Movie Review – Ideal Home

A gay couple on the brink of a public meltdown are swept up with the responsibility of a child that’s not theirs… should be fun to watch, right?

 
⭐ ⭐ ½
Josip Knezevic 

What could have been a quirky, upbeat comedy quickly turns into an average classic romcom in Andrew Fleming’s Ideal Home. While it puts a contemporary twist on the traditional dysfunctional family with its lead, same-sex couple Paul (Paul Rudd) and Erasmus (Steve Coogan), its jokes are anything but new.

Most of the comedy comes from being gay and a lack of knowledge on how to raise a child, but this novelty is relied on far too much, to the point where the movie’s charm wears off and soon becomes downright irritating.

When 10 year-old Bill (Jack Gore), enters the lives of Paul and Erasmus, claiming to be the former’s grandson, he throws a spanner into the works of an already strained relationship. His character is easily the most annoying part of the film, with his constant complaints that he’ll only eat something from Taco Bell.

Thankfully, Steve Coogan somewhat saves the day. Even though he’s fed poorly written lines, he holds a commanding demeanor that fits his overtly gay character, and I would love to see him explore a similar character in a higher quality film.

Ideal Home does have some touching moments, but for the most part, it’s awkward, irritating and not that funny. It’s really only suitable for fans of Coogan, and for everyone else, well… I wouldn’t go jumping at the chance to see it anytime soon.

Ideal Home is available in Australian cinemas from June 21 

Image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution 

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Movie Review – Tag

Reasonably amusing but completely brainless, Jeff Tomsic’s Tag isn’t enough to get the adrenaline pumping.

⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan 

Tag is almost a movie that is immune to criticism, not because it is good in any way, but because it offers very little outside of what it promises, which is that a bunch of grown men will chase each other across a city.

The movie is inspired by the 2013 Wall Street Journal article about a group of friends in Spokane, Washington, who have played the same game of tag every May for the past 23 years. But it isn’t simply a game anymore. The men have supercharged their methods so that old-lady disguises and surprise leaps from rubbish bins are considered supremely tactical. It’s become a kind of backyard military campaign, and on a very hidden, deeply infantile level, it seems like a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, Tag isn’t as enjoyable, because even though its leading men successfully create the illusion that they’ve known each other for decades, there is nothing else to discover about them. Everything that happens is either a direct result or a direct cause of their game of tag. Even one of their wives, played by Isla Fisher, exists only to adorn the festivities.

Ed Helms is Hogan Malloy, who we first see accepting a job as a janitor even though he has a PhD in medicine. We soon find out his motive: he wants an opportunity to tag his good friend Bob Callahan (Jon Hamm), who is a big executive at the company and is about to be interviewed for the Wall Street Journal by Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis).

And so it goes. The plot is basically a never-ending series of physical gags in which Hogan, Bob and their old pals Chilli (Jake Johnson) and Sable (Hannibal Buress) try to finally tag Jerry (Jeremy Renner), the master of escape who has managed to remain untouched for nearly thirty years.

Directed by Jeff Tomsic, much of the action’s success stems from the actors, who don’t so much perform as yap their way from one sight gag to the next. Nothing they do or say is all that funny, nothing that happens is all that inspired, and by the end all we’re left to wonder is how many brain cells we’ve lost in a hundred minutes.

But there’s something profoundly silly yet utterly charming about watching a bunch of grown-ups run like fools to avoid a simple touch, to abandon all notion of civility in favour of unrestrained fun. I don’t think I would’ve felt that with another cast, but Helms, Hamm, Johnson, Buress and Renner succeed in making me believe they’ve been best friends since childhood, and if you want to deliver a story 23 years in the making, that’s key.

Tag is available in Australian cinemas from June 14

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

Movie Review – Incredibles 2

The Incredibles are back facing a new enemy, but unfortunately this long overdue sequel doesn’t match the charm of the original.

 ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahill

Incredibles 2 is a blatant rehash of the original animated family comedy, following the exact same beats as the first film. There’s no doubt that it’s a very well-made film, technically speaking. It’s got some great voice talent (Craig T. Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson) and some competently directed action sequences from returning writer/director Brad Bird, but otherwise it’s same old, same old.

Without giving too much away, let’s just say that certain roles have been reversed and everything else that follows is basically the same structure that we saw last time. It doesn’t automatically mean the entire movie is a boring experience, but it adds a level of predictability that certainly makes it less exciting.

