Movies – The Duff Review (or ‘Perfectly Acceptable Light Entertainment’)

August 29, 2015

So it’s Saturday night. As usual, the offerings on TV are more than a little crap and – as is the case for me at the moment – I’m drained after another bad result from United and all the associated social media fallout and meltdown from other fans that comes with it.

I just want to watch something light that I can enjoy without being burdened by complex plots or deep emotional turmoil.

Last week I tried The Book Thief, and while I thought it was decent enough, the sombre and serious nature of it didn’t push the right buttons for me in the mood I was in. Plus I thought it ended so suddenly that it felt like everything that came before it was just filler.

But I digress; this isn’t a review of The Book Thief..

So anyway, looking for inspiration, I googled the best movies so far in 2015 and in amongst all the usual suspects I came across the name of a movie I’d never heard of; The Duff.

Described as a teen comedy in the Mean Girls mould, I thought that ticked the right boxes, so I decided to give it a shot.

Movies – The Duff Review: What’s It About?

A rather plain girl realises that she’s the Duff – Designated Ugly Fat Friend – of her social circle and enlists her neighbour – a jock who is captain of the High School Football Team – to help her overcome this label.duff

Movies – The Duff Review: Who’s In It?

It’s a bunch of adults in their late 20s playing teenagers! The ones who count though are main character Bianca (played by Anne from Arrested Development, aka 27-year-old actress Mae Whitman) and her neighbour Wesley (27-year-old Robbie Amell of The Flash). The Duff also includes well-known faces like Allison Janney (The West Wing) and Ken Jeong (Community).

Movies – The Duff Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

Cinema Blend consider this to be one of the best movies of 2015, but beyond that, this usually gets scores around the 3 or 4 star mark, with imdb giving it an underwhelming 6.6.

Thoughts

The fact that I’m writing this straight after watching it even though it’s late and I’m tired suggests one of two things.

Either this is one of the most amazing movies I’ve ever seen or my thoughts can be summed up briefly.

In this case it’s the latter.

The Duff isn’t one of the most amazing films I’ve ever seen, but it is good.

It’s formulaic and predictable and has a rather twee and unsubtle moral to its story (that you should be comfortable in yourself rather than worry about what other people think) but it doesn’t need to have much else to it.

It’s a teen comedy, and does a good job of making you laugh in the right places. It’s also relevant to society in 2015, with social media used as a means of bullying in a way that I suspect it probably is in schools across the world.

The acting is perfectly acceptable too, as Whitman and Amell struck up a great chemistry. You could almost forget that they were clearly too old to play their parts. Almost.

And even though you could probably have guessed how the movie was going to pan out, scene for scene after the first 5 minutes, it still kept my attention for the entire 100 minutes.

Put simply, The Duff is light, it’s funny and it keeps your attention without being even remotely taxing to watch.

And that’s perfect for a Saturday night.

It’s not one of the best movies of 2015 probably, but it’s the sort that you would have no problem watching again in the future.

My advice would be that although you probably wouldn’t want to buy it, if it ever comes available on the likes of NetFlix or Amazon, you could do worse than sit down for a couple of hours and enjoy it.

I certainly did.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 


Stuart’s Entertainment Review July 2015 (Inc. WWE, UnReal, Nashville, N++, Rocket League etc)

August 4, 2015

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of my Entertainment Review articles, but seeing as I’ve been playing plenty of games and watching a few different things on TV throughout the month of July, I thought I’d exhume the format.

TV

As you’ll know, most American TV shows run between September and May, with the US market seemingly believing that nobody watches TV during the summer.

However, you will get the occasional programme running almost unopposed around this time, and one such example of that is UnReal, which finished its first season last night.

A drama about the behind the scenes running of a reality TV show called Everlasting (which is basically The Bachelor), UnReal ‘exposes’ the reality format and captures not only how stage-managed everything that goes on in these shows actually is, but also the ruthless and selfish types of people both in front and behind the camera.

