September 22, 2014

About Last Night (2014)

Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, Joy Bryant, and Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore. Seriously. Shooter McGavin.

Let's just get the shallow stuff out of the way: Michael Ealy needs dental work, stat. His teeth are distractingly bad. And to make matters worse, he has the largest mouth/jaw I've ever seen outside of a professional wrestling ring, so his teeth continue to be a distraction even when his mouth is shut. I swear, I can see his crooked teeth through his closed lips!

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised that it was he, and not Kevin Hart, who was the main character in this movie. I watched Kevin Hart's stand-up movie, Laugh at My Pain, and while it had it's funny moments, it mostly convinced me that I never want to sit through 2 straight hours of Kevin Hart's jokes again. Call him the black Will Ferrell. (Side note: the sidekicks are joining forces in the upcoming Get Hard. God save us all.)

The real scene stealer, though, was Regina Hall. She managed to outshine even the perpetually loud and outlandish Kevin Hart while maintaining a semblance of reality as the slightly unbalanced friend. This was very much like Wedding Crashers, where the interactions between Vince Vaughn and Isla Fisher are so much funnier and more interesting than the "main" relationship that you start to dread seeing Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams come onscreen.

For a comedy, this movie was actually a little depressing in the way The Break-Up was. Comedies are funny because they are based on relatable problems, but when the plot becomes a little too true to real life, it stops being funny for people who have lived through these problems and suddenly makes them want to pick up a pint of ice cream and the phone to call their ex. Someone explain to me why this movie was released on Valentine's Day?

The comic relief to all this depressing relationship stuff consisted of awkward sex scenes and jokes about sex. Or genitalia. The problem of this being, the movie was not created for fourteen year-olds. Superbad was funny when it came out because something about the crassness and vulgarity of loser teenage boys trying to get drunk and have sex was shocking and hilarious. But watching 30-somethings doing the exact same thing felt, well, pathetic. 

Final word: It attempted to disguise a sub-par rom-com as an edgy adult comedy with a barrage of curse words and sex references. 

P.S. to Kevin Hart - don't try to remake Rob Lowe movies. Just don't.

September 16, 2014

The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story [TV Movie] (2014)

Young people who looked little like the people they are supposedly portraying


It's hard to know in which direction to go with this because there's just so much to discuss. The casting, the acting, Zach's eyebrows - even the story itself. So, sticking with the school theme, I'm going to give out some grades for the major points of this "movie."

Story: D-

This movie being based off the book Dustin Diamond "wrote," it's obviously not going to be as credible as a more scholarly work like say, VH1's Behind the Music. (Side rant: don't people have more pride than to put their name on something they didn't actually write?) And slapping the word "unauthorized" on the title really shouldn't give you license to just say whatever you want, true or not. But overall, it leads viewers on a nostalgic trip through one of the best shows of my childhood.

Watching the casting process was interesting, as it's always fun to see other now-famous people who were considered for parts. And there were little moments of "oh I remember that!", like when the show brought on Tori, the worst character in all five seasons. But like any one-sided account, it also induces a lot of eye rolls, especially toward the "sympathetic" character of Screech. Look, I know being a dork and being excluded must really suck, but I've never understood people who said they didn't have any friends in high school. Really? Not one? Not everyone can be popular, but if you don't have a single friend, you've got to wonder if it's not just the people around you who are responsible....

But even disregarding its supreme (unintentional) campiness and acting (which I will discuss later), this movie is really just bad. Each scene is very short and it's a choppy sequence from one to the next, which then requires obvious dialogue and interactions to compensate for the fact that the characters have not been fully developed. It's about as professionally done as a video Zach and Slater would make for a school class.

Casting: C

I imagine it would be really difficult to find younger versions of people who already exist, but considering the fact that acting ability was not a constraint on casting, I think Lifetime could have done a bit better. I mean, Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor was more believable than the kid they picked to play Mark-Paul Gosselaar (aka Zach Morris). Some of the most hilarious items on this summary of the movie had to do with Zach (notably #5, #23, and #75).

The girl who played Lark Voorhies (aka Lisa Turtle) was at least cute, but perhaps only identifiable as her character because she was the only black person. Like, at all. Even including the extras. You'd think a show that created not one, but two interracial couples (errr... make that three, now that the world knows Mark-Paul is part Asian) would have been a little more cognizant of the apparently rich diversity of Bayside High. And all the mullets and cut-off tanks in the world couldn't fool anyone into thinking the kid who played Mario Lopez (aka AC Slater) looked anything like him. Even with him constantly licking his lips like he was LL Cool J and repeatedly calling Mark-Paul "preppy."

I appreciated the casting director finding a freakishly tall girl to play Elizabeth Berkley and not pretending Jessie Spano didn't awkwardly tower over AC Slater during slow dances, but a spiral perm does not a transformation make. And while the kid who played Dustin Diamond (aka Screech) actually looked like a dork in real life, he was *cringe* actually cuter than the real Dustin. By quite a bit. So that made it less believable that everyone was mean to him because of course, people are only mean to really ugly people!

Really, the only actor who actually looked (and sounded) like the person they were supposed to portray was Mr. Belding. Then again, Dennis Haskins recently had a death hoax, so maybe I had just forgotten what he actually looked like.

Acting: C-

This is actually a higher grade than I anticipated going into it. Sure, fake Tiffani-Amber was basically a cardboard cutout that stood there making pouty faces the whole time, but isn't that sort of an accurate representation of Kelly Kapowski? But where was the hands-tucked-in-the-front-pockets stance?!? (Side note: anyone who watched the real Saved by the Bell knows Lisa got the short end of the stick and should have been paired up with Zach. Which, according to Dustin, was happening in real life anyway.)

