Bad Moms 2

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Bad Moms 2Bad Moms 2 – aka A Bad Moms Christmas

Rated: MA 15+

Directors: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Writers: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Producers: Bill Block, Mark Kamine, Suzanne Todd

Stars: Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Susan Sarandon, Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, Wanda Sykes, Peter Gallagher.

Is any situation funny just because people are drinking so much they steal, assault and create mayhem? If it is, it has to be well written with characters we have become fond of, which this film was not.

With an opening scene showing wholesale tinsel and bauble carnage (reminiscent of the start of The Hangover which was also written by this film’s writers/directors), we meet one of the “Bad Moms”, Mila Kunis as Amy, looking beautifully coiffed and made up no matter the time of day or night, who confesses to having “ruined Christmas”.Bad Moms 2

The theme of this movie – conflict between mothers and daughters – appears to be best summed up by Amy’s mother Ruth (Christine Baranski) who says loftily, “You’re a mom. Moms don’t enjoy, they give joy,” (although joy is not an emotion you would normally associate with her). Amy’s response, after a series of passive-aggressive encounters that escalate to overt rebellion, is to declare to her two fellow moms, “Christmas is supposed to be fun. Let’s take Christmas back!”

Showing little originality or creativity, the movie revisits the days leading up to what caused Amy’s apparent destruction of Christmas, with scant attempt to provide background for those viewers who may not have seen the first Bad Moms movie. For example, it isn’t initially clear what her relationship is with the hottie Jessie (Jay Hernandez). I thought he was her husband until someone mentions this will be the first Christmas for the children without their father, implying he’s dead. It isn’t until later we learn Amy has in fact divorced her husband, but not why, obviously because we should already know.

The other “Bad Moms” are also re/introduced: sweet yet repressed Kiki (Kristen Bell), married with three or maybe four kids, with an overly possessive mother (Cheryl Hines) who isn’t coping well following the death of her husband and who sees her daughter as a replacement companion.Bad Moms 2

By far the crudest yet most convincing of the three is Carla (Kathryn Hahn), a single mother of more mature years with a teenage son and a largely absent rocker mother, Isis (Susan Sarandon) who only turns up once every few years when she needs to borrow money. Strangely I most enjoyed the scenes with Carla at her day spa job. Her waxing of a visiting fireman/stripper (the incredibly buff and toned Justin Hartley) produced the most laughs, mainly because of its silly yet sweet spin on two people meeting and falling for each other in ridiculous circumstances. Kiki’s visit to the psychologist Dr Karl (Wanda Sykes) also stood out as one of the better crafted comic scenes.

Most of the movie is devoted to a series of expletive-laden shouting matches between the various mothers and daughters that rely on swearing instead of wit, interspersed with slow-motion montages showing the three Bad Moms getting drunk, abusive and stealing other people’s property because hey, that’s fun, isn’t it? Then the pace gets slower and the mood more serious as the various characters implode, explode, break down, wallow in regret before they reflect and reunite in a typically Americanised sentimental way.

While the preview audience was well lubricated with strong cocktails so were probably in the mood to be easily pleased, watching this film sober meant the crudity and charm-free sit-com direction were undiluted and much harder to swallow. Having to celebrate Christmas with these people would be a punishment.

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The Snowman

GoMovieReviews Rating:
The SnowmanMA15+

Directed by: Tomas Alfredson

Based on the Book by: Jo Nesbø

Screenplay by: Hossein Amini and Peter Straughan

Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Piodor Gustafsson, Robyn Slovo,

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg with Val Kilmer and J. K. Simmons.

Waking up from another bender, lead detective, Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender), needs a case to distract him from drinking.

When he receives a disturbing letter signed-off with a picture of a snowman, he may have found the case.  And as the film continues and the bodies pile up, Harry’s eyes become clearer.

Based on Jo Nesbø’s global bestseller, the attempt to condense, ‘The Snowman’ into a film was not entirely successful.

There’s so much going on in the film that I have to say, my confusion grew as the film continued.The Snowman

The inclusion of so many characters, like Rafto (Val Kilmer), another disgraced drunken detective and Mathias (Jonas Karlsson) a detective thrown in the mix for reasons unknown led to time wasting red herrings.

Which is a pity because the main storyline was good.

But without the depth of character given in the novel, a lot of time was spent scratching my head asking, Why?

An avid fan of the Jo Nesbø novels, I was excited to see his story come to life on the big screen.  And Michael Fassbender suited the role of Harry, if not better looking and smaller than imagined from the text – he was a sincere brute, playing the damaged sincerity of a complicated man perfectly.

I also liked Rebecca Ferguson as the junior recruit, Katrine Bratt.

However, the rest of the cast felt superficial with so many and so little backstory.

The English language used, instead of the novel’s original Norwegian, followed on like the book being translated, so I didn’t mind as that’s how I read the book.  Another successful example being the English version of Wallander, set in the original series’ native Ystad, Sweden, yet the characters speaking in English…

The setting of The Snowman was filmed entirely in Norway with the snow falling and the vast landscape keeping the feel from the novel authentic.

Director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) has used that feeling of vast space and isolation to build the creepy feeling of The Snowman watching.  But that’s as creepy as the film gets.

The Snowman didn’t live up to expectation because the momentum and therefore suspense was lost by trying to fit too much into the story.

I liked Fassbender as Harry, the setting was beautifully captured, and the story was good.  But could have been much better with a more focussed plot.

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Happy Death Day

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Happy Death DayRated: M

Directed by: Christopher Landon

Produced by: Jason Blum p.g.a. Blumhouse

Written by: Scott Lobdell

Director of Photography: Toby Oliver

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews and Charles Aitken.

‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life’.

Reminiscent of Groundhog Day (released in 1993 where Bill Murray lives the same day, over and over), Happy Death Day has Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe (La La Land)) living the same day, but at the end of her day, she gets killed by a baby-masked psychopath.

Set on the Loyola University campus in New Orleans, there’s that sorority vibe – think: Tree waking up in a dormitory to face Carter (Israel Broussard (The Bling Ring)) the morning after an obviously heavy night on the booze, to the walk-of-shame back to her sorority house to face her fellow sisters.

Thankfully, not too much is made of the college life because jeez, we’ve all seen that too many times before…  It just lends a fun element to an otherwise slasher movie.  If you can call a slasher movie fun.

The story-line of the film is a Happy Death Dayhideous nightmare, where Tree gets killed over and over.  And the killer’s baby mask is freaky.

So, yes, it’s a scary movie.

But the tension is broken with these comic moments of Tree the bitchy, stuck-up character, able to make fun of herself.

Hats off to Jessica Rothe – if you didn’t like her character than the film would have just fallen over.  But there’s a down-to-earthness to her, making the other characters like the snobby house president, Danielle (newcomer Rachel Matthews) all the more ridiculous and funny.

You’d think the same scenario of waking up to the same day would lead to a boring story, but the script (written by Scott Lobdell) plays around with the concept, the changes made by Tree as she becomes aware of her fate, waking up over and over, is offset by the sameness of the day, shown in different ways, the wit making the waking nightmare, fun.Happy Death Day

And I’m happy to say, director, Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity 2, 3 and 4, he then wrote and directed the spinoff Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, 2014) has pulled all the elements together, collaborating with: Aussie director of photography, Toby Oliver (upcoming Insidious: The Last Key), production designer, Cecele M. De Stefano (TV’s Empire), editor, Gregory Plotkin (Paranormal Activity series), costume designer, Meagan Mclaughlin Luster (10 Cloverfield Lane) and composer Bear McCreary (10 Cloverfield Lane).

And it just feels like the team had fun making this movie.

Particularly showing the range of Jessica Rothe, shining through all the moments from, bitchy to scared to brazen to vulnerable.

Jason Blum has produced yet another cool film.  I always keep an eye out for Blumhouse because I know I’m in for a scary treat.

I’m not saying Happy Death Day is a mind bender that throws you for days like Get Out or Whiplash.  But it’s a great entertainer with a clever story-line.

The Only Living Boy in New York

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MThe Only Living Boy in New York

Directed by: Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2)

Written by: Allan Loeb (21, The Space Between Us, Just Go with It)

Producers: Albert Berger, Jeff Bridges, John Fogel, Mari Jo Winkler-Ioffreda, Ron Yerxa

Cinematographer: Stuart Dryburgh

Starring: Callum Turner, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan, Cynthia Nixon, Jeff Bridges, Kiersey Clemons.

When Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) bemoans the fact he hasn’t done much in his twenty-something years, his new-found mentor, writer W F Gerald (Jeff Bridges) reminds him, ‘You’ve had sex with your father’s mistress. I’d say that’s something.’

And that’s sort of this film in a nutshell.

Fragile relationships, forbidden love and flawed characters.

Sadly, despite the stellar cast, this is also a flawed movie. Part The Graduate, part Barfly, The Only Living Boy in New York does not reach the heights of either of those films – but to be fair, not too many films do.

