Brigsby Bear

The happiness of a child lies in the weekly broadcast of his favorite furry animal named ‘Brigsby Bear’. First time filmmaker Dave McCary brings to us his film starring one of the film’s writers, Kyle Mooney as James, a thirty-something man-child who is obsessed with his favorite television show, owning every cassette, and several pieces of memorabilia. After the show’s untimely cancellation, James’s life takes a turn for the extreme, forcing the number one fan to now finish the show himself, for better or worse. Along the way, James must learn to cope with the realities of a new world that he knows nothing about because he has never stepped foot outside of his protective weekly bubble. ‘Brigsby Bear’ is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, brief sexuality, drug material and teen partying, and teams up the acclaimed Saturday Night Live duo once more of Mooney and Beck Bennett.

Now that you’ve read my synopsis for ‘Brigsby Bear’, you should know that everything that you think you know about this movie is only an illusion. This is very much an independent dramedy that is more clever than what meets the eye. The plot and ensuing story surrounding it revolve around this surprising shock twist that takes place within the opening fifteen minutes of this film that completely blew my mind, changing the tone and material alike, and then proceeding on from there as A result of this big bang. This is a touch that is certainly nothing groundbreaking or original, but it does lend itself to the confidence that the duo of McCary and Mooney possess in their film to appeal to the audience that they have practically alienated themselves from, with anyone thinking this was going to be a goofball comedy similar to Mooney’s SNL stick. For Mooney, this is A Chance to breakout from a stereotype that has garnered him minimal time on that show, and to trade it in for a hearty performance that proves he is a force to be reckoned with when compared to the barrage of SNL greats that have and have not gone on to make a name for themselves when they no longer go live at 11:30 PM on Saturday night.

Once that plot twist that I mentioned happens early on during the first act, it feels very much like the film is playing into our nostalgia as an audience for the kinds of television show characters and worlds alike that we immersed ourselves in when we the young adolescent age, and pulled the wool from James eyes in the same manner that all of us ensued when we were forced to grow up. This is of course A story with A bit more devastation to it, and that mood layers itself with A screenplay that I never would’ve expected from the guys in The Lonely Island of all things. The film does stay a bit one note remedially, hinting at a bigger picture in reveal that those few possible subplots never pursue with much more persistence. There were a few aspects with the production of this television show that raised a few good questions in my mind, but it just felt like me making the direction into something that never became. This is a 92 minute brief engagement, so to say that this film sticks close to its three act structure, is putting it firmly. With that said, I can’t say that I was ever bored or disengaged from this film, and my fear of this man-child’s fragile psyche playing into this tight-rope of nerves between past and present that has brought him to this day, always kept me watching closely for the cause-and-effect that a sheltered life can leave on the mind of a dreamer with miles to travel creatively.

McCary’s film embraces the concepts of James past metaphorically through the eyes of the bear, so when the idea pops into his head to continue on with the show, it not only feels like A longing for his sheltered past, but also a halting of progress for his ability to move on, a concept that the film stands firmly at on the crossroads of repetition and influence. On the latter, this film becomes kind of this character study for James and how his interaction with other kids his age can feel can come across as mimicking. He’s only known this one thing for the entirety of his life, so it feels like the typical character from another world who is being taught our way of life for the first time, except here it warrants those concepts because we feel a great empathetic pull for James and the new experiences that he will never ever fully grasp for being late to the fold because of his limited past. That’s why the first half of the film was marginally better than the second half for me; its deranged nature comes across as the factor that gives it wings, and once that’s put away for good, the film’s moral framing hints that it’s OK for James to feel this reliant on Brigsby, A motion that I found difficult to cope with for the well being mentally of this nearly closed book.

The aesthetic touch is perhaps some of my favorite aspects of McCary’s film, as the television show within this movie feels like a callback to 80’s public access productions where the minimal money reaped the bigger monetary reward. Because so much of ‘Brigsby Bear’ feels cheap in design, it caters to the spandex generation of children who grew up knowing and loving shows with this kind of terribly under-utilized effects and dated synth-pop musical score to boost. The Lonely Island are known for this kind of thing, but while we as an audience might giggle from time-to-time, wondering what the appeal is to it, the film very much envelopes itself into every character that it comes into contact with, framing Brigsby as an irresistible hero just waiting to be believed in by all who take on his VHS challenge.

Kyle Mooney can rest assured that his performance as James will be the memorable role for him that turned the tide in his once one-dimensional career into A remarkable transformation as an acting darling. In James, we embrace a delivery from Mooney that is soft and gentle like a child, but rebellious and crass in the defiance of an expanding teen. With a lesser actor, this would come across as A condescending lead, playing more into a gimmick rather than an immersing, but Mooney’s shy and bashful delivery prove that he is the right man for the job, being not fully aware of the terrible things that have transpired in his early career. This makes him A character who is easy to get behind and embrace because we never like to see bad things happen to children, A thought that is ludicrous considering Mooney is 32 years old, but it’s A testament to how committed he embraced this cryptic adolescent. Handing in supporting turns are Clare Danes , Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear, and Matt Walsh, A usual one line cameo artist who finally gets A major helping in this script. Everyone plays a pivotal role in James life, but it’s great to see so many memorable faces committing to something off-screen as different for A supposed comedy like this.

THE VERDICT – Make no mistakes about it, this bear isn’t soft or cuddly, it’s an earnestly eye-opening look at the dangers of addiction that never needs drugs or alcohol to roar with other cautionary tales. Mooney’s performance is right on cue, balancing the sentimental with the synthetic, and McCary takes a huge leap in the director’s race in only his first feature film. The lack of comedy might alienate some of its audience, but if you stay patient, this unusually poignant melancholic plot will steal your heart and your respect. Everything you want with nothing you are expecting. The less you know going in, the better.


Logan Lucky

The down-and-out luck of two loser brothers hinge on the theft of millions that will earn them the tag ‘Logan Lucky’. Trying to reverse a family curse, brothers Jimmy (Channing Tatum), who is recently unemployed, and Clyde Logan (Adam Driver), who is forever with one arm, set out to execute an elaborate robbery during the legendary Coca-Cola 600 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. To do so, they will need the help of a crime mastermind Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) who himself is behind bars. The brothers ban together to construct a plan to get Joe out of the hole, as well as construct the step-by-step procedure in ripping off the Nascar circuit without getting caught or even losing their lives. ‘Logan Lucky’ is the comeback movie from critically acclaimed retired director Steven Soderbergh, and is rated PG-13 for adult language and some crude comments.

Thank the movie cinema lord above that Steven Soderbergh is back behind the camera where he belongs. Following an impressive career with box office hits like ‘Traffic’, ‘Contagion’, and of course the ‘Oceans’ trilogy, Steven opted to take a break from the silver screen to front success in the television market, and while I wish him all of the luck in any kind of media that he attempts, it is clear that the man has not lost his touch with visual storytelling that fronts arguably the best narrative in a Soderbergh film that I have ever seen. ‘Logan Lucky’ is definitely not without its problems. At nearly two hours long, the film does start to overstay its welcome with a third act that presents some unnecessary tension and dramatic pull during a time when it feels like the movie should be wrapping up. But on the overall spectrum, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have a fun time with the wacky hijinks surrounding this historically unlucky family, and their quest to restore their good name amongst a town that has practically written them off a long time ago. To that degree, Steven too feels like the right man for the job, and his latest is proof that this critically heralded director still has some strong days ahead, even if he is venturing back to familiar territory.

With four heist movies now under his belt, it’s difficult not to credit Soderbergh with being the best heist movie director of all time, if such an award truly exists. For ‘Logan Lucky’, I will credit him as a director and writer because we all know Steven plays with pseudonyms in his cast when he chooses to do things incognito. With helming this script, he manages to add some original flares in narration to keep it fresh along the way, pointing to the belief that he has in his audience to be patient with this developing plot and characters. There are aspects to the story that immediately will feel like throwaway dialogue or one-off scenes to pad time, but what I found astonishing was that each and every little piece connects to a bigger picture, and once you start to understand how the grinds turn in this giant machine, you start to truly appreciate what the movie is trying to communicate in if you’re still paying attention. Like most heist films, it does take a degree or two of sustaining disbelief, being that some of these methods to get the cash rely on faith at best, so it’s in those aspects of the film that I feel people will either be on board or not when it finishes their overall dissection on the picture.

The film is very funny and responsible with its dialogue and depiction of Southern U.S.A without feeling too truly overbearing on stereotypes or cultural perception to an insulting degree. I feel like Soderbergh understands these small towns and the conversations alike, so much so that he conveys between these colorfully animated characters that he orchestrates with a light-hearted element of focus on family and the importance that it plays into every decision.. I compare it a lot to ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’, in that so much of their disconnect from the rest of the world isn’t seen so much as something that is lacking, but rather an educational spin on atmosphere that could help everyone outside of the bubble understand their knowledge of the way the world spins tri-fold. Steven’s award winning cinematography behind the lens is also important in said atmosphere, mainly because his exceptional work in editing and pasting keeps the air fresh with movement to feed into these vulnerable angles. Some scenes will have you wondering why they were depicted in such a manner, mainly the crotch shot of Daniel Craig doing push-ups, but it’s to constantly remind audiences that this is a comedy first, and it is one that goes hand-in-hand with juggling such extreme consequences that come with laying it all on the line for one wealthy score.

