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Saturday, 31 May 2014

Maleficent

Evil Angie

Despite an intriguing performance from Angelina Jolie in the title role, Disney’s live-action spectacular is not to my personal tastes. However that is not to say it won’t please you, dear reader. The tone was too twee for my uniquely sour outlook.

Certainly, if I was thinking of a way to update the old fairytales –with particularly lucrative merchandising possibilities – I would not have decided to retell Sleeping Beauty from the villain’s perspective.

In a world of magical creatures, Maleficent (Jolie) is the most powerful fairy, protecting her home from evil and cantankerous humans. As a child she falls in love with a peasant boy named Stefan who grows up to become a ruthless miscreant (Sharlto Copley). With the passing of time, the besotted pair grow ever distant until Stefan’s final act of betrayal destroys the fairy’s sense of good. A curse is placed on the wrongdoer’s offspring, condemning the baby to a mortal slumber on its sixteenth birthday.

If you think that synopsis sounds too much like an overlong and dull prologue you would be entirely correct. In fact, the whole film is one big build up to nothing. It is only until the last twenty minutes that the juicy pieces of action really begin to deliver. Before then, the main amusement is Copley’s needlessly embarrassing Irish accent and some very graceful scenery.

Cinematography of this quality is wasted on a story so loyally committed to entertaining children. Grand panoramic vistas, in a potent blend of computerised and natural imagery, burst into life throughout the imagined fantasy kingdom. At times the direction verges on a poor Lord of the Rings imitation but at least one scene does tread on new ground.

The climactic fight sequence, located in a castle’s spacious lobby, sees a wall of fire consume the actors while Maleficent burns with the fury of a scorned woman. The heated action left me dazzled. For half a second the same glimmer shines in Copley’s eyes as when he portrayed the eerily bloodthirsty antagonist of Elysium.

Aside from the pretty pictures, Jolie’s career-resuscitating success as the ‘misunderstood’ baddie raises the production above its rather clumsy script. Mischievous, vengeful, caring: Jolie shows her full palette of feelings for her biggest impact on screen since Clint Eastwood’s Changeling.

In her previous works I have often found ‘Angie’ somewhat miscast as the action hero or love interest. But alongside the traditional femme fatale character, the stern matriarch is a mould which suits her profile in a more believable way. Unfortunately, the tame script never really allows for a proper test of her newfound vicious streak.

No doubt children and the odd Disney-renaissance fanboy/girl will thoroughly enjoy Maleficent. For my own preferences though, I cannot appreciate the attraction. Frankly, it is far too sweet for my taste buds.  

ST

Friday, 30 May 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Darth Spock)

X-men: Days of Future Past marks the return of Bryan Singer to the X-men franchise. Singer directed the first two X-men films and produced X-men: First Class. It is well known that X-men 2 is not just a great comic book film, but a great film in general so there has been a lot of hype and expectation surrounding the latest edition to the franchise.

So does the film live up to the hype? Personally I don’t think it does. Before I go on any further I have a SPOILER warning out there. I don’t think that the film is as good as everybody is saying, it does not have the same edge that X-men: First Class has; the 2011 movie was something different from anything before, as a fresh take on a dying franchise, whereas Days of Future Past just feels like a lot of what we have already seen before.

Before I delve into what really annoyed me about this film, I feel like I should give it a chance and talk about what I enjoyed about it. For starters, the acting was fantastic, the First Class cast continued to make the characters their own in this film, especially Jennifer Lawrence. If Mystique doesn’t get her own film after this that 20th Century Fox don’t know what they’re doing!

It was a joy to see the return of some of the original cast, who were all just as good as we remember them, Patrick Stewart will always be Professor X and Ian Mckellen will always be Magneto. Hugh Jackman just gets better at being Wolverine the older he gets. Singer did a great job at making Wolverine a prime character, without making it a Wolverine film.