Whether I truly enjoyed it is something I’m not all that sure of. Yes, I watched every episode and it kept my attention, but I’m struggling to understand how it can go beyond a single season without retreading over old ground. Now we know that everyone involved is an arsehole and that the show will always be run a certain way, surely any new season would just be a repeat of what we’ve already seen.

What’s also interesting is that there isn’t really a single character in it who is likeable. Everyone is out for themselves and though they try to portray the main character Rachel (Shiri Appleby) as sympathetic, she’s arguably the biggest prick of the lot.

Viewers of Entourage and House of Cards watching this must also come to the conclusion that Constance Zimmer has managed to become typecast as the very niche character of ‘Single Minded Woman In The Media’.

Apart from UnReal, here’s what else I’ve been watching…

Nashville: I took a punt at watching Nashville on Sky On Demand after unsuccessfully trying to be interested in the dull as dishwater Ray Donovan, and I was surprised at just how enjoyable it is. Not only does it

Seriously, look at the size of her forehead.

Seriously, look at the size of her forehead.

have a wide range of characters who are all written with some amount of depth, but the storylines are also interesting and it’s all supported well by catchy tunes. And I previously didn’t even like Country music. I think the biggest surprise of all is that previously wooden actress Hayden Panettiere – who I thought ruined Heroes by the time I stopped watching – is actually really good in it. I’m currently on Season Two so I don’t know anything about the most recent episodes, but I’m in this for the long haul.

Under The Dome: When I reviewed the first season of Under the Dome, I took the view that it was shit, but I forgave it because it was so unintentionally amusing. When Season Two came out I gave up after about three episodes, but with the news that it’s on its final season this year, I went back and watched the rest of the second one. Wow, was that a mistake. Season Two of Under the Dome is shit, but it’s not unintentionally amusing, it’s just shit. I don’t really know where to begin. Is it the tenuous way a host of new characters managed to come into it despite the confines of the setting? Is it the terrible acting, not least from the girl with The Largest Forehead In The Universe? Is it that the new science teacher character  is written so one-dimensionally ‘sciency’ that she doesn’t come across as a genuine human being? Is it that the plot became so garbled and confusing that I honestly have no idea what it’s even about anymore? Is it that they have situations like Julia getting stabbed through the leg one week and only surviving her predicament by literally dying of hypothermia so her blood stopped pumping and then in the next week she’s running around with a bandage over her jeans and not even a hint of a limp? Or is it all of the above? I will finish Under the Dome, but only because I feel I’ve put in too much time for me not to. But it’s really shit, so if you haven’t seen it, don’t bother.

Out of the Unknown: Ok, so I was doing reviews of Out of the Unknown, but I’m throwing in the towel. But for one or two episodes, it was just really boring. I couldn’t face watching another one.

1997 Editions of WWE Raw: I’m a subscriber to the WWE Network, and despite the fact that it must not get as many subscribers as WWE clearly wants it to, I would say it offers fantastic value for money for any wrestling fan. But what it also does is serve as a reminder that in almost all ways, wrestling in 2015 is rubbbish compared to what I personally feel was its heyday, 1997. On the Network at the moment is every single episode of Raw from 1997 (and indeed I think it has everything from 1993 up until 2000) and I have been happily sitting through episode after episode from that year. With the exception of the athleticism of the wrestlers involved, everything about that era – from the recognisability of the wrestlers through to the quality of the storylines – was just so superior to what we’ve got now, it’s quite sad. Most wrestling fans will point to 1998 – the year the Attitude Era came into full swing and when WWE turned the tables on WCW – as the best of times, but not me.

There’s just something – and pardon the pun here – raw about 1997. In March of that year they moved to the new set and thetwo-hour format that the show is most synonymous with, and yet at the same time

Part of the appeal of the 1997 Raws is seeing incongruous stuff like Steve Austin squaring up to Gorilla Monsoon. Naturally, not one for taking shit off of people, Monsoon doesn't back down an inch. Legend.

