Johnny English Strikes Again (2018)

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Fifteen years later and Johnny English is still a thing! I won’t lie, I did enjoy the first once upon its 2003 release and find it stupidly quotable to this day but when you have a character originating from a bank advert appearing in a weak third instalment, then you’ve got to question things. Imagine Flo and Joan from Nationwide riffing on a ‘Thelma and Louise’ like adventure or Greg from Halifax popping up in the full 100 minutes of ‘The Wizard of Oz’…it’s enough to make you shudder.

As the UK faces multiple technological shutdowns from a mysterious hacker, there’s only a few old school MI7 agents left unrevealed to the world, step forward Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) who teams up again with trusty Bough (Ben Miller) to track the source of the breach and get in all manner of mishaps.

The first film did possess a few chuckles and silly moments to tickle the funny bone but after ‘Johnny English Reborn’ from 2011 which I’ve all but forgotten about, there’s little in this newest spy outing to call for more English and in fact it dampens the nostalgic humour of the original. A large percentage of the stale feeling comes from the same writer being involved on the entire trio, this therefore means we face a tried and tested formula that is quickly unfunny.

On top of the deeply missed comedy aspect are brief touches of racism and other out dated thinking that makes it hard to stomach the film. A good 95% of the gags can be seen a mile off and that’s not just the ones that are sign-posted by obvious pre amble in the dialogue. There simply isn’t any need for this film, if it had been well put together then maybe it could be forgiven but it’s a dreary load that is massively tiring.

A story thread of old versus new runs throughout; with Johnny utilising a lack of mobile tech against a villain keen on gadgets. This leads to clear spoofing of James Bond which lie in English’s arsenal of sweet treats and dangerous candy but these nor anything else that tries to lampoon Britain’s most famous spy can save the movie from being less than amusing. Every now and then it feels like we may just witness a good scene or funny idea but aside from a well story-boarded VR sequence, English shouldn’t have struck again.

Rowan Atkinson harnesses the neat Mr. Bean routine of great physical comedy and he gurns like a king; there’s no doubt the man can commit to well performed choreography but it’s enough to lighten the film. Emma Thompson is on board and though she gives her role as PM a good deal of gusto even she can’t lift this film out of the gutter it speedily prat-falls into. Once again Olga Kurylenko is short changed, she’s a good glamorous actress who can’t quite get to appear in a film worthy of her talents. In this she is underused as a character impatient yet oddly drawn to Johnny’s antics, as was I.

Hopefully the hacker of the film will come to life and wipe all trace of 2 and 3 from memory, leaving us with the 2003 one, that though dumb is a huge sight funnier than this movie could ever hope to be.

3.5/10

 

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Venom (2018)

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Well it’s fair to say this superhero flick has been scooping up a lot of negative attention as the months rolled closer to its release date; not getting the universe or Spider-Man cameo they wanted, early reviews comparing it to ‘Catwoman’ levels of bad and star Tom Hardy himself stating his favourite 40 minutes were cut, but is ‘Venom’ actually all that terrible?

Eddie Brock (Hardy) is an investigator/journalist happily engaged to attorney Anne (Michelle Williams), but when he’s sent on an assignment to interview Life Foundation owner Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), Brock asks hard-hitting questions about the rumoured dark side of Drake’s company, which is harbouring alien symbiotes that crash landed on Earth. It isn’t long until Brock comes one with this planet devouring thing and they unite as Venom.

In all honesty, I have no idea whether this film is a joke or not. The inconsistent style of t the writing is wildly skittish, jumping from silly humour to darker, dramatic tones which make for a seriously unbalanced movie. When you have three writers on board who have credits for past features like ‘High Fidelity’, ‘Jumanji’ and ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ working on the screenplay it’s not that hard to see why it’s a plot that feels like a chaotic mix of comedy and anti-heroism.

The film has a horrendous amount of messy VFX, even Venom himself is nasty looking and not in a good way. A creature feature showdown is a massive garbage storm of excessive CGI and frantic editing which makes the entire event a damn dud, a total misfire of which there’s nothing to engage with because it just washes over you with loud noises and awful visuals.

