Alright everyone, if you need a good chuckle and have an hour-and-a-half to take your mind off of your current stresses, then Coffee & Kareem will satisfy those needs. I found myself laughing at a line of Ed Helms’ character within the first five minutes, so that had me excited for the comedy to unfold. I was definitely drawn to the movie for Ed Helms. I am a huge fan of The Office and love his character, Andy Bernard. I was also interested to see how they would comment on police brutality and race—which I’d say the film did an okay job of addressing.
Coffee & Kareem was directed by Michael Dowse, who has directed a couple of other comedies, such as Stuber and Take Me Home Tonight. Coffee & Kareem takes place around a cop named Officer Coffee (Ed Helms) and a young tween named Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh). Coffee is a goofball character: he definitely gave off an “If Andy Bernard was a cop instead of working at Dunder Mifflin” vibe. His silly almost-innocent persona was my favorite part of the movie. The movie was littered with crass and over-the-top humor, but the parts that had me laughing the most were the super silly and cheesy jokes.
The film also had some physical comedic moments that definitely had me laughing. Helms and Gardenhigh had great chemistry and played the buddy-cop trope together in an entertaining way. While the movie had me laughing, it also had me shaking my head at some of the commentary and absolutely ridiculous events. But hey, I was not expecting every event in this comedy to drive the story forwards with finesse and care, so it is almost what I expected with a modern comedy.
Overall, Coffee & Kareem made me laughing throughout its entirety, which is what I look for in a comedy. It also had a fun supporting cast; Taraji P Henson as Kareem’s mother, and Betty Gilpin (from Netflix’s Glow) as a detective, were especially enjoyable to watch. Taraji P. Henson is a versatile actress and really delivers in comedies, like this one and What Men Want. A fun little detail I enjoyed as well was David Alan Grier playing Captain Hill; you might recall him as the cop Bentley in Jumanji! Again, if you’re looking for a little distraction and don’t mind some ludicrous events for the sake of a good chuckle, give this movie a watch!
Coffee & Kareem is available streaming on Netflix.
Recommendation: STREAM IT
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By Josh Aquino — 2 years ago
Released in 2016, The Boy is actually a film that I enjoyed. It told the story of a young housekeeper, played by Lauren Cohen, who was tasked to take care of a large porcelain doll named Brahms. Throughout the film the viewer is strung along into thinking that the doll itself was haunted—with the grand reveal that Brahms was not a haunted doll: but rather a grown man living within the walls of the house (who was, quite frankly, psychotic). While it is no work of art, I thought it was a quirky one-off film with a unique narrative twist… Regardless of how pedestrian and mediocre the story was.
Fast forward to 2020 and we now have the sequel, Brahms: The Boy II. Unfortunately, instead of expanding on the unique twist the first movie told, this sequel has reversed course so poorly that it actually makes the first film look weaker. That’s right folks: this movie is so bad that it actually makes its predecessor look bad.
But where does Brahms: The Boy II go wrong? Let’s start with the story… The movie begins with a young family whose lives have been shattered by a horrific home invasion. While the father, Sean (Owain Yeoman) is out of town his wife, Liza (Katie Holmes) and son Jude (Christopher Convery) are left to fend for themselves as robbers break into their home nearly killing them both. The event is so traumatic that young Jude is rendered mute and Liza suffers from intense PTSD (which is just passed off as an excuse to give us jump scares). The family decides to retreat into the countryside of London to heal and overcome their trauma. They end up in the guest house outside of the mansion, which was the location and setting of the entire first movie (the guest house was not a location that appeared in the first movie at all). It is from here where Jude finds Brahms buried in the soil with its hand hilariously sticking out from the ground, and finds himself a friend within the lifeless doll. His family, desperate for him to leave his state of silence, encourages their friendship with the inanimate object until Liza finds disturbing clues that hint at something being awry; pictures of murder, torn up toys, and angry animals.
If that story sounds at all familiar to you, do not worry: Brahms: The Boy II is very much a run-of-the-mill sort of horror movie. Its biggest crime is that for such a strange concept and such a bizarre adversary it chooses to go down the most generic and obvious paths. Nothing in this film scared or disturbed me in the least bit. The movie seems to prefer to startle the audience with abrupt jump scares, the likes of which are unequivocally telegraphed. For a slim 86 minutes I felt incredibly bored. I found myself checking my watch frequently waiting for something to happen. The film is happy meandering about with Brahms playing small pranks on his poor victim not caring to move the plot forward at all—and boy, is it mind numbing.
