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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The Fun Adventurous Side Of Pets

The Secret Life of Pets 2 Poster

 

Animated films offer the opportunity for imagination to really come to life.  As they bring CGI and other animation tactics to the table, the stories that follow have a big job of trying to make a film that is entertaining to all ages without dipping down one end over the other.  While there are many animated studios out there ready to give it a shot, not every studio finds a way to achieve those goals, becoming a cash grab instead of a quality adventure.  This week, an early showing of the The Secret Life Of Pets 2 came to screen and I had my suspicions that this sequel might have been just that.  Robbie K back with another review, checking out Illumination Studios’ latest work.  Let’s get started:

 

Movie: The Secret Life Of Pets 2 (2019)

 

Directors:

Chris RenaudJonathan del Val (co-director)

Writer:

Brian Lynch

Stars:

Patton OswaltKevin HartHarrison Ford

 

 

LIKES:

  • Voice Acting
  • Animation
  • Comedy
  • Pacing
  • Adventurous Stories
  • Emotional Moments

 

 

DISLIKES:

  • Predictable
  • Short Run Time
  • Not Quite Original
  • More Impasses/Character Development
  • Under Utilized Characters

 

People who like these may like this movie:

 

Secret Life Of Pets 1

Sing

Ferdinand

Homeward Bound

A Dog’s Purpose

 

Summary:

Animated films often require good voice acting to bring the characters to life, and this series’ cast succeeds in bringing the plot to full life.  Hart and Haddish bring their chemistry back to life in the form of Snowball and Daisy, their wild, sarcastic sass coming out beautifully in animated form.  Oswalt’s addition managed to bring Max to the same level as last time, fun and familiar friendliness.  As for the others again they get the job done when utilized to make the same craziness that the first movie used long ago.  Animation wise, it is the same caricature like style that Illumination loves to use, with grandiose character flaws and elongated, angular faces that make up their characters.  As for the pets, they still have that anthropomorphized component that is so sweet to look at, each having some quality to represent the voice actors that play them.  While those components are nice, the thing I enjoyed more about this installment was the pacing of the movie.  Utilizing the adventurous story and splitting it into three separate segments helped keep things dynamic, moving, and fun,  and avoiding those slow parts the first movie had.  It’s this theme that kept me entertained and seeing each subplot having its own time to play out, all the while giving the characters their focused time. Eventually all of these moments tie together, bringing the surprisingly emotional side of the film the conclusion that fit well in the theme of fun and love of pets.   It definitely should strike chords with a few audience members, especially those with ties to pets.

Yet, the movie still suffers from some things that do bring some limitations for this reviewer.  For one thing, the movie is still predictable and pulled no surprises in terms of story presentation.  Illumination’s focus on kid friendly films seems to divert from the options that will shock and amaze, due to the potential of being too sad.  As such, the tale’s originality and magic don’t quite live up to the potential that Disney has made famous in their plethora of tales.  It’s cute don’t get me wrong, and does have some heart pulling moments, but these are only scratching the surface that bigger studios do better.  Also taking away from the tale is the short run time.  Around 80 minutes long, the movie has a lot to cram in the short time, leading to very quick dives into the fun portions of the movie.  However, this is also the undoing as the movie’s quick pace leaves little time for impasses, obstacles, and challenges to help give significant character development.  In addition, the movie could have focused a little more on some of the gimmicks they were promoting if given more time. While the characters are fun, they don’t have that full dynamic and emotional range that other animated characters hold.  Given that animals somehow are more emotional than humans, it would have been nice to see more of this come out, but again, this might have not fit in with the fun slapstick and writing that was built for the audience.  Fan favorites from last installment may also find it disappointing to find their characters left in the kennel, particularly those who liked Pops, Mel, the Dachshund, and the Falcon as they have little outside of comedy stunts. Perhaps more time and planning could have done a bit better in adjusting these characters to have the full punch in each story.

  It’s no Secret this movie will do well when it opens because of the intended audience.  It’s cute, funny for many ages, and has that colorful animation to keep attention on them. I myself enjoyed this one better than the original due to the pacing and adventurous side of things, but I still was hoping for a little more balance and originality than what they put in.  It is not the best animated in terms of pushing the limits of imagination, but it does its job and I’d say to come hit this up in theaters when you can.  Otherwise, check it out later when it comes to home entertainment.

