Sandy Wexler

I’m back in the UK now, although a busy week has meant I still haven’t had time to get to the cinema. So instead, decided to watch the new Adam Sandler movie on Netflix, Sandy Wexler.

sandy wexler movie poster

Growing up, I was a huge Adam Sandler fan – he is the hero of some of my favourite comedy movies, that I still laugh all the way through even now. However, in recent years, it seems the Sand Man’s career has gone off the rails, and has just released a number of medicore (at best) movies. It saddens me really to see someone who used to be so funny, so incredibly average now.

Unfortunately, Sandy Wexler is no different and is yet another bad Adam Sandler movie. It follows the story of hapless manager, Sandy Wexler, who has a stable of pretty talentless talent until he discovers a singer, Courtney, who is bound for stardom. The gist of the movie is it follows Sandy trying his best to help out this rising star despite being completely out of his depth, but never actually really realising it.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some funny bits in there, but running at over two hours (far far too long!), a handful of laughs is a terrible effort for a “comedy”.  I thought Sandler played his character pretty well, and Jeniffer Hudson was also pretty good – if the performances had been as bad as the movie I’m not sure I could’ve got through it. And, as always with a Happy Madison production, all of Sandler’s usual cronies are on hand to make an appearance (many of which you only ever tend to see in Sandler flicks) and having grown up on Sandler movies, they are always a welcome sight that brings a smile to my face – even if some of them only get one or two lines.

This film felt like it was actually a pretty good interpretation of where Adam Sandler’s career really is – a man who thinks he is the greatest thing in Hollywood, and that everyone loves him and are laughing with him – but really, everyone is either laughing at him or just feel sorry for him. I really didn’t find the film very funny at all, with most of the attempted jokes being directed at the Sandy characters expense – a lot of the time it didn’t feel funny, it felt cruel. Also finding out after watching the movie that it is a roast of Sandler’s actual real life manager made it feel a bit worse. Finding that out and reading the back story, there clearly isn’t any malice in the content, I think the mark is just greatly missed, or perhaps you need to be a true insider to really appreciate the movie. Hey, after all, the man the film is based on appeared in it, so he can’t have been that offended.

I believe this was the third of his eight movie deal with Netflix (I haven’t seen the other two, but may give them a go), so there is clearly some demand for him, and I am hopeful he can turn it around…

To be honest, I am just getting tired of seeing bad Adam Sandler movies. I’m getting tired of laughing at him for being so terrible, I just want to laugh with him again. Back to the glory days of Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, when he truly was on top form as one of comedy’s powerhouses, when you knew seeing Sandler on a movie meant certain laughs.

Please Adam Sandler, just make one more hilarious movie before you are done to show us you still have it. Please!

Not advisable – 4/10

A quick over-eview of recent releases

I’m currently still away so still haven’t watched any new films, but to keep the ball rolling, I’m just going to give a real quick overview of my opinions of a few films I saw on the big screen in the last few months before I started writing again.

Lego Batman

For those of you who were following this blog back in 2014, you may remember I pitted The Lego Movie as a candidate for the best movie of the year. Although I wasn’t writing by the end of the year, it was a view I stood by. With the second movie in the franchise (however, not a sequel), I am again making this claim for Lego Batman in 2017. I was super excited for this one, and thankfully not disappointed. Much like in 2014 I actually got to an advanced screening of this and loved every minute. It was incredibly funny but also had some sombre moments and, despite a kids film, a decent exploration into the psyche of the main three characters, Batman, Joker and Robin. This was not only a great Lego Movie, it also was a pretty good Batman film. Most likely to be enjoyed best by “big kids” – e.g. people like me!

I really loved this movie and could say an awful lot more so I may revisit this for a full review later on in the year.

lego-batman-movie-poster

Free Fire

I had the chance to see this once again at an advanced screening (perks of the Cineworld unlimited card!). An interesting premise where the whole film is set in one location. Basically, what should be a routine gun deal goes wrong, and unfolds into what is essentially 80 minutes of back and fire gun fire. It seemed like it should be a lot of fun, and it was for a short while, but even at only 90 minutes, this film felt too long. I quickly grew tired of the monotonous back and forth fire which forced the jokes to become really stale. I think the filmmakers were trying to be too clever for their own good. A few big names were in the cast such as Armie Hammer and Brie Larson, but for me Sharlto Copley’s, Vernon, stole the show as a very enjoyable character to watch.

Not one I would recommend spending money on seeing – wait for a Netflix release.

Free-Fire-movie-2017

Power Rangers

When I saw the trailer for this, I became quite excited. I wasn’t expecting a great film but was one I wanted to see for nostalgia sake, having watched the Mighty Morphers as a kid. As predicted, this wasn’t great, but enjoyable nonetheless. Filled up with pretty unimaginative cliches and a predictable story arc this film plods along at a reasonable pace without really throwing anything out of the ordinary at us. That said, there were a few moments that happened which genuinely had me smiling ear to ear – when “Go go power rangers” started playing at the perfect time – it was, I’m not ashamed to admit, a great moment.

