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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Today AMC announced that Breaking Bad's fifth and final season will premiere on Sunday, July 15, at 9 PM. Excellent! I've been waiting for this stuff like a tweaker looks for his next hit of the good blue meth. I can't wait to see Walter White continue further down his spiral of destruction while waltzing away with a few Emmys. We're gonna get 16 more episodes and that's it. In 16 weeks, this will be over.
Oh, no, wait. That's not it. There will only be eight episodes. So... what happens after two months? According to AMC's press release, the show will take an entire year off and the final eight episodes of Season 5 will air in summer 2013. What in the mother of methamphetamines is that all about? That is not a final season. That is two seasons. Two totally different things. It's sort of like taking a sandwich, cutting it in half, eating one half at noon and the other half at 7 PM and calling both times you eat the sandwich "lunch." No, the second one is not lunch, it is dinner. It is a totally different and separate event in the life of the consumer of that sandwich.
With the rise of cable television, video on demand, live streaming, and next-day downloads the idea of a season is constantly shifting and changing. We no longer have a set "season" that starts in September and ends in May. Even the broadcast networks fill up the summer months with a bunch of reality TV boobs either bouncing off enormous balls (Wipeout) or accusing each other of not having any (Big Brother). Tyra Banks, ever the linguistic innovator, calls each new edition of her show a "cycle" so it can't be attached to a time or year. I get that what constitutes a season and when it airs may need to be redefined. I also know that this is not one season. They don't even know when the second half of this season is going to start. That has to render it somehow technically ineligible to be part of the same season that has a definite start date.
The first time I remember a show breaking up a "season" over two different time periods is Sex and the City, which stretched its final installments over the course of the year, giving us 10 episodes in one chunk and six more several months later. Battlestar Galactica used to do the same thing, making it nearly impossible to know the number season that you were currently watching because Season 4 seemed like Season 7. The really infuriating thing is that in both of these instances the "half seasons" were sold in separate DVD sets. If they can't even be packaged together, then why the hell are they still unified as a "season?" They shouldn't be!
This whole thing is so incredibly craven. You could argue that the people making the show consider these final 16 episodes of Breaking Bad to be thematically linked, to show one big arc over the course of the series. Then why in the name Gus Fring is the network torturing us super-fans by putting an entire calendar year between the first half and the second half? Doesn't that ruin some of the creative trajectory the show's trying to preserve by making it one season? Either this thing is one season and you treat it like one season, or it is two seasons and treat it like two seasons. We know the frakking difference (as they would say on Battlestar), so don't try to fool us.
Otherwise this is just a cynical marketing ploy to coax people into the watching the "final season" before they miss out. The problem is, this is not the final season, it's just the tease before we get to the final season a year away. This is the entertainment equivalent of a store that has a "going out of business sale" sign in their front window indefinitely.
I'm super stoked for every one of these episodes and will watch them as soon as they air, but don't call this whole thing a "final season" when it is anything but. Just call it seasons five and six. That's fine. We're still going to watch it just as hard.
Now that we've settled that don't even get me started on a the "two-part season finale" nonsense.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
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There ain't much of one. In a nutshell a group of spun-out druggies living in the drab sun-baked land of the mini mall known as North Los Angeles Valley are focused on one thing and one thing only--getting and using drugs--and we get to tag along with them for three wasted sleepless days. There's Ross (Jason Schwartzman) a college dropout pining over a girl who dumped him and the only one of the gang you think might have some redeeming quality--until he handcuffs his stripper girlfriend spread-eagled to the bed naked duct-tapes her eyes and mouth and leaves her with a thrash metal CD--skipping--on the player for three days. (All that ruckus of course raises the suspicions of a butch biker broad--Deborah Harry in a cameo--who runs a phone sex line out of her apartment next door.) In exchange for dope Ross runs errands for a big badass Jesse James type known as the Cook (Mickey Rourke) 'cause he brews the crystal in a squalid motel room he shares with sweet misguided stripper Nikki (Brittany Murphy). The Cook provides drugs to dealer Spider Mike (John Leguizamo) a seriously paranoid hopped-up speed freak and his mossy-teethed tweaker girlfriend Cookie (Mena Suvari) who use and sell the Cook's drugs to hangers-on like the absurdly pimply faced Frisbee (Patrick Fugit) in between sex sessions and flip-outs involving guns spray paint and socks.
