“Coffee & Kareem” stars Ed Helms, Terrence Little Gardenhigh, Betty Gilpin, RonReaco Lee, Andrew Bachelor, David Alan Grier, and Taraji P. Henson. Released on Netflix on April 3, 2020, the film is about a police officer who teams up with his girlfriend’s son to take down a group of criminals.
The film is directed by Michael Dowse, who also directed films such as “FUBAR”, “Take Me Home Tonight”, “Goon”, and “Stuber”. We are entering yet another week in quarantine, and it surely won’t be the last. If you think that surviving a couple of weeks without any big new movies was troubling, just you wait until we get through the entire month of April. This month sees a few new movies that are making their way to Netflix, and this weekend, we will be looking at one of them. This is another film that captured my curiosity the first time I saw its trailer online a few days ago. Aside from its ridiculous title, the film’s trailer appears to have the usual “unlikely team-up” comedy shenanigans that we’re familiar with, something that Michael Dowse is known for when he helmed last year’s “Stuber”. You know, because that film also had a ridiculous title and involved two unlikely characters teaming up to defeat the bad guys. Question is, are those shenanigans enough to make this latest Netflix film watchable?
The story follows James Coffee (Helms) (yes, that’s literally his last name), a police officer who is enjoying his new relationship with single mother Vanessa Manning (Henson). However, her 12-year-old son Kareem (Gardenhigh) isn’t taking a liking to his mother’s new boyfriend. So what does he do at a time like this? Break them up, of course. While attempting to hire a bunch of fugitives to scare off Coffee, Kareem accidentally exposes a criminal conspiracy, resulting in his family being targeted. In order to protect his mother, Kareem must team up with Coffee to defeat the fugitives. It’s no surprise that the film follows the simple “unlikely team-up” buddy comedy formula that we’ve seen a dozen times before, but as usual, it’s the execution of its formula that can make or break the film. Most films that have this formula turn out to be entertaining, while others turn out to be giant piles of dinosaur droppings. “Coffee & Kareem” unfortunately falls into the latter category. The film sets up to be a comedic take on the complex “relationship” between the police and the African-American community in Detroit, but rather than taking advantage of it to provide an enjoyable and heartfelt story, it uses its theme as an excuse to churn out a bunch of stereotypical and racial jokes that quickly became lazy and repetitive after the first 20 to 30 minutes. Not even Shane Mack’s screenplay and the film’s cast were good enough to make it a “so bad, it’s good” type of film. I don’t want to say that the actors were bad in this film, but I will say that the film didn’t exactly work well for their talents, especially newcomer Terrence Little Gardenhigh. Even though Gardenhigh tried a bit too hard to make his character a likable jerk (which, in my opinion, is very challenging to do when it comes to films like this), I thought he did his best in attempting to deliver some “amusing” moments. If he decides to continue his acting career, I hope that his next appearance is something that’s worthy of his talent. As for Helms and Henson, let’s just say that if you’re a fan of over-the-top acting, you might be okay watching them go nuts every few minutes or so, and by that, I mean screaming their heads off without any sense of charm. Being loud doesn’t always equal to hilarity, people. The same can be said for Betty Gilpin, who plays Coffee’s rival Detective Watts. Pretty disappointing to see her go from killing hunters in “The Hunt” to…this. Helms still has his usual comedy schtick that he’s known for from his other comedic roles, and Henson has a very noticeable habit of playing characters that are either strict or crazy or even both. While their skills work well in their other projects, this film felt like a complete waste of their talents when it comes to the script. I find it really hard to like any of these characters onscreen because the entire thing came off as mean-spirited and foul-mouthed. A 12-year-old was dropping F-bombs left and right, for crying out loud! You can have some moments that are mean-spirited, but you also got to have characters that are worth caring about in the midst of all that so that the entire experience doesn’t get annoying rather quickly.
