Cooking Up Character Centric Stories and Good Acting

The Kitchen Poster

 

Crime tales are ones the American public drinks up, with the promise of a dark tale with tons of drama to drink up.  Yet, not every tale has the makings of a legendary film like the Godfather, trying too hard or going too political that it becomes a giant statement that is not entertaining to many.  So today’s movie had me concerned that a political thriller was on our way and potentially a slow-moving film like Widows before it.  Can an all-star cast and the mistakes from the last attempt be learned, or are we going to be stuck with a carbon copy cinematic mess? Robbie is back to give you another review and this time on:

 

Movie: The Kitchen (2019)

 

Director:

Andrea Berloff

Writers:

Ollie Masters (comic book series), Ming Doyle (comic book series)  |

Stars:

Melissa McCarthyTiffany HaddishElisabeth Moss

 

 

LIKES:

Setting

Story telling Component

The Drama and Twists

Acting

The Sound Track

 

DISLIKES:

Predictable

A Little Boring

Longer Than It should have been

Political overshadowing

The Non-Centered Antagonist

 

SUMMARY:

For a movie set in a specific time and place, The Kitchen accomplishes the task of stepping back into the past. Costumes, editing of footage, and props once more teleports us to the America of the past and brings you into the harsh streets of the Kitchen and it’s denizens.  While the setting helps add a story telling element, the reality is the Kitchen has a decent story component to it.  Like the Godfather, but not as monumental, The Kitchen is a story of family, power, and threats as the various pieces move about in the fight for territory and respect.  A character centric story, the movie focuses much on the three primary characters, each going through their own struggles as they try to push their own agendas into the mix. It’s those dramatic, character developing arcs that seem to criss cross quite nicely, leading to subplots that actually do well to connect into the grander story line, and brings a few twists to the mix to jazz up the linear plot and help give that dynamic of the mafia family.  It works well, and the acting in particular manages to bring the characters to full life, each bringing a unique style to the character that helps add the personality a film like this needs.  McCarthy was my favorite, but Haddish was amazing, casting her sass in a new light that was less funny and more threatening.  Without these ladies bringing their A game the movie may have suffered a lot more. Of note, the sound track was probably my favorite thing, classic 60s-70s songs coming in hard to give the emotional flare and toe tapping mixes that I love to see in a film, after all who does not like a good Fleetwood Mac song?

 

Yet, the movie still suffers a bit from some other components that did not quite entertain me.  First off, the movie suffers from linearity and predictable components.  From the moment the tides change you can see the ending coming a mile way, the Shakespearian plot elements beginning to fall into place.  As such, waiting for the ending was a little boring, stuck in the artistic and political components that it was a little slow and drawn out for me. It felt much longer than the actual run time and I did not quite get into the film as much as I wanted too. Perhaps a few shoot outs, a job gone wrong, or even some sort of defense to get the plot moving.  Instead, the political moments of the tale comes breaking right in to take center stage.  The Kitchen is not the most preach from soap box delivery I have seen, but the focus on the various battle of sexes and girl power motif could have been curbed a little more to not deviate from the story components I enjoyed. In addition, the movie suffers from the non-centered antagonist, choosing to go more towards a symbolic route, that possessed various characters that were more of a throw away than meaningful inclusion.  Had there been a bad guy to ultimately focus on, we might have had an easier time keeping things moving.

 

Overall, the Kitchen is a good portrayal of being able to dive back into history and uncovering stories that are believable, dramatic, and the crime family aspect we love.  The three leading ladies are truly the stars that made it special with me alongside character centric stories that will appeal to those who like books or character focused shows.  Yet, the movie is still not quite the spectacle I was hoping for, getting caught in the symbology and politics that lead to rush plot elements and lacking suspense.  Thus, this film holds favor at watching at home or out with a girls night group rather than on the big screen. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Crime/Drama: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0

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Know What Time It is? It’s Happy Time For Crude Humor and A Decent Mystery

The Happytime Murders Poster

            The Muppets, a cute, colorful, energetic display of puppetry that showed you could have imagination, wit and creativity all combine in an epic show that lasted for generations.  True, the puppets have dealt with lots of adult issues, but never did I think Jim Henson would see his creations dive into the world of tonight’s film.  Traditional lines are blurred as the modern meets the classic, twisting it into a new creation that holds loads of “potential”. Can the dark, murder mystery with puppets be awesome, or is it a Robot Chicken parody that falls flat on its’ face. Robbie K here to bring his thoughts on the first movie of the week, as he reviews:

