Quick Takes: Ride Along, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Afternoon Delight

ride_along_xlgRide Along (2014)
threestar

Starring Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, John Leguizamo, Bruce McGill, Tika Sumpter, Bryan Callen, Laurence Fishburne, Dragos Bucur, Gary Owen, Jacob Latimore, Jay Pharoah, Benjamin Flores Jr.
Directed by Tim Story

Like many action comedies, it would be easy to rip Ride Along for having a dumb plot and sequences where our heroes would never survive if it were real life. But action comedies aren’t real life, so as long as I’m laughing more than I’m not, I’m happy. Ride Along made me happy. Ride Along has gotten fairly dismal reviews from almost everyone, and while I can’t defend it as some great piece of cinema, it’s definitely more fun than the consensus makes it appear. What it comes down to is that I think Kevin Hart is funny, and I also love me some Ice Cube. Together they make a great comedy duo. The action could have been shot better, but this is a small complaint in a quick, fun, entertaining movie. Clear your mind for a night and just ride along with it.

a92058kywgvRise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
threehalfstar

Starring James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, Tyler Labine, Jamie Harris, Ty Olsson, David Hewlett
Directed by Rupert Wyatt

I love the original Planet of the Apes films, but after seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes I think it might be hard to go back. I’m shocked how much I enjoyed this one. You really couldn’t ask for a better modern take on the Planet of the Apes saga, although I do wonder if they’ll stick with CG for the more evolved humanoid apes if they continue the series. I suppose they will, but Rick Baker’s makeup from Tim Burton’s 2001 remake was so good I kinda wish they’d do that again. Anyway, if you’ve been on the fence for the last few years, definitely watch this one! By focusing the story on a single ape, we are able to feel for the character, right down to the point of cheering the apes on during the film’s climactic (and awesome) final act. I can’t wait to see the sequel!

afternoon-delight-posterAfternoon Delight (2013)
threestar

Starring Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor, Jane Lynch, Jessica St. Clair, Michaela Watkins, Josh Stamberg, John Kapelos, Keegan Michael Key, Annie Mumolo
Directed by Jill Soloway

Afternoon Delight walks a thin line between drama and dark comedy, delivering both very well and remaining engaging throughout. At least for me. I can imagine this one will split people, as it’s pretty much nothing but spoiled white people problems. They are problems nonetheless, and something as life affecting as being unhappy in a relationship shouldn’t be trivialized. Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is the unhappy one in question, and her life changes course when she visits a strip club with her husband and another couple. Rachel becomes somewhat obsessed, or at the very least highly interested, in getting to know McKenna (Juno Temple), the stripper she connected with. One thing leads to another and McKenna is living in Rachel’s spare bedroom. What makes Afternoon Delight so interesting to me is how much director Jill Soloway seems to be saying with the film, without actually saying it. There’s so much to dissect about the character relationships, revealing insightful takes on truth, trust and the relationships that shape our lives. Kathryn Hahn is superb as Rachel, giving a raw, emotional performance that deserves acclaim, and Juno Temple is a perfect, confident complement to Hahn’s nervous energy. Very good, but definitely not for everyone.

Mini-Review: Think Like a Man (2012)

Think-Like-A-Man-poster-1Starring Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Jenkins, Jenifer Lewis, Romany Malco, Gary Owen, Gabrielle Union, La La Anthony

Directed by Tim Story

Expectations: High. I have it on good authority that this is funny.

threestar


I don’t have much to say about Think Like a Man. It’s well-made, funny and engaging. It’s easily one of the best and most interesting modern romantic comedies I’ve seen in a while (not that I make it a habit to see that many). This could be that the male focus of the film led me to care more about the relationships at hand, but I think it’s more to do with the structure of the film. Instead of one relationship getting all the screen-time, Think Like a Man charts the course of several relationships at once, so at all times there is something new happening with our fun, interesting characters.

Due to this wide focus, the film’s relationships aren’t that complex and they’re somewhat unbelievable, but it’s a romantic comedy so whatever. It’s not about depth and believability, it’s about making you laugh and making you feel a swell of romance in the key moments. And Think Like a Man does that really, really well. The writing is especially snappy, and the entire cast performs admirably. It’s a shame that I don’t really know who many of the actors and actresses in this movie are, and hopefully that will change going forward. It was a treat to see so many positive black characters in one movie, complete with a token white guy! I loved that. It’s a total reversal of traditional Hollywood film casting, and I wish more mainstream films would echo that. The US is rather multiracial, doncha know.

Like all romantic comedies, it does fall into the formulaic trap of being obvious and ending just as you guessed it would at its outset. But where that might usually bother me, I was so taken with the characters and the quality of the comedy that I didn’t mind one bit. I think I finally understand how all the similar romantic comedies continue to do so well: if you connect with the film’s journey then its formula doesn’t matter. I guess that’s the same for all genre films, but for some reason I never considered it an option with romantic comedies. You learn something new every day.

Don’t worry, though, I’m not going to change the focus of Silver Emulsion to a chronological examination of the romantic comedy (although I have to admit, that does sound rather enticing to me), but I will definitely go into future romantic comedy films with a different mindset. Who knows, maybe I’ll become a big fan of them yet.

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