Bright

Bright is a strange movie in that it presents a great basic concept but has absolutely no interest in presenting any of its ideas or themes in a convincing manner. It’s a deadly serious movie that constantly trips over itself with terrible attempts at jokes that it thinks are witty. It’s a movie that flashes its racial themes from the very start only to abandon such things almost entirely about halfway through. And despite the ever-present fantasy elements of orcs, faeries, and elves, the movie never really does much with them.

BY-THE-NUMBERS

Directed by David Ayer and based on a screenplay by Max Landis, Bright feels as unoriginal as it is. Because despite the genre mash-up, the movie itself is little more than a by-the-numbers cop drama.

Nick Jakoby, played here by Joel Edgerton, is rookie police officer and a Tolkien-styled Orc treated by humans and elves as nothing more than some poor, violent creature despite his efforts to rise above the stereotypes applied to his entire race for two-thousand years. He’s acclimated to whatever passes for general human culture. He does not act or talk like a stereotypical Orc. He doesn’t even partake in deep-rooted cultural traditions in the hopes of being better accepted by humans. But the police force, including his partner Daryl Ward (Will Smith), want him gone. Not for anything he’s done wrong, of course. Jakoby being an orc is simply bad enough.

But by becoming a cop, he’s also seen as a race-traitor by other Orcs, specifically those who live down to the same generic stereotypes usually associated with black and Latino gangs in Los Angeles

This all eventually leads to a confrontation with some corrupt cops who will do anything to see Jakoby removed from his position on the force, including having his partner kill and frame him for a crime he didn’t commit.

But when Ward puts honor and pride above deep-rooted racism, he finds a target on his own back. And now he and Jakoby must evade capture while also trying to figure a way to clear their names.

There’s also something about a cult, an ancient prophecy, and a magic wand. But none of this really matters or amounts to much outside of two key scenes.

DIM

And this really does summarize everything wrong with Bright: it’s formulaic and uninterested in being interesting.

The first half of the film is all about racism in American society by way of Los Angeles. But then the movie decides it’d rather focus on police corruption by way of cliche 80s action movies. And then, in a few places, it instead becomes about some pointless ancient prophecy and other fantasy nonsense.

In the end, the movie isn’t about anything. There’s no story. The characters are little more than placeholders playing out a generic plot with a fantasy twist. And its serious, weighty themes are just an excuse to provide a thin, pretentious veneer on a shallow cliche with nothing of value to say.

But worst of all, the movie doesn’t care.

At best, the racism simply reinforces old fantasy tropes of Elves being beautiful and good, Orcs ugly and evil, and humans being somewhere in-between. At worst, it’s a lazy plot device. There’s no attempt at commentary or playing with expectations. In fact, Jakoby and his struggle is hardly the focus here. Will Smith is front and center as a racist police officer who reluctantly becomes a little less racist as the movie drags on.

The drama of two police officers struggling to survive in Los Angeles with gangs, a cult, and the entire police department after them lacks any degree of tension. It never feels like our leads are in real danger. Every scene feels like its impatiently trying to rush to the next. And Jakoby and Ward never feel like they’re bonding through any of it.

And the movie’s few action sequences are just as formulaic and unexciting. There’s a bland car chase. A bland shootout at a nightclub. And a couple of brief, bland magical showdowns that exist just to remind us that we’re watching a genre mash-up.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The movie isn’t hard to watch. And it’s far from the being the worst movie of 2017. It’s not even the worst movie carrying the “Netflix Original” branding this year.

That said, Bright is an underwhelming, disappointing mess of a movie that completely squanders every idea (and dollar) it attempts to juggle. There is no nuance. No subtlety. And despite marketing to the contrary, this is not a blockbuster-caliber experience. In fact, the movie doesn’t even attempt to reach mock-buster levels of spectacle.

I’m sure there will be some misguided audience that will find enjoyment in the fact that this movie exists. But unless you’re desperate for a lazy attempt to blend Training Day with Lord of the Rings, your time will be better spent elsewhere. (Oddly enough, I think it’s worth noting that had Ayer used movies like Lethal Weapon or Beverly Hills Cop as reference rather than more serious fare, Bright might have actually stood a chance. Maybe.)

Bright is easily a NO CHILL.

The Disaster Artist


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at James Franco’s The Disaster Artist!


The Disaster Artist is a strange movie about some strange people making one of the world’s strangest movies–Tommy Wiseau’s so-bad-it’s-fascinating 2003 feature film, The Room.


A MOVIE ABOUT A MOVIE

At time’s the movie is uncomfortable. Other times it’s laugh-out-loud funny. But, most impressively, The Disaster Artist is consistently a sincere look at two men whose friendship allowed them both to live out their dream of being actors and making a movie that people love.

Based on the book of the same name, The Disaster Artist not only sees James Franco in the director seat but also features him as the perpetually mysterious actor/writer/director Tommy Wiseau. His brother Dave Franco, meanwhile, features as Greg Sestero, the writer of the aforementioned book and Wiseau’s best friend and co-star in The Room.

And while it might be easy to find yourself entertained by just the sheer amount of comedic talent present in the movie–a roster of notable actors that could easily rival that of 2013’s This is the End. While that alone might sell a lot of tickets, the movie’s greatest strength isn’t in the comedy but in the care Franco takes to present a sincere tale about friendship.

A MOVIE ABOUT PEOPLE

Despite being based on true events, Wiseau’s very real, very odd personality can easily be mistaken as a farce. He could have easily been presented as this over-the-top eccentric. And it would have worked just as well. The movie in fact, may have made for a more hilarious, slapstick experience in line with the sort of projects one usually associates with talent like Franco and Seth Rogen.

But this isn’t a movie aimed at having a laugh at Wiseau’s expense. The intentional grounding of everything results in a movie that, while comedic, is equally dramatic and touching.

Franco never makes light of Wiseau’s eccentric personality. At times, the intent is clearly to get audience’s to laugh at Wiseau–such as Wiseau’s super-melodramatic approach to acting. But at the same time, even scenes like this, are an insight into the man’s personality. He never does anything half-assed, or what he at least perceives as such. And, as a result, there are time where you will–by design–feel guilty for having laughed at all.

And as we see throughout the film–through the general playing out of scenes, but primarily through Franco’s eerily on-point portrayal of Wiseau–Wiseau’s behavior is not coming from a place of comedic arrogance and hubris. It’s that of a man who is strange, yes, but fiercely dedicated to his passions.

