THE RIDICULOUS 6 (2015)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Directed by: Frank Coraci

Written by: Tim Herlihy & Adam Sandler

Starring: Adam Sandler, Terry Crews, Jorge Garcia, Taylor Lautner, Rob Schneider, Luke Wilson, Nick Nolte, Will Forte, Nick Swardson, Steve Zahn, Julia Jones, Danny Trejo, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Jon Lovitz & John Turturro

Adam Sandler is a polarizing comedian. He was hugely successful in the 90s with recurring sketches on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and this was followed by a series of hit comedies (the best of which is easily HAPPY GILMORE). Somewhere around the mid-2000’s, the quality of Sandler’s output went downhill and he’s progressively gotten lazier and more unfunny as the years have rolled on. We’ve gotten to a point where studios have passed on Sandler’s ideas and he’s signed an eight-film(!) deal with Netflix. 2015’s THE RIDICULOUS 6 is the first of these eight straight-to-Netflix Sandler films, earning a whopping 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and breaking Netflix records as their most-watched film. While RIDICULOUS 6 isn’t Sandler’s worst movie, it’s definitely on the low end of his filmography.

Set in the Old West, the story follows Tom “White Knife” Stockburn (Adam Sandler). Tom never knew his father and was raised by a Native American tribe. One day, Tom’s deadbeat dad (Nick Nolte) inexplicably walks back into his life and is promptly kidnapped by an outlaw gang, led by fearsome murderer Cicero (Danny Trejo). In order to rescue his father, Tom begins robbing banks…only to realize that his dad had five other children with five other women. The gang of six misfit brothers sets off on an adventure that sees them stealing from various jerks, encountering historical figures, and ending up in (what else) an Old West gun fight. Meanwhile, about 1/4th of the jokes get laughs and 3/4ths fall flat.

Adam Sandler phones in his performance as White Knife. He seems to be trying to do a gruff Clint Eastwood impression, but lacks any charisma and the faintest bit of effort in this part. Sandler as a straight-man never should have been attempted in the first place, because he doesn’t seem fit for this part in comedy. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I might have preferred a more over-the-top, silly-voiced Sandler as the lead. Even more surprising is that Rob Schneider isn’t half-bad as the stereotypical Mexican brother and actually got a few chuckles out of me.

Delivering the worst performance in the film, Taylor Lautner is godawful as a high-pitched hillbilly. Nearly every moment he’s on screen is insufferable. Almost as bad as Lautner is Jorge Garcia (a.k.a. Hurley from LOST) who plays an incomprehensible mountain man. Luke Wilson and Terry Crews are also in this movie as the two other brothers and they don’t contribute much to the proceedings or laughs. Danny Trejo and Nick Nolte also show up, but are clearly phoning it in.

To its credit, THE RIDICULOUS 6 looks like it had a budget behind it. There’s only one scene of cheap CGI and that comes early on. The sets and cinematography are rather well done for a western comedy spoof, though I still much prefer Seth MacFarlane’s serviceable A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST over this. Two of RIDICULOUS 6’s main problem comes from its long running time and messy pacing. This film almost feels like an endurance test, because the story frequently meanders and there are many dull moments. If it ran at 90 minutes, this might have been far better. The first hour is dedicated to the brothers running into each other, following a predictable pattern of: the characters going to a location, meeting another brother, and then going to another location.

Three-quarters of the jokes in RIDICULOUS 6 are lame. This isn’t because they’re offensive and gross, but rather because they’re just plain lazy. The juvenile bits include: a donkey with explosive diarrhea, bestiality, farting, a fly getting castrated, charades for sex, and crude-sounding Native American names. Are we having fun yet? No, but what about a long musical number around a campfire that comes out of nowhere and lasts for nearly 5 minutes. Still not laughing, but what about half-assed cameo appearances from Vanilla Ice (as Mark Twain), David Spade (as Colonel Muster), Chris Kattan (as John Wilkes Booth), and Jon Lovitz (as a snobby rich poker player)? I wanted to laugh at Vanilla Ice playing one of America’s most celebrated writers, but they do nothing with it. The joke is simply him appearing as that character and nothing else.

Though I’m railing on this film’s flaccid excuses for humor, there are a handful of genuine laughs to be had. These are few and far between, but they do exist. Early cracks about the racism of the time made me giggle, while cross-eyed Steve Zahn gets a few good moments as a gun-toting hick. Steve Buscemi makes the most of his time as the small-town doctor/barber. Meanwhile, Harvey Keitel gets the darkest laugh of the entire movie and John Turturro is fantastic as the inventor of baseball (who makes up rules to avoid being beaten at his own game).