If there was a weakness to the film for me, it was as I mentioned earlier the spotty third act that feels like it prolongs the dramatic pull long after we as an audience have crossed that bridge, as well as a twist during the third act that frankly doesn’t make sense. A certain A-lister is introduced to the film with only twenty minutes left of it, and it all felt like slightly unnecessary tension that honestly goes nowhere with the film’s ending. Just before the credits roll, it’s kind of left in a hinting way that this story is far from finished, and that feels like a cop-out with how cleverly decisive everything was wrapped up in the closing moments from seeing the whole plan play out in real time. It sticks out more evidently because the first two acts of this movie are so crisp and careful in its planning, choosing to focus more on the build-up to the big day, rather than the heist itself, and it’s incredibly smart in this direction. Once we care about the characters and what is going into every measure of this plan, the impact of it all will connect like falling dominos one clap at a time.

This especially well-rounded cast also does a marvelous and committed job to their characters, sticking to details in personal traits that held up astoundingly through two hours. We can all silence the doubt that Channing Tatum cannot act anymore because this kid can lead a film with such heart and empathy that it makes you almost forget you are watching one of the best looking men in Hollywood, and instead seeing a small town hick with a bad knee spitting tar. Tatum’s accent is consistent throughout the film, and I feel that he has always flourished with wacky comedies like this and anything from the Coen Brothers. Adam Driver for me was the true whirlwind of this picture however. We’ve gotten to the point where Driver is so much more than just delightful with his dry delivery, he’s also gravitating an emotional pull under the surface that channels a side to humanity that very few are able to pull off in 21st century cinema, and I credit him for being so much of the movie’s pulse when sometimes the moral fiber is wearing thin. The reason for a lot of that is Daniel Craig and his unforgettable turn as explosives expert Joe Bang. With a name like that, you know you’re destined for a layered wild card of a character, and Craig certainly doesn’t disappoint, exchanging his English accent and Bond tuxedo for a Southern drawl and bleached blonde hair that truly brings out the hick in him. Craig is possibly the last guy I would expect for a role like this, so it makes it all the more mesmerizing when you see a suave actor like him commit and have fun to a role that couldn’t be any more polar opposite of his demeanor. A true hoot.

THE VERDICT – ‘Logan Lucky’ races to the finish line ahead of most of the pack in the overcrowded heist genre, and does so with one of its master drivers at the helm. Soderbergh’s much anticipated return to the silver screen is a fun thrill ride that does skid at the end of the journey, but the entertainment factor of a big list cast, as well as a carefully mapped out script, gives this one enough traction to pace itself through the slick turns of dramatic digestion that sometimes oversells itself. With a successful comeback, perhaps we are the lucky ones.


The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Even a ruthless hitman needs protection, so he calls on ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’. The world’s top special protection agent (Ryan Reynolds) called upon to guard the life of his mortal enemy, one of the world’s most notorious hitmen (Samuel L. Jackson). The relentless bodyguard and manipulative assassin have been on the opposite end of the bullet for years and are thrown together for a wildly outrageous 24 hours. During their raucous and hilarious adventure from England to the Hague, they encounter high-speed car chases, outlandish boat escapades and a merciless bloodthirsty Eastern European dictator (Gary Oldman) who is out for blood. Salma Hayek joins the mayhem as Jackson’s equally notorious wife. The trio must team together if they wish to defeat their ruthless stalker. ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ is directed by Patrick Hughes, and is rated R for strong violence and adult language throughout.

Remember that time when Deadpool, Nick Fury, and Elektra all teamed up to ruin the evil plan of Commissioner Gordon? That cute and colorful attempt at humor is going to possibly be the most memorable aspect of ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’, a film so ridiculed by amateur filmmaking that even the charismatic combination of two charming male leads isn’t enough to overcome its deficiencies. This film serves as the latest in 90’s action comedy buddy flicks like ‘Money Talks’ and ‘Bulletproof’, that draws a noticeable rinse, wash, repeat outline to its script, offering nothing new to make it memorably salvageable. Of the two films I mentioned, the latter one feels eerily similar to the very outline of this movie, in that two rivals must team together after one has wronged the other, they take a cross country trip together that takes them through the backroads of some pretty silly situations, and it all centers around the concepts of taking a bullet for one another. That’s not to say that ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ is ripping off ‘Bulletproof’, it’s just that this genre of film has been tapped so dry that the only thing interchangeable at this point are the actors who can personalize it to theirs and the audience’s amusement.

Before I begin to critique this film, I will tell you that the performances lift my score dramatically, and kept a lot of this generic action movie fresh for me. I have always been a huge fan of Reynolds, but he’s best when he has a force of equal value to bounce off of. As the deadpan, straight man of the movie, Ryan is irresistible when it comes to drawing a smile out of you, even if it comes at the expense of his character’s calculated precision. With Jackson, it’s everything at an opposite. His character thrives on impulse and rash decision making, so when these two come together, they make a dynamic duo that equally compliments one another fluently. The film definitely moves accordingly whenever these two are on-screen, but what does the rest of it offer? Well, an R-rated performance turned in by Salma Hayek, who is easy to fall in love with, but isn’t the widest range of character once you’ve seen her material on one scene. The film refuses to elevate her as anything more than this expletive instilled firecracker who serves as nothing more than the trophy to that of Jackson’s character, and that is a missed opportunity of shame. Gary Oldman hands in another committed antagonist performance, mimicking his German accent with range and consistency that never flounders. The unfortunate aspect with him is that the film kind of forgets about him during a second act that fluffs the past rather than enhance the progression of the current. By the end of the movie, we’re supposed to feel intrigue towards his terrifying plot, but the film hasn’t approached matters from his point of view enough, leaving us with a set-up that is just put in pause until our two heroes can save the day.

As for that script, there’s many problems, but the most apparent to me was the jumbling of atmospheric mood for the film that tries to be too many genres at once. First and foremost, this film thrives best when it is a goofy comedy that stands tall with the personalities of its two leads. There’s also action, and that is Ok until the movie tries to blind us with a side that we haven’t grown to expect; violence and terrorism that speaks wonders to a serious side of film that feels out of place in this plot. During the nauseating third act of the movie, there’s also a switch to infuse some romance into the fold, concocting an overstuffed sandwich that feels harder to swallow the more we continue to chew on its ever-changing atmospheres. For my money, this film could afford to shave about fifteen minutes off of its runtime, most notably from a dependency on five different flashback scenes that fluff the hell out of this 110 minute show. To make matters worse, the ending could’ve concluded three different times, but because so little has progressed most notably with the antagonist angle of the movie, we must tough out the murky waters of convolution during the final twenty minutes that does the pacing very little favors.

After directing ‘The Expendables 3’, the personal worst of the series, Patrick Hughes came back with this film to kind of redeem his influence behind the directing chair, and there’s kind of a noticeable personalization of his pictures that have yet to cast him into efficient filmmakers. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have his charms, but when I think about the visual presentation of this movie, it does leave so much more to be desired in a major motion picture. The C.G backdrops and explosions adhered to the same problems that 2015’s ‘The Transporter: Refueled’ experienced, in that there’s a noticeable dimension of off-coloring that peaks every time this effect is present, relaying a feeling of cheap ambiance that sets a small stage for the A-list cast to perform on. Beyond this, the musical score is among the worst of the year easily. At the beginning of the film, this music is blared to such ear-deafening levels that I couldn’t hear the opening dialogue of the movie’s first scenes. It also beholds that annoying gift where its easy tones do nothing in adding to the scene except to tell audiences audibly how they are supposed to feel because the producers feel they’re to stupid to understand something so basic. I could honestly make a review on this aspect alone, but I will only go so far as to say that visually and audibly this movie really let me down. It feels like it could be a spoof movie at times, but the film isn’t clever enough to capitalize on that kind of medium to bring the sensibility to such bland tastes in visual stylings.

The action sequences are hit and miss, providing a combination of chase sequences and fight scenes that cater to the catastrophic hound in all of us. For me, the chase sequences are where the money is. If there’s anything that Hughes has a knack for, it’s in the fast paced intricacy of plotting out a chase that is shot with exceptional confidence. The movements of the camera keep up fine with the speeds of these vehicles, even enhancing the editing with some experimental perspectives that refuse to ever settle for mediocrity. I would’ve been fine with chase sequences for the whole film, but there are fight sequences to make it all the more personal. There’s certainly nothing condemning about Hughes methods to shooting fight scenes. At the very least, he isn’t too close to the action to where the audience doesn’t register what is happening. My problem is that the camera movements here become slightly too ambitious, mimicking the movements of the actors rather than capture the magnitude of every crushing blow. This jerky style of shooting left me winded after one scene, let alone four different fight sequences that don’t get any easier on the eyes as the film progresses. Experimenting is fine, but I think too much movement can feel taxing to those watching closely for each balance of power happening in the scene. At least it’s not as bad as a POV shot, but too much movement sequencing these violent dances more often than not had me looking away.

THE VERDICT – This bodyguard can take a bullet or two and keep charging because of energetic performances from Reynolds and Jackson, two leading men who are far too great for this movie at this point in their careers. Hughes scattershot creativity limits the film in tone and sequencing quite often, even so that the laughs from witty dialogue fade into the air like smoke rings because of the atmosphere being too thick of genre recycling to withstand lasting power. This one earns its place in the late Summer graveyard, but thankfully its impressive cast will rise from the dead once they shake themselves of this pity project that constantly misses its mark.


