TED 2 REVIEW

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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!” That’s right. Too much of the same thing does enough to keep things watchable but it fails to match it’s predecessor.

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 making a great pairing. Inevitably, it fared well and a sequel was soon greenlit.

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 seemed to do what he has done for the last few seasons of Family Guy. If the jokes are running low, go for flat out disgusting or just plain 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 the first time. 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 for me 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 role.

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

Instead, we have Amanda Seyfried who more than holds her ground. 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 familiar 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 makes 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 BUT it was the same old guff just 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. Shame.

The court case went on far too long. If it wasn’t for Ted’s one liners, I would have been in a mini coma. Ted and Wahlberg’s John 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 incident in a sperm lab.

Disgusting, cringe but oh so funny! Where was this throughout the rest of the film? The main priority for me with this genre is the 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!

BUT the sequence in which Ted is looking for a sperm donor was very hit and miss. John’s incident and a cracking slogan for Facebook was brilliant. BUT then MacFarlance had to take it too far with the dimwitted duo seeking “super semen” from a renowned American sports celebrity. It was just weird. Overkill.

A Liam Neeson cameo involving a simple purchase of kids cereal was unexpected but superb! BUT then we had the endless bongs and smoking weed gags. They got old and old 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. 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

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PITCH PERFECT 2 REVIEW

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The Bellas are back. Prepare to get Pitch Slapped. (Delightful :/) Whether you’ll enjoy it this time around is another story.

After a humiliating performance at the Lincoln Center, the Barden Bellas enter an international competition that no American group has ever won in order to regain their status and right to perform.

Surprisingly, I actually didn’t mind the first film. I was “forced” to watch it (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). I’m not normally into things like this. Glee? No. PP was cheesy, OTT BUT funny and entertaining. Shame, lightning couldn’t strike twice.

It was watchable but it just didn’t quite hit the same notes that the first one did (Yeah, I made a musical based pun joke. Crushed it).

The heavily advertised opening didn’t get things going for me. If anything, there was too much going on. The acapella dance routine was manic. The choreography along with the bombardment of camera shots and angles made it all a little disorienting. There was a point to it by the end. But we had to endure several more sequences of it.

However, John (John Michael Higgins) and Gail (Elizabeth Banks) were back on fine form as the bitchy commentators. Higgins came out with some corkers straight off the bat.

A wardrobe malfunction with Fat Amy (Perfectly timed to a cover of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball) in front of the President of the United States (And no! Barack Obama was not in the film. They allowed shots of him) leads to the lovely ladies getting banned from performing. Aca-no way?

The film does pick up and was harmless enough. Anna Kendrick was still pretty good. Great voice. A lovely little singer. We join Beca as she finds her obligations torn between the Bellas and her internship at a record label.

Rebel Wilson was actually not as irritating or in the film as much as I thought. She won me over in Pitch Perfect and seemed to fare better when she improvised. An anagram of Becca and Chloe got an anecdote I didn’t expect. But some of the bigger gags and stunts involving her were too OTT, unnecessary and unfunny.

An unexpected romance between her and another character didn’t really make any sense and didn’t add any depth to her character. Shame. I won’t spoil anything but it was sloppy.

Skylar Astin was a missed presence. He had the charm and charisma but was reduced to only a few scenes. Obviously, his relationship with Beca was set up in the PP but there could have been potential for more drama as Beca tried to balance singing and producing.

In all honesty, they didn’t make much of the record producing angle either.

Beca’s Christmas jingle with Snoop Dogg. You read that, right? Christmas in June? Say what? Snoop was off the hook. For shiz- He was okay. I thought he was Snoop Lion now?

Keegan-Michael Key was highly unfunny as Beca’s record producer boss. An ongoing joke with his cousin as a runner was dead in the water after 30 seconds. He even went for the same nauseating joke my uncle used to pull at parties with the “I’ll keep forgetting your name and say something else” spiel. Hilarious. NOT!

There was a lazy boot camp sequence that seemed like nothing more than a ploy to get Anna Kamp back into the mix. The camping gags were so-so but there were so many missed opportunities. Instead we had Rebel Wilson doing an incredibly OTT love song across a lake that went on far too long. Okay, I had a guilty chuckle as a passing car decided to disturb Amy’s groove.

