Home Again (2017)

home again

‘This is one of those brightly lit Hollywood romcoms with commercial-style acting and precious little insight into human behavior. It’s built on thin contrivances and thinner characters.’ Michael Ordona csm

My loyalty to Reese Witherspoon and Nancy Meyers, who produced The Holiday, The Intern and It’s Complicated (all films I loved), pulled me on board for the most recent addition to the romantic comedy genre. Here, amateur writer and director daughter of Nancy Meyers, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, juggles appealing younger men, outrageously expensive interiors and coddled well-off people in the hope of creating a warm romance, but didn’t quite hit the mark. My biggest mistake was coming to Home Again after watching the triumphant Big Little Lies, so be aware that the two are practically polar opposite – except maybe Witherspoon dropping off her kids to school in an expensive SUV. Home Again is here to please, so it’s very pure and very simple.

Witherspoon is Alice, a newly separated 40 year old interior designer with two beautiful daughters, who has just moved back to her late director father’s LA home. Her sheepish, rumpled and still wildly-in-love husband Michael Sheen is back in New York, desperate to patch things up. On the eve of her 40th birthday celebrations, Alice meets three young wannabe filmmakers with a dream of succeeding in LA. Opening up her lavish garden house for their use during their time making it in LA reels in an odd but sweet makeshift family, the combined traits of everything her ex-husband should have been. The house guests become unpaid child-care providers, tech troubleshooters and man candy, and of course from here on out the rest of the movie is pretty predictable.

Meyers-Shyer had previously mentioned that Home Again was a reflection of the struggles of young divorced women combined with a gender twist on May-December romances, which is interesting enough. But Alice’s hurdles are not relatable to the majority of its viewers, considering they all blow over once she gains the courage to verbally confront them. So inevitably, you are pulled into an alternate reality where everything is just as beautiful on the inside as the outside, and the rich and famous inhabit every luxury on a silver platter. Following her award worthy work in Wild and Big Little Lies, this is an inevitable step backwards for Witherspoon, yet there is something different and oddly charming that appeals to this light hearted rom-com.

If you’re at the cinemas in Australia this weekend, you practically have to pick from The Snowman, Geostorm, Kingsman, Home Again, Blade Runner 2049 or Captain Underpants – i would pick the latter, or if that isn’t your cup of tea, then Blade Runner. But if you’re after a light hearted, slightly disappointing, sometimes funny but overall satisfying romantic comedy you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for in Home Again.

★★☆☆☆

IMDb – 5.7/10  Rotten Tomatoes – 30%

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The Big Sick (2017)

The Big Sick first caught my eye in Empire magazine, when I realised that this inspiring true story turned rom-com featured Kumail Nanjiani as well, himself. This stark contrast from other retold true stories brings a powerful warmth, wit and depth to his character in a sincere parallel to the truth upon which the film unfolds – making The Big Sick one of the most amazing stories told this year.

Kumail Nanjiani is a young Pakistani stand up comedian from Chicago, who spends his days performing, meeting eligible Pakistani girls (not by choice) and showcasing his love for Pakistan through one-man-shows in his local theatre. During one particularly dry gig, Kumail meets his match in Emily, played by Zoe Kazan. However, Kumail’s traditional Muslim family are unaware of his romance, and continue to press for an arranged marriage with other local Pakistani girls. Mention of the next development in the film should not come as a shock, considering it’s The Big, Sick, after all and the publicity campaign is heartily in Emily’s unfolding medical crisis – but do not fear because it’s nothing like the weepie Me Before You or The Fault in Our Stars. In fact, this dramatic crisis brings a beautiful display of superior storytelling as we follow Kumail as bedside vigil alongside Emily during the entire process. Ultimately, what unfolds is a unique story of faith, commitment and passion wrapped in the fabric of a modern love.

One of the most wonderful things about The Big Sick is the husband and wife duo that brought their story to life, Kumail Nunjiani and Emily V. Gordon. Almost parallel to the real events that conspired in their own relationship, the storytelling gravitates to the passion and honesty of the living breathing masterpiece (that is their story) that brought this film to life. The sharp, intuitive and witty scripting delves into a lot more than you would naturally expect from a rom-com, diverting into almost another genre in itself. The modern love, age-old prejudices, religion and commitment knitted into real life romances come alive in this film, in a way that is both as profoundly deep as it is profoundly entertaining. I’ve watched a lot of comedies, but I haven’t laughed out loud like this in a long time.

