The Upside

[Editor’s Note: Days after seeing this movie, the writer forgot about it completely. He didn’t even remember he didn’t finish writing the review and never posted it. Take that as another aspect of the review.]

What’s this? A serious movie, with some serious actors (and one non serious actor) coming out in January? But that is supposed to be a dumping ground for films! So what is going on with The Upside?

Well, first of all, they are sort of hiding the fact that this is a remake of another movie. They aren’t hiding that it is based on a true story, just the remake aspect. If you haven’t seen the French film The Intouchables, you are doing yourself a disservice, as it is pretty darn good, and one of the most successful French movies ever.

Another thing hindering this movie is the nice Hart sized controversy over anti-gay jokes and Oscars. Before the movie came out, Ellen redeemed him for all the gay people and said he should host, because he seems sorry. The issue with all of that of course is before then, there was no apology until he basically dropped out of hosting. And basically every time he “apologized” he came as a victim and people just trying to get him, never actually seeming sorry. So yeah. January. Dumping ground. Still true.

LAUGH
An American remake? You don’t say?!

Dell (Kevin Hart) is looking for work! Why? Because he is out of prison, and its an aspect of parole. If he doesn’t get a job, he at least needs signatures saying he went there to get one and wasn’t offered it, so that it shows he is trying. I mean, he wants a job. Because he wants money, doesn’t want to get into selling drugs, and has an ex-wife and son to support.

Due to a mix up, he goes into a luxury building thinking he is applying for a janitor gig, following the crowd of people applying for jobs. Really, it is actually to be a life auxiliary support for a billionaire named Philip (Bryan Cranston). He is quadriplegic, needs a live in to clean him, move him, make sure he isn’t dying.

Well, mostly that last part can be ignored. Philip is tired of this life, he has a DNR, let that death happen.

How does Dell get the job? Mostly because Philip is tired of this life, I just said so. He wants a change, and maybe Dell will be unqualified enough to get him killed, who knows. But of course, this mismatched pair are going to be doing a lot more together than they expected.

Also starring Tate Donovan as an annoying neighbor that we all hate. Boo hiss! And of course Nicole Kidman as the runner of the business for Philip.

chair
Finally, someone who can walk down the street with Hart and not look overpowering.

Speaking of overpowering, there are a few scenes where Hart is next to Kidman, who at that point seems like an Amazonian warrior with that level of height difference (as she is probably wearing heels). It is a nice extreme look and added comedy they were not intending.

The Upside is entirely just okay. It is told out of order, like the French film, and has a far different conclusion merely to catch those familiar with the French version off. But overall, it is just slightly more modern and more American. The friendship doesn’t feel as real, and Cranston just looks like he is there because he is supposed to be there. No one goes out of there way to make the acting seem genuine, nor a situation that totally happened.

This is a remake that tried to do its own thing, while still doing a lot similar with the original. It needs to pick a direction. Do we want to focus on the wife/kid direction? If so, good, go for it, but commit. About turning his life around? fine. But we got all of that in a montage and I guess his skill is fixing broken wheel chairs? Kind of odd, and came from nowhere.

The Upside is clearly forgettable, and in Spring, I won’t remember it at all, as it middles its way through theaters.

2 out of 4.

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle

¨It only took twenty years, but we finally have a Jumanji sequel…” said no one ever about this movie, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle.

Especially since everyone of course remembers that Zathura: A Space Adventure totally exists!

But also because when this movie was announced, a lot of people got pretty angry. Saying things like it would tarnish Robin Williams´ legacy, that it was changing too many things, that it didn´t feel like Jumanji, and everything else. People seem to think that movie studios were sitting on this idea for years, just waiting for Williams to fall over so they could move on. Williams did not own the rights to Jumanji.

When I saw the trailer initially I was actually a little bit excited. Getting sucked into a video game is not a new prompt. It has been done many times as one-off TV show episodes, entire shows have been based on them, and movies as well, but it feels like when it happens it is usually shit. And since I like a lot of these actors, I had a bit more hope for this one.

