I genuinely think it’s impossible to hate Blake Lively or Anna Kendrick. Thanks to their sensational personalities and fun social media accounts, the pair are the kind of women that you really want to be friends with. The effortlessly cool and funny people who you wish you were more like. Or, at least, I do. So, when I first saw the trailer for A Simple Favor I was intrigued. The two together seemed like a winning combination and director, Paul Feig, has the ability to come out with some fabulous stuff. He’s surprised me in the past with his films. I was absolutely sure that I would hate Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy but each time I ended up filled with joy. He quickly became one of my favourite film makers which is why I was able to forgive him the dodgy Ghostbusters reboot. Do I have a long list to send him about things he should have done differently? Yes. But did I still enjoy it? Yes. So, this trio seemed like the kind of thing I would definitely love even if it did seem to be going a bit too far down the Gone Girl or Girl on a Train route. Surely if anyone could make me love a femme fatale focused psychological thriller then it would be Paul Feig, right?
There’s something quite scary about nostalgia. When you revisit something that you loved as a child there is always the danger it won’t be the same. Which is why I’ve tended to avoid most of the reboots of my most loved childhood TV and films. It’s the reason I only got round to watching the two new Paddington films recently instead of when the first one came out. I just didn’t think it would the same. I didn’t think there was any chance that the CGI bear would give me the same feelings as the cartoon one did in my youth. As we now know, I loved both of the films and feel like an idiot for not believing that I would. So, when Christopher Robin was announced I treated it with less suspicion. I knew that it was possible to make a really good live action version of one of my childhood favourite animated classics. Plus, you know, Ewan McGregor’s face is always a reason to get excited. Continue reading
Anyone that’s been a reader of this blog for a while will know that when I reviewed the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline I wasn’t exactly a fan. For the most part I found it to be an uninspiring and boring story supplemented by an endless and unnecessary stream of pop culture references. It annoyed me that Cline had the audacity to write a novel set in the future and only reference the past. I mean the novel is set sometime in the 2040s which is 60 years after the 1980s. Are we supposed to believe that in 60 years nothing has ever come along to seem cooler than fucking War Games. Now don’t get me wrong, I think War Games is iconic but I was born 5 years after it was released not 50. Anyway, I don’t need to get into this now. Suffice it to say, when it was announced that the book was being turned into a film directed by Steven Spielberg I was hardly on the edge of my fucking seat. I couldn’t see how it would be any good based on the novel or on Spielberg’s recent track record. I mean I enjoyed The BFG and Bridge of Spies is meant to be great but, come one, The Post was hardly anything to celebrate. Spielberg has been a bit of a hack for years. I didn’t see how a huge CGI fest was going to get him out of his funk. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t curious so, this weekend, I decided it was time to find out for sure.
I have to be honest and start this post by saying that I never had any intention of watching this film. It looked so bad and, as a fan of the book, thought it was a terrible legacy for Beatrix Potter’s famous rabbit. That was until I heard the story of James Corden’s dad email to Mark Kermode about the critics review. In it, Kermode described Corden’s performance as “appallingly irritating” which prompted the actor’s dad to write into his show to disagree with him. Replying that, as a parent, it was only the prerogative of himself or his wife to describe their son as such. In the email he also complained about the feedback Kermode gave The Greatest Showman but for different reasons. It wasn’t quite as epic as finding out that James Corden and Hugh Jackman are related. Although, it was a truly brilliant thing that I’m very glad happened. But the whole affair has got me thinking about the film more and, helped along by my recent obsession with Domhnall Gleeson’s face, I decided I had to see for myself who was right? Malcolm Corden or Mark Kermode. Let’s find out.
I never saw Oliver and Company when I was a kid but I remember seeing the trailer for it whenever we watched a Disney film on VHS. Every time I saw it I wanted to watch it but it never happened. Probably because I’d get too distracted by whatever Disney film I was going to watch. It always looked really fun and, as someone who loved dogs, I was obviously into the idea of Oliver Twist being remade with animals. I mean if The Lion King has taught us anything it’s that taking a piece of great literature and retelling it with animals is a great strategy for storytelling. I mean who’d even heard of Hamlet before Disney introduced us to Simba, right? Plus, there is a whole host of Disney films that prove that dogs and/or cats having adventures together is an instant winner. I’m not a big fan of Dickens anyway so I couldn’t imagine how it could get any worse by involving household pets.
