The Night Before

Rough Night

If I want to see a movie, I’m going to see it no matter what – I’m not dissuaded by negative word of mouth. I’ve gone to see movies that I knew would be awful, like Soul Plane. When I saw the trailer for Rough Night, it struck me as a knock-off of Bridesmaids and very similar to the forthcoming Girls Trip. However, I still wanted to see it despite it seeming derivative. Moreover, I like Scarlett Johansson (Ghost in the Shell) and Zoe Kravitz, (Mad Max: Fury Road), who star alongside Jillian Bell (Fist Fight), Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters), and Ilana Glazer (The Night Before) as a group of girlfriends reuniting for their friend Jess’ (Johansson) bachelorette party in Miami.

Once a hard-partying co-ed, Jess is now an uptight political candidate, a far cry from former beer pong champion. Alice is a teacher, Blair is a wealthy divorcee and mother, and Frankie has become one of those “crunchy,” annoying social justice warrior types. Jess’ fiancé Peter (Paul Downs, Broad City) is a nice guy, but he is about as exciting as a jar of mayonnaise. Alice is especially close with Jess, spearheading their weekend shenanigans. Rounding out the bunch is Jess’ Aussie pal Pippa, amusingly played by Kate McKinnon.

Writer Lucia Aniello borrowed a page from Bridesmaids, with Alice as the friend who is jealous of her best friend’s new buddy, in a familiar subplot. The crew gets wasted throughout the weekend, as emotions bubble to the surface. Frankie is secretly in love with one of the gang, while Alice and Jess have some unresolved issues that have cropped up in recent years. Friendships evolve, they wax and wane as we mature and dynamics change. The movie touched on the ways in which friends can become distant, but find their way home to each other in the end. The camaraderie and bond of friendship strengthened the movie, but make no mistake: this movie is best viewed at home on the sofa in the absence of sobriety.

Rough Night is not a movie to be taken seriously. It’s probably a good move for the likes of McKinnon, but I imagine Johansson was just bored and maybe thought this would be a fun movie to make. The movie’s major plot point involving a would-be stripper was nothing short of ridiculous. Like, Weekend at Bernie’s levels of stupidity – but without the charm. Demi Moore (Margin Call) makes a cameo, but it only serves to heighten the absurdity of it all. I knew it wouldn’t be good, but I didn’t mind paying the five. You’ve been warned! Grade: C

Sausage Party

Do you smoke weed? Seth Rogen clearly does. How else could he concoct a story like Sausage Party? I’ll bet he was toking up one day, and after one especially gnarly bong rip, he got the munchies. As he stared down at his bag of chips, perhaps he thought – what if they were alive? Thus Sausage Party was born. And in case the R rating didn’t clue you in, let me caution any parents out there: this animated flick is NOT for children.

Shopwell’s Grocery Store is filled to the brim with food items, from hot dog buns to lemonade. Well, imagine that all of these items are alive. Sausage Party gives distinct personalities to common food items, with the grocery store serving as its own little world. Each food item, from the snacks to the meat, desires to be chosen by a human shopper, taken to what is known as “the great beyond” – the world outside of the store. Some esteemed actors lent their voices to the project, from Edward Norton (Birdman) to Salma Hayek (Grown Ups 2), but the movie stars Seth Rogen (The Night Before) and Kristen Wiig (Ghostbusters), as Frank the hot dog and his sweetie pie Brenda the bun. Frank and Brenda long to travel to The Great Beyond and are overjoyed when they are finally tossed in a shopping cart just before red, white, and blue day (Independence Day).

Frank’s joy is short-lived when he finally discovers the truth about The Great Beyond. Honey Mustard (Danny McBride, Rock the Kasbah) made it there, only to be returned to the grocery store, where he warns his food brethren. He tells them that The Great Beyond is hell, and they will all be murdered. Of course this is true, as we boil, burn, fry, steam, cut, and (at the very least) chew our food! The whole plot was silly, but I got a kick out of it. Frank is the only one persuaded by Honey Mustard’s tales of horror, and he is determined to get the proof he needs to convince the others. He sets out on a quest to find Firewater (Bill Hader, Trainwreck), a wise old bottle of liquor who can verify Honey Mustard’s claims. Frank must traverse the grocery store while steering clear of Douche (Nick Kroll, The League), the supermarket bully who blames Frank for not making it to The Great Beyond.

Sausage Party was a fun movie, and what you see is what you get. I was surprised at the modest but sizeable matinée crowd in my theater. I judged everyone as either a stoner or a person with an immature sense of humor – but we all had a good time, that’s for sure. The dialogue was funny and raunchy, and I think Rogen delivered. The last five minutes will make you blush, so if I haven’t stressed this enough: don’t take your kids! This movie is meant for a specific audience, and I think you know who you are. So spark up and enjoy! Grade: B.

Triple 9

I like to remain open-minded about my film experiences, and sometimes I take a more cerebral approach to my cinematic choices by occasionally venturing beyond my comfort zone. But when all else fails, stick with what you know. When I saw the trailer for Triple 9, I knew this was my type of movie. Reminiscent of movies such as Training Day and Street Kings, Triple 9 promised a gritty look into the seedy world of corrupt law enforcement and the criminals to whom they are indebted. Featuring a talented cast including the likes of Chiwetel Ejiofor (Secret in Their Eyes, The Martian) and Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs), my curiosity was sufficiently piqued. It looked like the type of movie to fly under the radar, and sure enough my theater was sparsely populated.

I often say that movies are won and lost in their opening and closing sequences, and Triple 9 started with a literal bang and never let up. It begins in the back of a van, without about six men gearing up for what appears to be some type of tactical mission. Are they cops? A swat team? Bank robbers, or all of the above? They expertly execute a bank heist with precision, targeting only a singular safe deposit box. As they flee the scene of the crime and peel off their masks, we see that most of them are actually cops. They are lead by Michael Atwood (Ejiofor), ex-military private security, police officers Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie, The Night Before), Franco Rodriguez (Clifton Collins Jr., Transcendence), ex-cop Gabe Welch (Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad) and his brother Russell (Norman Reedus, The Walking Dead). The crooked bunch are working at the behest of the Russian mob, controlled by a very sinister Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs) as Irina Visalov, wife of an incarcerated Russian mobster.

Irina and Atwood’s relationship grows increasingly volatile after she ups the ante and insists they pull off another heist, this time from a Homeland Security facility – a nearly impossible feat. In a cruel stroke of genius, Rodriguez has a plan to divert local law enforcement’s attention while they pull of the job. When an officer goes down in the line of duty, his fellow brothers in blue respond immediately, citywide. Just as 187 is the police code for murder, 999 (triple 9) is the code for officer down, or in distress. If they can pull off a Triple 9, they can square things with Irina and walk away with a big payday. Stuck between the law and the mob, these crooked cops have their work cut out for them, leveraged to the hilt.

I enjoyed this movie for the simple reason that it was entertaining. There were some issues with pacing, as the movie wore on in its final act, but overall I enjoyed it because several scenes were nothing short of an adrenaline rush. The performances were mostly good, with Mackie and Ejiofor particularly bringing a convincing and conflicting emotionality to their roles. Winslet was as I’d never seen her, unnerving and vicious. The script faltered a bit here and there in terms of realism, but I mostly thought it was solid. You could say this was a poor man’s Training Day, and it won’t be remembered, but hey, I liked it! I give it a solid grade of: B