*NEW* CHRISTMAS WITH THE COOPERS REVIEW *NEW*

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This one got me in the spirit. The alcoholic spirits in my cupboard.

As Olivia Wilde’s character put it, “I can’t face the anticipointment. You know anticipation of disappointment”. Well, Ms Wilde. The anticipointment was still too much to bear.

It was watchable BUT enjoyable? I should have known what I was getting myself into. Shame on me. A vomit inducing, corny and God awful Christmas movie. Ho-ho-horrendous. A little late BUT I really don’t want to revisit this next December.

When four generations of the Cooper clan come together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration, a series of unexpected visitors and unlikely events turn the night upside down, leading them all toward a surprising rediscovery of family bonds and the spirit of the holiday.

Yuck. The opening narration with Steve Martin’s smarmy and condescending voice really didn’t get things going. Diane Keaton was unbearable. Her voice grated against me throughout the whole thing. She was too OTT and her whining was annoying.

John Goodman. What has happened to the big man? It just didn’t seem right watching the guy play a sap. His subplot with Keaton was dull as dishwater as the pair looked set to part ways with one final Christmas family gathering. Some guff about a trip they never took because of the kids. Now the opportunity has finally arrived again and Keaton doesn’t want to go. Will this be their last Christmas? Meh.

Timothee Chalamet’s (Interstellar) little story line about getting with his crush and battling body odour was silly. The kissing scenes had me gagging more than Ed Helms’ character. Unnecessary. Ed Helms (The Hangover) was completely wasted in his role. There was potential with his divorced dad character BUT it never went anywhere. They had Alex Borstein from Family Guy playing the scornful ex wife and she even wasn’t used to her full potential. She was barely in it. 

Blake Baumgartner’s bratty granddaughter was irritating. Sorry BUT a gag involving her and a choice swear word just didn’t tickle me. It wasn’t funny the first time and it certainly wasn’t the next umpteen times. Sigh.

Olivia Wilde and Jake Lacy’s (The Office USA) nauseating relationship had its moments. BUT it was soon soiled by it’s own schmaltz. The pair had good chemistry and made the unrealistic and questionable concept of a stranger making a random army guy her fiancee for the day watchable. BUT it was far too cheesy and predictable.

Marisa Tomei’s shoplifting sibling role could have gone down so many routes. I really thought more was going to made out of her incarceration in the back of Anthony Mackie’s (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) cop car. It was just another filler with Mackie’s dreadful emotionless “Robocop”.

Alan Arkin and Amanda Seyfried’s little relationship was endearing enough BUT it wasn’t really explored. It had the right balance as the pensioner chatted up the waitress 50 years his junior. BUT it was rushed with a silly spat that tragically pushed Seyfried into the background. It wasn’t really picked up again until the closing minutes.

June Squibb (Nebraska) had a nothingy role as Aunt Fishy. Considering this was a corny film about togetherness and family. It didn’t have a problem poking fun at a woman suffering from dementia.

Martin’s verbal diarrhea over every scene infuriated me. It would have been nice for these wafer thin characters to have a little depth instead of being told every little thing about them. It felt like someone was reading a book in a delightfully smug and pretentious drone.

If you loved Love Actually and are in the mood for a ridiculously cheesy Christmas flick then this might be of interest. BUT for all my cynicism, I liked Love Actually. It had interesting characters and some reasonable story lines. This struggled to muster one and was so lazily put together that it put me in the wrong kind of mood.

2/5 (Just)

*NEW* PAN REVIEW *NEW*

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I fear this one might get panned.

Even with a talented cast and impressive special effects, this latest offering on the Pan myth should still walk the plank.

12-year-old orphan Peter (Levi Miller) is spirited away to the magical world of Neverland, where he finds both fun and dangers, and ultimately discovers his destiny to become the hero who will be forever known as Peter Pan.