The undeniable on-screen chemistry that grows between Kumail and Zoe is the cherry on the top of the cake, in a story that reaches out of a cross-cultured romance into the turmoil of our world to bring a shining beacon of hope. In this way, The Big Sick does more than make you simply think, it draws together people, our community, to become better people with more compassion for others. No wonder this is the film everyone is talking about. Don’t miss your chance to revel in its magic – you won’t be disappointed.

Rich in emotional honesty and equal parts moving, The Big Sick successfully infuses the traditional rom-com formula with a modern sensibility.”

★★★★★

IMDb – 8.1/10  Rotten Tomatoes – 98%

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)

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A quick review about this .. may I say .. hilarious idiotic comedy.

Forget what Mike and Dave need, if you need a blast of mad-raunchy summer fun then this baby comes damn close to filling the bill. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates has the jumpy exuberance of a puppy that won’t stop humping your leg, guaranteed to split your sides (sometimes). This marks the feature directing debut of Jake Szymanski, who previously directed a handful of segments for Saturday Night Live and online shorts. So rest assured this guy kinda knows what he’s doing when it comes to comedy.

Given its title, you may be surprised that the story stems from factual roots. Mike and Dave Stangle, two party-hard brothers from upstate New York who took an ad on Craiglist to find two nice girls to take to a cousin’s wedding. They appeared on The Wendy Williams Show and even wrote a 2015 memoir. Hollywood bravely takes this premise with a goofy grin. In their version of events, when their younger sister Jeanie announces that she’s getting married, the family insists the party boys discover dates for the wedding. After endless unsuitable candidates, Tatiana and Alice, former waitresses at a Hooter-ish bar, hatch a plan of transformation into nice, polished and selfie-ready girls. What follows is a ridiculous Hawaii vacay of limitless suprises.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is very much an ensemble comedy, but Audrey Plaza’s ineffable style of comedy suits the material so perfectly she leaves the others in the dust. Zac Efron provides the eye candy while Adam Devine provides the comedy-almost perfect brothers really. This film is hardly a masterpiece, but more a collection of set pieces, with some greater than others. I’ll leave it to you to root for any feminist messages. There’s certainly a theme of equality, demonstrating that Tatiana and Alice can be equally as revolting as Mike and Dave. But at the end of the day, this is just a fun flick. A little crude, a little over the top … but all in all, I loved it. We were chuckling from start to finish.

★★☆☆☆

Finding Dory (2016)

FInding Dory

Pixar filmmakers aren’t immune to the idea that all children’s films need morals, they’re just very creative about how they teach it. In 2003 Finding Nemo became a $900 million box-office smash by scolding overprotective parents, encouraging kids to pursue their dreams and gently suggesting that disabilities aren’t the same as limitations. The sequel Finding Dory narrows in on this idea with a story of coping with disability and despair, and then succeeding on your own terms. Writer-director Andrew Stanton and co-director Angus MacLane have delivered a heart-warming masterpiece thirteen years later, encouraging kids to believe in themselves.

We’re all familiar with Finding Nemo’s transoceanic voyage and the Pacific regal blue tang with severe memory disillusions, but Finding Dory digs deeper into her vulnerabilities when random associations trigger memories of her lost parents. Dory frantically attempts to reunite with her missing kin, fuelling her determination with forgotten memories of her childhood. She doesn’t remember her parents, or how she lost them, but piece by piece, her past slowly starts to come together. Dory, Marlin and Nemo encounter many comical characters during their pursuit of Dory’s parents, including break out star Hank, a cranky seven-limbed octopus who is naturally a master of camouflage. Dory’s journey is so action-packed, we hardly pause to breathe throughout it.

Given the looseness of the plot- a one-thing-leads-to-another quest periodically backtracking in circles, the weight of the story lies heavily on the characters rather than plot development. As most sequels go, this film is filled with hilarious one-liners and lots of hidden empathy, but is perhaps too action-packed for a sequel to its emotionally teeming counterpart.  The colourful characters don’t hide the fact that when compared to Finding Nemo, this film is portraying a story less ambitious and less emotionally intense. Ellen DeGeneres is so brilliant as the comic relief, but she often struggles to hit the dramatic notes Dory requires. And Stanton’s script is cleverly built around flashbacks, but the frantic back and forth action rarely integrates organically with the rest of the story. Nonetheless, Finding Dory is visually stunning and you’ll most likely be laughing way too much to think about the plot – this film is seriously funny!

