“GET HARD” (2015) ~ Warner Bros.

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I didn’t go into this screening with magically high hopes for a genius comedy here, I think you know from the trailer that’s not what you’re going to get, but I was looking for a few laughs. And it completely delivers on that aspect as that’s pretty much exactly what you get ~ ‘a few laughs’ ~ but then you can probably guess that from the trailer also.

So the best way for me to possibly describe Get Hard is to call it a socially acceptable racial observation humor disguised as a buddy flick. We’ve seen this formula before in comedies that worked really well like Blazing Saddles, Stir Crazy or 48 Hours. All funny movies..but time has made the landscape different nowadays and I hear the movie is getting some backlash for this exact reason. Basically the movie looks at how different races and social classes perceive each other through the eyes of stereotypical white, black & hispanic characters. The only thing I can say is just relax and realize this is just supposed to be entertainment not a social study on life today and if you can’t do that, which I understand also, then this probably isn’t the film you should go see.

We start off with Will Ferrell as “James King” an ultra rich stock broker who is engaged to his boss’ “Martin” (Craig T. Nelson) daughter “Alissa” (Allison Brie). Everything in life is going swimmingly for him it seems, that is until James is arrested for multiple counts of fraud ala Bernie Madoff. Unlike Madoff, James is actually completely innocent and as he refuses to take a plea deal, he ends up with a maximum sentence of ten years in San Quentin State Prison with the Judge giving him thirty days to settle all his affairs. Knowing that he has a huge probability of something happening to him in jail, he hires the only black guy he knows, “Darnell” the guy who washes his car played by Kevin Hart. James also just assumes Darnell has been to prison just because he’s black, but because Darnell needs the money to move into a new house, he just follows along with this line of thinking as it looks like an easy street to get the money he needs. Darnell now has less than thirty days to get James prepared for the next ten years of his life in prison..but remember it’s a life he really knows nothing about having truthfully never been to jail or even gotten so much as a parking ticket.

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The movie is filled with quite a few outrageous and somewhat memorable scenes mostly involving the ‘prison training’ of Ferrell’s character King. The movie starts with Ferrell’s ass in your face and it never backs down at trying to be funny (key word = trying), though a lot of it is oh-so-obligatory comedy rounds. I don’t want to spoil any of the funny scenes, as they are mostly during the first half of the film with one scene in particular that did have almost everyone (including me) gut laughing in their seats. But after that, I mostly just did a lot of eye-rolling at how just bad & dumb some of it really was.

The biggest fault of Get Hard is that it was completely & utterly predictable. The moment Ferrell is sentenced to jail, it was quite obvious why he was arrested in the first place. The movie did have one or two original scenes/situations, but they were also pretty much by the ‘comedy’ book with the once again obligatory cliched moments of stereotypical racial and gay jokes. We all get it, all rich white people think blacks are criminals and gay people all meet up in public to give each other oral sex..blah blah blah..
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The one highlight for me was that Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart really DO work fantastically together. I’m not going to lie, but I wasn’t expecting much from this movie but what absolutely makes this movie work even somewhat is due to the performances of Ferrell and Hart. Not that these guys aren’t funny..but let’s be truthful, both of them have played the same character over & over in most of their last few films. They thankfully went against some of their usual schtick of Hart screaming everything & the “Kevin Hart short jokes” which are just tired, were barely acknowledged As usual, Will Ferrell is a lunatic. He goes all out being over the top, but not in an obnoxious way. Hart is more of a straight man to Ferrell and that to me, is what made this relationship work well. T.I. as Darnell’s cousin “Russell” also does a quick turn here as leader of the ‘Crenshaw Kings’ whom Darnell comes to for advice and James actually tries to join when he shows them legit stock market tips and gets the street name moniker of ‘Mayo’ in a couple of fun, lighter moments.
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I wouldn’t say that Get Hard is anything close to rip-roaring, gut-busting hilarious, nor is it trying to reinvent the comedy wheel..but it has it’s funny moments and if you are fans of either Ferrell or Hart and looking to kill an hour and a half or so at the movies, then you will be fine. But go in with an open mind because remember, it’s just supposed to be comedy not a discussion of social problems and if you can go in with that mindset, I think it does what it sets out to do and that’s try to make people laugh.

