Rules Don’t Apply

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Release: Wednesday, November 23, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Warren Beaty

Directed by: Warren Beaty

Toothaches. Internet trolls. Airport pat-downs. These are but a few things that grate on the nerves less than Warren Beaty’s new film.

In Rules Don’t Apply, an ambitious driver tries to make it with a devout Baptist and aspiring actress who in turn tries to make it with Howard Hughes. That’s THE Howard Hughes — aviator, film producer, and eccentric. Guess how that turns out? Really, really freaking annoying — that’s how. “O Lord in Heaven.” (Just to be clear, the religious overtones perpetuated throughout aren’t what make the film a chore to sit through, though they don’t really help.)

Beaty sort of applies the rules established by the Coen brothers in this off-beat, often bizarre and off-putting ‘romantic comedy.’ It has their comedic tastes written all over it, figuratively speaking. If it actually had been written by them, Rules Don’t Apply would surely have been better off. It’s farcical, at times to the point of slapstick and in many ways evokes the Coens’ most recent effort Hail, Caesar! IronicallyI considered that one of their lesser outputs despite its strengths, namely a nostalgia for the Golden Era of Hollywood. Beaty, serving as writer, director, co-producer and star, similarly pines for the days of the Big Studio System. In fact there is more romance in his lust for a paradise long since lost than in any of the character interactions.

In 1958 Marla Mabry (Lily Collins), a Bible-thumping beauty queen hailing from Virginia, is being escorted by Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), along with her uptight mother Lucy (Annette Bening), who has come along to help ensure her daughter doesn’t lose herself in the madness that is Hollywood. O Lord in Heaven. Frank, a chauffeur for Hughes’ many actresses, becomes Marla’s personal driver. He’s given explicit instructions to never get into a romantic affair with any contract actor working for Hughes, so of course that means he is about to get into a romantic affair with a contract actor working for Hughes. It is Matthew Broderick’s sole responsibility to keep reminding the youngster of company policy.

Broderick is but one of many tumbleweeds that wheel haphazardly, aimlessly, through the desolate wasteland of entertainment that this ultimately becomes: Ed Harris, Steve Coogan, Oliver Platt, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Paul Schneider and the aforementioned Annette Bening all feature but collectively must account for fewer screen minutes than the number of names I just rattled off. Hard to believe there were no other up-and-coming talents that could have fulfilled such bit parts. Hell of an egotistical move to feature so many accomplished thespians and give them a single line of dialogue at a dinner table, for example. Blink and you’ll miss Steve Coogan as Colonel Doesn’t Even Matter.

We are in a time when Hughes is not well. His increasingly erratic behavior is sending up all kinds of flags indicating he is neither fit to be running a company nor flying aircraft. Infamously the entrepreneur suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and pain as related to a plane crash that nearly killed him. He became reclusive and extremely difficult to work with. If there’s anything Rules does well, it’s in laying out the numerous eccentricities that made him a true enigma in his latter years. Much of the narrative is devoted to keeping Hughes in the shadows, the short-term effect of which manifests in Marla’s mother bailing for greener pastures while her daughter stays to see if something will come of it. The long term effect? Leave that to Ehrenreich’s loyal terrier.

If indicators of a good performance include how often a character gives you conniption fits, consider Beaty’s an Oscar-worthy submission. As an interminable two-hour running time plods ever onward his baffling behavior intensifies, notably in the third act — incidentally where all sense of narrative cohesion goes out the window. In some weird way Beaty’s performance is the glue that holds the flimsy bits together. Ehrenreich doesn’t fare quite as well. Frank has the personality of a brick, and his devotion to such a lunatic boggles the mind. Perhaps you, too, will find yourself shouting at the screen in an empty theater. Maybe even an occupied one. No one really comes out of this smelling like roses, but unfortunately Collins is saddled with one of the most thoroughly unconvincing character arcs I’ve seen in some time. I could go into spoilers but I’m so not interested. Suffice it to say, I think Beaty has misinterpreted what the expression ‘devout Baptist’ means.