Batman and Harley Quinn

The Dark Knight of Gotham returns to the animated silver screen, joining forces with one of his greatest nemesis, in ‘Batman and Harley Quinn’. The city of Gotham comes under grave danger yet again, this time under a poisonous spell from Pamela Isley (Paget Brewster), better known to her enemies as ‘Poison Ivy’, that transforms citizens into plants. Faced with a dire urgency to save the day and find out quick about their powerful foe, Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) seek help in the most unlikely of sources; the sinisterly dangerous Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch). The trio collide on more than a few occasions, but learn quickly that they must achieve the common goal of taking down the Poison if they are to return to simpler times. ‘Batman and Harley Quinn’ is rated PG-13 for scenes of action and peril, and is directed by Sam Liu, the very same man responsible for some classic animated hits from Marvel and D.C.

It’s become a bit of a tradition to get a new Batman animated feature every year now, with Fathom Events, and ‘Batman and Harley Quinn’ continues that tradition with arguably the most clashing of ideals team-up that comes to mind. I was a bit disappointed with last year’s ‘The Killing Joke’, but If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve come to appreciate that film a bit more. That’s not to say that this newest chapter is anything terrible, it just feels so contradictive to what we have come to expect from the legendary D.C Animated Films productions that seem to get things correct when the live action movies do not. This film truly felt like one of those experiences where I myself had a lot of fun with what was transpiring on-screen, it just came at a steep price for those characters and concepts that I grew up, and how some less than stellar liberties were taken with their source materials. There’s some nice Easter Eggs in dialogue with past editions of Batman comics like ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, or even the original live action television show, complete with BAM!!! and KAPOWS!!! hitting the screen. But this (like other straight to video releases from D.C) feels like a chapter in itself, and that will undoubtedly divide audiences looking for more of a callback from the 90’s animated series that might just be the single greatest Batman offering that has ever graced a screen.

At least the animation is still carefully detailed, depicting the Gotham skyline with that same crimson red filtering above that reflects that of the blood spilled in these corrupt streets. This is the one aspect where I feel like fans of all Batman walks will agree that D.C continues to amaze. During an age when other studios have moved onto 3D outlines for their presentations, this company remains faithful to the style and traditions that brought it to the dance, echoing a rich vibrancy in color coordination, while never overdoing it into making Gotham somewhere that it isn’t. This definitely feels like a callback to my childhood days of soaking in the colorful personalities and costume designs within this world, but there’s enough experimentation to commend it for never playing things moot. Some of the fire and smoke illustrations are really attention-grabbing, and continue to move even when it feels like a character is in pause because of the next stenciling in page flips. The finale too, sets the stage appropriately once again for the central antagonist, immersing us into an ever-changing swamp that changes the more the situation does.

One thing that I commend these films for is that even though their visual stylings and plots can be considered for younger audiences, the material is anything but. This film has no problems with earning its coveted PG-13 rating, as there is no shortage of adult language exchanges, mature content in both the violent and sexual nature, and reliance upon comedic stick that does overstay its welcome quite often. I understand that this story relies around the Quinn character, but I feel that the campy vibes that radiate from this film are ones that do a disservice instead of an enhancement in creativity. I did laugh a few times, but there are plenty of examples of material that drowns on for far too long, feeling like a comfortable padding for the barely 75 minute presentation that we got. A fine example is a scene that takes place in a gay bar, complete with Harley musical performance and Batman pick-up lines. Awkward? a bit, but it pales in comparison to yet another unwanted sex scene between two characters that is every bit as unnecessary as it is cringe-worthy. Hinting is fine, but when the film stops to subject us through these sequences, I can’t help but feel bad for the youth in the audience who were as embarrassed as I was when I saw my first sex scene at 9 years old in ‘Heavy Metal’.

The script too has its problems, mostly because once again there’s an uneven distribution of plot progression that hinders our antagonists. Based on the title, it’s obvious where the film is focused on, but without that compelling antagonist plot to combat them, their journey of unlikely teammates doesn’t gel the way it rightfully should. I did enjoy seeing the daily life of Harley in her environment, as I feel it offered us a look at the human side of Quinn that we rarely get to see, especially in the day and age of the ‘Suicide Squad’ further diminishing her character origins. One problem for me that picks up in this film where ‘The Killing Joke’ left off was the notable absence of Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, or even Bruce Wayne from the fold. On the latter, I feel like it’s important to offer audiences an equal dose of Wayne versus Batman, and doing so only limits the true capabilities that a force like Conroy can convey. More on that later. A scene or two with these characters could certainly do wonders in keeping up the pacing, which does an alright enough job through the minimal runtime, but something great always beats something good. The ending left me slightly disappointed, mainly because one of the two antagonists is defeated in the most eye-rolling of ways, and the other we don’t get much of visually. The film just kind of ends with more of a hint than an actual result, and if this were a live action movie, I would be wondering if the production ran out of cash for a cheap exit like this one. Even the emergence of a D.C favorite hero felt completely unnecessary, especially when poked for fun by Harley herself after his brief cameo. It certainly doesn’t leave you with the greatest taste exiting this thing, and that is unfortunate because it feels like some solid performances were virtually wasted.

Upon them, Kevin Conroy is once again putting on a clinic as the defining Batman for all time. Conroy has been playing the caped crusader for over two decades at least, but he never feels redundant in his portrayals. Here, Batman is every bit as cryptic as he’s been, while playing into the intelligence that renders him a step above his competition. Kevin’s brooding release is everything that we have come to define for this character that was alive long before Conroy walked the Earth. Loren Lester adds up to one truly charismatic Nightwing. Not only was it nice to see this seldom used character depicted on screen, but Lester vocalizes him with the young adult side of the spectrum, falling for good looking girls, as well as fart jokes that he at least committedly plays into. The only performance I wasn’t in love with was Rauch as Quinn. The reason I say this is because she only truly channels one side of Harley, the jester, and leaves the menace in the closet for another actress to pull out. As the comedian Quinn, Rauch is well timed and articulately captures the Bensonhurst accent that is essential to the character. But I never felt the truly deranged side of her performance, and that missing link feels like only a half performance for such a complex antihero.

THE VERDICT – The newest Batman animated adaptation has wings, but quickly gets winded with a thin script, as well as an over-dependency of humorous material that frequently lets the air out of the mystic sails. Conroy and Lester make a solid team, and the animation is as good as it’s ever been. But the ambiguous ending leaves much more to be desired from the ambitious set-up that never quite quenches the thirst of the audience it narrates to. Even still, the nostalgic glee of the animated setting is worth the cost of a DVD evening in with your own Harley or Batman.


The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature

The gang of furry friends and lovable creatures are back, this time to do something much more urgent than cracking nuts, in ‘The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature’. Two years after the original movie, Surly Squirrel (Will Arnett) and his friends, Buddy (Tom Kenny), Andie (Katherine Heigl) and Precious (Maya Rudolph) discover that the mayor (Bobby Moynihan) of Oakton City is cracking one big hustle to build a giant yet quite-shabby amusement park, which in turn will bulldoze their home, which is the city park, and it’s up to them and the rest of the park animals to stop the mayor, along with his daughter and a mad animal control officer from getting away with his scheme, and take back the park. ‘The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature’ is written and directed by Cal Brunker in his first big budget presentation, and is rated PG for action and some rude humor.

Considering it was three years ago and arguably the very worst animated film of the year, ‘The Nut Job’ offers very little that comes to memory when I think about it now, and while this same problem might suffer the same fate with its unnecessary sequel, I can happily say that this is an improvement for the series that nearly meets the requirements to be an enlightening and entertaining movie for kids. Make no mistakes about it, some of the same problems involving inferior animation, limited storytelling involving cliche plot, and of course plain Jane characters who have little or no exposition for their respective arcs. Those problems are still there, but what ‘The Nut Job 2’ has going for it is that it truly feels like the makers of this film threw away all of the rules and just didn’t care as long as it was memorable. It attains this status at least temporarily because of a third act that completely flew off of the rails, and serves as a hotbed of anarchy that doesn’t stop until the credits end. That could be where this franchise finds its voice, even if it as at the hands of another sort-of loss with the overall finished product. The positive is that it isn’t a devastating one, and at least gives me some hope that a third film could turn everything around for this tortured story and characters if they just throw out the tired formula of what makes a good kids movie.

Yes, the animation continues to underwhelm, despite some much needed improvements to the backdrops that speak to that French artistic visionary of animation designs. Where this positive sticks out like a sore thumb is in the character dimensions and outlines in design that make the pop to the eye for all of the wrong reasons. Open Road Films still struggle when it comes to the live action movements of its animated characters, with everything from their speech patterns being dramatically off from what is coming out of their mouths, to the expressions on faces that don’t feel as detailed when compared to the flock of kids movies that are setting precedents today. But what those landscapes do with precision in beauty is float a dreamscape full of colorful residence that really pop in front of the camera. I can remember the first film being an ugly one because its backgrounds weren’t used accordingly enough to immerse the audience in this particular world, but thankfully ‘Nutty By Nature’ doesn’t have this problem, as it leaves little to the imagination of what can be done with story when it has a beautiful canvas to play out on.

