*NEW* DIRTY GRANDPA REVIEW *NEW*

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Dirty, dirty De Niro.

Right before his wedding, an uptight guy (Zac Efron) is tricked into driving his grandfather (Robert De Niro), a lecherous former Army Lieutenant-Colonel, to Florida for spring break.

Rude, crass, filthy and for a good portion of the film quite entertaining. Definitely marmite for the movie fans. You’re either going to love it or hate it. For some, an outrageous sex comedy. For others; a monstrosity and new low from one of Hollywood’s greatest . . . Oh and that bloke from Goodfellas is in it.

The opening didn’t mess about. It skimmed through the cliched set up quickly. Even if it was through a badly photo-shopped montage of Efron’s Jason growing up with De Niro’s Dick. Wait, being raised by De Niro’s D- Moving on . . .

For a moment, I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a dramedy as Jason faced an existential crisis with his boring life imminently set in stone while Dick mourned the loss of his wife. BUT that doubt was soon extinguished when Jason walked in on his ol’ grandpa jerking off. Oh dear.

The first 40 minutes was funnier than I could have imagined. I was in stitches. I actually scratched my head at why the critics gave this such a mauling.

The pair worked really well off each other. This sort of film was never going to win plaudits. It is what it is. A revolting adult comedy with a shed load of revolting college humour. A guilty pleasure that was right up my street; “You still Jenny from the C*ck Block?”

De Niro really didn’t give a flying fook. Effing and jeffing in every frame (I mean come on. It’s not as if we haven’t seen the guy swear before) and giving it his all. The Oscar winning actor has been working with comedies for the last decade (Analyse This/That and Meet the Parents).

It was also good to see a different side to Efron. I didn’t think the 17 Again star would be able to deliver. He has been quite wooden in his latest efforts. BUT it was funny seeing the prudish Jason breaking out of his shell.

I didn’t expect to see Efron running around naked on a beach covered in swastikas and high on crack (Yeah if you’re shaking your head at that then this film is definitely not for you). An unfortunate encounter with a child shouldn’t have worked and certainly tested the ‘awkward-o-meter’ BUT the cringe-inducing tension was too much.

BUT the second half really did push it and killed a lot of the fun making it just plain stupid.

De Niro’s special forces spiel was boring and cliched. His combat moves and crazy body building really took the biscuit and set up a terrible cameo that was wasted on Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon). I’m sure it was supposed to be a commentary on age and that being old isn’t the end BUT this was never going to be that sort of film to deliver that message.

Julianne Hough (Rock of Ages) was wasted in her role as Jason’s insufferable fiancee, Meredith. Anyone could have played her.

The cheesy subplot between Shadia (The lovely Zoey Deutch – Ringer) and Jason was far too hammy and lazy that it slackened the pace tremendously. The pair had reasonable chemistry BUT it was all so predictable and unnecessary as Jason realised that maybe Meredith isn’t the one.

Adam Pally’s (Happy Endings) Cousin Nick was delightfully revolting and wasn’t in it enough. Jason Mantzoukas (The Dictator) was hysterical as Tan Pam; the crazed dealer that the local police seemed to have a soft spot for. BUT despite his hilarious introduction, he soon overstayed his welcome and kept popping up. The gags and lines getting duller with each re-appearance.

Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) was brilliant as Shadia’s slutty BFF Lenore BUT the endless innuendos and swearing was just too much by the end.

And that was the main problem; the longer the film went on, the worse it got. The sex gags, incessant drug use and swearing just went for the shock factor and by the 75 minute marker, I was numb. The punch lines getting more juvenile by each closing minute.

De Niro getting street cred with the local Miami thugs. Not bad. Rapping and dropping the N bomb. Not so much.

As I said before, I expected a lot worse and it was certainly watchable. The gross out college humour that dominated the Noughties (Euro Trip, Road Trip, American Pie) in full flow. If that ticks all the boxes, you’ll love it. If it didn’t, unless you want to see an Oscar great taking a nose dive with his career and flashing his penis then I don’t think this is going to offer anything for you.

