‘The House’ with Will Ferrell craps out: movie review

There was a time when Will Ferrell was a sure bet. But on the heels of the disappointing “Zoolander 2,” his lucky streak appears to have ended. In “The House,” everyone’s favorite elf, anchorman and stepbrother stars as a dopey suburban dad who realizes he can’t afford his daughter’s college tuition. He and his equally boneheaded wife (Amy Poehler) are shocked when the town trades its scholarship fund for a new communal pool. Thanks to the quick thinking of their gambling-addicted, recently-separated pal (Jason Mantzoukas, every bit the comic equal of his famous co-stars) they scheme to raise the money quickly with an underground casino in his empty split-level house. There’s a kernel of a good idea here. Watching the squaresville community let its hair down — and occasionally raise their fists — has its moments. But director Andrew Jay Cohen is unsure whether he wants to play this material realistically or just grab at every possible gag. It isn’t that this abundantly talented cast can’t land a joke, it’s just that the movie is all over the place. Ferrell, Poehler and Mantzoukas eventually lean into their neo-gangster personas, and the movie takes the easy route, slipping in parodies of “The Sopranos,” “Terminator 2” and even “The Six Million Dollar Man.” Side characters like a baddie town councilman (Nick Kroll) and his secret fling (Allison Tolman) have some very funny moments, but many of the set pieces feel forced. It’s as if everyone got together and said “no one is leaving this room until something amusing happens.” The central problem is Ferrell and Poehler’s underwritten characters, who behave like caring parents one minute and complete morons the next. More so than with most movies you can get a sense of emergency recutting. In one montage we Continue Reading

Dead Rising 4 review: Journalism and zombies, both still alive

You’re supposed to come to the Dead Rising franchise for the zombies and the mayhem, for the vast and wild (and frequently mall-related) sandbox. Yet here I am, writing about Dead Rising 4 and thinking about its story. And that’s because this Dead Rising is the most complete game in the franchise, delivering all the fun and craziness that it’s supposed to. But in the midst of all the series’ trademark nutsiness, it manages to tell a story that’s destined to be underrated, far more thoughtful than any you’d expect from the series. Frank West, the best of the protagonists we’ve seen in this series, is back, but he’s here for more than just his trademark cheesy one-liners. His presence in Dead Rising 4 allows developer Capcom Vancouver to subject matter of surprising relevance in 2016. Frank is a journalist, and in real life, that profession sits at a crossroads, trying to find its way in this era that’s seen clickbait news and opinion trump (pun intended, if you want) old-school feet-on-the-streets reporting. Fittingly, the Frank West of Dead Rising 4, more grizzled than his jokes let on, is struggling to find his purpose in the industry and the world, maybe even questioning if he’s done any good in the first place. And those struggles are manifested in his reluctance to even enter the fray in Willamette, and in much of his interaction with Vikki, a youngster who serves as his “modern” journalist foil. Dead Rising 4 explores the weaknesses of journalistic nonbias, the thanklessness of the profession, and the balance the profession is seeking. It’s all there, although Capcom Vancouver fully realizes that this is a Dead Rising game, and thus avoids being preachy. The journalistic beats take place in cutscenes and dialogue exchanges, with plenty of humor and classic Frank West still inserted throughout, creating a Dead Rising conspiracy that rises above the storytelling Continue Reading

Ratings and Review: The 2017 Toyota Prius adds a little extra flair to the world’s first, best hybrid vehicle

Full Car Details More Reviews In the beginning, before the feds told automakers they’d have to average 50 mpg across their entire sales fleet, before electric cars were cool or named after dead inventors, there was the Prius and the Prius alone. Toyota introduced the Prius to the Japanese market in 1997 as the world’s first mass-produced vehicle with both a gasoline combustion engine and electric motors. Within a few years it would make its way around the world and birth many of the stereotypes about hybrid cars that persist to this day; good, bad and otherwise. Since then gas prices have cycled up and down, but the masses have become more sensitive to the impact vehicle emissions have on the environment, and governments around the world have cracked down on greenhouse gases. As a result, the pool of electrified vehicles has grown to Olympic proportions and only appears to be trending up. Even the Prius itself has sprouted a family that includes the compact Prius C, the wagon-like Prius V and the plug-in hybrid Prius Prime. Despite its increased competition, both within the Toyota brand and elsewhere, the Prius liftback remains a singular force in the world of hybrid vehicles, enjoying the perks of robust and loyal fan base. However, with sales falling steadily since 2012 and dipping below 100,000 last year for the first time in more than a decade, it’s clear that the planet isn’t the only thing getting warmer. Here’s what the Toyota Prius is bringing to the hot seat in 2017. Design: 7.3 rating While it still features the wedge-like body design that has made the nameplate famous (or, perhaps infamous) in the automotive world, with its tall roof and aerodynamically plunging front end, the fourth generation Prius is easily the most stylish offering to date. Debuting in 2016, the latest iteration of the hybrid is 2.4 Continue Reading