The longer I sit on this, the more I’m convinced Beaty’s latest owes a great deal to Hail, Caesar! Substantively the two films are quite different — whereas Caesar delineated a day-in-the-life of a Hollywood studio fixer, Rules tackles a love triangle involving two people who really don’t belong together and a Hollywood luminary who uses the actress as a loophole to avoid being committed to an asylum, and thus losing his company. But if we’re talking the tangibles, the sorts of tricks the Coens used to obfuscate a fairly poor screenplay that lacked depth and any real meaning — ensemble casts, picturesque cinematography/iconic imagery — the two seem kindred spirits.

Beaty’s intentions are good. They’re also clear. Rules is another love letter to an era long passed. The man has crafted a picture with love and care, evidenced in the pastel sunsets he captures and the warm color palette that makes Beverly Hills glow in an ethereal light. And there’s something compelling about the way he presents Hughes as a very tragic character. But he’s no fun to be around, and his increasing prominence in the story makes the film very hard to like.

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2-0Recommendation: Perhaps this is one of those cases where a film’s substance becomes so overwhelmingly unpleasant and ultimately forgettable that it obscures the product’s legitimate strengths. But the film also suffers from a dearth of issues from a filmmaking standpoint. Poor editing, terrible character development and a rather convoluted plot all work against it. Also, watch out for that 42% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Just saying . . .

Rated: R

Running Time: 127 mins.

Quoted: “You’re an exception. The rules don’t apply to you.”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

The Disappointments Room

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Release: Friday, September 9, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: D.J. Caruso; Wentworth Miller

Directed by: D.J. Caruso

I would be more upset about the way this anti-thrilling psychological thriller turned out but I brought this upon myself. I knew what Rotten Tomatoes had said about it. I knew no one was talking about it. No one was in the theater with me when I saw it. Part of me (the masochistic part of me that really needs help) was curious to see why. Would it be worth the six smackaroonies I put down apologetically at the box office?

The Disappointments Room is a bad title for an even worse film. It references a kind of holding cell that was established by early 19th Century well-to-do families who needed a place to stow away their ‘undesirables’ — their hopelessly disfigured, ugly and otherwise lame offspring they couldn’t possibly bring themselves to publicly acknowledge. Left alone for years on end, these children would ultimately perish in isolation, their spirits left to haunt that room and the house. Ironically that title also represents truth in advertising, when director D.J. Caruso (I Am Number Four; Disturbia) really needed something more . . . misleading, like The So-Spooky-You-Just-Have-To-Watch-It Room.

Young couple Dana (Kate Beckinsale) and David (Mel Raido) have left Brooklyn with their son Lucas (Duncan Joiner) for a fresh start in the countryside after a traumatic event left them reeling. Dana’s an architect and wants everyone in town to know that women are perfectly capable of being architects, and that she is planning to bring her sharp eye for architectural detail to the mansion she and her family have just architecturally moved into. The place is a real fixer-upper, and of course it has an urban legend attached to it, because why wouldn’t it? Blacker Manor, as it is known around this podunk community, is the site of an infamous murder of a daughter by her own father, the prominent Judge Blacker (Gerald McRaney).

As they get settled and Dana the Architect inspects the property for things that need attention, she comes across a locked room in an attic. She’s alarmed this feature wasn’t included in the building schematic and wants to find out what it is, architecturally speaking, of course, especially after she briefly gets trapped inside it — one of several remarkably poorly executed sequences that leaves you scratching the architecture of your head. Dana has a certain history — as all women in horror films must have — that leads her down a path filled with weird hallucinations and disconcerting encounters. Beckinsale’s poor performance doesn’t help matters, but the character is an utter bore as she tries to convince David something is wrong with the house.

There’s no end to the clichés in The Disappointments Room. The execution is ruthlessly rote, a problem compounded by some really clumsy, confusing directing. One can never get a good sense of what is supposed to be “the ultimate terror” lurking in the darkness of that depressing, dusty room because the filmmakers seem to have no faith in their ability to create something fresh from old scraps. There’s a theoretical parallel drawn between Dana’s tragic past and the history of this mansion, but the lack of confidence behind the camera translates to a lack of confidence in front of it. Beckinsale simply could not make me care. Then there’s the subplot involving a local construction worker that fizzles out as though the writer forgot to finish the draft.