That’s not to say this film is to be avoided, there’s plenty to keep one interested for the duration.The Only Living Boy in New York

Jeff Bridges is clearly enjoying the chance to get down and grungy; the presence of Lou Reed (through music and references) adds to the New York feel; Cynthia Nixon as Thomas’ mother and Ethan’s (Pierce Brosnan) wife is nicely understated, and there is obviously other eye candy for most audience members (Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan and Kiersey Clemons).

Thomas, a college graduate, discovers his father, Ethan, is having an affair with a beautiful colleague, Johanna (Kate Beckinsale). He decides to follow her and, somehow, for some reason, and with little resistance from either of them, they too sleep together.

At the same time, Thomas’s best friend, Mimi (Kiersey Clemons) announces she’s dropped her muso boyfriend, obviously in the hope of taking her platonic relationship with Thomas to the next stage.

Everyone has decisions to make: unfortunately it’s pretty much the same decision for all of them – who to choose?

The only other substantial revelation/surprise comes toward the end but most will see it coming from a long way away.The Only Living Boy in New York

One of the main reasons this film does not reach the heights it could have is that it’s hard to feel much for pretentious, cliched, wealthy publishing types.

Their actions are those of New York aristocrats bored with life but lacking the wherewithal to expand their interests outside their circle of influence. They could do anything: travel the world, climb Everest, skydive – anything they want; but they choose to wallow in their own dissatisfaction.

So while there is enough interest to follow their story, one does so with little sympathy for any of them. ‘Wake up guys and smell the flowers’, that’s if flowers grow in New York.

Interestingly, with the actors he had to work with, and the context of the story, Marc Webb fails to make the most of the sexual chemistry that should have oozed off the screen.

On balance, a film that, with more subtlety and nuances, could have been a ‘must see’ but that still has enough to provide for a pleasant ninety minutes to fill – so long as you’re not expecting the class, style and substance of The Graduate.

Song To Song

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MSong To Song

Directed and Written by: Terrence Malick

Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezk

Produced by: Sarah Green, Nicolas Gonda, Ken Kao

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Lykke Li, Val Kilmer.

Song To Song is a series of moments captured up close and pieced together to create a love story.

There’s minimal dialogue with the thread woven by the voice-overs of the main characters: BV (Ryan Gosling), Cook (Michael Fassbender), Faye (Rooney Mara) and Rhonda (Natalie Portman).

I had to find my way out of you, to life.

It wasn’t an easy film to watch as the many moments are made through different shots, angles and movement, switching perspectives to show light casting shadows, to leaves swirling in water; the affection of lovers through hands intertwined, socked feet being bitten, a smile or thoughts voiced-over a stare.

I tried to be kind.   It only made me colder.

Director and writer Terrence Malick has reached for the stars with this film.  Creating something aesthetically beautiful but also self-conscious.

The poetic narration of the characters worked well with imagery but the dialogue spoken felt fake and forced.Song To Song

It was like the camera was left to roll, then all the good bits taken and edited into a story that was decided later.

By making a film this way, there’s natural moments of wonder and laughter but it also felt like the actors were self-aware.

Ryan Gosling shone as BV – the warmth of this nature and ready grin making me almost jealous of Rooney Mara as Faye.  I really didn’t like her character at the beginning of the film – that coy, little girl act, grating.

But as the film progressed, I was immersed into the story gaining a better understanding of the character, Faye.

The film’s loosely based on BV making a record deal with the super successful and rich party-boy, Cook.Song To Song

They travel around (with Faye in toe, of course) to places like Mexico and many other different houses and spaces including music festivals.

There’s cameo appearances from the likes of Anthony Keidis, Iggy Pop and Pattie Smith as themselves.  Yet, BV, Cook and Faye kept in character (somewhat), trying to keep that loose storyline – the narrative sacrificed to include some cool footage into the film.

I’m all for the aesthetics but it made some parts of the film unnecessary as the fluidity of the story was lost to include the beautiful and poetic.

Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman make an appearance on the fringes of the film, the story losing itself amongst other people, only to find itself again with BV and Faye, making the journey moving, annoying, boring and sometimes completely absorbing.

It’s a different kind of movie.  I think the film has taken itself too seriously and yet, not seriously enough.

Malick has created a film like an art installation.  Like Andy Warhol filming actresses while interviewing them as they did whatever they wanted as long as it was interesting.  There’s the same feel here.  But revolving around the theme of sex and love – some parts worked, some didn’t.

I appreciated the reach and push made of this stellar cast.  I just wish it didn’t feel so pretentious.

