*NEW* SISTERS REVIEW *NEW*

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Two stars for . . . the two stars.

OTT, stupid and dreadfully unfunny. I can’t believe that this was the last film I saw in 2015.

Two sisters (Amy Poehler and Tina Fey) decide to throw one last house party before their parents sell their family home.

I really wanted to like this. Poehler (Parks and Recreation) and Fey (30 Rock) are funny ladies. BUT what drove them to do this? The money must have been good. I don’t care how ridiculous a film gets. As long as it’s funny, I can go along with the madness. This just made me mad.

The best one liners and gags only really came from their improvisation. Fey and Poehler’s commentary while they were shopping for dresses was brilliant. BUT it was far too juvenile. It didn’t work for Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne in Bad Neighbours and it certainly hasn’t here. The kids getting back at the adults. Even though the kids are adults.

It didn’t help that the hokey story line was far too dull and cliched. Poehler playing the uptight obedient daughter who never really acted out while Fey was the hothead party girl. On paper, yes. BUT the end result? Meh. Fey’s mother/daughter issues were weak as her character was never really fleshed out enough for us to actually care.

Poehler was certainly the funniest out of the pair and managed to make a more likeable and entertaining character to Fey’s loud mouthed obnoxious one. Fey’s endless tantrums and shouting just went through me. While her put downs and insults, on the other hand, were actually not bad. Especially when Maya Randolph (Bridesmaids) entered the mix.

“That’s a snazzy belt. Yeah, congrats on your wrestling championship”.

I loved Randolph in Bridesmaids BUT if it wasn’t for all the hilarious put-downs, I would have found her character annoying as well. The whole non-alcoholic gluten free drinks and Game of Thrones marathon desperate housewife gag was just boring.

I can’t believe Dianne Wiest (Edward Scissorhands) and James Brolin were in this as the parents. Wiest actually surprised me and gave it a good ol’ go BUT Brolin was terrible. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

John Cena has really gone up in my estimations. He almost topped his cameo in Trainwreck as psycho drug dealer Pazuzu. He really doesn’t care and ain’t afraid to poke fun at himself. I wished he was in this more. He worked well with Fey and you know what? The guy is funny.

Bobby Moynihan was definitely another scene stealer as annoying school chum Alex. An incident involving a tiny bag of cocaine triggered an ongoing gag that did deliver the laughs. A ticking time bomb. Never knowing when he’ll explode. Or pop up doing something crazy. John Leguizamo has a habit of popping up with naff cameos. American Ultra, anyone? His character didn’t bring anything to the fold and was completely unnecessary. Shame.

Ike Barinholtz (Bad Neighbours) and Poehler were a great couple and really saved the day. Poehler’s awkward flirting and pick up lines were fantastic. A feeble attempt of being sexy ended up with a music box going somewhere it really shouldn’t for Barinholtz. That bit did have me in stitches.

I’m sure that this big party was supposed to be a big stand against ageing, growing up, responsibility and being overlooked BUT by the end, you just felt that maybe they bloody should. The longer the movie went on, the worst it got. The damage and mayhem was good (to begin with) BUT it just went too far. Overkill. It even resorted to lazy racial profiling with Greta Lee’s nail beautician Hae-Won.

Poehler and Fey did their best and weren’t afraid to get down and dirty. BUT it was just too immature, OTT (That’s coming from an American Pie fan) and, most importantly, just NOT funny. A disappointing dud from the divas.

2/5

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*NEW* PIXELS MOVIE REVIEW *NEW*

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Pick another movie.

When aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth in the form of the video games.

Has Adam Sandler given up? Has he finally succumbed to mediocrity and dire disasters? A lot of you will probably say, “Hasn’t he already?”

For those who do follow my reviews, I’ve declared my guilty fandom for Sandler movies numerous times. BUT even this feeble effort tested my patience. I can’t tell whether this was intentionally supposed to be this bad or just sloppy?

The opening really didn’t get things going with an 80s flashback to the World Video Game Championship with our young protagonist Brenner (Sandler) discovering his passion for arcade games and battling it out with his rival Eddie (Peter Dinklage).