He loves his new friend Greg, to the point that he invites Greg to live with him the moment Greg earnestly displays his passion for acting. Tommy moves them both to Los Angeles so that they can both live out their dreams. And, ultimately, he doesn’t hesitate to foot the massive bill–rumored to be in excess of $6 million–to produce The Room–a labor of love intended to catapult both their careers.

A MOVIE ABOUT BROTHERS

Logical questions that should arise from watching the movie, such as who Tommy really is and how he can afford such things, are touched upon in the movie just as they were in real life–it simply doesn’t matter.

The mystery of who Tommy Wiseau is or might be isn’t the story here. Instead, it’s about a deep friendship between two very different men. Tommy is a man who is unintentionally abusive and cold when all he ever wants to do is make those around him happy. Greg, meanwhile, is a young man whisked away from home at the young age of 19 who does all he can to mitigate the damage Tommy unintentionally causes around him.

The Disaster Artist, on the surface, is a great comedy about the making of a bad drama. But beyond that, it’s a touching drama about two brothers struggling to live out their dream. One doesn’t need to have seen Wiseau’s The Room to fully appreciate The Disaster Artist, but it certainly helps. And as a companion piece to The Room, it highlights precisely why that movie transcends it’s own numerous shortcomings–shortcomings that would have been a death sentence to any other film and those involved with it.

Funny, heartwarming, introspective, weird, and inspiring. All words that easily describe nearly every frame of this movie as well as the two men at the center of it all.

The Disaster Artist–even more so than the cult favorite movie that inspired it–is a definite CHILL.

Justice League (2017)


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ surprisingly fun Justice League!


An ancient evil from beyond the stars has come to Earth to reclaim an ancient cube with the power to reshape and destroy worlds. And the only thing standing in the way of the death and destruction of everything, is a Caped Crusader, a Goddess, an Atlantean, the Fastest Man Alive, and a Cyborg…in Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ Justice League.


Originally helmed by Zack Synder and completed by Joss Whedon, Justice League brings together some of the greatest pop culture icons in modern American history for a movie that is, unfortunately, not very good. On a technical level, on a structural level, on just about every basic, fundamental filmmaking level, Justice League is, at best, subpar.

Visually speaking, the movie is all over the place. The color palette doesn’t match the production in any way, and is likely the result of Whedon’s drastic reshoots and alterations to the work already completed by Synder.

The saturation and brightness levels were clearly adjusted in post-production to move away from Snyder’s usual desatured, dark visuals. And in and of itself, these changes are likely going to be a welcomed change for many. Mature dramatics is one thing to want in a superhero movie. But drab, lifeless worlds and characters with no sense of enjoyment to any of it is a whole other thing.

However, these adjustments make every set, prop, costume, and clearly green-screen backdrops stand out in the worst way possible. The movie never looks like a cohesive, believable production. Ever. It’s always obvious that what we are seeing was done in a studio and on a computer.

In fact, this is only made worse by CGI reminiscent of the work seen in movies from the early 2000s. At times the movie actually dives right to “Scorpion King” levels of bad, as in the CGI monstrosity featured in Universal’s The Mummy 2, which infamously featured a monster that was the fusion Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and a giant scorpion.

And to further compound this visual mess, the compositing work is somehow worse than the CGI itself. The effects never blend seamlessly with physical reality. This ranges from issues like shots of the island of Themyscira looking like it was ripped right out of a decade-old video game to the movie’s CGI baddies–the bug-like Parademons and the big, bad Steppenwolf–interacting less believably with the movie’s flesh-and-blood cast than the toons featured in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

In a world where giant alien robots from the planet Cybertron and a humanoid raccoon and tree can believably stand-by-side with living, breathing people, there is no excuse for this level of bad CGI from a major studio and a massive budget.

MINOR LEAGUE

Of course, none of this even begins to touch upon the issues with everything else.

The plot of Justice League is little more a single thread that rationalizes everything on screen. There’s not much actually happening. Nor does what little we get actually ever mean anything. There’s no story. No heart. No character arcs. No emotional depth or dramatic weight anywhere for anything, even when certain scenes actually demand it.

And given how much material this movie lifts from actual stories featured in the pages of the comics, where such moments and images and stories are actually pulled off with some respective degree of emotional relevance, it’s shocking how hollow everything in Justice League really is.

One of the most glaring example–but certainly not the biggest offender–is when the team finally do overcome Steppenwolf and his army. This moment is a given. This is a Hollywood blockbuster after all. We expect the heroes to win. But in a good movie, that moment would come across as the single greatest thing we’ve ever witnessed…even if only for that singular instant in history.

We feel it when The Nazis die a ghastly death at the end of Raiders of the Lost Arc. We feel it when The Avengers defeat Loki and his own alien army–specifically when Hulk finally gives Loki the beating he deserves.

But we don’t feel that here. There’s a big fight, and that final giant action set piece really is fun if not exceptionally creative or well-presented. But then it just kind of ends. Not unceremoniously. It’s certainly shown in such a way where the movie wants you to feel the same thing you might feel when the Luke blows up the Death Star. But that’s not what it will make you feel.

Instead, it’s just a sign that the movie is about to wrap things up.

Part of this has to do with the way everything is presented visually. It’s just not that exciting to watch. Fun, yes. Entertaining, yes. We get a good sense of everything that’s happening. We get the idea of what’s being given to us. This is a big fight where colorful and stupidly powered cartoon characters are fighting other stupidly powerful cartoon characters. Batman does this. Superman does that. And Wonder Woman is mixed in there too. And then it just sort of ends.

But this isn’t a cartoon. It shouldn’t have to meet the dramatic depth requirements of an old Saturday morning cartoon. It needs to be able to resonate with a general audience. It needs to make use of its massive budget and all the Hollywood magic that it can buy.

And in that same vein, the characters in the very big Hollywood blockbuster shouldn’t speak as if they’ve been pulled out of an old cartoon. Unless it’s one of the movie’s many wonderful small character moments–such as the bizarre, alpha-male bromance between Aquaman and Bruce Wayne of all things–the majority of the dialog is utterly insipid and heavily reliant on exposition.

