Tag Archives: kevin hart

Jumanji: The Next Level

I admit I was pleasantly surprised to have genuinely laughed during Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle. Even the first (Robin Williams) one didn’t appeal to me but I was happy to take the win. I was expecting significantly less this time around and that’s exactly what it delivered – but The Next Level wasn’t entirely without its charms.

Now, you would think that after last time, Spencer (Alex Wolff) would have learned his lesson: a very definitely do NOT play Jumanji. Don’t look, don’t touch, don’t keep it around for a rainy day. But there’s one little flaw in the plan. Spencer is a dude. And you won’t have failed to notice that every single person who has played and failed at Jumanji is, in fact, a man. Men are stupid. They do not learn. Spencer’s tenuous reason is that life was going just a little too swimmingly, which caused him to lose confidence. As you do. So to cure his insecurity, he goes back into the game. What, it doesn’t make sense? Doesn’t matter! He’s a white male: he doesn’t need one, no one will ever really question him, and don’t you dare to start to think you’ll be the first.

The thing is, last time Spencer got to be Dr. Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) but this time his avatar is Ming (Awkwafina), a master cat burglar even though Spencer’s an anxiety-riddled little mouse. And once his loyal friends jump into the game to save him, they too will get assigned avatars they aren’t prepared for and never could be. And it’s not just the original foursome, but Spencer’s arthritic Grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito) and his longtime frenemy Milo (Danny Glover) as well. It’ll be a real challenge to survive the game with these two dead weights slowing things down, but what choice do they have? The game’s afoot.

Jack Black is very good at pretending to be inhabited by all manner of teenager. Kevin Hart does an entertaining Danny Glover impression. Even Nick Jonas does a passable Colin Hanks. But The Rock? Poor Dwayne Johnson, he CANNOT do a DeVito. Like AT ALL.

The movie attempts to justify itself by being more, and it is – more characters, more whackadoodle scenarios, more adventure – but it’s also considerably less – less funny, less sensical.

By all rights Sean should be reviewing this movie but the poor guy had to leave the theatre at exactly the film’s climax (our sweetheart dog Gertie has been ill, and we were expecting a call from her vet; Sean held his phone in his hand the whole film, waiting for the merest vibration, whereupon he dashed out of the cinema to get the news). If you think it was difficult for him to tell me her results, you don’t know how hard it was for me to tell him how the movie ended. I’ve never felt more idiotic reciting simple facts.

Anyway, there are a few laughs to be had in this Jumanji, but not even enough to fill a 30 second trailer, so multiply that level of discomfort by 246 and you’ll have a general idea of your tolerance for this film.

The Upside

Dell has a record and a chip on his shoulder. He’s looking for work just enough to appease his parole officer but not enough to actually get a job. But then one lands in his lap anyway.

Now, to be fair: Dell (Kevin Hart) hasn’t done anything to earn this job. Yvonne (Nicole Kidman) has lined up plenty of qualified, competent health care aides to interview for the position. But Philip (Bryan Cranston) doesn’t want the good ones. Philip is disgustingly wealthy, newly paraplegic, and harboring a death wish. No one else is prepared to respect his DNR and he’s hoping a fuck up like Dell will mean merciful death – and soon.

The Upside is an American remake of  a French film called The Intouchables. It was wildly popular in France and it’s a well-made film, but both iterations have MV5BODE2NDI3NzUxNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTIzMDQxNzM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1497,1000_AL_the same problem. They’re about a wealthy white dude introducing a poor black man to “culture.” The condescension implicit in the premise is so problematic it’s hard to look beyond it. Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston have passable chemistry but you’re going to love or hate this film, mostly depending on whether you can embrace the formula. Because The Upside doesn’t even pretend to deviate from The Intouchables’ formula. Not for one stinking minute.

Old white rich guy and slightly younger ex-con have a lot to learn from each other. Philip is grieving the loss of his wife (which never amounts to anything) and his legs, while Dell is dealing with repercussions over the loss of his freedom, and his family. Not that he ‘lost’ his family so much as neglected them and now thinks he can win them back by throwing money at the situation.

The direction is nothing special. The movie relies on the whole ‘based (VERY LOOSELY) on a true story’ shtick and it’s very familiar and uninspired. The performances are fine; the best thing you can say about them is that they won’t be remembered in anyone’s career retrospective. But none of this really matters because at the end of the day (or the start of the film), the movie just feels racist and wrong.

Night School

Teddy is a high school dropout and a moderately successful barbecue salesman who is living paycheque to paycheque in order to fund a lifestyle worthy of his out-of-his-league girlfriend, Lisa. Lisa makes loads of her own cash so Teddy feels a little inadequate, and worries that his inability to keep up would cause her to leave. When he finds out that he stands to inherit the barbecue business, he finally feels secure enough to propose. Of course, Teddy’s (Kevin Hart) over-the-top proposal gets explosively out of hand, and his romantic prospects burn up just as assuredly as his economic future.