 

Movie: The Happytime Murders (2018)

 

Director:

Brian Henson

Writers:

Todd Berger (screenplay by), Todd Berger (story by)

Stars:

Melissa McCarthyElizabeth BanksMaya Rudolph

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Soundtrack:  A soundtrack can make or break a part of the movie, and surprisingly this film succeeds in this aspect.  The music director picked a great variety of songs that help add some pep to the scenes, while also adding some comedy to the routine as well.  A well-timed pop song comes in at the most awkward times, while other songs mesh well with the theme of the scene.

 

The Acting:  Not award-winning roles, but the human cast succeeds in playing their roles and working alongside a puppet cast. Melissa McCarthycertainly gives justice to her immense screen time, and Maya Rudolphcleans up the scenes very well with her style of comedy.  The other secondary humans accomplish their goals as well, but it is these two who hold most of the human work.  In regards to the voice acting, too many voice actors to call out, but man did they bring their characters to life and capture the spirit of the Muppets as well.  Obviously the main puppet gets the most credit, but the others all bring the energy of puppets.

 

The Humor (at times):  You know there is a lot crammed into this movie in terms of jokes, and while not everything was a hit for me, it certainly had its moments that shined like, glittery pieces of felt.  Happytime murders gets props for clever pokes at popular culture, melding the modern-day crime obsession with the comedy of the kids puppet shows.  It’s these moments of clever content meeting the well-timed punch, while delivering with awesome voice acting that had me laughing the most.

 

The Mystery:  For a giant farce, the movie surprisingly has a good mystery at hand.  Predictable at times, the Happytime Murders have a cold hard case of murder, crime, and drama to try and uncover.  It dives deep and provides all the details in a nice format to help you solve the crime at hand.  Surprisingly, this was the component that kept me the most intrigued, almost like the rest of America and the trend of consistent crime dramas.

 

The Puppeteering:  You knew this was coming, but Happytime Murders gets my biggest nod for continuing the art of telling stories through puppet work. Jim Henson’s vision is alive and well, and the spirit of the arts is working strong in the number of stunts/scenes they put the main puppet through.  Dynamic motions are in Phil’s arsenal and with it they pulled out all the stops to make them flow in design and execution.  I agree, it’s not the grandest work that we’ve seen come out of Henson studios, but it is still a fantastic display nonetheless.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Crossing the Line: The humor components are funny at times, but other times go a little over the top in their journey for a laugh. Happytime Murders gets a red label for a reason and heed their warnings about not taking kids, for there are many things they should not see.  Sure, the impressionable minds will pick up on the curse laden dialogue, but some lines will be a little grosser than funny for some. Again, I’ll admit that they had me laughing at moments, but other times made me cringe in discuss.

 

Underutilization of characters:  This is mainly towards the human characters, but Happytime murders really struggles to maximize the human cast more than they do.  This is especially true for the detectives and Elizabeth Banks, for these characters had some hard-hitting scenes, but often were left in the background. Why not use them more?  I guess they needed some more puppet time, but still… maybe some better integration.

 

Deeper Dive Into Story: The mystery is there, and all the clues are in the details, but this movie did slack a little on the story. It was almost as if they had taken a mystery/crime series and mashed them together to make a piecemeal mystery. There was deeper storytelling and use of these puppets waiting in the wings, but for the laughs and all the clever puppet design, these elements were sacrificed.  Perhaps a second installment will dive into more, but much of the limitations come from the fact that they didn’t balance the other characters more than they did.

 

The Trailers:  Another example of a movie ruined by the trailers, Happytime murders suffers from the combination of a short run time and much of the funny being spoiled in the advertising.  If you have seen at least two of the trailers, you have much of the heart of this movie revealed in regards to the comedy.  In addition, there are some hard clues in the trailer itself, so you’ve been warned to skim around the trailers as you best see fit.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Happytime murders accomplishes its goal of being the inappropriate R rated Muppets show that some have longed for.  The clever, creativity, and adulteration are certainly a unique spin, and it brings its brand of comedy out in full force.  In this age where computers rule and puppeteers are left in the dust, this movie certainly proves this art can still be entertaining.  The bad news is that the movie’s short run time is one of the key weaknesses to the dislikes I mentioned, primarily in the trailers ruining much of the surprise and the storytelling needing more time to actually expand out.  Nevertheless, I admit this movie is fun to watch at times, but… it probably doesn’t merit a trip to theater. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Comedy/Crime: 6.0