This exposition, however, is required to explain the simple yet somehow purposely convoluted plot thread. Unlike the one glowing cube in The Avengers, this movie has three glowing cubes. And an unbelievable amount of time is spent on just trying to rationalize the existence of three cubes instead of one.

This means that rather than getting this emotionally powerful moment where Victor Stone confronts his father about his fears of being this inhuman fusion of flesh and alien technology. Rather than getting this, we get the two talking vaguely at each other about the stupid glowing cube. This scene between father and physically and mentally scarred son is instead just about a box. Hide the box. Steal the box. Take the box back.

Because these three Mother Boxes are the central focus of the movie rather than the actual, very straightforward danger that they represent, the movie has to constantly reinforce their existence at all times. This isn’t just a movie about the end of the world. No, it’s a movie about why these three boxes are so important.

A LITTLE FLAT

Now, that all having been said.

It still doesn’t yet begin to cover why the action is about as exciting as the various cartoons featuring these same characters. It doesn’t feel like a comic panel brought to three dimensions. Instead, it feels like it’s being replicated in yet another 2D plane. Again, it’s actually fun to watch. That’s very true. But it never feels like there’s any depth to it. There’s nothing there that you haven’t seen before in some fashion. It’s all paint-by-numbers, generic, uninteresting action by and large. All made worse by bad framing, questionable editing, and lackluster choreography. And that ever-present bad CGI and green screen.

A LEAGUE OF ITS OWN

Now all of that having been said. In spite of all that I’ve previously stated. In spite of all of that, Justice League is shockingly easy to watch. It’s much more often than not–again, almost shockingly so–fun to watch.

The movie was clearly a salvage job. And as bad as the movie is, it clearly could have been much worse. And the clumsy, quick pace doesn’t allow the bad and boring moments to linger. The movie–forced as it may have been–benefits from the hatchet job that resulted in a final cut that’s well-under two hours. The fun stuff is constantly coming at you, making you almost forget entirely about the rest.

More so, the movie is elevated by the performances of its cast. Nobody drops the balls. Everyone is at the top of their game, even when they’re reciting dialog that sounds as if it were written by a middle-school student. As bad as the stuff that comes out of their mouth might sound to the human ear, every actor brings out the best in their respective Leaguer. They live up to the iconic imagery of their characters. And they deserve all the credit in the world for even attempting to make up for the terrible presentation of it all.

A MOVIE OUT OF TIME

Had this exact movie been released 10 or 15 years ago, it would have easily been an impressive, respectable feat.

Unfortunately, Justice League is incredibly late to the party. And it shows. The bar has been raised time and again–not just in superhero movies, but in blockbusters in general. And the movie we get doesn’t hold up in any notable way in 2017.

Making a Justice League movie should not be hard after such things have been done elsewhere better and with none of the issues Warner Bros. has continued to have. It shouldn’t be hard when DC Comics itself has managed to do it very well in animation, especially with projects like Justice League: The New Frontier (a much watch if you’ve been curious how DC should be handling their properties in live-action).

Justice League has more in common with the Transformers film franchise (especially the sequels) than it does anything from Marvel. The look, the immaturity (poorly) masquerading as something mature, the suspect storytelling, the generally bad dialog and character work.

But despite being very stupid, despite being bad on a basic fundamental filmmaking level…Justice League is still fun and entertaining. Not good, but not terrible either.
You certainly won’t feel like you wasted your time by watching it. And, after the shortfalls we’ve seen with Warner and DC’s previous movies, I guess this is a good thing. Justice League, like Wonder Woman–another deeply flawed but watchable movie–is a step in the right direction.

Let’s just hope a competent filmmaker is leading things when the next step is taken.

Surprisingly and happily, I suggest you CHILL with Justice League.

Thor: Ragnarok


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at the most colorful, campiest Marvel movie to date, Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok!


When they discover their long-lost sister is also the Goddess of Death, Thor and Loki will have to work together to save the Nine Realms from total destruction in Thor: Ragnarok.

RISK AND REWARD

Director Taika Waititi presents us with what is arguably Marvel’s most ambitious production yet.

And it’s rather fitting, really. Thor’s first cinematic outing was also the riskiest of Marvel’s first phase of movies. That movie took audiences away from the relatively grounded world of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and even Captain America. It exposed audiences to Marvel’s larger, stranger concepts of magic, super-science, gods, and the greater cosmic landscape.

Now, those first two entries in the Thor series of films may not have been the most successful for Marvel Studios. Nor were they the best received, especially Thor: The Dark World.

Both movies were criticized by many for a variety of reasons. The first was too focused on an expected but not entirely welcomed romantic subplot and lacked the sort of scope fans were expecting, with little of the mystical realm of Asgard being shown. And in the case of The Dark World, the movie was plagued by an incredibly underwhelming villain and under-cooked story.

RISK AND REWARD

That said, both movies have their fair share of fans. And even if The Dark World is largely considered to be the closest thing Marvel Studios has made to a cinematic misfire, it’s still a watchable and enjoyable movie. It simply pales in comparison to its abundant sister films.

More so, both films were and still are some of Marvel’s most ambitious, riskiest movies. Even long after fans have been exposed to the colorful cast and many worlds seen in Gunn’s pair of Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

Because while many fans might be turned off by Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster and the love story between her and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, it remained a welcome change of pace to the usual mix of overtly macho stories presented in Marvel’s other movies. They were the closest thing the studio had made to a traditional Rom-Com.

And Thor: Ragnarok is no different in that regard. But rather than being a romantic-comedy that also happens to feature colorful superheroes and villains, Ragnarok is the closest thing Marvel has made to a traditional buddy comedy.

No matter what is happening on screen, the movie is constantly cracking jokes. Whether it’s a callback to previous movies, some shenanigans between Thor and Loki, or Jeff Goldblum stealing the show with his scene-chewing as Grandmaster, the not-so benevolent ruler of a planet inhabited by the castoffs of the universe and gamemaster of the gladitorial-like Contest of Champions.

And while Thor: Ragnarok obviously lifts some visual cues from James Gunn’s work on Guardians of the Galaxy, the movie also maintains its own personal style. Of course, that style is very close to those seen in movies like Flash Gordon and Heavy Metal, with this emphasis on camp, humor, and the strangest, coolest art and music design seen and heard in a major Hollywood blockbuster.

WHAT IN THE HELA?

