Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Keanu; Mother’s Day; The Meddler; Dough; Papa: Hemingway in Cuba; Ratchet and Clank

Keanu: I never saw the television series featuring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (aka comedy duo Key & Peele) so I wasn’t familiar with their shtick heading into this flick. But I understand their appeal. Keanu is an absurd but entertaining R-rated action comedy that pokes brilliant fun at the action genre. Here’s the premise: Key and Peele play Clarence and Rell, straight-laced cousins who must impersonate ruthless killers in an effort to retrieve Rell’s adorable kitten, Keanu, after he’s cat-napped by members of the Blips gang (rejects from LA’s notorious Bloods and Crips). The kitten is a scene-stealing feline, and there’s a hilarious homage to George Michael’s ‘80s pop icon status. The movie isn’t for everyone, but Key and Peele fans won’t be disappointed, and the duo will likely gain some new fans as well.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Barbershop: The Next Cut; The Dark Horse; The First Monday in May

Barbershop: The Next Cut is the second sequel (or maybe the third if you count the spin-off, Beauty Shop) to the 2002 surprise hit, Barbershop, about a day in the life of a barbershop on the South Side of Chicago. The shop, run by Calvin (Ice Cube) serves as a lifeline to the community. But the community is changing. And in The Next Cut, Calvin is contemplating moving his family, and the shop, to the North Side to protect his teenage son from the gang violence permeating the streets. Cedric the Entertainer is back as the comic relief, playing Eddie, a barber who can’t be trusted with scissors or a razor, but is there to tell it like it is. The movie gets a bit heavy-handed with the messaging and a few sub-plots are more of a distraction than a delight. But it means well. It’s got heart, and enough humor to prevent it from being another Chi-Raq. It ties up way too neatly in the end, given the current climate on the South Side, but overall, the movie provides an accessible and timely message worth sharing with teenagers, regardless of demographic and locale.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: The Boss; Demolition; Mr. Right

The Boss – Sadly, The Boss kinda sucks. Or, to put it more gently, it’s really weak. The R-rated comedy starts out with huge promise and some very funny moments, but fizzles rather fast. Here’s the gist: Melissa McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, a very successful but not-so-nice Suze Orman/Martha Stewart hybrid type who gets sent to prison for insider trading. She emerges from prison friendless and broke, but determined to rebrand herself and rebuild. Considering she screwed over a lot of people during her rise to the top, including her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell), Darnell’s road to redemption is sure to be a rocky one. The Boss is no Bridesmaids. The plot is extremely contrived, relying mostly on physical comedy gags to break the monotony. Without a doubt, the character of Michelle Darnell needs to stay relegated to smaller, SNL-style skits. This full-length feature film treatment doesn’t do her, or the audience, any justice. Case dismissed.

Eye in the Sky

I’d have gone to see this flim if only to see Alan Rickman for one last time, but fortunately it is an incredibly well done political thriller that forces the audience to ask some very hard questions about modern warfare. Headlining the wonderful ensemble cast is Helen Mirren playing Colonel Katherine Powell, a British officer on the trail of some of the world’s leading terrorists. Having found three of them in Kenya, she is leading a team of remote surveillance operatives around the world to track and capture them. The film cuts between her team in England, an American drone team near Las Vegas, the group that has the final say at Whitehall in London, and the people on the ground in Nairobi whose lives are on the line, including a Kenyan operative (Barkhad Abdi of Captain Phillips) who goes undercover in a very dangerous neighborhood. But when the mission changes from capture to kill, and a sweet little girl we’ve met in the opening scene is about to become “collateral damage”, not everyone is on board with the military leaders.

CinemaClash Podcast: Batman v Superman; My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2; Marguerite; Eye in the Sky

I recorded the latest CinemaClash podcast with Charlie Juhl before I had a chance to actually see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but I knew it would crush the competition at the box office, and it did. Fortunately, I think the expectations and insights shared during the podcast turned out to be right on target. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. I wasn’t going to skip it. Ben Affleck (Batman/Bruce Wayne) and Henry Cavill (Superman/Clark Kent) wore their suits sufficiently well, given what they were tasked with in setting up the whole ‘Justice League’ franchise. Batman v Superman throws a lot at you in 2 1/2 hours, and you really need to have seen Man of Steel and the Dark Knight movies to successfully process all the backstory, future plot points, super-heroes, and super-villains. If you’re a newbie to the genre, don’t expect to like this movie. It’ll seem like a hot mess. Anyway, check out the podcast for more (spoiler-free) debate about B v S, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, a French indie called Marguerite that foreign film and opera buffs may want to check out, and a timely, compelling film about drone warfare that stars Helen Mirren, Eye in the Sky. And more! Take a listen:

The Divergent Series: Allegiant

Here’s the deal. It doesn’t really matter what I think of Allegiant, the third installment of the Divergent series franchise, based on the best-selling books by Veronica Roth. It only matters what the target audience thinks. So, with that in mind (and due to a scheduling conflict on my part), I sent a member of said target audience to watch the movie in my place, and here’s what she had to say:

Creative Control

Before going to this film, you might want to look up augmented reality (AR). Yes, it’s a thing. Instead of virtual reality, which is entirely created in a computer, AR takes the real world and adds all kinds of digital visuals and sounds to make something new and, one might hope, better. Creative Control is about an ad executive in the very near future who is tasked with designing a campaign for a high-end AR company called Augmenta. To understand them better, he wears their glasses around for a while and experiments with all the bells and whistles and starts to lose track of the borders between his real and augmented lives.

The Lady in the Van

Are you having Maggie Smith withdrawal now that Downton Abbey has ended? Never fear! She’s starring in a quirky little dramedy in theaters now (though it won’t lose anything going to the small screen.) In The Lady in the Van she plays a character as far removed from Violet Crawley, Countess of Grantham as one could imagine, but somehow there is still a haughty dowager quality to her homeless Miss Shepherd. She is Dame Maggie, after all. Set in 1974, the film is loosely based on the true story of a very damaged woman who took to living in her van following a traumatic accident and was canny enough to find a kind playwright who was willing to grant her access to his private off-street parking space and ultimately his life. Originally agreeing to a three week stay, she ended up there for 15 years, and the writer, Alan Bennett (The Madness of King George, The History Boys), turned that experience into a book about their unusual relationship, which he adapted first for the stage, then as a radio play, and now for this sweet, sad little film.

Miracles From Heaven

Miracles From Heaven is like ‘a very special episode’ of Touched By an Angel or Highway to Heaven or some tv-movie you might see on the Hallmark Channel or ABC Family at Christmas or Easter. It doesn’t need to be seen on the big screen unless you’re a huge fan of the aforementioned programs and/or a good Christian family looking for a faith-based movie to affirm your faith in god, prayer, and miracles. The movie is based on a book that is based on a true story about a Texas girl named Anna Beam (Kylie Rogers). At age 10, Anna was diagnosed with an incurable digestive disease that miraculously went away after she fell 30-feet, head-first, into a hollow tree. That’s not a spoiler. That’s the story.

CinemaClash Podcast: 10 Cloverfield Lane, Knight of Cups, Embrace of the Serpent, and more!

I’m not a big fan of horror movies, but 10 Cloverfield Lane is more of a psychological drama filled with twists and turns and solid performances that keep you on the edge of your seat for a surprisingly entertaining – or at least, attention-holding – two hours. For more (spoiler-free) insight and debate on 10 Cloverfield Lane, Knight of Cups, Embrace of the Serpent, and more, check out the latest CinemaClash podcast with me and my cinema nemesis Charlie Juhl: