Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Review: "The Wrong Missy" is just another Happy Madison Netflix film

The Wrong Missy Review
There seems to be no ending in sight for the alliance between Happy Madison; the production company owned by Adam Sandler and Netflix. They've been pushing movies out every summer like clockwork for years now. They don't seem to be slowing down.

I just wish these releases were something to be celebrated rather than something that just kinda happens. All of the movies Happy Madison has released all kinda feel the same. When Sandler is doing something like "Uncut Gems" or "The Meyerowitz Stories," he's essentially making a series of the same stories over and over again. Even though it doesn't seem like he had much to do with this film in particular, you can still see the seeds from which this film grew from. 

David Spade plays Tim Morris. As the film opens Tim has a blind date with a girl named Melissa (Lauren Lapkus). Melissa goes by Missy and let's just say that she's...really strange. Her idea of breaking the ice is falsely describing herself so that Tim nearly gets beat up for trying to date another mans wife. She goes into the boys bathroom, she drinks obnoxiously. Tim never plans to see her again after the date. A few weeks later going on a business trip, he runs into a different Melissa played by Molly Sims. This new Melissa seems very normal, they have lots of common and they really hit it off. 

Tim gets Melissa's number at the airport and they begin texting. They continue to flirt and enjoy each other. Tim has a business retreat coming up in Hawaii. He's dreading it because not only is a promotion up for grabs but his ex-fiancee (Sarah Chalke) will be there. His friend, played by Nick Swanson, thinks Tim should invite Melissa he met at the airport. After some inner-debate he decides to. Here's the rub though, he never took Missy's phone number out of his phone and he's been accidentally texting Missy this whole time thinking its Melissa from the airport. So he didn't invite airport Melissa, he invited crazy Missy from that blind date. It's Missy who ends up going to the retreat with Tim.

The retreat ends up being so overtly wacky because Missy is so loopily out-of-control. If there is one reason to watch the movie on Netflix, its to watch Lauren Lapkus work. She's been in other things, she's been very good in other things. But what she does here overshadows the rest of her good resume. She really commits to the part here, and the results are hilariously crazy. David Spade is the usual David Spade. He's not bad here, he just doesn't do anything memorable. Possibly because he doesn't have much of a part to play.

Therein lies the problem. You know how this movie ends. Will Tim and Missy begin to eventually fall in love? Will Missy find out Tim's secret about the other Melissa? Will Tim in fact run into the other Melissa? Will Tim get that promotion from his incorrigible competition? (played by Sandler's own wife, Jackie Sandler?) You know the answers to these questions whether you realize it or not. This is nothing new and the movie doesn't really try to reinvent or even execute the material in a fresh or meaningful way.

So it does help quite a bit that there are many things to laugh at. I would say that I laughed much harder watching "The Lovebirds," another comedy on Netflix. So if you need laughs right now, that's probably the better go-to. If you've seen the other Happy Madison romantic comedies, you've seen "The Wrong Missy." Sadly, there isn't much to see here.

FINAL GRADE: C-

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Review: "The Lovebirds" will make you laugh uncontrollably.

The Lovebirds Review
You know what's weird? It's been awhile since I feel like I've had a good laugh. 

It seems like the 2010's overall were short on comedies, especially compared to the 2000's. These days, when you read the news, everything is so politicized that nothing ever seems funny. Most of the big comedies on TV I liked watching ended their runs in 2020. Now more than ever, we need Hollywood to start making us laugh. So thank God Paramount released "The Lovebirds" on Netflix, because it cured that itch quite well.

"The Lovebirds" reminded me of "Date Night," the movie with Steve Carrell and Tina Fey. "The Lovebirds is a comedy, about a couple on a night on the town. There's some mistaken identity, and a mystery to prove their innocence. "The Lovebirds" isn't the most original thing to come out in recent years. But my god, will you laugh. Right now, I don't need every movie I see to be original, I the closest at execution. The most important thing for me when watching a comedy is how much I laugh. I laughed. I laughed quite a bit.