If you watched the shows growing up, worth giving it a go even just for a few of those moments that will take you back to childhood and give you a huge grin on your face.

power-rangers-movie-poster.png

Beauty and the Beast

This was one I probably wouldn’t have seen if I didn’t have my unlimited card, but I am actually glad I saw it. I’d never seen the animated version but was pretty sure I knew the main plot points of the story. I have to say, when the first musical number started, I did have a brief look at myself and question what I was doing sitting watching this. However, when the second number started, and I suddenly found myself tapping my foot and smiling away to myself and realised – “dear god, I’m enjoying it”. Yes, I did go see this on my own, and I am once again – not ashamed.  This film has an awful lot going for it – it looked stunning, the musical numbers were catchy and well placed moving the story along nicely – oh, and Emma Watson. So much win for Emma Watson.

My one gripe, although not with the film itself, was that people clapped at the end. I don’t like when people do that – it makes no sense, who are you clapping for?! (sorry, it’s a pet hate!)

Beauty-Beast-2017-Movie-Posters

Ghost in the Shell

So, I saw the trailer for this countless times and even saw a 20-minute preview before the film came out. And I still had no idea what this was going to be about. Regardless, it had me intrigued, so I was quite looking forward to it. But, to say I was disappointed was an understatement. I found this film to be very slow moving and everything happened far too conveniently and seemed to wrap up to a conclusion before it even seemed like the problems for the main characters really got going. I’m usually a big Scar-Jo fan, but I didn’t really rate her performance in this. I haven’t been privy to the original incarnations of this story, so can’t say if it did it justice or not – my gut feel is it probably didn’t – unless the original also sucked.

Wouldn’t recommend this one – drab, boring and felt very slow despite not having a particularly long running time.

gits_trailer

Going in Style

I’m a massive Zach Braff fan, despite not seeing him much other than in Scrubs (possibly the greatest show of all time!). This looked like it could be a bit of light relief fun, a story of three old men deciding to rob a bank after being screwed over by their old company who revoke their pensions. This film isn’t a classic –  full of cliches, is quite predictable, and makes a lot of easy “old man” jokes. But despite all that, it made me feel good, put a smile on my face and as expected, was a lot of fun. Not a great deal of thinking required and is a good one for switching off for an hour and a half and just having a good time. nice to still see the likes of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin still on our screens, and Braff did a nice job in the director’s chair. Shoutout to Kenan Thompson who stole the show in the brief onscreen time he got, with some very funny scenes (always a soft spot in my heart for the hours spent as a kid watching Kenan and Kel!)

Not one to rush out and see but I would recommend it if you get a chance.

Going-in-Style-movie-poster

I’ll leave it there…

I have seen a lot more films this year, that I haven’t reviewed, but I will leave it there for now. I may come back and do another over-eview in the not too distant if I don’t have any full reviews to write. If you saw any of these films and want to let me know what you thought about any of them, feel free to leave a comment.

Peace out for now.

 

 

 

 

A cure for wellness… or disappointment

As I’m currently away on holiday, I haven’t watched a new film in the last week but didn’t want to stop the ball rolling when I’m just getting back into writing again. So with this review, I actually watched the film when it came out in the UK back in February, and wanted to write a quick few thoughts on this one as it has stuck in my memory – but not for the right reasons, instead as one of the most disappointing films I’ve seen so far this year.

A cure for wellness poster

I ummed and ahhed about whether to see this one at first, as it seemed like the trailer was potentially pitching this as a bit of horror – and as will be noted looking through the archives of this blog – Ben don’t do horror. I’m sorry but I’m a big wuss, and just won’t watch them – “A film so scary you won’t feel safe in your own home” and taglines to similar effect, sorry but I actually like to feel safe at home, count me out. Anyway – I digress. I ultimately (obviously as you’re reading this, hopefully!) decided I was going to give it a go as the storyline looked like it could edge slightly more into a psychological thriller, which is definitely up my street. After all, it looked a very similar premise to Shutter Island, which I really loved when it came out, so much so I saw it twice in cinemas. However, I’m sad to say the quality of A Cure for Wellness does not even come close by comparison.

The premise is a young employee on Wall Street is sent to retrieve a board member of his company from a wellness centre in the Swiss Alps, but when he arrives everything seems a bit odd and by an unfortunate and bizarre incident becomes a patient at the centre himself and is seemingly unable to leave, beginning to question his sanity. (See what I mean about Shutter Island similarities?).

The plot starts off seeming like it has some legs, but it never quite picked up the pace to fully get me on board. There were moments in there which got me on the hook but then didn’t deliver the punch to give me that “wow that was clever” moment you are dying for in a thriller. In fact, calling this a thriller is a bit of a stretch as it was in fact, far from thrilling. The story seemed clunky in places, with a lack of explanation on some points, simple giveaways that spoil the satisfaction of a “twist” and when it became obvious where the story was going (don’t worry – I’m not in the business of spoilers – keep reading…), I was left thinking “oh, that’s where we’re going, really?”.

The film wasn’t all bad. I thought Mia Goth played her role very well, and Jason Isaacs as the eerie Dr Volmer had his moments of walking the line between being trusted or not. I wasn’t keen on Dane DeHaan’s character of Lockhart, as although the lead in the movie I never warmed to him, and struggled to get behind him. I’m still not actually sure if that is intentional by the filmmakers or not? If you saw the movie let me know what your thoughts on the character were.

In fairness, the movie actually looked great – the production did a great job, the visual effects (for the most part) were very good, and some great locations were used to capture scenes in and around the wellness centre. By contrast, I seem to remember being not overly impressed with the use of music/sound in the film, which is a pretty important component in a psychological thriller. I may be doing it a disservice and misremembering, but as I don’t remember it being good, it probably wasn’t.

