“Baywatch”

I need to stop seeing movies just because they have Dwayne Johnson. Who am I kidding? He’s he most electrifying man in entertainment after all (WWE joke). He’s too good for “Baywatch” and this movie is just another studio cash grab.

Veteran lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Johnson) recruits a new batch of guards to join his team. This includes the tough Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario), socially awkward Ronnie (Jon Bass), and the cocky former Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron). Mitch and Brody automatically dislike each other in buddy comedy fashion, but have to put their differences aside when they discover drugs are surfacing on the beach.

People laughed at me when I said I was seeing “Baywatch.” Besides seeing it for Johnson, I actually saw potential in this movie. The original show was a cheese fest and could easily spawn a satirical adaptation ala “21 Jump Street.” Sadly, “Baywatch” isn’t that adaptation.

“Baywatch” is directed by Seth Gordon, who made the brilliant transgressive comedy “Horrible Bosses.” “Baywatch” is rated R like “Horrible Bosses,” but Gordon and the writers do nothing with it other than show a penis and spout a few dozen F-words. It’s not transgressive, offensive, meta, and worst of all, not funny.

Johnson and Efron have good chemistry, and they’re clearly doing their best to entertain the viewers, but it’s sadly not enough to overcome the long length time, redundant narrative, and overly serious tone. Do we need a tortured soul subplot in the middle of a vomit gag?

“Baywatch” is two hours of Mitch lecturing Brody on his selfishness and calling him a boy band name, then Brody admitting he screwed up and redeeming himself. Brody’s back story of puking during a team swim meet is sad and pathetic instead of funny.

How many comedies do we need with a dead body gag? How many do we need with a guy getting his junk stuck in public? How many do we need with someone clumsily falling into a pool with their clothes on? There’s already a “Baywatch” sequel in the works, so is there room for improvement? Yes. Will it improve? Probably not.

Grade: D-

“Sausage Party”

I know people don’t like Seth Rogen as a comedian, but have you paid attention to his writing in “Pineapple Express,” “Superbad,” “This is the End,” and most recently, “Sausage Party?” The man is a genius.

“Sausage Party” is an R-rated 3D-animated comedy that focuses on food. Much like “Toy Story,” the inanimate objects come to life when humans aren’t around (food in this case).

Hot dog Frank (Seth Rogen) and his friends Carl (Jonah Hill) and Barry (Michael Cera) are excited to pair with a package of buns, which includes Brenda (Kristen Wiig). However, they realize that their so-called “Gods” want to cook and eat them, so they must find a way to warn the rest of the food in the grocery store.

“Sausage Party” opens with a brilliantly vulgar musical number, featuring foods singing about the gods choosing them to go to heaven. I realized “Sausage Party” was more of a satire than advertised at this point, and I was totally fine with that. The movie satirizes religion, politics, and relationships as told through the foods.

Sour kraut wants to exterminate the juice (sound familiar?), the hot dogs want to fuck, fuck, and fuck while the buns want to talk and cuddle, and a bagel (Edward Norton) and a lavash (David Krumboltz) have cultural differences. The satirical points are the highlights of “Sausage Party.”

We also see in great horror what cooking food looks like through their points of view. Potatoes are skinned and boiled, lettuce is ripped in half, cheese is shredded on top of a plate of chips before microwaved, and we even see a used condom traumatized from its use. These scenes are darkly funny, but surprisingly nightmarish to watch.

The cast of “Sausage Party” excels with their voice acting. Cera is perfect as a socially awkward hot dog who seizes the day, Norton does a great Woody Allen impression through his bagel and delivers some of the sharpest lines, and Nick Kroll steals every scene as an antagonistic douche.

We also get wonderful moments from a liquor bottle (Bill Hader), a sexy taco (Selma Hayek), and a bath salt-addicted human (James Franco). They’re great, but Wiig is the standout, thanks to her awkward line deliveries and random moments of singing.

“Sausage Party” drags in the middle since foul-mouthed food gets old after a while, but thankfully it picks up steam in the last 20 minutes. The last 20 minutes are too good to spoil, but it’s the craziest and foulest climax I’ve seen in any cartoon. But who said animated movies can’t be foul?

“Sausage Party” isn’t for everyone, but for Rogen fans, food lovers, and people who love a good R-rated comedy, you won’t be disappointed.

Grade: A-

 

“Nine Lives”

A little note about the writer – Austin Maggs hadn’t ever walked out of a movie halfway through. This changed after he saw “Nine Lives.”

“Nine Lives” follows Kevin Spacey as Tom Brand, a workaholic tycoon with a much younger wife Lara (Jennifer Garner) and a loving daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman). When Rebecca asks Tom for a cat, he rudely adopts one from an eccentric pet store owner (Christopher Walken) and then finds that he’s now trapped inside the cat.

