A Quiet Place

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA Quiet Place

Directed by: John Krasinski

Produced by: Michael Bay, p.g.a. Andrew Form, p.g.a. Brad Fuller, p.g.a.

Story by: Bryan Woods & Scott Beck

Screenplay by: Bryan Woods & Scott Beck and John Krasinski

Starring: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds and Cade Woodward.

To put it lightly: A Quiet Place is a horrifically quiet family drama.

And I say drama as there’s two layers to this film: how the old familiar wound of guilt effects a family and the way aliens with supersonic hearing can tear any living creature into pieces, seemingly driven by a mission to exterminate.

The film is made simply, staying with Abbott family; husband, Lee (John Krasinski) and wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) doing everything they can to protect their young children after the devastating arrival of aliens 89 days previous to the opening scene.

The only way to survive is to stay quiet.

The audience is shown again and again what happens when the creatures hear, so there’s this constant tension that doesn’t let go for the entire film.

An unpretentious film, with the focus on the Abbott family and their struggle to survive the everyday, I was on the edge the whole time, jumping in fright more than once (not usual for me), living the terror right alongside pregnant Evelyn (need I say more about trying to keep quiet while giving birth) and Lee and the kids, young kids brought up in a world of silent terror.

What really got me was how Lee and Evelyn tried to keep their family safe and happy – trying to be the best parents in the worst circumstances.  So there’s this emotional attachment because of the outstanding performances of Blunt, who continues to amaze, showing absolute terror but controlled through hard-won courage, and the drive shown by Krasinski as the husband and father to protect his family: heart breaking.

It’s not often I cry in a suspense horror, but this film had all the best of an edge-of-your-seat-scare-fest with a driving soundtrack (Marco Beltrami) and nasty killing, sharp-fanged monsters alongside the reality of a family trying to survive in the worst of circumstances.

The whole cast was just so believable, you could see the fear in their eyes.

And because the characters couldn’t make sound or speak, the music and facial expression to convey emotion was just so much more important – the quiet to the complete absence of sound when focussed on the eldest child, daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), from her perspective of being deaf changed the whole feeling of the film, like the silence was used to draw you further in so when there was a clash or sudden scare, you could really feel it.

Superficially, a simple story; but the mechanics and thought put into the presentation of the film, the soundtrack, the drama of the family dynamic shown in the facial expressions and eyes of the cast pushed the suspense to maximum.

An impressive film from start to finish.

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Truth Or Dare

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MTruth Or Dare

Directed by: Jeff Wadlow

Screenplay by: Michael Reisz and Jillian Jacobs & Chris Roach & Jeff Wadlow

Story by: Michael Reisz

Produced by: Jason Blum

Starring: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Sam Lerner, Hayden Szeto, Landon Liboiron, Sophia Taylor Ali, Nolan Gerard.

Like the college students who thought it was a good idea to go to Mexico, party-on and pick up a stranger (Carter (Landon Liboiron)), to follow said stranger out to the middle of nowhere to an abandoned convent to play, Truth or Dare – I’m sure the premise of making a movie based on a deadly version of Truth or Dare seemed like a good idea.

But the story just did not hold up.

There was some shocking horror in the film – as one-by-one the group of friends who seemed like they’d be friends-for-eva were forced to play the game, or die: coupled-up Penelope (Sophia Taylor Ali) and Funk (Nolan Gerard) the beauty and the doctor (AKA the alcoholic and the drug dealer), Ronnie (Sam Lerner) the duffus who was the only genuinely funny one out of the them all; super cute lover-boy, Lucas (Tyler Posey) and girlfriend Markie (Violett Beane) forming a love triangle with best buddy and main character, Olivia (Lucy Hale), destined to be the beard of gay buddy Brad (Hayden Szeto): it’s a classic teen formula of kids on vacation that goes horrifically wrong; I hate to say it, reminding me of the Final Destination franchise.  The bad late ones.

The idea of a trickster demon, Callux, possessing the players making them play either Truth or Dare and digging under the belly to secrets and hidden humiliations of the kids should have been interesting, but I lost interest because the characters seemed soft: the lead-up to each character forced to take their turn weak because the dialogue didn’t stand up so the actions weren’t believable.

