Breaking In

A home invasion thriller movie is not a new concept. So trying to find new ways to revitalize the extremely specific genre has got to be hard.

That is what happened with The Purge, remember?

Well, Breaking In is a film that wants to have the home invader be the savior. The mother. Because other people have made it in her home and locked her out, so she needs to break in, to save them. It can work, although the idea seems incredibly silly. The plot would need a lot of components coming together and it can very easily just seem B grade movie material.

And yes, they are doubling this as a Mother’s Day movie too, which is great, because that sentimental crap most mothers probably don’t care for in their movies.

Fire
But I am not a mother. And I care for sentimental crap?

Shaun Russell (Gabrielle Union) is a mom just trying to do right by her kids. Her husband works a lot, and her daughter (Ajiona Alexus) is doing things with boys, but her son (Seth Carr) is relatively well adjusted still, so that’s good. She really wants to have a nice normal loving family, because she did not have a loving relationship with her father. Completely left her life basically, he was rich, and it turns out, a criminal!

Also he is dead. So she has his many assets, and bills. Including a giant mansion that she grew up in. It has some upgrades with technology and security, because her dad was paranoid. But she is there for one thing. To clean it up and get it sold! Get rid of those bad memories growing up, get paid, and go on with their lives.

Unfortunately, other people don’t want the same goals as her. You see, a group of criminals (Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Levi Meaden, Mark Furze) that are loose connections to each other have been learning over time that the old man in the mansion had a safe with some big money in it. They planned on a simple go in, break in and out situation. They didn’t expect a family to deal with. This complicates everything, and when they lock the mother out of the house, she is not going to let them hurt her babies.

Also starring Jason George, Christa Miller, and Damien Leake.

Spiderman
Good thing she took those Spider-Man yoga classes.

The twists that Breaking In offers the genre are relatively entertaining. And that is probably a good way to describe the whole film. Relatively entertaining. It isn’t a strong plot and it isn’t strong acting overall, but it is a bit of fun.

Unfortunately, the really fun moments were ruined by technical issues and not fully thought out writing. When we have an crazy defensive house, and they talk about all of its features and plans, you would expect for them to work. They said that if anyone gets close to the building, then it would set off specific lights to spot her. And they did eventually, but not later in the movie when she first started sneaking. They had awesome motion sensing technology in the house, but for some reason it could only sense a tiny drone flying around, and not the other two humans walking around.

The ending became very weak, both with the coincidences, the dialogue, and just the final outcomes.

Really, I just wish it was smarter. We have a cool concept, really, and done with smart writers could have given an overall great film. I am fine with the criminals and the characters making dumb decisions. That just makes sense given their situations and the unexpectedness of it all. And also, Union does a good job as the lead.

But the film does not live up to its concept and will be forgettable in a month or so.

2 out of 4.

Almost Christmas

Oooh, I usually sort of hate Christmas movies. Too much spirit and guilty messages, not enough parties. Also giant family movies like this one means a lot of interweaving storylines that will PROBABLY end with everyone having a happy ending so it isn’t too creative in its execution. You can see them a mile away.

So Almost Christmas is coming out over a month before Christmas. I guess it is coming out in Almost Almost Christmas time. Christmas and the week before are now synonymous with great movies and mini-blockbusters, not actually thematic holiday films. And since no one makes a movie about Thanksgiving (except for Planes, Trains, and Automobiles), basically any part of November can count for Christmas.

This is a much bigger project than anything David E. Talbert has done before, and I assumed that Malcom D. Lee was the director when I saw the cast size. (He did The Best Man Holiday and other films). But hey, lets give him a shot and hope I don’t fall asleep.

Snooze
This guy knows what’s up.

Prepare to be sad before you get too happy. The film opens with about 45 years of a relationship between Walter (Danny Glover) and his wife Grace. We get to see them gain a family, raise kids, develop their house, all through many Christmas snapshots and more. And now in 2016, Grace died and Walter is preparing to have his first Christmas without her.

And the whole family is coming over, problems and all. They just have to survive for five days until then while airing many grievances and being sad over the whole dead mom thing.

The youngest son (Jessie T. Usher) is about to graduate from college a big football star and most likely join the NFL. But he is nursing a sports injury that might have gotten him pill addicted.

