Posted by: greercn | August 28, 2016

Bad Moms

Thanks to American TV and film dominating the world, we know that “mom” is “mum” in Britain and parts of Canada. We all agree a “mummy” is in the Egyptian section of the museum.

I laughed myself silly and so did my friend Layla. Mila Kunis shows serious comedy skills as Amy, a working mother who has had enough of the alpha female behaviour of the head of the PTA (Parent-Teacher Association).

Directed by the writers of “The Hangover” (Jon Lucas and Scott Moore) – not really a recommendation for me – it’s mostly just hilarious.

Kathryn Hahn as sexy Carla steals every scene she’s in. Kristen Bell is terrific as put-upon Kiki. Christina Applegate is the PTA bully Gwendolyn and Jada Pinkett Smith is almost wasted, albeit very pretty.

You get a silly supermarket scene and an even sillier drinking section. And there are heartwarming feminist touches, as when Amy explains to her son why he should grow up to be a good man.

Amy’s husband is caught up with cyber-porn and her boss is another half-drawn character. And there’s the sexy dad, played by Jay Hernandez, who makes all the moms drool.

I have qualms about this. Do women just behave like the men in “The Hangover” when we are angry? And my friend Layla observed that one particularly horrible injustice done to one of Amy’s children is never properly addressed or redressed. From “Bridemaids” to “The Heat” to “Ghostbusters”, we are meant to accept bad behaviour with no real justice being served up to the bad guys.

So, I still look forward to a movie that isn’t independent or foreign language that actually addresses how women are and how justice can be achieved, when wrong is done. And I’d really like that film to make me laugh.

I am not holding my breath until this happens.

Everyone at Stratford East Picturehouse laughed a lot and even the guys who’d been dragged along liked it.

But it shies away from tough issues it raises about life being unfair and children being powerless.

Expect vulgar giggles and nothing else. Blessed is she who expects very little, for she will not often be disappointed. And “Bad Moms” is slyly observed on expectations of motherhood, food fads and internet porn. For most viewers, that will be more than enough.

Posted by: greercn | August 23, 2016

David Brent: Life On The Road

David Brent and I have a strange relationship. There are bits of “The Office” that make me laugh, smile and fight back tears. And yet, whole episodes grate my nerves to shredding point.

I used to work in an office full of people who loved it, when it was first shown on British TV. As time went by, I warmed to it.

Ricky Gervais has the knack of making the viewer feel uncomfortable. This thoroughly enjoyable film is Gervais at his best. You cringe, giggle and feel the pity that Brent elicits from the viewer.

Compared to the other films based on TV shows, this feels like a superior effort. It may even spawn a dreadful Christmas song.

One intelligent decision made here is to surround Brent with an office of people who don’t think he’s funny but insist that he should be more politically correct. Compared to the indulgent crew of the old office, that moves the comedy with the times.

Brent is convinced that a rock tour will make him a rock star. He hires a young hip band who wince as they listen to his lyrics.

My one criticism is that few of the characters feel fully-formed. Ben Bailey Smith aka Doc Brown is an exception as you warm to the young rapper who accompanies Brent on tour.

Yes, you will think of “This Is Spinal Tap” as much as of “The Office”. Gervais has made the wise decision to keep the tour as pathetic as possible.

And the tattoo scene is very funny.

Everyone at the packed Stratford East Picturehouse had a great time, watching this. And I did too. And if there is anything about Gervais’ writing that you like, you’ll enjoy it.

Posted by: greercn | August 23, 2016

Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods

Asterix and Obelix are adored by French children and adults alike. The comics feature the wonderful inhabitants of a small village in Gaul which resists the Roman Empire, thanks to a druid’s magic strength potion.

When I saw this in French, I was impressed by the comic dialogue, hilarious names and sly digs at modern life in France.

The new English-language version of the film works surprisingly well. I watched it with a mixed audience of people who had never heard of Asterix and those who knew every detail. We all thoroughly enjoyed it.

If you’re used to highly-sophisticated animation, this will seem to hark back to a simpler age, but that’s not a bad thing.

Everyone at the Stratford East Picturehouse, adults and child alike, laughed until it hurt.

There are clever comments on strikes, shopping and house construction. I noticed a few things in the plot that had been added from the original story and some that were missing, but the 85 minutes went by very quickly and it was entertaining to watch.

It’s lovely to see Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s comic heroes still providing a lot of fun, all these years after their invention.

It might be aimed at the kiddies, but there is plenty here for adults, too.

Posted by: greercn | August 13, 2016

Suicide Squad

Suicide? It’s more like murder, explode everything and then laugh maniacally, while wearing improbable tattoos.

But that would be a very long title.

Opinions on the quality of this movie will vary. My Very Intelligent Friend liked it far more than I did. Frankly, I fell asleep a couple of times, very briefly.

Too many bad guys cram the movie. Of these, only Will Smith’s Deadshot and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quin have any depth at all. Viola Davis is excellent as the government controller who brings all the super-villains together.