One of my biggest pet peeves in film is a movie that’s marketed as a kids movie when it’s clearly not. “Nine Lives” belongs in the 90s when false kids movies like “First Kid,” “Jingle All the Way,” and “Milk Money” were a trend.

SPOILERS AHEAD! BUT DO YOU EVEN CARE IF I SPOIL THIS CRAP FEST?

In the 45 minutes of “Nine Lives” that I watched, this movie had more aesthetics and narrative tropes of both a bad Lifetime drama and a TV comedy. This includes:

-Tom treating his grown son like an employee and insulting his masculinity.

-Lara befriending Tom’s unlikable ex-wife (Cheryl Hines) without any explanation as to why.

-The ex-wife’s snooty daughter having an annoying frenemy relationship with Rebecca.

-Lara revealing her extramarital affair.

-Tom’s disgruntled vice president trying to kill him.

-At least five boring business meetings filled with exposition and scotch. Those scenes alone belong in “Mad Men.”

Barry Sonnenfeld (the “Men in Black” trilogy) directed this disasterpiece, and the mighty has fallen. His overuse of whip pans, quick zooms, and bad CG make me wonder if the budget was actually thirty million dollars. Imdb and Wikipedia say it is, but I still don’t believe it.

I know I shouldn’t review this movie since I didn’t even finish it, but I saw enough of “Nine Lives” to determine this is the worst movie of 2016. And 2016 isn’t even over!

Grade: F

“Hunt for the Wilderpeople”

I love seeing movies out of impulse because the experience is often rewarding. I wasn’t having a particularly good night last night and decided to go to the nearest theater; that’s when I discovered a gem called “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.”

“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is a New Zealand adventure dramedy told in a twelve-chapter narrative, and it focuses on Ricky (Julian Dennison). Ricky is a defiant orphan with a love of hip hop music and gangster movies, who’s sent to live in the country with foster parents Bella (Rima De Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill).

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!

After Bella dies and foster care decides to reclaim Ricky, Ricky runs away and Hec pursues him through the wilderness. This leads to an emotional, slapstick, and occasionally thrilling comedy of errors, as Hec wants to return to his old life and Ricky wants to live the gangster life.

Simply put, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is the best comedy I’ve seen all year. This is that rare comedy that has a variety of different jokes and comedic styles blended together. There are instances of dramatic comedy, physical comedy, dark comedy, and slapstick comedy in 101 great minutes.

Writer/director Taika Waititi (“What We Do in the Shadows”) clearly loves movies and it’s demonstrated here through several movie references, whether they are through dialogue or visuals. The climax alone is an expertly crafted car chase reminiscent of car chases we’ve seen in almost every Michael Bay movie.

Both De Wiata and Neill have great chemistry, whether it’s through Ricky’s innocence challenging Hec’s cynicism, or Ricky and Hec understanding each other through poems and conversations, these two are a great buddy comedy duo. This is also Neill’s best performance in years because we finally see he has some acting chomps (I’ve always found him underrated).

The strongest aspect of this movie is Hec and Ricky’s relationship with each other. We see they are both outcasts and are brought closer for that reason alone. However, they also demonstrate the importance of family (not trying to be preachy), and supporting each other’s beliefs and ideals.

I can’t recommend “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” enough, but this is a gem and easily one of the best movies I’ve seen all year.

Grade: A

“Swiss Army Man”

I look forward to watching a post-Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe movie because he does what he wants. He has the financial freedom and power to do so, so why not play a farting corpse?

“Swiss Army Man” follows suicidal Hank (Paul Dano) stranded on an island. He notices a corpse named Manny (Radcliffe) slowly come back to life, possessing powers that are able to guide Hank home. Thus, an eccentric friendship blossoms.

For the first two acts of “Swiss Army Man,” I was close to naming it one of the year’s best movies. It’s sweet without being sentimental, simultaneously juvenile (the movie consists of dick and fart jokes) and philosophical, and philosophical without being pretentious. Dano and Radcliffe carry this movie.

Whether it’s Hank teaching Manny about movies and love, or Manny bluntly saying he’ll masturbate thinking about Hank’s mom, the laughs are consistent. “Swiss Army Man” also works as a dark adventure, as they struggle with nature and encounter a bear while contemplating if life is worth living for.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

I’ll never watch “Swiss Army Man” again because the final act makes the movie creepy and depressing as a whole. There’s a subplot involving Hank’s phone having a picture of a girl named Sarah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and we’re left thinking she’s Hank’s girlfriend.

After he reveals that he took the picture of Sarah without actually meeting her, and we learn that he has several other pictures of her on his phone, I felt manipulated and frustrated we were rooting for a stalker for two hours. Manny was the actual protagonist of this movie.

