The Brothers Grimsby (2016)

The Brothers Grimsby, poster

Released: March 11, 2016. Directed by: Louis Leterrier. Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher. Runtime: 1hr, 23 min.

I’m a huge fan of Sacha Baron Cohen’s work in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan – the titular journalist character is rather brilliant. And his creation of the character Ali G was also quite funny.

His comedic work really makes him a unique figure, but he hasn’t made a great comedic character since Borat – as both the titular character in Brüno and Aladeen in The Dictator were hit-and-miss.

With Nobby Butcher in The Brothers Grimsby, he creates another hit-and-miss character – but at least gives him some stronger development. Nobby is a drunken football hooligan cheating the welfare system, living in the poverty-stricken town of Grimsby, cheering for his main team England.

When he was a kid, he was separated from his younger brother Sebastian through Grimsby’s orphanage system. Sebastian (Mark Strong) is now the top agent of MI6, on assignment to prevent the assassination of philanthropist Rhonda George (Penelope Cruz), and to uncover a huge terrorism plot by a group called Maelstrom.

When Nobby is able to get tickets to the charity ball and reunite with his brother after 28 years, he hugs him which causes Sebastian to miss his shot on an assassin (Scott Adkins) and hit a spokesperson instead. This mistake causes the other MI6 agents to think he has gone rogue – and Nobby and Sebastian are forced on the run.

The Brothers Grimsby - Hug it out

Grimsby is another addition to the cannon of unlikely people finding themselves in bigger-than-themselves spy missions as a spy, like Johnny English and Spy. While the world created here is a good base for Nobby’s hijinks, he is nowhere near as amusing as Rowan Atkinson’s Johnny English or as hilarious as Melissa McCarthy’s Susan Cooper in Spy.

The story is a bit heartwarming with the brother dynamic but the really raunchy and often gross-out humour rarely hits. The action set pieces are pretty good, well-filmed with Louis Leterrier’s style of direction.

The film is at its most effective in terms of comedy when Nobby is making awful decisions – but humour is ineffective when they hide away from government assassins inside of an elephant, and get stuck in there during mating hour. Yuck.

One masterwork of Grimsby is the casting of Mark Strong. It feels like he could be cast as an actual MI6 agent in a spy franchise so that’s what helps create a believable world. He does his job as the straight man for Nobby’s jokes, even though Nobby’s humour never really hit for me.

At least the film doesn’t stick around for very long. The only part worth rooting about is Donald Trump being the butt of a joke. He’s horrendously rendered via CGI, and there’s a really bad stand-in Daniel Radcliffe as well, but those are really the only jokes that hit for me. And the fact that Nobby’s look is based off of Liam Gallagher’s look is amusing.

Score: 40/100

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How to Be Single (2016)

 

Released: February 12, 2016. Directed by: Christian Ditter. Starring: Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann. Runtime: 1hr 50 min.

Based on Liz Tuccilo’s book of the same name, How to Be Single is a totally mixed bag on tips of living the single life and an occasionally hilarious story.

It concerns Dakota Johnson’s Claire, who right out of college jumped into a relationship with Josh (Nicholas Braun) and being a woman of New York, she wants to try out the single life for a brief spin to know if she truly wants to be with Josh the rest of her life.

When she’s done with her flings with a bartender named Tom (Anders Holm, The Intern), she tries to go back to Josh but he’s found someone else. So now she has to navigate through life with her trusty party hardy sidekick Robin, portrayed by Rebel Wilson, on an adventure in learning that she doesn’t need a man to define who she is as an independent woman.

By no means a terrible film, How to be Single simply suffers from a plaguing lack of comedic momentum, or gaining any, for that matter.

The seriously big laughs only come on occasion without succession, but the sentiment of the picture is still in the right place.

How to Be Single2

Rebel Wilson and Dakota Johnson in How to Be Single (Source)

Dakota Johnson is an awkward delight as Alice, where she often charms and rarely bores. Rebel Wilson is a good addition, as well – even though a late storyline feels random. The screenwriters also leave her character out for long periods of time when I was just begging for her comic relief.

A big problem of the film is just how many characters the film thinks it needs to tell its story.