THE RIDICULOUS 6 is not Adam Sandler’s worst film because there are a few good laughs in this mess of a movie. That’s more than I can say about the likes of GROWN UPS and JACK AND JILL. A bloated running time and monotonous story take an unfixable toll on the proceedings, one that’s further hindered by a majority of the would-be jokes falling flat. I really hope that THE RIDICULOUS 6 winds up being the worst Adam Sandler straight-to-Netflix film, because this lazy and that in itself seems a little insulting to the Sandman’s fanbase.

Grade: D

TRAINING DAY (2001)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 2 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Brutal Violence, Pervasive Language, Drug Content and brief Nudity

TrainDay poster

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Written by: David Ayer

Starring: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Eva Mendes, Scott Glenn, Cliff Curtis & Raymond Cruz

TRAINING DAY is probably the most well-known corrupt cop thriller of the new millennium and there are many solid reasons for that. The film hooks you from its opening minutes and steadily increases a stranglehold of tension throughout the single-day story. Antoine Fuqua’s notable directing skills combined with David Ayer’s unflinchingly grim script would make for a great flick by itself, but Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke elevate the movie to a modern classic level. Before getting into the nitty-gritty of why this film works so well, I’ll briefly set up the plot.

TrainDay 1

Jake Hoyt is a rookie cop with a rough day ahead of him. His future career lies in a day-long assessment by hardened narcotics officer Alonzo Harris. Officer Harris isn’t quite what Jake expected. He seems to play fast and loose with the law when it benefits him and reveals himself to have a nasty streak. Jake tries to go along with Harris’s increasingly harsh demands and soon finds himself questioning whether or not Alonzo is someone to be trusted. That’s all I’ll say for fear of giving something away, because TRAINING DAY is brilliantly written.

TrainDay 2

The first thing that bears mentioning is, of course, Denzel Washington’s award-winning performance as Alonzo Harris. Though this role passed through many hands before eventually making its way to Washington (including the likes of Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Sinise, and Tom Sizemore), it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Denzel owns this character and based his performance on real-life corrupt cop Rafael Perez. The character of Alonzo Harris is not simply a one-dimensional baddie who’s straight-to-the-core evil, but someone who has his own twisted sense of morals and exudes charisma. It’s fun to watch Washington in the role, even when he’s downright terrifying. The combination of likability and wickedness make Detective Alonzo Harris into a bone-chilling cinematic villain for the ages.

TrainDay 3

On the opposite side of the coin is Ethan Hawke as the morally good, but naïve Jake. Though the character is our hero, he isn’t necessarily a flawless protagonist. Much like the viewer, he’s sucked in by the fearlessly insane way that Alfonzo carries himself. He does make some questionable moral decisions and puts himself in compromising positions, but I sympathized for him throughout the entire film. We get a sense early on that this is a good man in a bad time and I loved the complete arc that his character goes through. The side characters range from crooked cops, to Three Wise Men (in one of the film’s most intriguingly ambiguous moments), and lots of various gangsters. However, none of these people feel like walking stereotypes due to humanistic touches that David Ayer throws into the well-constructed screenplay.

TrainDay 4

Speaking of which, writer/director David Ayer has had his ups and downs, but TRAINING DAY will likely be remembered as his masterpiece. Little details sprinkled throughout the film come back in big ways, but not necessarily in clichéd eye-rolling coincidences. One potentially silly bombshell is handled in a natural and believable manner. Ayer crafts his story in a way that never lets the viewer get fully comfortable. In one moment, Alonzo can be a grinning mentor and then, he can turn into a chaotic force to be reckoned with. This leaves the viewer on edge as to how the plot will progress forward and I was holding my breath for nearly the entire last third of this movie. The tension is thick and Ayer milks it for everything that it’s worth with clever, realistic dialogue.

TrainDay 5

Finally, director Antoine Fuqua (who worked with Denzel Washington again in THE EQUALIZER) exudes a careful hand with his directing style. He clearly didn’t want to make another generic action flick or simple thriller. As a result, each scene is carefully constructed and each frame adds believability to the story. The cinematography displays a mix of gloss and grit. The result is a movie that’s simultaneously beautiful and ugly to look at. The way in which Fuqua executes the action-oriented moments (there are more than a few) maximizes the potential danger lying around every corner.

TrainDay 6

As a whole, TRAINING DAY is a brilliantly constructed, fantastically executed two-character story that happens to be a police thriller. Ethan Hawke’s mousey delivery makes him into a nervous protagonist that we can identify with and Denzel Washington is absolutely terrifying as the charismatic Alonzo. This film also grants an opportunity for normal good guy Washington to cut loose as one of the best villains to grace the big screen in the past two decades. If you want a non-stop jolt of action and suspense delivered in the package of a great story, then TRAINING DAY is a must-see!

