Tuesday’s Reviews – Despicable Me 3 (2017)

animation, family, films, Kristen Wiig, meh, review, sequel, Steve Carell

Let’s get one thing straight, I, like every other sensible adult human being, fucking hate the minions. I’m so sick of seeing those tiny yellow pricks all over the place again now that the fourth film in this movie franchise has been released. Not content with giving them their own film, the annoying little creatures are back with their master in Despicable Me 3. It’s a bit insane that a random animation from 2010 has cultivated so many follow-ups but here we are. I had originally planned on seeing this film with a friend from work but, before we could, she cruelly left me for a better job. So, instead, I had to watch it without her… which is a shame because she was definitely more excited about the whole thing that I was. If I’d seen it with her I might have gone in with higher expectations or, at least, without an underlying sense of dread. I didn’t hate the sequel to Despicable Me but there were moments when it seemed unnecessary and not very well thought out. So I really doubted that a third film would be much of an improvement. However, in my review of Despicable Me 2 back in 2013 (god I’ve been writing this nonsense for a long time haven’t I!?), I decided it was Gru’s lack of villainy that made it fall so short. The trailers have suggested that he is rethinking his moral life so maybe my prayers have been answered?

At the end of Despicable Me wannabe super villain Gru (Steve Carell) had found himself the adopted father of three young girls. After Despicable Me 2 he added a new wife (Kristen Wiig) to the equation. The question on everybody’s lips was “who would Gru acquire in number 3?” Turns out it’s an identical twin brother. Possibly in an attempt to save on wages by making Steve Carell work twice as hard or to save the animators the job of having to create a new character. Who knows? Still, Gru is shocked to discover that his mother has hidden his sibling, Dru, from him all this time. The discovery couldn’t come at a better time for Gru who, at the time he is approached by Dru’s butler, has just been fired from his job with the Anti-Villain League. He has very little time to process this personal upheaval before he is whisked off to his brother’s fancy mansion in Freedonia. Turns out the father he never really knew was actually a super villain and Dru is keen to keep up the family tradition. But, to do so, he needs his brother’s help.

After finally settling into a happy life of crime fighting, can Gru really just get back into villainy? Well, quite possibly considering the humiliating defeat that sees him chucked out of the AVL. Is there really any other response to being beaten by an ex-80s child star than resmuing your life of crime? Yep, 80s throwback Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) has repeatedly outwitted the AVL and, after Gru allows him to escape yet again he and Lucy are forced out. Leaving Bratt to carry out his plan to steal the world’s biggest diamond whilst listening to classic 80s music. Will Gru take the righteous path and hep stop Bratt or will he embrace the life Dru is pushing him towards?

Then there’s a lot of shitty stuff about Lucy trying to come to terms with being a mother and some more adorable moments of their youngest daughter Agnes being super cute. In terms of narrative, Despicable Me 3 is kind of mixed bag. Lucy gets incredibly short-shrift and I find it hard to see why Kristen Wiig would have agreed to this bullshit. It’s the kind of sentimental and cliched “am I a good mother?” shit that you seen in every terrible sitcom or soap opera at some point. It’s clearly the worst part of the film but just won’t stop. There are some great moments to be had, obviously, and Balthazar Bratt is a far superior nemesis to the previous film’s. His 80s references will keep parents entertained whilst children will just enjoy his over-the-top silliness. He’s the perfect foil to Gru and his insane gadgets are like something James Bond’s Q would come up with if he started creating whilst he was in a drunken haze of 80s nostalgia.

The Gru/Dru storyline doesn’t always work but there are some humorous moments to be had. Dru is even less successful than his brother and there is some fun to be had with their bickering dynamic. It kind of grows old after a while and the chemistry doesn’t always fly. If I thought the emotional struggle in the second film was weak then this is even more of a damp squib. But, as with the previous film, none of that matters at all in the long run. Despicable Me 3 is a film intended to amuse little people; by which I mean children and not someone of diminutive stature but that’s not to say short people can’t be amused by it. Anyway, this is a film that’s main purpose is making children laugh and, when it comes down to it, it never pulls any punches. Every spare second is crammed full of jokes that it doesn’t really matter if not all of them land as well as they should. The target audience isn’t even going to notice.

Especially when the screen is constantly being filled with those irritating yellow tic-tacs every 5 minutes or so. That’s all that really matters, right? Despicable Me 3 is the worst of the 3 films, as it probably should be, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to find joy within its running time. There is still enough life in Gru that audiences can’t help but want him to succeed and, more importantly, keep coming back to the cinema to watch him try.


book haul, books, currently reading, Jane Austen, Kenneth Branagh, Kristen Wiig, Netflix, recently watched, Stephen King, Steve Carell, Steven Spielberg, YA

So, you may have noticed that last week I failed to upload my weekly rundown. That was because I was in Scotland this time last week with my family. Sunday 20th August was a very special day so we booked a few days in a cottage in South West Scotland. It’s the part of the country that my grandfather was originally from so we’ve been on more than a few holidays there. It’s safe to say it’s a special part of the world for us so it was the perfect place to celebrate. The Sunday marked the 40th anniversary of my parents’ marriage and a year since my older sister got married. Whilst it may still freak me out that my sister picked the same day to get married, it was a nice coincidence that both big occasions fell on the same day. So as you can imagine it was a busy weekend and, by the time I got back on Monday, I was far too exhausted to post anything. However, what I lacked in blog updates I had more than made up for in reading. I found my groove again on holiday and have been steadily making my through my books. I guess finding myself in a cottage with no internet access and no computer really forced me to get back to basics. I’m pleased to say that I’ve, kind of, kept up with it since I’ve been back but, I have to admit, the lure of TV and internet shopping have distracted me somewhat.