The production is, in a word, a mess. I was able to get into the spirit of things early on despite the ache of familiarity setting in almost immediately. There’s an intimacy amongst these characters and I appreciated the understated manner in which this couple tries to adjust to their new surroundings — you know, the kind that often contributes mightily to any given character’s vulnerable psychological state. And Raido has great chemistry with his diminutive co-star, fully selling us on his fatherly bond and thankfully he also carries an optimism that contrasts against Beckinsale’s unconvincing aloofness.

I don’t think Caruso had any pressure riding on him to conjure the next genre classic, though surely horror directors these days have a heightened awareness of the increasing availability of effective, niched independent releases that have necessarily upped the ante for the genre as a whole. There’s nothing really to bash about a film being average and forgettable when it is enjoyable. The Disappointments Room didn’t need to do anything crazy, but it needed to do more than this. The only thing worse than identifying myself as the only patron to see this film that day was the stench of regret that followed me as I walked out of an empty cineplex.

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Recommendation: Considering all that is on offer with the advent of independent horror, I would have to say there is very little reason to go near The Disappointments Room unless you are a completionist. There’s simply not enough interesting material here to recommend. And if you want further proof, the review you’ll find at the bottom of this film’s IMDb page is excellent, and better sums up my thoughts on this rig than my own.

Rated: R

Running Time: 92 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Special Correspondents

'Special Correspondents' movie poster

Release: Friday, April 29, 2016 (Netflix)

[Netflix]

Written by: Ricky Gervais

Directed by: Ricky Gervais 

I’m suspicious of any movie that literally ends with the line “This is like the end of a movie.” While exemplary of the meta flavor of comedy that’s been en vogue since at least the mid-2000s, that line is also symptomatic of a bigger issue: the movie it’s stuck in is atrocious.

Sure, that’s pretty brutal. But what’s more brutal is the thought that, should I hold my tongue, I might just bite it off and swallow. How is Ricky Gervais’ most recent palavering, the media-jabbing comedy Special Correspondents, this unfunny? Disregard the pedigree of pure comedy behind the camera and the script, how can a movie be this devoid of logic, coherence, entertainment value and, oh yeah did I mention logic? One of the ways you can get there I suppose is by concocting the following nonsense:

A radio journalist (Eric Bana) and his technician (Gervais) fake their coverage of a war erupting in Ecuador by hiding in the loft of a restaurant adjacent to the very station they work at in Manhattan. They can see through concealed windows they’re even on the same floor as their offices. This is as opposed to actually traveling abroad to do their jobs. Are they just feckless, ethically challenged professionals looking for a fancy way to get fired? Gervais doesn’t think that big. No, his character just accidentally throws their passports away. Proving at the very least they are unburdened by the weight of journalistic integrity and basic human morality, the pair feign a serious news report that ultimately culminates in a nationwide fundraising effort in the name of the two radio guys who went suddenly missing behind borders.

Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross claims — and bear with me here for a second — that most people, as they go through the grieving process, deny first and will eventually come to accept later. But in trying to process the immense pile of fuckery that has been put before me, I think the mission is far more do-able if we work backwards through the Five Stages. First, let’s address how inane a concept Special Correspondents is working with. The absurdity and lack of forethought, the sheer number of loopholes and contrivances that are needed to make the story work is difficult to accept, even by Gervaisian standards. So difficult, in fact, it’s impossible. The constant provocation of the suspension of disbelief is alarmingly thin cover for a director who doesn’t know how to tell a story.

Moving on past acceptance — which likely won’t be reached but let’s go with this anyway — we arrive at depression. This is actually dually appropriate given Gervais’ character is somewhat of a depressed mope whose marriage to the pretty awful Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) is a sham, and it’s depressing how bad Bana is in his role. Overacting as though his first day on the job, Bana’s Frank is either yelling incoherently at Gervais’ bumbling, nervous Ian or he’s generally being an ass just to be an ass. There’s a modicum of refreshment in watching the roles reverse, as Gervais goes nice and his co-star hams it up like John Ratzenberger in Toy Story. Most depressing of all, the movie turns Farmiga, a highly likable actress, into a gold-digging shrew of a woman absolutely devoid of redeeming qualities.