Nevertheless, Incredibles 2 still holds enough positives to make it a fun ride. Moments of comedy come here and there, but the punchlines often feel slightly awkward, with childish, slapstick humour targeting more of the younger audience members. The best jokes are the ones that poke fun at human behavior or twisted logic, but sadly these are few and far between.

Incredibles 2 is far from the spectacular return I hoped for, but I still have no problem recommending you go and see it. The animation is once again a standout, I just wish the story could have been just as refined as the animation. Fans of the original will be relieved that the essence of the first film hasn’t been lost, but I don’t see Incredibles 2 surpassing its predecessor. Watch it if you’ve loved the original or need a distraction for the kids, but don’t go in with high expectations because you might be disappointed.

Incredibles 2 is available in Australian cinemas from June 14 

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

 

 

Movie Review – Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2 is back and bigger than ever with his very own sequel. But this time, the stakes are greater, as is the body count and the number of gags about how much the X-Men suck.

⭐ ⭐  ½
Josip Knezevic

Coming off a high from the original, Deadpool 2 unfortunately misses the mark in terms of comedy. Poorly made on a technical front (a gripe that carries over the first movie), blighted by horrendous direction and with just enough story to elevate it above complete failure, the brightest crayon in Deadpool 2’s box is that of some interesting new characters.

By far the most disappointing aspect of Deadpool 2 is how desperately unfunny it is. With only a handful of moments that elicit more than a smile, most of the gags that populate its 119-minute runtime are safe and boring, with little of the wit or meta-like charm of the original carrying over from the original. Strangely, the writing talent is the same, with the only additional writer being the star of the show himself, Ryan Reynolds.

The direction, this time in the hands of David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde), is nothing to write home about; a collection of close-ups and shot-reverse-shots that lack variety and smack of inattention. In a series that is all about defying convention, why not show us something inventive or dynamic? Alas, very little of these two qualities can be found in Deadpool 2. The action scenes aren’t much better, with jumbled editing and harried cuts softening the impact of the fisticuffs.

That’s not to say Deadpool 2 is without redeeming qualities; the introduction of Domino (Zazie Beetz), a hero in possession of boundless amount of luck, is executed with aplomb and makes for some of the film’s more entertaining action beats.

Though it doesn’t boast great dialogue, the plot does at least wriggle around and twist itself into something unexpected. The villain isn’t who you would expect and is cast against type, which adds an element of originality to proceedings. That said, that’s all she wrote. Deadpool 2 wasn’t the fulfillment of the film it needed to be and sadly doesn’t live up to the high bar set by its predecessor. Reynolds is great, and as always has impeccable comedic timing, but a mere one or two breakout performances don’t make for a particularly great ensemble action film. Temper those expectations and maybe you’ll garner something greater from this mess than I did.

Deadpool 2 is available in Australian cinemas from May 17 

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Movie Review – I Feel Pretty

Not as horrendous as I thought it was going to be.

⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic 

Going into Amy Schumer’s latest film, it’s safe to say I didn’t have high hopes. I expected an unfunny comedy tackling a seemingly simple premise, but hey, I was thankfully surprised. Yes, it is a typical romantic comedy, but its elevated concept and themes of empowerment are a nice touch.

The idea here is that one day you get knocked on the head so hard that when you wake up you see yourself as the most beautiful person in the world – hence the title I Feel Pretty. This is all the more fitting for our protagonist Renee Bennett (Schumer) who constantly feels insecure about her image and dreams of adopting the perfect look of the women she admires. Her desires are fulfilled when after a fateful accident she views herself as a model-like figure.

It might seem like a superficial notion, but I enjoyed the fact that the film never presented it in that light or wholly focused on that. It’s not about finding the perfect way to look, but to simply find the self-confidence behind that.

Writer/directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein explore scenarios where Renee takes her newfound confidence and applies it to situations that previously she would have never found herself in due to her insecurities. However, this leads to many terribly cheesy setups filled with silly humour, and it feels like such a wasted opportunity. There’s a lot of scenes that are crude purely for the sake of being crude. It does show what happens when we simply believe in ourselves, but this could have been shown in a more intelligent way.

At the end of the day, I Feel Pretty aims to empower women, and I feel it does this successfully, but is it a film that I’d go and see again? Probably not. Would I recommend going to see it? Well, let’s just say it’s not as bad as some other films currently out in cinemas at the moment… *cough* Truth or Dare *cough*…

I Feel Pretty is a nice step in the right direction, even if it’s a small one.

