Here’s the thing. I’m not mad at Ride Along. I’m not even frustrated with Tim Story’s buddy cop comedy. I’m not miffed, put off, or even slightly perturbed with it. I’m just kind of numb. Barely laughing in a comedy will do that to a person.
I’m writing this review moments after watching the thing because I’m worried I’ll start forgetting portions of it. This vehicle for Ice Cube and Kevin Hart is slowly dissipating from my head and into thin air.
Ride Along is harmless, but it also doesn’t meet its comedic mission statement.
Story’s film came close to making me heartily chuckle. I mildly snickered before the jokes were needlessly stretched by Hart’s incessant motor mouth and Cube’s raised brow.
Hart didn’t amaze me with his stand-up comedy in last year’s Let Me Explain (which Story co-directed), but I think he’s a performer who works better with another person on screen. He appears to be more self-assured with his deliveries when paired with someone to bounce zingers on and off of – nothing wrong with that at all. He just needs stronger material.
My light giggles happened when Hart’s do-gooder character, James, was thrown into a situation where he’s left to flounder. Like Hart has shown in his stage routine though, he doesn’t know when to stick his landing and wrap up the tomfoolery. Story, who’s supposed to know this comedic timing even more, lets Hart ramble until the script calls for an interruption.
Cube usually knows how to play a good straight man, and he continues to prove this in Ride Along. In the film, he plays a protective older brother to James’ girlfriend and is willing to test James to see if he’s “man” enough to be welcomed to the family. Cube, who has shown recently that he loves playing these amusing intimidators, is able to hold his own next to Hart’s frantic personality, and he’s able to competently keep the scene on target despite Hart swinging on tangents.
What cripples Ride Along is its formulaic script and Tim Story’s uncaring attitude. Greg Coolidge, Jason Mantzoukas, Phil Hay, and Matt Manfredi (that’s right, four writers!) provide the skimpy set-ups and then rely on their leads to jumpstart the comedy that’s supposed to ensue. This system may please those who are attending Ride Along to see Hart “have at it”, but the situations don’t provide a heck of a lot of groundwork for these charismatic actors to spring off of.
Cube, who is also attached as one of the film’s producers, looks as if he’s always waiting for more in a scene. As a producer, you would think he’d take this opportunity to bring the writers and Story aside to figure out ways to punch up the material.
Story doesn’t exactly have a great directorial track record when it comes to action flicks (Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Taxi). With Ride Along, Story doesn’t add any originality to shoot-outs or car chases, and he doesn’t elevate the quality above any miscellaneous early-2000’s action/comedy starring Martin Lawrence.
There’s not a whole lot going for Ride Along in the realm of booming action or side-splitting comedy. All it has are two leading men trying to do everything they can to make this fluff into something noteworthy. But, when the lifeless odds are stacked as conventionally as they are against Hart and Cube, I’m surprised the actors didn’t surrender altogether.
North Americans have Will Ferrel’s Ron Burgundy, an on-camera anchorman who’s self-centred arrogance has him chewing down on his own foot often. In Europe, the Brits have Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge. Partridge is an egotistical radio personality obsessed with a celebrity image and a winning smile.
Where Burgundy can read on screen as a pompous jerk with a heart of gold steeped in spoof misogyny, Partridge is more endearing. He always finds a way to slip into the spotlight, and try to have others sympathize with him or view him as an inspirational icon. However, he’s just as easily flustered and frustrated when he isn’t included.
Steve Coogan’s amusing character takes a step away from real life airwaves and his UK Television show I’m Alan Partridge to star in his first leading vehicle self-entitled Alan Partridge. The film is better known as Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa across the pond, but it’s a title that may have had others scratching their head over its otherwise silly meaning.
That adjustment is what’s going to make Alan Partridge’s overseas success interesting to observe. I think it helps outsiders taking a chance on the film to know a little bit about Partridge before paying for a ticket. His fumbled muttering, and his self-absorbed attitude may have the general North American movie going public growing irritated. However, if they have that initial information or can quickly jive with the lead doofus, they may have themselves as good a time as us fans.
