*NEW* CAPTAIN FANTASTIC REVIEW *NEW*

It really was fantastic.

In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father (Viggo Mortensen) devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.

I wasn’t sure from the bizarre opening sequence whether I was going to like the whole Bear Grylls/Swiss Family Robinson vibe to the piece BUT by the end, I was completely won over.

Endearing, entertaining and heartbreaking. A feel good family film in the most dysfunctional way possible. This might even rival Little Miss Sunshine.

I couldn’t believe that this was penned and directed by that creepy guy from Big Love.

Matt Ross delivers a heartwarming story that tackles grief, rites of passage and the woes of the modern society brilliantly.

The unorthodox upbringing may raise a few eyebrows but it almost worked. A strict regime of self defense, intellectual discussions and living off the land is something that I couldn’t even muster (Let alone the majority of the younger generation).

Their campfire Kumbaya may have been a little corny BUT it established a crazy but close-knit family unit hidden in a nirvana away from the real world. Or was it?

There was a quirky and easygoing feel to the piece and with all the crazy get up they were wearing, you could have mistaken it for a Wes Anderson flick!

No?

It wasn’t long before tragic news forced the family to emerge from their natural habitat. And this was where it won me over.

The cast were perfectly chosen. The only one that grated against me was Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton). As much as you could feel for the poor lad, his incessant screaming and temper tantrums really got on my wick.

George MacKay (Sunshine on Leith/Pride) was very good as the socially awkward Bo secretly applying for college behind his father’s back.

I loved all the contrasts and social commentary; “Why is everyone fat? Are they sick?” There were some witty one liners as Ben and co. couldn’t believe the obesity and mindless brainwashing from the merciless corporations on the masses.

“You would rather celebrate a magical fictitious elf over a living humanitarian who did so much for our human rights?”

I loved the comparison of parenting styles when Ben visited his sister’s family. Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms) and Steve Zahn (Dallas Buyers Club) were brilliant. Not enough of them in my opinion.

It was hilarious when Ben showed off his children’s knowledge on The Bill of Rights while his sister’s kids were too busy with their heads in their phones or X-Boxes.

The journey was mad BUT entertaining as the family made out they were bible bashers just to evade a curious copper’s questions about the kids’ truancy.

I was startled at Ben educating his youngest on sex, rape and capitalism. Mental. Even crazier when he faked a seizure in a supermarket for OPERATION SAVE THE FOOD so the clan could fill their boots.

The last 30 minutes was where it really hit home when Ben decides to gatecrash his wife’s funeral despite his father-in-law’s wishes.

Virgo Mortensen deserved the Oscar nod. You could see beneath all that intellectual sparring that there was a tormented man struggling to deal with the loss of his wife. Unsure what to do.

Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) was superb as the angry father in law. Blaming Ben for taking his daughter and grandchildren away from him. Deluding them into believing this way of life was acceptable.

BUT as much as you were impressed by the kids’ education and survival instincts, they were completely lost when it came to social interaction and as the story progressed, you realised that they might not be as into the idea as their grief-stricken father.

Things reaching boiling point when Bo finally decides to talk about his college application as Ben begins to re-evaluate himself.

I should have known with Alex Somers orchestrating the score that Sigur Ros’ Jonsi would pop up in this. A wonderful soundtrack.

I was pleasantly surprised and even on second viewing, it still had me through the highs and lows. 

A heartfelt, engaging family drama that is worthy of your attention.

4/5 Just!

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*NEW* BAD MOMS REVIEW *NEW*

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Bad, just bad.

Well, that’s what I thought I was going to say. Kunis and co killed it! A surprisingly watchable and mad little movie.

When three overworked and under-appreciated moms are pushed beyond their limits, they ditch their conventional responsibilities for a jolt of long overdue freedom, fun, and comedic self-indulgence.

I went in expecting nothing and came out with a big ol’ smile for all the right reasons this time!

The opening zipped along as Mila Kunis’ workaholic mom Amy (Family Guy) raced around ferrying the kids from school to all their extra-curricular activities, as well as PTA meetings and holding a part time job. You could relate and empathize with her character as she dotted about the place at 90 miles a minute while her childish husband lounged about the place.

To be honest if I didn’t know that this was penned by the writers of The Hangover and exaggerated so heavily, this could have passed as a dramedy. Emjay Anthony (Chef) and Oona Laurence (Southpaw) were pretty good as Amy’s mental kids.

Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) was perfectly cast as the nerdy “weirdo stay at home” mom. Her eccentric behaviour and random one liners had me smiling throughout. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to like Kathryn Hahn’s (We’re The Millers) loudmouth trailer trash talking slutty single mom. The endless dick references did go on a bit BUT she soon won me over. An absolute nutter.

The dynamic between the three leading ladies worked really well. I think there were genuine moments where they improvised which made the scene better for it. Especially during Amy’s mom-bra and sex talk scene. I don’t know how Bell kept a straight face while Hahn was using her as a prop.

