Movie Review: “Bad Moms”

Starring
Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jay Hernandez, David Walton
Director
Jon Lucas & Scott Moore

From mall Santas, to school teachers, to spelling bee contestants, Hollywood has a penchant for bringing out the worst in people we don’t normally associate with bad behavior. But while the premise behind “Bad Moms” is certainly ripe for comedy, as is usually the case with these films, it’s not lewd enough to justify its title. “Bad Moms” is an R-rated raunch-com that’s surprisingly short on both raunch and comedy. In fact, apart from its countless F-bombs (because apparently, nothing says “bad” quite like grown women cursing), it’s really a PG-13 movie at heart, failing to push the boundaries as far as you’d expect from the guys who wrote “The Hangover.” The film sorely lacks the insight that a female voice would offer.

Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) is sick and tired of trying to be the perfect mom. When she’s not being overworked at her part-time job, she’s busy maintaining her household and driving her two kids (Oona Laurence and Emjay Anthony) back and forth between school and their various extracurricular activities. Her slacker husband (David Walton) is practically a child himself, and after Amy catches him cheating with another woman over the internet, she promptly kicks him out of the house. The next day, everything that can go wrong does, causing Amy to finally crack under the pressure during a late-night PTA meeting. In the aftermath of her meltdown, she befriends two fellow mothers who share her frustration – bawdy single mom Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and docile stay-at-home mom Kiki (Kristen Bell) – and together, they agree to be bad moms for once and have a little fun. But when Amy’s antics make an enemy of uptight PTA overlord Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), she decides to challenge her presidency and alter the status quo.

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Movie Review: “Don’t Think Twice”

Starring
Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Mike Birbiglia, Chris Gethard, Kate Micucci, Tami Sagher
Director
Mike Birbiglia

Writer/director Mike Birbiglia’s first two movies have drawn comparisons to early Woody Allen, and for the most part, they’re well founded. The comedian turned filmmaker excels at telling human stories that combine humor and pathos with an unfiltered authenticity you don’t normally see in mainstream comedies. His 2012 debut “Sleepwalk with Me” is a witty, sharply written film about professional rejection and the fear of commitment, and although Birbiglia doesn’t quite hit the same highs with his follow-up “Don’t Think Twice,” it’s arguably a more mature piece of filmmaking that expands on some of the same themes while cutting even deeper emotionally.

The movie centers on a New York City improv troupe called The Commune whose members – including co-founder Miles (Birbiglia), Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), Samantha (Gillian Jacobs), Bill (Chris Gethard), Allison (Kate Micucci) and Lindsay (Tami Sagher) – learn that the building where they perform their weekly shows is being shut down. Further complicating matters is the announcement that romantic couple Jack and Samantha have both been invited to audition for the popular TV sketch show “Weekend Live” (basically “Saturday Night Live” in all but name), which unearths a deep-seated jealously and resentment among the rest of the group. When one of them lands the coveted job, the other members must cope with the sting of rejection as their tight-knit community begins to unravel.

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Movie Review: “Lights Out”

Starring
Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Maria Bello, Alexander DiPersia
Director
David F. Sandberg

Had “Lights Out” been released after “The Ring,” it might be considered one of the all-time greats of supernatural horror. It has a genuinely creepy (if slight) premise, courtesy of a relentless, unstoppable villain, and several blood-chilling scenes. The film’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t trust its stuff, falling for the cliché trick of needlessly filling the score with crashing, ‘Boo!’ punches of percussion when the movie was already perfectly scary. Director David F. Sandberg would have been wise to take a page from executive producer James Wan’s “Conjuring” films and let the camera do the talking, rather than the score.

Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is concerned for his mother Sophie (Maria Bello). He hears her talking to herself at night, and one night, he sees something frightening that he cannot understand. Martin begins falling asleep at school, since he refuses to sleep at night. When Sophie doesn’t answer calls from Child Protective Services after Martin has fallen asleep for the third time in a week, Martin’s adult half-sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) picks him up. When Martin tells Rebecca about Sophie’s friend Diana, Rebecca stops in her tracks. Diana was a girl that befriended Sophie when both were under psychiatric care as teenagers. Diana died during an unconventional treatment called light therapy, and in death, she has latched on to Sophie, moving in the darkness. (Rebecca saw Diana as a child too, but no one believed her.) As Martin and Rebecca learn more about Diana, the more aggressive Diana fights to keep Sophie to herself.

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Movie Review: “Star Trek Beyond”

Starring
Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Joe Taslim
Director
Justin Lin

In 2009, director J.J. Abrams helped to successfully relaunch the “Star Trek” franchise, and his reboot remains an immensely entertaining adventure movie. Although its sequel, “Star Trek Into Darkness,” is not without its moments, it’s a disappointing follow-up that’s held back by some unfortunate twists and a misjudged villain. The film hardly slowed down this now 50-year-old franchise, however, which returns to the big screen with “Star Trek Beyond.” The Justin Lin-directed sequel quickly gets the crew back on track by delivering a very entertaining and often kind-hearted summer movie.

Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is tired of his five-year mission to seek out new life and explore new worlds. While on a diplomatic assignment with fellow crew members Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Doctor “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg), Kirk presents an alien species with a peace offering from the Federation. The gift is part of a deadly ancient weapon called the Abronath, but he has no clue what it is or what it’s capable of. Krall (Idris Elba), on the other hand, knows exactly what it can do. The face-changing villain is against everything the Federation stands for, so he dupes the Enterprise crew into going on a “rescue mission” to a distant planet, where he attacks them, leaving the crew completely torn apart. Even though they’re outnumbered and outmatched, Kirk and the gang are not alone in their fight against Krall, joining forces with an alien warrior named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella, who turns out to be a great addition to the series) to stop him from unleashing the Abronath.

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Movie Review: “The Infiltrator”

Starring
Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Benjamin Bratt, Diane Kruger, Amy Ryan, Olympia Dukakis, Jason Isaacs
Director
Brad Furman

Like director Brad Furman’s 2011 film, “The Lincoln Lawyer,” his latest movie, “The Infiltrator,” is an assured piece of filmmaking that spins a familiar tale extremely well. This true-life story is a consistently engaging look at a man and woman living duel lives. Will they get in so deep that they forget who they are? Furman and screenwriter Ellen Sue Brown (who also happens to be the director’s mother) answer that clichéd question with genuine nuance and thrills.

Set in 1985, Robert “Bob” Mazur (Bryan Cranston) – whose real-life counterpart worked as a consultant on Furman’s “Runner Runner” – is a U.S. Customs agent who’s given the chance to retire early and spend more time at home with his wife and kids following an injury at work. Instead, he pursues another job involving Pablo Escobar, who mostly remains in the shadows of this story. Posing as a successful money launderer named Bob Musella, he attempts to cripple Escobar’s organization by bringing down his top people, including Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), a criminal that Bob befriends. Joining Bob on his undercover mission are agents Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) and Emir Ebreu (John Leguizamo), who must put aside their personal differences and work together in order to take down some of the world’s most powerful drug lords and corrupt bankers from the inside.

Bryan Cranston, who co-starred in “The Lincoln Lawyer,” is fantastic as Mazur. Rarely do undercover agents in movies feel this vulnerable. Mazur isn’t played as an agent that can take out five guards without a problem, but he’s extremely competent and smart at his job, even if his smarts aren’t always enough for the job. Even in seemingly mundane conversations in “The Infiltrator,” death is only a few flubbed words or a wrongly remembered lie away for the character. The stakes are always high, and Cranston makes the audience feel those stakes in the briefest of moments sometimes. When Robert witnesses two murders, the actor doesn’t play it cool; his response is either of shock or horror. In these extraordinary situations, Cranston reacts normally. The actor helps make the reality and the sense of danger palpable, and the same goes for Kruger and Leguizamo.

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