Currently Reading

  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
I did a bit of Jane Austen reading whilst I was in Scotland but, if I’m honest, I focused mainly on 7th Function because I’m so desperate to finish it. I think I’m enjoying rereading this but it’s possible that, in my head, Elinor is actually Emma Thompson. I love the film version so much that I think I retrospectively love the book more. It’s also not the worst Austen book out there I guess.
  • The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet
On the first real day of our Scotland trip my mother and I were left to our own devices when the rest of the fam abandoned us in favour of a stupid football match. When we were forced back inside due to averse weather conditions, I managed to get through 100 pages of this book. That’s probably more than I’ve read the rest of the month combined. I’m not obsessed with finishing and hope to do it either tonight or tomorrow if I’m lucky. Then I can finally read something new. It’ll be amazing.

Recently Purchased 
  • It by Stephen King

This was one of those books that I just bought on a whim when I was at the supermarket the other day and it was because of the cover. I normally hate film tie-in covers (as I’ve bitched about on Instagram earlier this month) but the cover that accompanies the new adaptation of this Stephen King classic is so well done. It’s very simple and there are just two great pops of colour. I couldn’t resist it.

  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
So, we all know that this is THE book of the moment but I was avoiding buying it until I had read a few more of my TBR books. That was until I saw it on offer at the supermarket. Two new books for £7? Who can walk away from that kind of deal? Not me. Anyway, I’m super excited to get into this one as I’ve literally only heard great things about it. It sounds tremendous and right up my street. Plus, any book with a quite from Barack Obama on the cover has got to be worth a look.

  • One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
I know I’m probably setting myself up for a disappointment here because my track record with popular YA fiction just isn’t great. Still, I’ve always liked the idea of this. It sounds like The Breakfast Club meets Agatha Christie or something. It’s probably going to be full of reference to the John Hughes film that will annoy me as well as the over reliance on nostalgia that YA is full of. However, I’m willing to give it a chance because, I imagine, it won’t take me long to read.

Recently Watched 
  • Netflix Binges: Veep, Black Books
Now TV is just my favourite thing right now. I do miss Netflix, especially when I realised that I never finished the first season of Designated Survivor and whenever I see a promo for The Defenders, but there is so much choice here. The amount of great British comedy and shity reality TV on offer is fantastic. I almost definitely will go back to Netflix soon but, for now at least, I’m sticking here. I mean I’ve finally finished Veep after thinking about it for years and with Westworld on there I can cross that off the list. Currently I’m revisiting Black Books for the millionth time and it’s still fabulous.

  • Dunkirk
Watched this to prove my sister’s boyfriend wrong about his criticism. Read more about my pettiness and Christopher Nolan’s film in my Tuesday review.
  • Saving Private Ryan
The war film to change all war films… apparently. I’ve never felt the love for this film that most people do. So I decided to rewatch it for my TBT review. And, to be honest, I’m always up for watching that D-Day landings sequence. It’s fucking exquisite.

  • Despicable Me 3
I needed something to watch for next weeks Tuesday review because, in all likelihood, I won’t be ready to review 7th Function yet. It’s always good to have a back-up.

TBT – The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)

drugs, fucking funny, Kristen Wiig, TBT, teen movie, teenagers, women

When The Diary of a Teenage Girl came out last year I was desperate to see it. Of course, I didn’t see it at the time and it has been calling to me every time I opened Netflix recently. The graphic novel has been in my Amazon basket for months as well. It’s exactly the kind of thing I was bound to get obsessed with. You know the score by now: feminism and shit. Although, upon its release it caused something of a controversy as all the best things do. The critics loved it but the 18 rating was a fairly controversial topic in the UK. The film was given a high rating for its sexual content. However, as a film about a teenage girl coming to terms with her own sexuality, it meant nobody that this story was relevant to would have seen it at the cinema. Even the film’s star Bel Powley came out to urge teenagers to sneak into the film to embrace its message. I mean, really, it’s a fair point. Yes, there’s a lot of dark and adult themes running through the film but, it’s not more sexually suggestive than many of the films out there with a lower rated. I realise that we live in a world where we try and protect people from certain things but it always seemed fucked up that people were trying to keep this film from the people who it was made for. Still, that doesn’t matter now it’s been out for so long. Anyone can see it now and, without wanting to spoil anything, they all should.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl is set in the 1970s and is the story of 15 year old Minnie Goetz (Bel Powley) as she starts to explore her sexuality. The object of her misguided affections is her bohemian mother’s (Kristen Wiig) 35 year old boyfriend, Monroe, (Alexander Skarsgård). Minnie makes the choice to loser her virginity to Monroe. Minnie is desperate for affection and love so quickly falls into a torrid and emotionally unstable relationship. She further descends into a world of drugs, alcohol and sex to come to help her understand who she is becoming. It’s a difficult, dark and real portrayal of what it is to be teenage girl. I mean it’s not exactly everyone’s story but it gets to the heart of teenage identity and female sexuality that has often been hidden in films like this. We’re used to representing young men accepting their role as Lothario but women are still being encouraged to keep their virtue. It’s about time we had a healthy view of growing up as a girl.

It makes for uncomfortable viewing at times thanks to the morally questionably major relationship. It’s not always easy to watch as Minnie falls deeper into a spiral of destructive behaviour. However, the film is still incredibly watchable and enjoyable. Deep down there lies plenty of love and comfort beneath the addictive behaviour and toxic relationships. It is still a funny and unashamedly bawdy story but it so well made that it works remarkably well. First time director Marielle Heller understands the message at the heart of Minnie’s story and she knows how to work with it. Acting as writer as well, she has managed to forge a great and multi-layered script out of Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel.

