Comedy, Reviews

Deadpool

deadpool_poster

Copyright © 2016 by 20th Century Fox

Story
An ex-special forces officer turned mercenary, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is diagnosed with terminal cancer and leaves his girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) to fight the illness alone. He meets an agent from a clandestine facility who guarantees him a cure. Wade undergoes the treatment headed by Ajax (Ed Skrein) through torturous methods leaving him permanently disfigured but healed of his cancer. Claiming his horrific scarring is reversible, Wade relentlessly tracks Ajax for a cosmetic improvement.

Review
Time to make the chimichangas and brace for a whole lot of adult and meta humour from your friendly neighbourhood Pool guy. A passion project since his introduction in ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’, Reynolds has tirelessly sought for the right talent to evoke goodwill and erase any animosity fans may still have in Gavin Hood’s dismal entry.

The gamble led to a $132.7 million opening and a ‘Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy’ nod from the Golden Globes and Producers Guild of America. Though not fully deserving the highest echelon during this awards season, a slot in the ‘Best Picture’ race from the Oscars would put the academy on track in its quest for continuous diversity.

Starring God’s perfect idiot and written by the real heroes here, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who knew that breaking the fourth wall can be this profanely merry. Many quotable one-liners quipped by a duly nominated Reynolds for ‘Best Actor – Musical or Comedy’, he is only let down in trite plotting. The film hangs firmly on his charms and offers nothing new.

With an R rating exhibited so prominently in its marketing, the promise of a rebooted Deadpool mirroring the comics looked set for a bloody delivery. It is bloody and there is loads of cussing. The merc with a mouth is back and as cool as he was as Weapon XI, there is no denying that his witticism is his defining asset. But we cannot coast only on personality, can we?

Rating
Entirety: B+
Acting: A
Plot: B

Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity

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Comedy, Reviews

Love & Friendship

Love & Friendship

Copyright © 2016 by Roadside Attractions

Story
In the wake of her husband’s death, Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) and her daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark) become guests at Charles Vernon’s (Justin Edwards) country home. Known to be flirtatious around the many men she has met, Lady Susan schemes her way to secure a new and wealthy husband for herself and Frederica with the help of her closest friend, Mrs Alicia Johnson (Chloë Sevigny). The potential suitors ensnared are a charming married man (Lochlann O’Mearáin), a handsome relative (Xavier Samuel) and an affluent dullard (Tom Bennett).

Review
Giving a Jane Austen novel the treatment it rightfully deserves presents challenges of pleasing her most ardent followers while also appealing to a generation unfamiliar with her literary classics. The 1995 television miniseries of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle is a competent and faithful adaptation of Austen’s work but it is still plagued with languid pacing.

Then, Ang Lee and Joe Wright happened. Lee turned ‘Sense and Sensibility’ into a $100 million smash and Wright’s movie version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ nine years later equaled that accomplishment. Both are lauded for hewing as closely to the source material but it is Lee and Wright’s contemporary freshness imbued, winning over many new and unlikely admirers.

The latest from Whit Stillman, ‘Love & Friendship’ (in and of itself shares the same title as one of her juvenile stories) is an expansion of one of Austen’s lesser known fictions ‘Lady Susan’. While it will never scale the heights of Lee’s elegant and Wright’s youthful treatments, Stillman’s long absences between films have not diminished his exuberance as a film maker and it rubs off on Beckinsale performing the best she has ever been in a long time since her last resplendent role from 2008.

After underwhelming in the ‘Underworld’ franchise, ‘Van Helsing’, ‘Click’, ‘Whiteout’ and the ‘Total Recall’ remake, Beckinsale is in top form here and she charges along furiously obliterating the rest of the cast’s relevance (with an exception to Bennett’s hilariously vacuous Sir James Martin). As with the unfairly dismissed ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ earlier this year, see it with a good friend and you will find there is much to love in Stillman’s comeback triumph.

Rating
Entirety: A-
Acting: A
Plot: A

Rated PG for some thematic elements

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Comedy, Reviews

The Lobster

The Lobster

Copyright © 2015 by Picturehouse Entertainment

Story
After his wife leaves him, David (Colin Farrell) checks himself to a hotel hoping that he will find a new mate within 45 days from the day of registration. Should he fail, he will be turned into an animal of his choice. He chooses to be a lobster but as things do not work out for him in the hotel, he escapes into the forest and learns that other singles have been surviving there. David, who is short-sighted meets and falls in love with another short-sighted woman (Rachel Weisz). Because it is not permitted for anyone living in the woods to have an intimate relationship, the city is the only option for them to pursue their love.

Review
Absurdist fiction combines satire and oddness swathed in dark humour with the abnegation of reason that discusses the philosophical state of being ‘nothing’. A baffling definition to a peculiar movie. As with works from Ingmar Bergman, Luis Buñuel or the Coen brothers, Yorgos Lanthimos’ style of storytelling never conforms but it still is just as entertaining.