Easily the highlight of the cast was Evan Peters as Quicksilver, I was completely surprised at how likeable his character was and how well put together his scenes were. Joss Whedon has got a real challenge on his hands to make Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver even come close! I also really enjoyed the cameos by other original X-men characters like Jean, Rogue, Beast (Kelsey Grammer is one of the perks from X-men 3) - except Cyclops, whom to this day is still one of the worst casting choices in the franchise.

All of the scenes set in the future were fantastically choreographed and were easily the most enjoyable scenes in the film; the futuristic Centennials were threatening, I mean these things were vicious; some of the kills they performed on the X-men were brutal! They tore Colossus’ in half!

So what didn’t I like about this film? What makes me think that it is a disappointment when the world around me seems to think it’s the best comic book film of the year? The reason I disliked this film so much is that it is basically two hours of Bryan Singer trying to fix the problems of the previous films. If anything it actually creates more questions than it solves. At the end of The Wolverine we see that Xavier is somehow alive, and it is hinted that this will be answered in Days of Future Past, but it isn’t. It is also never explained how Wolverine’s claws become adamantium again, or how Shadowcat can send people’s consciousness back in time.

This is just a small example of what now never has to be explained, because not only does the film make the events of X-men 3 and X-men Origins: Wolverine obsolete, but also all the other films in the franchise except for First Class and Days of Future Past. That also includes The Wolverine, which was a fantastic film for the character, and started him on a path that could finally have led to us seeing Logan in his costume from the comics. The film isn’t even a year old yet and now the events in it never happened!

Also, the Centennials in the 1970’s were underused, especially for something that was one of the driving points of the advertising. As soon as they were activated they were under Magneto’s control so were never a threat to the mutants. I feel as robbed as I did with the Phoenix story in X-men 3 (a film in which the Centennials were also underused!). On that Centennials note, they also under used Trask. Peter Dinklage is great at every role he does, and although Trask is important to the film, he is never seen as a threat.

I am however excited as to what Days of Future Past means for the X-men franchise, especially with X-men: Apocalypse and The Wolverine 2 in the works, along with the planned X-men/Fantastic Four crossover film. I just really hope that they take this chance and explore some of the great story arks from the comics properly.

So overall, I did enjoy certain parts of this film, the cast all work well with each other and I personally believe that McKellen may lose his title as the true Magneto to Michael Fassbender, and there were some really awesome action scenes. I think I ruined the film for myself by getting too excited for it, and expected it to be this perfect X-men film. But ultimately in my eyes, X-men 2 is still the best, followed closely by The Wolverine.

Overall I give the film a 6/10.

David Gillie
@DarthSpock

Blended

Smoothie Groovy

Critics scoff and film buffs rage, but in the face of all this vitriol, I remain partial to Adam Sandler family comedies. I have been a fan since Billy Madison, Little Nicky and Happy Gilmore all encountered my curious young mind at the turn of the millennium.

All the haters can drown in their own bile if they wish. Ultimately, Blended is sure to make lots of money and please many people in the process. Indeed, Sandler and chums will laugh their way to the bank with a perfectly clear conscience.

After a torturous first date, control-freak Lauren (Drew Barrymore) hopes to never meet her proposed match, Jim (Sandler), for a repeat rendezvous. Yet the couple are forced to renew their reluctant interactions when they both arrive on the same luxury African holiday accompanied by their motley kids.

Finding the bad aspects of this gentle comedy is easy enough. If you want to read that sort of vicious and pompous deconstruction then go somewhere else. My riposte to those critiques focuses on breaking with the crowd, highlighting the positives and nifty features of a harmless film.

Firstly, the script by Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera is a cheerful blend of ebullient humour and amusing, if childish, hijinks. As an extremely likable screen pairing, the two adult stars get the majority of the best lines but the children are still allowed to relish some enjoyable moments too.

Even a chorus of African soul singers light up the screen with their all-too brief fragmentary periods in the limelight, perhaps in an homage to Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite. Or maybe I am pushing my luck.

Interesting quirks are aplenty around the more obvious jokes. Not only does fast bowling legend Dale Steyn feature but also ‘Ten-Second Tom’ has a walk-on part. Of course, the return of Allen Covert’s character is a reference to the last Sandler-Barrymore vehicle, 50 First Dates.

Otherwise, I am willing to bemoan the movie’s sluggish start and final act. In between its flabby exterior however, Blended is a reasonable romp through affable territory.

To hell with the naysayers, Sandler deserves plenty of credit for repeatedly defying all the self-important culture critics which afflict our society. Grown Ups 2 made $249,984,278 at the global box office; get over it. Let the people decide what they want at their cinemas for themselves.

ST


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

All About My Mother

Gender Bender

Pedro Almodovar has got nerves of adamantium. Critics used to call him the enfant terrible of Spanish cinema. These days the media scumbags (myself included) will say he is a ‘cult’ auteur. In the film which earned him international plaudits, the Iberian writer and director’s unconventional skills come to the fore in a tragedy of strong, unconventional and downright ambiguous women.

A transplant technician (Cecilia Roth) lives alone with her Truman Capote-inspired son until an unexpected event (no spoilers!) changes the course of her life. Reuniting with her transgender friend Agrado (Antonia San Juan) in the red light areas of Barcelona, the dogged matriarch goes in search of a former scoundrel and lover.

Conservatives really ought to steer clear of Almodovar’s work for fear of having their sensibilities violently broken. All About My Mother upholds a vigorously liberal stance, embracing the cross-gender community of Catalunya’s ‘working girls’ and proudly sticks two fingers up to Catholic orthodoxy.

Rather sweetly, this is a film about gay people without actually obsessing over being gay. Instead we get a celebration of the fairer sex in whatever shape or form.

In a similar vein, the script is like a meandering enigma of humour, drama and baffling oddness. Shocks come thick and fast which will leave you dumbfounded and not-half bewildered. Despite open references to Hollywood classics like All About Eve and Streetcar Named Desire, the story is totally unpredictable and refreshingly different.

If, as Fredric Jameson suggests, originality is a myth then this is the best pastiche I have ever seen. It seems the American Academy agreed when they bestowed the best foreign language feature award on this curious creation.

Anchoring the movie through some frothing waters is a selection of fantastic performances from a well-cast ensemble. Roth is incredible in the film’s emotional centre whilst Marisa Paredes and the unheard-of San Juan nurture a sublime range of layers from their contrasting heroines. Long time Almodovar muse Penelope Cruz also offers her talents as a conflicted nun. Nobody could fail to notice the reasons why this role launched her career in English language films.

For the disappointingly slim number of you who are brave enough to explore foreign cinema, All About My Mother is a must watch. It simply has no peer in quality or style among any of Hollywood’s, Britain’s or Australia’s celluloid offerings.  Is there anything more fascinating than a film in a genre all of its own?

ST

Sunday, 25 May 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (ST)

Mutant Marvel

Some concepts are best left in the comic-fuelled cauldrons of the geek imagination. Despite the tantalising prospect of the X-Men juniors teaming up with their older counterparts, Days of Future Past represents a potential nerd paradise which lacks the chutzpah to go the full hog.

Bryan Singer’s return to the series which he originally kick-started is too restrained to have the impact geeks were drooling over. Aside from a helplessly brief glimmer of dialogue, that showdown between the new and the old cast never really happens.

Marvel’s most critically admired series still continues to have life in its seventh feature film without the action ever really exploding with a ‘cool’ factor. The magic which once convinced this critic that Magneto intended to rip all the blood from his youthful body seems to be ebbing away.

A sober introduction is the hallmark of Singer’s superhero stories and his latest is no different. In a horrendously dystopian future, mutants are hunted by merciless legions of cyber-assassin sentinels. From the outset, Ellen Page’s band of partisan survivors is attacked by these robotic phantoms in a strangely depressing action sequence. The parallel with drone technology is obvious to anyone with even the lightest grasp of contemporary events.