2.5/5

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*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

*NEW* A WALK IN THE WOODS REVIEW *NEW*

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A walk to remember? Jog on.

A watchable if incredibly tame affair sees two ageing screen icons having fun. Shame, it didn’t live up to much.

After spending two decades in England, Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) returns to the US, where he decides the best way to connect with his homeland is to hike the Appalachian Trail with one of his oldest friends (Nick Nolte).

From the opening, I knew Redford would be a perfect Bryson. Quick witted and bored. We watch the frustrated travel writer meander along. Uninterested with life and New Hampshire. His awkward socializing at a funeral said it all.

A passing comment from a morning show host about never travelling in his own back yard and it isn’t long before Bryson yearns for another adventure. And what a trek. The 2,200 mile Appalachian trail.

Emma Thompson was delightful as Bryson’s long suffering spouse. She worked well with Redford. I was disappointed to see so little of her. I would have been happy to watch more of the pair. Deliberating leaving articles about bear attacks, murder mysteries and poisonous everything around the house in a hope of unsettling the stubborn fool.

However, a deal is made. Bryson must travel with someone. Cue the grisly bear that is Nick Nolte. A gruff overweight husk of a pensioner. An old friend that Bryson desperately tried to keep off his list.

Redford and Nolte made a likeable pair. They worked well together and shared some good banter. As soon as the pair began, they struggled up the first hill. Teens and kid scouts skipping past them without a care in the world.

The film had an air of Grumpy Old Men with a Wild vibe. It was easygoing and light hearted enough as the pair bicker, grunt and groan. Nolte hasn’t aged well at all. I couldn’t tell how much was put on for the film. BUT he was still a slick charmer with his smart ass commentary.

John Bailey’s cinematography certainly captured some picturesque shots of the trail through the different seasons. It almost made me want to pick up a bag pack and go.

Despite seeing two screen icons slumming it and having a laugh, it was all a little tame and predictable. You knew that their bickering would unearth deeper resentments. The fact the pair hadn’t talked for nearly 40 years was a clue alone. You knew that inevitable heart to heart moment would soon be on the cards.

It wasn’t all bad. There were fun moments to be had with Nolte being chased by a redneck for chatting up his wife. The pair screaming and waving their arms around like nutters to scare off some bears.

Kristen Schaal (The Flight of the Conchords) was funny and oh so irritating in her camping cameo as the hiker from hell. Her constant put downs and know it all attitude soon sets these two old codgers running for the hills.

I was impressed with the supporting cast. It was a shame that Schaal was the only one to make a lasting impression. Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) was completely wasted in his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role as the tent guide. His deadpan style wasn’t used to its full potential. A quick sarcy one liner about a rain cover wasn’t enough.

And the wafer thin subplot, if you can call it that, with Mary Steenburgen’s character was a waste of time. The flirty exchanges with Bryson and Steenburgen’s motel proprietress were tame. You just knew that he would never be tempted and it surmounted to nothing. Shame.

There wasn’t a lot going on after an easygoing opener. It tended to drag and soon fizzled out by the closing moments after the pair had their epiphanies. It didn’t help that it ended so corny and predictably.

There was enough charm to make this a watchable and lighthearted romp BUT memorable? Not for me, I’m afraid.

2.5/5

INSIDE OUT REVIEW

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It’s time for me to examine this piece inside out. Get ready for Pixar to play with your emotions again!

Funny, endearing, it looks like another winner on the cards.

After young Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.

I will confess. I am a huge Pixar fan. I love how they are always able to make films that have something for every one. Telling simple and predictable stories in such complex and wonderful ways with humour, heart and fantastic animation.

BUT that isn’t to say they’re perfect. Cars may have been watchable but it was certainly one of Pixar’s weakest entries. I still haven’t bothered to view the sequel. Unlike Toy Story and Monsters Inc.

