Late Night (2019)

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Celebrities getting interviewed by men in suits is a huge part of both American and British TV programming; so it’s only fitting that this comedy shuffles the pack and puts a woman in the spotlight but does ‘Late Night’ drop the mic or drop the ball?

Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) has been leader of the late night pack for over 20 years and has scooped up numerous Emmy’s, but with online buzz non-existent and a threat of her removal, she realises things need to be shaken up. Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling) is hired who helps bring some new life into the show but is it too late?

The spoofing of late night TV is often comical throughout this film and Kaling, who writes the screenplay, brings an interesting and timely response to the white male system presently in place. This ruling of the roost where not a single woman hosts a late night gig is upturned by the wonderfully believable figure of Newbury; a character brimming with wit, teeming with intellect and somewhat Cruella like in her prim and offish stature.

‘Late Night’ can often be a script which goes all in on the topics of diversity, inclusion and the keeping-on-trend trend. The near constant commentary surrounding the #metoo atmosphere is understandable but Kaling runs away with it and the comedy suffers, leaving a solid brick wall of heavy handed Times Up building. It’s absolutely a necessary action to give women and people of colour more work but this plot does play that card at every turn, feeling more like a look-at-us-we’re-being-inclusive feature than a clever comedy which happens to revolve around diversity.

Some later scenes where we see the British presenter try and tackle more viral-inducing moments are dumb but brilliantly funny and on point with the likes of what we see entertaining millions online nowadays. The writing room scenes are a fairly hilarious collection of ideas, throwing in some lazy personalities spiced up by the arrival of Molly who helps but winds up by looking in from the outside, but I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed the film as a whole. ’30 Rock’ is a product lampooning the stuffy, masculine writers environment with a much better zap of hilarity.

Kaling brings a kindly and earnest quality to the chemical plant/factory persona and shares wonderful chemistry with Emma Thompson; who is the perfect straight-laced, well heeled host with a lack of compassion and a need/hope to change. She is an utterly convincing presence who you could easily picture as a real talk show presenter, the more profound and orderly chats mixed with sillier segments would rival the fame-hungry ideals of Fallon and Corden.

‘Late Night’ is a so-so film with a gentle layer of humour and specific SNL-esque humour broadened with the current empowering era, it has cliches and slathers on ideas too thickly but thanks to Thompson and her talent, the film does spark.

6/10

 

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A Star is Born (2018)

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From comedy star in ‘The Hangover’ to more dramatic turns in films like ‘American Sniper’, Bradley Cooper has certainly been down many avenues and now he throws his stetson behind the camera for his directorial debut; a musical romance and fourth remake of the ‘A Star is Born’ brand.

Hugely famous country star Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) seriously struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. On a desperate trawl to find a bar, Maine staggers into one where waitress by day-singer by night Ally (Lady Gaga) is performing. He quickly falls for her looks and talent and they begin a whirlwind relationship that sees Ally become a singer/songwriter idol.

In the 1950’s Judy Garland headlined the first remake and the 70’s saw Barbra Streisand take the lead in a rock and roll setting, one Bollywood film later and now it’s mega popstar Lady Gaga’s turn to take the cinematic stage. There’s no doubt that she’ll be up for an Oscar nomination because her performance is sensational and she makes the film what it is. The road to success with tricky obstacles and media manipulation is ripe for the times currently in Hollywood and the music perfectly encapsulates Ally and Jackson’s rocky relationship.

This movie is like a biopic of Gaga’s career, you can just see how the films’ content of moulding someone to how the management want them to be, mirrors her Poker Face days, before her songwriting and more heartfelt tunes took flight. The pop music side of Ally’s journey and the SNL showbiz aspect are necessary attributes in showing how the industry works and really demonstrates Ally as a strong individual to stick with all these changes in the dream of being recognised for her talent. She also sticks with Maine because he saw that spark within her, their relationship may be odd and harbour some cheesy moments but it feels real and the pair work beautifully together.

