Movies – Grimsby Review (or ‘Unashamedly Crude And Surprisingly Brilliant’)

February 23, 2016

 

The interesting thing about Sacha Baron Cohen’s new film, Grimsby – a British Spy spoof about a Secret Service agent who accidentally reconnects with his long-lost ned/chav brother – is that it has polarised reviewer opinion. Some are singing its praises, while others are offering their strongest recommendations to avoid it.

But then comedy is a subjective beast.

One person’s comic gold is another’s drizzling shits.Grimsby-Movie-Poster

So I suppose you can’t really trust a review without knowing your sense of humour reflects that of the author.

But what the hell, eh; you may as well read on to see what I thought about it anyway.

As it turns out, I thought Grimsby was surprisingly funny.

Though I’ve never seen any of Cohen’s previous output, and so definitely had reservations going in, I laughed all the way through.

Is it sophisticated, Sorkin-esque humour? Absolutely not; it’s about as crude as you can get, with an anal fixation, children swearing, the occasional bit of slapstick, Daniel Radcliffe accidentally getting HIV, dogs being thrown out of windows and some incredible scenes involving sucking out poison and hiding inside an elephant.

But at the same time it didn’t feel crude for the sake of it.

No, Grimsby was actually quite clever, with the laughs being propped up by a storyline that – while pretty straight forward and riddled with exposition – made sense and didn’t over-stay its welcome in the 84 minutes the movie lasted.

And though it made fun of the sort of benefit scrounging layabouts – or as they were labelled during the movie, ‘Scum’ – that are so rife in certain sections of the UK, it did it in a playful enough way that you could either laugh at the characters or with them.

Ultimately then, whether Grimsby is for you or not depends upon your sense of humour. If the sort of thing I listed above tickles your fancy then you’ll have a great time.

If not, save your time and money because I doubt you’ll enjoy it.

 

 


Movies – The Finest Hours Review (or ‘We All Know Who Wears The Trousers In That Relationship’)

February 22, 2016

When you go to a disaster movie made by Disney, I suppose you should expect a tame affair.

And that’s exactly what The Finest Hours is.

Based on the true story of a small rescue boat that managed to overcome terrible weather to save (most of) the crew of an oil tanker that split off the coast of Massachusetts in the 1950s, this ends up being more finesthourgalleryfeel-good than exciting. Let’s face it, the title of the movie is a giveaway that everything turns out well.

But that’s not to say it’s bad – I found it watchable enough – it’s just that it lacks the excitement of the great disaster movies like The Towering Inferno or even the original Poseidon Adventure.

There’s very little drama involved in either the tanker’s predicament or the coastguards’ attempt to save them as the people in command of both have everything under control.

Have a look at the movie poster where the tagline is ’32 Survivors. Room For 12′. I don’t think I’m spoiling the movie to say that they got round that dilemma by someone saying “I’m sure they’ll all fit”, and they did.

Wow, that’s edge-of-the-seat stuff.

And while I’m sure that this is all how it happened in real life, the lack of creative license employed made me wonder why they even bothered making a movie out of such a straight-forward real life event in the first place?

To combat this, Disney decide to set the rescue as a backdrop to a rather odd love story between a quiet coastguard and an incredibly bossy woman, who – for the time it was set – seemed intent on emasculating him.

Not only does she propose to him (unusual for the time), but she turns up at his work and gives his boss a telling off in front of his mortified colleagues. It was all a bit cringe-worthy, as you sat there thinking about how you’d feel if your significant other did the same for you. The thought “Calm down, hen” occurred.

As with any movie based on a true story, this ended by letting us know what became of the main characters. We were told that the coastguard in question married his fiance on the day she wanted and lived “happily” until he died in 2009. But I imagine “happily” really meant “hen-pecked”, as he lived out an existence similar to the King of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland.

Anyway, I found that all a bit pointless and strangely realised, but then like I say, without it there wouldn’t be much to The Finest Hours beyond rejoicing in the heroics of the Coastguard.

Should you go to see it? Well if you’ve got an Unlimited Card there are worse ways to spend an evening, but it’s far from being must-see as far as I’m concerned.

 

 


Movies – Dad’s Army Review (or ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It’)

February 16, 2016

Years ago I went to an amateur dramatics society’s version of the BBC sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo.

It wasn’t up to much.

But it was still performed better than the new Dad’s Army film.