To fans of Lanthimos, a singular voice of previously unorthodox plotted hits, or adventurous film seekers wanting a touch for insightful and intelligent writing, look no further. Like ‘Dogtooth’ and ‘Alps’, ‘The Lobster’ maximises its premise to shed some light on societal pressures of finding the perfect one. Not dissimilar to a pricey ‘Lobster Frittata’, the rewards are immense once you immerse fully into its rich and layered undertones.

Lanthimos is certainly trying a broader appeal for his audience to partake in a more pleasurable viewing experience through Farrell and Weisz’s star wattage. After all, it is a disconcerting version of a feel good romance and what unfolds throughout is a fair assessment of whether to be in a relationship albeit compromised or embrace the single life that does not satiate the loneliness seeping in the crevices of a hollowed form.

The answers are left expectedly vague from the choices that David or the characters he encounters make. Anchored by a subdued performance from Farrell with caliber support from Olivia Colman, Angeliki Papoulia, Ben Whishaw and Léa Seydoux save this dystopian tale from plodding sometimes. If a crustacean trumps over a blue tang and domesticated pets, then get ready for a twisted treat.

Rating
Entirety: A-
Acting: A
Plot: A

Rated R for sexual content including dialogue, and some violence

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Comedy, Reviews

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Copyright © 2014 by Fox Searchlight Pictures

Story
In the Republic of Zubrowka, the Grand Budapest Hotel is frequented by the elite and at their beck and call is Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), a senior and loyal concierge who doubles as an escort for the affluent but insecure female lodgers. When one of them ends up dead, he becomes the prime suspect and jailed for her murder. Along with his trusted lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), he escapes from incarceration to prove his innocence.

Review
If ever there is a word to describe a Wes Anderson picture, I think surreal would be it. Comparatively offbeat with the likes of ‘Amélie’, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ and ‘Burn After Reading’, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is archetypally Anderson but distances itself from his earlier ensemble pieces (‘The Royal Tenenbaums’, ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ and ‘Moonrise Kingdom’) through political unrest portending an austere end amid a homicidal pursuit in as well as out of prison.

Dominating in the BAFTA and Oscar nominations, it is not hard to see why Anderson’s latest is a mighty contender for the top honour. A multiple award winner and critic-approved lensing a 1930s-themed crime caper replete with characters as brightly hued as the hotel itself without depriving any of the Andersonian facetiousness looks like a lock for the ‘Best Original Screenplay’ at the very least. In lesser hands, I would have balked at the idea of it even working.

Gratefully, it does. The cinematography from Robert Yeoman is exquisite and adds an air of mysticism to the location’s divinity. None of the scenes feel extraneous, the costumes glow (the staff’s purple uniform in particular) and the production design is simply brimming with authenticity. Pulsating the movie into five lively segments which do not peter out anywhere in its economical running time is the large company of actors collectively enriching Anderson’s imagination.

Like a reunion of sorts, identifiable faces from the director’s prior works pop up the screen and are distinct enough for their minute appearances (Adrien Brody, Harvey Keitel and a completely transformed Tilda Swinton are prominently delightful as a vengeful son, shirtless inmate and wealthy elderly respectively) but ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ owes its sterling reputation mainly to Fiennes’ cultured and poetic metrosexual.

Better known for dramatic parts, he is a riot as the perfume-spraying and poem-reciting concierge with an affinity for the pleasures of his older female guests. A validation of such intensity can be seen from ‘Schindler’s List’, ‘The English Patient’, ‘The Constant Gardener’, ‘Skyfall’ and the ‘Harry Potter’ series that we forget how waggishly adept he is in something lighter yet insightful. Still, the duo would not be whole without Revolori’s ethereal participation.

For a newcomer, this 18-year-old displays maturity beyond his years and his subtlety is gratifying throughout the course of frenzied and perilous high jinks. He grows up to be F. Murray Abraham from ‘Amadeus’; though outwardly different, both men capture Moustafa’s sadness and pain of loss in unison. A loss indeed if you did miss the chance of a firsthand stay in an establishment every bit as heavenly as Herr Mendl’s prized courtesan au chocolat.

Rating
Entirety: A-
Acting: A
Plot: A-

Rated R for language, some sexual content and violence

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Comedy, Reviews

The Interview

The Interview

Copyright © 2014 by Columbia Pictures

Story
Television host for ‘Skylark Tonight’, Dave Skylark (James Franco) and producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) are flown to North Korea for a televised interview with Kim Jong-un (Randall Park). Before departing, CIA Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) has them convinced of assassinating Kim instead. As Skylark befriends the new ruler, his opinion on the autocrat wavers causing a rift between the Americans. Fearing the mission will be disrupted, Rapaport finds inadvertent help within Kim’s despotic administration.

