REVIEW: “BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR” (2021) Lionsgate

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Prepare for fun cameos, unnecessary but much loved bouts of singing, and a very different tale of friendship with Director Josh Greenbaum’s wonderfully fun “BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR.” It’s a fun throwback to a kind of comedy that you don’t see much of anymore, a delightfully silly ode to friendship and surprisingly – to culottes. With hilarious one-liners sprinkled throughout this film, it’s true core is that while romances and spies can take center stage, Barb and Star really show how true friendship will never go out of style and age, well age can be just a number.

The storyline plot is simple, an evil woman and her sidekick are plotting to flood Vista Del Mar with murderous mosquitos and then comedy ensues. That’s honestly the set-up for this film so I didn’t want to beat around the bush when diving into this review. During the first scene, you’re clearly being asked to forget wherever you think this film might be about because it’s more ridiculous than you think. For this reason alone, you MUST continue watching because everything that follows is sheer crazy, silly, corny fun. We follow middle-aged best friends Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) who visit Vista Del Mar, are the best of friends and seem all too content with their oh-so-talkative lives – sitting on the display couch in the department store they work in is a highlight of their day – well that and the ‘Talking Club’ they belong to that gives us some wonderfully obscure hilarious moments between Debbie (Vanessa Bayer) and Delores (Phyllis Smith) and let’s just say ‘hot dog soup’ is a highlight. So the notion of them going on holiday naturally already brings a plethora of comedic possibilities to the table – well that and the fact that said table materializes to musical numbers, a mass murder plot, and a love triangle involving charming undercover spy Edgar Paget (Jamie Dornan), only reiterates the absurd fun this film gives us, but it also showcases just how controlled a film it really is given the silliness of it all. As they encounter our charming undercover spy Edgar and unbeknownst to the women, he actually works for our villain Sharon Gordon Fisherman (also played by Wiig) whose plan is to murder all of Vista Del Mar.

The oodles of fun this movie brings us are just too many to mention, but highlights include: Yoyo (Reyn Doi) kid-villain extraordinaire opening with a lip-sync of “Guilty” by Barbra Streisand that will stick in your head for days, a packing of suitcases for the vacation, ‘Trish’, an absolute creation of a best friend of theirs that has a full life and death story to her, to the lounge pianist singing a song called “I love boobies”. Plus the cameos, oh the cameos, they are all over and one must keep an eye out for every single one of them.

One thing to be completely appreciated about ‘BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR‘ was that in an era when a lot of things feel designed by committee or a reboot of a reboot, it feels like a truly wacky idea that could only come from two friends being real screwball idiots together​ in real life and transferred to the big screen just for the sheer pleasure of it all. The comedic chemistry is just fantastic and so much fun to watch.

So with that a note to Barb and Star  — I demand a sequel, so please pitch where they go or what they do next as it was everything we all needed in life and by far the most I’ve personally laughed in a very long time.  Do I want to go party with Barb and Starr and go everywhere with them? Yes, Yes I do and so should you.

Grade: B+

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Review screening: Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR” IS NOW AVAILABLE ON VOD

REVIEW: “ANGEL HAS FALLEN” (2019) Lionsgate

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First Olympus fell, then London, and now we have the third in the ‘has fallen’ series with “ANGEL HAS FALLEN”.  First wave of thought – did we need really need another?  Apparently so, though don’t hold your breath for something completely different than the first two as this one certainly isn’t going to raise that bar any.

Naturally as with all films in this series, this one starts with our man Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) in a violent body crashing, training session with his buddy Wade Jennings (Danny Huston).  Changing up the beat a bit from the first two films to the tune of making Banning seem less superhero here by adding a bit of humility to his character, as during the session we see a pill-popping Banning seemingly having a lot of issues with blacking out, suffering migraines etc., from previous acquired concussions and thinking of taking a more desk type position.  As it turns out, his buddy Jennings is actually serving under Vice President Kirby (Tim Blake Nelson) to plot a mutiny against new President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), by framing Banning and spoiler alert –  they give us the audience, this pertinent fact quite early on basically taking away any mystery about the movie at all.  As a full scale drone attack ensues when Banning is supervised to watch over the President while on a fishing trip, and the entire detail is killed minus Banning, who is subsequently arrested by FBI Agent Helen Thompson (Jada Pinkett-Smith).  Trumbull has slipped into a coma during said attack and VP Kirby comes into play by trying to start a war with Russia whom he is pretending to place all the blame on.

