“The Do-Over”

I hadn’t watched an Adam Sandler movie since “Just Go with It,” which was released five years ago. I said, “Never again,” but five years later, here I am.

Sandler plays Max, a charismatic (and insane) old friend of Charlie’s (David Spade). Max convinces the miserable Charlie to ride on his yacht one day and the two catch up until it explodes! Charlie wakes up and finds that Max faked their deaths to give them a second chance at living how they want to live. And of course, there’s a price.

I wanted to watch “The Do-Over” because I wanted to see what an action-comedy from Sandler and Spade would be like. Well, it’s bad. This movie has all of the usual tropes in an Adam Sandler movie:

-An obscene amount of product placement.

-Casting of Sandler’s friends including Luis Guzman, Sean Astin, Nick Swardson, Torsten Voges, and Jonathan Lougran.

-Gross-out body humor.

-Racism.

-Dick jokes.

-Violent gags.

-Cruelty towards women and kids.

-Adam Sandler being a violent psycho.

There’s more than that in “The Do-Over.” This movie is incredibly uneven. It begins as a tale of men having a mid-life crisis, as Spade is the textbook example of pathetic. It’s more uneven in its second hour when the action starts. That’s when there’s a confusing conspiracy and a dark subplot involving cancer, while still telling gay jokes? Lovely….

There are a couple of mildly funny lines where Sandler pokes fun at himself, but I would have liked more of this humor and less of his usual shtick. But I’m back on the wagon, so don’t expect me to review any Adam Sandler movies moving forward.

Grade: D-

Top 10 Overrated Movies

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After my recent Top 10 Hated Movies list, I bet you were all curious what movies I either disliked or at least found overrated. If a movie is on this list, that doesn’t mean I disliked the movie. It means it wasn’t worth its hype or praise. Here we go!

10) Charlie & the Chocolate Factory  (2005) – This was one of my favorite books as a kid and I love the Gene Wilder version. This one? Terrible. Johnny Depp overdoes portraying Willy Wonka as an insubordinate, parent-hating sociopath, and there was no charm or magic to the script. The Chocolate Factory in the original was fun and whimsical. The Chocolate Factory in this one looks like a bad drug trip, and this version is unnecessarily cruel.

9) The King’s Speech (2010) – The King’s Speech won Best Picture and Original Screenplay at the 2011 Academy Awards. What’s the plot? A man (Colin Firth) filled with great potential needs to seek therapy so he can face his fears, inspiring his washed-up therapist (Geoffrey Rush) in the process. Sound familiar? Well, it should because this is nothing more than a well-polished remake of Good Will Hunting (1997). The Social NetworkBlack SwanThe Fighter, and Inception all lost Best Picture to this rehash?

8) The Kids are All Right (2010) – I found The Kids are All Right to be a nasty movie filled with unlikable characters. The only characters worth caring about were the kids (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutchison). The main couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) are terrible people with Bening being a selfish, high-strung workaholic and Moore sleeping with a man out of spite. It’s implied these two work through their problems, but personally, they both could have done better.

7) They Live (1988) – Full disclaimer – I love John Carpenter’s movies and consider him one of my favorite directors, but I can’t stand They Live. Yes, Roddy Piper and Keith David have an amazing fight scene, but Carpenter got carried away spouting his political views. There are way too many redundant jabs at the news and Republicans, and the self-indulgent “screw you” Carpenter gives critics in the end doesn’t work very well. It could have worked as either an action movie or a satire, but not both.

6) The Tree of Life (2011) – Critics praised it as one of the most beautiful and epic movies about life. Yet Sean Penn didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing in this movie, and neither did I. People still think Terrence Malick is a great director? He’s not if his actors don’t know what they’re supposed to do. The only scenes I liked were the scenes with the kids torn between Jessica Chastain (their mom) and Brad Pitt (their harsh father). Both actors are exceptional, but Malick doesn’t have a lot of restraint, so it’s hard to tell what the point was in this movie.

