“The Universe Has A Tendency To Point Us In The Right Direction…”
Renowned for his work as an accomplished cinematographer on an array of American comedies including War Dogs, The Hangover Trilogy as well as the upcoming blockbuster franchise sequel, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, New Jersey citizen, Lawrence Sher, turns to a debut in directing for Father Figures, a messy, overlong and staggeringly sickening road trip comedy featuring Owen Wilson (Wonder) and Ed Helms (Captain Underpants) as alienated siblings, Kyle and Peter Reynolds who embark on a self proclaimed journey known as “Operation Whose Your Daddy” after being informed by Glenn Close’s (The Girl With All The Gifts) mother figure, Helen Baxter, that she is unaware of her children’s true parentage. With a narrative which twists and turns through redemptive family drama to lad-cultured sex ventures and finally settling for saccharin fuelled cop-out nonsense, Sher’s movie is fundamentally unsure of what it entirely aspires to be, and with a two hour runtime attempting to hold it all together, Father Figures is unsurprisingly dour, a film which not only comes across as your run of the mill Owen Wilson centred comedy, but an Owen Wilson centred comedy without any meaningful laughs.
Settling on air of overripe repetition as our leading duo move from state to state in order to locate their true titular father figure, the screenplay attempts to shoehorn in as many jarring cameos as humanly possible for some form of comedic effect, with the likes of Ving Rhames, Terry Bradshaw and the Oscar winning J. K. Simmons, yes, that J. K. Simmons, each conforming to a soap opera type scenario in which each character has around ten minutes to show off their goods and force some form of sketch show-esque comedic set piece before being entirely forgotten about as we head onto the next underwritten character who swiftly follows such a mould. With Wilson hitting snooze mode and regressing into normality after winning back some form of merits after his performance in Wonder, the star revels in handing the director a stereotypical Owen Wilson performance, one which clashes with Ed Helms’ pretentious, all-moaning flannel of a character who not only couldn’t look farther from being an on-screen sibling of Wilson if he tried but is the type of American character who believes their life is an utter shambles even with staggering levels of wealth and a high class occupation which of course only acts as a continuous, narrative weaving joke. The jokes are joyless, the script soulless and ponderous, and whilst at times the chemistry between the two stars evoke a sense of enjoyment that the film may be heading somewhere, the concluding act is shameful and for two hours of your life you may never get back, Father Figures really isn’t worth the risk.
Overall Score: 3/10
“You Can’t Blend In When You Were Born To Stand Out…”
Based upon R.J. Palacio’s 2012 novel of the same name, Wonder tells the tale of Jacob Tremblay’s August “Auggie” Pullman and his battle with Treacher Collins syndrome as he attempts to manage his way through school and a coming of age lifestyle after years of homeschooling designed to prevent him from facing the potential fear of inevitable youth misunderstanding when it comes to his condition. Supported by the beach burnt Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts as Auggie’s father and mother tag team, and directed by Stephen Chbosky, whose previous credits include The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the lead writer’s gig for this year’s adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, Wonder is a solid by-the-numbers tale of acceptance and individual strength which although features an important fundamental message regarding acceptance and the impact of schoolground bullying, does become increasingly tiresome and overly manipulative in its’ emotional bulldozing as it passively lingers on to a conclusion which does manage to seal the deal to some extent and leave its’ audience with an undeniable smile.
Where Lenny Abrahamson’s Room introduced the world to the enviable talents of young Jacob Tremblay, Wonder solidifies once again that a huge future awaits for an actor who although throughout the film is covered in prosthetics akin to John Hurt in David Lynch’s heartbreaker, The Elephant Man, manages to encompass Auggie’s spectral of emotions to such an extent that the audience can’t help from getting on board and totally support the film’s leading character as he makes his journey through the trials and tribulations of a diverse and sometimes ignorant collection of fellow schoolmates. Whilst Wonder does attempt to balance the heavy dose of Auggie’s characterisation with his fellow family and friends, with the movie sometimes wandering off on tangents to do such via Tarantino-esque title cards, such diversions do come across as somewhat pointless, particularly when regarding the film’s overplayed two hour runtime, and with overly saccharin scenes of animal deaths and endless crying montages, the sentimental value of the narrative does become pretty irksome at times, but with Tremblay stealing the show and even Wilson and Roberts having a fair share of effective quick comedic quips as the relatable parents, Wonder is sometimes preachy but undeniably good hearted.
Overall Score: 6/10
“You’ll Never Be The Racer You Once Were. You Can’t Turn Back The Clock, Kid, But You Can Wind It Up, Again…”
With the likes of Inside Out and Zootropolis being superb recent examples of when Disney get it bang on in regards to releases from their animation platform, with the latter managing to proclaim itself as one of the few top marked films on this particular film review site, a healthy title if ever there was one, the release of Cars 3 is ultimately a bit of a downer, a sequel to one of Disney’s more middling franchises but too a film which undoubtedly will surpass many releases at the box office due to the nature of the prolonged six weeks summer holidays in which sweet-addicted children swarm your local cinema screening and make you cringe at their unwanted immaturity and annoying little booster seats. Bit harsh I know, but what we have with Cars 3 is ironically a solid entry into the ever-expanding Disney canon, a film which takes no time at all in laying the groundwork for the narrative ahead, with its’ sweet, harmless tone offering more than enough spectacle for the young at heart. whilst an effective array of jokes prove that there is more enough chewy material to satisfy the adults, even when the plot does fall into the realm of cliche and over-sentimentality at times.
Suffering from the inevitability of old age and facing the threat of newer, faster racing vehicles including the likes of the Armie Hammer voiced, Jackson Storm, Owen Wilson’s Lightning McQueen begins to question his suitability on the race track, and with the legendary racer potentially facing the unwanted exposure of falling into past history, McQueen teams up with Cristela Alonzo’s wannabe-racer Cruz Ramirez and Chris Cooper’s legendary racing trainer, Smokey, in order to get back on track and finally overcome the presence of the egotistic Storm. With flashy colours and an explosion of jet-waxed colours from beginning to end, Cars 3 ticks all the boxes in what you would expect from a Disney animation sequel aimed primarily at kids, and whilst the narrative is somewhat obvious and cringey at times from an adult point of view, the smart-witted dialogue and joyous concluding act proves that the film’s existence does hold more than just being that film that you take your kids to see. Whilst the money will keep on rolling and the spin-off merchandise will keep on selling, the concluding edge of the narrative does suggest we have seen the last of the Cars franchise for good, but with Disney not exactly shying away from a quick buck at times, you can’t take anything at face value these days.
Overall Score: 6/10
“You Really Are An Idiot Aren’t You?”
Although I can confess to only recently watching Zoolander, the 2001 satirical comedy directed, written and starring Ben Stiller, this long-awaited sequel was something that I can confess to not entirely looking forward to in a week where so many films share a release schedule and battle for supremacy at the box office. With returning characters such as Ben Stiller as the titular Derek Zoolander, the dim-witted, good-mannered fashion model, resigned to living life as a “hermit crab” due to the loss of wife and son, both of which he believes to be sole responsible for, as well as Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell as Hansel and Mugatu respectively, Zoolander No.2, was in danger of falling into the pit of despair many comedy franchises have been led into over the course of the past decade within cinematic history with awful examples of the genre taking centre stage such as Get Hard and Unfinished Business. Unfortunately for Stiller and co., Zoolander No.2 is a rather unremarkable and most importantly, unfunny continuation of the life of Mr. Zoolander.
Featuring more or less everything that made the first film full of snigger-induced fits, Zoolander No.2 continues the trait of dim-witted Derek Zoolander being incredibly, you guessed it, dim-witted, all-the-while being surrounded by strange celebrity cameos in an attempt to carry on the trend started within the first film, a film in which cameos included David Bowie (RIP), Victoria Beckham as well as everyone’s favourite republican Donald Trump. Now in Zoolander No.2, we have Justin Bieber being shot violently to death, one of the few saving graces of the film, as well as stand-out appearances from Sting, Kiefer Sutherland and Benedict Cumberbatch looking extremely startling as All, the sexually ambiguous male/female model. The problem with the wide range of celebrity cameos is that they attempt to divert from the rather shallow plot and lack of inventive humour and when the screen-time is left solely to the core actors of the movie, Zoolander No.2 fails to live up to the comedic value of its’ predecessor with a rather bland story and jokes that don’t exactly live up to scratch. Another example of a sequel not being as good as the first film, Zoolander No.2 is something that will swiftly be forgotten. The Godfather Part II it is not.
Overall Score: 4/10
1970: A Drug Odyssey
Paul Thomas Anderson films in general, so far, have been films that I haven’t really warmed to. I didn’t really dig Magnolia and I couldn’t stand The Master, so with this in mind, my expectation level going into Inherent Vice was rather flat. After watching it though, it’s safe to say Inherent Vice is probably my favourite Anderson film to date, which in itself is faint praise due to my distaste for his earlier material. The film focuses on Joaquin Phoenix’s, private investigator Larry “Doc” Sportello, and his plot to help his ex-girlfriend have her wealthy boyfriend Mickey Wolfmann committed to an insane asylum, yet that’s as clear as the film’s plot gets, with its’ two and a half hour run-time being full of ambiguity and a distinct haziness which clearly attempts to parallel the drug-infested era of the early 1970’s. The challenging nature of the film will definitely not be for everyone, particularly those who depend on a film’s narrative being explained to the last detail, yet it’s lack of explanation adds a strange layer of mystery, which in itself is rather compelling.
Inherent Vice is full of solid acting, strong comedic moments, and a plot so out-of-control, it ends up being both painful and fascinating, Its’ run-time is way too long, and the film suffers as a result, as many times I began to lose patience and checked how long we had left. Like I said, Inherent Vice is my favourite Anderson film to date, and it makes me want to watch his previous efforts again to see if it was just me and not the films themselves. Peace Out.
Overall Score: 7/10