Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Queen of the Desert

There is a lot to appreciate in this film, such as the cinematography which beautifully captures the desert, but the film is also painfully slow-paced and too long. Based on the true story of English explorer, writer, cartographer and archaeologist Gertrude Bell (Nicole Kidman), Queen of the Desert chronicles her life, including her influential work in the Middle East and her romances (because apparently a story about an extraordinary woman's political achievements must also include details of her love life if people are going to have any interest in watching it). There is no doubt Bell was an amazing person, but unfortunately, the film fails to capture the essence of her accomplishments. There are a lot of scenes of Bell meeting Arab leaders, but we do not see details about those discussions and how she was able to win people over. The film oversimplifies diplomatic relations as something that can be achieved with a meal and the exchanging of gifts. That being said, Kidman is wonderful at depicting Bell's stubborn strength of character. I would not necessarily have picked James Franco as a potential love interest for her, but their chemistry is surprisingly good. Robert Pattinson is also impressive as a young T. E. Lawrence and it was great to see Middle Eastern and Moroccan actors playing many of the Arab roles. Writer/director Werner Herzog has certainly made an ambitious film, but it does not hit every mark.   

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Nice Guys

We need more stupidly fun film noir and who better to deliver the goods than Shane Black? The director, who co-wrote The Nice Guys with Anthony Bagarozzi, excels at creating slick buddy films like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The Nice Guys centres around porn, a murder mystery, a femme fatale and an unlikely pair of private investigators. Set in 1977, private instigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is struggling with the death of his wife while trying to raise his clever daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) when he is forced to work with Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), a tough guy who beats people for money. The duo are looking for a girl who has disappeared, but when the bodies start to pile up, they realise there is more to the case than they previously thought. Gosling is a hilarious goofball in this film, squealing at the sight of blood and constantly falling over, but the gags never feel cheap. Crowe packed on the weight to look comically different to Gosling and it works well. He plays Healy straight but still provides a lot of laughs. Rice is especially impressive considering her young age and holds her own against the big name actors. Matt Bomer also appears in a totally different role for him, playing an assassin. The Nice Guys is perhaps a little long and starts to lose momentum, but it is so much fun. I hope we get a sequel.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

The X-Men franchise feels a little tired in this third instalment of the prequel series. The film is slow to get going and is slightly repetitive as it introduces audiences to younger versions of already established heroes, while also under-developing some new characters. However, the principal cast remains likeable and there is plenty of action and a few very good laughs, mostly thanks to Evan Peters' Quicksilver, who has yet another memorable slow-motion scene following his fantastic sequence in X-Men: Days of Future Past. This film introduces audiences to Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), who was worshipped as a god in ancient times before being buried and wakes up in 1983, which is blatantly obvious with the shocking fashion. He enlists four mutants, including Magneto (Michael Fassbender), to help him destroy civilisation and it is up to Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) and their team of young mutant students to stop the villain. Audiences are certainly spoiled for choice with superhero films and X-Men: Apocalypse does not rate among the best for this year. Nonetheless, it is a decent addition to the X-Men universe, which has always been a favourite of mine for its complex character arcs and underlying moral message. 

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Inspired by the real experiences of an American journalist in Afghanistan, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a hilarious fish-out-of-water comedy. Perhaps some moments are culturally insensitive and certain people will be offended by some content, but those people are not likely to watch the film anyway. The story centres around Kim Baker (Tina Fey), a bored writer at a news station, who jumps at the chance to report on the War on Terror. She moves to Kabul and finds herself reinvigorated with journalism. Fey is as funny as ever in a role that really suits her. Martin Freeman is also very good as a charming Scottish photojournalist. Christopher Abbott and Alfred Molina both give solid performances as Afghans, but I find it hard to believe there were no Middle Eastern actors who could have been just as strong. In fact, the white-washing in the film is quite disappointing. Margot Robbie, who plays another journalist in Kabul, was also a weak link with a messy accent. If you are easily offended, stay away from Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, but if you are a fan of Fey's other work you will certainly enjoy this film too.  

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Angry Birds Movie

This is probably the most disappointing children's film in a while. The jokes are few and far between and the film is boring, predictable and about 15 minutes too long. Angry Birds Movie is about an island populated by happy, flightless birds who are visited by mysterious green pigs. They welcome the pigs with open arms and it seems only Red (Jason Sudeikis) is smart enough to realise there is something suspicious going on. Despite a stellar cast including Maya Rudolph, Peter Dinklage, Sean Penn, Josh Gad, Bill Hader and more, nothing can save this uninspiring and totally forgettable tale.  

Monday, 9 May 2016

The Meddler

I was surprised to find myself tearing up a couple of times during The Meddler, which is more emotional than expected and very funny. Marnie (Susan Sarandon) is a widow from New York, who follows her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne) to Los Angeles to start a new life. But Marnie does not know what to do with her time or money, so she meddles in her daughter's life as Lori tries to move on after a break-up and pursue her career as a screenwriter. Feeling rejected by her daughter, Marnie devotes herself to other people, including a lesbian couple planning a wedding and a smart young man who works at an Apple store while trying to get an education. The story is sweet and relatable, especially for anyone with an interfering parent. Sarandon and Byrne have great chemistry, while J. K. Simmons is also charming as a potential new love for Marnie. The Meddler is ultimately a very good family drama with a lot of laughs. 


Thursday, 5 May 2016

Bad Neighbours 2

For the most part, the jokes in this sequel feel fresh rather than reshaped and the story is carried forward ever so slightly. But really, it is a simple premise used to launch a series of hilarious gags. A sorority, led by Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz), moves in next door to Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) and they are even worse than the fraternity the couple dealt with last time. The group basically believes in two things – feminism and smoking weed. They want to throw their own kind of parties instead of attending fraternity events where they feel unsafe and worry about getting their drinks spiked. Unfortunately for Mac and Kelly, any rowdy college parties will prevent them from being able to sell their house and the rivalry soon turns nasty. The cast, which also includes Zac Efron and Dave Franco, continue to work well together. Regrettably, although the motivation for the college girls' actions seems to be rooted in feminism, the notion is often used as a basis for some jokes, which interferes with the positive message trying to be conveyed. Nonetheless, this is a fun sequel and you will certainly laugh out loud a lot.  

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Bastille Day

It is still rare to see a film where the characters use their own language rather than speaking English with a European accent. So, for its use of the French language alone, Bastille Day should be praised. The story centres on skilled pickpocket Michael (Richard Madden) who steals a handbag from terrorist mule Zoe (Charlotte Le Bon), not knowing there is a bomb inside. Moments after Michael dumps the bag, the bomb explodes, killing four people and making him a target of the real bad guys and police, who consider him a terrorist suspect. Through all the drama, it seems only CIA operative Brior (Idris Elba in a Jack Bauer type of role) is apparently good enough to get to the bottom of it. Bastille Day only runs for about 90 minutes but some scenes feel laboured and a lot of the plot details are far-fetched. Nonetheless, the story keeps viewers guessing and the action sequences are exciting. The appeal of Madden and Elba certainly elevates the film and I do wonder if it would have been as enjoyable with less impressive actors.