At a certain point it does feel like the film stretches ever so slightly and you could almost check out of the plot but thanks to the music you get drawn back in. Also, there is a very predictable narrative to follow but there’s some stunning cinematography from Matthew Libatique which goes from a pristine bathroom to a gorgeously crimson tinged drag club and the films final shot rests on a powerful, stunning image and though it is silent it sings a thousand words. On top of the great DoP work, the musical numbers themselves are toe-tappingly heartfelt and ‘Shallow’; a song penned by Gaga and Mark Ronson is gunning for an Oscar nom as well and rightly so because it screams with drama.

Cooper, with his flushed red cheeks and slurring Western drawl embodies the stereotypical drunken cowboy singer but softens this rough edges with a clear love for his Ally rose. Gaga is incredible throughout, her voice is a God given gift that fills the heart and the speakers with power. It isn’t just her singing talents that sell the film, she makes Ally a fully rounded character and you truly buy into her rise to stardom with a difficult romance aiding the way.

‘A Star is Born’ is a country and western musical for modern times and like TV show ‘Nashville’, it hits with lyrical gems and dramatic characters to soar to the top of the charts.

7/10

Ghostbusters (2016)

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After the hugely torn apart and heavily disliked YouTube promos, this was always going to be an interesting watch. Whether it’d be as bad as it looked or if the trailer guy needed firing because the movie is much better. It goes without saying that this reboot of the 1984 classic is nowhere near as good as the original.

Wanting to gain tenure, Erin (Kristen Wiig) needs to get rid of a book about ghosts she wrote with school friend Abby (Melissa McCarthy) as it could ruin her credentials. However after meeting Abby and science whizz Jillian (Kate McKinnon) she witnesses an actual ghost leading them to try and capture a spirit to prove their long time theories. Metro worker Patty (Leslie Jones) sees another malevolent apparition and joins the media coined ‘Ghostbusters’, in trying to stop someone bringing numerous ghosts into our world.

I truly don’t want to rip into this film because people may say that’s too easy and also too expected considering the amount of hate it gained before it was even close to release. Trust me when I say that it’s nothing to do with the fact the busting crew are female or that it’s a classic movie being rehashed…because I get it, films are remade all the time but this felt like a cheesy attempt at being 80’s and never really made me laugh much.

In fact the chemistry between the four women is strong and energetic, I liked the buzz they had. The moments when they’re in unison and coming up with plans to save the day are powerful and still lighthearted. What I didn’t enjoy as much was the lame humour in stupidity and slapstick. Goo and falls aplenty are Sandler fan appeal and I wanted better than that from this.

Paul Feig has proven he knows how to direct comic stars in comedies, but maybe tackling the well known name of this franchise was too daunting. It at times feels like an SNL sketch dragged out as the cast bicker and banter with each other. The pacing is awfully slow in the middle which is a shame because the beginning quarter of the movie is very good. As the busters sit with the mayor and go on about a ‘cat out the bag’ scenario you plead for the dull spiel and obvious ad-libbing to end.

Genuinely the opening of this comedy-action feature is spooky and engaging. A haunted museum and a nice little trick prop help play on the idea of ghost tours. All this leads to a rather well shot and built sequence of horror as the first ghoul appears, which I must say would have made for a better story than the severely underdeveloped threat of some guy placing devices around New York. The film could easily have had the Ghostbusters trying to stop the obviously dangerous killer ghost from the museum, but instead they cram in a loner villain and old jokes such as Oprah riffs or an Eat Pray Love line.

Times Square rolls in and this near ending sequence to be honest lights up the movie and brought a smile to my face thank God. It’s stuffed with lots of ghosts – iffy CGI but let it slide as the slow-mo of the gals kicking butt is pretty awesomely handled. Melissa McCarthy is manageable to tolerate in this, the original stars cameos are a treat to see and there is an undeniable silly charm in places.