 

My scores are:

Animation/Adventure/Comedy: 8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

Not Fooling Around With This Review

Nobody's Fool Poster

 

Tiffany Haddishhas gotten a major career surge since her time back in Girl’s Trip.  Her wild, loud, and aggressive personality has brought laughs on a variety of stages and it looks like there is no end in sight for the young woman’s success given the number of things she has produced.  And this weekend, the young woman tries again in a comedy that hopefully will bring some more magic to the mix.  Robbie K with another review in the works, hoping to help guide your decision making process for the films.  Let’s get started as my focus today is on:

 

Movie: Nobody’s Fool (2018)

 

Director:

Tyler Perry

Writer:

Tyler Perry

Stars:

Tiffany HaddishCourtney HenggelerMissi Pyle

 

 

LIKES:

 

Tiffany Haddish  The star character needs to be mentioned, for Haddish is back in full swing with little to no filter.  For most of this, I enjoyed her antics, her shouting bringing some solid dialog to life as she acts out every vengeful, hateful thought you’ve felt for someone who betrays you.  It comes natural to her, and her energy runs through much of the movie keeping you not only into the movie, but awake as you laugh yourself silly enough to cry tears.  The simplistic fun will be the bait for this movie and the heart of the entertainment.

 

Fast Pace:  Given some of my dislikes to the movie, the pace of the movie helps curb those the factors by getting through the movie as fast as possible.  Yes, you won’t have to worry about prolonged, drawn out character development, or story design because this movie is all about the entertainment value and shoving it in your face.  While normally rapid fire doesn’t work for me, but this time, getting through the movie faster was a good thing.

 

Breaks From the Comedy: It’s important to find some device to slow down and allow things to reset.  Many don’t like to do this, choosing to maximize the laughs to the point of making you either want to vomit, or laughing too hard your sides split.  Surprisingly, Nobody’s Fool utilizes the technique to allow a reprieve from the in your face comedy, giving the story some growing room to flourish and proceed, and build up for more future laughs.  This kept me laughing through much of the movie, and for the most part at least brought some small balance to this extreme film.

 

The Lessons:  Nobody’s Fool is certainly about the laughs and drama, but the movie surprisingly has a crown jewel embedded in the raunchy mines of sex appeal and crude humor.  The moral building, life lesson is a strong one, and the scene is very well-designed to bring the emotional heat with it.  It utilizes all the techniques to bring it to full swing, it’s just too bad that moment was then lost in more comedic craziness.  Still kudos for trying.

 

Boyz II Men Song:  Okay, small deterrent, but when a movie can use a song well and sort of revive the nostalgia you get bonus points with me. Nobody’s Fool hits one of the best songs from the R&B group and while a little cheesy, utilizes it as a device to help the story and maximize the emotion.  This might have been my favorite scene of the bunch, mostly because I like the song.

 

DISLIKES:

Filter Removed: Filters are tricky, but upon removal they can lead to the balance shifting way too much towards the aggressive, crude, and uncreative writing that many shows seem to go with.  Nobody’s Fool falls into this category, and while Haddish’s delivery is top notch, I get tired of the over use of certain words.  Probably won’t bother many, but to this reviewer the stale writing is a little too much.

 

The Story:  Linear, predictable, and quite boring, Nobody’s Fool’s story is like a Tyler Perry Drama trying to be funny without Madea.  Rather than strong, character guided drama that leaves both main character and audience a little stronger and better.  In this film though, the drama is mostly just excitement and gossip starting, trashy, sex driven antics that don’t add much to the story.  The silver lining of this, it adds fodder for Haddish and Whoopi Goldbergto bring some fantastic comedy work.

 

Danica:  When you have a main character you expect mistakes and flaws at the beginning, but by the end can give them more respect.  Not the case with this movie.  Danica is not a character I jumped on board with, awful core characteristics, strong flaws, grandiose dialog, and a lack of intelligence that is surprisingly present.  While there is some tapering, development and growth of Danica was rather shallow and quite honestly disappointing to see.  Danica was not my cup of tea and I strongly wanted classic Tyler Perry to come back in and work his drama story magic.

 

Editing/Rush:  Movies these days seems to have difficulty finding the art of knowing when enough is enough, and this movie continues to prove the theory.  While still short enough, nobody’s fool’s editing is rather spotty at times, with extra scenes sort of piece into the film in an odd, awkward attempt to bridge to the next sequence. Some of these scenes were semi worth the inclusion, but many I felt were needless exclusion meant to be included on the deleted scenes section of the movie, including the final scene.  Sorry if they are some of your favorite moments (which weren’t ruined by the trailer), but editing needed to let these moments go.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Nobody’s Fool is the predictable, fun, laugh riot that you are expecting when it comes to the trailer and the actress.  And while it is funny at part, the movie’s main thing is a lack of balance between drama and comedy.  This film is designed to just be the aggressive, in your face smack fest that Haddish’s energy is and if that’s what you want, you’ve got to check this film out.  Yet, if you are looking for a little more story, character development, and drama that is a little higher than a high school relationship gone wrong, this film is not meant for the theater visit.