The next oldest is (Gabrielle Union) a strong independent woman who don’t need no man. Because she divorced him and is a single mother now. In Law school, after dropping out of other big career pathways in her life. Her old neighbor fling (Romany Malco) is also in the town for the Holidays and he just won’t leave her alone.

She is also fighting with her older sister (Kimberly Elise), who is a successful dentist and married to a man (J.B. Smoove) who played some NBA in the day, and is now just a ridiculous man. They have a few kids but their relationship has been a struggle.

And finally we have the oldest son (Omar Epps) who is hoping to be elected a congressman in the House of Reps. Hot damn. This makes him very busy for his wife (Nicole Ari Parker), his kids, but hey, he brought his campaign manager (John Michael Higgins) so he should be plenty festive.

There is plenty more drama I am leaving out, but we also have Mo’Nique playing a successful back up singer and sister-in-law to Walter, Tara Batesole as a grocery store clerk, and D.C. Young Fly as a friend who has the hook up.

Dinner
And let’s not forget the search for the edible appetizer.

I guess I should first mention my cry count. I think I only cried 2 to 3 times. Maybe just a good 2.5. Hard to remember, but there are of course some touching and sad moments. The whole film is about death and families coming together to work through it all. So of course it jerks a few tears as well.

I surprisingly didn’t fall asleep through the film and surprisingly enjoyed a few of the moments. Most of the better plot involves Gabrielle Union’s character, whom I guess I just had some ability to relate to versus anyone else. The ending got a little hokey, but that too is to be expected in these types of films.

My mind did try and hurt itself early on though. I have been fearing this day my whole life, but Omar Epps and Romany Malco are finally in a movie together. Every time I see Malco, I think Epps. Every time I see Epps, I think Epps. Malco doesn’t really exist to me. Of course their voices are very different, but I suck and get them confused technically. So when Malco first appeared on the screen and flirted with Union, I was uncomfortable, thinking they were playing brother and sister.

Glover and Union carry this movie for me. Epps’ plot line seems forced, Elise’s just wasn’t interesting, and Usher’s felt a bit too life timey. And some of the major plot points remind me of the later seasons of Parenthood, so it just feels like I have seen some of it play out before. And of course the kids, meh, didn’t even tag them. They are hip on technology and slang, to look cute and say outlandish things. Typical.

2 out of 4.

The Birth of a Nation

The Birth Of A Nation is titled as such to recall the film with the same name slightly over a hundred years ago. That one was racist, sure, but it was also one of the biggest movies of the time and revolutionized film so it still has a reason to be talked about today.

This modern version is about a true slave revolt that happened before the civil war. That’s right. They are taking the title back and making it pro-black. A bold and almost genius idea.

It was also one of the most anticipated films of the year, with Oscar hopes and dreams, long ovations at Sundance, and a giant bidding war to get rights to distribute. It was the first film to potentially win the Best Picture award this year, so the hype was un real. And no, Free State of Jones being terrible didn’t bring the hype down at all.

Run
Picture of how I imagined the hype train would rush to theaters for this film.

The story is about Nat Turner (Nate Parker), a child born into slavery, who was taught to read the bible a bit by kinder owners (Penelope Ann Miller), but eventually was put back into the field.

As an adult, he was one of the head slave workers and he also preached to his fellow slaves every week. A slave preacher! Yes, because they wouldn’t let him preach to white folks of course. Well, the drought was hurting the small farm, so his owner (Armie Hammer) began to take him to other farms to have him preach to other slaves about the importance of obeying your master in order to get to heaven, helping them earn extra money.

But on these voyages he started to see worse and worse conditions for slaves. It began to break him as a person, so much that he would lash out and get more punishments on his own farm. So eventually he had enough. He got a few men together, they planned to kill all their masters, go north to an armory, grab weapons, take the town and try and end slavery once and for all. Whoops, that is most of the story!

Also starring Jackie Earle Haley as the typical evil slave catcher, Esther Scott, Aja Naomi King, Mark Boone Junior, Colman Domingo, Aunjanue Ellis, Dwight Henry, Gabrielle Union, and Roger Guenveur Smith.

Coach

Obviously, given the subject matter you can tell this will be a powerful drama and story and one has to just hope and hope that the people behind it do it justice. And since one man is behind it there is a lot of pressure on Parker to deliver. He was the director, star, writer, main producer, everything. And thankfully he also delivered.

