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

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Office Christmas Party (2016)

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Like mostly every other American outrageous comedy, this does nothing to break expectations apart from having tinsel and a Santa costume. A few moments of mild humour break through a overstuffed turkey of a plot but overall it’s a film void of laughter.

At Zenotek, Josh (Jason Bateman) is trying to keep the work staff together over Christmas whilst coming out of a recent divorce. As the jolly holiday nears, CEO Carol (Jennifer Aniston) threatens jobs and closure if her brother, the branch’s manager Clay (T.J. Miller) can’t win a lucrative deal. One desperate option is left and luckily for Clay it falls to throwing a huge office party in the hope of saving the day.

I’ll start by commenting that I’m no bah humbug but this movie could have come any time of the year making no differences, they just hurl the Xmas confetti over the narrative to fit it in hoping to cash in this time of the year. Generally speaking though the plot is messy and tries fitting in an awful lot of characters, backstories, developments, jokes and wrappings up but what we get is a sticky and badly tied together present that you’ll forget about come the new year.

Will Speck and Josh Gordon direct the film like the majority of loud US comedies, there’s no style or difference setting them apart and therefore you get a movie with the usual cliches and tired executions of sequences that do little to stir giggles let alone full belly laughs. It’s not only the direction, within the plot are boring ideas that they stretch out somehow thinking it’s amusing or just pop cultural references that will feel aged very soon.

To its credit, this festive feature has a group of actors who muster up energy and everything else to try and save the movie. There may be a lot of them and that is a weakness but a couple of them perform very well and give the movie a much needed sparkle to sit atop a browning dying tree. There is also some entertainment to be had in watching the madness unfold and marvelling at how quickly the party over spills and gets out of hand.

T. J. Miller is shouty and plays the nutty head honcho to a near annoying extreme but there are times that he softens the role and gives a nice emotion to the man trying to prove himself to a reliably bitchy Jennifer Aniston, working well again in that ‘Horrible Bosses’ cookie cutter character. Kate McKinnon seems to desperately save the movie with a role you wouldn’t blink at if on SNL, though she’s barmy and gets shafted with the most tired comedy tool ever…fart jokes. Jason Bateman is okay but has a dull typical white male problem character to tackle and he adds little to nothing to the growing craziness. Olivia Munn could have had more and gladly gets a slight depth in having reason to exist for the growth of the business and therefore film if not ending in such a predictable manner like the whole movie in fact does.

A few working lights add a muted enjoyable twinkle to the festive season but most of them are duds thanks to failed comedy and usual tired writing leaving you with a totally forgettable movie.

5/10

The Nice Guys (2016)

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What a lark this film. Seriously, the buddy cop dynamic is on fire with these two at the wheel of the ship. It may be a film, that at times feels a bit long in getting to the point of the story and it goes annoyingly for broke with making funny but the pairing of Crowe and Gosling injects plenty of enjoyment into it.

After a porn star dies in a car crash, private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) gets a case to find the dead star as her aunt believes she’s still alive, however it all points to Amelia (Margaret Qualley). Brutish hard-man Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is hired to scare March off Amelia’s scent but soon they’re both in it together as they uncover a dangerous set of connections.

Shane Black gives this vivid 70’s set cop comedy his usual stamp of buddy laughs, action fight scenes and of course there’s a Christmas moment in there too. He directs with enough flair that the sense of this era more than comes alive, every scene is colourful and loud as the pair try working out the mystery of Misty Mountains. The film certainly has energy if nothing else, the seriousness and interest of the case might get lost more than once as the screenplay gives more time in the silliness of March/Healy’s antics but visually the movie screams classic buddy crime genre.

It’s not like the screenplay by Black and Anthony Bagarozzi is lacking of the drama as there is scope for back-story with both leads and you engage with most characters, especially the cool smarts of March’s daughter Holly. I only feel that at times the screenplay isn’t present as Crowe and Gosling improv their way out of a paper bag to create comedy, which leads us on a winding road away from the central point of the story, therefore it seems to take forever to get to core moments of the crime actually getting tracked.

Comedy wise, this is a film that made me laugh…out loud, more than once, but when the entire movie is throwing it’s whole weight at jokes then it’s not much of a surprise. It’s as if they flung joke after joke at a target board hoping that some would stick and yes a lot do but some obviously fall short and make you realise how hard they’re trying to be funny. That’s not a big problem, it just detracts from the crime drama that takes a back-seat to the crazy chemistry between the two lead actors.

Russell Crowe brings his usual assured gruff nature to the role of Jackson Healy, but he displays a credible amount of comic timing and bounces off Gosling very well. Ryan Gosling himself is brilliant with his physical comedy, from rolling down hills, keeping a toilet door open and shaking in an elevator he triumphs as the star of comedy in this film. Angourie Rice, as mentioned is very cool as Holly. Margaret Qualley is a fireball of anti-fascist rage, her agenda hurtled in excellent fast paced delivery. Matt Bomer brings an electric cold feel to the latter part of the film as a stone faced killer.

