comedy

REVIEW: Johnny English Strikes Again (2018)

When all the identities of MI7 Agents are revealed in a cyber-attack, the government is forced to recall retied agent Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson), who is the only agent left that might be able to find the hacker.

This is the third Johnny English film and to be honest I have a bit of a soft spot for the series, mainly because of the memories I have of who I was with when I saw each film.

The plot is simple, future events are signposted incredibly obviously, and the villain is so obvious it’s almost painful, but a convoluted plot is not what you get with these movies. There is fun to be had though – a virtual-reality-induced escapade across London is innovative and funny.

It’s Rowan Atkinson’s physical humour that is the best thing about this film and the character, it’s just a shame there wasn’t more of it. there’s a scene where English has taken some adrenalin drugs and Atkinson’s body movements, alongside the different songs playing was brilliant. English’s incompetence that verges on accidentally brilliance is charming albeit predictable, but Atkinson makes it fun.

Johnny English Strikes Again is family fun for all ages. The showing at the cinema I was at had grandparents with young grandkids, and people of all ages between. It’s nice to watch a film that’s silly and fun without violence and sex-references (thankfully the mysterious Ophelia played by Olga Kurylenko is not set up as a love interest at all) and it’s an easy-watch with its less than 90 minutes runtime. 3/5.

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REVIEW: The Predator (2018)

When a lethal alien creature crash lands on Earth, a ragtag group of soldiers must fight to survive.

The Predator starts off well with the opening sequence of sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) encountering the predator for the first time. It’s an exciting scene that shows how deadly the Predator is and what humans are up against. McKenna takes some of the creatures’ tech and mails it to his home as he thinks no one will believe him. There his son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) opens the box and starts playing with it, putting himself and everyone around him in danger.

The actual plot leaves much to be desired with the films own established logic frequently being ignored. For instance, bullets are seen to have little to no effect on the Predator, but these characters still keep shooting it. It also tried to fit in a lot of scientific reasoning as to why the Predator had come to Earth, connecting it to some of the previous films while doing so, but it didn’t really work nor was it needed.

For an action/horror film, there’s a lot of jokes in this film, and barely any of them land. Every single character’s defining trait is “they’re funny” which not only makes it hard for any of these characters to stand out, but when the film tries to have a serious moment between characters it doesn’t work. There’s one moment where something happens that I expect was supposed to be sad and poignant, but people laughed. Sterling K. Brown plays the government bad guy and he’s supposed to be intimidating and scary but because he’s cracking jokes in every scene he’s in, he just doesn’t feel threatening.

The action is generally well shot and exciting and there is a lot of blood and gore as the Predator violently kills just about anyone it encounters. However, the editing was a little odd and inconsistent at times. People and cars move between shots and are suddenly in different places making some sequences hard to follow.

The Predator is an easily forgettable film. Even while writing this review, I was struggling to remember anything that really stood out, both positive and negative. It’s mostly fun, though Tremblay’s character having autism and it being used to further the plot in a stereotypical way is problematic, but it also has nothing to make it memorable in terms of the genre or of the franchise it’s a part of. 2/5.

REVIEW: Life Partners (2014)

Sasha (Leighton Meester) and Paige (Gilliam Jacobs) are best friends who are just a little co-dependent. Their relationship is tested when Paige meets Tim (Adam Brody) and has a serious boyfriend for the first time.

Life Partners is a great take on female friendship and the ups and downs of a friendship as you go through different life events. While the same age, Sasha and Paige are at different stages of their lives. When Paige meets Tim and starts to think about settling down, Sasha is still going out and dating girls who are younger than her and, more often than not, still live with their parents. And it’s not even their relationships that are different, it’s the career paths – Paige is a lawyer while Sasha has been a receptionist for years, so she can focus on her music. These are two very real and relatable women and their friendship is relatable too.

Both Sasha and Paige have their flaws and seeing them begin to recognise them and try to change or apologise, was lovely to see. The script is funny and heartfelt and allows these two female characters to be layered and their friendship is never stereotypical.

Meester and Jacobs have great chemistry, as do Jacobs and Brody, meaning that when Tim comes into the picture, you root for him because he makes Paige happy but can see how insecure he’s making Sasha at the same time. Life Partners has a great balance of romance, humour and drama that makes it feel very true to life.

Life Partners is a character-driven film about two young women and the pitfalls and confusion they encounter when trying to be adults. Their friendship is at the heart of this film and thanks to a great script and cast it’s a friendship and a story that just works. 5/5.

REVIEW: Chi-Raq (2015)

Fed up with the violence on the streets of her city due to the rivalry between the Spartans led by her boyfriend Demetrius (Nick Cannon) and the Trojans led by Cyclops (Wesley Snipes), Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) rallies the Spartans’ and the Trojans’ lovers to withhold sex until there is peace.

Directed by Spike Lee, Chi-Raq is a modern-day adaptation of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes set against the backdrop of gang violence in Chicago. Whether because of its ancient Greek play roots, or because it’s a musical, the dialogue in Chi-raq has a rhythm to it and often rhymes. In terms of dialogue it reminds me of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet in a way, but Chi-Raq is still its own unique thing.

Chi-Raq offers commentary on the Black Lives Matter movement, with names of real people who have been murdered being mentioned throughout, and Americas’ obsession with guns in general. While all the characters are affected by gun violence in some way, it is Jennifer Hudson’s Irene who is at the centre of it all when her young child is killed. She’s in mourning but with the help of Father Mike Corridan (John Cusack) she takes part in their own protest against the killing of innocent bystanders.

