In just about every one of Kevin Hart's scenes in Ride Along, there's a joke that is just aching to find its way out of the diminutive, rascally comic actor. Hart is a small-scale physical comedian — of the same ilk as Jack Black — who puts nuclear-degree energy into his facial contortions, anatomical outbursts, and the delivery of every gag in general. If only he had material that was crafted with the same energy.
Unfortunately, nothing else about Ride Along seems at all "hard at work." Not the script, which pads a lifeless story with lazy comedy, and certainly not his screen partner Ice Cube, whose only stage direction seems to be "frown, and be taller than Kevin Hart." So lifeless is Ice Cube that even his machismo-obsessed straight man bit doesn't really work. Instead of the virile and intimidating "bad cop," he comes off as a disapproving middle aged dad without much to show for his own life.
But the script pairs the wily, overzealous high school security guard and video game junkie Ben (Hart) with no-nonsense lawman James (Ice Cube) on the titular ride along, with the scrappy cop-wannabe hoping to prove to the force veteran that he's good enough to marry the latter's younger sister. In earnest, he's not. Ben never puts any respectable effort into learning the tools of the trade, insisting on employing his amateur style and controlling the radio despite his proclamations that he wants, and deserves, James' trust. And James is no saint either — he's irresponsible on crime scenes, violent with perps, and disgruntled to the point of being unable to work with anybody else on the force. These are not good police officers... of course, you'll say, this is a comedy. But where are the laughs, then?
They're not absent entirely, you just have to look for them. In a movie so focused with big, broad humor, it's the smaller comedy that actually lands best. Hart's background mutterings and fumblings, his emoticon-laden texts to girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter, whose only stage direction seems to be "smile, and never wear a full outfit of clothing"), and a bizarre repetition of the word "weird" from supporting player John Leguizamo. All good for unexpected chuckles, while jokes like Hart facing off with a pre-teen or being blown backwards into a brick wall after firing a large gun are all lazy, familiar, and flat.
Structurally, the script is a mess. Ride Along spends far too much time on set up — we get it, Hart and his soon-to-be-brother-in-law Ice Cube don't get along — and far too much time on wrap-up — there's a gigantic, dramatic warehouse shootout that, in any other movie, would be the climax, but there's plenty more to go after that — without any cohesive middle to make the movie feel like... a movie.
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Hart, who leaps at every comic opportunity like a kangaroo (wallaby would be more appropriate), is suited just right for a buddy cop comedy, but he needs something fresh with which to work — a real character, an interesting story, actually funny jokes. Even just one of these would be fine!
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When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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Author Frederick Forsyth has helped a neighbour land the gig of a lifetime after writing to rugby officials and urging them to consider booking her to sing the New Zealand national anthem at Saturday's (16Nov13) big international clash in England. The Day of the Jackal novelist fell in love with choir mistress Melissa Alder's voice during a concert in the Buckinghamshire, England village where they both live, and decided to give her a big career boost.
He wrote to officials who were preparing for the game between England and the All Blacks of New Zealand at Twickenham near London, and suggested Alder would be a great addition to the pre-game festivities.
The sports bosses decided to give the 38 year old a listen - and they liked what they heard, and booked her.
She tells The Daily Mail, "I’m absolutely thrilled and can’t thank Freddie enough. I’ve waited all my life for a big break."
Alder isn't new to the big stage - she sings in the chorus at London's Royal Opera House.
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch has been linked to a dark family mystery worthy of an episode of his hit drama Sherlock after researchers at a British genealogy website discovered one of his ancestors was tried for murder at the age of 14. The star's great-great maternal uncle Henry Ventham was accused of killing his friend Frederick Betteridge following an alleged argument in the early 1890s, and his trial became known in Hampshire, England as The Romsey Stabbing Case.
The facts of the drama have been unearthed by experts at family history website findmypast.co.uk, who traced the history of the case from the pages of local newspaper the Hampshire Advertiser.
Ventham and an eye witness claimed Betteridge suddenly charged at the accused and fell on a knife he was carrying while blackberry picking. A jury accepted that account and Ventham was found not guilty of murder and manslaughter, reports the Daily Mail.
And it appears The Romsey Stabbing Case is not the only part of Cumberbatch's past he'd like to forget about - according to the website researchers, his fifth great-grandfather, Abraham Cumberbatch, was a slave owner who ran a sugar plantation in Barbados.
The Jacksons are set to salute music mogul Berry Gordy by performing in his honour at an upcoming gala for Ebony magazine. The Motown Records founder will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the publication's annual Power 100 celebration in New York next month (Nov13) and Michael Jackson's brothers will hit the stage to pay tribute.
