On paper, a movie about catfishing (albeit your son) in the age of social media sounds brilliant. We live in an age where it’s very easy to make yourself appear however you want to on social media and dating apps. That’s the concept that James Morosini attempts to capitalize on in his love letter to his actual dad, I Love My Dad. But for all of the good intentions, Morosini’s film, unfortunately, comes off as cringy more often than not in the same way that Fortnite was in Avengers: Endgame. You can’t say the effort isn’t there; Patton Oswalt goes for it in a role that sees him as a father catfishing his own son. Yes, you read that right.
To be fair, this isn’t the first time that a Patton Oswalt character has catfished someone he knows. In a brilliant episode of the King of Queens, Spence (Oswalt) is told that he’s the victim, not the prankster, by Doug (Kevin James) and so Spence poses as an anonymous admirer of Doug’s “karaoke skills” at the local bar, flirting with Doug and boosting his own ego. I Love My Dad, as mentioned, follows Chuck (Oswalt), the classic distant father who can’t make graduation, claims anything mom says is untrue, and cannot make vacation due to “fake” airline tickets, who takes a passing comment about social media stalking a bit too far from his friend Jimmy (Lil Rel Howery). After encountering a lovely young waitress named Becca (Claudia Sulewski) at a rinky-dink diner, Chuck begins chatting with his son Franklin (Morosini) as Becca.
It should also be mentioned that Franklin is struggling with mental health problems, but the time you spent reading that statement is roughly as long as the film itself hones in on it. The film really struggles to juggle actually speaking about mental health in favor of its contrived plot. When we first encounter Franklin, he’s just graduating from therapy and he’s shown to struggle with suicidal thoughts. That alone and social media are a recipe for disaster but a disaster that is prevalent in 2022.
And yes, I’m aware that there wasn’t an Avengers-sized budget for I Love My Dad, but the 90-minute runtime is both a blessing and a curse. It makes the film digestible, yet, it feels like a portion of the story is missing. Those examples above of Chuck failing as a father are all used in the form of voicemail messages played over the opening credits. It’s clear that Chuck wasn’t a great dad, but the film doesn’t really show that outside of the opening where Chuck gifts Franklin a lost dog (we see him tear down a sign for it) and when he spams his son with messages like Peter Parker did to Happy at the beginning of Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Chuck’s whole facade that he maintains throughout much of the runtime is also very frustrating. I get that I Love My Dad is going for the uncomfortable humor, but there is a limit to how far that can go (Chuck actually “sexts” his son while in the same motel room as him). And the fact that Franklin blindly falls for Becca — a woman he’s never actually spoken to — and believes every excuse in the book that is used to not speak to him over the phone really begs the question: How horny is Franklin?
Gen Z’er here talking, but in 2022, does an attractive girl with zero followers, a brand new account, and who can’t ever call or video chat sound at all suspicious? These are thoughts that Franklin should have had, and I guess to be fair to the film, thoughts he does have for a hot second, yet the “relationship” between Becca and Franklin gets way too far way too fast. And if you’re Chuck, how do you not see the card tower getting way too high? Yes, this is the only source of connection that he’s had with his son in years, but I don’t know how it gets to the point of Franklin and Becca organizing a meetup.
I realize that nitpicking a film that is telling, what I assume to be, a larger-than-life adaptation of a true story between Morisini and his real-life father, but the most egregious thing that Chuck does is let the whole thing go to the point that Franklin believes that he’s going to go on a date with Becca and actually goes to Maine to see her (another weird coincidence that he overlooks). Even if Chuck somehow let this messy situation reach the point of organizing a meetup, there’s one very simple solution for that: Take Franklin to the agreed-upon location, have him get stood up, and watch as it fizzles out. Is that really that hard?
Look, it’s no secret that Franklin is portrayed as a bit of an awkward kid, but what about his relationship with Becca would insinuate that he is in a real relationship? The two haven’t even met in person yet. I mean, I did the same thing when I was in sixth grade, but Franklin is supposed to be a bit older than that. While his age is never specified, you imagine he’s in high school or maybe college, but either way, he should be a bit smarter than that and realize it’s not quite a relationship yet.
