he comes out to her, fully admitting it. That was really heartbreaking to watch, as you can imagine being a closet homosexual in a Catholic school has got to be a frightening thing to live with. But Lady Bird accepts it, they hug, and the emotions just speak for itself. That was a great scene that felt real.

Now it’s time to talk about why I felt a little underwhelmed by the movie.

While I’m not sure if this necessarily a fault in the movie, it feels a little too similar to other projects in the recent past, one of them Gerwig was actually a part of. Specifically, I mean 20TH CENTURY WOMEN and CERTAIN WOMEN (2016), both in writing style for the characters and even the aesthetic of the film itself. Each movie is overly realistic in its portrayal of mothers (referring to the Michelle Williams portion of CERTAIN WOMEN) and their troubled family relationships, specifically their children. I also feel like both films also utilize a soft focus, or soft lighter colors. The younger characters are somehow deeply philosophical beyond their years, the mothers are disconnected from their children, it just all feels a little too… repeated. To be fair, these are different movies. The Michelle Williams portion of CERTAIN WOMEN focused more on how undermined she was treated in her marriage and how much her daughter didn’t listen to her when she asked her to participate in the construction of their home. 20TH CENTURY WOMEN focused more on the mother and her growing understanding that the times are changing and her son’s personal life will always be a mystery to her, no matter how much she tries to be a part of it. Here, the focus is on the child and her trying to break free of her mother’s influence and guilt trips, but still wishing they had something in common to better connect with each other. Different films, but extremely similar in feel and themes. Undermined authority of the mother and disconnection between the mother and child. Perhaps I would like this movie as much as everyone else does if I hadn’t seen these previous films, which feel like they really influenced this.

Also, now that I’ve foolishly looked up this film online, it looks like Gerwig wanted this to be a female equivalent to BOYHOOD (2014), or similar films to that. Basically a film about growing up, but in the perspective of a female. Um… yeah, while I think the movie’s are on par with each other as far as quality in storytelling and characters, BOYHOOD is in a different class of its filmmaking, in the sense that it took eighteen some-odd years, off and on, to make. Gerwig’s been trying to get this off the ground for two years. Don’t get me wrong, making a film is not easy, and getting one financed by a production company and released to the public is probably even harder. But eighteen years? Same cast of adults and kids, and still keeping them interested? Literally watching the kids grow up? over the course of this three hour movie? That’s… something else and I don’t think LADY BIRD is quite like that. This isn’t a negative toward the movie, but it’s a comment that I needed to… well, comment on.

Again, to be fair, between the two aformentioned films, CERTAIN WOMEN and 20TH CENTURY WOMEN, and this film, LADY BIRD is the superior film. It’s funnier, it’s more interesting, it’s better written, and it’s got more memorable and powerful performances that I think will leave a bigger impact on me. Do I see this movie as great as everyone else? Not really, but I won’t argue those that do. It’s brilliant and for Gerwig, who’s not the most experienced director, this is impressively done and I hope to see her write and direct more in the near future. Whatever she chooses, I’ll be interested. High recommendation from me. It’s likely got a limited release, so it might take a little effort to find it at you local cinemas, but it’s well worth that effort, time, and money. This spunky bird’s flight home is quite the trip.

My honest rating for LADY BIRD: a strong 4/5

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THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (2009) review

Keep ’em comin’, AMC! I’m really enjoying these re-releases!

While I can’t claim to have seen every Disney film as a kid, this is definitely one that stands out as the one I really regretted not having seen in its initial run in theaters. Why? There were a lot of reasons, especially in retrospect. This would be Disney’s final hand-drawn animated movie and it featured Disney’s first black princess. That’s pretty unheard of. Oh, who am I kidding, this is unheard of. I think I tried to watch this movie once on Netflix, but for whatever reason, I didn’t get more than a couple minutes in. I can’t remember why. Well, now I don’t have an excuse. I’m getting my redeeming moment and seeing it on the big screen.