This is really where the film suffers the greatest for me, because the first two acts of this movie are really just throwing a bunch of tired ideas at the screen and seeing what sticks. As seen before, there is the evil mayor of the town who has somehow gotten voted in despite breaking every zoning code, as well as human right known to man, but none of that matters because every kids movie needs a villain right? The film knows how overblown and laughably bare this antagonist feels because it chooses to focus so little of its 80 minute run time on him and his evil child who had some real possibilities when laid out in material that could’ve laid into the effects that bad parenting have on their spawns. I mentioned that this film barely breaks an hour, and what little of material that the film does try to progress forward is often times slowed down to a grinding halt when a new character is introduced, and this film has no shortage of them. Instead of presenting their introductions in smooth detail, the film supplies us with no fewer than three exposition montages that bring their stories up to date to this moment, and whether or not you agree with me that this feels like sloppy character introductions, you can’t debate that this method feels redundant by the second time it is brought up. The last half hour is easily the climax for my interest in this movie because it turns into kind of a shit show firework that lights the longest fuse to keep the madness running. I did laugh quite a few times during this part not only for the breaking of logic that was being displayed so non-chalantly, but because there are winks to some pretty sinisterly occurances that feel like the appropriate bone thrown to adults who have had to endure this series up to this point. That is what I want to see more of, and I hope that if there is a Nut Job 3, that it takes the risks that will award it the single craziest scene that I have seen in a kids movie in quite a long time.

As for the performances, there is certainly no shortage of credible actors and actresses who lend their familiar tones to these characters. Will Arnett has a vocal range that was made for children’s movies, emoting Surly as a know-it-all who sometimes gets carried away with his brash personality. Arnett takes this film on his back and carries it when it feels like no one else is getting a chance to. On that direction, I point to Katherine Heigl and Jeff Dunham who despite their generous influence on this script, underplay every scene-stealing opportunity that the movie gives them. Dunham in particular is the surprise here because his whole stand-up stick is based around vocalizing dummies that he brings on stage, but his presence isn’t enough here with energy in delivery to ever compliment his talented male lead. Jackie Chan was a solid addition as a mouse who is anything but just cute, but his character is introduced almost to the point of insult stereotypes, with oriental music and Chinatown backdrop being present to his arrival. The character almost becomes a running joke of itself before we ever learn anything about him, and that’s truly unfortunate for Chan, as his career is kind of in a comeback mode with a lot of buzz surrounding the upcoming ‘Ninjago Lego Movie’ and ‘The Foreigner’. Arnett sets the table, but it often feels like others are afraid to eat off of it, a true disappointment to a cast of A-listers who could’ve made their presence felt immensely.

THE VERDICT – It couldn’t have gotten worse than 2014’s ‘The Nut Job’, and thankfully it didn’t. ‘The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature’ still lacks the kind of creative bite in consistency to ever compete with the smarter, more ambitious competition of the genre, but the nourishment of this nut wasn’t as far of a reach when presented with an improvement in aspects of animation, as well as a leaning on the values of friendship that make the hearty center something more with this sequel. Maybe it’s the fact that I just saw ‘The Emoji Movie’ two weeks ago, but this film didn’t upset me anywhere near to the point that I was expecting, and hopefully the next nut will fall even further from this tree of familiarity.



The real life story for the inspiration of Rocky Balboa comes to life in this eye-opening sports biopic from director Philippe Falardeau. ‘Chuck’ tells the story of the pride of Bayonne, New Jersey, a man who went fifteen rounds in the ring with the heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali, who may or may not have knocked the champ off of his feet. But before all that, Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber) was a liquor salesman and father with a modest prizefighting career whose life changed overnight when, in 1975, he was chosen to take on The Greatest in a highly publicized title match. It’s the beginning of a wild ride through the exhilarating highs and humbling lows of sudden fame-but what happens when your fifteen minutes in the spotlight are up? Driven by a committed performance from Liev Schreiber, Chuck is a refreshingly human tale of resilience and redemption. ‘Chuck’ is rated R for adult language throughout, drug use, sexuality/nudity and some bloody images.

‘Chuck’ was never going to be a better film than the 1976 Oscar winner for Best Picture counterpart that it so vibrantly echoes around, but what it does is peel back the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood movie by telling you about the real gritty ugliness that lies within the true story. ‘Chuck’ is thankfully another enlightening dose of reality from the same director who penned 2014’s ‘The Good Lie’, humbling his audience with what feels like one of the more honest depictions not only in the sport of boxing during the dark ages of exposure, but also the troubles associated with temporary celebrity that influence ones irrational decisions. It’s a dramedy that can sometimes feel slightly off with its creative tone, but being that Wepner was never one to shy away from kicking himself, the film feels obliged to run the course carefully. I enjoyed this film enough, despite it only briefly capturing the psyche of one of the 70’s most prominent personalities inside and outside of the ring. This is more of an outside perspective in the way that we as an audience are supposed to see Chuck, and because of that we are only offered temporary glances at trying to get close to this troubled character as an endearing protagonist.

The story takes us on a kind of cause-and-effect train when it comes to what inspired arguably the greatest sports film of all time, and does so in a way that still leaves plenty of room for the one-named title character in this film to tell his side. Chuck, like any of us, is seduced by what little fame he commands. As a local rundown fighter, he’s kind of seen as a joke within his community, so when stardom finally knocks on his door, he is more than happy to answer, and that choice comes with some steep consequences for the hard hitter as to how he handles it. The film has a constant responsibility in observing and contrasting the beat down that Wepner takes in the ring versus the one he takes outside of it, and the one constant is that this character knows how to take a punch and keep on moving forward. It’s certainly easy to pick out which points were lifted from Wepner’s life to compliment the Rocky franchise, but in this example it feels more emphatic than the homage of ‘Rocky’ because this after all is real life, a breaking of the fourth wall by watching a character on-screen who lived through all of these things 42 years ago. The tone to me could’ve used more of a dramatic pull, instead of the dark comedy that sometimes outlines the film’s events. I feel like everyone watching except Wepner is in on the joke, and that aspect feels like a heavily missed opportunity on understanding the epiphany within this character that happens a bit too late in his life.

On that ground, the pacing for me was the film’s biggest weakness, often rushing through the more important peaks of Chuck’s life without feeling much weight for the situation. At 97 minutes, this is a brief film for a biopic, so the movie’s first act speeds by without a single moment of patience to let it all sink in. There is a major change that occurs midway through the film for Chuck, but in the movie’s inappropriate tone combined with rushed plotting, it feels more like a temporary speed bump instead of something much greater, and it becomes slightly difficult to take this story seriously with the kind of attention that it needs when being compared to other true story films. There’s also some sloppy time transitional scenes that jump time without any kind of warning or leading up-to for it to make sense. One scene rushes three years forward after a scene in which a possible new love interest (Played by Schreiber’s real life wife, Naomi Watts) is introduced, looking like it might go somewhere. It doesn’t, and its importance is left without much reasoning. If there’s anything positive that we can say about this aspect, it’s that the film is a rather simple sit, and doesn’t drag or grind to a screeching halt before we hit the credits. The kind of stories that are interesting should be remarked as the ones that you want to see more of, and ‘Chuck’ for me could’ve easily used another half hour to let these events flow with the kind of fluidity that relates their vital importance.

I did however manage to find myself another noteworthy cinematographer, as Nicolas Bolduc’s style for the picture moved me miles into immersing myself within this particular era. The movie’s design caters more to a film that looks and feels like it was shot during the 70’s, instead of a movie that is just spoofing the decade. This accomplishment is tough, especially considering we are more than four decades removed from the setting of the film, but Bolduc’s attention to detail moved me immensely with the insertion of classic footage for the establishing shots, as well as a grainy layer to the coloring palate that makes ‘Chuck’ feel like you’re watching something shot for laser disc. The intro starts the movie off right, communicating to the audience the kind of setting that Bayone, New Jersey plays to in this kind of film, echoing the hippie generation in all of its drugs and devilish pleasures in one visually faded interpretation.

On the subject of performances, I thought that Schreiber put in the necessary time and effort to transform himself into an athlete that looks anything but what Liev does in his physical appearance. He becomes Chuck with a noticeable weight increase, as well as a prosthetic wig that nails down his commitment for the role. This was a dream role of sorts for Liev, and that shows in the morally flawed Wepner, a character he emotes with such shovanism and imagination that often both get him in trouble. Elizabeth Moss was also a breath of fresh air, playing Chuck’s emotionally fragile wife Phylis. Moss channels so much fire and emotional hilarity in her range that it can sometimes feel like she is too good for this kind of role, but it speaks depths that the film cares enough to make her a pivotal member of this plot even if it forgets about her halfway through. My lone problem with the casting was whoever was the agent who cast two polar opposites for Sylvester Stallone and Muhammad Ali that couldn’t be further from their real life appearances. I get that these larger-than-life people are difficult to cast, but I would’ve been fine with only hearing their voices while their backs are turned to the cameras. Their faces aren’t even close to the original thing, and it’s an aspect that broke my concentration every time they popped up on screen.