It’s admirable of James Morisini to want to direct, write, and act in I Love My Dad — especially given the embarrassing subject matter — but let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way: He’s way too old to play this character. Unfortunately for him, he’s no Cooper Raiff — one of Hollywood’s best up-and-coming directors who has shown the ability to wear all of the hats Morisini does here. But the biggest difference between the two is that Raiff writes himself characters that are roughly the same age as is — spoiler alert: not high schoolers — and Morosini looks even more like a 30-year-old man (he’s 32) than Ben Platt did in the film adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen.
On the subject of Dear Evan Hansen, whose film adaptation would be a heaping pile of dog crap if not for Kaitlyn Dever and one of Platt’s songs, it’s not like Morosini has a tie that attaches him to the character of Franklin aside from the fact that it was written from a real experience of his. But since the film doesn’t even use his (and presumably his father’s) real name, why couldn’t he entrust the role in the hands of a better (and younger) actor? Like it or not, Platt at least had the excuse that he played the titular role of Evan Hansen on Broadway and knows the songs like the back of his hand. Morosini, on the other hand, (mercifully) has no songs (aside from one karaoke song) that tie him to the role, leaving him singing in the wrong key that a younger actor could have hit the notes of.
To be completely honest, it’s hard to see how a story like I Love My Dad‘s has a happy ending. In real life, Morosini and his father have connected and have a relationship stronger than ever, but this hyperbolic version of their story won’t have you rooting for such an ending. As you’d imagine, the catfishing scheme comes to a head and reaches a boiling point where all of the dirty laundry is aired. The film should have ended there, but instead, it goes for a cutesy ending that is very strange. One can only assume that this ending was squeezed in to show that Franklin actually does have some sympathy and love for his father.
But even if Morosini and his father are close today, I guess the overarching question I have is: Why would you want to share this story with the world? Sure, everyone needs to be able to laugh at themselves here and there and take life a little bit less seriously, but I thought that was referring to the times you tripped in front of your crush or had to awkwardly converse with the cashier after your mom ditched you in line to grab an extra half-and-half, not a time where you got catfished by your own father. Neither guy looks great in this situation, and I guess Morisini deserves some credit for telling this story to a mass audience.
But to end on a note that is somewhat positive, Patton Oswalt deserves praise for going for it in his performance. It’s not as if this is Oswalt’s first rodeo and the first time he has been okay with his character being the butt of jokes or dorky — those are practically his only character traits in the King of Queens — but I don’t think I could be paid enough to do some of the things Oswalt has to do in this film (hence the reason I’m the one writing about this film and Oswalt is being paid to star in it). Oswalt’s King of Queens co-star Rachel Dratch plays Chuck’s girlfriend in I Love My Dad. Her character doesn’t go much further than serving the sane voice of reason that questions Chuck’s actions, but it’s just nice to see the two on screen together again.
Maybe I Love My Dad will make you look a little bit harder at your next follow request, but it’s telling when the most relatable part of the film was Chuck’s theory about your car’s check engine light, which is that they are put in by manufacturers so that you take it into the shop and have to spend money. And again, while it’s great to make art for someone that means a lot to you, is this really a story that you would want to share with the world? I Love My Dad struggles with balancing serious subject matter with a laughable portrayal of catfishing leaving you, the viewer, feeling like you have been catfished into watching it.
I Love My Dad is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms now.
‘Violent Night’ Review | A Violent Delight & Bloody Christmas Caper!
HO HO HOLY HUMBUG!! Violent Night is an instant Christmas Classic packed with Festive Fun and Christmas Carnage! Tommy Wirkola blends gnarly bloody action with laughs and a magical story about believing. David Harbour Sleighs! as Santa Claus.
From 87North, the bare-knuckle producers of Nobody, John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, Bullet Train and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw comes a coal-dark holiday action-comedy that says you should always bet on red. When a team of mercenaries breaks into a wealthy family compound on Christmas Eve, taking everyone inside hostage, the team isn’t prepared for a surprise combatant: Santa Claus (David Harbour, Black Widow, Stranger Things series) is on the grounds, and he’s about to show why this Nick is no saint!