Movie Overall:  5.0

 

It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To

Life Of The Party

 

She started out as Sooki St. James cooking up a storm, she stole the show and puppies on Bridesmaids, and she joked her way into our hearts with Mike and Molly.  Yes, she is Melissa McCarthy, and she is the star of tonight’s film.  With mediocre advertising and unfortunate timing, this movie is going to try to rake a few scraps of the box office to hopefully survive another weekend of run time.  Was it worth a trip to the theater?  Did it deliver what was promised?  Robbie K here to help guide you with a written review to expand on his thoughts and help spend your money wisely.  Let’s get started as we look over:

 

Movie: Life of The Party

 

Director:

Ben Falcone

Writers:

Ben Falcone,  Melissa McCarthy

Stars:

Melissa McCarthy,  Gillian Jacobs,  Debby Ryan

 

 

LIKES:

 

Cute:  The movie is unfortunately timed near some of the biggest Disney movies of the year, but it is also nicely timed on the weekend of Mother’s Day.  As such, this film goes alongside this theme, capturing the essence of the mother-daughter bond among McCarthy and her brood of eager college seniors.  Like a remake of Troop Beverly Hills and the House Bunny, Life of The Party has that adorable energy packed inside, attempting to captivate the target audience.

 

Flashback Syndrome: The movie tries to hit on a few big aspects of college life, doing a fair job to take you back in time to those glorious, or perhaps not so glorious college days. Life of The Party touching on awkward roommates, fraternity rituals, class studying, and parties makes for some dynamic opportunities for fun and adventure to rope you in.

 

Good Music:  A movie like this is always an opportunity to introduce, or reintroduce, some hits that are often in theme of the movie scenes. With partying displays in this movie, the music director did a nice job selecting a track list that works so well with the ups and downs of the film.  And given the trends of the songs these days, you can expect some comedic antics to be heavily reliant on the song for setup (see 80’s dance off).

 

Messages:  I’m a sucker for good morals being displayed in a movie, and fortunately a movie about the wilder sides of college life has some kernels of wisdom deep beneath the partying service.  D-Rock’s journey back to college involves copious amounts of work, striving to face her own demons, and more importantly the importance of empathy winning out in the day.  Yeah, there are some juvenile and rambunctious aspects that heavily coat these core values in a greasy layer of slime, but the writers eventually accomplish delivering these valued lessons.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Shallower Aspects Take Precedence: While there are solid core values, the shallower aspects are heavily emphasized in this movie.  Life of The Party’s title is no lie and the film is a big budget advertisement for wine, beer, and frat parties that state this is the real core of college.  In addition, many of the other girls have highly mocking flaws that get little evolution, further highlighting the “important” aspects of higher learning.

 

The Lack of Story:  As said in my pre-review vlog, movies with McCarthy can be fantastic if there is a purpose to ground the humor.  Life of The Party is not one of those movies, going more for the how many jokes can we throw into a 2-hour run time.  While I didn’t expect much from the trailers, I had hoped the plot would not be as paper thin as this movie held within it. For one thing the movie tried too hard to put so many aspects in the movie, making much of D-Rock’s problems disjointed and uninteresting.  The other girls get hints of getting more development, but most get dunce caps in character development, merely being comedic props/ploys for more jokes.  Even McCarthy’s character has inconsistent development, a roller coaster ride with sharp rises and falls that rapidly solve everything.

 

Drags:  The movie did not have a good pace for me, feeling very sluggish for most of the films.  Primarily at the first part of the movie, Life of The Party makes minutes feel like hours as one hopes we can arrive at the fun times, but only get paper thin qualities that are chuckle worthy at best.  It was not the most entertaining movie, and therefore left me feeling bored at times, which brings me to the next dislike.