THE VERDICT – ‘Chuck’ is a stiff jab to the chin, but lacks the kind of tonal focus or steady hand patience in script to ever command knockout power. Because of the committed, durable performances of Schreiber and Moss, as well as a faithful brush of artistic stroke integrity that makes up the gorgeously decadent cinematography in the film, Falardeau can rest assured knowing that he has given the Bayone Bleeder one more round in the public eye. This one doesn’t quite go the distance, but it stands its ground with the other heavyweight contenders in an overcrowded genre that is only getting bigger. A constant reminder that somebody is always watching your story playing out under the eyes of the public lights.


The Emoji Movie

Those characters that we control with the tip of a finger come to life in Sony Animation’s ‘The Emoji Movie’. Hidden within the messaging app is Textopolis, a bustling city where all your favorite emojis live, hoping to be selected by the phone’s user. In this world, each emoji has only one facial expression, except for Gene (T.J Miller), an exuberant emoji who was born without a filter and is bursting with multiple expressions. Determined to become “normal” like the other emojis, Gene enlists the help of his handy best friend Hi-5 (James Corden) and the notorious code breaker emoji Jailbreak. Together, they embark on an epic “app-venture” through the apps on the phone, each its own wild and fun world, to find the Code that will fix Gene. But when a greater danger threatens the phone, the fate of all emojis depends on these three unlikely friends who must save their world before it’s deleted forever. ‘The Emoji Movie’ is written and directed by Tony Leondis, and is rated PG for some rude humor.

For whatever reason, movies will often get a bad word of mouth through the grapevine of gossip, so nobody after will give that movie a fair read. More times than not, films that are given the dreaded 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, or a 1/10 by critics everywhere, are often the victim of unfair critiques from critics who clearly have not seen enough bad films and just want in on all of the fun of bashing. With that said, ‘The Emoji Movie’ is that rare film (if you can call it that) that deserves all of the beating that this word of mouth is dishing out. For my experience, this is as shameless as it gets for product placement. Films have been raked over the coals for less than this, yet here is a movie based entirely on the IPhone and all of its emojis and apps that take up valuable time in our days. This of course comes from Sony Animation Studios, the studio responsible for the very definition of whoring out your product, so it comes as no surprise that this lifeless garbage lacks the kind of inspiring or original story to hold its own amongst the growing field of smart kids movies that are popping up. Lets put it like this; There are films that I hated more in 2017, but none of those gave me as dull and lifeless of a time like this one did for 84 mind numbing minutes that I will never get back.

You will realize just how flat this story falls when the gears start to turn and you see the kind of repetition in direction that this film takes with other movies like ‘Wreck It Ralph’ or ‘Inside Out’. This definitely feels like a cheaper coming-of-age version to those plots, ripping off the very minimal of what fits their dreaded narrative that we’ve all see before. Gene is an underdog, Gene loses something valuable to him, Gene goes on a long distance journey, Gene befriends some wacky characters, Gene succeeds on a road to redemption. To me, this plot falls very flat because its evidenced by its lack of emotional depth or investment by the audience at home just how unimportant it feels when it stands in the way of the humor. More on that in a bit. For so much of this film, it just kind of stands in place because you see so much of what is coming long before they actually get there. It’s a math problem that you can do on a piece of paper, made even worse by clutching pacing that left a phone imprint on my hand from all of the times that I checked to see how much was left of the movie.

As for humor, I didn’t laugh once in the entire film, mainly because I find it difficult to believe that this film was trying anything beyond the wink-and-nod to the audience for the kind of things they see daily on their phones. It’s remarkable just how few actual setups for long-term laughs that there are in this movie, and instead the film would rather focus on these overused puns that continue to inform us of each Emoji’s personality. There is an attempt to poking fun at the awkwardness of teenage conformity to technology, but the only time that humans are seen in this film is when their phones start freaking out and making noises from the chaos going on inside of them. A trait that doesn’t make sense when you consider that the main kid in this movie could easily turn off his ringer to quiet the disturbing things that his phone is saying to him. The funny bone is really pinched tightest though, when it began taking us in and out of apps like Youtube and Candy Crush to sell time and eat up some precious minutes. Because of this, it doesn’t feel like this script was anything remotely more difficult than someone with a typewriter looking at their phone for the few spare ideas that rarely have the kind of cohesive flow to feel like anything other than a collection of moments instead of an acceptable whole. The kind of film where everyone is dumber for having watched it, and if laughs are a measurement of mental capacity, my auditorium sounded like everyone’s reactions were on vibrate.

The cast too is left with wasted efforts because of so little to work with within the material that always keeps them firmly grounded. I love T.J Miller, but it’s clear that the man isn’t getting the kind of scripts that bring his R-rated demeanor to life. As Gene, Miller doesn’t feel like the right man for the job vocally to match the facial reaction of his emoji, a point that does come out in a subplot early on in the movie, but continues to waste away the personality of one of Hollywood’s greatest scene stealers going today. In addition to Miller, we get turns from James Corden as Gene’s friend Hi-5, Anna Faris as Jailbreak, and Maya Rudolph as the antagonist Smiler who left me uncomfortable at every appearance. None of these valued actors have anything above conventionalism to bring to their roles, and never for a minute did I feel glued in on their changing situations. Faris is probably the only one who sounded any different from her normal delivery, but Jailbreak’s backstory is virtually ignored for the entirety of the plot, hinting at possible scenarios that we never get closure on. In a perfect world, Faris would rightfully steal this movie, but she doesn’t even want it when the others are gladly handing it to her on a platter, and the wasted efforts all around are a glowing reminder of what could’ve been from a film idea that feels outdated even in 2017.

If I do have one back handed compliment to say about the film, it is in its animation, which isn’t nowhere near the quality of a Pixar presentation, but is an improvement on past Sony animation films that feel jarring in their shading for character illustrations. ‘The Emoji Movie’ does have a deliciously appetizing color scheme that at least takes us on a visually stunning field trip of ambitious backdrops and energetic landscapes. The character outlines could use more definition on their physical outlines, because sometimes their colors will blend together when put in front of a backdrop with the same color, but it’s hard to fault them so much about this process when everything else is frankly so terrible about this presentation. The animation at least held its own in bringing to life the every day visuals from our smart phones that we have come to know, and while my mind was drowning in a sea of stupidity from everything mentioned prior, I at least had a spectrum that kept the film in beautiful surroundings.

THE VERDICT – Leondis’s ‘The Emoji Movie’ is the kind of film where writers and directors are never heard from again. A lumbering, lazy lack of intellectual fortitude whose only intention is the callous cash grab that does nothing for any age group. The visuals offer momentary bliss between the overwhelming lack of trying that plagued this film at every other turn. Emoji’s are meant to be the time saving methods of expressing emotions to other people, maybe too is this movie for the basic concepts of storytelling and entertainment value that it doesn’t find as remotely important.


Girls Trip

One wild and rambunctious getaway between four longtime best friends, culminates in a ‘Girls Trip’ that none of them will ever soon forget. Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish, travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, sisterhoods are rekindled, wild sides are rediscovered, and there’s enough dancing, drinking, brawling and romancing to make the Big Easy blush. As the night progresses and the additives kick in, truths between the girls are revealed, testing their bond to heights never before reached among them. ‘Girls Trip’ is directed by Malcolm D. Lee, and is rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, pervasive adult language, brief graphic nudity, and drug material.

I shunned the trailer to ‘Girls Trip’. I found it to be every bit as generic as it was unfunny. But after seeing the actual film, I now know that what I perceived was the film’s biggest weakness was actually its biggest strength in terms of value to this film. Because of such, ‘Girls Trip’ might just be the biggest surprise of the year for me. I am flabbergasted at just how much I enjoyed this film because I didn’t give it even the slightest of chance in that two minute out-of-context trailer that doesn’t even begin to hint on what this film is truly about. Underneath the devilish R-rating, this film is a story about sisterhood and womanhood alike, and what it means to be a part of those important tribes. It’s a story that values the importance of friendship, and in that perspective it is a solid watch for both men and women of every age. This film is very much the kind of movie that you must watch at a theater because I found the irresistible blend of raunchy humor and heartfelt center to be something of infectious value that I couldn’t look away from. Inevitably, this movie will be compared to last month’s ‘Rough Night’, in that the two films have eerily similar setups, but once you have seen both films, you start to understand what the former is missing greatly, and soon their similarities take two completely different roads on the way to re-energizing the genre for women to prove that they can do it just as good as the men.

To label a comedy with an R-rating in 2017 usually means that you will throw in the occasional curse word to sentences that don’t exactly need it. This is thought of in gimmick terms, but what ‘Girls Trip’ does so terrifically is that it never settles for just bad language in getting its points across. This is very much a grown-up perspective that involves nudity, drugs, and all of the bottled fluids that you can handle. I would normally view this kind of thing as tacky or classless, but it’s funny how each event is properly built up and never given the kind of easy way out for its greatest laughs. There’s some real shock humor that constantly pops up to remind you of its rating, but nothing ever overstays its welcome in terms of material. My gut-busters never stopped coming, and equally played into the strong suits of each and every character on cast. The backdrop of New Orleans during the Essence Fest is one that couldn’t be more perfect for the kind of mayhem and debauchery that happens around our group, and it feels like the picture is constantly changing, evolving our quad of girls known as the Flossy Posse back into their younger selves the closer that their insecurities come into play.

