The Boss (2016)

Released: April 8, 2016. Directed by: Ben Falcone. Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage. Runtime: 1hr, 39 min.

R-rated comedienne Melissa McCarthy and hubby-and-director Ben Falcone take a second shot at co-writing a screenplay together with The Boss after their first botched attempt in 2014’s Tammy. The good thing is this is a much funnier collaboration.

The basic story follows Michelle Darnell (McCarthy), the (fictional) 47th wealthiest woman of America. The film glosses over how Darnell makes money, simply billing her as a CEO of three Fortune 500 companies. It’s a poor-to-rich story, as Darnell grew up in the foster home system.

Her life gets ruined after she’s imprisoned for insider training. All of her belongings are seized and her house foreclosed, she learns when she’s released. She then stays with her former assistant and single mother Claire (Kristen Bell), basically the only person on who will give her a place to stay because no one is answering Michelle’s calls.

The story feels like Darnell is on a path to make money again, rather than redeeming herself as a person – which just comes out naturally. Her new business venture is a brownie company called Darnell’s Darlings.

She gets the idea after knowing the demand of Dandelions girl guide cookies, after taking Claire’s daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson) to one of the meetings. Claire is the baker for the company because she has a good recipe – and her motivation for helping is to get Michelle off her couch.

Michelle gets more likable throughout. But that’s easy considering her obnoxious introduction at a sold-out arena show about telling people how to make money – where she comes down on a golden phoenix to sing “All I Do Is Win” with DJ Khaled.

TheBoss2

Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Bell in The Boss. (Source)

The Boss is great example of how the essential falling-out of characters can ruin a film’s momentum. The clichéd moment arises because of Michelle’s lack of a family and fear of getting close to people.

The poor narrative is the film’s worst aspect. It feels like the jokes were written first, and then a story was shaped around them. To the credit of Falcone, McCarthy and Steve Mallory, there are many clever jokes and laugh-out-loud moments. That’s the redeeming part that makes this an entertaining film.

A flaw of the film is the fact that Melissa McCarthy gets almost all of the funny jokes. The film suffers when she isn’t on-screen. The character who misses the most is Peter Dinklage’s Renault, an aspiring samurai, or something. He’s obsessed with ex-girlfriend Michelle, where revenge is mostly on his mind, but he still has the hots for her even after she screwed him over.

His banter with his assistant Stephan (Timothy Simons) is simply awkward, but sometimes so stupid it’s almost funny. The character’s so poorly written that Dinklage just has to do his best with the crappiness he is given.

Kristen Bell’s Claire is simply boring – she only has a few good laughs to offer. She’s the set-up for McCarthy’s Darnell, characterized as a single mom who works hard for her daughter. We’re supposed to see Darnell as a really mean boss, but she’s not as bad as any boss in the Horrible Bosses franchise. Maybe we caught her on a nice week?

But Claire just keeps getting stuck with bad bosses, getting stuck with Dana Dandridge (Cecily Strong) when Michelle goes to prison. She’s supposed to be mean, but she’s cringe-worthy and awkward, ribbing Claire for being three minutes late at one point. Tyler Labine as Claire’s love interest is supposed to add a layer in Claire, but all it does is set up a funny scene when Claire prepares for a date.

The characters don’t work, and McCarthy is the best part about this. That’s high praise from me – since I’m not a McCarthy fan. Since everyone else is lackluster, it should be blamed on bad writing and directing from Ben Falcone. It feels like the next time the couple write something together – they should just hire a competent director.

Despite my problems with The Boss, I enjoyed myself and laughed a lot. That’s what counts here. While it may be weaker than any of the three McCarthy and Paul Feig collaborations – Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy – it’s a lot better than Tammy or Identity Thief.

Score: 65/100

 

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

We’re the Millers (2013)

We're the MillersReleased: August 7, 2013. Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber. Stars: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Will Poulter. Runtime: 110 min.

