REVIEW: “DADDY’S HOME 2” (2017) PARAMOUNT PICTURES

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Well hang up your christmas stockings and get your eggnog ready as we are headed into the holidays, and that means the family holiday movies are starting up. With the trailer for “DADDY’S HOME 2”, as with most comedies these days, giving away many of the funny moments, no need to expect any additional spoilers here.

As for the film itself – we pick up two years later, after the fierce daddy competition between Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) had throughout the first film. We start off sweetly, with what looks to be a very healthy co-dad environment for all involved. In comedy-based cinema, the best way to disrupt a happy family synergy is to introduce the Christmas season and the sure-to-follow family turmoil. And with that – enter Mel Gibson as Dusty’s estranged dad – Kurt, and John Lithgow as Brad’s so-close-it’s-too-close dad – Don… and let the holiday escapades begin.

It’s clear that these two grandads have completely different ideas of well, being grandads. Gibson’s character’s idea of being a father has been around for many generations. Toughen up the kids and make sure they are strong and independent. Keep those emotions close to the vest. On the other side is John Lithgow and his over-hugging and blubbering true feelings approach. The familiar supporting cast, (notably missing Griff (Hannibal Buress)) holds up their end admirably. Sara (Linda Cardellini) and Alessandra Ambrosio as Karen, are back as Brad’s and Dusty’s wives, respectively. Scarlett Estevez, Owen Vaccaro, and Didi Costine are back as the kids: Megan, Dylan & Adrianna – each with their own quirks and growing pains. Even John Cena returns as Adrianna’s biological father – Roger, and also delivers one of the film’s best punchlines, as well as a bit that might forever ruin Christmas caroling for you or maybe like me, where I thought it was actually simply sweet.

With the additions of Gibson and Cena, the sequel ups the ante on the debate of masculinity that anchored the first film. The female characters are still seemly just afterthoughts, and some of Gibson’s antics (considering his rep and the current revelations coming out of Hollywood) seem awkwardly ill-timed. He makes inappropriate jokes, he makes sexist jokes about hookers, he laughs at nearly everything stupid Ferrell does.

Could I slam this film for having Mel Gibson in it..yes I completely could, and legitimately so because honestly, it doesn’t flow well with me on a personal level. Neither does when trying to make light of kids with shotguns or using them as props to getting drunk. It’s not. Especially in light of everything going on here now. But if you step away from that, this film was also a bit on the sappy-sweeter, emotional side than the original ‘DADDY’S HOME’ (which I thought was NOT appropriate for kids) for me and that’s what redeemed it. This one – if they are over the age of 12 or 13, yes, as I think back to my 12 or 13 year old self, and would be okay with it.

Grade: C
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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, November 7, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
“DADDY’S HOME 2” will be released in theaters nationwide on Friday, November 10, 2017

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REVIEW: “DADDY’S HOME” (2015) Paramount Pictures

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In this the second collaboration between Wahlberg and Ferrell, “Daddy’s Home” gives us Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell), a mild-mannered radio executive who is trying his damndest to become the best stepdad to his new wife Sara’s (Linda Cardenelli) two children. But some big complications are coming his way when their fun, free-wheeling, free-loading real father Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg) arrives, forcing Brad to compete for the affection of the kids.
At this point is of course where the fun starts as father and step-father challenge and begin competing with one another for the love of their children for the position of being called “Dad”.
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The film spends its first ten minutes working to establish Brad as a character, as the over-eager, almost irritatingly, sincere step-father who found himself left impotent after a dental mishap. In contrast, we have Dusty Mayron. Dusty is Sara’s ex-husband and the biological father to Brad’s two step-children. Dusty is an eccentric larger-than-life type of guy, basically the walking and talking embodiment of all of Brad’s insecurities he seems to swagger around with his own soundtrack of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck playing in the background.
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Sara is the mother who watches as both these men in her life engage in a rapidly escalating game of one-upmanship to win the love of her children and while she is completely wise to what is going on and doesn’t try to stop it, she plays against neither character.

The supporting cast – The wonderfully accented fertility specialist Dr. Francisco (Bobby Canavale); Thomas Haden Church as Leo Holt, Brad’s boss, is as always sheer comedy gold. Taking me back to his WINGS days here with his delivery of stories and one-liners. And the man who seriously MUST re-consider his lively-hood in the pro-wrestling arena and become the hysterical supporting actor in every comedy film made.. John Cena. Hannibal Buress as Griff, the handyman extraordinaire, all do well, but director Sean Anders does struggle somewhat to keep the laughs coming.
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While I had a few really good belly laughs at this one – take note- it’s not a kids movie as even the littliest of kids swears some, it’s PG-13 rating is true to form here. All in all, Daddy’s Home has a solid premise and a talented cast. It just doesn’t manage to do much with either.

Grade: C-
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Review Screening: Saturday, December 19, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Nationwide release: Friday, December 25, 2015

REVIEW: “SISTERS” (2015) Universal Pictures

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We’ve all heard the saying “Sisters from another mother”. Well that’s pretty much how Kate Ellis (Tina Fey) & Maura Ellis (Amy Poehler) are here as they look nothing alike and yes, they play/are sisters in this funny at times, throwback to our party days, comedy. Here the parents are Deanna, the fantastic Dianne Wiest and the truly who-knew-he-could-be-funny James Brolin is dad Bucky.

