The First Purge (2018)

Released: July 4, 2018. Directed by: Gerard McMurray. Starring: Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade. Runtime: 1h 38 min.

I remember when I first heard about The Purge. I was excited because of its concept – but it ended up being disappointing. I thought its sequels (2014’s The Purge: Anarchy, 2016’s The Purge: Election Year) were stronger and added to the universe.

Now, we get a boring prequel with The First Purge, that shows the events of the very first Purge. The 12 hours of everything being legal implemented by the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) and it’s the 12 hours of all crime being legalized is pitched as a psychological device to let Americans unleash their anger. It’s supposed to save the country, thought up by Marisa Tomei’s Dr. Updale (Tomei’s the film’s only household name and she’s fine, but isn’t heavily involved in the action).

The first experiment takes place on Staten Island and the government offers $5,000 to simply stay on the island on Purge Night. It’s a payday many just can’t pass up. Other incentive offered is a bigger payday for all the crimes you commit. Want to kill a lot of people? Then, wear special contact lenses that videotape your night and you’ll have a nice payday if you survive.

A lot of this film doesn’t work because we know the Purge’s purpose – combatting overpopulation and thinning out the herd, especially those on welfare so the government doesn’t have to take care of them. It’s uninteresting when they repeat the politics, and since they have to establish the new characters, it takes 25-30 minutes to get to any action.

The main characters are Nya (Lex Scott Davis) and her brother Isaiah (Joivan Wade), who live in a low-income apartment building on Staten Island. They have a good chemistry but they’re not memorable.

Her ex-boyfriend Dimitri (Y’Lan Noel, TV’s Insecure) is a drug kingpin who’s trying to protect his business from competing drugl ords who would use the Purge as an opportunity to take him out. He’s also protecting the citizens since the government wants to take out Staten Island’s black population. Dimitri’s a highlight who can be threatening but also sweet when it comes to Nya.

The First Purge in the review

Lex Scott Davis and Joivan Wade in The First Purge. (IMDb)

He’s heroic and has a likable charisma for a drug kingpin, and has a good presence in the action scenes. Noel has the most presence of the main cast in general. He is a reason the film feels more like an action movie than a horror film this go around, as some it’s more akin to The Raid: Redemption than a Purge movie.

It still maintains its jump scares, but these are stupid. The franchise has evolved a lot from its original conception of home invasion horror and commentary on human nature to this boring affair. It’s also bogged down by its commentary on American extremism – featuring characters dressed as KKK members and Nazis.

The franchise has never been subtle but its subtext feels really in your face this time, especially one of its main references to Donald Trump – a Purger that hangs out in the sewers that traps Nya and grabs her by the pussy. If the action isn’t a clear enough reference, she then runs away calling him a “pussy grabbing motherf–.”

Also problematic are the film’s villains. The masks are toned down this time, but because of the Purgers’ lack of creativity. The Staten Island purgers are boring – but perhaps this is because in The Purge the participants had eight years to perfect their killing style.

The more creative Purgers are silly, from a pair of old women, accompanied by the Dazz Band’s “Let It Whip” whenever they’re on screen, who rig stuffed animals with explosives, to the film’s main antagonist Skeletor (Rotimi Paul). He’s a junkie and a psychopath who seems to be the only one who really wants to purge.

He’s over the top in every sense of the word, spitting all over the place as he talks. He’s totally crazy and Paul goes completely into the role. The character’s dumb– just because of his over-the-top nature – but he’s also the most memorable villain since Rhys Wakefield’s Polite Leader of the original film. Skeletor just might be the only thing I remember about this bad prequel.

Score: 40/100

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Anger Management (2003)

Anger ManagementReleased: April 11, 2003. Directed by: Peter Segal. Starring: Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei. Runtime: 106 min.

“Anger Management,” not to be confused with the TV series starring Charlie Sheen, is one of Sandler’s very best movies, at least not within his early career. Its opening has chuckles, and it keeps a good momentum throughout.

Sandler plays a businessman who is wrongly sentenced to an anger-management program, where he meets an aggressive instructor.

Sandler’s still playing Sandler. For a movie that has him being enrolled in an anger management program, he is only sporadically angry. In fact, David should learn to express himself more. Buddy explains his disorder like this: There’s an explosive angry person, the person who yells at the cashier. There’s an implosive angry person, the cashier who one day snaps and kills everyone in the store. David is supposedly the implosive person, but he believes he is the guy hiding in the store dialling 9-1-1.

The film has a great “Why does everything happen to me?” way about it that makes it memorable and funny. There are more than a few heartwarming moments, as well. Though, the execution needs improvement.

It’s predictable but can you ask for anything less than one of the kings of stupidity, Adam Sandler? David Dorfman also provides a fine screenplay. There are consistent laughs throughout. It’s funny that Sandler gets out-shined so often in his own movies.

