It’s my experience that we all choose our families. Sometimes they are relationships of blood (hej hej the Cuffs), but sometimes they’re not who we’re born with but rather they are families magicked together out of friendship or sex or shared experience or even of necessity. So I totally get the basic premise of We’re The Millers – finding your true family is a wondrous thing. It takes a while to get there though….
In We’re The Millers, Jason Sudeikis plays David, a self-absorbed, small-time Denver pot dealer who’s forced to make a drug run into Mexico on behalf of a gleefully amoral narcissist. To get through the border there and back, he enlists the help of a spunky teenage runaway, a geeky naif and the proverbial stripper with a heart of gold (Jennifer Anniston) to fake the happy all-American Miller family. Thus ensues an R-rated comedy that’s partly genius, partly stomach-cringing crass, partly funny, partly embarassing – but ultimately it’s saved from its gross-outs (I’m about 30 years too old for all the cock and vagina jokes) by a genuine affection for the mismatched protagonists.
Denver isn’t Denver of course, it’s Wilmington, and Mexico is New Mexico, but what can you do?
You know what I loved? Every single, uproarious moment of Edgar Wright’s The World’s End. It would still have been brilliant as a bittersweet, wry, finely observed Mike Leigh comedy about five school friends who reconnect for a pub crawl through the small country town they grew up in. But – a big but – add in some ink-blooded alien bodysnatchers, some brutally epic fight scenes, some Rosamund freakin Pike, and sixty pints of lager, and you’ve got a hilarious instant classic.
Simon Pegg is actually completely brilliant here, and the rest of the gang – Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan – are pitch perfect, It’s Nick Frost though, completely playing against type as the uptight lawyer who is standout here. And did I mention Rosamund Pike? Brilliant.
So I laughed out loud. A lot. And loudly, too. And do you know what? You can even do the pub crawl in Welwyn Garden City next time you’re in Blighty. Seriously. Fantastic.
Paranoia isn’t really about paranoia, it’s about corporate espionage, and a couple of greedy biznis bigwigs who are out to destroy each other by stealing each others secrets. The ill-considered tool they use for their shenanigans is flobby Liam Hemsworth. A hapless pawn in their nefarious intrigues, he’s forced to lie, cheat, steal and compromise his friends and loved ones for no good reason at all really.
It’s dreadful on the whole. And while Paranoia has the bling Manhattan locations and crisp, glossy styling of a movie like Limitless, it has little of the panache or feel, and none of the sense. Hemsworth in particular must be thanking his lucky gods that he’s got two more Hunger Games movies in his future, because if his career path was to be determined by his vacant, slack-jawed performance here, it’d be stalling like a 1982 Citi Golf.
I used to really love Hugh Grant. But then he bought into his own marketing and he trans-morphed into a vain, preening, self-satisfied hokey old ham of an actor. He’s essentially become unwatchable these days, so self-aware and inward-looking are his performances. As a producer of The Wolverine debacle, you can almost hear him sending daily notes through to the Director: “Mr. Grant thinks the audience would like more scenes where he’s shirtless….”
The whole movie smacks of his self-indulgence, and it is painful. I saw the extended version too. If you want those boys in Guantanamo to hurry up and confess, show them this on a loop. Seriously. And let’s not talk about the gaping plot holes, or the really really really annoying trend of giving us a Superhero movie, and then actually denying him his superpowers. (Yes I’m thinking of you, Spider-Man 3) Anyhoo, The Wolverine filmed in Japan, so it’s got some interesting-y locations, but the bulk was actually shot in Sydney, so it’s just not interesting enough. Honestly, I really wouldn’t bother.
I can’t remember why it’s Red in the first place. Code Red? Something like that. Anyway Red 2, the sequel, brings back the old guys from the rollicking first movie, and throws them into the deep-end of some complex and convoluted turmoil that necessitates random killings, transitory alliances and blowing shit up. The plot has something to do with an old British spy from the Cold War who’s buried a nuke in the Kremlin (because, you know, well, yes….) and the guys have to both rescue him and prevent the bomb from falling into the wrong hands.