Group
A diverse cast of characters in a jungle, WHAT YEAR IS IT?!

Don’t worry purists, this film takes place in the same universe as the first Jumanji film! As it starts in the mid 90’s, boardgame found on a beach. However, board games are lame, so the kid doesn’ play it and goes back to his video games. So what’s an evil sentient-esque game supposed to do but morph into a playing system? That is how they will get the kids hooked.

Flash forward to modern times, and we have four kids, very distinct histories and likes, who end up getting detention at the same time. Spencer (Alex Wolff) is our nerd/video game lover, we have The Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) who is good at sports, Bethany (Madison Iseman) a popular cute girl addicted to her phone, and Martha (Morgan Turner) who also is nerdy but more reclusive. They have a task of removing staplers from hundreds of magazines in a basement, hooray child labor! They of course instead find this old video game, all agree to play, because fuck work, and lo and behold, they get sucked into a video game!

Now, they are all the avatars they chose as their characters. Spencer is now Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), good at everything, while The Fridge is Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart), the backpack guy sidekick, Martha is now Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) a fighter good at fighting, and Bethany has become Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black), an overweight cartologist.

They must work together to balance their strengths and weaknesses in their new bodies to save the jungles of Jumanji, and also, get themselves back home.

Also starring Bobby Cannavale, Rhys Darby, Nick Jonas, Marc Evan Jackson, and Colin Hanks.

Shock
The Rock showing emotion, WHAT YEAR IS IT?

As previously mentioned, most “jump into video game movies” are poorly made. Just look at the third Spy Kids movie. The problem with all of these films or tv shows is they just never seem to “get” video games. They make them awkward puzzle based challenges, but mostly a lot of…non gaming things. The closest we have to a movie understanding video games has been Edge of Tomorrow.

If there is anything you can say about Jumanji 2, it is that it at least understands video games. Our characters have multiple lives, sharing lives, strengths and weaknesses, there are obvious levels, there are boundaries, there are goals, NPCs, weird interactions. It feels like people interacting with a video game world for the most part, that is wonderful.

It is wonderful, until they contradict themselves. For example, one of my biggest issues with this movie is Dr. Smolder Bravestone. He has no weaknesses, and his strengths include Fighting, Strength, Endurance, Speed, and being Fearless. Yeah, he has a bunch. And all the characters in avatar form obviously have strengths or weaknesses that are not normal. But hey, Ruby can actually fight despite being weak in real life. And Smolder can run fast, jump high, and all that.

Except for apparently his Fearless trait. Because a recurring plot point is watching Johnson scream at the slightest and smallest of animals, running in terror, over and over again. It causes one of his deaths. It is such a ridiculous oversight, it really bugs me because everything else was on point and this one felt glaring.

Overall, the movie is just okay still. The video game aspects are fine, the plot is really week. It doesn’t have an overall sense of awe or wonder like its predecessors. Everything is of course just extremely CGI’d and action scenes, with too many of the scenes focusing on human bad guys instead of swell animal problems. We don’t even get natural disasters, despite the several plant or weather based issues that Jumanji gave us.

A fine film, it just still could have been a lot better.

2 out of 4.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

Dreamworks films never reach their full potential. Or they do, and Dreamworks films just suck, outside of the two Dreamworks franchises that I don’t even have to mention at this point.

They do not aim for universal appeal, they just want to get their cheap kid jokes and run.

I expected to outright hate Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. I have never read or looked into a book with any level of effort, but I see the sort of humor that exists. You know, poop and underwear humor. Like the whole series, all based on one sort of joke. It is a bold move, but it was a hit with kids, and honestly I am surprised it took this long for a movie.

But as I left the film, it had some level of charm, despite all the shit.

Hero
His whole body is just so round.

Before we get to the superhero, we need to talk about George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch). They have been best friends since Kindergarten, thanks to their similar humor styles. They pull pranks on school to get them by, and they love making comics together. George tells the story, Harold is the illustrator. Their favorite comic that they have made is Captain Underpants!