 

Overall my scores are:

 

Comedy/Drama:  6.5-7.0

Movie Overall:  4.5-5.0

Hart Tries To HadDISH out some laughs

Night School Poster

 

Robbie K back with a second review of the evening, this time focusing on Kevin Hart’s latest production of an adventure we’ve kind of seen in the past.  Yes, in the world of comedy, Hart’s movie may seem like generic pieces, but you never know what surprises are going to be in store from the little man with the big personality.  So let’s get back in the theater and take a look at if school is really in session as we review:

 

Movie:  Night School (2018)

 

Director:

Malcolm D. Lee

Writers:

Kevin HartHarry Ratchford

Stars:

Tiffany HaddishKevin HartBrooke Butler

 

 

 

LIKES:

 

Good Chemistry: Acting is exactly what you expect from Hart’s films, ridiculous, funny, and over the top.  Yet somehow, this ragtag group of high school dropouts works well together to craft an impromptu family that is entertaining to say the least. Between the two leads though, well that’s where the magic really occurs.  Haddish is very brash, crude, and still as wild as ever in her delivery of dialogue.  Hart on the other hand rambles like he always does, wavering his voice to levels while once again acting like a bozo unable to have a serious conversation.  The dynamic between the two is top tier though, one part a peeing contest to see who is smarter than whom, and one-part teacher-student level that brings that emotionally satisfying side these films can bring.  Nevertheless, the chemistry between the actors works super well.

 

Funny:  With a Hart movie, I can never tell how much I’m going to laugh, but when it came to Night School, I believe about half the movie had me in stitches.  Hart’s antics are still funny at times, where the delivery and dialogue fit together so well that it left me in tears.  Haddish as well has some major laughs, but for her, I preferred the other angle that she brought.  No it was the supporting cast and their sequences that I think brought me the most labs, integrating them into odd scenarios that worked so well.  Slapstick humor that involved dislocation, awful attempts at flirtation, and babysitting antics that go wrong.  The result is the cheaper laughs that we all know and love.

 

Good Pace:  A comedy movie needs to keep moving and for the most part the film works well to keep things engaging despite the predictability to come.  It jams a lot of comedy to not feel boring and does everything it can to keep you laughing, so you’ll get your money’s worth out of this one.

 

Message:  A comedy with a message is not uncommon, but this film gets a special nod to tackling the difficulties with learning disabilities, honor, and hard work ethic that again are needed for the constant reminders. Night School may wish to poke fun at the adventure of a GED, but make no mistake that they portrayed the serious subject matter with the bite it needed to stand out.  Thanks to those messages, the directors did a nice job of using this to ground the silliness and actually bring purpose to the chaos at hand.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Unoriginal most of the time: The problem with these movies for most is the fact of it being more of the same. Night School does stand out because it has more serious moments, but aside from that the comedy styles are reflective of the other movies.  You’ve got to be super big on the rantings, ramblings, and babbling of Kevin Hart characters, with a high tolerance to things going too high-volume arguments that he is famous for.  It doesn’t have the full unique spin of some of his other comedies and it just fills the gap between the bigger films coming.

 

Trailers Ruined some Big Scenes:  Given the media blow out of this movie, you can bet that there will be some things ruined in this film.  Sadly, the bigger scenes have had enough exposure to lose the edge for me, with a number of big comedic moments beaten over the head before the movie ever started. Now fortunately there are enough new scenes to pick up the slack though, but still hate to see the comedic potential fall.

 

Dropped Plot Point:  I know, these comedies aren’t all about character development or story, but that doesn’t mean we have to go through the trouble of introducing family if you aren’t going to take them further.  Night School has a number of these moments that they could have pursued, but nothing more prevalent than Teddy’s family who didn’t have much involvement despite their introduction in the beginning. Lots of comedic potential, but again dropped in favor of other areas.

 

The Editing:  There are two meanings to this dislike.  First there were scenes that could have been left out or tightened up to help cut down on team and trim the extremely stupid back to manageable levels.  However, the part that didn’t work for me was the fact that some of the dialogue did not match up with the lip movements of the group. Obviously some reworks into the dialogue were done, so why did we not get reshoots or better editing to correct it.  While not the biggest effect on the movie, this inconsistent editing is not the way to go for detailed reviewers.

 

THE VERDICT:

 

            Let’s face it, Night School is not going to be the most original, the most award winning, or even the cleverest ideas to come to the market.  However, it is a very fun movie where the chemistry of the cast, the grounding of the comedy, and the pace are going to be very entertaining to the masses. I can say this is not my favorite of his films, but holds the middle of the ground for this guy because it is indeed funny.  Yet, a little more editing, some originality, and perhaps a little more diversity in the comedy and it could have been a top-notch addition to the Hart library.  Still, the movie is worth a visit to the theater with friends or in a group, otherwise, hold out to the streaming release in a few short months. 