From the cinematography, to his acting, to the costumes, to the close up faces, it was an easy and hard two hours to get through. Easy as it just seemed to flow by rarely having a dull moment, and hard given the subject matter. For those worried, it was actually a lot less graphic than I had anticipated, with a terrible scene involving teeth and some dead bodies.

Whether the movie gets the real story perfect, or what happened in anyone’s real life past is irrelevant. The film itself is actually a well-crafted piece and worthy of praise on many regards. Is it the best movie this year? I don’t think so, but it is one with few issues outside of pacing concerns and behind the scenes drama.

I don’t want to sound like a cheap comparison, but I would definitely say another recent slavery movie, 12 Years A Slave, was definitely still better. But I mean, 12 Years was reall fucking good.

Definitely go see The Birth of a Nation which you will certainty see it mentioned at awards ceremonies in a few months, but I doubt now it takes the top prize.

3 out of 4.

Top Five

I wanted to see Top Five when it first came out to theaters, but I was busy that weekend, getting married and taking a vacation and all. Excuses, I know.

And with that, I have nothing left of an intro. I know nothing about this movie outside of who is in it and I am willing to be surprised.

Train
Just a couple people on trains, goin’ places! Nothin’ to see here, move along!

Chris Rock is not playing Chris Rock, but Andre Allen. Totally different guy. This guy used to be a stand up comic, was super funny, then made a successful franchise of films about Hammy the bear, who was also a cop. People loved it. Hilarious.

Then he got off of drugs and alcohol. He didn’t feel as funny. He didn’t want to do those types of films anymore. He wants to make more serious pictures and branch out as an actor. Like his new film, where he is the star, about the Haitian revolution. It is coming out this weekend, and he is also getting married to reality TV star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union). Because of this, their wedding will also totally be live and aired on Bravo!

Yayyyy!…

His agent (Kevin Hart), who didn’t want him to do this movie, also set him up with a full day interview with The Times. The Times hates his movies, and their movie critic has been the meanest. But it isn’t that dude to interview him, it is Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), who doesn’t want to do a full on fluff piece. She wants to find out real information, new things, she wants him to open up. He just wants people to accept him as a serious actor and person. Hah.

Also featuring Anders Holm, Cedric the Entertainer, Romany Malco and J.B. Smoove.

Radio
If I was a voice actor, I would try to imitate Chris Rock’s voice… I’d probably get fired.

As expected, this is a movie Chris Rock wrote and directed to speak from his heart. These are his thoughts and feelings on reality TV, the industry, drugs and alcohol, groupies, journalists and critics, you name it. It isn’t super about him of course, because Chris Rock isn’t known for some ridiculous comedy series where you only hear him and don’t see him. But you can really tell where he is coming from.

The best part of Top Five is the really real-ness of it all. It feels incredibly natural, as if it is actually just a few people or friends talking, depending on the scene. The scene where he went back to his old friend’s house and there was a tiny party is a great example of this.

But even more importantly, the film is also funny at times. I have probably always been a fan of Chris Rock’s work, whether it is his voice or delivery, I don’t know, but I would watch him in basically anything. Because of the realistic feel, Rock obviously fits the character pretty well and it doesn’t take too many leaps and bounds to consider these characters in their role. Shit, it really helps later in the bachelor party scene when we have other famous comedians just playing themselves.

At the same time, I am just a little bit disappointed with the ending. I wanted more. I know why it ended where it did, but I didn’t want my brain to have to do any of the work, I just wanted to be spoon fed.

Which, in a way, is the type of thing this movie was definitely against. Layers!

3 out of 4.

Think Like A Man Too

I had multiple chances to see Think Like A Man Too early, but things kept coming up. Heck, one showtime had both Kevin Hart and Drake in attendance. I didn’t go to that one because I knew there would be a long line and require at least 7 hours of my life to see it.

But hey, at least I was able to see Think Like A Man before hand which was my biggest worry. Given the way the first film ended, and that this one has nothing to do with Steve Harvey‘s book, I imagine the biggest worry from Kevin Hart was to make a lot of money.

Cray Cray
That’s his wild eyed, stuffing his pockets with cash, face.

The couples established from the film are all still together. Their relationships are just facing new issues all around the same time! Very convenient.

But they are now in Las Vegas. Why? For an extravagant wedding, because getting married in LV at not a quickie chapel is apparently a thing too.