Running at just under 2 and half hours, this film more than outstayed it’s welcome. That said, making it 45 minutes shorter wouldn’t have improved it, but it would have meant I could’ve left earlier. Maintaining a sluggish pace for its entirety, it felt like a long 2 and half hours.

I had relatively high hopes going into this one, but instead of a cure for wellness, I was left needing a cure for disappointment.

3/10

Sleepless

Tonight I had the chance to go and see an ‘Unlimited’ screening of Jamie Foxx’s new movie, Sleepless. I say new, it seems as though this was actually released in the US back in January. I thought the fact Cineworld were showing this as an ‘Unlimited’ movie that is was an early screening, but now I’m not actually too sure?

I was really looking forward to this film – I hadn’t really seen a full trailer, but from what I had seen it looked like it was going to be a fun one to watch, plus I do usually like Jamie Foxx films. However, my spirits were dampened a bit when I accidentally saw headline reviews, and they were pretty terrible (I usually actually try and stay away from reviews all together before seeing a film so nothing is spoiled and I go in with a clean mind about the film). Nevertheless, at the end of the day reviews are only someone’s opinion, so I still went in with hopes I would disagree.

But, this film was only okay. It wasn’t terrible, but then it wasn’t all that great. Sleepless doesn’t really do anything that we haven’t seen before in a dirty cop film. All the ingredients are there – a drug deal gone bad, angry drug dealer, kid taken as a hostage, doubt over who can be trusted.

Although there a number of twist and turns, everything is all very predictable, and at times the film does give us a couple of too obvious clues as to what is going on. I found it quite difficult to real root for any of the characters, as the film seemed a bit confused about this itself. But, the film chugs along at a reasonable and very angry pace. Everything in this film is angry, all the characters seem angry the whole time, the soundtrack is angry, even the way the film is lit makes it look angry. While I’m mentioning the soundtrack, I actually thought this area was pretty weak. The film was trying hard to build suspense, but never quite hit

As is often the problem with mediocre films, everything just seems a bit too convenient. The character of Jamie Foxx’s ex seems to have been cast as a nurse just so she can show up at the right time when shots have been fired. And also happens to know how to effectively neutralise drug lords henchman? There are a few occasions as well where the film seems to have forgotten they have included things. For example, at time Jamie Foxx’s character can hardly move because of a stabbing, but later he seems absolutely fine, only for it to kick back into pain a few scenes later. And a hand that must be shattered by a fire extinguisher, also seems to be forgotten about, almost immediately.

Sleepless has a couple of big stars in there, in Jamie Foxx and Michelle Monaghan, it is just a shame we don’t get to see the best of them, as in previous outings I’ve really enjoyed them. I was also quite pleased to see David Harbour, as I thought he was great in The Newsroom series, despite only being a supporting role. Unfortunately, Sleepless doesn’t really get the best out of any of its stars, and this won’t be going down as one of their highlights.

One thing I will say for the film, is that I think it actually ends pretty well. Not that it is an amazing finale, but where a lot of films tie things up with a nice bow and everything has worked out for the best, Sleepless makes us think it is doing this, but then as the curtain closes, it tells us that although the story has finished for us, this isn’t the end for these characters who still have consequences to deal with. A nice touch you don’t see too often   – unless it is setting up for a sequel, which I really hope isn’t the case!

If this does have a wider UK release in cinemas, it probably isn’t worth your time. A shame, as i do usually like Jamie Foxx.

An average 5/10

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2

I’ve been looking forward to this one for quite some time, but amongst my excitement, has also been a little bit of worry. You tend to find with these kinds of films, when there is a lot of hype, there is always a chance you will be disappointed. There is also the possibility that there will be some exaggeration of how good the film really is – because of what it is. I have to admit, I fell into that a bit when Man of Steel came out, letting on that I thought it was much better than it really was – cos it was a Superman film AND Nolan was involved.

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Vol-2-poster-feature

But back to Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2. I’m a huge fan of the Marvel Movie Universe, and I am very pleased to say this certainly lived up the hype. (Yes, I really mean it!). I was reassured immediately, as the opening credit sequence is a beauty to behold itself. I don’t want to go too deep into the movie, because I really would recommend to just go see it, and enjoy yourself. So instead I’ll just pull out a few things as to why I enjoyed it so much. If anyone actually reads this, and does want to talk more detail about the film, just leave me a comment or shoot me a tweet – @benjoy93

  1. This film is really funny. Marvel seems to have progressively been bringing more and more humour into their films (with the odd exception), and I seem to remember when the original Guardians film came out, it was their funniest to date. Again this one didn’t disappoint and was very funny throughout the film.
  2. At over 2 hours the film doesn’t seem to lose pace. Sometimes you can watch a film and think it would’ve been better to have been a bit shorter. Although Guardians runs at two and a quarter hours, it doesn’t seem to hit a lull. That doesn’t mean it is action packed for the full 2.25 hours, but it remains interesting for the full length.
  3. Which leads on nicely to the next point, whereby I think this film does the characters justice. The sequel delves a bit deeper into some of the characters and we find out a bit more about their backstories, and who they really are. I mean some of it, we already knew without it being explicitly spelt out for us but it is nice to spend some time looking at the characters. We also meet a few new characters and we are set up nicely for the Marvel Movie Universe to continue to keep rolling.
  4. The soundtrack is absolutely on point. I think sometimes this element of films is often (wrongly so) overlooked, but actually plays a vital role. I thought Guardians got it absolutely spot on, pulling in old classics really well to move help move the story along, bring in some humour and also hit us in the feels. The original Guardians film had a great soundtrack, and Guardians 2 followed up with one just as good.
  5. Post credits. By now everyone knows you’re in for a little bit more once the credits start to roll in a Marvel film (with the exception of Logan, which omitted this for all the right reasons). We are treated to a whopping 5 – yes, you read that right – FIVE post credit scenes. Not all are that important, a couple are just humorous, but we get a glimpse of where Marvel could be heading for a couple of the future films. Make sure to stick around right until the very end of the credits to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Overall, I really enjoyed this film, and Marvel can take yet another one to the bank. You are pretty much assured to be in for a great movie experience when Marvel are involved. Definitely, go check this one out.

