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Film Review: Snatched

“What I Need Is An Amazing Adventure…”

In a world where American comedy is usually as effective as a chocolate teapot, Amy Schumer undeniably is up there with the worst that particular side of the continent has delivered over the course of the past few years, with her venture onto the big screen with releases such as Trainwreck burdening millions with her screechy Americanised tones and hysterically dull sensibility which really doesn’t compute with my idea of an effective comedic personality, particularly in a day and age in which memorable comedies are quite hard to find. Co-starring this week in Snatched with Hollywood legend Goldie Hawn, mother of Kate Hudson and partner to the awesomely cool Kurt Russell, Schumer once again proves that her particular brand of comedy just doesn’t work within the cinematic atmosphere, resulting in a performance which ultimately solidifies the notion of her inability to create laughs through a tired and cliche-ridden narrative which attempts to turn the vulgarity up to eleven in order to distract the audience from the utter boredom which encompasses the events on-screen. Goldie Hawn, what on Earth are you doing in this movie? I guess a gas bill must be due sometime soon. Ker-ching indeed.

After being dumped by her rock and roll boyfriend, Schumer’s unbelievably annoying leading character decides to make the most of her pre-planned trip to South America by inviting her feline-loving mother (Goldie Hawn) with a penchant for over-protection and questionable sculpturing techniques. Cue loud and completely unnecessary scenes of alcoholism, party music and nudity, Snatched is the type of 21st century so-called “comedy” which adds to the argument that the good times have most definitely come and gone in regards to its’ respective genre. Whilst Hawn seems to be there only for the sake of financial inducement, the film really doesn’t paint a sympathetic picture of its’ leading character, resulting in a warped sensibility which desires her captors to actually go through with their sickening plan and dispose of their prisoners as swiftly as possible. If this was indeed the case, the audience would have been spared from a 90 minute bore-fest whose only redeemable character is the poor U.S state department official who gets forced to help save their lives. Maybe next time mate, just forget the rescue and leave them to it.

Overall Score: 3/10

Catch-Up Film Review: Rings

 “I Keep Thinking About This Story. There’s This Video That Kills You. Seven Days After You Watch It…”

Blah, blah, blah. Whilst there is nothing new in the notion of American remakes, the category in which really grinds my gears is the one filled to the rim with English-speaking “re-imaginings” of foreign language horror movies, with absolute classics in the form of A Tale of Two Sisters, Let The Right One In and Ju-on: The Grudge all being mashed up and reproduced in the flight of gaining a quick yet tainted blood-stained buck on the account of the butchery which tends to happen when foreign movies are translated onto an audience which is primarily English speaking. Of the many horror franchises which has roots well and truly set in the minds of more intelligent filmmakers, Rings, directed by Spanish filmmaker F. Javier Gutiérrez, is yet another entry into the Ringu canon which began all the way back in 1998 with Hideo Nakata’s terrifying cinematic take on the Koji Suzuki novel of the same name, and whilst the third American entry seems to begin with an element of interest, Rings unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, ends up being yet another wasted opportunity, with it not only coming across as incredibly offensive to horror fans across the world, effectively spits on the shadow of its’ former self with its’ sheer and utter dreadfulness.

With a leading star who carries as much charisma and interest as an ASDA bag for life, Rings begins with a narrative which looks as if it is set to offer some new light into the world of spooky water-covered teenagers with long black hair by delving into a somewhat underground network of shady college preps who view the infamous killer video tape as a reason to get up in the morning, using the threat of Samara as a messed up type of adrenaline rush alongside a basis for Johnny Galecki’s character’s thesis on the mystery of her existence. Whilst this interesting notion covers roughly the first fifteen minutes of the movie, the following 90 minutes is essentially a cheap re-telling of a story in which every single person in the cinematic world is now bored to death with, trading real elements of threat and suspense with cheesy dialogue and awful jump scares which rely on the power of the cinema’s sound system in order to actually come across as worthwhile. News alert; they don’t. Ending on a supposed twist which offers up the idea that the franchise is set to continue into the future, Rings is the type of cinematic face-palm which you really struggle to understand its’ existence. If you’re thinking of buying it on DVD, don’t.