From this war-torn world, the elderly Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Professor X (Patrick Stewart) send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to prevent a series of events leading up to the future Mutant extermination. But the younger Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) circa 1973 is not the hero Logan thought he knew.

Even with a dense plot of ‘timey-wimey stuff’, fun sequences frequently fill the screen, though none offer an emotional substance worth comparing to Singer’s first two efforts with the franchise. Simply put, there are too many characters and not enough time for them. With so many popular roles, the script does not achieve a successful share of screen time between big names like Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Hugh Jackman.

Without a definitive lead protagonist, in the end everyone is simply a poster-filling support character. As always, Magneto gets the best action sequences whilst Wolverine and others are disappointingly not let off their leash.

Yet even Fassbender’s brooding turn cannot match the best sequences in First Class, where his vengeful Holocaust survivor was a breath of fresh air to the series. His highlight this time around is a brilliantly tense action set-piece outside the Paris Peace Conference. Sadly, Singer cannot retain that pace for the full duration because of the boundless story permutations being ignited by the time-travelling ploy/curse.

Quicksilver, as one of the few heroes making his debut, has a memorable cameo but is then abandoned without explanation. Also, whilst Ellen Page exploits her modest presence to full advantage, in comparison Professor X is nowhere near as engaging without his preppy arrogance from McAvoy’s last appearance.

Even so, Days of Future Past is still an above-average superhero movie.  Most fans will be satisfied with its quality but it had the ingredients to be a whole lot grander.

ST

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Frank



If there’s one thing cinema doesn’t need, it’s more biopics. ‘Real’ stories about real people are all the rage in Hollywood at the moment, and almost every new release these days seems to have the words ‘based on a true story’ proudly adorned on the poster. They’ve proven an affective strategy for producers hunting Oscar nominations too, with five of the eight films nominated for best picture this year taking their cue from real life.

What a relief, them, that Frank is not a straightforward retelling of eccentric musician Frank Sidebottom’s life. The main problem with biopics is how they must dutifully adhere to the story of the subject’s life, which often gets in the way of the filmmakers’ imaginative freedom, and sacrifices theme for fact. By contrast Frank only takes the odd detail from Sidebottom – the giant papier-mache head, the fact he was a musician, his first name – and uses them to dramatise wider questions about creativity: Is madness an inevitable by-product of genius?  Does art need a wide audience to be great? And what does it take to become an artist?

The film’s version of Frank (played by Michael Fassbender) is the lead man of an American alternative band, who hire wannabe-musician Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) when their keyboard player attempts to drown himself. Although the film is called ‘Frank’, the film takes the perspective of Jon and his fascination of the extraordinary rocker, in a Sal Paraide/Dean Moriarty and Wilard/Kurtz-esque relationship. When he’s invited to become a permanent member of the band and join them on a trip to Ireland to record an album, Jon’s eagerness to contribute to their exhilarating creativity makes abandoning the day job an easy decision.

It is clear from the outset that the creative process of art will be the film’s central theme. Jon wanders around his bland suburban neighbourhood trying to find inspiration, during which we’re given access to his thoughts as he tries to formulate a song. His attempts, however, are comically bad, especially when compared with the brilliance and abrasive strangeness of the Frank’s band, which blows both him and us away the first time they’re shown performing. From this point on we expect to witness Jon’s blossoming as an artist under the guiding hand of Frank, but instead the film gently rejects and mocks these expectations with something less clichéd and more grounded in reality.

Aside from its intelligent take on the nature of artistic creation, the film’s real triumph is the way it combines both hilarious comedy and poignant drama to weave a compelling and ultimately moving story. It achieves this without ever resorting to the kind of sentimentality that a lesser film would have, and prompts us to accept its oddball characters as they are – even Maggie Gyllenhaal’s terrifically uncompromising theremin player Clara.