Grade: A+

TERMINATOR: SALVATION (2009)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 55 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Sci-Fi Violence and Action, and Language

Print

Directed by: McG

Written by: John Brancato & Michael Ferris

Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, Jane Alexander & Helena Bonham Carter

THE TERMINATOR is a fun, cheesy 80’s action flick. TERMINATOR 2 is one of the best sequels of all-time and manages to top the original in every conceivable way. TERMINATOR 3 is a cheap, studio cash-grab that did its best to tarnish the series and slap fans in the face. In 2009, TERMINATOR: SALVATION opened to the middling excitement and so-so reviews. Where does this fourth film fit into the series, it feels like a stand-alone post-apocalyptic war film that’s relatively harmless. Though it manages to botch a number of things, SALVATION is tolerable entry that can be enjoyed in stupid guilty pleasure sort of way.

MCDTESA EC011

Judgement Day has long since passed and John Connor is rising to the top ranks of the Resistance against Skynet. When his superiors reveal a secret weapon, Connor is more than a little eager to test it out and has a limited time period to do so (as Skynet has marked him on their hit list). Meanwhile, former prisoner Marcus Wright awakens from a coma into the post-apocalyptic wasteland. His survival is aided by teenage fighter Kyle Reese. Connor, Reese and Wright find themselves on a collision course that could spell fate for all three in this wasteland of robotic killers and freedom fighters.

MCDTESA EC023

Though everything doesn’t quite work in this film (more on those problems in a moment), SALVATION gives fans what they’ve been told about for three solid movies. We get an entire feature centered in a post-Judgement Day world. There’s no end to the compliments I can throw on the ultra-bleak, smoggy wasteland atmosphere being brought to life. Not to mention that there are a handful of decent action scenes that aren’t totally neutered by an unneeded PG-13 rating. The landscape of this rubble-filled world is highly enjoyable to look at, not to mention the various Terminators that we get to see. Previously, all of the machines in the TERMINATOR films have been humanoid designs. In SALVATION, there are self-driving motorcycles with guns mounted to their sides, tentacle-like assassins, giant machines built for capturing humans, and plenty of other cool robots. Even though this movie has it’s faults, I won’t knock the atmosphere or the many creative machines on display.

MCDTESA EC007

Story-wise, this script is from the same pair of writers that brought us the disappointing TERMINATOR 3. This screenplay is ever so slightly better than the third film, but that could be attributed to the many forced rewrites after its inception. There are a number of coincidences and plot holes on display. Connor’s quest to find Kyle Reese seems to be using circular logic that’s much more annoying than other plot holes involving time-travel throughout the series. Also, there’s an obvious twist that was revealed in multiple pieces of marketing and isn’t to hard to figure out (even if you haven’t seen any trailers for this film), but it’s played off as a huge ground-shaking revelation. The PG-13 rating tones down scenes that could have been far more intense or violent. This feels like a cop-out as well when you consider that every TERMINATOR film up this point was rated R. It’s the same dumbass studio logic that was used while making 2004’s ALIEN VS. PREDATOR.

MCDTESA EC052

Though his on-set freakout nearly overshadowed the promotion of this entire movie, Christian Bale is only so-so as John Connor. He’s miles better than Nick Stahl and falls short of Edward Furlong (still a weird sounding complaint). Bale is pulling his typical action-hero role with a deep, growling voice that sounded like a cross between his Batman and his Moses. Anton Yelchin is underwhelming as Kyle Reese, though I never thought the character was that well-developed to begin with. Bryce Dallas Howard is wooden as Connor’s wife, who was also a hollow character to begin with. The best of the character of the bunch comes in Sam Worthington’s Marcus. Though he only shows up for this film, I found his performance to stick out in a good way and his storyline was the most interesting part of the film.

MCDTESA EC053

TERMINATOR: SALVATION is not a good movie. It’s plays out like any standard action flick that happens to have a cool backdrop. I enjoyed the setting and various Terminators, even if the latter are arguably underused. The performances are nothing to write home about and the script is full of circular logic and coincidences. However, I think that this fourth film can be enjoyed as pure spectacle. This is definitely nowhere near the quality of the first two installments, but it’s far better than the disappointing third entry. TERMINATOR: SALVATION is heavily flawed, but okay.