Jack Nicholson is definitely the best part about this movie, but it isn’t exactly difficult to outshine Sandler. John Turturro is another great part. They all have short fuses and it’s amusing to watch them be calmed down. Jack Nicholson’s strategies like making people sing “I Feel Pretty” is a highlight. The really great parts of the movie are John C. Reilly as one of David’s former bullies, and Woody Harrelson as a shemale prostitute, Galaxia. “I feel like dancing! Dancing!”

Score70/100

Parental Guidance (2012)

Parental GuidanceParental Guidance

Release Date: December 25, 2012

Director: Andy Fickman

Stars: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei

Runtime: 105 min

Tagline: Here come the grandparents. There go the rules.

Artie (Billy Crystal) has just finished up a season as being “De Voice” of the local minor league baseball team, the Grizzlies. Much to his dismay, he gets fired because the team wants someone younger and more modern, preferrably someone who has made social updates on Twitter and Facebook. Soon, he and his wife, Diane (Bette Midler), get asked to look after their three grand kids because their parents need to go out of town. The mother, Alice (Marisa Tomei), stays home for a little longer than expected, and Artie and Diane’s old-school parenting skills collide with Alice and Phil’s 21st-century parenting skills. Chaos soon ensues, but Artie might finally get to live his dream of being the voice for the San Francisco Giants (and keep using his signature sign-off of “Lights out, Alice”). As this film teaches, it’s all about meeting halfway and learning to bend that binds a family together.

Parental Guidance may be a film with good intentions, but the target audience is unclear. Are the children supposed to enjoy it more, or are the adults? It passes itself as a family comedy, but the humour is hard to find in a few areas. A film that resorts to hitting a character in the balls with a baseball bat, and then have that said character throw up on the young child, isn’t exactly funny, it’s simply immature. Still, there are a few yuks to be had, and it’s at least a little funnier than The Guilt Trip.

The family comedy’s intention is to express that grandparents and parents must come to an understanding of how to deal with their children. This is also a film about second chances, because Artie and Diane did a poor job with their children, so they want to do it better with the grandchildren. However, this is going to appear difficult, as the grandkids don’t know them well, they think of them as the “other” grandparents. This family comedy is simply redundant, because there are other, better comedies to express afamily connectedness round the holidays (like This is 40). It also redundant because themes it tries to explore, like the parent feeling abandoned by their children or vice-versa, have already been explored in features like This is 40 and Trouble with the Curve. There are laughs, but a lot of the feature is tedious. There is one scene where a character has a sort of self-realization moment, which is supposed to be sentimental, but it was so tedious that it made two minutes feel like seven. The performer is loud and boring, and that isn’t a good combination for any working actor. There has never been a time during a film where I would have just loved a baseball bat to my grapes instead of watching the scene.

The three kids are silly, but the charismatic Bailee Madison makes the best of her character. Harper, the character Madison portrays, is a tightly-wound violinist trying to get into a competitive musical arts school. She just wants to live a little, with her mother pushing her the most. Turner (Joshua Rush) is the stuttering middle child who gets bullied at school. Finally, we have Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf), a kid who wants to be bribed by Farty (his nickname for Artie) and has an imaginary Kangaroo friend, Carl.

Artie and Diane try to bring in their old-school parenting skills, but the writer should have expressed that conflicts can’t be solved with cake, ten dollars and letting the kid watch some torture porn horror. Any conflict that comes also gets resolved in about seven minutes or less. The writer makes most characters have what Hollywood calls self-realization/overcoming obstacles moments, and most of them are sweet and are nice attempts as being sentimental. Others are just tedious and irritating. The story is also nothing you’ve seen 102 times before, and about four times already this year. A main problem with this is performers with no charm. Billy Crystal is the most charming and the funniest. Bette Midler is a one-joke woman, and just because she gestures and does facial a lot doesn’t mean she’s a good actress, or even fun to watch. Admittedly, Crystal and Midler do have a decent-enough chemistry. Marisa Tomei and Bailee Madison (who really is a great young actress) are the only other performers that are easy to watch. Tomei and her husband, played by Tom Everett Scott, have one really bad inside joke they share. Tomei may just have had better chemistry with the young Barker’s imaginary kangaroo friend, Carl. It doesn’t help the film that Barker and Turner aren’t charismatic. They’re cute, sure, but they’re loud and annoying. They’re miniature, manipulative demons, and their presence gets irritating quickly. Can’t you tell how bratty they are from the poster?

In a nutshell: There are quite a few yuks in Parental Guidance, mostly given to you by Billy Crystal, and a Chinese restaurant owner, Mr. Cheng (Gedde Watanabe), but there should be more than one funny character and another supporting funny character with three minutes of screen time. For all the sweet or good moments, there’s a failed sentimental moment. It’s a sub-par family comedy with good intentions that doesn’t work well, and it is merely bearable because of the great Billy Crystal. It might bring in some real-life issues, but it’s still a predictable, sometimes tedious, and familiar ride to the old ball game. This is De Voice of Daniel’s Film Reviews saying: Lights out, Alice.

50/100