“You’re Fifty Years Old And You Still Think The World Was Made For You…”
Tackling notions of the mid-life crisis and looking back on a lifetime gone swiftly by, School of Rock writer, Mike White, directs and provides the screenplay for Brad’s Status, a low-key and pleasantly thoughtful comedy which utilises the leading star skills of Ben Stiller who returns to the big screen after a somewhat nonexistent cinematic footprint over the course of the past few years or so. Whilst Stiller’s comedy can somewhat not exactly hit the mark, take the likes of Zoolander 2 for instance, the emergence of White’s script and a wide range of lovely supporting performances from an extravagantly well-versed cast, proves to be a solid winning return for the comedic stalwart, and although the underlying narrative point of the movie is one which has been tackled before in a wide range of differing movies ranging from American Beauty to last year’s Ingrid Goes West, Brad’s Status is a cool, sombre and sometimes heartwarming drama which doesn’t ever feel the need to raise up from its’ subtle examination of its’ titular leading character.
Accompanying his son, Troy (Austin Abrams, Paper Towns) along the East Coast whilst they seek out potential future colleges, Brad Sloane (Stiller) reminisces about the success of his out of touch school friends whilst he contemplates his own life’s middling mediocrity, one which is full with seething regret and unwarranted shame in comparison to his long lost forgotten acquaintances. With the narrative primarily explained through the use of Stiller’s voiceover and some rather excessive yet undeniably comedic dream sequences which convey’s Sloane’s belief of his friend’s individual successes, White’s movie works primarily thanks to a brilliantly conflicted leading performance from Stiller alongside the grounding of its’ youthful cast, with the likes of Abrams and Shazi Raja counteracting Sloane’s contempt for the world by explaining its’ true riches in a It’s a Wonderful Life style monologue. Whilst the movie falls at times for swaying too much from the central narrative and limiting its’ actual comedic zingers to a minimal amount, White’s movie is still an interesting social drama which reinforces the idea that when put to good use, Stiller is still an important and welcome leading star.
Overall Score: 6/10
“Just Because You Want It Doesn’t Mean It Can Happen…”
Whilst aware of the infamous nature of Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 independent drama, The Room, a movie widely quoted as the worst cinematic release of all time, I confess to not ever finding the time to sit down and embrace it aside from skimming across YouTube videos and university students screaming “hey, watch this movie, it’s so bad”, of which I inevitably and quickly chose not to listen to. Based upon Greg Sestero’s 2013 autobiographical book “The Disaster Artist”, a first hand account of Sestero’s involvement in The Room’s troubled production and his relationship with Wiseau, James Franco directs and stars in a dramatic adaptation of the source material with Franco himself starring as Wiseau and brother Dave Franco as Sestero. Whilst Franco-led comedies in the past have somewhat failed to ignite my comical ways, the same cannot be said for The Disaster Artist, a sharp and hysterically funny look into one of the more subversive and mysterious characters to originate in the world of filmmaking since the turn of the twentieth century, and a film which on the one hand shares admiration and on the other pokes holes into the darker side of a man whose name is slowly becoming a cine-literate household commodity.
With Franco’s portrayal of Wiseau being introduced in a barmy expose of talentless squander, the narrative primarily follows Dave Franco’s Greg Sestero as he begins to pull back the layers of the mysterious Wiseau after blindly following him to Los Angeles in order to fill the craving of success and stardom in the cut throat world of Hollywood. Bringing into conversation questions regarding Wiseau’s background, age and financial caterings, Franco’s portrayal of Wiseau is indeed one of riveting success, a performance which captures both the comedic traits of the character with a numerous amount of zippy, laugh-out-loud quips, as well as the more subversive, darker means and ways of a person whose societal skills and understanding of basic human conditioning is frankly rather non-existent. With the main comedic bulk of the movie focusing completely on the creation of Wiseau’s dramatic project to an alarming top-notch and uncanny degree, The Disaster Artist is an entertaining blend of comedy gold and character examination, and with a person as inevitably ambiguous as Tommy Wiseau at front and centre of the project, there is no reason to suggest why The Disaster Artist might prove to be the ticket to the Oscars Wiseau always dreamed of after all.
Overall Score: 8/10
“This Year It’s No More Back And Forth At Christmas. It’s A Together Christmas..!”
