UNFINISHED BUSINESS REVIEW

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Unimaginative, unmemorable and unfunny. My business with Vince Vaughn is now finished.

Well, I’ve found my contender for worst film of 2015 and we’re only into March.

Dreadful. I desperately wanted to like this with the talent on display BUT good lord!

If it wasn’t for Dave Franco, I think I would have given this a zero.

So what’s it all about? A hard-working small business owner (Vaughn) and his two associates travel to Europe to close the most important deal of their lives. But what began as a routine business trip goes off the rails in every way imaginable – and unimaginable.

A little imagination would have been nice.

I’ve always rated Vince Vaughn and defended his last endeavour; Delivery Man. I felt Vaughn could do both serious and comedic acting.

His deadpan delivery (No pun intended) has worked before. Dodgeball being a perfect example. BUT I can’t help but feel he’s trying to apply the same spiel to every character he takes on.

It didn’t help that his character, the lead character, whom we’re supposed to relate to and route for was incredibly droll and bland.

Vaughn’s delivery would have worked better if he had better gags to bounce off.

And trust me, the gags are few and far between.

Sienna Miller had the easiest job going. She looked stunning (as always) and nailed the American accent but her character was so dull I didn’t really feel anything.

I didn’t care that she was the bad guy in this picture. I wasn’t routing for the gang to thwart her plan. She wasn’t even that bitchy to be honest.

She just played a one dimensional corporate drone. If that was the goal, she nailed it.

Tom Wilkinson, oh how the mighty have fallen! He did his best but there was only one moment involving him that got a little chuckle.

I know Wilkinson can deliver in comedies. I couldn’t believe this was the same man from The Full Monty and hell, even the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel!

A hotel room blunder involving a sex maid with the alluring Kasia Malinowska was unexpected. More could have been made with the gag.

A missed opportunity but it wasn’t bad with Wilkinson trying to give out orders to a normal maid. “I want you to call me, Tony Stark.”

I think the only one who will come out of this unscathed is Dave Franco. He was brilliant as Mike Pancake. His surname being a recurring and irritating gag.

The first mention of his surname in a PowerPoint presentation got a chuckle.

Pancake? It’s Greek. Sounds delicious. Yum!

BUT the constant discussion and repetition of said surname soon buried that puppy by the 30 minute marker.

However, Franco’s nervous twitching, random theories and strange pronunciations on words stopped me from either walking out or falling asleep.

Screaming “Boobs!” at a naked sauna like a kid in a sweet shop. Yes! Trying to work out the wheelbarrow sex position and talking about it endlessly? No!

BUT at least he kept things watchable.

Nick Frost was terribly unfunny. A scene involving glory holes in a men’s toilet started off funny BUT went on far too long and got increasingly uncomfortable as the number of penises continued to pop out.

It felt just as uncomfortable as reading that last sentence.

There was no focus. No drive. The tone was all over the place. It didn’t know what it wanted to be. By the closing 20 minutes, the film took a more serious route. BUT it was still a dramedy that failed on both the comedy and the drama.

A naff subplot involving Vaughn’s fictional son being cyber bullied came off incredibly hammy and uninspiring. It reeked of desperation to try and add an extra dimension to Vaughn’s cardboard clown.

The desperation got increasingly worse as Vaughn’s other child is revealed to be a bully. Shock! Gasp! Snore!

And to make matters worse, it was dealt with so quickly and cheesily that I could feel the will to live fading, fading. It ended up becoming a lecture on cyber bullying. Heavy handed and in the wrong film altogether.

Even when the gang finally get to Berlin, I expected Euro Trip meets Margin Call BUT boy, was I wrong?

There were probably two gags that got a giggle out of me BUT every thing else was just terrible and it pains me to say that.

The cast do their best with the material BUT the material is so bad.

Even when a gag had potential, they either go too far, stretch it out or kill it. A frustrating encounter with a German talking SatNav had everyone laughing in the audience. God knows why? They must have raided the drinks fridge.

Yelling “Flugelslafen” repeatedly while Vaughn drives the wrong way up a motorway just didn’t do anything for me.

If Vaughn keeps doing stuff like this then I’m done.

One for the Franco.

1/5

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SELMA REVIEW

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David Oyelowo delivers an outstanding performance in this highly watchable biopic.

So what is it about? Selma is a chronicle of Martin Luther King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.

I am a little ashamed to say that I knew nothing of the Selma March. I know who Martin Luther King is and what he stood for. BUT I didn’t really know the full extent of what the man accomplished. Other than deliver the “I Have a Dream” speech.

