Will Ferrell plays well with others. Often, his performances rely on his the charisma and energy of his co-stars. Ferrell is magic when he shares the screen with everyman John C. Reilly (“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and “Step Brothers”). Filmmakers assembled a team of super-comedians around him in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” There are times when chemistries just don’t pop. Zach Galifianakis (“The Campaign”) and Jon Heder (“Blades of Glory”) are funny, but far from magic.
Here comes Kevin Hart at the top of his game to lock hands with this seasoned veteran. Hart’s persona can be as big as Ferrell’s, and the results can be scenes with too much going on. First-time director Etan Cohen lets his stars have their way with a hundred silly gags and cliché antics, but Ferrell and Hart are talented enough to make silly and cliché hilarious. “Get Hard” isn’t hard to like. It’s a no-brainer for Fourth of July escapism and worth a watch.
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At 54 years old, Sean Penn takes a detour from playing the brooding star and saving the world. He’s traveling down Liam Neeson lane by going balls out in an action film. Sure, there’s some international intrigue mixed into this tale of mercenaries and assassins, but mostly, it’s a throwback to the shoot-em-ups of the ’70s.
Penn even enlisted French director Pierre Morel for his makeover. Morel was responsible for Neeson’s resurgence with “Taken,” and Penn brings a brutish force to the role. His supporting cast spans the globe – Jasmine Trinca (Italy), Javier Bardem (Spain) and a trio from the U.K. in Ray Winstone, Idris Elba and Mark Rylance.
The talented cast has flourishes but is vastly underused. The plot sputters along as an excuse for Penn to kick people’s asses. It’s surely not the career rebirth Penn was aiming for, but his gusto makes it barely worth a watch.
“While We’re Young”
Since the ‘90s, writer/director Noah Baumbach has produced some real yawners – “Frances Ha,” “Greenberg,” “Margot at the Wedding” and “The Squid and the Whale.” That’s not to say these films didn’t have great moments or some genius dialogue or some wonderful aspects of production. It just means Baumbach’s pacing tends to sloth along.
Ben Stiller returns for another round with Baumbach as they examine aging and marriage and youth and keeping up with trends. The cast is a nice collective of talent at different stages of their careers – Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried and Charles Grodin.
The Beastie Boys’ Adam Horovitz really surprises in the best-friend role. Baumbach’s films allow you to both like and dislike his characters in equal measures, without apologies, and this one has more plot than his past films. It’s a thinker, and it’ll make you chuckle – worth a watch.