Posted by: Dr P | June 9, 2010

The Losers

A bit like last year’s Tropic Thunder, this is one of those films which just pops up on the radar at the last minute and turns out to be unexpectedly good. So good in fact I’ve seen it twice. Actually, the second time was because Big G insisted he wanted to see it and I was too tired to argue. But that’s not to say I *wouldn’t* have seen it the second time anyway, it’s just that … well, I’ve been twice, so here’s the review.

Our heroes are a crack special forces unit who are unwittingly drawn into a power struggle by the mysterious “Max”, a CIA operative with a secret agenda. Having taken part in the rescue of some innocent kids from a drugs outpost in Bolivia – only to see said children blown up in the helicopter they were supposed to be ‘evaccing’ in – our guys turn from highly respected officers and agents into fugitives, believed dead. If it’s sounding a bit like the A Team, the similarities don’t end there. In the opening scene, the unit manage to attack the drug fortress guarded by dozens of highly-armed guards (escaping without a scratch) and commandeer a school bus, which they then somehow drive at breakneck pace through the jungle pursued by a fiery bomb blast, over a cliff, down a hill etc etc. Marvellous!

Anyway rewind. The group is led by Clay (the excellent Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and consists of tech and comms expert (and comedy relief) Jensen, vehicles man Pooch, the somewhat vicious Roque and sniper Cougar. Each has a vital part to play in the team, and the banter and interplay within the group is very believable and well presented.

Now stranded and believed dead, the team spend their time trying to work out the best way to get back Stateside and get revenge on the elusive Max. Basically this appears to consist of drinking, womanising and partaking in local cock fights. Behave. An apparent escape route is provided by the sultry Aisha (the gorgeous Zoe Saldana), who introduces herself to Clay by inviting herself back to his hotel room and then proceeds to trash it and set it on fire while engaging in a quite brutal bout of fisticuffs. We’ve all been there, right?

Anyway, the initial misunderstanding over, it transpires that Aisha has her own (hidden) motives for seeking out Max, the man she believes responsible for her father’s murder. Max, meanwhile, is in Dubai (and later Puerto Rico and a whole host of exotic locales) and engaged in the acquisition of a number of “Snook” environmental weapons, incredible devices which can make whole islands disappear without a trace! Perhaps that’s what happened to Atlantis?

The team resurface in the US and perform an audacious kidnap attempt on Max, seizing his armoured vehicle from a heavily armed convoy. This is once again very A Team in nature, involving an enormous magnet swung from a stolen helicopter! Lovely. Of course Max is nowhere in sight, the convoy instead carrying a mysterious computer drive which leads them down a whole different road …

Without going into more of the plot, suffice it to say that various people become involved in double crosses, Aisha goes postal, there’s a simmering romance, and a quite brilliant scene where Jensen breaks into a computer centre and shoots two guards “with the power of his mind”. Awesome. The movie’s filled with excellent humour, and despite some quite graphic deaths and OTT violence, it’s pretty comic book in nature. As indeed it should be, being based on one 🙂

The ending also leaves the way open for a sequel, yet remains quite satisfying in some of the payoffs. Overall, a cracking “boys film”, with gadgets, action, a hot leading lady and plenty of laughs. If the forthcoming A Team movie is as good as this, it’ll be well worth a view.

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Posted by: Dr P | June 2, 2010

Bad Lieutenant Port of Call – New Orleans

The last few movies I’ve seen Nic Cage in (Kick Ass excepted) he’s been pretty woeful, so it was with some trepidation I approached this flick. Bearing little resemblance to the original BL movie (infamous for a certain scene – if you don’t know, look it up), this one features the increasing drug dependency and addiction of Cage’s character, Sergeant Terence McDonagh of the New Orleans police force.

Set immediately following Hurricane Katrina, the movie opens with McDonagh injuring himself severely while rescuing a prisoner from a flooding jail. This begins his descent into the world of prescription painkillers, and it’s not long before he’s developed all manner of addiction to every kind of drug you can imagine. Whilst continuing to pursue his police work, McDonagh becomes increasingly reliant on stealing drugs from any raids he’s involved in, and even from the storehouse at the police station.

Big G was adamant he wanted to see this film, and I have to hand it to him, he picked a very very weird one! Any movie featuring a scene from the perspective of an iguana is worth seeing. If that’s not weird enough, there was also a car accident involving an alligator … the aftermath of which we see from the perspective of … another alligator! Hilarious!