Farewell, Danny from Spooks. I was afraid that David Oyelowo would never be able to shake off that iconic TV role for me. BUT in the last two years, I have seen him popping up in films more and more with his performances getting better and better; Jack Reacher, Interstellar, The Butler.

I was waiting for him to get a meatier role to sink his teeth into and nothing could be bigger than the role of Dr King.

He was fantastic. I went back to watch the infamous speeches of Dr King and Oyelowo captures his posture, his voice, the little pauses and tone perfectly.

I am surprised that he didn’t at least receive a BAFTA nod for his performance.

I mean if Laura Dern could get a Best Supporting Actress nod for Wild, then the man definitely deserved one. No disrespect, Miss Dern.

The opening sequence surprised me in which we see Dr King receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Another fact I did not know. This is soon followed by the unexpected (No, seriously. I jumped out of my seat) and harrowing 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.

Director Ava DuVernay handled the material delicately. Four little girls killed through brutal ignorance. Subtle but tough viewing.

To be honest, Selma was a little slow to get going. Considering the powerful opening, the drama seemed to be put on the back burner. The back room politics was interesting enough with King attempting to peacefully negotiate the black vote.

BUT the constant flicking back and forth soon put me into a lull.

Tom Wilkinson played LDJ brilliantly. The very definition of a politican. Promising to do his utmost but afraid to make any drastic changes as *cough* another election *cough* is on the cards.

Giovanni Ribisi wasn’t bad. The only thing that was bad was his combover.

The conspiring between LDJ and Edgar Hoover was unsettling. It will always remain suspect what happened to Malcolm X and Dr King. Allowing Dr King to continue to be the face of black rights until he began to challenge everything.

While this is happening, we see the treatment of black voters in the southern states as they try and register.

Oprah Winfrey was very good as Annie Lee Cooper. She wasn’t in it enough to be frank. Her treatment was unnecessary. Having to learn and recite the constitution. Fill in every detail of her form. Quizzed on how many members in a particular state and their names. Doing everything within their power to stop her getting the register to vote.

King soon focuses his attention on Selma. A hot spot brewing with racial tension. The place where he will hold a peaceful march.

The fact he was put under heavy surveillance by the government was shocking stuff. Branded as an agitator for failing to listen to reason and disrupting the peace. A joke.

I thought King’s phone call with singer Mahalia Jackson was a little strange. Calling her in the middle of the night to hear a little gospel? BUT the stranger revelation out of the scene that it was logged in a surveillance report!

I always thought Malcolm X and Dr King were not just fighting for the same thing BUT fighting the same way.

I didn’t realise that King detested X’s violent methods and refused his help during the “peace” protests.

Mr X even tried to rationalize with King. Trying to offer his militant ways as a distraction. To stop the wrong attention being focused on King’s cause.

Tim Roth was very good as Governor George Wallace. He carried the accent well and brought a subtle menace to the role. Not enough of him to be honest.

BUT of course the real battlefield was on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Truly horrific stuff. The riots that ensued before and after the incident were bad enough but the attack on the Bridge was tough viewing. The sequence meshed in actual footage which really brought it home. Knowing that this actually happened. Shot for shot.

However, in between these horrific moments, there wasn’t much else.

It felt like they tried to piece more around the events of Selma.

The dynamic with King and his wife wasn’t explored enough for me. The threatening phone calls and the constant fear of what would happen was certainly a catalyst.

BUT there was a scene in which the government are desperate to destabilise his marriage by sending a recording of King with another woman. He doesn’t deny it very well. A mild insinuation that I wanted explaining.

No one is perfect BUT was it mind games? Or did the government find something on the pastor?

It was great to see Cuba Gooding Jr. and Martin Sheen in this BUT the roles they took on were so unmemorable and small that anyone could have played them.

The sermons, although brilliantly executed by Oyelowo, were a little long at the tooth for me and didn’t hit home as much as I had wanted.

Don’t get me wrong. Selma is still worth investing.

There were some interesting developments that I didn’t know about. The constant mind changing of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who supported the cause when the odds looked good. Only to pull out when King and the protestors decided to take on the Bridge a second time.

The closing credits around particular protestors had some shocking revelations that I did not anticipate.

The march itself was tense to watch. BUT it just wasn’t quite as hard-hitting as it could have been. I understand that it is based on true events.

BUT it felt like something was missing. The length was a little long for my liking. The politics and sermons seem to kill the tension and pace that was spurning Selma on for me.

However, that doesn’t stop a sterling performance and interesting if (in parts) brutal re-telling of a crucial moment in history.