Jared Leto has a couple of scenes that stick out. Cara Delevingne is decorative, but just dreadful. Please don’t let her act again.

For me, it all just feels like a mash of a bunch of ideas pulled together from other and superior films. It’s trying to recreate the magic of “Guardians of the Galaxy” but that doesn’t happen.

David Ayer writes and directs and there are some superb scenes, but the whole never quite comes together.

I lost track of the plot and failed to care about anyone. The camera lingers long and hard over Margot Robbie’s body. Robbie’s personal tainer will be mobbed by requests for help.

The audience at Stratford East Picturehouse all seemed to be enjoying it much more than I did. DC movies will have to try harder to get me to love them, again. Do stay through at least part of the end credits as you get an interesting trailer.

Posted by: greercn | August 10, 2016

Weiner

Perhaps I have become too European. I simply cannot understand a sex scandal in which there is no actual sex. Sexting? Sexy conversations, via websites? No touch or bodily fluids were involved?

And sending photos is a little teenage, but are we not in the realm of fantasy?

Clearly, nobody in America agrees with me, because this is the basis of how Anthony Weiner, former Congressman and candidate for Mayor of New York City was forced to resign from his campaign, in 2013.

This brilliant documentary is clever, funny and full of insight into Weiner, his family and his staff. It says a lot about political campaigns.

Weiner is a character and constantly pushes for some very good causes. Further, he is married to Huma Abedin who is a key aide to Hillary Clinton. They have a young son, Jordan Zain and dad is very hands on.

Then, sexts and sexy pictures are discovered. It turns out there may have been these conversations between Weiner and about “six women in three years”.

Throughout the film, Weiner is always on his phone, speaking or typing away. Given the nature of the allegations, did none of his aides think about just taking the phone out of his hands?

Apparently not. Americans now have the right to bear phones.

Weiner and all his staff and family members are very charming. These are intelligent people who make a lot of money.

My big question is how can he have been so very stupid? He had the mayoralty of a world class city in his hands and he tapped it all away on a tiny phone keyboard.

Do see this. I had missed the free screening for members of Stratford East Picturehouse and was delighted that it came up in the Discover Tuesdays strand. You’ll laugh and think and speak about the issues, afterwards.

How many documentaries offer so much to the viewer? Directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg – along with co-writer Eli B.Despres – have made a very special documentary.

Posted by: greercn | August 9, 2016

Jason Bourne

Spectacular motorcycle chases, superb explosions and car races are all part of the Bourne formula. You either like the franchise or you don’t.

We have long run out of Robert Ludlum’s plots, so prepare to view 100% recycled material. If so many objects weren’t blown up, it would be quite ecological, in terms of going over the same ground again and not leaving new footprints.

Matt Damon is back and he’s been working out. He keeps saying he remembers everything and then he forgets important stuff.

Plot? Jason is on the run, of course. His old friend Nicky – played with great charm by Julia Stiles – decides to help him. They meet in the middle of a Greek protest, like you do.

Meanwhile, Vincent Cassel is trying to kill Bourne. Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander think this is a good idea. Vikander’s accent drifts to the British side of American, but she tries hard and looks lovely.

Riz Ahmed is really wonderful as entrepreneur Aaron Kalloor. Paul Greengrass directs with his usual race against time need for speed.

The audience at Stratford East Picturehouse all enjoyed it very much and I did too. Whether you like it or not depends on how much you like Jason Bourne. I look forward to his next adventure, although I hope for a more original plot.

Posted by: greercn | August 9, 2016

The Legend Of Tarzan

Jungles are unsafe, for babies and adults. Animals may also face threats to their lives.

Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a lot and was misogynistic, xenophobic and racist. Despite his flaws, he produced big stories that captured my imagination, when I was a teenager. His tales set on Mars contain a lot of magic.

Discovering that this new film was set in the 1890s and mostly in the Belgian Congo (now Zaire), I was only convinced to see this by a discerning friend who thought it was pretty good.

And it is pretty good. Despite being set earlier than the Tarzan stories, the luscious 3D, CGI and cinematography bring a new take to the old tale.

Partway through watching, it struck me that sections and characters are based on Adam Hochschild’s excellent book “King Leopold’s Ghost” which tells the real-life history of the characters Williams and Rom, played here by Samuel L Jackson and Christoph Waltz. Add Tarzan and there’s your story.

Alexander Skarsgard is Tarzan and Margot Robbie is Jane. Both look gorgeous. My friend Ken Monteith writes a wonderful blog titled “Talk To The Hump” and has coined the term “skinematography”, in response to Skarsgard spending vast amounts of the film wearing very few clothes.

Despite this hint at sexiness, there is very little actual sex in the movie, which is disappointing.

The plot, such as it is, features Tarzan and bits of Hochschild’s book. Tarzan swings from vines a lot, talks to the animals and tries to bring justice to the colonial jungle.