Of course when going to the cinema, you don’t just get a Pixar movie. Oh no! You have a delightful animated short first. Their latest offering? A Hawaiian sing song volcano short called Lava.

BUT this time, it didn’t do much to get things going. This musical interlude nearly put me into a lull before Inside Out had even begun. I can’t believe I’m saying this but Lava was actually quite a drab affair.

The animation and visual design may have been beautiful BUT it was literally five to ten minutes of ukulele and two volcanoes falling in love. Awww. Nope. Funny enough, did anyone else notice that the male volcano bared a striking resemblance to Jabba the Hutt.

BUT after the hilarious Geri’s Game, the origins of Lupo the leaping lamp and hell even that Blue Umbrella with that annoyingly catchy tune; I felt Lava just didn’t quite hit those levels. Regurgitating the same predictable tripe. Not a good start. My fears rising.

BUT finally Inside Out started and . . . Not bad, not bad at all.

The opening act may have been a little slow burning but it was wonderful watching baby Riley develop over the years and most importantly her emotions. Her first emotion being Joy. Poehler (Parks and Recreation) played her with aplomb. Her enthusiasm and sheer bonkers personality really brought the character to life.

Before we know it, the other emotions are not far behind. I don’t think there was one character that didn’t steal the show at some point throughout the film. They were all perfectly cast. BUT Phyllis Smith (The American Office) certainly made a memorable impression voicing the appropriately coloured blue emotion Sadness.

What I love about Pixar is the detail that they put into every project. I won’t say too much
(If I can help it). BUT the little things. Riley’s train of thought being an actual train. The islands of personality. The memory balls. The forgetters that deal with the faded memories. The long term memory servers. Brilliant.

The mind workers. Oh the mind workers. Ever wonder why your mind will suddenly think of a jingle or a song out of nowhere? Blame these little devils. A recurring joke involving a gum commercial jingle delivered the laughs throughout.

I loved how the world of Riley’s mind and her own world tied in. The impact of her move affecting every emotion. An unfortunate sorting incident with the memory balls and Joy and Sadness are sucked into the back of Riley’s mind. Without their presence, the poor girl will not be able to express those two emotions. Cue one crazy journey.

Smith and Poehler worked well together. I loved how Joy always questioned the purpose of Sadness and did everything to make sure she didn’t ruin anything. “Why does anyone need such an emotion?” The debate has handled with the right balance. After all, this is still a kid’s film. Of course, on the positiveness of having such an emotion. In other hands, who knows?

The animation was superb. The abstract thought sequence in which the emotions were forming into all sorts of shapes and two dimensional objects was brilliantly done. The 3D was hardly a must. It certainly made things more prominent on screen but the animation was good enough anyway.

BUT for all the praise, there were still little niggles. The middle act did meander in places and although Pixar has the ability to take us on these fantastic journeys. These journeys are starting to get a little predictable. You could almost time when the bickering would begin. That moment when a character would experience a revelation. And of course, it ends oh so cornily.

I loved Richard Kind as the fluffy and affable imaginary friend Bing Bong who helped Joy and Sadness on their quest. And also . . . could anyone else believe that Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers was in this?!

I wish there was more of the mind stuff between other people. A scene in which Mum and Dad try to deal with a frustrated Riley was fantastic. The closing credits certainly offered an insight into all sorts of people and animals with hilarious results.

Speaking of closing moments. Words . . . . Escape me. Pixar still have the ability to reduce a man to tears. I’m not afraid to admit it. The opening of Up, the finale of Toy Story 3 and now this. These films should come with a warning. Contains mild threat and scenes that will turn you into a blubbering wreck.

It’s great to see an original take on a film. Not a rehash, remake, regurgitation or sequel. A breath of fresh air (Even if it did bear a striking resemblance to Osmosis Jones).

A fun, entertaining and charming family movie that will keep the little ‘uns and the big kids occupied over the holidays for a couple of hours. Go see it.

3.5/5

With room to change to a 4

DANNY COLLINS REVIEW

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Brilliant!

