Daddy’s Home (2015)

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Director: Sean Anders

Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini

Screenplay: Brian Burns, Sean Anders

96 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, crude and suggestive content, and for language.

 

Will Ferrell (Step Brothers, Zoolander 2) is a polarizing comic actor. To most, he creates comedy gold, but his comedy makes no apologies and doesn’t try to win over his detractors. I, personally, enjoy Ferrell more than chastise him, so what did I think of his newest flick with Mark Wahlberg (Boogies Nights, Entourage)?

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Brad Whitaker (Ferrell) is happy to be a father. Well, er, stepfather. His beautiful wife Sara (Linda Cardellini, TV’s ER, Avengers: Age of Ultron) has two children, and since Brad can’t father his own, he is more than happy to be a surrogate parent to them, but just as Brad is beginning to win them over, the family receives a call from actual father Dusty (Wahlberg), who is coming to town. Afraid to lose his family, Brad attempts to stand his ground with Dusty, but can Brad be the tough guy that Dusty? Can he be the real daddy?

Daddy’s Home is a simple premise, one that is fairly relatable. The problem is that it can’t decide what type of comedy it wants to be. When a film runs on for some time before making me laugh, I had a tendency to count the number of times I actually chuckle. Four. Four times. The movie just isn’t funny. I admire the comedic elements of the script, but they just don’t work for Ferrell’s comedy chops, and Wahlberg falls flat on every joke. There isn’t a ton to like here.

Linda Cardellini is a funny actress, but she has nowhere to play here, and the cast is joined by Thomas Haden Church who appears to pick up his cell and is actually phoning in a performance (okay, not really, but did he even learn his scenes?).

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Daddy’s Home has elements that work; there are just too many other elements that don’t. I want to like it, but the sad truth: director Sean Anders (Horrible Bosses 2, That’s My Boy) just can’t seem to find a funny bone, and the film suffers from it.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 11 [Happy 30th Birthday!] – Silver Bullet (1985)

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Director: Daniel Attias

Cast: Gary Busey, Everitt McGill, Corey Haim, Tovah Feldshuh

Screenplay: Stephen King

95 mins. Rated R for intense, graphic horror violence/gore, language and alcohol/smoking used.

 

I’ve mentioned my love for Stephen King several times. One of my favorite tales of his is Cycle of the Werewolf, a short novella with illustrations by Bernie Wrightson. I really enjoyed it. But the adaptation, changed to Silver Bullet, doesn’t really hold a candle to it. The characters in it have that Stephen King flair to them, but the film doesn’t really do it what it should do.

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Wheelchair-bound Marty Coslaw (Corey Haim, The Lost Boys, License to Drive) is seeing the people of Tarker’s Mills being picked off one by one by a mysterious killer and just wants to solve it. His uncle Red (Gary Busey, Lethal Weapon, Entourage) only wants to be a presence in his nephew’s life but doesn’t believe Marty’s belief that a werewolf is involved. Marty and his sister must now set aside their differences to stop the lethal creature from killing again.

I had a lot of fun watching Silver Bullet. It celebrates that cheese factor that makes it so much fun. The performances aren’t crazy good but they service the tone of the screenplay. Unfortunately director Daniel Attias (TV’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) can’t seem to figure out the tone for his film and that derails it. I like King’s script but I don’t think it attaches to this completed work very well.

The werewolf was probably the biggest detractor. This film has a tendency to forget that less is more. It should’ve taken a Jaws approach which would have helped it immensely. When you see too much, it loses realism.

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Silver Bullet is riddled with problems from start to finish. I enjoyed watching the 1980s campy film, but I can why others wouldn’t. It has a whole lot of trouble with it, though.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

[Happy 5th Birthday!] The A-Team (2010)

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Director: Joe Carnahan

Cast: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Sharlto Copley, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Patrick Wilson

Screenplay: Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, Skip Woods

117 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence throughout, language and smoking.

