Get Hard (2015)

Released: March 27, 2015. Directed by Etan Cohen. Starring Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Alison Brie. Runtime: 1hr, 40 min.

Get Hard might be a rip-off of other films, but it isn’t flaccid.

The Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart comedy borrows elements from 1983’s Trading Places, where the two primary characters come from jarringly different worlds. Ferrell’s James

King is a Harvard-educated millionaire who just made partner at his place of work.

It’s not crystal-clear what he actually does for a living, but all you have to know is that early on the film, he is arrested for multiple counts of fraud and embezzlement and is sentenced to ten years in prison.

An intensely biased judge gives him the harshest possible sentence at San Quentin prison, because white collar citizens like King have been getting away with light pleas for far too long. This is probably the film’s most frustrating and uninspired occurrence.

Anyway, King meets Kevin Hart’s Darnell Lewis and assumes he has went to prison because of his race, perceived lack of education and social standing. He seeks his help in training him in his expertise in surviving prison. Darnell only agrees because of his need for money to buy a new home to get his family out of a dangerous Californian neighborhood.

And of course, he really hasn’t been to prison and has to base his “How to survive prison” tips on black stereotypes and vague advice from his cousin Russell, portrayed by T.I., who has connections in prison with his gang called the Crenshaw Kings.

Darnell means well and he’s just trying to make some money, but these two characters are really in the same boat in how little they know about prison – King is just a bit more ignorant about the subject of prison, and general sensitivity, than Lewis.

I think that’s why the dynamic works – that neither of them know what they’re doing – and allows it to be a bit different than the 2007 Rob Schneider vehicle, Big Stan. Basically, this is a blatant, stereotypical rip-off of that lacklustre film, but it builds on it with a stronger cast and a more interesting story.

Kevin Hart gets a few of the film’s biggest laughs and there about five hilarious scenes. The film’s at its best when it simulates a yard scene where gangs fight over basic ownership of King. It is also quite funny when King tries to get in touch with his hip hop side and adopts the persona of Mayo.

Ferrell is good, if sporadically awkward. He was better in 2010’s The Other Guys as his soft Allen Gamble, at one point stepping into the role of a pimp called Gator. The character in that film is funnier and better developed, though Ferrell does have his moments as a character reviled by many, especially his at-home helpers.

King’s bank accounts are frozen, and the only reason they stay behind to still work for him is to get back at him for the general mistreatment. King does deserve some empathy for his entire life being turned upside down, and losing an incredibly sexy fiancé portrayed by Community’s Alison Brie, whose shallowness is portrayed by her being more upset by a ruined party than her fiancé being arrested.

To be fair, that party did have John Mayer in a mildly amusing cameo, where he goes on live television to sing about the monstrous King potentially getting sexually assaulted in San Quentin. If that doesn’t convince you to at least rent it, I don’t think anything will.

2.5 stars

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Ride Along (2014)

Ride AlongReleased: January 17, 2014. Directed by: Tim Story. Starring: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Tika Sumpter. Runtime: 99 min.

Buddy comedies remain one of the most dime-a-dozen, yet bankable, sub-genres of comedy and action. Last year, Paul Fieg made an attempt at re-inventing the genre by simply replacing men as the focal point, with women (Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy were the unlikely duo) appearing in “The Heat.” The buddy cop action comedy is a formula that’s never going to change, but we can always hope for a film to try to mix things up and still give us a good time.

The newest buddy cop comedy “Ride Along” stars Kevin Hart and Ice Cube. Ben (Kevin Hart) is a fast-talking security guard who has just been accepted to the police academy. This film is really about him proving himself that he could be a good police officer, as well as prove to his girlfriend’s (Tika Sumpter) brother James (Ice Cube) that he’s man enough to marry his sister. And how does he prove that he’s man enough? Well, James can take him on a ride along, of course! Isn’t that the only way? And he proves to people watching the film that he’s man enough by nicknaming his penis the black hammer (and that’s his gamer tag, too!)

It’s funny to me that this ride along can prove that Ben is man enough to marry the sister and be a police officer, while it’s simply an excuse for James to humiliate him and prove that he can’t do either. Meanwhile, James really wants to take down this feared Atlanta criminal named Omar; he’s a ghost because he’s never been seen. One knows when that’s the case with a big-time villain, the reveal is either going to be someone we’ve already seen on screen, or a random big-name actor. I won’t reveal which one it is here, don’t worry. James has been chasing this Omar character for three years, which is ruffling his lieutenant’s feathers. It feels uninspired and a simple excuse to make this film look like it has a plot; but it is the sub-plot that enables action to happen.