Ratings and Review: Refreshed 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe takes strides with safety, styling updates

Last year’s Hyundai Santa Fe was comfortable, easy on the eyes and well-priced; it had the makings of a top-tier family SUV, but not the sales numbers. Out-sold by seven-seat competitors such as the Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander, the Santa Fe sold less than half of what the pack-leading Ford Explorer sold in 2015. But why, you ask? Well, aside from an overall lack of flash, the 2016 Santa Fe had just one fatal flaw that likely stifled its popularity in a pool of primarily parental customers: a “Marginal” ratingon the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) small front overlap crash test, a mark bested by most of the segment's sales leaders. The refreshed 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe addressed its Achilles heel by investing in a stronger front end and a host of advanced safety technologies. The payoff is the nameplate’s first-ever Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS. Meanwhile, key design upgrades and a bigger standard infotainment touchscreen make the 2017 Santa Fe an even better-rounded offering in the competitive midsize SUV segment. However, questions about storage space, third-row comfort and rear passenger infotainment still linger. Have Hyundai’s engineers done enough to catch the segment-leading sales numbers of the Explorer, Highlander and Pilot? Did they even come close? That’s what I sought to find out when I spent a few days with the refreshed 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe. Design: 7.7 Rating Still not a head-turner, particularly in the drab Iron Frost paint that coated my test SUV, the Santa Fe’s style actually grew on me quickly. It’s bold but not blocky, a good marriage of straight lines and curves, and I like how the roof tapers toward the back to give it a sportier appearance. Hyundai has kept the design of the Santa Fe essentially the same as it was in 2016, save for a few Continue Reading

Review: 2015 Honda Civic Si commands respect, and demands driving talent

Full Car Details More Reviews According to Automotive News, for every 19 vehicles sold with an automatic, continuously variable, or automated manual transmission, just one rolls off of a dealership’s lot with a traditional stick-shift and clutch pedal. This, more than any other possible explanation, is why you don’t see more 2015 Honda Civic Si coupes and sedans on the road. For now, this performance-tuned version of the Civic comes only with a stick, dramatically limiting the number of people who can buy one. If you know how to operate a clutch pedal, this aura of exclusivity is mighty appealing. You’re a member of a shrinking pool of enthusiast drivers possessing an increasingly rare talent, one that must be mastered in order to park a Civic Si in your driveway. That requirement makes this Honda a calling card of credibility, a middle finger of rebellion against the anesthetization of the automobile. Okay, there is plenty of Honda sensibility woven into this rebellious nature, but it’s still pretty cool to have a manual-only car on the market. FOLLOW DAILY NEWS AUTOS ON FACEBOOK. 'LIKE' US HERE. For comparison’s sake, Acura models powered by the 205-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder found underneath the Si’s stubby hood come mated to a new 8-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), a manual gearbox that automates gear changes. Paddle shifters add a level of engagement, but it sure isn’t the same as rowing your own gears using the Civic Si’s gorgeous aluminum-capped shifter. So it was with equal parts excitement and worry for the future of manual motoring that I spent a week driving a “Rallye Red” Civic Si Coupe. Equipped with optional summer performance tires, the price came to $23,910, representing a fantastic value for a fun, durable, and safe little performance car. Plus, that leaves room in your budget to pay for insurance after you’ve Continue Reading