Of course I suspected Big G really had my interests at heart when I discovered that Cage’s girlfriend is played by my fave, Eva Mendes – she’s another drug-obsessed hooker (similar to her wonderful character in We Own the Night (which remains my fave review btw for those who haven’t yet read it), although here she’s trying to recover and better herself). Eva is suitably fulsome and always worth the screen time!

Anyway, back to the film. McDonagh finds himself at the centre of an investigation into the brutal slayings of 5 Senegalese immigrants – though as the movie progresses this kind of takes a back seat. The movie shifts from covering the policing side to focusing mainly on the drug stealing and McDonagh’s double life working alongside drug dealers.

It all gets increasingly bizarre and there are any number of scenes that warrant a “huh?”

That’s probably all there is to say about it really. Nic Cage was made for roles like this – just stop taking stupid films like “Knowing” and you’ll sort your career out! Oh and Val Kilmer is decent as Cage’s partner and sidekick.

Posted by: Dr P | May 30, 2010

StreetDance 3D

Inspirational! Edgy! Filled with fire and gritty urban slang! Just some of the feedback I’ve received about these reviews of late. This one’s going to be a teensy bit biased, however, as there’s nothing I love more than streetdance. As the recently monikered “Captain Camp” (cheers, Pete), my own dance moves consist less of “popping and locking” (there’s plenty more of that sort of lingo here) and more swaying and YMCAing. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t gathered a deep appreciation for the street scene. Yes indeed.

The first time I saw a trailer for this movie I almost popped one out right there and then. Big G had to restrain me in my seat as I recall. Just look at the role call! George Sampson. Flawless! and of course … Diversity. Street kings, icons, cutting edge dance troupe bar none. And possibly the only street dance outfit to feature a Banjo. Not only that … 3D! Yes indeed.

Unfortunately my love for the medium is not shared by Big G and so I attended the screening on my own – well, not quite, for the cinema was packed with other fans, and boy did we have fun whooping and hollering (though in my case, with a very bad throat, it was more wheezing and gasping) at the antics on display – and that was just the trailer for Step Up 3 (oh yes). Thus whipped into a frenzy of anticipation, the lights dimmed, the credits rolled and off we go …

Streetdance features the continuing exploits of Carly (Nichola Burley) and her crew as they have just weeks to prepare to battle for the UK Streetdance crown. Unfortunately they’ve lost a key member, Carly’s dubious ex Jay, and have nowhere to rehearse. Imagine our surprise then when in the process of delivering sandwiches to a ballet school, Carly crosses paths with schoolmistress Helena (Charlotte Rampling – yes, really); the school ma’am sees a fire and passion in the street world and wants Carly to teach it to her emotionally-stilted ballet dancers, who themselves are preparing to audition for the Royal Ballet. The condition is … free rehearsal space in exchange for 5 ballet dancers joining Carly’s crew.

And that’s basically it. The remainder of the film plays on the counterpoint of the 2 dance styles and the blossoming relationships between them on and off the dancefloor. We learn quickly just how badass the street dancers are when they, wait for it, engage in a food fight in the ballet cafeteria. The acting is unbelievably awful, the storyline sucks, and Carly, the tough Northern girl, is about as ferocious as a whippet with a limp.

But who cares? The dance scenes KICK ASS. Flawless, BGT’s 2nd best dance crew are pitted as the reigning champs and a proper “in your face” urban outfit, and they pull off some top routines. Diversity, sadly, only get a brief cameo – though to be fair they’d blow everyone else off screen so it’s probably a good thing. George Sampson plays a geeky sidekick of the crew who comes good when it matters (extremely predictable but fun to watch), and of course the ballet folk suddenly become masters of the art in no time.

Our heroes are cracking to watch, with Carly and her assortment of crop tops in particular well worth her screen time. And you’ve never ever seen a cheese sandwich delivered with such attitude. Charlotte Rampling manages to play it straight as the school mistress, even though she was probably dying inside at some of the dialogue, and there are some neat cameos from other well known “urban artistes”.

Yes it’s camp, yes it’s cheesy, yes it has more holes than a bucket of Swiss cheese, and yes it’s completely ridiculous, but it’s getting 5 stars from me cos it’s just the funnest, most feelgood film you’re likely to see! Streetdance RULES!

Posted by: Dr P | May 26, 2010

Robin Hood

Well it’s been quite some time since we had a Robin Hood movie hasn’t it. Let’s not forget what happened the last time either. That baseball-obsessed Yank Costner got a bunch of his American mates to leap round in the trees and then we had to suffer Bryan Adams’ worst ever song at the top of the charts for almost 5 years. I can still see that part in the video where he’s lining up a shot and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio leans in and gently blows on his shaft … I’ll leave it there!