With new horror films pushing the boundaries of the genre, Truth Or Dare felt like a repeat of what’s been done before, even a backward step because previous releases like Scream or Final Destination felt fresh.

Sure, the idea of Truth or Dare was new, but there was too much going on to make the most of the idea – and the many complications of the many relationships felt superficial ‘til in the end, it was hard to believe any of it:

‘You’re such an idiot.’

‘What can I say, you do that to me.’

It was a push to get to the end.  And watching, you could feel the drifting.

Cut the whole story in half, spending more time on half the characters would have made a better film as there was good material and good ideas but truthfully, in the end, you couldn’t dare me to believe – wow, see how bad?!

I would have thought killing off annoying college students would have been more fun – it wasn’t.

Rampage

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MRampage

Directed by: Brad Peyton

Screenplay by: Ryan Engle and Carlton Cuse & Ryan J. Condal and Adam Sztykiel

Story by: Ryan Engle, based on the video game Rampage

Produced by: Beau Flynn, John Rickard, Brad Peyton and Hiram Garcia

Director of Photography: Jaron Presant

Music is Composed by: Andrew Lockington

VFX Supervisor: Colin Strause

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

After an experiment in space goes wrong with the Subject destroying the spaceship and allowing canisters containing a genetically mixed pathogen to fall to the Earth – all hell breaks loose as animals’ breath-in the pathogen to exponentially grow into giant mutant monsters.

The focus of the story revolves around Primatologist Davis Okoy (Dwayne Johnson) who has a close relationship with an albino silverback gorilla named George.

So when George inhales the pathogen, it’s up to Okoy and genetic engineer, Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) to save the once docile primate and find an antidote.

It’s a solid storyline written by Ryan Engle and based on the video game Rampage – with many of the crew from San Andreas (2015) collaborating again to create Rampage: the third film from Johnson, director Peyton and producer Flynn.

The music is also once again composed by Andrew Lockington, giving the same feel as San Andreas but instead of a disaster film we have a monster film with VFX supervisor Colin Strause returning to create the realistic monsters.

I have to say, as with all the action/adventure films, there’s always that added humour – the quips here a bit weak.

And alligators (one of the monsters) and crocodiles have two eyelids, not one as shown here.  I don’t know why I was particularly distracted by this oversight, probably because the effects were otherwise so realistic.

Seeing giant mutants tearing up a city is always fun to watch on the big screen – and the effects here were outstanding (except for that missing eyelid!).

And I couldn’t help but warm to George, the not-so-gentle giant.  A little like Primatologist Davis Okoy as the seeming gentle animal lover – who doesn’t get along with humans but loves animals because you always know where you stand and like George, he’s not always so gentle.

So, there were some good parts and some not-so-good making the film a little trashy, but good-trash.

As a side note, the humour in an action movie can make all the difference for me.  If there’s some surprising dark humour or a loveable funny character (George, here, I guess), it raises the film-going experience.

The action and effects were high quality here, I just felt the humour was a bit lazy.

Over-all, good fun on the big screen with Johnson firmly at the helm, this time his massive arms over-shadowed by his monster-friend George.

So you get the feel with muscled action, big crashes with explosions mixed with a bit of warmth and humanity: classic Johnson, but better than San Andreas because I like seeing giant mutant monsters tearing up a city.

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The Party

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA15+The Party

Written and Directed by: Sally Potter

Produced by: Christopher Sheppard, Kurban Kassam

Cinematographer: Alexey Rodionov

Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy, Kristin Scott Thomas and Timothy Spall.

The Party is a film filled with cynical wit as newly appointed Shadow Minister of Health, Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) celebrates her new post by hosting a party.

Bill (Timothy Spall), husband and long-time supporter sits in a daze with a glass in hand as each guest arrives: best friend April (Patricia Clarkson) and her New Age partner, Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), lesbian couple Martha (Cherry Jones) and Jinny (Emily Mortimer), newly pregnant, and the handsome financier, Tom (Cillian Murphy) – all sitting on their own agenda as a constant barrage of political and social standpoints are thrown around the room building to their very own announcements.