That said, failing to be wholly original might be the only thing Thor: Ragnarok fails at.
Because compared to its sister films, Waititi infuses the black sheep of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with some much needed structure, character work, and fun.

There is no romantic subplot. There is no moment where the jokes and action fail to shine. The main villain, Hela, is not only developed just enough but also brought to life by Cate Blanchett’s insane desire to be the MCU’s most dangerous and alluring foe to date. She even manages to give Goldblum a run for his money when it comes to chewing the scenery–and I do mean that in the best way possible.

And Karl Urban’s sympathetic not-quite a villain, Scourge–Hela’s hand-picked lackey looking for a chance to prove his worth to somebody, anybody–is proof that even smaller roles are better fleshed out than anything seen in the previous two movies.

RAGNAROK & ROLL

More so, it also opens up Marvel’s approach to movies in a way it has yet to do.

The humor isn’t new. Nor is the color palette. But Thor: Ragnarok does show that Marvel is now opening itself up to the idea that these movies don’t need some major crossover event to bring in other notable characters, even if only for a few brief scenes.

More than ever, you don’t need to have seen either The Incredible Hulk or Doctor Strange to understand who they are or why they appear in this movie. Knowing they exist at all certainly helps, but it’s not necessary to enjoy their scenes or contributions to the rest of the movie.

Now, could Thor: Ragnarok have done without Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange? Yes, and easily so. But his appearance also doesn’t feel forced. Instead, it’s a nice way to show that these characters do know each other, that they and their worlds do collide–that such a thing can happen at any time for any reason. And, more importantly, this can be done without derailing the film.

A major complaint by even the biggest fans of Marvel’s movies (and their comics) has often been the logical issue of this world of interconnected superheroes who never show up to help or even fight their friends outside of The Avengers or Captain America: Civil War.

Sure, characters like Tony Stark have appeared in movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming. But he also served a major, recurring role within the context of that film. He was important to the development of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker.

But in Thor: Ragnarok, Dr. Strange pops up to help drive the plot forward, and then just as quickly takes his leave. He’s treated like any other ancillary role might be in any other movie. But because we do know the character–because the character has had his own movie at some point–what might have been an unimportant, forgettable role is instead greatly improved. And on the same note, fans no longer have to wonder why these characters fail to cross paths more frequently.

IF HE BE WORTHY…

Now, the movie isn’t without its faults. The most glaring of which is how its apocalyptic scenario is undercut by the movie’s emphasis on humor over dramatics.

There are, of course, some deadly serious moments to be found in the movie, but they feel less impactful–even if intentionally so–than they could have been. “Ragnarok” should conjure up images of death and destruction on a cosmic scale, and the movie does give us as much. But it will likely ring a bit hollow for some.

The movie, in a way, does make light of things like dictators, violent fights to the death, and, yes, the end of the world itself. All these things are present in this film. But they’re presented in a comedic light. Again, Thor: Ragnarok is a comedy first and anything else a distant second.

For some, this might prove to be a disconnect that is difficult or even impossible to overcome. It might taint any fun that might be had with the movie.

But for those looking to escape the world for two hours and go on a colorful, hilarious ride across the cosmos that also features some great visuals and action scenes, Thor: Ragnarok is more than worthy of your time.

I definitely suggest you CHILL with Thor: Ragnarok.

Night of the Creeps


31 Nights of Horror (#10) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at 80s teen comedy turned retro monster movie, Night of the Creeps!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.


When slug-like alien parasites are accidentally unleashed on small-town America, it’ll be up to some plucky college kids and a heroic cop to save the world in Night of the Creeps.

NEW RETRO

Night of the Creeps is brought to us by writer-director Fred Dekker–who many might know better for his work on yet another cult-classic, The Monster Squad.

And much like The Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps takes classic horror staples like aliens and zombies and sets them loose in small-town America with a more light-hearted twist. The movie never takes itself too seriously. This is very much an 80s version of matinee sci-fi b-films from the 1950s. In fact, the movie initially opens in the 1950s before quickly jumping ahead thirty years. The college kids are very much the sort of bright, stereotypical go-getters found in those earlier movies. The police officer is an unfaltering hero of the people. And the monsters are never, ever intended to seriously disturb so much as they’re intend to illicit a cheap, but fun scare. The slug-like creatures are very unsettling and will be sure to cause many to squirm in their seats as they wriggle about, in and out of their victims.

Simply put, Night of the Creeps is likely what we would have got if John Hughes had written and directed a horror movie. It’s Weird Science meets Them!

MAYBE TOO DIFFERENT

But, despite being a well-written, well-directed, and well-acted bit of comedy and horror, the movie’s light-hearted tone and material is likely to leave some fans rather disappointed.

Because if you want something much more scary than it is funny, Night of the Creeps is not the movie for you. There’s some certainly great effects on display and some creatively violent moments to be found. But it is not looking to give anyone nightmares so much as it is eager to offer you a fun time.

Horror is an incredibly flexible approach to material more so than it is an easily defined genre. There are key elements and twists that can be added to any story to turn even a teen comedy into a horror movie.

And it’s this variety found in horror stories that provide us–and especially those who might not normally like horror movies– such fun experiences as Night of the Creeps. Because for every scare the movie sacrifices, it more than makes up for it in jokes, gags, and simply playing about with a classic style and staple of American cinema.

And it never passes up an opportunity to do either. Because while many similar movies might do different, Night of the Creeps paces itself like few others. It’s never too long before there’s another joke or monster popping about on screen. The characters constantly have something to stay and do. There’s no wasted time or effort.

FLAWED DELIGHT

This isn’t to say the movie is somehow flawless, because it’s not. As fun as the movie is, it’s not nearly as memorable as many other comedic horror films of that era. Its jokes are about as cutting or as clever as its scares are intense. The overall experience is fairly mild, fairly safe.

But for a movie that’s very much taking up the legacy of horror movies that were intended to be fairly mild, fairly safe, isn’t that sort of the point? And in that case, doesn’t that make it a great continuation of that legacy?

Now, whether you answer yes or no to these questions will determine the mileage you’ll get from Night of the Creeps.

But in either case: if you are looking for a good time with a bit of a morbid twist, be sure to CHILL with Night of the Creeps.

House


31 Nights of Horror (#9) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at underappreciated 80s comedy horror flick, House!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.