Part of the appeal of the 1997 Raws is seeing incongruous stuff like Steve Austin squaring up to Gorilla Monsoon. Naturally, not one for taking shit off of people, Monsoon doesn’t back down an inch. Legend.

it feels a completely different era has been placed in that setting. Everything about the environment will remind fans of Austin vs McMahon, DX vs The Nation, The Undertaker vs Kane and everything else associated with Attitude, but for the most part, 1997 isn’t about that at all. There’s Vince McMahon on commentary, Gorilla Monsoon as the President who is not in the least bit intimidated by Steve Austin (who plays the heel for much of the time and is at his best at this point), voiceovers by Todd Pettengil and appearances by guys who you’d be forgiven for forgetting were still around, like Sid, The Patriot, Barry Horrowitz and The Honky Tonk Man.

The Hart Foundation storyline – and everything that came along with it – remains my absolute favourite wrestling storyline of all time. I said earlier that it felt raw, and this is the best example of it. Bret Hart’s attitude towards the way his character was no longer accepted as the hero in the US was genuine. His dislike for Shawn Michaels (and vice versa) was very real, and the exchanges between the two hit so close to the bone that with hindsight (especially knowing how Hart would be screwed at Montreal and forced out of the company) it makes for compelling viewing. There’s nothing they could do now that could touch this for authenticity.

Like I say, I believe 1997 is wrestling’s heyday. Every episode starts with a reprisal and ends with a cliffhanger, just like a good TV show should. It’ll never get this good again, but at least for $9.99 you can relive it and remember what it was like when wrestling was actually entertaining.

The Last Ship: Another show I’ve attempted to get hooked on is The Last Ship, but it’s failing to keep me interested. It’s just a bit corny and it’s difficult to take lead actors (Eric Dane of Grey’s Anatomy and Adam Baldwin from Chuck) seriously because of their past playing more comedic characters. Also, knowing that it was renewed for a second season which is currently airing just makes me think that the overall plot will just end up being stretched much further than it should.

Games

Meanwhile, I’ve been fairly busy on the gaming front as well. Here are some examples of games I’ve played over the last month.

N++ (PS4): Here’s a game I’ve been waiting to come out for years. The sequel to the Xbox 360 game N+, this was supposed to be released around the same time as the PS4, but the developers just kept holding it back and holding it back, Now this is a top game, and has a single player mode every bit as good and challenging as its predecessor, which came in at #8 in my Top 100 Games Of The Last Generation article series, but I won’t lie; I’m a little disappointed with it. One of the best parts of N+ was the ability to play online Co-Op mode with friends. That’s gone, and it’s a shame. The developers came up with a long-winded explanation for why they didn’t add it in, which seemed reasonable, but considering the game came out two years later than it should have and considering it’s not exactly inexpensive for a PS Store game at £15, I just don’t have much sympathy for them or their ‘woe is us’ excuses. All I know is that if the games developer I work for released a game two years late and with expected features missing, we’d be slaughtered.

Rocket League (PS4): Contrast N++ to Rocket League, which came free with July’s PS Plus membership and has been accepted with open arms around the world. Yes, I totally accept the difference between

Looks great, plays great. Fantastic.

Looks great, plays great. Fantastic.

one developer getting support from Sony and another having to go it alone, but Rocket League doesn’t come with a sob story attached (N++ literally does have a sob story which you can click on on the main menu). A simple concept of rocket fueled cars playing football, it’s fast, furious, frustrating and fun. And you can play it online with your friends, not just on the PS4 but on the PC too, which is a breakthrough in cross-platform gaming as far as I’m concerned. My only problem with it is that sometimes struggles to cope with my network connection and can be a tad laggy when playing online. Still great though.

Splatoon (Wii U): I love Nintendo, but I’m going to go against the grain here and say I don’t find Splatoon as enjoyable as I think I’m supposed to. I should love it; it’s bright and colourful, it’s a Nintendo game and it gets fantastic reviews from all corners, but there’s just something about it I struggled with. It felt samey and the controls were a bit awkward. Plus, more than the likes of Call of Duty, I felt that the weapons that more experienced players had unlocked made it nigh on impossible to triumph against with the entry-level options. I’ll try to give it another go, but it feels a bit disappointing to me.