Out of a job with no high school diploma to his name, Teddy has little choice but to MV5BMTVjMmFmYmUtNGIzNi00OGY4LWI3ZGQtMWI5MjA2ODRiZGEyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_obtain his GED if he doesn’t want to work at Christian Chicken for the rest of his life (WHY is the chicken christian? how do we know to whom the chicken prays?). Two things stand in his way: first, the night school teacher Carrie (Tiffany Haddish), with whom he clashes, and also the school’s principal Stewart (Taran Killam), who was Teddy’s high school bully, more or less.

Night School is written by Kevin Hart and 5 others, and it feels like a movie written by committee. There are some laughs to be sure; Hart and Haddish are not exactly devoid of chemistry but the rest of the cast (Rob Riggle, Romany Malco, Mary Lynn Rajskub) are just a bunch of weirdos that turn a not unpromising premise into a bag of very mixed nuts. Between chuckles, there is often a dauntingly vast laughter desert where not one iota of mirth exists. Sure, sometimes a joke may shimmer in the distance like it’s the real deal, but up close you’ll soon discover that though it may have a joke-like structure, it’s missing that essential element: comedy. Comedy is the thing that turns words into jokes. Apathy into laughter. 111 minutes into a movie. Night School does not have enough comedy to fill out the typical run-time of a commercial, so I’ll let you do the math as to whether or not this one’s worth your time. Mine? Not so much.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

636866-jumanji-dwayneThe trailers for this movie set the bar so unbelievably low that I thought Jumanji could not possibly disappoint. The only surprise this movie has to offer is that it is a sequel not a reboot. Otherwise, it is completely by-the-numbers, including lots of CG animal stampedes and even more cliched character growth. In short, it is the perfect counter-programming for liberal propaganda like Spielberg-Streep-Hanks snoozers about fake news. More on that later.

The rules of Jumanji were well-established in the first film and Jumanji so compulsively follows those rules that it’s scary. The only difference between the two movies is that Jumanji 2.0 takes the form of a video game rather than a boardgame. That way, there can be lots of jokes about video games, which comes in handy because the main character is a video gaming nerd so when he becomes the Rock we can be reminded that he is still a nerd and he can explain to the other characters and the audience how video games work.

I can’t remember if Jumanji 1.0 had as much explanation about board games but I feel like even it aimed slightly higher than this. I guess that’s why it is a “classic” that has now spawned a “franchise”. Putting those words in quotes is the only thing keeping my head from exploding.

I hate to play the movie snob card and honestly, I never imagined I would be this guy, but there are a ton of really good movies in theatres right now, it being Oscar season and all, and Jumanji is not one of them. Nonetheless, Jumanji is by far the biggest box office draw right now. That’s not surprising, North America, since we are just the worst right now (LIKE, THE WORST), but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Let’s resolve as a continent to stop making bad decisions in 2018. Let’s do things differently. Let’s stop dumbing things down. Let’s start thinking critically. Let’s challenge ourselves. Let’s watch films like The Post, The Shape of WaterLady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, instead of mindless, vapid and soulless fare like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Saying no to Jumanji is one small step toward a better world.

 

The Secret Life of Pets

Illumination Entertainment has taken a page from Pixar’s mega success and included a short in front of their recent effort, The Secret Life of Pets. It’s called Mower Minions and reminds you that these little yellow compatriots are still celebrities to the 6-and-under crowd, their fart jokes just as relevant and hilarious as ever.

On to the main event, a 90 minute movie that also wants to remind you that it’s by the same team behind the Minions.  The little owner of a guinea pig snuggles beside a Minion toy at night. maxresdefaultAnd a dog gets dressed up as a Minion for Halloween (is it just me or does a second dog get outfitted as the foul-mouthed teddy bear, Ted?). Pixar does the same sly product placement, making sure its current characters are fans and consumers of their older stuff. The comparisons to Pixar, much as the humans behind Despicable Me might hope they continue, pretty much end there.

I liked this movie. Very much. But I’m a dog person and a quadruple dog owner. If you remind me of them, or engage me about them, of course I’ll smile. They’re furry little bundles of unconditional love and loyalty and joy. If you make a movie about dogs and it’s not a complete delight, you’re probably a miserable fuck.

The Secret Life of Pets earns a belly rub every time it reminds you of your own four-legged friends. For me it was the escape via temporary fencing (we had a pool built this summer, and our yard was a logistical nightmare) and the sausage-induced delirium. While I don’t think ourthumbnail_23930 dogs have ever broken into a hot dog factory (though how would I know?), they do experience what we call “wiener fever” every time we have leftovers from the grill.

The movie merely gets a perfunctory pat on the head though when it comes to story-telling. Oh, it’ll please the pants right off your kids. They’ll love it. And you’ll find it much less annoying than those insufferable Minions. But it’s a superficial story that will have no lasting impact on anyone. Of all the talking animal movies this year (Finding Dory, Zootopia), this one will seem inconsequential in comparison. Yes the doggies talked – but what did they have to say?