The opening zipped along. It was easygoing and got straight to business. We watch Peter endure life at the Dickensian orphanage. Battling the ever cantankerous Mother Barnabas. Played to perfection by Kathy Burke. Not enough of her if I’m honest.

Levi Miller delivered an impressive debut for a young lad. There was the odd moment where certain lines and a couple of the scenes hindered with his delivery BUT nothing that can’t be fixed with a few more movies.

And it wasn’t long before our young hero was plucked out of his bed and taken to Neverland. This part of the story I’d seen before in Once Upon A Time and it did feel like a retread for me. I was disappointed that the war time setting wasn’t used to its full potential.

It did allow for a fantastic chase sequence with The Ranger pirate ship being pursued by the Royal Air Force. It was all a little too OTT for my liking BUT the pace and effects kept me subdued. For now.

It was great to see Nonso Anozie finally getting more screen time. It was just a shame that after a memorable introduction as Bishop that he was pushed into the background.

For the first half hour, I was pleasantly surprised. BUT the problems really popped up when Peter arrived in Neverland. The strange musical number in the mines didn’t set the right tone for me.

A bunch of miners bellowing Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and The Ramone’s Blitzkrieg Bop felt like something that should have been in Moulin Rouge. Things improved slightly with the introduction of Jackman’s Blackbeard. But that soon spiralled downhill.

He lapped it up and was incredibly camp. A perfect panto villain. BUT that was also the problem. He came off far too comical. His bi-polar mood swings and OTT delivery soon killed what little tension there was around the iconic villain. I understand that it’s a family movie BUT I was more afraid of the CGI’d Sid from Toy Story than this chap.

Speaking of iconic villains, Garrett Hedlund as James Hook was terrible. Don’t get me wrong, Hedlund delivered one of his most liveliest performances. He looked the part with that shark toothed smile. BUT he got on my nerves. He just shouted his lines (which were weak) and every time he appeared on the screen, I instantly wished him gone.

Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions) was perfectly cast as Smee. He fell short of ol’ Bob Hoskins from Hook BUT he gave it a go and delivered the odd chuckle. Rooney Mara did her best with the role of Tiger Lily, the native chief’s daughter.

The only problem with Mara’s character was that it was spoiled by an incredibly hammy love subplot with Hook. It was cringe-inducing. Hedlund even shouted during those bits and all!

I know I said the animation was fantastic. And for the majority of the film, it was. Not quite sure whether it was worth the 3D investment. BUT there were a couple of things that didn’t look right. The Neverbirds looked terribly cartoony. They looked like something that should have been on the cover of a cereal box.

The lovely Cara Delevigne popped up in a badly CGI’d cameo as a mermaid. I don’t know why they just didn’t have her swimming about in a mermaid costume instead (What?).

Amanda Seyfried had the easiest job going as Peter’s mother. Anyone could have played her. The final twenty minutes were entertaining enough as Tiger Lily takes on Blackbeard BUT it was so rushed that it ended quite abruptly.

It was a fresh take to see Hook and Pan start out as friends BUT we didn’t see any real conflict and by the end of the film, there wasn’t any indication of their rivalry brewing. Just a nauseating exchange that they will be friends forever. Awww . . . Yuck.

Things were inevitably left open for another. BUT if I’m honest, it’s going to take a lot of convincing to get me to check out that one. It’s was too corny, frantic and didn’t even explore the mystery of Neverland.

It was watchable BUT memorable? If anything this made me want to dig out my VHS (What are those?! Showing my age now) of Hook.

Enough to keep the little ‘uns at bay for a couple of hours BUT it falls short of any of the other versions.

2.5/5

TED 2 REVIEW

I wasn’t quite picking up on those good vibrations with these funky bunch of gags, Marky Mark.

The filthy mouthed fluffster is back. BUT better?

“OH MY GOD, DÉJÀ VU!” You got that right. Too much of the same isn’t always a good thing.

I loved Ted. I thought it was a return to form from MacFarlane. Family Guy has been spluttering along for some time. The better days long behind it. A bit like The Simpsons, really. Then there was the misfire that was A Million Ways to Die in The West. Watchable at best.

