“See, We Pay And You Write Songs, And Then You Make A Ton Of Money. And Then We Take Most Of It…”
With Danny Boyle being the subject of a very big hoo-hah after departing the much troubled project which is Bond 25, his latest venture in the form of Yesterday couldn’t be further from a tale about a cold-blooded British spy with a penchant for the ladies. Based around a screenplay from Richard Curtis, the acclaimed writing mind behind stalwart Christmas movies including Love Actually and Notting Hill, Boyle’s latest challenges you to hold back all levels of sanctimonious sniffing and imagine a world in which the iconic voice of The Beatles never existed, a movie which features Himesh Patel (Eastenders) in the lead role of Jack Malik, a passionate and wholly unsuccessful singer-songwriter whose only long-term dedicated fan is his manager and close friend, Ellie, as played by Lily James (Baby Driver). After a worldwide blackout, Jack is the victim of a nasty traffic collision and awakens to discover that neither “The White Album” or “Abbey Road” ever existed, resulting in him deciding to rip off the famous words of Lennon and co. in order to stake a claim of fame for himself.
With a central idea which is in itself slightly ludicrous, Boyle has managed to deal with particularly out-there screenplays throughout his career, whether it be the mind-bendingly confused state of a film like Trance or the more down-to-Earth, family friendly Millions, a film with a central idea which in this political climate seems a million miles away, and with a first act which joyously announces all the lead characters, including Jack’s oblivious parents and Joel Fry’s (Game of Thrones) maniacal roadie, Yesterday begins in interesting and heartwarming fashion, particularly when the first chords of famous Beatles tracks are seemingly heard for the very first time by Jack’s close family and friends. As soon as Ed Sheeran turns up however, the film moves from low-key niceties to schlocky, sentimental nonsense, taking the worst parts of Love Actually and turning them up to eleven as the film evolves into a Beatles inspired love-in with added saccharin sweetness whilst seemingly forgetting the greatness of a first act which in all its’ absurdity still managed to feel real, and with a final curtain which made me nearly gag at the sheer audacity of attempting to make everyone grab the nearest tissue, Boyle’s movie is a messy, violently polished work of tosh which just happens to have a great first act which saves the piece from being a total disaster. Plus, they didn’t even mention the best Beatles song; HELTER SKELTER, COMING DOWN FAST!
Overall Score: 6/10
“Some Bad People Are After Me And Now They’re After You…”
Mixing together the comedic talents of Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters) and Mila Kunis (Bad Moms), an actress whose sensual, dramatic performance in Black Swan feels strangely historic considering her own personal penchant for the genre of American comedy since, The Spy Who Dumped Me, directed by Susanna Fogel, a returning filmmaker with her first release since 2014’s Life Partners, sees the duo as best friend partnership, Audrey and Morgan, who become embroiled in a murderous terrorist plot after being “dumped” by Justin Theroux’s (Mulholland Drive) suave super spy, Drew Thayer. With McKinnon unfortunately being the type of actress who so far in her career seems to have been handed a selection of raw deals when it comes to getting the best out of her natural flair for comedy, with Ghostbusters and Office Christmas Party being no more than solid examples of the genre, the same annoyingly can be said for The Spy Who Dumped Me, a surprisingly violent and tonally manic action comedy which falls much too heavy on a reliance for gunshots and action over genuine laughs within a screenplay which makes Rampage look like the most intelligent film of the year by an elongated mile.
With ineffective time jumps utilised at various points of the movie as an attempt to establish some form of characterisation, albeit in its’ most restricted format, the movie takes no time in establishing the layout of the narrative, using awfully constructed moments of naff dialogue to exercise the inevitable exposition before resorting back to endless action set pieces which begin in enjoyable fashion but then end up becoming tedious after the cycle of the movie becomes increasingly obvious come the sixty minute mark. With the film’s two hour running time overstretched by at least forty five minutes, the saving grace of the movie is ultimately its’ leading female stars, with McKinnon and Kunis working expertly well as a kooky double act caught in the cross-hairs of government conspiracy and double crossing international secret agents, and with the added involvement of the always magnanimous Gillian Anderson (The X-Files), girl power at least stops the movie from falling into the black hole of awfulness it may have gone without them. With a few chuckles but no full laughs, The Spy Who Dumped Me is full-on flash without any residue of substance or memorability, but with committed performances and likeable leading stars, the end result is messy but not exactly intolerable.
