Daddy’s Home 2: A Ho Ho Horrible Holiday ‘Comedy’

Daddys Home 2 follows the occasionally used formula of turning a comedy sequel into a holiday escapade. An almost always disastrous decision (just look at A Bad Moms Christmas), it will surprise no one to hear that Daddy’s Home 2 is a comedic flop. With the first Daddy’s Home being a mediocre and forgettable comedy, this installment had no intentions whatsoever in surpassing it.

Will Ferrell plays his usual man-child schtick, and Mark Wahlberg plays a tough guy. Together they co-parent a set of forgettable child actors, who are disappointed they always must do two Christmases. That’s when Ferrell and Wahlberg get the bright idea to do a joint Christmas, as well as invite both of their dads in on the excitement. Their dads unfortunately consist of Mel Gibson (a stereotypical racist) and John Lithgow (a mirror image of Will Ferrell). From here, wacky and predictable hijinks ensue.

The only clever bit in the film involved a below the belt jab at Liam Neeson and his typical style of movies. Apparently in this universe, Neeson starred in a terribly bloated action film called Missile Tow (Get it!). From my guess, this is some kind of holiday version of Taken or Non-Stop. Pretty humorous nonetheless.

Daddy’s Home 2 suffers from the same ailment as every other bad comedy. That being, it’s not funny. It’s constantly caught between trying way too hard to be comedic and not trying at all. Sometimes there are moments of slapstick humor that are painfully long, and at other times there are scenes where I’m waiting for a punchline that never comes.

And by the end of Daddy’s Home 2, few of the characters went through any sort of change or revelation. They’re all still horrible people, yet the film accepts this and just decides to end on a poor note. Nothing is gained from watching it. In fact, all Daddy’s Home 2 really did was shine a spotlight on the limitations of these actors and actresses.

There was one particular scene in the film that really rubbed me the wrong way, and I think it really captures the mentality of Daddy’s Home 2. It’s when the entire cast gathers at a movie theater towards the conclusion of the movie. Will Ferrell’s character stands up in front of a crowd and makes a comment on how everyone came to the theater with someone they love. Except, of course, one man in the back, who came to the movie alone on Christmas. Will Ferrell then makes a passing remark on how this man is sad, and somewhat pathetic.

Well, movie, Christmas for some isn’t so joyful, and is quite lonely and depressing. So, when you make a shoddy, low-quality, unfunny, sloppy joke such as that, you come off as a huge dick.

Bottom line, this movie sucks.

The Verdict: F

-Zachary Flint

Murder on the Orient Express Review

Based on the beloved Agatha Christie novel by the same name, Murder on the Orient Express follows world-renowned detective Hercule Poirot (played Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the film) on a trip from Istanbul to London. What was supposed to be a relaxing break from his rigorous investigative work turns out to be one of his most difficult cases yet, as one of the passengers on the train is mysteriously murdered. It is now up to Poirot interrogate all passengers and gather clues so that he may uncover the murderer before the train arrives to its destination.

Going in with very little previous knowledge on the subject, I had high hopes for Murder on the Orient Express, which were quickly dashed within the first twenty minutes of the movie. What I hoped would be an exciting, engaging mystery with great performances turned out to be almost the exact opposite.

Most of the characters felt very flat and intensely boring, all except for our main protagonist Poirot. Though restricted by some melodramatic and tedious dialogue, Kenneth Branagh gave a mighty strong performance. His compulsions and extreme orderliness gave this drab film some much needed levity. Even some of his more serious moments, when not bogged down by overly emotional dialogue, were very convincing and entertaining.

As for our line-up of potential suspects, I was shockingly surprised by the lack of charisma put into the performances. So many big, talented names were tied to this production (such as Willem Dafoe, Daisey Ridley, and Johnny Depp), yet it was acted and filmed so unimaginatively. Take Johnny Depp for example, who is known for playing many extravagant, wild characters. He is reduced to playing a mundane, uninteresting fellow that made me tired just watching him.

I was quite a fan of the set pieces and costume designs, which fit the overall look of the 1930’s very well. The soundtrack was also quite fitting, fusing whimsical, adventurous composition with melodic music that fit the times.

Unfortunately where the film finally lost me was in the semi-climactic end, where an already convoluted mystery wrapped up into an ultimately inconsequential resolve. I do respect the angle that they attempted to go at with the ending, but the hole was already dug too deep.

The real issue at the heart of Murder on the Orient Express is in the mystery itself. More specifically, the actual murder that is the central focus of the film takes place in the past. This kind of a setup is fine in a book, where the reader can be described, in detail, the murder through flashbacks. In the film however, the viewer is only dished out vague, out of order pieces of information as Poirot continues in his investigation. This makes the mystery incredibly inconvenient to follow along with, especially when most of the actors are about as compelling as a piece of burnt toast. Even after having just watched the film, I can’t remember a single character’s name, aside from Poirot.

Those with a love of Poirot and a patience for this kind of mystery may get their money’s worth, so long as they’re willing to look past the somewhat poor filmmaking and dreadful characters.