Overall, like its title alone, “Coffee & Kareem” is a joke. It’s more like an “embarrassing” joke rather than a “funny” joke. The plot is formulaic and lazy, the script favors repetitive adult humor over storytelling, and the chemistry between the cast lacks charisma compared to the other buddy comedies that came before it. This is another film that belongs in the Netflix garbage bin instead of the Netflix Hall of Fame, which is disappointing since I enjoyed these types of comedies. If you want to see it for yourself, it’s available to watch on the streaming service. If you happen to like this one more than I did, I humbly respect your opinion and I apologize for not enjoying it as much as you did. Hopefully I will have a much better experience with the other upcoming Netflix films this month than I did with this.
“Stargirl” stars Grace VanderWaal, Graham Verchere, Giancarlo Esposito, Karan Brar, Darby Stanchfield, and Maximiliano Hernandez. Released on Disney+ on March 13, 2020, the film is about a shy teen who befriends a unique free-spirited young woman.
The film is directed by Julia Hart, who also directed “Miss Stevens” and “Fast Color”, and it is based on the young adult novel of the same name by Jerry Spinelli. High school is one of the big steps of everyday life. It is full of teenage drama, tense emotions, and people judging others based on their differences. Sounds like something that Disney would put out on its streaming service instead of a television series based on “Love, Simon”. Since I’m stuck inside the house for a while due to a Coronavirus and almost all of the movies are getting delayed, I had to resort to plan B, which is to review some of the films that are available to stream at the comfort of my own home. It may not be easy for me to do, but it’s the only solution I have to keep my blog alive. Last month, I reviewed an original film from Disney+ known as “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made”, and since I did all right talking about it, I decided to continue reviewing more films from the recent streaming service, starting with this peculiar film that coincidentally shares the same title as the DC Comics superhero. Even though I haven’t read the book myself or seen any of its trailers, I remained curious about it because of its relatable concept and the fact that it’s aiming towards families, which is good because kids need to learn this type of stuff. Question is, is it good enough for me to recommend it to its target audience?
Described as a musical drama, the story follows Leo Borlock (Verchere), a teen who moves to Arizona with his mother (Stanchfield) after his father passed away. During his year in high school, he encounters a free-spirited girl named Stargirl Caraway (VanderWaal) who quickly made a first impression on Leo and the entire school due to her personality. Together, they face the difficult challenges of high school while maintaining their relationship. If you’re wondering why I am calling it a musical drama, it’s because the film has several scenes of the two main characters singing songs from popular artists like The Beach Boys, the Go-Go’s, and the Cars, including VanderWaal, who I will talk about later on. If there’s one thing that I can appreciate while watching this film, it’s the message. We’re living in a world where people judge others based on their differences or their actions, especially the ones in high school, and they want them to act “normal", which is clearly impossible. This is one of the films that showcase the fact that being different is okay. If people can love themselves for who they really are, then the others will follow suit. I think this is a really good message to share with the kids who are sharing the same problem. But what about the film itself? Honestly, it’s not a perfect representation of the scenario, but its heart was in the right place. “Stargirl” followed a similar path that we’ve seen in the other coming-of-age films that came before it, and it didn’t quite hit all of the emotional notes that it was going for. Plus, its uneven pacing might become a nuisance to the younger viewers despite the film’s PG rating. However, those problematic flaws failed to distract me from Julia Hart’s subtle sense of direction and the film's kind-hearted nature. Singer-songwriter Grace VanderWaal made her acting debut in this film as the title character. For those who don’t know, she’s a young artist who sings original songs and covers and often accompanies herself on her trusted ukulele. The film marked the first time I experienced her myself, and I got to say, she’s the only reason why I liked this film. Not only was she superbly talented as a singer/ukulele player, but she also had the right amount of spunk and charisma in her performance to make her character shine as bright as a star. Graham Verchere was also good in his role as Leo, the teen who befriends Stargirl. It’s not an Oscar-worthy performance, but he did what he could to make himself likable onscreen.
