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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

First-time director and screenwriter Boots Riley (leader of musical group The Coup) creates one of the craziest movies you will ever see with Sorry to Bother You, a hilarious, nasty and even scary showcase for the talents of Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson.

This is comedic satire at its screwiest, with sci-fi, fantasy and horror elements inserted in such a way that Riley completely shatters the rules of conventional filmmaking. Stated simply: There are tons of “What the fuck?” moments in this movie.

Cassius Green (Stanfield) is living in a garage owned by his uncle (Terry Crews), looking for a better life and a job. His performance-artist girlfriend, Detroit (Thompson), encourages him to pursue what he wants—but tells him not lose his sense of self.

After procuring a job at a mass telemarketing agency, Cassius finds himself striking out with call after call. It’s here that Riley employs an ingenious visual trick, with Cassius physically showing up in the lives of the people he is interrupting with his telemarketing nonsense: Cassius’ desk is dropped into one situation after another (people having sex, people mourning, etc.). This does a great job of conveying the intrusiveness of that particular sales tactic.

A seasoned co-worker (Danny Glover) advises Cassius to use his white-man voice (supplied by the great, and very white, David Cross). This brings immediate success, and catapults Cassius up the ladder—and into the hallowed upstairs office where the Power Callers reside. However, the road to success involves him becoming more of a douchebag—and, ultimately, a revolutionary.

If the film were simply a caustic observation on the art of the sale and trying to get ahead in life, it would be funny enough. However, Riley doesn’t stop there: Sorry to Bother You winds up being a brutal look at class separation, racial divides, evil corporate conglomerates, slave labor, social media and, yes, bleeding head wounds. (Cassius spends a lot of time with one of those Revolutionary War-looking makeshift bandages wrapped around his head, complete with a big red blood stain.)

Stanfield—who had that masterful, turning-point scene in Get Out that featured a bloody nose, a camera and lots of screaming—takes his work to the next level in this movie. He occupies the role in a way that you could imagine nobody else doing it. Thompson, one of my very favorite actresses, does nothing but cement that status with everything she does in this movie.

Armie Hammer is funnier than you would ever expect him to be as coke-sniffing billionaire Steve Lift; things take some crazy turns after he shows up in the movie. Also showing master comic chops: Steven Yeun (Glenn from The Walking Dead) as a revolutionary co-worker, and Robert Longstreet as Cassius’ twisted boss.

Quite a while into this movie, you may be thinking: “Gee, Bob, this seems like straightforward satire to me. This isn’t as ‘out there’ as you suggested, you stupid, lying, ugly bastard.” Well, hang tight, because Riley is going to knock you on your ass with tonal shifts as violent as a volcanic eruption during a nuclear explosion. There was nobody watching over this movie and saying, “Oh, hell no, you can’t do that. Nope!” This movie is a pure example of what can happen when you don’t restrict an ambitious, talented filmmaker.

Sorry to Bother You falls short of being a classic, due to some glaringly loose-ended scenes and occasional jokes that fall flat. Riley’s scattershot style leads to some moments that feel a little sloppy and unfinished. Still, the brashness of this enterprise is absolutely breathtaking. I think Riley’s all-time classic is yet to come.

If you are suffering from sequel and/or superhero fatigue this summer, and you want something raw and new, Sorry to Bother You will not disappoint. It also might just fuck you up a bit.

Sorry to Bother You is now playing at the Regal Palm Springs Stadium 9 (789 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs; 844-462-7342); the Century La Quinta and XD (46800 Washington St., La Quinta; 760-771-5682); and the Palm Desert 10 Cinemas (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-340-0333).

Published in Reviews

Adam Sandler’s third movie with Netflix is the very definition of overindulgence. There’s a decent movie in here from director Steven Brill, who worked with Sandler previously on Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds and The Do-Over—but Sandy Wexler is a mess obscured by too many subplots.

Sandler stars as the title character, a talent manager trying to find new clients in the 1990s. After working with low-level comedians and daredevils, Sandy finds Courtney Clarke (Jennifer Hudson), an amusement-park performer with a stunning voice. Sandy takes charge of her career, and sends her on a superstar trajectory. Of course, Sandler creates one of his weirdo characterizations, with a goofy voice and strange mannerisms.

While some of the 1990s jokes involving Fruitopia, Arsenio Hall and the Atkins Diet are funny, Sandler and Brill take the movie off into a strange, unlikely romance realm that destroys all of the fun.

The movie is supremely overstuffed at 130 minutes, with one subplot too many involving Terry Crews as a flamboyant wrestler. His entire arc could’ve been left on the cutting-room floor.

Kevin James has a fairly funny supporting role as a ventriloquist who carries on regular conversations through his dummies, and Nick Swardson scores some laughs as a daredevil reminiscent of Super Dave Osborne and Evil Knievel. Hudson is good in her role, even when the character inexplicably falls for Sandy.

At 90 minutes and without the love story, this one might’ve been decent. As it stands, it’s another miss for Sandler.

Sandy Wexler is currently streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

It’s not a good thing when Vanilla Ice is the best thing in your movie.

His Ice-ness shows up in The Ridiculous 6 as a hip-hop Mark Twain in Adam Sandler’s latest blunder—and Vanilla Ice squeezes a few laughs out of the moment. This Western pile of shit manages a few other giggles, most notably Harvey Keitel’s headless body shooting its own decapitated head, and a rattlesnake nibbling on Will Forte’s ear. Other than that, it’s quite the slog.

Make that a two-hour slog.