Before going, I did think that it might be a disaster because to me, the success of the Dad’s Army TV series was largely down to the quality of the performers.army

What made Captain Mainwaring a memorable TV character was not how he was written, but how Arthur Lowe portrayed him; it was his comic timing and pomposity that made him funny. The same goes for all of them. Mostly – with the possible exception of Clive Dunn – the actors were playing extensions of their own selves.

And so any remake without that original cast obviously comes with the risk that the new actors will simply be doing impressions, rather than playing the characters.

That’s exactly what happened.

But they weren’t just doing impressions, they were doing terrible impressions.

Well, they didn’t all do impressions I suppose. Bill Nighy just played the same character he plays in every single thing he’s ever been in; he played Bill Nighy.

Apart from him though it was like a bunch of actors who shared the physical characteristics (or in the case of the bizarrely cast Bill Paterson, shared the same nationality) of the original cast were given a Dad’s Army boxed set and told ‘Just copy them’.

With that said, the worst of the lot was the supposedly respected actor Sir Tom Courtenay’s attempt at Corporal Jones. I’ve never seen anything like it. Perhaps the problem was that instead of hiring a younger man and dressing him up as an older one, they just cast a tired old man who could barely get the words out.

It was all just rather sad.

And it wasn’t funny either. Though I heard the occasional laugh in the cinema today – and indeed almost chuckled myself exclusively at some of the lines from Michael Gambon’s Private Godfrey – the 100 minutes played out in front of silence. That’s never a good sign for a comedy.

Partly this was down to the acting, and partly it was because they tried to recreate the style of humour of the original without an audience to laugh at the jokes. It was never going to work.

The only credit I’ll give Dad’s Army is that the plot – basic as it was – worked. Catherine Zeta Jones played a Nazi spy working undercover as a magazine columnist doing an article on the Home Guard. Naturally she managed to string the troops along for most of the film until it comes to a head in a reasonably exciting final 20 minutes.

But that’s not nearly enough to cover up for the flaws here.

I think they should just have left Dad’s Army alone. It’s repeated often enough and will simply never be bettered.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


Movies – Deadpool Review (or ‘R-Rated To The Point Of Oversaturation’)

February 15, 2016

The success of Deadpool is an interesting one.

Here’s a film – one in which Marvel’s rebel ‘hero’ Deadpool explains his origin to the viewers while trying to get revenge on the man who scarred him for life – that has dared to be different and break free from the cookie cutter Marvel Superhero movie mould, and boy do they make that obvious.

From the off it’s swearing, nudity, meta dialogue and toilet humour, and based on its opening weekend box office success – it’s made a lot more money than almost every other Marvel franchise except the Avengers,

Oh look, he's pointing to his crotch; how naughty.

Oh look, he’s pointing to his crotch; how naughty.

and it’s done it at a fraction of the cost – it seems as though the public at large want to see it. Certainly the cinema was as busy as I’d seen it in years when I went yesterday.

That’s both good and bad.

Other than Ant-Man, Marvel’s cinematic output has been the same for years and I think people are getting a little tired of it. In Deadpool they offer up a non kid-friendly R-Rated feast that openly takes the piss out of everything that’s come before it, and it does it with some style.

So that’s good.

What’s not so good is that it might well spawn a series of imitation films.

For you see, to me, Deadpool was like coming off a sensible and strict low-calorie diet and eating nothing but chocolate, sweets and junk food for a week. It starts off great but eventually it all gets a bit much.

And though I found it funny in parts, there came a saturation point where it began to get a bit wearing.

If I was a 15-year-old boy, I’d probably consider it the best movie I’d ever seen, but I’m not; I’m a 33-year-old man and swearing for the sake of swearing doesn’t have quite the same appeal as it once did.

You might think I’m coming across as a stick-in-the-mud by saying that, but I think my point is valid.

I just felt that by having the freedom to do or say what they wanted, the writers ended up using the R-Rating as a crutch rather than a way to make the best story possible.

Really, this is just a basic vigilante storyline – think of a comedy Death Wish rather than a Superhero flick – that tries that little bit too hard to be smart, and ends up suffering as a result.

As a one-off it was good enough and enjoyable up to a point – and I must mention that I thought Ryan Reynolds was top-notch as the lead – but I don’t think we need to see it spawn a number of imitators.

Sadly, I think that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

 

 

 

 


TV – The Man in the High Castle Review (or ’10 Hours Was More Than Enough Time To Tell This Story In One Season’)

February 13, 2016

If I was to sum up The Man in the High Castle in one sentence, it would be that it’s a great idea for a TV show in principle, but the execution of that idea leaves a little to be desired.