When it came to the actual singing, the film thankfully hits its stride. A mish-mesh of 80s pop hits, 90s jams and current singles were incorporated brilliantly into the stand-offs. The Bellas’ cover of the soundtrack’s main song ‘Flashlight’ by Jessie J was brill. I preferred it to the actual song.

Das Sound Machine were the much needed catalyst that got the best of the characters that seemed to be pushed into the background. The lazy German/US rivalry was old hat but it was still entertaining enough. Their performances were superb.

I couldn’t believe that Birgitte Hjort Sorensen from Borgen was in this as the head honcho. She couldn’t dance though, bless her. The playful exchanges between Beca and Kommissar were quite funny as the towering blonde goddess (What?) used her prowess to unsettle the “feisty fairy”. The random babble that Kendrick came out with was very hit and miss.

Funny after all the advertising, the World War reference wasn’t even included in the theatrical cut. Hmmm . . .

It just didn’t work as well. Some of the better supporting characters were barely in it or quickly thrown in out of desperation to get a quick titter (Come on, don’t laugh at that word). Some bits worked and I wasn’t bored. BUT others didn’t and it was actually what I expected the first time around. Unfunny, dreadfully cheesy and OTT.

Adam DeVine’s Bumper returned? Why? Were they desperate to make everything full circle? He was too tame after his arrogant turn in the first. Boring.

Benji (Ben Platt) came off really weird and annoying. I felt sorry for the chap in PP1. BUT this time, he did my nut in. Hailee Steinfeld wasn’t too bad as the Bella’s new recruit but she definitely tried to channel her inner Benji and to be honest, one of them was enough. She really did grate on my nerves.

There was a nice cameo from Katey Sagal as Steinfeld’s mum. But her role was nothing. We know she can sing. All she gets is a backing vocal in a small choir. A waste.

Hana Mae Lee was great! Her inaudible comments delivering the (much needed) laughs. Chrissie Fit’s sassy Latina Flo felt like a mish-mesh of Lilly and Fat Amy. We already have one weird girl coming out with weird stuff. Well, two if you count Amy. The border patrol gags were a little stereotypical and just not funny.

They tried too hard and it just didn’t quite come off. The songs saved the day and it wasn’t a bad debut from Banks. But I’m sorry.

Aca-scuse me but it’s a . . .

2.5/5

CHAPPIE REVIEW

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This didn’t make me a happy chappie.

BUT it wasn’t all bad.

Chappie is basically a What If film.

What if Johnny Five was alive and hanging around in a South African ghetto with Die Antwoord?

Your reaction to that statement will probably be the one you have when you see it.

For me, it was a return to form (of sorts) for Neill Blomkamp.

After the drab affair that was Elysium, I feared the worst for Blomkamp. Especially after rewarding us with such a promising debut and sleeper hit, District 9.

I’m still waiting for them to return, Mr Blomkamp!

So what’s it all about? In the near future, crime is patrolled by a mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie (Sharlto Copley) is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.

Hardly original. BUT for the first 30 minutes, I was switched on and hooked.

The inevitable talking head documentary intro that Blomkamp has grown accustomed to was unnecessary.

The quick introduction of the police bots and “Who’s Who?” kept things moving. Getting you straight into the thick of it.

The bots just reminded me of Robocop. Even their voices sounded like Peter Weller as they apprehended suspects. Granted, these upgrades were a lot more mobile.

The animation and special effects during the action sequences were fantastic.

BUT it’s not long before we’re introduced to a group of irritating street thugs and one unlucky police bot.

Die Antwoord? Where have you heard that name? They are responsible for the hit or travesty that was Enter The Ninja. Here’s a crash course for you.

Shudder.

It was a big risk to give a music act two of the more meatier roles. I respect Blomkamp for choosing South African talent BUT surely there were other contenders?

Yo-Landi Visser and Ninja didn’t do a bad job. It just didn’t help that one couldn’t act and the other’s character was so deluded and irritating, you were praying for Hugh’s Moose to crush him. (Wait, what? Steady now! I’ll get to that reference in two paragraphs).

The maternal moments between Chappie and Visser were done well but when it came to delivering any real lines with conviction, she fell short.

Ninja was such an unlikeable character. His deluded gangster ego was laughable. I’m sure that was Blomkamp’s intention but he was just so irritating. If he wasn’t yelling at Chappie, he was beating up Dev Patel.