The opening scene of “We’re the Millers” made me anxious for the movie I was about to see. It opens with some of the most popular YouTube videos of the last few years. It’s somewhat lazy and quite random, so I wasn’t sure if I was about to see a haphazardly-edited, lazy movie. The idea of showing some of the funniest/most popular YouTube videos (“Double Rainbow,” “Surprised Kitty”) is clever, and a great way to get the audience laughing early. It’s clever since it’s not done a lot, and one would think an idea so simple would show up more. The movie is more clever than lazy.

The story follows a small-time veteran drug dealer David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) who finds himself in a tough spot. He gets mugged by three punks who steal his stash (worth $43,000). It’s almost a fool-proof crime. One can’t go to a police officer with a thing like “Some guys stole my weed that’s enough to put me in jail for a long time.” His supplier, Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms), tells him to go to Mexico to get a smidgeon and a half of weed and smuggle it back across the U.S. border. If he does so, he’ll get some money and they’d be even. This job is out of David’s league, and he can’t do it easily because he looks like a drug dealer.

He hires a stripper (Rose, played by Jennifer Aniston), a virgin (Kenny, played by Will Poulter), and a runaway (Casey, played by Emma Roberts) to be his fake family, because no one expects any funny business from families. Sounds easy, right? They’ll have to deal with a few antagonists along the way, because otherwise, the funny ride would be too short.

All of the members of the Miller “family” get their chance to shine, with Sudeikis being the funniest; Aniston being the sexiest. I’m liking Sudeikis more and more in bigger roles. Aniston’s roles have been getting edgy and vulgar, so I can’t wait to see what she does next, even if she isn’t as funny as she is in “Horrible Bosses.” Sexier, yes, but not as awesome. I’d like to see more of Will Poulter. He steals more than a few scenes – as he’s the one needing a family foundation the most. I love how Emma Roberts seems to be trying to shed her goody-two-shoes reputation, and she has successfully done so with her vulgarity – but it’s mostly thanks to a different, crazy role prior to this film. You’ll know it when you see it. All I know, she’s a great young actress.

There’s a host of funny characters throughout. Ed Helms’ Brad Gurdlinger is that one psychopath is an office building who could snap at any moment. (With a white ass name like Brad Gurlinger, I’d probably snap, too.) But he’s the big-time supplier who runs his business out of a big building that could be a more orthodox corporate business. And oh, he’s a big ole nerdy schmuck who has, indeed, killed people.

We're the Millers1The Millers also meet the Fitzgerald family, who’s actually a legitimate vacationing family, led by the always chuckle-worthy Nick Offerman (TV’s “Parks and Recreation,”) and Kathryn Hahn (“Step Brothers”). They come in for some of the funniest scenes, where director Rawson Marshall Thurber (“Dodgeball”) gets to show some of his great skills and ability to get big laughs out of the audience. The actors also help out a lot by having the great timing that they do. And he directs a glorious stripping scene for Aniston, and what a scene it is. (For a movie that has many scenes set in a strip club, there’s a surprisingly low amount of nudity. Though, not many of us are expecting Aniston to get fully nude.)

With comedies, one must ask, “Is it funny?” Hell yeah, “We’re the Millers” is hilarious, with its amusing references and great homages. (The TLC homage to “Waterfalls” gets big laughs.) Another question that will probably weigh on peoples’ minds is, “How original is it?” This movie doesn’t strive on originality. It’s familiar and a lot like every other road trip movie. It’s also the most predictable movie of the summer, outside of “The Heat.” But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a good time. The comedy has a fine comedic momentum. There’s one part in the third act where there wasn’t a big laugh for ten minutes (which comes around the 90-minute mark), but it finds its funny way about it again sooner than later. And the fact that it does have consistent laughs for the first 90 minutes is pretty damn good.

There’s a scene at the beginning where one of David’s old college buddies shows up (Thomas Lennon, who seems to be everywhere), and admits his envy for David’s bachelor, drug dealing life, since he has a wife and kids. In a predictable movie like this, I don’t think I have to tell you the purpose of this nice scene.