When I first heard about Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie novel Murder on the Orient Express I was super excited. I mean why wouldn’t I be? I adore Agatha Christie, love Hercule Poirot, and will watch anything starring the legend that is Kenny B. Then I saw the first picture of him as the Belgian detective and my excitement started to wane somewhat. That fucking moustache man! It looked like it had to been drawn on his face with soft-serve ice cream. I’m all for new interpretations of familiar characters but David Suchet’s moustache is a classic. So slick and proud. I agree that Poirot’s moustache needs to be an impressive statement but I don’t think he’d have made the statement that Branagh appears to be making. Still, it wasn’t enough to put me off wanting to see it. What put me off more was the casting of Johnny Depp. I realise we’ll never know the true story of what happened with him and Amber Heard but I still think Hollywood have brushed it aside too quickly. I think it’s bullshit that such a highly paid actor can be accused of abusing his wife yet still land high profile work in this and the Fantastic Beasts franchise. I’m all for inncocent until proven guilty but Johnny Depp is proper suss. I’d have preferred him to get a bit of down time after the accusations… just to let him know he’s not infallible. So I wasn’t really in a rush to see it anyway but then I heard cavalcade of negative reviews. Although, I knew I couldn’t resist the lure of Kenny B for ever though.
There’s something about a bad movie that just drags you in, isn’t there? It’s like a car crash; you don’t want to look but you can’t take your eyes off it. I have to admit that Mama Mia is one of my least favourite films. I genuinely believe that it has no redeeming features… well maybe with the slight exception of Julie Walters but she’d be worth watching in anything. I don’t get why people love it so much. None of the cast have chemistry together, the singing is so unpredictable, the dancing is laughable, and Phyllida Lloyd clearly has no idea how to direct anything that isn’t on a stage. Then there’s the basics like the boring and ridiculous story which is super difficult to give a shit about. In my second year of university I went camping with some of my friends and for the entire journey to the Lake District we listened to the soundtrack of this film and I was desperate to beat myself over the head with the tent mallet. Yet, every so often I get the terrible urge to watch Mama Mia even though I know I’ll have a dreadful time. It’s not quite one of those films I would describe as being “so bad it’s good” but it all adds up to the same thing. There’s something comforting and wonderful about a film that is that bad. It is entirely possible to find some sort of perverse pleasure in indulging in something you hate and something that you know is terrible. It can become something of an obsession. Something that I know more than a little bit about.
I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed the first Kingsman movie. It was an insane but really enjoyable spy film that even managed to make Colin Firth seem edgy and cool. I never would have thought it was possible but I guess Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman did the same thing with Nicolas Cage in Kickass. Kingsman is one of those weird films that everyone seems to love. Even my mother watched it when it was on Netflix. It had the benefit of being batshit crazy, incredibly funny, and well-made. It was perfectly over-the-top and a perfect antidote for the decreasingly self-aware Bond franchise. In recent years, James Bond has gone from being a camp British icon to something of a Hollywood bad boy. He no longer feels the need for insane and unnecessary gadgetry and, instead, uses her sheer muscle mass and martial arts skills to get the job done. Kickass took us back to a time when spies were gentlemen carrying umbrella guns and exploding pens. It was great. So, I was pretty gosh darn excited by the prospect of the second one. Especially when it was announced that Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry were all joining the cast as an American version of the UK’s Kingsman organisation. All 3 of those actors are, in their own way, incredibly talented. As you probably know if you’ve read some of my stuff before, I have developed a love of Channing Tatum since I discovered he has a sense of humour about himself and now I long to see all of his films. I swear it’s all about his comic timing… there’s definitely nothing of interest to me underneath his shirt. No way. Never.
The sequel to Matthew Vaughn’s 2005 spy film, Kingsman: The Secret Service doesn’t so much try to carry on the great things as it tries to overshadow them. There is no sense that the second film in the series is going to take things lying down. It is bigger, brasher, more violent and even sillier. Yes, that’s right, even sillier than a film starring an assassin with blades for legs. This one does star Elton John though. Considering how weird the first film is, it’was incredibly unlikely that I’d ever be able to sit and say the second film makes it look almost normal in comparison. But it does. The Golden Circle could certainly do with some refinement but it still contains the same breathtaking stunts and camera work that made the first film so entertaining. As long as your basic requirements for this film revolve around good guys kicking the arses of bad guys then it’ll be satisfying enough.
The Golden Circle sees the unlikely hero from the first film, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), coming up against a dangerous drug baron, Poppy (Julianne Moore), who is essentially holding the world’s drug users to ransom. When Eggsy has a near-death run in with former Kingsman applicant Charlie he finds himself on the tail of the Golden Circle; a drugs cartel who rules the world’s drug trade. When Poppy poisons her merchandise, drugs users all over the globe start showing signs of an illness which leads to a quick and horrible death. Poppy plans to make a deal with President of the United States but, after the rest of the Kingsman were taken out, Eggsy seeks help from his American counterparts, the Statesmen, to bring her down.
