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%

Advertisements

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%

La La Land (2016)

rs-248320-emma-stone-ryan-goseling-la-la-land-sing-dance-trailer

The seasons of a charming love affair are illustrated wonderfully in this captivating scope of colour, sweetness, sadness and song. From the newest creation of Damien Chazelle, who stole hearts in last years Whiplash, comes an unapologetic romantic homage to the Hollywood glamour of the 1940’s and 1950’s, splashing its poster-paint energy and optimism on the big screen.

Emma Stone is Mia, a barista at the lot of Warner Brothers Studio with big dreams to join the acting world. But like most aspiring actresses, Mia has suffered through endless humiliating auditions with little hope of reaching her dreams. Ryan Gosling, as Sebastian, joins the scene as a mesmerising pianist and a passionate jazz purist, who bristles at the increasing bastardisation of what is considered to be in his mind the highest musical form. Mia and Sebastian’s first encounter is a prickly bump in during peak traffic, but soon enough the two meet again and the inevitable and unexpected happens – they fall in love.

Chazelle explores priceless musical sequences as a continuation of La La Land’s limitless possibilities. The seamless moments of singing and dancing are woven into the ordinary, creating an intimate sense of excitement and intrigue. The film holds exceptional use of cinematography, and an exquisite display of colour and light. The vibrancy of the costumes and lighting creates a masterpiece of vibrancy, a bright canvas for the romance of Mia and Sebastian to evolve. In saying that, while the musical scores of Justin Hurwitz soared in the opening scenes, toward the end La La Land lacked the heart and soul of a musical and focused instead on almost monotonous themes that rocked me to sleep. But undeniably, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling carry the film with charm and grace, piercing emotional moments with gut and expressive honesty – and enough romance to create brilliance.

La La Land is a sweet film for those of us who love love, or for those of us with dreams that need a little cheering up. La La Land is a celebration of Hollywood’s Golden Age, of jazz and of course of romance, with its heart bound in deep connections and relentless regret. Here’s to the fools who dream.

★★★★☆

Imdb – 8.9/10  Rotten Tomatoes – 93%

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)

mike-and-dave-need-wedding-dates

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.

★★☆☆☆

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.

★☆☆☆

Silver Linings Playbook – Crime, Chaos and Love (2012)

A bubbly feel-good comedy drama featuring a superb performance from Bradley Cooper as a bipolar man recently released from a mental institution. Silver Linings Playbook was originally adapted from Mathew Quick’s novel published in 2008. Having just followed American Beauty and The Fighter, Director David O’ Russel delivers yet another subtle film. I was pleasantly surprised by the realism factor and genuine on screen chemistry between Cooper and Lawrence. If you enjoy watching drama, comedy and romance all rolled into one spectacular movie, then you’ll most definitely like this film.

After an unfortunate incident with his ex-wife’s lover and a bi polar diagnosis, Pat Solitano spent quality time in a mental institution. After 8 months of intense therapy, Pat embarks on a plan of self improvement with hopes to win back the affection of his ex-wife and set his life back in order. Released into the care of his parents and the local police, Pat discovers he’s not quite ready to be let go yet. Running around the neighbourhood is where he frequently encounters Tiffany, a young widow and a friend of Pat’s ex-wife. Tiffany sees and loves her own problems, and is willing to do the same with Pat.

Director David O’ Russell is an astonishly experienced figure who has had his share of Oscar winning films; American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire. He creates Silver Linings Playbook with a lighter colour scheme and realistic camera effects. O’ Russel fits in more than enough action to determine that the film never gets stagnant.

Bradley Cooper delivers yet another mature performance leading the cast on a rollercoaster of uncertain emotions. Jennifer Lawrence plays the character of Tiffany with charm, wit and pride, another spectacular performance preceding The Hunger Games. Pat’s parents are played by the perfect pair; Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver, both in rare and wonderful form. In addition, Rush Hour’s Chris Tucker delivers some real comedy highlights as an institution buddy. The actors all help to increase purity and improve the plot altogether.

There are certain segments of the film which prove challenging to watch but these situations reminds the audience that mental illness is no laughing matter. Even if this film might sound a little typical of the usual Hollywood rom-com, how Tiffany and Pat fit each other’s crazy is an inspiring and entertaining story of how the right people can be good for each other, even in the unlikeliest of situations. Watch Silver Linings Playbook to see just how two sides of chaos make a pair.