Brandon Auret’s crime lord Hippo (A few animal names being thrown about) was ridiculous. It didn’t help that he was subtitled throughout the film. Even worse when you could understand every word the bloke was saying.

He played the nutter well enough. I think there was only one thug that deserved subtitling and that was because he was actually dipping in and out of English.

Jose Pablo Cantillo (Crank) was good as the appropriately titled character American.

The idea that a sentient robot is being raised by surrogate parents in the form of a trio of dysfunctional street thugs is hilarious.

It certainly had some funny moments. BUT also some shocking ones. His lessons on the world were interesting and well executed. However, if you were expecting something more serious and intense, you may be left wanting.

Blomkamp uses recurring stalwart Copley to provide his vocal gravitas to the mechanical messiah. And he is brilliant.

Chappie’s design looked great and his expressions were incredible. It was just the little things that made it for me. The little matrix dots that form eyes on Chappie’s visors, his mismatching ears made up of various parts, the irritating bling around his neck.

I liked that he had to learn like he was a child. His cowering behind walls, watching He-Man and being read story books were nice little touches.

Dev Patel played the part of Chappie’s maker Deon well. It was just annoying when his character seemed to keep disappearing for good chunks of the film. Merely popping up to reiterate exposition or when everything seemed to kick off.

Sigourney Weaver isn’t looking too shabby at 65 and she played the corporate drone as well as she could. BUT all she did was pout and moan at either Deon or Vincent. A waste of a talented actress.

Bar one cracking line delivered with Weaver’s conviction (Burn it to ASH!), you realise by the closing credits that her character was pointless.

Hugh Jackman, uh, well. He did his best. BUT his character was such a tool (Putting it mildly) that I couldn’t take him seriously.

All he did was monologue. Providing a running commentary of everything he was doing while donning the Steve Irwin look. “Shall I execute this program? Yes, I will. What is he doing? Where is he going? I’m going to follow him”.

Alright, mate. Inside voice, yeah?

He was so comical. It was cringeworthy. I was more afraid of his robo counterpart. The Moose. It was ED-209. Only it could fly and shoot missiles. So stairs won’t be a problem any more.

It’s racy, action packed, funny and the closing moments certainly surprised and disappointed at the same time.

In typical Blomkamp fashion, the ending leaves things a little . . .

District fans will know where I’m heading with this. If you don’t, I’m not going to spoil it. Some clever little twists certainly surprised me BUT it still came to an abrupt end.

The problem that Elysium had was that it was too serious. Chappie was too comical and at times for the wrong reasons. District 9 had that balance perfectly.

This hasn’t put me off the rumoured Alien reboot that Blomkamp is supposed to be directing.

If you’re expecting super serious bot on bot action, I recommend Terminator or Robocop. But if you’ve read my review and are still intrigued, then give it a go. It ain’t all bad.

3/5

BIG EYES REVIEW

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Tim Burton goes back to basics with one of his most conventional films to date.

With mixed results but it’s still worth a watch.

Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz were superb. They had good chemistry and played the roles with aplomb.

So what’s it about? Big Eyes is a drama about the awakening of painter Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband (Christoph Waltz), who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.

The cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel delivered a sunny glossy feel and complimented the tone of the film perfectly.

I was surprised that Burton had directed this. It’s so . . . normal.

Beneath the surface of Burton’s wacky and macabre collections were conventional stories BUT it was always the fantastical elements that stood out for me. Edward Scissorhands being a perfect example.

Granted. The last few efforts from Burton have been lacklustre to say the least. Alice in Wonderland was fun BUT missed the mark and Dark Shadows . . . Well.

Don’t get me started. You know you’re onto a loser when not even the legendary Johnny Depp can save the day.

This is a return of sorts with two cracking leads and an interesting biopic.

I wasn’t familiar with Margaret Keane but I was with her work.

The opening was easy going and zipped along as we follow Keane and her daughter as they try and start again. I think it helps to have a little context.

Back in the 50s, a divorce was a taboo subject. And then to have a woman try and apply for a job that wasn’t a typist or secretary, well get out of town.

We see Keane’s struggle as she tries to earn some income to keep a roof over her daughter’s head, while practicing her craft.

