Category Archives: On The Big Screen

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The Boss – Review

Melissa McCarthy is one of those actresses who you love or you hate. I have found a successful middle ground. On one hand, I adore her talent but I do not enjoy some of her films – particularly the ones where she is typecast as the fat girl and thus the butt off all the jokes. Despite this, she has found some critical praise with the likes of Bridesmaids and Spy tucked firmly under her acting belt.

Her next venture, however, is exactly like every role she has done before except with less of the hilarity making The Boss a garishly boring and dull affair from Ben Malcone – Melissa McCarthy’s husband and creative partner.

The Boss sees McCarthy as a Michelle Darnell, a titan of industry, who has been doing some shady trades of late and is dutifully sent to prison by a competitor/jaded lover. With the help of her long-suffering assistant Claire,  she is released from jail,  and attempts to re-brand herself as America’s sweetheart by starting her own brownie business. Not everyone is ready to forgive so easily, however, and Michelle has to learn that to really make it in this world, it’s great to have some allies beside her…

Michelle Darnell would’ve surely given some tips to everyone involved here because clearly, no one has worked hard to produce this film. Clearly over-compensating for a lazy script and utterly shallow premise, the comedy is a stupid array of rapid insults and slapstick that we’ve become accustomed to with McCarthy. She does it well but with the loss of a deeper and more turgid script, The Boss melts into the tedious ripple of films that she is producing at the moment. The film has little laughs and when they come, they offer tiny chuckles.

The biggest overbearing issue with The Boss is the acting talent. McCarthy aside, the likes of Kristen Bell and Peter Dinklage offer nothing as support. Frankly, it’s almost as though the pair were phoning in their next paycheque. No one had on-screen chemistry – even supposed ex-lovers – making their characters dullards with no personality. Ever.

It’s disappointing because this is Kristen Bell; an actress who was able to capture the youthful playful promises of a princess in Frozen as well as the ruthless espionage and intellect of Veronica Mars. Here, however, she is reduced to the straight-laced dreary character with nothing to offer than her chagrined acceptance of the situation. It’s all tripe with McCarthy leading the way.

Know that in the emotional scenes, there is a snippet of a talented actress, pouring her heart out for a soft and tender moment. That’s the truly infuriating part of The Boss. McCarthy is a stunning performer and a gifted comedienne who can do a lot more then be sent flying through the air by a sofa couch. Who knows? Maybe that’s where she wants to be right now but, frankly, it is tedious and sloppy. It’s slapping a different wigs on her and forcing the same character into different situations. You could say that she is just monopolising on her Academy Award nominated role as Megan in Bridesmaids.

I’d argue not.

Because at least for Bridesmaids, she was a different, weirder, and braver than the stuff she is producing now.


Warcraft: The Beginning – Review

The parade of the video game adaptations marches ever onward, with the third addition this year out in cinemas today. Warcraft takes on Blizzard’s ever popular franchise and adapts one of its novels to the big screen, looking at the rise of the Orcish Horde, and the humans response to their invasion.

The film is headed by a truly fantastic cast, Travis Fimmel takes on the role of protagonist Lothar, one of the King’s knights who is doing everything he can to uncover where the Orcs are coming from as well as trying to stop them before they destroy the world, and Toby Kebbel steps into the shoes of his counterpart Durotan, an Orcish leader trying to find a better land for his tribe and family. Filling out the rest of the cast include the likes of Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga as the King and Queen, Robert Kazinsky as Orgrim (Durotan’s second in command) and Paula Patton as Garona, a half-orc who is attempting to find her place int he world.

With such a wealth of acting talent, it’s such a shame that the film itself fails to be anything more than formulaic and predictable. In trying to show both sides to the story, there isn’t enough time to flesh out either side, leaving rather flat, stereotypical characters. Whilst there are moments spent trying to make the Orcs seem less war-like, it ultimately leads to confusion when you can hardly remember what was said the last time, or whether it was mindless platitudes that make things seem more profound, but falls apart when looked at too closely. The film was adapted from two separate novels, each one portraying one side of the story, and one can’t help but feel that the film itself would maybe have worked better if the two stories had been split as well to spend more time with each of the characters.

Whilst the story is a let down, the visuals are something to behold. Despite swimming in the same Orange and Teal colour correction as numerous other films out there, the beauty of the settings is incredible, and the special effects used by the post-production houses for the magic spells is even better. On top of all that, the CGI Orcs are lovingly rendered, and appear to be wholly unique, the motion-capture technology helping convey the emotions and movements that lets them fit in seamlessly with their surroundings. It’s not enough to save the film, but it certainly pulls it from the pile of failure to give it a chance to stand on its own legs.

Ultimately, Warcraft is not a film that will define the fantasy genre in the way that Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter did. It’s a shame to see such a talented cast and director wasted on middling fare, but I daresay it will garner enough of a following from fans of the games to warrant a sequel which can hopefully address some of these problems. There’s nothing wrong with this movie, but that doesn’t mean to say there’s plenty of right within its frames.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – Review

I didn’t last long.

Much to my credit, I made it through a lot of crud.