Manny’s a curious child being used by Hank, who doesn’t care about him until the movie’s end. When Manny escapes across the ocean, that’s the only happy ending we get in “Swiss Army Man.” There isn’t much sympathy for Hank, but that’s fine since we were tricked in rooting for a stalker.

“Swiss Army Man” is fun at first, but I wish the filmmakers either were honest about Hank or wrote a more likable protagonist. People will say I missed the point and maybe I did. But was the point to feel uncomfortable? I’m asking you!

Grade: B-

“Ghostbusters”

Dear haters and fanboys,

If you’ve watched various franchises, you should know very well that reboots are inevitable. You were all angry that we got a “Ghostbusters” reboot either because you weren’t open minded to recasting , or because Ivan Reitman didn’t make his third installment as promised.

Sincerely,

A confused movie lover.

That’s not my review! “Ghostbusters” needs no introduction because we all know what it is: a group of paranormal investigators discover a supernatural threat that can destroy New York City and have to save the day. This time it’s Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones as the titular characters.

“Ghostbusters” takes place in a new universe with no mention of Reitman’s classic. And while the cast and director Paul Feig deliver, the script is standard and exactly like the original “Ghostbusters.” Didn’t the writers learn that’s why no one liked “Ghostbusters 2?”

The “Ghostbusters” formula is  four disgraced scientists discover something abnormal and no one believes them, there’s a political antagonist who wants them out of the picture, they quit, and then save the world at the last minute. The 2016 reboot follows this formula without taking any risks.

The cast does their best with what they have. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are fine, but Kate McKinnon is the scene stealer as the eccentric and fearless, Holtzmann. Her delivery and lines are spot on and hit all the right notes. Leslie Jones is surprisingly more deadpan than the trailer let us believe (and I like my deadpan humor).

Chris Hemsworth (yep, Thor) has great comedic moments as the Ghostbusters’ incompetent receptionist and has me wondering why he doesn’t do more comedies. Andy Garcia also has his moments as an arrogant mayor (you should see how he reacts to being compared to the “Jaws” mayor).

I have to give Paul Feig and the cast credit for standing up to the angry fans and confidently holding their own throughout the movie. They take jabs at Youtube posts at least twice throughout the movie. The problem is, the movie gets lost in callbacks on the original franchise.

Whether it’s following the formula, having a cliched villain reminiscent of Peter MacNicol’s villain in “Ghostbusters 2,” or having forced cameos, we get it! This movie is better when it’s focusing on its own universe.

MINOR SPOILERS!

Most of the cameos feel forced, but the best one of the original cast is Ernie Hudson’s cameo because it feels natural unlike Bill Murray or Sigourney Weaver’s cameos. Slimer’s cameo is funnier than the other cameos in this movie.

Fans overreacted in thinking this movie was, “shitting on their childhood.” This installment might not be good, but there’s hope that the filmmakers will come into their own with the sequel.

Grade: C

“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”

It’s that time of year, folks! The time for the annual R-rated summer comedy. “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” is this summer’s crowd-pleasing raunch fest.

Adam DeVine and Zac Efron are the titular characters, Mike and Dave, and these two are the guys you don’t want at your party. They arrive, energize the party, and ruin it with their shenanigans. Their parents are fed up and tell them they aren’t invited to their sister’s wedding, unless they bring dates to keep them civilized.

Meet the hot messes, unapologetic mean girl Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and recently single Alice (Anna Kendrick). When they learn of the boys’ dilemma, they pretend to be “respectable as fuck” to get a free Hawaii trip out of the boys. And then of course, the slapstick high-jinx ensue.

SPOILER ALERT (Well, if you consider formulaic spoilers)!

“Mike and Dave” may not be the most refreshing comedy released, but it was a lot better than the trailer let on. The trailer sells us that the boys will figure out the girls’ scheme, the girls will fall for the boys, and in the end, they’ll end up together while growing up. Yep, that’s pretty much it!

However, the four stars have winning chemistry and their comedic timing is occasionally near-perfect. Between DeVine delivering awkward phrases followed with their blunt meanings, Efron parodying the “What’s in the box” scene from “Se7en”, and Plaza  and Kendrick intentionally and unintentionally causing chaos, I was laughing throughout the movie.

The other thing that surprised me about “Mike and Dave” is that the four leads were more human than expected. We see Dave wants to be more independent, Alice is trying to get over an ugly breakup, and Tatiana is doing bad deeds to cheer up Alice. Mike is the only one who feels antagonistic, but even he stops being a jackass by the second half.

“Mike and Dave” isn’t a special comedy due to the formula and some scenes that are more drawn out than a Judd Apatow movie, but it’s still a good date movie or a hangout movie. Check it out!

Grade: B