With 2015’s Daddy’s Home being one of the few cinematic releases which managed to simply pass me by without me having the chance, time or perhaps the need to catch up and review it, the release of it’s inevitable sequel after the comedy hit became Will Ferrell’s highest grossing live action film to date brings with it a sense of heavy duty dread, particularly when reminiscing the more contemporary Ferrell releases such as The House and Zoolander 2, and whilst it requires quite an extensive amount in the American comedy genre to actually impress me, who would have thought that a Christmas themed sequel to a film which never really was asking for a continuation in the first place was actually somewhat quite good fun? With Mel Gibson and John Lithgow added to the cast as the fathers of Mark Wahlberg’s Dusty and Ferrell’s Brad respectively, Daddy’s Home 2 is a surprisingly sharp and witty sequel which although suffers from a overly formulaic plot, some interesting narrative swings and a completely saccharin sweet ending which nearly resulted in me chucking up into the nearest popcorn box, is throwaway comedy trash of the cheesiest order which just happens to be quite enjoyable.
With a script which ironically mirrors the Bad Moms Christmas approach by utilising the added input of an older generation to the plot and therefore the inclusion of much more acting talent, the inclusion of both Gibson and Lithgow does strangely work, with the latter using all his musky, outdated charm and guile to interfere with the family arrangements, and the latter’s penchant for cringe-laden conversations and weirdly intimate family relations managing to balance the widely cliched characterisation of pretty much everyone from child to elder. With rib-tickling set pieces managing to win me over from the start and Wahlberg being undeniably the star of the show, Daddy’s Home 2 does falter in an over-reliance on weak slapstick more times than necessary, whilst the inclusion of a strangely ill-judged gun scene is somewhat muddled in its’ execution, particularly when contemplating recent events in the US. Daddy’s Home 2 isn’t perfect, but nobody heading in was expecting It’s A Wonderful Life, and whilst some may feel the need to slate it’s cocksure and rather unsteady cinematic existence, it really isn’t worth getting angry about, and with that particular mindset in check, Ferrell’s latest is just plain dumb fun.
Overall Score: 6/10
“Hashtag: I Am Ingrid…”
In a week in which every single cinema in the county has been asked to cram its’ screens with the toxic waste of Justice League, thank the heavens for a film in the ilk of Ingrid Goes West, an interesting, blackly comic contemporary stalker drama with a cracking lead performance from Legion star, Aubrey Plaza as the titular social media obsessed Ingrid Thorburn. Directed and written by big time debutant Matt Spicer, the movie depicts an Instagram fixated dreamer who relocates to Los Angeles after the death of her mother in order to seek out Elizabeth Olsen’s social media star, Taylor Sloane and become part of her excessively independent lifestyle which she shares with Wyatt Russell’s hipster husband, Ezra. Beginning with an opening act which straight away highlights the aggressive nature of Ingrid’s obsession and to what end she may go to in order to combat her rage and discomfort at being isolated in a world riddled with people’s wishes to be noticed, Ingrid Goes West goes on to explore the contemporary issue of social media excess and the notion of a life based solely around the viewing of society through a small shiny screen.
With Black Mirror vibes aplenty and the likes of Single White Female a sure inspiration, with a name drop in the narrative necessary to cement such, Spicer’s sure footed direction allows the movie’s key players to bring all round top notch performances, from O’Shea Jackson Jr’s Batman obsessed screenwriter to Billy Magnussen’s hateful steroid fueled junkie, all of whom acting as catnip for Plaza’s character’s downfall into complete and utter obsession with a character who is the epitome of everything wrong with society’s quest for avocado on toast and early twentieth century sociological literature. Whilst Spicer’s movie does involve elements of jet-black comedy and ironic societal comments, most of Ingrid Goes West’s healthy ninety minute runtime is played particularly straight faced, accumulating in a concluding act which although is admiral in what it’s attempting to say, doesn’t exactly pay off, but with a brilliantly kooky and unpredictable leading performance from Audrey Plaza, Ingrid Goes West is a highly enjoyable ideas laden social drama which reminds that you don’t always need a big budget to win an audience around.
Overall Score: 7/10
“We’re Gonna Put The Ass Back In Christmas..!”
