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SXSW ’17 Review: ‘TRAGEDY GIRLS’

Mean Girls meets Scream in Tyler MacIntyre’s trendy satirical midnight horror-comedy Tragedy Girls. Like Heathers for the social media age, MacIntyre’s coming-of-age serial killer misadventure satirizes iPhone-obsessed culture as two popular girls go on a killing spree in order to gain followers, accrue likes and establish a brand. A fucked-up ode to friendship first and foremost, Tragedy Girls’ kill-happy mentality is demented no doubt but the relationship at its center sincerely (and gruesomely) cuts to the core of high school woes and the trials of BFF-dom. Not to mention, it’s bloody good fun.
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Out in Theaters: ‘MORRIS FROM AMERICA’

Debuting in a time where discussion on race in American cinema is at an absolute fever pitch, Morris From America explores the idea of cultural and personal identity through the lens of a 13-year old black aspiring free-styler living with his father (Craig Robinson) in the little white-washed German village of Heidelberg. Directed by Chad Hartigan, who won Sundance’s Best of Next prize in 2013 for This is Martin Bonner, Morris may be relatively light viewing but with fine performances across the board and a semi-charmed approach to talking about race and culture, Morris is a crowd-pleasing success story that could find love outside the festival circuit. Read More

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Talking with Craig Robinson of ‘MORRIS FROM AMERICA’

Funny guy Craig Robinson strikes you as the kind of dude with a beefy laugh and a heart of gold. His appearances in film and television throughout the years were jump-started by his turn as ambitious warehouse manager Daryl Philbin in cult TV classic The Office which in turn resulted in a string of parts in Evan Goldberg comedies including Pineapple Express, This is the End and, most recently, Sausage Party as well as features on other notable comedies as Knocked Up, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Zack and Miri Make a Porno and a starring role in the two Hot Tub Time Machine movies (though we wish we could forget that second one.)  
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Sundance ’16 Review: ‘MORRIS FROM AMERICA’

Debuting in a time where discussion on race in American cinema is at an absolute fever pitch, Morris From America explores the idea of cultural and personal identity through the lens of a 13-year old black aspiring free-styler living with his father (Craig Robinson) in the little white-washed German village of Heidelberg. Directed by Chad Hartigan, who won Sundance’s Best of Next prize in 2013 for This is Martin Bonner, Morris may be relatively light viewing but with fine performances across the board and a semi-charmed approach to talking about race and culture, Morris is a crowd-pleasing success story that could find love outside the festival circuit. Read More

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Out in Theaters: HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2

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Hot Tub Time Machine 2
doesn’t quite make you wish you could go back in time and stop yourself from attending…and then its characters rape each other. Yes, I mean that literally. Puerile, potty-mouthed and purposeless, this five-years-later sequel has the audacity to jettison the whole “likable losers” appeal of the original in favor of three wash-outs crashing parties in the future, solving a hackneyed murder mystery. When John Cusack can’t be bothered to join the reunion party (last year, he had four films score 10% or lower on Rotten Tomatoes), you can assume the settings are off but little can prepare you for how uninspired and piecemeal this never-should-have-happened follow-up is. Set phasers to shun.

In the aftermath of Hot Tub Time Machine, our characters have settled in nicely using their knowledge of future events to make themselves rich and famous. Lou (Rob Corddry) ripped off some Motley Crew songs (renamed *sigh* Motley Lou) before inventing Lougle (yes *sigh* that’s a rip-off of Google) to the tune of someodd billion dollars. Craig Robinson‘s (at least marginally affable) Nick has gone on to rip off countless artists from The Black Eyed Peas to Nirvana and for it is a celebrated artist struggling with identity issues. Well no shit you thieving hack. Cusack, as mentioned, is nowhere to be seen – there’s a brief mention that he penned a popular sci-fi book about Time Lords or whatnot – and we’re lead to believe that Clark Duke‘s baby-faced Jacob just vegged out on the couch and didn’t pursue fame and fortune like his other time traveling cohorts.

Corddry’s Lou is an absolute dick of a human being and a test to withstand. He’s reprehensible in a most off-putting way, so much so that I couldn’t remember if he was this much of a churlish asshole in the original or if his obnoxious, off-putting nature had been ratcheted up to fit the sequel quota of “bigger is better”. Nevertheless, his dickishness leads to his near immediate demise (in a lights-flickering thunderstorm no less) and the trio is forced to travel back in time (more on this soon) to solve his murder before it ever happens.

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It stands to reason that a movie with “hot tub time machine” in the title doesn’t make any sense but the time travel aspects of this film are even more misshapen and whacked out than they once were and our “heroes” wind up in the future – but a future that is still their past. Or something like that. They need to get blackout drunk in order to operate their sudsy time machine, unless screenwriter Josh Heald deems that there’s not enough time to get into another pill-popping, cocaine-eating montage and then it just works with the press of a button. And did I mention that the characters at one point are forced to rape each other? And I don’t mean implied rape, I mean bent-over, screaming-at-the-top-of-your-lungs rape. I just don’t know what to say…

Perhaps the most distracting element of the film is the one that sums it up best: the arrival of the etherial repairman. In the role, Chevy Chase throws down one of the worst cameo appearances of all time, reprising his shtick as a “grandfather time” figure in what might just be the least enthusiastic onscreen appearance of the last decade. You couldn’t have paid him money to make him look less happy to be there. But that pretty much sums up the film in its entirety though: a bunch of people wondering what they’re doing in the midst of a completely defunct comedy. It’s not really a shock that director Steve Pick (Hot Tub Time Machine, About Last Night) falls so hard on his face but it’s nonetheless embarrassing to watch.

Robinson, newcomer Adam Scott and even Corddry give it their all – and do manage to cull some immature laughs with their frequent, obviously improvised riffing – but it’s just far too little in a film that’s far too creatively barren. The actors hack at each other as best they can but their comedy is crude, mean-spirited, cheap and often just sad. In summation: the characters are forced to rape each other.

D+

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