Kirby And The Rainbow Paintbrush (Wii U): I was also surprisingly disappointed by this game, but for a different reason. Kirby is challenging and does what it’s supposed to well enough. It’s never going to be as good as a Mario game but it provides you with a few hours of solid platforming fun. The thing is though it has a huge design flaw; while it looks fantastic, you get no chance to actually enjoy how it looks because the need to use the touch screen on the Wii U Gamepad the entire time. This means that you don’t get a chance to lift your head up to actually see the beautiful graphics on your expensive 55″ TV screen. Madness.

The Secret of Monkey Island 2 – LeChuck’s Revenge (Xbox 360): First released in the late 80s/early 90s heyday of LucasArts adventure games, Monkey Island 2 is regarded by many as one of the all time great games. I take issue with this. It’s amusing and it has been lovingly remastered to look swish on the 360, but I just don’t see the point in a game that you can’t complete without reading a walkthrough. Now you might come to me and say “Stuart, maybe you’re just not clever enough to work out some of the puzzles” but I’d argue that point. Maybe I’m not, but maybe it’s that these games were designed with the post-purchase money-spinner of getting players to phone up hotlines or buy guidebooks to get help finding solutions to these puzzles? Maybe also people had a greater tolerance to devoting time to thinking about all the possible tenuous ways to complete some of the more obscure brain teasers? But put it this way; there’s a puzzle where to get money you have to get a job. To get the job you have to get the cook in the pub sacked. How do you do this? You’ve got to pick up a rat. How do you pick up a rat? You have to pick up a cheese puff, a piece of string and stick and add them all together to create a trap with a cardboard box that’s sitting in a corner in the same screen as the rat. Without any hints, how is anyone supposed to conclude that’s what you have to do to move on? People who have too much time to think most likely.

Professor Leyton and The Miracle Mask (3DS): Speaking of puzzles, the Leyton games are famous for their brain teasers that require actual thought and cognitive reasoning. And that’s fantastic. The Leyton games however are also famous for being absolutely bogged down in layer upon layer of uninteresting storylines that you have to sit through before getting to the next puzzle. I suppose without the storyline the game would feel utterly bare-bones, but for me the puzzles are the only interesting part, so it made it a real struggle to get through it.

TwoDots (Android): My current go-to game for a quick fix is TwoDots, a sort of Bust-a-Move/Zookeeper/Candy Crush affair available on mobile platforms. It’s good, but success is entirely random. Sometimes the way the dots fall (you have to link up the same colours to clear them) means there’s just no way you can complete a level in the required moves while other times it just falls into place easily. After a while you realise there’s no skill involved. I’m guessing this is a deliberate ploy to sell in-app purchases like extra lives and weapons. You can do well without them of course, but you just need that little bit of patience. It’s free and it’s fun, but my advice is to keep calm and avoid paying out for these extras.

Assuming I remember, I’ll be back with more next month!

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 


Movies – Inside Out Review (or “Definitely Not *Just* For Kids”)

July 28, 2015

Lately I’ve been involved in a debate concerning animated films. Some people say that all animation is aimed specifically at children, and while that’s obviously ludicrous, the more intensified argument is whether or not the big budget ones like Disney’s Pixar movies are?

For me, it’s a no. You’d have to be a bit of a weird adult to go to see certain animated movies at the cinema – like the new Thomas the Tank Engine picture for example – but Pixar’s films have an appeal that spans all ages and demographics. They are deliberately aimed at everyone; if they weren’t, Disney wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful as it is.

Mindful of this, I went along to their newest effort, Inside Out.

Movies – Inside Out Review: What’s This About?

It’s about Riley, an 11-year-old girl who is uprooted from her life in Minnesota to live in San Francisco, and the little people in her head (or her five emotions Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness) who struggle to insideoutnavigate her through this trying time in her life.

Some might say this is Disney stealing the DC Thomson idea of The Numbskulls, and they’d have a point.

Movies – Inside Out Review: Who’s In It?