Director Frank Coraci, responsible for other Sandler abominations such as Blended, should’ve streamlined this sucker. The four-or-five-laugher would’ve felt more potent with a solid 30 minutes lopped off. As is, the jokes go on way too long—and too much crap that would’ve been edited out of even the worst Sandler films makes it into the final cut.

Sandler plays Tommy, aka White Knife, an orphan boy raised by Native Americans. He finally meets his outlaw dad (Nick Nolte … I’m beginning to really hate this guy) when he’s all grown up. Mere moments after meeting him, daddy is kidnapped, and Tommy sets out on a mission to raise the funds to spring him loose.

Along the way, Tommy discovers dad was quite mischievous and sired five other brothers, played by Terry Crews, Jorge Garcia, Rob Schneider, Luke Wilson and, most regrettably, Taylor Lautner. They form the Ridiculous 6, the lamest gang to hit movie screens this year.

The film is at its best when dealing with Forte’s Will Patch and his outlaw gang. A sequence during which Steve Zahn has to scoop one of his eyeballs out with a spoon is good for a giggle, as is a moment when the gang is buried up to their necks and attacked by ants, lizards and snakes.

The film is at its worst when it allows Lautner, playing a simple boy, to speak. This film should mark the end of his career. Actually, it would be nice if this marked the end of Sandler’s career as well, but he has three more films on his Netflix deal, so we are in for more cinematic hell.

The Ridiculous 6 is an original film released on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Sylvester Stallone and his awesome band of old crows take some major missteps in The Expendables 3—an unfortunate leap backward for the aging-action-star franchise.

Stallone and company jettisoned the smarmy Bruce Willis in favor of the growly Harrison Ford, and this is a great change. They also added Wesley Snipes as Doctor Death, Antonio Banderas as fast-talking comic relief and, most notably, Mel Gibson playing himself (aka The World’s Biggest Asshole).

Stallone and director Patrick Hughes should’ve stopped right there and given the group (which also includes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren and many others) a decent script. This is a sufficient cast for any action movie—so get cracking with the pyrotechnics, and focus on a story that makes sense!

Alas, that didn’t happen. Perhaps because the production could only afford the big guys for a minimal amount of time, the script has Stallone’s Barney Ross putting the old guys on ice after the first 30 minutes in favor of a new, mostly younger crew—and most of that new crew is uninteresting and lacks the charisma of their older counterparts. Too much screen time is given to the likes of mixed martial arts superstar Ronda Rousey, who can most certainly kick the shit out of people, but can’t act for squat. Names like Kellan Lutz (the Twilight films) and boxer Victor Ortiz round out the boring faction of the new cast.

The plot is a mish-mosh of action-movie clichés, as Barney finds himself gathering the new team to go up against Stonebanks (Gibson), a former Expendable turned arms dealer and bad guy. Gibson gets a couple of scenes to show off his catcher’s-glove face (seriously … stop smoking, Mel!) and act all crazy.

After some tedious scenes introducing the new crew (featuring Kelsey Grammer, of all people), Barney eventually lets the old guys back into the movie, and this results in a halfway-decent finale during which many things blow up. It also has a typical showdown between Barney’s good guy and Stonebanks, during which the villain gets the upper hand, yet throws away his weapon in favor of hand-to-hand combat. Gibson vs. Stallone is a bit outlandish, even if Stallone is something like 95 years old.

I did like the sight of Harrison Ford piloting a helicopter, Han Solo-style, and Snipes is fun in his few scenes. The screenplay has a lot of inside jokes about his tax-evasion jail sentence that warrant a chuckle or two. Dolph Lundgren’s “Sore Loser” T-shirt also put a smile on my face, as did Terry Crews, once again letting loose with his really big gun.

I don’t understand the Jason Statham phenomenon. He’s been OK in a couple of films, but most of the stuff he slums in is trash. I’m sort of grateful that this movie puts him into more of a background role.

In an effort to give the film more earnings potential, it was made for a PG-13 rating (while the previous installments were R-rated). Dumb move. The target audience for this sort of stuff likes movies filled with bloody carnage and F-bombs. This boneheaded move, along with a pirated copy of the film that has been downloaded by millions, resulted in The Expendables 3 having a bad box-office opening.

Unless this movie catches fire overseas, the franchise may be in jeopardy. If you can’t get it done in the third installment, you are usually toast in Hollywood.

The Expendables 3 is now playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Maybe I’m crazy, but there is still part of me that believes Adam Sandler will wake up one day and proclaim, in his angry voice, “Alright already! Enough with keeping my no-talent friends working. I can just give them money. It’s time to make decent, funny movies again! Stay home, Dennis Dugan! Screw you Frank Coraci! Maybe Paul Thomas Anderson will put me in a movie again! Flibberdy-Doo!”

Blended, Sandler’s latest collaboration with director Coraci—who actually made some of the better Sandler films back in the day with The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer—might be Sandler’s worst movie yet, and that’s saying a lot. He plays a widower who has a terrible first date with a woman (Drew Barrymore) at Hooters. One thing leads to another, and the two wind up on a vacation together in Africa with all of their kids. Yes, you read that right.

This all leads to rhino-humping jokes, ostrich-riding and Terry Crews making an ass of himself with some sort of makeshift musical group that kind of sounds like Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

I had a real bad time with this thing. It caused major, jaw-clenching tension, and I think I may’ve cracked a molar. It’s the sort of racist, sexist movie that you watch in complete disbelief, wondering how such a monstrosity could ever get past the, “Hey, why don’t we send Adam and Drew to Africa … it’ll be so funny!” stage.

Everybody involved should be embarrassed.

Blended is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews