“Times Change. You Do What You Got To Do. Some Hits. For Money, You Survive…”
Based on the comic book series of the same name published by Vertigo Comics, an offshoot of DC Comics which was intended to promote graphic comics suitable for a more “adult” audience, The Kitchen is both the big screen adaptation of the original series created by both Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle, and the directorial debut of Andrea Berloff, an American filmmaker best known so far for writing credits on the excellent, Straight Outta Compton, and the not-so excellent, Jamie Foxx starring, Sleepless. Coined by the film’s production company as being an “edgy and subversive” addition into the crime genre, Berloff’s movie follows a very Widows inflicted central narrative, one which sees our three central female characters attempt to pick up the crime-inflicted mantle of their now incarcerated husbands in order to stay afloat in the late 1970’s society in which the notion of the male breadwinner was very much still at the forefront of the nuclear family. Whilst I am all for a gender-bendered approach to a genre which is still reeling in the shadow of The Godfather and Goodfellas, Berloff’s movie is the type of big screen turkey which almost falls into the category of so bad it’s good, an awfully mis-handled raspberry of a movie which fails on every single fundamental level of how to actually make a working movie, a high profile example of a director who seems to have been given a big-budget project slightly too soon and has ultimately crippled under the pressure with dire and laughably bad results.
Pushed as a serious crime drama, The Kitchen attempts to sell the idea of three women with little to no experience of the criminal underworld suddenly strong-arming the entire Irish crime syndicate within the heart of Hell’s Kitchen, New York, in order to keep afloat their own individual lives after relying on their male counterparts for so long. Whilst the whole notion of fiction is to imagine a world away from our own, one of the primary issues of Berloff’s movie is undoubtedly the cast choices, with both Melissa McCarthy (Spy) and Tiffany Haddish (Night School), actors both primarily known for cutting their acting chops in comedy, whose move into a picture which requires a certain level of dramatic expressionism not exactly paying off, with McCarthy once again failing to provide me with evidence that she can actually play anyone other then herself and Haddish laughably terrible as she attempts to evoke some sense of believability to her paper thin character. Whilst the usually reliable presence of Elizabeth Moss (Us) is also woefully mishandled, with her wildly inconsistent character mute for half of the movie and then seemingly drunk for the other half, the whole sensibility of The Kitchen feels like a half-baked Saturday Night Live sketch, one written by a first year university undergraduate with a pure hatred for the male sex and one directed by someone who simply cannot get to grips with the subject matter whatsoever, and whilst Berloff’s movie did make me laugh out loud on occasion due to how simply awful the whole thing is, The Kitchen is an absolute stinker of a movie and a high profile example of how not to make a comic book adaptation.
Overall Score: 3/10
“You Can Be An Asshole If You’re Famous. You Can’t Be Unknown And Be Such A Bitch, Lee…”
With Melissa McCarthy always succeeding in managing to send a particularly large and unwelcome chill down the length of my back each and every time I see her name plastered across a new cinematic release, the early murmurings of a movie which not only featured McCarthy taking on something different to her normal adolescent, awfully timed comedic nightmares, but one in which the American was actually rather splendid too, immediately raised my film reviewing eyebrows in the hope of something majestic, even if a slight whiff of trepidation remained due to the almost painful recollection of her involvement in 2018’s worst film by quite a considerable distance, The Happytime Murders. Based on the controversial figure of American author, Lee Israel, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the latest from U.S based filmmaker, Marielle Heller, whose best known work includes Transparent and The Diary of a Teenage Girl, does indeed take full advantage of the best on-screen features which McCarthy has to offer, with Heller’s movie supplying the actress with a role in which she undoubtedly sinks her teeth into, even within the confines of a central narrative which does annoyingly fail to ever secure adequate lift off, but with a clear sense of acting dedication and a faintly interesting premise, McCarthy’s latest is indeed a step in the right direction, albeit one which doesn’t exactly hold a torch to the rather bemusing critical acclaim which has been showered upon it.
Highlighting from the outset the rather depressive, downbeat sensibility of McCarthy’s Israel, the movie opens after her brief success in the world of writing due to her well received biography of Estée Lauder and her attempts to reignite such attention by conducting research for a novel based around the life of Fanny Brice. Living in a dingy, unkempt one bedroom apartment with only her unwell feline friend to keep her company, Israel suddenly falls upon a letter bearing the writing of Brice herself, only to discover that the world of fraudulently constructed letters from the pen name of dead famous authors actually pays significantly well, a notion seen as the ultimate cure for her less than graceful financial and personal situation. Aided by the HIV ridden, crafty, streetwise hand of local drug dealer, Jack Hock, played in outrageously entertaining form by the now Oscar nominated, Richard E. Grant (Logan) the pair soon begin a successful partnership within the fraud business as they make their way around the local area in order to pawn off as many convincing letters as humanly possible. With a familiar rise and fall narrative regarding the discovery and punishment of criminal undertakings, the most effective element of Heller’s movie is undoubtedly the central relationship between Hock and Israel, with both parties managing to balance each other out in the category of total societal retrogrades, whilst the swift back and forth quip-laden interchanges are both smart and excellently directed. However, with Grant bringing charm to burn, the focus on McCarthy ultimately results in no sympathetic link whatsoever, resulting in actions and consequences which are observed but never really fully engaged upon, and with strange narrative asides which go absolutely nowhere come the credits screen, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is the type of independant release which could have been better served with both a better editor and an extra slice of flash to at least living things up, resulting in Heller’s movie falling into the category of interesting, but not exactly memorable.