Although, really, this film is made on the performances and the main trio are all equally fantastic. Alexander Skarsgård never overplays his position of an adult man entering into a sexual relationship with a teenage girl. Equally, Kristen Wiig is strong as Minnie’s mother who has left a stable marriage to a scientist in favour of a life of drugs, alcohol and relationships with dodgy men. She laments her lost youth and is increasingly jealous of her blossoming daughter. She can’t make her mind up between showing Minnie affection or being hard and cold. In Charlotte we see the problems that come from growing up believing you are nothing better than your looks and the man you’re with. Wiig is astonishing in her role. But it is Bel Powley who is standout and is breakthaking in the role of Minnie. She is funny, confused and scared. It’s a great performance that, even within the context of a drug-influenced lifestyle, is recognisable for anyone who grew up as a female.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl is the kind of film we need to embrace for he sheer fact that is presents a side of female identity that is often hidden away. It manages to do it in an incredibly sensitive way and without placing any judgement on its main character. Bel makes mistakes but it is never her undoing. She likes sex but never finds herself becoming the social outcast because of it. The film doesn’t end with her fall from grace but with her confidently accepting her sense of self. She learns a lot about who she is and who she can be. It’s empowering and I am really fucking sad it wasn’t made when I was still in my teens. Any teenage girls out there who haven’t see it, see it as soon as you can.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Ghostbusters (2016)

films, future potential., ghostbusters, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Paul Feig, reboot, review, women

It’s fair to say that the Ghostbusters reboot has had a lot to contend with before its release this month. As you may remember from way back in March I have been defending this film from people who dismissed it immediately. I wanted to see this film from the minute I saw the first trailer. It looked fun and I wasn’t melodramatic enough to believe that it was going to destroy the original just by existing. Although I can’t exactly describe what I was expecting to feel when I left the cinema but I certainly didn’t expect to end up having to question my sexuality solely thanks to Kate McKinnon. I mean I knew I loved the character from the trailers alone but that action sequence got me a little more hot and bothered than I would have thought. Holtzman is my everything at the moment. But getting away from my new found love/obsession for a moment, because it’s the healthy thing to do, I have to be honest that I didn’t come out of the film as happy as I assured the doubters that I would be.

Ghostbusters is not exactly a carbon copy of the 1984 original but the plot does owe a great deal to its predecessor. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is an uptight physics professor at Columbia University. Her track to tenure is put into jeopardy when an embarrassing book about the paranormal that she co-authored in her youth resurfaces on Amazon. She gets in contact with her old friend, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), to get the book removed before her bosses see it. Ultimately, both women lose their jobs in education, along with Abby’s co-worker Gillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). but they quickly find themselves involved in a real-life ghost hunt at a nearby haunted mansion. Erin is left having to admit that ghosts are real and the three women set-up shop above a Chinese takeaway. 
After another ghost sighting in the Subway, they are joined by subway worker and New York history buff Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones). Whilst undertaking their research into the ghostly goings on in the city, the foursome decide that they should also use their knowledge to protect the citizens from the growing number of apparitions that are terrorising their lives. Of course, the group eventually realise that the increased activity is down to a bigger plot to unleash the dead on the world to crate havoc. Despite being branded as fakes, only the Ghostbusters can save the day and stop the end of the world. 
So, yeah, it’s a pretty familiar plot with a few modern and gender updates. I’m going to be honest, there was plenty that I liked about the film and there are jokes a plenty here. I mean the gags come thick and fast but that’s mainly because the narrative is so unimaginative. The villain of the piece barely registers here and, despite the fact a connection is attempted between him and our heroic team, he is never explored in any real detail. The whole end of the world thing is just a bit of a throw away here. With so much riding on this reboot, it deserved a better plot and a more in-depth villain. 
Although, that’s not to say that I hated everything about the plot. I think this film, more than the original (boy, is that a risky thing to say), properly introduces us the world of ghost-hunting. I enjoyed the scenes where Holtzmann introduced the team to their various proton-weaponry and helped them test it. Ultimately, these scenes were let down by shitty editing but it was certainly something I would have loved more of. Although, that might just be because it would have guaranteed more Holtzmann. Still, the plot is so reminiscent of the original that it carries the weight of that film on it’s already laden shoulders. 
Which is the major problem I find with the film. I realise that as a reboot of such a beloved film Paul Feig and co. wanted to show their respect to it. However, there is too much of a connection with the original Ghostbusters that you just couldn’t escape the feeling that you might as well watch that instead. The cameos and in-jokes, whilst fun in a certain way, just felt cheap and cheesy in the long run. They didn’t always work and I would have preferred the film without them. 
Still, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I enjoyed the film and am keen to see it again. A lot of the cringey jokes from the trailers seemed to work in their original context and the four female leads work really well together. I think all characters need more development but there is an undeniable group chemistry that works well on screen. From my completely unbiased view (ahem), it is McKinnon who steals the show as the whacky and hilarious Holtzmann but Leslie Jones’ Patty is nowhere near as annoying and redundant as the trailers suggested. I would have loved more for McCarthy and Wiig, who seem destined to forever be stuck playing the same characters but in different outfits. However, there is definite potential there. 
The women are all funny and have a great sense of comic timing, which is good because the film is jam packed with jokes. Not all of them work completely but there is enough to keep everyone happy. I mean Andy Garcia’s Jaws mayor joke may just be one of the funniest things I have ever heard. So, if only for that, it’s worth a watch. The problem is, the film feels rushed and unfinished. It suffered from an identity crisis whilst it tried to cater to the kid crowd and still pleasing the, now grown-up, fans of the original. The script isn’t always very tight, the editing seems choppy in a lot of places and the CGI is much more Haunted Mansion than it should be. Even though I wanted to admit to loving this film I can’t deny that it’s not perfect. To be honest, it really should have been considering who was making it. 
However, I’m still an optimist at heart and I have to say that it’s got something about. It’s charming and silly. There is plenty of potential there for future films. Something which I definitely would like to see happen. Much like the American Office only really got watchable after it stopped trying to copy the English version, I think this reboot will really get off the ground when it gets out from the original’s shadow. No offence to Parks and Rec writer, Katie Dippold, but get a better writer in there and have a think about what tone is needed and we could be onto a winner. Ghostbusters wasn’t a good enough film to destroy the backlash the trailer received online but it was almost there. 
This film didn’t necessarily back-up my many arguments with coworkers about how good it looked. What it did, was show me how good it could be if it got the chance. It also told me that that there’s very little Kate McKinnon could ask me to do that I would say no to. I’m fucking hooked. 