It is the introduction of the Statesmen that gives this film such a different feel. Once the majority of the orignal cast have been dispensed with, Eggsy is left with only Merlin (Mark Strong) for company. So we are introduced to American agents in the shape of Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry and Pedro Pascal. All these characters show great potential but they never quite excite as much as the original cast. There is a certain amount of chemistry missing between the newbies and the olds here. You’ll miss the interactions between Eggsy and his mentor Harry (Colin Firth) or his fellow new Kingsman Roxy. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Pedro Pascal’s face but even watching him utilise an electro lasso doesn’t make up for the absences.
There is a lot of bloat in this second film that really slows the film down. Not only have we got to go through the process of finding and introducing the Statesmen, which messes with the pace, but then we find out Harry is alive. It’s not exactly a spoiler because he’s been all over the promotional material but, yes, after his grizzly death in the first film Harry is back… kind of. I like Colin Firth in the first film but his return here takes way too much time away from the main story. It ultimately doesn’t add enough to justify lengthening the film that much. No matter how cool Firth looks in an eye patch.
It is not until late on that the film really gets going. After the opening fight scene, that’s where we see most of the super impressive and visually stunning fight scenes that the first film got so right. I mean, speaking critically, I could have done without the rehash of the original’s “manners maketh man” scene but Pedro Pascal is so phenomenally sexy that I can forgive it. It is these insane and completely cartoon-like fight scenes that make the Kingsman films so fantastic. The visual gags, stunts and CGI all come together to create something so absurd yet so appealing. The filmmakers know what they’re doing by now so they’re all pretty by the book but they will still capture an audiences’ attention.
I can’t say that I liked this film more than the original but I did like this film. Well, most of this film. There is a horrible, creepy and unnecessary plot strand that sees Eggsy have to plant a tracking device in an incredibly intimate area that just feels misjudged…. especially in this current climate in Hollywood. However, the rest of the film is silly and funny enough to keep fans of the first film relatively happy. Even if Channing Tatum is horribly underused and overdressed for the duration.
Halloween is fast approaching and, if I were any kind of film blogger, then I’d be using this post to review a classic horror film. However, I am always held back by the fact that I’m something of a wimp. I’ve never been a big fan of the horror genre and have avoided many of them. It’s not the violence as much as it is the jump scares. It doesn’t take a lot to have me leaping out of my seats so I’m constantly on edge. This is bad enough in non-traditional horror films, like Alien or something, so how would I cope watching a film that was created with the sole intention to scare the shit out of me. It’s not something I’m very proud of but I am what I am. There are some notable exceptions, obviously, but I tend to just let the biggest horror sensations pass me by. Really, though, I have no real interest in being scared. I don’t want to pay to see how far a writer will go to try and terrify people willing to pay for the experience. I know certain people enjoy the rush of watching these films but I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s because it’s harder for me to go back to normal and turn off the fear response? Who knows. Whatever the reason, I just never have a desire to
watch horror films so, in order to celebrate this time of year, I’m doing the genre the only way I know how: by watching a parody of it.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of my favourite books. It helps that I was tasked with reading it for every year I was at university but it was something I was more than happy to do. Shelley’s story has been described as the birth of science-fiction because of her tale of a scientist raising the dead. However, it was the inspiration for plenty of classic horror films from as early as 1910. The character of the monster went on to frequent many films, which gave rise to the mistake that it is the monster and not the Doctor who is Frankenstein. But that’s not really important. Despite the sheer number of Frankenstein films that already existed, Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder decided that there was room for another. This time about a member of the family who does everything he can to get away from his family’s chequered past.
The Young Frankenstein of the title is Frederick Frankenstein, a professor who is so ashamed of his infamous grandfather, the Victor of Shelley’s novel, that he changes the pronunciation to ‘Fronkensteen’. Until the moment that he is presented with his grandfather’s will and he makes an unwelcome return to Transylvania. There he discovers Victor’s old notebooks that describe the process for reanimating a corpse. Very quickly, Fronkensteen is starting up the old family business and robbing corpses and brains in the name of science. All of this with the help of his trusty lab assistants, Igor, son of Victor’s own servant, and Inga, the busty babe who quickly catches his eye. There’s also the slight problem of the townsfolk who don’t trust Frederick and a monster that constantly escapes from the castle.
Young Frankenstein is a silly but incredibly shrewd parody of the classic horror films from the 1930s-50s. Brooks and Wilder created a script that played up on the traditions whilst cleverly working against them. It is Mel Brooks at his greatest. The whole thing looks and feels just like the films it is trying to copy. All of the techniques, visuals and sets are exactly the kind of thing you’d see in films like James Whale’s Frankenstein. It looks completely realistic, which not only makes it feel familiar but also makes it funnier. It’s a carefully crafted and intelligently made film. It works as a parody but also works as a story in itself. Young Frankenstein is a funny film. Yes, not everything works completely and there are definitely funnier Brooks films out there. That doesn’t mean the comedy isn’t there. Even the most obvious humour works here. There are moments that you shouldn’t want to find hilarious but just work. It may not have the sheer thrills of the normal fair you’d watch on Halloween but it’s definitely worth a watch.