This is a very over the top film with a lot of laughs and heck, for a film featuring death, crime and conspiracy it’s full of joy. It has a simmering of try hard but Black and a fantastic turn from Gosling make this an enjoyable absurd romp.

6.5/10

Bad Neighbours 2 (2016)

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After the surprisingly funny and very agreeable box office takings of ‘Bad Neighbours‘, it probably isn’t any shock that this movie came about. Though having said this it’s not like it was overly called for and upon seeing this sequel I have to say it feels deadly lacking of good laughs.

Now full time parents to little Stella, Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen & Rose Byrne) are moving on. They think they’ve sold their house but due to an escrow deal, they have 30 days to keep the buyers sweet to finish the agreement. Unluckily for them, the once empty frat house next door is being overtaken by a headstrong lass called Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz) who starts her own partying sorority there and a new war begins.

Just looking at the writing team sparks trouble for this film, as there are five guys tackling this script making the finished product less than light and cohesive. It does make a difference truly as the 2014 movie only had two screenwriters. The saying of too many cooks spoiling the broth certainly rings true with most films I’ve seen with an over-abundance of writers. It’s like the quintet are teaming up for the bigger picture but want all their own touches involved too, amazingly the film doesn’t appear messy, it’s more hollow.

Nicholas Stoller is back to direct this feature and it certainly is a mad foray into the world of female partying and girl empowerment this time around. Though one negative is that this movie isn’t as over the top as last time, the interaction between the oldies and young blood isn’t anywhere near as cool, exciting and funnily tense and another negative is the whole gender scope the film runs with.

A lot of the time during the plot, it brings up issues of what girls can and cannot do, what Shelby believes a growing woman is entitled to and ultimately how the parents view it all considering their daughter. It’s a fine enough topic to shoot for but when scripted b 5 guys the whole thing feels forced and generally the film looks and sounds like it’s trying to be as funny as the first movie.

The soundtrack doesn’t live up to the hands in the air party vibe like the last time around. A blessed relief of Kanye West pumps up the cool and helps the film out but the songs aren’t as catchy or electric for this movie which doesn’t help the pacing a great deal. Also, I remember the first one being out there with sex, drugs and the like but this seems to go too far, a very open labour and foot scream of desperate clawing for OTT comedy…which no-one laughed at in my screening.

There are good moments though, there is still the same laughable chemistry between Byrne and Rogen, a frankly excellent confused spelling of sorority, the air bag idea is back with brilliant vengeance, the continuing void of parenting and dildo holding children is amusing and the little screen time of Dave Franco with Zac Efron is top notch. It’s a shame these positives feel mostly drowned out by a couple of needless gross out gags, a less exciting battle of the ages and emptiness of direction.

Seth Rogen is no good actor but his gurgled laugh and stoner like way he appears in every movie is what he does best and it’s no different here. He plays off the twin girls playing Stella very well and likewise with Rose Byrne he builds a believable bond. Chloe Grace Moretz doesn’t lift the film much at all sadly, she’s trying with a character of hoping to aspire to be a stronger girl but her breaking out against the ‘sexist’ world isn’t that compelling like Zac Efron who feels stitched on just to get the cast back together, him debating his life and choices is a dull part of the runtime. Rose Byrne has great comedic timing and shows she can be gross and less than perfect, though everyone provides a smile they don’t feel connected as with ‘Bad Neighbours’.

Sorority Rising feels more like it’s sinking as a small amount of laughs is gravely felt in all places, making us realise what is wrong with the film, music, direction, writing and the fact it’s trying to crackle in the surprise way the first did.

5.5/10

Sisters (2015)

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Like the central party gone wrong, this film cranks up to fun drunken heights of sibling chemistry and silly smutty comedy but crashes down to the ultimate hangover of sparse laughs and predictable sisterly heart. It’s neither bad nor good, it’s entertaining as a whole and shows off just why Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are a fine double act.

After learning that her mother and father are selling the house they grew up in, wild non-child Kate (Tina Fey) and worrying square Maura (Amy Poehler) decide to throw a party to recapture their youth and see what it’s like in each others shoes. So as the house full of adults partying gets madder and madder, the sisters realise what the other puts up with.

It’s a fun enough comedy but not as snappy or perhaps sharp as I thought it may have been. Paula Pell lands her debut screenwriting job and hits all the marks you’d expect from an American comedy film. Her background for TV and links to Fey with scripting 30 Rock is felt with a scattering of well penned lines that zing really nicely. The idea of 40 somethings wanting to be youthful is nothing original but the chaotic proceedings written in the party distract from that clichéd basis for a narrative.

Jason Moore certainly knows how to direct a party. As drinks and pools overflow the home becomes a symbol of the damaging relationship the sisters have if they don’t both change. There’s nothing fancy either side of the party but it sets up the characters and that’s all you can really ask for. The manic throw-down of the Ellis Island reunion bash appears like a call back to ‘Animal House’ as total carnage ensues. Foam. Cocaine. Paint. Injury. Frat like behaviour, all of these features bash heads and swirl into a hazy mix to show off how insane this night is, this is where director and screenwriter have the most fun in giving more to not just the sisters but supporting characters also.

