Tag Archives: josh gad

Solid Acting and Courtroom Drama Help ‘Marshall’ Overcome its Familiar Flaws

marshall_filmChadwick Boseman may be portraying Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but not all heroes wear capes…


“Marshall” is the story of Thurgood Marshall, the eventual first African-American Supreme Court Justice, and focuses one of the first cases of his career as he defends a black man charged with raping a white woman. Boseman stars as the titular lawyer as Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens, Sterling K. Brown and James Cromwell all also star. Reginald Hudlin directs.


Chadwick Boseman burst onto the scene in “42” in 2013, where he played Jackie Robinson, and then again caught people’s attention with his 2014 portrayal of James Brown in “Get on Up.” With his performance as Marshall, Boseman has officially completed his trilogy of biopics, doing so with quiet work in a by-the-numbers but effective courtroom drama.


Boseman isn’t treading any new territory here, as his Marshall is a soft-spoken lawyer who is more than aware of the world he lives in (the film takes place mostly in 1941 Connecticut). Boseman has a few scenes of yelling, and one of condensed anger, but for the most part he is actually literally quiet, as Marshall was ordered not to speak in the courtroom during the trial.


Josh Gad plays Sam Friedman, an insurance lawyer who gets caught up working with Marshall. Like Boseman, Gad isn’t doing anything too out of his wheelhouse, playing the somewhat bumbling sidekick of the duo, and much like Nick Kroll in last year’s “Loving” it takes a few scenes to take Gad seriously as a successful lawyer but we eventually buy into it.


The rest of the cast is solid, including Sterling K. Brown as the defendant. Playing a man accused of a crime and not believed by anyone because of the color of his skin, Brown follows the lead of Boseman and Gad and does a lot of acting with his eyes and soft tone, as he has become known for after his work in “The People vs OJ Simpson” and “This is Us.”


The biggest issue with “Marshall” is that it is either made by people who aren’t incredibly experienced, or don’t trust their audience. Everything is by the numbers and Marshall himself, despite being the man who the film is named after, almost feels like a supporting character. The moments inside the courtroom are interesting and have some tension, but when we get outside those doors things feel contrived and melodramatic. For example, there is a scene where a person finds out their relative may have died overseas in the War; that instance is never brought up again and was clearly added just to have audiences feel sympathy for that character.


The score is almost out of a noir, with the soft trumpet and piano jazz playing in the background. It fits the time period, but for a legal drama at times feels out of place. And from a visual perspective, the film doesn’t look or feel like it takes place in 1941. The cinematography is “too clean” and bright, with no film graininess or tints to add to the experience there are times you would think you’re watching a modern-day set episode of “Boston Legal.”


Much like “All Eyes on Me” earlier this year “Marshall” is one of those films that may not be the most competently made, but dedicated central performances and excelling in what its central character did best (music for Tupac and law for Marshall) make it worth your time. Sure, much like Tupac there is a better way to tell the story of Thurgood Marshall than this film, but as a real-life American hero who has not received the big screen treatment, this is a worthy telling of his earlier life.

Critics Rating: 7/10

‘Beauty and the Beast’ a Colorful but Pointless Remake

Beauty_and_the_Beast_2017_posterMaybe they should just let Jon Favreau direct all the live-action Disney remakes…

“Beauty and the Beast” is a remake of the 1991 animated film of the same name (first animated film ever nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, fun fact). Emma Watson and Dan Stevens star as the titular characters, with Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson filling out the rest of the ensemble cast. Bill Condon directs.

So far, Disney’s reimaginings of their classic animated films has been relatively successful, with each adaption being better than the last. “Maleficent” was met with mixed reviews, most people liked “Cinderella” and last year’s “The Jungle Book” was universally praised. Films like “Mulan” and “The Lion King” have already gotten the remake green light, but hopefully they do a better job bringing their stories to the real world than Condon does with “Beauty and the Beast,” which is a colorful and at times heart-warming, but also empty tale.

Emma Watson is our Belle, and while she’s no Paige O’Hara she is a solid leading lady. She can hold her own singing and is attractive but doesn’t stand out so much that it’s unbelievable, like someone with modern day Hollywood looks would in a mid-1700s French village may do. Dan Stevens is fine in a mostly motion-capture performance, although we never really feel any real reason to root for him other than we know the story. The Beast design is alright, but I can’t help but feel practical effects would have been better suited here (Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy compared to his “Hobbit” films forever showed us that practical > CGI).