Ted was crude, OTT but funny. I hadn’t laughed so much in quite some time. Wahlberg and MacFarlane made a great pairing. Inevitably, it fared well and a sequel was soon green-lit.

So here we are. It’s not all bad. When it’s funny, it’s good. BUT that’s the problem, when it’s not; it’s drawn out, repetitive and boring.

MacFarlane did exactly what he’s done for the last few seasons of Family Guy. If the jokes are running low, go for flat out disgusting or just something random and weird.

So what happens this time? Newlywed couple Ted (MacFarlane) and Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) want to have a baby, but in order to qualify to be a parent, Ted will have to prove he’s a person in a court of law.

Ridiculous. I heard some people say. BUT a talking bear smoking a bong and fornicating isn’t?

I found Barth a lot more likeable this time round. I couldn’t stand her in Ted. She was irritating and her voice was nauseating.

Her shouting match with Ted (That went on far too long) didn’t set up high hopes BUT she had (I can’t believe I’m writing this) good chemistry with the bear. It may have been schmaltzy but it added an layer to her Boston skank.

I mean the story line was never going to be the focal point of this film. Although MacFarlane did give a reasonably nice explanation for Mila Kunis’ absence (I know. I was gutted too).

Instead, we had Amanda Seyfried (who more than held her own). She clicked with Wahlberg for their inevitable coupling and certainly wasn’t afraid to take some jibes from the fluffy fiend. Seriously, the Gollum jokes. I was in stitches.

There were a number of old and new faces BUT surprisingly they were all a little dull. Sam J. “Flash Gordon” Jones was completely unnecessary and just did the same old thing to much more disappointing results.

Regular MacFarlane stalwart Patrick Warburton’s repressed gay man was a good recurring joke in the first one. Now he’s “out” with his demented partner in tow. It just wasn’t funny. Beating up nerds in a Comic Con event? Is that the best he could do? The only titter I got was Warburton’s costume choice.

And Giovanni Ribisi’s Donny made another return. A desperate move? There was only a couple of titbits that got a little laugh. His appearance did get a little more relevant as the film carried on BUT it was the same old guff just in a different setting. Sigh.

I really hoped the new faces would provide a little more. They played it much too seriously and didn’t bring anything to the mix. John “Mad Men” Slattery, the slick silver haired Sterling was surprisingly unmemorable. Anyone could have played him. And Morgan Freeman. It was just a lazy excuse to hear his beautiful dulcet tones waffle through some mindless exposition.

The court scenes went on far too long. If it wasn’t for Ted’s one liners, I would have been in a mini coma. Ted and John (Wahlberg) were still very much on form (Thankfully). Their stupid banter, drug induced theorizing and stupid escapades delivered yet again. From Ted’s TV theme song improvisation to John’s sperm lab incident.

Disgusting, cringeworthy but oh so funny! Where was this throughout the rest of the film? I thought this was supposed to be a comedy?!

Okay, the Google theory about how everything is two clicks away from taking you to a web page of a man’s appendage was typical MacFarlane but it got me!

However, the sequences in which Ted was looking for a sperm donor were very hit and miss. Despite John’s lab incident delivering a cracking Facebook slogan gag; MacFarlane and co. soon tooks things too far with the dimwitted duo seeking “super semen” from a renowned American sports celebrity. It was just weird. Talk about overkill.

A Liam Neeson cameo involving a simple purchase of kids cereal was unexpected but brilliantly done! BUT then we had the running length filled with endless bong and smoking weed gags. They got old really quick. Come on, even Seth Rogen is trying to break away from that old spiel. Trying.

Wahlberg tripping out once. Hilarious. Two or three times after? Meh. There was one scene that got me and all it needed was the iconic score of a prehistoric masterpiece. “Breakfast Clubbing” in the lawyer library however? Not so much.