Overall, “Stargirl” doesn’t transcend beyond its genre, but it was able to work its way around its formula, resulting in an inspiring feel-good drama that represents appreciating one’s own differences. VanderWaal’s acting debut was impressive, Julia Hart’s direction was respectable in terms of its concept, and its heartwarming nature was hard to ignore. This is another film that should definitely serve as a reminder to respect others despite their differences so that Earth can be a perfect place to live in. It’s a decent watch for those who are into this type of genre, especially families.
“Bloodshot” stars Vin Diesel, Eiza González, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell, and Guy Pearce. Released on March 13, 2020, the film is about a marine who is equipped with enhanced nanotechnology.
The film features the directorial debut of David S. F. Wilson, and it is based on the Valiant Comics character of the same name created by Kevin VanHook, Don Perlin, and Bob Layton. The thing about being created with superpowers is that you can either use them to help people or use them for devious purposes. When you’re working for someone who makes that choice for you, it might’ve been time for you to start rethinking about your career as a superhero. Before we see Vin Diesel behind the wheel once again in the upcoming “Fast & Furious 9”, or “F9” as they like to call it, the action star is heading back into superhero territory this weekend, but not as a talking tree. This film introduces a new kind of superhero that’s neither Marvel nor DC, which might not bode well for kids who grew up with these comic book giants, but it might do wonders for those who like to read any type of comic book during their spare time. Long story short, this superhero appeared in a series of comic books that were published by Valiant Comics in the early 90s. Haven’t heard of it? Neither did I. I haven’t heard of this character nor Valiant Comics until I read that they’re making a film based on “Bloodshot” and that Diesel is starring in it as the title character, and there’s no denying the fact that I would see anything that this guy is involved in. He’s got “Fast & Furious”, “Riddick”, and “xXx” under his belt, so let’s see if he’s able to make another action franchise out of this.
Following the basic superhero origin formula, the film focuses on Ray Garrison (Diesel), a marine who returns home from the war to spend some quality time with his wife (Talulah Riley). However, their lives quickly came to a tragic end when they were suddenly killed by an assassin. Luckily, a team of scientists from a mysterious organization was able to bring Ray back to life, but here’s the catch. He’s now equipped with nanotechnology that gives him superhuman abilities and regeneration. However, he’s having a hard time recalling the events that happened before he died. When he suddenly remembers the person responsible for the death of him and his wife, he sets out to bring that person to justice. His quest for revenge will soon lead him to discover the organization’s true purpose. This is another superhero film that attempts to follow in the same footsteps as Marvel and DC when it comes to introducing their characters to newcomers via film. Based on my experience with these films, there are multiple things that make them work for me. You got to have characters that are interesting, fun, and relatable, you got to have the high-stakes action that puts the main character’s powers to the test, and more importantly, you got to have a story that provides entertainment and heart. Unfortunately for me, “Bloodshot” didn’t even come close to achieving those qualities. Without comparing it to the other superhero films from Marvel and DC, the film had a few entertaining moments that prevented it from being unwatchable, but other than that, it’s another generic action B-movie that might impress a fair amount of people who want to see Vin Diesel beat people up and hear his deep, manly voice for over an hour and a half. If you go into this film expecting it to be like “Iron Man” or “Wonder Woman”, there’s a big chance that you’ll be unsatisfied with its test results. As I mentioned before, the film had a simplistic superhero origin formula that helped popularize the genre. While the formula itself did a fine job at introducing the title character and what he’s capable of, it felt like the film was only using the formula to create another superhero franchise instead of combining it with a well-earned story. In addition to its predictable formula, the story was also filled with one-dimensional characters, jokes that put a damper on its intended tone, and dialogue that will make some film critics want to have regeneration powers themselves so they can shoot themselves repeatedly in the head without dying. Why is it like this, you ask? Two words: Jeff Wadlow. He didn’t serve as a director