Although American based comedies tend more than most to fall on the side of face-palm induced awfulness, with the likes of The House, CHiPs and the horror of Table 19 from this year alone proving such a genre is rife with utter, utter trash, last year’s Bad Moms was a release of which I personally was pleasantly surprised by, a movie which although suffered from a dwindling lack of originality, featured enough charming characters and sharp one-liners to pass off as one of the better comedies to come from the US of A, particularly in the past few years or so. Whilst the success of the original by no means meant that a sequel was warranted, as per the norm of every single reasonably well received movie in Hollywood nowadays, here we are with A Bad Moms Christmas, a movie which takes the formula of its’ predecessor and mixes in the saccharin filled notion of everyone’s favourite holiday, a seasonal delight which either leads to cinematic classics such as It’s A Wonderful Life or vomit-inducing crap such as Jack Frost. Eugh. Whilst it is no surprise that A Bad Moms Christmas is nowhere near the passable fun of its’ predecessor, with the guilty pleasure appeal of the first movie somewhat absent a second time around, there is still enough smart gags and overripe new characters to allow the sequel to warrant its’ existence. Sort of.
With Christmas around the corner and the unexpected arrival of their respective parents on the cards, the leading trio of the original return once again to “take back Christmas” in a manner which begins by bearing huge similarities to its’ predecessor with excess drinking, low-level criminality and drunk dancing with Santa, one which subsequently flows into a Meet the Parents type comedy which focuses on each of our leading ladies’ troublesome mother figures. With Mila Kunis once again having enough charming eloquence to take control of the main bulk of the film and Kathryn Hahn’s Carla always guaranteed to make the most cynical of audiences giggle in places, A Bad Moms Christmas undeniably belongs to the domineering presence of Christine Baranski as Ruth Mitchell, a maternal devil figure who is both bitchy and comedic in equal measure with Baranski’s performance being one of the main reasons why the sequel does indeed work on some level. With the gross factor turned up however and the annoying overuse of obscenity rife from beginning to end, A Bad Moms Christmas is not exactly the sequel to carry on the successes of the first but for ninety odd minutes, it passes the time rather harmlessly.
Overall Score: 5/10
“Have A Long Sleep, Old Man. I’ll Take It From Here…”
Before taking the reigns of the Tardis in Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi was best known for his unforgettable role as infamous spin doctor, Malcolm Tucker, in the critically acclaimed political satire The Thick of It, and whilst Capaldi undeniably made such an iconic character very much his own in the years on-screen, the orchestrator of chaos in the form of Armando Iannucci easily deserved as much credit for handling a show which went from strength to strength in attempting to depict a modern political system awash with daily chaos. Returning to the spectrum of cinematic political satire for the first time since 2009’s The Thick of It spin-off, In The Loop, Iannucci’s latest, The Death of Stalin, tackles the titular passing of the infamous leader of the Soviet Union in early 1953 and the subsequent days leading to up to his funeral, albeit with a hilariously played, blackly comic edge of which Mr. Iannucci is arguably the leading figure of in the current entertainment climate. Whilst The Death of Stalin is undeniably hilarious, with a number of well orchestrated set pieces resulting in leaving me in a fit of giggle inflicted tears, Iannucci’s latest also includes a darkened hole at its’ narrative epicentre, and whilst the mix of the bizarre and the bleak is interestingly played, The Death of Stalin doesn’t hold together as smoothly as I would have liked, but its’ undeniable comic streak makes it a worthy inclusion into the Scottish comic’s impressive repertoire of political satire.
Beginning with a scene which not only sets the tone for basis of the movie but outlines the terrifying balance between historical reality and outright fiction, The Death of Stalin uses the narrative essence of Aaron Sorkin-esque political dramas such as The West Wing alongside a mix between intelligent, quip-laden dialogue of Iannucci’s own famous satirical shows and the slapstick, almost ludicrous comedy of which Monty Python made so famous in their lengthy run on and off screen, and whilst the plot does waver in places, with the script simmering up and down in terms of engagement level, the inclusion of a perfectly formed cast, each utilising either their own accents, or in the case of Jason Isaacs, one of Yorkshire descent, who are all at the top of their game in comically portraying leaders of a nation which in Iannucci’s eyes is filled with utter chaos and political incompetence following the passing of a terrifyingly powerful leader. Whilst the comedy does undeniably work, the switch from light to darkness within the movie always doesn’t, with the juxtaposition between humour and plot threads which feature murder, child abuse and rape seeming more than jarring at times, even when their inclusion was downright inevitable when effectively examining the workings of a Stalin-led Soviet Union, but with enough cracking one liners to put most contemporary comedies to shame, The Death of Stalin is highly enjoyable, just not in the same pedigree as previous Iannucci-led satires.