It says a lot when the scene arriving after all the credits, is the better than what came before them. ‘Venom’ just feels like it is rushing around, never really developing any interesting ideas of the bond between man and alien. This head biting fan is meant to be a villain and anti-hero at times but he teams up with a guy who can handles his influence and tame him rather quickly, they replace grittiness with goofiness and it doesn’t really work.

Tom Hardy is utterly bizarre throughout this swift Sony Marvel death, his performance is as scruffy as Brock becomes, his hunched look and mannerisms are weird. Michelle Williams is also odd, she seems to have gone under some alarming possession making her turn in this one of the worst roles I’ve seen her do. Riz Ahmed starts of alright in the beginning with enough big business menace but when the wrath of the slick black symbiote takes over then he too falls under a curse of laughable actions which all come to a supremely quick conclusion.

In a peculiar way, I can see this movie turning into a silly cult film or a dumb guilty pleasure but for myself it’s neither dumb or silly enough to make me want to remember I’d seen this turd of a movie rolling in the wind.

4.5/10

Night School (2018)

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After success with ‘Girls Trip’, which I’ll be honest I still haven’t seen, director Malcolm D. Lee once again teams up with breakout star Tiffany Haddish who unites with Kevin Hart in this American comedy. It’s just a blot on the whole thing that the comedy proportion leaves something to be desired.

After an explosive incident at a BBQ store, Teddy Walker (Kevin Hart) is left needing a job and to get to work with his friend as an investment advisor he’ll need to obtain his GED. Roll on Walker attending night school classes taught by Carrie (Haddish), where he’ll have to swot up to hopefully pass the test but he’s doing this on the sly unbeknownst to his fiance.

Written by six, yes six different writers, this movie and the comedy is hopes to achieve cause all the problems. There’s too many cooks and the jokes bomb hard, not even a single one of them is funny which isn’t great when you’re selling yourself as a comedy film. The likes of principals doing black voice, prom-night twerking, fart jokes and boring prat-falls do zero to make you laugh. In all honesty with more refining and less American style comedy of screeching dialogue, this could have been a better film in terms of a comic touch.

What is slightly surprising is there are traces of charm to be found and the film does have its heart in the right place. The drama may not be impressive but these bunch of night school sad saps and their bonding have a smattering of magnetism which makes the road of GED revision a fairly entertaining watch. The morals of trying hard and redeeming yourself through honesty and motivation are nice themes which hold up well amongst the Hart vs. Haddish shouting fest.

You’re in for a forgettable watch but each character on the GED course has enough of a generic quirk to pull them through against the boundless and annoying energy of Kevin Hart. Romany Malco gives Jay a great distrust of technology based off Terminator fears. Anne Winters and her youthful charisma are up for some stereotypes but she acts a developed caring side when chatting with Theresa who is played by Mary Lynn Rajskub, she may be the best of the group with her craziness and mumsy quality ripe for oddball moments. It’s Tiffany Haddish as the teacher who excels most though, her commitment to ensuring her students do their best are well played and help the film in its more grounded stages.

Success can be achieved with second chances, or 3…or 4 and maybe if you have nothing better to do you should give this film a passing chance as even though it’s not at all funny, there’s something lightly distracting and so-so about it.

4/10

 

 

 

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

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So, normally I’m not a fan of rom-coms; the calculable nature of them and how cheesy the dialogue can often be, puts me off them. Surprisingly this film won me over, sure there are cheesier moments but there’s smart writing and spectacular production quality which made it a more satisfying example to come out of the genre.

Economics professor and New York resident Rachel (Constance Wu) is invited to her boyfriend’s best friends wedding. Nick (Henry Golding), the best man, hopes that his large family will love Rachel as much as he does. As the celebrations get under way in Singapore, Rachel faces difficulties living up to the high hopes of Nick’s mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh).

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ brings together a massive cast of talented actors who offer comedy and emotion to a rich story adapted from Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel. This tale of romance and acceptance may have slight touches of being over-sentimental but that in no way jolts us from the dazzling charm, which the stars and story convey. The screenplay also ends down familiar territory but there’s so much to cheer on in this picture, that the predictability becomes a muted backseat passenger in a joyful experience.

This is an extremely extravagant and beautiful movie. A wedding sequence is torn straight out of a jungle and is perhaps one of the most ridiculously over the top ceremonies but it fills the heart and it’ll likely fill some eyes with tears. The many lush settings and cinematography are crackling with a luxury that will do wonders for the tourism board of Singapore.