But at school, not everything is okay. The mean Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms) is the principal, and he outlaws fun for the sake of discipline, so George and Harold are a thorn in his side. But he never has proof! When he does get proof, he will be able to separate the two boys into different classes, thus killing their friendship, or something like that.

And thanks to a few other pranks their nightmare is about to come true! As a last ditch effort, they attempt to hypnotize him, and it works! There they decide to make him pretend to be Captain Underpants and wham! A superhero is born!

But can their school be run by a make believe super hero? Can they control him and protect their friendship? What about the evil Professor P (Nick Kroll) who has a weird plan to hurt children too, with the unknowing help of Melvin (Jordan Peele), a humorless nerd. Also featuring Kristen Schaal as the voice of the cafeteria worker.

Kids
Although pretty round, they have a few more edges so this isn’t just some freaky round planet. Whew.

Guess what?! Captain Underpants wasn’t extremely poopy, just somewhere poopy. For the most part, I didn’t find it really that funny. It relied on the same sort of joke over and over again. Of which the film did talk about how “toilet humor” is the lowest form, so they understood what they were doing. The exaggeration of their friendship being killed by being in different classes was a bit annoying, since they straight up hang out with each other as direct neighbors after school all the time as well.

But it was telling the story in their kid point of view, so it made sense on a level. On a different level, they are supposed to be very smart and savvy compared to the rest of the students, so when their characterizations are sometimes very childish versus mature, it is a bit confusing on what they are supposed to represent.

There are however aspects that I really enjoyed. This is a film where all the main characters are voiced by famous people. It is a stupid trend, it still doesn’t lead to more ticket sales like Robin Williams did in the early 1990s. They are paying more money for lesser voices. BUT, the characters in this film didn’t just sound like the normal actors for once. The closest two were Hart and Scahal, but everyone else I would not have been able to tell you the voice at all, so that is wonderful.

The second aspect I enjoyed was their decisions to tell the story in different ways. It is a CGI film, but we weren’t just given a completely CGI movie. It starts off with a paper comic book feel, we are given a flip book scene, various forms of day dream, but best of all, a sock puppet scene. Sock puppets! The changing formats of the film helped keep my interest and make the film a bit more sophisticated?

No, not sophisticated. Let’s just keep it as interesting.

It still caters to a lower form of humor. It still doesn’t have a lot of substance. But hey, it did try a few things I enjoyed and wasn’t a complete shit show.

2 out of 4.

Central Intelligence

It has been well noted that for every movie, there is an at least equal if not better movie out there that would exist if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was included in that film. Just look at any franchise that didn’t have The Rock in it, then added The Rock to it. It is pure, unadulterated science, like Mathematics.

At the same time, films that add Kevin Hart as a co-lead tend to suffer. Sure, maybe they make some money, but basically everything that has Hart at co-lead has been mediocre at best, and generally terrible. The only films that excel with Hart are those that limit the Hart to a supporting actor role.

So this begs the question. What about a movie that has both Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart in it, as co-leads? Which side will win out? Can Johnson elevate it to greatness, or will Hart drag it down to mediocrity?

Central Intelligence was made just to answer that one question.

Cuddle
Just imagine averaging the two and seeing whose size is more extreme.

Back in 1996, The Golden Jet, Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) was king. Homecoming King and the coolest kid ever, and a nice guy. During a final pep rally, some bullies threw a fat kid, Richard (Dwayne Johnson), naked into the gym and everyone laughed at him. But Calvin gave him his coat to cover him, Richard ran away and was never seen again.

Now, twenty years later, Calvin didn’t go and do anything sexy. He is an accountant (a good accountant), but not one that leads his own company or anything. He is still with his wife, Maggie (Danielle Nicolet), but they never had kids. And tomorrow night is his 20 year high school reunion. He is just not feeling it though.

Then he gets a Facebook friend request from someone named Bob Stone. Turns out it is Richard, from high school, and he wants to hang out! Sure! But now Bob is ripped as fuck. Quirky and weird, sure, but he got fit and he got tall.