I Feel Pretty is available in Australian cinemas from April 19 

Image courtesy of EntertainmentOne

21st Spanish Film Festival – Abracadabra

A dark comedy, Abracadabra is mad-cap, brightly coloured, and absolutely brilliant.

 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Michael Philp

Abracadabra starts innocently enough. We follow Carlos (Antonio de la Torre) as he ignores his wife, Carmen (Maribel Verdú), dressed to the nines for her nephew’s wedding. It seems, for a little bit at least, like Abracadabra is aiming for simple, domestic comedy. That is until Carlos gets “hypnotised” by Carmen’s cousin Pepe (José Mota) and we go through a looking-glass of sorts. We emerge to find a very different Carlos, who now gives a shit about his family, but is prone to mood swings. Frightened by his unpredictability, Carmen adventures around Madrid to find a cure for her husband’s affliction.

Credit for the humour primarily goes to the cast, who all display impeccable timing and range. It’s hard to pick an MVP, but Josep Maria Pou comes close, playing the deliciously disturbing Dr Fumetti and stealing every scene he can. Fumetti encapsulates the film perfectly: colourful, but with a wicked streak ten miles long. One of the film’s standout moments involves putting a teenager’s underwear on a dying man, a sequence that makes more sense in context, I swear. That kind of bold, broad humour defines Abracadabra and is the major reason why its violent tendencies sit so well with the rest of the comedy.

To be clear, Abracadabra is not an overly gory film, but it also isn’t afraid to show the red stuff when needed. Characters get stabbed, and throats get cut – often using quick shots, but leaving the implication lingering. Carmen is initially so happy to have her husband cooking for her and looking at her for the first time in years that it takes violence to convince her to fix him.

It’s a treat to watch Carmen go on that journey. Tack on a roaring 80’s dance sequence (set to the Steve Miller Band song, no less) and you’ve got yourself a winner of a film. It’s certainly not a feel-good movie, but it is consistently funny and engaging, with excellent performances across the board. It’s a magical mix that you should definitely reach out and grab.

The 21st Spanish Film Festival screens in Perth from April 26 – May 16

Image courtesy of Palace Films

Movie Review – Super Troopers 2

Chances are, you know right meow whether you’ll be lining up to see the long-awaited sequel to Broken Lizard’s cult comedy, or whether you’ll be dodging it like a speed camera on the highway.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

Years after their Highway Patrol was disbanded, the former Super Troopers – Thorny (Jay Chandrasekhar), Foster (Paul Soter), Mac (Steve Lemme), Rabbit (Erik Stolhanske) and Farva (Kevin Heffernan) – have been fired from their new positions as police officers and now work in a dead-end construction job. That is, until they are called upon by their old team captain, O’Hagen (Brian Cox) to investigate an international border dispute between the US and Canada and set up a new highway patrol station in the contended region. Their shot to re-establish themselves as state troopers faces the challenges of a rival Canadian patrol squad, a disorderly mayor (Rob Lowe), a French-Canadian love interest (Emmanuelle Chriqui), and of course a drug-smuggling conspiracy.

The films of comedy troupe Broken Lizard (Club Dread, Beerfest) have always felt like they’ve belonged in a niche. They’re low-brow, crude, not particularly intelligent and filled with humour that misses more often than it hits. It’s surprising then, to see the sequel to their best-known film Super Troopers receive a wide cinematic release instead of going directly to DVD, especially given the seventeen-year gap between the two and the fact that the team have been relatively off-the-radar for the past decade or so. It’s even more surprising that Super Troopers 2 is a largely enjoyable time, and probably the best of their filmography – not that it’s a difficult feat.

What’s unusual about ST2 hitting theatres in 2018 is that it feels like a product of a different era, one Hollywood was all about in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Unconcerned with identity politics or fulfilling a diversity quota and unafraid to be offensive, ST2 is a refreshing call-back to when anything goes, even if this does mean a hefty helping of immaturity and toilet humour. Fortunately too, the hits outweigh the misses this time around, and the team effectively keep the pace lightning-fast and the gag ratio high so that any duds are quickly wiped from memory.