The real stars of the show are Luke Evans as the dastardly Gaston and Josh Gad as the bumbling LeFou. Evans is pitch-perfect as the alpha-male villain and his chemistry with Gad is phenomenal; if the film did anything well it was its casting of these two in their respective roles. Gad, who can be annoying in some films but is undeniably talented, has some great one-liners and facial expressions and provides the film’s biggest laughs. Maybe you heard about censor-run countries like Russia and Malaysia threatening to boycott the film because Condon chose to make Gad’s character openly gay, but it’s a non-factor to the plot and you wouldn’t even notice if people made a big pout about it.

Quick sidenotes: there are two bits of irony with the casting of the film. Originally, Ryan Gosling was in talks to star as the Beast but he backed out to star in “La La Land,” which landed him an Oscar nod. Conversely, Emma Watson was set to star in “La La Land” but dropped out to star in this, and she ended up being a Disney princess and earning $15 million. Neither likely regrets their decision. Also, Gad’s LeFou marks the first gay character in a Disney film but ironically, the ultra-masculine red-blooded playboy Gaston is played by the openly gay Evans. All just things I found interesting.

Back to the review.

There are certain aspects and scenes that people are going to be interested to see, such as the “Be Our Guest” musical sequence. Most will find it charming, with the entire thing seemingly being shot-for-shot of the 1991 film, although it does get a little distracting by the end with so much getting thrown at the screen.

Almost all of the musical numbers have something wrong with them, to be honest. Each of the ensemble pieces get muddled together and it is hard to make out the lyrics, similar to the opening highway scene in “La La Land,” and Stevens has a solo which just comes off as awkward. Emma Thompson’s rendition of “Beauty and the Beast” is the most pitch-perfect and resonating of any of the songs, and the scene itself is sure to kick up the nostalgia feels. And the score by Alan Menken is as memorizing as anything.

The biggest problem with the film as a whole is Condon’s handling of the material, and not sure if he should be honoring, recreating or reimagining the original story. The animated film is 84 minutes long, this one is 129 and that extra 45 minutes of padding is felt. Belle is given a backstory about her mother we don’t care about and the film tries to be relevant to 2017 audiences but none of it seems important.

This whole film seems unimportant, in fact, it never gives us a reason for it to even exist outside pleasing die-hard fans of the original and having Disney make a few hundred million dollars. Remakes should have a purpose: “The Jungle Book” was revolutionary with its special effects and put a new spin on an old tale, and films like “The Departed” introduce a great story to American audiences. In 10 years, no one will be talking about the “Beauty and the Beast” remake, much less imploring anyone to watch it.

“Beauty and the Beast” has an A-list cast and pretty costumes, and at times they mesh well to create a fun, nostalgic trip. Josh Gad and Luke Evans are fantastic together (seriously, we need these two to star in a sitcom, “The Gaston and LeFou Show”) and Watson is solid in the leading role. However all-too-often Condon doesn’t know what he wants to do, and the pacing and delivery of the film suffer from it. “Beauty and the Beast” is not a bad movie, it’s just not particularly very good, and while Watson may be the belle of the ball, the film is the belle of the blah.

Critics Rating: 5/10

Walt Disney

Walt Disney

‘Pixels’ Another Lazy Sandler Shtick

PixelsOfficialPosterIt’s that magical time of the year again! The sun is warm, the AC is blasting, and we are all enjoying our summer at the movies; so naturally Adam Sandler has to come and ruin things with another one of his films.

“Pixels” stars Sandler, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage and Kevin James as former childhood arcade protégés who are the last line of defense when aliens send real-life 1980’s video games to destroy Earth. Chris Columbus directs.

“Pixels” had a few things going for it. Yes it starred the dynamic duo of Sandler and James, but it also featured Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage, who have the power to bring smiles to the screen. It also was from director Chris Columbus, who has given us such gems as “Mrs. Doubtfire” and the first two Harry Potter films, and isn’t one of Sandler’s normal cronies, Dennis Dugan or Frank Coraci. And unlike normal Sandler films, this one featured an actual interesting plot.

So where did it all go wrong? Well my money is when the Happy Madison banner appeared on screen.

“Pixels” looked different than your typical Sandler film, but the end product is your typical Sandler film. Sandler gets a girl who is out of his league, Kevin James trips over things (“and it’s funny because he’s fat!”) and you get more product placement than the Super Bowl. And yet again Sandler laughs and skips his way to the bank after hanging out with his friends on a movie set in an exotic location (it’s a good gig if you can get it).