Overall Score: 3/10

Film Review: Rules Don’t Apply

“You’re An Exception. The Rules Don’t Apply To You…”

Whilst Warren Beatty might be best known in contemporary media circles as being lead conspirator in the Best Picture fiasco at this year’s Academy Award’s ceremony, a recent high-profile cock-up more commonly known as “La La-Gate”, the attention comes in a somewhat suspiciously well timed manner considering the release of Rules Don’t Apply this week, a picture directed, produced, written by and of course, starring the cinematic legend, who takes the leading mantle as infamous businessman Howard Hughes within the setting of 1950’s Hollywood, supported by a simply enormous cast featuring the likes of Hail! Caesar star Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Matthew Broderick, Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin and the always superb, Ed Harris. With a cast as vast as this, Rules Don’t Apply is the type of movie you would think on the surface is one which everyone in the current cinematic world seemed to aching to be involved in, particularly with the reputation of Beatty at the helm, yet the finished picture is one of entirely mixed fortunes, one which suffers from a non-existent narrative and some misjudged moments of self-indulgence amidst some basic film-making errors which makes you wonder whether the real Warren Beatty should most definitely stand up.

Of the good things within Rules Don’t Apply, the leading trio of Beatty, Ehrenreich and Collins each give respectable performances amidst a screenplay which doesn’t really offer much chance to break new ground, with Beatty really hitting the zany mark in his depiction of Howard Hughes, taking cues from DiCaprio in The Aviator when needed but strictly focusing on the wilder side of the infamous billionaire, whilst Ehrenreich continues to impress every time I see him perform on screen, gearing him up for inevitable higher levels of stardom come next year’s Han Solo spin-off release. Star of the picture however is Lily Collins as the doe-eyed and wondrous Marla Mabrey, the keen and confident Virginian rookie who although is trying sometime in terms of awkward character quips and decision making, is a real find and completely holds her own against the likes of Beatty in a leading role. As for the not-so good elements of the film, Beatty treats the film as a personal blueprint for himself to engage in exceptional levels of excess, an understandable element when considering the character in which he is portraying, yet the sight of an aged Hollywood legend feeling up an intoxicated young star really didn’t sit well on a personal level whilst some fundamental film-making traits are completely disregarded, with endless questionable edits and narrative trails which simply go nowhere. resulting in a movie which ultimately is a complete drag to sit through and when you consider the talent at hand behind it, Rules Don’t Apply can only be regarded as a monumental disappointment.

Overall Score: 4/10

Film Review: Allied

“Being Good At This Job Isn’t Very Beautiful…”

Brad Pitt. Marion Cotillard. Robert Zemeckis. Add into the mix screenwriter Steven Knight, best known for Eastern Promises and Peaky Blinders alongside a range of lesser work such as Burnt and last years’ unbelievably dire Seventh Son, and Allied could be regarded as a much anticipated meeting of the majestic, with all factors of the film’s main quartet being able to hit full stride when needed. Unfortunately for Zemeckis and co,. Allied isn’t exactly a work of cinematic art, in fact, it is far from it, with the film’s impressively strong beginning being offset by a shabby middle and end, alongside some strange plot decisions and an ending so fluffy it wouldn’t be amiss in a Disney movie. As for the film’s narrative, Allied follows the relationship of Max (Pitt) and Marianne (Cotillard) who fall in love after their success during a mission within German-occupied Morocco in the height of the second world war. After returning to London, Max is told some grave news regarding his recently wed wife, grave news which shakes his life to the core.

As is the perils of modern day cinema, if you’ve seen the trailer for Allied, which wouldn’t be much of a surprise seeing how it seems to be absolutely everywhere at the moment, you’ve basically seen the majority of the film, albeit the movie’s climax, a climax which isn’t entirely much of a shocker in itself, and this is a fundamental issue regarding the film’s overall quality. IF the big reveal wasn’t blasted at the audience before they’d even set foot into the cinema, maybe the attraction of Allied would have been less so but this may have been made up for in terms of shock factor when the reveal was made in the actual film. Who knows, and more importantly, who cares. Allied isn’t the best work to come from the likes of Robert Zemeckis, the man behind fantastic work such as Back to the Future and Forest Gump, and instead is rooted somewhere between the likes of What Lies Beneath and The Walk. A solid, if rather hokey, thriller sums up Allied but hey, hokey is good sometimes.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: War Dogs

“When Does Telling The Truth Ever  Help Anybody…?

One of the most crystal clear components of War Dogs, the latest comedic drama from Hangover Trilogy director Todd Phillips, is the obvious and sometimes uncanny influence of Martin Scorsese, particularly that of Goodfellas and Casino, with the fast-paced formula and quick-fire editing of War Dogs being the staple within a blueprint which verges on the edge of daylight robbery. Saying that, although the principle layout of War Dogs is not exactly the most original, the film is saved two-fold by the inclusion of Miles Teller and Jonah Hill in the films’ lead roles, lead roles which are characterised clearly by each side of a coin, with Teller’s David Packouz being the twisted moral compass in partnership with Jonah Hill’s greed-infested monster, Efraim Diveroli. Adding to the Scorsese influence is the notion that War Dogs is essentially Lord of War meets Wolf of Wall Street, a film in which Hill also starred in and a film which too has a black heart at its’ core, showcasing the evilness of greed and the consequences certain actions inevitably lead towards. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun though.

