Out Now – 19th December 2014

Guys and Dolls

Apologies for recent slackness on the blogging front. December is a busy month. Rest assured that I will have my top 10 films of 2014 for you before the year is out. As for the films from last week let’s just say that you should ignore The Hobbit and see The Great Museum instead.

Dumb and Dumber To
Twenty years (TWENTY!!!) after the original comedy about two dumb friends was released we have a sequel. I am skeptical as to how well the jokes will work two decades later and can’t quite understand why this film was made. For that reason I’m out.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
American comedies seem to aspire to trilogies these days and Night at the Museum today successfully completes its transition from a mediocre 2006 comedy to a full-blown trilogy. This time the museum is in London which makes me mildly less apathetic about it all.

Guys and Dolls
Re-release of the classic 1950s musical comedy starring Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons, and Vivian Blaine. I realise that I am prejudging the previous two films but my uninformed and biased recommendations would be to see a classic musical this week.

Kon-Tiki
“Legendary explorer Thor Heyerdal’s epic 4,300-mile crossing of the Pacific on a balsa wood raft in 1947, in an effort prove that it was possible for South Americans to settle in Polynesia in pre-Columbian times.”

P.K.
Lengthy fantasy comedy drama from India about a man who asks questions no one has ever asked before. I’ll admit it, I am curious to find out what questions he is going to ask.

Out Now – 5th December 2014

Me Myself and Mum

Penguins of Madagascar
Like the rats in the Muppet films the penguins serve as amusing minor characters in the otherwise unremarkable Madagascar series. While entertaining in small doses it remains to be seen whether these comedy birds can hold their own in a film. I just hope John Lewis have had the forethought to place their Christmas ad in front of every screening. Synergy!

Men, Women & Children
Jason Reitman’s latest has performed terribly in America and quite rightly so. This film about the horrors of the internet is patronising, fear mongering, and boring. I did not enjoy.

Get Santa
It’s hard to get annoyed by a family friendly Christmas film starring Jim Broadbent as an imprisoned Santa who brings a father and son closer together. That said I don’t feel the need to watch this one. Ever.

Black Sea
Jude Law in a submarine.

St. Vincent
A comedy starring Bill Murray! I love Bill Murray! Not in the way the rest of you do though. Our love is special.

Me, Myself and Mum
Easily the best comedy I have seen in a long, long time. The autobiographical story of French comedian Guillaume Gallienne’s relationship with his mother, his childhood, and his search for a sexual identity. Gallienne plays both himself and his mother in a fantastically convincing manner a million miles away from how a British comedy would utilise a man in drag. I loved it and so will you.

Bonobo
British comedy drama in which a mother and daughter spend a day with a commune who live their lives based on the behaviours of the bonobo ape. Expect lots of nudity and a monkey if you’re lucky.

The Pyramid
Western horror set in Egypt. Expect low budget scares and questionable casual racism. Oh, and that guy from The Inbetweeners.

Eastern Boys
Erotic thriller about a French businessman and the Eastern European hustler he takes home with him. Love! Intrigue! Europe!

The Grandmaster
“The story of martial-arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee.”

Action Jackson
Let’s not get bogged down in the plot. Let’s just appreciate how fun it is to say the title out loud.

Montana
A Serbian assassin takes on a teenage apprentice as he fights a crime lord in London’s East End in the BBC’s most ludicrous episode of EastEnders ever.

Mea culpa
An acknowledgement of one’s fault or error.

Hello Carter
This is embarrassing. I saw Hello Carter a year ago at the London Film Festival and was so unaffected by it that I forgot to write a review. Not terrible but not one that I actually remember watching either.

Out Now – 28th November 2014

2001 A Space Odyssey

Frozen
It hasn’t even been a full year since Frozen was first released but it is back in cinemas, and on DVD of course, for you to enjoy once more. This means that for the second Christmas in a row everyone will be singing Let it Go endlessly without realising the irony of their persistent karaoke.

Horrible Bosses 2
Sexist, racist, homophobic, and unfunny. What more could you ask for? Maybe a better standard of comedy for a start. I did not like this one.

