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Rough Night is a fun night [MOVIE REVIEW]

The four coeds were the best of friends during the college days (Jess) Scarlett Johansson, (Alice) Jillian Bell, (Frankie) Ilana Glazer, and (Blair) Zoë Kravitz. Frankie and Blair even had a “past” together. Ten years after graduation they meet in Miami for a bachelorette weekend to celebrate Jess’ pending nuptials. Pippa, played by Kate McKinnon, a more recent friend of Jess’ from the land down under, joins the group as well. The ladies are pumped for a weekend of, well, everything. They rent a beautiful beach house and invite a male entertainer over. Tragically, he doesn’t survive the evening. Realizing that they could end up in the slammer, their enthusiasm gives way to panic. It’s a matter of simply figuring out what to do next.

Rough Night is another in a long line of crazy night out movies where the characters always end up asking, how did we get into this mess?! The stories are always a bit implausible. Like in this film, Jess is supposedly in a tight race to win a state senate seat. No serious politician would take off for a long weekend at a pivotal point in the campaign to party it up with friends. These movies also have more strange and unlikely occurrences in one night than most people have in a 100-year lifetime: multiple people conveniently show up at the rental house, as necessary, to help carry out the plot.

However, in the end, Rough Night does what it should do; it entertains. The cast combines the right mix of comedy and drama. There are serious scenes when the characters revisit and debate old intragroup wounds.

The film is greatly enhanced by the performances of Demi Moore and Ty Burrell as the horny neighbors who set lustful eyes on Blair. And there are other bits of humor like when the friends meet at the airport, Alice opens a bottle of champagne to celebrate the moment only to have the sound of the cork popping send other traveler scurrying from what they believe to have been a gunshot.

With Rough Night, you’ll find yourself wondering what is going happen next.

As to cast diversity, it gets a B+ for performers from all racial groups. And it is refreshing to see the one black woman in the group, be the thinnest – and not heaviest. She is arguably the most sophisticated and not the crassest in the group. Zoe is stunning; Lenny, Lisa, you do good work!

Rough Night, is rated R (for crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use, and brief bloody images) and it is 101 minutes in length. Rough Night fights its way to our top rating; it’s a See It!

The Mummy should have stayed in her tomb [MOVIE REVIEW]

Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an ancient and ruthless Egyptian queen, lays entombed deep in the earth’s recesses until an evacuation crew led by Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) awakes her. Ahmanet is determined to dominate in the new world, the way she attempted to in her previous life. In addition to his ongoing battle with Ahmanet, Morton has recurring “exchanges” with the ghost of a comrade he had killed earlier in the film. Annabelle Wallis plays Morton’s partner in this adventure and is the stereotypical blonde eye candy.

The Mummy, whose production price tag was reported to be $125,000,000, is a visually stimulating 3-D extravaganza. However, The Mummy stumbles because of the filmmakers, as is too often the case in movies today, try to show how smart and creative they can be. The creativity is evident in the special effects, however, the story itself is not entertaining and there is no mystery. And, a plot like this one, that flops around like a fish on deck, soon like that fish, begins to smell.

There are no complaints about the performers. Tom Cruise has now passed the half-century mark, age wise, and remains very credible as the leading man in an action-adventure film. Cruise is fit and to prove it, he has scenes shirtless and at one point, he’s almost nude.

The Mummy gets a “B” for cast diversity. I especially liked Sofia Boutella, who is Algerian, in the role of the Egyptian queen. Courtney B. Vance costars as Colonel Greenway, along with other actors of color in smaller parts to round out a diverse cast.

Save yourself from buyer’s remorse and don’t get wrapped up in all the hype around The Mummy, this is a film you should wait to Rent It.

The Mummy is rated PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, suggestive content and partial nudity. It's 110 minutes in length.

Enjoy the holiday and skip Baywatch this weekend [MOVIE REVIEW]

 

The elite Baywatch lifeguard team sets up to hold tryouts for the new season. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) leads the team. Among those trying out is two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Matt Brody (Zac Efron). Brody has struggled recently and being one of the lifeguards is part of his rehabilitation plan. However, the old school Buchannon and the new arrival Brody don’t see eye-to-eye on much which leads to what might be called a shark fight. Against this backdrop, there are also bodies being found in the Baywatch waters.

Baywatch ultimately drowns in a sea of implausible story lines. But there is enough of an entertainment value to eke out a Rent It rating.

First, the idea of a two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner trying out for a lifeguard crew is so amusing that no matter how hard the writers try to breathe life into that plot line, it flounders. Next, there’s the Baywatch team investigating a crime ring, complete with going undercover. There is also dubious dialogue. One of the characters explains that if the owner of a seaside restaurant were to die, the property would go to the city. What? If he is truly the owner then it would be a part of his estate and go to his heirs. But why let well-known facts get in the way of telling a story that has no credibility anyway?

Great bodies are not enough to save this movie. Great bodies are all over TV, the internet, magazines and on the big screen. They are no longer unique or special.