In a year in which The Big Short gave us a comedic insight into the downfall of the economy and America’s presidential race being wholeheartedly in the spotlight, War Dogs does seem rather timely. A satire into the gun-ho nature of the US war efforts, War Dogs does feature some rather top-end black humour and although the movie does suffer when heading into the direction of vulgar, laddish type humour between our two leads, reminiscent of the director’s previous work, its’ the dramatic seriousness within the movie which makes the film work as a whole, particularly the third and final act in which we witness the inevitable downfall of our two leads who realise to what extent their “illegal” doings have had on not only themselves, but the country as a whole. War Dogs is by no means perfect, but it is very entertaining and a double-bill with a film like The Big Short would be a quickfire lesson into the politics and principles of the world as we know it today. Nihilism is a bitch.

Overall Score: 8/10 

Film Review: The Shallows

“It Is Paradise…”

Looking at the back catalogue of director Jaume Collet-Serra brings with it an overt sense of trepidation. I mean House of Wax, come one, who on earth thought it was a good idea to cast Paris Hilton in anything, whilst Goal 2 and the Liam Neeson helmed trilogy of Unkonwn, Non-Stop and Run All Night don’t exactly ring the bells of excellence. With The Shallows however, Collet-Serra has brought to life “Jaws for the 21st century” as many have called it, yet my memory of Jaws was most definitely not one that included a rather silly screenplay, an overbearing sense of tin-eared dialogue and camera work so transfixed with its’ leading star that it verges on the edge of creepiness. You’ve got it folks, The Shallows is ironically, rather shallow and inept, a survival drama with no sense of threat, no sense of danger whatsoever and whose only character with more than a one dimensional feel to it is a flippin’ seagull. That’s right Lively, you aren’t the hottest bird in this particular movie.

So The Shallows expects us to believe that a supposedly intelligent med-school drop-out would continue with her journey into the unknown titular secret beach without her friend who feels its’ more important to hang out with cliched hot holiday dude. No, I don’t believe that. Secondly, the camera is so transfixed upon said med-school drop-out that I felt a restraining order was only a court case away, with the constant close-ups and wide-angled focusing of Lively just plain creepy akin to the recent treatment of the character of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad. Thirdly, every single character is just there for the sake of it. No smooth characterisation whatsoever, just mashed up sentiment which is enforced in order to feel for our beloved surfer chick. Does it work? No, but does the film work aside from it? No. Although the underwater shots are well done and Steven Seagull is the best thing in it, The Shallows is just meh, and meh is not how I would summarise my memory of Jaws. 

Overall Score: 4/10

Film Review: The Boss

“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

Film Review: Midnight Special

“Could We Go Back To Texas Now?”

Oh boy, it’s glad to be back. Taking a much needed couple of weeks off from the cinema during the over-long Easter break, my return to the big-screen begins with Midnight Special, the newest film from the mind of Jeff Nichols, best know for films such as Take Shelter and the critically acclaimed Mud a couple of years back. Erasing the horror of my last venture into the cinema before my break, with Batman v Superman still hurting my mind every time I think about it, I ventured into Midnight Special hardly knowing anything about it apart from the incredibly solid A-List cast featuring the likes of the brilliant Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton as well as the newest Sith Lord himself, Adam Driver being on the payroll. Mixing in-between genres quicker than you can say space invaders, Midnight Special is a strange, quirky movie, one that undeniably revels in showing off it’s love of movies like E.T and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, in fact, it’s love of Spielberg in general, yet it ultimately fails to live up to the great man, coming up short in many aspects that could have perhaps made it a future cult classic.

Delving right into the mix of things, Midnight Special begins head-first into the action, with little characterisation to begin with being offset with ambiguous plot threads ranging from a mysterious cult, to the involvement of the FBI and DEA, and finally, the kidnapping of a young child, one whom may not be all he seems, ripping a plot device used so effectively in Rian Johnson’s Looper, a film which bears minor similarities to Midnight Special, along with a hint of last years’ Tomorrowland, particularly in the film’s slightly over-long final third. Mix in a element of A.I, and the recipe completes the blueprints to Midnight Special, a film which begins well enough but then slightly descends into generic sci-fi territory, with added corny CGI thrown into the midst. A solid sci-fi, but nothing extraordinary, but hey, at least it’s better than Batman v Superman. 