Grade: C
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REVIEW ~ “THE GUNMAN” (2015)

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So does Sean Penn want to be Liam Neeson… or does Liam Neeson wish he was Sean Penn.. either way, this film is the sadly the first one. “The Gunman” is from the same Director as ‘Taken’ & ‘From Paris With Love’(Pierre Morel) could easily have almost been called “Taken in Barcelona via the Congo” or “From Barcelona With Love.” Clearly the guy has a certain directing style. Too bad it didn’t work here with this stellar cast that puts Sean Penn as “Martin Terrier” a sniper on a mercenary assassination team in the Congo pretending to work for an NGO, who is forced to go into hiding after a successful kill shot puts him on a hit list.
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Though Sean Penn does a really capable job of doing the action hero thingy here as his physicality is dammed impressive and he’s definitely believable in the part. It also helps that he’s in absolutely amazing shape for a man his age and definitely seems like he has skills built up over his career which works for him here. His story is somewhat convoluted though..told in that tortured soul way that sometimes just doesn’t make sense even though he’s somewhat straight to the point kinda guy, which I liked. There is also a decent enough subplot going on a medical condition Terrier has which plays off in a pretty cool way throughout the film, most especially at the end but all in all, this is not a particularly good film or even an entertaining one.
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While I am a huge fan of some of the co-stars here..though none of them with the exception of Jasmine Trinca as the love interest “Annie” of first Terrier, then with Javier Bardem’s character of “Felix”, have much to do. Felix, whom I guess we could say is a ‘co-worker’ of Terrier, is really wasted in this role as he plays it in such a manner you just want to cringe and not in a good way. The one final scene between the characters is almost flat out silly.
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Both Mark Rylance “Cox” & Ray Winstone “Stanley” are satisfying enough in their respective roles as they interact well with Penn and hold their own – though I would have liked a bit more of a back story on their characters and when it does come, it’s almost as if it’s too late in the game for it. And let’s be truthful, no one does that bad-assed, grizzled, no BS English tough guy like Ray Winstone does.. It’s just never wrong. Sadly Idris Elba as “DuPont” an Interpol agent who wants Terrier to do a tell-all, is just basically a if-you-blink-you-miss-him character at the very end.

Though Annie is Penn’s AND Bardem’s love interest here.. Terrier had to leave her behind when he had to go into hiding per the ‘rules’ of the assassin’s creed they had. But truly, she has very little to her character and only seems to exist to be one of those helpless way-to-young for either guy, woman characters with a pretty face. She and Penn don’t really have all that great chemistry and I doubt the film would change much or you would even notice if her character wasn’t in it. the gunman 4

Structurally the film was a little strange and again as noted, convoluted. For the longest time it seemed like it was going to be a thriller but then turned into an action film about halfway through. The two halves of the film don’t really seem to add up or connect together so any scenes not building up to an action sequence feel a little like they are just killing time for the sake of the films run time. At times the plot seemed lost and overly complicated for what ultimately amounts to just a series of shoot outs.

The action scenes were impressive enough and had some good diversity to them in terms of location. The ending action scene in a bullfighting arena is pretty damn awesome if not a bit gruesome. I really don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it before and might be the films only redeeming point to make it worth a watch…on VOD or DVD that is..

Grade: C-
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‘THE GOOD WIFE” ~ Paleyfest Panel (2015)

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Paleyfest Panel “The Good Wife” ~ Saturday, March 7, 2015

Paleyfest’s second panel of the festival brought us another highly-regarded fan favourite with the cast & creators of “The Good Wife” moderated by the quite funny James Corden, who noted that this was going to be his first time hosting any guests…as we know he is soon to take over the slot of the ‘Late Late Show” here and if this is any indication of what it will be like, the future of that show looks good!

What makes this show even more extraordinary than others as it’s such a well-written, well-executed show, that it’s on gasp! Network TV.. yes, I know, a rarity nowadays, as it seems most of the good stuff these days is on cable. This show literally goes where no man has gone before… 🙂 and does 22 episodes a year, exploring the life of these strong women characters on its 6th season of doing so no less whereas cable shows tend to do 10 – 13 eps. max. per season.