8/10

Fast and Furious Week

With the recent release of Fast & Furious 8, it dawned on me that I haven’t actually seen any of the previous films. So, what better way to put this right, than by binge watching the whole franchise in one week, so I could watch the latest installment on the big screen.

Rather than go into great detail over these films, as there are so many of them, I’ll instead just give a short summary of what I thought of each one. So on Tuesday, I kicked off #fastandfuriousweek (unfortunately that didn’t start trending despite my constant tweeting of it – feel free to also check me out over on twitter).

fast and furious crew

 

The fast and the furious (2001)

I have to say, I was a little disappointed with the opener. I went into it kind of expecting this to be insanely action-packed most of the way through. However, I found this a little flat. Yes there are some action scenes, and some cool street racing, but it didn’t really get all that exciting for me until the last 20 minutes, but then the film is over. The basic storyline follows undercover cop Brian (Paul Walker) who gets involved with Dom Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) crew whilst trying to bring down some truck hijackers. What this film is good for though is setting the scene for the franchise. We meet a few of the characters who will appear throughout the franchise and the ending leaves it wide open for more films to build on this. Even if we don’t really get the true sequel until the fourth movie.

2 fast 2 furious (2003)

The second film in the franchise see’s Brian now relocated to Miami and wanted by the FBI following his actions in the first movie. Vin Diesel steps out for a little while, but instead, we get introduced to franchise mainstays (and one of my favourite characters) Tyrese Gibson playing Roman Pearce, Brains partner in crime and Ludacris as Tej, an ex’street racer friend of Brian’s. Obviously looking to lay low Brian gets involved in the Street Racing scene and is inevitably caught, but offered a deal to help the FBI out and receive a pardon (a running theme throughout the films!).

This film seemed to get going a lot quicker, and for me, there was much more to enjoy in the way of fast cars and action sequences of which I was expecting from the first installment. This is a follow on from the first film, but not a true-true sequel (which we get later in the franchise), but there are throwbacks to the first film and references that help to and backstory to relationships in this movie, and again ultimately set up the new characters for the rest of the franchise. In a not so often occurrence, a stronger sequel than the original movie.

The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

Now, this certainly isn’t the best film in the franchise, however… it is the one I was most pleasantly surprised by. As I went into this one expecting it to suck. No Paul Walker, no Vin Diesel (again!), no Tyrese Gibson, no Ludacris. Basically, none of the original characters. But, I stand corrected and this is actually an enjoyable film in the series.

This film sees’s troubled high school kid Sean out of chances, and to avoid juvie is instead sent off to live with his estranged father in Tokyo, with strict rules to stay away from cars. Of course, he doesn’t do that, and instead get’s involved in the drift racing scene, and mixed up with the Yakuza. A slight move away from the type of street racing we’ve seen in the first few movies, and no influence of law enforcement, whilst very similar this movie differs from the rest of the franchise. However, of course, all differences are settled behind the wheel of the car.

Not the best in the franchise, but still plenty of fun, and race sequences to keep us happy, and a welcome introduction to another mainstay character Han (Sung Kaan). We also get a tease of a return of Vin Diesel in a post credit scene. I was tempted to skip this one but didn’t as wanted to complete the whole series. And I’m glad I didn’t.

Fast & Furious (2009)

This one is a little confusing, to begin with as firstly we see Brian back working for the FBI, without that much explanation how after his antics in number 1, and then again in number 2. And secondly, we have the return of a crew member which tells us that the previous film does (Tokyo Drift) doesn’t fit into the chronology of the franchise as we may have first anticipated. However through the next few films mentions of Tokyo are made quite consistently, just to remind us.

As I mentioned in the summary of the first film, it isn’t until number 4 that we seem to get a real sequel to the The Fast and the Furious. Both Paul Walker and Vin Diesel are back for this one, to clash once again after the first film set us up perfectly for this to happen at some point. I just didn’t expect us to have two other films before we got to this. I enjoyed this one while watching it, however now, only a couple of days after watching it, I’m struggling to remember anything key from this one.

Fast Five (2011)

I was on a tight schedule to fit all these in, as part way through the week I realised I needed to finish by Friday to avoid having to take a day off from the binge. So I actually got up at 6 am to watch this one before going to work. I was worried I was just gonna fall asleep again and miss a lot of it, but it was such rip roaring fun all the way through, that didn’t prove to be a problem.