Pixar get it bang on with the casting of this one, with Joy played by the super bubbly Amy Poehler, while Sadness is expertly performed by The Office’s Phyllis Smith. Other voice actors involved include Richard Kind, Mindy Kaling and Kyle Maclachlan.

Movies – Inside Out Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

Massively. I haven’t read a bad word about Inside Out, and whether it’s imdb (8.6), Rotten Tomatoes (98%), Metacritic (94%) or the written press, this is being described as a masterpiece.

Movies – Inside Out Review: My Thoughts

It’s quite clear that Inside Out is has more than one layer to it.

If you were going to be critical about the general plot it’s that it has essentially the same one as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Up, Wall-E or just about any other Pixar or Disney movie. You know the one I’m talking about; characters are separated from something or someone and must get back to where they need to go. On the way, they bump into a variety of hazards and characters.

In this case it’s Joy and Sadness who are accidentally removed from HQ  – Riley’s brain controls – and have to get back before something bad happens.

That’s the hook and that’s what the kids will follow.

But beyond that it’s a surprisingly deep movie that deals with – and does a decent job of explaining – complex issues like fading childhood memories, how our personalities are formed and the importance of varied emotion and how sadness isn’t the worst thing in the world.

There are even instances where specific characters and incidents will have different meanings to different age groups. As an example of this, the character of Bing Bong – Riley’s imaginary friend who has been wandering around her memories alone for the last few years – will come across as a loveable and funny character to kids, but to adults will seem like a sad reminder of a lost innocence. It’s all very well done.

And as you would expect, the way it’s done is designed to pull at the adult heart strings. Considering the amount of sobbing I heard during it and the dozens of people wiping away tears when the lights went up, I think it served its purpose.

As good as it is though, I don’t think I’d consider it quite the masterpiece the press are touting it as.

Because it did rely upon that same rather tired ‘Home Is Just Over That Mountain’ plot that Pixar use to fill up time in movies, it slowed down a bit too much in the middle, and for that it loses some points as far as I’m concerned.

But it is well worth seeing, and a reminder that these movies are not just for kids; there’s something there for all ages to enjoy.

But Wait, There’s More…

As with all Pixar movies, there’s an animated short before the main picture begins.

In the past these have been so good they have stolen the show, whether it was the one about the paper aeroplane or the old fashioned 2D/3D Mickey Mouse short.

With Inside Out, it’s a 5 minute long musical love story called Lava, about two volcanos who fall in love in a relationship that lasts for millions of years.

I thought it was fantastic, and managed to tell the standard romance story more effectively than most movies could hope to. Not only was it a lovely song, but it was presented in an animated style that really brought it to life. More than Inside Out, this tugged at my heart-strings.

Not for the first time, I thought the quality of the animated short exceeded the movie.

You should obviously see it yourself, but the song is available on YouTube.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 


Movies: Ant-Man Review (or “A Welcome Change In Scale”)

July 23, 2015

When I told my brother that Marvel were making an Ant-Man film a couple of years ago, he thought I was taking the piss.

Why Ant-Man? He’s not even a B-Level Superhero is he? And the name is hardly one that will draw in the crowds?

Well perhaps that’s true, as it was reported that it had the weakest opening weekend takings of any Marvel movie since 2008. That’s not to say it hasn’t done well of course, but just that it’s lagged behind other, more famous Marvel brands.

None of that is of any consequence to the viewer though I suppose; what matters is whether or not it’s any good.

Movies – Ant-Man Review: What’s It About?

When the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) realises that one of protegés has discovered the secret to his shrinking suit technology and is planning on selling it to the highest bidder, he enlists the helpantman of ex-con burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to take over the mantle of the miniscule Superhero to stop him.

Movies – Ant-Man Review: Who’s In It?

Apart from the aforementioned Douglas and Rudd, this also stars Evangeline Lilly (Lost) as Pym’s daughter Hope, Corey Still (House of Cards) as the villainous Darren Cross and Michael Peña as Lang’s friend and partner in crime Luis.

Movies – Ant-Man Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

Generally mixed. Imdb has it at 8.0 from just under 40,000 votes, but you can never tell how many of them are from fanboys. Most critics seem to have enjoyed it while a few felt that it fell flat.