We were treated not only to a sneak peak of an entire episode (aired March 8th) but to the three main characters of this fantastic show — basically the law firm of Florrick, Agos & Lockhart was represented here with the three leads, Julianna Marguilles, Matt Czuchry & Christine Baranski along with the two creators of the show, real-life husband & wife team, Robert King & Michelle King.
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To get the ball rolling here we learned some about what brought Julianna to the show as she noted “I started ER when I was 26 years old and I did that show for six great years, and it was an awesome, incredible journey for me, growing up, in a way, in this industry.” It also allowed her, when offer came her way to star in the show, to request a shift in where the show was to be filmed to New York City, her home base.

Margulies also promised that the outcome of Alicia’s election campaign is imminent. “It’s going to run its course for the next few episodes” and “You will see it resolve itself by the end of the season, for sure.” So where will her character of Alicia Florrick stand at the end.. “well when she goes back to her group – she’s a different person, so now they’re treating her differently. It’s great in that it shakes up the norm and it allows us to venture out just to come back in, in a way that keeps the characters fresh and alive.” So does this mean Alicia wins the election?? Executive producer Robert King warns that, even in victory, Alicia may be profoundly changed by the experience.
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In the meantime, everyone from the cast and creators to the fans, are preparing for the departure of key cast member Archie Punjabi, who is exiting her role as private investigator “Kalinda Sharma” at the end of this season – but unlike the shocking no-one-saw-it-coming death and exit (and I mean NO ONE) of the beloved character “Will Gardner” (Josh Charles) don’t expect Kalinda’s end to be a fatal one. As noted:

“She can’t go out Will Gardner-style because everyone knows that she’s leaving,” said Robert King “Will Gardner-style was that no one knew, so that could be a shock. Since everybody expects, it’s a whole different beast.” Whew!! well at least we know that much. Matt Czuchry aka Cary, who has been intertwined with Kalinda, romantically and otherwise for some time on the show now, says he’s been bracing himself for their final scenes together.
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When asked to Baranski what her romantic life might hold on the show this season, she reminded us all that she is married to “Kurt McVeigh” (Gary Cole) so that’s her romance still. As for guest stars and spin-offs..they have had and will continue to have a slew of fantastic guest stars always upping the ante. Carrie Preston’s character of “Elsbeth” was noted that it could be a possibly fun character spin-off, but nothing confirmed. I was hoping they would touch on the character of “Finn Polmar” (Matthew Goode) who seemed for a moment there to almost be a replacement for Will Gardner, but nothing was said about him or his character..dammit!
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Lastly, when asked what things they might have in common with their characters, Marguilles replied “neatness” and that her kitchen and home look like the one on the set in terms of that. Baranski replied “nice clothes” indicating they both like to look good and the show allows her to do just that. Czuchry replied “competitive” as he is on the show..he is also in real life.

All in all… a really fun, great panel to spend a Saturday night watching.

“HOMELAND” ~ Paleyfest Panel (2015)

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Paleyfest Panel “Homeland” ~ Friday, March 6th, 2015

NOTE: This review does contain 3 teasers/spoilers for the new season of “Homeland” as given by producer Alex Gansa.

With an unusually heavy panel of Producers/Director/Writer (Alex Gansa, Chip Johannessen, Alex Carey, Leslie Linka Glatter, Patrick Harbinson, Meredith Stiehm, Composer:Sean Callery) and only 2 of the shows cast members, Claire Danes & Maury Sterling, showing up to the Dolby Theater last night for the opening of Paleyfest for the spectacular hit show “Homeland” I don’t know about you, but I am a HUGE fan and think it’s possibly one of the best shows to ever hit the small screen medium of TV.

Season 1 blew us all away..come Season 2 we didn’t know what hit us.. Season 3, while mixed, had us with an ending that made us all not sure where it was going to go next..but we really shouldn’t have worried as Season 4 took us to a whole new world with a whole new kick-ass leader in Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend).

They took us along the journey that has been Homeland and the process of making this show happen is truly grand.

Starting off with some insight into the “Dar Adal/Saul” (F.Murray Abraham/Mandy Patinkin) duo – his motive for making a deal with Haqqani was because he does not want the new director to be a political appointee i.e, another Lockheart. Dar wants someone who has spent a career in the CIA. We don’t know if Saul will accept Dar’s offer. Guess we will find out in Season 5. Gansa said something like this is what America does – our enemies often become our friends. It’s how business is done, even if its a hard pill to swallow.
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Claire Danes on “Carrie” – she felt there aren’t a lot of controversial portralys of mothers on TV and was excited to start a different conversation on what that looks like. They discuss how they shot the controversial “drowning scene” from the insight of looking up at Carrie through the water.