That these guys keep such a consistent high energy going is particularly impressive given that most of the dudes are now it their late-forties and early-fifties; they barely seem to have aged a day in nearly twenty years, even appearance-wise. Even the great Brian Cox, better known for his awards-worthy dramatic roles, is more than game to keep up with the boys, clearly having a blast as he swears a blue streak and dives behind desks from a bear set loose in the station.

Crowdfunding is apparently the only way to get films like this made these days, but Super Troopers 2 stands as a glistening example of giving an audience willing to pay to see something exactly what they want. Easy to nit-pick from a critical standpoint – there’s very little plot to cover and frankly, pretty damned stupid – it asks nothing but to check your brain at the door and revel in the improvised sketches. Anything that features Rob Lowe snorting cocaine and jiggling a stripper’s penis in a bordello is hard to go wrong with.

Super Troopers 2 is available in Australian cinemas from April 19

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Movie Review – Isle of Dogs

A visual feast for the eyes – Anderson, you’ve done it again!

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Josip Knezevic

Japan. Dogs. Wes Anderson. Three of my favourite things come together in Isle of Dogs as Anderson explores the connection between man and his best friend in glorious stop motion animation.

As the title suggests, this is a film about an island of dogs, but more so, it’s about the people who love dogs… so basically, pretty much everyone on the planet. Except in Isle of Dogs, popular opinion has become divided following the outbreak of a dog flu plague. Many turn against their four-legged pals as those infected are banished to live in solitude on the island.

Much like Anderson’s 2009 stop motion animation Fantastic Mr Fox, the production of Isle of Dogs is nothing short of outstanding. As soon as I saw the opening scene, I knew it was going to be a work of art. That scene alone has bested everything else that has come out this year.

Anderson is an intricate and detailed scene selector. He knows exactly how everything is meant to be shot and knows exactly where everything is meant to be placed. It’s why he’s often called out for his obsession with symmetry, but what’s the problem with that? Sure, it might be a somewhat repetitive style across most of his films, but when it’s something that’s done intentionally to produce an aesthetic look, that actually looks fucking nice, how can you complain? I love witnessing the time and effort put into the setup of each frame, especially when it delivers such an entertaining film.

But of course, all of this isn’t to the sole credit of Anderson. Whether it be the unique, dog character models, with each one having its own distinct features, to the set designs and background artwork that must have taken an incredible amount of time to produce, it’s clear the whole production team put a lot of love and dedication into every minute detail of this film.

My only real qualm with Isle of Dogs is the fact that the story doesn’t quite live up to the production quality behind it. While certainly not terrible, the narrative does fall just short of some of Anderson’s other works, such as Moonrise Kingdom. Isle of Dogs does have something to say, and it says it with an enjoyable amount of comedy, but it’s overall message isn’t as strong as some of Anderson’s past films.

Nevertheless, Isle of Dogs is still a very well-made film that’s filled with an all-star cast of voice actors. Jeff Goldblum and Bryan Cranston are standouts, even though Goldblum is simply just being quintessential Goldblum. It’s definitely one to catch on the big screen so you can fully take in all of its visual wonder. Go see it.

Isle of Dogs is available in Australian cinemas from April 12 

Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Movie Review – Blockers

Blockers is more satisfying than expected, but could certainly do with some clarity.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

Blockers is a confused little movie. It seems to think sex and toilet humour are somehow connected. That in order for us to fully appreciate the natural art of love-making, we must first see a really big guy gulp a bottle of beer through his butthole. How about if we didn’t have the butt-gulping? Or the testicle-grabbing? What if Blockers had been an earnest comedy about growing up, exploring sex and freaking out your parents?

I enjoyed much about this movie, and I didn’t think I would after seeing its early trailers. They had the stench of Dirty Grandpa. Even its beginning was somewhat problematic. But then the characters slowly took shape, the actors filled out their shoes and against my better judgement, I began to care about them.

Perhaps it’s because all six leads are thoroughly beguiling. Kathryn Newton plays Julie, who vows to lose her virginity to her boyfriend on prom night. Her two best friends, Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sam (Gideon Adlon), end up doing the same, not out of love, but of the social pressure of having to keep up. The screenplay is right in allowing them room to discover why that’s a bad idea.

This is the story’s catalyst. The plot involves their three parents inadvertently discovering their sex pact and going on a frantic goose chase to prevent the index fingers from entering the OK signs, or the eggplants from entering the donuts, or whatever. What we end up with are essentially two stories, one about the teens and their evening of debauchery, and one about the Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz behaving like dorks.