There are sentimental and nice scenes (sort-of like that) throughout the movie, between lots of dick jokes, but unlike “Identity Thief,” most ring true. And also unlike “Identity Thief,” you care about these characters. (This almost makes me sad that I gave “Identity Thief” such a high score – 72, to be exact; I watched it once more and it felt more like a 63.) “We’re the Millers” utilizes its simple road trip premise much better than most would think, and produces a hilarious ride.

Score75/100

August 2-4 Box Office Predictions

The Smurfs 2“The Smurfs 2” is being released two days early to beat the rush. Now, that worked wonders for “Despicable Me 2,” but didn’t do anything for “Turbo.” After families have emptied their pockets out on legitimately good animated movies like “Monsters University” and “DM2,” their budgets for movies are running on empty (as shown by the soft first weekend for “Turbo”). (That’s okay by me — because this and the summer’s last animated movie, “Planes,” don’t peak my interest.) Movies similar to “The Smurfs 2” open to an average $25.96 million. 2011’s “The Smurfs” opened to $35.6 million. Two years between the original and the first sequel isn’t so bad. Families might have grown a bit wiser in that time – though. For the three-day weekend, I’ll predict this at $26.5 million; and for the five-day frame, I’ll predict it at $39.34 million.

2 Guns

“2 Guns” is the other major release this weekend. It’s an action comedy starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, so it already has an appeal with the cast. The last major buddy comedy, “The Heat,” was aimed at women; so now it’s time to show that men still like their action comedies. This still has an appeal to women, as well, because buddy comedies usually do well. “The Heat” had an $39.115 million debut, so this actioner should open roughly in the same neighbourhood, maybe a bit lower since this film’s marketing campaign wasn’t as aggressive as the campaign of “The Heat.” And since “The Wolverine” will have a good holdover, my prediction is $33.8 million.

Title: Prediction
1. “2 Guns”: $33.8 million
2. “The Wolverine”: $27.15 million
3. “The Smurfs 2”: $26.5 million (Five-day: $39.34 million)
4. “The Conjuring”: $12.85 million
5. “Despicable Me 2“: $10.1 million
6. “Turbo”: $8.56 million
7. “Grown Ups 2“: $6.96 million
8. “Red 2”: $5.26 million
9. “The Heat“: $4.844 million
10. “Pacific Rim“: $4.035 million

Box Office Results July 26-28. (I can’t think of a clever title.)

The Wolverine“The Wolverine” did good business this weekend, but not nearly as great as everyone thought it would be. While it was tracking for a $70 million opening, it was only able to nab a $53.114 million opening. This opening should be attributed to the fact that the disappointing “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” disappointed many, so it kept some people away, and audiences are probably just fatigued of this superhero craze and all the explosions. (That makes me question how well “Kick-Ass 2” might do?) Since “Wolverine” did receive an ‘A-‘ Cinemascore, that should say it’ll have good legs. More good news: It’s already earned back its $120-million budget with its $139.2M worldwide tally.

As for the holdovers, “The Conjuring” continues to scare everyone as it had a drop of -46.9% to $22.2 million. That is a great hold for a horror film, where they traditionally face drops over 50%. (“The Purge” faced a drop of 76%!) “Turbo” also held well, dropping 35.5% to $13.74 million. Its box office performance will be thrown off pace when “The Smurfs 2” gets released on Wednesday, and it will be killed by the competition of “Planes”, come August 9th. It’s a very competitive market for animated movies, as “Despicable Me 2” is still going strong with a weekend gross of $16.4 million. “Grown Ups 2” was also in the Top 5 this weekend with $11.6 million, and it’s the 14th Adam Sandler movie to gross over $100 million. That isn’t exactly music to my ears, since I have such a low opinion of “GU2.”

