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

 

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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

Deadpool 2 (2018)

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So, the merc with the mouth is back. He’s taking names, punching balls and wreaking cinematic mayhem like the last time, but is the sequel as cool and fun as before?

A string of worldwide criminal culls leads danger straight to Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) and soon he must learn to find a family and follow his heart to get back what he most desires; not chimichangas. The cancer riddled anti-hero winds up stuck with a powered kid called Russell Collins (Julian Dennison), who is the target of cybernetic Cable (Josh Brolin).

2016 saw ‘Deadpool’ arrive in cinemas with great acclaim, box office records and audience glee, it was always going to be a tough act to follow and the sequels marketing team have certainly taken promotion to the next level, but the movie doesn’t quite follow suit. In my eyes, it’s definitely like Reynolds and the returning two writers from before are hoping to recapture the same profanity fuelled magic, which makes it feel try hard more often than not.

It honestly isn’t as funny as the first outing, I didn’t laugh as much and a good proportion of the quips don’t land with confidence; it’s that try hard aspect where it’s obvious dialogue was shot multiple times and it’s almost like the final choice was picked out of a hat or likely, sealed by test audiences reactions. Also, the much talked about post credits scenes are admittedly amusing, but…here I go…they feature jokes mentioned time and time again and also undo everything just built up in the main feature. Now that’s either lazy writing or just pratting around for the sake of it, but both options grate me.

Saying all of this, the film isn’t bad at all. In fact, I found the action scenes to be more explosive and captivating than in the 1st movie. The plot does take a while to get going but once it does, there’s insane levels of carnage and joyous fourth wall breaking to revel in. A secret room in the Xavier mansion is perfectly timed and very funny, as is a parachuting sequence and the windy aftermath which is hilariously unexpected. Wade Wilson’s more developed emotive side out of the DP suit is nice to see. He learns to lead with his heart whilst still leading forward with his wit and katanas. The human touch presented is a needed touch and a back and forth connection with Russell makes for an interesting dynamic. Oh and anything that rips on DC with its tongue in cheek and laughs at the Martha line is okay in my book.

The movie’s music is filled to breaking point with hits. Firstly a Celine Dion belter seen over a James Bond inspired opening is a masterful parody. The rest of the film lets us listen to the likes of Enya and Skrillex with a Say Anything Peter Gabriel inspired moment to round things off with maximum effort.

Ryan Reynolds is clearly the perfect man to play Deadpool, in fact I don’t think they can be differentiated anymore. Julian Dennison is great as a fiery mutant, which is where I now see Ricky Baker ending up after working out the foster family wasn’t for him once he developed his power. The anger and later emotion he shows, highlight what a fantastic and funny young actor he is and I hope to see him in many more movies. Zazie Beetz excels as lucky Domino with a fun spin on being bad-ass. Josh Brolin may not be as interestingly three-dimensional as he is playing Thanos, but he’s just as gruff, violently determined with added comic chops to bounce off of Reynolds. The less said about the much too used T.J. Miller the better.

Enjoyably packed with violence, twisted humour and ripping into movies and superhero stereotyping. This is an action riot rocketed to the nth degree but still can’t match up to the funny heights of the first film and feels almost over-stuffed.

6.5/10

 

Blockers (2018)

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Admittedly I wasn’t expecting much when I saw the trailer for this American comedy, but I should learn to not judge movies by trailers because this is a smart overturn on the usual laddish, adolescent sexual awakening that is found in almost every movie of this type.

With prom night coming fast, three best friends since the first day of school, agree to a sex pact of losing their virginity at the same time. Accidentally discovering this news via iPad, the girls parents do all they can to find their ‘sweet’ daughters and block them from having sex.

Kay Cannon; who had great influence behind ’30 Rock’ and ‘New Girl’, debuts as director with this female led comedy. One of the best things surrounding the feel of this film, is how pitch perfect (pun kind of intended) it is, in regards to finally toning down the boring frat boy nature of teen sex movies and seeing how the other half live, so to speak. Obviously, as a guy I can’t speak for the emotions/thoughts women go through before their first time, but it is refreshing to see something where girls go hard and still retain a genuine sister like bond.