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Zootropolis

“It’s Called A Hustle Sweetheart…”

And finally, here we are at last. The showdown between two heavyweights. The greatest battle ever to have graced this crazy world. That’s right guys, it’s Zootropolis against Batman V Superman. Disney against Warner. Bunny against Bat. See what I’m getting at? Good, I’ll stop now. Continuing the riveting success of movies of the animated variety over the course of the past few years or so is Disney’s latest pet project (No pun intended) Zootropolis, a film proud enough to stand toe-to-toe with BvS in hope of snatching that esteemed number one spot in the top ten list come the end of the Easter Holidays. If money doesn’t speak volumes to you however, then the critical concentration of the two films is the thing you may indeed be looking at, with Zootropolis being leagues ahead in terms of overall quality in comparison to the Batman behemoth, with laughs being rife all the way though it’s Chinatown-esque mystery themes and nods to the adult variety which will bound to leave all audiences leaving the cinema with a smile. And a new annoyingly catchy song to hum to.

Leaving the carrot-harvesting life of her surroundings, optimistic young rabbit Judy Hopps enrols within the Police Recruitment program whereby she is reassigned to the vast and sprawling city of Zootropolis after graduating top of her class and having the esteemed reputation of becoming the first rabbit to do so. Although beginning life as a lowly traffic warden, Judy soon becomes unravelled in a kidnapping plot and with the help of fox con-artist Nick Wilde, she attempts to uncover the deep, dark secrets surrounding the cities anthropomorphic lifestyle. Featuring fantastic visuals and a incredible voice cast including the likes of Jason Bateman, Idris Elba and Ginnifer Goodwin as the young Officer Hopps, Zootropolis manages to encapsulate all the things that make animated movies the success that they are, with well-timed jokes cracked left, right and centre whilst the well-designed characters are crafted with more-than-enough detail to keep all the little ones interested and engaged. Although it perhaps doesn’t include the same wonder factor of last years’ brilliant one-two of Inside Out and Song of the Sea, Zootropolis is indeed a brilliant addition to the Disney canon, one in which I could watch again and again and continue to smile. Oh yeah, and that Shakira song is damn catchy.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Review: Anomalisa

“Look For What Is Special About Each Individual, Focus On That…”

When the name Charlie Kaufman is brought up in conversation amongst the many cinematic ramblings, films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich are the first that always spring to mind with the former being a particularly strange and wonderful feat of cinema featuring arguably Jim Carey in his best role to date. As for Duke Johnson, I’m afraid to say that this is a name that I was not aware of in the slightest before watching Anomalisa, a animated feature that brings together the wacky, surreal sensibility of Kaufman and morphs majestically with the stop-motion talents of Johnson (Thanks Wikipedia) creating a piece of art unlike anything else that will be released this year. Not only is the story wonderful, the ideas out-of-this-world and the stop-motion itself rather flawless, Anomalisa is a movie that speaks about the honest pains of the world’s oldest emotion; love. Just with puppets. Featuring David Thewlis as the voice of Michael Stone, the comically least motivated motivational speaker you have seen in film, Anomalisa follows Michael’s venture to Cincinnati and his stay at the local hotel wherein he meets the unique Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) a woman whom he believes is the chance for a new beginning in life.

Carrying on the wonderful imaginings that originate from the mind of Kaufman, Anomalisa focuses solely on the POV of Michael, a man who seemingly realises his life is going nowhere, tent-poled by a marriage which bears similarities to Kevin Spacey’s Lester Burnham in American Beauty with both partnerships being there for show rather than for actuality on the basis of love, with even Michael’s son being more interested on the ownership of toys rather than his fathers’ affection, culminating in a rather hilarious scene in which Michael brings back his son a rather questionable Cincinnati present to play with. Boosting the notion of Michael’s loneliness in life is the way in which everyone around him sounds exactly the same, one that is rather monotone and ever-so slightly eerie masterminded by the voice of Tom Noonan. The constant familiar voice is intended to portray Michael’s singularity and depressive nature, a nature that is brought comfort by the discovery of Lisa whose voice, to the wonder of Michael, is inherently different, a soothing, comforting one in which Michael finds solace and can’t hear enough of, evidenced by a wonderful scene in which Lisa sings Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”.

Amongst the wondrous joy of Anomalisa is the mandatory subverted strangeness, with Michael’s dream sequences being rather Lynchian to say the least, with one in particular exposing the puppetry of Michael’s orchestration, a nod to the film-maker’s decision to allow the design of the puppets to be seen clear-as-day on-screen, perhaps suggesting the life of Michael can be boiled down to that of the proverbial puppet on a string, one in which life and loneliness comes hand in hand except for that brief moment in which you find true happiness, happiness which goes all two quick for our titular Anomalisa. Much like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kaufman has orchestrated a superbly imaginative piece of cinema, one in which should not forget the work of Duke Johnson in any sense, and one in which will stand up against anything else released this year. Superb.

Overall Score: 9/10