But it also turns out he is in the CIA. Or used to be. He might have killed a man. He might be framed, he might be crazy. Either way, Calvin is now involved with Bob, and they are on the run, finding clues, and dealing with international finances. All before the reunion!

Also starring Jason Bateman as old bully Trevor, Amy Ryan and Aaron Paul as CIA people, Ryan Hansen as office coworker asshole, and Thomas Kretschmann as potential terrorist.

Fatty
A moment of silence for the CGI crew who lost their lives to create this fat Rock.

And who won in the Rock Hart showdown? Well, apparently a positive beats a negative and I laughed an unreasonable amount of time in this film. That Johnson is just so damn entertaining. And since he played against his normal tropes, it was better than normal. Yes, it was technically the same joke over and over again. Big strong guy, but nerdy and super optimistic and putting Hart on this pedestal. But he went to the extreme and kept it and it totally worked.

And as a comparison, it reminds me of Terry Crews‘ character on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but only in the strange strong man role.

Hart wasn’t terrible either, because despite being the main character, he still felt limited. His character was just along for the ride (not like Ride Along), so he was a very supporting lead character.

The plot? Not the best, but it wasn’t terrible. I was incorrect with my guess on the twists technically, so it got me there.

This isn’t a movie you watch for that. You watch it for laughs, decent action, and because everyone has a crush on that big manly Rock like man.

3 out of 4.

The Secret Life Of Pets

The Secret Life of Pets is just one of those animated movies coming out this year that I gave absolutely, positively, no fucks about. There are animated movies all the time and all of them are competing to be the best.

I wasn’t apathetic because it wasn’t Disney or Pixar. I like a lot of other studios, I am not some weird populist. No, I am apathetic because it is being made by Illumination Entertainment. Before this film, they have made 5 movies and they are all objectively bad. Despicable Me, its sequel and Minions were bad, The Lorax was bad, and Hop was racist and bad.

I only saw the original trailer for The Secret Life Of Pets a few months ago. Outside of the awkward title, it just didn’t look like it would be an original movie. Oh, talking pets? That hasn’t been done before. (Cough)

Viper
Now a 25 minute scene on venom drugs in a kids movie? That is new.

The movie takes place in NYC, big place, lot of people, lot of animals. And pets can talk and understand each other. Not just pets, all animals. They have some universal language despite not having the same noises.

Max (Louis C.K.) is a loyal house pet, taken as a puppy from a box for free by his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper). He is greatful for her and waits almost all day in front of the door when she leaves. He has a ton of friends in the apartment complex and across the way who like to hang out while the owners are away. There is Chloe (Lake Bell), a fat cat, Mel (Bobby Moynihan), a pug, Buddy (Hannibal Buress), a dachshund, and a bird Sweet Pea who I guess doesn’t talk, just chirps.

But then Katie comes home with a surprise. She comes home with Duke (Eric Stonestreet). He is big, he is wild, and he is taking over the alpha dog status from Max. So Max wants to get rid of him. He wants to destroy the place so Katie will take him back to the pound. They begin to fight with each other more and more, and sure, yeah, somehow it ends up with them both now out of the apartment, collars lost, just trying to get back home.

And they are in New York City. Everyone knows it is a rough and tumble place for strays. You all saw Oliver & Company. On the streets they have to deal with animal control, the League of Flushed Pets (run by a bunny voiced by Kevin Hart), and shit like water.

Also featuring Jenny Slate as the puffy Gidget who lived across the street and was in love with Max, Albert Brooks as Tiberius, a hawk, and Steve Coogan, Dana Carvey, Tara Strong, and Michael Beattie.

New Dog
Duke could straight up eat Max. And Katie. And me.

Like I had feared, The Secret Life of Pets doesn’t offer a whole lot to the animation genre. The animation isn’t state of the art, with the quality looking more or less the same as the first Despicable Me film. This time there are only four or five important human characters, so their awkward proportional bodies isn’t super distracting like it is for other films. We just get slightly exaggerated pet bodies, which is a bit easier to accept.