My greatest frustration with this film is not the bad writing, the poor direction, or even the frequent jump scares. It’s that rather than building upon a unique story with a good twist, it totally throws the story right into the dumpster, and goes with a supernatural angle. It hamstrings the film into a total snooze fest, devoid of any suspense or cleverness. It’s so badly paced that even the scares feel out of place, and it is too shallow to offer anything insightful or disturbing to get under your skin. Brahms: The Boy II is plain and lifeless, much like the porcelain doll it is named after.
Recommendation: NO GOPost Views: 1,081
By André Hutchens — 1 year ago
*Editor’s note: this is the second roundtable review we have done on Backseat Directors. This format has been a lot of fun for our writers, and you can expect to see this more in the future with bigger blockbuster type films. For a more comprehensive (spoiler-free) review of Mulan, check out The Formal Review’s Podcast episode 25 (season 3) and his thoughts of the movie.
Mulan is available VOD (video on demand) on Disney+ for $29.99. The movie will be available to all Disney+ subscribers to stream for free come Dec. 4, 2020.
Rachel Wagner: I’m not sure what I expected out of this new Mulan. I haven’t been a big fan of most of these Disney live-action remakes, but occasionally they will produce a winner. The trailers looked pretty good and I felt that it is a story that could warrant different interpretations. Unfortunately, what they came up with thoroughly underwhelmed me. The power of the original Mulan (1998) is an ordinary girl who makes sacrifices to save her father and learns to be a warrior. In this new version, Mulan has the power of “chi” and is destined to save China, which is far less interesting. I also thought the actress Liu Yifei was very wooden and flat in the role. I think this might have something to do with a language barrier, but whatever the reason it kept me from being engaged in the film. In the end, they went for a superhero, “chosen one” narrative, and that was a huge mistake; making for a film that nobody will remember in 2 years, let alone 22 like the original animated classic.
Recommendation: SKIP IT
CJ Marshall: An old basketball coach used to tell me that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Disney’s live-action Mulan feels like a perfect example of this. Mulan (2020) is merely decent, and the external forces (politics, Disney classic remake, expectation) are hard to ignore, because they don’t allow this phoenix to fly. They’re trying to serve too many masters here, and in doing so, it lacks a focus and gravity that would have made it a better picture. A Wuxia remake of Disney’s Mulan should have been better than this…especially with Donnie Yen and Jet Li involved. If you are a Disney+ subscriber, just wait until the movie is available to stream for free in December.
Recommendation: SKIP IT
The Formal Review: As an Asian American, Mulan (2020) was a great experience, and frankly, it was the best thing that could come from a Disney remake of an animated movie. Unfortunately, the look of it won’t be appreciated because they won’t have a big enough screen to do so. The action and the colors and the costumes all looked great; though, historically inaccurate. Even though it’s trying to be diverse with its obvious attempt to be a wuxia film, it’s not exactly the genre it was trying to be. To tell an “authentic” story of a legendary Chinese warrior, Disney hired a white director, a white costume designer, four white screenwriters, a white composer, a white cinematographer, white film editor, and a white casting director. It was a good attempt, but a better one would be to have given a person of Asian descent the reins on at least one of those professions to help out. Having a female director is great, but there are plenty of Asian directors of all genders out there that could have directed this. The representation that it had on screen is important but so is the representation behind the camera as well. Even so, the score by Henry Gregson Williams is pretty amazing. Though controversial, the film had some really good acting by the many stars. It dared to be different while also feeling the same. It had a lot of good things that make it worth the watch. I recommend splitting the $30 rental price with some family or friends, and enjoy the movie together.