So although Finding Dory doesn’t quite manage to reach the heights of Finding Nemo, it is a lovely experience for those riding the Pacific Ocean currents for the first time, and a nice nostalgic for those of us returning. The post-end credits epilogue is amusing enough to stick around for, and the six-minute Pixar short Piper is entirely charming – animated with an exceptional degree of photo-realism. Finding Dory is definitely worth the nine dollar ticket and an entertaining flick I would gladly watch again in the near future.

★★★☆☆

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

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Picture the striking landscape of New Zealand, a chubby juvenile delinquent and a scruffy old man. This is Hunt for the Wilderpeople. New Zealand writer and director Taiki Waititi memorably depicts quirky black humour with pathos around almost every corner. On the surface it’s an odd comedy about a fat little kid and the middle-aged grump, but deep down it’s a heart-warming film about two world-weary people in need of a little saving.

The rising auteur’s third film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, wittily examines 12-year-old ‘delinquent’ Ricky Baker. (Delinquent can be in inverted commas, because his horrible crimes include spitting off a bridge.) Dressed in his finest hip-hop street gear, Ricky is escorted by a wrathful social worker to a remote homestead on a North Island farm, who jokes to Ricky’s new parents, Bella and Hec, that there are “No returns”. The daffy comforting warmth of his new home is (spoiler alert) shattered by Bella’s sudden death, prompting a hilarious cameo that sets the groove for the adventures of Ricky and Hec, strangely compelling them further and further into a bizarre rampage manhunt.

There are prevalent echoes of Wes Anderson’s 2012 comedy Moonrise Kingdom, with distinct witty instincts blended into its alluring coming-of-age tale. Waititi alternates moments of action, including ferocious wild pig action, with countless segments of humour and touching moments of drama. The stunning backdrop of New Zealand’s pristine countryside derives a loveable wackiness to the film – complete with amateurish songs and picturesque production design. The characters are also exceptionally well paired, Ricky’s pottymouth and childish unpredictability offsetting the grizzled, mostly sensible Hec, played by Sam Neill. In adapting Barry Crump’s book, Waititi succeeds with a variety of offbeat elements, pairing outstanding set design with a soundtrack your ears cannot miss.

But the most wonderful part of Hunt for the Wilderpeople is it’s emphasise on the life of misfits and whacko’s disposed from society. It drives home this enormous idea that humans are altogether good … if you can give them a chance. And trust me, you can’t help but fall in love with Ricky … and Hec for that matter too.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an enjoyable, heart-warming, modest little story thoughtfully illustrated by an artist drawn to male dynamics. The laughter in the theatre drowned out the many many funny parts, but the most prevailing entity of the film was its power to draw the audience to the story and attach them to the characters. This wonderful film sets to prove that although some people are a little whacky, they can surprisingly turn out to be oh-so-loveable human beings.

★★★★☆

Last Vegas – It’s Going to be Legendary (2013)

Last-Vegas

I haven’t posted in a while but now that the New Year has begun I’ll be posting a review every Monday for all of my readers. Thank you again for your support!

Starring four legends like you’ve never seen them before. Last Vegas stars well-known Academy Award winners Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas and Kevin Kline. If you loved The Hangover and The Bucket List than you might look fondly upon Jon Turtletaub’s indulgent, high-concept comedy about a group of rapidly aging childhood best friends living it large in Sin City.

Faded Brooklyn buddies Billy, Archie, Sam and Paddy reunite in Las Vegas after 58 years of friendship to celebrate the much-anticipated wedding of their ring leader Billy. He’s a long-lived bachelor who has finally decided to get hitched with a fair-skinned beauty half his age, not surprising when you notice his coppery skin, silk shirts and mostly invisible insecurities. The old buddies embark on a weekend through the fantasy world of modern-day Las Vegas, whistling at young girls by the pool, gambling and drinking alcohol to their heart’s content.

