Cinema Review: About Last Night

1108148 - ABOUT LAST NIGHT

 

DIR: Steve Pink • WRI: Leslye Headland • PRO: Will Gluck, William Packer • DOP: Michael Barrett • ED: Tracey Wadmore-Smith, Shelly Westerman • MUS: Marcus Miller • DES: Jon Gary Steele • CAST: Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, Joy Bryant

There is a problem with movies featuring Kevin Hart. Despite not being the obvious protagonist, his miniature presence has once again proven to steal the show in this cheesy rom-com. A remake of the 1986 movie of the same name starring Demi Moore, this is a modernised and RnB-smothered Los Angeles tale of an infatuated love story without the devotion.

The scene is set for the entire movie as we are introduced to Bernie (Hart) and Danny (Ealy) in a Los Angeles Bar where they discuss sexual antics as we are made to assume that single men walk, talk and think alike five days a week, believing that their barbaric outlook on the average female is completely natural. The discussion at hand is that relating to Joan (Hall), who is having the same discussion on the flip side with best friend Debbie (Bryant). Both Joan and Debbie arrive to meet the guys in the bar as the obnoxious Bernie is hoping to pair Danny with singleton Debbie.  Danny is welcomed by Debbie’s warmness but uncomfortable in the presence of Bernie’s crude humour and his uncanny desire toward Joan; who, just like Bernie is so reprehensible, making their relationship all the more exciting and to be honest, comedic. The movie makes a balance of this variety by revealing the lust between Danny and Debbie, something he and Bernie would not condone otherwise – resulting in romance as opposed to Kevin Hart’s comedy.

Divided into three chapters (kind of) About Last Night shows the highs, the lows and the forgiveness in a relationship.  Michael Ealy gives a performance of ordinariness as the cheesy talisman. There is some chemistry between Danny and Debbie that give their bond an almost believable tale, however, the circumstance which leads to their relationship that takes place over three chapters in summer winter and spring, seem so much shorter and quite unrealistic.

There is a side story showing Danny and Bernie at work, at  an Irish bar run by Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore; I mean Casey (Christopher McDonald). If Danny’s relationship status does not make you soppy, Casey’s financial struggle is supposed to, showcasing a level of sensitivity in Danny and Bernie after all. We did not need this, but we get it anyway.

This is a cupid visionary; Danny and Debbie’s walk home leads to something so abrupt and animated, you really question how this has happened for the so-called “team player”. There are some funny scenes involved with both guys at work, but it is the unintentional scenes that are the most comedic and ridiculous – for example, when Debbie wakes up to rub Danny, only to find she is rubbing a headless pillow. Or to enforce the cheesiness, a romantic dinner goes uneaten and basically thrown onto the ground because their lust for one another calls for other things. Both characters are not likable, but not dislikable either. The endless scenes of passionate lovemaking and unnecessary cuddles accompanied by a Bruno Mars soundtrack (and more) makes you look forward to the onscreen antics and to be honest, brilliantly performed chemistry between Bernie and Joan, both of whom prove easy to like but the movie inevitably looks for sympathy in all these characters and frankly, the emotions are so fictitious that you can’t give it any.

Despite all the raunchy foreplay, About Last Night  is a film highly dependent on its dialogue, which is left mostly to Kevin Hart’s renowned showcasing of self-depreciation. Say what you will about Hart’s film choices, but he is really starting to come into his own. Those familiar with his stand-up personality will love Hart’s portrayal of a sleazy womaniser. His comedy seems well orchestrated, while his unconscious response to various situations are recognised and appreciated. You get the feeling he is supposed to be playing second fiddle to Michael Ealy’s character, yet the longer the film goes on the more it wants to centre on Kevin Hart.

The saviour, but not quite, Kevin Hart’s wacky character does exactly what the audience may acquire from the comedy side of things. However, he could not save the movie’s romantic integrity which proves tedious the longer it goes on.