 

Forced Comedy:  The movie’s primary dislike, is that the comedy is very forced for me for much of the movie.  For one thing, the writing was not as clever as I had hoped, designed to relentlessly drown you in cheap laughs, meme worthy one-liners, and girl drama that is more eye-rolling than comedicSecond, the delivery of the movie is okay for the most part but seemed to be directed at overdramatic presentation that was geared to characters’ stupidity or ignorance.  Finally, the tactics lacked any real diversity, leading to a tidal wave of blandness that diminished with every telling.  So, fans of the theory if it isn’t broke don’t fix it will get their money’s worth with this rigidly stiff presentation.

 

The VERDICT: 

 

In regards to this film, Life of The Party does not deceive you with the trailer, delivering what was expected as shallow laughs, loads of silly humor, with a nice cute center. Sadly, the movie really needed a touch of creativity to lighten it up, bring some wit to the deluge of low key jokes, and most importantly expand upon the characters that are the key selling point. It’s not the worst film of hers to come out, but it is also not her best and I can’t recommend this one for the theater viewing and to hold until Redbox.  Still, a mother-daughter bonding experience can be an exception if you are looking for that opportunity this weekend. 

 

My Scores are:

 

Comedy:  6.0

Movie Overall:  4.0

 

 

If you want Silly, That is real Cheesy, Who You Gonna Call?

ghostbusters.jpg

“If there’s something strange, in your neighborhood. Who you gonna call?” The answer to that question was so much simpler before this year. Ever since the announcement of the reboot, there has been epic debate about the quality of this upcoming film. Quotes like this will suck because it’s not the original cast, or how dare they replace the Ghostbusters with females! Well putting the stupid sexism battles aside, this reviewer is back to share his thoughts on the latest movie to haunt the theaters. So let’s get started

 

The GOOD:

  • A fun story
  • Leslie Jones
  • Visuals

 

Okay, lets get if off our chests right now, the story is not as good as the original. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s bad either. This installment’s tale is a decent origin story that places our heroines against a deranged, albeit lame, bad guy with an obsession for ghosts. As simple as it is, the story has many entertaining moments and set a fast pace to keep those with short attention spans into the mix. While it certainly lacks the mysterious, darker qualities that brought suspense to the first installments, it still has some fun to it and sets us up for a potential sequel (especially the end credits scene)

Perhaps a bigger topic of debate though, is the cast itself. I’m going to lay it out right now that I have no biased towards male or female actors, my analysis is based on what they bring to the movie. This assembled cast is notorious for comedy, and they bring their usual bag of tricks to the screen in hopes of getting you to laugh. Of the leading ladies, Leslie Jones was my favorite of the bunch. As promised in the trailers, Jones brings bold, brash comedy that nearly had me rolling in the aisles. While her loud rants and meme worthy faces are entertaining, I mainly enjoyed her sarcastic jabs, statements of the obvious, and bitter monologues the most.

In terms of visuals, modern technology continues to be impressive as our ghosts were brought out in a grand visual display. While the make up and realism were tapered down, the ghosts had the wispy, ectoplasmic look that we often associate with ghosts. Fortunately the new technology allowed for fluid animation and very unique looking ghosts. Even the proton packs, and the assorted other gadgets, have some flare as well, with dazzling sound effects and flashy colors. These provided some exciting action scenes, again being a bit on the overdramatic side that brought nostalgia back.

 

The BAD

  • Forced humor
  • A story missing suspense

 

As I feared from the trailers, the biggest fault for this reviewer was the forced humor of this movie. If you remember the classic films, the writers produced clever dialogue, witty insults, and relied on the actors’ delivery to provide the comedic punch. Not the case in this movie. Our SNL cast has brought their modern touch to the mix, which means less cleverness and more infusion of overacted silliness. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy deploy their usual stunts to spur out laughs, this means lots of prolonged banter, recurrent jokes, and sometimes overrated comedy. I know it’s their method these days, but it would have been nice if they had injected some more wit into the mix. And Kate McKinnon had some well timed moments, but like the others the overzealous antics get stale and lost it’s punch. As for Chris Hemsworth, well this movie attempted to make him funny, but failed immensely for me. Our writers focused on his looks being his selling feature, while belittling his intelligence to that of a rock. His lines can be humorous at times, but making him a complete boob (or better phrased idiot) got old…quickly. Fortunately there are a few moments where the stupidity lightens up, especially in terms of the well-placed cameos, but for the most part the comedy is overstretched and overdone

Despite the story being fairly entertaining, it did lack a lot of the suspense and mystery that the other tales had. We know who the main villain is from the start, and I must say he wasn’t that impressive. You remember Goza the Destroyer, or even Viggo the Destroyer? They were terrifying and dark in their control of the paranormal forces. But Rowan wasn’t that well developed and his ability to manipulate the dimensional portals was a bit of a stretch even for me to swallow. Thanks to the comedic approach of the movie, the story lost much of its edge, the danger essentially absent until the very end when the action stirs up and the girls kick butt. Sure these scenes have little suspense behind them as well, but it finally gets things stirred up a bit. Perhaps if the team had traded some story for the comedy things would have been better, but Hollywood still refuses to find balance.