McCarthy, who is fast pushing herself into the female Adam Sandler mould, is fine in this. Her chemistry with the others is good and she plays a scene of being something other than Abby very well. Kristen Wiig can do goofy comedy well and shows that off here, even in the moments when her character seems to shift motivations she is a wide eyed dose of humour. Leslie Jones adds an integral sprinkle of information and attitude to the group. She isn’t as shouty as the trailers make out. Kate McKinnon is for me the one that bugged me the most. She starts off being cool and different, her manic expressions and reeling off quick sentences being amusing but then it keeps on going and going…and going. To the point where I got tired of the act and wanted her to be like Rick Moranis in live-action movies nowadays. Chris Hemsworth is the one that steals the show, even if they paint a man as being a pretty face and dumb, his acting of this stupidity is ace and you can’t help but chuckle at the things he does or comes out with.

It may not be the top number in the phone book, but give this average film a call and you’ll see a mild entertainment flick. A true summer movie that’s not hilarious or amazing but really not shocking or as awful as people will have you believe.

5.5/10

 

Hot Rod (2007)

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Goofball comedy has never been goofier in this, an American comedy about a man-child wannabe stuntman. It’s not always funny and the offbeat strokes sometimes suffer from being less clever than I imagine the Lonely Island trio think they are, but it’s silly and mad enough to warrant a watch.

Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) has always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and be an impressive stuntman, alas he owns a chugging moped and can’t even jump one vehicle. So when his step-dad Frank (Ian McShane) suffers a heart problem, Rod tries proving himself by jumping 15 buses to earn enough money for Frank’s surgery. It’s up to him, his buffoonish team and the girl of Rod’s dreams; Denise (Isla Fisher) to make the stunt successful.

Firstly I commend the chemistry of the cast, the stupidity created by Samberg, Bill Hader, Jorma Taccone and Danny McBride is crackling. They’re like a dumb boy band playing school tricks aiming to be cool but utterly utterly failing. It’s generally them as morons and the running trend of moronic humour that keeps this film amusing enough to pay attention.

When the idiot comedy isn’t there or not quite hitting the mark, then the movie feels poor and messy as it tries hurling things into one big jumble. People may find it hilarious but an example of this messiness is as Rod and his half brother Kevin repeat the phrase ‘cool beans’ which transitions into an odd 30-40 second remix of them saying those two words. I love absurd ideas in comedy but at times, more often than not, ‘Hot Rod’ goes down that slippery road and can’t come back.

Akiva Schaffer of Lonely Island fame, directs this comedy certainly knowing how to capture the wilder side of the action. He can also make sure that Samberg plays up to the camera as the dreamer with a brain as small as his stunt talents. The set up and building to the final crazy stunt is well done and does provide a necessary amount of tension even if you can guarantee the result of Rod’s efforts. What I loved the most was the playing around with film, from the Footloose spoof that ends up crashing down a hill to the mention of a convenient monetary amount for the stunt.

I admit openly that I thoroughly enjoyed the soundtrack for this feature. It pounds with a energetic 80’s beat from Cutting Crew to Europe. It actually works having so many songs in the film, giving it an extra spin of goofiness as Rod lives a life so right for a 1980’s movie.

Andy Samberg is a good shout for Rod, as he knows how to play that shouty awkward role well. He can be arrogant yet nervous with ease and stupidity is second nature to him so Rod is perfect thanks to his performance. Bill Hader brings in a lisp and a childish manner as friend to Rod, the skating rink and acid story are his finest moments. Isla Fisher is a sweet addition, thankfully giving a fresher less idiotic chunk to the group as she plays the hopeful and kind love interest with positivity. Ian McShane is great when simply smiling just to rile up the main character. Also an odd kudos goes to Chester Tam as Richardson who steals the show for his disregard for posters and his love for pelvic thrusts.

It’s very easy to see why this film didn’t fare well on release but on the other hand it is clear to see why this is a movie that has cult status and people love. It’s not well written and it’s too silly but there’s a skit-like comedy that works in places which is just fine.

5.5/10