Gerard Dodd

16 (SeeIFCO for details)
100 mins

About Last Night is released on 21st March 2014

About Last Night – Official Website

 

 

 

 

 

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Cinema Review: Grudge Match

grudge-match

 

DIR: Peter Segal WRI: Tim Kelleher, Rodney Rothman PRO: Michael Ewing, Bill Gerber, Mark Steven Johnson, Ravi D Mehta, Peter Segal DOP: Dean Semler  ED: William Kerr DES: Wynn Thomas  Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Kim Basinger, Kevin Hart, Jon Bernthal, LL Cool J

For a number of years, debate has raged as to which film is most deserving of the ‘best boxing movie of all-time’ mantle. For instance, whenever a new entry to the genre is greeted with some form of critical acclaim (such as David O. Russell’s 2011 awards favourite The Fighter), it is often described as the ‘best boxing film since Rocky’. Often, this seems like a heightened case of hyperbole, especially when you consider that Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull was released back in 1980, a full four years after Sylvester Stallone’s career-making turn as the ‘Italian Stallion’.

There have been compelling arguments for either film being the very best of its kind, while some have stated that Rocky is ‘the greatest boxing movie’, whereas Raging Bull is ‘the greatest movie about boxing’, which does offer a vague (if nonetheless significant) distinction. What is generally accepted, though, is that both films have set a benchmark that has proven to be extremely difficult to follow.

Although, Stallone’s Balboa is a fictional creation, and Raging Bull’s protagonist (Jake LaMotta) was a real-life World Middleweight Champion, many have wondered who exactly would win in a fight between the two, and with the release of the Peter Segal-directed Grudge Match, we are given some form of answer to that quandary.

Eight years after he last donned a pair of red gloves for the nostalgic Rocky Balboa, 67-year-old Stallone is Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp, while Robert De Niro (who won the second of two Oscars for his portrayal of LaMotta) is his long-time adversary, Bill ‘The Kid’ McDonnen. During their prestigious careers, Sharp and McDonnen fought each other twice, with McDonnen winning the first duel, before Sharp gained revenge in their second bout.

A final grudge match between the two was anticipated, but when Razor unexpectedly announced his retirement, the opportunity for a definitive confrontation had passed. Some 30 years later, they come to blows once again during the production of a computer game, and when the recorded incident goes viral, a young up-and-coming boxing promoter (Kevin Hart) begins to sell the idea of a third fight between the pair (billed as “Grudgement Day”).

Drawing on the exhibition fight motif of Rocky’s sixth cinematic outing, much of the film details the arduous preparation that the two elder statesman have to engage in as they aim to be in tip-top shape for their elongated return to the ring. While Razor hooks up with his former trainer Lightning (Alan Arkin, in typical scene-stealing form), Kid finds himself working alongside his long-lost son (Jon Bernthal) from a brief relationship with Kim Basinger’s Sally Rose, a former flame of Razor.

Certainly, with two heavyweights like De Niro and Stallone, and dependable supporting players like Arkin, Basinger and Bernthal (who can currently be seen sporting a handlebar moustache in The Wolf Of Wall Street), there is enough of a pedigree to make Grudge Match a worthwhile endeavour. The major problem it faces, however, relates to the tone of the film.

Whereas Rocky and Raging Bull were dramatic pieces, Grudge Match is very much played for laughs, with more than a fair share of references to the back catalogue of the principle stars. In the form of Segal, the film certainly has a helmer who is comfortable directing comedy, but despite enjoying great success throughout his career, much of his recent output has been workmanlike at best.

Indeed, much of the time Grudge Match seems overly reliant on the easy charm of its cast, and although the key players do their level best, they can only sustain momentum for so long. Having set-up the trajectory of the story within the opening half-hour, the script also appears to lack some much-needed inspiration, in spite of the input by Entourage creator Doug Ellin.

It also becomes more and more clichéd during the final act, and it is disappointing to see the nature of the relationship between Razor and Kid changing when it would seem more appropriate for the levels of hostility to grow.

That said, there is still some pleasure in seeing two veterans of the screen (De Niro has now reached the septuagenarian stage of his life) meeting face-to-face in an intense, and physically-exhausting battle, and when the titular ‘grudge match’ finally takes place, it does provide a satisfactory climax to the action.

The use of stock footage and digital trickery at the start of the film to show how Razor and Kid developed their rivalry over the years is also rather impressive, and there are some fleetingly funny moments throughout, most of them involving Arkin and Hart – a very popular stand-up comedian on Stateside.

Perhaps it would have been more advantageous for Grudge Match to have been made back in the mid-1980s, when both Stallone and De Niro were able to convince as genuine contenders for a World Championship crown. However, for those who are still looking to answer the immortal Balboa or LaMotta conundrum, then Grudge Match will have to make do.

Daire Walsh

12A (See IFCO for details)
113  mins
Grudge Match is released on 24th January 2014

Grudge Match  – Official Website

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