It helps that Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani are charisma machines, and sell every wee bit of storytelling this movie requires. They play two young people named Leilani and Jabron. At the beginning of the movie, you get the idea that maybe they either had a one night stand or a first date that went really well. That night turns into breakfast, which turns into a walk in the park, which turns into more hanging out. And that...you guessed it, leads to the first kiss. All of this happens during the film's opening credits, and its amazing how they cram what its really like to fall for somebody, those early fireworks of realizing you like and are attracted to someone. Leilani and Jabron become a couple, and then four months later the honeymoon streak ends.

Four months later, they are fighting. Bickering over the stupidest of things. They fight getting ready for a dinner party, and they fight all the way to the car, and then they fight in the car. Apparently, after months together, it isn't working. They mutually agree to break-up. Even though it is mutual, it still hits them both hard, so hard that Jabron isn't really paying attention to the road, and he accidentally hits a biker. The biker is hurt, but not severely and he hurriedly gets up and leaves. Suddenly, a man claiming to be a police officer (played by the underrated Paul Sparks) asks for their car, has Jabron sit in the back, then chases the biker and brutally kills them. He pulls out his gun getting ready to kill Leilani and Jabron, but he hears police sirens and flees. Pedestrians spot the dead body and think Leilani and Jabron did it.

They feel together and must prove their innocence. What ensues is a hilarious ride as Leilani and Jabron try to prove themselves innocent. Rich with southern belles and sex cults and that little dinner party they are very late for. It's a wild ride and again, because Rae and Nanjiani are so amazing, it works from start to finish. It's not a particularly deep movie, its not important to the future of filmmaking or society, but it will definitely crack you up. In the heat of this global pandemic, what else can you really ask for?

FINAL GRADE: B+

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Long, Sought After "Snyder Cut" of Justice League is coming...

#Releasethesnydercut

That hashtag used to pop up every once in awhile in movie hangouts and Twitter since 2016. We Know Zack Snyder made "Justice League." We know he wanted to split their movie into two parts. We know the studio was giving him lots of notes (something which happens with some studios with certain giant, tentpole franchises), we know Snyder got forced out and Joss Whedon came in to clean up. There were reshoots, some certain horrid reshoots. (I have a picture on my Facebook that is constantly making me laugh of Henry Cavill on set with a mustache. A mustache that was digitally removed poorly)
"Justice League" was better received than, say, "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice," but still not quite loved on the level of, say, the Marvel movies. Snyder blamed the studio. Said it wasn't his true vision. Said he wanted to release his true cut of the movie. We would hear faint whispers of what he was planning with his vision for Justice League. We were supposed to get Darkseid. We were supposed to get The Green Lantern Corps. We were supposed to get a two-part movie where Darkseid kicks the League's ass, leading to the wasteland Earth Batman saw in his nightmarish visions in "Batman v Superman." We never thought we'd actually see it. People pleaded and pleaded for it.

Well, HBO has announced that Zack Snyder's "Justice League" is coming to HBO Max next year. The long, sought-after film is on its way. I know several fans think all the pleading paid off. Maybe it did. Or maybe HBO has been very competitive in the streaming wars so far. They bought up rights to distribute "South Park." They got four specials of "Adventure Time" for the service only. They put the Snyder cut on the service because people WANT the Snyder cut. This is just another ploy to sell subscriptions.

That combative nature to stay competitive will pay off if "Zack Snyder's Justice League" is actually a good movie. The question is, will it be a good movie? Does it have any chance of actually being great? Lots of people haven't taken too kindly to any of Snyder's DC movies. Lots of people don't like his visual style. For me, he kind of reminds me of Ridley Scott. When he makes a great movie, its addicting to watch. When he makes a bad movie, its really, terribly, abhorrently bad. There seems to be no middle ground.

I never want to watch a bad movie. Even when it comes to superhero movies. I have never taken a side in the Marvel-DC fanboy wars. I never plan to. I want to watch a movie and love it every single time. I dread bad experiences with movies. So I want to like this. It's not like there has never been a great Director's Cut. Yes, great. The Director's Cut of..haha..Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven" is great. The Director's Cut of "The Abyss" is great. The Director's Cut of "Doctor Sleep" is great. The extended editions of "Lord of the Rings" feature character development on certain characters which is simply missing from the originals. (Denethor, anyone?) So, good and even great Director's Cuts do exist. It's just that most Director's Cuts are the exact same movie...just with a few new scenes thrown in. Could more movie really be the answer to a great "Justice League" movie?