Tuesday’s Reviews – Zoolander No.2 (2016)

Ben Stiller, films, Kristen Wiig, meh, Owen Wilson, review, sequel, Will Ferrell

Any film that has such a huge fan base is rife for sequels that come along way after anyone really wanted on. We saw it with Anchorman 2 and now Zoolander 2. Although, I get it; it’s George Lucas syndrome. Something happens when you make something that people love and you’re really proud of. You cant leave it alone and want to carry on making something that so many people love. The problem is, people love it too much and will never be able to compare it to the original they’ve shrouded in so much nostalgia. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much because Derek and Hansel are both fantastic characters. Of course, I will complain because when the time away has been so long it’s difficult to pick up where you left off.

Which, incidentally, is exactly what Ben Stiller tries to do. Zoolander 2 picks up right after the end of the first film with the revelation that “The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too” collapsed killing Derek’s wife, Matilda, and disfiguring Hansel. In light of this tragedy, both models retire from fashion and go into hiding. Along the way, Derek loses custody of his son and become a recluse and Hansel finds a family with his desert orgy. Obviously, that’s all about to change when the pair are drawn out of retirement to star in an up-and-coming designer’s new show in Italy. Turns out, Derek and Hansel no longer fit into the fashion world and are ridiculed as relics during the show.

Whilst in Rome they are brought on board in a current Interpol investigation concerning the mysterious deaths of a bunch of pop stars. In exchange for information on Derek’s estranged son, he agrees to hep agent of the fashion division, Valentina (Penélope Cruz). They trio then find themselves in a ridiculous Da Vinci Code style mystery that places Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold) in danger and takes them into the seedy part of the fashion world and reintroduces them to Derek’s old nemesis, Mugatu. They also take some time along the way to ponder who they really are in a world of social media, transgender, and paternal responsibility.

Zoolander 2 tries so hard to remind its audience about the success of the original and, for that, we should applaud it. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are as comfortable in their roles as they were back in 2001 and they are still incredibly funny. Derek and Hansel have moved on emotionally since the events following the first film but are still as vain and self-centred as they always were. Which is basically all we really wanted. The pair still work really well together and the chemistry is just as wonderful as it was the first time round.

Although, the film is constantly being haunted by its predecessor. For the most part, the references to Zoolander do what they need to and create enough humour to keep people happy. However, there are scenes which are so reminiscent to ones in the original that it ceases to be a call-back and just comes across as desperate. At times it feels as though Stiller and co just hope to create humour by reintroducing characters that their audience know once did/said something funny.

There was a lot of potential to bring Derek and Hansel into this modern world. They were basically the social media kings before social media even existed. However, the element of the narrative relating to where they fit in is quickly swept aside for the next dozen wacky plot strands. I know the plot of the first film isn’t a fucking Shakespeare play but this is essentially just a bunch of sketches tied together using celebrity cameos and a flimsy overall story. Much of it just seems unnecessary and not funny enough.

Still, I didn’t hate this film. When it gets things right those things are really right. There are some genuinely funny moments and some great situations. I don’t know who suggested the Kiefer Sutherland idea but it’s one of the best things about the film. Likewise, the brief Susan Boyle cameo is fucking amazing. However, between those pieces of gold you have to wade through the shit like Katy Perry and Neil DeGrasse Tyson popping up just because they’re famous people. It doesn’t make sense.

Rather than having a well constructed sequel to a film that so many people love, we have something that feels rushed and relies too heavily on big names. I know the first one threw celebrities into the ring willy nilly but at least that left some room for characters to develop. It feels like everyone was just too busy to be involved here. Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell just aren’t used enough for my liking and their characters are wasted. Considering how important the pair were to the marketing of the film they added fuck all to it. Zoolander 2 is exactly like the main characters it portrays; it’s not very smart or polished and it’s far too narcissistic for its own good but you can’t help but like it. There is something so charming and fun about it that you won’t regret seeing it but it doesn’t have the staying power of the original. The script isn’t as quotable and the story verges even further into outrageously nonsensical territory.

Monday’s are for moaning – Ghostbusters 3: the curse of nostalgia

ghostbusters, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, nostalgia, rant, women

So those of you who haven’t been living under a rock for the past week will no doubt be aware that the new Ghostbusters trailer was released. I have to say, it’s fucking awesome. I’ve had my doubts about a third film being released since Dan Aykroyd first starting blathering on about it years ago but as soon as Paul Feig, Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig signed on I was all for it. And that was before I saw Chris Hemsworth in glasses. Obviously, I have huge love for the original film and have been in love with Ray Stanz for a really long time. Just like everyone else, I wanted this film to be good but not shit all over the original. Unlike a lot of the people on the internet, however, I fucking loved the trailer. Yeah, it was as silly and light-hearted as you’d expect from this group of people but, ultimately, it made me smile. Something the original always manages to do.

Now in this rant I don’t want to focus on the people out there complaining about the fact that four men have been replaced by four women. To be honest, I don’t want to acknowledge those fucking idiots any more than they already have been. The arguments are all baseless and I don’t have the time to deal with that many stubborn and brain-dead morons. No, I want to talk about the more worrying set of people who are suggesting that the new film will in some way ruin the original for all of its fans.

In a film industry polluted by dozens of reboots and unnecessary sequels, we hear the phrase “ruined my childhood” far too often. There is an idea that every modern interpretation of something will become the definitive version of that franchise. It’s something we see time and time again with fans who are too melodramatic for their own good. Take the prequels for the major example. All those people bemoaning the fact that George Lucas had “ruined their childhood” with his modern trilogy were just being whiny little bitched. Yes, the prequels weren’t as good as the originals but does that mean, in turn, the original films became worse? Associating something good with something shit doesn’t make it as shit.