Bargaining. What can we bargain with here, then? I’ll concede that Special Correspondents strikes the right tone for what Gervais is going for: it’s as silly as the plot is ridiculous. Supporting turns from America Ferrara and Raúl Castillo as a pair of hospitable Latino immigrants help perpetuate the willy-nilly, carefree zippity-doo-dah. How do these two exactly expect this all to work out — like it did for Orson Welles? Will they become the heroes of their own fiction? I’m also willing to bargain with folks who think I’m dwelling too much on logical cohesion. Fair enough, I probably am. After all, it’s just comedy.

The talent that’s theoretically on display is enough to make a reasonable person who doesn’t throw away passports by mistake assume Special Correspondents delivers the laughs in spades. Barring some amusing exchanges between the two — basically whenever Ian does something Frank doesn’t like — the film is a poor effort on that front as well.  If you’re seeking Gervais’ raging Britishness (or that signature laugh) you’ll be left out in the cold. That’s enough to make me angry, and one step closer to fully cycling through this very difficult, very unusual grieving process. Someone help, because I know what comes next.

There’s some sort of socio-political commentary pasted in here about how we, the blind sheep of the American populace, form these relationships with the media and hang on their every word. Overreaction is an epidemic in a plugged-in society and David Fincher was brilliantly attuned to that in his recent Gone Girl adaptation. Of course it wasn’t really funny then, nor is it in other cinematic treatments of these curious societal habits of ours. But Gervais is simply not making any accurate statement about society, about the way media deals with hot button topics like securing American troops and journalists in peril. His is not a movie made to wake you up but rather to dumb you down. To not be aware of its massively underachieving status is to be in a true state of denial.

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Recommendation: Painfully inadequate on all fronts, the only real laughs inspired by the misguided, nonsensical plot and awkward direction, Special Correspondents suggests that perhaps the mouthy Brit should apply his talents to other areas — like in resurrecting David Brent. Why not stick with acting? I’m hoping there’s more to him that I can discover beyond his Office personality, because I like the guy and want to get the taste of this one out of my mouth as soon as possible.

Rated: NR

Running Time: 100 mins.

Quoted: “It’s quiet. Too quiet. In the sky, combat helicopters stop. An explosion rings out. My own technician has another near-miss. A bullet flies *inches* above his head. Lucky for him he’s so short, or he’d most certainly be dead by now. This is Frank Bonneville, Q63.5 News.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed, written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com

The Do-Over

'The Do Over' movie poster

Release: Friday, May 27, 2016 (Netflix)

[Netflix]

Written by: Kevin Barnett; Chris Pappas

Directed by: Steven Brill

I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again.

I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. They are terrible and unfunny. It’s only kind of funny if you think about Sandler using that pistol to put whatever’s left of his career out of its misery.

I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. There is zero acting in this movie. Cero. Nada.

I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. In this one, he (Max) and his friend (Charlie) fake their own deaths so they can escape their depressing current lives, for good. I wish Adam Sandler and David Spade faked their own deaths and they’d go be something different somewhere else.

I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. Paula Patton is seriously incredible looking in this movie though. Oh, that was a weird type-o. That was supposed to say something about how badly this film failed the Bechdel Test.

I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. I will never be duped by another Adam Sandler movie again. Can I take the last hour and forty-whatever-minutes, and have a Do-Over? For the love of god man.

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Recommendation: You know what? It’s really painful to watch talent just go completely to Justin Bieber-levels of waste. If Adam Sandler doesn’t want to try, I’m not going to either.

Rated: NR

Running Time: way too long

Quoted: “What was so terrible about your life that you wanted a whole new one?”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.joblo.com; http://www.imdb.com

Hellions

 

Release: Friday, September 18, 2015 (limited)

[Netflix]

Written by: Pascal Trottier

Directed by: Bruce McDonald

So if your ‘Netflix-and-chill’ night ever came down to a choice between sitting in total awkward silence and putting on a movie called Hellions, you’d be better off trying your luck with complete silence. Go ahead, make it as uncomfortable as possible by broaching the subject of how awkward it is to sit in silence like this. Your date may think you’re weird but, hey, you’ve just saved the evening from total ruination.

You do this because you appreciate them enough to not make them suffer through Hellions, a massively overproduced home invasion thriller that boils down to a teen defending herself against some psychotic trick-or-treaters who come a-knockin,’ but not for candy. Dora (Chloe Rose) is your typically moody 17-year-old stuck at home alone Halloween night. She has plans to have a quiet night at home with her boyfriend but her mom isn’t so cool with that, man.

