Tag Archives: ice cube

‘The High Note’ Review

Sometimes you can’t think of a witty way to begin a review and just need to get into it, and this is one of those times.

“The High Note” stars Dakota Johnson as the personal assistant to a famous singer (Tracee Ellis Ross), who aspires to be a music producer of her own. Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Ice Cube also star as Nisha Ganatra directs.

Dakota Johnson is one of those actors who if you think of for just a second you may not picture her as charming simply because of the franchise she launched her career with is so bland (“50 Shades of Grey”), but she has since proven that she is likable and bubbly, and a welcome presence in any film she’s in (“How to Be Single” is fantastic fun). She again warms the screen with her dorkable simplicity here, and is sometimes enough to elevate a familiar story and sometimes aimless direction.

Johnson stars as Maggie, the personal assistant to Tracee Ellis Ross’ Grace Davis (for the uninitiated, Ellis Ross is the real-life daughter of Motown singer Diana Ross). Johnson, along with the scenes she shares with rising star Kelvin Harrison Jr., has a comforting screen presence about her that shines through, and despite being a beautiful movie star can sell the everyday normal girl.

Playing a middle-aged singer, Ellis Ross may be channeling some of her mom’s real-life career (a subplot involves her wanting to become just the second black woman over 40 to have a number one hit song). Ellis Ross is solid enough in the role and is able to bring some of the deadpan chuckles that has made her a standout in “Black-ish,” but her role and issues almost feel like afterthoughts to Johnson and her pursuit of a producing career. Nothing inherently wrong with that, however until the third act when the obligatory drama has to come to a head, Ellis Ross’ existence in the film doesn’t really feel necessary.

Shot by Jason McCormick who was the DP on “Booksmart,” the film looks warm and crisp, and the Los Angeles setting offers some beautiful backdrops and fun landmarks. There are a few nice color pallet choices, too, which keep some of the shot-reverse-shot dialogue sequences (some of which are witty and others bland) engaging.

With a film like “The High Note” I feel Joe Pesci said it best in “The Irishman:” it is what it is. It’s a light early summer rom-com that you’ve seen done before, and if you miss it then your life will continue on without any interruptions or love lost. But if you have two hours to kill (and right now, who among us doesn’t?) then you can do worse. Take that recommendation how you will.

Critics Rating: 6/10

‘Fist Fight’ as Much Fun as a Punch to the Head

Fist_FightMy friend made a good point while we were watching this: who says “fist fight?” That’s not a thing that is organically said by normal humans.


“Fist Fight” stars Ice Cube and Charlie Day as teachers at a high school who plan on fighting each other after one of them gets fired on the last day of school. Christina Hendricks, Jillian Bell and Tracy Morgan also star as Richie Keen directs.


Comedies released outside of the summer season have a track record of being not very good. Whether it’s January (the “Ride Along” films, also starring Mr. Cube), April (last year’s “Keanu,” one of the least funny films I have seen in quite a while) or Christmas (“Daddy’s Home” and “Why Him?”), studios clearly like to keep their prime comedies for when kids are out of school and snow is off the roads. So it shouldn’t be a big surprise that “Fist Fight,” despite all the talent involved, is a lazy mess that has less laughs than an episode of “It’s Always Sunny” but lasts three times as long.


Charlie Day is typecast at this point as shrieking and hyperactive but to his credit he is a little toned-down here. He still has his panic attacks but they’re far, few and in between, and he manages to get a few chuckles when they do spring up. As I’ve written in both my “Ride Along” reviews I find something oddly hilarious about Ice Cube growling, so the first time he showed up on screen here I couldn’t help but laugh. However he isn’t given too much to do after the opening scene, and he and Day have almost no chemistry together.


One could argue that they’re advisories so naturally they wouldn’t have chemistry, but if you look at any (successful) James Bond or Avengers film even the hero and the villain have some sort of back-and-forth and screen presence; here the two are mainly just reciting lines (or doing very awkward improv) to each other.


And while we’re on the subject of these characters, they obviously imply that Day is supposed to be our main character and protagonist–they even give him a pregnant wife and young daughter so we know he’s relatable!–but he is so slimy and unlikable that you find yourself rooting for Ice Cube’s cookie-cutter strict teacher to beat him in the fight (oh, and his character’s name is Mr. Strickland, in case you wanted your head to be sore from being beaten over the head with analogies).


There are a few fleeting bright spots sprinkled throughout “Fist Fight” but most of the time you actually feel guilty about laughing at them. Day’s pre-teen daughter (Alexa Nisenson) is by-and-far the best part of the film for reasons I won’t spoil, but not only is she a kid actor who isn’t awful she actually left me wanting to see more from this young actress. The titular fight sequence is also entertaining in a ludicrous, random sort of way, but by that point in the film you’ve almost forgotten about the showdown altogether and just want to go home.


“Fist Fight” is the sort of film mistakes a penis joke or f-bomb in every other sentence as comedy, and thinks that letting actors improv nearly all their lines will inevitably lead to something funny. However that ruins the flow of the film and creates an unfunny experience that is about as entertaining as getting kicked between the legs.


Critics Rating: 3/10

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.