Fake Dustin was whiny and annoying, yet somehow managed to portray himself as cooler than he probably was in real life. Fake Lark was annoyingly passive, which made her "feud" with Kelly even more unbelievable. And while I believe Mario might be a bit of a skeeze in real life, fake Mario exuded none of the charm that would make millions of girls across the country somehow get excited about a wrestler. Oh, and despite being the star of the entire show, the acting by fake Mark-Paul was so stony and forgettable I wouldn't have remembered he even existed if not for those eyebrows! (Think Tom Selleck's moustache splitting in two, then attacking fake Zach's face.)

Bringing the entire class' average up was, of course, the curve-wrecker Jessie Spano. As I mentioned above, I wasn't blown away by the casting, but her portrayal of everyone's favorite Saved by the Bell episode, "Jessie is addicted to caffeine pills," made the entire movie worth watching.

"I'm so excited! I'm so excited! I'm so... scared!"

Final word: Indulgent fan fiction for nostalgic 90's kids.

September 9, 2014

Baggage Claim (2013)

Paula Patton, Derek Luke, Jill Scott

It's never a good sign when you can predict the end of the movie before the opening credits even finish rolling. Granted, it's a romantic comedy, so there are only a handful of possible endings (the classic happy ending of Sixteen Candles, the I-hated-you-then-suddenly-realized-I-actually-love-you ending of Bridget Jones' Diary, the friend-who's-been-there-the-whole-time ending of When Harry Met Sally, or the surprise you-don't-always-get-what-you-want ending of My Best Friend's Wedding), but still. 

What I did not see coming, however, was that the plot was a complete rip-off of What's Your Number. Of course, there were minor tweaks, like the addition of a sassy, sex-craved friend played (brilliantly) by Jill Scott. Is it wrong that I enjoyed Jill Scott so much more as a Samantha copy from Sex & the City than the sappy little "nice girl" in Why Did I Get Married? To be honest, I wasn't entirely convinced she could even act after watching Why Did I Get Married, but she was one of the few mild highlights in this movie.

Speaking of underrated acting, I never really appreciated Taye Diggs until I watched him act side-by-side with the likes of Adam Brody and Trey Songz. In comparison, Taye Diggs is so good I won't even complain that his IMDB profile lists him at 5'10"! (Seriously? Dream on, Taye.) Adam Brody might have been the worst cliché gay sidekick in a movie I've seen since that weird fat kid in Mean Girls. And even Paula Patton wasn't convincing that she should star in anything more than a Robin Thicke music video. Her squeaky yet raspy voice is on full display here, confusing viewers about whether she's a sexy grown woman or a teenager going through puberty.

Perhaps I'm being too hard on Paula Patton, especially since I don't remember hating her in Jumping the Broom. But when compared to What's Your Number, it becomes clear that the acting makes or breaks the movie. Sporting almost identical major plot points and awkwardly humorous main characters, What's Your Number overcomes predictability to be funny and enjoyable nevertheless. Baggage Claim, on the other hand, has an equally amusing premise, but fails on most scenes because the actors are not funny. And who is in every scene of this not-funny movie? Exactly.

I mean, at the end of the day, can anyone really recommend a movie that lists La La Anthony on the movie poster next to Djimon Hounsou?

Final word: It felt like a Lifetime movie. Except that no one was murdered. And a few actors in it are still considered relevant.

September 3, 2014

Grown-Ups 2 (2013)

Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, et al

This is the worst sequel I've ever seen.

This might possibly be the worst movie I've ever seen.

Both those thoughts crossed my mind no less than 2 minutes into watching this. And after sitting through the remaining 99 minutes of the movie, those thoughts did not change. Rather, I kept repeating "this might be the worst movie I've ever seen" over and over to myself.

Here's the thing: almost half my sixth grade class last year listed this movie as their "favorite movie of all time" (the other half choosing Despicable Me 2, and the one random, inappropriate kid who chose Ted). It's not like I previously thought 11 year-olds were known for their sophisticated taste, but I figured it had to be at least mildly entertaining. But I was wrong. Oh so very wrong.

Adam Sandler has always a been a bit hit-or-miss with his movies. For every Happy Gilmore or 50 First Dates, there is a Click or Jack and Jill. Or That's My Boy. Or Little Nicky. Or The Waterboy. The point is, this movie is bad, even by Adam Sandler's own standards. And by bad, I mean horrible. And by horrible, I mean this might be the worst movie I've ever seen.

It's as if he simply assembled a list of one-liners and fart jokes and decided to make a movie by performing those jokes one after another, even though they have little to do with each other. It's a mash-up of SNL's worst skits, except it doesn't end at an excruciating 90 seconds, and is performed by famous people who I thought had higher (if only marginally) standards. I mean, Joe Dirt seems mediocre in comparison to this movie. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry almost seems like a comedic masterpiece.

Granted, I don't find toilet humor funny. Nor, would I assume, anyone who is not a five year old boy. Or a frat guy who will never actually graduated college. The only redeeming takeaway from this movie was that it confirmed my suspicions that Taylor Lautner is, in fact, a d*bag in real life. Sure, he was just acting, but can anyone really personify such a realistic portrayal of a douche-y frat guy without being a little bit of one himself? May he's just been method acting in preparation for this big role. You know, like other method actors. Daniel Day-Lewis, Joaquin Phoenix, and Taylor Lautner. *cough*

Final word: I thought last week's movie was a shoo-in for a Snarky Award. Then I watched this one.