Tag Archives: Regina Hall

“Girls Trip”

LOUISA: 3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

It’s always a pleasure when a film portrays its female characters with a warmth and realism that makes you long to hang out with them if they existed in the real world, and “Girls Trip” is a genuine celebration of sisterhood and solidarity among women. It’s a chick flick in the greatest sense, a reminder that no matter how much life beats you down, your crew will always have your back. While the premise is almost exactly the same as the dreadful “Rough Night” and the concept is similar to the unfunny “Bad Moms,” this film does a complete 180 and gets all the things right that movies like that got wrong.

Yes, the film pushes its R-rated boundaries with a few gross-out gags and outrageous sexual humor, but it also is surprisingly touching. This would make a great night out at the movies for your group of girlfriends.

Women in particular will find plenty to relate to within this dynamic group of truly devoted pals, as each lady has her own quirk that they bring to the party. Regardless of how they sound on paper, the characters never come across as offensive or stereotypical. Ryan (Regina Hall) is a famous personality who claims to “have it all,” with her athlete husband (Mike Colter). Sasha (Queen Latifah) is a former journalist who now runs a TMZ style celebrity gossip site. Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) is recently divorced with two little ones at home, and Dina (Tiffany Haddish, who swiftly and gleefully steals every single scene) is the sexually liberated, foul mouthed, life of the party. These are ladies with varying degrees of success in their personal and professional lives, but they can always count on each other for honesty, advice, and support.

When the group heads down to New Orleans on a first class trip to the Essence Festival, it turns into a women behaving badly weekend filled with lots of dancing, booze, sex, and fighting. There are some really funny misadventures that occur (and anyone who has ever seen a movie like this can probably guess a few of them), but there are more than a handful that were quite original and had me laughing out loud. While some of the jokes rely on crass bathroom humor (an unfortunate incident involving a zip line combined with an urgent need to pee) and lewd sexual humor (you may never look at a grapefruit the same way ever again), the film never feels too raunchy or crude just for the sake of being raunchy or crude. That’s not to say that there is a ton of originality, but the film still manages to feel fresh and lively.

The story begins to drag about halfway through (the too-long run time clocks in at just over two hours) when the plot suddenly takes a more dramatic turn. You start out laughing along with a carefree attitude, but then marriages and friendships begin to fall apart and things get really serious really fast. The dramedy aspect is one thing I really liked about the movie, although the humor-to-drama ratio at times seems a bit unbalanced. One thing the screenwriters nail is that all of the spats ring true, the conflicts are authentic, and the dialogue between women who were friends in college and haven’t been together in years is spot on. The characters act and talk like real ride-or-die friends would in these situations, and nothing feels overly exaggerated.

Ladies, go see this movie. Better yet, go see this movie with a group of galpals. Not only will it make you laugh, but I guarantee it’ll make you want to hug your best friend (if she’s nearby) or call your best friend (if she lives far away).

“When the Bough Breaks”

LOUISA: 2.5 STARS MATT: 2.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

If you’ve seen other ‘girls gone nuts’ movies like “Fatal Attraction,” “Single White Female,” and “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” then there’s really no need to buy a ticket to “When the Bough Breaks” unless you want to see a forgettable (yet oddly satisfying) movie that offers more of the same. This isn’t a total stinker (the movie delivers and meets expectations) but it’s something that you’d be better off watching on HBO when you can’t sleep.

I won’t rehash the plot here because it really doesn’t matter; you already know what to expect. The film is a predictable thriller and therefore any attempts at suspense are wasted. It’s not exciting when we already know what’s coming in the end. If you are a fan of this genre, then nearly everything in this film is something you’ve undoubtedly seen many, many times before. We have the discovery of a secret (dark) hidden past, a family pet that goes missing, obligatory scenes of a wackadoodle obsessed girl (Jaz Sinclair) attempting to seduce the man of the house, and more routine plot points and situations. The script isn’t anything spectacular but at least there are a few little twists and surprises to keep viewers interested.

The film looks and feels slick and polished and is surprisingly well directed by Jon Cassar, but it suffers from watered-down content due to its PG-13 rating. The movie’s biggest strength comes from the quality performances from reliable leads Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall. These two actors are always immensely enjoyable and they play their characters here with sincerity and depth. Too bad the story isn’t meaty enough to support their efforts.