Paddington
The polite marmalade obsessed Peruvian immigrant gets a live action feature film of his very own. Will it be childish nonsense or a charming masterpiece? Reviews are wildly positive so it looks to be the latter.

2001: A Space Odyssey
Forget Frozen, this is the re-release worth given a second look this week. As part of the BFI’s sci-fi season Kubrick’s epic entry into the genre is back in cinemas. Try for a double bill with Interstellar and let me know how your brain reacts.

I Am Ali
This is Ali.

Kajaki: The True Story
British war drama set in Afghanistan centering on three soldiers crossing a river bed riddled with mines. Expect as many jokes as in Horrible Bosses 2.

Ungli
Bollywood comedy drama in which “a gang of friends decide to take justice into their own hands.”

Stations of the Cross
A 14-year-old girl is so devoted to Jesus she tries to become a saint by going through her own 14 stations. Interestingly the film is made up of only 14 shots. Intriguing…

Concerning Violence
Documentary concerning violence and “the most daring moments in the struggle for liberation from colonial rule.”

Hockney
I’ll let you guess… Go on… Correct!

Dr. Cabbie
An Indian doctor moves to Canada and fails to get a job as a doctor so becomes a taxi driver instead. Naturally he starts seeing patients in his taxi.

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno
Japanese drama about people fighting with swords. Fighting each other with swords. Not them fighting against swords. I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.

Horrible Bosses 2 – Film Review

Horrible Bosses 2

I quite enjoyed Horrible Bosses. I didn’t love it but there was a simple plot, actors I liked, and I didn’t spend the duration angry, bored, and offended. The same cannot be said for the sequel.

The plot of Horrible Bosses was straight forward. The three leads played by Charlie Day, Jason Bateman, and Jason Sudeikis all hated their bosses and so collectively decided to help one another murder their superiors. Hilarity, of a sort, ensued and everything was wrapped up neatly at the end. Horrible Bosses 2 stumbles into the room ignoring its own pointlessness and established the trio as having moved on from their happy endings to set up a business together. Having been tricked by a greedy entrepreneur, Christoph Waltz continuing to accept any role offered, they find themselves deep in debt and with their fledgling company under threat. Rather than work their way out of trouble they quickly decide to raise funds by kidnapping their nemesis’ bratty son in the shape of Chris Pine.

And so begins a kidnapping caper filled with twists, turns, and attempts at humour. Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Aniston, and Kevin Spacey all pop up to reprise their roles from the first film as a miscellaneous criminal, sex-obsessed rapist, and murderous psychopath respectively. None are needed for the plot but all are essential to keep fans of the original from realising this isn’t the same film. Because that is the sense I got throughout the film; that it was doing its best to appease fans and then throwing enough random ideas at the screen to keep everyone distracted until it was all over.

Horrible Bosses 2 Still

The plot of Horrible Bosses 2 isn’t actually that of a comedy. The plot of kidnapping and double-crossing is not inherently funny, and certainly not funny in practise, so instead the hard work is left to Day, Bateman, and Sudeikis. The three actors are left to improvise and fill scenes with the jokes that the seven writers failed to put in themselves. The constant ad libbing means that every scene ends up feeling exactly the same as the leads talk over each other in a way that rapidly grates more and more each time. Any laughs that do come are thanks to the work of Charlie Day who plays the fool to the interchangeable straight man roles played by Bateman and Sudeikis. When your three main characters don’t have three distinct personalities you are in trouble.

When Horrible Bosses 2 isn’t hoping you will laugh at three straight white men it is using the casting of any actor outside of that demographic as a comedic device. All women were either sex objects or comedy foreign characters and I urge you to try finding a black man in the film that isn’t a criminal. Throw in some mildly homophobic dialogue and Horrible Bosses 2 can rest easy knowing it has managed to turn everyone into a stereotype worthy of denigration. Comedy like this simply shouldn’t exist any more and had me shifting in my seat in discomfort.

As you might have been able to tell by now I really did not enjoy Horrible Bosses 2. There were too many unscripted moments of uncontrolled ad libbing and not enough well crafted comedy. The questionable use of any character who wasn’t both white and male was indefensible. I laughed a few times thanks to Charlie Day but for the rest of the film I was cringing and even worse, a little bored.