Besides the broader social commentary, Chi-Raq also has some brilliant female characters and shows off the power of solidarity between women which was fantastic. The heart and soul of Chi-Raq is Lysistrata. She’s funny, strong and determined. She unifies people in a way that no one could’ve expected and Teyonah Parris is magnificent.

Everything about Chi-Raq is big and bold and very stylish. The music and songs are catchy, and the dance routines are often over the top but everything about it works so well. It’s message is obvious but it also manages to be a film that’s fun and full of characters with depth.

Chi-Raq is striking and as about as subtle as a brick to the face but with some incredible performances, especially by its female leads, it’s a funny yet powerful film. 5/5.

REVIEW: Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest after the events of Captain America: Civil War but soon he’s roped into helping Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) and her father Hank (Michael Douglas) who are attempting to travel to the Quantum realm in the hope to find her mother still alive.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a visually dynamic film. It has fun with the whole concept of people shrinking and growing, and to make things different compared to the first film, it also has cars and even buildings shrinking to tiny sizes. The fights are innovative, and having Hope become the Wasp is great as she has wings and blasters, making her fights just that bit different to Ant-Man’s.

After the intensity of Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp is just a good action-comedy. Like the first Ant-Man film, Ant-Man and the Wasp has small-scale and personal stakes. Hope and Hank are desperate to find their lost mother and wife, Scott just wants to be a good dad to his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), and even the main villain Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) doesn’t have world-domination intentions, and instead has a personal stake in the Quantum realm technology Hank Pym has created.

It’s the brilliant chemistry from its cast that makes Ant-Man and the Wasp so much fun and enjoyable. The banter between Scott, Hope and Hank is great and the way they all work together, however reluctantly to begin with, is fun to watch. Scott’s ex-criminal friends Luis (Michael Peña), Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and Dave (T.I.) bring the jokes, with Peña stealing just about every scene he’s in. There is almost an abundance of characters. FBI Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) is almost constantly watching Scott, and businessman Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) want the technology Hope and Hank have been building. There’s a lot of people after our main trio and one has to think that the film could’ve probably lost one antagonist and not lost much in the way of the actual plot.

Ant-Man and the Wasp isn’t ground-breaking but it’s fun. The many different types of familial relationships are what is at the films core and the action sequences are always entertaining. It’s just the sort of easy-watch summer superhero film you need after Infinity War. 4/5.

REVIEW: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

As Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) prepares to open the hotel on a Greek island like her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) always dreamed of doing, she learns about how her mother as a young woman (Lily James) discovered the island and found love and heartache along the way.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is the sequel to the hit 2008 film Mamma Mia! and it manages to be a sequel and a prequel at the same time. Nearly the entire cast of the original film are back, and their chemistry is just as good all these years later. There’s some fun editions too with Andy Garcia as the hotel manager and Cher as Sophie’s grandmother. The young cast all do a fantastic job of bringing their own take to the characters we already know. Lily James has big boots to fill with Donna, but she is great as a young Donna who is fun, adventurous and loving. The moment when she starts singing “Mamma Mia!” when she’s broken hearted but then turns it into a moment of strength and joy is infectious.

The songs here are a mixture of the well-known ABBA songs, a lot of which were naturally featured in the first film, and some lesser-known B-sides but they were no less enjoyable. There’s a combination of sad songs and the toe tapping feel-good songs that will have you dancing in your seat. The songs, the drama and the characters all come together to make Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again just as entertaining as the first film.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a love letter to the relationship between Sophie and Donna. They have such a wonderful mother/daughter relationship and this film manages to make you cry over them. It’s beautiful to have this relationship being the heart of the film, and the story works so well because both characters don’t have to be on screen for you to see how much they mean to one another.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is also very funny. Christine Baranski and Julie Walters are scene-stealers as Donna’s best friends Tanya and Rosie, and their younger counterparts Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies are also brilliantly funny.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a film that plays with all your emotions. It’s surprisingly sad and touching at times but overall it is a funny and joyful film that makes you forget that the real world isn’t all blue skies and dance numbers for the moment. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Meddler (2015)

Marnie (Susan Sarandon) doesn’t know what to do with herself after her husband dies so she moves closer to her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne) and soon befriends Lori’s friends and tries to fully intergrate herself into Lori’s life.

The Meddler is about grief. It’s been over a year since her husband died but Marnie misses him terribly and suddenly has way more money than she knows what to do with thanks to his life insurance payout. She becomes overly generous because of that, paying for her daughter’s friend Jillian’s (Cecily Strong) wedding and buying expensive gifts for just about anyone she meets. She even befriends Apple store worker Freddy (Jerrod Carmichael), convincing him to take night classes and then even driving him to and from them.

The problem with Marnie is I did not like her. I understand why she is being so interfering and clingy as it’s because she’s still grieving and is focussing on everyone around her instead of thinking about her dead husband but that still didn’t stop me from wanting to throttle her. While Lori obviously still loves her mother, even though she annoys her a lot of the time, as a viewer I had no fond feelings for her at all.

The Meddler is heartfelt and sometimes funny too. The performances are all great and Sarandon is a standout but that wasn’t enough to get me to look past how much I disliked Marnie. Unfortunately my dislike of Marnie had a knock on affect and made me dislike the film itself. 2/5.