Uncle Drew Review

Over the years, there have been many humorous sports movies. I’ve laughed at everything from Dodgeball to Caddyshack to Major League. I even love Fever Pitch with Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon. Whether it is focusing on the players or the fans, there is something about the intensity of sports that can provide great fodder for laughs. Unfortunately for Uncle Drew, the writing fails to live up to this tradition of funny sports movies and it failed to make me laugh more than a passing chuckle. The film is based on a series of Pepsi ads and that’s where it should have stayed.

Uncle Drew stars Lil Rel Howery as Dax, a man who grew up in an orphanage with nothing to inspire him but the NBA. Unfortunately, as a teen, he has an embarrassing defeat on the basketball court at the hands of rival Mookie, played by Nick Kroll. As revenge, Dax becomes a coach and decides to enter a team in the streetball  tournament called The Rucker Classic.

After a long introduction, Dax ends up without a team and he begrudgingly recruits a local legend, Uncle Drew, to join his roster. Drew, played by Kyrie Irving (just like in the Pepsi ads), then gathers his senior citizen friends including Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson, and Lisa Leslie to join the team. The first hour of the film is Dax being introduced to the characters who have a variety of old people problems – one is blind, one is in a wheelchair, one has a grudge against Drew, etc. None of this was interesting and it certainly wasn’t funny. There is even an especially egregious scene where Preacher (Chris Webber) is baptizing an infant and it is swapped out for a doll and then close-ups of the baby in the most awkward ways. I was cringing during the entire scene.

Eventually we get to the big game and it plays out fairly predictably. As I was leaving the theater, a woman was saying, “it was a love letter to basketball,” so clearly the sentiment paid off for her but, as only a marginal basketball fan, I wasn’t moved by the story.

However, the biggest strength to Uncle Drew is the makeup. They do a very good job making Kyrie Irving and company look old. It doesn’t look like prosthetics and feels convincing.

Other than that. Uncle Drew is not for me. The biggest problem is none of the jokes landed. I laughed one time at a joke about the Chris Webber character. That’s it. I realize humor is subjective but my theater had nothing but a few courtesy chuckles. So I wasn’t the only one not laughing.

Also a few characters meant to be funny came across as very irritating. I realize, for example, Nick Kroll is meant to be an antagonist but he was extremely grating as Dax’s rival. More annoying was that ‘humor,’ often in supposed comedies, when characters complaining about each other is supposed to be funny. All that does is make your characters shrill and unlikable. You see this a lot with the nagging female trope; it’s not funny and usually comes across as more than a little sexist. Tiffany Haddish is billed as a lead character but she’s really not in the film much and was an overbearing harpy the entire time. It certainly didn’t make me laugh. 

In fairness, the basketball stars all do a serviceable job with what is given to them. There is a particularly nice moment of reconciliation between Kyrie Irving and Shaquille O’Neal that is well done and sweet.

Despite some positives, Uncle Drew just wasn’t funny. It was always an uphill climb to transform a 30 second Super Bowl ad into a feature film but with a good script this could have worked. Sadly, it was a bit of a chore to sit through and one of the worst studio films I’ve seen this year. As they say, “funny solves all” and this was depressingly lacking in funny.

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Eddie the Eagle Review

So this week has been a bit of a rough one for me. I got a horrible stomach flu, pulled a muscle in my back and had a 3 day brutal migraine.

Needless to say I needed a pick-me up, and thankfully Eddie the Eagle was just such a film! It fits all the standard tropes of an underdog sports movie but as someone who loves those kind of movies I loved it!!

Eddie the Eagle tells the true story of Eddie Edwards who in 1988 charmed the Olympics by finishing last at the ski jump.  How’s that possible, you ask?  Well, it’s because the Olympics is not always about who gets those medals but who ‘takes part’ and does their best.

The real Eddie the Eagle
The real Eddie the Eagle

As a child Eddie had to be in the hospital for a year because of his bad legs, and he used the dream of becoming an Olympian to motivate him to recover. Unfortunately he didn’t have the physical prowess or natural abilities of most Olympians but he eventually found skiing and almost made the British downhill team.

When that didn’t work out he decided to learn how to ski jump.  There was no British team and he could qualify with a modest jump.  He basically teaches himself until he meets Bronson Perry (Hugh Jackman) who is an American jumper who never reached his full potential.  Through sheer determination Eddie convinces Bronson to be his coach and he makes his way to the Olympics.

eddie the eagle3Amazingly enough he completes his jump in the 70 meters and then in the 90 meters- a jump he had never attempted until that day in the Olympics!  Isn’t that nuts!  He did a major ski jump for the first time in the Olympics!

Jackman and Taron Egerton, who plays Eddie, have great chemistry and they sell the admittedly schmaltzy dialogue.  Director Dexter Fletcher keeps things pretty tightly paced and the film has a lot of sweetness and humor.

Is it new or original? Of course it’s not.  It’s basically the same movie we’ve seen in Rudy, Cool Runnings, and even Miracle.  As I love all 3 of those movies that is no problem for me!  It doesn’t transcend the genre like the boxing film Warrior or even Creed did but I didn’t need it to.  I just wanted something that would make me smile and feel good, and that’s what Eddie the Eagle did.