This was perhaps one of my favourite installments for a number of reasons. One being the introduction of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I’ve always been a big fan of The Rock since growing up with WWF, and happen to think he’s also not a bad actor. This film also marks where Brian is actually a full member of the crew and not actually a cop anymore. Possibly the biggest reason though is that this is the film in the franchise the filmmakers seem to have finally accepted what these films are – utter ridiculousness. But that isn’t a criticism. I like that they are ridiculous, it’s what makes them so much fun!

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

Good guys join the bad guys, who are actually good guys we want to root for. The good guys who are chasing them are actually bad guys, but wait! They’re now joining the bad guys )who are actually good guys) to hunt a real bad guy, who is an actual bad guy. Confused?

With a film franchise that has been running so long, and continues to use the same characters, I guess it is inevitable that their roles change as the story progresses. The crew just can’t seem to get away, everytime they seem o be home free, they are brought in for “one last job” (which we know is gonna keep happening until we’ve hit at least 10 films). I think this film has perhaps some of the craziest sequences of all 8 films, with my personal favourite involving a tank, a bridge, and an incredible diving save. Sheer madness. This film was definitely embracing the franchise’s insanity.

Furious 7 (2015)

Fast 7 is a strange one, as most people will be aware, Paul Walker actually died for real in a car wreck whilst the film was still being shot. This almost lead to the film being scrapped, but instead was continued without Walker and cleverly edited to be finished and give the character a fitting send-off.

There has also been a large running theme of Family throughout the series, but this film leans heavily on this, for obvious reasons. This film is almost more abut the relationships of the crew rather than the action. But that doesn’t mean this film still wasn’t a lot of fun and filled with crazy car action, as it certainly was. My summaries are getting very similar now, as in fairness, all of the films are pretty similar, however, that doesn’t really take away from the enjoyment.

The fate of the furious (2017)

So, here I was, a challenge that started on Tuesday, now sitting in the cinema to complete the 8th film on Friday. The latest installment this time see’s Dom (Vin Diesel) caught up in having to betray (kind of) his family and work for the bad guy. Once again we see past bad guys joining the crew to become good guys, a

It is clear from watching this latest film, and indeed as the franchise has progressed, that these films are a far cry away from its street racer origins. Although we see one race right at the very beginning, that’s it and the rest is an out and out action film which involves cars. And now it isn’t just cars. We’ve got planes, tanks, snowmobiles, even submarines. This is perhaps the most far-fetched story so far – seemingly each film pushing the limits of sanity a little bit further each time.

You’d think by now the franchise could becoming a little stale, but to me it didn’t feel that way. Yes all the films are slightly similar, but it doesn’t matter. These films are abut switching off and just enjoying them for what they are. Or perhaps I was just on a high from so much car action in 4 days. Who knows. All I know is I really enjoyed this one as well. And if you’re a fan of the franchise, you have to go see it. And if not – why not binge watch them all in 4 days, it’s doable!

Key takeaways

So, now the week is over, I’m not really all that sure what to do with myself. It was one hell of a thrill ride for a few days, and I’m definitely glad I did it.

A few things I have learned from the films…
1. Whenever there is a street race, seemingly there is always a disco happening at the same time
2. If you want to commit a crime, just be so good at it that the FBI need your help to catch others so you can keep getting away with it
3. Ride or die

Predictions for Fast & Furious 9 – definitely got to involve a spaceship, I don’t think there any other “vehicles” left!

Wow, what a week! #fastandfuriousweek

Muppets Most Wanted … I wanted more [REVIEW]

When The Muppets returned to the big screen back in 2011, it was definitely something special. Writer and star Jason Segel got everything just right – he gave us the Muppets that we loved. It was silly, funny, charming and had a great deal of heart. I was unsure of what to expect with the sequel Muppets Most Wanted, as Segel has absolutely nothing to do with it. On the one hand, I was worried that his presence (and perhaps more importantly his writing) would be missed, but on the other how could The Muppets disappoint?

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I am sorry to say that his presence and writing was in fact missed, and I was a bit disappointed with this latest Muppet effort. That doesn’t mean that it sucked, but it is not to the standard of Segel’s masterpiece.

The storyline for the sequel involves Kermit being mistaken for the Worlds most dangerous frog and #1 on the Most Wanted list, Constantine, a Russian criminal who looks exactly like Kermit. Kermit is replaced by Constantine as the head of The Muppets, unbeknownst to the rest of the Muppet crew, as he takes them around the world on his crime spree. There are chunks of the film set in a Siberian Gulag, filled with Russian criminals – there is a chance some will try and tie this into the current issues surrounding Russia at the moment, however this is nothing more than bad timing. This is a U rated film and has absolutely no ties back to the current events, so won’t we dwell on this aspect. 

constantineI think where Muppets Most Wanted falls down, is that this film is centred around, and spends the majority of time on a Muppet that we have never seen before, we barely see our original favourites, Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie etc… and see even less of the 2011 protagonist Walter. Constantine is funny for a while, with his thick Russian accent, with the running joke that none of the other Muppets notice this. However, I soon tired of him, and was wishing to see more of the real Kermit. 

As expected, the film is ladened with musical numbers, with Bret McKenzie returning from the 2011 effort with more original songs. These are catchy, funny and incredibly witty – although in my opinion peaked with the first number as the stand out song in the film. The songs helped to pick the film up, and combat the disappointing elements of Muppets Most Wanted, as these get to show the strength of the Muppets, and just how entertaining they can be.

