Ep. 143 – Jumanji: The Next Level, Richard Jewell, 6 Underground, and the HFCS award noiminees

December 16, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “Jumanji: The Next Level,” “Richard Jewell,” and “6 Underground.”

They also discuss the newly-released Houston Film Critics Society award nominees, and how their picks differed from the final ballot.

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Ep. 130 – Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

August 5, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod talk “Hobbs & Shaw” and the future legacy of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and the possibility of a 4-hour cut of “Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood” coming to Netflix.

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The Upside

January 30, 2019 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, Nicole Kidman
Directed by: Neil Burger (“Divergent”)
Written by: Joe Hartmere (debut)

American remakes of already wonderful foreign-language films can sometimes be a hard sell, especially when Hollywood’s take doesn’t live up to the original movie. For every Oscar-winning film like “The Departed” (a remake of the 2002 Chinese film “Infernal Affairs”) there is a badly-executed U.S. version of “Oldboy” (a remake of the 2003 South Korean film of the same name). It’s easy for things to get lost in translation when not enough attention is paid to the spirit of the preceding picture.

Such is the case in “The Upside,” a remake of the exceptionally charming 2011 French drama-comedy “The Intouchables,” one of the highest-grossing, non-English language films in cinematic history. The film is so beloved it has already been remade in India and Argentina, with a second remake in India in the works. Although “The Upside” premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2017, it became collateral damage when allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein surfaced. The film was shelved, then sold and finally dumped out in January — the month where most studios send movies to die.

“The Upside” isn’t dead on arrival, but it’s nowhere near memorable. Directed by Neil Burger (“Divergent”) and adapted by first-time screenwriter Jon Hartmere, the film follows Dell (Kevin Hart), an unmotivated, jobless ex-convict who inadvertently gets hired as a live-in caretaker for Phillip (Bryan Cranston), a widowed, quadriplegic billionaire.

Through their professional relationship, which is frowned upon by Phillip’s loyal associate Yvonne (Nicole Kidman), the men form a bond where each of them opens one another’s eyes about personal issues that are keeping them both from living fulfilled lives. For Dell, it’s rising above his bad habits as an absent father to care for his estranged teenage son. For Phillip, it’s allowing himself to take chances in finding happiness.

While Hart and Cranston produce a few sincere moments, Hartmere’s script fails to build a strong enough emotional tie between the two to make audiences believe their friendship means much to either of them. When it’s time for them to step up and fully support each other, their good deeds ring false. Even the scenes they share together as employer and employee feel forced and lack real humor. In one scene, Dell reluctantly replaces Phillip’s catheter and refuses to utter the word “penis.” He finally says it after Phillip involuntarily gets an erection.

Despite “The Upside”’s struggles, Cranston is still able to tap into his character’s mindset and pull off a passable performance with what little the screenplay gives him. It is also noteworthy to see Hart dial down his usually brash personality, although this specific dramedy obviously wasn’t the right project for him.

The Secret Life of Pets

July 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart
Directed by: Yarrow Cheney (debut) and Chris Renaud (“Despicable Me”)
Written by: Cinco Paul (“Despicable Me”), Ken Daurio (“Despicable Me”), Kevin Lynch (“Minions”)

If the new animated film “The Secret Life of Pets” were a domesticated animal itself, it would be one of those adorable albeit annoyingly-named hybrid dogs – a labradoodle or a cockapoo or, as Jeff Daniels describes in “Dumb & Dumber,” a bullshit (the cross between a bulldog and a shih-tzu). Each breed is face-melting cute and highly marketable, but essentially just another lovable, everyday mutt.

That’s not to say moviegoers won’t fall head over paws with the cast of furry, feathered and even hairless characters in the sixth animated feature film from Illumination Entertainment, the studio which also boasts the popular “Despicable Me” franchise in their catalog. While Illumination still hasn’t reached the storytelling heights of Pixar or Disney (what in the hell was “Hop” anyway?), the company’s cost-cutting animation techniques (they spend far less than their competition) are definitely not coughing up furballs either.

Despite the notable animation and top-notch voice work, “Pets” displays little originality in its script. In fact, “Dog Story” probably would’ve been a better title. The film tells the tale of Max (Louis C.K.), a Jack Russell Terrier living in a Manhattan apartment with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper). Max’s perfect life is thrown out of whack when Katie brings home Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a shaggy and somewhat reckless Newfoundland dog to join their family. When Max and Duke are snatched by the pound, Max’s animal friends, led by Gidget (Jenny Slate), a squeaky, lovesick Pomeranian, set out to find the canine companions and bring them home before a psychotic, scene-stealing bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart) and his wretched gang of abandoned pets turn them into puppy chow.