Danny Huston’s (X Men Origins: Wolverine) journo voice over was a little irritating. Talented an actor he may be. I found his presence unnecessary by the closing minutes. Merely a reference point to confirm that certain scenes happened.

All he did was spell things out that we already knew or were about to discover. A pointless character if I’m frank.

Adams’ Southern drawl was a little disjointed to start with but she soon adjusts to the role and delivers another solid performance.

Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad) was very good as Margaret’s sassy BFF DeeAnn. To be honest, I wanted more of her. (Steady now!)

Her supporting role was too small. She instantly made an impression and I was hoping for more of a clash between her and Waltz’s Walter. Her intuition sensing that something wasn’t right from the get go.

Waltz and Adams worked well together and made a good pairing. It certainly made the predictable union a lot more bearable.

It was interesting to see how a little white lie to sell one street painting became a decade long charade.

Waltz played the snake charmer that was Walter brilliantly.

The whole debate that a painting wouldn’t sell if the artist was female was crazy. And not completely unbelievable back in the 50s.

BUT Margaret’s one moment of hesitance soon became a prison sentence. Reduced to painting in the loft or being locked away in a private studio adjoined to their expensive villa to hide their secret.

There were a few twists that crept out of the woodwork. One I wanted explaining a little more. The sudden bombshell that Walter had another child from a former marriage wasn’t really covered.

Merely pulled out to break up the lull that this film seemed to be heading in.

Another twist was a little predictable but the discovery was still intriguing enough.

Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore) was funny as the snobby art dealer who snubbed Keane’s works and continued to do so even when it was a hit! Again, not enough of him. A mere cameo.

Waltz was able to balance the volatile behaviour of Walter very well. A smooth talker one second, an explosive drunkard the next.

Terence Stamp played the cynical art cynic as well as he could but he was merely the catalyst to antagonize Walter and push Margaret to realise (at last) that her dream man wasn’t all he cracked up to be.

The child actors that were hired to play Margaret’s daughters left a little to be desired.

My mum may be hard of hearing BUT even I couldn’t decipher what Madeleine Arthur (The Tomorrow People) was mumbling about. Understandably this was Margaret’s story but they were very one dimensional.

When Margaret decides to come clean, the drama does heat up BUT I felt certain moments went a little off kilter.

Margaret’s sudden religious awakening didn’t really come off as well as I think it was supposed to.

The appeal of living a life telling the truth certainly spurred her to take legal action but it came off a little hammy. If that is what happened then I can’t pick at it too much BUT it did feel a little disjointed.

The court case in the final minutes was a little too comical. The tone seemed to go all over the place. I felt Waltz was allowed a little too much freedom and his one man prosecution act was incredibly OTT and didn’t fit with the film.

And inevitably, the trial verdict soon relied on one vital piece of evidence with a predictable and flat outcome.

The contents of this biopic and the tone was something I expected to see more in a TV movie.

I also felt that Burton was restricted in applying his magic. The supermarket sequence in which Margaret sees everyone with BIG EYES was more along the lines of what I hoped. Similar to the vein of Big Fish.

It’s not all bad. It’s well acted and highly watchable.

A return of sorts for Burton. It gives me a little more hope for the (needless) live action remake of Dumbo.

3/5

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

INTO THE WOODS REVIEW

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Into the scrap heap? There’s only one way to find out.

This mixed bag of a macabre musical will certainly split audiences but I actually didn’t mind it.

(Said the guy who reviewed the Annie remake a few weeks ago)

I’m not a big musical fan BUT I’ve dabbled in the odd one or two. The classics; The King and I, The Sound of Music (Man points dropping with each title), Moulin Rouge (What?) and now Into The Woods.

I didn’t realise that this was adapted from a successful Broadway musical. So unfortunately I won’t be able to make comparisons.

Rob Marshall, the man who brought us the excellent Chicago and . . .  Nine, takes on another musical. With mixed results.

So what’s it all about? A witch (Meryl Streep) tasks a childless baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree.

The cast, bar one exception, were excellent. All perfectly chosen for their roles.

Meryl Streep proves once again why she is the best actress going, earning yet another Oscar nomination (and rightly so). I had forgotten what a great voice she had. I know! She was in Mamma Mia! But let’s be honest, that was a mess. Fun but a mess.

The sound of Pierce Brosnan’s “singing” voice will haunt my dreams forever. BUT that’s another story.