I made it through Tyler Perry’s worst Nutty Professor impression with that utterly distracting moustache. I made it through the over-acting of good thespians such as Stephen Amell and Laura Linney (come on guyyyssss, you are better than this.) I made it through that slow motion transformation scene where Megan Fox goes from blonde sexy scientist to valley girl as she, in the middle of a train station, changes into a mini-skirt and tied up blouse as the camera chooses to slowly pan across the flesh she now shows. I made it throw CGI pizza, spit-balls, and a hyperactive brain dripping gunk all over Shredder.

But I had to draw the line at animal penis jokes.

Yes, within this insipid attempt at movie-making there is a moment where two crooks turned animals compare the size of their dongs and congratulate each other on gaining such sizeable packages during the mutations. That was the moment the sensible side of my brain stopped and went, “enough.”

That was the moment Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows spiralled down the drain of my expectations that was already as low as possible.

The comic book franchise that nobody asked for has yet another putrid sequel that should be “delighting” audiences this half term. The movie leaps off where the prior entry finished. The turtles are still solving crimes, but within the shadows – nobody knows who they are or what they do. When master criminal Shredder escapes from prison with the help of the pulsating tentacle-clad Krang, they wind up embroiled in an intergalactic ploy to destroy New York and planet Earth. Can they defend the city once more?

Heavily laden with puerile jokes and messy action sequences, Out of the Shadows feels more like chore than an enjoyable summer flick. Director David Green attempts to rejuevinate the series but the joy is completely lost here. Turtles feels striped of the rambunctious energy that made it so famous during the nineties and the comic books beforehand. Steeped in the gritty grime that superhero movies just have o have nowadays, Out of the Shadows relies on comedy straight from an idiot’s joke book and doesn’t have the ballsy gun-ho follies to make it all acceptable. It’s all just sort of sad, really. And very, very, boring.

For the first half an hour, the movie encouraged balls of laughter from the little and grown-up audience members to the extent that I wondered what had made me such a grump that I just couldn’t enjoy the lumps of green pirouetting through New York with nun-chucks. But after a while the glee petered out into restlessness and the fun became rather arduous and dull. Frankly, the issues is that the story is so under-developed that the actors clearly had to overcompensate which is why seasoned performers raises their eyebrows in large alarm and talk then decibels higher than they should, uttering zero emotion, and little spirit.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows may appeal to its core audience but naysayers will have their displeasure confirmed: An immature, sloppy, and tedious outing for the heroes in a half-shell.


Love and Friendship – Review

It is nearly impossible to have not seen a Jane Austen adaptation, whether this is in a traditional format such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility or a reworking of her novels such as Clueless. Her works of love and security set against 19th Century English society are renowned for feisty female centres, women’s dependency on men. and marriage as an institution.

In Whit Stillman’s latest Austen adaptation Love and Friendship, we get a story and a central female character unlike any the author produced before. Kate Beckinsale here plays a devious and scheming woman out of place with her patriarchal surroundings.

The recently widowed Lady Susan (Beckinsale) must rely on estranged family members after her husband’s death. Disliked for her reputed scheming and adulterous behaviour, her sister-in-law takes her in begrudgingly. Susan instantly begins to pursue the young and wealthy Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel) as an advantageous marriage. The unexpected arrival of her teenage daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) causes disruption and potential rivalry for Reginald’s affections. Can Lady Susan marry off Frederica to the silly Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett) and keep Reginald to herself?

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Based on an early unpublished work by Jane Austen called Lady Susan but renamed after another unpublished work by the author, Love and Friendship explores many of the same themes as Austen’s other works but instead puts a scheming character centre. Marriage as advantageous is still very much present but instead of women bowing to the pressures as a necessity. Lady Susan relishes the chance to seduce a rich young man.

While still retaining the features, settings and themes of an Austen adaptation. Stillman has produced something fresh and interesting with this film. Most standout here is perhaps the films witty dialogue and interactions. The conversations between characters are hilarious whether it is Lady Susan and her scheming American friend Alicia (Chloë Sevigny) describing her husband as “Too old to be agreeable, and too young to die.” Or the prolonged ramblings of the silly Sir James Martin who is convinced there are Twelve commandments instead of Ten.

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The work, while still having so many elements of the period setting, breaks so many conventions of its time. Lady Susan pursues a much younger man who falls for her charms despite the reversed age gap. Whereas so many much of Austen’s work concentrates on intelligent yet kind female characters, Lady Susan is selfish and spiteful. She also takes little interest in her daughter’s happiness and concedes to have her married off to the highest bidder.

In this adaptation Kate Beckinsale takes the lead as Lady Susan and proves fully that the actress has rarely been used to the full extent of her talent. Beckinsale gives a witty, seductive, and standout performance as its main character; able to portray a manipulative and devious character with charisma and charm. Audiences will love watching her wrap characters around her fingers while still maintaining an outside appearance of innocence and virtue. There is great support is offered from Sevigny, Samuel, Bennett and a small appearance from Stephen Fry.

