When the Bough Breaks (2016)

Released: September 9, 2016. Directed by: Jon Cassar. Starring: Morris Chestnut, Regina Hall, Jaz Sinclair. Runtime: 1h 47 min. 

When the Bough Breaks, Screen Gems’ third September thriller with stalker, manages to be almost memorable because it’s so awful and such a poorly executed Fatal Attraction knockoff.

John and Laura Taylor (Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall) have realized they can’t have a baby after Laura’s had three miscarriages, so they decide to hire a surrogate mother. They find the seemingly perfect candidate in Anna Walsh (Jaz Sinclair). After moving into their guest house, she eventually becomes obsessed with John and interferes with his personal and professional life.

She asks inappropriate questions but of course, John doesn’t say anything. This whole situation could be avoided if he would just tell Laura that Anna’s being a creep and trying to seduce him. It becomes a stranger situation because she has their baby in utero and it threatens to become a hostage situation – legally, it’s her baby – so that’s a way it offers a fresh turn on the Fatal Attraction plot. Unfortunately, that’s where any originality begins and ends.

You’ve seen every twist and turn before and it unfolds in an unsurprising way. The writing’s basic from first-time writer Jack Olsen. Morris Chestnut’s John is an ambitious lawyer who loves his wife and doesn’t want to cheat. Hall’s Laura is a traveling chef or something, and she really wants to start a family. The two stars try their best in one-dimensional roles, and they deserve better.

Jaz Sinclair is the nutty Anna and she’s given the most to work with as the over-the-top stalker. She’s whiny and bratty, and Sinclair plays the bratty side believably but it’s unintentionally hilarious when tries to be totally crazy.

Jaz Sinclair, Morris Chestnut

Jaz Sinclair and Morris Chestnut in When the Bough Breaks. (Source)

She’s silliest and most over-the-top hilarious when she screams and flails her hands in a fit in her car, which makes her looks like a pre-teen brat throwing a temper tantrum. The tantrum could be a clip from the MTV show My Super Sweet 16 because the birthday girl didn’t get the car they wanted.

The performance is not good. When she’s told to be innocent, she just smiles excessively and is annoyingly cutesy. At one point she watches John and Laura kissing, and it’s creepy and robotic –  it’s like she doesn’t quite know what they’re doing. It’s awkward.

In all fairness, the character’s just awful. There is a gem of a scene under the dreck where Anna sings “Rock-a-bye-Baby” in the bathtub. She attempts to be menacing (it doesn’t work), as she cuts her leg with a razor blade. Its presence is so random that it enters unintentional hilarity, and the scene only seems to serve to establish where the film gets its name. It really is unfortunate director Jon Cassar just didn’t make this a stalker comedy.

It’s baffling this is billed as a horror film, because there’s nothing scary about it and the writing and Cassar aren’t able to conjure up any kind-of suspense. Its PG-13 rating also makes it incredibly tame. Nudity is avoided when John watches a video of Anna on his computer and before she can disrobe, he hastily shuts his laptop in the nick of time. No nudity, no gore, no scares: No entertainment.

Score: 25/100

Advertisements

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Kick-Ass 2Released: August 16, 2013. Directed by: Jeff Wadlow. Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Runtime: 103 min.

“Kick-Ass 2” takes place three years after the first. Mindy McCready (Chloë Grace Moretz) is now 15 years old, and she’s hung up her Hit-Girl costume. Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has also hung up his Kick-Ass costume, but he is bored without midnighting as Kick-Ass. Mindy begins to help train him and get him in back in shape for crime fighting. Eventually, Mindy can’t take part in the training anymore because she has to honour her promise (of not fighting crime) to Marcus (Morris Chestnut). Kick-Ass finds a team called Justice Forever because he knows he can’t fight crime by himself. Meanwhile, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) wants Kick-Ass to pay for what he did to his father. He is reborn as The Mother F!*#@r and plans to become the world’s first super villain. His act of revenge will begin to affect everyone Kick-Ass knows.

This isn’t in the same league as the original. “Kick-Ass 2” is a super good sequel, while its predecessor achieves cult classic status. The movie is immensely enjoyable and I’ll probably re-watch it many times, but I thought I’d get that off my chest. I have a few minor complaints about it.

Replacing core cast/crew members never isn’t beneficial. It’s not as if Kick-Ass or Hit-Girl are recast, but two supporting actors get replaced. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to notice. Todd, Dave’s buddy, is recast, because Evan Peters had scheduling conflicts; and the ideal chemistry between the friend group (with Johnson, Clark Duke and Peters) is absent. The replacement that is the most noticeable is Mindy’s guardian, Marcus. Omari Hardwick portrayed him in the first, and now it’s Morris Chestnut. Chestnut is the better-known actor, but I already like the guy – so it would have been nice to see Hardwick reprise the role. If Hardwick was replaced by Idris Elba or Djimon Hounsou, I wouldn’t complain.