It was cliched and unfunny. NOT even the cameo from Dan Ackroyd brought anything to the mix. I did get nostalgic when all the old game titles flashed across the screen; Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede. I think the only saving grace through this elongated sequence was Andrew Bambridge’s impression of Dinklage. It was spot on. It was easy to look the part but to sound like him and nail his expressions was something else.

And not before long, we’re back in the present. And it doesn’t get any better as we are force fed a ridiculously vomit-inducing love subplot between Sandler’s repair man and Michelle Monaghan’s military Violet. The pair may have had good chemistry BUT the terrible lines and schmaltzy scenes soon put out that fire.

Conveniently, or thanks to lazy script writing, Sandler’s best friend (Kevin James) is the President of the United States. This could have been ripe for gags galore. We know James can be funny. BUT flailing around, busting out stupid dance moves and shouting all the time doesn’t work. Come on. We had two Paul Blarts for that. Which were an improvement from this mess.

I was praying for the aliens to attack and when they did, it was brilliant. The only redeeming feature. Although 3D was definitely a waste of time. The sequences and effects were fantastic. The Pac Man Mini Cooper street race subdued my griping for a good ten minutes.

The Centipede laser gun shootout was also pretty decent. It was just a shame that a cringe-inducing cameo from Sean Bean took my attention away from it. Now the chap has done some bad movies in his day BUT even this one took the biscuit. Glad he was up for a laugh. BUT I was laughing for all the wrong reasons.

The little animated Cubert was certainly entertaining for the little ‘uns but its whiny Chipmunk voice did my nut in. The Tetris game attack was a particular highlight for me. Each line detonating a floor of a skyscraper. Fantastic.

Every time the aliens attacked, I was hooked. When they didn’t, it was tedious and dull. Every time the characters stopped to talk, the film was hampered down massively. It didn’t help that a lot of the Happy Madison regulars were missing. All those little in-jokes would have done this film a world of good.

Peter Dinklage. Ol’ Tyrion Lannister himself. He really gave it a go BUT he just annoyed the hell out of me. He had a couple of one liners here and there BUT I desperately wanted him to shut up. Pardon the expression but this was a massive step down from the Game of Thrones actor.

The cameos were wasted. I couldn’t believe Serena Williams and Brian Cox (Not the star man, the actual star) were in this. Williams didn’t have a bad stint as Eddie’s unimpressed love interest. While Cox was very dull as a bland general. Ashley Benson (Pretty Little Liars) may have looked stunning as Lady Lisa BUT she really was as one dimensional as her counterpart. And Jane Krakowski (30 Rock) might as well as have not been in it.

Josh Gad saved the day again as the unhinged conspiracy nut. He brought the schtick that saved the Wedding Ringer and did everything to make this lead balloon fly. There were a number of lines that got a chuckle out of me, “You’re the first person to come over . . . Voluntarily”. His reunion with Sandler and a bottle of chloroform was hilarious.

BUT alas it wasn’t enough. The gags were sparse. They even resorted to my pet hate of naff stereotyping with Aunt Petunia from Harry Potter playing the Prime Minister and talking utter jibberish. Well, the Queen’s English. Apparently. Sloppy.

Josh Gad, a silly nostalgic premise and some cracking effects may have made parts watchable BUT it just wasn’t enough. A wasted opportunity. Maybe more money should have spent on the script or the gags at least.

2(Just)/5

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU REVIEW

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This is where I leave the cinema for a bit . . .

No, it’s not that bad. But not that great either considering the talent at Shawn Levy’s fingertips.

Levy’s projects have always been okay (Real Steel/ Date Night/The Internship). For some of you those titles might make you wince. The master of ground breaking comedy classics? Not even close.

The cast did their best with the material. It’s just a shame that the material is not that good. In all fairness, Levy takes a stab at family dramedy. But maybe he shoudn’t have.

AND if you wanted anyone to head a dysfunctional family, it would be Jason Bateman (Arrested Development/Horrible Bosses).

So what’s it all about? When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother (Jane Fonda) and their spouses and exes.

Jason Bateman was brilliant. He carried the film in my opinion. His marriage breakdown story line was hardly original but it gave an extra something to the endless childish sibling bickering that dominated the majority of the screen time. How it was all resolved was a little predictable and terribly flat but at least there were a few dramatic moments to be had.