Overall Score: 6/10
“If Shit Gets Crazy I’m Gonna Go Crazy As Shit…”
Whilst Jim Henson will always be primarily remembered for his work on The Muppets and the subsequent legacy the American’s famous puppetry has left on culture across the world, his subsequent work on a wide range of cult classics including the likes of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth has meant the transition into film-making has always been one of great success, one which has revelled in a genre of storytelling which has always catered for the younger viewer in terms of tone and sensibility. With The Happytime Murders however, Henson’s takes a turn to the dark side with an overly crude and obnoxiously vile R-rated work of trash which sees the staggeringly woeful talents of Melissa McCarthy (Life of the Party) team up with Bill Barretta’s Phil Phillps in order to solve a number of puppet-related murders within a Los Angeles which has learnt to co-exist with puppets and humans alike. Cue awful elongated sexual gags involving crazed imagery and out of control bodily fluids, unnecessary swearing and simply terrible dialogue, Henson’s foray into the darkness is a hollow, vacuous and totally despicable work of awfulness. The horror, the horror.
Whilst the likes of Team America: World Police has shown that puppetry and X-Rated comedy can indeed go hand in hand to very successful ends, Trey Parker’s 2004 comedy is The Godfather of modern comedy in comparison to The Happytime Murders, a so-called “film” which seems absolutely thrilled with the fact that puppets have been allowed to say swear words and have demonic-esque sex upon the big screen for an audience who undenaibly deserve more than just immature filth which happens just for the sake of it without any real purpose or justification for its’ existence. With McCarthy continuing to baffle and perplex regarding just how such an awful actress seems to continue to get constant work, and even with the likes of Life of the Party and The Boss in her awfully sterile back catalogue, nothing is close to the sheer suicide-inducing rankness of her latest venture in which once again she uses overly rude slapstick to attempt to raise laughs from an audience who in my particular screening were completely silent throughout. On the upside, the one saving grace of The Happytime Murders is that I am not alone in my utter disdain for a movie which deserves the utmost disrespect and derision from everyone who pays money to see it. Complete and utter worthless nonsense that doesn’t even deserve to be written about.
Overall Score: 1/10
“Somebody’s Mum Just Enrolled In College..!”
Following on from the release of the Amy Schumer led I Feel Pretty this week, America’s second favourite female comedian of the moment, Melissa McCarthy (Spy) feels the need to grace us with her presence upon the big screen too within Life of the Party, a morbidly unfunny back-to-school drama which sees McCarthy’s recently divorced mum Deanna Miles feel the need to attend her daughter’s college in order to finally complete her degree after dropping out previously in order to care for her family. Cue dance offs, excessive drinking and sleeping with minors of an uncertain age and what we have with Life of the Party is yet another swing at attempting to create the legacy and enjoyment of a film such as National Lampoon’s Animal House albeit with a narrative twist which attempts to showcase every child’s living hell when their respective parent drops in uninvited at a party, jumper and rucksack in toe, and with contemporary coming-of-age comedies such as Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! an example of smartly written and successful on-screen American frat house debaucheries, McCarthy’s latest manages to at least capture that sense of awkward family reunions by being a film which no-one in their right mind really wants to admit to having enjoyed let alone be a part of.
With McCarthy one of the many contemporary U.S based comic actors who have failed to ignite any sense of interest thus far thanks to less than spectacular performances within the likes of The Boss and Ghostbusters, her reunion with husband Ben Falcone once again proves that her supposed potential has been put tragically to waste, with Life of the Party a soulless, cringey and overly annoying attempt at a comedy which aside from one stand-out set piece, is rather quite unbearable from beginning to end. With a whiny, screechy voice and totally awkward sensibility, McCarthy’s Deanna holds solid ground for most annoying character of the year in film, with the first hour in which we see her attempt to embed herself within the college lifestyle simply torturous to endure, and with the younger actors, particularly Molly Morgan’s Millie and Gillian Jacobs’ Helen, not only much more interesting but universally more entertaining and comedic than their elder leading star, there is indeed a somewhat successful movie embedded within the action, but just one that doesn’t happen to feature McCarthy in any shape or form. With a shock-tastic set piece towards the latter end of the movie offering the one real taste of interesting implausibility, by the time it gets around the damage has unfortunately already been done, with Life of the Party failing pretty miserably as both an example of contemporary American comedy and a project for McCarthy to thrive within, something of which backfires rather spectacularly.