Here’s the voice talent. Starring, we have Anika Noni Rose (EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING [2017], DREAMGIRLS [2006], FROM JUSTIN TO KELLY [2003], and the upcoming RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 [2018]) and Bruno Campos (MIMIC 2 [2001] and TV show NIP/TUCK [2003 – 2010]). In support, we have Oprah Winfrey (SELMA [2014], THE BUTLER [2013], CHARLOTTE’S WEB [2006], and upcoming films THE STAR [2017] and Disney’s A WRINKLE IN TIME [2018]), Terrence Howard (SABOTAGE [2014], IRON MAN [2008], and CRASH [2004]), the ever-amazing John Goodman (VALERIAN [2017], BEE MOVIE [2007], THE BORROWERS [1997], and the upcoming TV revival ROSANNE [2018]), and living legends Keith David (THE NICE GUYS [2016], PRINCESS MONONOKE [1997], video game MASS EFFECT [2007], and the upcoming TV show Marvel’s NEW WARRIORS [2018]) and Jim Cummings (THE LION KING [1994], ALADDIN [1992], TV show CURIOUS GEORGE [2006 – 2015], and the upcoming CHRISTOPHER ROBIN [2018]).

Now for the crew. Co-writing and co-directing are Ron Clements and John Musker, both known for TREASURE PLANET (2002), THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE (1986), and directing MOANA (2016). Co-writing the screenplay, making for a red flag total of three writers, Rob Edwards, also known for TREASURE PLANET. Composing the score is Randy Newman, CARS 3 (2017), CARS (2006), A BUG’S LIFE (1998), and the upcoming TOY STORY 4 (2019). Finally, the cinematographer… this animated movie has a cinematographer? Anyway, it’s Rasoul Azadani, who made his cinematography debut. Congrats, sir.

Overall, pretty excited.

This is my honest opinion of: THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (2009)

(SUMMARY)

Set in New Orleans, Louisiana, circa 1912. As a little girl, Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose) was really close to her father, who had dreams of opening their own restaurant. However, in the present day, Tiana’s father passed away and she spends all her time working in restaurants to buy her own, even if it means there’s less fun to be had with her friends. But one day, the arrival of the charming and woman-chasing Prince Naveen (voiced by Bruno Campos) causes a stir in town as he’s set to marry a rich young girl to improve a financial crisis he’s in. However, he strikes up a deal with the local voodoo witch doctor, Facilier (voiced by Keith David), in the hopes that he’ll get what he wants faster, but is instead turned into a frog, a spell that can only be broken if he is kissed by a princess. Desperate to be turned back to normal, he finds his way to a costume party where Tiana is dressed as a princess, convinces her to kiss him, but ends up being turned into a frog herself. Now the two set on a long journey through the Louisiana bayou to located another witch doctor to help them turn back to human.

(REVIEW)

I liked it for the most part. I wouldn’t put it up there as one of the classic Disney films, but I’m glad enough that I saw it.

The best part of this film is the music. While I wouldn’t say I go to jazz clubs or anything, though I really should, I do have a small love for jazz music. I love the style, the sounds, the classy feel of it all, and the music in this film from the score to the lyrics are drenched in it. More than anything, it’s a nice movie to put on, maybe not always to watch, but definitely to listen to.

I especially enjoyed Tiana as a character. There’s something respectable about a person who has such a strong work ethic like she does. Being someone who currently works in the food industry, I can tell you that such an upbeat personality like hers is pretty hard to find and even harder to maintain. Some may argue that she’s not realistically written in that regard, but that’d be a strange unrealistic thing to complain about considering that people get turned into frogs, crocodiles play trumpets, fireflies get turned into stars, and shadow monsters come from Hell. Oh, and speaking of trumpet-playing crocodiles, I absolutely loved Louis (voiced by Michael-Leon Wooley). This guy had me rolling the isles laughing until I busted a gut. His infectious enthusiasm and love for jazz and his big dreams of playing with the greats, as well as his hilarious expressions, he’s by far the most enjoyable character in the movie. But how can I forget the living great that is Keith David as Facilier? He’s a fun villain with a cool design and even cooler powers. He charismatic, devious, and… damn, David’s voice just adds class to anything and everything. And… was he really singing?

I especially love the theme of the movie: In order to achieve your goals, you can’t keep wishing upon stars and hoping for the best. You have to work hard, work through the stress, pain, and tears. On one level, it’s nice that it steers away from the typical Disney thing where you just need to be in the right place at the right time in order to get more than what they have. And it’s also something of a stab at their traditional tropes as well, which I really found amusing.