Grade: C+

IDIOCRACY (2006)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 24 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Language and Sex-related Humor

Idiocracy_PosterB

Directed by: Mike Judge

Written by: Mike Judge, Etan Cohen

Starring: Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, Terry Crews, Anthony Campos, David Herman, Justin Long, Thomas Haden Church, Stephen Root

Idiots. The world is full of them. Turn on the news, read a blog, or (God forbid) do a search on YouTube if you want some recent examples of stupidity that pops up in our society again and again. IDIOCRACY (Mike Judge’s third feature film) was promptly shelved and then dumped into an extremely limited theatrical release by the studio that financed it (Fox). This is a pity on so many levels. One of which being that this sci-fi comedy has some startling, funny, and depressing points to make about the future of mankind. It’s not without faults, but I guarantee you haven’t seen anything quite like this film before and you probably won’t see anything like it again.

MCDIDIO FE009

In the present day, Joe Bauers has been selected for a top-secret army experiment. The reason he’s been chosen isn’t that Joe is a genius, but he’s the most average man in every category and doesn’t have any pesky living relatives to ask questions. He’s frozen in cryogenic sleep and through human error, wakes up 500 years in the future. Joe makes the shocking discovery that everything has been dumbed down to ridiculous levels. Joe is now the smartest man in the world and must deal with this whole new stupid society.

MCDIDIO FE008

The depiction of why humanity’s IQ suddenly dropped is terrifying, because it’s so true. Smart people think things through before they decide to have kids, dumb people don’t. How many huge white trash families do you see with tons of kids running wild around the supermarket? It’s altogether depressing to think about and director/writer Mike Judge knows this. He tends to keep things as upbeat and wacky as possible, despite the arguable accuracy of his vision of the future. A whole lot of creativity permeates through every frame. Careful attention has been paid to small details that bring this world to life. Shameless product placement has been turned into a punchline, rather than obvious marketing towards certain companies. I can’t imagine that you’ll want to visit Costco, Starbucks, or Carl’s Jr. after watching IDIOCRACY, because of how the movie portrays each of these chains. Also, I doubt you’ll want to chug an energy drink (which is preferable to water in this future) either.

MCDIDIO FE001

With all of the scathing satire taken into account, IDIOCRACY comes dangerously close to wearing out its welcome. Some of the characters and humor are a little too obnoxious. Luke Wilson is a decent enough leading man here. I always seem to get the impression that he’s the less talented or charismatic Wilson brother. His performance didn’t do much to change my mind. However, seeing as his character is a perfectly average guy, it seemed like ideal casting (no major disrespect to Luke Wilson). Dax Shepherd also overplayed his role of an idiotic lawyer to the point of teetering on the annoying side, rather than a lovable doofus that the script tries to make him out to be. Maya Rudolph is the worst character here and the less said about her performance, the better. A few big name actors do pop up in short roles as the future morons, these include Justin Long, Stephen Root, and Thomas Haden Church. Finally, there’s Terry Crews and he’s without a doubt hilarious to watch. As a wrestler-elected-president, Crews is having a blast and it’s infectious to the viewer as well.

MCDIDIO FE010

The finale also falls into a predictable territory, where the viewer is pretty much just waiting for things to follow the exact manner that they do wind up playing out in. With all of this being said, Mike Judge does hit the nail on the head very well in little details and lots of scenes are scathingly funny. We’ve all met people who resemble some traits of this future folk and it’s horrifying accurate to think that the planet might some day wind up in an idiotic dystopian world. Again, I did like how fleshed out this world was. Tone wise, the film feels like a 70’s sci-fi film that’s been injected with a good dose of humor alongside the relevant social commentary.

MCDIDIO FE004

IDIOCRACY is far from Mike Judge’s best work (OFFICE SPACE and KING OF THE HILL), but it’s also earned the cult status surrounding it. What’s even more telling is that the studio dumped this film in a terrible manner and yet movies like TRANSFORMERS still get huge releases. This move could be viewed as another step closer to IDIOCRACY’s predicted future of people paying to see a 90-minute movie titled Ass or watching “Ow, My Balls!” on TV every evening. As playful as it is satirical, IDIOCRACY is recommended for those wanting out of the ordinary laughs or are curious about taking a look into a possible terrifying future where smart people are an endangered species.

Grade: B

MIDDLE MEN (2010)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Sexual Content, Nudity, Language, Drug Use and Violence

MM poster

Directed by: George Gallo

Written by: George Gallo & Andy Weiss

Starring: Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi, Gabriel Macht, James Caan, Laura Ramsey, Jacinda Barrett, Kelsey Grammer, Terry Crews, Kevin Pollak & Robert Forster

MIDDLE MEN plays out like the gooey mess of someone throwing THE SOCIAL NETWORK, BOOGIE NIGHTS, and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET in a blender. That description should tell you if this film is in your wheelhouse or not. Based on the real-life experiences of Christopher Mallick (a morally questionable businessman in internet history), the film seems to jumble a bunch of different events into a coherent storyline that begins with a fast-pace and a lot of dark humor. Somewhere along the line, things get fumbled as the film significantly deviates into more familiar (probably entirely fictional) territory and ultimately becomes far less interesting.