About half of the film reminded me of Toy Story, the first one, the one that came out 21 years ago! New pet (toy), they argue and fight, both pets (toys) get lost from home and face near death to get back. Hell, there are a couple of scenes where they even have to chase a car where one or the other is trapped.

Nothing was surprising about this movie. It is incredibly simplistic and places where they could have added conflict and a bit of emotional connection are just nothing. Duke had an older owner and they attempt to find them during their time in the city. Without spoilers, things don’t go the right way. Perfect time for a nice emotional scene, but it is rushed through and another bullshit conflict is added. Bullshit conflict to move the plot is lazy, and this film is full of it.

One more complaint paragraph before some pros, don’t worry. The ending was a complete mess too. From the quickest phone call animal control response ever, to the unnecessary all out brawl between pets, to a no real stakes rescue, to the third or fourth time of the animals driving crazily vehicles, it just ended on so many bad notes. And yes, a brawl to solve a big issue is shit. Grown Ups 2 did it, and this movie did it just for a quick joke. Especially when an easy explanation could have fixed everything and taught some better morals.

Cat Face
Unrelated fun fact: An Andrew WK song appears in this movie. Party, party, party!

“But why with all these issues did you give it an average rating?” Well, surprisingly the voice acting saved the shit out of this movie. Kevin Hart as a bunny? I didn’t know I needed that in my life. His voice works great in animated films and his antics get less annoying when he isn’t the lead. Jenny Slate has been annoying to me in her last few films, but her as the Gidget was also pretty great. Albert Brooks as a hawk is the final amazing aspect of the voice acting. All three brought their A-game and brought it on hard.

The animation wasn’t completely average in every area either. The scenes with the snake, both seen above and as a sort of password felt really cool. They worked the 3D really well to make these animals pop out in unique ways. And shit, there was a dream sequence about sausage featuring the finale song from Grease, and it was a visual explosion of wonder.

The Secret Life of Pets won’t win awards for story, visuals, or make a lot of money. But the cast do the best with what they are given and technically make the best film Illumination Entertainment has ever made (in my eyes).

I still don’t want a sequel, because the entire idea behind all of this is just so uninspired. It feels like a straight to DVD animated film, just with some top tier celebrities to voice the animals.

2 out of 4.

Ride Along 2

Two years ago, I was facing another hoard of January movies and afraid of what might come out. But I had seen a trailer for Ride Along months before and was a bit excited about it. Kevin Hart can amuse me and the concept seemed funny enough. It was going to be the movie to save January for me. I was so ready for it.

And then it was average. It being average made me feel even more disappointed since I had such high hopes for it. That Awkward Moment ended up being my good January movie.

That’s right, with fucking Zac Efron.

And now two Januaries later, we have Ride Along 2. Kevin Hart also had The Wedding Ringer last January, making it three years in a row he has had a film come out that month. That is never a good sign for an actor. I hope he is getting some other roles out there somehow.

Munn
This time with new hilarious side characters who are from the finest of films before this one!

The sequel takes place only a few months later, I think. Ben Barber (Hart) is now a police officer, but he is in the mentoring stage and not a full time cop just yet. So he gets to shadow other cops, lieutenants and detectives, like James (Ice Cube)!

After a drug bust gone bad, James finds a mysterious USB drive with a crazy hard to beat encryption. Thankfully the hacker who did it left a calling sign and they are able to track it to A.J. (Ken Jeong) out of Miami. James only agrees to take Ben along with him as part of his training as a wedding present to his sister (Tika Sumpter). Oh yeah, the wedding is in a week, so hopefully they get back in time.

Oh no! It turns out A.J. is involved in a murder plot. And maybe someone out to murder him as well. This turns their quick Miami trip into working with Detective Maya (Olivia Munn) to solve the whole thing before they get dead. And not a spoiler, as it is the first scene, it is clearly the nice rich ship dude, Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt) behind everything. They just have to figure that out using their smarts first.

