THE HOUSE REVIEW

The House always win? Not with jokes like these.

After the town takes away their daughter’s college scholarship, a couple (Will Ferrell/Amy Poehler) start an illegal casino in their friend’s (Jason Mantzoukas) house to make back the money.

Sheesh. What is going on with comedies these days? Look, I’m not looking for groundbreaking stuff BUT a time filler with a few laughs isn’t too much to ask . . . Is it?

Apparently so.

Okay, the opening act wasn’t that bad and Ferrell and Poehler made an entertaining duo as the mollycoddling parents rehearsed a “What if” scenario with a “shady college guy” to their daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins).

I don’t know how many of the one liners were improvised BUT I just wish the two comedians were allowed to break free from the weak material more.

Ferrell pretending to be “Geppetto” (Because he makes all the girls his puppets) had me in stitches. He worked well off Poehler. BUT alas, that banter couldn’t stick.

Scott’s (Ferrell) numbers anxiety and shrieking got on my nerves. Seriously, his miscalculations gags weren’t funny the first time, so why did we have umpteen of them? Thank God for Poehler’s put downs.

Jason Mantzoukas (Dirty Grandpa) stoke the show as their emotionally unhinged friend Frank. A supporting act that didn’t overstay his welcome.

The group dynamic (thankfully) worked a lot better once the couple lost their daughter’s scholarship and things did get a little more entertaining.

The casino set-up was quite fun as the gang evaded the local authority’s wandering eyes.

The House excelled with some of its more sillier moments. BUT when it didn’t work, it felt drawn out and cringe worthy.

A Casino gag in which the trio taught a “cheat” a lesson delivered the laughs and some unexpected gore as Ferrell fumbled around, looking for said cheat’s thumb after an unfortunate encounter with an axe.

Nope? Not selling it. That was the best bit.

Nick Kroll (Sausage Party) and Alison Tolman’s (Fargo) philandering council officials’ subplot was bland and uninteresting. Great actors in their own right BUT they brought nothing to the mix.

I would have been happier to see more of Frank failing to win back his wife.

The first hour did kill the time and was surprisingly watchable as the neighbourhood soon joined in on the action. At one point, there were bets being placed as neighbours participated in bare knuckle fist fights.

Yeah, it’s that sort of movie.

BUT the film soon run out of steam (and material) as the big life got to the couple’s heads. Seriously, it just wasn’t funny. Poehler and Ferrell beating people up and throwing money around was just overkill.

It spiralled downwards into one big chaotic mess in the worst way possible with repetitive comedy falls, endless swearing, unfunny gags and hammy sentiment.

Even a surprise cameo in the fiery finale couldn’t save the day. I couldn’t believe this particular Avenger had popped up in this as a mobster. It was just a shame that he wasn’t any funnier.

Despite its moments, I wouldn’t bet big with this one. Unless you really want a gamble with your time, then be my guest.

2/5

*NEW* KRAMPUS REVIEW *NEW*

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Ho-ho-horrible. Dark, demented, different.

I normally dread the Christmas period. The inevitable corny and schmaltzy monstrosities we call Christmas movies haunting every possible TV channel (Jingle All The Way being the exception. What?). BUT this latest offering brings a different kind of dread altogether!

A boy (Emjay Anthony) who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a Christmas demon to his family home.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a good horror and even more so during Christmas. The opening sold me straight away with the Black Friday carnage as the shoppers descend on the morbid mall. Fighting, scrapping, crying. The true meaning of Christmas.

It was great to see a small and underrated cast, containing some of my favourite comedy supporting actors, getting the chance to take the stage; Adam Scott (Step Brothers), David Koechner (Anchorman), Conchata Ferrell (Two and a Half Men) and Alison Tolman (Fargo).

The dysfunctional family was set up perfectly and it wasn’t long before it all kicked off and poor little Max made a wish that he would soon regret. The slow burning build up to Krampus’ inevitable appearance was a little tedious but once he made his introduction with his devilish critters in tow, I was hooked.

The CGI, make up and special effects were fantastic. The demented goat hybrid Krampus and his freakish little followers were something else. This certainly isn’t for the little ‘uns. A mangled teddy bear, a freaky angel of death, a robot with knives for hands, a grotesque jack in the box and a partridge in a . . . Okay, I’ll stop.

This felt like a “What if Gremlins went darker” scenario and boy, did it! It wasn’t afraid to bump people off. The tone was a little uneven. It was either too dark in one sequence, then too silly in another. However, there were still some creepy and hilarious moments. A particular highlight being Koechner’s confrontation with some killer gingerbread men.

The main plaudits have to go to Koechner as shotgun toting, pick up driving red neck Howard with his tomboy daughters in tow. Every one liner and reaction stole the show for me; ” I just had my ass handed to me by christmas cookies”. I just loved the fact he named his pick up truck Lucinda. “Give her a full tank of gas and we can be storming the beaches of Normandy by sunrise”.