Yes Transformers wasn’t a great film but that doesn’t mean you can say it completely destroyed everything that came before it. It’s still a very successful toy franchise and cartoon. Yes, Battleships was the most ridiculous excuse for a cash-in in history but does that make the original game any worse? Okay, I’m not going to pretend I’m a big enough fan of the board game to actually give a shit but people surely didn’t stop playing just because Rihanna was in a terrible film. Jurassic Park 3 certainly didn’t ruin the idea of the first one enough to prevent the amazing Jurassic World being made.

I recently watched a reaction to the new trailer where the guy in question was nearly in tears because he felt the new film wasn’t respecting the legacy enough. I thought he was fucking kidding until he went on and on about it. Not respecting the legacy? It’s got ghosts and people who want to bust those ghosts. What’s not being respected? What people really mean when they say it’s ruining the original is “it’s not got Billy Murray” in it. And I can understand that. Bill Murray is a fucking legend. However, 2016 Bill Murray is not 1984 Billy Murray. Having any of the original cast reprise their roles now could possibly have destroyed the original. Nobody wants the memory of those youngish men valiantly saving New York to be replaced with balding, grey and chubby old men rushing to the aid of their city using a fucking zimmer frame.

Nostalgia is a fucking bitch really. People get so caught up in wanting to relive the past that they romanticise and glorify the films of their childhood. It’s understandable but it shouldn’t lead to the kind of stubbornness that can’t even accept that a re-imagining of something could possibly be good. We know Paul Feig is more than capable of creating funny films, even when they seem completely dire – I’m looking at you The Heat. Give him such a fantastic cast of funny women and a premise based on one of the funniest films of the 80s and it seems you’d have a home-run on your hands. Except to the fucking idiots who are still living in the 80s it seems.

Whatever your view on the new trailer may be, we all have to agree that it at least looks like an improvement on the sequel. I mean that was a fucking travesty. How can anyone say that Melissa McCarthy and co aren’t taking the Ghostbusters ethos seriously when just a few years after the first film a badly animated statue of liberty danced through Manhattan to the song ‘Higher and Higher’? You want to complain that something in the Ghostbusters franchise is too silly then you need look no further. Silliness has always been a part of the franchise and anyone who looks back now and claims it was trying to do something more serious is too pretentious for words.

Ghostbusters always has and always will be a comedy. It came from a silly idea Dan Aykroyd had for himself and John Belushi and only became sillier when Bill Murray and Harold Ramis came on board. Yes, maybe the new film isn’t quite as subtle and has a screaming Leslie Jones slapping Melissa McCarthy in the face. Is that so wrong? It looks like it’s going to be fun and the four women have great chemistry. I’ve watched the trailer countless times and it’s mostly because of Kate McKinnon. I mean this film will probably be worth it for her facial expressions alone.

So shut the fuck up about your ruined childhood. We’re all invested in this but some of us are mature enough to realise that change isn’t always a bad thing. New often is as good as the original. Let’s at least give the damn thing a chance before we start condemning it to reboot hell. I doubt that this will replace the first film in my heart but I am positive that I’ll come out of it feeling happy. And isn’t that the point?

TBT – Bridesmaids (2011)

comedy, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Rebel Wilson, review, TBT, women
In any interview, review or article concerning Melissa McCarthy will inevitably mention her breakout performance in Kirsten Wiig‘s 2011 female comedy Bridesmaids. Like it’s the only fucking role she’s ever had. Part of me is sick of Bridesmaids, it just won’t go away. When it came out, the critics and the public were falling over themselves to praise this revolutionary comedy that showed women can be as funny as men. Despite every fibre of my being telling me not to, I’m going to ignore all of the problems associated with that fucking phrase and admit that I wasn’t exactly in a rush to see it. I’m all for women getting the limelight but there was nothing about it that screamed ‘see me immediately’. I guess it didn’t help that I wasn’t quite as shocked as the rest of the world to discover that women are gross: having stepped in as a cleaner at work I know first hand how fucking disgusting women can be. Really, I just didn’t relish the idea of this Judd Apatow meets Sex and the Citycomedy all about weddings. I’m not that kind of gal.

That’s not to say that Bridesmaidsisn’t a decent film: it is funny and there are some genuinely touching moments. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo have written a great script and brought together a fantastic selection of comic performers. Wiig herself went even further in this film to prove that not only is her understanding of humour spot on but that she can hold her own as an actor in general. Her writing and her performance are charming, impressive and delicate, even during her loudest moments.
As someone who stopped giving much of a shit about weddings once she reached double figures, I could empathise with Wiig’s Annie, a very single, thirty-something who finds herself unprepared for dealing with her best friend’s engagement. Lillian (Maya Rudolph) obviously asks Annie to be her maid of honour, which forces her to question her own romantic lifestyle and her role in Lillian’s life. Coming face-to-face with Helen (Rose Byrne), a rival for position of best friend, Annie can’t help but think that she just doesn’t cut it.
Stuck in a dead-end job after her bakery went out of business, living with oddball British siblings (Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson), having a shitty car, and enjoying adult sleepovers with a man that sums up the definition of dickhead (Jon Hamm), Annie just can’t compare to the rich and confident Helen. Of course, her rival is all too aware of this too and takes every opportunity to push Annie towards failure.
The three main women are great characters and all three actors do fantastically. Alongside Wiig’s wackiness, Rose Byrne excels as the calculating and jealous Helen. The tension between the two is palpable but neither actor pushes it outside the realms of realism. Maya Rudolph, like Wiig, shows once again that she is a performer to be reckoned with. She flies within her one-on-one scenes with Wiig and shines as she reacts to Annie’s continuing breakdown. Their friendship is the true heart of the film and the actors work fantastically to establish the relationship before showing it in turmoil.
The rest of the bridal party fair less well in terms of characterisation but it can’t be said that it prevented Melissa McCarthy making herself known. Kirsten Wiig’s slapstick moments are some of the films finest moments (the plane scene in particular is the brand of nostalgic comedy that you can’t help but laugh yourself silly at) but McCarthy blows her out of the water every time. She is the most outrageous but refreshing character in the entire thing but I still wish there was more to her. The character does feel a little thin and, I suspect, in the hands of another actor she would have proved less successful.
Then you have the final two bridesmaids who really make no impression at all. It gets to the point that, in order to make use of Ellie Kemper and Wendy McLendon-Covey, the pair are given an unnecessary brush with sexual experimentation. I don’t see the point of the these women and it feels like they’ve been given the worst of Hollywood’s clichés so they aren’t wasted entirely. The only person less important to proceedings is Lillian’s groom who is basically non-existent.
After all, Bridesmaids isn’t about men so they don’t get much screen-time. Well other than Chris O’Dowd as Annie’s adorable love interest, Officer Rhodes. This is the role that caused Hollywood to really fall in love with the actor we’ve all been obsessed with since The IT Crowd. Their romance isn’t exactly outstanding and it’s such a traditional Hollywood love story that it could be annoying. However, the pair have great chemistry and are both so utterly charming that it’s impossible not to support it.
That’s what Bridesmaids is more than anything: a comedy full of heart and charm. You like the main characters despite anything. You believe the friendship between Annie and Lillian and can’t help but get angry when Helen threatens to scupper it. A lot of the jokes are crude, in the manner of a Judd Apatow stoner film, but there is something more than just shock value there. It feels real. Bridesmaids goes against the idea of what it is to be a woman in a Hollywood film. No longer do we have the awful schmultzy, touchy-feely films about sisterhood, the desperate cougars of Sex and the City, or the one-dimensional, take noprisoners psycho bitch

