Amy Schumer makes her big screen debut with a script that feels like a much-extended sketch from her TV series. It's hilariously observant and refreshingly grown-up about sex, but the plot falls back on the usual cliches. Even with some clever twists and turns, the structure is oddly predictable. But the biggest surprise is that Schumer and director Judd Apatow ultimately cave in and take a traditional approach to romance.
As she does on her show, Schumer plays a sexually frank woman called Amy. Taught by her father (Colin Quinn) to distrust monogamy, she has indulged in a commitment-free life, rarely seeing a man more than once. And her one repeat male partner (John Cena) is a rather too self-obsessed bodybuilder. Then her boss, blithely demanding magazine editor Diana (Tilda Swinton), assigns her to interview Aaron (Bill Hader), a doctor who specialises in sports injuries. Amy can't help but seduce him; it's what she does! But in the process she realises that she actually quite likes him. This idea so rattles her that she sabotages her close relationship with her sister Kim (Brie Larson), who is expecting a child with husband Tom (Mike Birbiglia).
Schumer has impeccable comic timing, and she's hilarious all the way through this film, playing on her character's riotous way of being shockingly honest at all the wrong times. In other words, the character is entertaining but never very likeable because of the thoughtless things she does and says. So our sympathies lie with Hader, who gives an unusually layered turn as a smart, sensitive and very funny guy who just might be too good for Amy. Other characters are either here to provide emotion (Larson and Quinn) or to shamelessly steal scenes (Swinton). And Apatow brings in a usual stream of big-name cameos, including Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei in a clever pastiche of a New York indie movie.
Continue reading: Trainwreck Review
With bouncy pop tunes and a breezy tone, this Scottish musical sometimes feels so weightless that it seems to float right out of existence. At other times it's startlingly dark and moving, touching on earthy emotions and important themes. The tonal shifts may be rather jarring, but the film as a whole is a joy to watch, especially as it makes some pointed comments on both mental illness and nature of artistic creation.
Set in Glasgow, the story centres on Eve (Emily Browning), who is so obsessed with composing music that she's being treated in a mental hospital. After she escapes she meets James (Olly Alexander), a young singer-guitarist who is a bit unnerved when she follows him home, worms her way into his life and spurs him to start a band with music student Cassie (Hannah Murray). James falls for Eve, but she's clearly only interested in being friends, especially since she has a crush on cool bad-boy Anton (Pierre Boulanger), the lead singer of a rival band. And even Cassie seems out of reach, since she flirts with every man she meets. But neither James nor Cassie knows the truth about Eve's mental state.
Writer-director Stuart Murdoch is the lead singer of the Glasgow band Belle and Sebastian, and the film is peppered with songs written for their album but sung live on-camera by the cast members. As a filmmaker, Murdoch has a remarkably light touch, as well as a gift for weaving the music right into the fabric of the movie. This is certainly not the usual rom-com: the characters have unsuspected depth that's beautifully tapped by the sharp young cast members. The bravely immersive Browning and charming Alexander are a terrific double-act, with very different musical styles that gel together cleverly - think Ellie Goulding and Ed Sheeran. And the addition of Murray's lively Cassie to the equation adds a superb dynamic.
Continue reading: God Help The Girl Review
This overlong comedy is so episodic that watching it is exactly like sitting through five episodes of a sitcom back-to-back. It's funny and enjoyable, with characters we enjoy watching, but they continually spiral back to where they started, and in the end we feel like there's been a lot of fuss about nothing. Even so, the script offers plenty of hilarious observational humour, and the cast is thoroughly entertaining.
Reprising their roles from Knocked Up, Rudd and Mann play Debbie and Pete, who turn 40 within a week of each other. But Debbie isn't coping very well with it, and her emotions swing wildly from steamy lust to fiery rage while Pete just tries to hang on. Their daughters (played by Apatow and Mann's real daughters Maude and Iris) each have their own issues to stir into the mix. And then Pete's needy father (Brooks) turns up with problems of his own, forcing Debbie to think about her own distant father (Lithgow). Meanwhile, the economic crunch is causing problems for both of their businesses.