Mom’s going to be taking Dora’s younger brother out trick-or-treating so she won’t be able to keep an eye on her. That doesn’t stop her from contradictorily encouraging her daughter to go out and “have fun tonight.” (Oh, she will! But she ain’t going out.) Within a few minutes of being by herself Dora’s already texting her boy-toy, wondering whether they’re still going to that party or not. Then, a knock at the door. Rather than the handsome mug of the teen we’re expecting it to be, we’re greeted by a pretty evil-looking little tyke who seems to forget it’s customary to say “trick-or-treat” at the door on All Hallow’s Eve. After some substantial tension Dora sends the kid away, a little taken aback by both the mask and his odd behavior.

A couple more near-wordless scenes succeed in further quickening your pulse as Dora starts noticing kids standing in groups on all sides of the house, as if in preparation for an organized attack. Still no word from her boyfriend and it’s getting dark outside. Oh, how ignorance is bliss, for what ensues in the next half of the film (all of maybe 40 minutes) is nothing short of bizarre — not the kind of bizarre that gives horror a good name but the kind that becomes really difficult to watch, physically difficult.

What begins as a relatively compelling assault on the house by a group of kids with mischief in mind devolves into a patently absurd mix of poorly-conceived supernatural and demonic elements that makes Hellions next to impossible to categorize as either. Is this some kind of supernatural event this Blood Moon, or are the kids a bunch of evil E.T.’s? Then the mind starts to really wander: ‘What is a ‘hellion?’ Is that like a balloon? No, now I’m thinking about helium.’ Turns out, it’s a term of endearment for a misbehaving child. Or in this case, child actors instructed to wear a variety of freaky masks and superimposed (badly) against a pixelated, apocalyptic background.

I guess this is the part where I probably should say Dora has recently discovered she’s four weeks pregnant (gasp, she’s only seventeen!). Why’s this important? As it so happens, this is what the children have come for. They’re looking for a blood sacrifice, as they presumably do every year, and Dora’s the lucky victim. I can hear you saying now: ‘but the baby’s only four weeks old!’ Yes, that’s true. But this is pregnancy on steroids, you see, as the child fully develops within the span of the movie, subjecting the mother (or is it more politically correct to call her the host?) to all kinds of misery while her house is under siege. And the evil that’s outside will not go away until they get what they’ve come for.

On the surface, it’s not a bad premise. I can think of few things more unsettling than complicated pregnancy, and when you start talking about the potential of it being inhuman, well that’s just. . . . Also noted: the involvement of mostly child actors as the collective evil force is an inspired twist. Their speaking parts aren’t demanding, all they really do is repeat her name in a collective eerie chant that vaguely recalls Rosemary’s Baby, but their presence is certainly felt and one of the strengths of the film. But as time winds on, even they become lost in another CGI mess that’s as ugly as it is uninteresting.

You know how some movies become great fun when the poor quality and execution eventually give way to unintentional comedy, the kind of B-movie that you play drinking games during? Yeah, well this isn’t one of those. This is just horror botched. The problem is more fundamental than that even: it’s botched storytelling. It’s botched filmmaking.

Though not for a lack of creativity. If there’s anything Hellions proves it’s that the filmmakers — or I should say, whoever oversaw the final cut — were pretty creative in trying to cover up the glaring fact that the story is rather anorexic. All kinds of visual wizardry is put to ‘good’ use, not least of which being some seriously ill-advised music video-esque CGI that turns the picture shades of red and blue; several sequences are sliced, diced and recycled in a concerted effort to confuse and confound; a cacophony of loud noises and the aforementioned chants lay the psychological fuckery on thick, in case everything else hasn’t.

'Hellions'

Recommendation: Hellions is the epitome of style over substance and a great example of how badly that flaw can detract from a director’s vision. It’s okay if you rely on some style to complement a certain mood or atmosphere that can’t be achieved any other way, but when the style becomes the only thing viewers notice, you’ve gone a bit too far. Hellions goes several feet too far. Unfortunately there’s really not much here to recommend to genre fans or those looking for something random on Netflix. I’d go with something else. 