The strength of Blockers is that all six actors are supremely enjoyable, and in the midst of ridiculously unappetising gags, they actually seem like real people, and not just robots programmed to do stupid things. The movie’s writers, of which there are five, take great pleasure in making the adults clueless and backward, and the teenagers remarkably progressive.

Viswanathan is an absolute treat; beautiful, charismatic, in utter control. Adlon’s Sam is graced with the complexities of teenage homosexuality, and she has a scene with her dad near the end that is one of the truest, most moving conversations I can remember in a studio comedy. Even Newton’s Julie, who kick-started the whole thing, is clearly in love with her boyfriend and not merely desperate to get in his pants. There’s an edge to these girls. We get the feeling they know what they’re doing, and this makes their story work.

And yet Blockers strikes a most disconnected tone. It’s as if the studios and the writers didn’t think anyone would give a damn about three girls losing their virginity and decided to blanket their individuality with crude jokes that feel have to get more outrageous with every scene.

There is a proper movie in here somewhere, desperate to get out. All the fat just has to be skimmed off the top. It’s wonderful that a raunchy studio sex comedy can be helmed by a female director in Kay Cannon. Now she needs to trust that her characters will see her through, because this bunch definitely can.

Blockers is available in Australian cinemas from March 29 

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2018

Movie Review – Early Man

It’s fittingly ironic that Early Man’s setting predates Aardman Animation’s other works by millions of years – the charm is still there, but their latest is nowhere near as evolved as their best.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

Millions of years ago, the meteor that should have wiped dinosaurs off the face of the earth instead crumbles, and lands as a small hot rock resembling a soccer ball, which the local Homo sapiens soon make a game out of. Flash forward a few generations, their descendant Dug (Eddie Redmayne) and his tribe of cavemen live peacefully in a valley as rabbit hunters. They’re soon forced out of their home and into the volcanic Badlands by a technologically advanced Bronze Age army led by Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston), who plans to turn their valley into an industrial wasteland. Dug learns that soccer is an enormous attraction in Nooth’s city and challenges their top team to a match to win his tribe back their valley.

It seems as though some of the mightiest animation studios in the world have exposed their Achilles’ heel – the prehistoric. While Blue Sky and Fox hit gold with their Ice Age franchise that they’ve continued to mine (to varying quality), others have failed to match their primitive success. Most notable of these is Pixar, whose The Good Dinosaur ranks as perhaps their most cumbersome film. Fortunately, stop-motion machine Aardman Animations fare better with their ancestral trip in Early Man, but compared to their greatest hits – Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep­ – it’s a small fry.

After a decade’s absence, key Aardman figure Nick Park returns to directing duties, and at the very least he hasn’t lost his touch in bringing lumps of clay to vibrant and colourful life. The stop-motion charm is all there – you can now even make out the fingerprints on the clay in such high definition – and the trademark character models, all wide, toothy grins and beady eyes, are still delightfully endearing.

It’s a bit of a shame then, that for all its animated grandeur, Early Man’s story is dishearteningly standard. Departing from their usual search-and-rescue or break-out and escape genres, Aardman unexpectedly tackles the sports movie formula. Unfortunately, it’s not the inspired twist on this category like Chicken Run was to prison-break films; it simply follows exactly along the lines of a sports film without subverting it in any way. This means we see all the tropes, from the training montages and inspirational speeches, to the bunch of lovable underdogs defying the odds and the antagonist rigging the game in favour of the opposing team. But without any attempt to satirise these, it’s hard not to feel like there’s nothing new to see here.

This subgenre also limits potential for a broad appeal to audiences, particularly children who have little interest in soccer. While sports movies are designed to be accessible to anyone, even those unfamiliar with the game, it’s unlikely in this age where superhero and space blockbusters reign supreme that a kids’ film devoid of adventure will hold the attention of young ones. Outside of some subtle jokes that sports-fans will pick up, the insistence on childish slapstick means there’s not all that much for accompanying adults either.

That being said, there are still enough laughs and charm to be had that prevent Early Man from being a complete dud. The very British vocal talent fare well, particularly Tom Hiddleston as the pompous Lord Nooth, and animation enthusiasts have plenty to ogle at here. Just don’t expect as joyous and triumphant a time with clay we’ve grown accustomed to.

Early Man is available in Australian cinemas from March 29 

Image courtesy of StudioCanal