A film of contrasts, and not just because the entirety is shot in black and white, but because of the contrast of ideals and personalities.  Even the music played on the turntable by Bill is a bizarre backdrop and soundtrack to the emotive tension in the lounge room; tragedy and trauma played out to the rumba and reggae creating the ridiculous and send-up to all the seriousness discussed from life expectancy related to economics and class rather than diet and exercise – a statistic Janet and husband Bill have always agreed upon – to the question of life after death.

The setting of the film is the house of Janet and Bill – there’s no hiding as each character is forced to face the crisis looming in each relationship: the dying academic, the cheating wife; each person intellectualising their emotion into a rational argument all to the sound of Bill’s insistence of playing record after record, his need for music a compulsion to express.

This is a film driven by dialogue, and the set was created and shot on stage like a play where each character slowly unravels as each reveals the next revelation – the story’s interest in the layers of rationale used as self-protection being pealed away to show the raw human hiding underneath; argument and ideals and political stances made as an adult only to show the child still hiding underneath.  Except for April.  Now a cynic.  Janet asks her best friend, ‘Have I been emotionally unavailable?’

Of which April replies, ‘It’s not a productive line of thought’.

There are so many subtle moments that got me giggling.  Small details like Bill sitting confused, a glass of red in one hand and the celebratory glass of champagne in the other.

It’s sad, it’s tragic.  And the understanding of what we cling to, to keep our ego’s intact, is examined and oh so very funny.

Writer and director Sally Potter (Orlando (1992)), states she wrote the script with an awareness of the absurdity of human suffering; the highlight for me April as she cuts through any emotion with her scathing, but not to be taken personally, remarks aimed at revealing the true and rational perspective with her unblinking eye, ‘You’re a first-rate lesbian and a second-rate thinker.’

To which Martha, Professor of Women’s Studies replies ‘April, Really.  I am a professor. Specializing in domestic labour gender differentiation in American utopianism.’

‘Exactly,’ says April.

Left with nothing unnecessary for the story to come full-circle in 71 minutes, The Party is a clever film that takes you into the claustrophobic world of relationships in crisis viewed through the lens of a political satire; the most selfless of the group the coke snorting soulless financier, Tom – now that’s cynical.

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Tomb Raider

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MTombraider

Directed by:  Roar Uthaug

Produced by:   Graham King

Story by:      Evan Daugherty

Written by:   Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons

Costume Designer:    Colleen Atwood, Timothy A. Wonsik

Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Kristin Scott Thomas, Daniel Wu.

The high voltage, energy tone of this movie is reimagined, tight, exhilarating and relatable.

Strange Days, Tomb Raider starring Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft opens with a hipster living, street smart, 21-year-old, bike courier.

Lara is a gutsy, vulnerable lead female action hero who delivers food and races the trendy high-octane streets of East London, kick boxing in her spare time and barely able to afford the rent.

This Lara lives in a tiny flat, stubbornly refusing the extraordinary wealth of her Croft inheritance with its English Manor and millions and millions of pounds.

But her fierce independence is just a mask, a mask to hide her vulnerability and pain. For to accept her inheritance, she would have to accept the death of her father, Richard (played by Dominic West), an eccentric global adventurer, who disappeared several years earlier.

The plot takes a fantastic turn when Lara is handed a puzzle box, just as she is poised to sign documents – under the watchful mother-hen one eye gaze of her Aunt Ana (played by Kristin Scott Thomas)- and acknowledge the official end of her father’s life.

Lara’s hands intuitively click open the puzzle, revealing a clue to her father’s fate – she is after all a Croft – and plummeting with her we dive into the unknown of an epic adventure to a fabled unchartered island, somewhere off the coast of Japan. On this island, a mythical 2000-year-old tomb, enshrouds a demonic Queen and a curse that will somehow wipe out mankind. A curse nobody wants to be near, but just like Pandora’s box, the curse is a rare commodity and is super attractive to those who wish to weaponize it.

