Warner Brothers Pictures
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, drug use and pervasive profanity
Temperamental Teacher Challenges Nerdy Colleague To Duel In Kitchen Sink Comedy
Do you remember how, when you were growing up, if a couple of classmates came to blows on the schoolyard, they would be quickly separated to the suggestion that they settle their differences off campus at the end of the day? That was the point of departure of Three O’Clock High, a 1987 comedy about a bully with a short fuse who challenges a mild-mannered milquetoast to a duel after school.
Ostensibly inspired by that teensploitation classic, Fist Fight is a slight variation on the theme which flips the script by having a couple of teachers squaring-off instead of students. Otherwise, the basic idea remains intact.
The movie co-stars Ice Cube and Charlie Day as Ron Strickland and Andy Campbell, respectively, colleagues at Roosevelt High. Intimidating history teacher Ron cuts a sharp contrast to nerdy English teacher Andy, and much of the humor revolves around their difference in temperament.
The action unfolds on the last day of school which is when we find seniors running amok and pulling a variety of outrageous pranks like kicking the spout off a water cooler and rocking the ineffective security guard’s (Kumail Nanjiani) golf cart while he’s still sitting in it. Despite the insanity, the faculty is doing its best to maintain decorum.
Nevertheless, Mr. Campbell’s lesson on why words matter is interrupted by the antics of class clowns. He’s able to handle the disruption far better than Mr. Strickland who proceeds to blow his cork.
The plight thickens when both teachers are summoned to Principal Tyler’s (Dean Norris) office to explain why Ron chopped a disrespectful pupil’s desk in half with an ax. The upshot of the meeting is that Ron loses his job because of Andy, so he challenges him to a fight after school. Consequently, fraidy cat Campbell spends the rest of the afternoon trying to find a way to avoid the confrontation.
Too bad, the ensuing buildup to the big showdown between the adversaries proves to be less entertaining than the promising premise. For, the two share few funny moments following the setup. Luckily, this kitchen sink comedy continues to deliver courtesy of such student stunts as hiring a mariachi band to follow the principal around the halls.
The movie marks the feature film debut of actor-turned-director Richie Keen, who also makes a cameo appearance as a computer store employee. And the support cast includes the scene-stealing Tracy Morgan whose quirky trademark mannerisms are put on full display.
Note, Fist Fight is a relentlessly-profane romp which might have set a record for the use of the F-word. Since the closing tableau sets up the sequel, might I suggest that the next installment cut down on the curses in favor of more jokes.
Good (2 stars)
Running time: 91 minutes
John Wick: Chapter 2
Rated R for profanity, brief nudity and pervasive violence
Keanu Reeves Returns As Vengeful Assassin In High-Body Count Splatterfest
When we first met John Wick (Keanu Reeves), he went on a bloody killing spree in the wake of losing the love of his life (Bridget Moynahan). And at the end of that revenge-fueled splatterfest we saw the wounded assassin walk off into the sunset with a puppy he just rescued from the dog pound.
Picking up soon after the events of the original, Chapter 2 opens with Wick retiring after retrieving his stolen Mustang from a Russian gang. But before he has a chance to settle into a rocking chair, he’s recruited by Santonio D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) to perform one last hit.
The ambitious mobster wants his sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini) knocked off so that he can assume the reins of the powerful Mafia family left to her by their late father. Wick grudgingly agrees to kill her only because Santonio is holding his marker, a blood oath ironically taken in order to leave behind his grisly line of work.
So, he proceeds to Rome where he tracks down Gianna who quickly commits suicide once she realizes the reason for his visit. Nevertheless, her death doesn’t sit well with her horde of henchman, especially her personal bodyguard, Cassian (Common).
Next thing you know, Wick needs to waste wave after wave of minions while on the run through the catacombs. After a miraculous escape, things are no better back in America where the senseless slaughter simply continues.
That is the sum and substance of John Wick: Chapter 2, an unapologetic indulgence in blood lust. This high-body count affair is right in Keanu Reeves’ wheelhouse, as he seems to excel when called upon to dispatch dozens, if not hundreds, of adversaries in a variety of creative ways, without ever having to exhibit much of an acting range.
The picture reunites Reeves with Laurence Fishburne, his co-star in The Matrix trilogy. Laurence only enjoys a minor role here, however, in favor of Common, a standout who proves to be the protagonist’s worthy adversary in a protracted hand-to-hand showdown.