“Fruitvale Station” found its way into the Top 10 with $4.59 million this weekend. “The Way, Way Back” earned $3.44 million and Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” made $612, 064 at just six theatres, marking a career best Per Theatre Average for Woody Allen, and the best PTA of the year so far. Finally, “The To-Do List” grossed a miniature $1.58 million at 591 theatres, which is surprising considering I’ve basically seen the trailer before every comedy I’ve seen for the past month.

What did you all see this weekend? I didn’t get out to the theatre (well, I did last Thursday to see “White House Down”) this weekend, but I’m planning to see “The Way, Way Back” and “Much Ado About Nothing” this week. Maybe “2 Guns” on the weekend. I won’t be seeing “The Smurfs 2.” I just couldn’t take it. I’ll see what happens. I’m thinking of going through a comedian’s full filmography throughout the first half of August and posting the reviews throughout the second half. I’ll make an announcement post soon, but in the meantime, you’ll have to wonder who the comedian is. (Note: Half of their filmography is torture, and half of it I like. So I’m watching half of the comedian’s filmography for your entertainment, and half of it for mine.) Anyway, here’s how much I was off by for each movie in the Top 10:

Title: Result/Prediction/Difference

1. The Wolverine: $53.114M/$69.825M/$16.711M over
2. The Conjuring: $22.208M/$24.258M/$2.05M over
3. Despicable Me 2: $16.424M/$16.2M/$224, 000 under
4. Turbo: $13.74M/$13.5M/$240, 000 under
5. Grown Ups 2: $11.6M/$10M/$1.6M under
6. Red 2: $9.337M/$12.5M/$3.163M over
7. Pacific Rim: $7.703M/$7.8M/$97, 000 over
8. The Heat: $6.915M/$5.6M/$1.315M under
9. R.I.P.D.: $6.071M/5.5M/$571, 000 under
10. Fruitvale Station: $4.59M/$5.2M/$610, 000 over

For the one new release, I was off by $16.711 million.
For the nine holdovers, I was off by $9.87 million.

Remember to get your predictions in at Box Office Ace! You can get your prediction in for 2 Guns here, and your prediction for The Smurfs 2 here.

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Box Office Predictions: July 26-28

The Wolverine“The Wolverine” has the benefit of opening on a weekend where there isn’t any other blockbuster. Of course, there are the holdovers, but they don’t pose much direct competition.

The five previous X-Men films open to a weighted average of $76.58 million. It will earn less than that number, but not by a wide margin. There are a few bumps in the road this film must overcome.

“X-Men: First Class” showed audiences the X-Men universe can still impress. It was also the lowest-grossing film in the franchise at $146.4 domestically, mostly because of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, which faced generally negative reactions. I liked some of it, but the general memory of it leaves a bland taste in my mouth. That film might directly affect this film’s gross, as audience members hate to be disappointed twice. People will come out to see it, but not nearly as many as “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, because, like I said, some people won’t take the risk. So good word-of-mouth will really help this movie out. I’m going to predict this at $69.8 million. 

I’m thinking “The To Do List” performs similar to “Adventureland” at about $4.9 million for its opening, and “The Way, Way Back” has earned $4.6 million domestically so far, so I think it’ll do $4.4 million this weekend.

Here’s how I see the Top 10:
1. “The Wolverine”: $69, 825, 000
2. “The Conjuring”: $24, 258, 000
3. “Despicable Me 2“: $16, 200, 000
4. “Turbo”: $13, 500, 000
5. “Red 2”: $12, 500, 000
6. “Grown Ups 2“: $10, 000, 000
7. “Pacific Rim“: $7, 800, 000
8. “The Heat“: $5, 600, 000
9. “R.I.P.D.”: $5, 500, 000
10. “Fruitvale Station”: $5, 200, 000

Remember to get your predictions in over at Box Office Ace, it’s lots of fun!

“The Conjuring” scares a big audience, Snails and Retired Spies do okay, “R.I.P.D.” bombs hard

New releases from the weekend that are still on my watchlist: The ConjuringR.I.P.D.Red 2Turbo. So, all of them!

