Tag

Based on an unbelievable true story as featured in The Wall Street Journal in 2013, Tag is an entertaining and sometimes hilarious comedy with such a preposterous premise that it probably would not have worked had it not have been based on real life events. The plot revolves around is a group of friends who grew up together as kids have been engaged in a game of tag for almost 30 years that always takes place during the month of May. The five friends now in their forties include Ed Helms who plays the sort of ringleader Hoagie, Jon Hamm who plays the successful insurance executive Bob Callahan, Jake Johnson who plays the stoner Chilli, Hannibal Buress who plays the goofball Sable, and Jeremy Renner who plays the successful and untouchable tag player Jerry. In what possibly could be their last game of tag, they all converge on their hometown of Spokane, Washington where Jerry who has never been tagged in his whole life is about to get married. Through a series of elaborate ploys, the four others try desperately to finally tag Jerry even though his fiance strictly forbids them from doing it during the wedding activities. The filmmaker adds an extra dose of humor by showing several of their antics in slow-mo as if it is an action movie and in which the characters’ ridiculously serious inner dialogue can be heard. Also, in order to round out the movie, there is also a love triangle between Chilli and Callahan over Rashida Jones’ character, as well as several unexpected heartwarming moments involving the lifelong friends and their futures. One part of the film that I thought was unnecessary was having a Wall Street Journal reporter appear as a character who really did not add anything to the story. Overall, I found it to be a good light-hearted film that helps pass the time and is able to pull off a story with such a preposterous yet creative story.

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Ocean’s 8

A spin-off of the Ocean’s 11 trilogy first released in 2001, Ocean’s 8 is an entertaining heist movie that follows the formula of the first films but with the unique twist of having an all-female cast. The movie involves the planned robbery at the highly fashionable Met Gala in which a 15 million dollar diamond necklace is to be stolen from a pretentious actress named Daphne, played by Oscar winner Anne Hathaway. The elaborate heist is devised by the sister of Danny Ocean, played by George Clooney in the trilogy, Debbie, played by Oscar winner Sandra Bullock, who was just released from prison after 5 years. Like almost all heist movies, the beginning introduces the audience to the cast of characters making up the team: Oscar winner Cate Blanchett plays Debbie’s former partner-in-crime Lou, Emmy winner Mindy Kaling plays the jeweler Amita, Golden Globe winner Sarah Paulson plays the surburban mom and stolen goods salesperson Tammy, Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter plays the disgraced fashion designer Rose, Grammy winner Rihanna plays the hacker Nine Ball, and Awkwafina plays the pickpocket Constance. The rest of the movie follows the group as they get ready for the heist that involves penetrating the high security surrounding the extremely valuable Cartier diamond necklace and the Metropolitan Museum of Art on its most glamorous and exclusive night. The film is a fairly rudimentary heist movie complete with unexpected events that could derail a successful operation and surprise twists of who else is involved. What sets it apart is its female focus by having the protagonists be highly capable women who target an over-the-top high fashion event full of self-absorbed socialites and actresses. Overall, I found it to be an enjoyable cinematic experience that provides mindless entertainment, but it falls short of the original Ocean’s 11 and its sequels that helped redefine the heist narrative.

Action Point

Starring Johnny Knoxville famous for his TV series Jackass first released in 2000, Action Point is a rather stupid movie that is essentially a series of Jackass-like physical comedy stunts pretending to be a full narrative film. However, it should not be criticized too severely because it is exactly the type of movie you should expect from Johnny Knoxville and what appeared in the previews. The story follows the free-spirited owner of a cheap amusement park in the 1970s named D.C., played by Knoxville, who fights for his beloved park to remain open while trying to please his young teenage daughter nicknamed Boogie. The movie is told from the perspective of an older version of D.C. who recounts his memories about Action Point park to his young granddaughter. The amusement park is an extremely unsafe yet thrilling place for the local kids as well as the misfit employees who are often drunk or high. With the opening of a nearby corporate-owned amusement park and the arrival of a litigious real estate developer, D.C. struggles to keep up with competition and decides to up the ante by making the rides even more fun and dangerous. He also tries to connect with his daughter who lives with her mother in New York. The rather ridiculous premise is designed as justification for displaying all of the extremely dangerous stunts for comedic effect that Johnny Knoxville and his crew are known for in the TV show and subsequent movies. Overall, I found the movie largely without any redeeming qualities or even moments of laughter, and I could only recommended to those who really enjoy watching people hurt themselves or are fans of Johnny Knoxville’s work.

Upgrade

Produced by Jason Blum who is best known for horror films and the Academy Award-nominated Whiplash released in 2014 and Get Out released in 2017, Upgrade is a surprisingly fun and exhilarating low-budget sci-fi film that has a uniquely creative script filled with tongue-in-cheek humor and gruesomely violent action sequences. Played by television actor Logan Marshall-Green, Grey Trace is living a peaceful life as a stay-at-home husband who enjoys working on classic cars and is happily married to the beautiful Asha until tragedy strikes after he and his wife are viciously attacked, which leaves him paralyzed. Depressed over his condition and the loss of his wife, Grey agrees to participate in a secret futuristic experiment offered by tech mogul Eron Keen, played by the creepy Australian actor Harrison Gilbertson, that has the ability to restore his body functions to normal. Eron has developed a technological device called STEM that when implanted gives the person super strength and increased awareness by bridging its advanced technology with the human body. Grey uses his new abilities to track down and brutally hunt those responsible for his wife’s death after the police investigation led by Detective Cortez, played by Betty Gabriel best known for her role in Get Out, appears to go nowhere. Eventually, he learns that STEM can talk to him and ultimately take complete control of his body even against his will. Reminiscent of the filmmaker’s other work, especially the Saw film series first released in 2004, the fight scenes are extremely graphic but are choreographed like some sort of robotic dance in which Grey is viciously able to dispatch his opponents. As the body count rises, he discovers that there is a dark and mysterious conspiracy that motivated the initial attack that left him paralyzed. Furthermore, the twist ending makes for even more of a thrill ride that was unexpected from the beginning. Overall, I found it to be a thoroughly entertaining action sci-fi flick that feels like a midnight B movie while also being a smart movie that explores the implications of technology and surveillance.