this time as that role belonged to David S. F. Wilson, the co-founder of visual effects house Blur Studio, but he did serve as one of the film’s screenwriters. I can clearly tell that his fingerprints were all over this film based on the things I mentioned earlier. Now I’m not going to be like the snobby film critics and bully the guy because I don’t want to be that type of critic. Plus it’s extremely hurtful. I am only judging on how he did and what he can improve on. Much like Wadlow’s last two films, he had some ideas that could’ve worked in “Bloodshot”, but he didn’t do a lot to expand on those ideas in terms of developing the characters and the story. It’s a bit more tolerable than his adaptation of “Fantasy Island”, but it’s not enough to keep me from questioning his role as both a director and a screenwriter. As for its pros, I will give the actors credit for delivering some tolerable performances. Vin Diesel’s performance as the title character was exactly what I expected from him, charming and manly, which might satisfy some fans of the actor. Whether you like him or not, this is how he acts in his films, and I am okay with that. The only supporting actor that I surprisingly enjoyed the most was Lamorne Morris as Wilfred Wigans, the tech guy who assists Ray. Even though the jokes were a bit forced at times, Morris was able to make some of his amusing moments…well, amusing. The action sequences in “Bloodshot” were also the reason why it became slightly watchable. On the one hand, it’s got a few scenes that worked well with its Snyder-like slo-mo shots and some bearable use of CGI. On the other hand, it’s got several scenes that utilized its shaky-cam and quick-edit maneuvers like the other generic action films that came before it. They’re not complete eye-sores like the ones in “Mile 22”, but they can be a bit distracting for those who want the cameraman and the editor to focus clearly on the action.
Overall, aside from the noticeable amount of tolerability and entertainment value in its bloodstream, “Bloodshot” is a mediocre attempt at generating another action franchise for Vin Diesel. Despite some passable performances from the cast and its fun action scenes, the film fails to regenerate itself from its painful wounds, such as its generic formula, uninteresting characters, and weak dialogue. It’s not a superhero masterpiece like “Wonder Woman” and “The Avengers”, but it’s also not a super-powered disaster like “Catwoman” and “Batman & Robin”. I would say that it’s somewhere in-between those two things. This is another film that I would watch at home whenever I have nothing else to do and not feel any regret while watching it because it’s Vin flipping Diesel. He can make any action film tolerable in my eyes when he’s involved in them even though they’re not award-winning gems. If you like Vin Diesel in his other films, you might be okay watching this one, but you might not love it as much as you love the “Fast & Furious” films and “xXx”.
“The Hunt” stars Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, and Hilary Swank. Released on March 13, 2020, the film has a group of strangers fighting for survival against the elite hunters who kill them for sport.
The film is directed by Craig Zobel, who also directed “Great World of Sound”, “Compliance”, and “Z for Zachariah”. It is loosely based on the 1924 short story, The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Connell. Remember when movies like this can be enjoyed as sources of entertainment despite their representation of real-life violence? Yep. Those were the days. This is one of those situations that got me scratching my head to no end not just because of its concept, but also because of the controversy surrounding it. It was originally set to hit theaters back in September, but because of the mass shootings at Dayton and El Paso and the massive criticism towards its portrayal, the studio decided to shelve the film until the controversy died down a bit. Here’s what funny about this scenario. We have the “Purge” films that offer a similar concept, yet no one batted an eye. When they try to release something like this and “Joker”, everyone lost their flipping minds. Society is confusing sometimes. As someone who’s not an expert on politics, I believe that the uproar towards something like this was completely unnecessary, but I bet you didn’t click on this review just to read my rant about the controversy. You’re here to read my thoughts on the most “talked-about film” that I haven’t seen until now. In case you haven’t noticed, this film comes from the same production company that bounced back with its modern (and very thrilling) adaptation of “The Invisible Man” two weeks ago and is looking to keep the trend going with a political showdown between predator and prey. With that said, let’s see if it's really as controversial as people made it out to be.