Horrible Bosses 2 is in UK cinemas from 28th November 2014 and is to be avoided at all costs.

Spirited Away – Blu-ray Review

Spirited Away

Today is a notable day for fans of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli as it brings forth the beloved Japanese animation Spirited Away on Blu-ray in the UK. I was lucky enough to give the disc a spin in advance and what follows are words written by me after watching said disc.

Film
You don’t need me to tell you that Spirited Away is a charming and beautiful masterpiece but if you do…

Spirited Away is a charming and beautiful masterpiece with a wild imagination capable of bringing delight to all ages and plenty of lessons for impressionable young minds to benefit from. The hero of the story is a 10-year-old girl, Chihiro, who stumbles into the spirit world while travelling to a new home with her parents. Alone in a reality populated by witches, monsters, and ghosts Chihiro must find the strength within herself to move forward and forge her own identity. The plot is littered with metaphors touching on environmental, political, and psychological issues but rest assured if you aren’t willing to look too deep everything looks pretty too.

The film is internationally recognised as Hayao Miyazaki’s greatest film, Studio Ghibli’s greatest film, the greatest film of its decade, and the greatest animated film of all time. In summary; it’s pretty great.

The transfer to Blu-ray looks great stunning with lovely legible subtitles, vibrant colours, and crisp lines. The disc comes with the option of Japanese or American dialogue and while everyone has their opinion on what is the better option I do not have the energy to argue the case either way. Thankfully both English subtitles and audio have been assembled with care so you can’t go wrong. And if you speak Japanese then you needn’t trouble yourself with all this petty squabbling.

In short; Spirited Away is the greatest and looks sexy in high-definition.

Spirited Away 1

Extras
I hit Play All on the extras so as to be able to give you a comprehensive review then immediately skipped past the first feature on offer. The Blu-ray allows you to watch the entire film with the original storyboards overlayed in the top right hand corner for comparison. This is interesting to see, I am sure you will agree, but perhaps a feature to dip into rather than watch for the full running time. I smiled appreciatively and then skipped away.

What I watched next makes up the bulk of the extras on the disc and is a documentary made for Japanese television about the production of Spirited Away. The image quality is less than high-definition, stark contrast to the film itself, but what this extra lacks in pixels it makes up for in behind the scenes insight. The documentary introduces the story of the film and how Miyazaki was inspired to write it by a friend’s 10-year-old daughter who became the template for Chihiro. We get to see Miyazaki himself hard at work briefing and inspiring his animators; often seen poring over drawings with a cigarette in hand.

It is fascinating to see inside the animation studio as it resembles any regular office filled with cluttered desks and overworked employees. Pixar may be filled with individual animators’ offices decorated in wacky fun ways but Studio Ghibli is much more basic. What comes across between the animators is a sense of community and a desire to work hard to get the film, which was running behind schedule, finished on time. We are also shown what happens in the recording of the dialogue, background noises, and musical elements. The dialogue recording in particular makes working on a Ghibli film seem like lots of fun and surprisingly low-tech. At the end I got the feeling that Spirited Away was affectionately handmade; metaphorically and literally. Not often that features make you love a film all the more.

I will admit to skipping the next set of special features as they consisted of the original Japanese trailers for the film and there were eight of them. I cannot only indulge you guys so far I am afraid.

The remaining three features surround John Lasseter. A big wig over at Disney and Pixar Lasseter provides an introduction to the film and later introduces us to Miyazaki. Neither of these feel necessary or sincere. Of more interest is a mini-feature on the American re-dubbing of the film as we see actors having to deliver dialogue at the right pace to match the speaking pattern of a totally different language. What was most interesting about this feature was how polished and false the cast and crew came across when interviewed compared to the unguarded authentic feeling their Japanese counterparts had given earlier on.

There are plenty of extras here but I would advise that you only really need to give your time over to the full Making Of; the rest is mostly filler.

Spirited Away is on Blu-ray & DVD in the UK right now.