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?

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.

Clash of the Titans

April 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes
Directed by: Louis Leterrier (“The Incredible Hulk”)
Written by: Travis Beacham (“Dog Days of Summer”), Phil Hay (“Aeon Flux”), Matt Manfredi (“Aeon Flux”)

“Clash of the Titans” is the type of movie where overblown ideas are enough to get a studio to pull the trigger on a production. Disregard a descent script; gigantic scorpions should be just enough to keep the box office bustling for a while.

While adding big-budget special effects to 1981’s kitschy Ray Harryhausen-inspired cult classic might be passable for teenage boys waiting on the next “Transformers” installment, anyone actually interested in the mythological context of our heroes and villains will be hard-pressed to uncover an actual dramatic narrative to go along with the raging CGI and lax 3-D images. If studios were looking for someone to be interchangeable with Michael Bay, they may have found him in director Louis Leterrier (“The Incredible Hulk,” “Transporter 2”). Leterrier – along with his trio of screenwriters – offers some escapism, but fails to deliver much more than the stock epic standard.

In “Clash,” Sam Worthington (“Avatar”) plays Perseus, the demigod son of Zeus (Liam Neeson) who wages war against Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and his Underworld minions. Hades has killed Perseus’s mortal family and is conjuring up some trouble for his brother Zeus on Mount Olympus. He has also threatened to unleash a massive sea monster known as the Kraken on the people of Argos if they do not kill the princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos).

Chaos reigns for the most part in “Clash” as Leterrier sidesteps any real characterization when introducing us to the men (and one woman) on Perseus’s crew. Gemma Arterton plays the lone female warrior Io, who is also Perseus’s spiritual guide. The rest of the cast has about as much personality as a colossal Greek column. Even Worthington, when he’s not flanked by computer-generated creatures, couldn’t be labeled much more interesting than any of the oiled-up heroes in “Troy” or those in the original “Clash” for that matter.

If watching Perseus chop the head off the slithery Medusa, ride a Black Stallion version of the Pegasus, or duke it out with the Kraken is enough, have at it (save some cash and watch it in 2-D though. The updated 3-D version is a mere marketing ploy and does nothing for the action sequences). If, however, you’re looking for even the slightest bit of cohesive storytelling, “Clash” is a mediocre entry into the fantasy genre. Medusa might turn men into stone with one glance, but Leterrier and company are just as guilty of turning it into a movie as dumb as a bag full of rocks.