Fans, people who have apparently seen this magical cut by Snyder and the actors themselves all swear to God that the Snyder Cut is a totally different movie. Obviously, that still makes me remain skeptical, because of course the actors will say that. They want people to see it. Apparently, there are storyboards of scenes not in the original movie. Apparently, it is a top-to-bottom different experience. Is this all a bunch of hype and hoopla or nothing? Or did Snyder truly not get to make what would be an extraordinary superhero movie that would have put the Avengers to shame?

We will finally get to see in 2021. For now, I am staying open minded. I think I'm curious enough to get a week free trial for HBO Max just to see the movie then delete the account. I doubt this one movie is going to make or break how well HBO Max does, its HBO and it has built a loyal audience that will follow them anywhere. I really don't care about the streaming wars. I am curious to see what Snyder pulled off.

I do hope it's good.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Review: "The Wretched" takes a familiar trope and makes it fresh

The Wretched Review

For as long as we have been telling stories, there have been certain tropes that you can expect from horror stories. We know what vampires are. We know what werewolves are. We know ghosts, demons, witches, gremlins, goblins, spirits, zombies and the entire list of monsters you may have spotted on the list in "Cabin In The Woods." How these characters have lasted so long in our pop culture depends on how they can be renovated, how they can survive through the times.

"The Wretched" doesn't necessarily break new ground. But they put a fresh spin on a trope we've seen in horror stories for awhile and there are situations set up that are quite frightening. The movie begins in 1985. A teenage girl calls her mom to let them know that she got to her friend's house okay, but the weird thing is that the house is strangely silent. She is trying to look around and sees pictures of her friend's family with their faces ripped out. She eventually finds something creepy in the basement, and she is locked in with it.

We then jump to present day, Ben (John-Paul Howard) moves in with his dad Liam (Jamison Jones) who gets his son a job at the local marina, while him and Ben's mother are in the middle of a divorce. Ben gets picked on by some bullies, but he's meeting plenty of girls and he's just trying to lead a normal teenage life, despite not liking that his father is already dating again. What makes things worse is that he is noticing something strange about his neighbors. There is no way that the mother next door is a witch right?

One thing that definitely appealed to me watching this movie is how it took a semi-new spin on tropes we've expected from witches. Ever since becoming a father, I've noticed that I am much more affected when children in movies are in danger. For an entity that prides itself on subjugation and harm of children, there were plenty of times where my blood ran cold. There is a great scare in particular using a baby monitor that I am not sure I'll be able to shake any time soon. It seems in the old legends, witches always had nasty schemes that used children, so that idea is brought to life in a new direction here. It leads to some very dark avenues in this movie and I have to give the movie big kudos for never shying away from the darkness.

There is also a bit of twist near the end, and I have to say I didn't at all see it coming. I think in the context and development of the movie, it fit really well into the story. There is definitely something revealed here that was a total shocker and when anyone can pull that off, that's a great showing indeed.

There is a nice slow burn here, so I hope you don't get too bored watching. I think the biggest detractor for this movie is how many times I felt like I was looking at my watch. Just know that the hits start coming fast and furious at the end and there is still plenty of fun to be had before the credits roll. 

FINAL GRADE: B+ 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Review: "Capone" is the biggest disappointment of 2020 so far

Capone Review
In 2012, Josh Trank stomped in the yard with "Chronicle" a movie that the world really wasn't ready for. It was a different kind of superhero story and he told a deeply personal tale with what he did with it. "Chronicle" seemed like a taste of things to come, and but we still have yet to see what will come.

Josh Trank made the 2015 "Fantastic Four," and man that was not good. I still gave Josh Trank the benefit of the doubt, because I believed him. Much like many directors who make popular titles that tank, they simply blame it on the studio. It's always the easy target, right? I believed him because it sounded like something Fox would do. With "Capone," I am not sure how much gas Trank has in the tank and he may just be a one-hit wonder.