Haunted by the disappearance of his son and his memories of Vietnam, a struggling writer moves into his childhood home following the untimely death of his aunt. But as he attempts to use this as an opportunity to work on his latest novel, this would-be Stephen King will also have to face some very real personal demons in House.

FUNNY UH-OH?

House, from director Steve Miner, is–despite the rather bleak and grim subject matter–actually more comedy than it is horror.

Not too much time ever goes by without some visual gag or joke being thrown at an unsuspecting audience. But, at the same time, not too many minutes pass without some eerie
ghoul looking to give William Katt’s Roger (or the audience) a good scare.

Quite frankly, given the the subject matter on display, it’s likely that House benefits by leaning on comedy more than anything else. If Miner had taken a more straightforward approach to the script, the final result might have been unbearably depressing.

Because despite the movie’s more often than not lighthearted tone, House covers things like suicide, child abduction, divorce, and even war-induced PTSD. It never makes light of any of this, fortunately. Instead, Miner chooses to use both comedy and horror as a way to present
such serious material in a more digestible manner.

Just when it seems the movie is going to get too serious– with Katt’s soldier-turned-horror novelist left to stew in his isolation, depression, and seemingly endless amount of guilt–Miner inserts some much needed levity. Sometimes this comes in the form of TV’s George Wendt popping over for an awkward bit of neighborly snooping. Other times it comes in the form of some incredible monster designs.

SCREAMING OR LAUGHING?

And it’s because the movie is a comedy that the monsters and other bits of horror manage to work so well. In a more straight-faced horror movie, the special effects in House–as well done as they might be–might not have worked. Their use is minimal. And the budget was clearly tight.

But, most of all, it would have been lost on an audience watching a Vietnam vet slowly fall apart as everything good in his life is taken away from him. The very real, grounded horror story playing out on screen would have totally overshadowed what amounts to some creepy looking foam rubber.

Overall, Miner manages a beautiful balancing act. The comedy makes the very real horror digestible and allows the fictional stuff flourish. The real horror adds some much needed gravitas to a genre that is often far allowed to be shallow. And the fun horror stuff helps visualize the internal struggle going on in our lead character.

Half the time you’ll likely be laughing. The rest of the time you’ll be fidgeting uncomfortably in your seat. But the entire time you’ll be cheering on our beaten-but-not-broken hero.

And, in the end, you’ll be glad you chose to CHILL with House.

Body Melt


31 Nights of Horror (#2) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, he comes across Australian comedic horror flick, Body Melt!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.


When a concerned employee of a shady pharmaceutical company attempts to reveal that an entire Australian suburb has been used as guinea pigs, he’s not only swiftly and violently silenced but the residents of Pebbles Court soon discover that their free dietary supplement pills have some seriously gruesome side-effects in Body Melt.

MELTIN’

Body Melt, from director and co-writer Philip Brophy, is a delightfully crazed b-film that you would be forgiven for mistaking for one of Troma’s insane creations. The blood and body horror frequently comes by the barrel. The characters are colorful caricatures, with every actor’s performance cranked up to 10. And the movie floors it from the outset and doesn’t ease up on the gas until it crosses the finish line.

However, the path it takes to get there is quite literally all over the place.

Despite the film selling itself as something detailing the gruesome outcome of secret tests done on unsuspecting suburbanites, there’s very little time actually spent in the suburbs.

In fact, much of the movie takes place on either a remote farm in the Australian outback or a high-end spa that secretly doubles as the laboratory for the aforementioned and comically evil pharmaceutical company.

The movie also never spends too much time with a single character, with Brophy instead electing to jump from one to the next in fairly quick fashion, making the movie feel like a series of loosely connected vignettes.

And, to be fair, this works very much in favor of Body Melt. We get to know characters just enough before the movie goes about killing them off in creative, unsettling ways. No punches are pulled. No one is safe. And no stone is left unturned, as the movie hands out bits and pieces of backstory for the whole thing without ever bringing the movie to anything resembling a slow crawl.

It’s a high-energy, frantic experience. But it’s only one that masquerades as a mess rather than actually being one.

DISTURBIN’

Now, as fun as the movie is from start to finish, it must also be said that this one isn’t for the squeamish or the easily offended. There are a number of disturbing images–as colorful and wacky as they may be at times–that, among other unsettling things, occasionally involve children.

But for those who can embrace the no-holds barred nature of a comedic horror film that aims to entertain and push limits–and certainly more so than to simply shock and offend–then Body Melt is easily worth CHILLING with.

The Hippopotamus


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at The Hippopotamus, a snarky, witty comedy based on the novel by Stephen Fry!


When a drunken, disgraced writer suddenly reunites with his terminally ill goddaughter, she tasks him with investigating a series of unexplained miracles at her family’s country manor in The Hippopotamus.

BIT OF FRY

Directed by John Jencks and based on the novel by Stephen Fry, The Hippopotamus is a strange little movie that is delightfully dark, twisted, and snarky in all the right ways.

In fact, if the movie has any glaring fault to find, it would likely be in how the movie perfectly translates Fry’s voice only to not feature him in any capacity.

Instead, we get Roger Allam in the lead role of Ted Wallace, the semi-successful, self-loathing poet turned theater critic. And while Allam does an amazing job as this aging, talented lech, it’s hard not to wonder what the role would have been like if Stephen Fry were cast in his place, speaking the words he wrote–words that still sound as if he’s speaking them.

Of course, this isn’t to deny the fantastic work by Allam or his supporting cast. Tommy Knight especially stands out as Ted’s quirky, mysterious godson, David–a young man seemingly gifted with the power of a healing touch.

Nor is this to say the movie’s lacking a few weak links, because it’s not. In fact, the movie has quite a few characters who exist to fulfill a single, specific role and little else. And the performances by the actors in these roles are never outstanding in any real way. The material simply isn’t there for the actors in such roles to shine.

Of course, if more of the roles were written and performedlike Ted or even Tim McInnerny’s flamboyant, desperate Oliver, the movie might be all the better for it. It certainly might be a bit more palatable for American audiences that are accustomed to entire casts of big, loud comedians.

That’s all possible. But it’s also likely that the movie would suffer from having too much of a good thing.

Dry wit and charm is wonderful and all. But if every character is presented in such a way, it starts to become noise. It becomes apparent that every character speaks like everyone else. More to the point, they all speak like the writer. All you need to do is look at works from writers and directors like Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon to see how such a thing can become a problem, even if their work is popular.

