The Trip To Spain

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MThe Trip To Spain

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Produced by: Josh Hyams, Stefano Negri, Melissa Parmenter

Cinematography by: James Clarke

Film Editing: Mags Arnold, Paul Monaghan, Marc Richardson

Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Claire Keelan, Marta Barrio, Margo Stilley, Rebecca Johnson.

It’s been four years since, The Trip To Italy (2014) with, The Trip To Spain being the third in a series featuring the antics of good mates, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.  Although, it feels like these two have been thrown together to out-do each other in their best impersonation of Mick Jagger.

The Trip To Spain is about turning 50, with Rob feeling ancient but settled as a father of 2 young children and Steve lost and divorced and trying to write a book about Spain (from a non-Spanish perspective) to keep his career afloat.  Mostly, The Trip To Spain’s about the banter between the two men and seemingly endless impersonations, some of which I’m still scratching my head as to who the hell they were trying to be.

Likened to the (fittingly) Spanish novel, Don Quixote by Cervantes (1605), both men discus the similarities of their journey to that of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

So, it makes sense the film is both a parody and a tragedy of mates endlessly crapping on.

Traveling the length of Spain (over 1000 miles), this was a road trip with shots of Spanish scenery from cathedrals to cliff-top restaurants to winding roads through orange and yellow rocky terrain.

But if Rob was supposed to be critiquing the food served in the restaurants that were the Stops and where the guys really let loose, there really wasn’t that much talk of food.

Except for this bit, which was pretty funny:

Rob: There are few things worse in life than a tomato without flavour. This is the antithesis of that.

Steve: Well, bombing in Syria. That might pip it to the post.

The Trip To Spain was both extremely clever and extremely stupid.

With both men gesticulating their head and neck like a peacock and the behaviour sticking so the two peacocks (Steve and Rob) were always trying to out-do the other, particularly when adding agent, Emma (Claire Keelan) and photographer, Yolanda (Marta Barrio) as an audience.

Those bloody impersonations got annoying, yet so annoying they were funny.

I felt a little out-of-sync with the audience, absolutely getting tickled by unexpected moments of idiocy, only to be annoyed by other parts that people in the audience found hilarious.

Some references I just didn’t get which takes the fun out of watching, segregating the audience between those up with English 50-year-old culture and those not…

What gave the film credibility was the underlying drama and conflict of Rob and Steve dealing with life at 50.  Beneath the surface there’s some real processing going on; a fight to figure the way out of the forest of middle-aged life.

What happens when life doesn’t make sense at 50?

Although, The Trip To Spain, wasn’t my cup-of-tea, there were some truly funny moments, and aside from all the peacock gesticulating there was an underlying story that crept up, shown in a way to create circles within circles that was really quite clever.

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Despicable Me 3

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: PGDespicable Me 3

Director: Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda

Co-Director: Eric Guillon

Producers: Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy

Executive Producer: Chris Renaud

Writers: Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio

Starring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel, Steve Coogan, Jenny Slate and Julie Andrews

Despicable Me 3 continues the adventures of former super villain turned Anti-Villain League agent Felonious Gru, who also starred in Despicable Me (2010) and Despicable Me 2 (2013). I hadn’t seen either of the earlier films so went to see this one with no expectations (although I had a passing awareness of Gru’s minions, those little yellow creatures who don’t talk in any recognisable language).

The preview was packed with parents and their young children, the latter of whom seemed to enjoy the fast-paced action, humour and characters. Occasionally the adult characters’ more reflective moments caused some rustling amongst the younger viewers who obviously preferred the action to be non-stop.

For those familiar with the previous two outings, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) has married fellow agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), having adopted three sisters in the first film (Margo, Edith and Agnes). They live in one of those fabulously inventive houses full of gizmos and gadgets, set in a suburb where all their neighbours are boringly normal.

The baddie this time around is a former child star, Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), who is obsessed by his 80s character, to the extent he continues to sport a wicked mullet, the effect of which is ruined by a bald spot. Bratt is intent on world domination (as all villains seem to be) and has a super-secret island fortress and access to a seemingly endless supply of weapons and other incredible inventions. He needs a gigantic diamond to power his mega weapon and this forms the basis of most of the plot.