A twisted Wick continues to burn bright!
Very Good (3 stars)
In English, Italian, Hebrew and Russian with subtitles
Running time: 122 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening March 3, 2017
Before I Fall (PG-13 for mature themes, bullying, sexuality, violent images, profanity and underage drinking) Adaptation of Lauren Oliver’s young adult novel of the same name about a recently deceased teen (Zoey Deutch) who is afforded an opportunity to relive her last day on Earth over and over until she untangles the circumstances surrounding her death in a tragic car accident. Cast includes Liv Hewson, Logan Miller and Jennifer Beals.
Logan (R for graphic violence, pervasive profanity and brief nudity) Hugh Jackman’s last go-round as the Marvel Comics superhero finds a weary Wolverine withdrawn from the world and caring for an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) until he is recruited by a mysterious stranger (Elizabeth Rodriguez) to come to the assistance of a young mutant (Dafne Keen) on the run from dark forces. With Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Eriq La Salle and Stephen Merchant.
The Shack (PG-13 for violence and mature themes) Faith-based drama adapted from William P. Young’s best seller of the same name about a grief-stricken family man (Sam Worthington) mourning the loss of a young daughter (Amelie Eve) who receives an invitation from God (Aviv Alush) to meet at the site of the murder, deep in the Oregon wilderness. Featuring Octavia Spencer, Radha Mitchell and Tim McGraw.
Burlesque: The Heart Of The Glitter Tribe (Unrated) Revealing documentary showcasing the resurgence in popularity of striptease in Portland, Oregon. With Babs Jamboree, Angelique Devil and Zora von Pavonine.
Contemporary Color (PG-13 for brief profanity) Concert flick staged by David Byrne during the summer of 2015 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and featuring performances by ten color guard teams from across the U.S. and Canada. With Nelly Furtado, Ad-Rock and Ira Glass.
The Freedom To Marry (Unrated) Gay rights documentary chronicling the hard fought advances achieved over the past 40 years by the Same Sex Movement. Featuring commentary by Evan Wolfson, Marc Solomon and April DeBoer.
The Institute (R for gory violence, disturbing images and graphic nudity) Suspense thriller, set in 19th C. Baltimore, revolving around the ordeal experienced by a grief-stricken orphan (Allie Gallerani) after she checks herself into a mental institution conducting pseudo-scientific, mind control experiments. Big name cast includes James Franco, Topher Grace, Josh Duhamel, Pamela Anderson, Eric Roberts and Tim Blake Nelson.
Kiki (Unrated) Anti-bullying documentary highlighting the efforts of minority members of the LBGTQ community to find a safe space to congregate in New York City.
The Last Word (R for profanity) Unlikely-buddies comedy about the friendship forged between an elderly control freak (Shiley Maclaine) and a truth-seeking reporter (Amanda Seyfried) assigned to write her obituary. Supporting cast includes Anne Heche, Phillip Baker Hall and AnnJewel Lee Dixon.
Lavender (Unrated) Psychological thriller about a photographer (Abbie Cornish) suffering from amnesia who finds evidence in her portfolio suggesting she might have murdered relatives she never knew she had. With Justin Long, Dermot Mulroney and Lola Flanery.
My Scientology Movie (Unrated) Faux documentary employing actors to recreate revealing incidents reported by disenchanted members of the Church of Scientology. Co-starring Andrew Perez, Stacia Roybal and Conner Stark as Tom Cruise.
Nakom (Unrated) Character-driven drama about a promising medical student (Jacob Ayanaba) forced to return home to his village in Ghana to provide for his family in the wake of his father’s death. With Grace Ayanga, Justina Kulidu and Shetu Musah.
Table 19 (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, mature themes, drug use and brief nudity) Ensemble comedy about a maid of honor (Anna Kendrick) who finds herself relieved of her duties and relegated to a remote table full of reluctantly-invited losers at the wedding reception after being dumped by the bride’s (Rya Meyers) brother (Wyatt Russell) With Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson and June Squibb.
Wolves (Unrated) Dysfunctional family drama about a high school basketball star (Taylor John Smith) whose recruitment by Cornell is jeopardized by his gambling- addicted and compulsive liar of a father (Michael Shannon). Cast includes Carla Gugino, Chris Bauer and Zazie Beetz.