It’s Michael Fassbender who steals the show, however, managing to give a tour-de-force performance despite being hidden behind the giant fake head. Aside from the impressive range he manages to display using just his body, Fassbender also excels in making nuanced a character who could have been dismissed as zany. The head is mesmerising to look at, but Fassbender’s movements – his energetic limb spasms, his tilts of the head, his use of his voice – give depth to the character that suggest passion for his work, mental instability and a desire to be appreciated. Then there’s the musical performances themselves, which he and the rest of the case deserve great credit for making sound like the real deal.

By the end of the film the questions raised have been given answers free of the kind of romanticised ideas biopics often offer, in favour of answers that are more, well, frank in their honesty. Madness is considered a hindrance rather than an aid to genius, fame is dismissed as unnecessary for great art to flourish, and it is argued simply that some are gifted with creative talent, while others simply are not. In the case of Frank, most involved in the filmmaking process clearly are. 

SP

 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Godzilla



There have been few better trailers for films coming out this year than the first official teaser for Godzilla, released back in December (see bottom of page). It’s unbearably tense, imaginatively shot, and offers enough tantalising glimpses of what looks like a terrifying and enormous version of the iconic monster to whet the appetite.

However, it turns out that the sequence depicted in the trailer – a team of frightened soldiers parachuting down onto a city being ravished by Godzilla - does not actually take place until the film’s final act. What feels like a scene to kick-start the action is preceded by a good 90 minutes worth of build up, by which point many viewers who have paid to see a good old fashioned monster movie starring the King of the Monsters himself will be frustrated by the film’s endless teasing and restraint.

It is evidently the intention of director Gareth Edwards to delay gratifying the viewers’ appetites. In one scene, just as Godzilla is about to embark on his first fight of the movie, Edwards opts to abruptly cut the scene to show a boy watching the events live on the TV news. The focus shifts to him and his Mum talking, and we’re left arching our necks trying to see what’s happening on the screen behind them.  

It’s a wry approach from Edwards, but one that ultimately fails due to one major flaw – there is little here of interest besides the spectacle of Godzilla causing chaos. Had there been a decent plot and engaging characters to hold our interest this would not have been a problem, and perhaps have made the pay-off all the more satisfying.

But, unfortunately, the story is prosaic and a little all over the place. It begins with two extended opening episodes: in the first scientists Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) inspect a huge skeleton discovered in the Philippines, while in the second a fatal ‘earthquake’ in Japan disrupts the happy domestic life of nuclear plant workers Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and Sandra (Juliette Binoche). The film proper then starts when we skip forward fifteen years, with the Brodys’ son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) having just returned from Iraq to his own wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and young son Sam (Carlson Bolde).

Despite early scenes revolving around the suspicions of a conspiracy theory surrounding the incident in the Philippines explored by Joe, who Cranston injects as much range and bravado as you’d expect from an actor of his quality, it soon becomes clear that the film’s protagonist is in fact Ford. This is another of the film’s major misjudgements – rather than focus on one of the many talented actors on display the burden instead falls upon Taylor-Johnson, who, despite being great in Kick-Ass, here displays about as much charisma as a paper towel. He seems to have gone for the beefed-up stoical army guy with a good heart, but is frustratingly dull to watch compared with Cranston, not to mention the sky-scrapper dwarfing title character.

Typically, the actresses are all given criminally little to do. Talent like Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche and Elizabeth Olson deserve to feature centrally in any film they’re in, but here are sidelined respectively as exposition-giver, a cameo appearance and helpless girlfriend.

Ken Watanebe’s role, meanwhile, is revealing in how it underlies the film’s problematic tone. Every time his character opens his mouth we’re suddenly in the realms of B-movie, which sit uncomfortably with the tentative mentions of one of the oldest taboos in Hollywood, ‘Hirshomina’. In truth, given the lack of substance in a plot that lurches from one scene of exposition in Hawaii to another scene of exposition in San Fransisco, the film would have benefited from several more dollops of cheese. Such flavouring would certainly have made the preposterous ending feel far more appropriate and less out of place.

