comedy

REVIEW: The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

Nadine’s (Hailee Steinfeld) life gets a lot more complicated and frustrating when her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her older brother Darian (Blake Jenner).

The Edge of Seventeen is a sweet and funny coming of age drama. Nadine is such a flawed and frustrating yet sympathetic character. She is quite self-centred, thinking that she is the only one who has any problems in their life, yet she’s still a teenager who fears she’s losing her one and only friend to her cooler brother. You get where she’s coming from even if the way she deals with it sometimes is incredibly cringe-worthy – I definitely got some second-hand embarrassment from this film but this made Nadine feel more real and relatable.

Nadine’s relationship with her teacher Mr Bruner (Woody Harrelson) is wonderful, and it’s also where a lot of the comedy comes from. Her mother (Kyra Sedgwick) has her own problems and is never available for Nadine to talk to or ask for advice so Mr Bruner becomes almost a surrogate parent in her eyes.

The Edge of Seventeen is a great film. With its clever script, it both embraces and subverts the typical high school clichés. It’s funny and heartfelt and Hailee Steinfeld is brilliant – it’s her performance that gets you to like Nadine even when she’s doing crazy things and pushing people away. 4/5.

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REVIEW: The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)

Top bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is called in to protect hit man Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) who must testify at the International Court of Justice to put away war criminal Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). With Dukhovich’s men on their tail, they have to work together to get there on time, if they don’t kill each other first.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a lot of fun. There’s fewer laughs in the first 15mins compared to the rest of the film so I was a bit uncertain to start with but once it had set up who’s who the film sped along at almost breakneck speed.

For a film that’s two hours long, it really doesn’t feel it. It goes from one action sequence to the next, and while there are moments when there’s a lull in the action, it allows for funny conversations between Bryce and Kincaid. These sometimes aim to be touching, with Kincaid talking about how much he loves his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek), but they verge on being cringey sometimes though they’re nearly always funny. The conversations and banter between the two really show how good their chemistry is between Reynolds and Jackson. Them two being an unlikely team is what really works in this film. Bryce and Kincaid push each other’s buttons and they both grow while still both being good with their fists and a gun. They’re the kind of characters that are polar opposites and who like to think they don’t need any help, but they really do and that’s where the humour comes.

My initial Twitter review of The Hitman’s Bodyguard was “it’s ridiculously fun and stupidly funny” and to be honest that’s the best way to describe it. It’s over the top and ridiculous, with a lot of laugh out loud moments and some great shootouts, fights and car chases. All this stuff mixed together and with great chemistry between the unlikely duo makes for a good time at the cinema (or in front of the TV if you wait for the DVD). 4/5.

REVIEW: Carrie Pilby (2017)

Nineteen-year-old Carrie (Bel Powley) struggles to make sense of the world and be happy as she tries to deal with an absent father (Gabriel Byrne), her higher than average IQ and the fact she doesn’t really like to leave her apartment.

Carrie is super smart and honest and that means she doesn’t always get along with people who she tends to find have the opposite traits. She’s a nineteen-year-old who thinks she knows everything and is pretty confident in who she is, but that doesn’t mean she’s always right. Carrie is a compelling yet sometimes frustrating character because of that – she likes to give the impression she’s all grown up but then she can have a childish attitude to somethings. I liked that about her. She’s the quirky, adorkable lead we’ve seen before but Powley plays her in a way that makes her feel more real.

Her relationship with her psychiatrist Dr. Petrov (Nathan Lane) is great and their scenes are often funny yet touching. Powley and Lane bounce off each other really well.

There’s humour in Carrie’s escapades as she tries to complete a list of goals set by Petrov, some of it doesn’t always land but it’s sweet and fun and it all helps Carrie to grow and be more aware of how lucky her situation is.

While Carrie Pilby is an indie film that’s typical of the rom-com, coming-of-age genre, director Susan Johnson puts together a tracking shot on the streets of Manhattan as Carrie and her neighbour Cy (William Moseley) take a walk on Christmas Eve. It makes their conversation feel so natural as they get to know each other and, as the viewer, you get to see a different side to Carrie.

Carrie Pilby is a fun, coming-of-age drama with a wonderful lead in Bel Powley. 3/5.

REVIEW: Lethal Weapon – Series One

Roger Murtagh (Damon Wayans) is a good cop, trying to keep a low stress level in his life but then he’s partnered with Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) a slightly unhinged cop who doesn’t really have anything left to lose so throws himself into dangerous situations. They’re an unlikely duo but they make it work.

The great thing about Lethal Weapon is the characters and their relationships. As the series progresses Riggs and Murtagh learn how to work together and even start to care about each other. They cause destruction almost everywhere they go but they end up getting the bad guy so it kind of works out in the end.

The supporting cast is great too. Brooks Avery (Kevin Rahm) is the police Captain and I love how the show doesn’t make him incompetent just so it can have a couple of often reckless heroes. He’s Murtagh’s former partner so they know each other really well and there’s interesting dynamics now he’s Murtagh’s boss. Other recurring characters in the police department are Scorsese (Jonathan Fernandez) the pathologist and forensic technician, Detectives Sonya Bailey (Michelle Mitchenor) and Alejandro Cruz (Richard Cabral), and police psychologist Dr Maureen Cahill (Jordana Brewster). All of them are interesting characters and Cahill gets the most development besides Avery. The other major supporting character is Trish (Keesha Sharp) Murtagh’s wife. She’s her own kind of badass as she’s an amazing lawyer and takes Riggs into her home with no reservations.