Recommendation: STREAM IT
Parker Johnson: In an ironic twist of fate, the parts where Mulan (2020) honors the original animated movie with its own twists were the parts that I most enjoyed throughout the movie. The relationship between Mulan and her father was expanded beautifully. I think the writers really understood that their relationship drove the whole story, and executed that part of the story perfectly. I thought the group of soldiers were portrayed wonderfully here, and I wish we got more time with them individually as opposed to just the love interest. The callbacks to the original musical numbers in both the score and dialogue was executed brilliantly. Sadly, every distinctly original element of this live action adaptation felt out of place or completely irrelevant to the story. The way chi is used in this story just felt like a lazy way to justify wire-fu to Americans not familiar with Asian/martial arts cinema, rather than having Mulan have natural talent in addition to her hard work and training. The witch detracts from Jason Scott Lee’s imposing performance as Bori Khan and his army, both in screen time and importance to the plot, and the idea of chi as traditional magic further muddles the idea of chi. Finally, the phoenix is literally only there for the most in-your-face symbolism since Game of Thrones. Mulan is one of the best live-action Disney Remakes alongside Cinderella (2015) and Aladdin (2019), but it still falls short of being great. I would advise those who want to see it to wait until December when it will be free to watch. Although somewhat enjoyable, $30 is just too much to pay.
Recommendation: SKIP ITPost Views: 841
By André Hutchens — 10 months ago
Editor’s note: Like all of the “Roundtable Reviews” we’ve done before, we chose a movie that has been getting a lot of buzz mixed with a lot of controversy. Malcolm & Marie features two of the hottest and most in demand actors in Hollywood, and puts them front and center in this intimate drama. This film might be Zendaya’s most rigorous role since shedding her Disney Channel shell, and John David Washington’s career is ever onward and upward. What can this man not do?
CJ Marshall: The Christmas episode of Euphoria should have prepared you for this project. Malcolm & Marie exists more as performance art than an actual film. It’s like a high budget “sponsor me” skate video. The end product has killer performances and a great soundtrack, but it has no purpose other than to showcase the formidable talent of its creative forces. They absolutely killed it on the technique angle. Zendaya has never looked or acted more mature and she wears it well. The uncomfortable (Euphoria’s trademark), voyeuristic vibe is contrasted with the constant nudging and winking of Levinson’s dialogue–the film engages in the very techniques and tropes that it seems to be critiquing. All of that would be more interesting if there were a point to be made. It’s conflict for the sake of conflict, dialogue for the sake of dialogue, and filmed–beautifully I might add–in black and white for the sake of black and white. In the spirit of this film I’ll offer up one of the more ubiquitous critiques: Malcolm & Marie insists upon itself.
Recommendation: SKIP IT
The Formal Review: When the trailer for Malcolm & Marie dropped, you knew that the film would be about a relationship filled with both love-making and insults that might be similar to your average couple stuck together in quarantine. The film definitely hits each one of those checkboxes with each argument showing a deeper problematic layer in their relationship. The most obvious comparison for anyone to make is to 2019’s Marriage Story. While similar, that film is more about one man’s side of a divorce whereas this film is more of a power struggle between two people. From a stylistic perspective, Malcolm & Marie has a lot more compelling aspects when compared to Marriage Story, from beautiful cinematography, and great use of music to move the story along. The acting by Washington and Zendaya is on point in perhaps their best roles yet. While one may not enjoy argumentative relationship type movies (is that a genre now?)… this film has more to it than simply a display of that to enjoy time and time again. Full thoughts coming later on.
Recommendation: STREAM IT
Parker Johnson: Malcom and Marie claims to not be a love story, but “a story about love.” When I saw that phrasing in the trailer, my guard immediately went up. That seems to be code for “terrible people spend the runtime yelling at each other, and yet still claim they love each other.” When early reviews went up, my suspicions were confirmed. But, because of my love for Zendaya, I was determined to watch this movie. And I have to admit, it was incredibly well made. The staging and cinematography were great, and the acting was pretty incredible. Zendaya’s character had a monologue that literally left my jaw hanging off the floor. However, the relationship between the two titualar characters just felt so mean spirited and cruel to each other, that it left me feeling very uncomfortable and waiting for the film to end. But maybe that was the point of the movie…? I don’t know. It was a well crafted film, but in the end, it didn’t convince me that these two really cared about each other, nor that it was a “movie about love.” So it”s going be a “skip it” for me. However, it made me even more excited to see Zendaya in Dune coming out later this year!
Recommendation: SKIP ITPost Views: 1,541