REVIEW: “THE KITCHEN” (2019) Warner Bros.

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This is not a comedy. Ordinarily a movie review would not begin by telling you what the movie is not, but when the theater marquee flashes “Starring Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish”, most anyone would assume they are in for a 2-hour laugh out loud romp with the promise of some outlandish one-liners to drop at the next party. Instead, the directorial debut from Andrea Berloff is a relatively violent mob movie.

Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby (Tiffany Haddish), and Claire (Elisabeth Moss) are left isolated when their mob-connected husbands are busted by the FBI, and sent to prison. Survival instincts kick in for the previously un-involved ladies, and they quickly realize that a bit of strategy would allow them to not only run the business their husbands left behind, but also build it into something better. Of course the mobsters left behind are none-too-pleased with the women outperforming them, and so we get a good old fashioned ‘brains vs. brawn’ battle.

The setting is the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan. The year is 1978, so the Irish community still has a stronghold on the area. This is basically the same time frame and the same streets that serve as the setting for the classic film ‘TAXI DRIVER.’  We see what happens when a woman’s touch is applied to gangster activities: bonds are built, services are rendered, and payments are made. The illusion of power draws the three women in deeper, and the movie has us believe they are good at it. The issue is, as viewers, we never really buy into these three seizing this power. We are just supposed to sit back and accept that Kathy is an expert community organizer, Ruby gets things done behind the scenes, and timid Claire evolves. Actually, Claire’s transformation is the best part of the film. Seeing her discover new talents and her true persona is as exciting for us as it is for her. However, in total, the 3 characters are little more than caricatures of gritty mobsters.

In addition to the three stars, the cast is deep. The three husbands, Jimmy (Brian d’Arcy James), Kevin (James Badge Dale), and Rob (Jeremy Bobb),  all three are criminals and bad husbands who’ve been sent to serve three years in prison for their roles in a robbery.  Domhnall Gleeson as Gabriel,  resumes his chameleon ways in what could have been a more interesting role as he just literally randomly shows up in a scene without explanation and continues on from there, Common in a very small background role, plays a federal agent Gary Silvers, though he does give us the only plot twist ending of the movie.  Annabella Sciorra has a nice turn as the Italian mobster’s Alfonso Coretti’s (Bill Camp) wife Maria, and the great Margo Martindale complete with prop cane and wig, plays by far the best character of this entire film Helen O’Carroll, the only role that completely stands out in of all the respective gangster roles in the film.

The film does a nice job tying in historical elements of the era, including the construction plans for the Javitz Center, where they mention ‘some millionaires son is creating’ i.e., this is none other than Donald Trump.  There are more than a few moments of violence, but the shots aren’t nearly as dramatic as we’ve come to expect in mob movies. It’s simply not as gritty as it pretends to be.  The pretense of ‘just another day at the office’ after each murder committed by these women seems prevalent here.  There are some similarities to some mob movies of past, but if you’re expecting a female version of ‘Goodfellas,’ that’s not happening, though had this been done right, it could have been.   I expect it will be a crowd-pleaser for those along for the ride. Just remember – it’s not a comedy.

Grade: D+

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Media Review Screening: Thursday, August 8, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros. 

“THE KITCHEN” IS IN THEATERS IN THE U.S.A. ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 9, 2019 // FOLLOWING WORLDWIDE LATE AUGUST/SEPT

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REVIEW: “THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2” (2019) Universal/Illumination

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“THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2” is another fun filled little romp for the kids.  With a few new additions to the cast, most notably Harrison Ford as farm dog Rooster.  But the biggest of all additions, a baby is added to the family much to the disgruntlement of our lead dog Max (Patton Oswalt).  This sequel actually divides our team into three smaller stories with a somewhat vague theme tying it all together.  But it works as you never feel you lost track of what is happening in any of them.