‘The Comedy of Errors,’ theater review

Compared to the craggy castles, massive wading pools and high-rise slides that served as sets for previous Shakespeare in the Park productions, the simple painted backdrops for “The Comedy of Errors” are understated — but effective. What better way to set the scene in Syracuse than a bus station in upstate New York? That depot, done up in rich Edward Hopper tones by John Lee Beatty, marks the starting point for the Bard’s early short work. The play is a vehicle that runs on laughing gas, and it gets the Public’s free al fresco summer theater off on a light and goofy start. Though it never quite tips into hilarious territory, it’s a fun 90-minute diversion. Director Daniel Sullivan sets his revival in the 1930s, which is clear from Toni-Leslie James’ colorfully jazzy costumes, chipper swing music and limber dancers, who jump and jive their way through every change to keep the show’s engine purring, to diminishing returns. The story tracks two sets of mirror-image twins, separated at birth. Antipholus of Syracuse (Hamish Linklater) and his servant Dromio (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) come to Ephesus clueless that their brothers with identical looks and — for yuks’ sake — names are living there. Five centuries before the big-screen comedy “Identity Thief,” Shakespeare capitalized on the funny business that results from people believing you’re somebody you’re not. Mistaken identities lead to a series of mishaps — wrongful beatings, two near-seductions, an arrest, false accusations of cheating and a mound of pasta piled high on an abused valet’s head. That’s before the happy reunions and, of course, an all’s well ending. Linklater (“The New Adventures of Old Christine”) and Ferguson (“Modern Family”) are regulars in the park productions and terrific clowns. Each makes it easy to know which twin is speaking at every Continue Reading

‘The To Do List,’ movie review

Everyone thinks sex is easy to do, but that doesn’t mean they’re good at it. “The To Do List” is exactly that type of movie, one that thinks a sex-obsessed version of a John Hughes comedy by its very nature is hilarious. It’s not, but there are still some things to like here. Audience members with two X chromosomes may find something fresh in first-time writer-director Maggie Carey’s movie. In 1993 Boise, Idaho, high school valedictorian, math-lete and bossy nerd Brandy (Aubrey Plaza) is content being a virgin until she spots Rusty Waters (Scott Porter of “Friday Night Lights”) at a party. She wants this dude with a “Point Break” bod and a pointedly blank brain, but is insecure since she’s never hooked up. Suddenly Brandy’s last summer before college is about filling the gaps in her carnal knowledge. Brandy has two gal-pals (Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele) who cheer her on, a snotty-stupid sister (Rachel Bilson) who gives her sex tips, a conservative dad (Clark Gregg) who doesn’t want her dating and a mom (Connie Britton) encouraging self-exploration. As Brandy’s XXX-rated agenda goes on — and she ticks off several accomplishments not printable here, but which should create a buzz not unlike the hair-gel scene in “There’s Something About Mary” — she accidentally hurts the feelings of the dork (Johnny Simmons) who likes her. But there’s plenty of other guys when she takes a summer job as a lifeguard at a local pool, managed by an older goofball (Bill Hader). Almost all of “The To-Do List” is overplayed, as if the mere mention of body parts or giddy euphemisms were hi- larious! Yes, the female point of view is refreshing, but when Carey — who’s likely to hit the sweet spot on her next film — attempts to give the film heart, it feels shallow, unlike the genuineness of, say, Continue Reading

Coachella review: Kendrick Lamar, Lorde, Hinds, Twin Peaks, T.S.O.L., Whitney, Toots & the Maytals

Damn.And yes, "DAMN." is the title of Kendrick Lamar's first proper album since "To Pimp a Butterfly," which hit the streets the day Coachella 2017 Weekend 1 started, allowing Lamar to go into weekend as the headlining artist now trending on Twitter.But also damn, as in he really crushed it at Coachella.Lamar was in total command of the stage before he even hit the stage, setting the scene with the first of three truly ridiculous yet oddly entertaining "Kung-Fu Kenny" videos.Then, he set off some explosions.And when the smoke cleared, there he was, alone on stage, rapping "DNA.," the first of seven songs he performed from the just-released "DAMN." with fiery conviction.It was a bold move, putting the focus squarely on an album people only had at most two days to wrap their head around before he hit the stage. But judging from the crowd reaction, that was all the time most people needed.After a second new song, "Element," he reminisced about his last time at Coachella when "good kid, Maad city" was his current effort as an introduction to "King Kunta," a crowd-pleasing highlight of "To Pimp a Butterfly."Then he dusted off two tracks from last year's "untitled," an album of "Butterfly" outtakes that felt like what it was, a holding pattern by an artist whose outtakes would go over well in a festival setting.That three-song journey through his recent past was followed by the set's first walk-on, Travis Scott on a heavily Auto-Tuned "Goosebumps."Before the set was through, we also heard from Schoolboy Q with "That Part" and Future doing "Mask Off."Special guests have become a Coachella tradition, and they can be pretty amazing, like when Lauryn Hill joined DJ Snake or Michael McDonald jammed with Thundercat. The most talked-about drop-in of 2017 was almost certainly Drake showed up in Future's set.But those were actual surprises.These three rappers had already played the night before Lamar, so it was only so surprising that they'd stick around to Continue Reading

