I didn’t like the first Ride Along. In fact, it was one of my least favorite films of 2014. The premise was funny enough, but the actual movie itself seemed to rely on the same gimmicks over and over again. So, needless to say, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about the idea of a sequel. But I decided to keep an open mind going into Ride Along 2, thinking “Hey, there’s nowhere to go, but up.”
The movie picks up with rookie cop Ben Barber’s (Kevin Hart) continuous efforts to gain the approval of his soon to be brother-in-law, Detective James Payton (Ice Cube). In another attempt to scare him out of law enforcement, Payton brings Ben on an undercover investigation in Miami. There they team up with Homicide Detective, Maya Cruz (Olivia Munn), and a hacker (Ken Jeong) to try and expose a wealthy crime lord (Benjamin Bratt).
The plot being generic shouldn’t be a big issue for comedies, because we aren’t watching the movie for an intricate story, we’re watching for laughs. The problem is, Ride Along 2 just isn’t funny and like its predecessor, relies on the same tricks to try and justify its existence. Kevin Hart does his physical comedy routine and it makes for a few snickers, but never anything above that. And he gets absolutely no help from his co-stars. Ice Cube just grimaces the entire film, while Olivia Munn seems to be hell bent on giving as dry a performance as possible. As for Ken Jeong, I honestly haven’t found him funny since the first Hangover movie, so his lousy presence isn’t anything surprising.
I’ve always found Kevin Hart’s stand-up to be hilarious, but the antics of his movie characters are getting old. If seeing a short, loud, man-child fall down or scream over and over again is worthy of an hour and a half of your time, then by all means enjoy Ride Along 2. But I can’t help but hold my comedies to a higher standard. Good comedies are the ones where you can still laugh about certain moments long after you’ve seen the movie. A year from now, if I ask someone to name a funny part from either Ride Along movie (that isn’t in the trailers), I’ll be surprised if they don’t draw a blank.
FINAL GRADE: D-
Last year, Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu landed the Academy Award for Best Director for the film Birdman. It was well deserved. This year, Iñarritu has reloaded with another stellar cast, and after watching his newest film The Revenant, it is clear this talented director is no fluke.
Loosely based on actual events, The Revenant stars Leonardo Dicaprio as Hugh Glass, a member of a group of fur traders in the 1800’s. After an attack by a native tribe searching for their chief’s daughter forces the group to retreat from an expedition, Glass is attacked and severely injured by a wild grizzly bear. The attack causes tensions to flare between the group’s captain (Domhnall Gleeson) and hothead John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) about whether to abandon Glass. After taking matters into his own hands and killing Glass’ half Native American son, Fitzgerald leaves Glass to die, only for him to fight for survival and make a quest across the winter wilderness in search of vengeance.
Revenge is a key theme of this film, but survival is perhaps the word that best describes the tone. Most of the movie is dominated by Leonardo DiCaprio giving a very realistic performance as a wounded survivalist; building a fire, finding shelter, and running from angry natives. Many of those elements make the film drag and grow a bit stale in parts. The subplot about the Native American chief in search of his daughter also takes up too much screen time.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s long quest for an Academy Award has dominated the press for this film. But it is actually Tom Hardy’s menacing performance that really drives the narrative. From the start, Hardy’s John Fitzgerald establishes himself as a selfish, greedy, but fiercely intelligent character. The quotable moments delivered by Hardy and some beautiful cinematography of the northern landscapes are what truly make The Revenant a film worth seeing. That and, of course, the gripping final showdown between DiCaprio and Hardy at the film’s climax.
FINAL GRADE: B+
You have to take the good with the bad. I’ve already released the list of my ten favorite movies. Now it’s time to share the list of ten movies that either should’ve never existed or were just flat out disappointing. As always, I don’t get a chance to see every movie (and some movies I’m too busy to waste time on) so there’s plenty of terrible films from the year that won’t be on this list because I never got around to sitting through them. If you want me to go further in depth as to why I didn’t like these movies, feel free to click on the title for the longer review.
- TAKEN 3 Released almost a year ago, this movie is still forgettable, taking Liam Neeson through even more outlandish action antics. This movie might get the award for most unnecessary film of 2015.