On the subject of performances, all four girls each are given their equal time to share, but there is one who stands out above the rest; the hilariously energetic Tiffany Haddish. Considering she is the actress who we as the audience know the least about, it is quite a chance to leave the pacing of the movie’s humor in her hands, but Tiffany is up to the challenge. Her role as Dina feels like the kind of breakout power equal to that of Chris Tucker in ‘Friday’ or Kevin Hart in ‘Soul Plane’, she is simply that spellbinding. On top of it, she has an irresistible smile that will always bring a flavor of light-hearted atmosphere to the screen anywhere she lurks. Besides Haddish, it was nice to see Regina Hall again, this time taking front-and-center as kind of the leader of sorts of this group. Hall has transformed spectacularly from her days in the ‘Scary Movie’ franchise, but here we are reminded once again of the kind of powerful delivery that she can exert to change a film’s mood while adding a layer of heart to the script. It did look like early on the Pinkett and Latifah were going to be background supporting crew, but thankfully their stories do become more important to the forefront the longer that the movie goes, and the two longtime co-stars add a fresh slice of chemistry to round out this fabulous foursome.

The only real problem that I had with the film was its two hour runtime, but after taking in the entire production, I treat it as a positive AND a negative. On the plus side, the runtime feels slightly bloated for a comedy, but that is because every crazy incident that happens, we start to understand the bond between these ladies that other movies only tell us about. Where I feel that they could’ve done this better was in the variety of sequences that can sometimes feel formulaic amongst the setup that hit a time too many on repetition. Where this happens mostly is late in the second act with one bar exchange too many with very little payoff in the long run. That’s not to say that ‘Girls Trip’ doesn’t keep flowing, quite the opposite really. This is a two hour film that breezes by because you find yourself so indulged by the vibrant personalities that wither in this group. The third act was my personal favorite because it establishes just how much these “girls” turned women have grown. Most movies that center around womanhood always somehow end up with a man playing a pivotal role, but Lee is a filmmaker who sees value in his leading ladies, so he never takes the focus off of where it needs to be at all times. I did mention my disdain for the trailer earlier, and I find upon watching it now that much of the flat material is removed from the final product, a move that does wonders in keeping the laugh ratios to yearly highs for this critic.

THE VERDICT – Where ‘Girls Trip’ pushes the provocative envelope one step further in terms of material from other imitators, is the much-needed balancing of consistent jaw-dropping raunch humor with hearty sentimentality, two traits that make Lee’s latest a sensational good time. Haddish is a star in the making, but every woman here plays her part in taking a used idea and creating something fresh and innovative for the ladies in the audience who just want to have fun. To my female readers, don’t just see this one alone, see it with your entire entourage. This is one trip that never wears thin, despite its lengthy investment.


The Big Sick

The cultural differences of two smitten lovers gets pushed from-and-center during a trying time known as “The Big Sick”. Based on the real-life courtship between Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, the movie tells the story of Pakistan-born aspiring comedian Kumail (Nanjiani), who connects with grad student Emily (Zoe Kazan) after one of his routine standup sets. However, what they thought would be just a one-night stand blossoms into the real thing after the two find it difficult to be apart from one another, which complicates the life that is expected of Kumail by his traditional Muslim parents. When Emily is beset with a mysterious illness, it forces Kumail to navigate the medical crisis with her parents, Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) whom he’s never met, while dealing with the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart. “The Big Sick” is directed by Michael Showalter, and is rated R for adult language, including some vulgar sexual references.

“The Big Sick” is not a Judd Apatow written or directed movie, but it is produced by the critically acclaimed mastermind of movies like “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Trainwreck”, and while he holds the minimalist of responsibilities on this production, his stamp is clearly evident in Michael Showalter’s picture. This is the latest in a growing trend of film trailers these days that market a movie one way, only for it to be a totally different animal when you sit down and actually watch it. To say that “The Big Sick” is a comedy, might be completely irresponsible. This is very much a dramedy with a sprinkling of romance thrown in for good measure, and what could be considered a bit of a Frankenstein concoction does have its overall moments of light-hearted warmth and tender compassion that makes this one a worthy date night choice for him and her. Apatow has done this a lot in his career, substituting consistency in comedy for an appreciated level of heart, but Showalter doesn’t seem capable enough of balancing the same elements cohesively, instead opting for one tone at a time in each act. The film for me was decent, But even still, the run time of just over two hours proves to be a comedy’s undoing, and this definitely feels like one of those films where the problems become more evident the longer it rolls on.

Without a doubt, the film’s strongest point for me was during the first act, when we meet and establish the growing chemistry between our two leads that sets up future events. This feels most faithful to the kind of film that we were supposed to get from the trailers, and it definitely serves as a comedy during these peaks, with precision in comedic timing, as well as (thankfully) a minimal offering of improv dialogue. This is clearly a movie in which we know where it’s headed because of the title, as well as it being a real life love story, so I appreciated it so much more when the real life couple who penned this script slowed down and took their time developing the elements that made their union intriguing. The contrast between their traditions and families, with Kumail being from Pakistan, clearly plays an inconvenient entanglement to what he feels he deserves out of life, and the movie is never afraid to back away from our two protagonists to observe and depict what an Indian family considers valuable. Informative, while still being poignantly clever, “The Big Sick” felt like it could only get better from here. Then it happened.

For how much fun and expression that resides within the first half of the film, the second half takes a sharp left turn that has it submerged in too serious of waters to keep up its wit and charm factor. When you look at a film like “Trainwreck”, there is a point where it becomes strictly a romantic movie, but it never completely abandons what brought its butts into the seats in the first place; comedy, and sadly “The Big Sick’s” dry closing moments elated the air slowly out of the inflated tires that kept this film chugging along. Most notably, the stark change in Kumail’s character to one of growing mature decision maker feels like a cop-out on how we got there in the first place, especially considering he has all but moved on from Emily before he gets the call that she is in the hospital. The ending itself feels like it should go on for fifteen more minutes, but the run time tells us otherwise. This leads me to believe that some of the best and most fascinating points to this couple’s story is omitted from the film to instead give us a kind of “While You Were Sleeping” direction with her parents. If this wasn’t enough, the stand-up scenes, while important to Kumail’s backstory, offer very little weight in the overall grand picture with the film’s sudden change in direction. To say there is an overabundance of stand-up scenes is putting it lightly. A couple of scenes are fine, but there’s so much out of this direction of the script that could’ve been left on the cutting room floor, and it feels like the film drags the most during these lesser-sporadic drop-in’s. I’m also not sure if it’s a point that real life is dramatically funnier, but like all Apatow movies in a stand-up club, the comedy inside isn’t funny at all. When the comedians in the film miss their mark, how can we expect the regular every day person to meet it?

One aspect that doesn’t disappoint however, is the unabashed chemistry between Kumail and Zoe Kazan, as well as the all-around performances that kept this movie from the waters that were slowly sinking it. Kazan in particular is starting to get more female leads in her resume, and it’s totally deserving. As Emily, we see a down-to-Earth young adult who lives fast, but knows when to turn on the sweetness to her character. We fall in love with her the same way Kumail does, and her presence on the film is definitely noticeable during her absence. It’s crazy to think that Nanjiani has now done over twenty feature length films in his young career, but this is clearly his best performance because he lived through these events that shaped him. It’s rare that we get the real life figure playing his character in the movie, but Kumail proves that there was no choice better, with a dry stick and stone-faced reactions that will bring a hearty chuckle to your responses each time he’s on. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are also a delight, and speak volumes to the actuality of a married couple that have been together for far too long. Hunter is a firecracker, exuding a tough presence outside, while crumbling inside at the world that is coming down around her. Romano kind of plays to the “Good cop” here, opening up to Kumail a lot warmer than his female counterpart. Together, the two feel authentic based on their speech patterns and arguments about something so little that turns into a mountain.

THE VERDICT – “The Big Sick” wasn’t quite the cinematic explosion for me that critics were raving about, but there is enough laughs and romantic delight from Nanjiani and Kazan during the first half to recommend it during a quiet evening in. Had the second half not fallen so flat in personality and trimmed about fifteen minutes off of its final runtime, then Showalter’s film about appreciating the pleasantries that we have when they’re available to us might have been the perfect project to combat those shallow romantic genre offerings that lay it on too thick. Even still, this true story has enough turns to keep its gears constantly grinding through the thick of stand-up distractions.


Spider-Man: Homecoming

Marvel’s cinematic web-slinger returns to the studio he belongs, in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”. A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero Spider-Man. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the watchful eye of his new mentor, The “Iron Man” Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr). Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine, distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, but when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened, pitting Peter as the only option to stop the flying fanatic and save the city. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is directed by Jon Watts, and is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some adult language and brief suggestive comments.

After five movies spanning twelve years, Sony has sold the rights back to the original owner, Marvel Studios, and it suddenly feels like Spidey is right back where he belongs, proving that the title is more than just a clever name. For a million different opinions, the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb directed predecessors have their fans and enemies alike, but it’s in Watts newest re-telling of this classic childhood favorite that I feel will nearly unanimously break through the ceiling for superhero movie fans alike. This film is everything that both Spider-Man and Peter Parker should be, basically a teenage genre romantic comedy that takes place with a superhero backdrop. On the grounds of establishing these two themes equally, there are five screenwriters that craft something that even during the age of overabundance from superhero flicks, still offers us something fresh and imaginative in ways that no other film has done before it. It’s a re-vamping origin story that doesn’t necessarily need to tell us about the things that we already know from two different story arcs that have already beaten the concepts of tragedy over the head a bit too much. A Spider-Man for generations young and old that finally gives the movie that they have been waiting decades to see.