Overall Score: 3/10
“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.
Overall Score: 6/10
“Let’s Watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre…”
Yes, we probably should have watched the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the original, not the remake, and a film which reminds me how thrilling and dramatic high quality cinema can become, something of which The Boss, directed by Ben Falcone and starring Melissa McCarthy, is most certainly not. However, in a week in which the human race has been subjugated to the horror show of Gods of Egypt, The Boss most certainly is a slight step up, however not the laugh-filled spectacular many would have thought when seeing McCarthy on the cast list, a comedic actress in which I can wholeheartedly state I am not the biggest fan of, with her latest cinematic venture being a reminder of what happens when comedy goes wrong, with The Boss being strapped full of face-palming plot points, dead-end jokes and one-liners that verge on the edge of profanity. At least one thing can be said for Gods of Egypt, it’s funnier than The Boss, regardless of how unintentional that may be.
Focusing on the exploits of the greed-inflicted Michelle Darnell, who after being incarcerated and losing her entire income and empire sets to rebuild her wealth by exploiting the work of minors by selling brownies, The Boss expects you to empathise with a woman who not only becomes a white-collar criminal within the first five minutes of the movie, but a woman who believes using children as pawns in her tactic to regain her strength in the economic world is indeed the most important thing to do now she is free in the outside world. Feel empathetic yet? No, me neither, and this alone is a fundamental flaw in the films’ genetic make-up. Add into the mix jokes that full flat on their face and a script so wayward it seems to have be written as a blind bet, The Boss is a comedic mess from beginning to end, a comedic mess which features the second awful Game of Thrones cameo in the space of a week with Peter Dinklage now having a pop at degrading his reputation. Oh well, at least Game of Thrones is on tomorrow.
Overall Score: 3/10
Hangover, part 3 was one of my hotly anticipated films finally came out today. I was unlucky enough to miss out on the first two and resorted to the original DVD format and I’m extremely glad I didn’t let Hangover sit on the shelf until the last minute. I did however miss out Due Date which ties in within the movie for a short scene but it is nothing that is to drastic.
Surprisingly, this movie doesn’t begin with the obligatory piss up that ends up with the Wolf pack running around to find Doug and explain the drug fuelled night. This one focuses on the capturing of Chow; the cocaine loving psychopath. The final instalment in the Hangover trilogy is one that wraps up the connection to Chow and why he kept appearing throughout the series and his criminal activities. To fuel his lifestyle and addiction, Chow robs another criminal boss named “Marshall” of several million dollars worth of gold bars. After spending fortunes and ending up in a Bangkok prison after part 2, he escapes and becomes an international villain on the run from both the police and Marshall. Marshall then captures the Wolf pack and forces them to hunt down Chow and capture him or Doug dies.
In terms of story, you can see that it has taken a different turn and has become a little more serious. Although, in the ending credits, we are greeted with the day after a heavy night out to find everyone hanging and Stu with a new rack (I will let you figure that one out). I certainly enjoyed the reversal of the story and the introduction of a truly deadly force that will and does kill and the introduction of a new love interest. The danger was amped up and the twists within are very precise and quick. As I mentioned prior, the story blends with the past movies and is great at entwining old characters and stories to close the final movie. However, at the end we do see the possibility that the franchise has been left at a point that could be ridden upon if money gets tight for Legendary studios and Green Hat.
The comedy throughout was a constant and didn’t wear thin. Yet it wasn’t rip roaring and I wasn’t gasping for air or tearing at the excessively stupid antics. The jokes were written well, flowed well without interruption and were executed brilliantly. The collection of actors could hold themselves without losing form. The examples of this are Zach Galifianakis and Melissa McCarthy who can hold a room with a simple longing
gaze, their ability to ignore their surroundings and create an unbelievably awkward situation without actually saying anything is flawless. Bradley Cooper also fills his role quite well, managing to retain the badass persona to life that made him so popular with the crowds (his looks
The film was also shot brilliantly. I enjoyed the contrast and the lighting that rolled throughout the movie. Close up shots filled space but felt natural in their surroundings. The landscape shots where expansive and incredibly strong. Jumping from bright desert wasteland of Mexico too the luminescent city of Las Vegas was gorgeous. Colours bounced around of the screen and seeing the iconic city at a height like that at night is something that only some have done. It is the stereotypical way that we perceive Vegas to be.
Overall, the movie was great fun. It’s got plenty of laughs and has some brilliant actors to back it up. I am rating this movie as a 7.5/10, simply because I wanted to harder hitting jokes and a little bit more in the story franchise. I felt myself wanting a little extra from the movie but it is still an enjoyable film.