Right from the start, the action is relentless and exhilarating.

In one of my favourite scenes, a hipster cycling pack – contemporary and diverse – there are no monochromatic, fluoro adverse sensible-lycra-clad-boys-club here – you swerve and fend from your seat, as the pack hunts its prey, upending the café strewn streets of East London. The thrill of the chase is urban, raw and real. I loved it.

The globe-trotting scenes are exotic and taut with tension. From London, to Junket leaping in Hong Kong, to an Island – somewhere off the coast of Japan – resplendent with a mummy’s tomb and even a WWII bomber carcase perched life-threateningly over impossibly high waterfalls.

Since 1996, Lara Croft as a lead female action figure has dominated pop culture and yes, I would love, along with thousands of other pop culture fans, love my avatar to have her skill set and physicality.

This is a new Lara Croft and following on from the success of Angelina Jolie as Lara, Alicia successfully claims her space, as Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.

Angeline Jolie as Lara has her Butler, her team, her robots to spar and train with and Croft Manor to train in. Angelina has been a Tomb Raider for a while and knows what to expect in a crypt or tomb.

Alicia as Lara is a mere fledgling, more ordinary person about to lead an extraordinary life – and so she captures us with her urban, girl-next-door accessibility, except for the fact that even when she’s smothered in pounds of 2000-year-old crypt dust she’s going to look like the statuesque kick ass action hero that she is.

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Abracadabra

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: 18+Abracadabra

Director/Writer: Pablo Berger

Produced by: Pablo Berger, Ignasi Estapé, Mercedes Gamero, Mikel Lejarza

Music by: Alfonso de Vilallonga

Cinematography by: Kiko de la Rica

Starring: Maribel Verdú, Priscilla Delgado, Antonio de la Torre, José Mota, Quim Gutiérrez, Joep Maria Pou, Javier Anton and Rocίo Calvo.

Language: Spanish with English subtitles.

If it was a choice between an egotistical, abusive and dismissive husband or a loving, appreciative but crazy murderer, who would you choose?

Abracadabra is kind of a love story, if you can call the choice between a chauvinist and a murderer romantic, mixed with weird humour and eye-brow raising moments of blood and drama and fantasy.

After Carmen (Maribel Verdú) with daughter, Toñi (Priscilla Delgado) finally drag husband and father, Carlos from watching the football to a wedding, they wonder why they bothered when he continues to listen to the football match with headphones shouting, Yes !!! right as the priest asks if anyone contends this most romantic and completely loved-up couple from marrying (their current feeling expressed in precious promises the complete opposite to Carmen and Carlos).

The wedding reception show-cases Pepe (José Mota), the mighty hypnotist, (and obsessed with the sequined, gorgeous but somewhat gaudy Carmen) daring an audience member to volunteer.  Carlos doesn’t like the way Pepe looks at his wife, so volunteers confident in his domination over the powers of the eye-lined hypnotist, Pepe.

While mocking the powers of Pepe an opportunistic ghost possesses Carlos changing him from macho-nasty to doe-eyed lovely, breakfast-in-bed included.

When Carmen and daughter Toñi realise it’s too good to be true, the last straw his greeting of Pepe with a kiss and hug, they consult the mighty Dr. Fumetti (Joep Maria Pou) to find the truth of who inhabits the body of Carlos.

And on the story goes, reaching into the bizarre with a flavour of comedy that held the film from falling into a complete mess of over-dramatisation.

It was those subtle details that were funny: the vibrant white of Dr. Fumetti’s teeth while posing as a dentist; the frothing and spitting of the real estate agent to re-enact blood spurting as a mother’s head was sawn off by the hand of her schizophrenic son… I love a bit of dark humour and there were many moments well executed (ha, ha!) by the cast.

If you don’t like funny-strange humour, then stay away.  The film was also melodramatic with emotion shown with that, hand to mouth, Oh! face, often.  But as the film plays out there was a bit of lead in the story.