If this sub-plot wasn’t existent, the film would simply be a comedic version of “Training Day.” Regardless, this is still a comedic version of “TD” – the filmmakers put in that silly sub-plot in to make it less obvious. They will help some people make the connection to it by saying that film’s title, so at least they’re honest about the fact that we’ve seen this story before. The film isn’t as bad as I might be making it out to be in these first paragraphs; I just wanted to get the flaws out of the way. The action scenes are amusing because they’re able to add comedy to the action mix of it all. That can be difficult, filmmakers try and try to do that – but it’s usually a miss. It hits here, once or twice. So director Tim Story (“Fantastic Four”) should get some recognition for it.

The film is usually entertaining because of the consistent laughs. The film is as familiar and unoriginal as they come, but I think you’ll find yourself laughing a lot, but maybe a bit less if you’ve seen the trailer beforehand – I managed to not see the trailer once. The multiple laugh-out-loud moments are the most enjoyable parts of the film. Well, really the only enjoyable parts – the action is straight-forward and there are explosions; so that might make this a fun flick for people who like loud noises. There’s an amusing aspect in one of the action scenes, but I won’t spoil it because now that I saw the trailer after watching this, I won’t spoil a funny scene that wasn’t in the trailer.

This feels like an advertisement for XBOX Live at times, but whatever; video games are cool, too. It seems Hart’s character is inspired by video games to become a cop, but with his knowledge of the sounds of weapons developed by playing realistic video games, he might just be better off as a weapons specialist. Or he might just be better off continuing playing video games with his buddy Assface. That’s a funny name, but the filmmakers are making it too easy for people to criticize it and say that they (the writers) are trying too hard for a laugh every time the name is said. At least the film is funny, but this is one of those comedies where only one character gets the laughs. That character is Ben, and Hart’s energy helps the film not be a trainwreck. Anyway, he makes it enjoyable for the audience members, while Ice Cube is simply the straight man. He isn’t able to have much fun in his role, unless you consider screwing with Ben’s character a fun activity. Cube’s stern facial expressions and his pissed-off comic delivery works with some characters (like his angry police captain in “21 Jump Street”) but it doesn’t work here.

The main reason why James hates Ben so much is because Ben accidentally set him on fire at a barbeque one time. That’s one reason to hold a grudge, I guess. Some might just want to say to him; man, you got burnt, get over it and just be thankful it didn’t leave any ugly scars on your face. Since James hates Ben for a fair majority of the film, the chemistry isn’t enjoyable. It’s a buddy comedy but the buddy aspect doesn’t feel there. In buddy movies, the two main characters might not like each other at first but they usually have a heart-to-heart about halfway through. With this, it feels like it’s never going to come. Also, with other buddy cop movies, they might not like each other, but at least one of them isn’t trying to humiliate the other. It makes James look like an antagonist to Ben’s dreams. Ben tries hard be nice to James because he loves his sister, but it’s hard when the guy is such a dick. She must be a real freak in the bedroom to make him willing to deal with James.

Note: This is one of those movies I had to put a lot of thought into my score because I enjoyed the laughs, but it was really a toss-up between getting a 60 or a 58, it might not mean much a difference to some, but it means being rotten and not being rotten on a Rotten Tomatoes scale. In the end, Hart won me over.

Score60/100

This is the End (2013)

This is the EndRelease Date: June 12, 2013

Directors: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen

Stars: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill

Runtime: 107 min

Hollywood is obsessed with a lot of things. One of their current obsessions is the apocalypse. Mostly because, if we survived 2012, why not, right? This is the End is summer 2013’s second apocalyptic movie (or first if you don’t really count After Earth), and it’s a comedy that feels completely fresh. It’s based on Jason Stone’s short film entitled “Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse”, set on an ordinary night in Los Angeles.

Many celebrities including Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, and Emma Watson, amongst so many other cameos, are partying it up at James Franco’s mansion. They’re having a good time, drinkin’ beer, abusing cocaine (if Michael Cera doesn’t hog it all), joking around; doing what celebrities do. Soon enough, a huge hole opens up and wah-bam, it’s the end of the world. Half of the celebrities’ cameos end in gory demises, and there’s only a small group left to fend for themselves in Franco’s mansion. They take inventory, and it’s up to Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Craig Robinson, and the trouble-making Danny McBride to wait out the apocalypse.

The only other possibly comparable movie to this is Tropic Thunder.  That movie’s main satire was of big Hollywood productions and those who make them. The main gag at play here is the actors skewering each others’ public personas, and essentially being hilariously mocked, and doing the mocking. They are playing themselves, but at the same time, they aren’t. They’re playing heightened versions of themselves, where some of these character attributes are similar to their everyday selves, but some aren’t. Who could possibly envision the seemingly sweet and innocent Michael Cera as a drug-abusin’, obnoxious loud-mouth? No one could have, but it makes for a simply hilarious character.

That’s the thing about This is the End: it’s insanely funny. Ridiculous, yes, but a sure blast if there ever was one. Each of these characters poke fun at each other and the fun they’re having really shows. They invite us on the ride, and this viewing is truly fun. They make a sequel or two to their best movies (Pineapple Express), and decide not to make one for Your Highness. It’s all good old-fashioned, self-aware bliss. You’re going to love these guys.