Bridesmaidsunderstands the importance of female friendships whilst still being honest about the neuroses that bubble under the surface. It shows the subtle way that women can dig away at each other and undermine their rivals. It also does it in a completely non-judgemental way. Even the bitchiest of characters is shown to be vulnerable and self-conscious rather than wholly malicious.
So obviously, Bridesmaidsis a step in the right direction for women in Hollywood but, despite enjoying some of the grotesque humour, I still have that niggling feeling that it still isn’t getting to the heart of the matter. Whilst not being completely safe in terms of a major film, there is something less dangerous about making a film about women that feels like a man’s comedy. Rather than creating the ‘female Hangover‘ I would have preferred a female focused film that didn’t require comparison to something made by men and for men.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

comedy, Kristen Wiig, news, Paul Rudd, review, satire, Steve Carell, Will Ferrell

If there is one thing you can say about Anchorman 2 it’s that it has definitely utilised its marketing team. For the past few months (though it feels like years) we have seen Will Ferrell dressed as Ron Burgundy on anything with a captive audience. Not that I’m really complaining. I utterly adore the first Anchorman film and, along with Zoolander, will watch it whenever I need an instant boost. That said, ever since the sequel was announced, I found myself unsure whether it was necessary. Anchormanwas a complete film and I just couldn’t see that there was any need to bring back the characters to continue their story. However, a friend and I found ourselves having only had about four hours sleep on New Year’s Day and needing to find an activity that took place in a dark room and didn’t involve interacting with other people. It seemed like destiny was calling.

Anchorman 2picks up several years after the events of the first film when Ron and Veronica (Christina Applegate), in the midst of domestic and professional bliss, are pushed into turmoil when Veronica is offered a promotion whilst Ron is fired. The relationship quickly falls apart and Ron must restart his life with the newfound knowledge that he is not at all capable of performing the role that he was born to have. Thankfully, Ron is quickly lifted out of obscurity thanks to the birth of rolling news so he reassembles his loyal news team and the group make their way to New York to reclaim their top-spot. All whilst Ron attempts to repair his fractured relationship with Veronica and his estranged six-year-old son Walter.

Of course it will prove difficult as our favourite newsreader is just as pompous and self-centred as he always was. The film soars when Ferrell is on screen and it is especially wonderful to see his failed attempts to face off with his formidable new rival, Jack Lime (James Marsden). Ron Burgundy is on top form when he is unrestrained and downright wacky. The moments when he is in the newsroom doing what he does best are a joy to watch.
On the other hand, there are the times when the pace slows a little: most notably the moment when Ron finds himself doing some soul-searching whilst living alone in a lighthouse. This scene echoes the “milk was a bad choice” meltdown scenes from the first but ramps up the comedy thanks to an orphaned shark. Although this segment is also littered with joyous moments there is an ever present sense that it goes on just that little bit too long. The slicker and more on point first half is pushed aside for this bizarre intermission which, other than a few brief titters, does nothing but contribute to the bloated feeling that bogs down the almost 2 hour long film.
Nevertheless, you can tell that Ferrell, and indeed the entire cast, are happy to be back playing these characters and that really helps the film move along. It’s not just a desperate attempt to make money but a chance to revisit old friends. The characters may not be entirely as we remember them but once the story gets going everything starts to feel comfortingly familiar. (Even if the make-up job needed to hide how much older Will Ferrell has got is slightly off putting and gross in close-up.)
One of the biggest stars to come out of the first film was, without a doubt, Steve Carell as the dim-witted Brick. Offering up hilarious visual gags and numerous quotable lines, Brick was the only character memorable enough to share the limelight with Ron Burgundy. This time, in a great show of self-awareness and common sense, the writers have placed Brick on centre stage with an entire subplot to play with. He is introduced to the world of dating once he meets fellow GNN employee Chani (played by Kristen Wiig). Although funny, there are moments when this feels a little bit like overindulgence and clutching at straws. Instead of just being full of zany sound bites, there are uncomfortable moments when the jokes possibly fall onto the wrong side of risqué. Although, attempting to start 2014 off with a ‘glass half full’ attitude, I intend to remember these moments as acceptable jokes instead of just Hollywood making fun of mental disability.
The thing that made Anchorman so amusing when it came out was that it was comedy for comedy’s sake: it was an entire film of Will Ferrell and co. being silly and outrageous because it was funny. Anchorman 2, perhaps in an attempt to show that the concept has grown enough to justify a sequel, takes its first pensive steps into the world of satire and, for the most part, it just about pays off. In between the familiar moments of Ron shouting and Brick being stupid, we sit back and watch as our hero climbs the journalistic ladder by creating a fresh news format by providing his audience with stories they want instead of the ones they need to hear. Filling his initial graveyard slot with fluff pieces and feel-good tales, Ron quickly becomes a ratings winner. Ferrell and co-writer Adam McKay’s attempt to have their say in regards to media moguls, like Rupert Murdoch, isn’t exactly subtle in its approach but it is possible to glimpse some sort of message within all the other noise.