Review
Movies that provoke and mar themselves with controversy more often than not are either applauded for their steadfast believes or resented as a result of manipulating the feeble minded. Good or bad, any publicity derived from the infamy usually means a spike in awareness (and business – for the opening week anyway). Getting embroiled in scandalous acts of violence, gore and graphic risqué affairs in the bedroom is part and parcel for an industry known to stir the pot.

‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, ‘Citizen Kane’, ‘The Exorcist’, ‘The Deer Hunter’ and ‘United 93’ are no stranger to the scrutiny and have made repeated appearances in the ‘Best of’ lists over the years. Faith-based films which dabble beyond the teachings of the holy book are far trickier and have met with a barrage of outraged protests from staunch worshippers (‘The Devils’, ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’, ‘Dogma’ and juggernaut ‘The Passion of the Christ’).

On the other hand, ‘The Day of the Jackal’, ‘JFK’, ‘Munich’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ have walked a fine line between entertaining and usurping the politics without undermining the audiences’ intelligence or abandoning logic in favour of style over substance. Political satires tend to poke fun but not necessarily as a means for any significant revolution in a country’s disparaging regime. ‘Inglorious Basterds’ takes a swipe at Adolf Hitler and witnesses a ‘permanent’ end to his cruel empire.

It is not as parody-worthy as say, ‘Zoolander’, nonetheless, it is Quentin Tarantino’s most acerbic. You do not see Malaysians or Germans being riled up with death threats and cyber-attacks pending their respective wide releases. Why should ‘The Interview’ be any different? Two words: Kim Jong-un. If Evan Goldberg and Rogen have gone the route of the Ben Stiller comedy (a fictional leader instead of an actual person), no one would have given a damn.

Where credit is due, give I will to them for boldly taking on the North Korean head by the horns but is one debacle after another that Sony has to endure worth all the fuss? As with their previous directorial partnership, ‘This Is the End’, crass trumps class. The jokes are uneven and they come in spades, so when they do hit the nail right on the head, you can bet your bottom dollar they will leave you in stitches. Would have been unexpectedly refreshing if the whiff of bathroom humour did not pervade as much as it did.

Marking their fifth time together, Rogen and Franco’s camaraderie serves as solid foundation to the show’s flimsy apex (Kim’s demise, while in slow motion feels rushed and nearly upends its robust start). They are joined by Park’s meek but callous version of Kim, which is only a few notches above Diana Bang who progressed from an allegedly stereotype to a woman disgusted by her ruler’s tyranny. To cap it off, sidesplitting cameos from Eminem and Rob Lowe are featured during Skylark’s sessions with his celebrity guests.

These interviews are exaggerated yet captivating if they are actually true. Anytime for a tell-all than a fake, scripted account of how wonderfully chirpy life in showbiz is. A brilliant concept in humanising (exposing) the supreme leader for his vile deeds. Is it enough to revolt for a change in North Korea? Probably not anytime soon but an eye-opener regardless.

Rating
Entirety: B
Acting: B+
Plot: B+

Rated R for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence

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Comedy, Reviews

Horrible Bosses 2

Horrible Bosses 2

Copyright © 2014 by Warner Bros. Pictures

Story
In light of the injustice encountered by Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), Dale Arbus (Charlie Day) and Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis) from their former employers, they have decided to form their own company manufacturing ‘Shower Buddy’, a shower head that dispenses shampoo along with the water. Their invention gets noticed by Burt Hanson (Christoph Waltz) and his son, Rex (Chris Pine). They agree verbally to finance the three friends if the production of 100,000 units is met. The goods are completed on time but Burt pulls out at the last minute, leaving them with a $500,000 debt. In a desperate attempt to recover their losses, the creators hatch a kidnapping plan with Rex’s involvement.

Review
‘Horrible Bosses’ took a relatable situation and turned it into a box office smash, besting the record from previous champ ‘The War of the Roses’ as the highest earning black comedy in history. Office politics, bosses from hell (scheming, vindictive or simply plain idiotic) and the verbal/physical harassments are some of the ‘perks’ any employee will face after the dotted line has been signed on. A conundrum we ‘happily’ brave on a daily basis.

Yet, there are not too many in the past from good ol’ Hollywood that delve into the predicaments of real people. Who wants real life when escapism is so much more marketable, right? Few and far between, impressionable ones linger till this day are ‘Working Girl’ (Golden Globe winner in 1989) and ‘9 to 5’ (disgruntled workers kidnapping their ‘sexist, egoistical, lying, hypocritical bigot’ boss). Sounds familiar? Kind of the premise for the newest (mis)adventures of our three lovable but bumbling buffoons.