Gru suffers a change in fortune following one encounter with Bratt, but before he can get too morose about this he is contacted by a long-lost relative who provides him with the inspiration he needs to pull off one last (lawful) heist and do battle with the Bratt. I don’t think it gives much away to reveal that this person is Gru’s identical twin brother Dru (also voiced by Carell), who is optimistic, charming, friendly, and painfully eager to emulate his darker-natured brother.

The animation is eye-catching, colourful and imaginative although not particularly realistic. I was particularly fascinated by the highly exaggerated features of the adult characters, especially Gru with his pointed nose, pencil thin legs and tiny pointed shoes. The minions seemed to be more assertive this time around, and got to do some humorous, inventive things as they branched out briefly on their own adventures.

My favourite character is the youngest daughter Agnes, who absolutely LOVES unicorns. When she gets excited she quivers, trembles and seems to expand with suppressed emotion, and her quest to acquire a real unicorn of her own leads to some joyful moments.

I found the film overall to be amusing and mostly engaging aside from a few lapses in internal plot logic (I don’t care if it’s an animated film, it should still make sense!), but what made it special for me was the choice of music. This included lots of 80s classics such as Bad (Michael Jackson), Take on Me (A-ha), 99 Luftballons (Nena), and a funny riff on When You’re a Jet from West Side Story.

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The LEGO Batman Movie

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: PGThe LEGO Batman Movie

Director: Chris McKay

Producers: Will Allegra, Matthew Ashton

Written By: Seth Grahame-Smith (screenplay), Chris McKenna (screenplay)

Starring: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson

As a writer, I have learnt to provide feedback with a soft-spoken, gentle delivery. But, as a Spanish national, I have been born with blood that boils easily when, what little patience I have, runs out. My face goes red, steam comes out of my ears and my filters disappear in the process.

I had one such a meltdown watching The LEGO Batman Movie.

And I knew what I was getting myself into because the scars left by The Lego Movie were still tender.

The main qualities of this spin off, following its predecessor steps, are obvious: a great trailer that raises your expectations up to the sky, a great animation team and an incredible soundtrack. Period. But, as the movie went on, one wondered… why would the same creative team make the same mistakes twice? Have they stopped caring about their audience?

I love animation, I really do, because animation delivers full-on entertainment for all audiences and comedy that is flawlessly delivered. It is the sacred place where adults enjoy themselves as their children scream with excitement. But sadly, the creative team at The Lego Movies missed that memo. The comedy walked the fine line between annoying and funny and even the youngest members of the audience could see the story coming. There was no guessing, no reason to care.

As a nerd and Batman fan, I enjoyed the references to the Batman TV series from the 1960s, the pew-pew noises every time a gun fired and how great songs, such as Motley Crue’s ‘Kickstart My Heart’ or Cutting Crew’s ‘(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight’, blasted in the theatre speakers for my ears delight.

I would lie if I tell you that I recommend this movie whole-heartedly. But I am not a parent, so if your dream afternoon involves to sit two hours in a dark room full of children and to pay for the pleasure of their squeaking company. Please be my guest and knock yourself out!

As for me, I have made a conscious decision, for my mental health sake and the safety of those around me, to put future Lego movies in the too-hard basket. Until the next movie review, over and out!

CHiPS

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA15+CHIPS

Director: Dax Shepard

Producers: Ravi D. Mehta, Dax Shepard, Andrew Panay, Rick Rosner

Written by: Dax Shepard

Based on: CHiPs TV series created by Rick Rosner

Starring: Dax Shepard, Michael Peña, Rosa Salazar, Adam Brody, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jessica McNamee, Kristen Bell, with Jane Kaczmarek, Maya Rudolph, Ed Begley Jr, and Josh Duhamel

The original television series of CHiPs (1977-1983), was an action ‘dramedy’ dealing with the daily crime fighting of the California Highway Patrol officers on their motor cycles. Two of its main characters were played by Erik Estrada (macho, trouble-pronue probationary Officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello), and Larry Wilcox (strait-laced field training Officer Jonathan “Jon” Andrew Baker).

My memories of this TV show are vague as I only ever saw a few episodes, so I had little idea of how this updated cinema version would compare to its predecessor.