Personally, I found Alan Partridge to be a good comedy that met the goals it set out to achieve. Director Declan Lowney manages to do what most SNL flicks have difficulty doing – taking a sketch character and having him carry a film all the way until the end. It also helps that Coogan is still playing the cocky host splendidly.
Alan Partridge plays out as a movie Mike Myers would’ve jumped at the chance to star in. I wouldn’t call Lowney’s film a laugh-out-loud riot as Myers’ past comedies have been (pre-Love Guru, mind you), but there’s a consistent flow of titters and chuckles that will have you pleased with most of the material. Although, a scene featuring Alan getting caught with his trousers down will definitely shock you into hysterics.
The story of a disgruntled, newly fired radio personality taking the station and its employees hostage doesn’t feel rote, as does the decision to make Coogan the hero despite the role’s narcissism. Partridge, being the unctuous goofball he is, manages to find fame in dire circumstances. He completely understands the danger of the takeover, but is strangely complimented when he’s chosen as a messenger for the police and a co-host for a radio show during the malicious siege.
Lowney’s modest comedy will satisfy the Alan Partridge fan base as well as fans of Coogan’s dry wit. The main question, however, still stands: how the hell is this going to perform outside the UK?
I won’t be surprised if Alan Partridge doesn’t drum up new anticipation during its North American theatrical release, but I won’t be disappointed if this type of movie finds cult life on VOD.
3 Days to Kill pairs action veteran Luc Besson with the imperious directing efforts of McG. The two filmmakers have unmistaken love/hate relationships with movie goers, but it’s clear that these men have strengths in specific areas. Besson has shown audiences how action can be exciting with jaw-dropping stunts, and McG knows how to capture an explosion. The latter may sound underwhelming compared to Besson’s clout, but “flash” is McG’s forte.
Their newest cinematic contribution involves a secret service agent who’s long in the tooth within his career and can feel continual pulse-pounding palpitations while on duty. His poor health is contributed by an aggressive sickness that is slowly eating away at agent Ethan Renner (played by Kevin Costner).
He’s given an experimental antidote by his aggressively sultry boss Vivi (played by a foolishly directed Amber Heard) in exchange for one last job – to kill a conniving villain named “The Wolf”. Renner will, of course, have to keep his mission under wraps in front of his doubtful estranged ex-wife (played by Connie Nielsen) and his even more doubtful estranged daughter (played by Hailee Steinfeld).
3 Days to Kill sounds like the perfect vehicle for Besson and McG to bring out those referenced special abilities. Instead, the film only brings out the worst in both action devotees as this tedious tease focuses on the weaknesses these two both share – straight family sentimentality and comedy.
Audiences will be surprised by how little action there is in a movie titled 3 Days to Kill. I wouldn’t feel threatened to state that the grand total of casualties is under ten while McG’s explosion count stayed low at a measly one-and-a-half – two at the most.
For the most part, 3 Days to Kill directs its focal point on Ethan’s parental absence. It’s a film that is much more interested in worrying about why his daughter is unable to ride a bike than to distress about life threatening crime.
Whenever Besson wants to develop troubling families in his past work, it doesn’t last long. There’s just enough to convince audiences that these characters are human beings. In 3 Days to Kill, there’s nothing but those preliminary scenes where Ethan tries to have heart-to-heart conversations with his child, or tries to convince her mother that he’s changed.
This film doesn’t show any growth from Besson in regards to writing a realistic troubled family, and the talks between Costner and Nielsen feel like direct pinches from Besson’s Taken screenplay. He sure doesn’t get any help from his co-writer Adi Hasak either, who unconvincingly fleshed out another Besson story in From Paris with Love. Both men are also guilty of stupidly stereotyping races, especially Besson who has done this incessantly in the past. I don’t understand why he hasn’t put a stop to this. His cultural missteps are unfunny and could easily be offensive.