Also, as expected, the film features a number of cameo appearances – although I felt these weren’t utilized as well as they were in 2011, and weren’t quite as relevant. Where in 2011 I was left thinking, “Wow, it’s great they got them to be in this”, this time around, for probably at least 50% of the cameos I was left thinking “Huh, haven’t seen them in a while…”.

MUPPETS MOST WANTED

The Muppets always have great human characters playing alongside them, and this was sort of the case in Most Wanted. Holding my hands up as not the biggest Ricky Gervais fan (despite my love of The Office (original UK Version)), and although having his moments, he just didn’t quite do it for me. It felt like he was holding back, and the combination of him and Constantine isn’t a patch on Walter and Jason Segel. However, Ty Burrell definitely delivers in his role as Jean Pierre Napoleon, an Interpol detective paired up with Sam the Eagle. Burrell gives this role his absolute all, and is effortlessly charming, funny, and bounces off Sam the Eagle fantastically. Tina Fey is the third most utilized human in the ensemble and is more funny than she isn’t. Nothing to write home about, but a pretty solid effort.

Although I left slightly disappointed, Muppets Most Wanted definitely has its moments. Even though we don’t see nearly enough of our favourite Muppets, we do get glimpses of the Muppet brilliance. I usually aren’t a fan of the fourth wall being broken, however when the Muppets do it, I love it. They are great at acknowledging themselves for what they are, and when the fourth wall is broken, it is always funny. The film isn’t a total write off and at a few points did have me laughing out loud. Which I could do as loud as I wanted, as for the first time ever I had the entire screen to myself. Which I am still finding hard to believe as this was an advanced screening…

If you get a chance and are a Muppet fan (how could you not be?) you probably should go and see it, even if just to say you have seen it. You will at least get some enjoyment out of it, just not as much as you could have, and is still possible as proved by the 2011 film. You will also get the delight of a Pixar Monsters University short at the beginning, which is incredibly funny. Where the Muppets will go from here, I am not sure. Perhaps Segel did the right thing of quitting while the Muppets were still ahead. Hopefully the next effort will be better, although I can’t see Segel making a return to the Muppets – can anybody come in and fill those large shoes?

A mediocre 5/10

 

 

 

 

 

Her … A thought provoking social commentary, likely to be the most underrated film of the year [REVIEW]

It would be easy to take a look at the synopsis of this film and write it off immediately. Which I fear may be the case with many, judging by the fact that this film was only released on the 14th February (In the UK), and when I saw it on the 15th, it had already been relegated to a small seater Studio screen … which was also empty.

I first read about this film about 6 or so months ago, and thought it was an interesting idea. My fear was that it would be too Lars and the Real Girl-ish … however, although comparisons could be drawn, Her, is very much its own film, and Spike Jonze has done a great job, creating an emotional and thought provoking piece that hints at where we may be heading, and jibes at where we are today.

her-movie-posterJoaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a man going through a divorce, who in his loneliness purchases a new Operating System, OS1, that is designed to meet a persons every need, and has the ability to grow, learn, and make decisions – ultimate artificial intelligence. Theodore eventually falls in love with his OS, named Samantha, and pursues a relationship with ‘her’.

The film borders on Sci-Fi, and Spike Jonze has created a world that is not too far from our own. It feels like Jonze has placed this maybe 15 to 20 years into the future. Technology has advanced (obviously!) and people are engrossed with their electronic devices. Everything works like Siri, nothing seems manual anymore, but a reliance on computers to do everything, from reading emails out loud, writing letters on voice command rather than being typed, reading news stories, and even holding conversations.

The film, although futuristic, has an element of truth to it, which Spike Jonze is poking at. Although with all of the technological advancements that on the surface bring people closer together than ever before … human interaction is being lost. People forever have their heads in a smartphone, or a tablet or a laptop, rather than connecting with the people who are around them. I read a short, interesting article on this subject  the other day prior to watching this film, and it came back to my mind when watching Her. Throughout the film you see hundreds of people, all together, near each other, travelling together … yet almost everyone is engaged with their electronic devices and talking with them. Even Theodore’s job is to write personalized letters for other people – even people’s most intimate and close relationships are not being communicated directly with one and other, a complete stranger is playing a middle man. With, Her, Spike Jonze is holding up a mirror to society as we are now, and showing us where we are heading if we continue down this path. Of course technological advancement isn’t all bad – but Jonze is raising a very real point with this film.

Another thought provoking aspect of this film that Jonze explores is that of love. Love by its very nature is unpredictable, and the love between two people is often not understood by those outside of the relationship. On the surface, it seems like the idea of this film is crazy, and that the Theodore character should be branded as a ‘weirdo’ – however when the film gets going – for the most part, it doesn’t seem that strange. I did find myself torn throughout the film, at times feeling like this was ridiculous, and at others it seemed so normal. Yes, the OS is a program, she is not real – however she communicates like a real person, she presents real emotions, she makes unique decisions – she becomes very real, very fast. And the way that Theodore’s character changes when he is with ‘her’ is astonishing – before he is, whilst not broken, depressed and lonely – yet when he begins his relationship with Samantha, he becomes happier, care-free and begins to enjoy life again. And as an audience, who are we to judge? It doesn’t negatively affect anyone else around Theodore, and it makes him happy – so why is that weird, and why should he be branded as ‘weirdo’. I am talking from an audience perspective here … this is behaviour is accepted by most characters in the film, and it is referenced that Theodore is not the only one who is experiencing this.

But of course it is absurd right? … It’s a tricky one.