The wrong hands is that revolting, moon-faced old gerontophile Catherine Zeta Jones, who’s supposed to act all sexy but spends most of the film being as big-boned and charmless as bad drag. Even the Mary Louise Parker character – so quirky and delightful in the first movie – has devolved into a bored housewife who basically gets off on guns and violence. Red 2 filmed in London and Moscow, amongst other places, and has a few nice aerial shots to prove it, but otherwise it’s fairly non-challenging in the locations department. It’s not a bad film, but it’s seriously disappointing after the promise of the first.
The Way Way Back tells the story of fourteen year old Duncan, painfully lacking in self-confidence, who’s stuck on a beach holiday with his insecure Mom, her new boyfriend Trent, and Trent’s snarly mean-girl daughter Steph. Fleeing the increasingly dysfunctional family dynamics (it’s no coincidence that their holiday home is called “The Riptide”) Duncan seeks and finds refuge at a rickety old waterpark managed by the cheerful wastrel Owen and a cast of lunatics.
So what can I tell you? Well, simply put: is one of the best films I’ve seen all year. Sensitive, thoughtful, sweet, touching and riotously funny, it’s packed with wry social observation, cringing coming of age embarrassment and magnificent force-of-nature performances. Alison Janney is stand-out, both teen leads are superb, and Steve Carrell as Trent is deliciously odious. But the heart and soul is Sam Rockwell. He’s fantastic here. The Way Way Back filmed in Massachussetts, specifically at the Water Wizz – seriously – in Wareham.
I can’t even begin to explain the magnitude of a movie like Gravity. It may be a small story – a couple of astronauts on a space walk are thrown into jeopardy by speeding satellite debris and have to make their way back to safety – but it’s an absolutely magnificent film on a grand, even humungous, scale. I had to keep reminding myself of the awesomeness of the cinematography – you can’t actually fake zero gravity on Earth – and the silent perils of space are astoundingly realised. Just go see it. Really. You won’t have seen the like.
The Purge has such an interesting concept. Just one night a year, every crime imaginable is permissible and entirely legal in the new America. (Apparently it’s become a socially acceptable pressure valve, allowing people to vent their angers and frustrations in a managed and 24-hr news cycled kind of way. Whatever.) This year though, as the Sandin family settle in for the night, their young son allows a homeless guy to seek refugee in their fortress home. Trouble is, the guy is on the run from a murderous mob who come to claim him.
So it’s pretty interesting up to about this point, when the social commentary morphs into a fairly ordinary home invasion movie. It’s ok, but certainly wasn’t up to the extensive hype. It filmed in Chatsworth, Los Angeles.
White House Down is a really odd film. It’s got everything going for it really, especially a great cast. It’s got Channing Tatum for God’s sake, and Richard Jenkins and James Woods. (It’s also got Maggie Gyllenhaal who clearly never washes her hair, but hey, you can’t have everything.) There’s a plot about a pacifist American President, and some other twaddle about a divorced Dad and his precocious transgender kid, and then there’s a whole lot of noise and shit blowing up, as terrorists take over the Capitol.
But as I said, it’s an odd film, mainly because it really doesn’t work at all. Like, AT ALL. Channing himself is bizarrely wimpy and unconvincing, Jamie Foxx is about as presidential as a box of apples, and the entire plot is in fact so completely disengaging that it’s entirely forgettable. I almost couldn’t remember enough to review it, and I only turned it off about fifteen minutes ago. Ah, well. White House Down filmed in Quebec.
Simon (McAvoy), an art dealer, is embroiled in a plot by Franck (Vincent Cassel) to steal a famous Goya painting. During the crime though, a blow to the head gives Simon serious amnesia, and he is taken to a therapist (Rosario Dawson) who’ll use hypnosis to get him to remember a very important detail….
With snazzy designer London locations (that look like purpose built sets) and characters that are difficult to connect with, Trance is (as the Economist puts it) “a fast, cheap, aggressively trashy scrap of pulp fiction. From the outset, it never threatens to be anything more than a slick, noirish B-movie.” I watched the first hour thinking “Who cares?” Luckily by the last bit, I was engaged, and I left the picture feeling more satisfied than the opening parts might otherwise have suggested. Stick with it, that’s what I say.