I tried to figure out what exactly would draw the hyper-active McG to a project like this. Then it hit me. McG has obviously realized just how imbecilic his last feature film This Means War was. This is his attempt to show audiences that his filmmaking can mature. He’s much more than women in bikinis and fiery combustions.
However, McG falls flat in a harsher way than how Rob Zombie did with Lords of Salem. McG has married so much attention into making a more adult project that he’s forgotten to add personality or oomph to any of his characters or scenarios. Scenes drift as bored actors try and stay awake amidst the wooden production and try to look alive when they’re bonded in feigned fodder; such as during a scene where Ethan teaches his needy daughter how to slow dance.
McG, along with Besson and Hasak’s uncooperative script, gets into a routine of setting up stirring situations and cheat the audience with lame outcomes. Ethan is constantly getting interrupted by his daughter during torture sessions with baddies. Just as Costner is about to prove his toughness, he’s knocked down by Steinfeld’s annoying pleas for attention.
This also opens the floor up for ill-timed comedy as Ethan uses his father figure persona to help save the day and to benefit his family. An unfathomable sequence featuring the rough-and-tough Costner trying to get his flamboyantly Italian hostage to help Steinfeld with a recipe for pasta sauce is when 3 Days to Kill officially hits rock bottom.
I felt trapped watching this stupefyingly awful movie. I couldn’t leave for fear I would miss a spurt of action, and I was never rewarded for my patience. However, 3 Days to Kill turns out to be Bathroom Break: The Movie. Every scene is expendable and as absent minded as the one before it.
The only other time recently that I felt invisibly braced to my seat was during this month’s Vampire Academy, and that still defeats 3 Days to Kill in a competition of deplorability. But, McG’s inane, extremely lacklustre, never-ending action-comedy-drama-whatever is a wreck and always found a way to repel any sort of concern or interest – big or small.
Odd Thomas is certainly an odd case indeed. Stephen Sommers’ adaptation of Dean Koontz’s novel has good things about it, yet it has difficulty coming together as a whole.
Anton Yelchin stars as Odd Thomas, a sweetly distraught hero with an ability to avenge the deaths of others. He’s approached by silent spirits who then lead him on paths, and it’s his duty to right whatever wrongs he faces. The local police chief Wyatt Porter (played by Willem Dafoe) knows very little about the extent of Odd’s visions, but knows enough to believe him. With the additional support of his bewitching girlfriend Stormy (played by Addison Timlin), this particular mission Odd Thomas is exposed to could be his biggest challenge yet.
Yelchin has recently been in this horror/comedy realm with the underrated remake to Fright Night. He’s shown in other vehicles that he does a solid job as a performer showing that growth from an awkward bystander to a stronger, more protective character.
With Sommer throwing Yelchin immediately into the rugged role of Odd Thomas, the first couple of scenes are jarring and hard to take seriously. Yelchin, being an easily adaptable and talented actor, eventually stands his own in this off-kilter flick.
Everyone has a good relationship in Odd Thomas, and that helps the film tremendously. Although, the dialogue Sommers has written for the characters tends to be a bit too snappy for the film’s own good.
The rapport between Porter and Thomas is charming, and its a nice change seeing authority giving the cuckoo lead the benefit of the doubt. The chemistry between Odd and Stormy is very cute, as is the compatibility between Yelchin and Timlin. The quirky couple can sometimes push the limits of being too adorable with Stormy also being too accepting of Odd’s oddities, but these hiccups don’t take away from an especially emotional conclusion.
I even enjoyed the design of the invisible creatures known as bodaches. They slither around unbeknownst pedestrians as they seek evil to feed on. The film frequently resembles a Sunday night movie on a family oriented television network, but the film is not afraid to get bloody and the bodaches’ shapeshifting quickness will give audiences the willies.