For Anchorman 2 is certainly a loud film: Ferrell and McKay decided to build upon the first film by reusing and revisiting several of the jokes. The most obvious and most desperate is the big news team fight which builds on the original by throwing an insane amount of cameos into the mix along with a minotaur, a ray gun and the ghost of Stonewall Jackson. It is not that this scene isn’t funny but it just feels a little bit stale thanks to the underlying sense of familiarity. You can’t get away from the ‘been there done that’ idea no matter how many shots of Kanye, Liam Neeson and Marion Cotillard you include. Although, despite this tired idea, it does say something about the strength of the Anchorman franchise that the jumping the shark moment comes so far into the running time.

Anchorman 2is by no means as funny as the original but there are still a lot of the usual funny moments. Ferrell is a naturally funny performer and Ron Burgundy’s narcissism and lack of social awareness provides an infinite number of humours opportunities.  Admittedly, there are some that just don’t quite make it to their full potential and a lot of the jokes are stretched until they are thin enough to see through. However, the fact remains that there are plenty of real laughs to be found and, despite several potentially racist/misogynistic sequences, everything is played out to be appalling in just the right way. It is certainly not the most inspiring or well-crafted comedy of all time but Anchorman 2 has at least remembered to stay fairly classy. And if you disagree, I’ve got Jack Johnson and Tom O’Leary waiting for ya, right here.

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (2013)

Ben Stiller, comedy, Kristen Wiig, meh, review

James Thurber’s 1939 short story, ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’, has, despite its low page count, now spawned two Hollywood adaptations. Thurber tells the story of Walter Mitty, a put-upon husband, who retreats to daydreams of heroic acts to get away from his humdrum existence. It’s a lovely short story that doesn’t attempt to move beyond a familiar reality in quite the way that the previous 1947 adaptation did. Taking inspiration from the war-time setting, this version eventually took Walter out of his dreams and placed him into a world of espionage and drama. It was a fairly big leap from Thurber’s simple and unassuming original but it was certainly more suitable for a Hollywood film. There has been talk of a modern adaptation since the late 90s and a host of comedy performers have been discussed into taking the leading role. It wasn’t until Ben Stiller came aboard to direct and star in that the film began to really take shape. Now I really like Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig but I can’t say I was exactly rushing to watch a film being hailed as “the new Forrest Gump”. However, the trailers suggested that there may be potential for humour and sentiment so I thought I’d give it a go.

Stiller’s adaptation, like the 1947 version, moves away from the original and gives the title character more room to eventually achieve greatness. Mitty works in the photography department at Life magazine, which, unfortunately, is being shut down in favour of the ever-growing digital media. Walter (played by Stiller), thanks to a family tragedy in his early years (cliché alert), is full of regrets and bored with his life; in order to escape his mundane existence Walter retreats into various fantasy worlds to satisfy his need for excitement.  He is ignoring parts of his life because of his tendency to retreat into a fake world and it is causing both professional and personal strife. We see him moving apart from his family and getting into sticky situations with his new boss.
Some of the most memorable moments occur thanks to the juxtaposition between Walter’s two lives and how the people he interacts with react to his moments. Walter’s life is the same drudgery that many people will be able to relate to. Having worked in the picture department for the past 16 years he has a lifetime of regrets and remains too shy and inhibited to be the person he really wants to be. Thanks to this frustration and repression, Walter’s fantasies come crashing (most often literally) through into reality with great gusto and play out in a typically brash Hollywood style. As an example, take the intense dream sequence of the film where Walter, after attempting yet ultimately failing to reach out to his love interest and colleague Cheryl (a criminally underused Kristen Wiig), imagines Explorer Walter bursting through the office wall to woo her with the help of his poetry falcon. (Best idea ever.)
This is all vaguely in keeping with the original source but, obviously, it wasn’t enough to watch Mitty continue to divide his time between his two lives. No, no. That’s not very Hollywood. Therefore, Walter is given the chance to change his future in the most dramatic fashion possible. When his long-time collaborator, photographer Sean O’Connell (a fabulous Sean Penn), presents him with his latest portfolio claiming one of the prints to be his masterpiece, Walter is dismayed to discover the photograph missing and sets out on a journey to track down the reclusive and always moving artist.
Walter leaves his quiet and unassuming life in New York to trek across Greenland, Iceland, Yemen and Afghanistan. Taking a further step into the bizarre and absurd, Walter is quickly taking helicopter rides with drunk pilots before jumping out of it, fighting sharks and skateboarding away from erupting volcanoes. There are some fine moments in this section, not least the aforementioned and kind of beautiful skateboarding scene, but the narrative quickly begins to fall apart thanks to its assumed philosophical message. There is a point where Mitty starts to feel like those awful hipster black and white photos with supposedly inspirational or philosophical message printed on them in comic sans: something which has a lot less to say than it both wishes and believes.
Although, there can be no doubt that Stiller’s film is an absolute stunner. Iceland (which stands in for all four of Walter’s later destinations) looks stunning and he is proving to be a formidable talent behind the camera. However, there is no escaping the sense that the crew all thought there was more to Mitty’s overall philosophy than there actually is. It is a confused story that one minute shows how harmful a life made up of fantasy can be before placing its leading man in exactly the same situations he was dreaming up: a film that attempts to drive home the importance of human contact and togetherness whilst also following a lonely man on his solo adventure across remote regions. The latter parts of the film become increasingly trying and difficult to watch as the journey becomes all the more implausible and self-important. Someone should tell Hollywood that it takes more than a comedy legend acting all serious to make a poignant and inspirational tale.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty isn’t exactly the major disaster that I was anticipating and, for all of my negativity above, there are some beautiful and vaguely inspirational moments. Weirdly these seem to happen when Sean Penn is on screen but I guess this is a film that deals with unusual situations. However, there is no sense of restraint and Stiller and co. just spread their various morals on a little bit too thick and without enough self-awareness. After the opening sections filled with over-the-top dream sequences, the film is played with unflinching seriousness which doesn’t exactly work when Walter is still rejecting a traditional reality. On some levels it feels like a miss but, thankfully, it still feels like an acceptable one.