The first plotline involves Max’s owner Katie (Ellie Kemperer) getting married and having a little boy named Liam. Max, whose dislike of children is made very clear, falls in love at first sight and becomes very protective over Liam, to the point of scratching himself out of the anxiety he feels to the point of getting a dog cone.  The relationship that forms here is fun and it’s a dog and a baby – who can dislike that?

Max, Duke and the family end up going out to the country where they meet farm dog Rooster and to say in the least, Rooster is not impressed with ‘city-dog’ Max,  nor his cowardice at the farm animals.  And while the outcome might be predictable, it’s charming and sweet to watch as Rooster helps encourage Max to face his fears and have more confidence.

While the family is at the farm our second subplot comes into play.  It’s about my favourite little pet, Gidget (Jenny Slate) as she trying to retrieve a bumblebee toy Max gave her to guard while he is away. The problem is the toy is stuck in the home of  the crazy cat lady downstairs who literally fits the persona to a tee,  as she literally has dozens of cats.  She even talks the incredible Chloe (my other favorite pet), into giving her lessons on how to be a cat. This has some really fun comedic slapstick that made for some good laughs from the entire audience.

Our final plot centers around Snowball, the Kevin Hart voiced bunny who is convinced he is actually a super-bunny because of the way his owner plays with him. He meets a new doggie named Daisy (Tiffany Haddish). Daisy is upset because she saw a baby tiger get taken by a bad man at the circus. Snowball and the team of pets must save the tiger and restore order to the city.

The characters throughout Pet’s are adorable and there are enough laughs and heart to keep the interest level during the film. The  vocal performances are all good and the message on overcoming fears is really sweet.  The ending credits are also a must-see!!  I have no doubt The Secret Life of Pets 2 will make a boat-load of money but for once it is deserved.

‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’ is fun, fast moving and best of all, kids and adults will both be entertained. P.S.  Cats RULE!! 🙂

Grade: B

@pegsatthemovoes

 

Media Review Screening: Tuesday, June 4, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal/Illumination

‘THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2’ IS IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 2019

 

REVIEW: “THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART (2019) Warner Bros.

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The Lego Movie took the much-loved plastic childhood toy and built it into meta-comedy franchise that played equally well for kids and adults. Already spawning a more than one spin-off, including the truly not for kids The Lego Batman Movie, now comes the sequel to the original, The Lego Movie 2, which is fast & frenetic in it’s pacing, even if not exactly fresh.

In truth, this “THE LEGO MOVIE 2” doesn’t stray too far from the original, picking up briefly where its predecessor ended, when the Duplo toys arrived to cause havoc. The story then moves on five years; Bricksburg is no more and now our Lego friends live in Apocalypseburg, a Mad Max-style nightmare, complete with a half-buried Statue of Liberty (nod to Planet of the Apes??!!). Only Emmet (Chris Pratt), our orange-vest-wearing construction worker hero, is his same almost annoying, upbeat self. He’s even built a house for his love, the Goth-clothed Lucy (Elizabeth Banks). But then along comes an alien, General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), capturing all Emmet’s friends and shipping them off to the Syster System to do the bidding of Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), who wants to get married and zeroes in on Lego Batman (Will Arnett).

Emmet sets out on a rescue mission, but it’s only when he meets Rex Dangervest (also Pratt) – a future version of himself – that he learns to toughen up in this mean world. Once again there is plenty of fourth wall-breaking, plus more pop culture references than you can shake a stick at with everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Twilight, to Back to the Future. The cameos even get really weird, with Bruce Willis turning up as a sort of Lego John McClane from Die Hard at one point. The problem with all that, while it might be entertaining for some adults, kids have no idea what these references are and the plot is lost on them, hence they then get bored.

With some cute styled like musical scenes, there are show tunes galore – the best being Catchy Song, which also gets plenty of airtime here. Repetition does weigh it down, with the breakneck pacing ironically causing the film to drag at times, again especially draining for the kids, with Mitchell’s insistence on wham-bam action almost as tiring as Haddish’s talkative shape-shifting Queen.

