Mark Wahlberg

REVIEW: Instant Family (2018)

Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie Wagner (Rose Byrne) find themselves in over their heads after they decide to foster tough teenager Lizzy (Isabela Moner) and her two younger siblings, anxious and accident-prone Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and volatile Lita (Julianna Gamiz).

Instant Family was an unexpected delight. It’s marketed as a straight up comedy, and while it still is very funny, it’s actually got a lot of heart to it as it portrays all the highs and lows of foster care. Pete and Ellie are reasonably well off, they have a thriving home renovation business and are content in their lives until a family member makes a comment about them never having kids. It gets them thinking and they sign up for a foster parent course where there’s the usual stereotypes like the gay couple and the deeply Christian couple, but there they all find a sense of support and belonging to get them through the complexities of fostering children who, in many cases, believe they aren’t worth anything.

Both Wahlberg’s and Byrne show off their comedic chops but they both handle the dramatic moments just as well. The young cast is great but it’s Isabela Moner that really shines as Lizzy. Lizzy’s someone who has practically raised her siblings herself so finds it difficult to both relinquish control to Pete and Ellie, and to trust them both. All three kids have had a tough life but being the oldest Lizzy has more of an understanding of what’s going on. Moner does a great job gradually showing Lizzy’s vulnerabilities as she learns to trust and open up to Pete and Ellie, but still never loses her independence or strength.

There are the usual family hijinks of temper tantrums over food, inappropriate boyfriends, and screaming arguments over toys, but when there’s the more serious and emotional moments (of which there are more than one might think based on the marketing) the film handles them well and doesn’t use any cheap joke to lessen the moment. The emotional scenes pack a punch and you’ll have to be tough not to tear up at least once.

Instant Family is a film about love, family and trust. It’s funny but it’s also a tear-jerker both when there’s something sad and when there’s something happy as this unusual family makes a breakthrough. It’s a feel-good dramedy that also never shies away from the difficulties these children and the people who foster them can face. Instant Family really was a surprise in the best possible way. 5/5.

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REIVEW: Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Humans and Transformers are at war and Optimus Prime is missing. The key to the survival of both species is buried in the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth – inventor and friend to the autobots Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) must find the truth to save them all.

The Last Knight is not a good film. In fact, you could call it a bad film. You could also call it dull, tedious and, at times, incoherent. Now while some people may be like “oh what a surprise! Michael Bay-Transformers films suck” I went into it hoping I’d like it. I do have a soft spot for the franchise. Transformers (2007) is a fun, decent film that’s very enjoyable – the rest are all varying degrees of quality but you can generally have some fun with them. Admittedly that ended for me with Age of Extinction (2014) but I’m an optimistic kind of person.

The Last Knight is a nice looking film, all the CGI looks great and all the transformers look different and it wasn’t too difficult to follow which transformer was which in big action sequences. That’s the thing, I could follow the robot fights but when there was people running about, that was not edited well. It was often hard to tell where people are in relation to each other and whatever the danger is and also there were times where it felt like a shot or two had been forgotten as a character would pop up somewhere and you’d be like “I did not see you go from place A to place B?!”

Also, as a small pet peeve, The Last Knight has some of the worst UK geography I’ve ever seen. Whether it was driving down The Mall in London one way, then the other (without showing Buckingham Palace and no sign they turned around) or the fact when it was set in Oxford, historian Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock) was giving a tour to students and it made it look like Bodleian Library was a part of the Museum of Natural History when it’s in fact a 10 minute walk down the road.

I did like how the character of Colonel William Lennox (Josh Duhamel) returned to the franchise. He’s working for the government task force that are hunting down transformers so there’s some interesting conflict there as he knew and worked with some of the autobots – unfortunately this potentially interesting character arc and conflict isn’t really explored at all.

The Last Knight generally looks great but its let down by a script that has many, many jokes that do not land and any conversation feels awkward. All the human cast gives fine performances and in the case of Sir Anthony Hopkins, a very weird performance. Sir Edmund Burton is an eccentric guy who is part of a secret society that’s known about transformers for hundreds of years and Anthony Hopkins give a strangely fascinating performance – it’s just not the sort of thing you’d expect Hopkins to do.

The main problem with The Last Knight is that while it had a lot of stuff going on, I found myself bored. I was looking at my watch during the final showdown because it was not keeping my attention and I was just waiting for it to be over. I also found myself wanting to be home watching the first Transformers film as at least that’s fun.

That’s the thing with Transformers: The Last Knight – the main emotion it brought out of me was apathy. I just didn’t care about these characters, both human and robot, and while it looked pretty good, sometimes it was too chaotic and incoherent for me. 1/5.