The story’s establishing theme centers around the growth of Parker, and in that we get several different variations on the concepts of what it means to be a teenager in 2017. Sure there’s the awkwardness of dating, or the difficulties of trying to fit in at school, but what I commended the movie for were the original tweeks that only Marvel could supplant in a teenage depiction. Most notably, Peter (like most teens) is finding out how much his body is changing in that he is growing with this highly-technological suit made brand new for him by Tony Stark. Throughout the movie, we as an audience get to finally grasp and understand the gadgets and gizmos that make up this glossed-over property in past films. Because Parker is learning, it means he too must grow with the suit, and along with his body, the two properties transform into the person he was destined to be. I also love the subtle ideals of the abandoning father who is never around, in this case Stark to the younger Parker. There’s definitely a sheen, crisp feeling of parental guidance shining over them, and I frankly couldn’t get enough of how their relationship was blurring the lines radiantly of just what is missing from Peter’s daily routine. My favorite part definitely deals with teenage dating, and I won’t ruin anything for you, but a certain meet-the-parents scene was my personal favorite in this entire movie. It will give you goosebumps for how it takes an already awkward situation and adds a layer of suffocation unlike anything you have ever seen in a meet-the-parents kind of plot.

As far as where this fits in to the bigger picture, this film felt kind of small scale when compared to the worldwide wars fought by The Avengers, and that’s ok. The movie prides itself on Spidey living up to the moniker “Friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”, and because of such, we get a lot of things played out on the ground, a new concept for this character. In fact, I felt that it was the things that I’ve always thought about that gave this movie longevity well into the second hour. Concepts like how the webbing works, how fast does it take Spider-Man to change, and even who cleans up after devastation like the events in The Avengers movies happens. This film captures all of that, and each of it plays an intricate part into its story. For an antagonist, I appreciate that the Vulture isn’t formed because of some freak accident gone wrong. He’s the everyday working class who lashes out after he’s lost the will to feed his family. I’ve always said the best villains are the ones who are the most understandable to grasp, and Toombs Vulture feels like one of Marvel’s very best. More on him later. The only negative that I had in story was that the film does feel slightly catering to fan service a bit too much. There are more than a few instances of this with characters who virtually go nowhere in this movie, and after a while it felt too pandering. I know that I will be in the minority in that opinion, but if we can call “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2” out for it, so too can “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.

The action is riveting, pulsing through one scene after another of beautifully decorated properties that play a vital role in each stunning sequence. Despite this film playing more to the smaller on-the-ground type of scale, the movie has some very epic set pieces in grand vision, and its fast movements really conjure up the idea of just how powerful Spidey can be when he has to be. These sequences bring out the best in his character because you understand that unlike most superheroes who can only do one or two things well, Parker’s Spidey is quick, intelligent, powerful, and reactive, traits that shape and mold a boy-turning-man who thrives as a protector. As for special effects, everything is mostly solid here and done to believable depths, minus a ferry scene that breaks a boat in half and puts it back together just as easily. I’m not looking for logic in a superhero movie, but the properties of cracks and how they form isn’t something that takes a holiday in imagination. Considering it is one sequence in a variety of ground-shaking offerings that would make Michael Bay cream in his pants, I can’t be mad at this lone discrepancy, as it was just a speed bump on the road to the entertaining core of this movie.

And on that front, I commend Homecoming for being bold among its many tonal shifts when it needs to be. There’s something impressive about a film that can make you laugh with consistently juggling the corny and embarrassing, yet still grab you attention in urgency when it needs to. This film pulled this trigger on more than one occasion, creating a kind of mold for two different movies in one with each of them merging together so smoothly. The comedy in this film gave me more than a few hearty laughs, and it’s clear that it never needs to take itself too seriously to get its biggest strength across; personality. If this inevitable franchise has one thing that sets itself apart from the rest, it’s that its spunk feels like it does wonders for the characters, as well as the scenarios that pits each and every one of them together. For Homecoming, it’s definitely the representation of being a teenager and how that by itself would be enough to drive someone crazy, then you add on the fact that you’re the neighborhood hero who is responsible for many. We realize the immensity of it, but I don’t think Peter quite does, and it’s in his ignorance that makes his emotional growth a delight to embrace because this really is all the weirdest and coolest thing that could ever happen to a kid, at the same time.

Props as well to a grade-A cast that nearly feels perfect. Tom Holland displays a great Spidey, but more importantly he accurately captures the complexity of the Parker character that I don’t think Maguire or Garfield garnered in their portrayals; earnestness. True, Parker is cocky when he needs to be, but when the suit is off, we get the impression that he is vulnerable for once, like a shield that de-activates. Michael Keaton definitely stole the show for me, showing off the single greatest Marvel movie villain since Loki. Keaton could read the phone book in this role and I would be on the edge of my seat. Toombs is very much a human antagonist and that is his single biggest positive. For Keaton, he approaches the role with cool calm, but engaging in menacing grips (like a vulture) when he is challenged. Marisa Tomei was also a breath of fresh air even if her scenes were limited. Lots of people balked at the idea of Aunt May being this young, but I always felt it made sense. She’s AUNT May, not Grandma May, so an Aunt naturally should be closer in age to a teenage boy. Tomei is loving and compassionate, but never loses the edge of being a cool parent, possibly commuting a woman who had to grow up too fast to help her family. My only problem with the casting was in Tony Revoli as Flash Thompson. I get that this is the progressive day-and-age with characters, and the need to switch things up should always be welcomed, but Revoli (Someone I enjoy greatly in other films) isn’t someone I would consider the cool kid in school, and his material doesn’t do him any favors in this area either. His character at times feels like it’s trying too hard to live up to some stereotype, and it feeds into more of the fan service idea that I proposed earlier. I frankly could do without him in this film, as his character adds zero weight to the film’s pulse.

THE VERDICT – The streets are safe again now that Parker has returned home to Marvel, where he rightfully belonged all along. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a breezy breath of fresh air that keeps on flowing with breathtaking action, as well as a two-for-one story that brings out the best in superhero and teenage dramas accordingly. It’s a seamless charmer that caters more to the smaller moments in crime-fighting, and that miniscule scale takes things back to the beginning where this all started, long before these movies tookover a worldwide stage. Watts world is brash, funny, and honest, three traits that have been missing from this franchise for a long time.


The House

The college wishes of a teenage girl rests in the hands of transforming their residence into “The House”. The acceptance of their daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins) into the university of her choosing, Scott (Will Ferrell) and Kate (Amy Poehler) Johansen scramble to pull the funds together to give her the experience that she deserves. The couple find out that they lost their daughter Alex’s college fund, so they become desperate to earn it back so she can pursue her dream of attending in the fall. With the help of their neighbor Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), they decide to start an illegal casino in the basement of his house, complete with gambling, a bar-keep, and even a strip club. The once cautious parents soon find themselves over their heads at the seedy underworld of gambling that has suddenly overtaken their lives and personalities. “The House” is written and directed by Andrew Jay Cohen, and is rated R for adult language throughout, sexual references, drug use, some violence and brief nudity.

Behind every critical praise of an exceptional comedic performance is a director who lacks the same kind of credit for their commitment to making that comedian shine. For whatever reason, fate has worked well for Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler up to this time, as the duo have racked up a collection of box office draws that have put them at the head of the class of noteworthy Saturday Night Live cast members who struck it big. That time is coming to an end however, because Andrew Jay Cohen’s “The House” is not only one of the most far-fetched ideas in a script, it’s also sponged itself free of any laughs in the entirety of the movie. I’m serious, I sat through 83 minutes of this film as quiet as I would be if I were at church listening to a sermon. My excitement level was about the same as that previous comparison as well. For whatever reason, we get one of these movies yearly now, and what little charm or buzz that has surrounded these once vibrantly gifted actors has now put them on the path to conventional repetition to where they feel like they don’t even have to try anymore. That’s not to say that “The House” is a cash-grab. You would have to earn cash to grab it, and I, as well as the rest of the world, have grown tired of underplaying efforts from behind and in front of the camera that voids you of any kind of entertainment.

Much of this script revolves around this secret casino that apparently fifty people or so from the same town can majestically keep quiet from police authorities and an egocentric mayor who he himself is sponging money from the community. Suddenly, what happens inside of the casino becomes the story itself, and the film that revolved once around this daughter going to college is pushed aside so Ferrell and Poehler can say off-the-wall remarks and indulge in sight gags that feel ten years too late. My biggest problem with this script is that I don’t buy for one second that these two, let alone an entire community, can keep a secret like this considering how dumb these human canvases are painted. The film wants these people to be baffling idiots so they can be quirky for the audience watching, but they need them to be smart enough to keep this thing on the down-low. This stark contrast of back-and-forth leaves the film feeling like a fantasy is playing out in the heads of these boring parents, but unfortunately we don’t ever see the appeal in it that they do.