Second controversy was Carrie/Ayan scenes – is she going to low in this form of recruiting? Meredith Stiehm was a defender of it all as she felt it was part of Carrie’s job and Ayan was not a “child.” She felt if it were a man seducing a younger woman no one would have as much as a reaction. Which is a good point and many tactics like this are used in that everyday world.

And the big Brody flashback – which I loved by the way. Done perfectly as the writers wanted to explore Carrie in such a state where she struggles with the idea of Brody but it was important for her emotional state. As we all know, Brody was supposed to be gone in Season 1..but was such a fan favourite they kept him on and needed a way to really close it up once & for all for Carrie also. So the hallucination scene gave her and the writers closure on this fantastic character who no matter what, we still miss. 🙂

The scene on the airport tarmac of the prisoner exchange was a difficult shoot. The day was a very hot one, Claire had been sick with a stomach flu. The first few takes of Saul/Carrie on the tarmac were not working. They needed something more..somewhere Mandy Patinkin just flipped a switch and was able to go to another place and it worked. That was the take we saw.
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They discussed James Rebhorn beautifully. How they weren’t sure if they wanted to just continue as if his character, Carrie’s father “Frank” was still alive but just not there anymore. Finally decided they wanted to make his passing a tribute and part of the story so they did in the finale.

Regarding Quinn/Carrie relationship/romance seemed to be divided along ‘party’ lines 😉 with the men not really wanting it, and the women pushing for it. I’m truly in the middle on this one though leaning towards not a complete romance. Seems both Rupert & Claire were a bit ‘jumpy’ about it because the characters are both so similar in that they both repel and yet attract one another which is fun to play. The tension between the 2 characters was great.. now that they’ve kissed, it might be less so even though as we saw Quinn leaving to another mission in the finale to parts unknown and have no idea what happens. Maybe for me, a quickie kiss was enough because as we all know, 99.5% of the time, work relationships do not turn out well. And do you really want to see Carrie & Quinn ride off into the sunset together in a house with a white picket fence & 2.2 kids & a dog?? no.. no.. no… I want them out there kicking ass and taking names. Sorry..more fun.

Regarding the ‘villains’ of the show..For me, a show or film is truly only as good as it’s villains and sometimes that’s not understood correctly. Here, they noted trying to humanize them in some way as they did the scene with Haqqani & Saul having a ‘family’ dinner. What was his viewpoint. Of how they feel it’s “us” invading his country etc.. When the panel was asked about ISIS, Gansa replied that it is impossible at this point to try to humanize that group. So I think this is saying that ISIS will not be the “villains” of Season 5.

As always, the best questions come from the audience and anyone worth their salt in watching this show knows that Carrie’s ‘cry-face’ is the best thing to hit the small screen.. and possibly has the most GIFS made of it than anything else. When asked by an audience member what she’s thinking when she makes the ‘cry-face’ was possibly the best question of the evening and even Claire Danes herself loved it and had a good laugh. Noting that she’s done the face since “My So-Called Life” and that’s just how she looks when she cries.. but doesn’t have a true real thought process behind it, made it all the better. So yes, everyone, if you’re wondering, it’s her real-life ‘cry-face’ 🙂

Noting two of the main writers (Chip Johannessen & Alex Carey) are leaving, both of whom wrote some good episodes, didn’t state why, but it seems to be on a good note as they were there..ha!
The three teasers for Season 5 are: (drum roll please)
1. The show will pick up 2 1-2 years later
2. Season 5 will take place in Germany
3. Carrie is no longer a CIA operative (Claire Danes joked she will be making beer in Germany)

Nothing discussed if Rupert Friend aka “Quinn” would be back..but it gives me hope he will be as if it’s 2 1/2 years later, then he should be done with his mission..Right??!! 😀

Lastly, as an end note, Julie Chen was not a good moderator. I’ve seen some great moderators doing these panels, she was not one of them. She called Claire ‘Carrie’ almost every single time..and while trying to play it off, came off worse. If you can’t call your main guest and lead of the show their correct name, please step off the podium. Her questions were bland and while she tried to come off as a big fan, not sure she succeeded as it truly didn’t seem that way.