An ageing rock star (Al Pacino) decides to change his life when he discovers a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon.

There is nothing more enjoyable than when you see a film with no expectations and end up being rewarded with great acting and good writing.

Al Pacino proves at 75 that he’s still got it. I was a little anxious after his recent endeavours. Understandably, he’s no spring chicken but Pacino looked like he was sleepwalking through his latest roles. In 88 Minutes, he was a mess. A zombie. A shell of the once great screen icon.

However, this time round? How glad I am to eat my own words. The man was on fine form. Funny, charismatic and lively. A resurgent performance.

This is very loosely, and I emphasize loosely, based on a true story about a musician who discovered a letter written to him by John Lennon 40 years ago. The rest, of course, is fictionalized.

We join Danny Collins as he drinks and drudges his way through the repetitive retread of his best hits. Hits he wrote 40 years ago. Pacino’s singing wasn’t bad. A little wispy but very much in the vein of Cat Stevens. I wasn’t expecting too much with his singing, to be honest.

His stage presence, on the other hand, was another story. Embracing his inner Barry Manilow. The velvet jackets, the flamboyant get up. Having a laugh and not giving two monkeys. A perfect showman. I’m not sure if the song ‘Baby Doll’ was made up for the film but it was quite catchy.

After receiving the letter, Collins (in typical movie fashion) soon re-evaluates his life and looks backs at all his regrets. Realizing that he might not be living the dream after all. Desperate to make amends and repair burned bridges, it’s not going to be an easy task for the ageing rocker.

Annette Bening was very good as the hotel manager Mary Sinclair. Forced to put up with the deluded musician and his many advances. The “patter” between the pair was top notch. They had great chemistry and you could tell they were having fun. There were moments where you couldn’t tell whether they were improvising or not.

It was good to see Jennifer Garner in a role. There wasn’t enough of her, to be honest. Giselle Eisenberg was adorable as Collins’ ADHD daughter. She played it really well and got the balance right. She didn’t irritate and stole the scene at every chance.

Bobby Cannavale proved yet again why he is such a versatile actor. The range that the man can do. To go from Gyp Rosetti in Boardwalk Empire to the Annie remake (Okay, the less we say about that. The better. But I never expected to see the gangster singing and dancing). He was brilliant as Collins’ estranged son, Tom. He worked well with Pacino and they really made the scorned father/son dynamic work.

It was also great to see Christopher Plummer play Collin’s best friend and manager. Not enough of him, either.

I was engrossed and impressed. An easygoing, entertaining affair. BUT even though the main cast were flawless, some of the supporting characters were a little weak.

Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) was wasted in his role (No, seriously. Was he drunk?). The opening interview scene was needed to establish the reason for Lennon’s letter but Offerman didn’t really get to shine or deliver a laugh. Shame. The scene was a little unnecessary. The tape recording of the interview would have sufficed.

Melissa Benoist (Supergirl/Whiplash) and Josh Peck (Drake and Josh) were a little disappointing. Their ongoing hotel staff romance felt forced. It was obviously an ongoing joke to break up the family stuff and Collins and Sinclair’s brewing romance but it didn’t really work and wasn’t that interesting.

The film may have been corny and a little predictable BUT there was enough charm and charisma from ol’ Scarface to breeze through it and the closing moments were tense, dramatic and uplifting.

The soundtrack was very good. And of course, it would be. You can’t have a story made around a loose John Lennon connection without using any of his repertoire. Writer/director Dan Fogelman made full use of the nine songs they were able to obtain from Lennon’s back catalogue. He incorporated every song to match a crucial moment in the film. A perfect example during a tense and awkward first meeting between Tom and Danny, the song ‘Beautiful Boy’ was playing in the background.

Why are films like this not getting enough publicity? It baffles me. The premise may seem like nothing more than a TV movie but there was enough talent and substance to make this stand out from the rest.

I highly recommend. Easygoing, funny, charming. A pleasant surprise.

3.5/5 (With room to change to a 4)