Throughout the film Alice is sexually involved with three men, and we don’t really need that many characters to make her realize she doesn’t need someone to make her happy.

At certain points, when a story-line gets introduced and then continued later, it ends more abruptly than feels at all natural. It just wraps a tiny bow on it and then boom, we’re done with that character.

Alice’s sister, Meg (Leslie Mann) represents the single woman who wants a relationship but is terrified of it. Because… Reasons. She’s a bit frantic and nutty, and forgettable. She seems to be shocked that a young buck, Jake Lacy’s Ken, is attracted to her and she assumes it’s a joke or he just likes the novelty of being with an older woman.

How To Be Single1

Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann and Dakota Johnson in How to Be Single. (Source)

She’s frankly more annoying than anything. Her significant other, in turn, is rendered annoying and expendable by association – but admirable for putting up with her insanity.

Alison Brie also makes a frequent appearance, representing the online dating addict. She doesn’t fit into the narrative quite as smoothly as the others, not sharing any dialogue with the three other primary actresses, but she’s fine for her role.

The plot is muddled because of how many characters there are. The cast is attractive and fine as the characters, but the scope of it makes a simplistic premise into something that is needlessly complex. Because of this, it squanders a lot of potential.

It definitely has the laughs intact because of the original novel’s clever humour, but it should retain the simplicity of something like 2014’s That Awkward Moment, but that one forgot the laughs. At least that film knew not to have a huge character list like Valentine’s Day, and kept it simple, stupid.

Instead, we are left with an occasionally funny, run of the mill comedy that says it’s okay to be single.

It can be the best times of your life. The laughs are all there, but it trips over itself too much in an overlong anti-romantic comedy.

2.5 out of 4

Bridesmaids (2011)

BridesmaidsRelease Date: May 13, 2011Director: Paul FeigStars: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose ByrneRuntime: 125 min.

This film is usually very, very funny and features a breakout role from the charismatic Melissa McCarthy. However, I think it pans out like a traditional romantic comedy, with room for originality. Melissa McCarthy and other select characters really make the film. Honestly, I don’t like how McCarthy got so much recognition for this role. Let me explain. She’s hilarious in this, but I think this has restricted to her to dirty and crude roles in the cinema universe. She’s still hilarious, but I just wish she would be able to play more tame comedy roles, or not play such dirty characters, because she’s really quite pretty. She still is a great screen presence, but this type of character might get old really quickly. Anyway, it’s usually extremely funny, but I get bored when it’s not being funny. The main conflict between Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne’s characters becomes tedious to me. And that’s what drives the film, so that’s a problem… The runtime is just exhausting. I really think 50/50 should have received the Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards instead of this. I respect this for what it tries to be, and I do laugh a lot when I’m in the mood for it. I might re-watch it, take notes of when the funniest jokes are, and just watch those scenes.

Score69/100

Pain & Gain (2013)

Pain & Gain

Pain & Gain

Release Date: April 26, 2013

Director: Michael Bay

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie

Runtime: 130 min

Tagline: Their American Dream is Bigger Than Yours

Michael Bay doesn’t have a good reputation. He’s that one director that is best fit to movies that have gigantic budgets and simple plots. Some may call him a director of stupid blockbuster movies, but he’s hardly the worst director in the business. That’s McG. A guy whose movies are stupider than his name. Anyway, back to Bay. While he is best known for huge, popcorn movies (Transformers, Pearl Harbor) he surprises with Pain & Gain, a movie made for $26 million.

Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is the charismatic manager of Sun Gym, a fitness centre where muscled guys lift weights and fatties might as well be the plague. Lugo has a very specific philosophy (taught by motivational speaker, Johnny Wu, a tiny role for Ken Jeong). He’s a do-er, and if he believes he deserves it, the universe will serve it. He just so happens to believe he deserves everything local rich guy, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), possesses. He enlists the help of Sun Gym buddies Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and Paul Doyle (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to do so. Together, these juice monkeys envelop themselves in a extortion ring and kidnapping scheme that goes terribly awry.