So all in all, The Lego Movie 2’s insistence on never slowing things down to take a breath can be almost tiring as at times it felt as though there were too many events and gags crammed into a scene. But with Richard Ayoade voicing a talking ice cream, the inventive humour that made the first film special, can still shine through at times. Just probably more for adults than for kids.
Grade: C
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Saturday, February 2. 2019 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.
“THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART” IS OUT WORLDWIDE AS OF FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2019

Film Review: “NIGHT SCHOOL” (2018) Universal

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As I was fortunate enough to see a bunch of movies this week – it also makes it hard to keep up and write full reviews on them all – so I did a quick Instagram posting on this one that I just copied on over. So since it’s coming into the busy time of year – I will get to every film I can, some full reviews will be here – some shorter ones on Instagram – so hey, why not give me a follow there also. peggyatthemovies -https://www.instagram.com/p/BoPgu8dFOD2/?taken-by=peggyatthemovies
Thanks all!

How I wish #NightSchool would have followed in the footsteps of #GirlsTrip as it’s from the same creators. It’s unfortunate as the first 30min of this movies are quite funny…but it relies completely on #KevinHart who plays the same role over and over with the same short man jokes and girlfriend who is out of his league that he has to impress to keep #MegalynEchikunwoke running throughout. Once we finally get #TiffanyHaddish and a pretty funny supporting cast including #TaranKillam #MaryLynnRajskub #BenSchwartz #AnneWinters #RobRiggle #RomanyMalco #JacobBatalon & #AlMadrigal there are a few more pick me up moments. I couldn’t help wanting more Haddish humour throughout the whole film and with a requisite dance off sequence now seemingly required in all comedies, and a gross out scene, I left feeling as though it was a half hearted attempt.
Grade: C-
Checkout all my movies reviews at peggyatthemovies.com or ventsmagazine.com
#movies #moviereviews #Universal #cinephile #instamovies #instareviews #moviegoer #screenings #cinephilecommunity #peggyatthemovies #rottentomatoes #cinephillia #comedy #filmisnotdead #comediesarenotdead

REVIEW: “UNCLE DREW” (2018) LIONSGATE

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Taking this Pepsi ad/web-series one step further, Director Charles Stone III turns “UNCLE DREW” into a full length 1 hr 43min run-time feature film. As someone who doesn’t really follow basketball, I might have only known who a few of the players were. Though even if you’ve never seen the Pepsi ad, you will catch on immediately that it is a lot of young players were made to look old, enhancing the effects by adding in Shaq as basically the basketball Wolverine. Besides that, this is a very familiar story-line of the forlorn seeking justice in the form of an underdog sports match. And so it goes ——

Dax (Lil Rel Howery), a basketball obsessed Foot Locker salesman whose dream to coach a tournament- winning street ball team. This dream is made all the more sacred due to the fact his longtime rival, Mookie (Nick Kroll) swatted out his game winning 3 pointer in a high school final match up, which he has never lived-down. Then to top it off, Mookie not only steals his prize player Casper (Aaron Gordon), but his team and his materialistic girlfriend Jess (Tiffany Haddish). Dax has spent his life savings on Harlem’s Rucker Classic registration entry fee and is desperate to get another team when he learns from Louis (Mike Epps) and Angelo (J.B. Smoove) about the legendary street player Uncle Drew. Dax finds the now 70-something Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving), a street-ball legend who famously played in the same tournament 50 years earlier. Uncle Drew agrees to play for Dax if he can recruit his own roster of players. The adventure begins as the duo road trips to convince Drew’s old teammates to join the team. So off we go and meet Preacher (Chris Webber), wheel-chair bound Boots (Nate Robinson), Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neil) and the legally-blind Lights (Reggie Miller).

The first third of this movie had quite a few good jabs at laughter and puns with some good comedic timing moments. From there it seemed to turn itself more into trying prove itself as a ‘good family film’. And while it somewhat succeeds at that, although having Kroll play the same role he always plays, and casting Lil Rel as a Kevin Hart type character – makes it fall somewhat short in this aspect as you can’t help but compare the two. Acting isn’t really a strong point here as per usual, basketball players aren’t really the best of actors. But it doesn’t matter as in essence, I don’t think this movie set out to be anything along those lines of best actor, best film etc… I think it set out to be exactly what it is, a little bit funny, cute portrayal that shows family isn’t always just blood relatives, it is what you make it to be by whomever steps up to the plate.

Grade: C-
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Tuesday, June 26, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment
“UNCLE DREW” WILL BE OUT IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2018 // WORLDWIDE RELEASE FOLLOWING IN JULY 2018

REVIEW: “GIRLS TRIP” (2017) Universal Pictures

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The formula for “Girl’s Trip” is something you’ve all seen before. Best friends from college whom haven’t seen each other in years and have lost touch. All lead separate lives, yet come back together for a big reunion. But just as with all ‘formula’ films – it’s how you do it. And it’s done pretty well right here. While comparison’s to Rough Night will be inevitable as again, the formula is similar, ‘Girl’s Trip’ definitely benefits from a beefed up storyline and complete chemistry between it’s leads.

Speaking of those leads, this fearsome foursome of Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall), the successful married author with the smooth ex-sportsman husband Stewart
(Mike Colter), who is setting herself up to be the second coming of Oprah. Sasha Franklin (Queen Latifah), runs a TMZ style gossip site and like a Real Housewife, her lifestyle exceeds her income. Lisa Cooper (Jada Pinkett Smith), the stressed out, newly divorced of ‘mom’ of the group in everything from her mom-fashion sense to her ‘mom’ flirting style. Lastly we have our stand-out – the steal the film/sure to be our new star of the moment – Tiffany Haddish as Dina, the most over-the-top, wild, fun character to come across the screen in a long time. They are all otherwise known as the Flossy Possy and they have the matching necklaces & 90’s style bedazzled vests to prove it. This raucous romp of a film is bust-out-loud laughing for a good 90 minutes, but therein also lies the problem as the film is 2hrs long. That’s not to say that 2 hours isn’t filled with it’s share of raunchy comedy, heartbreaking reveals, and some truly jaw-dropping gags that run the gamut from all out fun crassyness to possibly even the illegal at some points. But the punchlines are hysterical and you can’t help but laugh uncontrollably.

Haddish’s and her charismatic zip set the tone early, zinging between bouts of physical comedy and wonderfully inappropriate one-liners that are as shocking as they are masterfully and hysterically, delivered. Later in the film, Haddish serves up what will likely become contemporary cinema’s best example of how to use fruit to simulate sex acts (sorry, “American Pie”), a sequence so deliciously raunchy that it’s worth the price of the ticket alone.

But Dina, for all her big talk and hilarious faults, is also an exceedingly loyal friend, and that will come in handy when “Girls Trip” takes on the very big secret at its center. It’s that secret that is the source of much of the film’s drama, and is what makes it for a bit of an overstuffed feature and adds time to the film that makes it just a bit too long as you think it ends at least 3 times before it actually does. As the ladies make their way through all the glory Essence Fest has to offer, including run-ins with a slew of big talents in a seemingly never-ending parade of cameos (Diddy and New Edition makes off with the best ones) and at least one wild adventure fueled by some ill-gotten pure absinthe, “Girls Trip” keeps the momentum going ever onward into the next big comedic set piece. That it all ends with a reveal that while it might dilute its more raucous sensibilities, it ends the film exactly how you think it will. But it only makes it more clear why Director: Malcolm D. Lee and all these ladies should think about coming back again and again for possibly some more hilarious ‘Girl’s Trips’ because I know I will be there for each and every one of them.

Grade: B
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Monday, July 17, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
“Girls Trip” will be released in theaters nationwide on Friday, July 21, 2017