Overall Score: 7/10
“You Logan’s Must Be As Simple Minded As People Say…”
With the release of Logan Lucky this week, the most welcome return of director Steven Soderbergh after his self-imposed, but wholly brief, filmmaking hiatus, couldn’t be better timed, particularly after a summer period in which, let’s face it, Hollywood decided to throw more turds in the general direction of audiences than golden tickets, and whilst there is always a Nolan out there to save the day, Soderbergh is more often than not a director who always hits the mark when it comes to cinema, with Logan Lucky conforming to the formula audiences have come to expect from a man famous for being behind the camera of movies such as Oceans Eleven and the Hitchcock-infused Side Effects. With an extensive, impressive cast which includes the likes of Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and a peroxide-addicted Daniel Craig, Soderbergh’s latest would be sloppy to mark solely as Oceans with a mighty Southern twang, and whilst the mark of Soderbergh’s previous ventures does ultimately have its’ DNA solely planted within his latest release, Logan Lucky is a mighty fine piece of work for a man who has had four years to mull over his returning project.
After being fired from his job and attempting to combat the risk of custody battles and a supposed family curse, Jimmy Logan (Tatum) approaches brother Clyde (Driver) and sister Mellie (Riley Keough) for help in his attempt to pull off a heist at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Adding to the makeshift merry band of amateur criminals is Joe Bang (Craig), an incarcerated explosives expert who along with his own members of family, begin to craft the perfect hillbilly. With Soderbergh’s traditional coolness in terms of cinematic sensibility trickling throughout the narrative, Logan Lucky is the type of film which is just enviously easy to enjoy, and whilst the overall picture isn’t the most original or groundbreaking, the top-end cast are all on top-form and so obviously enjoying themselves that the pleasure is reciprocated onto an audience which run away into a world of dodgy accents and effective comedic characters for just under two hours. Whilst the film does have issues, such as the unnecessary inclusion of Hilary Swank’s character and Seth MacFarlane running away with the worst British accent since Don Cheadle, Logan Lucky is a welcome return for a director who seemingly always has something different to offer.
Overall Score: 8/10
“I Can Assure You, We Are More Than Prepared For Any Assault…”
Samuel L. Jackson is unfortunately the type of actor who nowadays more often than not falls into the category of “picking up the cheque” when it comes to movie role choices, and whilst I’m game for most things with Jackson in some form of leading role, with recent releases including The Hateful Eight proving that Jackson still has the capacity to show off his acting chops, there comes a time when there can only be so many films in the ilk of xXx: The Return of Xander Cage that you begin to question your fundamental allegiances. With The Hitman’s Bodyguard however, the latest from Australian director Patrick Hughes, a filmmaker who came to big budget fame with The Expendables 3 back in 2014, Jackson teams up with Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds, Daredevil‘s Élodie Yung and Gary Oldman in order to create arguably the most retrograde action comedy of the past few years. Whilst B-Movie nonsense is a genre of movies which sometimes can be overly charming and irresistible even with the fundamental flaws at the heart of it, The Hitman’s Bodyguard manages to fail at every hurdle it attempts to maneuver, utilising nonsensical elements to a somewhat cynical effect and testing the patience of its’ audience from pretty much the outset.
After being demoted from his role as a triple A rated security agent due to the extraordinary death of a client, Bryce (Reynolds) is brought back to the spotlight by ex-partner and Interpol agent Roussel (Yung) in order to protect the life of contract killer Darius Kincaid (Jackson) who is set to give evidence against the evil dictatorship of Belarusian leader, Vladislav Dukhovich (Oldman). Cue retrograde treatment of all female characters, unnecessary levels of violence and jarring usage of profanity, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is the type of movie which features phoned-in performances from the entirety of its’ leading cast, who in their attempt to swivel around the cliched and idiotic plot, scream, shout and swear their way through two hours of absolute nonsense. Reynolds is unbearable, Oldman is worse, and Jackson seems to mixing his performance as Jules from Pulp Fiction with his character from Snakes on a Plane, just without the cool and sophisticated characterisation of the former. The Hitman’s Bodyguard is the type of movie which makes Bad Boys II look like a masterpiece. Avoid.