The faults at hand are caused by Sommers’ overstuffed and baggy script. It’s clear to see the filmmaker was wanting to capture a noir feel to the mysteries surrounded by fantastical beings with Odd Thomas being our slick sleuth. We’re supposed to hear this through Yelchin’s narration, but Sommers accidentally mistakes inner monologues with long-winded expository narration. And, we get lots of it.
I haven’t read Koontz’s work, but it seems as if the author is grabbing hold of a variety of different tones amongst the weirdness. When Sommers applies all of these different moods to a film, it feels as if the filmmaker is trying to cover too much ground as he digs a hole that becomes deeper and deeper with each scene. A strenuous climax is the perfect example of the screenplay piling on more stuff to the point of exhaustion.
We do, however, get plenty of high-flying battles; showing that Sommers hasn’t lost his touch to deliver clamouring action pieces. Except this time, it’s set in a lower budgeted movie.
Odd Thomas is adequate, I suppose, but even that feels like I’m trying too hard to be optimistic. By the end, I was sort of glad the film had ended; which is too bad considering before my sigh of relief I was finding enjoyable spurts inside this yarn.
Everyone knows of Richard Curtis’ work one way or another – usually more so with a predominant female audience. Those women have usually caught these films when they’ve wanted to watch a cute chick flick with friends or they’ve caught the films on television during a cozy night in. Fellas, most of you have likely been dragged – er, have volunteered – to watch these romances with significant others.
I may sound like I’m pigeonholing Curtis’ career into something that only panders to gender, but consider this a minor backhanded compliment. The British filmmaker makes classic romantic comedies and have swept up audiences with pleasing results. For instance, Love, Actually went on to accumulate a massive audience of men and women and is now essential viewing around Christmas.
About Time can join Love, Actually as a crowd pleasing knock out. This time, he tells a love story that has more science fiction to it – although it’s still all done using his fluffy, smile inducing dominance.
It’s no surprise that the film is adorable in ways only British charm tends to be – more or less acting as a warm fuzzy. The likability laces Curtis’ writing and is in full effect as we root for our good natured ginger leading man Tim Lake (played with all the right stuff by Domhnall Gleeson). He finds out through his father (played by Bill Nighy) that all the men in the Lake family have a knack that allows them to travel through the past and return to the present. Tim’s only wish is to find a girlfriend and hopes this newfound power will give him the extra do-overs he’ll need to impress the ladies.
Soon, he meets Mary (played by Rachel McAdams) and by harmlessly manipulating the past in order to re-capture their first sights of each other, they start to grow fond of one another.
To be blunt, About Time covers its ass quite well when it comes to the film’s time travel explanations. Bringing time travel into any story makes for a daring and sometimes impossible juxtaposition to pull off. Curtis keeps the physics simple and only explains the thoughtful logic when absolutely necessary.
The time traveling leads to situational comedy with easily acceptable sweetness by the performers. Gleeson is amiable as he tries to figure out how to wiggle out of awkward exchanges. His nervous quirks have a good fit within the character and his romance with the equally enjoyable McAdams. The laughs never feel like Curtis is asking too much from his viewers. These are genuine laugh-out-loud moments.
About Time, however, is not afraid to become serious. And when it does, it doesn’t feel like a drastic dampening. Curtis is out to make his audience feel to the point of tears – be prepared. This is a movie where the filmmaker asks if you’re crying yet. If you’re not, he has a final play that will have you choking up.
These more emotional moments aren’t contrived or out of place. I never felt like Curtis was wringing me out for emotion or being too persuasive with this deeper material. He supplies just enough to get his actors working on the other half of the job to truly move the audience – it works in spades.
Whether you’re willingly ready for a warm chick flick or paying back a favour to your partner for taking them to see that glaring action blockbuster, you’ll be taken with About Time. It plays all the right notes without falling into the banalities of a formula. Everyone performs well and the nuances are all spot on and honest.
Days after you see this well made movie, you’ll still hold it higher than any other romantic comedy you’ve seen in recent memory. And, during television re-watches on those cozy nights, I bet you’ll think About Time is still actually a lovely film.