Yes, both of them own businesses. This is not the typical struggling 40-something couple, so it's not easy to sympathise with many of their issues. Fortunately, Apatow's dialog is packed with brazen honesty and an appreciation for rude gags that keep us laughing even in the absence of an actual storyline we can get involved in (although there's one major plot point along the way). Rudd and Mann were arguably the best thing in Knocked Up, so it's great to let them take the spotlight here, making the most of their sparky interaction. And aside from experts like Brooks and Lithgow, there is a continual stream of superb side roles, including Fox as Debbie's oversexed and possibly embezzling employee and McCarthy as a furious school parent (her big scene is expanded into a brilliantly improvised outtake riff in the closing credits).
Continue reading: This Is 40 Review
Wendi McLendon-Covey, Barry Mendel, Clayton Townsend, Ellie Kemper, Matt Lucas, Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy - Annie Mumolo, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Director Paul Feig, udd Apatow, Ellie Kemper, Maya Rudolph, Barry Mendel, Clayton Townsend, Melissa McCarthy and Matt Lucas Thursday 12th January 2012 17th Annual Critic's Choice Movie Awards - Pressroom
Kristen Wiig finally gets her chance to shine in a lead role with this hilarious comedy. The film veers a bit wildly between silly playfulness and extreme rudeness, but it keeps us hooked by maintaining believable characters.
Despite some heavy setbacks, Annie (Wiig) is happy in her life with a casual partner (Hamm) and a low-pressure job. Then her best pal Lillian (Rudolph) gets engaged, and even though Annie's the maid of honour, every wedding decision is a battle with seemingly perfect bridesmaids Helen (Byrne), while other attendants (McCarthy, McLendon-Covey and Kemper) have issues of their own.
Meanwhile, Annie's encounters with a local Milwaukee cop (O'Dowd) are a confusing mixture of attraction and reticence. Then as Helen seizes control of Lillian's wedding, Annie's life seems to fall apart around her.
Every character in this film is a bundle of insecurity, sometimes very well hidden, and watching them all interact is hilariously entertaining. This is due to an unusually smart, lively script and razor-sharp performances. Even the story's annoying characters have some complexity to them, so as the rom-com structure unfurls, we go along with it simply because we are interested in these people and want to see where they end up.
Wiig is terrific at the centre, generating warm camaraderie with Rudolph and spiky rivalry with Byrne. And her chemistry with O'Dowd is enjoyably funny and cute. Meanwhile, scene-stealers like McCarthy, Clayburgh (as Annie's mum) and Lucas (as Annie's flatmate) bubble around the edges. There isn't a scene in the film that doesn't generate a solid laugh, often of the gut-wrenching variety.
And while a few gross-out gags go over the top, they at least stay essentially good-natured.
Even so, the film is far too long for a comedy; at least a half hour could have been trimmed away. It's not that the material isn't entertaining (we're never bored at all), but some tightening would have made the overall plot that much stronger, even if that meant losing some of the rambling improvisational riffs.
They may be hysterically funny, but they dilute the overall impact of the story and would be just as amusing as DVD extras. On the other hand, the mid-credits sequence is priceless.
In Bodeen, Texas, Bliss (Page) is the rebellious teen daughter of a proud society mom (Harden) and a laid-back, beer-loving dad (Stern). Then with her best pal (Shawkat) she discovers the roller derby in Austin, where her surprisingly strong audition catches the notice of the coach (Wilson) as well as the stars (including accident-prone Barrymore, wacky Wiig, sassy Eve and tough-girl Bell). Renamed Babe Ruthless, she joins the Hurl Scouts team, discovering that some things are more important than beating their archrivals for the championship, the Holy Rollers (led by Lewis).
Continue reading: Whip It Review
George Simmons (Sandler) is an A-list star whose life is awash in alcohol and women. His lack of real friends becomes a problem when he's diagnosed with a terminal blood disease, so he latches onto struggling comic Ira (Rogen), hiring him as an assistant and confidant. The threat of dying makes George reconsider his life, and he realises he only ever loved one woman, Laura (Mann), who now has a family with Aussie businessman Clarke (a hilarious Bana). And when George's medical treatment succeeds, he decides to get her back.