It’s certainly watchable but just wasn’t even on the same level as the first one. I wasn’t even trying to make comparisons but when the gags were sparse, I found time to. MacFarlane chucked in his relentless musical song and dance numbers yet again and if anything they hampered the film. Seyfried has a lovely voice but I came for Ted not Les Mis.

It relied heavily on retreading old story lines and gags to pick up where the film couldn’t. Shame. Plus there were several clips I saw in the trailers that got my interest and didn’t even feature in the film.

The fiery fluffbag has enough in his stuffing to kill the time BUT you may be left wanting.

2.5/5

WHILE WE’RE YOUNG REVIEW

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My exact thoughts as I waited for this indie dramedy to end.

A middle-aged couple’s career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young couple enters their lives.

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts do their best but it just didn’t hit the mark for me. The endless praise certainly piqued my interest. A shame that it just couldn’t deliver.

I feared the worst from the opening scene in which we have an extract from Ibsen’s The Master Builder. A scene that commented on the ever-growing invasion and domination of youth. Slow and a little pretentious.

I could see what writer/director Noah Baumbach was trying to do with the film but I still couldn’t fight my disappointment.

We join Josh (Stiller) and Cornelia (Watts) as they battle being middle-aged while their friends are settling down and having babies.

The opening 15 minutes was easy going enough. Stiller and Watts had good chemistry. Their difficulty in dealing with a baby demonstrated the spanner in their supposedly well-oiled machine.

I didn’t mind sitting back and examining a normal relationship as Stiller and Watts confront their issues but I just wanted more.

Stiller can act and I have desperately prayed for a better project to come along. While We’re Young may be a mixed bag but it showed what Stiller can do when he’s not running around museums or strutting down walkways.

Things took a slightly more interesting turn with the introduction of Adam Driver. Amanda Seyfried’s character barely made an impression. A nothingy role. I think her only real contribution worth noting was when she took a confused Watts to a hip hop class.

Driver certainly got things moving. The problem was that I always had an inkling that his intentions were not what they seemed. Probing Stiller for information under the persona of a fan boy. Playing to his ego with endless brown nosing and slick charm.

It was interesting in parts to witness this young couple transform this “old” couple. A catalyst that sparked the life back into their humdrum lifestyle. The trilby hats, the gigs, the shoes with no socks fad. Spot on.

The whole battle and jealousy of youth debacle had its moments. The fact that youngsters like myself have a niche for all things retro and vintage was a valid observation.

Stiller’s culture clash with Driver and his hipsters about a 70s cartoon that he grew up with sparked an interesting debate. Loving something just because it’s old. Not even knowing the story or the character.

I can’t really say this is a comedy. There were moments but the tone was a little uneven for me.

I don’t think Baumbach knew which direction to take the film. It went from painfully deadpan with Stiller uncovering a film conspiracy that challenged the very ethics of filmmaking to just plain bizarre.

Not enough consistency for me. The sequence in which Watts and Stiller join the youngsters for a weekend retreat to drink some liquid and vom up some “demons” while listening to Vangelis may sound funny but it was just plain weird.

Everyone standing around chatting while casually throwing up in their designated buckets just didn’t do it for me. Was Baumbach trying to throw in a gag that was more befitting of Stiller’s familiar humour?

Charles Grodin is getting old. Long are the days since Midnight Express. Hell even Harry and the Hendersons or Beethoven, shudder.

He played Josh’s father-in-law well. I just wish their fractious relationship was explored a little more. There were some good insights but I wanted more conflict and some sort of progress.

And that was the main issue for me in general. The film had likeable characters that I wanted to see more done with.

There was an interesting revelation with Cornelia in which she suffered a miscarriage. I wanted more time focused on that.

It wasn’t until the closing moments that it was really dealt with. I understand that in real life with an ordeal like that, a lot of people sweep it under the carpet or act like nothing happened. BUT when you’re watching a drama, you want . . . a little drama!