In case you skipped the second sentence in my second paragraph, the film is loosely inspired by Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game, and it tells the story of a group of survivors, including a young woman named Crystal (Gilpin), who wake up in the middle of nowhere with no memory of how they even got there. They soon discover that they are pawns of a cat-and-mouse game designed by a group of elitists who hunt them for sport. The film also serves as a satire of a political divide between the supporters and the liberal elites, so if you’re easily offended by this type of stuff, my best advice is to not watch it and not make a big deal out of it. I’m serious, there are other problems in the world that are worth complaining about right now. However, if you really don’t care about all of that stuff and just want to see a fun and crazy adult-rated thrill ride that’s filled with bad language and bloody violence, I can easily say that this film will mostly please your thrill-seeking nerves for about an hour and a half. “The Hunt” had plenty of enjoyable moments that can also be described as twisted, humorous, and gory, but it struggled to be more than just a tasteless and violent political satire. The story was able to introduce its concept right off the bat during its first few minutes, and it never stopped to take a breather until the very end, which is good for those who want to get the fun started right away. Unfortunately, for those who wanted character development and stronger storytelling in this film, it can get a bit tiresome rather quickly. This is another case of “style over substance”, in which the film has a nicely-executed style to go along with its action, but lacks an in-depth narrative to go along with that style. Does that make it a bad movie in my eyes? Of course not. While I wished that the film would explore this concept a bit more without making it too long, I thought it did a nice job at delivering what it promised and having a bit of fun with its violent nature. The film’s central focus is Crystal, who is obviously the only character who lasts longer than the other survivors, mostly because she knows her way around the elitists’ traps. Her main objective is to kill off every single one of the hunters and escape with her life. It’s a simple mission, but it’s a fun one regardless. I had a swell time seeing Crystal beat the snot out of the hunters, and Betty Gilpin’s performance made the experience a lot better. I already mentioned that the film is about an hour and a half long, which isn’t too bad for something like this, but I think they could’ve expand the storyline a bit without overstaying its welcome. Maybe add in some more interactions between the survivors and focus a bit more on its social commentary. I don’t know, just throwing it out there.
Overall, “The Hunt” is a violent, yet watchable, satire that delivers on the gore and nothing else, for better or for worse. Despite a well-deserved performance from Gilpin and the film’s entertaining sequences, the film’s ability to provide a timely story that combines dark humor with social themes kept getting overshadowed by its twisted mind. It’s not a perfect satire, and it’s not something that’s worth getting so mad about. It’s a tolerable film that’s meant to entertain its audience. That’s all. While I did find some enjoyment out of it, I thought there were a few things that they could’ve fixed to make it better, like the story. Regardless of its flaws, I had no problems with the film, and I hope this type of controversy does not happen again.
“Spenser Confidential” stars Mark Wahlberg, Winston Duke, Alan Arkin, Iliza Shlesinger, Bokeem Woodbine, Marc Maron, and Post Malone. Released on Netflix on March 6, 2020, the film is about a former officer who attempts to unravel a murder conspiracy.
The film is directed by Peter Berg, who also directed films such as “Friday Night Lights”, “Hancock”, “Battleship”, “Patriots Day”, and “Mile 22”. It is loosely based on the 2013 novel Wonderland by Ace Atkins with characters created by Robert B. Parker. We’re once again getting close to spring, which means that it’s time to look at another film from Netflix, and boy, this is going to be an interesting one. This film marks the latest collaboration between Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg after churning out some well-made fact-based thrillers back-to-back as well as the choppy misfire that was “Mile 22”. Seriously, what the heck happened to that mess? Peter Berg is one of those directors that deliver hard on the intense thrills and, in some cases, provide a solid story to go along with them. His filmography is far from perfect as he had a couple of misses in his career like the film adaptation of the Hasbro board game “Battleship” (don’t ask why it exists) and the already-mentioned “Mile 22” (again, what happened to that film?), but aside from those disappointments, I think he deserves some credit for making Wahlberg into a decent star with his recent thrillers like “Lone Survivor” and “Patriots Day” (my personal favorite from him). So now we have a loose adaptation of one of Ace Atkins’ novels that will hopefully erase the “Mile 22” mishap and get the duo back on track. Was it able to shoot its way to the top? Let’s find out.