3/5

*THROWBACK REVIEW* BELLE

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Pride and Racial Prejudice or Frownton Abbey. A stellar British cast uplifts a syrupy biopic that you’d expect to see on ITV. 12 Years A Slave, this ain’t. It’s certainly watchable and zips along but it doesn’t really make full use of the cast or the subject matter and inevitably leads to the same old predictable schmaltzy finale.

So what’s it all about? Inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). The illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy captain is raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and wife (Emily Watson).

Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the colour of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. However, she soon falls for an idealistic young vicar’s son (Sam Reid – The Riot Club) bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.

Well, at least gets the ball rolling . . . sort of, kinda.

The beautiful Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Touch) takes the fold and delivers a strong performance. One to watch for the future. Matthew Goode (Stoker/The Good Wife) applies enough charisma to make a memorable impression as Captain Sir John Lindsay, who plucks an orphaned Belle from poverty and much worse. A shame that he is only in the film for five minutes before departing on a long voyage.

To be honest, anyone could have played him. Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey) seems to be typecast of late as the uptight old prune of an aunt but if she delivers the goods, does it matter? To me, just a bit.

Even Tom Felton is playing a Victorian Draco Malfoy, complete with “mudblood” attitude in tow. Don’t get me wrong, he plays the slick toothed snob to perfection. As does James Norton (or Tommy from the highly acclaimed BBC TV series Happy Valley) as Felton’s smug brother and partner in crime.

They are both the weasel-y twins (What?) as they try and weave their way into Belle’s fortune. Miranda Richardson (Blackadder) is also brilliant as their conniving matriarch. Emily Watson plays her part well, even if her character is completely unnecessary.

Merely, a commentator sitting on the side lines. Commentary that is self-explanatory as, to be honest, there is not a lot going on. The beautiful Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold) is making an impression. She plays the dibby cousin Elizabeth well. You do feel for her character as she appears to be used as pawn in a game of rich chess or left lingering in the shadow of the “exotic beauty”.

I appreciate the concept and direction the film took. This is a completely different story to 12 Years A Slave that deals with the issue of race within the aristocracy. The fact that Belle was awarded the stature and position of any rich member of power and is unable to use it, says it all.

However, it all feels a little petty in comparison to the visceral gritty torture that Solomon endured. He was beaten, whipped and hung. Belle was made to eat in a separate room to the rest of the family and was perceived merely as an exhibition piece, an exotic jewel, nothing more.

Tom Wilkinson is fantastic as Lord Mansfield whose position is compromised in between fulfilling the law. The law that does not treat any person of colour with respect or even see them as people.

He works well with Mbatha-Raw which allows for some heartfelt moments. After the initial introduction and set up in an easy going half hour, the film seems to be happy to tend with the mundane gossip of petty rich Victorian folk while the inevitable romance blossoms between Belle and John Davinier (Reid). The awkward exchanges, the subtle glances and turning aways. Check, check. All there.

It all feels like by the end it is merely ticking the boxes for all the clichés of a period drama. Any chance of making statements are crushed by an inevitable corny love story. The finale is merely a revelatory court case with the verdict relying on Mansfield’s overriding decision.

A decision that is so obvious and unbelievably predictable that all the grandiose speeches mean nothing. I expected so much more.

It’s well-acted, easy going but doesn’t seem to be sure on whether to be a hard-hitting drama or a slow burning love story.

If you’re a period drama fan, then you’ll love this but it brings nothing new to the genre. Weaker episodes of Downton Abbey have done a better job (There’s never been a weak episode of Downton? That’s scandalous!)

If you’re already going in making comparisons and expecting 12 Years A Slave, then . . . watch 12 Years A Slave. Such a shame. Not bad but not great.

2.5/5

The Grand Budapest Hotel Review

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Grand . . . to look at but beneath it’s eye catching decor, it doesn’t quite match your expectation and leaves a little to be desired. Hardly a film I would revisit but not bad for a weekend break, if you get my drift.

Right enough wordplay. This is really down to how much of a Wes Anderson fan, you are. Obviously, not as much as I thought. Wes Anderson already has an extensive collection attached to his name; The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou, Rushmore, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom to name a few. I personally didn’t mind Tenenbaums and Zissou but felt they were patchy and a little overhyped. Great to look at, with the occasional laugh but missing something. The film that delivered for me was the underrated stop motion animation adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox. It was eccentric, rapid, zany and hilarious. From the trailers, I hoped the Grand Budapest would follow a similar vein, but alas darlings, it falls short. It’s not all ghastly, however. I may pick at Anderson but one thing I’ve always loved with his films is his ambition and the ability to tell stories in such a different manner.