- PIXELS I’m essentially done giving Adam Sandler chances. There were a few laughs in here, but not enough to justify Sandler and the majority of the cast giving as little effort as possible with a dumb script.
- FANTASTIC FOUR *SIGH* So much potential here. The cast was good. The director was supposedly good. And yet, the end result was a boring, obviously rushed attempt to make a fun comic book feel as droll as possible.
- ALOHA Never before had I sat through a romantic comedy with a more convoluted plot and a greater sense of purposelessness.
- PAN Hugh Jackman and some colorful imagery couldn’t save this film from being a complete waste of time. Dumb characters and casting choices that completely missed the mark on the essence of the Peter Pan story are what made this film a complete disaster.
- FIFTY SHADES OF GREY An hour and a half of awkward softcore porn, bad dialogue, and B-movie acting. Twilight at least had an occasional action sequence. This movie just seemed utterly pointless.
- THE PERFECT GUY A movie so filled with thriller clichés and moronic characters that it is mind boggling to try and figure out why such a talented cast agreed to take part in it.
- SEVENTH SON A movie so bad and forgettable, I literally forgot to review it. Major plot points that are never explained, actors phoning it in, and just an overall boring tone make this one of the worst fantasy films to date.
- JUPITER ASCENDING Quite frankly the worst science fiction film I’ve ever seen. Convoluted doesn’t even begin to describe the plot, and every character is downright insufferable. I could rant for half an hour about why this movie sucks, but you can just read the full review.
- THE BOY NEXT DOOR Jennifer Lopez being attractive is no saving grace. This movie is awful, from its plot to its characters, to its Lifetime movie production value. It was literally the only movie in 2015 that I felt like walking out of.
Honorable Mention: Minions, The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, Insurgent, Furious 7, Mortdecai
Another year has come and gone, which of course means it’s time to list my Top Ten favorite films of 2015. Quick disclaimer: These aren’t necessarily the films that I think are the best, but they are the films that I enjoyed watching the most. Feel free to click each title for the link to my full reviews of each film. Enjoy, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
- PEANUTS Shultz’s classic comic strip was beautifully brought to life with fun animation and an endearing story that made audiences fall in love with Charlie Brown all over again.
- KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE One of the most fun, action packed films of the year. This movie reinvigorated the spy genre with 90’s action film flare. Newcomer Taron Egerton was a breakout star while Samuel L. Jackson also turned in one of the best villain portrayals of the year.
- DOPE A witty, relevant take on the teen comedy that featured several bright young stars. It helps that it provided some of the most memorable laughs in any comedy released in 2015.
- JURASSIC WORLD With a nostalgia factor that was off the charts, and a charismatic leading man in Chris Pratt, this 90’s throwback managed to be a thrill ride even if it was just a rehash of the original Jurassic Park.
- STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Speaking of nostalgia, this film brought back all of the original emotions created by the classic Star Wars trilogy while also successfully ushering in a new cast of wonderful characters that I can’t wait to see more of.
- INSIDE OUT Pixar does it again. This time, the animation gurus gave us a unique story that blended some clever comedy with a heartfelt story filled with great messages for people of all ages.
- EX MACHINA This methodical thriller made me a huge fan of each member of its main cast. Stellar performances coupled with a sleek, yet simple production value helped make this film a science fiction classic.
- STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON I’m usually not a fan of biopics, especially if they’re three hours long. But this film was a pleasant surprise. Great music, sensational performances and a well crafted narrative made this movie feel like time well spent.
- MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Coming in at a very close 2nd, is George Miller’s return to the Director’s chair to bring a new Mad Max movie that was perhaps even more fun than his original films. Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and Nicholas Hoult (amongst others) helped bring to life some memorable characters that helped transcend a plot that is essentially a non-stop car chase into a Summer classic.
- CREED Who new Sylvester Stallone still had this left in him? He and Michael B. Jordan combined to create the best onscreen duo of 2015 and make this Rocky sequel into the perfect movie-going experience filled with heart, soul, and suspense.
Honorable Mention: The Man from UNCLE, The Hateful Eight, Ant-Man, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Walk, The Night Before, Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, The Good Dinosaur, The Martian