Life of the Party

Written by Melissa McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone who also directed 2014’s Tammy and 2016’s The Boss, Life of the Party is a good-natured average comedy that has moments of laughter but struggles to fully use the comedic talents of star Melissa McCarthy. In the same vein of Rodney Dangerfield’s classic 1986 comedy Back to School, the story involves a middle-aged mother named Deanna, played by Melissa McCarthy, who decides to finish college with her daughter after she learns her husband played by Veep’s Matt Walsh is leaving her for his mistress. She eagerly returns to her alma mater to finish her degree in archeology but is faced with her less-than-enthusiastic daughter Maddie who initially wants nothing to do with her mother going to the same fictional Decatur University. Deanna’s best friend and the movie’s funniest character Christine, played by Saturday Night Live alumnus Maya Rudolph, vocally encourages Deanna to take part in the wild aspects of college. Deanna who is nicknamed Dee-Rock quickly develops close friendships with her daughter’s sorority sisters, including the older Helen who is played by comedian Gillian Jacobs. She even enters into an intimate relationship with a fraternity classmate named Jack who we later learn has a rather surprising parent. The film is filled with the usual antics associated with college comedies with the major exception that it involves a group of women. Overall, I was rather disappointed with the movie that had such promise with such a charismatic and funny actress as Melissa McCarthy; it suffered from a mostly unoriginal script that tried too hard to be a silly comedy and at the same time a sweet film about a mother-daughter relationship.

Deadpool 2

The sequel to the widely successful 2016 original Deadpool and the eleventh installment in the X-Men movie franchise first released in 2000, Deadpool 2 is a very unconventional comic book superhero movie that is filled to the brim with self-referential and irreverent humor and is brought to life by the charismatic performance of Ryan Reynolds. Taking place several years after the first film, Deadpool whose real name is Wade Wilson, played by the hilarious Ryan Reynolds, suffers a personal tragedy at the beginning and is in a very low place. After an attempted suicide, his superhero friend Colossus helps to bring him back to life and takes him to the X-Men mansion to recover. Eventually, he confronts a time-traveling cybernetic solider named Cable, played by Oscar nominee Josh Brolin, who wants to kill the young mutant Firefist whose real name is Russell Collins, played by the terrific young actor Julian Dennison who is best known for his outstanding role in 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Deadpool decides to protect the seemingly innocent Collins from Cable whose intentions are at first mysterious to the audience. In one of many references to X-Men, Deadpool forms the team X-Force in which several of the members suffer ridiculously bad luck, and he uses them to prevent a deadly clash between Collins and Cable. Although it sounds like a rather straightforward comic book story, the film takes a much less serious approach with Deadpool constantly making fun of X-Men and Marvel Comics in quite hilarious and silly ways and often breaking the fourth wall by directly addressing the audience. A majority of the humor is comprised of inside jokes in which the audience really needs to be somewhat familiar with superhero characters and the previous comic book movies. There are also even references to Barbra Streisand movies as well as other rather cheesy elements of pop culture. Finally, it is very much an R-rated experience as a result of the gratuitous amount of violence and gore and the overabundance of vulgar comedy. Overall, I found it be an extremely entertaining movie as good as the original because of its creative and zany antics and dazzling array of meta humor; however, it is definitely not for all tastes as a result of its lewdness.

Tully

tully_xlgDirected by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jason Reitman best known for 2007’s Juno and 2009’s Up in the Air and written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody best known for 2007’s Juno, Tully is a must-see comedic drama about the ups and downs of motherhood that is brought to life by the painfully realistic script and superb acting performances. The plot revolves around a mother of three named Marlo, played by the always terrific Oscar winner Charlize Theron, who has a particularly challenging time with the birth of her third child. Like most parents, she is exhausted and sleep deprived to a point in which she is desperate for help of any kind, especially when her husband Drew, played by Ron Livingston, seems to be too busy at work. She also has to deal with her young son who is having behavioral issues at a prestigious elementary school. Initially, Marlo scoffs at her wealthy brother Craig, played by Mark Duplass, who offers to pay for her to have a so-called night nanny, a nanny only to care for a newborn infant at night so that the parents can get rest. Over time, she is more open to the idea and eventually a young free-spirited woman named Tully, played by Mackenzie Davis from the TV show Halt and Catch Fire, comes over to be the night nanny. Marlo and the vivacious Tully quickly develop a close friendship and have intimate conversations about family and in particular the difficulties that comes with motherhood. Although it sounds like a rather straightforward story, the excellent writing makes for a deeply moving experience in which there are funny and sad moments underscored by an unprecedented level of raw honesty about parenthood. There are some very unexpected events that make it even more of an appealing indie-style film that above all feels so real. The realism comes from the fact that it does not gloss over the many occasions when being a parent feels impossible, such as the constant juggling of taking care of oneself, cleaning up messes, running on very little sleep, and struggling to do what is best for your child. Despite all this, Marlo, as do most parents, realizes that it is worth it to raise a child and that motherly love somehow allows her to deal with the unpleasant aspects of parenting and become the best parent possible. Overall, I found it to be a truly remarkable movie with a top-notch directing/writing duo that delves deep into what it must be like to be a mother and provides yet another example of why Charlize Theron is such a talented actress.