Overall Score: 5/10
“Hey Santa! Wanna Party…?”
So here it is, Merry Christmas! Everybody’s having fun, look to the future now… Okay, time to stop. The annual season of mass consumerism, wasted mince pies and cheesy red jumpers is upon us and where Christmas follows, so does certain inevitabilities; last ditch shopping, the Doctor Who special and of course, the release of cheesy Christmas movies. Picking up the slack this year is Office Christmas Party, a seasonal comedy which adheres to the blueprint of many before it by squeezing as many famous faces as possible into the mix in the hope that the glowing smile of Jennifer Aniston can take the audience’s attention away from the dire script holding it together. Although not entirely terrible in the backlog of awful comedies, Office Christmas Party is pretty much a 90 minute booze-fest, one which not only has the cringey themes of sexism, toilet humour and general awfulness of party culture films such as Project X and The Hangover, but also adds cheesy, wooden narratives that unfortunately are created to collide with the seasonal nature of the film. Did the film get me ready for Christmas though? No. No. No.
With these types of movies it is strikingly obvious that deep thought and some sort of underlying themes are completely absent, with the main goal of course being that sweet sound of a cash register, and whilst Office Christmas Party isn’t the first movie to abide by these rules, and undoubtedly won’t be the last, you could be forgiven for thinking it might be a complete stinker. The harsh truth however is that Office Christmas Party isn’t even that, it’s just passable fluff, fluff which will bound to suit a certain breed of audience but for me, does nothing at all except wishing I was watching It’s A Wonderful Life instead. After his rather cracking performance in The Gift, it’s a real shame to see Jason Bateman return to easy ground whilst Kate McKinnon attempts to continue her reputation as the kooky linchpin of the movie after her performance in the recent Ghostbusters remake. If this is the type of movie Christmas will continue to offer, I might just hibernate through next years’ annual festivities but at the same time, at least we have Star Wars to look forward to.
Overall Score: 4/10
“We’re The Ghostbusters!”
Perhaps gathering the craziest amount of sexist-hate since the birth of mankind itself, it is fair to say that Paul Feig’s revival of the Ghostbusters is that strange case of a film being seemingly given up on before one reel of the final footage has even been released. Of course, being of sound and sane mind like many die-hard cinephiles, the hatred towards the idea of a female-led, 21st century take on Ivan Reitman’s cult classic is one that seemed exciting, interesting and inherently different in a day and age when many remakes or reboots simply repeat the formula of their predecessor in order to simply make a quick buck, destroying the legacy of the original in its’ wake. Point Break most recently pointed out how, when done wrong, remakes can be viewed as just plain stupid and nonsensical, and whilst Ghostbusters is most definitely not as good as the 1984 original, it is nowhere near the disaster many believed it was set to become. That’s right haters, we have a new team in town.
Perhaps relying too much on the uneven plot of CGI set piece after CGI set piece, Ghostbusters indeed is the summer blockbuster you would expect, led by a confident quartet of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon, whose barmy Jillian Holtzmann is arguably the standout of the four, a confident introduction when up against the famous faces of both McCarthy and Wiig. Comedic elements throughout also help the film in times when it verges on the edge of weariness, whilst one scene in particular effectively managed to make me jump out of my seat in horror, perhaps due to the rather obvious 3-D, which, I say with a slice of humble pie, was actually rather effective with scenes in which we witness spectres upon spectres break the frame and reach out into the audience being a rather inventive surprise. Ghostbusters is indeed not the flop many regarded it as before it hit the big screen, but it is nowhere near as good as it perhaps should have been. Light entertainment which will pass the time nicely, Ghostbusters is solid, but not spectacular.