There is something so wonderfully British about The Borrowers by Mary Norton. A small family who survive by, let’s be honest, stealing bits and bobs from the humans whose house they inhabit. Norton wrote a beloved series of books about thieves and managed to make it seem perfectly reasonable. It might have something to do with the fact that she finally answers the question regarding all of those random objects that go missing without a trace in your house. Ever put down a paperclip or something and gone back to find it not there anymore? It’s alright, a Borrower probably just used it to make some sort of climbing device. I don’t remember reading the books as a child but I do remember the BBC television series starring Ian Holm and Penelope Wilton. That was definitely a British classic and something I was reminded of in my third year of university whilst studying a children’s literature course. That series was the second of two television adaptions of Mary Norton’s works but it wasn’t until 1997 that these tiny people made their way onto the big screen. Whilst writing my review of The Sense of an Ending I was trying to think back to the first time I would probably have seen Jim Broadbent acting in anything. I can’t remember for sure but I’d bet The Borrowers would definitely be one of them.
In December this year, The Borrowers will celebrate it’s 20th anniversary. This makes me feel old. I’m not sure that I remember going to the cinema to see it but I do know that I watched it when I was young. It’s also the kind of film that is shown regularly during holidays on the BBC so children would have something to distract themselves with. I tend to look back on it with the same fondness that I nostalgically have for anything from my youth but, really, I don’t know how much I really liked this film. I mean, there was never anything wrong with it but it was certainly a stark contrast to the calm and gentle television series I remembered from 1992. The Borrowers took the characters from Mary Norton’s popular series of books and gave them the Hollywood treatment. Well, kind of. We don’t actually have to sit through a film where the Clock family speak with American accents and everything has been transported to an apartment in New York or anything. But, this is a big, brash and action-packed adventure.
It follows a similar enough structure to the novel but places the Clock family in far more perilous situations. In Mr and Mrs Lenders’ minds, things going missing is an everyday occurrence but their son, Peter, believes there is something in their house taking their stuff. We know he’s right, of course, because there is a family of Borrowers living under his floorboards. Head of the family, Pod (Jim Broadbent) is keen to teach his young children Arriety (Flora Newbigin) and Peagreen (Tom Felton) about the ways of borrowing and how to avoid being seen by humans; the dreaded Borrower squishing Beans. Their mother, Homily (Celia Imrie) has doubts about whether they are ready, which seem to be well-founded after Arriety manages to get herself locked in a freezer. Unwilling to live a life hiding under the floorboard, Arriety yearns for adventure and, on a nighttime stroll, manages to be spotted by Peter. Instead of squishing the tiny being, Peter befriends Arriety against her father’s wishes. When an evil lawyer (John Goodman) attempts to steal their home, Peter and the Clock family must work together to see the rightful owners get their property back.
The Borrowers is your basic good vs evil plot where both sides are trying to get their hands on something: in this case a will. There isn’t a great deal going on in terms of narrative but there is certainly enough action squeezed in to make it feel worthwhile. Whilst searching for the document, evil lawyer, Ocious Potter, discovers Arriety and Peagreen and swiftly calls in an exterminator. This leads to a frantic cat and mouse chase where the two humans seek to destroy the tiny children. There’s a lot of children’s movie violence on display here where nobody really gets hurt but the threat is clear. There’s potential gassing, electrocution, drowning, burning, falling and much more besides. Watching it now, it seems quite vicious for a kid’s movie but, I guess, 90s children like myself must have been made of sturdier stuff. The film keeps quite a good pace and is always moving from one big set piece to another. It is constantly entertaining.
I can’t necessarily say the film has aged well over 20 years but, for the most part, the special effects hold up. It’s one of those films that has a lot in there but it never really dominates. It is the overly CGI’d stuff that ages the worst and, thankfully, most of this is worked around using camera trickery. What is really wonderful about this film, though, is how charming it is. It may have been amped up for cinema but there is still a great sense of Britishness here. The films location is, when you really look into it, kind of confusing but, thanks to the set design, it doesn’t matter. This all just exists in a weird reality where Americans and English people live without any question as to where or when they are. This is just a storybook town where logic doesn’t matter at all. It also boasts an incredible, if truly 90s, cast. Broadbent and Imrie are wonderful as the Clock parents and, I must say, it never gets old seeing a very young Draco Malfoy get trapped in a milk bottle. Then you have cameos from the likes of Mark Williams, Hugh Laurie and Ruby Wax. There’s just something so lovely about this film that stays true to the original source whilst also giving a new generation of children the loud noises and danger they expected.