Gordy famously signed the band, then fronted by a young Michael and known as The Jackson 5, to the legendary label in 1968, giving them their first big break in the music industry.
The cast of Broadway's Motown The Musical, which tells Gordy's life story, will also perform at the event.
Other honourees who made the Power 100 list, which ranks the biggest players in the black community, include: Scandal star Kerry Washington, director Lee Daniels, actor Michael B. Jordan, musician-turned-activist Harry Belafonte and U.S. President Barack Obama, who has been named Powerbroker of the Year.
Nick Cannon will host the Power 100 ceremony at the Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall on 4 November (13).
Talk about Oscar buzz! Critically-acclaimed director Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave is getting ready to hit theatres at the end of the month and there’s plenty to get excited about. The trailer looks amazing and the movie received much hype as it made its way around the festival circuit; it even won The Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. If you don’t know how to mentally prepare yourself for what will surely be one of the biggest films of the year, we’re here to help. Here are a few reasons why there’s no other movie to see on October 31.
This film has something for everyone: Benedict Cumberbatch fans are going wild, and that’s only the beginning. Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Oscar-nominee Quvenzhané Wallis, and Michael K. Williams of The Wire are all on board. 12 Years A Slave also stars the amazing Chiwetel Ojiofor (who may finally get his due as one of the best) as Solomon Northrup.
The True Story
We should all know the name of Solomon Northrup as well as we know the name of Frederick Douglass or Benjamin Franklin. His memoir 12 Years A Slave isn’t being taught in most grade schools yet, but maybe McQueen’s film can change that. A free-born black man from New York born before the Civil War, Northrup was offered a fake job, drugged, and sold into slavery. After 12 years he did the impossible and regained his freedom; such an amazing story of triumph and tragedy in America truly deserves to be told.
The Steve McQueen Factor
No offense to other directors who might have taken on such a story (like Steven Spielberg or Spike Lee), but really? Steve McQueen is probably the best guy for the job. His subtle, sweeping approach to powerful stories with compelling characters (as seen in his other films, Hunger and the unforgettable 2011 indie hit Shame), gives us all the faith in this production.
Reggae artist Frederick 'toots' Hibbert has filed a $20 million (GBP13.3 million) lawsuit against concert promoters in Virginia, after he was injured at a show. The Grammy winner was performing in Richmond in May (13), when he was struck on the head by a bottle thrown onstage by a 19-year-old college student.
The Toots and the Maytals frontman suffered a deep cut to his head and subsequently had to cancel his remaining shows and return to his native Jamaica for medical attention.
Now, Hibbert accuses Venture Richmond, Metropolitan Richmond Sports Backers Inc., and security-provider Regional Marketing Concepts Inc. of negligence in the suit.
Venture Richmond Executive Director Jack Berry, says, "There is no way that Venture Richmond or Sports Backers could reasonably have anticipated or prevented this random act by a teenage spectator. He alone should be held responsible.
"As you might imagine, we are very concerned about how lawsuits such as this could impact the future of outdoor festivals in Richmond, as all events depend on our ability to secure liability insurance."
British royal Lord Frederick Windsor has become a first-time father after his actress wife Sophie Winkleman gave birth to a baby girl. The Two and A Half Men star welcomed the tot in Los Angeles on Thursday (15Aug13).
A spokesperson for Lord Frederick's father Prince Michael of Kent says, "Lady Frederick Windsor was yesterday safely delivered of a baby girl at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Centre in Los Angeles (sic).
"The weight of the baby was 7lb. Lord Frederick Windsor was present at the birth. Prince and Princess Michael of Kent's family and Sophie's family have been informed and are delighted with the news. The baby's name will be confirmed in a few days."
The baby, whose grandfather is a cousin of British monarch Queen Elizabeth II, is 42nd in line to the throne.
Actor Shia Labeouf has reached a settlement with the producers of Broadway production Orphans after he was fired from the show earlier this year (13). The Transformers star was set to make his New York stage debut opposite Alec Baldwin and Tom Sturridge in March (13), but he bowed out of the play during the second week of rehearsals due to creative differences with his co-stars and director Daniel Sullivan.
LaBeouf later explained he was actually fired from the show because he did not get along with his castmates, so he filed a grievance with the Actors' Equity union against producers Robert Cole and Frederick Zollo for unfair termination.
Both parties have now put an end to their dispute after reaching an undisclosed agreement.
A joint statement issued to the New York Times reads, "We regret the circumstances that caused Shia's departure from Orphans. Shia is a gifted actor whose full preparation to undertake the role of Treat demonstrated his respect and devotion to the play.
"The parties recognise that neither Mr. LaBeouf nor the producers was at fault. We have the utmost respect for Shia and his acting abilities, and would welcome the opportunity to work with him in the future."