"Capone" has one of my favorite actors playing the most notorious gangster of all time. It tells an interesting story, the idea of following Al Capone in his final year of life as he is suffering from dementia and other health problems reflecting upon his life seems like an interesting avenue to explore. I was definitely curious and it seemed like curiosity definitely killed the cat in this instance. I'll be honest that I didn't see a single trailer before this movie, so how Hardy created the character was a total surprise to me.

From the moment he opened his mouth, it felt off.

I could never connect with his character because the voice Hardy makes for Capone is so distracting that I can barely judge his character. Tom Hardy is such an amazing actor who creates great voices for characters. But this time it's so disgustingly bad that I had to laugh. It also doesn't help that later in the movie, when Capone is being investigated for missing money, he literally shits his pants. I get this is a common symptom given his characters' health problems, but build something strikingly serious for such a ridiculous climax was surprising to say the least.

That's what felt off about the whole movie. We are expected to take this all seriously and really dig deep into Capone's final year, but what really is happening is Tom Hardy is just prancing around in really bad old age make-up doing goofy things. Sometimes he has a carrot in his mouth and he's randomly shooting people golden Tommy gun (he really is Scarface). Other times he is completely losing reality (and so are we). 

The other problem is that there doesn't seem to be any overall story except...hey, Al Capone's health deteriorated in his late 40's. Beyond that, the movie had nothing else to say. We see Tom Hardy fumbling around his Florida home, singing songs from "The Wizard of Oz" and people, honestly, that voice, he sounds like Michael Keatons Beetlejuice. That's how not right the voice sounds. It all ends up being a bizarre experience because nothing else happens. There are some subplots that seem to begin, but then get abandoned for no good reason. I can only guess that since all the movie wanted to do was have Hardy bumble around for nearly two hours, they had to have something for him to talk about.

Much like his other voices, I bet it'll become impersonation fodder soon. Whether for all the right reasons or all the wrong reasons remains to be seen.

FINAL GRADE: D

Review: The first animated Mortal Kombat movie comes out swinging

Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge Review
It has arrived to us at last. Our first animated Mortal Kombat movie. Would you be surprised if I told you that its probably the Mortal Kombat movie I like the most?

Is it perfect? Nope.

Did I dig it regardless? I sure did!

Once upon a time in 2010, Kevin Tancharoen made the short film "Mortal Kombat Rebirth." Which treated Mortal Kombat like "The Dark Knight," it was a darker, grittier, more realistic take on the material and it was surprisingly pretty cool. At least I thought so at the time. I went through a stage where I thought "dark and realistic" was cool and should be applied to everything. What's odd about "Mortal Kombat" is that it tip-toes between serious and silly, which probably why the two live-action movies haven;t been that well received. Even though for me personally, there's some guilty pleasure in the first film. Once Kevin Tancharoen made in impression with his short film, he got the chance to make a TV show, which felt like the movies in tone and style, leaving me a bit bummed.

This new animated film by Warner Bros. seems to hit the right tone on the head. It doesn't shy away from the extreme violence that the video game is known for, but its also dramatic in its development. It also takes the story in a different direction, which allows the film to both have success and failure. One of the things the short film by Tancharoen hinted at was the idea of a movie with Scorpion as the main character. In the games, its always seemed like "Mortal Kombat" was Lui Kang's story, so making a movie revolving around one of the most badass anti-heroes in all of gaming was pretty cool. In the opening moments, we see the popular sequence of how Scorpion came to be, with his family being killed by what he thinks is Sub-Zero's ninja clan and he gets his powers in the Netherrealm (pretty much Hell). It's bloody spectacular from the start.

Lui Kang, Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade all do eventually show up. They all feel straight out of the video game. Joel McHale provides the voice acting from Cage, and its such a perfect combination of voice and character that I simply wanted to applaud. They are introduced quickly and by the time they land in Outworld for the big tournament, things move at such an accelerating pace that it almost feels like you're watching a short film. The movie moves so fast, that we don't really feel why the tournament is that important to begin with. Maybe I just wanted more time with all the action, which was pretty good for an animated movie, but the most important element of the movie moves so fast that it almost doesn't feel like Mortal Kombat.