MCDMIME EC038

Jumping from 1980’s to 1990’s and ultimately to the mid-2000’s, the plot revolves around (fictional character) Jack Harris who proves to have a talent for fixing difficult problems and being an equally skilled businessman. After turning a friend’s night club into a goldmine in the short period of a few months, Jack is called in to help two morons (Wayne and Buck) responsible for creating a revolutionary internet program. This program allows for anyone living anywhere in the world to enter their credit card information for a monthly subscription to online pornography. What else would be so popular on the worldwide web? Unfortunately, Wayne and Buck have gotten themselves in bed with the Russian mob and a crooked lawyer. Jack fixes their problems in the best way in can, but also finds himself immersed in the glamorous lifestyle centered around perversion, sex, and drugs. This puts his personal life in danger of falling apart, whilst also building tension between him and his long-distance family. The Jack’s (along with his two partner’s) problems only steadily increase into bigger issues…

MCDMIME EC050

MIDDLE MEN sounds like a recipe for success on many different levels. For the first half of the film, it delivers. The story is equipped with a rip-roaring fast face that jumps all over the place with ease. Frequent dark humor litters every scene and provides some much-needed comic relief that totally works. The use of the soundtrack is absolutely fantastic too. The whole film really does reek of a Scorsese-inspired filmmaker (in this case, George Gallo) and unlike most others who wind up ripping off the man’s style, Gallo works this all to his advantage. I absolutely loved the first 50 minutes of this film. It nailed everything one would hope for from a movie like this. Then things quickly turn in the opposite direction.

MCDMIME EC052

Everything that worked so well in the introduction and set up is slowed to a crawl for the remainder of the film and sometimes even forgotten. It seemed as if the filmmaker and co-screenwriter weren’t content with the already complicated story they were telling. The resulting solution being to throw in a bunch of unnecessary (most likely entirely made up) plot points that have been seen in plenty of crime thrillers. Every single one of these felt completely out-of-place in this would-be drama about the complicated inception of internet pornography. The tone also dives into decidedly darker territory and loses the likable sense of humor in the process. The laughs were so frequent in the first half that the rest of the film (again) seems to have forgotten what worked so well in the beginning. The tone jumps all over the place and things ultimately conclude in an ending that left me unsatisfied.

MCDMIME EC030

As far as the big name cast goes, nearly everyone delivers good performances across the board with one exception. That stick in the mud would be Luke Wilson. He’s enjoyable enough in comedies, but his dramatic side seems to be a mixed bag (e.g. VACANCY). In MIDDLE MEN, he’s taking center stage as the Ray Liotta role in GOODFELLAS. His voice-over narration lacks the charisma that Liotta delivered in Scorsese’s masterpiece. I didn’t mind this at the beginning due to how fascinating and entertaining everything else was, but Wilson winds up being an almost nobody of a leading man. His performance comes off as wooden. I was more interested in seeing everyone else around him.

MCDMIME EC036

Kelsey Grammer has a brief one-scene role. Kevin Pollak and Terry Crews show up as seldom seen side characters. As Wayne and Buck, Giovanni Ribsi and Gabriel Macht are a blast to watch. Their screen time seems to be significantly cut in the latter half, which adds yet another reason for the film to take a dip in quality halfway through. Their characters also make some far-fetched decisions that I didn’t buy, even seeing how dumb they had shown themselves to be in their actions leading up the final 30 minutes. A welcome James Caan is the best presence on-screen as a loathsome lawyer that has a shady side to say the least.

MCDMIME EC022

I really wanted to love MIDDLE MEN and I thought this might be an underrated gem from just how awesome the first half was. The humor was very funny. The pace was quick and flying by. The soundtrack was awesome and appropriate for each given time period. Then the movie takes a huge switch flip and things go downhill. A jumbled tone, overly familiar twists and some final notes that didn’t satisfy me in the slightest make MIDDLE MEN into an overall disappointment. It’s far from a terrible film. Everyone, except Luke Wilson, gives a solid performance. The film is competently shot and directed. Sadly, the end result is a mixed bag. If I saw this playing on cable and nothing else was on, then I’d switch it over to kill some time. I just don’t see myself going out of my way to watch this film again.

Grade: C+

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