 

It is difficult to turn a popular television series into a movie. How do you condense years of storytelling into two hours? It has been attempted multiple times for multiple series, and while many of these attempts do not fare well, some happen to slip between the cracks. One of these rare finds is 2010’s The A-Team from director Joe Carnahan (The Grey, Stretch).

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In the adaptation of the popular 1980s series, viewers get to see how the famous team was formed by Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson, Schindler’s List, Entourage). We see the meeting of the team, the inciting incident behind their court-martialing, and their fight to reclaim their freedom. After they are betrayed during a mission, Hannibal, Face (Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook, Aloha), Murdock (Sharlto Copley, TV’s Powers, District 9) and B.A. (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, The Midnight Meat Train, Miss March) must outrun the cops, led by Face’s former flame Charissa Sosa (Jessica Biel, The Illusionist, Accidental Love) and try to prove their innocence with the help of the mysterious Lynch (Patrick Wilson, Insidious, Home Sweet Hell).

The A-Team is a perfect example of updating a classic scenario using all the bells and whistles of a big production. Getting strong performances from top names like Neeson, Cooper and Copley to play the infamous mercenaries (notice I didn’t mention Jackson here…) really elevates the level of excitement and fun had in this movie. We even get a unique and comedic performance from Wilson as Lynch, a notable character from the series.

Carnahan’s cinematography skill here is his ability to maneuver the camera constantly without resorting to shaky cam. It has a frenetic yet focused chaos to it. He also knows how to get a near-perfect flow from his films. The A-Team never lets up for the entirety of its near-two-hour runtime.

The subtle use of the original theme helps to homage the original musical cues. This is assisted by the great makeup and costuming. These characters are allowed to look damn cool no matter what they do. It is reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s treatment of his characters. Everyone in this film is so cool it made me jealous.

The visual effects work quite well for a bulk of the film, but their overuse in the finale is noticeable aged and comes off much more cartoony than it should, making many of the stylized action pieces look a bit like a video game cut scene, which ultimately takes away from the “Wow” factor of the explosive ending.

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Thanks to some dated effects and the poor casting of Rampage Jackson as a carbon-copy attempt of Mr. T, The A-Team has some faults, but it is a rather underappreciated and sadly forgotten action spectacle. I suggest you take some time to revisit this oft-unloved film from a great but largely unnoticed director like Carnahan.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

June 2015 Preview

 

Alright, welcome to June 2015, everyone! I hope you enjoyed May, I certainly did. Let’s not waste any time here. Just keep in mind that these Previews are based on my highly intelligent abilities as a predictor of films. Our tastes may differ slightly, but I’m really open to helping you find the best films to see this month, so let’s jump in…

 

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Entourage

Entourage picks up where the eighth season of the hit HBO series left off, following Vincent Chase and his friends, E, Drama, and Turtle, as they continue to take Hollywood by storm. This was a series for a select group of people and those people will enjoy the film. If you haven’t seen Entourage, it isn’t the type of series to alienate viewers, so you may still enjoy yourself, but if you hated the television series, I don’t expect this film to sway you.

 

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Insidious: Chapter 3

Insidious is a franchise very close to me. I happen to find both films to be very enjoyable. The first one had me on the edge of my seat, and the second served to peel back layers of the various entities that exist in the mystical plane called The Further. I hope they find a way to utilize the prequel format to deliver something interesting, but this film is somewhat up in the air.

 

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Love & Mercy

Love & Mercy is based on the true account of Brian Wilson, played in the film by Paul Dano and John Cusack, after his time with the Beach Boys, as Wilson attempts to record Pet Sounds, the “greatest album” of all time. It also chronicles the older Brian Wilson as he loses his grip on reality due to a strange relationship with therapist Dr. Eugene Landy, played by Paul Giamatti. Love & Mercy seems like a solid win, I like the work from both Cusack and Dano, and I think this is a story that hasn’t been tapped. I’m solidly curious about the property.