Every so often, a movie comes along and upsets me heavily with how it wastes prime opportunities. February has slung that film at me and it’s called Sex After Kids, a Canadian independent comedy helped out with a successful IndieGoGo campaign.
The only thing that stops me from getting really angry at Sex After Kids is that there is not a mean bone in its body. Filmmaker Jeremy Lalonde has truly tried to make a relatable movie about relationships (six of them, to be exact. All tied to each other in a Garry Marshall fashion) and the intimacy set backs that occur when kids are brought into the picture. He’d also love to make his audience keel over with unbarred hilarity.
There are concepts in Sex After Kids that are honest and could’ve genuinely led to organic emotions and laughs. Not all of them take off because Lalonde hasn’t spent enough time fleshing some of these out (a married bartender who’s tempted at work by a younger, flirty waitress who hands him risqué pictures, a desperate single mom who looks towards perversions to find love), but there are a few sub-stories within the film that have lots of potential.
Take the situation involving an older married couple who have said “goodbye” to their daughter as she tackles life by herself. Horton (played by Jay Brazeau) wants to invite sex back into the aging relationship, but Dolores (played by Mimi Kuzyk) wants to welcome it in with an adventurous bang (mind the pun) which freaks out Horton.
There’s also a story involving a successful husband (played by Peter Keleghan) and his wife, a former model turned housewife (played by Amanda Brugel). While she shows commitment to the relationship, he realizes that his affection was merely based on looks. He’s falling out of love because she dresses down and is frequently in shambles.
Lalonde takes these premises and dulls them down using the broadest of comedy while directing the scenes as if they were community theatre sketches. Poorly rehearsed ones at that.
The side story about the older parents is reduced to a load of jokes that result in punchlines that are only supposed to be funny because the characters are old. Instead of wittiness involving another generation trying to figure out modern day kink, Lalonde would rather have obtuse reacting and Brazeau’s bare backside generate the funnies.
The pluckiness among these troubled parents is too strong and pushed beyond comedic comprehension, while being accompanied with the “quirkiest” background music you’ll ever hear.
The title children are all used as props to get our characters from point A to B within their personal flimsy arcs. Whenever the children are acknowledged, it’s to point out how much of an inconvenience they are. You see a lot of kids being nurtured, but the audience never gets the impression that anyone really loves their children.
This also opens scenes up for chances to use baby sound effects. So, the audience has to struggle to hear the impersonal dialogue over the sound of a whaling toddler. It’s funny ’cause it’s true?
Gordon Pinsent shows up every so often to convince you to stay in your seat. Pinsent isn’t flexing his acting muscles too much, but I’ll take it. He’s always a pleasure to watch on screen. His persona is what generates minor snickers during a private therapy session with sexless couple Jules and Ben (played by Shannon Beckner and Ennis Esmer).
Otherwise, Sex After Kids is virtually charmless, lending minimal insight into what it takes to muster through the terrible twos and find time to be private with your loved one. With Sex After Kids finding its way into Toronto’s Carlton Cinema around Valentine’s Day, this night out at the movies will provide as much romance as a musty motel with stained sheets and thin walls.
More importantly though, Sex After Kids is the ultimate birth control. Forget condoms and the morning after pill. After you watch this staggering flick, you won’t want to have children or even start a relationship. You’ll want to grow a beard and live in the mountains.
Lloyd Kaufman has proven with Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 that you can go “back to the well” and resurrect a bawdy riot that was started more than two decades ago. The filmmaking ringmaster returns to Tromaville to continue the story of plagued teenagers who are slowly mutating due to exposure of toxic waste.
The nasty nuclear power plant (which was stationed beside the high school) has been torn down, and a corrupt food plant has taken its place. The food is littered with radioactivity and its no secret to those who provide it. When shown green glowing product, the boss of the factory (played by Kaufman) answers, “well, you wanted to go green, right?!”