One way to look at it, could be that what Jonze is propositioning is, that we are becoming less capable of handling real emotions because of our obsession with electronic communication – losing that human touch is diminishing our abilities to communicate on a real level. You can say whatever you want through a text or an email and never have to face real response or consequence – Twombly remarks often in the film to the OS … “I can say anything to you”. This is idea of hiding from emotion is directly referenced at one point in the film, by Theodore’s ex-wife (Rooney Mara), which I think was added in to nudge the audience at what Jonze is trying to say.

The writing of this film is impeccable by Jonze, and as this film is mainly dialogue between the two central characters, Theodore and Samantha, running at two hours, it doesn’t feel slow (maybe for 10 minutes it slows, but picks up again straight away). Jonze has also done a great job in making the world look great … not too dissimilar from today – to hit home where we are as a society at present – but advanced this to be obvious it is the near future.

The casting is an inspired choice, Joaquin Phoenix is impeccable as Theodore Twombly – he makes you feel for him, laugh with him and is a character you will no doubt warm to. Scarlett Johansson is also brilliant, and although you obviously never see her, she sells the performance with her voice, and really does make Samantha feel real (did anyone else notice just how much she sounds like Rashida Jones?). Bearing in mind the two main characters are never together, it feels as real to the audience as it does to Theodore, and everyone involved has done a great job at creating this film. Supported by the likes of Chris Pratt and Amy Adams, you are reminded that human relationships do in fact still exist. The film yo-yos up and down emotionally, being biting funny when it wants to be, and then crushingly depressing.

Not only is this a great piece to view, it raises numerous very interesting, and real points to consider. I have a feeling this will be overlooked by too many, and is likely to be the most underrated film to come out this year. Spike Jonze has created a truly magnificent, thought provoking film … and if you have got through all of my waffle to here, I would recommend it to you!

8/10

Dallas Buyers Club … [REVIEW]

This was a film that I didn’t have too much knowledge about going in, however from the trailers and the few bits I had read, made this a film I was very interested in seeing.

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Dallas Buyers Club tells the (inspired by true events) story of Ron Woodroof, a homophobic, electrician and hustler who contracts HIV and is given 30 days to live. Refusing to just lay down and die, Ron battles against the medical system to get the medication he needs, not only for himself, but also for other AIDs sufferers.

The story is one very much of growth. A complete homophobic, Ron resents being put in the homosexual bracket, as a lot of his fellow sufferers were homosexual men. He is shut out by his “friends” and is very much alone. After being refused the drug AZT (medication for the disease), he begins to obtain the drug illegally, and when the well dries up, ventures over the border to Mexico in seek of medication to save his life. Realising the AZT has been poisoning him, Ron is given proteins and minerals to help him, and then begins to sell these back in America. Ron forms a partnership with Rayon, a transvestite man, in order to sell his substances to the gay community suffering from the same disease as himself. This starts off as pure business, however watching the relationship grow is a great spectacle.

Getting past the films slow-ish start, the story is fascinating. As the FDA react painfully slow to find treatment for HIV/AIDs, it is those suffering from the disease who are on the forefront of the research and self medicating with much greater effects than the FDA approved medical treatment. Fighting against a system of drugs being pushed for the profit of pharmaceutical companies rather than the well being of patients being the focus, Ron sets up a Buyers Club, a membership system that allows the AIDs sufferers to get as many drugs as they need by paying a monthly membership fee. With the help of Rayon, and support of Eve, a doctor unconvinced by the system she works in, Ron works tirelessly, travelling across the world to bring in the help these sufferers desperately need. Where this starts as a selfish money making scheme, Ron grows to become compassionate and begin to care about the other people around him.

The performances in this film, are frankly outstanding, and some of the the best you will see all year. Matthew McConaughey is simply brilliant as Ron Woodroof. He is completely believable in the role, and delivers a performance that is deep, emotional and is one of his best. He has been tipped as the frontrunner for Best Actor at this year’s Oscars, and having now seen the film, I can see why. McConaughey is fast shaking his lack-lustre Hollywood reputation, and is now (more) consistently putting out stellar performances. Jared Leto is on par with McConaughey, as Rayon, Ron’s transvestite business partner, who grows into a close friend. Leto brings a sensitivity to the role, and is a character that you will warm to immediately. Again, is a in with a good chance at the Oscars, for Supporting Actor. I felt that it took Jennifer Garner a little time to settle into the role of Eve, however when she did hit her stride, she was great to watch. Her character is compassionate, sensitive and much like Ron, unwilling to to lay down.

As you might expect, this is a very heavy film, and one that will hit you hard.The story is interesting, and whilst holding an uplifting feel, is a film of tragedy, and one that had me in tears on multiple occasions. This one that I would definitely recommend seeing, and am tipping to pick up a lot of awards in the coming months.

8/10

I would like to add a small note to the bottom of this review – apologises for the negativity.

Please can all cinema goers please respect the films and people around you trying to watching. They do not wish to listen to your running commentary and unrelated comments. Please keep these to yourself and wait until you have the left the screen to have your conversations. Sorry to end this review so negatively, but this seems to be happening more frequently in the screenings I have been to recently, and it is something that really knarks me. It is great that people have comments and opinions about the films, heck this is what this blog is all about after all – however there is a time and place, and when this is done over the film, it can affect the enjoyment of others.