This is one of the most effective comedy/horror sci-fi hybrids in some time. I love the balance of gross-out humour and gross-out horror. The premise is very original, and the humour is silly and immature, but the majority of this content will have you laughing and howling the whole way through. It’s quotable, brilliant, immature, and just plain fun. This is the funniest movie some of these guys have ever been in. They sling one-liners every which way, there are a few great startles and you’ll probably love every minute of this.

Though, the pacing is rough in the middle. One usually can’t expand on the traditional end of the world premise, but the writers know what they’re doing and so they give this superb execution. They run with what they know: comedy. The movie just works incredibly well. For the most part, it’s a thin story, but it is effective and admirably written. About 90% of the jokes hit, and the ones that don’t, are mostly said by Jay Baruchel. He’s from my hometown, but the guy isn’t incredibly funny. He has a few good lines, but they’re limited. This could be because he’s written as the straight man, however. There’s also so much product placement that makes this feel like one big commercial for all things Coca Cola, Milky Way, Nutella, and CT Crunch (I could go on, there’s about as much product placement as memorable quotes). This is easily forgiven because it’s set in a real-life celebrity culture. No one’s going to just own No Name brands, especially not rich people who star in movies.

One would expect that this wouldn’t have a huge emotional core. It does, surprisingly, have a better one than the average comedy. This is a buddy comedy of a bunch of guys making the best of their situation, the relationship between Seth and Jay, and the fact that all of these guys need to learn a thing or two about fate, redemption and – most of all – friendship. It isn’t as undeniably sweet as Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is, but I’d be fibbing if I didn’t at least get a few chills at one of the movie’s most effectively awesome, sort-of emotional- and so, so hilarious – moments near the end.

This just shows that a comedy about hanging out with one’s best buds could be a real gem to the genre. Adam Sandler could take quite a few pointers from this comedy. These characters are so easy to love, even Danny McBride who you’ll love to hate. This is one of the greatest ensembles ever assembled, at least for a critically acclaimed flick. It could be called “Comedians Assemble”. It’s one of the most quotable movies since The Hangover, and you’ll want an encore screening the second it’s over, mostly to just learn more quotes, because there are so many. I love all of the obvious nods to popular movies, as well. This is as absolute blast that combines so many favourite genres – comedy, sci-fi, horror… It’s like Neapolitan ice cream. There are more than a few surprises in this fantastic comedy treat.

91/100

The Five-Year Engagement (2012)

The Five-Year EngagementThe Five-Year Engagement

Release Date: April 27, 2012

Director: Nicholas Stoller

Stars: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt

Runtime: 124 min

Tagline: A comedy about the journey between popping the question and tying the knot.

One year after meeting, Tom (Jason Segel) proposes to his girlfriend, Violet (Emily Blunt), but unexpected events keep tripping them up as they look to walk down the aisle together.

It’s that classic boy gets the girl, boy loses girl, boy probably gets girl back situation. It just plays out a little longer than most romantic comedies. That’s okay though, because it’s funny enough to stick around for a while. Some characters are quite great, but others are just trying too hard at being funny, or they’re just really hit-and-miss. Tom, Violet and Suzie (Alison Brie) are quite funny. Secondly, Alex (Chris Pratt) is quite hit-and-miss. Also, the characters of Tarquin (Brian Posehn) and Vaneetha (Mindy Kaling) try a bit too hard at being funny, and it doesn’t quite work half the time. Some characters like Ming (Randall Park) and Doug (Kevin Hart) were pleasant surprises.

While this is very much a comedy, there’s some drama here and there. Tom and Violet’s relationship is threatened by Tom’s lack of success. Violet thinks that Tom blames her for that; and that adds some development to them. A lot of the other characters don’t get well-developed, and they’re just there for some comedic support. That happens in the majority of comedies, so one could not trash this flick for that.

The Five-Year Engagement does have a better comedic momentum and laughs-per-minute than Bridesmaids. The laughs that Bridesmaids generate would be louder and harder than that of Engagement, but it doesn’t have the greatest momentum. Bridesmaids doesn’t necessarily overstay its welcome, but it’s pretty long. The real strong suit of that film is that it may not be hilarious every ten seconds, but when it tries to be funny, it’s hilarious – and when one scene wants to make you laugh, it makes you laugh throughout the whole thing. When Engagement makes you laugh, sometimes you may give a good hearty laugh, and other times it may make you cry from laughter. It all depends on the scene.

The plot of Bridesmaids feels more fresh and original than this does, but this still does have its fair share of originality.

The Five-Year Engagement has its fair share of good characters, bad characters, great laughs and British accents. The great comedic presences help make it stand out. Fans of Jason Segel or fans of romantic comedies will really appreciate it, because it’s pretty freaking funny.

75/100