It doesn’t hurt that I am a huge Olympics junkie and have watched every year since I was a little girl as well!  The Olympics are just awesome.  It’s so random we’ve had 2 Olympics movies in 2 weeks.  That’s actually really rare.  For all their drama there aren’t that many films set in the Olympics- Miracle, Chariots of Fire, Cool Runnings, Cutting Edge.  Not that many.  I do think Eddie the Eagle is tighter and better done than Race; although I enjoyed both films.

I would say I don’t think it is quite as good as last year’s McFarland USA, which to me took this formula and told a compelling story about lower income America.  That movie was more emotional for me; whereas, this was just a good time at the movies.

eddie the eagle4If it’s not your cup of tea I totally get it but sometimes I like going to the movies and being inspired by a sports movie.  The performances are winning.  The ski jumping is well portrayed and I found myself cheering for Eddie and his dogged optimism.

And after the week I had I needed that…

Overall Grade- A-

Race and Risen Reviews

This will be a bit of a quick review but I wanted to let you know what I thought about both Race and Risen. I feel they are both better than their RT scores might lead you to believe.

I grouped these films together because I feel they have the same strengths and weaknesses.  If you are someone who requires super original stories than Race and Risen might not be for you.  But if you can appreciate a solid genre film outing than I think there are things to like in both films.

Race-

race posterRace tells the story of Jesse Owen’s and his journey to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.  This was the time the Nazi’s were using the Olympics as a PR stunt and the movie does a good job showing that dynamic and the debate the US Olympic Committee had in attending the games.  I also did not know about the pressure put on Jesse and other athletes to individually boycott the games.

Stephan James is great as Owens and I really liked Jason Sudeikis as his coach Larry Snyder.  It feels a little drawn out and could have started sooner to get things moving close (over 2 hours is too much for this kind of story).

That said, I thought they got the period details right and Sudeikis embodies a Clark Gable type charisma that fits the era very well.  There are too many subplots but the acting from Jeremy Irons, William Hurt and others is great.

Overall, it’s an inspiring story that’s pretty well told.  I think you would enjoy going with your family.  There wasn’t much that is offensive and it could start a good discussion about race, discrimination both in the past and in our current society.

Overall Grade- B

Risen_2016_posterRisen is a very unique and strong entry in the faith-based film genre.  It stars Joseph Fiennes as Clavius who is a Roman Tribune who is responsible for looking into the lost body of Jesus Christ.  It kind of becomes a CSI Jerusalem at a certain point!

There were a lot of refreshing choices they made in this film.  First of all, to tell the story from the perspective of a non-believer was compelling and interesting for a faith-based film.  They also take the subject seriously without much preaching.  It’s just the story without the dogma of some religious films.

It’s very well made and acted.  I liked the cinematography and overall feel of the film.  It’s actually pretty gruesome for a faith-based film; although, I don’t think anything too bad.  There were a few points that were a bit repetitive in feel but overall the 107 minutes goes by pretty briskly.  The performance by Fiennes is good and his journey feels authentic and subtle.

There are some problems.  I didn’t like the portrayal of the apostles as kind of ‘Jesus and his Merry Men’.  They were a little too silly for my taste.  I also didn’t like the portrayal of Mary Magdalene. As the only female presence in the film I felt the transformation I see in her in the scriptures should have been more accurately shown.

But overall it’s a solid entertaining film.  It doesn’t preach too much and has a good story.  I think Christian viewers will really like it and I hope it does well.  It’s certainly a step in the right direction for faith-based films.

Overall Grade- B

Here is my youtube review of Race and Risen. I’d be really grateful if you checked it out and gave it a thumbs up if you like it.

Movie Munchies 1: The Blind Side

Hi guys!  I wanted to share with you a very exciting video I just posted on my youtube channel.  It’s called Movie Munchies where we will review a film and make a recipe on the same video.  This week to celebrate the Super Bowl we are talking about 2009’s The Blind Side and making my favorite apricot chicken drumsticks- perfect for game day.  This was a huge challenge for me and I would love to get your feedback.

We’ve already got episode 2 filmed and will probably do this a couple of times a month.  If you have any ideas for good movie/meal parings please let me know!

Making this video required a whole new kind of editing and filming for me so I learned a lot but I’m really excited for the future.  I loved my chemistry with Jacqueline and found the entire experience very rewarding.  I know each episode will only continue to improve.

Thanks for checking it out.

Here is the recipe:

Recipe-
3 lbs drumsticks or other meat
1 cup onions diced
1 cup bell peppers diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1/3 c soy sauce
1/4 c firmly packed cup brown sugar
1/4 c molasses
1/4 c honey
1 14 ounce bottle ketchup
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
hot sauce to taste
1 jar apricot preserves
Olive Oil
Heat up onions, peppers, and garlic till translucent. In separate skillet sear the chicken on high heat to get a golden brown color. Add all ingredients except for jam, heat and then let simmer till it thickens.
Add apricot jam to mixture and poor over chicken.
Bake at 400 degrees for an hour, remove tin foil at 30 minutes. Test with thermometer. Want chicken 165 degrees or higher.
Enjoy! Let me know if you like it and I’ve made it with wings, pork, ribs etc.