Scenes happen that go nowhere or make very little sense in the long run, and it all leads to a finale that feels so sloppy in diagraph that the movie often loses its moral compass in logical assertiveness. I do have to talk of some light spoilers here, but nothing that will make you feel ripped off by reading it. So at the start of the third act, the casino gets busted by the mayor and the police. They take all of the cash that they have accumulated, and you would think that would be the end of it. Nope, the next night they and about a hundred of their guests are back at it gambling and having a good time. I have two big problems with this scenario; one, the cops would be stalking this place out after they have been busted, and two, no gambler would come within a mile of this place less than twenty-four hours after it has been shut down. Had this scene happened before the big bust, then fine, but Cohen’s script is so sloppy that it doesn’t even have time to be honest with itself, let alone the audience that should feel like their intelligence has been insulted.

Cohen’s stance doesn’t improve much as a director either, because it’s clear that he has no control over his two leading stars for their abuse on the concepts of improv. To anyone who has read my most recent negative comedy reviews, you will know that my number one pet peeve in these movies that sours itself is gripping improv comedy to the point of annoyance. It is the jump scare of the comedy genre, and just as equally predictable when you know it’s going to happen. In “The House’s” case, it will be whenever something happens to Ferrell or Poehler’s characters that they find strange or peculiar, so now we know a long speech lurks behind this scene that should’ve been cut with just one funny line. Nope, Cohen leaves the camera rolling because something has to pad itself out for the run time when the rapid-fire plot sure doesn’t. These scenes for me are insufferable and make 83 minutes of a usually quick sit feel like two hours with your parents who are now trying to be hip and edgy.

If there is one pleasant surprise to this movie, it’s in the action and overall violence that opened my eyes quite a bit to how brutal this movie can be at times. There are quite a few bloody scenes that reach for the gross-out factor, but I was so smitten with something different than the Ferrell and Poehler comedy hour that I would’ve been fine with even a sing-a-long at this point. On top of the bloody surprises, the film also has a couple of fight sequences that are surprisingly done with such detail and precision that it makes them feel like they came out of a Jason Statham movie. This of course feels incredibly out of place with what kind of tone Cohen is trying to attain here, but I would be a fool if I tried to take any kind of positivity away from this movie. Each knee-jerk reaction is appropriately timed and achieves what it sets out to do in completely flooring the audience into the kind of seedy underworld that these once conservative townspeople have engaged in.

My previous words already told you everything that you have to know about Ferrell and Poehler’s mind-numbingly bland characters. Most notably, these two are playing themselves in every other movie that you have seen them in, in fact, you’d be hard-pressed in distinguishing the differences between Ferrell’s character here and the one he plays in “Daddy’s Home”. But the film does have some pop-up appearances from comedians that will feel like they have all been sent here to save this project. In addition to Mantzoukas who doesn’t have the best material to work with, but makes the most of this limited opportunity, there are appearances from Nick Kroll, Allison Tolman, Rob Huebel, Cedric Yarbrough, and Sebastian Maniscalco. There is also an appearance from one huge action star who should be years above this project, but seeing him did bring a much-needed smile to my face when the rest of the movie lacked that power. Since I’m sure one of my readers might want to see this movie, I will not spoil this brief occurrence, but I will say that it does break the fourth wall of sorts with where it’s headed creatively with the film when he does show up.

THE VERDICT – The roof falls in on this house mostly because its overabundance of improv stick, as well as inconsistency in the story keep it from ever braving the storm of mundane directing. For two comic actors well into their second decade of prominence, “The House” feels low even for Ferrell and Poehler who blow their stack of reputable chips on a game that does them no favors to even the most hardcore fans of both. Cohen’s latest is the kind of gamble that you as a moviegoer most definitely do not want to take, because what happens in a movie theater doesn’t just stay in a movie theater, it stays with your memories for life.


Despicable Me 3

The Minions and Gru are back for the third installment in Illumination’s treasured trilogy, simply titled “Despicable Me 3”. After being fired from the Anti-Villain League for failing to take down the latest bad guy to threaten humanity, Gru (Steve Carrell) finds himself in the midst of a major identity crisis. But when a mysterious stranger shows up to inform Gru that he has a long-lost twin brother (Also Carrell)-a brother who desperately wishes to follow in his twin’s despicable footsteps-one former super-villain will rediscover just how good it feels to be bad, all the while stopping an incredibly outdated villain named Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), who will stop at nothing to rid the world of its riches. “Despicable Me 3” is directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, and is rated PG for action and rude humor.

I wasn’t much of a fan with 2015’s “Minions”, mainly because it felt like overkill on a one-note joke that doesn’t have enough fuel for an entire motion picture fire. It wasn’t terrible, but felt like a noticeable drop-off from the creative quality of “Despicable Me 1 and 2”, lacking much of the original firepower in energy and comedic timing that we’ve come to know and love from these lovable lugs. And now with “Despicable Me 3” on the horizon, we return front-and-center to the world of Gru, The Minions, Lucy, and the rest of the adorable family, on a mission to re-claim Gru’s name as one of the best villains in the world. This movie does improve itself slightly from that of “Minions”, in that its humor does work better when there are two types of characters to bounce off of; ones that are human and ones that are not, but sadly, this franchise is starting to feel the sting of a series that has overstayed its welcome, especially with the many variety of subplots that this film throws at the screen in hopes that something useful will stick. Very little does, and because of such, we’re left with a picture that is decent for laughs and bubble-gum entertainment, but far from the studio-building features of the first two movies that set a respectable measuring stick for Illimination Pictures.

Over the course of four films, we’ve certainly gathered up no shortage of characters along the way, but the decision to give each of them their own respective subplot comes at quite a creative price for the brief 83 minutes of runtime that adorns this film. I kid you not when I say that there are no fewer than five subplots that make up the bulk of this script, a majority of which don’t go very far in the long term building of conclusions that happen during the final act. What does work is the brother angle here. There’s a real heartfelt center to Coffin and Balda’s material that put family first ahead of anything else going on, and you have to respect that. Because these Brothers are so different in their past upbringings, we as an audience get to indulge in the little quirks and ticks that make each of them different in character traits, but real when it comes to the twin instincts that makes two hearts beat as one. This is where the film worked for me, but everything else was very hollow garbage. The movie feels like a fight for survival amongst the other four subplots in the movie, all with very little progression or screen time to make them anything memorable. The saddest of all for me is in the plot and building of Bratt, the supposed antagonist of the movie who lacks a significant weight in the finished product. Considering most of the trailers are decorated around him, it’s a big letdown to find out that 90% of his material is just that; IN THE TRAILERS.

This movie did create some decent laughs for me, but nothing in terms of a hearty laughter to overtake my audible hearing. The Bratt 80’s cliches are decent, but so overdone in their repetition that it almost becomes one of those things that you wish would just cut to the point. His soundtrack 80’s hits are a great collection of Top 40 favorites though, and it does impress me that Illumination managed to buy the rights to the big name selections that occasionally pop in to play-to these scenes. The Minions do their usual yelling in non-English that people have come to either love or hate, and this movie will do nothing to change your stances on either of those sides. For me, I laughed the most when there are those observations to matters like parenting or the awkward struggle in a reunion with someone whom you have never even met before. Those to me are the kind of things that could set this apart as being just a typical kids movie, but then we would be forgetting what kind of audience partakes in this series.

The animation is probably the single biggest improvement from the past films, lighting a luminous torch for this ambitious company that rivals the masters of Dreamworks and Pixar Films respectively. Everything feels slightly more crisp here, echoing off an artistic integrity that reminds you that you are constantly watching a cartoon, but to never be letdown by such a fact. I made an observation earlier that this was bubble gum entertainment, and that couldn’t be more correct figuratively or literally with the eye-enhancing visuals that overtake the screen. There’s a lot of expression in that of the colorful buildings or the animated personality traits of each character, but for my money the shading and lighting of this film is a delightful improvement from the sometimes plain-Jane backdrops that Illumination hasn’t been able to thrive on. Most won’t notice the extra emphasis on these matters, but shadows and reflections are often a thing that I’m always examining in animated kids movies, and this one passes with flying colors on that perspective.

As for the performances, this talentedly decorated comedic ensemble does do their jobs in bringing to life these large personalities, but the direction falls very flat considering they are all juggling for time in an overcrowded atmosphere, and this stings none more than Bratt. Trey Parker excited me as an addition to this cast, and his overly-hyped deliveries give us an antagonist who we love to hate, but he feels like so much of a supporting character in a film whose events revolve around his actions, a huge mistake for someone as historically triumphant as the animated characters Parker voices on “South Park”. Carrell is probably the one performance that stands out not only because he is voicing two different characters, but because he depicts a clear difference in their speech patterns, despite a similar German accent. This is a difficult thing to do, and often I found myself closing my eyes to hear if I could tell the difference, and it was a success. Carrell’s wide range of emotional releases were made for the animated stage, and in the course of seven short years, Steve has etched his name as one of the very best animated leads going today.

THE VERDICT – “Despicable Me 3” does show its wear-and-tear over the course of its four feature length films that is a rarity for today’s animated sagas. The film’s script is a bit of a scatter-brained mess that feels all over the place in tone and development, but the jaw-dropping visual spectrum, as well as the return of Carrell in one of his most prominent roles, makes this latest chapter just sweet enough to snack on. My suggestion would be to end the series here, or to at least make some supporting characters just that; SUPPORTING. Otherwise, this series will slip on the banana peel that its Minions so viciously chew on.