Our Mama’s Boy (Terrence Jenkins) and Single Mother (Regina Hall) are getting hitched, the main reason they were picked was of course to include the nagging mother (Jenifer Lewis) in this movie as well. Their plot line, outside of getting married, is yes the mom still doesn’t like the girl and stuff will ruin their wedding.

The Non-Commiter (Jerry Ferrara) and The Girl Who Wanted A Ring (Gabrielle Union) obviously already got married, but now they are talking about having a kid, and it is scary for one of them.

The Dreamer (Michael Ealy) and the Woman Who Is Her Own Man (Taraji P. Henson) are both still in love, but their careers are taking them to different parts of the country.

And finally, the Player (Romany Malco) and the 90 Day Rule Gil (Meagan Good) are having commitment issues. And by that, the girl is afraid of his commitment, due to the number of women from his past that apparently live in Vegas.

Finally? Just kidding. Cedric (Hart) is still our narrator and freaking out over Best Man duties. We still have our happily married white guy (Gary Owen) but his wife is in this movie too (Wendi McLendon-Covey), and they don’t have many issues.

Also featuring Dennis Haysbert as smooth talking Uncle Harris to get the mom off their backs, and Adam Brody and David Walton as our Mama Boy’s old frat friends who join in the shenanigans.

Crew
Just like real life, they all wear generic colored outfits.

Overall, Think Like A Man Too is a movie that shouldn’t have been made.

For bad reasons, this movie is being compared to The Best Man Holiday. You know, both sequels in the last year, with large black ensemble casts. Although Holiday was given to use 14 years later where they had time to find a good story, and Too we had only a two year break if that.

But yeah, a lot just didn’t feel natural in this movie. Too much (all?) of the aggravation involved people not willing to speak truthfully to their loved ones. What? This is years later and they still have the same issues? I doubt these couples should be together.

Whenever it looked like something actually funny and interesting would happen (like the strip club), they ruined it and put the characters in a very unfunny place instead.

Actually, by the end, when stories were resolving, I thought some of them were cute. I thought the mama trouble plot line ended teribly, along with the job couple. The other two were fine endings, just the player past shouldn’t have been an issue at all.

Occasionally a funny moment, but overall, can easily ignore it. Here’s hoping there is no Think Like A Man Thrieve or whatever.

1 out of 4.

Think Like A Man

I am already starting to get overwhelmed with these movie screenings that are available to me. Too many a week, with too much of a time commitment. Why the review of Think Like A Man? Why, because it’s sequel, Think Like A Man Too is coming out shortly, of course! I missed the first one from 2012 some how, probably because I lived in the farming midwest and it never came to a local theater.

But then I move down South and I got the tickets to see this movie early. I would have, too, but first I had to watch the previous movie, damn it. Also, I didn’t want to drive 75 minutes, to wait two hours in line, to watch a two hour movie, and drive 75 minutes back home. No, that sounded dreadful.

But it gave me time to relax and watch Think Like A Man, without staying up super late at night to get it done!

Boys
I also had sports to watch watch.

This movie, based on the book, is about four relationships, and a few other people around them. All of the guys are part of a group of friends who play basketball together, which include Bennett (Gary Owen), “the Happily Married Guy” and Cedric (Kevin Hart), “the Happier Divorced Guy”. Thankfully, the four couples that exist are all presented in a nice way to split this review up into parts.

“The Mama’s Boy” vs. “The Single Mom”

Michael (Terrence Jenkins) is a man who listen’s to his mother (Jenifer Lewis) and helps her out with everything. He is about to start seeing Candace (Regina Hall), who has a son, the father is out of their life for good, and really wants someone that won’t just leave at the first sign of trouble.

“The Non-Committer” vs. “The Girl Who Wants the Ring”

Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) and Kristen (Gabrielle Union) have been living together for awhile now and everything is just cool. Hell, Kristen likes everything Jeremy likes and doesn’t care that their relationship doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Psyche!

“The Dreamer” vs. “The Woman Who Is Her Own Man”

Dominic (Michael Ealy) has problems keeping jobs and relationships, because he has goals, but he never sets out to accomplish them all the way. He is about to meet Laruen (Taraji P. Henson), a young black woman CEO of a large company, successful, rich, and someone who doesn’t need anything from a man, but still would like one in her life.