Rated: NR

Running Time: 80 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com; http://www.horrordrome.com

The Brothers Grimsby

'The Brothers Grimsby' movie poster

Release: Friday, March 11, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Sacha Baron Cohen; Phil Johnston; Peter Baynham

Directed by: Louis Leterrier

There’s something about Sacha Baron Cohen that really makes you feel like a complete idiot. He’s become really good at that because here I went, blinded by my own boredom, to a screening where I was the only viewer and thinking, ‘Okay, this might be fun. At least I can laugh obnoxiously loud and not think twice when something actually funny happens.’ The joke was on me, an idiot.

The Brothers Grimsby is, to put it nicely, Cohen’s own Mortdecai; it’s the stinkiest, lamest, dumbest release so far this year and like Johnny Depp’s misguided attempt at mocking the English, it marks another point of no return. While it was naïve to think that Brüno would be the nadir of the career of one of England’s great embarrassments, that movie was pretty terrible — Brüno not Mortdecai, although yes, very much Mortdecai as well — and it set quite a low bar regarding the efforts a movie should make in entertaining or offering escapement.

But what Louis Leterrier et al don’t seem to understand is that that’s not the kind of bar you play limbo with; the goal is not to see how low you can go. Lo and behold, they deliver a revolting mess of a comedy that uses bodily fluids as both literal and figurative lubricant to make up for the script’s refusal to do any of the work. There’s one scene in particular that’s offensive and sums up almost everything that is wrong with not only this film but the entire subculture of sadistically gross-out comedy. Those poor fucking elephants (and that’s the verb, not the adjective). This exercise in visual torture is what would happen if you gave Mel Gibson free reign over the fake rhino birthing scene from Ace Ventura. The excessiveness will test the sensitivity of your gag reflex, and that’s an issue that runs all throughout.

So who are ‘the brothers Grimsby?’ And why is the American release so awkwardly titled? Well, who gives a shit about the why; let’s talk about the what. The brothers are a pair of mismatched boys who were born and raised in the poor fishing town of Grimsby, which resembles the bottom of a dumpster or a very large ash tray. Cohen plays Nobby Butcher, the yoonga bruvva of Sebastian “superspy” Butcher (Mark Strong, painfully out of place). The pair have been separated since they were six years old and Nobby longs for the day they meet again.

Similar to previous outings Cohen opts for caricature over character, hoping to inflict the maximum amount of damage upon the culture that supposedly spawned his creation. Once a Middle Eastern pervert, then a one-time gay Austrian fashion journalist, he now finds himself donning the mutton chops and packing on the beer gut as a soccer hooligan with a proclivity for thick women and thick-battered fish-and-chips. He’s like a pig writhing around in the grease and sweat of intoxicated Man United fans all crammed into the pub watching The Big Match.

The world we visit in The Brothers Grimsby isn’t a pretty one, it’s populated by the so-called ‘scum’ of English society — the derelicts and the blue collar chumps, the illiterate and the really ugly and sweaty. Fans who may have been delusional enough in the past to liken the Cohen moviegoing experience to crude culture shock can’t really say the same thing now; the only thing shocking about this film is how uncultured it truly is. Nobby has far more screen time than his older bro, and that’s disappointing because ultimately Sebastian provides our only respite from the cartoonish extremism Leterrier has fashioned here. But the real question there has to be, how clear is Strong’s calendar right now? He had time for this?

Scenes featuring the MI6 agent in action — think of James Bond only with more baggage and less hair — feel like they are ripped straight from the upcoming Hardcore Henry, what with the liberal usage of point-of-view shots designed to raise both our heart rates and awareness of Go Pro cameras. While the action sequences are a welcomed distraction, they’re still not an excuse for the sheer pointlessness of everything else. A subplot involving Sebastian’s line of work is as generic as you can get: he must stop a shady organization from releasing a virus into the atmosphere at a high-profile soccer match. They’re doing this because of the global population crisis.

This paragraph that you’re reading now is definitely an edited version of what lay before, but in consideration of my readers I’ll just say that the film’s attempt to balance action and heartfelt drama with Cohen’s insufferable presence is funnier than any of the comedic elements presented here. The Brothers Grimsby ultimately fails when it tries to convince us of their shared history. I saw the look on Strong’s face during the “suck my balls” scene. He didn’t want anything to do with this. What, was Rob Schneider busy?

Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong in 'The Brothers Grimsby'

Recommendation: Sacha Baron Cohen may still have appeal for some but after The Brothers Grimsby, a film that fails to mine comedy out of what little interesting material it presents while continuing to mistake causing its audience to actually gag for comedic gags, this reviewer has officially stepped off the bandwagon. A film that caters to the lowest common denominator and looking  really bored with itself in the process, this is an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 83 mins.

Quoted: “Oh, these heated seats make you feel like you’ve pissed yourself!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.mymoviewallpapers.com

Fifty Shades of Grey

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Release: Friday, February 13, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Kelly Marcel

Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson

The reaction to the filmic adaptation of E.L. James’ best-selling phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey has been like a car wreck. And so here I am, craning my neck to see just how bad. Fifty Shards, excuse me — Fifty Shades of Grey — is more like Fifty Shades of Lame. Pinpointing the moment where this wannabe eroticism begins to slide in the direction of unintended comedy is difficult, but in the spirit of the car wreck metaphor, it was like me sliding into a tree the other night on an ice-covered road — slow but definitely noticeable.

For as much as I hated the awkwardness that pervades this movie like a prom couple getting it on for the first (and quite possibly last) time, I can’t really say that the entire thing is a car wreck. The concept is juvenile, sure, but there’s something actually watchable about this magnetism Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), a college-aged virgin, feels toward a self-made Seattle billionaire who takes pride in having sex as emotionlessly as possible. (Seriously, The Terminator could learn a lesson from Christian Grey — played with all the stiffness of a you-know-what by Jamie Dornan — with the way he so naturally disregards the fuck out of humanity.)

What has undeniably been car wreck-y is everything that has gone on behind the scenes. The level of dysfunction quite clearly bleeds onto the screen here. That’s no news item. Exhibit A: the more intimate scenes manifesting as tidy bits of daytime soap opera fantasies that are hinted at but never shown. Exhibit B: tension behind the camera developing into something so ugly that the director herself, Sam Taylor-Johnson, seems only to be semi-joking that this experience had put her “in the headspace that I’m never making a movie again.” Any passion has been essentially castrated from the film reel; our reason for cramming theaters (I guess not so much anymore) cleverly disguised, without our consent, as a quick cash grab for E.L. James and Universal Studios alike.

Sure, there is some fun jet-setting to all these different, exotic locations. Living the high life for a brief, fleeting, orgasmic moment. But I draw the line at the point where themes of friendly torture (a.k.a. BDSM) take up more space than scenes of character growth and any meaningful exchange of dialogues. This is where I pay my respects to the careers of stars Johnson and Dornan (and it’s annoying how I keep mistaking this guy for Justin Timberlake). If this movie and the foul stench of disagreements during the making of hasn’t damaged either reputation for the long-term then it has arguably crippled them for the short-term.

In fairness, Fifty Shades of Grey has bigger problems than the notable lack of chemistry between the two leads. I’ll stop short of describing the central performances as flaccid; after all they are professional actors working from a script foisted upon them by a horny teen post-menopausal woman who thinks an ‘inner goddess’ is the best way to describe feelings of intense pleasure. Again I call upon the word awkward because it takes a lot of confidence to strip down to one’s skivvies and beyond, and in that moment you’re not mentally preparing to take the brunt of laughter and a level of criticism my (admittedly harsh) review has nothing on. I can only imagine Johnson (the director, that is) et al were anticipating moans of satisfaction, not audible LOLZ from their audiences.

uh-oh

1-5

Recommendation: Given I’ve taken my sweet time to put this review up, I’m pretty sure the only ones I’ll be writing this section for are the crickets chirping in the parking lot outside any theater still playing this. Difficult to label as a disappointment since it’s not really my bag. 

Rated: this should have been NC-17, but it submits itself to the nice, cuddly R-rating

Running Time: 125 unsatisfying minutes

Quoted: “You’re here because I’m incapable of leaving you alone.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Mortdecai

mortdecai-movie-poster

Release: Friday, January 23, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Eric Aronson

Directed by: David Koepp

Charlie Mortdecai has a sensitive gag reflex. He endearingly calls it a ‘sympathetic gag.’ After seeing Johnny Depp embrace an entirely new level of bizarre here, I’m pretty sure I’ve developed something similar, except mine’s not out of sympathy. I’m genuinely disgusted by how bad this movie is.