While all this plays out during the attack gone wrong on the President, Banning becomes the most wanted man in the country as to the surprise of possibly no one ever, he escapes and goes on the run out in the middle of nowhere West Virginia.  But just when you think he won’t be able to clear his good name and get out of this mess, he leaves a message in a truck for a man, whom turns out to be (again to the surprise of no one) his father Clay Banning (Nick Nolte), who left him years ago and has been living off the grid in these exact mountains!! Wow.. how convenient you say. But actually, this is where the film starts ramping up.  Nolte is a splendor to watch here as he steals many of the scenes in which he’s in and provides the only real wild card comic relief and action to the film.  As in possibly the best set piece of the entire film is when they are at the point of being found, and Clay it turns out, has had his entire cabin compound rigged to blow.  It’s a fun, fantastic portion of the film that definitely livens it up.  He also goes on to have some rewarding scenes with Banning’s wife Leah (Piper Perabo), when meeting her and his grandchild for the first time as well

Despite all this, the whole time the audience well knows what’s going to happen next as the predictability factor of this film is off the charts, even without all the help provided by director Ric Roman Waugh.  Seriously, everything from the set up of Banning to the who is setting him up, to when the President will realize what is happening and put the kibosh on it.  This is what really lets film and the whole plot/story down, as had this reveal been kept secret say until the 3rd act of the film instead of the way-to-early-reveal, took away any tension points the film might have had going for it. Instead of keeping the audience engaged and on the edge of their seat wondering who did what, they give it all away and that is why the story and film fail to deliver.

Grade: C-

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Media Review Screening: Monday, August 19, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate

“ANGEL HAS FALLEN” HITS THEATERS THIS FRIDAY, AUGUST 23, 2019

REVIEW: “BEN-HUR” (2016) Paramount Pictures

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Let’s start by stating the obvious. If you go into this version Ben-Hur with visions of the original classic film, you will be disappointed. It is a very conservative, safe, tale re-told for current audiences. Remember this is being done by none other than Roma Downey & Mark Burnett, sponsors of some of the most cheesy TV shows ever done. And while it’s the ‘cool’ thing to just trash this film because it is a remake blah blah blah.. give it a rest people.
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Opening up on this remake/adaptation of the classic epic of Ben-Hur it has mostly the same plot-line as the original. We move on through the tale of the two brothers, Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), is falsely accused of an assassination attempt by his childhood friend and adoptive brother Messala Severus (Toby Kebbell). He survives years of slavery under the Romans and rises from the ranks hoping to one day get his revenge. The storyline is the same predictable one as the 1959 version though some of the dialogue was very modern day, which was a bit distracting, as it took me out of the time-frame of the story on occasion. One of the things that really struck me and stood out, is when they flash the time period it’s set in, you realize just how long people have been killing each other in the name of religion.
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The main positive point is the acting as Jack Huston and Toby Kebbell both do a decent job, again, if you’re expecting Charlton Heston, Don’t. Let it go and just roll with it. Morgan Freeman as Ilderim, does voice over and basically phones in his acting performance also. At one point, it’s so completely ridiculous that he’s yelling instructions that would’ve been impossible to be heard over the noise of the race! Add in one other notable cheesy scene for me, is where Judah Ben-Hur is washed up ashore as the only survivor after the ship he is a slave on is destroyed, and I felt like Wilson the volleyball should just make a quick cameo. But to give credit where credit is due, I must say that I did enjoy the spectacle that was the ending chariot race.
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The women in the film Ester (Nazanin Boniadi), Naomi Ben-Hur (Ayelet Zurer) and Tirzah Ben-Hur (Sofia Black-D’Elia) all felt really muted. Esther didn’t really feel like a full character for her being the female lead. Add in Rodrigo Santoro as Jesus with the muted group as he’s barely featured until the end. And while I’m not a fan of religious films, they did need to give the character a little more explanation here.

So continuing on with quite the dismal film year of 2016, I can’t say I hated this film as so many of the people who are trashing it just because they can. I will say that the venture might have fit far more comfortably perhaps on a home screen level. Lastly, though I believe a great movie might be in here somewhere, sadly, only a mediocre one found its way to the screen.

Grade: C-
@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening: Tuesday, August 16, 2016 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV meetup
Nationwide Release: Friday, August 19, 2016

“Last Vegas”

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Saw a screener last night of ‘Last Vegas’ and yeah it’s exactly what you think it’s going to be.. a movie that your parents will probably love…well at least my mom will. It’s predictable & schmaltzy, but with the star power it has it does deliver a few good laughs as you would expect it to do. Would I recommend for anyone but the parents, nah, but it’s always nice to see your parents laugh some. Grade: C-