Ignore the countless and seemingly shameless similarities to the original “Toy Story” and “Pets” might be a little easier to take at face value. If you’ve ever wondered what your pet does when you leave home, the film’s screenwriters, Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Kevin Lynch, devise some interesting ideas and adventures for these rogue pets to get into. And to be honest, aside from borrowing heavily from other movies, a lot of it is charming and harmless and funnier than your average poop jokes (although there are definitely poop jokes). Children won’t mind the familiar narrative and will flock to it because of the likeable animals, in which case “Pets” fall somewhere between the impressive “Zootopia” from Disney and the mind-numbing, app-turned-movie “Angry Birds” from Sony.

The animation film industry continues to expand every year, so studios have to know they’re vying for the same audiences and that parents are going to have to start getting a lot choosier when it comes to entertainment for the kiddos. Story matters. Luckily, “Pets” partakes in just enough wacky fun to make parents feel like they didn’t screw the pooch.

Ep. 75 – Ride Along 2, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Oscar talk, and the suprise trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane

January 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod talk “Ride Along 2,” “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” Oscar nominations, and just how excited Cody is for the “10 Cloverfield Lane” trailer that came from nowhere.

[00:00-06:21] Intro

[06:21-17:31] Oscar nomination talk

[17:31-26:22] 10 Cloverfield Lane trailer talk

[26:22-35;17] Ride Along 2

[35:17-42:45] 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

[42:45-50:13] Wrap/tease next episode

Click here to download the episode!

Ride Along 2

January 15, 2016 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Ken Jeong
Directed by: Tim Story (“Ride Along,” “Barbershop”)
Written by: Phil Hay (“Ride Along”) and Matt Manfredi (“Ride Along”)

Even though I saw the original “Ride Along” in January 2014 and wrote a review for it featured on this very site, I don’t remember a single thing about the plot except that Ice Cube’s James was a hardass detective and Kevin Hart’s annoying, in-over-his-head Ben was a wannabe cop that was also marrying James’ smoking hot sister Angela (Tika Sumpter). There was probably something about drug smugglers or terrorists or whatever―hold on, let me look this up.

Okay, I’m back. Turns out it was weapons smuggling. Anyway, my point is that the movie was generic to a fault, redeemed ever so slightly by the charisma of Cube and Hart as a mismatched comedic duo, even though the funniest thing related to the film ended up being a remote skit the pair did with Conan O’Brien on his talk show where they rode around L.A. in a Lyft car.

Two Januarys later, we’ve been delivered “Ride Along 2.” It’s a week or so out from Ben’s wedding to Angela, and now he’s a rookie patrolman for Atlanta PD assisting James and his badass partner Mayfield (an uncredited Tyrese Gibson) on an undercover bust regarding something or other―drugs, I think. When it goes sideways after Ben blows their cover, the only clue they have to go on in an encrypted flash drive created by super-hacker A.J. (Ken Jeong, dialed back to tolerable for the first time in a decade), based out of Miami. To track down the drug kingpin (Benjamin Bratt) behind the smuggling, a reluctant James takes Ben along with him to the 305 to find A.J., gaining the help of a gorgeous Miami PD homicide detective (Olivia Munn, somewhat vacant) along the way.

Perhaps I’ve softened just a bit in the last two years, or maybe director Tim Story has figured out how to use his cast somewhat better in this outing. Sure, the plot is just a microwaved take on “Beverly Hills Cop” and the action scenes are somewhat lifeless, but the pairing of Cube and Hart pays off more comedically this time, and Jeong finally plays a character that complements the rest of the cast instead of dominating it into oblivion. Yeah, Munn is kind of a dud, but she doesn’t drag the movie down in any way (unless you don’t like her cleavage, that is). Look, the movie is fine and you’ll laugh sort of hard in some spots. And again, the best part of the whole shebang is a remote segment with Conan O’Brien where the trio teaches a student driver how to drive in L.A. What else do you expect in January?