I will happily admit that I found the film to be a guilty pleasure. It was rude, profanity-laden, sexist and with an over-reliance on visual gags and nudity, and it will never win any awards for subtlety. But it was also quite funny and engaging, and in some strange way had its heart in the right place, especially with the depiction of the relationship between its lead characters.

In a reversal of the original TV premise, Officer Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) is now the probationer. A beaten-up former pro motor biker, he is trying to put his life and marriage (to Kristen Bell’s character) back together. Baker is touchingly loyal to his ex-wife and desperately keen to make something of himself. His honesty and odd personality quirks, as well as a running gag based on his unusual reaction to household smells, makes him very appealing. He reminded me of Zach Braff’s character in the TV comedy Scrubs, with both actors sharing a goofy, endearingly naïve charm.

Castillo (Michael Peña) is now a cocky undercover Federal agent masquerading as Officer Francis “Frank” Llewellyn “Ponch” Poncherello, assigned to investigate a multi-million dollar heist that may be an inside job, inside the California Highway Patrol. Ponch is a bit sleazy yet still has some of the boyish charm on show in his earlier comic roles in Ant Man and The Martian.

It doesn’t give the plot away, such as it is, to know that Ponch doesn’t always obey the rules, and has little patience with his naïve rookie partner as he tries to uncover the criminal element within the CHiPs organisation. The plot of this film is not particularly strong or original, and the audience is kept entertained enjoying the visual and verbal humour on display between the two leads.

There were many opportunities to showcase a range of stunts, and by enlisting renowned stunt performer Steve De Castro, plus pros and the best stunt riders for the trickiest and most spectacular manoeuvres, director Shepard ensured these aspects of the film were executed effectively. When Shepard’s character speeds along Californian highways and we get his point of view, the scenes are breathtaking, visceral and convincing, almost making me wish I could ride at all.

Cinematographer Mitchell Amundsen (The Bourne Legacy, Mission Impossible 3 and Transformers 1 and 2) made every action sequence zing, while Los Angeles was impressively utilised in the location scenes.

There were some humorous cameos from comic actors including Jane Kaczmarek and Maya Rudolph as senior police officers, and a brief stint from Josh Duhamel, but the movie belongs to Ponch and Jon and their budding bro-mance.

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Toni Erdmann

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MToni Erdmann

Director: Maren Ade

Producers: Maren Ade, Janine Jackowski

Written By: Maren Ade

Starring: Sandra Hüller, Peter Simonischek, Michael Wittenborn

Family is one of the few things we do not choose in life.

We can change jobs, we can move to another country. But family is the one thing we cannot get rid off. No matter how hard we try.

The talented Maren Ade masterfully delivers an emotional story while criticising the corporate world in Europe and the ruthless German approach to ‘assist’ countries much less favoured economically, such as Romania.

But I am not into politics myself. As a European, I’ve had enough of that.

Watching Toni Erdmann took me back to a few months ago when my father came to stay with us. To me, he was relentless, embarrassing and short-sighted.

I could see myself in Ines. I could feel her struggle as she deals with her father.

The constant façade that she builds to prove that she can do better.

Her father’s transformation, an invasion of privacy at first, slowly becomes a fierce fight to recover his daughter by taking over a new persona. Toni and Ines’ story is a plea for coming clean, to reconnect with our family despite our differences.

Toni Erdmann is much more than a film made for entertainment sake.

I laughed, I cried and it made me think. And that is as much as you can ask for.

Maren Ade is a resourceful writer, director and producer. She founded the production company Komplizen Film with producer Janine Jackowski.

In 2015, Komplizen Film was honoured with the Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in German Film by the DEFA Foundation.

The Edge of Seventeen

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MThe Edge of Seventeen

Written and Directed by: Kelly Fremon Craig

Produced by: James L. Brooks, Richard Sakai, Julie Ansell

Executive Producer: Donald Tang

Music by: Atli Örvarsson

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner and Hayden Szeto.

The Edge of Seventeen is a coming-of-age drama with a few laughs thrown in, because teenage angst is funny when looking back.  Not at the time of course.  Being 17 is all about wanting to die at the embarrassment of it all: pimples, older siblings who seem to have it so together and bestie-best friends who are supposed to be there forever (but never are because they’re human too).

Even though it feels like you’re the only one who feels anything at 17, you (hopefully) come to realise that others feel too.