Anyway, Streep was superb and no uncontrollable arm waving this time.

She played The Witch with aplomb. Stealing every scene and singing some belters. Not enough of her.

Her closing song, “Last Midnight” was brilliantly done but her dramatic exit was a little unexpected and a bit abrupt. Which pretty sums up the last 20 minutes of the film.

After his turn in Horrible Bosses 2, I knew Chris Pine would be up for a laugh. His performance as Prince Charming was very good.

Especially during the “Agony” song. Pine and Billy Magnusson’s sing-off poked fun at the Disney prince archetype. Pine ripping his shirt off to show his muscles, Magnusson hitting the higher notes while trying to puff out his chest and flex. Hilarious.

Anna Kendrick was (to be expected) very good as Cinders. I knew she could sing after her performance in Pitch Perfect.

The opening prologue certainly got things going and introduced all the characters perfectly.

Daniel Huttlestone irritated the hell out of me in Les Miserables. A french peasant with a ridiculous cockney accent. You what? However he surprised me as Jack. Still a Cockney but it worked this time round.

Tracey Ullman (Where has she been?) was funny as Jack’s mother. Slapping him round the head in worry, hugging him the next.

Emily Blunt was fantastic (And what a voice!) as the Baker’s wife. James Corden was also brilliant. They had great chemistry and made a loveable couple.

The Baker couple were part of an original story line. It was clever how they reworked and incorporated some of the most popular fairy tales with their story line using the woods as the meeting point.

It didn’t cover too much of the same ground with the fairy tales we all love and know.

It merely showed each character returning to the woods after a pivotal moment in their story line i.e. Jack coming down the beanstalk with the gold egg, Cinderella running away from the prince, etc.

The Rapunzel story line didn’t really amount to anything. If not for Streep and Magnusson, it would have been completely unnecessary.

A revelation quite early on in the film involving her story line had so much potential but wasn’t never mentioned again or resolved. A missed opportunity. Mackeznie Mauzy certainly looked fantastic but didn’t really do much. I don’t think she even sang.

To be honest, if it wasn’t for Tangled, there would have been some serious plot holes for people not familiar with her story. (Man points gone!)

Johnny Depp had the easiest role going as the Wolf. He played it to perfection with his Bowie-esque voice.

But the song he sang. Hmmm . . . “Hey Little Girl” really made him sound quite lechy. If it wasn’t the fact that it was the Wolf singing about eating Little Red Riding Hood, it would have been a little unsettling.

Lilla Crawford had a fantastic little voice but I found her really irritating as Little Red. I mean I think Sondheim was deliberately portraying her as a little brat but she really did grate against me.

The film zipped along and kept things going but an hour and 30 minutes in, I wondered how much further this could go and with another 40-odd minutes, I could feel my attention wavering.

The songs were starting to go on a little bit and were not quite as gripping or as memorable. Don’t get me wrong, they were sang to perfection but hardly “The Hills Are Alive”.

What baffled and surprised me was how the film’s final act took such an unexpected turn. It flips everything up in the air with the stories veering away from their intended happy endings. The woods again being the brewing pot.

There were a few surprises to be had and I respected it’s attempt. It was actually a bit darker than I expected for Disney.

BUT it also left things a little too unresolved and ended abruptly with people disappearing with no explanation or a passing comment.

For all the bad press, I actually didn’t mind it. Not the best musical I’ve seen but a nice relief after the barrage of bilge I’ve had to endure this week.

3/5

ANNIE REVIEW

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I think I’m going to like it here. Well, I didn’t like this.

A needless remake of a classic musical. OTT, ridiculously cheesy and to make it all worse, it was just rubbish.

From the opening musical number with the sassy Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) making all the class clap and stomp in tune (The front row the rich, the rest of the class poor) I was cringing. I believe a face palm may have occurred.

Really, Hollywood? An urban take on Annie. On paper, I thought why not? There hasn’t been one BUT rehashing the classics badly with auto-tune? This could have been an opportunity to make a statement on foster care or the social care system under the veil of song but no, no, no.

A poor rehashing of the same old story line that felt even more dated and hammy than the original.

The music wasn’t bad but the “Hard Knock Life” remixed with “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” didn’t do it for me. I felt the choice of Hard Knock Life was a little lazy considering one (of a long list) of the producers was Jay Z.