An interesting movie experience into the unexpected and absurd, with the drama of weddings and unrequited love and madness that was surprising and silly, pushing the suspension of belief as the script skipped across disaster by keeping the underlying humour present in those unexpected and bizarre details.

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Pop Aye

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MPop Aye

Written & Directed by: Kirsten Tan

Produced by: Lai Weijie, Deng Li, Zhang Jianbin, Huang Wenhong

Onset Photographer: Lek Kiatsirikajor

Composer: Matthew James Kelly

Starring: Bong (as Popeye), Thaneth Warakulnukroh, Penpak Sirikul, Chaiwat Khumdee, Yukontorn Sukkijja, Narong Pongpab.

Foreign Language: Thai with English subtitles.

Winner Sundance World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award
Winner Rotterdam VPRO Big Screen Award
Winner Best International Feature Film Zurich Film Festival

Popeye is the name of an elephant, a street elephant, lost now found by Thana (Thaneth Warakulnukroh), an architect reaching middle-age and realising that everything he’s worked for is now broken – like his first building about to be destroyed to make way for a new design, a new building aptly named: Eternity.

Finding Popeye (named after the cartoon ‘sailor man’) on the streets of Bangkok, it feels like a chance, a new beginning; the broken Popeye the only Being in the world to understand what it is to be taken for granted.

Leaving his wife, Bo (Penpak Sirikul), job and city, Thana sets out on a journey, taking Popeye with him on the roads of Thailand to return the elephant to his childhood home, their home.

It’s the circle of life, suddenly finding the world different – changing, always moving forward and brutal in leaving the old and weak behind: like nature.  But in nature it’s a slow process.  In the city it’s not about watching the day pass, it’s about money – and it passes fast.

The film is a classic tale of a man having a midlife crisis but shown in the unique setting of Thailand with colourful trucks, ladyboys and the relationship a man can have with an elephant.

Writer and director (debut feature) Kirsten Tan is able to show the animals with real personality – the antics of Popeye as he makes a break for it to continue his own journey from a shopping carpark, shopping trolley being dragged behind; to confused dogs barking at a giant immovable adversary; to long-eared cows lost without their cowbell to announce their coming and going.

There’s a bitter-sweet tone to this film, watching Thana project his life-crisis onto his lost childhood pet, because life is bitter and sometimes sweet.

As Tan states: “Tonally, I believe that life is—and has always been—simultaneously tragic and comic. It only depends on the perspective and distance with which one is watching events unfold. In my films, this inadvertent mixing of tragedy and comedy is important, because that is the truth of life.”

Money is an important part of life, but so is that wondering about what happened to past loves, the yearning to return home – the acceptance of others.

Pop Aye is a quiet film to show the cruel and the kind and those on their own path and how each can connect or break apart shown in a timeline that shifts back and forth but always back to Thana and his struggles – the simple things have meaning like the offer of sandals to ease tired feet, the response to hesitation, ‘They’re old not dirty’.

The meeting of the fortune teller able stop time, to ‘feel a bit like a tree.’  And Thana wants to stop the world turning.  ‘But even trees have to die.’

Pop Aye’s a film to absorb and ponder – a journey to lift the soul; not a fast-paced entertainment.

And I can relate to reaching a crossroads and the wanting to wander ‘til it all makes sense; to be able to slow down time, just for a little bit.

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Ready Player One

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MReady Player One

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Screenplay Written by: Zak Penn and Ernest Cline

Based on the Novel Written by: Ernest Cline

Produced by: Donald De Line, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Spielberg, and Dan Farah

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller, Philip Zhao, Win Morisaki, Hannah John-Kamen, Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance.

Based on the dystopian world created in the novel written by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One opens in an overpopulated Columbus, Ohio, 2045.  A place where Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) wants to escape every chance he gets because he’s living in the Stacks… with his aunty and loser boyfriend… sleeping on top of the washing machine…

Wade thrives in the OASIS, a virtual universe where he feels alive, where as his avatar, Parzival, he has a chance to win the ultimate prize: control of OASIS.

When James Halliday (Mark Rylance), the brilliant and eccentric creator of OASIS dies, he leaves a parting gift to the world – the final game where any player can win.