So take it for what it is: an incredibly talented voice cast, a solid use of 3D, and a pleasant way to either babysit the kids or while away a rainy afternoon.

The Vegas Chronicles: Think Like A Man Too

This is not The Black Hangover.

The boys are back from the first and they’ve brought their ladies to Vegas where one of the couples is getting married and the rest are there to debauch themselves at the bachelor\bachelorette parties. Steve Harvey’s self-help book played a pivotal role in the first movie but now the couples are stronger although not immune to misadventure.

First of all, can I just ask: who the hell has their bachelor party the night before the wedding anymore? Haven’t we universally acknowledged that to be a terrible idea?

And have you noticed that all the movies are filmed at Caesar’s Palace? Ceasar’s Palace is a super slutty film location. It puts out for EVERYONE. But I 1200290 - THINK LIKE A MAN TOOlove that they filmed in real locations. Locations that I’ve partied at myself and may be luxuriating at as we speak (you may have noticed the Assholes are in Vegas). In fact, I know one young man by the name of Sean who is hoping that Think Like A Man Too is factually correct in at least one thing: that beautiful, topless women ask random, possibly attached men for help with sunscreen at the pool. Fingers crossed!

This movie made no sense and clearly had a lot of filler (there’s an extra long scene of Kevin Hart dancing around in his under pants – not that I’m complaining) and at one point the movie actually devolves into a music video 1200290 - THINK LIKE A MAN TOOfor Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison. Weird.

The script has funny bits and achingly bad bits, just like the first one. It isn’t as smart either, but the highjinks are appropriately amped up. The truth is, I wouldn’t have watched this without the Vegas angle and it’s not really worth it without some kind of outside motivation. I wanted badly to turn it off half way through, but I was 2 legit. 2 legit 2 quit.

 

 

Only slightly related tangent: The last time we were in Vegas, Sean and I renewed our vows at the Graceland wedding chapel, where Jon Bon Jovi got married. Elvis walked me down the aisle and everything. This time we’re doing it in his pink caddy at the Little White Wedding Chapel (the one Jordan put on the map). No word yet on whether Matt is planning an epic bachelor(ette)  party for us the night before, but be prepared to throw rice when we get back and we’ll tell you all about or check out Twitter @AssholeMovies for photos and our podcast if you missed us just a little too much.

 

 

Central Intelligence

Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson meet up at their 20th high school reunion. Hart, voted most likely to succeed, once the prom king and a popular athlete, is now a mild-mannered accountant living in a nice comfortable rut. Dwayne Johnson is ecstatic to reconnect. A high school loser, he’s gone through life without many friends despite the fact that he’s central1reformed himself and leads a life of intrigue. Unfortunately for Hart, that intrigue’s about to hit a little close to home.

The movie opens with a fat joke. A 7 minute, visual fat joke. I didn’t laugh. I’m uncomfortable laughing at any joke where the punch line is somebody’s body. Dwayne Johnson IS the fat joke, seen dancing in a CGI fat suit, butt-naked, in a high school locker room. You’ve seen the previews, haven’t you? It’s brutal. That pivotal high school prank has haunted him his whole life, even now that he’s big and buff and rippling with impressive muscle (we’re supposed to feel like getting fit has made him a more worthy person, even though to lose the weight he’s quite clear that he had to be obsessive and unhealthy about it…not exactly a cause for celebration). So Central Intelligence and I got off on the wrong foot. But you know what? I’m glad I stuck with it.

This movie is essentially a piece of fluff. It won’t be remembered in the annals of history, or even among the annals of comedy, or possibly even the annals of The Rock’s filmography. But for an evening at the cinema, it’s definitely worth the price of admission.

Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart are a comedic duo that had to happen (their 13-inch height difference is often played for laughs – a bit of a barb in my side, reminding me how ridiculous I look standing beside Sean, who is 15 inches taller than myself). Their Screen-Shot-2016-03-17-at-1.30.47-AM-750x375-c.pngcharacters are one-note but a pleasure to spend an hour and a half with. The movie is action-comedy, which means there is never quite enough comedy, and the action itself becomes part of the farce and thus has no real consequence. But if you can put that aside, Kevin Hart is as good as we’ve seen him at the movies to date, even if he’s basically relegated to being The Rock’s straight man. Say what??? Yes – you read that correctly. The Rock is bringing the giggles. Together have crackling chemistry and they bro down in some pretty unexpected ways.

Sean said he could have used “a little less story” and it’s true it gets a little bogged down with the constant action, but man this movie does move along like Sean’s Mustang through a yellow light. Like Jay on an out of control, brakeless bike down a tree-lined hill. Like The Rock’s chest muscles after he’s been tazed.

There are even some well-chosen cameos; one was such a little nugget of happiness that it garnered spontaneous applause in the theatre. Don’t look it up. Just go and be surprised. Life is hard. The winter was tough. The news is sad. You deserve a little treat, a few hearty chuckles, and maybe even an ice cream sundae afterward. Yeah, I said it. Go ahead. You deserve it.