A witty, scandalous and enjoyable adaptation of an early Jane Austen work, featuring a fearless performance from Beckinsale as Lady Susan.

Love and Friendship is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now! 

Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants – Review

Everyone must have had a time, most likely during their primary education, when you learned how amazing ants are. Able to lift fifty times their own body weight, working as a collective team and all obeying a ruling Queen Ant, they are pretty cool.

The insects are no stranger to the big screen with films such as Disney’s  A Bug’s Life and DreamWorks’ Antz capturing audience’s imagination about our miniature friends. Now a French/Belgian collaboration takes the story of worker ants to the big screen in Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants.

Minuscule follows a young ladybug as she comes into the world. While being chased by bullying flies, she sadly loses one of her wings. Taking refuge in an abandoned human picnic , she befriends kindly working ants who attempt to carry a tin of sugar back to their colony. On the journey they are pursued by larger red ants who want the sugar all for themselves. Can our ladybug reach the colony safety? Can she also overcome her disability and help her new friends fight off the invading ants?

The film is set in the same universe as the French Minuscule TV series. Each episode gives a bird’s eye view look at different insects and the feature film expands on the adventures of some of these characters. Like the TV series the film is part CGI part live-action mixing the two forms together. The film is also told without speech or dialogue of any kind.

The narrative of the film goes deep into the insect’s world and sees them try to survive in the wilderness. The ladybug must survive in a world of strangers and the Ants must find food for their colony. This is a cute and appealing story yet is more for younger audiences that adults. The story, despite its fun nature, is small  and feels somewhat lost on the big screen. In taking the series from the small screen Minuscule has not grown enough as a cinematic effort except  in running time. The film still feels as if it belongs on TV instead of the cinema outing it so wishes to be.

The largest obstacle the film has had to overcome is its lack of dialogue. Instead of words, music and sound have been used for communications between characters and to tell the story. It is a hard task but one that is not unachievable (Shaun the Sheep Movie and Timmy Time anyone?)

Minuscule has overcome this obstacle and made an easily understandable and sweet film. Noises work in place of dialogue to convey the emotions and thoughts of the insects. Each character or groups of character (the Black and Red Ants the Flies), have their own theme music. The musical score, which continuously follows the film, conveys the tone and mood of the film.

The films animation is only half the story. All characters are CGI creations with a live action backdrop of woodland areas and forests. The animation, compared to the works of Pixar other CGI studios, is very basic and more similar to the works of Illumination and a TV style than works of the big screen. This is not to say it is unappealing or not cute. The film is sweet and its animation is fun for its target audience.

A cute but small family adventure. More suited to younger children and feeling better placed with a TV series than on the big screen, the film essentially fun but this ain’t no A Bug’s Life.


Kiki’s Delivery Service – Review

Studio Ghibli have been one of the biggest animation studios of all time. The Japanese rival to Disney have been creating such phenomenal films and movies since they started in 1985, over thirty years ago. So in honour of that, they are releasing a whole new season to celebrate their movies!

Studio Ghibli Forever is a season of movies from the powerhouse studio including the likes of Spirited Away, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbour Totoro, and Kiki’s Delivery Service. The upcoming season will see these films and then some return.

Speaking of the spirtuous witch, Kiki’s Delivery Service returns to cinemas this weekend and it is certainly one of the best the studio have produced. No wait, perhaps one of the best animations of all time.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is about Kiki who is off on an adventure. Mandates require witches at the age of thirteen to spend a year completely independent in order to discover their power and their role in society. Heading off from her loving parents and her home, Kiki finds herself in the bustling town of Koriko. Insecure, she finds herself up against a few difficulties. Deciding that the only power that she is marginally good at is flying, she strikes up a great relationship with a baker and soon sets up her own delivery service. However, after meeting Tombo, a boy her age obsessed with aviation who has genuine respect for her, Kiki loses her powers. It is up to Kiki to rediscover herself and her place within the world.

Kiki’s Delivery Service was Ghibli’s first studio release since the pairing with Walt Disney. While some may find this a worrying aspect and attribute a lot of the cuddly cuteness to this relationship, it actually has no effect on Ghibli and famed Hayao Miyazaki’s ability to tell a beautiful story. It is highly simplistic, all about a witch and her supernatural powers, and in this essence, it really adds to the story. Though she may be able to fly and conjure potions, Kiki is a girl trying to grow and figure out exactly who she is.

A wonderful portrayal of a teenage girl that isn’t stereotypical or vapid. Instead, she is independent, towing a great line between balancing her own dreams and the relationship she has with Tombo. His entrance into her life does not become a final point, in fact, it detriments her. And the rest of the movie is Kiki’s struggle to regain her own control over her powers. It is a great message that, while not admittedly feminist, is Miyazaki’s celebration of reliance and inner strength in girls.

Add this to the excellent animation from the European-eqsue landscape of Koriko to the midnight flights that Kiki takes. This is a wholesome anime that is delightful on all levels will have you laughing and crying but all the while, smiling on Kiki’s journey. It is simple but it is the simplicity that makes Kiki appealing and relatable to everyone. It is simply magical.