SNARK AND HEART

That said, well-performed utility roles do keep the movie focused and played straight while allowing Ted–and his narrations–to be the primary source of comedy.

Because for all its colorful language, strange and charming characters, and biting critique of both England’s apparently self-absorbed upper-class and man’s desperate hope for miracles in the face of death, the movie never forgets to be funny.

But more importantly, it never forgets to tell an engaging story with relatable characters. It never reduces anything or anyone to a gag–something a lot of American comedies would do well to keep in mind.

And what I mean by this is that without the jokes, the movie would still play out as a good bit of drama. There’s a good mystery at play. And even the stuffiest of characters are still,
at their heart, people first and stereotypes second. The humor simply alters the experience, perhaps even enhancing it in many ways. Alternatively, the comedy never exists to simply cover up any issues the movie might have with its characters, plot, or dialog.

SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

That all said, The Hippopotamus isn’t for everyone. It’s definitely a prime example of the sort of smart, dry humor the British are known for. And as such, this might be a movie some of us in the states may have trouble with.

This one isn’t noisy. It isn’t overtly wacky in any real sense. And it certainly isn’t quirky in the style of Wes Anderson. Now, there are moments where the jokes go big, but even such things are restrained so as to keep it in line with the rest of the movie.

For those looking for something smart, witty, and wholly engaging, you would do right by yourself to CHILL with The Hippopotamus. But if you are up to the task of diving into something completely different from what you might be used to, this one is definitely worth adding to your queue and watching when you have the opportunity.

The Midnight After


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at the strange Hong Kong comedy-horror flick, The Midnight After.


On a night just like tonight, a colorful group of strangers come together on a long bus ride home. But when they come out the other side of a long tunnel, they’ll find that the world has become a much stranger, deadlier place…in The Midnight After.

THE SIZZLE

The Midnight After, from director Fruit Chan, is a comedy-horror experience straight from Hong Kong and proud of it. But, more importantly, it’s also an experience unlike anything else you’ve seen.

The movie happily dances that dangerous tightrope between full-blown horror movie and comedy. The story is engaging. The concept, terrifying. And the imagery is a morbid delight.

More so, the strange grabbag of stereotypes that we watch suffer are easy to love, laugh at, and be scared for. The overacting and scene-chewing is intentional and feels at home in a movie where the conflict is so sudden and over-the-top. Everything is turned up to 10, and the movie is all the better for doing so.

THE STEAK

That said, The Midnight After is a clear example of how the journey can also be the destination.

Given the movie’s origins as a web-novel published in pieces on an internet forum, it’s not surprising to see it struggle with basic things like pacing and structure. There’s little in the way of a plot. Scenes just sort of carry on at their own leisure. And characters bicker constantly for the sake of bickering.

But somehow it all works. The characters and their interactions with one another is the focus here. The strange circumstances and the way they’re tortured–or the way they torture each other–is an excuse for the character stuff to happen. The characters are what bring the comedy. They’re the reason why we’ll care whenever something frightening happens on screen.

And even if you aren’t familiar with the language or culture–which may be likely given it’s Hong Kong setting and production–the performances still come across as golden. None of the characters feel under-served or without purpose. They have clear desires and goals. And the fact that you’ll be rooting for a good chunk of them to survive despite some of the things they say and do? That’s a fun, fresh change of pace for these sorts of movies.

AND THE…

The language barrier is sure to prove an issue for some. And Chan’s predilection for depicting small-scale Hong Kong life and culture could prove to be too much culture shock for even those who are fine with reading subtitles. But should you find it in you to give a The Midnight After a fair shot, you will thank yourself afterward.

Fun, creative, and without a dull moment, The Midnight After is definitely a BIG CHILL.

A Fantastic Fear of Everything


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at Simon Pegg-led comedy-horror flick, A Fantastic Fear of Everything.


Simon Pegg is Jack, a novelist whose marriage has somehow been ruined by his unpublished first novel and whose life has been further ruined by his decent into a paranoid madness–a madness caused by his compulsive research into Victorian serial killers.

But when he gets word from his agent that someone at the BBC is interested in his scripts, Jack is forced to overcome his newfound fear of everything and mentally prepare himself for the meeting that will make or break his entire career. And, of course, just as he steps outside his comfort zone, Jack quickly discovers that maybe his fears weren’t completely unfounded in A Fantastic Fear of Everything.

NOWHERE, MAN

Much like Simon Pegg’s skittish character, A Fantastic Fear of Everything hardly goes anywhere. And where it does dare to go is nowhere particularly new.

While there’s a lot of potential to the concept and plenty of mileage to be had from Pegg’s neurotic performance, writer/director Crispian Mills never does much with either. In fact, Pegg’s performance is just about all that keeps the film from being completely forgettable, even for the most die hard Simon Pegg fans.

Earlier scenes feel like a comedic send-up of Edgar Allan Poe, with a frail-minded intellectual slowly losing his already tentative grasp on reality and sanity. One sequence in particular sees Jack alone in his apartment, frightened of the darkness all around him and struggling to even urinate in peace while his anxiety-riddled mind conjures up not-entirely imagined shapes and figures and sounds. But this early sequences highlights how well Mills can play well with both comedy and legitimate horror.

Pegg is very much playing for laughs, with the way he dashes across his long hallway and dives wildly through the doorway of his bathroom. But, at the same time, all of this is juxtaposed with still silence, something eerily moving about in the darkness behind him, and Jack being as vulnerable as possible–he’s caught literally with his pants down around his ankles.

It’s a somewhat silly but all-too real fear many of us might have had on a late-night visit to the bathroom.

WHA HAPPEN?

Unfortunately, once the film leaves Jack’s apartment behind, the film quickly stops being either funny or scary.

Instead of more scenes of Jack struggling with his ever-increasing madness, we’re left to watch him take a prolonged trip to get his clothes ready for his big meeting, struggling with every day things like a washing machine, and finding himself wrapped up in a horrifically cliched final act.

This sudden shift makes it feel as if someone had lost half the script during production and insisted that Pegg simply reenact his favorite episodes of Mr. Bean.

In fact, if anyone knows why the film abandoned its entire premise less than halfway through for the lifeless, pointless day-to-day of a man suffering from severe anxiety, I would love to hear a proper explanation.