Movies – Ant-Man Review: My Thoughts

Personally I liked it because it was a change of pace from most of Marvel Studios’ offerings.

Yes of course, despite the twist that this is about the original Ant-Man training the new one, Ant-Man is essentially yet another superhero origin movie, so it is by-and-large more of the same sort of plot about an ordinary person getting the grips with his new powers etc, but that’s not the change of pace I mean.

What I mean is that this movie operates at – and pardon the unintentional pun here – a far smaller scale than the likes of The Avengers or Spider-Man.

At its heart, Ant-Man is a comedy about a heist and so unlike just about every other effort from Marvel, this doesn’t descend into a third act all about destruction porn and cities being razed to the ground. Instead, there’s some actual plot involved in it and the special effects – like a toy Thomas the Tank Engine being turned life-sized – are used for humour.

Humour does play a big part in it, and so casting Paul Rudd – a natural comedic actor – in the lead role is important, but for me, it’s his friends like Peña who steal the show.

The only major criticism of Ant-Man is not really a criticism at all. I just feel that as a superhero, he has limited scope and a sequel would just be more of the same.  After all, how many nemeses can a guy the size of an ant have beyond other similar sized foes?

But that’s more a criticism of the state of Hollywood, because a movie shouldn’t have to prove that it can have multiple sequels for it to work.

As a standalone movie, this works well, and is worth seeing.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 


Movies – Kingsman: The Secret Service Review (or “A Pleasant Surprise”)

July 2, 2015

A few months ago I was asked by a reader of this blog to review Kingsman: The Secret Service, but since it had only just finished at the cinema and I hadn’t gone to see it, I couldn’t oblige.

Why it didn’t catch my eye when it was on, I couldn’t tell you, but a quick google search shows that it had mixed reviews, with The Telegraph giving it one star (describing it as obnoxious) and Empire Magazine awarding it four stars, which by their standards means ‘excellent’. Perhaps I only caught the negative ones.

Anyway, since that request, I’ve seen nothing but praise for this movie; not from the press, but from punters who went along and loved it.

Someone even described it to me as one of the best films they’ve ever seen.

So this morning, I finally got a chance to sit down and watch it.

Movies – Kingsman: The Secret Service Review – What’s It About?

Not so much a parody but a comedic love-letter to spy films of old,Kingsman is about a young working class Londoner who is brought in to a top secret – and incredibly upper class – British spy agency, and must

It can't be often when the lead actor in a movie doesn't even get his name on the poster

It can’t be often when the lead actor in a movie doesn’t even get his name on the poster

help save the world from an evil billionaire who plans to use mobile technology to cull most of mankind in a bid to save the planet from ecological decline.

Movies – Kingsman: The Secret Service Review – Who’s In It?

Though I wasn’t familiar with lead actor Taron Egerton (which is unsurprising considering he only seems to have five acting credits to his name), Kingsman is loaded with well-known actors like Michael Caine, Jack Davenport, Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Firth, Mark Strong and even Mark Hamill.

Quite the collection.

Movies – Kingsman: The Secret Service Review – My Thoughts

There’s a scene halfway through the film where Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson discuss how spy films are so serious nowadays and that the old James Bond films with the over-the-top megalomaniac super villains were much more entertaining.

Now clearly this is a metatextual reference to what Kingsman is trying to achieve, and I think it sums it up perfectly.

As much as people like the Telegraph’s movie reviewer might think this is obnoxious, for my money it’s what spy films should be about.

Kingsman has the thrills, spills, action scenes and special effects that you would hope to get from any James Bond type movie and indeed it’s probably got quite a bit more violence, but it does it in a way that’s designed to entertain and make people chuckle; something which modern Bond has forgotten.

But Kingsman adapts it for a modern age and a modern viewer. There’s humour, there’s lots of swearing – and not for shock value, like when Judi Dench swore in Skyfall and Bond forums went into meltdown, but rather because it’s just how people talk – and there’s a certain appeal to it that should mean most people find something to enjoy.

