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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A Bad Moms Christmas (2017)

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I was relatively lukewarm but fine with the first film back in…oh, only last year. Yes, the moms are back and this time they’re cashing in early for the Christmas season in a so called comedy that is definitely not warranted and does more of the same with extra dirty jokes and baubles thrown in for good measure.

The nightmare of Christmas is around the corner and so comes the stress of being a perfect mother for Amy (Mila Kunis) who tries to make everything perfect for her children and keep this time of year under wraps and not go crazy. Alas her perfectionist mum is arriving and Ruth (Christine Baranski) won’t let her daughters’ wishes satisfy her. Amy can only break free with fellow stressed mums Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) who also happen to be reunited with their maternal guardians in time for December 25th.

Just the convenience alone of all three mums coming home for Christmas was crazy stupid to suit the screenplay but topping off this with this trio also attending midnight mass because the script demands some redemption and forgiveness is insanely stupid. That is one issue with the writing, another huge one is the characters just aren’t likable; aside from maybe Hank, all of them feel like crudely drawn stereotypes and you can’t connect to them because they steal and lie. The only way the writers feel like they’re redeeming these factors is by constantly going on about how they’re tired mums who deserve fun. First time around though, there’s an interesting social aspect in them going against the grain of being so called super mums but this time they’re just kicking it against their own mums without any joy or clever storytelling.

Calling this a comedy film doesn’t feel right either as I didn’t laugh or even smile once throughout this boring ordeal. There’s aspects like having a character called Isis, nothing clever about it, just heck, call her that because it’s funny to have a name linked to terror. A young child also swears very near the beginning not to be cute or apt to her behaviour or anything intelligent, just to laugh at the fact they have a child swearing. This movie literally revels in ‘dicking around’ as they say umpteen times, with excessive swearing, sexual dirtiness and mums sticking it to the man/their mums in more of that 2016 slow mo chaos where they go to town on booze and profanity.

It’s a film with more of the same and further enforces my reasoning that this film really never needed to be thrust upon us. It being churned out so quickly really makes it clear this a desperate cash grab for the jolly holiday period. This and ‘Daddy’s Home’ swiping at the Christmas box office season is ridiculous as they’re both frankly unnecessary sequels. I guess I’ll try and be nice somewhere and say that the dodgeball scene at a trampoline park is quite good and squares off characters nicely but aside from this the film does nothing to dispel predictability and tedium.

Mila Kunis is more of the same as the capable yet quite plain lead, who has her mother to contend with. I was kind to Kathryn Hahn with my previous review but this time her rudeness and blindly drunken sexual naughtiness is dreary and too much. Kristen Bell is a likable presence again as the slightly kooky Kiki with an even kookier parent. Cheryl Hines is weirdly deranged and they wring this idea dry constantly leaving only her customised Kiki pyjamas as an amusing quality. It’s Christine Baranski who walks away as the almost saving grace, her brilliant sharp tongue and no nonsense rich granny attitude is perfectly played.

In all honesty, I zoned out of this film more than once. It’s a needless and unfunny sequel wrapped up in tinsel and it left me icy cold instead of festively fuzzy.

3.5/10

The Glass Castle (2017)

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Based on the real life growing up of Jeanette Walls and her free spirited and quite unorthodox parents, this indie feeling film has some good moments that stem mostly from the performances of the actors involved. Aside from that I cannot shake the feeling that the core of the story never seems to click.

Raised by artist Rose Walls (Naomi Watts) and Rex Walls (Woody Harrelson) who can’t stick to one job or place; are four children. Throughout their upbringing they are taken along for the ride with their impoverished folks. Eventually as they all get older, Jeanette (Brie Larson) truly wants to move on and out and we see her living in New York with wealthy fiance David (Max Greenfield), but her parents may have followed her to the Big Apple.

This is certainly an interesting tale to turn into a biographical film and the heart does certainly strain to be felt from time to time but it’s clouded by a faint mishandling by director, Destin Daniel Cretton, who never seems to keep a pattern or pace to his structure. The Glass Castle uses flashbacks in it’s storytelling but a lot of the time it jumps to and fro, lingers longer in the past or comes back to the present with no real connection to tie the plot together with any interest or style.

It also doesn’t help too much that the parents, especially Rex, seem at times to be too aggressive, alcoholic or out there to redeem themselves as people. I know Rex is based on a real life figure but I just never connected to him and so the final stages of the movie didn’t grip or emotionally resonate with me in the way the director/writers probably intended. The whole bringing up of the family seems completely abusive, but the film seems to go about it in a way that says this way of life is kooky and educational because they’re experiencing life and not trapped in the grind of expected living, and that never sat right with myself.

I guess Cretton, Marti Noxon and Andrew Lanham were hoping to write a screenplay that left its audience uplifted but sadly they are far from that ideal. The flashback timing and abusive quality, as said don’t help but on top of this it feels like a fair-to-middling production you’d see on some network TV station. I know the family is unconventional but the movie comes across as extremely paint by numbers and conventional that the set-up becomes tiresome.

Brie Larson tries to be the glue that holds the film together, her 1980’s older version of Jeanette trying to escape and find a new life but also realising they are part of her family and therefore part of her, but she just can’t quite manage it and her performance though solid and strong isn’t her best. Naomi Watts is interesting to watch and she seems to go for her role with gusto helping her character, Rose, feel real. Woody Harrelson goes for broke playing his part, there are times when it feels over the top but he definitely makes Rex a character of continuous disturbance.

Ultimately, this isn’t a movie I’d watch again in a hurry, there are some vaguely alright moments but overall the entire product tries to be enlightening but only becomes overly sentimental and hokey.

5/10