 

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Spy

I feel pretty good about Spy, but not originally. While I liked director Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids, I felt that The Heat was generally disappointing. Really quite disappointing. Not nearly as bad as Tammy, but Melissa McCarthy is reaching the end of her talent. Spy has the distinction of having a perfectly cast group of supporting actors like Jason Statham and Jude Law. I think the elements of a proper spy film satire are in place here, so I’m leaning in the right direction.

 

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Jurassic World

So here it is, after years of development and several incarnations of a story shuffling around, we arrive at Jurassic World, the fourth film in the Jurassic Park series. This is another example of “up-in-the-air” film, I’m not entirely convinced yet. It seems to have all the right pieces in place, but time has been against it. 22 years after the original film’s events, a new park has opened, but in order to increase attendance, the owners have been experimenting with genetic testing on the dinosaurs.

 

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Inside Out

Inside Out is the newest Pixar film that takes place within the mind of a child named Riley. It tells the story of Riley’s emotions, specifically Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. Not a ton is known outside of this, but it’s Pixar, so it will make a lot of money. I like the idea of Pixar reaching for an area they haven’t gone, but it sounds an awful lot like the same plot as Toy Story, just saying.

 

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Ted 2

I think it is terrific that Ted 2 isn’t Ted. I mean, it has Ted in it. It contains a lot of the same jokes I am sure, but Ted 2 at least has a different plot. Look back at Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and The Hangover Part II. Same freaking movie but less great. Ted 2 has a chance here. After Ted marries Tami-Lynn, he wants to have a child, but he needs to prove to the courts that he is human. Some solid potential here, even if I will miss Mila Kunis, but it is nice to have performers like Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman gracing this comedy sequel.

 

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Max

Max isn’t Mad Max. Max is a dog. A military dog traumatized by the loss of its handler. I’m not even sure how a movie like this could happen. Seriously. Just don’t.

 

 

Alright, that’s June 2015 for you. See you in July!

 

Best Bets: Entourage, Love & Mercy, Spy, Inside Out, Ted 2

On the Bubble: Insidious: Chapter 3, Jurassic World

Likely Misses: Max

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

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Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Jaime King, Christopher Lloyd, Jamie Chung, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Meloni, Juno Temple

Screenplay: Frank Miller

102 mins. Rated R for strong brutal stylized violence throughout, sexual content, nudity, and brief drug use.

 

Sin City is back and at it again with four new tales of brutality and violence.

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In “Just Another Saturday Night”, Marv (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler, Immortals) wakes up with little memory of last night’s events and tries to piece it all back together. In “The Long Bad Night”, Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Inception, The Wind Rises), a gambler on a winning streak, attempts to win it all from Senator Roark (TV’s Nashville, The Avengers), at any cost. In “A Dame to Kill For”, Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin, W., Inherent Vice) gets involved with former flame Ava (Eva Green, TV’s Penny Dreadful, Casino Royale) who is in deep with the wrong people. Finally, in “Nancy’s Last Dance”, Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba, Fantastic Four, Stretch) is still reeling from the loss of her beloved Hartigan (Bruce Willis, The Sixth Sense, Vice) and wants revenge of the men who caused his death.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn’t as good as the original film. The story selection here is a lot of similar fare. Still, it is a gorgeous looking piece of noir cinema. “Just Another Saturday Night” is a great, albeit short, character piece that brings back fan favorite Marv, who appears a lot in this collection. “The Long Bad Night” is mostly entertaining even if it doesn’t really go anywhere, but I don’t agree with the decision to cut the story in two halves which appear separately in the film. “A Dame to Kill For” isn’t the least worthy piece in the film, but it doesn’t have the strength it should and doesn’t make the connection to the original film it should. Finally, “Nancy’s Last Dance” feels like it is missing something. All in all, these stories  are mostly entertaining, but they don’t weave like they should.