If like me at my apparently most vulnerable you were unfortunate enough to stumble into a theater only to have Johnny Depp harass your sense of humor and goodwill for slightly more than an hour and a half, you might agree that there is a huge difference between the gags featured in decent comedies and the ones provided here. Two types of gags activating two completely different parts of your body.

The apple of Charlie’s eye, his so-called great love Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), gags in the film because she is taken aback by her man’s interest in sprouting hair on his upper lip. A fashion faux pas at the very least, the mustache might be the funniest bit of the entire film. Mortdecai is an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. If anyone’s in need of an explanation as to why I would willingly put myself through something that sounds this bad, I need only to refer you to some of the media I have included with this review. I hardly gag in response to a mustachioed Olivia Munn. No siree. Nope.

A plot synopsis is as follows: Depp aims to get to the bottom of the theft of a particular Goya painting, or something or other. As a man who dabbles in more than just facial hair and beautiful women, his character caricature is both financially and personally invested in the stolen art. His recent coming into debt compels him to find it, as does a recent visit from Inspector Alistair Martland (Ewan McGregor, the poor chap), a man who has had a thing for Johanna ever since he first laid eyes on her. (When she’s saddled with a douchebag of Mortdecai’s stature, who can blame him?) Together, the art snobs and Constable Can’t Get Any travel the world over to locate the missing Goya, thought to bear a code somewhere on it potentially leading to a stash of untold amounts of Nazi gold.

The prime suspect is — well, it doesn’t matter who that is. Essentially everyone’s a suspect, even Mortdecai but after he’s kidnapped by Russian mobsters and his very ability to reproduce is threatened in no small way — how about some electrocuted bollocks to go along with this heaping helping of what the fuck? — it’s clear that Mortdecai, in spite of himself, hasn’t actually taken the precious artwork for himself. Jock will back him up on that, too. Jock (Paul Bettany), referred to as Mortdecai’s man-servant no less than 70 million times because repeating already lame jokes always seems to do the trick with audiences, is a good bloke despite his zipper problems. That he’s always got Charlie’s back takes precedence over his incredible womanizing abilities. Believe it or not, he’s the most likable character of the whole lot. I’m still scratching my head though as to why he signed on for this one.

People are going to be gunning for Depp after this one. That much is certain. But his colorful performance actually triggered some chuckles deep within. Maybe I feel dirty for admitting that. But he’s not the overriding issue with David Koepp’s impossibly dumb movie. The real killing blow is Mortdecai‘s inability to realize it’s potential. Or to even care about it! It can’t take itself seriously for even one second. Majority of the gags do not land, save for the physical ones that land on the floor; the characters are off-the-map ridiculous (Olivia Munn as a nymphomaniac — makes sense, if you’re going to cast someone that beautiful she may as well be a sex addict too; Jeff Goldblum is in the frame for all of two minutes, but suddenly collapses after being poisoned — I’m not sure if that was in the script or just his subtle way of saying “get me out of this farce”); the humor is too low-brow and monotonous even if occasionally it strikes a nerve. Nothing scatological here, but nothing memorable either.

An adaptation of Kyril Bonfiglioli’s comedy anthology, Don’t Point That Thing At Me, this movie is elegant in its failings. It’s difficult to imagine this squeezes out any of the zest of that book series. Unfortunately this is a production so feeble in its construction and so ill-advised in its overwhelming inanity it’s highly unlikely I’ll get around to checking out the source material. For higher-quality entertainment, you’d be better off getting your balls zapped by some angry Russians.

johnny-depp-and-paul-bettany-in-mortdecai

1-0Recommendation: This was pretty bad. I . . . I don’t know if I recommend Mortdecai on any level to anyone outside of those with a penchant for s. (I think that’s what led me into this theater, along with the three other poor saps that were there with me. Here I was, thinking my taste in movies was pretty decent . . . )

Rated: R

Running Time: 107 mins.

Quoted: “I had no idea I was so deep in Her Majesty’s hole!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com