Overall Score: 3/10
“My Feelings Are Huge. Maybe I’m Meant To Have More Than Just One Emotion…”
Yes, you read the title correct, The Emoji Movie is indeed a real thing. Whilst films such as Dunkirk and The Big Sick recently showcase the real wonder of what cinema can offer to a wide array of audiences, sometimes you just gotta take the dark with the light and understand that for every Apocalypse Now there is unfortunately a Gods of Egypt, and whilst it’s never healthy to enter an auditorium with preconceived notions about the overall quality of a particular movie, a film entirely based on the existence of Emoji’s does inherently and fundamentally lead you to hold your head heavily in your hands and await your fate. So, enter the foyer and grab your ticket as you grip tightly the cold, smooth surface of your overly priced fizzy pop which aids you in your journey through the passages of hell as you grace your sticky, oversized seat and watch a movie about cartoon faeces and gigantic thumbs. And breathe. One could argue that with The Emoji Movie undoubtedly being a movie aimed at the younger variety of audiences in its’ creation, the thought of a 23 year old coffee maniac sitting down and reviewing it does seem rather disjointed, yet after managing to survive one of the most painful 85 minutes of my entire cinematic life, the horror and sheer toxicity of a film such as The Emoji Movie doesn’t deserve just to be reviewed, it deserves to be stripped down from top to bottom and dissected in hope that the many, many troubling issues at the heart of it can be highlighted to as many as possible in the hope that it simply fades away from cinema entirely.
As mentioned by many already, the overall narrative of The Emoji Movie rather unfortunately bears a sickening similarity to the masterpiece of animation which is Inside Out, a film which effectively highlighted the complications of an emotion-ridden child and built a world within which was both intelligent and fluffy enough to serve both a young and elder audience. With The Emoji Movie however, the key message of the film is for young children to simply use their mobile devices as a way of living your life from beginning to end, where instead of socialising through conversation and active involvement with others, apps such as Facebook, Instagram and Just Dance should be bought and used instead in order to really succeed in life at such an early stage, and whilst such a narrative is inherently toxic and vulgar, the film is made worse by the straight-faced manner in which such a message is played rather than there being any air of irony or satire to accept it. Amidst awful dialogue consisting of conversations regarding piracy, hackers and internet trolls, the evoking of swear words and sexual references make The Emoji Movie one of the most misjudged U certificate films I have ever seen, and with enough saccharin sweet awfulness and ear-piercing musical pieces to make you want to throw up in the aisle, animation has never hit levels so desperately low. In the 1990’s growing up, my generation had The Lion King. In 2017, the animation of the summer is The Emoji Movie, a hate-filled barrel of toxic slumber which deserves to be derided by everyone who pays to see it. What prevents it from being one star you ask? It’s only 80 minutes of your life you will never, ever get back.
Overall Score: 2/10
“Can You Imagine A World In Which We End Up Together…?”
Of the many cinematic releases within the Judd Apatow staple, there really isn’t many which I could regard as down and out, truly effective comedies, due in part to my tin-eared response to most examples of American-laden comedies, including the likes of Anchorman and Trainwreck, films which may have garnered an array of positive responses from many on release, but to me, just didn’t work on any level from which I can regard as comedic gold. With the release of The Big Sick however, a loose adaptation of the true-life events of leading star Kumail Nanjiani and co-writer Emily V. Gordon, such a film delightfully breaks the mould of mediocrity, taking a humane and totally believable leading narrative and having the extra boost of a perfectly formed cast to reinforce it and create a consistently funny drama which ranks up there with the best comedy films to be released in recent memory, whilst simultaneously proving that with a decent script and filmmakers who understand the effect of comedic timing, not all American comedies can be utter trash.
Although The Big Sick adheres to the boy-meets-girl formula of practically every romantic comedy since the dawn of time, the added depths given to the relationship between leading couple Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan, with the former’s religious traditions and the latter’s narrative hanging medical issues the stand-out elements of the story, forms a charming bond between the two in which the audience only wants to see flourish and prosper come the end of the drama, and with added support from the likes of Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, the movie manages to succeed on all fronts as both a romantic drama and a rib-tingling comedy. At the core of the real reason on why the movie really works, is the dedication to the believability of the players involved and each of their separate trials and tribulations, and whilst recent supposed comedies such as Snatched and The House believe comedy is warranted through vulgarity and petulant, adolescent nonsense, thank the baby Jesus for a movie like The Big Sick, a overtly impressive comedy which undoubtedly belongs up there with the best comedies to travel overseas in flippin’ years.