I'll admit it upfront, I am not a huge gamer. I certainly like to play them, but only a few series' have ever struck me so hard that I would consider myself obsessed with them. But Mortal Kombat has appealed to me in such an extreme way all my life. I love this world and I love these characters. With that said, I can't really believe the treatment of Lui Kang here. In the games, Lui Kang is the champion of Mortal Kombat, because he's the best fighter. In this movie, without giving anything away, he sort of just fumbles into the top spot. I know its Scorpion's story at the end of the day, but they still could have made it his story without totally diminishing another character in the process. I know its probably bad film criticism on my part to let my bias show here, but I'm being honest. They do Kang dirty here.

At the end of the day, there is enough extreme crazy to keep fans of the series happy. The violence gets so off-the-rails that I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. This is a cool movie that doesn't really have the strange script goofs the live action movies did. I hope the upcoming Mortal Kombat movie feels like this one in style.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Review: "Justice League Dark: Apokolips War" is the animated DC answer to Infinity War

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War Review
As I have said countless times at this point, The DC animated movies are my go-to when I really want to watch a great DC superhero movie. They have been showing their live-action counterpart how its done, and they've been relishing in the glory ever since. They make movies that are part of a cohesive universe, connected to one another and some that aren't. But no matter what, they are entertaining to no end. Yes, it is benefiting to have knowledge of these characters first hand, but they make them easy enough to follow.

Now after fifteen movies set in the DC Animated Movie Universe (yes, its literally called the DCAMU) its time for DC to unleash their "Infinity War" level event. They've done it, and its been a wild ride I enjoyed quite a bit, and the studio has released their best animated movie. "Justice League Dark: Apokolips War" is a movie that drops everything at the feet of the heroes. It's a movie that's also jam-packed with the brand's memorable characters in a movie full of twists, turns, ups, downs and plenty of excitement. 

Darkseid is pretty much the DC equivalent to Thanos. They are similar in many ways, but also not entirely the same character. He resides on a planet called Apokolips (yes, spelled exactly like that) and he's planning to invade Earth at the beginning of this movie. He's been running around to other planets and conquering them, adding to his extending empire. Superman calls the Justice League, The Teen Titans and Justice League Dark (a group of superheroes that specialize in the supernatural) to take the fight to Darkseid, no chances taken to get him to get to Earth. Pretty early though, we see that may not have been a great idea. After a crazy introduction, we see that all the heroes have pretty much been decimated, and Earth is in ruins.

Superman has been weakened by Darkseid, Batman and Wonder Woman are brainwashed. Most other heroes are dead. The movie focuses on John Constantine, and how Superman plans to use him for help. Superman wants Constantine to locate Damian Wayne in an effort to decode the brainwashing done on Batman and the other heroes. Superman and Constantine slowly begin to rebuild a team to go against Darkseid again. But Superman doesn't have the morale he once did and they are very short-handed.

This movie is brutal in its action. Characters die, and not just random redshirts nobody cares about. Characters you didn't think would die absolutely die. There's appearances by the teams I mentioned above, but also The Suicide Squad, Swamp Thing, Batgirl, Batwoman and I think Batwing. This is a series that definitely isn't copying off the Marvel formula, and unlike its live action counterpart, still packs the movie with enough emotion and entertainment to keep the audience happy.

Matt Ryan who has been playing John Constantine on the CW DC superhero shows voices the character here, and I always love it when actors get attached to these characters. The other actors providing voice work include Jerry O'Connell, Taissa Farmiga, Jason O'mara, Rainn Wilson, Rebecca Romjin, Rosario Dawson, Sean Astin, Tony Todd, Liam McIntyre (making him the THIRD "Spartacus" alum to play Captain Boomerang in some capacity.), all of whom do solid work in the roles.

This is R-rated, there are some bloody parts, but the movie still packs the fun of a superhero movie and the development of a drama. This is definitely the best they've done yet.

FINAL GRADE: A