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

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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

Movie Review – The Death of Stalin

A forgettable film about a memorable dictator; The Death of Stalin falls into the typical pratfalls of ensemble cast comedy.

 

⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahill

The Death of Stalin is black humour at its finest; following the death of the infamous Soviet dictator, Russian Parliament is thrown into disarray as those closest to Stalin jostle for power. Political drama ensues as alliances are forged, backstabbing occurs, and false promises are made, all in a race to become the next Soviet dictator. It veers on the side of distasteful at times, but anyone who knows even a little bit about the consequences of Stalin’s dictatorship can forgive the film for its on the nose moments.

Steve Buscemi and Simon Russell Beale go head to head as Nikita Khrushchev and Lavrenti Beria respectively as they battle it out for the top spot. These two pull the whole film together; Buscemi’s comedic timing is right on the money, while Russell Beale’s poker-faced delivery offers up the perfect straight man to Buscemi’s funny guy.

Fellow cast members Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Palin and Andrea Riseborough, provide the right comedic support and equally hold their own amidst all the chaos that is unfolding. The stand-out here is Jason Isaacs, despite his screen time being fairly limited. His character’s bloodlust and willingness to turn on people at the drop of hat has a maniacal quality that makes you excited to see what he will do next.

But as a political parody, there’s nothing particularly new or original going on here. It’s very comfortable territory for writer/director Armando Iannucci, who’s responsible for TV shows like Veep and The Thick of It. Perhaps Iannucci’s over-familiarisation with the genre is his downfall, as overall The Death of Stalin is a forgettable affair.

My other bugbear is setting a film in another country, then having all the characters speak in their natural accents; it’s more than a bit jarring to hear American, English and Ukrainian accents on characters who are all supposed to be Russian. It actually made me question whether Stalin had surrounded himself with American’s before his death. Fact check: he didn’t. No matter the genre, if you’re depicting historical moments based on real people you need to be authentic. This here is just lazy filmmaking.

The Death of Stalin isn’t the best work from any of its comic leads, and while it’s enjoyable enough, it lacks that special something we usually see from Iannucci.

The Death of Stalin is available in Australian cinemas from March 29 

Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment

Movie Review – Game Night

With comedy as polished as Game Night’s, this is one party you won’t regret attending.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Michael Philp

Plainly put, Game Night’s behind the scenes pedigree is not great. The last film from the directors (John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein) was the middling 2015 Vacation sequel/reboot. Admittedly, they did write Spiderman: Homecoming, but the only writing credit attached to Game Night is Mark Perez whose last full credit was The Country Bears. Nobody wants to remember The Country Bears. It’s therefore pretty amazing that Game Night succeeds as well as it does. Directed with confidence and carried excellently by its leads, Game Night elevates itself above the usual comedy fare.

In charge of the evening’s festivities (as much as he can be) is Max (Jason Bateman), a hyper-competitive suburban professional trying and failing to have a baby with his equally competitive wife Annie (Rachel McAdams). Together they host a weekly game night with close friends – a tradition that immediately gets overrun by the arrival of Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler), who undermines and outplays Max at every opportunity. Cooking up his own game night, Brooks invites the group over for a kidnapping mystery extravaganza that gets out of hand faster than you can say snap.

Daley and Goldstein show their hands almost immediately with a tilt-shift aerial at sunset – the characters resembling monopoly pieces as they prepare for the party – a showy move that establishes that Game Night will not be your usual studio comedy. Indeed, once things get started, Daley and Goldstein show a remarkable ability to marry David Fincher-esque visuals with superb comic timing. The best example of this is Gary (Jesse Plemons), Max and Annie’s dead-pan cop neighbour. Creepily grave, Gary is easily the funniest character in the movie without even trying.

Game Night is a braver film than you might expect. It earns its MA rating not through raunchiness but through moments of genuine violence, like Annie attempting to remove a bullet from Max’s arm. The tension is naturally undercut by constant jokes, like using chardonnay to sterilise the wound, but the gore exists regardless. For most people it will be fine – just enough to be exciting, not enough to be gross-out – but those with weaker constitutions should be forewarned.

Looking too deep into Game Night’s plot twists is a recipe for disaster. The twists exist purely to spoof the thriller genre – much like Game Night itself – and they succeed wildly in that regard. It’s a film that never wants you to take it too seriously, careening as it does in ever more absurd directions. That awareness, combined with plenty of clever visuals and tight directing, is what elevates it above the pack. Daley and Goldstein have crafted a smart, fun, and energetic ride that rarely stops being hilariously entertaining. For a studio comedy, that’s pretty much the best you can get.

Game Night is available in Australian cinemas from March 1 

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 

 

Movie Review – Finding Your Feet

Following a recent rise in Hollywood films about retirees getting a new lease on life, the British are now jumping on board to bring us their own old age comedy.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Elle Cahill

When Sandra (Imelda Staunton) discovers her husband has been cheating on her with a friend, she flees to her estranged sister’s house. Faced with the prospect at having to start again when she should be reaching retirement, Sandra blindly follows her sister on her day-to-day adventures and realises that it’s never too late for new beginnings.

Staunton flourishes, as always, in the role of highly-strung snob Sandra. She shows glimpses of a woman who is on the edge of losing control, suggesting Sandra has been unhappy for a long time, but is equally unaware of the depths of her unhappiness. Celia Imrie, who plays Sandra’s eccentric sister Bif, is charming as always, and her comedic timing is a thing of brilliance. Timothy Spall gives Sandra’s love interest a beautiful softness that isn’t often seen from him, making him the standout of the film, and the character you’re rooting for in the end.

The storyline isn’t anything new or particularly exciting, but it is successful in managing to balance the fine line between the lighter and more sombre scenes. Finding Your Feet isn’t afraid to shine a light on the difficulties of getting older and reaching a point when the presence death becomes a very real fixture in your life. Each character deals with the death of loved ones, or the approach of their own death, and each moment is dealt with sympathetically and sensitively. Played against this is the film’s humour, which not only pokes fun at the concept of growing old, but at old versus new attitudes. Some of the characters have embraced societal changes, whereas other characters are very much stuck in an old-school way of thinking and seeing the two types play against each other also creates some very funny moments.

Finding Your Feet is a quintessentially English film that is led by an incredible cast. What the story lacks in originality is made up for by a cast who manage to hit all the right notes in a story about death and love, proving that it’s never too late to start again.

 Finding Your Feet is available in Australian cinemas from February 22 

Image courtesy of eOne Films