The story itself has a good flow that not only builds up the main character to the point where he’s equipped for the final showdown with the villain at the end, but also allows for high points to keep you entertained until he gets there. I found the scene in the church quite a daring thing for any film to present.

And speaking of daring, the joke at the end where the Princess declares that if Eggsy manages to save the world, she’ll give him anal sex was controversial but hilarious. It’s a joke that’s designed to go one step further than the sort of cheeky ‘Bottoms Up’ style joke you’d find in some of these older films, but takes it that deliberate step over the edge. The zoom in on her bare arse just hammered that point home.

If I was to criticise it for anything, it would be that the way it’s directed – with each action sequence filled with slow shots – seems to weighted too greatly towards viewing it in 3D. That sort of gimmickry has long since past its sell by date.

To sum up though, I found Kingsman: The Secret Service to be thoroughly entertaining and would give it the thumbs up.

If you haven’t seen it yet, look it out.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 


Movies – Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol Review (or “Crap, But Good Crap”)

July 1, 2015

Seeing as I’ve been told to rest a leg muscle injury, I didn’t have too much to do yesterday beyond sitting about and watching TV.

At the moment I don’t have any games I’m playing through, nor do I have any TV shows after finishing The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, so I looked through Amazon Prime to see if there were any movies I could while away the hours with.

And in amongst a selection of rather bland modern films and dodgy looking old ones (and no, I’m not being critical of old films in general, but I doubt vintage Dick Tracy films are going to be worth my while) I found one of the gems of my childhood…

Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol.

policeacademt4

They put a lot more effort into movie posters back then

Now I’ve written a lot in the past about how we had a much more limited choice of TV and films to watch back in the 1980s and 90s in a time before On-Demand TV and cheap DVDs, and that any videos we did own we’d probably watch over and over again.

Well I had this movie on video, so I’ve probably seen it a couple of dozen times over the years.

But I haven’t seen it for a long, long time.

So does it hold its appeal after all these years, or does the memory cheat? Certainly modern-day reviewers don’t like too kindly upon it, as it manages to get a 0% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 4.7 on imdb.

It’s surely not that bad though?

Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol Review – Thoughts

If I was to watch this for the first time today, I’d look at Police Academy 4 and I’d probably rip it to shreds in a review.

Let’s be blunt about it, it has problems from all sides…

  • Dodgy Acting: I can honestly say there’s not a single actor in this who you would want to cast in a film that you’d hope to be taken seriously. Most of the cast are there because of gimmicks rather than acting standards, e.g. Jones (He can make funny noises), Hightower (He’s big), House (He’s big and fat), Zed (I genuinely don’t know what the fuck is up with Bobcat Goldthwaite), Hooks (She has a squeaky voice),  and Sweetchuck (He’s tiny).
  • An Incredibly Bad Structure: Police Academy 4 has a start, it has a finish and then the middle 70 minutes are just like a series of random sketches unrelated to an ongoing narrative. So it’ll go from a scene where Zed and Sweetchuck get into a fight in a gym, to Captain Harris & Proctor accidentally going into a gay bar, to Mahoney, Zed and Hightower getting a construction worker team to put a portaloo with Proctor in it into the middle of a football stadium during a big match, to Mahoney flirting with a journalist, to Mahoney supergluing a microphone to Captain Harris’s mouth, to Zed and Sweetchuck having yet another fight in a gym. It doesn’t link and it doesn’t make sense.
  • Characters Popping Up Randomly: In a similar vein, there’s no real direction of purpose to the characters. You might think that it’s about the skateboarding kids being rehabilitated under the tutelage of Mahoney and his team, or that it’s about Mahoney – or even Zed – falling in love, but these story threads are picked up and dropped without any consideration. Similarly, the likes of Hightower don’t even appear in the final act, even though he’s positioned as the second lead.
  • It’s Sooooo Dated: Watched today, Police Academy 4 just seems unbelievably dated, from the hairstyles to the clothes to the music. And having a long montage dedicated to skateboarding? Awful. These days if I see an adult skateboarding, I just feel the urge to scream “It’s not 1987 anymore you muppet” at them.
  • Lack of Moral Centre: Ok, maybe I’m being harsh here, but in the same way the real villain of Ferris Buellar’s Day Off is Ferris himself for being a destructive truant, I don’t really get why Captain Harris is considered the villain here. He’s a police officer trying to do his job in amongst a group of cocky kids, incompetents and ne-er-do-wells who routinely abuse their powers as officers of the law.