The whole predictable aspect of the romantic entanglement between Maura and neighbour James isn’t overly interesting as we know where’ll it end up but they do share perhaps the best scene of the film as they prepare to have sex and end up listening to a winding ballet doll which is rammed into the butt of nice guy James. We also get some laughs as a fat unfunny funny guy becomes the embodiment of Tony Montana with cocaine fuelling his spark. I may as well just put that the comedy mostly hits within the party as we see the adults behaving like teenagers.

It goes on a little too long, it’s almost forty minutes before any real laugh out loud moment happens and that’s close to when the party begins anyway. There are some places where it feels like Fey and Poehler are trying a little hard and then the resolution comes to a head so quickly that it feels like a tired writer wanting to wrap up the obvious threads of all involved. But that’s honestly the only big negatives, it’s an enjoyable film that suits as a lazy day watch.

Tina Fey lords it up as the woman-child of the piece, her squeals and tantrums are on point, she grimaces and scowls like an angsty adolescent but she shows off the softer almost Liz Lemon side she has when needed. Amy Poehler gets to have more fun in playing the dopier sister transitioning into the drunken reveller. As she becomes more intoxicated Poehler demonstrates how well she can play inebriated and what a ball she has with it. Ike Barinholtz has his best moment in the previously mentioned scene but apart from that he only serves as the potential new hope for Maura. Maya Rudolph appears now and then but almost steals the show as painfully dull and wannabe posh Brinda. The faces she pulls are just incredible. Oh and points to the film for the John Cena casting who appears like a brick-house of muscle and drug dealing comedy.

It has some fine moments but that doesn’t stop it from being quite weak and relying on a lengthy party to capture magic and laughs. To see Poehler and Fey on true form then witness their hosting of the Golden Globes, as here they fall a little short of the fantastic talent they both share.

5.5/10

Get Hard (2015)

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Apart from having an admittedly good idea and potential, this comedy squanders any chance of pushing the ‘Trading Places’ like style to hilarious effect. It flatly relies on quite offensive jokes and stereotyped humour to cash in on the audience you’d expect would love this kind of brain dead movie making.

James King (Will Ferrell) is rich, successful and engaged to be married to his boss’ daughter, Alissa (Alison Brie). His life goes from riches to rags when King is arrested for fraud and embezzlement, something he strongly denies. He soon has to turn to car washer and devoting dad Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart), as he thinks he’s a previous convict that can help him beef up and train to survive in maximum security prison.

It’s clearly a film running around the comedy playground giggling at the chance to use its title to childishly joke in concerns of getting hard and so on and so forth. The film isn’t truly terrible, it did in fact make me chuckle or laugh a few times but it’s not gut bustingly funny and not even overly funny to be honest. It drops any smart hope of being clever in class swapping story to run amok in racist and homophobic trash.

Etan Cohen has his debut here as director and doesn’t really prove to be a talent to look out for. It’s a comedy directed as most American comedies are and he brings no style to a film that sits back to let Hart and Ferrell do their thing. The only shining moment in directorial terms is the prison riot mock up, captured in strobe lighting flashes making it more funny and more pulsating. It’s a simply built movie for simply built minds.

The writing isn’t even much better, racist digs and over the top reactions filling the script to breaking point and it’s so obvious that the screenplay would have been bare bones to let its stars improv lines as much as they love to do. The plot itself is obvious from the outset and I’m sure that’s not just for me, everyone would get it before the film reaches ten, fifteen minutes in. There isn’t really any depth to the narrative or the characters, the film goes by quickly to be fair but it isn’t a well formed execution of what could have been a neat idea.

The music is like most U.S comedies, score sits back to let contemporary songs do the talking. Charlie XCX can be rolling in more cash as it seems her sounds boom, clap across the speakers more than other artists. The soundtrack is mostly pop and urban rap to work with the gangster side of proceedings that King ends up in. It clearly works though as the songs are energetic, tell their story along with the film and are recognisable aiding the audience to engage with the film more.

Will Ferrell sticks to the expected curly haired shtick but it always works and his fan-base won’t be disappointed, as he does OTT well and always excels in dumb acting. Kevin Hart is another big American actor that has a shtick to rely on now but he too does it well enough that you can’t groan too much about it if you’re seeing this movie. They both have a good chemistry and bounce off each other well. Hart’s tennis court scenario is brilliant and Ferrell’s jail time slurs are actually really funny. Alison Brie, for my sake could have been in it more but she portrays the vain gold digging fiance to unlikable levels that suits her character and Brie looks mighty fine doing it.

Lazy and dumb, this doesn’t achieve anything of note and the trailer says all it needs to. If you love or like Ferrell and Hart then you will enjoy it but if not then you’ll just about get by this wasted movie. It faintly ticks the comedy box with a blunt pencil, one you’d expect King to keister.

4.5/10