 

My scores are:

 

Comedy:  7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0

Girls, They Want To Have Fun

Girls Trip

 

A girl’s trip. A novelty idea that starts out so innocent, but can turn down the wilder side.  Rough Night already attempted to depict this concept earlier this summer, but it didn’t quite deliver the punch it wanted.  So, this weekend, another (almost identical) movie tries the concept again, and we can only hope it’s more successful.  Robbie K reporting again on another movie review to give you the 411 on films.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

Good Pace:  Many raunchy comedies, and let’s face it there are plenty of them, often have either too quick a pace, or drag out exponentially. Girls Trip gets the pace right though, keeping things fun and entertaining, without getting stuck on a scene or sequence for too long.  I found myself engaged in the movie and thoroughly enjoyed the fun at hand in the Flossy Posse adventure.  It’s nice to see things progress at an adequate rate and breathe some life into a plot that was dead of originality. And speaking of plot…

 

Story:  Believe it or not, comedies can still have a story and make you laugh.  Despite what the trailers promised, Girls Trip has a plot that creates a foundation for the laughs to spring off of and keep it grounded with a relevant purpose. I’d be lying if I didn’t say there are times they go all out for comedy, however much of it goes with the flow of the story and is relevant to the plot.  Past the comedy though, the story is another heartfelt romp about friendship and love, going down the usual avenues that we’ve seen a hundred times.  One unique feature though is how all of the girls’ problems interconnect and cause drama to offset the mischief at hand.  The result is a dynamic relationship between the ladies, and the extras surrounding them, that feels relevant, relatable, and realistic on many levels.  So, nice to see this in a comedy again.

 

Acting:  Characters are good, but they require acting to come to life.  Rough Night failed to emphasize the acting and traded their talent for quick laughs.  This film learned from that mistake and encouraged them to act like characters with more depth.  Regina Hall has the drama acting down pat, being emotional while also steering from the overacting. Queen Latifah brings her sass back to the mix, a little edgier, but nonetheless the same style that works for these roles. Tiffany Haddish is like the Rebel Wilson in this film. She works well for comedic relief, and her loyal, unfiltered edge is executed well at most parts.  My favorite is Jada Pinkett Smith who presents the most balanced character of the bunch and played the broadest spectrum of the bunchTheir chemistry mixes well and really represents a girl squad who has drama, but has each other’s’ back.

 

Comedy:  A small, but important note, is that the comedy is well executed and quite balanced for this reviewer.  Sure, much of the theme is sexual natured, but fortunately the crassness of the jokes varies depending on the character.  There are some other comedic devices presented that are fun, but what’s nice is that comedy is balanced and not the center piece.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Language:  Yeah, no surprise, I don’t like strong focus on cursing.  Girls Trip sadly falls victim to using the F bomb, alongside a few other derogatory devices, for much of their conversation.  While not the worst I’ve seen, the writing could have used a few rewrites to add some class and more memorable lines to the mix.  But Lazy writing still brought a lot of laughs to the group so it’s probably not the biggest factor for most.

 

The Uncensored moments:  Despite the change up of delivery, and the dynamic nature of the women…much of the comedy is focused on sex. While this comedy is not my particular style, it can be entertaining, when executed at the right times.  There are points where Girls Trip gets really nasty though and drops the class for cheap laughs and gimmicks.  In particular, Haddish’s character gets old at times and her raunchy moments got old at times (though not as much as seeing near naked men and their organs).

 

Endgame/Lack of Originality: With all the good pacing and delivery of this movie, you would think there would be a strong endgame.  Unfortunately, Girls Trip kind of dropped the ball in the last twenty minutes when they threw a big wrench into the gears.  At this point a lot of tension is introduced, only to have it immediately resolved in a rather lackluster manner.  The final resolution has emotional power behind it, but it was very unoriginal and lacking the cleanup I expected from our ladies.  Not the consistency I had hoped for, but still not the worse conclusion I’ve seen this weekend.

 

The Verdict:

 

Despite my low expectations, Girl’s Trip is surprisingly very entertaining.  A well-paced, story-focused comedy is in store for those who come to see this film in the theater.  The cast keeps the movie fun, and the story is both emotional and entertaining to watch, especially with the comedy that goes in tangent with it.  However, despite the entertainment value in it, Girl’s Trip still has some areas to improve upon including comedy diversity, classing up the lines/censorship, and maybe working on an endgame.  Regardless, this movie hits its target audience well and is a fun adventure that I hope will stand at just one movie (no sequel needed).  Worth the trip to the theater?  In terms of comedy this summer, yes this is one of the ones to see.  Yet, there is nothing theater worthy to call for the expensive tickets. 

 

My Scores: 

 

Comedy:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0