Get Hard

March 28, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Tip “T.I.” Harris
Directed by: Etan Cohen (debut)
Written by: Jay Martel (debut) & Ian Roberts (debut) and Etan Cohen (“Tropic Thunder”)

There are two distinct types of Will Ferrell comedies. The first is the variety he’s heavily involved in with writing partner and director Adam McKay (here only a producer), turning out a screenplay that feels like it’s been work shopped in Ferrell’s absurdist head for years before funding for the film came through, like the legendary “Anchorman” or “Step Brothers.” Then there’s the other type, where Ferrell is an actor for hire, adding some surface-level lunacy to a ho-hum script. You can feel him being a team player, but he’s not really invested in the material. Ferrell’s latest, “Get Hard,” featuring the currently-hot Kevin Hart as his co-star, falls squarely into the lesser Ferrell movie category, likely with more racism and homophobia than you might expect from an R-rated comedy in 2015.

Ferrell stars as James King, a somewhat dim multi-millionaire Wall Street broker set to marry the gold-digging daughter (Alison Brie) of his cutthroat boss (Craig T. Nelson). King crosses paths daily with Darnell (Hart), the hard-working owner of a car wash service for the rich brokers in the firm, looking to scrape together $30 grand to move his family to a new home in a nicer part of town. When King is framed and convicted of fraud, a judge throws the book at him, foregoing the typical white collar minimum security sentence and instead sending King off to San Quentin for 10 years. Terrified for what will become of his life–and, frankly, his anal virginity—behind bars, the lily-white King solicits help from Darnell who, because he’s black, King assumes has been to prison. Darnell has not, in fact, ever been incarcerated, but he takes King’s money to become his prison coach anyway, which mostly amounts to scene after scene of the two men discussing how to prevent ass rape.

Sure, there are a few good laughs in “Get Hard,” but there’s also a weird discomfort to the whole thing. While I personally don’t see the film crossing the line into blatantly racist or homophobic territory (as a straight white man, I have little to be offended about personally by either topic, I admit, so maybe I’m not the best one to ask), the movie just isn’t sharp or funny enough to give it the bulletproof satirical armor it needs to defend itself from the attacks it knows it will provoke. Is it funny for a group of black inner-city males to joke about how much they love murdering people? Is it funny to see Will Ferrell revolted-yet-determined to suck a dick in a bathroom stall? Well, yeah, I guess, but in 2015, you need to make sure people are laughing for the right reasons, otherwise you have to explain yourself, and that’s the death of comedy.

Ride Along

January 17, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, John Leguizamo
Directed by: Tim Story (“Barbershop,” “Fantastic Four”)
Written by:  Greg Coolidge (“Employee of the Month”), Phil Hay (“Clash of the Titans”), Matt Manfredi (“R.I.P.D.”) and Jason Mantzoukas (debut)

The romantic haze of filmmaking, of actually producing a movie that will be projected in theaters across the world to the potential delight of millions, often muddies the outlook on what real fate a film faces: the way people are going to be watching this in their living rooms for the rest of eternity. Children’s movies from your Pixars, your Disneys, your Dreamworks Animation tend to live on as both genuine entertainment for families and parent-initiated distractions for kids too young to be in school. Sci-fi and superhero movies are revered by nerds and their ilk, dissected and discussed across basements and the internet forever. And so-so, mostly-inoffensive comedies like “Ride Along” are condemned to walk the earth as a constant Saturday afternoon staples on cable networks like TBS.

“Ride Along” finds Ben (Kevin Hart), a mouthy security guard about to join the police academy, preparing to propose to his fiancée Angela (Tika Sumpter). Getting the blessing of Angela’s tough police officer brother James (Ice Cube) will be difficult, Ben realizes, so he joins James on a police ride-along to prove his worth. While James plans to shake Ben from both his marriage plans and his dream of entering the police academy by taking him along on a slew of annoying calls that come across the scanner, the duo stumble into the middle of a weapons-smuggling ring led by the mysterious Omar, a kingpin looking to take over the streets of Atlanta.

Despite the comedic chops of both Hart and Cube, “Ride Along” just isn’t that funny, and the cop movie clichés strung together aren’t enough to hold the movie up as anything more than a mild distraction. Sure, there are funny moments and good laughs to be had, like a scene where Hart passes himself off as an unknown criminal, but everything else is just so forgettable. Director Tim Story, of “Barbershop” and “Fantastic Four” fame, seems content on letting the well-honed personalities of his leads carry the film. Sure, Hart plays a great small-statured motor mouth while Cube has the role of the put-upon hard ass down pat—parts they were both born to play—but that’s really all there is to the movie. So here’s what I want you to do: wait two years, then turn on your TV. Use your DVR’s search function to find “Ride Along” playing somewhere on basic cable and leave it on in the background while you’re cleaning the house or something. You won’t be disappointed.