Despicable Me 2 (2013)

animation, comedy, family, Kristen Wiig, review, Russell Brand, sequel, Steve Carell, Universal

Despicable Me was the animated success story of 2010 which saw audiences embrace the story of super-villain Gru and his accidental move into family-life. It was a refreshing and original concept that quickly became a firm favourite with moviegoers. This was thanks in no small part to his little, yellow minions who provided the young audience with plenty of incredibly silly moments. As we all know, that film ended with Gru giving up on his plan to prove just how evil he is (by trying to steal the moon no less) and dedicate himself to his new daughters. So where did that leave us in terms of a sequel?

Despicable Me 2 opens with Gru (Steve Carell) adjusting to life as a single father having to deal with such missions as throwing children’s parties, dating, interacting with pushy parents and raising his three young adopted daughters alone. After throwing in his evildoer towel, he has chosen to turn his hand to home-made jellies and jams. Unfortunately, Gru and his sidekicks aren’t exactly naturals when it comes to stewing fruits. Despite his satisfaction at playing the doting dad, Gru can’t help but suffer from the lack of excitement in his suburban life.

Thankfully, for both the super villain and his audience, Gru’s life is turned upside down when he is kidnapped by Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), an agent working for the Anti-Villain League. Her boss, the uptight and snooty Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), offers him the chance to work with them to help foil a plot by an, as yet, unknown criminal who is responsible for stealing an entire laboratory to get their hands on a dangerous chemical. Leading to a completely ridiculous and unnecessary sequence where Gru is placed in a mall so he can use his inside knowledge to guess who the culprit is.

So the man who can be credited with having once stolen the moon is now working for the good guys. And therein lies the problem. Gru was a fantastic character because we found ourselves caring about a man whose sole purpose was causing chaos. It was hard not to become embroiled in his struggle to chose between his evil deeds and his new role as father figure. However, this conflict between good and evil has been long forgotten in this sequel. No longer hoping to make a name for himself as a villain, Gru now spends his time worrying about his eldest daughter’s move into the world of romance and Agnes’ dream of him finding her a mother. These side-lines attempt to bring about the emotional aspects that fuelled the first but there is no getting away from the fact that something is missing. Gru is now a disappointing watered-down version of himself. He just doesn’t have the same presence that he once had and there is a lack of energy in his family-sagas.

So Despicable Me 2 turns out to be anything but despicable. It’s just another in a long-line of unnecessary sequels intended to squeeze as much money out of families as possible. There was no need to continue Gru’s story aside from the fact that he and, more importantly, his tic-tac like minions were a big hit with the kids. It is these little yellow bastards who are the real stars of the show and they will certainly keep the youngsters watching falling out of the seats with laughter. Their hark back to a simpler brand of comedy, associated with the silent era of film, with a focus on over-the-top physical gags, visual jokes and pantomime. The Minions appeal because they were created as a symbol of silliness. They are nothing more than unadulterated fun.

However, the sequel is almost solely devoted to creating moments where the Minions are given freedom to lose control and reference as many popular trends as possible. It feels as though the dull search for the mysterious villain was simply created to glue these sequences together. Even the eventual reveal of the man Gru is searching for is rushed and he is never given the chance to explain just why we should be concerned about his plan. It’s lazy film-making and the focus is clearly on potential merchandise (as the new breed of minion goes to show). Time that should have been given to setting out the various plot-strands has instead been used up to show Minions dressed in various costumes dancing or fighting each other.

Despicable Me 2has the unavoidable feel of a sketch show that has been fleshed out with a flimsy story-arc that was written 5 minutes before the deadline. This means that the remaining cast never get a chance to make much of an impression and the returning characters are unable to remind us of what made them so great in the first film. Most notably seen in Gru’s crazed scientist friend Dr Nefario (Russell Brand) who is brought out at the moments when an easy fix is required. Some great talent has been wasted in favour of cheap laughs. This film is miles away from its innovative predecessor and you feel it throughout.

Despicable Me 2was created by the same team who brought us the first one and the team from Illumination Entertainment continue to channel the work of Chuck Jones in their follow-up. This is a animation that harks back to the early days with the Looney Tunes style humour, slapstick and in-your-face animation. It is a film that really makes use of cartoon physics and logic, where violence and danger have no deadly consequences and cars can turn into submarines and helicopters without any real effort. Despite the flaws involved, there is no doubt that Despicable Me 2 was an enjoyable film to watch and has enough to appeal to its older audience as well as the primary one.
For there can be no forgetting that this is a film intended to be enjoyed by young children and, looking at it from that point-of-view, it is a success. It may not have the overall slickness and precision that Monster’s Universityhad but it will certainly keep your young ones entertained. The older sections of the audience may find it disappointing after the freshness of Despicable Me but there is still enough of the same spirit and heart that appealed first time round. Whilst there have been far greater animated sequels, this one certainly does the job it intended to: get us all ready for the upcoming (and I’m guessing farcical) Minionsmovie.