Also featuring Michael Rose, Sherri Shepherd, Carlos Gómez, Bruce McGill, and even smaller roles by Arturo del Puerto, Tyrese Gibson, and Glen Powell.

Jeong
As I said and I shall repeat again, the finest of films I tell you!

Ride Along 2 was worse than the first film. It is an Action Comedy that has barely any laughs and non exciting action. It is a bore, which is definitely not an emotion you ever expect from either of those genres. You can totally expect that from Dramas.

In terms of humor, I did find one part near the plot finale did make me laugh. I laughed out loud and a lot, it was a nice shake up. But one great joke doesn’t save the film. Maybe I am getting immune to Kevin Hart’s ranting. Ice Cube had to play a serious guy, but 98% of his jokes fell completely flat. As for the action, it seemed almost like a parody without it being a parody. It had so many action cliches it was like watching something that came out of the 90’s but it never was aware of that fact. Explosions for every minor thing (which can be funny if intentional, like in 21 Jump Street), terrible shoot outs, and never any real fear or worry behind it.

There was one car chase scene where, in order to explain why Ben was a great driver during it, the film became to morph into a pretty bad looking video game. It was supposed to be similar to Grand Theft Auto, but the constant shifting of the game in his mind and in reality was only a major annoyance and took away from what could have been one of the more exciting parts of the film. In that sense, it is another example of what some movie in the 90’s might have done, but nowadays only a straight to DVD film would think that is a good idea.

On a final note, do you know the last time a movie decided to place its sequel in Miami? Do you? It was fucking 2 Fast 2 Furious, a travesty of a movie, and it is a surprise the franchise didn’t die on the spot. I don’t see this franchise lasting 7 movies, because at least The Fast and the Furious was decent. This is two weak films in a row.

1 out of 4.

Get Hard

Get Hard has an immediate issue with its title. No, I am not saying that I have an issue with what it references. That is fine. But because it makes people think about erections, dick jokes become very easy to make with it. And that isn’t creative. That isn’t clever. That is boring.

If I want to make dick jokes, I’d rather craft them with something unexpected, like Paddington or Shame. Get Hard falls into the same category now as Good Dick.

I personally will do my best to not go for the lowest common denominator jokes here. No dick jokes whatsoever. I just hope I don’t get shafted with any accidental puns.

Lift
Exercising with a little prick? Clearly in training for prison.

James (Will Ferrell) is a little bitch. He has risen to success by being white and in the right place at the right time now. He is a stock broker, which means stuff a lot of us don’t understand, but also that he is filthy rich. Which is why he is now engaged to his hot wife Alissa (Alison Brie), who is totally in love with his money.

Speaking of money, James is great at making money. So great that his boss, Martin (Craig T. Nelson) is going to promote him to a partner level player in his company! That is crazy sweet. Also, Martin is Alissa’s dad, so now he can be his dad too! I guess!

Things come crashing down when James is in a scandal. Apparently he was a dirty broker, stole lots of people’s money for bad deals and was getting away with it. James loses everything in the trial. His fiance, his money, his dignity, all while maintaining his innocence. He has 30 days to get his affairs together before 10 years in a “pound me in the ass” prison. His only recourse now is to go to the one black man he knows to help prepare him for jail.

Which is why we have Darnell (Kevin Hart), a family man with wife (Edwina Findley Dickerson) and daughter, living in a rough part of the city but hoping to eventually get her in a good school. He has never been to prison, but for $30,000, of course he will attempt to train Darnell for prison. Twenty some days of lying, won’t be too bad, especially since James is scum anyways.

Also featuring Erick Chavarria, T.I., Paul Ben-Victor, and John Mayer (as John Mayer!).

Brie
The main reason anyone watched this movie was to see Brie in skimpy outfits.

Will Ferrel for the last few years has gotten really disappointing. I blame his hair. It is ugly. I am judging him right now for ugly hair. He had sweet hair in A Night At The Roxbury, but it has been all downhill after that, with the occasional bump ups with Anchorman movies. Could also be thanks to no John C. Reilly. Either way, his humor has lessened.