It felt like a “What if Mean Girls became Mean Moms” scenario. Especially when you look at the PTA board. Jada Pinkett-Smith (The Women) was great as Applegate’s snidey underling. Christina Applegate (Vacation) was brilliant as the stone cold bitchy PTA chairwoman and Annie Momolo (Bridesmaids) was funny as the ditsy Viv who really hadn’t a clue. You kept wondering why she was in their little entourage in the first place.

David Walton (About A Boy) played Amy’s obnoxious husband Mike well. It annoyed me how quick their relationship was breezed over. You got the idea that maybe marrying too early and having kids was the only thing keeping them together BUT it could have been explored so much more.

BUT it wasn’t that type of movie. It was all swept under the carpet for the new widower on the block (Jay Hernandez – Suicide Squad). Kunis had great chemistry with Hernandez which helped drudge through the hammier scenes as their romance blossomed.

I had a laugh watching the ‘bad moms’ break free from their “jobs” and “roles”. Giving the kids a life lesson about fending for themselves instead of being entitled little gits. Getting drunk, going to the movies during the day and getting fooked up. It was OTT, mad BUT for a good portion of the film, entertaining.

Kunis was excellent and redeemed herself after her shambolic performance in Jupiter Ascending. My only quibble was the endless “being a Mom” speeches. I got the point after the first one BUT we had several more cheesy speeches in between the drunken parties and crazy supermarket shenanigans.

Clark Duke (Hot Tub Time Machine) wasn’t really that funny as Amy’s childish boss. The whole new generation gag was good BUT not quite as effective when Kunis’ character was 32.

It may have been a little corny and stupid BUT it was fun and went past any expectation I had. Especially after the mixed reviews I read. It was a nice touch in the closing credits to have the actresses sharing childhood memories with their real mums. Kristen Bell’s mum was hilarious.

If you’re in the mood for an easygoing laugh, give it a go.

3/5

*NEW* THE VISIT REVIEW *NEW*

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That’s one visit I won’t be making again.

A single mother (Kathryn Hahn) finds that things in her family’s life go very wrong after her two young children (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould) visit their grandparents (Peter McRobbie and Deanna Dunagan).

Has M. Night Shyamalan broken his movie curse? Not even close.

To think this was from the guy who brought us The Sixth Sense, The Village, Unbreakable and Signs (Yes. For all its ridiculous plot holes. I liked it).

A creepy premise that had moments of genuine suspense and tension was soon hampered by silly handheld camera play, annoying kids and unintentionally hilarious dialogue.

The opening didn’t give me much hope. DeJonge’s pretentious movie geek waffle numbed me into a coma while Oxenbould’s freestyle rapping had me cringeing in terror. Was that Shyamalan’s intention?

Now credit where it’s due. Despite being a patchy affair, it was still watchable. I desperately tried not to pick at Hahn’s parenting skills. Yeah, just chuck your kids on a train without speaking to the parents you haven’t spoken to for 15 years. Something about a “incident” that made her run away from home. Nothing suspicious there :/

Dunagan was superb as Nana. Sickly sweet one second, shrill and volatile the next. McRobbie disappeared for chunks of the film BUT when he was given the chance, he was creepy as hell with his blank staring and zombie-esque wandering.

During the day, we suffered through mindless exposition, cheesy Skype-ing with Mom and sickly sweet exchanges with Nana and Pop Pop. That is until night fall. Now that’s where things got a little more interesting. The slow burning tension slowly bubbling away. One simple rule. Don’t come out after 9.30 pm.

This little premise intrigued me. The questions pondering as each night passed. The grandparents’ activity getting stranger and creepier. The “sundowning” theory for explaining the grandmother’s strange behaviour was almost believable. Playing it down to a rare strand of dementia.

The hide and seek sequence was genuinely tense and unsettling. Every time the kids crept around another corner, I feared something would pop out and give my heart a jolt. However, the tension was soon killed off by Dunagan’s backside. I kid you not. It spoiled the scene. Redeemed by a cheeky one liner from Oxenbould.

And that was the problem, there were a number of moments that came off unintentionally funny. Dunagan creeping around the house. Weird. Running around like Batman in the nude? Shudder. Not so much. Every time DeJonge’s granddaughter pried Nana for more information about the “incident”, she would beat herself up like Dobby the house elf. Lordy lord.

The tone was all over the place. Menacing and tense in one second, parodical the next. If not for the needless nudity, this could have easily been a 12A. I loved the Blair With vibe around the piece but the Paranormal shaky hand cam has been done to death in horror films for the last decade. What I loved about Shyamalan’s works was the fact that he never caved into this relentless fad. Until now.

One thing that can be agreed that was a vast improvement from The Happening.

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The twist. Oh yes, you can’t have a Shyamalan movie without a twist. It was hardly a surprise. If anything I wanted more. BUT it certainly made the last 15 minutes a nail biting and racy little finale. Even Oxenbould managed to win me over by the end. I was actually rooting for the annoying little toad.

BUT it ended so abruptly and then out of fear of being too serious, we had another stupid rap from Oxenbould tacked on. A terrible footnote for a mismatched movie. Back to the drawing board, Shyamalan.

 

2/5

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