Baywatch does make a few splashes. Like Buchannon’s constant run-ins with the nerdy police sergeant Ellebe (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Sometimes the officer simply can’t tell whether he’s being complimented or insulted when talking to Buchannon. It’s good to see Johnson, who is also a producer of Baywatch, looking massively muscular at the age of 45; he’s a walking, talking example of the age is just a number theory.

The music is eclectic but fitting: Beach Boys, Chi-Lites, Commodores, and the Bee Gees.

Baywatch gets an “A” for cast diversity. The cast looks like America – at least racially. Other cast members include Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, and Ifenesh Hadera. It should be noted that there are very few old folks in the film.

Baywatch is rated “R” for language throughout, crude sexual content, and graphic nudity; it is 116 minutes in length. There’s not enough here to justify going to the theater to see Baywatch, this Memorial Day weekend. But later if you have a chance to Rent It, please do.

3 Reasons Everything, Everything is EVERYTHING! [MOVIE REVIEW]

Her world is the inside of a beautiful, contemporary home, her mother who is also her doctor (Anika Noni Rose) and her nurse (Ana de la Reguera). She is Maddy, (Amandla Stenberg) an 18-year-old, whose fragile immune system requires that she stay indoors in a controlled environment. Maddy’s knowledge of the outside world comes from books, the internet and looking through the big windows in her house.

It’s through those windows, she first sees her new neighbor, Olly (Nick Robinson). At first, they exchange glances, then notes (placed against the window), finally cell phone numbers which lead to a steady stream of texts. It’s through her relationship with Olly, Maddy finds the courage to venture out.

Everything, Everything, directed by director and screenwriter, Stella Meghie, a Black woman from Canada, is an amazing movie; and it’s a huge See It!

Its starts with the leads Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson; they’re captivating. This film wouldn’t work if they weren’t magical together. And they are. They have to make viewers believe and understand that what they have Maddy would risk her life for. They believe and they understand.

Writers J. Mills Goodloe and Nicola Yoon create two sympathetic characters (Olly has trouble at home) but not pitiful characters that you’ll embrace and cheer for.

Goodloe and Yoon do fall into a common screenwriters trap: writing dialogue which doesn’t make sense other than to try to convey information to viewers. Maddy’s father and brother were killed in an accident when she was a baby. There’s a family photo in Maddy’s room. Her mother picks up the photo and discusses all the details surrounding that photo. Maddy should already know that stuff. But the viewers don’t, so the writers use that device to inform them.

Some of the scenes are not thought through thoroughly. When Maddy does venture out, she goes into a shop, takes an item off the rack and goes straight to the fitting room. This is not the behavior of someone who has never been out her house and has never been in a store.

As to racial diversity, this cast gets an “A”. It’s a small group but diverse in that blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians play prominent roles. This is a love story between a black woman and white man. But it’s not about race. In fact, race is not mentioned at all. This story could have been about a man and woman of any race.

Everything, Everything is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief sensuality and is 96 minutes in length. If you haven’t seen a movie this year, see this one.

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul – Take This Trip! [MOVIE REVIEW]

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul movie cast centers on the Heffley family: dad, (Tom Everett Scott); mom, (Alicia Silverstone); Greg, the diary writer himself, (Jason Drucker); older brother, Rodrick (Charlie Wright); and younger brother, Manny (Dylan and Wyatt Walters) take off from their middle class abode to travel to Grandma Meemaw’s 90th birthday celebration. The multi-day journey in the family auto turns into an endurance and even a test of survival.

The key to any successful book, movie or play is conflict. What the characters have to overcome in the story being told. And the screenwriter of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long HaulJeff Kinney, and director David Bowers, take every opportunity to place hurdles in the way of the Heffley family trying to make it to Meemaw’s. This is conflict overload.

They start with battles between Greg and his brothers, parents listening to old folks music (in this case it’s The Spice Girl’s wannabe) road rage, vomit, a pig passenger, attacks by birds and so much more. And it all works! Dairy of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, gets a See It! rating.

The cast is solid; however, the older son doesn’t look like he’d be the kid of these parents. If this was real life, I would suggest that the dad book a date on one of Maury Povich’s paternity test shows.

At 91 minutes, it moves at just the right pace and will entertain kids and adults alike.

As to cast diversity, this movie gets a “B” no major roles for people of color but a strong presence in minor slots and background scenes.

Dairy of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, shot in Atlanta, is rated PG for rude humor.

Dairy of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul is a See It!

The Dinner, skip this meal for now.

Paul (Steve Coogan) and his wife, Claire (Laura Linney) are surprised by Paul’s brother, Stan (Richard Gere) and his wife, Katelyn’s (Rebecca Hall) abrupt invitation to have dinner at a posh local restaurant with difficult-to-get reservations. The brothers are not close and Stan, a congressman, is running for governor. Paul knows something is going on for Stan to meet with them at this key time in the campaign. As the couples dine, recollections of past family interactions unfold until the conversations lead to a very troubling story about the couples’ sons.

Based on Herman Koch’s international bestseller with the same title, the film, The Dinner, is not very appetizing. Movies simply cannot capture the nuance, character depth and the complexity of situations the way a book can.