Somewhere left in the game are three keys that when found lead to an Easter egg: whomever finds the egg first wins the game and control of OASIS, meaning half a trillion dollars and ultimately control of the world.

A high-stakes game that of course, has a villain: Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) head of operations of Innovative Online Industries, or IOI, and self-proclaimed colleague of everyone’s hero, Halliday.

To win the game is to win everything, and Sorrento plays to win with all the technology and army (AKA the Sixers) money can buy.  He’ll stop at nothing.  And against the young Wade Watts who’s all heart, it’s a David versus Goliath tale, set to an 80s soundtrack while featuring all the pop culture references associated with that time.

Ready Player One takes a new view of a classic ideal with Halliday, the old and awkward mentor that we love and admire; the want to be able to achieve anything as long as we work for it and want it bad enough; that love is there waiting for us if the time is right to take the leap; that with the help of friends (like the High Five) evil can be overcome…

Pretty cheesy stuff, and there’s a lot of those teen moments.  Yet, the struggles are hard-wired into our brain, so I couldn’t help but grin and cheer for the underdogs.

Add that action-adventure aspect with the riddles and search for keys in a computer game brought to life by three years of VFX work to get all the overwhelming detail right, you’ve got an entertaining film.

The highlight for me was the reference to Steven King’s, The Shining.  Most will find a reference to relate to; the 80s has something for everyone, but I found the scare-factor of The Shining and attention to the animation particularly impressive.  When inverted, into the ‘real world’, to laugh at the baddies getting their scare-on, it was brilliant: Stephen King, the ultimate equaliser.  There’s a reason I’m such a fan and hats-off to Spielberg for re-creating The Shining world so well.

But enough with the references ‘cause I’m grinning while I’m writing so I’ll end with: Ready Player One is a classic action adventure that felt unique by showing the past in a new light provoking a feel-good 4-star cheeky grin.

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Blockers

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA15+Blockers

Director: Kay Cannon

Writers: Brian Kehoe & Jim Kehoe, Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg, Eben Russell

Produced by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, Chris Fenton

Executive Producers: Nathan Kahane, Joseph Drake, Josh Fagen, Chris Cowles, Dave Stassen, Jonathan McCoy

Stars: Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, John Cena, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Indira Viswanathan, Gideon Adlan.

The latest in a long and never-ending line of American teen comedies, this film follows three parents, played by Mann, Cena and Barinholtz, who discover their teenaged daughters have made a pact to lose their virginity on prom night, and try to stop this from occurring. The film was originally titled “The Pact” but was later changed to Blockers with a silhouette of a rooster preceding it, thus inferring “Cock Blockers”.

One reviewer thought this film was “empowering” because it “shows girls flourishing on their own terms, surrounded by supportive friends and nice boys and well-meaning parents.” While this may be true, it isn’t the message one will take away from viewing this film. What lingers is the enthusiastic way teens seize on any opportunity to get totally drunk, and how easily they mislead their well-meaning yet clueless parents.

I expected this film to be composed of wall-to-wall crass humour (based on the trailer) and yes, there was a lot of vulgarity, but there were also some sweet moments between the parents and their children that helped to establish close bonds between them from their first day at school right through to their prom, which explained the parents’ over-protectiveness. In many ways the children seemed more savvy and worldly-wise than their parents, whose similarly rebellious acts during their youth appeared tame in comparison.

A theme running through the film concerned the undeclared sexual preference of one daughter, which I wasn’t expecting to see in this type of film. Her father’s desire to prevent her from bowing to peer pressure was actually quite thought-provoking and mature in a film mainly devoted to depicting drunkenness and vomiting. It was also amusing yet touching how the object of this daughter’s desire was usually photographed in heroic slow-motion, recalling a super hero.

The three male dates for the prom were not depicted as stereotypical brainless hunks with only sex on their minds, with one of them having an enterprising side line in recreational chemicals. While the boys did behave like teenagers, they were also shown to be capable of courtesy and consideration, and were so good humoured about the train wreck unfolding around them that they seemed too good to be true.