There may seem very little mention of Godzilla himself in this review of Godzilla, but that’s only reflecting his sparse presence in the film, which too leaves him out until the end. Even his inferior monster-antagonists, known as MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) are given more screen-time, but when the King of the Monsters does finally emerge from the deep, the spectacle is thrilling. All the benefits of CGI have been exploited to create a creature colossal in size and rich in detail, although perhaps more emphasis on motion capture a la Peter Jackson’s King Kong would have helped achieve the more organic look of the traditional man-in-a-rubber-suit approach. Still, when Godzilla finally gets to strut his stuff in the final moments, much of the earlier folly is forgiven. 

SP

 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Sabotage



David Ayer’s last film End of Watch was a brilliant, visceral and gripping tale shot in naturalistic style that, despite a disappointingly over the top ending, William Friedkin (French Connection, Exorcist) claimed to be the best cop movie ever made. Therefore Ayer’s return to the screen tackling the awkward gritty issues of America’s war on drugs should be something to celebrate, hopefully as a tense, awkward naturalistic thriller. Then you discover it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger.  



Don’t get me wrong, Schwarzenegger is a Hollywood icon and deservedly so. His eighties action content include some of the most purely entertaining and thrilling films ever made. But here he is astonishingly out of place, playing the leader of an elite, incredibly violent anti-drug squad who try to skim millions of a bust, but which goes missing. This is when people start to die, with  plenty of recriminations, incredibly macho dialogue and violence, lots and lots of violence all set against a background of pure human depravity. Sure, the dialogue is traditional for Arnie, but what is not is the fact that the film, at least to some extent, takes itself seriously in terms of themes and the type of violence depicted. There is torture, abuse and nailing people to the ceiling - in essence it is serious and certainly not fun, something clearly encouraged by the director’s continued flirtation with a minimalist soundtrack and naturalistic stylings. But essentially none of this works because it is anchored by the Governator. Encouraging empathy was never Arnie’s strong point, a fact that the film does pick up on when a character states “they can’t read him”. But unfortunately neither can you, as the actor fails to imbue the necessary emotion to carry the feature.

Worse is the dialogue. Not only are the squad distinguished by nick-names such as Pyro, Grinder and Monster (which make it feel like David Ayer may have been playing a tad too much Call of Duty while writing the screenplay), whenever any of them open their mouths it is to talk about sex, drugs, violence and of course, dick jokes. In the end, they are little more than walking, swearing blood bags awaiting spillage. Although the same might be said of other supporting characters in eighties action, here they are bogged down by a strangely gritty feel that makes them seem both even more unpleasant and unlikable, and remove any possibility of investing in the film. Worse, this language extends beyond the squad to the likes of the usually brilliant Olivia Williams, bizarrely cast and wasted as a murder investigator.

Sabotage is not all bad – Ayer’s visual eye is undeniable and there are the sort of moments peeking above the parapet you would expect from a much better film. The subject matter is interesting and compares somewhat favourably to both Ridley Scott and Oliver Stone in their recent failures The Councillor and Savages. However, with the scripting problems and the cast the film has become so tonally imbalanced that  it capsizes and sinks. 

James Absolon


Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Bad Neighbours (ST)

What will the neighbours say?

Since humanity downed its first pint in upper education, the frat-house has been one of the richest sources of comedic material. Animal House and Old School are among the leading lights to have got sloshed in their toga, streaked around campus, and performed grotesque initiation rituals so debauched they would make the Stonecutters jealous.

Unfortunately for Bad Neighbours, Seth Rogen and Zac Efron are no match for the wizardry of their forbears. Where they perform to a so-so 2:1, John Belushi and Will Ferrell rocketed towards a first.