The characters are enigmas but not in a realistic way, but in more of an implausible way. Claire is a strong, well-organized woman; Paul is unstable and angry about real or perceived childhood slights. Claire loves Paul but you’ll find yourself wondering why. He has very little appeal unless her affection is based on sympathy.

Stan tries to indulge his brother’s tantrums, as he goes from sympathetic to patient, but eventually becoming annoyed. Stan initially appears to be a person of character until he shows he can be talked out of his convictions with relatively little effort by his wife.

As the couples discuss past events, the adult characters look the same in the scenes revisiting the past, some taking place as long as a decade earlier. Their children are used as time markers. Their sons at the time of this dinner are 16-years-old but are shown in scenes of the past as six or eight-years-old. Again with the parents looking the same during all of the time periods. This reflects on the director, Oren Moverman’s lack of attention to details.

The Dinner does boast a five-star cast. Veteran performers Gere and Linney, as well as, lesser known actors Coogan and Hall are excellent individually as well as a group. But hard as they try, they cannot give authenticity to the dialogue and poorly developed characters of Moverman who is also the screenwriter.

As to cast diversity, The Dinner gets a B+. Black performers, Adepero Oduye who plays the congressman’s blindly loyal aide, Nina, and Judah Sandridge is Beau, his adopted son, both have very important roles in the film. Additionally, there are many other African-Americans with smaller parts and in background scenes; however, there are few other individuals of color featured.

The Dinner serves up just enough entertainment to get a Rent It rating; it’s two hours long and rated “R” for disturbing violent content, and language throughout.

Baby Boss orders you to go to the movie theater!

It’s bad enough that seven-year-old Tim has a new baby brother that completely saps his parents’ attention and energy, but Tim learns that his sibling is actually not at all who or what he appears to be. The infant, or Baby Boss as he is known, is a plant in their home with a scheme to undermine Tim’s parents’ business activities. Baby Boss sees cute pets as a threat to the appeal of kids. The parents’ employer, a pet selling enterprise, is about to introduce a little creature that is so adorable that tots will seem terrible in comparison. Tim and Baby Boss strike up a deal. Tim will help the little imposter get what he wants in exchange for the Boss wiping their parents’ memory of his ever being there and his returning to where babies come from.

Baby Boss is a thought-provoking story about sibling rivalries and how the fact that many people view their pets as their children impacts our society. However, the subject matter of Baby Boss is likely to go over the heads of the very young. But to keep them entertained, there are some bike chase scenes and toddlers engaging in toy-to-toy combat. Good films can and do entertain audiences at different levels of sophistication. Baby Boss does exactly that.

I am not sure what time period this is supposed to be, the vehicles look 20-years-old or more, and Tim records Baby Boss speaking like an adult on a cassette tape player. The film features music from many decades. There’s the classic from 1935 “Cheek to Cheek”; “What the World Needs Now " from 1965; LTD’s 1977 hit “Back in Love Again”, and from 1979, Kool and the Gang’s “Ladies Night”.

Voices for the characters include: Alec Baldwin as Baby Boss; Jimmy Kimmel speaks for Tim’s dad and Lisa Kudrow for his mom. The voices of Tim are Tobey Maguire as an adult and Miles Christopher Bakshi as a child.

Can an animated cartoon get a diversity rating? ABSOLUTELY! Baby Boss earns a “B”. There are a few babies of color in the Baby Boss’s playgroup.

Baby Boss is much more than a story about infants. You’ll enjoy it no matter what your age. Baby Boss earns a See It!

It’s rated PG for mild rude humor and is 97 minutes in length.

Ghost in the Shell is eerily bad

Set in the future, Ghost in the Shell follows a recently deceased young woman (Scarlett Johansson) who has her brain placed into the latest and most sophisticated robot. Believing that she was killed by terrorists, she targets a powerful and exceptionally deadly crime syndicate for revenge.

This is another one of those cases where a great movie concept, falls victim to inept execution. There are many creative options with a story about a human brain controlling a cutting-edge machine. But Ghost in the Shell is nothing more than a flat story. The screenwriters try to give shape to the film by using a lot of mindless violence and flashy special effects. Unfortunately, at points when this story is on the edge of being interesting, it reverts back to dullness.

The writers are also lazy in how they portray the future. For example, cars pretty much look and operate the same as they do today. However, self-driving cars are currently just a few years away. With all the advanced weaponry displayed in the film, a villain pulls out a knife to defend himself, which is reminiscent of a 1950 James Dean movie. Additionally, the dialogue offers no new words. The American vocabulary expands constantly, for example, blogs, unfriend, sexting, are all recent additions to the dictionary. Certainly, there will be terms used 20 years from now that are currently unknown.

Scarlett Johannsson does her best to carry this story. She has credibility as the mechanical crime fighter from her fit form down to her, I am going kick ass gait.

This film gets an “A” for cast diversity, featuring a wide range of human types and quite a few nonhumans as well.

Ultimately, it’s only fitting that Ghost in the Shell gets our Dead on Arrival rating. As I have said repeatedly, special effects are simply not enough. You need more than a phantom storyline.

Ghost in the Shell is PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content, and some disturbing scenes. Ghost in the Shell probably should have received an R rating for its violence. It’s just under 2 hours in length.

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