“The Player” vs. “The 90 Day Rule Girl”

Finally, we have Zeke (Romany Malco), a guy who hits the clubs and sleeps around, who runs into Mya (Meagan Good), who is tired of “giving up her power” and sleeping with men just for them to forget her name and not return phone calls. So she decides to resist the temptation, and make this new guy wait.

What do they all have in common besides basketball? The women have all found and read Steve Harvey‘s Book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like A Man, which is a real book in which Steve “sell’s out his gender” and gives women advice on how to secretly control their men and get what they want out of the relationship. However, two can play that game, as the men also find the books, to play on defensive.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES, GO!

Books - Public Enemy #1
Steve Harvey is Public Enemy #1. How could you Steve?! How. Could. You?!

Well, I will just say that I think there were far too many characters involved with this film. Four couples, means eight people. Some have additional characters like friends, parents, children. Then we have Kevin Hart, Steve Harvey, and Gary Owen too. I guess Gary was mostly ignored, but Kevin Hart was butting into most of the friend’s lives, so there was just so much going on.

I am not going to say it would have been better without Hart, because he was decently amusing, mostly serving as a good narrator. Just. There was so much going on, in two hours, to make it not confusing, they had to make the narrative structure very simple to follow in order to not get lost.

So, it is good that it was super simple to prevent us from getting lost, but at the same time, it was still super simple and didn’t break too much new ground in the making of this movie. It is like four different romance/comedy plotlines, only two of them which could probably stand on their own legs as their own film (dreamer/OwnMan, and noncommiter/wantaring), but then, they have been done before too.

The film had some amusing moments in it, and it also had some lame moments in it. Overall, it was adequately average.

2 out of 4.

Miss Dial

Every once in awhile I pick out bad movies to even out my website if I have seen too many good movies in theaters recently. I will at least try to pick a probably bad movie by knowing one of the actors in that movie.

Miss Dial is one of those movies, and also a great example of why I will watch random shit and give it a fair shot. Because somehow, despite everything, I really liked it.

White people
No, this is not the people on the cover that made me want to watch it.

Erika (Robinne Lee) works for CPI consumer affairs. Who are they? They cover a lot of products, and take complaints and help answer concerns for people using these products. She can work from home, take calls via her laptop and all she has to do is follow a script and work blah hours a day, while multi tasking and doing whatever. What fun!

Well, except for she hates it. She also has recently heard rumors that her boyfriend, Alex (Jon Huertas) has been fooling around with one of his coworkers on the side. In fact, someone saw them together at dinner, maybe kissing, the night before. No. Not cool. Not cool at all.

So during a break she decides to call her best friend to talk about it but she accidentally dials the wrong number, and ends up having a conversation with some random guy instead. It felt like relief. She felt connected. She wanted to do it more. But with her boss constantly checking in (David H. Lawrence XVII), a queue of dumb consumers that doesn’t ever seem to shrink, and boyfriend troubles, she is having a very strange and confusing afternoon.

And when she calls Kyle (Sam Jaeger), a random NYC number, she feels more connected to him than anyone yet. And he is offering advice. He would be perfect, if she wasn’t so confused with hey boyfriend and you know, he didn’t live far from LA. Dule Hill and Gabrielle Union are also in this movie, but they are just two callers to the complaint department while the other events are unfolding.

Yet note their position on the DVD cover, and note Sam Jaegers.

Miss Direction
Hint, Sam Jaeger isn’t on the cover.

Seriously. Dule Hill’s character name is “Popcorn Caller”. He has one scene, and so does Gabrielle Union. They are both famous kind of, but Sam Jaeger is also kind of famous. He is on Parenthood! And the second main character! But no cover. At least his name is on the top?

Despite that. Despite that glaring fact and awkwardly deceitful advertising. I liked the story. I really did.

First off, the movie was basically in real time, since it was mostly conversation, no other events really going on. Made it seem a lot shorter than it ended up being.

Second, a lot of clever shit happened by the end. The way they used phones and just normal conversation into tricking people to tell the truth. It was brilliant.

Third, the complaint people were hilarious. They really were. I knew a lot of people who ended up calling too, bunch of small time actors, getting a scene in to make us laugh. That is awesome.

And fourth, I really enjoyed the ending. I think that is point two. It had its ups and downs, but shit, I was entertained, and overall glad I saw this movie. Weird right?

3 out of 4.