Film Review: THE UPSIDE (USA 2018)

The Upside Poster

A comedic look at the relationship between a wealthy man with quadriplegia and an unemployed man with a criminal record who’s hired to help him.


Neil Burger


Jon Hartmere (screenplay by), Éric Toledano (based on the motion picture “Les Intouchables” by) | 1 more credit »

The film begins one night when Dell Scott (Kevin Hart) is driving Phillip’s (Bryan Cranston) flashy sports car at high speed.  They are chased through the streets by the police and eventually cornered.  Dell claims the quadriplegic Phillip must be urgently driven to the emergency room as he is having an epileptic fit;  Philippe pretends to have a seizure and the fooled police officers escort them to the hospital.  All cliched comedy here,  The story of the friendship between the two men is then told as a flashback with this scene retuned at the end.

THE UPSIDE is the remake of France’s second most successful box-office film of all time, the 1999 LES INTOUCHABLES which cost 10 million euros to make but grossed over $360 euros.

The first paragraph describing the story could be applied to both films as THE UPSIDE is quite the similar film but with a few changes.   The American remake changes parts of the original to make the story more believable and dramatic.

Among the changes:

the American version has a a more realistic but less effective ending

the Nicole Kidman character is expanded though not too credible at the end

the comedy is reduced with more drama added

the setting is changed from Paris, France to the U.S.

the character of Phillip’s adopted daughter is omitted completely in the remake

as the film is based on the true story of these two ‘friends’, the original ending showed the two men in real life, Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his French-Algerian caregiver Abdel Sellou

     It is debatable whether each the changes improves the film, as what is written on paper might not turn out that well or turn out better on film.  Still, the script by Jon Hartmere is a lazy one that follows most of the original scene by scene.

THE UPSIDE benefits from the three lead performances.  Bryan Cranston (TRUMBO) has first billing.  He plays a quadriplegic, which means he can only act using his neck upwards.  Hart gets to clown around for all that is worth.  When the script allow him to do his thing as in the scene where he is supposed to clean up his boss, (What is an American comedy without its shit jokes?) Hart comes across as quite desperate on trying to get a few laughs out of a script that lives him nothing.  I found this segment unfunny and boring though it did get a few laughs from a few of the audience at the promotional screening.  Kidman plays the prissy role of the personal business assistant well giving a needed boost to the under-written role. 

For a  comedy, the running time of over two hours (126 minutes) is lengthy which explains the film crossing the line into feel-good drama.  Bit cliche upon cliche are piled up, if not identical set-ups from the original film.  The end result is a goofy and unrealistic feel-good movie that is as boring as it is original.




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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Poster
Four teenagers discover an old video game console and are literally drawn into the game’s jungle setting becoming the adult avatars they chose.


Jake Kasdan


Chris McKenna (screenplay by), Erik Sommers(screenplay by) | 4 more credits »


Jake Kasdan (son of Lawrence Kasdan) takes over the director reins from Joe Johnston who made the original JUMANJI movie where back when with the late Robin Williams.  JUMANJI WELCOME TOTHE JUNGLE is a stand-alone sequel paying tribute to Williams.

Kasdan’s lazy script is cliche ridden with the typical fairy tale adventure aimed at pre-teens.  The story is nothing remarkable.  It all begins when a father discovers a hidden boardgame covered in the sand while jogging on the beach.  He gives it to his son, Alex who is more interested in video games (the year is 1996).  Overnight, the game changes so that the box’s contents are now a video game cartridge, but when Alex puts it in his console and turns it on, he vanishes.

20 years later, a high school detention group finds the video game in the detention room .  They decide to play the game, each player taking on a game character.  They get sucked into the game each transforming into the game character they picked,  The premise is that they have to  win the game in order to get back out of the game to their normal lives.  

The four game players are Spencer Gilpin (transformed into Dwayne Johnson), his former best friend, Anthony “Fridge” Johnson (Kevin Hart), who he helped with his homework by writing Fridge’s essays for him.  The other two are Bethany Walker (yes, Jack Black), a beautiful girl who was caught talking on her phone during a quiz and Martha Kaply (Karen Gillian), a socially awkward girl who objected to being made to participate in gym class. 