A lot of the laughs, mostly from people around me, stemmed from the physical humour played by the adults of the scenario. I didn’t exactly laugh or chuckle very often, but I do agree that this is a fun film and the scrapes the parents end up in, however ridiculous, are entertaining to witness. To balance the comedy, there’s alright chemistry with the friends and enough behind the shift in life that happens, as the children inevitably fly the nest, as we all do. It may be obvious and not exactly refined or clever writing but it works for the target audience.

One of the girls is struggling with their sexuality and I found this a possibility to fill the film with more heart, to acknowledge all aspects of who are and who we like. It works in regards to the eventual father/daughter chat, but the moments where the film shows us the character looking at this caped beauty, arrives with mystical almost Oriental music which felt tonally off and like they’re playing this attraction for laughs. It almost harks to the Lady in Red use in ‘Dodgeball’.

There’s no doubt that this movie belongs to John Cena, who manages to squeeze overly worrying fatherhood in every look and action. It’s not exactly hilarious but it’s damn close. Leslie Mann excels as the clingy mother and Ike Barinholtz effectively annoys as the absent dad but gets his chance for predictable redemption. Angela Hayes lives another life as Julie; a girly girl who likes ‘Sixteen Candles’ and hopes for a perfect first time, played convincingly by Kathryn Newton. As a general note, it would have been good to see more of the 3 teens stories and less of the prat falls and dilemmas the parents face.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say this is a cracking comedy, but there are good sparky moments that can make you laugh and best of all, it’s an open minded film about womanhood, sex, family and John Cena having a ball.

6.5/10

Mom and Dad (2018)

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You won’t get many chances to catch your breath, whilst watching this manically charged black comedy accelerate from nought to totally bananas in the blink of an eye.

Living in a picturesque yet typically suburban American neighbourhood are the Ryan family. A household like many others, they deal with arguments, school runs and midlife crises. As their usual routine begins, we see that other parents are inexplicably murdering their offspring and it isn’t long until Brent and Kendall (Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair) are keen to kill their children.

The entire film is just downright bonkers and frankly, marvellous because of it. Brian Taylor directs this movie like he’s just drank a warehouse of energy drinks, though he does ensure to keep the laughter in measure with a couple of darker moments revolving around the murder sprees. It is clear we’re watching the director of the ‘Crank’ movies as ‘Mom and Dad’ shuttles along it’s 83 minute burst, because there’s a joyful twisted bite to almost every souped up sequence.

This is definitely one of those films where you can switch off your brain and simply revel in the madness. Saying that, there are still some interesting ideas about a pent up family going nuclear, in and around this there’s also some fantastic editing and blasting music. On the flip side, a major issue I had when watching this, was many scenes are difficult to keep up with and that’s down to the crazy cuts amongst the fighting, obviously it reflects the crazed subject of the narrative but it was a tad too much and the ending is way too sudden and weak compared to what’s been seen before.

Nicolas Cage takes a note to be a nutty father and runs with it to extreme levels of insanity and frenzied humour. I laughed out loud multiple times thanks to Cage’s over the top performance. He unquestionably steals the show with mad eyes and dialogue delivery that’s spat with self aware loony delight. Selma Blair brings a needed sense of motherly humanity in brief pangs of subdued calm, either before she turns or in great pretences of the doting mum. She also plays the deranged side with convincing attack. Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur showcase youthful confusion and fear in great measure, almost riffing Kevin from ‘Home Alone’ in their house bound terror. Winters adds expected but great teen angst to the film which is nicely rounded with a caring big sister arc.

This movie is Barmy with a capital B, I thoroughly enjoyed the carnage and the crazy plot which needs no explanation as for why. ‘Mom and Dad’ may not be perfect but it’s a rip roaring grin inducing ride.

7/10