Every last person in this ensemble seems to relish getting down and dirty--and by dirty we mean fetid. Murphy and Rourke are particular standouts: with big kohl-smudged eyes and wide friendly smile she's sweetly innocent bobbling aournd in her f***-me Daisy Dukes and high-heeled boots; he's terrifying and larger than life in torn jeans tucked into white shitkickers a ponytail and a Stetson but he actually pulls the heartstrings when he muses about watching puppies be put to death as a boy and defends two chola mini-mart clerks from an abusive gangster. Watching Schwartzman's Ross whom you expect to like as the film's hero perform what amounts to torture on his girlfriend so casually and with such good intentions is more shocking than any of the film's drug scenes or seedy imagery and Ross becomes all the more menacing in his regular-Joe ways. Props to Suvari for letting the world watch her strain so vigorously on the can and to Leguizamo for giving his all in his few scenes whether threatening his pseudo-friends with a gun shooting up crank or jacking off. Peter Stormare and Alexis Arquette give lively performances as a sort of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-meets-COPS pair of vice guys hot on Spider's trail; look out also for former Judas Priest singer Rob Halford porn star Ron Jeremy and Eric Roberts.
With its over-the-top caricatures hyper-frenetic camerawork and creatively near pornographic animation segments this movie looks an awful lot like a music video and with good reason: Director Jonas Akerlund is best known for his controversial Prodigy "Smack My Bitch Up" video and Madonna's "Music." He is unafraid to put this sordid bunch right up in your face flinging the greasy underbelly of the So Cal meth scene sunny side up and zooming in with the cameras up close and personal to a point that's almost unbearably uncomfortable. Akerlund's techniques are sometimes overdone like the bone-crunching sounds and wildly rolling eyeballs that herald each and every high and sometimes screamingly funny like Ross's daydream of a Patton-like Cook pontificating about the female vagina in front of an American flag. A well-done score by former Smashing Pumpkins' singer Billy Corgan moves the film fluidly from calm states of relative normalcy to paranoid herky-jerky scenes of jabbering addicts flying right off the mental deep end. These people are shallow vile and irredeemable and Akerlund's brilliance lies in making you feel for them in spite of themselves.
Appropriately enough this movie gets its title from the stinking saltwater lake in California's Imperial Valley that used to be a popular recreation spot before irrigation runoff poisoned the waters the fish and the community surrounding it. It's this run-down white-trash desert "destination" that serves as the backdrop for this arty noirish unpleasant film that more than borrows from Memento and Pulp Fiction. Val Kilmer is Danny Parker once a successful jazz trumpeter who wore cool suits and loved his beautiful wife very much. Tragedy strikes when he sees her gunned down in a drug deal and he vows revenge. To that end he adopts a new identity and goes deep--too deep--undercover as an informer for a couple of narcs (Anthony LaPaglia and Doug Hutchison). Danny (now Tom) infiltrates a gang of methamphetamine addicts led by a particularly nasty human specimen known as Pooh-Bear (Vincent D'Onofrio) who has snorted so much crystal he has to wear a plastic nose and reenacts the Kennedy assassination with pigeons just for kicks. In due time Danny completely loses his identity and morphs into Tom becoming into a junkie himself living in a vermin-ridden fleabag apartment and hanging with a bunch of "tweaker" losers like Jimmy "The Fin" (Peter Sarsgaard) while never losing sight of the score he wants to settle.
Val Kilmer's slippery detached demeanor is just what's required as his character fatalistically recounts his sad story via voiceover allowing the viewer to tag along with him as he explores what makes Danny/Tom tick. Kilmer seems to do best with character studies rather than action roles (i.e. his Jim Morrison in The Doors versus his parts in big-budget flops like The Saint and Red Planet). Vincent D'Onofrio almost seems like he's trying to re-create elements of his horribly depraved character in The Cell here. But in that movie it worked; in this one it doesn't. He's too out there for a small-time drug dealer and you're left going "Oh come on already." Oddly frighteningly this is Val Kilmer's movie.
This movie tries so hard to capitalize on the sleeper success of Memento but Tony Gayton's (Murder by Numbers) script completely lacks that film's tight originality and creative execution. Director D.J. Caruso tells the story in flashbacks and time shifts that keep you paying attention but which sometimes just confuse. Plus there's too much emphasis on the secondary characters and their theatrics--it's just self-indulgent filmmaking. Caruso's strong suit is that in his belaboring of many points he manages to create an authentically seedy gritty and evocative atmosphere especially making good use of the Salton Sea as a backdrop--both literally and figuratively--in his imagery.