And that brings me to my next gripe. ‘Bosses’ mapped out an extremity which would only work in the movies to non-stop hilarity. At a certain point in our careers, I am sure that we have all fantasise more ways than we care to admit of offing our immediate superiors. The trio’s ill-conceived plan was a mess but first murderous outing, yeah, we get it if things did go astray. So, what happened to practice makes perfect? Dim-witted they may be (two-thirds of the group anyway), it is unbelievably outrageous their actions can be this, um…stupid.

Once the breakout star, Day’s shrill and always on edge Dale soon wears thin before reaching any of the film’s juiciest parts. Props to you too if you thought Sudeikis is dumbing down incessantly fearing that he will lose his goofy charm to Pine’s slicker than his slick coiffed ‘do is understandable but pathetic. Only Bateman’s man of reason hits a lucid balance amid the insanity, revved up by Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey’s scenery-chewing energy.

Along with Waltz, it would have made a ton of difference if the bosses (they are, after all, the ‘distinguished’ faces hardwired into our craniums) are bumped up in the leaderboard and chronicles their many tantalising indiscretions instead of forced and insensitive jokes about race, culture and creed. As far as needless sequels go, this one sits right at the top of the list as a horrible excuse to hold us to ransom for 108 minutes of excruciating, unfunny and offensive writing.

Rating
Entirety: C
Acting: B
Plot: B-

Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout

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Comedy, Reviews

Chef

Chef

Copyright © 2014 by Open Road Films

Story
The story unfolds in a Los Angeles restaurant where Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) gets an opportunity to impress revered food critic, Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) in a new tasting menu but is disapproved by his employer, Riva (Dustin Hoffman) who requests that he stick to the restaurant’s best sellers. The chef is reviewed unfavourably and retorts via ‘Twitter’, unbeknownst the reply can be viewed publicly. The blogger returns to the diner hoping for Casper to refute his criticism with original creations but is openly humiliated instead. After the meltdown, Casper resigns and decides to start his own food business in a food truck with the encouragement from his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara). It gives him a chance to not only mend the ties between him and his neglected son (Emjay Anthony) but also as a channel for him to realise his desire is not merely a career devoid of any pleasure.

Review
Never a dull moment when food, family and friendship are the main ingredients for a savoury and delectable romp that is cooked to perfect comic timing. While the supply is not as commercially available as its other financially-proven stablemates, this indie darling stacks pretty high up with its mainstream accompaniment such as the Oscar-nominated ‘Chocolat’, ‘Julie & Julia’ and ‘Ratatouille’. As with all releases, do expect feeling warm and fuzzy upon completion.

‘Chef’ serves as an allegory to Favreau working on smaller scale projects after undertaking Hollywood behemoths starting with the whopping success of ‘Iron Man’ to the box office misfire of ‘Cowboy & Aliens’, paralleling to his fictional character quitting in a luxurious eatery for a mobile dining experience. Instead of featuring French delicacies as the main course, this road trip movie takes a Latin American route spiced up with a hot Cuban flavour.

Midway through, those mouth-watering Cubanos, a staple in Miami make their unprecedented appearance, the dour mood is flipped immediately and Casper’s journey to rediscover his passion through the reconnection with his estranged family closes on a high note. Favreau who wrote, directed and produced besides starring in this comedy has concocted an intelligent mix of believable dialogue, worthy performances from the well-rounded cast and forbearing the swelling sentimentality.

Normally, it would be prevalent in a feel-gooder like this one but Casper keeps its truck wheels firmly planted on the road via uncompromising integrity and undying love for the culinary arts. Favreau whose supporting turns have always been the comic relief is in great form as the man who has loss his sense of purpose and the determination to return on top is fiercely captured by the hulking figure he possesses yet it does not overwhelm the rest of the picture’s dynamics.

He shares the limelight from newcomer Anthony who manages to hold his own despite being surrounded with some acting heavyweights. His maturity is visibly potent and is a spirited force to be reckoned with. The father and son bond is further fortified through bubbly and infectious vibes emitting from Vergara and John Leguizamo. Also worth a mention is Robert Downey, Jr. as a hygiene freak so forthcoming and outspoken that he single-handedly outwits every one of his colleagues.

But its juiciest bits are often saved for one of these reasons: as a means to shock the bejesus out of you or as a morale booster when the going gets tough. I would go with the latter and hopefully not to give too much away, it involves ‘Twitter’, a whole lot of swearing and Platt. A cool way to connect with the under 25s and even more effective for ‘twitting’ to be a global pastime than it already is. While this may not be life changing, the chance for a molten chocolate lava cake tantalising before your very eyes should at least whet those taste buds.

Rating
Entirety: A-
Acting: A
Plot: B+

Rated R for language, including some suggestive references

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