It does all go on a bit and feels long at 110 minutes. But lots looks lovely and it’s all shiny and shimmery.

Older people at the Stratford East Picturehouse got more out of it than the kids did. You need a decent attention span to get the most from this.

Do watch it when it comes on TV, although you probably won’t get the benefit of the 3D. And be comforted by the fact that no animals or people were harmed, in real life. All that was destroyed was Tarzan’s clothing.

Posted by: greercn | July 27, 2016

Star Trek Beyond

“Star Trek Beyond” is terrific and whooshes along through its two hours. It has weaknesses, but it is much closer to original creator Gene Roddenberry’s first season vision than any of the other movies are.

First off, the science is really cool. It builds on those transporters and warp speeds and all those lovely flying machines in a delightful way.

Secondly, the new cast have settled into believable relationships. This is helped by a script (Simon Pegg and Doug Jung) that knows when to joke and when to be serious.

Justin Lin’s direction – honed on the Fast and Furious films – ramps up the action and chase scenes. You even get a fabulous motorcycle scene.

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban and John Cho all reprise their parts but it’s Anton Yelchin as Chekov who grabs at your heart and makes you feel sad about his death.

Zoe Saldana is a fine action hero as Uhura but it’s Sofia Boutella as Jaylah who breathes fresh meaning and action into this.

One big weakness is Krall, the bad guy. I like Idris Elba but the costume and script do him no favours. He becomes another cartoon character who speaks bad English. I can’t figure out how such a magical actor fails to connect here.

But, all in all, it’s very enjoyable.

The very-full Stratford East Picturehouse audience all stayed quiet and enjoyed it.

If you’re a proper Trekkie, you’ll love it. If you’re a recent convert, you might miss some of the slickness of the previous two reboots. But there is a gentle and enquiring heart behind the action, here and I warmed to it as the story unfolded.

Dark and moody 3D is distracting, through the first 10 minutes but then creates very beautiful space scenes.

Forget reading about the plot before you see it. This is best seen with as little advance knowledge as possible.

Posted by: greercn | July 23, 2016

Absolutely Fabulous The Movie

“Perfectly Adequate The Movie” based on characters created for “Absolutely Fabulous” might be a more accurate title.

The best scene in this is when Saffron goes to a drag club to find out where her mother has gone. I laughed right through that.

You will need to love Absolutely Fabulous, fashion and celebrity culture a lot more than I do to get the best from this.

Jokes are repeated again and again. They are funny the first time they say a celebrity doesn’t want Edina to wear her clothes. But they are not so funny when they are reduced to a brick coming through the window, bearing the designer’s name.

I love Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley. Those glorious half hours of the old TV show poked fun at celeb-mad culture and style. Unfortunately, this movie seems to reflect an age where these concerns dominate. Maybe the joke isn’t so funny, when more than half of TV shows are reality programmes?

There is a plot. Kate Moss is changing PR teams and Edina (Saunders) wants the job. You are probably intelligent enough to know that this is AbFab and Edina would never actually kill Kate Moss?

With a dizzying number of celebrity cameos, Rebel Wilson and Rylan Clark steal their scenes. Jane Horrocks has taken Bubble’s mad outfits to a whole new level of visual glee.

Despite only running at about 90 minutes, I looked at my watch a few times. This will probably work better when it’s shown on TV.

There nothing awful about this. But little is absolutely fabulous.

The Stratford East Picturehouse oohed and aahed and whispered with each cameo. I am not sure whether I am very proud or slightly ashamed of how few people I recognised.

June Whitfield is still very funny and Janette Tough shines as a fashion designer.

All the old regulars are back and we all go off to the south of France. I’d have liked a little less style and a few more giggles.

Has the moment for laughing at celebrities and fashionistas passed? Are the things we are invited to laugh at just annoyances of daily life? Or is the world news now so serious and sad that we need our laughs to be sharper, more original and warmer?

“Zoolander 2” did the same jokes, but camped them up. This movie needed to be a lot more gay to work properly.

As it is, too much of it is just a drag.

Posted by: greercn | July 21, 2016

The Secret Life Of Pets

Lots of very clever animation pulls you in. Cats, dogs and other pets are left home alone while their owners go to work. They get into trouble but are able to help each other out. That’s about it.

Brought to you by the “Despicable Me” and “Minions” team, you get a short and new film about the minions, just before the main movie starts.

What’s the plot of the main attraction? Our hero is Max who is annoyed when his owner brings home Duke. Gidget loves Max, but has never told him this. Snowball – named for the drink or for the character in “Animal Farm” – is a very aggressive rabbit with a lot of axes to grind.

The voices, script and adventures all share the charm of the characters. Nothing here will frighten small children, but the Stratford East Picturehouse audience seemed very happy while watching this.

And if you don’t know the New York City locations in real life, you’ll probably recognise them from films.

The Illumination team puts in some of quirky delights and it passes the time without lingering too long.

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