Santa Claus Has Had Enough of Christmas
This Holiday Season, Santa Claus is coming to town in this ultra-violent sugar cookie-coated tale from writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller whilst directed by Tommy Wirkola who infuses his gore-soaked humour into this familiar holiday tradition that’s full of festive fun, ferocious fights, action-set pieces involving Christmas ornaments, Ice-skates, and a Nutcracker. “Violent Night” is sure to be a Christmas Crowd pleaser that’ll ultimately make you think twice about candy canes and the Christmas tree star whilst also being a fantastic homage to the seasonal genre classics like “Home Alone” and “Die Hard”.
“Violent Night” introduces David Harbour as Santa Claus, a cynic washing away and drowning his frustrations with booze on Christmas Eve, he’s feeling burned out by a world with too much greed and too little Christmas spirit, and he’s ultimately disgusted with the world’s consumerism. Harbour perfectly slips into the jolly red suit and into the role of this cranky, brutal, and savage version of Santa Claus, making it look effortless as he goes from a despairing drunk to a bloodthirsty warrior on the battlefront truly capturing some of the best Seasons Beatings with gruesome and inventive kills. However, Harbour also provides some of the film’s endearing, heartfelt moments when he magically goes down the chimney, eating decorative cookies, and interacting with Trudy played by Leah Brady definitely thawed out this jolly man’s heart.
Snow Way Out
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Lightstone residence. The Lightstone family, are an affluent and dysfunctional bunch gathering for Christmas at the countryside mansion of Gertrude Lightstone played by Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise). It’s a lavish estate that has been funded by the profitable family business. Jason Lightstone (Alex Hassell), his estranged wife Linda(Alexis Louder), and their daughter Trudy (Leah Brady) travel to the family and are joined by Jason’s alcoholic sister Alva (Edi Patterson), her new boyfriend and wannabe-action-star Morgan Steele (Cam Gigandet), and Alva’s influencer son Bert (Alexander Elliot).
However, Just as Santa arrives there to deliver gifts — and takes a break to sample some fine liquor along with his cookies — the criminal mastermind called “Mr Scrooge” (John Leguizamo) breaks in with his gang of minions, intending to steal $300 million from Gertrude’s vault. But the money appears to be missing, and the Lightstones are taken, hostage. John Leguizamo plays Scrooge, the leader of the mercenaries with skill and energy which is a perfect rival for Harbour’s Santa. Alongside his gang of mercenary minions aptly identified with Christmas codenames such as Candycane, Sugar Plum, Gingerbread, and Krampus provide some of the most hilarious and bloody moments.
“Violent Night” truly has its Season’s beatings as it’s jam-packed with ferocious fights and bloody deaths. The fights are incredibly well done, and the choreography and stunt of the action sequences are a work of art. Though at first, when the shooting begins, Santa doesn’t want to get involved. But once he recognizes Trudy’s involvement and realizes her goodness and innocence including her belief —which he dutifully looks up on a magical “Naughty and Nice” list—he determines that he must fight for her safety.
This movie is also rightly named “Violent Night” as it ultimately leaves pools of blood on the floor and blood spattered on the walls which in turn make the snow red. Throughout each action-set piece Santa batter’s the mercenaries with fists and heavy objects; stabs one with knives, sharpened candy canes and, well, anything with a point; and have their necks and body parts slashed or impaled on the likes of everything from axes and sharp Christmas ornaments to ice skates.
One sequence perfectly captures the essence and pays homage to “Home Alone”. it’s full of innocence, fun, and games as the traps that Trudy set are lethal.
HO HO HO
“Violent Night” is ultimately a story about Santa saving Christmas yet again, however this time with an onslaught of grisly holiday surprises. The movie’s heart is the magic of christmas, and even Santa doesn’t fully understand it, we see that magical force at play several times as he magically evaporates and whisks up a number of chimney flues and that his sack has the ability to store an endless number of gifts that he can magically pull out just by reaching in. The film also incudes a sountrack of festive themes and a creative use of Christmas songs which will leave audiences crying with laughter. Writers Pat Casey, Josh Miller and director Tommy Wirkola blends such gnarly bloody action with laughs and a magical story about believing.