The story centers on Spenser (Wahlberg), a former Boston police officer who gets sent to prison for intervening in a domestic dispute and assaulting his captain John Boylan (Michael Gaston). On the day of Spenser’s release, Boylan and another officer are found murdered in cold blood. With the help of his mentor Henry Cimoli (Arkin) and his new roommate Hawk (Duke), Spenser must put his skills to the test in order to solve this mystery and uncover a conspiracy that involves drug dealers and corrupt cops. Even though the film is inspired by one of Atkins’ novels and uses Parker’s characters, the story doesn’t follow the source material beat-by-beat, and the characters in the film aren’t exactly the same characters that you recognized in the novel or Parker’s original works. This is a pretty big risk that usually spells doom for the filmmakers’ relationship with the fans. If you’re a huge follower of the book series, you might find this film to be a smack in the face. Since I haven’t heard that much about this character and the source material in general, I will be looking at it as its own film without making some comparisons. This is just me talking about something that I watched out of curiosity. The first thing I want to talk about is the cast. Mark Wahlberg is the latest actor to portray Spenser following Robert Urich and Joe Mantegna in the made-for-TV movies from the 1990s. This is also his latest attempt to show off his acting skills in the thriller genre. For the most part, I thought he did all right, to be honest. It’s not the best performance I’ve seen from him, but he was able to provide some decent moments to make the film watchable. Winston Duke and Alan Arkin did what they could to follow suit as Hawk and Henry respectively and the results were okay at best. Not great, not terrible. Just okay. The cast is one of the two main reasons why the film was somewhat tolerable in my eyes, with the other reason being its bearable action scenes. It didn’t have a lot of action that made my heart pound with excitement, but the editing during those scenes weren’t as painful as the editing in “Mile 22”, so it gets points for that. If you’re wondering why I mentioned only those two good reasons, it’s because the film was severely lacking something that made the other mystery thrillers and Peter Berg’s last few films (excluding Mile 22) so riveting. To its credit, I did find myself feeling intrigued by the film’s mystery and the chemistry between the main cast, but with a plot that’s as simple as reading a book and a script that lacks a strong connection between the characters, that intrigue wore itself thin rather quickly. Another flaw I should mention was its tone. It looked like the film was trying to combine the comedy with the thriller aspect, which could result in a fun and exciting ride if they play the cards right. Unfortunately, almost all of the jokes didn’t quite hit their marks. Because of this, the film’s tone wound up being uneven and underwhelming due to the direction that was given and its cliched screenplay. It tried to be a thriller that’s both heart-pounding and amusing, but the direction towards it felt so restrained like it didn’t want to go too far with one thing or the other, which is why the film didn’t exactly impress me as much as I wanted it to do.
Overall, “Spenser Confidential” has some tolerable moments that I enjoyed like its cast and some decent action sequences, but they weren’t enough to shoot its way past its disappointing attempt to meet its promising expectations. While I would say that it’s a small improvement over “Mile 22”, I can’t say that it’s as thrilling and fun as Peter Berg’s other works. With its mediocre plot, uneven tone, underdeveloped characters, and an underwhelming script, this is one mystery that should've been handled by the professionals. I’m starting to get the feeling that Berg and Wahlberg should get back to making thrillers based on true stories again. They seem to know what they’re doing with these types of films unlike this film and “Mile 22”. If you’re interested in seeing it because of Wahlberg’s involvement, you might be okay watching this on Netflix if you’re feeling bored. Otherwise, don’t worry about it.