5) Cars (2006) – Pixar set high standards with their concepts through Toy Story (1995), Monster’s Inc. (2001), and The Incredible’s (2004), but Cars is just too damn simple to enjoy. It doesn’t feel like a Pixar movie at all, but more a Dreamworks animation (hacks) movie. It’s also a formulaic plot – the top celebrity is at the bottom and must work his way back to the top? Pixar movies should have at least a little more imagination than talking cars (which was done in a series of commercials), and a celebrity story.

4) The Gift (2015) – I originally gave The Gift a favorable review last summer, but it’s one where I changed my mind over time. Joel Edgerton wrote and directed this thriller, casting himself as a psycho stalker named Gordo. He wants revenge against a successful and handsome high school friend (Jason Bateman), dragging his wife (Rebecca Hall) into his own scheme. It’s an unpleasant experience with an ending that’s over-the-top, unbalanced, and plain disgusting. It also rips off Oldboy (2004), which was brilliant. I love twisted thrillers, but Edgerton’s self-indulgent rape fantasy could have been more if it had some class.

3) Life of Pi (2012) – So, let me get this straight: A man tells another man a story that he was stranded on a raft with a tiger until they landed on shores, was rescued, gave a statement that he was actually on a raft with a racist, murderous chef who murdered his family? And depending which story you believe determines whether or not you believe in God? Okay… Not buying what you’re selling.

2) Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) – All Star Trek Into Darkness is, is just a rehash of Star Trek II and some of the greatest episodes, with a small dose of Indiana Jones. Narrative-wise, it feels like a fan film rather than a refreshing installment like its predecessor was. However, I still enjoy this one because of Cumberbatch.

1) Snowpiercer (2014) – Why does everyone love this movie and say it’s a sci-fi masterpiece? Yes, the production design, cinematography, action sequences, and acting are great, but that doesn’t excuse its bad pacing, plot holes, and pretentious conclusion. The plot is like any other dystopian tale – a lower-class hero leads a revolution against the upper class for equality aboard a train during an ice age. But it ends with basically everyone dying? Also, things seem to be too frustratingly convenient. How does the imprisoned engineer (Song Kang-ho) know the snow is melting if he was locked in solitary for so long? How do the enforcers enter the back car without the protein bar maker noticing them?  None of this is explained clearly, which is a pet peeve in science fiction.

And those are my top 10 overrated movies! Thanks for reading! What movie do you think is overrated?

“The Nice Guys”

Shane Black, please write and direct more often. Russell Crowe, please do more action movies. Ryan Gosling, please, please, PLEASE do more comedies!

“The Nice Guys” is a buddy comedy (it is from the guy behind “Lethal Weapon” and “Kiss Kiss, Bang, Bang”), and takes place in the 1970’s. Crowe plays a wannabe-cop named Jackson Healy; Healy’s trying to find purpose in life and settles for being muscle-for-hire. Gosling is a bumbling private detective named Holland March. March is so burned out on life, that he’s fine drinking rather than working.

Healy and March collide after Healy orders March to drop his case in searching for a missing girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), but quickly partners with March when he’s violently confronted about Amelia’s whereabouts. This leads to both bloody and funny encounters with porn stars, hired guns, politicians, and auto dealers.

“The Nice Guys” is one of the best and funniest movies so far of this year. Like Black’s other movies, it’s filled with highly quotable dialogue (I’m going to be saying, “I’m invincible,” for a while), great physical humor (Gosling willingly throws himself off ledges), and an intriguingly cynical plot.

The movie isn’t just set in the 70’s, it looks and feels like a New-Hollywood film. The score is disco-heavy, the cinematography looks like grainy film stock, and the set pieces and characters are all sleazy. Healy and March are both anti-heroes, but their backstory and dynamic personalities keep “The Nice Guys” going.

Healy knows he’s a bad person and wants to find redemption. March denies being a terrible person while continuing to do terrible things. There is heart in this movie! Like all of Shane Black’s movies, there’s a kid who acts as the adults’ good conscience. That’s Hollie (Angourie Rice), March’s daughter, who bonds with Healy.

I’m not going into further detail about the plot or the humor, but I’ll say that if you’re going to see a movie that’s out right now, see “The Nice Guys!” They don’t make them like this anymore.

Grade: A

“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”

Comedy sequels aren’t usually my jam since they try to recapture their predecessor’s magic, *coughs* “The Hangover Part II” *coughs*. But “Neighbors 2” doesn’t have that problem. In fact, it holds its own and improves upon the first “Neighbors.”

Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are now expecting their second child, buy a new house, and sell their home they’ve had since the first movie. They’re stressed when they realize that they’re not only under a 30-day inspection trial, but that a sorority moves next door, led by the charismatic freshman Shelby (Chloe Moretz). And if you saw “Neighbors,” you know where this is going.

“Neighbors 2” begins slightly rough with a sex gag strongly reminiscent of its predecessor’s opening scene, and a couple of tasteless vomit and poop gags. Once Shelby is introduced and we’re reunited with Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), “Neighbors 2” takes off.

Mac and Kelly have the same shtick as they did in “Neighbors,” being the young couple who thinks they’re cool and hip. Surprisingly, we spend a lot more time with Teddy, who’s trying to find value and self-worth. Sounds melodramatic, but the situations he’s in are too hilarious and charming to miss.

Shelby and her sorority sisters have a positive message in the movie regarding sorority politics, and their motive as a party-privileged sorority is believable. It also leads to jokes about what is and isn’t sexist without getting too mean or insensitive.

“Neighbors 2” repeats a lot of the same jokes from its predecessor; however, there are some they manage to carry on without getting repetitive. I was the only one laughing at a scene where Mac’s boss evacuates the office to avoid another airbag incident (see “Neighbors”).

Tone-wise, “Neighbors 2” doesn’t come off uncertain like the first one. I liked “Neighbors 1,” but it bugged me how it wasn’t sure if it wanted to be a dramatic comedy or a slapstick one. “Neighbors 2” is more confident and is what the first one wanted to be: a slapstick comedy with human elements.

Grade: B+

“The Darkness”

Kevin Bacon is lucky I’m a fan; otherwise, I would have avoided the horror catastrophe known as “The Darkness.”

Bacon is Pete, the father of two children – teenager Stephanie (Lucy Fry) and her younger autistic brother Mikey (David Mazouz). Pete and his wife Bronny (Radha Mitchell) take their kids camping at the Grand Canyon where Mikey finds some marked rocks, removes them, and takes them home. Afterwards, all of the cliched disturbances at night, power outages, markings on the walls, animal attacks, and an unusual amount of melodrama occur.

Kevin Bacon doesn’t look like he’s enjoying himself in “The Darkness.” He mumbles his lines and appears embarrassed portraying a dimwitted cheater. No one in this movie is likable, which is unusual for a haunted house movie. The families in “The Conjuring,” “Insidious,” “Sinister,” and “Poltergeist” were all charming and lovable families that we could root for. The Taylors in “The Darkness” aren’t that family.

Pete has a history of womanizing and being an absent workaholic, Bronny is an alcoholic, and Stephanie hides an eating disorder from her parents and picks on Mikey constantly? This is one dysfunctional family, but the problem is there isn’t anything to make them redeemable.

Stephanie’s eating disorder subplot drops after two scenes and we never hear anything again. We don’t know why she has this condition; it just happens. Pete’s boss (Paul Reiser) encourages him to go after a young receptionist and claims to worship him for his womanizing past. We know nothing about what made Bronny pick up the bottle in the first place, so this subplot comes off pointless and forced.

“The Darkness” was trying too hard to be “The Babadook,” but that movie took time to pace itself between scares and develop the characters, making their flaws understandable. “The Darkness” isn’t that at all. For a couple concerned about their kids being terrorized by a ghost, they sure don’t mind going out on a double date.

The scares in this movie are as you expect: eerie music, someone investigates a noise, nothing there, turn around, and CLANNNNNNNNG! The climax itself isn’t convincing or scary since all they have to do is put the rocks away.

Director Greg McLean also brought us “Wolf Creek” in 2005, and he sure has warped ideas about women. In “Wolf Creek,” our only female characters are tortured and shot to death while the man survives. In “The Darkness,” our only female characters are either stereotypes or exposition tools. McLean should listen to the great George RR Martin and just write female characters as people.

“The Darkness” is a mess, and in a year of really good horror films and thrillers, “The Darkness” is the worst horror flick of 2016 so far.