These guys are truly willing to go the extra mile to achieve the so-called American dream. The movie shows how far people might actually go to achieve what they desire, and these extreme lengths can be shocking. It’s also shocking to learn this film follows the true story upon which it is based (a three-part series entitled ‘Pain & Gain’ by Pete Collins) very closely. If you think you had a hard time believing Bernie (where Jack Black plays the titular Bernie who strikes up a relationship with a wealthy widow and when he kills her, he has to go to great lengths to creat the illusion she’s still alive) was based on a true story, you haven’t seen anything yet. This is so strange and bizarre that, during the movie, we’re reminded that “this is still a true story”.

A violent true story is written into a hilarious action comedy, so the audience could easily admire that, or be easily offended. The case is, Hollywood is once again exploiting something awful and making it into something entertaining that will make money. Though, this story about the Sun Gym Gang (that takes place between the latter end of 1994 through June 1995) really should be known. Still, the writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely pen a great black comedy, even if it is lengthy. Everyone should see this just to see where they stand on the film, much like the other 2013 movie set in Miami, Spring Breakers. This is truly one of the most bizarre and strangest movies of all-time, but it’s also one of the most memorable and entertaining of 2013 thus far.

Michael Bay’s movie has some great production design and writing, and it’s nice to see that he’s directing a passion project; and it also helps that the closest thing to Optimus Prime are fancy cars and riding lawn mowers. Some of the characters, though, are only a little more emotional than robots, mostly because the three main protagonists are money-hungry sociopaths. The characters’ actions are so moronic that it’s hard to care what might happen to them. We don’t really feel compassion for charismatic sociopaths, like they wouldn’t for us. The sociopath that shows the most human emotions is Paul Doyle (mostly for Jesus or Kershaw) and Doorbal. The dark comedy really produces laughs, and the offbeat humour is right on the money. Wahlberg and Mackie are great in their roles and everyone has great comedic timing, but the real star here is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Johnson has played badasses in the past (like Mathayus in The Scorpion King, Chris Vaugh in Walking Tall, Luke Hobbs in Fast Five), but this is one of his strongest performances as an egotistic moron who happens to think he’s a badass. He’s hilarious and very charming as the criminal who hits rock bottom, finds Jesus, and then becomes hooked on cocaine once again when they find wealth. He steals every scene, and right now, I can’t think of a time where Johnson delivers a more entertaining performance.

Ed Harris is great as the main investigator working for Tony Shalhoub’s Kershaw, even if he might not be extremely memorable. Rebel Wilson also shows some sultry emotions, mostly during her sex scene with Anthony Mackie, where she brings her own nun-chucks to spice things up. The versatile Shalhoub performs well, and he gets more than a few laughs as the victim. Everyone’s chemistry is ideal. It’s hilarious when his character is trying to manipulate the weak link, Paul Doyle. Their relationship is very funny, mostly because Doyle calls Kershaw, “Pepe”, and he nicknames himself “El Dad”.

This is sure to be one of the most outlandish and entertaining movies of 2013, and it’s an incredibly pleasant surprise. It is also hilariously twisted and its originality is deadly. The movie is stylish and colourful, but the movie is rather unbelievable and it is about ten minutes too long. Still, it’s bound to become a cult classic. The ensemble cast is great (Rob Corddry is also in the movie, among everyone else aforementioned). The majority of men will surely be entertained and laugh at this great black comedy of violence, inarguably moronic choices and chasing the American dream. If you’re a female, or a male who is really in touch with their feminine side, you might not enjoy it as much. Yes, that may sound sexist (forgive me), but it’s kind-of the truth with such a violent tale. One thing’s for sure, Popeye would approve of this movie.

83/100

Pitch Perfect (2012)


Pitch Perfect

Release Date: October 5, 2012

Director: Jason Moore

Stars: Anna Kendrick, Britany Snow, Rebel Wilson

Runtime: 112 min

Tagline: Get Pitch Slapped

TV Director Jason Moore (Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill) brings his talent to the big screen with Pitch Perfect, a great music comedy.