The whole spring cleaning routine to it was choreographed well but it just didn’t work. “The City’s Yours” sung by Jamie Foxx and “Opportunity” by Wallis were very good.

I did warm up to Wallis by the end but I found her a little annoying and too headstrong for my liking. Look at me, I sound like an old man. But something just didn’t sit right until she was paired up with Foxx. They worked well together and made the predictable cheesy relationship a little more bearable.

Foxx delivered on the singing. Of course, he would. The man won an Oscar for Ray BUT his character Will Stacks was almost a caricature. A deluded politician out of touch with the people.

Hardly original but guzzling hand sanitizer after touching and kissing a few voters? Spitting food at the homeless? Too OTT for my liking.

The auto-tuning video of said food flinging incident did get a chuckle.

Cameron Diaz overacted to the max. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a musical but I couldn’t take her seriously as the volatile foster parent, Hannigan. I winced every time she came on wailing at the kids.

The conviction wasn’t there and she annoyed the hell out of me. That was until she sang. When she first started, I thought “Bloody hell” (Well there might have been a few other choice words) but as the song carried on, her voice got better.

And credit where it’s due. She hadn’t got a bad singing voice. One actress I wouldn’t have minded hearing sing a little more was Rose Byrne. In the scenes she supported, she had a nice voice.

I would have preferred to hear more of that than her long winded stereotypical Oxford talk about being a workaholic and having no friends. That was irritating.

Look, I know musicals are always exaggerated and in your face BUT normally you can switch off and be immersed in it. And that is because as much as the songs stand out, the characters do too but I felt they strung any old cliched character together and just thought “It’s a musical, they’ll love it”.

Let’s not forget Glee is going. The musicals losing their magic once again.

There were watchable parts and the pace zipped along for its two hour length. You could tell the cast were having fun and there were scenes where you got caught up in it NOT just poking fun at it.

The cast choices surprised me. They sung very well even if the reworkings were a little hit and miss. I think I’m Going To Like It Here wasn’t bad, bar Stephanie Kurtzuba’s ridiculous impromptu social worker performance. She did my nut in.

The cameos were a little random. Patricia Clarkson (The Maze Runner) as a focus group member suffering bad side effects after using one of Stack’s phones fell flat on it’s backside. Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje (Mr Echo from Lost) was nothing more than a smiling chauffeur. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

David Zayas (Dexter) didn’t do too bad with his flower shop mope role with a vendetta against the powers that be. Michael J. Fox popping up in a satirical PR campaign segment was a clever touch.

A mermaid movie premiere that ripped off Twilight involving Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher and Rihanna wasn’t bad. It certainly poked fun at the guff that makes money these days.

BUT the rest of the actual movie was just like it!

Bobby Cannavale was on scene stealing form until the last 15 minutes of the movie. Boardwalk Empire’s Gyp Rosetti singing and dancing?! Madness. His song and dance number with Diaz did leave a little to be desired.

But the whole PR campaign in which they used Annie as a marketing tool was a good little bit of satire. Shame there wasn’t more of that to make up for the lifeless characters. Cannavale’s ruthless PR executive certainly kept things moving.

Some of his one liners were spot on; “There have been worst politicians. I know. I got them elected. Schwarzenegger, Kim Jong-Il, that blood diamond guy”. It got one of a few chuckles.

The story was weak. Little orphan looking for parents that left her. Befriending a man out of touch and out of love. Finding each other. Yawnnn.

Plus the plot holes were terrible. Annie sings about the note left by her parents. BUT then later on, reveals she can’t read?! What?!

Granted. Someone could have told her what it said. It would have been more of a twist if the note actually said something else. OR if all the sub-plotting and twists weren’t revealed in song. Seriously you knew everything that was about to happen. Would have been nice to have a little mystery.

Still would have been predictable BUT something.

The film ended so frantically and cheesily that I was shaking my head. All logic out the window for a racy finish. It was stupid. BUT no worries. Throw in some schmaltzy dialogue and a few jazz hands and everything will be okay.

Shudder.

It will be a while before the sun will come out on messy musicals like this. Not a complete write off. There will be enough for the little ‘uns and the hardcore musical maniacs who are not deterred by this review. Sorry, it’s a no from me.

2/5