MATT SAYS:

Laura (Regina Hall) and John Taylor (Morris Chestnut) are a successful couple who are trying to have a baby. They find Anna Walsh (Jaz Sinclair) to serve as a surrogate. Anna presents herself as the perfect candidate for surrogacy: a quiet, humble, and sweet-natured woman who is appreciates the chance to help the Taylors have a child. But Anna is not all she seems; as Anna begins to lose her grip on reality, she manipulates the Taylors by using the baby she’s carrying to threaten them.

“When the Bough Breaks” mostly achieves what it sets out to accomplish by delivering a strictly by-the-numbers thriller. Disappointingly, however, there isn’t much substance to this style. Hampered by its “PG-13” rating, the film doesn’t push things far enough to be memorable, and takes itself too seriously to be fun. Given how relatively tame it is, the picture would have been better if it embraced melodrama and increased the camp factor. Alas, by taking itself seriously the movie misses an opportunity and as a result cannot be anything more than a run-of-the-mill thriller that won’t be seen by many. Those that do will forget having seen it within the space of a week.

 

“Barbershop: The Next Cut”

LOUISA:   3 STARS   MATT:  3.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

If anything, “Barbershop: The Next Cut” is full of surprises. I went in expecting a fun comedy but instead got a very ambitious (and commendable) message movie about gang violence, involved parenting, respecting women and personal accountability. The serious stuff works; the gags played for laughs don’t.

There are some rough attempts at jokes early on, but the comedy just isn’t my type of funny (admittedly, some of the wisecracks and references I just didn’t “get”). There are countless riffs on pop culture, what women want, soul food and more. The down-home dialogue makes you feel like you’ve been hanging out in a local barbershop all day and the actors speak just like normal folks. The cast has a natural, believable chemistry — you want to be around these people. Ice Cube is back as barbershop proprietor Calvin; he along with Cedric the Entertainer (Eddie),  Common (Rashad), and a thoroughly entertaining Nicki Minaj (Draya) are standouts. Rounding out the likeable cast are Regina Hall, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve, Anthony Anderson and J.B. Smoove.

Although the comedy doesn’t land a perfect 10, the dramatic elements are across-the-board compelling (even if they do get a little too preachy at times). This movie feels like a passion project for all involved and dishes out some serious themes about gang violence in a predominantly minority South Side Chicago neighborhood. The movie does a good job at shedding a light on what it must feel like to live in a community in crisis (something that most outsiders will never understand). While I am a white suburban female, I could sympathize and empathize with the characters and their day-to-day struggles. Relevant and real present-day issues are explored with sincerity. This movie is fun but its not lighthearted; it tackles racially charged political issues head on and doesn’t shy away from inviting distressing, complex and controversial questions.

I loved the film’s eventual uplifting and admirable message of empowerment, encouraging locals to take back the neighborhood and reminding us that change begins with a small first step.

MATT SAYS:

My expectations for “Barbershop: The Next Cut” were a little off. I was expecting a straight-up comedy, and while there is plenty of humor, there is a serious message to this movie that gives it emotional weight that is well-earned.

I don’t remember much about the previous two “Barbershop” movies, but the Internet Movie Database tells me there were two of them. Like its predecessors, “The Next Cut” is about the titular shop on the south side of Chicago named for its owner, Calvin (Ice Cube). Most of the actors from the other two movies appear in this one, too, with the notable addition of Common, who plays Calvin’s best friend Rashad.

There are some genuinely funny moments, but “TNC’s” primary goal is to try to deal with some of the issues that we are currently grappling with in the country in a way that feels authentic. Calvin, Rashad, and the rest of the crew at the barbershop are longtime south side residents, but their beloved neighborhood is slipping away as brutal gang violence has become a way of life. Calvin and Rashad struggle as the fathers of teenage boys who see the flash and feel the allure of the gangsta lifestyle, and in the shop have to deal with the very real possibility of gun violence on a daily basis. The crew at the shop decides to stop waiting on the government to find a solution to fix these problems, and instead devises a plan to bring the warring sides together in a positive way. The issues the film grapples with are clearly important to Cube (who produced the movie) and the rest of the cast.

Although it’s dealing with weighty subject matter, “Barbershop: The Next Cut” does so with a light touch. There is a genuine chemistry between the characters, and there are plenty of fun and funny moments to keep the film from being emotionally draining.

All of that said, the film had a number of elements (particularly early on) that dragged it down. It gets off to a slow start, and much of the first 20 minutes or so left me feeling vaguely confused as the movie seemed to struggle with finding its tone. There were a number of jokes that fell flat because they were tonally confusing. Calvin and Eddie’s (Cedric the Entertainer) reaction to an early threat of potential violence being the most notable. Once it got going, however, it did pick up considerable momentum and built towards a satisfying finish.