“Violent Night” Ultimately achieves a perfect blending of genres and totally exceeds expectations, truly making it a wildly entertaining holiday horror caper. With it’s impressive body count, explosions, bloodshed, heart, and overall holiday cheer, “Violent Night” most definitely earns a spot on the Nice List! and If your able to see this in cinemas, do so as the experience on the big screen is epic. I intend to make this a part of my annual holiday movie watchlist from here on out.
“Violent Night” is now showing in Theatres!
Poker Face Review | Russell Crowe’s Sophomore Directorial Effort Slumps
“Poker Face” is one of the most ridiculous movies of the year, anchored by a lousy performance by Russell Crowe.
After the emotionally impactful The Water Diviner, one would’ve hoped that Russell Crowe’s latest directorial effort would be as reasonable, if not better, as that movie. But, unfortunately, his next film, Poker Face, falls relatively flat on its face from the moment it begins.
Part of the reason the movie does not work is that it has no idea what it wants to say or what it’s truly about. Crowe also stars in the film as Jake Foley, a professional gambler recently diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. He decides to host a high-stakes poker game with his childhood friends, Michael (Liam Hemsworth), Drew (RZA), Alex (Aden Young), and Paul (Steve Bastoni). However, a group of criminals plans to hijack Jake’s house and steal some of his most valuable art pieces, jeopardizing the group’s safety.
But Jake has also poisoned all his friends to put them on the same level as his illness. What does this have to do with anything? Absolutely nothing, other than a bit where one of the criminals (Paul Tassone) accidentally touches a poisoned glass and starts to exhibit symptoms, putting him in a state of total panic. That bit is fun, especially when Jake tricks him into believing that he has an antidote but injects him with more poison! Tassone’s gonzo performance from beginning to end should be lauded as the one saving grace in Crowe’s film.
Because the rest of Poker Face is a bore, it feels peculiar that Jake would want to poison his best friends, even if his rationale is to make them believe they are dying so they could confess they’ve been taking advantage of their friend. It feels ridiculous. And you’ll be relieved that the film’s entirety is silly – especially its supporting performances from a decent cast who has no idea how to approach the material. Liam Hemsworth, in particular, is woefully miscast as one of Jake’s friends with alcohol addiction. Not even Elsa Pataky, who briefly appears as the dealer for Jake’s game, can save the film’s dismal performances.
Aside from Tassone, no one gives a decent performance, even Crowe, which is weird considering that he would be the most passionate about delivering the material since it’s his film! But Crowe sleepwalks throughout the thing, even providing clichéd voiceover narration, talking about the game of Poker. Still, it’s revealed during the film’s ending that he was talking about his life, and from the great beyond…
Please, if you’re ever going to use voiceover narration in your film, make sure that the character narrating the film is either an outside presence or alive because the final “reveal” makes absolutely no sense. I won’t spoil it, I’ve already given too many things away, but it’ll either make your eye roll in utter disbelief or make you yell out, “WHAT?!?”
That’s how I felt while watching Poker Face – its beginning goes on for way too long, its middle section makes no sense, and its end is a complete and utter joke. Crowe struck gold when he made The Water Diviner, but not even the multiple poker faces (ha) he makes throughout the film can save a movie aptly titled Poker Face. You’re better off rewatching Unhinged, which is by all accounts the best piece of media Russell Crowe has done since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Poker Face is now available to rent or buy on video on demand.
Blue’s Big City Adventure Review | No Way Home For Kiddies
“Blue’s Big City Adventure” is the perfect representation of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” for little kids.
I had to watch Blue’s Big City Adventure solely based on the premise that it would reunite three generations of Blue’s Clues hosts in a film: Steve (Steve Burns), Joe (Donovan Patton), and Josh (Joshua Dela Cruz). Blue’s Clues was a massive part of my childhood, so when Steve showed up, looked at the camera (which points at us, the audience members watching the film), and said, “You grew!” it both felt amazingly personal and cathartic. Those who have never seen a single episode of Blue’s Clues may dismiss the movie, but audiences who grew up with the first generation of hosts, and are currently watching the show, may find it highly enjoyable.