Because it’s one thing for a movie to start strong and quickly lose steam. Or for a movie to start weak and continue to only get worse. But it’s a whole other thing when a movie doesn’t simply lose its magic but eagerly abandons it.

Now, the movie may have worked if we started with the mundane and moved on to the absurd mix of Pegg’s humor and Poe-like madness. But not in the opposite direction. You never go from authentically interesting to purposely boring…unless you plan to swerve back to what hooked your audience in the first place. Misdirection only works as a tool if you don’t use it to assault–and insult–your audience.

MEH.

A Fantastic Fear of Everything isn’t without its charms and moments of creativity–especially Simon Pegg’s atypical performance. But the film as a whole is sure to fail to impress most who watch it, if it doesn’t have you actively upset once the life is sucked out of the whole thing.

Had this actually been a 30-minute episode of Mr. Bean, the drastically shorter run time might have managed to properly utilize the light peppering of comedy, horror, and quirkiness. But, as it is, these brief moments of enjoyment largely rest upon an otherwise bland offering.

A Fantastic Fear of Everything is a NO CHILL.

Howard the Duck


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at the much maligned, highly flawed, but wholly enjoyable Howard the Duck!


Long before The Avengers, Spider-Man, the X-Men, or even Wesley Snipe’s Blade ever hit the big-screen, the first–and incredibly odd–choice for a live-action adaptation of a Marvel Comics property was none other than Howard the Duck.

The movie opens with Howard, a humanoid duck from another world, suddenly–and quite literally–dragged out of his apartment kicking and screaming, pulled through time and space, and comes crashing down into one of the worst places possible: 1980s Cleveland, Ohio.

After meeting up with Lea Thompson’s Beverly Marsh, a struggling musician with a heart of gold, the two bond in a rather odd and creepy fashion before seeking out answers to the whys and hows of Howard being on Earth. And whether or not it might be possible to send him back home.

THE FAIL AWAKENS

Brought to us by none other than the creator of Star Wars himself, George Lucas, this cinematic failure (according to both critics and general audiences) came at such a high cost that it ultimately forced George Lucas to sell off what would later became Pixar.

And, if nothing else, it’s rather neat to think that a movie about a foul-mouthed fowl kinda-sorta, but not really sleeping with an absolutely adorable Lea Thompson is what ultimately allowed Disney to own Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars.

THE LESS THINGS CHANGE

Now, that strange bit of trivia aside…

Despite persistent fan claims to the contrary, the film actually manages to be impressively faithful to the source material to a point.

In the comics, much like the film, Howard is most definitely a humanoid duck from another world dragged to Earth. He meets and buddies up with a girl named Beverly in Cleveland. And he is eventually troubled by a dark Overlord–Thog the Overmaster in the comics and the more lazily named “Dark Overlord” in the film–as he attempts to get back home.

However, unlike the movie, comicbook Howard is far more crude and foul-mouthed, from an alternate dimension (rather than simply another planet across the cosmos), and dragged to Earth due to some fault of Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange. He’s also heavily styled after Donald Duck rather than the more–for the time, at least–modern 80s look that we see in the film.

OUT OF TONER

Now, aside from these minor details changed in the translation from comic to film, the entire tone of the product was drastically altered as well. Howard’s creator, Steve Gerber, originally intended and wrote Howard as a sort of existential comic–one with no punchline and a desire to explore the medium’s many trappings.

But rather than adapt the comic’s desire to explore its own medium to the big screen, Lucas and director Williard Huyck instead chose to present a tame, middle-of-the-road popcorn flick that’s an odd mix of romantic-comedy, sci-fi, and action/adventure.

And, really, in a decade filled with a number fun, highconcept releases hitting theaters year after year, such a strange mixing of genres should work–and sort of does in hindsight.

But like many 80s films and early comicbook adaptations, a limited budget (or at least a squandered one) meant that certain cheats had to be made to keep the film under, well, not budge. Because this film went so overbudget and flopped so hard that Lucas gave up the future money printer known as Pixar to salvage his studio. But I suppose certain cheats and concessions had to be made in regards to the not-so lavish and not-quite-special effects.

OH BOY, GEORGE

And I want to say that this should come as a surprise given that this is the George Lucas around the time of the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, a period in which he was damn-near infallible.

But when you take into consideration that the first Star Wars film was a blatant rip off of The Hidden Fortress, the other two were handed off to other writers, and that the prequels were all personally handled by Lucas himself–much like how he stepped down from running Lucasfilm to personally oversee production of Howard the Duck–it all starts to make a bit more sense why Howard’s cinematic debut was also his last. At least, it was until his recent cameos in both of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy films.

IT WORKS, SORTA

That said, despite its troubled production, milquetoast presentation, and underwhelming if rather expensive special effects, Howard the Duck isn’t without its charm. Nor is it unwatchable.

Aside from the unsettling “we-should-have-just-called-Jim- Henson” Howard costume, the cast of characters are actually fun to watch on screen–from the way Howard learns to adapt to life on Earth to Jeffrey Jones making the best of a bad script to the most adorable use of Lea Thompson ever.

And for all the jokes of inter-species love making that movie has rightfully earned over the past 30 years, Lea Thompson really does do a fantastic job in her role as Beverly. Her acting talent shines like the stars both in the way she manages to play a believably strong, yet sweet-hearted equal to the brash Howard and in the way she makes you believe that 80s Tim Robbins is a real living boy.

The jokes land more often than not. The action sequences are fun and silly in that way so many movies from the 80s seem to be. The originals bits of music are worth finding for your own personal enjoyment after the movie ends. And the movie proves to be surprisingly sincere–if a bit melodramatic–in its emotional beats.

QUACK

Howard the Duck is far from perfect, but it’s also far from unwatchable. It deserves a second-look by those who may have left the theater feeling scorned 30 years ago. And it definitely deserves a look by fans who are filling those same theaters now in support of Marvel Studios.

More so, this should not be the last big screen adaptation for Howard. With Marvel adapting more and more of its obscure properties into genre-bending productions, I want to believe that the tale of a pissed-off, existential duck lost in a world he didn’t create deserves a second chance.

Howard the Duck is, without any hint of irony, a big CHILL.

The Cobbler


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look a surprisingly touching but deeply flawed dramedy from Adam Sandler, The Cobbler!