Nadine (new comer, Hailee Stinfeld) is a girl who’s always felt different.  A loner, living in the shadow of her perfect brother, Darian (Blake Jenner, think, Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)).  Until she meets Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), who becomes her bestest buddy.

Life is good.  She has her mate and her Dad, the only two people in the whole world who understand her.  But when Krista hooks up with her brother, Nadine’s bubble bursts.  And she’s left in a world where people are fake and nice and she’s the only one who knows it.

It’s teenage angst baby, where you just love that guy and he doesn’t know you exist and you just know that mum’s mad and favours your brother more than you and you just, want, to, DIE.

And just like that self-obsession, the film revolves around Nadine. Thankfully the film was well cast and that annoying whine didn’t grate too much.

Woody Harrelson cast as Mr. Bruner, the ever-tolerant teacher, diluted the hormone fuelled rants of Nadine.

And there were some laugh-out-loud moments.

In retaliation to Nadine’s mum (Kyra Sedgwick) Nadine yells – ‘I’ll do something just as bad!  I’ll post on Facebook that you pluck the hairs around your nipples!’

There’s a raw honesty in the script (written by Kelly Fremon Craig; the second draft 4 years in the making) that is genuinely funny and at other times gives a jolt as the secrets of girl-teenhood are revealed.

First time director, Fremon Craig, has given free rein to the protagonist here which cuts both ways.

The audience is given insight and authenticity that only freedom can give.  And I praise this honesty.  On the other hand, there’s a little too much girl craziness – a fine line between funny insight and the urge to reach for the mute button.

The soundtrack helped to smooth over the emotion.  And the deadpan humour of Woody as the history teacher not only balanced the character of Nadine but was a release of pressure for the audience.

Overall the film was entertaining with a great script giving a different feel to a storyline that’s been done many times before.  I kept thinking back to Ghost World (2001) but The Edge of Seventeen is more drama/comedy than art house.

So, relatable and honest, but also a film about teen angst, which I’m happy to admit is time past.

Storks

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: GStorks

Written and Directed by: Nicholas Stoller

Directed by: Doug Sweetland

Starring: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Anton Starkman, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Danny Trejo, Stephen Kramer Glickman, Chris Smith, Awkwafina, Ike Barinholtz, Jorma Taccone; Amanda Lund.

Storks is a story about families written for families.  About a young boy who wants a brother, an orphan girl without family making the best of a world where she doesn’t belong and an ambitious stork not realising how much he’s missing out – all those warm family hugs.

Director and writer Nicholas Stoller has nailed that warm fuzzy family feeling, basing the story on his own life experience of being the father of two girls.

Synopsis:

After the unfortunate incident of Jasper the stork (Danny Trejo) losing the beacon used to deliver his package/baby, Tulip (the human orphan) lives at what is no longer a Baby Factory but a global internet retail giant called Cornerstore.com.  Far easier for the storks to deliver purchased packages than babies.

Now Junior (Andy Samberg) is set to become boss, unless something goes wrong, like the accidental creation of another baby for the storks to deliver, immediately, before the CEO finds out.

Thoughts:

Don’t ask me why but birds, particularly chickens, crack me up.  It may have something to do with my sister being chased by chooks when we were young, and then being terrified of feathered animals ever since…  And is there nothing funnier than seeing someone being swooped by a magpie?  As long as they don’t go and swoop you too?  Anyway, the bird humour in Storks certainly had me clucking, I mean chuckling; an understated humour, that surprised and provoked laugh out loud moments.

Pigeon Toady (Stephen Kramer Glickman), green and complete with a mop of strawberry blonde hair was a bit hit and miss for me, but when he hit, he was hilarious.

I did wonder how kids watching the film would feel about the confusing concept of storks delivery babies.  Seeing the film at a family screening, there were plenty of kids in the audience and what I heard a lot of was tiny voices exclaiming, Baby!  So I don’t think the kids really cared about the concept, it was all about the cuteness.  Leave it to the parents to explain the birds and the bees, I guess!

There was a bit of a slow start.  I didn’t really invest until the wolves were introduced.  But after that, I was pretty well suckered.

In Conclusion:

Storks is for all the family with parents and kids alike having their hearts melted by the cuteness of these animated babies.  For me, I appreciated the humour.

But be warned: may induce cluckiness.

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