Kevin Hart, on the other hand, has been pretty stagnant with his films. They range from bad to mediocre, with occasionally some excellent moments popping out. And honestly, some of those moments are what saved the movie for me. These moments that you can’t help but smile because of the ridiculous going on and the banter between our leads, with Hart doing most of the work.

Everything else about the film is a drag. The plot is incredibly simple and easy to figure out where it is going. So instead of making that better, they mostly just ignore it until the end of the film. Yes, James was indeed framed and yes, you can figure out what happened reading a one paragraph description of the movie.

But again, instead of making it at all compelling, they just push it to the side. And that is boring.

Instead of being a great comedy, this movie unfortunately landed in the average comedy category. Those comedies tend to quickly be forgotten about, neither to be hated nor to be loved. Just sitting there, collecting dust, right next to the other Hart movie this year, The Wedding Ringer.

2 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.

The Wedding Ringer

The Wedding Ringer seems to fail at the most basic level, having an interesting title. A lot of movies begin with “The Wedding” and end with some noun. Ringer is really only associated with The Ringer and that is a weird movie to be kind of associated with. Or it might make it sound like a shitty horror, if you think about it hard enough.

Oh well. I will note that Sony Pictures really wanted people to see this film a head of time. I think I could have first gone to a screening in October or so. And then roughly 2 a week until it finally came out (exaggeration, but barely). I am normally a bit more weary about films that show too many screenings, because I think they don’t think they will be successful without a lot of positive word of mouth. Like, a lot a lot. And that means it is probably shit.

Not that I am judging it or anything. But Kevin Hart has been on a downward spiral in terms of film quality, with me hating the last few of his movies outside of About Last Night. But hey, despite all these negatives maybe I will be surprised.

Drunk
This movie probably will taste better with copious amounts of alcohol.

Doug Harris (Josh Gad) is super rich. Like, parents died, took over their business, gained a lot of wealth, and makes a lot of income. He is also kind of fat and awkward and has no friends. But when the daughter of one of his clients suddenly gets interested in him and finds him interesting, he runs with it. Now he is marrying Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) and it is expensive. She wants everything and he agrees, this includes a big bridal party. Now ten days away, all she knows about the bridal party is their names, weird things about them, but no pictures and none of them around. Shit.

So Doug finds out about Jimmy (Kevin Hart), who runs a Best Man for hire business. With the time line and the number of people needed, Doug needs The Golden Tux package, costing him another $50k, but he is doing it because he totally knows lying is the best option to make his soon to be wife happy. Inventing fake friends ftw. He just stills has to impress her much smarter sister (Olivia Thirlby) and angry dad (Ken Howard).

And we also have the 7 hired groomsmen. Jorge Garcia, Affion Crockett, Dan Gill, Corey Holcomb, Colin Kane, Alan Ritchson, and Aaron Takahashi. Also Ignacio Serricchio as a gay Hispanic wedding planer. And Jenifer Lewis as Hart’s assistant and advice giver. I think I got every one in there.

Best Men
The most eclectic group of friends since All In The Family. Errr.

One of the most annoying parts of this movie is it just is an impossible service to imagine. Doug has to pay $50,000 for the service he offers, and the only other price we see is about $20,000. Some people apparently have a lot of money on the side that their soon to be spouse know absolutely nothing about. So it is not only a huge breach of trust, spending that much extra before you share things, but the other breach of trust about lying about someone in your life. It is crazy.

So after I get over that fact, there are quite a few amusing moments in the movie. I could tell how the whole thing would end after about 20 minutes, so they never really stray off of the beaten path. That is a bit disappointing.

The cast of extra characters was entertaining. Kevin Hart was his usual self. Gad was never really anything funnier than “That fat guy”, so his character needed a lot of work. They gave me a Lost joke, which is all I really cared for.

The Wedding Ringer is okay, and not the giant shit show I thought it would be. After all, Kevin Hart’s last January movie was Ride Along which failed to live up to its potential.

2 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.

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