Yes, the crime that needs to be solved each week is usually a murder (and a lot of women tend to be scantily clad and/or end up dead) but there is a story arc throughout the series focusing on drug cartels and Riggs’ past. The show blends crime drama with both action and comedy almost seamlessly – it’s one of those shows that’s a fun, easy-watch but still pulls you in and gets you attached to the characters.

The show is a lot of fun. It’s entertaining in a sometimes over the top way, and the banter between Riggs and Murtagh is laugh out loud funny. To be honest, there was not one episode that didn’t either make me laugh or at least smile. Both Riggs and Murtagh are very quick witted and also smart and it’s always nice watching competent people do their job.

The Lethal Weapon TV show is inspired by the film series of the same name so that may put some people off because you know, we all hate reboots. I don’t have any attachment to the film series (I watched the first film as a part of my Uni degree but can’t remember much about it) and I feel the TV show is super fun and engaging so even if you are a film fan, you should at least give the first couple of episodes a go.

I’m happy it’s been announced there’s going to be a second season. While it is mostly a villain-of-the-week kind of show, there are some character and plot threads that have been left hanging. I’m looking forward to seeing where the show and characters go next and as long as it keeps its sense of fun in amongst the emotional drama, I’m sure I’ll continue to love it.

REVIEW: Their Finest (2016)

Newly appointed scriptwriter for propaganda films at the Ministry of Information, Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) joins the cast and crew of a major production aimed to bring “authenticity with optimism” to the public while the Blitz rages on.

Their Finest was a surprise in the best possible way. It’s funny, touching and doesn’t go for clichés like I thought it would. It’s got some brilliant performances, Gemma Arterton is fabulous and Bill Nighy (who plays veteran actor Ambrose Hilliard) is wonderful, watching their relationship grow was lovely to watch.

Their Finest is a film about filmmaking and stories. It’s always nice to put the people who make and write films front and centre and seeing how Catrin and Buckley (Sam Claflin) write a film together, working around obstacles like terrible actors and changes in location was great. While those who know next to nothing about filmmaking will not get lost watching it, the small attention to detail when it comes to filmmaking in the 1940’s is delightful.

There’s always the threat of the Blitz hanging over the characters but they still find the best in a bad situation and it is that good old example of British resolve. Their Finest is also quite a feminist film, Catrin and Phyl (Rachael Stirling) are only getting the chances they have because young men are off fighting but they get to show they are good at what they do and deserve the recognition. Also it features a perfect example of my favourite theme; media being able to inspire those who don’t usually see themselves in media.

Their Finest is a wonderful film that balances comedic romance with period drama. I feel this is pretty much a perfect example of the term “crowd pleaser”. 4/5.

REVIEW: Free Fire (2016)

In Boston in 1978 a gun deal in an abandoned warehouse between two gangs goes wrong and turns into a shootout as everyone tries to survive the night.

Free Fire is hilarious. Its humour might not be for everyone because it’s kind of stupid and ridiculous but it works really well. The script is razor sharp and witty, every line is brilliant and the cast just look like they’re having a great time.

Sharlto Copley does slightly mad and/or weird very well. Every line out of his mouth was perfection and had me laughing every time. He plays Vernon, the gun dealer, and Vernon has a bit of a screw loose even before the shooting starts. The rest of the cast is great but Sam Riley’s Stevo was my favourite because he was completely off the wall but kind of innocent at the same time.

This isn’t a film that delves into character backstories or anything, there’s the odd line to help flesh out a character but you don’t really need to know anything about them as it’s just focused on one night in a warehouse and how they all react to this shootout they’re in. They’re personalities and values shine through the mad situation they’re in and that’s all you need.

I don’t usually talk about sound design in my film reviews (mainly because I don’t usually notice anything especially interesting sound-related in what I watch) but I’ve got to talk about it in regards to Free Fire. There’s really clever things done in Free Fire with the dialogue. You can hear voices shouting out and you can tell where the characters are in regards to what’s on screen because it comes from all angles. There’s often a lot going on onscreen so to have the sound like that helps ground you and it’s definitely the sort of thing you get the full effect of when sitting in a cinema.

Free Fire is completely mad, absurd and hilarious. It’s a lot of fun and is well worth the price of a cinema ticket. 5/5.

REVIEW: Ride (2014)

ride-posterWhen Angelo (Brenton Thwaites) drops out of school and moves to California to live with his dad and to surf, his mother Jackie (Helen Hunt) follows him.

Ride is a delightful little film about family, finding your own path and letting go. Jackie is a workaholic but she is also very overprotective and caring towards her son. She definitely comes across as super clingy and her and Angelo’s relationship is a bit odd. They bicker like an old married couple rather than argue like parent and child. It’s a bit uncomfortable to start with but you soon get used to it and learn why they’re like that. That being said, their weird relationship does lead to a lot of funny moments.

When Jackie follows Angelo across the country she ends up employing Ramon (David Zayas) as her driver and he really doesn’t understand her for a lot of the film, and she meets Ian (Luke Wilson) who attempts to teach her to surf. The scenes with the three of them are often the funniest, especially anytime the trio runs into Angelo.

All the characters in Ride feel real, especially Jackie and Angelo. I feel the screenplay and the performances are what really stands out. You find yourself invested in this mother and son’s relationship, and anyone who has had a clingy parent (or has found themselves being one) will see themselves to some extent in this film.

Ride is a small film but it has a big heart. That’s mostly down to the performances from the cast, Hunt especially is incredible and the scenes she shares with Thwaites are always captivating – whether that’s because they’re funny or surprisingly sweet and heartfelt. 4/5.