On the flip side of the romantic coin is the comedy sparkle, which does work well throughout. It is not solely ‘Community’ alumni Ken Jeong that gifts some funny to the movie; but a gay fashionista, a snap-happy single lad and Awkwafina’s Goh Peik Lin all bring a delicious amount of humour to the table. The latter is bursting with a comic energy that lifts the film even higher than it already is.

Constance Wu is the bridge to the audience; she grounds us to the glittering, affluent world we’re stepping into. She makes her fish out of water character a heart-warming and believable figure to follow. Wu isn’t just stunning and likable but she’s headstrong and smart too which make her moments facing adversity a strong example of women standing strong and proud. Henry Golding is the handsome and charming boyfriend but isn’t the lead usual movies would stumble to. The actor is confident in playing this caring man but doesn’t ever overshadow the brilliance of his leading lady. This movie features the incredible Gemma Chan and unlike her synth days from ‘Humans’, she demonstrates a wealth of touching emotion as Astrid.

Like the dumplings that a family make within the plot, this film is a sweet and often loving romantic filling wrapped up with fluffy comedy and pinched together with a stroke of drama and judgement. ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ has blown the box office apart and with it’s affable cast and elegant, delightful storytelling it’s not hard to see why.

7.5/10

 

The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)

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Films spoofing spies and what they do, are far from a novel idea by this point but when ridiculed in the right way they can be fun and smart popcorn features. This latest comedic jab at the spy genre may not be in the clever pastiche realm but it’s certainly an ambitious attempt with moments of glee.

As Audrey (Mila Kunis) tries to celebrate a birthday she can’t help feeling down because she’s been dumped via text by Drew (Justin Theroux). Eventually she finds out that he’s a spy and a prized item needs to be taken into Vienna to save the lives of countless people. A chaotic melee leads Audrey and her best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) to flee USA and become as close to spies as possible to finish this mission.

This is a film that fits into that same mould as last years ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ albeit this release is less funny but there’s a likely chance, of which I don’t begrudge, that ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ will pick up a sequel. Lithuania may get a raw deal as they’re plunged into a washed out grey sequence unlike every other country but on the whole, this is a bright and punchy action comedy that incorporates agreeable levels of threat, through oncoming dangers and tricksy treachery.

Annoyingly, like one too many US comedies, this movie relies heavily on people shouting or pulling stupid faces to be funny which elicits the opposite reaction from me because that’s bone idle comedy. The comedic element throughout is deeply lacking but as a feat of exhilarating action this film fares nicely. There are zippy gunfights and chases that are executed well plus there’s a violent villainess appearing with gymnastic wiles in the same vein as Gazelle from ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ but in fact this Nadedja figure is a scarier foe to oppose the American women.

Kunis equips her likeability and demonstrates some good action chops to ensure that Audrey isn’t ever a boring heroine to join the ride with. Theroux broods as only he can and is a believable dominating Bourne like copy who opens up the movie with vigour. This is going to be controversial but McKinnon overshadows the film with irritating tendencies to just be OTT. Again, like in ‘Ghostbusters’ I found her to be the most annoying quality of the film, she becomes grating after a while and as Drew says to Morgan in the film, Kate is just too much. McKinnon’s energy and wild performance abilities perfectly suit the SNL skit format but in feature length she becomes tiresome. There I said it.

As a European jolly this film trots from Prague to Berlin like an entertaining cinematic inter-rail trip which may not be the best or even good comedy but as a frothy action flick it’s pleasantly enjoyable.

5.5/10

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

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The MCU is into the second half of it’s tenth year and now comes their 20th feature film; a sequel to the visually jokey ‘Ant-Man’. After the bombastic success of Infinity War, it was going to be interesting to see how this movie would play out and though the stakes are much lower and the film is quite a so-so affair, it’s exactly the kind of light-hearted superhero outing we need after the gut punch of Thanos’ Gauntlet snap.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is close to finishing his house arrest duration and is bonding further with his daughter. After his Civil War decision to help Captain America, he’s distanced from Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). They may need him though as he receives an important message, one that leads the trio to cross paths with the quantum shifting powers of Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen).