When Mac and Kelly Radner (Rogen and Rose Byrne) move into their dream family home, looking after their newborn baby feels tiresome. Once a rowdy fraternity house move in next door however, their suburban idyll is destroyed for good. The young family are soon forced to declare war against the clique’s handsome but mischievous leader Teddy (Efron).

Just like all the other Seth Rogen comedies to have appeared in the last decade, his latest film has its funny moments but cannot resist becoming obsessed with phallic humour and unnecessary chit-chat scenes. A riff on the changing faces – or rather voices – of Batman is an example of the script at its best, especially when deployed in a fantastically original and chaotic fight scene.

At its worst, crude gags are given too much prominence to be forgiven and forgotten quickly enough. That is not to say that some of the vulgarity is not effective. A scene on the perils of breast
feeding had me chuckling in my seat.

Efron is well cast as a juvenile muppet with the body of Adonis. His performance is a refreshing break from that embarrassing High School Musical image and is only half as annoying as you would expect. Rogen plays an affable Jewish stoner coping with new responsibilities... so basically himself. Otherwise, everybody else runs around like their actions actually mean something. Ok, that is slightly unfair on a generally amusing supporting cast, headed by the game Byrne.

After an hour of pratfalls and poking fun at penises, the plot makes the fatal mistake of trying to develop the characters beyond the level of laughs. Apparently everyone is scared about getting old: I never would have guessed it! This detour into ‘Psychoanalysis for Dummies’ wastes at least five minutes without adding anything worthwhile.

A ruthless editor (sorely needed, by the way) would have also removed the last three dialogue scenes. Remember that cringe-worthy epilogue to Superbad? Yep, it’s reminiscent of that, both involving men in jeans for some inexplicable reason.

ST 

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Bad Neighbours (JA)



After dealing with demonic horrors of the end of time in This is the End, Seth Rogan now faces the far more difficult and dangerous challenges of domestic life. Apparently the next logical adversary after Satan are students, as he and wife (Rose Bryne) do battle with the anarchic booze swilling fraternity moving in next door.

This set up leads up, of course, to the traditional gross out antics, chaos and other such familiar items from the modern mainstream comedy check list. Therefore, prepare for another round of the usual penis gags, excessive alcohol consumption and numerous illegal substances, and a hero who wants to be young and irresponsible, and is gradually faced with the need to mature. So far so cliché, yet what is nice about Bad Neighbours is that it features a suitable nemesis in Zac Efron’s fraternity president faced with a terrible and understandably disturbing vision of his future self next door. It may sound trite but this is by far the best and most interesting idea the film has, especially since Efron remains extremely watchable throughout the film, appearing in comparison to everyone else to be strangely believable and, dare I say it, human. 

Meanwhile Seth Rogen simply does his thing, which is perfectly watchable albeit repetitive, while Rose Bryne is fine, with the most interesting aspect of the character being that it is stupid and irresponsible, character traits that are so rarely possessed by women in films. That, after all, is strictly a male prerogative, something the film is all to glad to point out as it invokes the dark spectre of Kevin James, perhaps simply in an effort to look better in comparison (they succeed). Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but the act of waving credentials of their own film so rampantly in the audience’s faces as to discuss it onscreen, does seem a little heavy handed.

Of course the main question one has to ask of a comedy is whether the thing is actually funny, and here the answer is kind of ‘meh’. There are a few reasonable gags but none that are really new, while the gross out has been done before grosser and funnier. In addition, it may be nice to see this strange visage of American almost-manhood doing stupid things, but I could not help but want more than just the same old rigmarole that has become oh so familiar in comedy.

Especially since this film does have some good ideas, but simply does not know how to utilise them effectively. Which is very disappointing, especially considering Zac Efron’s sort of villain is busy stealing the show, and you can’t help but wish he had better material to work with as I am sure he could have produced a few good laughs. Not to say Bad Neighbours is well bad. There are more than enough bad comedies in the world; unfortunately, there are also too many mediocre ones. 

 James Absolon