Morgan Freeman plays the wily gentleman Archie, a naturally gifted gambler who struggles with his health to the point where he’s not entirely intact with his sons family. Robert De Niro smiles rarely, so naturally he’s cast as the killjoy of the group. De Niro reveals his tough side once again and proves that despite his age, he’s still got it. Michael Douglas is cast as the privileged, charming old dimwit who’s terrified of growing old. Kevin Kline elevates the film with his provisional failure, carrying the notion that he is terribly worn down. Kline manages to downplay every scene and line, timing punchline moments to advance his character’s wit. Thankfully, a soulful performance from Mary Steenburgen, an older night club singer, provides the film with at least a little heart. I suppose the film would have had edge if the characters had really been prepared to misbehave.

Despite the frequent humorous moments, Last Vegas isn’t a film I am fond of neither a film that I would recommend you watching.There are extraordinary scenes that I won’t describe, except to say they were terribly written, ridiculous but somehow painfully funny. The film faded from my memory instantly once the credits rolled, much to say that Last Vegas is simply a mockery of previous successful films based in Sin City, like The Hangover.

Last Vegas is a ninety minute picture with a few bright moments, starring the actors you like in a comedy of unmeasured proportion.

★☆☆☆

Top 5 films starring Jim Carrey

It’s official that ‘Dumb and Dumber To’ is filming for release in 2014 so I thought it would be a good idea to roll back in his film history to discover his top five! I have to add that choosing from Jim Carrey’s best flicks was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do!

5) Fun with Dick and Jane (2005)

Dick and Jane are living a peaceful life until Dick (Jim Carrey) loses his job after receiving an important promotion that caused his wife to leave her job. There is no money and the house is in foreclosure

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This hilarious family flick is full of non stop laughter moments and heart warming lines. Jim Carrey is outstanding as the wannabe awesome father and husband and his behavior on screen is … unique.

Jane Harper: We might be in a little bit of a pickle, dick.

4) The Mask (1994)

A simple Bank Clerk with a totally normal life is transformed into a maniac super-hero with limited self control when he wears a mysterious green mask.

THEMASK

A hilarious film with an overflow of memorable scenes that will go down in film history. Jim Carrey pulls this role off with such intensity, insanity and stupidity. There is no one else capable of putting on such an incredible performance quite like Carrey.

Mask: Hold on, Sugar! Daddy’s got a sweet tooth tonight!

 3) Liar Liar (1997)

A lawyer with a steady career and a slowly disappearing family can’t lie for exactly 24 hours due to a small birthday wish at his son’s birthday party. He’s unprepared, unreliable and undesirable, but he’s desperate to set things straight and to win back his family while he’s at it.

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There are so many laugh-out-loud moments throughout the film and its easily a movie I can watch anytime, any day. Jim Carrey is so bubbly and expressive, especially when the wish is granted and he can’t control himself. This film is definitely on my favorites list!

Fletcher: Here goes: I sped. I followed too closely. I ran a stop sign. I almost hit a Chevy. I sped some more. I failed to yield at a crosswalk. I changed lanes at the intersection. I changed lanes without signaling while running a red light and *speeding*!

Cop: Is that all?

Fletcher: No … I have unpaid parking tickets.

 

 2) Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)

A goofy detective who specializes in the treatment and care of animals goes in the search of a mascot dolphin who mysteriously disappears right before the teams big play-off at the Super Bowl. Ace must pile the clues together to figure out the culprit, and prove himself to the Police Department.

 ACEVENTURA

Jim Carrey puts on quite an extraordinary performance as Ace Ventura, the funny detective dedicated to the protection of animals. His love and respect for animals brings many puns to the film and constantly keeps the audience guessing.

Ace Ventura: If I’m not back in five minutes … just wait longer.

1) Dumb and Dumber (1994)

The long, cross-country adventures of two good hearted yet incredibly stupid best friends. They catch themselves in situations that only they themselves can weaver out of.

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I’ve seen this movie a good thousand times. Everything about this movie is so hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny and outrageous! It’s everything you love about comedy mashed together. Jim Carrey alongside Jeff Daniels are a perfect pair that steal the spotlight and bring this movie it’s fantastic history. Watch out for the sequel ‘Dumb and Dumber To’ where the magical pair will reunite.

Harry: Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this … and totally redeem yourself!

JIM CARREY! THANK YOU FOR SO MANY LAUGHS!

JC