 

The VERDICT

Is Ghostbusters the worst movie of the summer? Not even close, but it certainly has ground to make up in the sequel that I believe will come. The cast is not the worst part of the movie, but more of the writing and direction they took it. If you want the Ghostbuster cleverness with well written dialogue and sarcasm, then you best skip this film altogether. However, those who are fans of the current SNL theatrics will surely find entertainment in this film. While the visuals are certainly impressive, I can’t say they warrant a 3-D showing due to the lacking story and action. This reviewer does encourage catching it at home though.

 

My scores are:

Comedy/Fantasy/Sci-Fi: 6.5

Movie Overall: 5.5

The Good, The Bad, and The Lazy Writing

The Boss

 

Another beautiful day another reason to head back into the theater. Hi I’m Robbie Karim and that despicable display of comedy is my attempt at a funny opening for my latest review. Today we look at the latest production starring Melissa McCarthy called the Boss, a film that looks promising for a quick laugh. However, does this movie shine in terms of quality or is it another mediocre media designed to net our money? Let’s get this review started then and see if we can answer that question.

 

THE GOOD:

  • Very funny moments
  • Cute moral built into the movie
  • Fairly Fast pace
  • McCarthy’s acting

 

The Boss is certainly a humorous film that uses a lot of McCarthy’s old tricks that we’ve become accustomed to. McCarthy herself bears most of the comedic weight using her delivery as the main punch to get you laughing. She’s loud, drawn out, and she has the sass that I can’t help but chuckle at every now and then. Kristen Bell and Ella Anderson assisted with keeping the film fun in two ways. The first, and major contribution was being the medium for McCarthy to bounce her jokes off, where they acted as props to react and keep the rants going. And the second contribution was bringing the cute, life lessons that every comedy film seems to need. In the Boss’ case, that moral is family and these three actresses do make a fun, interesting family to watch. This dynamic keeps the plot going and thanks to some decent editing helps avoid some longwinded and slow plots that Hollywood likes to waste our time with.

 

THE BAD:

  • A lot of scenes already shown in the trailers
  • Some comedic scene went on too long
  • Not the most unique or original film
  • Too much obsession with genitalia and sex

 

No surprise that the trailers give a lot of comedy away and the Boss is another victim of this trend.   You will catch a lot of the more unique moments on the commercials, which depending on how much TV you watch, can dilute the comedic punch it was intended to bring. Fortunately there were still golden nuggets still buried in the movie, but even these weren’t as funny as some of the other things that have come out of McCarthy’s films. The problem was these jokes weren’t that original, easily blending in with the sea of Melissa McCarthy jokes that we’ve seen. In addition, the scenes not shown in the commercials centered very heavily on sex, which seems to be the only medium they think audiences like. The Boss doesn’t even try to put cleverness behind their dialogue, instead relying on the delivery and a low comedy threshold to carry their writing. If relentless vulgarity is your bread and butter, this is the movie for you, but for me well it got old after a while, especially when you see as many films as I do. I can’t deny I laughed at a few dirty moments, but some scenes where they bantered on and on crossed over the stupid line.

 

 

The Final Verdict:

The Boss is a fun film that takes its place in the mediocre works meant to kill time. However it certainly isn’t the greatest of Melissa McCarthy’s works and the lack of originality, wit, or even balance are the components that weaken this film. But it still feels like a Melissa McCarthy film and those who are extreme fans of this movie will laugh their heads off regardless of the stale tactics and lazier writing. Regardless I can’t recommend this one for a trip to the theater, but then again I’m just a reviewer and can only share my opinions. Again this is a fun Melissa McCarthy movie and will most likely crack everyone up, I’m just not the biggest fan of sexual humor and I see more movies and trailers that really dilute humor for me.

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy: 6.5

Movie Overall: 6.0