A concept ripped from a 1962 episode of The Twilight Zone entitled “Dead Man’s Shoes”, The Cobbler features Adam Sandler as Max Simkin, a man who suddenly finds himself capable of taking on the appearance of his customers whenever he wears their shoes.

But though he initially uses this ability for his own amusement, Max eventually finds himself unknowingly swept into the troubled life of a customer with a much more illicit career choice.

SIMPLE

The short and sweet of it is that The Cobbler is not a good movie.

But while many a cynic might see this as a given–what with Adam Sandler’s cinematic efforts in recent years–Sandler himself may very well be the best part of this film thanks to yet another strong dramatic performance.

When Sandler is afforded the opportunity to dig his teeth into the film’s more dramatic scenes, the film actually shines…if only for a brief moment or so. Because it’s only when the film invariably swerves back into questionable attempts at humor that it also reverts back into a dull, lifeless production with little to no charm.

WORKING IT

The Cobbler thrives when it maintains this image of a fairly serious drama with a lot to say about personal relationships, identity, and understanding. But then it completely nosedives when it ventures further into an illogical, misplaced plot about mistaken identity, drug deals, and crude humor.

Now, perhaps if the film’s attempts at humor weren’t limited to tired gags about Max pretending to be someone else and then failing to recreate their exact mannerisms–or taking jabs at the LGBT community with a horrifically stereotypical transgender “character” (and I use that term very loosely). But if the attempts at humor weren’t so juvenile, perhaps these scenes wouldn’t feel so out of place among the dramatic ones.

And it really is a shame that the movie’s humor is a constant detriment, because these dramatic moments consistently feel authentic and moving.

For example, there’s a particular sequence later in the film in which Max begrudgingly puts on a pair of his estranged father’s shoes so as to comfort his lonely, elderly mother. This touching, sentimental sequence is a well-earned highlight of the film. And The Cobbler would have been so much better off if there were more like it.

THAT SAID

That said, at best, The Cobbler is a disjointed mess that often reveals hints of a far better film than the final product proves to be. At worst, it’s yet another forgettable entry in Sandler’s ever-expanding list of disappointing movies. And in either case, those thinking of viewing The Cobbler might be better served watching that far superior fifty-year old episode of The Twilight Zone.

But, for me, The Cobbler is a definite NO CHILL.

Get Hard


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at buddy comedy, Get Hard (feat. Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart)!


Get Hard features Will Ferrell as James King, a millionaire hedge-fund manager who is unknowingly setup to take the fall for acts of fraud and embezzlement. And with only 30 days to prepare himself for life in San Quentin State Prison, he reaches out to Kevin Hart’s Darnell Lewis, the proprietor of a car wash and detailing service that
operates in the garage of King’s office building.

The key gag upon which the entire movie pins its premise on here is that King wrongly assumes that Darnell–a black man not as affluent as himself–is only an employee of the car wash and must have served time at one point or another. Because of this, he offers Darnell a significant payday to prepare him for life on the inside. And being eager to expand his own business (and to get back at King for years of mistreatment), Darnell willingly plays down to expectations and fumbles his way into training King to “get hard”.

A FORMULA

Now, there’s a bit of a dance that goes on when constructing a buddy comedy, one that often requires that one of the two be the straight man–the voice of reason, in a way–to the more chaotic thoughts, words, and actions of his or her partner.

Classic partnerships like Abbot and Costello, Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, and even more recent pairings like Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, have proven decade after decade that there’s plenty of humor found in that spark between two conflicting personalities.

But there’s been a modern variation on this classic tune in which both leads share a similar personality, such as Ferrell and John C. Reilly in Step Brothers. In this case, it’s usually two larger-than-life personalities set against an individual or world that is still very much grounded.

In Step Brothers, for example, Ferrell and Reilly’s pair of middle-aged men who act like spoiled children are initially set against each other but soon find themselves in conflict with a stern parental figure who is finally fed-up with their antics and demands the pair grow up.

These sort of movies double-down on the more wacky lead but still balances the comedy scales by having the rest of the world serve as the straight-man. Instead of the conflict being man-versus-man, it’s friends against the world.

And that’s why Get Hard seems to fall short despite the fairly funny pairing of Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart.

THE CATCH

Ferrell and Hart play off one another well enough, but the movie just desperately lacks a driving conflict. There’s only so much humor and conflict to be found in King’s racially and socially insensitive comments and Hart’s go-to gimmick of a shallow tough-guy facade masking a very timid personality.

The movie repeats the same one-note joke of Hart trying and failing to toughen Ferrell up scene after scene, making it feel like a loosely connected series of sketches from Saturday Night Live instead of a 100-minute feature film. The movie’s b-story, in which King attempts to uncover the truth behind his arrest and prove his innocence, is so lazily weaved in between these other scenes that it feels like little more than afterthought. Perhaps added by a last-minute rewrite as a way to pad out the run time and maybe end the movie on a far-less somber note.

THE FIX

Oddly enough, had the material been played a bit more straight and focused on the relationship between these two very different individuals from two very different worlds, it might have made for a far better movie.

Ferrell’s King comes across as sympathetic and helpless in the face of a clock ticking down on the end of his freedom.
Hart’s Darnell has a convincing character arc as a man initially taking this job for the money and a bit of revenge but
eventually comes to befriend the frightened man in his care.

But by lazily falling back on a weak b-story and a happy ending that focuses on King’s exoneration rather than a
strong bond that bridges a large social divide, Get Hard is little more than two comedians hamming it up with their well-worn material on the same screen for nearly two hours.

THE SAFETY’S ON

Simply put, Get Hard plays it far too safe with its humor and story and suffers for it, squandering a comedic pairing that could have easily stood alongside some of the modern classics. This is also an R-rated comedy that, for some
reason, was afraid of pushing boundaries and playing with its audiences’ sensibilities.

Those looking for something with bite to it will be left disappointed. Those expecting to see popular comedians at the top of their game will be left disappointed. Those members of the Paul Blart fan club–a group this movie feels like more suited for–will be put off by some of the more crude or insensitive humor.

It’s too safe but also not safe enough, making it a movie without much of an audience. There are laughs to be found in it for sure, but perhaps this is an example of a movie best watched on a scene-by-scene basis rather than all at once–if at all.

And for that, sadly, I have to give this one a NO CHILL.