I’ve realized that I haven’t been a good box office analyst. I’ve been posting my predictions, but neglecting to report the results. This weekend, I’ll change that. At the beginning of 2013, it was looking like this year wouldn’t even match up to 2012 – but it’s catching up at a rapid rate. Through June, 2013 was 2.1% behind 2012. As of the end of this weekend, it is behind 1.1%. That is impressive considering this weekend was 19% behind last year, as “The Dark Knight Rises” single-handedly grossed $160.8 million. It’s looking like 2013 could match 2012’s number with some big blockbusters still to come: “The Wolverine”, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”, and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” this fall, to name a few. Anyway, let’s get to this weekend.

“Turbo” opened to $21.3 million and has earned $31 million through its first five days. That’s the worst opening for a DreamWorks Animation since 2006’s “Wallace and Gromit”, and it’s even less than last year’s “Rise of the Guardians“. It could have legs because of its rewarded ‘A’ Cinemascore, but family audiences chose those yellow minions again (“DM2” earned $24.9 million this weekend) over snail racing. DreamWorks can only hope that snail racing is big overseas. I guess at least this poor outing says “The Smurfs 2” might not do so grandly, as family audiences have only so much money to spend in a month. (But since it opens at the very beginning of August, it might not be affected.)

“The Conjuring” was the big winner this weekend with a huge $41.8 million opening, so take that “The Purge“! It is now the second-largest opening weekend for an R-rated horror movie behind “Paranormal Activity 2”. That’s great for it because it looks really scary and I want to see it. It had a great marketing campaign, it looked terrifying, and people turned out to see it. It also came at a time where there were no horror movies on the market (well besides “The Purge” which is now only in 156 theatres). It will have great box office legs, because it was rewarded an ‘A-‘ Cinemascore, which, for the horror genre, is super rare.

“Red 2” had a soft opening with $18 million. The first movie grossed $21.7 million in its opening, so it seems that audiences thought it looked too similar to its predecessor, a problem “The Expendables 2” faced. I was optimistic with my prediction of $25 million because I thought that since it had really high DVD sales and the first had great legs, “Red 2” would do better business. I was wrong by $7 million. I didn’t factor in that the older audiences that this is aimed at is perfectly content to either wait for the DVD or go during the week when the crowds aren’t as big. Dang it! (By the way, I’ll probably be posting my review of “Red” soon.)

The only movie I was really close with was “R.I.P.D.”, which is standing at 11% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m seeing it tomorrow, because I like to see everything, but audiences just were not interested in this “Men in Black” rip-off as it only debuted to $12.69 million. (I predicted $12.8M, woo-hoo!) And its budget was $130 million or so. Talk about one of the biggest bombs in recent memory! “Red 2” was its direct competition and that one came out on top. I think this movie looks fun, but audiences just didn’t bite. I’m not surprised one bit.

Here’s how the Top 10 performed! And if you missed any of my reviews, just click on the link to read it.

Title: Result/Prediction/Difference (Over/Under)
1. “The Conjuring”: $41.855M/$37.5M/$4.355M under
2. “Despicable Me 2: $24.906M/$22.473M/$2.433M under
3. “Turbo”: $21.312M/$28.8M/$7.488M over
4. “Grown Ups 2”: $19.872M/$19.5M/$372, 000 under
5. “Red 2”: $18.048M/$25M/$6.952M over
6. “Pacific Rim: $16.002M/$19.825M/$3.823 over
7. “R.I.P.D.”: $12.691M/$12.8M/$109, 000 over
8. “The Heat: $9.303M/$9.025M/$278, 000 under
9. “World War Z: $5.191M/NA/NA
10. “Monsters University: $5.121M/$6M/$879, 000 over

For the four new releases, I was off by a grand total of: $18, 904, 000

For the five holdovers I predicted in the top 10, I was off by a grand total of: $7, 785, 000

Did any of you go to the theatre this weekend? I saw “Grown Ups 2” on Saturday, don’t ask me why. Expect the review tomorrow.