Matthew Vaughn’s (credited as producer) absence as director and co-writer hurts the film. Jeff Wadlow directs and adapts this from Mark Millar’s comic book. He isn’t bad, but to paraphrase Hit-Girl about she and Kick-Ass, “Vaughn is in the NFL and Wadlow is in Pee-Wee.” Without Vaughn’s directorial vision, much of the visual style (and charm) of the first is absent. (A true testament to the fact that the right director and cinematographer, Ben Davis gets replaced, will go a long way.) That warehouse scene in “Kick-Ass” where Hit-Girl goes on a solo rescue mission might be enough to give an epileptic a major seizure, but boy is it beautifully done.

The isn’t a train wreck without Vaughn’s direction by any means, but his direction would have helped. The film lacks the same satirical edge of the first. It’s very much a satire, and an amusing one, but it doesn’t have the same awesome edge. (Who else thought the Union J band that Mindy watches a video of was a parody of boy bands? I was surprised to find out that they’re real.) This movie still is enjoyable.

The action is tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top gleeful fun. That’s what we expect. I’m surprised by the movie’s restraint at one point, since the film generally practices excessiveness. A potentially disturbing rape scene is turned into a comedic scene, and I think it’s handled well. The movie has a few brief streaks of meanness and cruelty. However, it’s a minor complaint, because they aren’t arbitary; it advances the story in some way, and it’s easier to excuse.

Now, for the characters. Johnson has a charm about him that gets Kick-Ass the ladies. He loses Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca) early on, because of something that’s easy to explain. He must have been planning on breaking up with her soon because he doesn’t chase after her, the break-up doesn’t bother him, and then the movie forgets about her immediately. Kick-Ass finds a superhero group called Justice Forever. His new love interest is the sexy superhero called Night Bitch (Lindy Booth), and I think N.B. is a name better suited for a super villain, not a hero. Kick-Ass is trying desperately to find a group, and I can’t decide if he’s smart or stupid. He’s smart because he knows he’ll get his ass kicked alone; but he must be stupid to trust people so easily after all that went down with making the mistake of trusting Red Mist/Chris D’Amico.

Justice Forever is led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (a scene-stealing Jim Carrey). He rivals Dwayne Johnson’s Paul Doyle of “Pain and Gain” as 2013’s most likable born-again Christian. Carrey is hilarious in a supporting yet critical role, as he feels like a main symbol of justice. A bit of irony: Colonel is always telling people to watch their language, yet he lets a superhero named Night Bitch be on his team. Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison) is one of the best additions to Justice Forever. A main theme of the movie is that, since the film is set in the real world, the real world brings real consequences, which brings about a theme of good doesn’t always conquer evil. Keep in mind, though: Bringing about thought-provoking themes isn’t a main focus.

Mindy’s arc is traditional. Her everyday persona is a bit more prevalent than her badass midnighting hero. But it’s great when Hit-Girl shows up. She puts all other powerless superheroes (in this universe) to shame. Moretz picks great roles, tackling them with a confidence, but her hard work is evident. Back to Mindy’s arc. It’s a traditional arc where she tries to enjoy high school and the things that come with it. She has a run-in with mean girls (led by Claudia Lee), and the spectacular and hysterical way Mindy handles them makes it an ordinary arc, with an extraordinary pay-off. Even if it’s played for gross-out laughs.

The film’s villains are grand. Christopher Mintz-Plasse has what it takes to tackle this role, and he doesn’t disappoint. He’s pretty crazy in 2011’s “Fright Night.” He’s crazy and funny here, too. I like how he goes against type because in his film debut six years ago in “Superbad” he was on the receiving end of a liquour store robbery, but now he’s the one briefly robbing a convenience store. One thing I’ve never understood about the character: I know he could have put two and two together, by how is he 100% certain his father was shot by a bazooka? He was unconscious in the other room, there were no witnesses, and the body couldn’t really be found easily if it’s blown to smithereens.

Despite my complaints, the movie’s a blast. I might not have laughed as much as the audience I saw it with (they were laughing at everything at some points), but I did laugh quite a lot. It’s a memorable action comedy that has some gleefully fun action scenes, a quickly-paced plot and badass powerless superheroes. This is my favourite superhero movie of the year. If you liked the first, odds are, you’ll like this one. And this is even more true: If you hated the first, you’ll despise this one. To me, it’s a super good sequel.

Score77/100