It did feel like Krista Sadler’s Austrian grandmother was only brought into the mix to make the folklore element that bit more authentic. Most people in the audience kept wondering why she was speaking German in the first place. Especially when nobody else did.

The folklore was a fresh take and I was pleasantly surprised. Her creepy storytelling did allow for a brilliant animated sequence that teased elements of The Cabinet of Dr Kaligari as she explained the origins of St. Nicholas’ shadow.

At it’s best, it was tense, funny and oh so dark. BUT at it’s worst . . .

The pace had the tendency to dip and out which killed a good portion of the suspense. More could have been made out of the characters. Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine) and Tolman were heavily underused in their roles. There was so much potential with their fractured relationship BUT it was never going to be that sort of film. And there definitely wasn’t enough of Ferrell’s drunken aunt.

They even missed out on a trick or two with the scares. Hardly a spoiler BUT I really expected something to happen with the creepy snowmen that surrounded the house. BUT alas . .  .

The ending was rushed and tragically predictable. A shame after things finally seemed to kick off for a frantic finale as Max must help his messed up family. BUT luckily there was still enough to make this a reasonably entertaining and dark little Christmas treat.

3/5

*NEW* THE GIFT REVIEW *NEW*

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Joel Edgerton’s debut is a gift that needs returning.

Slow, dreary and dreadfully predictable. Disappointed doesn’t even come close.

A young married couple’s lives are thrown into a harrowing tailspin when an acquaintance from the husband’s past brings mysterious gifts and a horrifying secret to light after more than 20 years.

That synopsis makes it sound so much more interesting that it really was.

Now I’ve been a fan of Edgerton for some time ever since his turn in Kinky Boots and Warrior. I really had high hopes for his directorial debut. A great cast do their best BUT you can’t hide a lifeless thriller with a surprisingly flat twist.

The opening got the ball rolling quite early. It set up the premise within five minutes. Couple. House. Creepy friend. Excellent. Let the game of cat and mouse begin.

The first half hour I was happy to allow the characters to develop. Always remembering that the inevitable was creeping around the corner. BUT by the hour marker, I was praying for it to come quicker (Steady now).

It was great to see Jason Bateman tackle a serious film for a change. I just wish he had a meatier role. He really excelled in the darker moments (which tragically there wasn’t enough of) and had good chemistry with Rebecca Hall.

Rebecca Hall is a very good actress but has this knack of featuring in mediocre films. Transcendence, anyone? She had an impeccable accent and carried the film for me. Lucky. Considering the film was very much focused on her character. The pawn in a very boring game of chess.

Edgerton was perfect as the troubled Gordo. The film picked up every time he appeared. To be honest, his numerous drop-ins at the family home felt like a minor inconvenience more than a stalkerish obsession.

I was impressed with Edgerton’s supporting cast. It’s just a shame that he didn’t give them better characters. Alison Tolman (Fargo) was wasted as the neighbour. It was extremely annoying because there was a strange moment in which Edgerton suggested something more suspect about her.

When Robyn (Hall) first meets Tolman’s character, she notices the baby is left crying in the back of the car. Hidden behind a veil. There was a slight Rosemary’s Baby vibe. BUT in the next frame, we have Robyn cradling the baby. It could have been a play on Hall’s paranoia BUT more should have been made of it.

How did Busy Philips from Dawson’s Creek get in this? She might as well have NOT been. Wendell Pierce was pretty much playing Bunk from the Wire. The same tired face and exasperated expression. Great for a Wire fan. Poor for anyone else. And he was only it in for 30 seconds and was completely redundant.

Eduard Grau’s cinematography may have provided a murky look to this supposedly “murky” thriller. But you can’t a polish a tur- turgid drama.

I’m happy to allow a slow burning thriller to unfold. If the pay-off delivers. The inevitable creepy tension as Gordo’s numerous appearances go from annoying to unsettling was too predictable. I could feel myself ticking everything off a check list. It was too formulaic. They have a pond. He buys them fish. They throw him out. He kills the fish. Oh no, they have a dog. What’s going to happen there?

It was inevitable that Gordo was a ticking timebomb. If anything Bateman’s reaction was more questionable as he finally lets his new guest know that he has overstayed his welcome. This is where the film did get a little more interesting as Simon’s (Bateman) past is called into question.

The cheap jump out of your seat scares felt desperate as the film continued to stagger along. I thought the shower sequence was merely a ploy to make sure the audience were still awake. Quick jump. Aaah! Right. Still with us? Back to the film.

The closing fifteen minutes finally delivered what I had expected from the rest of the film. A tense slow burning stand-off with the inevitable twist rearing its ugly head. And credit where it’s due; the twist was actually an interesting one. And I did appreciate Edgerton’s little nod to the Usual Suspects.

It did leave you pondering as the credits rolled. A nice touch. But once I got out of the cinema and into my car, I realised I had still wasted two hours for a mediocre conclusion and the revelation hardly matched all the mystery and hype.

Patchy at best but very disappointing for all the promise. Mr Edgerton, spend less time on wrapping and more time on picking a better present, eh.

2.5/5