The parents were less endearing, with former pro wrestler John Cena probably the weakest link as he overacted like He-Man and his delivery of dialogue was often hampered by poor sound quality or possibly just his enunciation. Lesley Mann reprised her scatter-brained, slightly dippy depiction of a mother who was scared of change. Ike Barinholtz as the outcast father had some touching moments trying to set the record straight while mostly being ignored.

The funniest moment for me was when the three parents snuck into the house of another couple who were into role playing, with amusing results as the three intruders got caught up unintentionally in the other couple’s shenanigans.

So while it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, with some funny moments, it was just another one of those juvenile American movies with lots of swearing instead of witty dialogue, numerous drunken escapades by teenagers and adults alike, and all that rites of passage stuff (getting drunk, trying to lose one’s virginity on prom night, etc.).

If you enjoyed the Bad Moms movies you’ll probably like this one as well. But if you prefer your humour to be more sophisticated and subtle, then this isn’t the movie for you, being just another unoriginal comedy, with predicable situations and largely two dimensional characters.

The Death Of Stalin

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA 15+The Death Of Stalin

Directed by: Armando Iannucci

Produced by: Yann Zenou, Laurent Zeitoun, Nicolas Duval Adassovski, Kevin Loader

Based on the comic books: THE DEATH OF STALIN by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin

Original screenplay by: Fabien Nury

Written by: Armando Iannucci, David Schneider and Ian Martin

Additional material by: Peter Fellows

Starring: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Paul Chahidi, Dermot Crowley, Adrian Mcloughlin, Paul Whitehouse and Jeffrey Tambor.

The poster for, The Death Of Stalin warns: ‘A Comedy of Terrors’ –  I should have realised a film based on the days in the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death had senseless murder and mayhem.

I’m not saying there’s gratuitous blood and guts, but the ridiculous behaviour of those in power – Stalin’s Politburo including the security forces of the NKVD and The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs – who rape and murder while patting each other on the back astounds and at times, tickles:

‘When I piss I always try to make eye contact with an officer,’ says Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) to Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) while peeing against a tree. ‘It ruins their day’.

The majority-rules-group-mentality spearheaded by the iron fist of Stalin unravels when he dies.  The fear felt by his people shown by the hesitation in speech, the inability to come to his aid when he strokes-out on the floor in his own ‘indignity’ because the soldiers are too scared to check what that thud on the floor actually means: What if nothing’s wrong?

So the soldiers wait until morning, safeguarding Stalin’s dying brain, waiting for the housekeeper to arrive with his morning tea.  All based on fact.

Writer-director, Armando Iannucci has created a dark satire that turns the facts into something so terrifying and ridiculous it’s funny.

Once Iannucci was on-board, the cast came together starring the likes of, Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin and Maria Yudina as the concert pianist, Olga Kurylenko: a solid cast working a dynamic script, much like the beloved communist dictum of a working machine focussing on the whole rather than its parts.

Although the decision was made to allow each actor their own native accent (rather than speak with a Russian inflection), it’s difficult to highlight any individual as they were all different yet essential in the ridiculousness of their nature: from the sad clown Malenkov who knows he’s way over his head as Stalin’s Number 2 (girdle included), to the sociopathic tub of evil genious, Beria (Simon Russell Beale), to Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) who could make Stalin laugh; notes taken every night by his faithful wife, drunken quotes read in the morning to remember topics that worked to those that didn’t to CAAAAA: the sound of a throat being cut.

In other words, he’s on, The List.

The Death of Stalin is gallows humour with the back and forth of words spoken with a blank face changing the meaning so it was more about the way the words were spoken and how best not to get caught saying them.

I expected a laugh-out-loud comedy but the truth of evil doesn’t allow for that; it’s hard to let go of the terror.  Instead, there’s a quick brilliancy; a film of dialogue that could be played out on stage including gems like, ‘Can you ever trust a weak man?’

The film tickled with subtle comment by walking the fine line between the seriousness of committing mass murder against the humour terror brings when people are behaving at their evil worst.

With so many layers it’s a film I’d watch again.