Soon, the food is delivered to the high school and is scarfed down by the unruly students of Tromaville High School. The raw food mutates teenagers but takes a particular nauseating turn on the school’s glee club. The off-key nerdy musicians are given a bad ass makeover (including the removal of their tin ears) and become the film’s “Cretins”.
Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 wishes to be a semi-remake of Troma’s schlocky classic, but Kaufman’s comedy has its wires crossed.
Tubs of radioactive slime dress shady sets in the film. Return to Nuke’ Em High is like the cinematic equivalent to one of these steaming containers. It’s disgustingly funny and over-the-top, its ickiness is enough to make you squirm, but its overstuffed zealousness causes a glaring mess.
I’ve enjoyed most of the Troma films I’ve seen, and I even go as far as to consider myself a fan. Lloyd Kaufman’s integrity as a filmmaker is admirable and the overall communal filmmaking process behind each movie displays how faithful these crews are to genre moviemaking.
The films that roll out of Troma have playful qualities to them and appear to be unaware as to how boorish their movie gets. The ragtag groups always have their heart in the right place – even if that means splattered on the floor squirting out countless bloody squibs.
When the films go too far, its those happy-go-lucky attitudes that save them from going down a dark hole. If these films are your cup o’ tea, all you can do is laugh along and shake your head. Either way, you’re having fun because the filmmakers don’t know any better. They’re too busy entertaining you in grotesque ways.
In the case of Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1, Kaufman and his bratty co-writers (Travis Campbell, Casey Clapp, Derek Dressler, and Aaron Hamel) know exactly how offensive they’re being. It’s this arrogance that causes friction between the film and the audience, hindering our ability to like the film as a whole for its original foolish appeal.
While the film starts with an incredibly strong collection of hilarious one-liners, slapstick, and sight gags, its the film’s politically incorrectness that gets in the way.
With Troma, no one is safe. If a current event or taboo crosses the film’s path, you can bet its getting wrung through Troma’s laugh factory. Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1, however, goes out of its way to make off-colour remarks and peabrain jokes about school shootings and controversial news headliners. The screenplay annoyingly tries to shoehorn too much “edginess” and it drifts Kaufman’s focus off of whatever film he wants to make.
The remake angle gets scrapped as new characters are being introduced. Luckily, each actor is playing their showboating roles well while knowing exactly what type of movie they’ve signed up for – which briefly distracts us from the problem. Clay von Carlowitz is hysterical as an insane, sexually pent up poser and our female leads (Chrissy played by Asta Paredes and Lauren played by Catherine Corcoran) know how to make their campiness captivating among the absurdity.
Paredes and Corcoran have scenes that endlessly carry on, unfortunately. For instance, the love scenes are stretched until the seams are showing. Kaufman’s the kind of director who – I’m sure – has meaning behind these prolonged scenes. It was as if I could faintly hear Lloyd explaining how Chrissy and Lauren are sharing intimacy as they discover themselves more. Look at it as Troma’s Nuclear Green is the Warmest Colour.
But, when these sensual scenes go on for too long, the meaning has less impact. We can see the floods of nudity and sex are there to be, well, just that.
Suddenly, the remake angle is picked back up as the movie’s final third approaches. And because this is the first volume in a needlessly complex two-part movie event, a lot of what the film pitches lands with an anticlimactic clunk. I would’ve much rather seen a cut with more discipline towards the expendable sexual content and the boundless supply of toilet humour.
When I say that the first third has an immaculately enjoyable rush, I really mean it. The wild portion contains everything I love about these wacky movies from a loyal team of favourable devotees. If Kaufman and company could’ve kept up those benign spirits, Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 could’ve easily been one of Troma’s best and an impressive comeback for the lo-fi studio. Instead, it’s passable with lively side-splitters peppered here and there.
I’m hoping that by going “back to the well”, Kaufman can also remember how fun movies can be when smug innuendoes and tastelessness don’t take the spotlight away from a film’s main components – an unhinged story with silly sincerity. Here’s hoping Volume 2 fares better.