In case I didn’t mention it .. the sister’s are polar opposites. Since her divorce two years ago the responsible straight arrow, Maura, who is beyond do-gooder even in her job as a nurse. On the other hand we have the irresponsible, unable to hold a job or keep a place to live, mess up Kate. She is game for anything yet so childish that her daughter Haley (Madison Davenport), although still a teenager herself, seems to act much more mature than her own mother. But what the two sisters share in is going into complete and utter shock, to put it lightly, when going to visit their parents home they see a “SOLD” sign at the family house in Orlando. Seemingly by not informing or hinting at the fact they have sold it, their parents ask them now to clean out their former childhood rooms before the new owners come in.
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Reluctantly the sister dig through all their old stuff and while the two reminisce over their youth, Kate gets the idea to throw an for old times sake – “Ellis Island” –  one last party as they once were called and with that, one last party IS going down at the parent’s house.

The film definitely hits it’s high notes here as the invitations go out to all their former classmates – including as the scene stealer once again here as in Trainwreck, the how shall we say – robust – drug dealer Pazuzu (John Cena), to whom Kate has got her eye set on in some truly hilarious moments. As for Maura, well she’s got the charming nice guy love interest James (Ike Barinholtz), and they get themselves in the big ‘this-is-so-wrong moment’ of the film. Even high school mean-girl Brinda (Maya Rudolph) appears, although she is most definitely not on the guest list.
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As predicted, the party is soon out-of-control, so much so that the future homeowners might only be left with an entirely demolished home, sinkhole and all. There is mass destruction and a plowed-through dry wall. There’s also more token sad comedy bits than probably needed ending this.

A pre-party moment that stands out for me is a flat out hysterical nail salon visit with Hae-Won (Greta Lee), that had me rolling in my seat. Along with John Leguizamo’s character Dave, who’s never quite let go of his high-school party ways, the notable SNL cast members who do their bits are fun. There’s Bobby Moynihan playing an always “on” never-funny aspiring comedian Alex, who accidentally hoovers up some futuristic combo of blow and heroin and literally goes bananas.
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“Sisters” has a hard time stopping once the party has ended, but when it’s moving as an out-of-control party stacked with people worrying about getting old, it knows how to move. When it’s not, the story becomes a bit lackluster.

Grade: C+
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Review Screening: Tuesday, December 15, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Nationwide release: Friday, December 18, 2015

REVIEW: “TRAINWRECK” (2015) Universal Pictures

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And your comedy-date movie for the summer is…(drum roll please) “Trainwreck”!!

Written by and starring this year’s comedic ‘it-girl’ Amy Schumer as “Amy” it chronicles the misadventures of its leading character as she runs through boyfriends, numerous sexual encounters acting all the while as a chronically commitment-challenged career woman, is some serious comedic gold. When her boss “Dianna” (an unrecognizable and hilarious Tilda Swinton) assigns her a story to feature a young sports surgeon “Aaron” (Bill Hader) something happens to Amy she didn’t know was possible…she falls in love.
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The film romantic-comedy side solely rests on the perfectly imperfect character of Amy who I think we can all relate to – as either being it at some point in our own lives or in someone we know. I mean let’s be truthful here … who of us ladies hasn’t walked into a room inappropriately dressed or sat at a baby shower giving a big eyeroll at the “my life is perfect” banalities and so wanting to shut it down. Amy is that girl, the friend we love to have around because she isn’t afraid to do or say what we wish we had the guts to do or say…though she pretty much goes overboard every time and that goes double here and yes, that’s why we love her.
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Schumer is a force here, knocking every gag out of the park but also displaying some quite impressive dramatic skills that one doesn’t expect from a stand-up comedian. Bill Hader is finally given and masters the lead role he deserves perfectly. He is lovable, relatable in every way and is the perfect match for Amy on the big screen. Their chemistry here is undeniable.
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The supporting cast of the film is absolutely solid. Brie Larson is wonderful as “Kim” – Amy’s sister, Colin Quinn is “Gordon” Amy & Kim’s dad, Mike Birbiglia is “Tom” Kim’s husband, and the little scene-stealer child Evan Brinkman as “Allister” rounds off the family. Vanessa Bayer’s “Nikki” is Amy’s co-worker and just as on SNL, she holds her own here.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of the film is are the 2 big name athletes of the film in LeBron James trainwreck 2playing himself and John Cena as “Steven” one of Amy’s flings that you just can’t help but love while grabbing a scene your eyes won’t soon forget. And while I don’t know or follow basketball much (just like Amy in the film I might add) I do know who LeBron is and as it turns out the basketball superstar’s comedic timing is might just be as impressive as his game. The plethora of SNL cast, athlete and musician cameos were a welcome bonus to the movie. trainwreck 4

By now we know that with a Judd Apatow films you’ll get a nice blend of raunchy humor and heart. It is a tried and true formula – and it works again here but with something different and that’s Amy Schumer. Sure there might be a few uneven moments..but the duo here help create one of the funniest romantic comedies I have seen in a long time with one of the most fun finale scenes I’ve had the pleasure of seeing all year long. Most of all – I think we can all say a big HELLO to Amy Schumer – “Moviestar” when this hits theaters..
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This film is fantastically fun, full of laughs, new one-liners for you to memorize and a sweet story to prove that yes, my friends, there is someone for everyone in this world.

Grade: B
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Screening at Arclight Hollywood – Thursday, July 9, 2015 courtesy of Universal Pictures
Nationwide release: Friday, July 17, 2015