I know that should really be the conclusion to my review rather than the introduction, but I felt the need to put my cards on the table early.

A TV show – and I know it’s based on the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name, but I’m operating on the assumption that in 2016 most viewers won’t have read the book – set in the 1960s about a world where the Nazis and Japanese won the Second World War and share an uneasy divide of the former United States of America does sound interesting. Add to that the early twist where a character finds a film reel showing highcastlenews footage of the ‘our’ end to the war (where the Allies win) and you have the potential for a science fiction masterpiece.

But alas, the idea is not enough to make it so.

So what’s the problem?

Is the acting poor? No it’s not. Everyone involved, from the lead actors like Alexa Davalos and Rufus Sewell down to guest artists like Burn Gorman do a perfectly acceptable job and make the most of the material they have to work with.

Is it the design? Again, no. This looks brilliant and credit must be given for the way the world looks suitably different as a result of the Axis winning the war. The American architecture and even vehicle design has been changed to look like it’s influenced by their new overlords.

So what’s the problem?

The pacing.

It’s become the done thing for TV shows nowadays to be made with more than one season in mind. That’s fine most of the time, but when you’re basing a show on a 239 page book, there’s only so much story you can tell without adding unnecessary padding. Running at almost 10 hours in length, there was more than enough time to tell this story in a single season.

But because they’ve obviously decided that this will run and run, the more interesting aspects – such as what the hell is going on with those film reels – are almost totally ignored and instead we’ve got scene after scene of the Japanese Trade Minister looking longingly into the middle distance and Frank’s mate Ed telling him to be careful.

I did watch through it all, and I’m sure I’ll go back to it when Season Two comes out, but it was a struggle at times.

I suspect that when it finally ends, people will look back and talk about how it should have finished earlier and that the premise was extended for too long.

In that respect it will probably end up like Under the Dome; another TV show based on a book that would have worked a lot better if it was condensed into one action packed season, but alas outstayed its welcome.

So while it’s not unenjoyable, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend you avoid it, you’ll have to approach it knowing that it probably could have been done better.

 


Movies – Room Review (or “The One Where The Star Doesn’t Get Top Billing”)

February 3, 2016

In an episode of Baddiel & Skinner: Unplanned, the comedy duo were asked how they decided upon the order of billing in the title. The answer was simple; it was alphabetical.

For ensemble pieces, I think that’s a good system, while for shows where there’s one obvious lead, I think it’s fair that the main star is given the first name check.

And yet there are sometimes odd exceptions. One that comes to mind is the West Wing, where the largely unimportant Rob Lowe was always first on an otherwise alphabetical bill. Ego? Perhaps.Room

Room is another example of this.

Whether it’s imdb, Google or even the poster, the message is clear; it’s ‘Room, starring Brie Larson’.

And yet that’s not really true. Room – a movie about a young woman and her product-of-rape son who have been kept prisoner for years in a shed until they manage to escape and reintegrate into the real world – stars 9-year-old Jacob Tremblay.

This is a movie told almost entirely from the perspective of a wee boy (Trembley) who has never seen set foot outside of the four walls of ‘Room’. The focus of the movie rarely strays from him.

And yet presumably because of his age and maybe even because of marketing, he’s not considered the star.

That’s a pity, because he obviously is the star, and I say that as someone who finds child actors mostly crap and/or obnoxious. He’s really good.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with Brie Larson’s performance either, but she’s very much the supporting artist.

Anyway, away from the politics of billing, I guess you’re keen to find out if the movie is any good?

Well it is and it’s not. It gets rave reviews from most critics, and I would certainly have considered them justified up to a point, but for me it goes on too long.

The first half of the movie – up to and including their escape and hospital stay – are absorbing and highly original. But the second half – as we see them slowly readjust back to a normal life – just felt like it went on and on. It was dreary.

You know how some films end too soon and you think to yourself “I’d have liked to have seen what happened after the big finale?”. Well the opposite is true here. It’s a bit like if Return of the Jedi had an extra hour attached to the end of it where we got to see the whole after-party on Endor and then the next day where they are all hungover and talking about going back to their own planets. That wouldn’t be exciting, and neither was the second half of Room.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say it ruined it – I still enjoyed it in the main – but had that section been condensed into a faster paced 30 minutes, I think it would have made the movie better.

So basically, this was a game of two halves, but having said that, I still think it’s worth going to on the strength of the first.