One of the selling points with the 2015 feature was the playing around of scale. This is no less the case three years later. The visual splendour of watching not just Ant-man, but the Wasp switch back and forth between tiny and human-sized fighters is a beaming sight to behold. There’s great fun to be had in watching a kitchen based sequence where Lilly excels as the Wasp fully taking flight and later on in the film we see the roads of San Francisco become a literal Hot Wheels play-set as cars shift mass.

There’s a heck of a lot of writers on board with this movie, Rudd being one of them, but unlike some comedies where too many cooks spoil the broth, this comic book flick manages to evenly play to the strengths of what these 5 screenwriters bring to the table. There’s points where you feel like the funny one-liners could topple over into annoyance and overshadow the main narrative but luckily that doesn’t happen frequently. The humour is felt for sure, but it serves as a well needed light-hearted tone to back the story.

I must say this film feels like it’s taken a step back again into the formulaic routine of pre-Black Panther Marvel flicks. There’s never a true sense of dread or anything to be unexpected. The villain again is the weakest element of the film; in fact there’s two antagonists that are fairly underwhelming and did little to heighten my excitement. I guess the fact this film is fairly stand-alone from the dusty aftermaths of Infinity War doesn’t help too much, an FBI agent spieling off an admittedly amusing reasoning of why Lang is where he is, sets up the personal stakes of Lang and his investment with Hope and her father but aside from that it’s a film that doesn’t grip as strongly as it could have.

Paul Rudd is great once again as the do-gooder shrinking hero, his daughter being the key drive for him to stay on the straight and narrow are sweet moments throughout the scene. Evangeline Lily gets more screen time which is excellent because she too is excellent as the winged, blaster laden partner to Lang’s roguish charm, in fact she is every much a leading strength as Rudd is. There’s great comedy to be had with the ex-con group but it goes without saying that the man of the hour is Michael Pena. He plays Luis perfectly, the comic timing, his delivery, the almost child like burbling wonder is expertly acted.

It obviously was never going to be a film that possessed the same epic weight from April’s Infinity War but as a teeny and fun-sized sequel; it’s a pleasant, entertaining buzzing with gags aplenty.

7/10

Scary Movie 5 (2013)

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My ears hurt and my eyes are bleeding. This truly is a scary movie to watch unfold, with jokes that are scarily bad and performances that go past exaggerated silliness to downright painful.

Jody (Ashley Tisdale) and her husband Dan (Simon Rex) go to collect the children of Charlie Sheen after he died. As Dan is their uncle, they are allowed to keep them but back at their ‘Paranormal Activity’ CCTV laden home, an entity known as Mama begins wreaking nonsense and through spoofing of ‘Black Swan’; Jody wins a new friend to try and help get to a wooded cabin and put a stop the evils of the spirit.

The ‘Scary Movie’ franchise was never a golden series anyway, but I did enjoy the first two for the sheer bonkers yet smart angle of ripping apart tropes from the horror genre. It’s no surprise this fifth instalment was the weakest box office performer and it’s likely killed the saga plus the tiresome parody genre that was spilling over into lunacy about 10 years ago. The fact that original players like Anna Faris and Regina Hall aren’t on board either doesn’t do this film any favours.

David Zucker and Pat Proft throw in ‘jokes’ from punching children, partying hoovers, masturbation gags and a baby on fire with many other misfiring attempts at humour in between. The entire run of this film is an ordeal to get through and it made me sigh in exasperation many many times. The fact that even the bloopers in the credits aren’t funny shows how much this movie hurts your brain.

The first two films of the franchise managed to keep their sights on just a couple of movies to spoof, whereas this one terribly riffs on multiple films whether they’re in the horror realm or not. I didn’t laugh once, a chuckle was a feeling I almost forgot could exist, as this groan inducing nightmare kept on forcing out dud joke after slapstick after toilet humour after dud joke.

An outtake with Tisdale getting flustered with her lines and saying there’s “so many penises” followed by an off screen voice retorting “welcome to Hollywood” showcases the amount of juvenile genital based stabs at comedy, moreover this small exchange is more skin-crawling thanks to the weight of Weinstein producing this movie and what we know of the man. That was the scariest part of the entire feature.

I honestly don’t get this film and how people would have possibly enjoyed it in cinemas, it’s like watching a tired zombie trawl through lame pop cultural gags and wildly unfunny horror parodies.

1/10