Tina Fey didn’t really deliver as much as I hoped. I know she’s funny. Come on, 30 Rock and Date Night proved that. It felt like she played it safe and stuck with the tame script which made her highly unmemorable, bar two little scenes. She worked well with Bateman and did her best but with her comedic prowess, you expected something a little better.

Adam Driver (What If?) was a much needed comedy injection. His lines were hardly comedy gold but his delivery and style managed to get a smile out of me. His relationship with Bateman made for an entertaining and endearing one.

Connie Britton was wasted in her role. A shame after her turn in Friday Night Lights and Nashville. A nothingy character that didn’t really add anything to the mix. Nothing more than a psychiatrist MILF that Adam Driver got to show off to the family.

Speaking of nothingy role, Timothy Olyphant come on down! Absolutely gutted after his terrific performance in Justified. His character was involved in a naff subplot that didn’t really go anywhere. This is what infuriated me with TIWILY. There were so many missed opportunities with the characters and the cast to make more drama and better story lines.

I know that this was adapted from a Jonathan Tropper novel. I can’t say how faithful the film is to its source material but it certainly hasn’t made me want to read it.

Some of the gags were just plain terrible. I mean the recurring joke of the little toddler moving his potty around to poop all over the house was just not funny. The little toddler himself actually was hilarious. His improvisation with some of the cast was brilliant. They didn’t expect him to retort back. More of that would have been perfect.

But potty-ing (I know it’s not a word. I’m not wasting any time finding another) around the house and flinging poo? Awww. No. AWWW – Are you kidding me? Put your potty in the bathroom, boy. Jeez.

Anyhoo . . . The sibling rivalry and tension wasn’t badly done. Everyone can relate to it in some capacity and the moments in which they look back and experience the old nostalgia make for some nice moments. One of the gags that should have been branded as just plain lazy actually entertained me.

A scenario involving some marijuana and a synagogue classroom actually allowed for a comical encounter between Bateman, Driver and Corey Stoll (Homeland). It was great to see Stoll have a bigger role and he doesn’t do a bad job as the stubborn older brother.

Ben Schwartz was incredibly annoying as the hyperactive Rabbi Charles Grodner or Boner to everybody else. Delightful. A guest that gets a giggle and then overstays his welcome . . . in almost every scene. Not even the (usually) hilarious Kathryn Hahn (Step Brothers/We’re The Millers) could save the day with her kooky momma hell bent on getting preggers. It was weak.

And Jane Fonda . . . Apart from having fake pumped up breasts to cue inevitable breast feeding gags, she was highly unmemorable. In fact, there was a bizarre revelation that occurs nearer the end of the film which doesn’t fit in at all. It didn’t work and just completely unnecessary. It was nothing more than a lazy plot device to stop the family scrapping. The only bit of real heated drama that got me interested.

Dax Sheppard (Without A Paddle) played the two-timing sleazebag well. But is this the only character that he can play? And to be honest, when he was first introduced with the Howard Stern DJ spiel, it wasn’t funny. Just annoying as hell. It made a change for Abigail Spencer (Suits) to play a more meatier role as the cheating wife. But the story line was so hammy and predictable, it never really hit the heights that you’d hope.

Rose Byrne (Damages) and Bateman had good chemistry but their love subplot was so generic and corny that I really couldn’t care. Tropper left their little romance so open as a feeble attempt to prevent the predictable outcome but just made it flat and uninteresting.

To be honest, this film only did one thing. Well, two. Waste my time. And make me realise how good August: Osage County was. If you want a good family drama, then I’d invest your time in that instead.

There is the odd moment to be had. One chuckle here, one little heart plucker there. But memorable and entertaining? Quotable and re-watchable? Meh.

2/5

THE BOXTROLLS REVIEW

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I laika it but I didn’t love it. From the makers of Coraline and Paranorman comes a delightfully animated, if predictable affair that certainly impresses in detail but lacks in story. Enough for the little ‘uns but I can’t help but feel that some of the darker and more satirical moments may whizz over their head and leave them fidgeting in their seats.