Creed Review

creed3You guys might not know that I love boxing. I do more MMA but I really love punching out  my angst and frustration!

boxing RachelSo I was perhaps more excited to see Creed than you might initially guess.

If you don’t know Creed is the newest entry in the Rocky series (the 7th film to be exact). In this film we focus on Apollo Creed’s son Adonis or Don and his boxing journey.  Apollo died before Don was born and his Mother left him an orphan.

The wife of Apollo played by Phylicia Rashad adopts Don and tries to keep him away from boxing but he feels the drive to compete in the ring.  He’s had a tough life and feels because he was the product of an affair he was a mistake.

creed2Don goes to Philadelphia to meet Rocky still played by Sylvester Stallone and convinces him to help him train as a boxer and for the big fight.

All of these elements could and probably should have been tired and formulaic but in the hands of director Ryan Coogler it is such an entertaining film.  Michael B Jordan redeems himself from Fantastic 4 and is terrific as Don who is a sincere but wounded young man.

creedSylvester Stallone is fantastic as Rocky.  I don’t want to give any spoilers away but the character arc he takes is raw, vulnerable and moving.  I cried on multiple occasions.  I honestly think he should be considered for best supporting actor.  It’s a great performance.

creed44Director Ryan Coogler gives the film a surprisingly indy feel for such a mainstream franchise.  The single take feel of the final fight in particular is such a great watch.  I also loved how unpredictable the final fight was.  I really didn’t know who was going to win or how it was going to play out.

At their heart Rocky movies have always been about relationships and this is between Rocky and Don and I found it very sweet and compelling.  Without sounding corny they both kind of rescue each other.

The only real flaw I had in the film was the girlfriend Tessa Thompson I thought was kind of forgettable and I didn’t see much chemistry between her and Jordan.

But that’s about it.  Creed is the kind of movie that if you like this kind of thing you will love it.  If you don’t usually it still might win you over.

It’s such an entertaining film.

Overall Grade- A

My youtube review

McFarland USA Review

mcfarland7I got the chance to see a very special film today, McFarland USA.  I know you see the pictures and you probably think it’s like every other motivational sports movie but I’m telling you it is a special movie.  I happen to love sports movies like Warrior, Hoosiers and Miracle and this is right up there with those great films but it has a human component that you don’t always see which I found very moving.

mcfarland6McFarland starts out kind of like Hoosiers with Kevin Costner’s Jim White getting in an altercation with a football player and getting fired.  As a last resort him and his family get a job in McFarland, California, a poor crop picking agricultural mostly latino town.

mcfarland12

His wife played by the always lovely Maria Bello and daughter Julie (Morgan Saylor) and daughter Jamie are at first disgusted and a little scared of living in McFarland. It is a seemingly dangerous neighborhood in a foreign land.

One of the things I learned on my 20 month mission for my church was in every poor ‘scary’ neighborhood there are families trying desperately to make things work and to make things better for their children.  We have this idea you cross the tracks and it leads to inherent gang activity just isn’t true. McFarland USA does a good job showing this reality.  That there are good neighbors in every neighborhood in America.  That’s a great lesson for kids.

mcfarland1

Costner ends up getting fired as assistant football coach but the principal (Valente Rodriguez) who I loved every scene he was in can’t lose any teachers so he keeps Costner around.

mcfarland-principal-valente-rodriquez-500x285

As he teaches PE he starts to notice many of the kids can run and he gets the crazy idea to start a cross country team.

The boys initially resist being on the team because they have work crop picking to do before and after school.  Costner even goes out to work at the picking one day and he says it was the ‘worst day of work in his life’ but he vows to make it work for the team and the more time together the more bonded he and the boys get.

mcfarland2

This material could have so easily veered into caricature and simplistic portrayals of a white man in a latino world but it doesn’t. The conversations and personalities felt authentic and real. Each of the boys has their own personality but not in the archetype way of Mighty Ducks. These are individuals and we root for every last one of them.mcfarland5

I particularly liked Carlos Pratts as team captain and star runner Thomas Valles. It is a subtle conflicted sweet performance and character.

I also thought the home drama as Costner’s family tries to find a home in McFarland and his daughter Julie turns 15 and gets a quinceanera.
mcfarland11

There was a point at the end when I was worried it was going to go the Pay it Forward route and give us an awful ending but then it didn’t so all was well.

It’s really quite the feat because I can’t think of a sport that is more boring to watch than cross country but the sport is just window dressing to a movie about teens, our failing educational system, family, culture, poverty and giving people something to dream about.
mcfarland14

I really can’t say enough good things about it. It has huge heart, good performances, and shows a side of urban life we rarely see- the functioning happy families that do exist and add so much to our country.

I think everyone should see and take your kids. It’s a real winner. Trust me on this. It’s great.

There are a few tense moments but other than that nothing to offend or be concerned about. A family film that will inspire everyone.

Overall Grade- A, Content Grade- A