Continue reading: Funny People Review
Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraiser) is a "silvertongue" -- one of a rare few who can "read" characters out of books and bring them to life. Sadly, he discovers this trait one night while entertaining his wife Resa (Sienna Guillory) and their daughter Meggie (Eliza Bennett). While indulging in a passage from the fantasy novel Inkheart, he unleashes fire juggler Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) while accidentally sending his spouse into the tome. Now, 10 years later, Mo is still looking to save her, even though his efforts have let loose more fictional faces from the book, including evil master thief Capricorn (Andy Serkis). But the criminal is not content with being a viable member of the real world. He wants to rule all of mankind, and wants Mo to help him in this horrible pursuit.
Continue reading: Inkheart Review
What makes Munich even more ambitious than films like List or even Empire of the Sun is that it's not as recognizable a film as those classically-structured epics. This film is part spy thriller and part meditation on violence but not completely either. The result comes out as somewhat scrambled by the end, with the pieces of about a half-dozen lesser movies mixed around inside, but there's rarely a moment when it's not grabbing you by the collar and demanding your undivided attention. We should have more of this kind of thing.
Continue reading: Munich Review
The concept is that young Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) sees ghosts, and they torment him night and day, to the point of physical abuse. Desperate for help, he eventually hooks up with brilliant child psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), who tries to help him out.
Continue reading: The Sixth Sense Review
This adage is wholly true for the Tenenbaums, a charismatic dysfunctional family set in a slightly surreal New York City. With an all-star cast and crisp dialogue, this film does what many other films of its genre lack -- it creates a family environment that is entertaining as well as easy to relate to.
Continue reading: The Royal Tenenbaums Review
Murray ambles through his performance as oceanographer Steve Zissou, whose longtime partner was just eaten by a rare species of shark ("which may or may not exist") and is determined to set off on an expedition to find the shark and kill it. When asked what scientific purpose this would satisfy, Zissou gives an almost imperceptible shrug and says, "revenge." Much in the same way that Luke Wilson's Richie in The Royal Tenenbaums had long outlived his brief fame as tennis pro by the time the film started, in Life Aquatic, Zissou's best days are already behind him, and the film is littered with the detritus of his past glory, many of them '70s-style nostalgia items like a special edition tennis shoe or a pinball machine featuring his bearded visage. The funding for Zissou's increasingly poorly-received films is drying up, it looks like his wife is about to leave him, and there's a reporter nosing around asking painful questions. So Zissou's expedition - a half-assed, barely-planned affair - is much less a research trip than a has-been's last hurrah, a perpetually stoned Ahab hunting his white whale (or jaguar shark, in this case).
Continue reading: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou Review
Sadly, the answer is neither, though an overexcited populace spoon-fed on a year's worth of hype is likely to lean toward the latter owing to severe disappointment. It's hard to blame them.
Continue reading: Unbreakable Review
It's no matter, though, as Whedon gets the uninitiated up to speed quick: 500 years in the future, most of the human-colonized galaxy is controlled by the autocratic Alliance, who won a war some time ago against the rebel Independents, now roaming the fringes of explored space. This is where we find the rattletrap freighter Serenity, crewed by a loveable gaggle of rogues who want to be free to wander at will and maybe pull off the occasional crime. The unusually personable crew is led by Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), a sarcastic loner with a not-so-secret heart of idealism. A shambling kind of hero, he's about the best thing to hit movie screens since Harrison Ford lost his sense of humor. Since every good hero needs sidekicks, Mal's backed up by badass Zoe (Gina Torres), her geeky husband Wash (Alan Tudyk), weapons-crazed lunkhead Jayne (Adam Baldwin), and wide-eyed girl mechanic Kaylee (Jewel State). There's also some new crewmates: a doctor, Simon (Sean Maher), who we've seen busting his teenaged sister River (Summer Glau) out of an Alliance research facility where she'd been being turned into a psychotic killing machine. Now River just mopes around the ship, occasionally having psychic flashes, while Simon ignores advances from lovestruck Kaylee.
Continue reading: Serenity Review