 

The Lego Movie … Everything is AWESOME! [REVIEW]

Oh man, was I excited for this film! From when I first heard about it, to seeing the first trailer, to finding out the release date. I just could not wait to see this! And then, to discover that the film was already showing, when it isn’t set for full release in the UK until the 14th (next week), that just made my weekend.

Well, that was until I saw it … then THAT made my weekend.

lego-movie-logoThe Lego Movie tells the story of Emmet, an ordinary, everyday construction worker. He is content with his life, following a set list of instructions each day, which involves smiling, going to work and building, smiling, paying for overpriced coffee, smiling, exercising, and whole lot more smiling. Although, along with all of the other Lego people, he is happy – Emmet isn’t special, or at least has never been told that he is. When he mistakenly finds the Piece of Resistance, a magical item that can save humanity, Emmet is mistaken for a MasterBuilder, and the Special … and his adventure really begins as he embarks to save the Lego world from Lord Business.

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Everything about this film is fantastic. The film, although you may think is a kids film, has plenty to offer for the adults. In fact, where a lot of kids films have parts just sprinkled in for the grown ups, The Lego Movie feels slightly opposite, more aimed towards the older market, with bits sprinkled in for the kids. However, not in a talking down to them kind of way. This is one that the whole family will enjoy – and even if you don’t have kids (like me), is one that begs to be watched. Don’t be thrown off by the fact you are watching a film based on toys. This really is a film that needs to be watched by people of all ages.

The film looks absolutely amazing. The animators have done an absolute stand up job of creating this Lego world. What is so good about the animation, is that while it isn’t stop motion, it isn’t over animated to be unrealistic. Everything that moves, and is in the world, looks and moves as if it were a Lego toy. The animators have been precise in not making anything move in a way that the toy wouldn’t. And that is what makes this film feel so magical! The attention detail is absolutely fantastic, and it isn’t just the Lego pieces that have been given the care and attention they deserve, if you look closely there are some well hidden gems … which I will let you spot for yourselves!

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The casting of this film is inspired. Chris Pratt is fast becoming a go-to guy in Hollywood, playing the role of an everyman fantastically well. There is just something about Pratt that makes him instantly likeable – whether he is playing the buffoonish Andy in Parks and Rec, or a Navy Seal hunting down Osama Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty … or even as a Lego man! Morgan Freeman steps in as the wise Vitruvius, and brings much to the role, as he did as God in Bruce Almighty. The perfect choice was made for a comical version of Batman … Will Arnett just has a way of making being so ridiculously aggressive so damn funny, and Batman just feels like the role he was born to play – full of arrogance, aggressiveness and a killer dry wit, Arnett is now my second favourite Batman of all time. I of course cannot forget Will Ferrell, as Lord Business, another comedy actor who can make being aggressive absolutely hilarious. And if you have read this blog in the past, you will know that I am Ferrell’s biggest fan, and I don’t believe he disappointed in this role either. A special mention also has to go to Liam Neeson, who seems to be making the rounds at the moment in comedy films, with his cameo in Anchorman 2, and now the Good/Bad cop in the Lego movie. Imagining him recording those two voices is making me laugh even writing this. Neeson is absolutely fantastic.

Along with these main players, there was a number of big names who also stepped in to provide their voices, including the always funny Nick Offerman, the lovely Elizabeth Banks, Jonah Hill, who made for an absolute hilarious Green Lantern, alongside 21 Jump Street partner in crime Channing Tatum as Superman. The sharper eared of you will also hear the likes of Dave Franco, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Jake Johnson, Will Forte and Cobie Smulders … just to name a few.

Now I know what a lot of you will be thinking. This is just a ploy to up the sale of Lego, to sell more merchandise, to have your wallet reached into and emptied. Now, I am sure that this will commercially benefit Lego, however this isn’t the intention of the movie at all … or at least if it is, it is hidden very well!

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The story is great. It is kind of your classic right of passage, everyday joe becoming the hero, type of movie. But that is just the framework that is set up to allow the story to progress to the ending. Once the framework is in place, then the imagination opens up, into something that is absolutely beautiful to watch. The film is fast paced, and the writers imaginations have run wild. Which is what makes this film so appealing. There is a child like wonder to this story, and one that we can all relate to from back in our childhoods. The film is action-packed and the kind of story you would play out in your head, were you sat building and playing with your own Legos. I mean, who doesn’t want to watch a story with pirates, robots, lasers, sharks, laser sharks etc etc …

Oh, and it is also, absolutely hilarious! The jokes come thick and fast, and rarely miss. A string of puns (good and bad, but always funny), childish jokes, jokes that will fly over the kids heads but land nicely with the adults, and tons and tons of visual gags – this will be one of the funniest films of the year!

The story has a clear message, and is one that isn’t new – be yourself, believe in yourself and you will achieve, everyone is special just the way they are. It sounds cliché … but the film is written so well, that it never feels like a cliché. Although a film about toys, you aren’t being talked down to, and a great line in the film – that sums up the point I am trying to make about it not being cliché is … “I know it sounds like a cat poster … but it’s true”. It is truly heartwarming and will have you smiling, laughing, and even bring a tear or two to your eye. And with a great twist towards the end, which I think few will see coming (I won’t spoil it for you), it is just topped off as an all round awesome film.

Although very early in the year, I do think this will be strong contender for movie of the year.

If you only ever listen to me this once, please, please do yourself a favour and get yourself out to the cinema to see this one as quickly as you can. You will not be disappointed.

9/10