The Verdict: D+

-Zachary Flint

It Review

The choice to remake a popular horror film is far from a new concept. And with Hollywood’s recent drought of creativity, the horror genre has become stale, boring, unexciting, and lacking any passion from the filmmaker’s end. Occasionally something unique will slip through the cracks (It Comes at Night comes to mind), but more often than not we get unoriginal slop (Poltergeist (2015), Rings, Annabelle, and so on).

So, when I heard we’d be getting another film of Stephen King’s It, I was fairly certain that It would fall victim to the same level of incompetence as its peers. Yet, in a surprising turn of events, just the opposite occurred. Rather than getting a boring, run-of-the-mill remake, moviegoers are being treated to a highly appealing horror flick with a terrifying antagonist and talented cast.

Set in the quaint town of Derry, Maine, an evil entity preys upon the fearful youth. Often appearing in the form of a clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), this entity awakens every twenty-seven years to devour the children of Derry. However, when some of the neighborhood children (labeled as the Losers’ Club) band together, their friendships and fears are put to the ultimate test. Facing off against an evil force with power unlike anything imaginable.

It was delightfully scary in the utmost creative and unexpected ways. The film went with a mix of tension building, creepy moments, as well as quick jump scares that are followed by loud spikes in the sound. The jump scares were pretty standard and didn’t get the strongest reaction from audiences. The scariest scenes of It were when the film took its time building suspense through creepy imagery, all leading up to great payoffs featuring Pennywise the clown (whose eerie demeanor completely stole the show in every sense of the word).

Not only a terrifying horror flick, It contained a clever narrative on the struggles of teenage adolescence. Each character in the film was dealing with some sort of real life dilemma, such as a hypochondriac parent, grief, and child abuse. This not only gives our unlikely heroes motivation, but makes them feel all the more genuine, resulting in the audience connecting with them more. Even the stereotypical bully, a character whose writing I was fully prepared to loathe, had a tragic backstory that gave him more depth.

The dialogue and personalities of the child actors reflected how young kids might actually behave. Incredibly foul-mouthed and crude, they felt less like Hollywood twerps and more like normal everyday children.

While a few characters here and there could’ve had a little more time devoted to them, I’m really stretching to find issues. The reality is that It is a fantastic work of fiction, with dedicated filmmakers striving to make a movie that entertains viewers. With plenty of grotesque scenes, memorable performances, and a great use of camera angles, I think there’s enough here for just about any horror fan to be completely satisfied.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

The Dark Tower Review

Based on the dark fantasy book series by Stephen King, The Dark Tower takes audiences on an all too brief journey into a very creative and unique universe.

The film stars Idris Elba as the Gunslinger, the last on an elite group of marksmen, who is constantly at war with an evil sorcerer known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey). It’s the Gunslinger’s duty to prevent the Man in Black from destroying the Dark Tower, the key to holding the universe in balance. When the Gunslinger meets a young boy named Jake (Tom Taylor), he discovers Jake has the power to take him to the Man in Black. Because of this, the Gunslinger teams up with Jake to exact revenge on the Man in Black, and perhaps save the Dark Tower in the process.

For reasons beyond my understanding, The Dark Tower felt the need to cram all eight of Stephen King’s novels into a single, ninety-minute film. And for this reason, the film is unevenly paced and condenses too much complex material that needed more time to develop. Character arcs, logical plot progression, and even necessary background information is all completely ignored due to limited time constraints. What should have been at bare minimum a three-part trilogy is instead just a CliffsNotes guide to The Dark Tower, which is sure to upset most fans of the novels.

The only actor to give a serious, respectable performance in The Dark Tower happened to be Idris Elba. Elba’s role as the Gunslinger carried the film through its roughest and most emotionally void scenes, giving the audience one aspect of the film to take seriously.

Even more memorable then Elba, we have the wonderfully miscast performance of Matthew McConaughey, who was already hamming it up by the first scene in the movie. There were many moments where he’d get real close to another character and whisper his lines in this creepy, perverted way. It didn’t help that he was dressed like a 90’s boy band singer for the entire film, which made it impossible for me to take him seriously.  Everything from his facial expressions to the way he carried himself was comical, making McConaughey an absolute delight to watch.

Overall, I can easily see why so many fans of the book series have expressed anger and frustration at this adaptation. To take a series so dense with lore and boil it down to a single ninety-minute adventure film feels needlessly disrespectful.

I, never having read the books, was able to look past this issue and enjoy the flick for what it was, a typical action-adventure movie. The few action sequences that The Dark Tower did sport were very well shot and a lot of fun to watch. It also had some pretty amazing visuals, and managed to hold my attention for the entire runtime, which is more than I can say for many films of this genre.

So, if you’re a fan of the books this film was based on, then I’d stay far away from The Dark Tower, as this adaptation will probably just upset you due to how unfaithful it is. If you’re someone like me with little knowledge of the book series, than I’d go ahead and check out The Dark Tower. Its action scenes, creative set locations, and oftentimes comical demeanor will keep you entertained the whole way through.

The Verdict: B

-Zachary Flint