Now I’m not here to convince you that this movie is in any way sophisticated. It’s catered for [tiny] children, especially in how it presents its main clue. Josh goes to New York to audition for a Broadway musical with Rainbow Puppy (Brianna Bryan) but forgets his handy-dandy notebook, meaning he doesn’t know where the theater is. Mr. Salt (Nick Balaban) and Mrs. Pepper (Gisèle Rousseau) are now traveling to the Big Apple to give Josh the handy dandy notebook, with the aid of Steve (who is now a private eye detective) and Joe. Simple premise, with a complete non-suspension of disbelief, when you expect me to believe that Rainbow Puppy would pick Josh, who is fine and all, over Phillipa Soo (appearing in a cameo as one of the people auditioning for the role).
Whatever, none of it makes much sense, and the clue is highly simplistic (and easy) to solve because, again, the film’s primary demographics will be toddlers. Still, Blue’s Big City Adventure maintains a certain level of charm throughout the movie that you can’t help but enjoy. Admittedly, it’s highly predictable: you can figure out the clue as quickly as 1,2,3, but I’d be lying if I said the movie did not make me emotional when I saw both Steve and Joe on the screen. It was as powerful of a moment as when Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire meet for the first time in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Of course, Steve and Joe have a legacy together in the series. It’s not the first time they meet on screen (Joe is Steve’s younger brother, after all), but it felt more real than anything I had seen in many family films this year when they partner up to find Josh. Why? Because their emotions in Blue’s Clues have always been the most genuine, compared to Josh, who cannot be as sympathetic and caring as the previous hosts for the life of him. It is, however, a shame that Steve and Joe aren’t in the movie as much as I would’ve hoped, with Josh taking most of the screen time.
It’s also a shame that the film wastes the talents of BD Wong in a role that anybody else could’ve played. He portrays Rainbow Puppy’s manager, trying to convince her that maybe Josh isn’t the right fit. But Wong barely has anything to do in the film – he sits down and says “Wonderful!” with every passing audition. I get this is supposed to be a recurring joke, but it doesn’t add anything to his character, who could’ve been played by anyone else. However, I’ll admit that it is strange to see three of my childhood icons in the same film: Steve Burns, Donovan Patton, and BD Wong.
I can’t necessarily trace back where my love of film truly began, but two foundational pieces of media glued my eyes on a television screen as a kid: Blue’s Clues and Slappy and the Stinkers. And I would even credit Slappy and the Stinkers (a highly mediocre film viewed in the eyes of adults, but through a kid’s lens, it is a mind-blowing feat) for causing me to seek out more movies on VHS tapes. I would watch that tape all the time whenever I would go to my grandparents’ house. When my grandfather passed, I was cleaning the basement and was supposed to throw away all of the tapes he had. So I kept Slappy and the Stinkers as a souvenir for being the film that pushed my love of cinema.
And to see BD Wong in this film, alongside Patton and Burns, felt special. This is why I’m stating that it’s a shame he gets virtually nothing to do. He is one of the most versatile actors we have (please watch Slappy and the Stinkers for him and Jennifer Coolidge only), and to see him sit there and repeat the same sentence ad nauseam feels like the most significant waste of talent I’ve ever seen. I may exaggerate, but there’s a lot of emotional connection with Patton, Burns, and Wong, and to see them act second-fiddle to Josh doesn’t feel as emotionally invested as when Maguire and Garfield helped Holland’s Spider-Man in No Way Home.
The No Way Home comparaisons will get tired, as I’m sure I’m not the only critic who will state the obvious, but Blue’s Big City Adventure does feel like No Way Home for infants. Of course, it doesn’t feature any violence and doesn’t have the same emotional weight as Jon Watts’ film, but it has pure nostalgia. Steve Burns went through the wringer after hosting Blue’s Clues, and it’s so great to see him on top form, enjoying himself alongside Patton and Dela Cruz. Because of this, and this only, the film is worth watching, but solely for the fans of Blue’s Clues, who grew up with Steve and Joe, showing them that you can do anything you want to do.
Blue’s Big City Adventure is now available to stream on Paramount+.
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