And finally, a lot of the animation is fantastic. Never mind the background work, which is awesome as it is, but other aspects really stood out. I love how Facilier’s shadow is almost its own character, like a horror version of Peter Pan’s shadow. Really, all of the shadow animation is crazy cool, especially when Facilier summons demon shadows. Creepy, but awesome.

Sadly, the movie’s good moments are horribly mixed in with some… disagreeable stuff too.

The primary issue is that there are annoying characters that get way too much screen time. I’m not even just talking about Charlotte La Bouff (voiced by Jennifer Cody), though she is a few nails on the chalkboard to my ears. No, I’m talking about Prince Naveen himself. What an irritatingly written character! I know the whole point of him is that he’s supposed to be a womanizer and relentless flirt, but there is such inconsistency to how he’s presented. We the audience and Tiana both know he’s a clumsy and annoying flirt, but why would anyone other woman find him suave and charming? I’m sure someone’s going to call me out and say something like, “They crush on him because of his royal position and wealth, not him himself.” I get it, the movie was doing that thing where he’s supposed to be kind of unlikable in the first half of the movie, but as the story develops, he goes through an arch. He does, and his inability to be a competent human being is explained later on, eventually making him sympathetic, but until we get to that point, there is almost nothing to him. On top of it all, Campos is trying way too hard to be funny. He succumbs to that mentality that a funny voice makes a funny character, rather than a funny character making a funny voice. While I ended up liking him in the end, he was never funny.

Also, I know this actually pretty standard as far as Disney films are concerned, but… really? Tiana and Naveen knew each other for two days and he’s already ready to propose to her? Again, I know this is common in Disney films, but I have a problem with it no matter where it is. Relationships take time. Couldn’t the movie end with the two of them dating, instead of getting married? For as much as this movie made fun of the classic Disney clichés in the beginning, they sure stick to ’em a lot.

I’m happy that I got to experience this movie in the theaters. It’s a fun and enjoyable movie that’s great for all ages. The male protagonist is certainly obnoxious and for as many tropes the movie bashes, it does become prey to them. But the movie makes up for tremendously for its great female protagonist, side characters, and villain, surprisingly down-to-earth themes, wonderful animation, and the kicker, it’s spectacular jazz music. It’s not one of the animation greats, but it’s a solid and enjoyable film all the same.

My honest rating for THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (2009): a strong 3/5

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A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS review

I’m not surprised that due to the wild success of BAD MOMS (2016) that it would spawn a sequel. What I am surprised about is that the sequel came out so soon. Usually, we would have to wait at least two years. But I guess this is the sort of movie that you can bang out in a couple of months and not struggle too hard to find a good release date around the holidays. Though I have to question why it’s being released closer to Halloween than in December. This movie isn’t even getting released close to Thanksgiving. I guess Christmas is getting booked hardcore by more prestigious movies, eh?

Summed up, I thought BAD MOMS was going to be a bust, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying myself. Certainly one of the better comedies of last year. While it was raunchy by its very nature, it did have a heart to it that I find to be pretty rare in these types of comedies. And if there’s anybody that stole the show for me, it was Kathryn Hahn, whom I now adore as an actress.

Now for this one. I won’t lie… it looks like a downgrade. A quick cash grab to milk the success from the first film. It looks pretty formulaic, like the story’s going to be about the moms trying to prepare for Christmas, but their everyday stresses get the better of them, and then they basically say, “Fuck it, let’s be bad moms again!” I don’t know, I don’t think this is going to have the same charm as the first film, but I hesitate to bash this after the previous one schooled the shit out of me. Here’s what I’m hoping for: Kristen Bell is given a better role, as I thought she primarily existed in the first film to round out the cast, and I kind of wouldn’t mind just seeing Kathryn Hahn and Susan Sarandon just running around getting in trouble together.