The performances are mostly awesome, with notable exceptions being Jamie Chung (Big Hero 6, 7500) taking over as Miho and Jeremy Piven (TV’s Entourage, The Pirates! Band of Misfits) as Bob. Both characters were previously played by Devon Aoki and Michael Madsen, and the originals were much better. Dennis Haysbert (TV’s 24, Dead Rising: Watchtower), on the other hand, takes over for deceased Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute and does well at giving the character something new while not forgetting the work put in by his predecessor.

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For looks great and feels good, and while not being as powerful as the original film, it is still a ton of fun.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City, click here.

[#2015oscardeathrace] The Judge (2014)

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Director: David Dobkin

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, Billy Bob Thornton

Screenplay: Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque

141 mins. Rated R for language including some sexual references.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert Duvall) [Awards Not Yet Announced]

 

What happens when a judge becomes the suspect in a murder?

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In The Judge, Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr., The Avengers, Chef), a high-powered defense attorney, is going to home to bury his mother who has just passed. Being barely on speaking terms with his father Joseph (Robert Duvall, The Godfather: Part II, Hemingway & Gellhorn), a small-town judge, Hank wants to get in and out and on his way. But when Joseph Palmer is charged with vehicular manslaughter in the death of a man he let off easy years earlier, Hank stays on to help his father as the two rebuild their fractured relationship.

I would like to see Downey take on work that flexes his abilities better than the same character he has played in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and the recent Sherlock Holmes films. That being said, Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall have tremendous chemistry, or anti-chemistry, in their portrayal of father and son on the brink of collapse here. These two save an otherwise faulty film with some major flaws.

First of all, Hank’s rekindling of a friendship with old flame Samantha (Vera Farmiga, TV’s Bates Motel, The Conjuring) comes off as boring, unneeded, and somewhat silly. It could’ve been sliced and brought this film down to a more accessible two hours. The courtroom scenes are far less engaging than they should be, wasting the talented Billy Bob Thornton (Armageddon, Entourage) on what almost seems like an extended cameo at most.

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The score here is great and the two leads have some truly tense and unforgettable scenes, but overall The Judge is too long and too little about actual courtrooms. The entirety of Joseph’s criminal trial is uninteresting and useless at building anything. The Judge could have been better under a more capable set of hands (director David Dobkin is known for his goofy comedies like Wedding Crashers and The Change-Up and less so for anything serious).

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Eleventh Day… Christmas Vacation (1989)

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Director: Jeremiah Chechik

Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid

Screenplay: John Hughes

97 mins. Rated PG-13.

 

So when people ask me what the ultimate Halloween movie is, I tell them it is Halloween. When they ask me what the ultimate Christmas movie, I tell them it is Christmas Vacation, the third film in the Vacation franchise from twenty-five years back.

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It stars Chevy Chase (TV’s Community, Caddyshack) as Clark Griswold, the bumbling no-brained father of two and husband to gorgeous Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo, TV’s Entourage, American History X). Clark just wants one thing: to host the ultimate Christmas weekend for his extended family. He wants the hap-hap-happiest Christmas. Too bad he keeps running into problems, from a tree too big to an unwanted guest in the form of cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid, Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Harvest), from an overcooked turkey to a good ol’ fashioned kidnapping, Clark is in for one long holiday.

It all starts with a proven formula from comedy genius John Hughes (Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). Hughes has been behind some of the best comedies of the 1980s. He spearheaded the original short story that started the film series. Hughes has a powerhouse screenplay here that differs in tone drastically from the previous installments. Toss in Chevy Chase, who just knows his character so well, and there is nothing that can stop this film. From the moment Clark appears onscreen, he makes the assertion that it doesn’t matter whether the tree he has picked is too big for his backyard as son Rusty claims, because it isn’t going in the backyard, it’s going in the living room, immediately addressing his inability to see things realistically.

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Christmas Vacation is what the holidays are about, whether we like them or not. It is sendup to what we do for those we love and what we have to go through to survive. I love this film and I suggest it to anyone looking to close out the holiday the right way.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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