The ending was abrupt and a little weak after things finally seem to come to a head. The closing shot was humorous. A perfect statement of what is happening with the youth of today.

Shame, it just wasn’t that interesting. Too long, too talky and not much going on.

Two stars for the two talented leads.

2/5

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST REVIEW

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A Million Ways to Die Laughing! Unfortunately not. MacFarlane takes on the Wild West and comes out more battered and bruised than his heroic counterpart. Applying his Family Guy spiel, this cowboy comedy yields mixed results this time round.

Now for the record I am a big Family Guy fan and thought Ted was a return to form from MacFarlane as Family Guy teetered on lacklustre but watchable.

His second feature to hit the big screen and a western. My hopes were high. The trailers signed me up from the get go. Job done as always. However, it seems a case of ‘best bits in the trailers’ syndrome. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad but it’s not all great either.

The main issue, two hours? Too long. It was only after the first 30-45 minutes that the film got into its stride. The story line is hardly original, merely a rehash of a classical western storyline. Probably one of the reasons why westerns are no longer plaguing our screens.

Local coward finds bravery and confronts nastiest gunslinger to win the town and the girl. Yadda, yadda. I really hoped for a demented Blazing Saddles but only got mildly hot flip flops. The lovely Charlize Theron and McFarlane were fantastic together. Good chemistry. You could see where they were improvising which made the banter all the more entertaining.

However, the main jokes and punch lines are few and far between. The bigger, better gags have been heavily advertised to get you to watch this mildly entertaining affair.

Seth MacFarlane’s rants felt, at times, like nothing more than him trying to do improvised stand up. Some parts fall flat on its backside, other bits bring the odd laugh. His speech on the law and order of the town was very good; “There is the mayor. He is dead”.

MacFarlane manages to carry enough charisma to keep his stocky character going. The funniest moments in the film for me were the unexpected blink and you’ll miss it cameos, containing the likes of Ewan McGregor, Ryan Reynolds and . . . my God, two brilliant cameos that were nearly worth the ticket. I won’t say for once.

Cameos you would have expected from MacFarlane but still manage to surprise and get a laugh.

Considering the number of musical montages in Family Guy, there is only one song and dance number. An irritatingly catchy one, at that. A missed opportunity in my opinion. I kept expecting Mr Conway Twitty to appear. Alas to no avail. Of course not literally as the poor man passed away some time ago.

I admit I did have to check Google on that. My bad.

In all fairness, the supporting characters bring the better jokes but they are barely in it. You feel that they are brought in to help the slackening pace or when MacFarlane and Theron have stopped messing around.

Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) was very funny as the mustached lothario Foy with his ridiculously cringeworthy but hilarious pun based insults.

It was great to see Liam Neeson as the villain. Unfortunately he plays it very dead pan. So serious, in fact that his character is just a stocky and highly unmemorable clichéd cowboy killer. I expected at least a Taken parody or something. Nope. At least he didn’t try and do an American drawl again after Seraphim Falls.

The same could be said for Amanda Seyfried who was nothing more than a bland caricature used as a plot device to spur our protagonist. Shame. A joke about her eyes brought an unexpected titter.

Sarah Silverman and Giovani Ribisi were hilarious together. However, they are only resorted to a drawn out gag about having a prostitute as a girlfriend and not sleeping together before marriage as it is not very Christian. The gag gets a little stale but the characters were funny enough to warrant more screen time than they got.  Inevitably, there would be a meeting with the Indians, I mean, Native Americans and a certain taking of various substances, leading to a trippy and surreal sequence that reeked of desperation, more than creativity.

Inevitably it all ends very . . . predictably which leaves you somewhat disappointed (if it hadn’t already).

It’s watchable at best. But I have later series of Family Guy for that. It kills the time, brings the odd laugh but hardly must see viewing. If you are looking for a laugh out loud rowdy riot of a western in the style of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, then I recommend . . . Blazing Saddles 2.5/5 for me.

Currently ranks #130 out of 179!