As I’ve said before; kids films, or should I say, family films are always a challenge. They have a lot to aspire to and must have enough pace, character and story to entertain children and adults. But normally, a good portion of the time you can bank on them to deliver the goods. Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks have proven this time and time again. They are normally the films I can rely on in the ever growing list of mediocre and plain right terrible movies I’ve had to endure this year.

Now the American stop-motion studio Laika certainly delivered with the creepy but brilliant Coraline. ParaNorman was a mixed bag. A watchable one. At its best, dark, very funny and endearing. But let’s not forget the ending wasn’t perfect. It felt like it had run out of ideas and rushed towards a corny and flat finale.

So what’s this one all about? The Boxtrolls are a community of quirky, mischievous creatures who lovingly raise an orphaned human boy named Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright – Game of Thrones) in their cavernous home built beneath the streets of Cheesebridge. However, when evil exterminator, Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) comes up with a plot to get rid of the Boxtrolls. Eggs decides to venture above ground and “into the light”.

Eggs? That’s right. Eggs because that was on the box that our protagonist chose to wear. A nice touch.

The opening was a little slow and a little dark with a Boxtroll appearing to steal a child and Snatcher brokering a deal with the high class elite who appear to be wasting the town’s budget on fancy hats and rich cheese. A fun poke at the inevitable class and society issues that still plague the present day.

The little ones may find themselves fidgeting a little bit. Even I could feel my eyes looking at my watch. That is until our little cardboard creatures finally make their appearance.

The animation is fantastic. Once the little sewer gremlins emerge from their cavernous domain and begin scavenging the streets, I was in awe. Their little expressions and the detail in which they use their boxes as props to climb over gates and as cover from any passing humans. Their bickering and amusement with the rubbish dumped on the streets made them instantly loveable and entertaining.

The 3D was a complete waste of time. Thoroughly disappointing as this film would have been the perfect platform. Also pretty poor with the inflating ticket prices and decreasing cinema numbers. Do not invest.

The cast were perfectly chosen for the roles. And what a cast! Hempstead Wright has already made an impression with Game of Thrones but certainly delivers a solid voicing performance. But he was always going to fall second fiddle to the legend that is Sir Ben Kingsley. His prowess and talent just adds so much to the delightfully disgusting Archibald Snatcher. His name must surely be a nod to the infamous child villain, the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Only a more demented version, with top hat in tow, of course.

Richard Ayoade (Moss from The IT Crowd), Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead) and Tracy Morgan (That’s right! 30 Rock) were brilliant as Snatcher’s numbskull henchmen who constantly try and justify with one another that they are really the good guys. Not enough of them in my opinion.

Elle Fanning (Maleficent) was fantastic as the stroppy but feisty Winnie who befriends Eggs. Jared Harris (Mad Men) and Maurice LaMarche (Futurama) were also voices that stood out in the gang of mindless elitist cheese fanatics.

The Boxtrolls is watchable and at times quite fun. The chase sequences and the encounters with the Boxtrolls were a sight to see. But for me, the story just didn’t seem to flow that well. It seemed a bit mechanical and all a bit predictable. Desperate twists and turns were pulled out of nowhere as the film meandered along.

Twists that were hardly revelatory or necessary for that matter. The whole spiel early on that the Boxtrolls were cannibalistic murderers was always going to be a bluff. Eggs and Fish (the Boxtroll who “adopted” him)’s relationship was nicely done and you could feel for the pair, even if half of the time you couldn’t understand what they were saying to one another. A running joke that happens every time Winnie demands a translation.

Eggs’ adjustment into the human world after ten years of “captivity” was an endearing and funny opportunity. His introduction to a high class social party brought the odd chuckle. But the tone seemed to be too uneven. Coraline was endearing but deliciously dark. Boxtrolls starts off dark. Goes full slapstick and cheesy. Then a little darker with a rushed and incredibly corny finale.

It felt like it wasn’t sure how far to push or how dark to be. An achilles heel for Snatcher was an unexpected twist that led to a deliciously macabre finale.

There’s enough for everyone. Silly boxtrolls for the kids (and adults) and macabre Dickensian visuals with a drop of class satire. Not bad by any means but will it stand against the likes of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Caroline or even ParaNorman? Sadly, not for me.

3/5