First drive review: 2016 Honda HR-V – perceived versatility meets obvious value

There is a lot to like about the brand-new Honda HR-V. So much so, that we don’t really know where to start. Faced with the challenge of growing its SUV lineup and simultaneously bringing in new, younger customers to the brand, Honda realized that it needed to start at the bottom. The cute CR-V had matured. The boxy Element had been put out to pasture. The Pilot was for families. FOLLOW DAILY NEWS AUTOS ON FACEBOOK. 'LIKE' US HERE. Honda needed an inexpensive but trendy entry point to attract the unattractable demographic: Millennials. The result was turning to the Fit hatchback, instead, to create the HR-V crossover, which sits within the shadow of the original CR-V. Honda started with the versatile Fit platform and expanded it in nearly every direction, making the HR-V a little less than a foot longer than the Fit, and a couple of inches stretched in width and height. Key differences include a higher ride height, for barreling over shopping mall pylons and the like, as well as optional all-wheel drive. Call it a calculated dip into the rapidly crowding pool of “cute utes." The mission of the HR-V is very simple: Give consumers everything they love about the Fit, plus the trendiness of a tiny SUV. From front-facing angles, the HR-V has the appearance of a coupe, with a low-slung nose and a curvaceous rear daylight opening with a definite half-moon shape. Viewed from the rear, you would never mistake the HR-V—defined by a large, flip-up rear tailgate—for anything but a hatchback or small crossover. READ ABOUT THE 2015 HONDA HR-V IN OUR BUYER'S GUIDE HERE. Overall, the HR-V’s design balances taste and proportion. Bonus points to the product planner who decided that alloy wheels have a place on every model, regardless of trim level. Then there’s the driving position, which is unusually snug for a Honda crossover of late. Driver and front passenger sit quite close to one Continue Reading

Nintendo’s Splatoon provides plenty of ammunition and fun for shooter fans: Video Game Review

Nintendo’s still got it. And for anyone who may have doubted that over the last few years, there is Splatoon. After years of Super Mario and Zelda and Pikmin and way too much criticism that Nintendo couldn’t deliver a truly marquee new IP, here it comes with a brand new title, a brand new idea, and a brand new spin on a venerable brand of gaming. Splatoon is Nintendo’s first shooter, and it’s as Nintendo as a shooter can get. Only Nintendo could take a genre focused on kill counts and power weapons and refocus it on pure fun, redefining a class of game locked into “M” ratings as worthy of all ages. The gameplay in Splatoon is a triumph of game design, our first true reinvention of shooter mechanics. So many shooters have tried to give us something “new,” introducing jetpacks and police settings and gravitational powers and online capabilities. But where such introductions complicate, Splatoon redefines and grows more accessible and family-friendly. Guns are replaced by ink-powered weapons with myriad upgrades. Humans and mechs and the trappings of other shooters are replaced by Inklings, cute little characters right out of Nickelodeon, part-squid and part-biped, able to transform and move through pools of ink at the press of a button. The entire game has a colorful cartoony style to it. Style is the operative word here, too, as Splatoon constantly reminds you that you can purchase new outfits and weapons, all zany and all fun. You’re encouraged to dress your avatar in plenty of skater-ish garb, too, all purchased from one of the game’s stores. The articles of clothing add gameplay boosts as well, some allowing you to use less ink per shot, others letting you take more damage or move more swiftly, the carrot meant to keep you playing this game for months on end. The core action is certainly good enough to keep you interested in this game, and it’s served up and taught to you Continue Reading