But in spite of all of that, Police Academy 4 is funny and it’s enjoyable.

I watched it with a broad smile on my face, remembering all the weird characters and finding positives from all the bad parts I’ve just described. What makes it technically bad is what makes it charming, and whether it’s low brow or not, I just find stuff like Captain Harris calling Proctor a “Dickhead” amusing.

I also have to laugh at the way the some of the stuff was deemed acceptable for a 4-year-old me in terms of film classification. I went to see this at the cinema and my brother went to see it four times. All

Could you imagine a kids film with this in it these days? There'd be uproar!! By the way, I didn't even need to screencap this; a google search of Leslie Easterbrook returns multiple versions of this picture as the top hit.

Could you imagine a kids film with this in it these days? There’d be uproar!!
By the way, I didn’t even need to screencap this; a google search of Leslie Easterbrook returns multiple versions of this picture as the top hit.

throughout, there’s swearing, sexual references, violence and a scene where Lesley Easterbrook (Callahan) jumps bra-less into a pool and emerges with a t-shirt so wet you can see every aspect of her torso and then invites men in to ‘save her’. Could you imagine a movie with a U or PG certification doing that these days? Not a chance.

To be fair to it as well, some of the stunts throughout the film are actually very impressive and come across as the sort of thing that actors wouldn’t do anymore because using CGI would seem a lot safer. And my favourite character – Captain Harris (G.W. Bailey) – even does his own stunts, so credit to him for that.

Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol Review – Final Thoughts

Ultimately, Police Academy 4 is what it is. It’s crap, but it’s enjoyable crap viewed with a fondness that can only be attributed to a selection of 1980s movies that people my age watched over and over again.

I heartily recommend it, but appreciate that if you didn’t see it in the 80s, you’d probably think I’m insane for doing so.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 


TV – The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Review

June 30, 2015

Sometimes people will exaggerate for effect when they review comedies and say that they didn’t laugh once.

So I won’t do that in this review of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt because I did laugh once.

Once.

I’ll even tell you the joke; it was in the second episode and it was a visual gag of a very crap Miss Piggy costume.schmidt

But apart from that, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – a Netflix exclusive comedy starring Ellie Kemper from the US version of The Office and created by Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock fame – didn’t even raise a smile.

Though it seems to get critical acclaim and generally favourable reviews, I just didn’t personally understand the appeal.

Based around the premise of a girl who has been freed from 15 years trapped as a prisoner in a Josef Fritzel style bunker and has moved to New York to experience life for the first time – an interesting and original idea for a show to be fair – the humour seemed very childish, the acting over the top and the characters ludicrous.

I get that sometimes comedy has to involve exaggerated characters, but there are limits to what I will personally find credible or even funny, and the sheer stupidity of almost every character – probably designed to make the quirky Kimmy seem normal – just took it beyond those limits.

The last two episodes for example, where Kimmy goes back to Indiana as a witness in the trial against her former captor is just stupid. Not ‘stupid haha’ which I’m sure was the intention, but rather just stupid. And the dialogue – like “What the ham sandwich is going on” and “Oh Em Jeepers” – I think is supposed to be charming but is just cringe-inducing.

For me, this show is just too over the top.

To give it some credit, Ellie Kemper is good and plays her character with charm and likeability, but it’s just not enough to convince me that it’s worthy of the praise it gets.

I did manage to sit through all 13 episodes though, and that might count for something in that at least it had a narrative worth following, but on the heels of having just caught up with the brilliant seasons 8-10 of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, this just didn’t cut the mustard.

So I recommend you avoid The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 


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