They find themselves in a jungle, all four are shaken to realize that they have become the avatars they chose for the game, with the result that Fridge is now a short zoologist, Bethany is now an overweight middle-aged man, Martha is a beautiful athletic woman, and Spencer is a muscular, tough man.  The group encounter Nigel, who lays claim to the legendary gem, the “Jaguar’s Eye”.  The removal of the gem from the large jaguar statue will grant the villain Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) control over the animals of Jumanji.  In order to complete the game, the players must return the gem to the jaguar statue and call out “Jumanji”.

As a game movie, the under-exciting Jumanji game is overlooked for the villain Van Pelt and his motorcycle gang.  The game contains several levels that the players must complete, a missing piece in the form of Alex (Nick Jonas) and a few other uninteresting bits.  But the motorcycle chases are not much more exciting either.

The cliched story involves each high school charter learning to be better people while transformed into their avatars.  Fridge and Spencer learn the meaning of true friendship, Bethany learns that there is a world outside herself and her cell phone while Martha develops social skills.

The film takes a while to secure a footing.  What makes the film work is the great ensemble acting from all the main stars.  Black turns out to be the funniest as the transformed Bethany still possessing her girly mannerisms.  The funniest segment is Black teaching Gillian how to be sexy and seduce the transport guards and her after performing what she had learnt.

The film is more suited to a younger crowd, who appear to be cheering and laughing thigh the promo screening.  For adults, the film should also be enjoyable enough.


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captain underpantsTwo overly imaginative pranksters named George and Harold, hypnotize their principal into thinking he’s a ridiculously enthusiastic, incredibly dimwitted superhero named Captain Underpants.

Director: David Soren
Writers: Nicholas Stoller (screenplay), Dav Pilkey (based on the epic novels by)
Stars: Kevin Hart, Thomas Middleditch, Ed Helms

Review by Gilbert Seah

once saw a skit of Superman and Batman at an unemployment office. Superman tells Batman that they will never get a job. Why Batman asks? Because no one would hire anyone who wears underpants over their clothes – was the answer. CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS the animated movie takes the joke to another level. The hero only wears underpants!
This last collaboration between Dreamworks and 20th Century Fox (before Dreamworks moves with Universal) is fortunately a huge animated comic success. As the title of the film implies, the story involves lots of goofy absurdity and toilet jokes (there is even a symphony of body fluid noises performed on the school stage in the middle of the film), but who cares as CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS is a very funny movie, almost matching the best of the SHREK films. The comic song “I Love Saturdays” at the film’s stet sets up the mood of the film.

The film is based on the children’s novel series of the same name created in 1997 by Dav Pilkey, who sold the rights to Dreamworks in 2011. The plot follows two imaginative elementary school prankster students, George Beard and Harold Hutchins (Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch) who hypnotize using a hypnotic ring from a cereal box, their mean-spirited principal, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms), into thinking he is Captain Underpants, a hero in comic books George and Harold write together. Mr. Krupp runs all over the place trying to what he thinks he is doing, saving the world. But the story includes a villain, Professor Poopypants (Nikc Kroll) (looking like the child catcher in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG), the new science teacher who wants to rid the wold of laughter. His assistant is one of George and Harold’s fellow students, a swatter and a rotter called Melvin (Jordan Peele) with an uncanny resemblance to minions in DESPICABLE ME. Yes, as in all animated films, the world needs to be saved – but always for a good cause – as the return of laughter in this story.

There is plenty of laughter in this film, thanks to the goofy antics of the animators, the smart script by Brit Nicholas Stoller and the comedic timing of director David Soren. Writer Stoller directed the very funny NEIGHBOURS, NEIGHBOURS II and FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL and Toronto-own Stoller had proven his animation mettle in TURBO (the animated on snails). Kevin Hart is funny voicing George but the surprise comes from Ed Helms who voices both the principal and Captain Underpants.

The animation is 3D computer animated, with the heads of the characters rounded, similar to THE PEANUTS MOVIE. The characters have a 3D rather than a two dimensional look.

Despite all the toilet humour, the film contains a decent message of genuinely doing good in the world.