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Final Portrait

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MFinal Portrait

Directed and Written by: Stanley Tucci

Adapted from: James Lord’s memoir, ‘A Giacometti Portrait’

Produced by: Gail Egan, Nik Bower, Ilann Girard

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Tony Shalhoub, Sylvie Testud, Clémence Poésy.

‘No question of the portrait ever been finish’, states Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush).  As a portrait is never finished.

And it certainly begins to feel that way to James Lord (Armie Hammer) after agreeing to pose while on a short trip to Paris in 1964.

Based on James Lord’s memoir, ‘A Giacometti Portrait’, the film is written and directed by Stanley Tucci (also known for his acting and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in, The Lovely Bones (2009)), the film centres on the battle of wills between the two men: Alberto, the cantankerous genius, and the ever-tolerant James: forced to sit on a rickety wicker chair, day after day as Alberto paints and then repaints his portrait.Final Portrait

What began as flattery turns into a test of endurance as he bares the rantings of the aging Swiss-Italian.  Alberto at one point telling James, ‘Don’t scratch’

‘I itch’, James replies.

‘Don’t itch.’

Yet, through all his vitriol and terrible treatment of his ever-loving wife, Annette (Sylvie Testud), he shows warmth and love for his favourite model and prostitute, Caroline (Clémence Poésy).

Funnily enough, a film about an artist is shown in drab colours as most of the scenes were shot in Alberto’s destitute studio – filled with sculptures, finished and some just begun, with long faces resembling their maker.

But I couldn’t help smiling.

Geoffrey Rush is just so believable as this grumpy genius, embracing the artist’s technique of painting, speaking fluent French and Italian and most importantly showing the movement and attitude of the artist.

‘Have you ever wanted to be a tree?’ he asks James.

‘No’.

Alberto might be cranky, but there’s also vision.  And we’re given a glimpse into the mindset of the man.Final Portrait

The quietly knowing brother, Diego (Tony Shalhoub) balances the tone of the film, lightening the mood as he’s well aware of Alberto’s moods.  And still loves him in spite of it.

Set over two weeks, the idea of showing a character through the process of painting a portrait simplifies the peeling away of layers.

The film is really, a character study.

I was surprised when the film finished as I was happy to stay in the wry, exasperating yet thoughtful space.

And the clever way of showing Alberto’s personality was a pleasure to watch.

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The Girl With All The Gifts

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MA15+The Girl With All The Gifts

Directed by: Collie McCarthy

Adapted from the novel, ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’, Written by: Mick Carey

Music Composed by: Cristobal Tapia de Veer

Starring: Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, Sennia Nenua, Fisayo Akinade, Anthony Welsh.

After recently starting to watch, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016) and stopping after 15 minutes because I was just so sick of zombies, I surprised myself by taking in, The Girl With All The Gifts.

With Glenn Close starring and my avid love of thrillers, I thought the film looked good.

It made sense to me, fungi infecting the population and turning humans into blood thirsty beasts.  It’s the need for protein that turns the Hungries into killers.

And as, War Of The Worlds has shown us, and frankly this last flu season, it’s the micro-organisms and shown here, the fungi (not a micro-organism, but you get the drift) that will win in the end…

So, the premise of the film was interesting.The Girl With All The Gifts

The film begins with children, about 10 years old, being wheeled into a makeshift classroom, strapped to a wheelchair, wearing matching orange tracksuits.

The soldiers who transfer them from cell to classroom are obviously scared of the kids, yet, Melanie (Sennia Nenua) is a kind and polite, extremely intelligent school girl.

Until she’s hungry and can smell flesh.

After the compound’s attacked by seemingly endless hungries, Melanie’s favourite person and teacher, Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton), along with Dr Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close), Sergeant Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine), and soldiers Kieran Gallagher (Fisayo Akinade) and Dillon (Anthony Welsh) escape, to the outside world, back to London to wait for rescue.

Scottish director, Collie McCarthy (Outcast (2010), Endeavour (TV series, The Girl With All The Gifts2012) has brought a UK flavour to the film which is a nice change from the saturation of the American zombie takeovers, setting the film in London with native accented characters.

And there’s some good acting here – Glenn Close, who can do no wrong, brings a solid performance as the villainous researcher.  And young Sennia as Melanie holds her own as the hybrid fungal/human creature.

But it was difficult to take the hungries seriously when the fungus growing over their faces looked like green fur.

The infected blew the suspension for me – the hungries not always believable, so after the strong opening, the film waned.

There is some blood and guts for the those who like a bit of gore mixed with suspense.   And a few light moments to break the tension.

I appreciated the thought put into the script with some new ideas making the film more than just another zombie movie.

So, not a brilliant film, but worth a watch.

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