As soon as the film begins, all the Anderson traits are there (Watch out! It’s going to be a bit film academic-y here); the handmade aesthetic, signature curios and saturated colours. The hotel really is grand, bold, with it’s lavish decor and endless Shining-esque hallways. A feast for the eyes, bright, colourful. Every frame rammed with concierge, people and if not that, crazy props. It’s a little mad to start, but sets up what to expect from an Anderson film. From the get go, we’re presented with a complex narrative within a narrative within a narrative, as we follow several different people (A strange girl in a cemetery, to a renowned author (Tom Wilkinson), to a 20 year flashback of said author in the form of Jude Law in a rendez-vu with a recluse and owner of a failing hotel, named Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham – Homeland) in the middle of nowhere)

The gist, and more importantly, the main story flashes back to the 1930s, focusing on the adventures of the legendary GBH concierge, Monsieur Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) and his loyal lobby boy, a young Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) as they must deal with the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting, as well as battle for an enormous family fortune, all against the backdrop of a dramatically changing Continent impacted by war.

The talented ensemble that Anderson has at his disposal makes for some surprising roles, and expected ones. The main man that stands out is the eccentric, charismatic and flamboyant Monsieur Gustave played with aplomb by ol’ Voldy himself, Ralph Fiennes. His delivery and witticisms are fantastic. There is great chemistry and camaraderie between him and Revolori, who makes an impressive debut performance. They are a great duo to watch. It all starts off quite light, easygoing with Zero being mentored by Gustave, which with the material and extensive cast, Anderson is allowed to wonder off at random tangents. However, it does have the tendency to drag and some parts come off a little hit and miss. As well as there being a checklist for Anderson traits, there has got to be one for the number of regulars he manages to grab to appear in this.

The film kicks off when Gustave is accused of killing the frail Madame D (Tilda Swinton) for her fortune. Kudos to the make up team for turning Swinton into the overanxious, love smitten pensioner. Once the chase is on and backstabbing begins, it all makes for a mad old ride. Anderson excels in his set pieces, which makes up for the more comical moments; most notably in the unintended hotel shoot out, the ski slope chase (which is in a similar vein to that of Mr. Fox). The elongated sequence in which Gustave must meet up with a secret contact in a monastery was a particular highlight and was almost Pythonesque. The elongated sequence with the numerous referrals to numerous concierge members just to get faces in, not so much.

The tone of the film is a little messy. It goes from whimsical, slapstick to dark and macabre. A bizarre and rather intimidating encounter between Madame D’s scorned son, (played superbly by Adrien Broody. If anyone can play a creep, it would be him), his relentlessly grim knuckle dust wearing henchman (gruesomely played to perfection by Willem Dafoe) and the oblivious lawyer (Jeff Goldblum) veers off from darkly comical to a suspenseful cat and mouse sequence with a feeble escape attempt that wasn’t very handy, shall I say? Anderson delicately attempts to balance the tone but at times, it’s unexpected and for a minute, you think, “Am I watching the same film?”. The prison sequence is brilliantly executed and funny to boot, if a little dark with a surprise cameo role. It’s a bit all over the place. Fiennes’ finesse and comic delivery is the much needed carrier and catalyst of this movie. When it’s funny, it brings out the odd chuckle, most notably with a funeral punch up and mad race across the Continent from a crazy collection of coppers under the leadership of the always talented Edward Norton.

I didn’t expect the darker elements, which made up for a meandering pace. However, it felt a little Midsummer Murder-ish to me. A bit OTT. But then this is Anderson. If you can accept that for some of the film’s more crazier and stranger elements and are an avid lover of his previous works, this one will go straight into your collection but if you’re still on the fence, this one might not help in pushing you for or against him. I felt the romance between Revolori and Saoirse Ronan got pushed back to the fold, which questioned its existence to begin with, which is a shame because the pair had good chemistry. There are so many faces and characters that others you want to see more of, disappear or don’t get enough of the screen, while others you can’t help but wonder why they’re there in the first place. The little things are what make it for me with Anderson. I really wanted a live animation of Mr Fox, with its eccentric fast paced zippy chaotic madness. Although I got that at parts, it just fell short for me and what was the point of the opening with the first narrator? It’s Anderson. Somehow not a good enough answer for me.

For the Anderson addicts, right up your street. For everybody else . . . well, it’s different. 3/5.

 Currently ranks #52 out of 152!