There is a fine line between stupidity and goofiness. Animated films often have to tread this fine line between success and failure. CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS succeeds in this respect while another cent animated feature THE LEGO BATMAN failed because it was too manic and incomprehensible. It should be a worthwhile wait for CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE SECOND EPIC MOVIE


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Happy Birthday: Kevin Hart

kevinhart.jpgHappy Birthday actor Kevin Hart

Born: July 6, 1979 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Married to:
Torrei Hart (22 May 2003 – 13 November 2011) (divorced) (2 children)

[on being asked if there were any topics he would not joke about] Uh, yes. Rape. Rape would be one of them. I also stay clear of homosexuality or anything dealing with that right now, because it’s such a sensitive topic in today’s times. There are words I’ve used in the past that I wouldn’t use now because of the attention those words get.

dir. Tim Story
Chris Brown
Gabrielle Union
Death at a Funeral Movie PosterDeath at a Funeral
dir. Neil LaBute
Chris Rock
Martin Lawrence

Drillbit TaylorDrillbit Taylor
Directed by Steven Brill
Nate Hartley
Troy Gentile
Little Fockers Little Fockers
dir. Paul Weitz
Ben Stiller
Teri Polo
dir. Craig Mazin
Drake Bell
Sara Paxton
Directed by Brian Robbins
Eddie Murphy
Elizabeth Banks
dir. Evan Goldberg
Seth Rogen
Stars: James Franco
Jay Baruchel
dir. Nicholas Stoller
Jason Segel
Emily Blunt,
dir. Peter Segal
Robert DeNiro
Sylvester Stallone
dir. Tim Story
Ice Cube
Kevin Hart
dir. Steve Pink
Kevin Hart
Joy Bryant
dir. Tim Story
Kevin Hart
Garbrielle Union


Movie Review: RIDE ALONG 2 (2016)

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ride_along_2RIDE ALONG 2 (USA 2015) ***
Directed by Tim Story

Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart

Review by Gilbert Seah

More of the same are the four words that best describes RIDE ALONG 2. Same director and same two stars Ice Cube and Kevin Hart playing cops. If you disliked RIDE ALONG 1 or do not find Kevin Hart funny, then avoid this one.

Ice Cube has proven his comedy mettle by being most funny in the two JUMP STREET films. Together with comedian and standup comic Hart, they form quite the dynamic duo. Ice Cube plays detective James Payton who takes under his wing his future brother-in-law Ben Barber (Hart) who wants to become a detective. In the film, Ben and James venture to Miami to work on a case that involves a mysterious and dashing figure named Serge Pope (Benjamin Pratt). While there, they team up with Maya (Olivia Munn), a smart and beautiful detective. Ben looks forward to proving himself and hopes the case runs smoothly so that he can return to Atlanta in time for his wedding. Tika Sumpter plays the bride.
Ice Cube is the straight man and Hart the clown. The angle is that Ben needs to stay focused while James has to become less uptight and more human. James gripes while Hart clowns. And this occurs countless times throughout the movie – so be prepared!

But on the plus side, the duo is quite funny. The sequel has the addition of Ken Jeong who plays A.J., a computer hacker that Pope is after and the cops want information from. So, if one can ignore the simplistic plot, the film is actually quite fun like the RUSH HOUR, Jackie Chan Chris Tucker films. “Do you ever watch the shit that is coming out of your mouth,” says James to Ben in one of the film’s funnier moments, and a nice nod to the RUSH HOURS buddy cop action comedies.

Besides the comedy, the action sequences are aptly put together. So, an additional plus over the RUSH HOUR films is that RIDE ALONG 2 is quite exciting. The car chase is also funny with James signalling as he tries to escape from the bad guys. Why are you signalling?” asks James. “Habit” is the answer. Ice Cube who co-produced the film too, and a well known rapper ensures a solid rap soundtrack to the film, including a catchy song during the end credits called Sound of da Police.

The funny bits that work include subplots involving Ben constantly arguing with his wedding planner, Cori (Sherri Shepherd) who contradicts whatever Ben wants for his wedding and the impressively edited segment which blurs a car chase and a video game. The part of A.J. being a sex pervert while computer hacking, however, generates few laughs. The final bit involving Ben and the speedboat has too much effort for the laughs generated.

The film’s romantic interest is the one between Ben and his bride (Sumpter). He has to get back from Miami to Atlanta in time for the wedding.

RIDE ALONG 2 is posed to be number one at the box-office this weekend. Never mind the poor critical reviews on Rotten Tomatoes! The audience knows what it wants.

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