Beca (Anna Kendrick) is an aspiring Disc Jockey, who gets forced by her father to attend college before following her dreams in Los Angeles. She ends up attending Barden University, where she soon joins the school’s all-girl a capella singing group, The Bellas. She knows that they sound beautiful together, but the (ever-so A-ca-clichéd) leader of the group, Aubrey (Anna Camp), doesn’t like to stray away from her set design, or really try anything new for that matter. Beca just may be the one to change the Bellas for the better by adding energy and pizaz to the group, help them out in the competition, and make a few friendships in the process.

Going into this film, I really didn’t know what to expect. It seemed that it had pretty sweet reception, so I guess I expected it to be a little good. It’s probably one of the last films I’d see in theatres right about now, but I saw it. And you know what, I enjoyed it a little more than I’d like to admit. It’s actually rather fun, and the hot girls help a lot, too.

In the cinema world, this is all fairly original. It’s a lot predictable, but that doesn’t keep it from being enjoyable. The pay-off is pretty great. The same premise of all those competitive dance and cheerleading films is offered here. So, in that way, it feels like the atmosphere of some Bring it On flick. The romance part of it all is offered, too. It isn’t exactly the most original atmosphere, because we’ve felt it all before. What sets this film apart is that it isn’t dancing or cheerleading (obviously), it’s singing. And I can’t really recall another film that the premise was a singing competition.* I say in the cinema world, that’s a pretty darn original concept; but in the general popular cultural world, this feels reminiscent of TV’s Glee. That’s just all the music and stuff, but this does have the tendency to feel fairly fresh and new.

*Side Note: Can you guys?

The music is really great, and a soundtrack that would be really cool to add to a collection of any sort. There’s a nice mash of rock and pop and rap, and practically whatever else. There’s catchy tunes of all sorts, which really makes the film lots of fun.

The only flaws that were presented is that it could just get really predictable, and in some scenes I just felt a little worn out.

I usually really hate boy bands, but the main rival singing group of the Bellas, The Trouble Makers, is actually pretty good.

All of the characters are actually rather good and mostly likeable. Beca is really reserved, so when she breaks out of her tender shell, it’s great. Some are really annoying, but in the end, a lot of them have changes of heart. I liked the characters, and I could only count the ones that I didn’t like on one hand. There are scene stealers all over the place. Without surprise, Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy is the largest (oops, no pun intended) scene stealer, and she brings that same comedic timing as she did in Bridesmaids. You’re going to be have to be with a name like that, anyway. Some other scene stealers include Lilly, the quiet Asian girl whose eyes make her look a little like that really creepy chick from the trailers of Frankenweenie. Also, the surprise appearance by Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad) and his character’s larger friend, Justin, just make a perfect team. The great thing is that every character is developed, and they all get their chances to shine at some point in the film.

At points the film does get pretty ridiculous and strange, especially when the group initiations are happening for that one scene, or like the oddball, yet hilarious, announcers for the singing competition (played by John Michael Higgins, and Elizabeth Banks [who also helped produce the film]). Like I said in my previous sentence, it’s pretty strange. Strangely entertaining, that is. The atmosphere isn’t something all that special, but it’s the characters, music, Anna Kendrick, and mostly because I didn’t have a ride home, that convinced me stay until the very end. Something Anna Kendrick’s character doesn’t like to do.* The comedy that is offered can be a little too spaced-out for my liking, but when the jokes are made, they can hit pretty hard.

*Side Note: Sheesh. I really don’t understand how some people don’t stay until the very end. That’s usually the best part!

The song mash-ups and set designs and all that are really nice and fun, and something to tap one’s foot to. The wardrobe is okay, because the Bellas’ uniform is that of a practical flight attendent. During the auditions, the filmmakers put them all together so they’re all singing the song. It’s really cool and funny; it’s something I’ve seen on American Idol (or any other singing show) before, but it’s cool to see it in a film.

Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp, Skylar Astin, Ben Platt, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Kelly Jakle, Alexis Knapp and Adam Devine star in Pitch Perfect.

Pitch Perfect offers a fun experience that is worth the look. It has great music, a pretty good plot, great characters, a great ensemble, and there’s just a lot of things to love about this one. It’s entertaining, and my have flaws because of its wicked predictability, but that doesn’t stop this film from being a foot-tapping crowd pleaser.

80/100