Grade: F

“Keanu”

Yeah, I’m late on this one. I just saw “Keanu,” which was released two weeks ago (I saw “Green Room” that weekend instead), and I get it. Cats are adorable.

Did you ever see that badass 2014 action movie, “John Wick?” Well, this is a similar plot, but in comedy format. Rell (Jordan Peele) adopts an adorable kitten to cope with a breakup, finds the cat is abducted, then enlists his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) to rescue the cat.

“Keanu” works best as a parody of action movies and takes jabs at “John Wick,” “True Romance” (1993), “The Boondock Saints” (1999), “Bad Boys” (1995), and a million other action movies. Keegan and Peele (easiest way to refer to them) clearly love action movies and are great as average Joe’s trying to be tough.

Clarence is in a hapless marriage due to his low self-esteem and lack of thrills while Rell is focused on rescuing his beloved kitten, Keanu. This is where the laughs are because Rell is increasingly traumatized when exposed to shootouts and crazed celebrities trying to kill him, while Clarence enjoys teaching his gang of thugs about George Michael.

The kittens and George Michael make “Keanu” a surprisingly charming comedy, but it still suffers a few flaws (I know, who am I to criticize a comedy?). Clarence’s subplot gets a bit unnecessarily melodramatic at times (mainly in the last thirty minutes), the climax is strikingly similar to “21 Jump Street” (2012), and we get the millionth action-comedy slow motion gunfight. Slow motion gun fights aren’t funny; Keanu Reeves making an obscure cameo is.

I’d still recommend “Keanu” to people who love Keegan and Peele, as well as cat lovers and action movie fans. I may haven’t gotten the whole thing, but then again, not all comedy is for everyone.

Grade: B-

“Captain America: Civil War”

The third installment of a great franchise is usually the black sheep of the family. “Alien 3” (1992), “Spider-Man 3” (2007), “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006), “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012), etc. But how to the Russo Brothers keep topping themselves and their previous installments?!

“Captain America: Civil War” takes place a year after last year’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and after another catastrophic mission, Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt’s character from the 2008 “Incredible Hulk” movie) steps in and proposes a program to register all the Avengers as government operatives. Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) isn’t a fan of this while Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is okay with being put in check.

The situation further escalates when Rogers finds his best friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) wanted for more crimes, prompting him and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to protect Bucky and enlist Scarlett Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) to help. Iron Man, on the other hand, has Jim Rhoades/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and a young kid no one’s heard of named Peter Parker aka Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Who will win?!

“Civil War” begins like the same gritty spy movie/superhero hybrid that the great “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) was, but then evolves into something greater. This is an epic movie about a dysfunctional superhero family, plain simple. Rogers and Stark both have a strong case of sibling rivalry while Bucky is well, um, the black sheep! There’s much more to the movie than family metaphors… Like moral ambiguity!

“Civil War” shares the traits of some of the best spy and political thrillers, including “The Hunt for Red October” (1991) and “Crimson Tide” (1995) in which neither of our protagonists are right or wrong. It’s a debate. Would you want to surrender your freedom and be restricted? Or would you feel okay with restriction laws, knowing it’s potentially preventing more destruction?

We also get some suspenseful and masterfully directed action sequences, including one well-developed and cathartic fight between both teams at an airport. This fight emphasizes each member’s wit, power, and flaw as they beat the crap out of each other. It’s also just long enough. It’s not drawn out like the “Age of Ultron” climax.

Each cast member has their moments with Evans portraying Rogers as self-righteous, but also self-aware, Downey, Jr. playing Stark as vulnerable and lonely, Stan playing Bucky as a soldier with a lot of demons, Boseman playing T’Challa as honorable and vengeful, Holland playing Parker as a lovable smart-ass, and Rudd playing Lang as an everyman excited to be part of something bigger (it’s a better Ant-Man movie than last year’s “Ant-Man”). Daniel Brühl, of “Inglourious Basterds” (2009) and “Rush” (2013), is chilling as a mysterious villain obsessed with the Avengers.

For an ensemble comic book movie, “Civil War” is a fine example of how to confidently manage a large number of characters without getting lost in weaker subplots. I’d recommend it to comic book fans and anyone who wants to see a great, fun summer movie.

Grade: A+