I’ll get the positives for this film out now, because I feel if I delay any longer anything commendable about “Pixels” will flee from my mind. Josh Gad has a few funny one-liners, some of the video games attacking famous monuments are cool, and the film is far from Sandler’s worst. Ok [cracks knuckles] let’s do this.

All you need to know about how serious this film wants you to take it is that Kevin James is the President of the United States. [long pause] Yeah, I know. And his wife is Jane Krakowski (who has one line of dialogue in the film, by the way). Yeah. I know. By the time I accepted these facts, the film was half over.

Speaking of being half over, this film is paced horribly. Well, I shouldn’t say that. The first 30 minutes are swift; it’s the next 75 that are numbingly slow. There’s a point where Sandler and Co. are partying and drinking and having a merry-ole-time (odds are they didn’t even know they were filming the movie, they were just celebrating taking more money from hardworking American’s pockets). I felt like that scene had to be somewhere near the end of the film, however much to my dismay there was still the overlong, over-CGI stuffed finale to endure.

I’m also having a hard time figuring out the desired demographic for this movie. It is based around 80’s games (and songs) like Pac-Man and Centipede, so you would think middle-aged adults, right? But wait, there’s lots of sex and fart jokes, so must be teenage boys. But hold up, there’s little talking Q*bert (if you don’t know what that is then my point is proven) that wets itself when nervous. So clearly this is aimed at little kids. I don’t know, man…

I officially gave up on Adam Sandler back in 2013 with “Grown Ups 2” but deep down I had hope “Pixels” may finally be him turning a leaf and actually trying. I was wrong; he is still putting in the bare-minimum effort. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, they say. Well Adam Sandler has clearly never heard that saying because his formula is long broken but he doesn’t fix it, because that would require effort, something he hasn’t put into one of his Happy Madison films since 2005’s “Longest Yard.”

I don’t hate “Pixels,” despite what all the above implies, but it isn’t a good movie, and you don’t need to see it. Go watch the three minute short that the film is based off if you want to see video games attack a city. Peter Dinklage couldn’t save this movie, Chris Columbus couldn’t save this movie, heck, I doubt Mariano Rivera could save this trash.

Critics Rating: 3/10



Chemistry Elevates ‘Wedding Ringer’

TheWeddingRingerPoster            This may mark the first time in a long time I enjoyed a January movie.

“The Wedding Ringer” stars Josh God as a socially awkward groom who hires the owner of a company that provides best men to those in need (Kevin Hart). Jeremy Garelick co-writes and directs.

I’m not the biggest Kevin Hart fan in the world. It’s not that I don’t find him funny, just that his stand-up is pretty one-note and his movies often rely on him yelling and running around (see: his role as a best man in last year’s “Think Like A Man Too”). So it was nice to see Hart a little toned down and sincere in “The Wedding Ringer”, and it aids the film being light and likeable.

Set in Los Angeles, the film has a sense of warmth about it, just like how by the end of the film, Gad maybe begins to warm Hart’s heart (so many plays on words in one sentence). The plot itself isn’t anything revolutionary, but the idea of hiring a best man for your wedding is pretty creative. The moment I saw the trailer and then once every character is introduced, I knew exactly how the film is going to end, but the main goal of the movie was to provide laughs, not M. Night Shyamalan twists.

For the most part, the jokes in “Ringer” work. There is some low-brow humor and some recycled material (“the fat guy broke the table! LOL!”), but there are also some inspired one-liners or mini-monologues from Hart. When everything is coming to a head, the film loses its sense of reality (if it ever had any) so by that point it relies on the comedy and chemistry.

It’s not hysterical, and I won’t remember it in a few months, but in-the-moment I enjoyed myself and at no point did I look at the time. Hart really sells his role and makes you buy the fact that if you needed to rent a best man for your wedding, he’s the guy you would want to fill those shoes (tailor pun?).

Director Garelick seems to know where to put the camera to get the most out a scene, whether it is a tight face shot to capture a reaction or a wide view to see all the chaos unfolding.

“The Wedding Ringer” a breezy comedy that is a more than enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half. Kevin Hart gives probably his most honest performance (whatever that’s worth) and he has some nice comedic moments of bonding with Josh Gad. There will be better comedies in 2015, but there will also be worse comedies (Adam Sandler has his yearly romp due out in July); this one just lands in the middle.

Because I don’t think the review would be complete without it, allow me to conclude with a holy matrimony analogy: “The Wedding Ringer” is like the wedding of the person you knew in college and didn’t attend expecting much and it is a standard ceremony, but thanks to some whacky moments it turns out to be a pretty good time.

Critics Rating: 6/10