Here’s the cast. Returning questionable parents include Mila Kunis (BAD MOMS, AMERICAN PSYCHO II: ALL AMERICAN GIRL [2002], SANTA WITH MUSCLES [1996], and the upcoming THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME [2018]), Kristen Bell (FANBOYS [2009], TV shows THE GOOD PLACE [2016 – ongoing] and VERONICA MARS [2004 – 2007], and upcoming films THE DISASTER ARTIST [2017] and RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 [2018]), and Kathryn Hahn (CAPTAIN FANTASTIC [2016], WANDERLUST [2012], and THE LAST MIMZY [2007]). Returning support includes Oona Laurence (THE BEGUILED [2017], PETE’S DRAGON [2016], and SOUTHPAW [2015]), Emjay Anthony (INCARNATE [2016], KRAMPUS [2015], and CHEF [2014]), Christina Applegate (BAD MOMS, FARCE OF THE PENGUINS [2006], and MARS ATTACKS! [1996]), and Jay Hernandez (SUICIDE SQUAD [2016], HOSTEL: PART II [2007], and THE ROOKIE [2002]). Newcomers include Christine Baranski (MISS SLOANE [2016], WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT [2004], ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES [1993], and the upcoming MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN), Cheryl Hines (WILSON [2017], A FAIRLY ODD MOVIE: GROW UP, TIMMY TURNER [2011], and WAITRESS [2007]), Susan Sarandon (MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL SINKING INTO THE SEA [2017], ENCHANTED [2007], and JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH [1996]), Justin Hartley (TV shows THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS [1973 – ongoing], REVENGE [2011 – 2015], and SMALLVILLE [2001 – 2011]), and Ariana Greenblatt (feature film debut; congrats, miss).

Now for the crew. Co-directing and co-writing, we have Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, both known for BAD MOMS and 21 & OVER (2013). Composing the score is Christopher Lennertz, known for BAYWATCH (2017), ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS (2007), PIRANHA (1995), and upcoming film PITCH PERFECT 3 (2017) and TV reboot LOST IN SPACE (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Mitchell Amundsen, known for CHIPS (2017), RED DAWN (2012), TRANSFORMERS (2007), and the upcoming THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS (2018).

Overall, I’m hesitant to say this is going to be bad, but I said that about the last one and that bit me in the ass. So… I think I’m just going to shut up and see it.

This is my honest opinion of: A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS

(SUMMARY)

Christmas is a stressful time of the year for moms, and Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell), and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) are no exceptions. Things only get more complicated when their mothers visit. Amy’s overly critical and judgmental mom Ruth (Christine Baranski), Kiki’s overly attached and obsessive mom Sandy (Cheryl Hines), and Carla’s overly distant and manipulative mom, Isis (Susan Sarandon), each going through their own personal problems of what it means to celebrate the holidays and how.

(REVIEW)

I should really put more faith in things. Oh yeah, I really like this movie. In my opinion, it’s just as good as the first one. No, it’s not better, as it is a repeat. But as repeats go, it’s still fun.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way. I know I’m in the minority that likes this movie and I think I can see where the criticisms come from. What really is the difference between this flick from the first one? In retrospect, not too much. The first film’s story was simple enough. An over-the-top scenario of a mother, Amy, who’s juggling one too many things, trying to be her definition of a perfect mom, being involved in this and that activity, having an impossible time saying no to anything only to eventually snap and forego being a good mom and become a “bad” mom with Kiki and Carla. By the end of the film, she learns to tone it down a little and give herself a break. In this film, it’s almost like the first film didn’t happen. When everyone’s moms show up, it’s right back to the same scenarios again: no one standing up for themselves. Even when the pivotal “let’s take Christmas back” scene happens, the women’s antics don’t feel very connected very well. In the previous film, their desecration of the local grocery store is a result of heavy drinking, having enough of their mundane routines and opting to do whatever they want without caring about judgment. But here, the intention is that these women want to celebrate Christmas how they want, with whom they want, without the input of their parents. So… wouldn’t the “desecration of the mall” scene be more effective if they were doing it in a way that offended their mothers? Or maybe not a desecration of the mall, but rather destroying the extravagant and expensive decor that Ruth puts up all over Amy’s house in the same fashion as desecrating the mall? There’s a way to make these scenes work, but it’s poorly utilized here and more like a callback for the sake of having a callback. The point is, the bad moms don’t learn their lesson until the end of the film, instead of the more sensible putting the lessons they learned into effect, clashing with their mothers who have strong wills than their daughters.

Also much like the original film, I don’t think it understands its own dilemma. In the first film, the bad moms think that being a “bad mom” means not being afraid to curse at the other mom who’s way too bitchy. I guess you could argue that “bad mom’s” meaning could be interpreted less like abusive and neglectful mothers, but rather just hardcore and no fucks given, so I don’t recall really taking issue with this notion. However, here, Amy makes it clear that she thinks she ruined Christmas and feels like a bad mom. Now I take issue. No, Amy is not a bad mom. Ruth showed up to her home unannounced and completely took over the holiday, showing zero respect toward her daughter, or her boyfriend. She had been an unbearable pain in the ass every step of the way and Amy it’s only when Ruth promised to take a step back and let Amy do things her way, only to lie and complete make-over her home without her consent, inviting dozens upon dozens of strangers over where she snaps and takes control, resulting in Ruth getting thrown out of the house. Of course Amy said things that she didn’t mean. Ruth backed her into that corner and Amy lashed out. I saw no problems here. I didn’t see how Christmas was ruined. Amy stood up for herself. Not in the best of ways, to be sure, but this was a scenario that could have happened to anyone. The kids being upset is a result of bad writing.

Having said all that, and as long winded as those complaint may be, they’re smaller issues by comparison to how much I was laughing throughout the film.

Unlike most comedies that I see, this movie does have a heart to it. Jane (Oona Laurence) and Dylan (Emjay Anthony) both don’t want a huge holiday celebration, but rather a low key one, something that Amy is trying her hardest to accommodate. For as unlikable as Ruth gets throughout the story, there is an adequate payoff in the end to explain her actions. Because of Kiki’s father having passed away, Sandy can’t let go of her daughter and wants to be a part of her life… obsessively… every second of the day, driving her daughter up the walls. And you can tell that while Isis probably was a neglectful mother and wasn’t very good at raising Carla, she clearly made enough of an impact for Carla to get excited for her appearance, even if she’s skeptical of the reasons why. Each story is showing you the way the mothers want to spend time with their daughters, but also showing how the daughters want to spend time with their mothers and each one is surprisingly heart-felt.

Kiki is a lot funnier this time around, though I still think she never truly develops as a mother. Seriously, is she ever going to crack down on her kids, or tell her husband to step in and be a father? Carla still fucking slays the shit out of me. Again, I don’t know what it is that Hahn is doing differently from Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson, but Hahn is fucking hilarious, constantly belting out the best jokes or physical humor, I’m still so in love with her performance here. And I feel like these women have a genuine comradery. They do have a legit connection between the three of them and they’re funny together. You can tell Kunis, Bell, and Hahn are having the time of their lives when they’re dicking around, and if you can the actors are having fun, it gets pretty infectious.

I have one more complaint, but it’s funny enough, not about the movie, but rather the future of this now franchise. The movie ends with Ruth, Sandy, and Isis heading out together to go to Las Vegas. Aside from the fact that I adored these women on screen together as well, I was thoroughly intrigued by the idea of a spin off film about them. But much to my disappointment, a spin off film is indeed in the works, but it’s going to be called “Bad Dads.” What?! You mean the characters that get the least amount of development in these movies, the least interesting characters are getting their own movie?! Actually, now that I typed that out, it probably makes more sense than I initially thought as their own movie would give an opportunity to flesh out their characters more, but… NO!!! I want to see a movie about Hines, Baranski, and Sarandon get into shenanigans! They were far more interesting characters and would hold up a film far better than the men would! Piss off with “Bad Dads” I wanna see “Bad…. Grandmas?” Okay, better title than that, but for the love of all that Hollywood holds sacred, please, make the movie that was teased at the end the spin off!

Overall, no, it doesn’t take the established characters in any new directions, it doesn’t do anything new with it’s previous formula, and even starts off trying a little too hard to be funny. It’s an obvious cash-grab trying to bank on the previous film’s success and popularity. But as cash-grabs go, this could have been a far worse film and far more soul-less and as it stands, it made me laugh. I had a great time with this movie and honestly wouldn’t mind owning it on Blu-Ray and make it a modern Christmas classic to watch around Christmas. It’s no classic up there with A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) or IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946), or even to oddball classics like NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993) and DIE HARD (1988), but it’s still a cute enough movie to watch when the kids are sleep and the parents wanting to let off a little steam. Highly recommended, y’all.

My honest rating for A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS: 4/5

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