A generation later and it’s the turn of cricket-obsessed Kiwi bad boy Russ Crowe and his directorial fave Ridley Scott to turn the spotlight on one of England’s greatest “fictional” characters. Billed widely as a “reimagining” (generally not a good sign, I once “reimagined” a shepherd’s pie and was ill for a week), this basically gave the duo license to put the Hoodie in almost any scenario they want.

So what do we find? Old Robin Longstride (presumably so called because of his height and inside leg measurement as opposed to the fashionably lengthy cut of his trousers) is an English longbowman who has been fighting in King Richard’s Crusades and is helping his royal majesty assail a French castle as the movie opens. In between takes, er, attacks on the turrets, Robin’s got a handy sideshow going as a sleight of hand trickster, and is purveyor of a quite shocking Midlands accent. Of course many critics have scoffed at this, but personally I think all Midlands accents are shocking, so Crowe must have got it spot on.

After a brawl goes belly up, Robin and his pals Will Scarlett and Little John (present and correct, SAH) are removed from battle. Unfortunately the king is then killed in combat and Robin and his mates have had enough and decide to scarper from the battlelines and head for England. As you would. Unfortunately there are all manner of secret shenanigans now afoot between Richard’s younger brother (and soon-to-be-king) John and the King of France, and the fleeing group come across a group of their former army comrades dead or dying by the roadside, en route to returning the king’s crown to England. Once of the dying men, Robert of Locksley entrusts Longstride with not only ensuring that John gets his crown but that his own sword is returned to Nottingham and his wife and father.

The slightly less than merry men now find themselves in a strange situation, and they manage to meet an English ship and return to London with the English crown. Having delivered it safely to John, who is crowned on the spot, Longstride and his chums set off for Nottingham. One small fly in the ointment is that one of King John’s trusted henchmen, played by the excellent Mark “If it’s a bad guy role in 2010, it’s mine” Strong, had a hand in butchering Locksley and his troops and is secretly plotting with the French. He recognises Longstride and despatches men to follow the group; he also manages to convince King John that the best way to strengthen England is to raid all the towns and cities and plunder their wealth for the royal coffers. It was never like this in the Costner version.

Cut to Nottingham, where we discover the future Maid Marian (the sublime Cate Blanchett) battling against her own troubles. As Locksley’s wife (technically widow but she doesn’t yet know), she’s the chief noblelady in a city being plundered by outlaw kids from the local forest and also by greedy churchmen, who take the winter’s seed for themselves. So there’s no seed being scattered in Nottingham … bet Ridley Scott had a great time trying to persuade Crowe to take this role … “right, so there’s Cate Blanchett right, and she’s on her own, and basically she needs someone to come and fill her barn with seed …”. Ahem.

If none of this sounds anything like the traditional story of Robin Hood you’d be right there – and it’s about to get weirder. Longstride arrives at Nottingham and meets Marion and Locksley Sr (a completely blind and mad Max Von Sydow) and informs them of Robert’s death. In order to stop the locals rioting and all power being taken away, Dad convinces Longstride to “become” his son. After all, he’s been away 10 years, who will notice? Well, presumably, no-one, as they’re all a bit dim. This involves the rather elaborate charade of Longstride having to share sleeping quarters with the delightful Marian, who tells him in no uncertain terms that if he comes anywhere near her, she’ll chop his bits off. There’s a dreadfully rude gag I could make there, but I’ll let you work it out.

Anyway, just as Robin is accepted as Robert and his followers decide to stay with him, he’s called away to a council of war with King John. However, his despicable henchman arrives and sets about trying to plunder the village in his absence. Robin now not only has to give the new king battle counsel but also protect his own city, and so he provides a bit of a stirring speech (echoes of the Gladiator moment here: “I’m Robert of Locksley (not really), husband of a noblewoman (not really), son of a madman (not really), leader of a band of men (kind of true, even if they are all drunkards and lechers) and I will have my vengeance … in this forest or the next!”

Cue a mad dash back to Nottingham where the archers save the day, then it’s whizz bang down to the South Coast where Robin is now de facto leader of the English army (all in a days work for our Russell, he must have some bloody good horses). Forget Robin Hood: Men in Tights, this is Robin Hood: Men in Fights. And what fights! The French arrive on the beach to be met by archers, knights and the best beach-related battle charge since the opening bit of Saving Private Ryan. At one point, Robin’s almost in danger of being crushed as two ships gently loll together in the waves.

If you’re wondering where are the outlaws, the lincoln green, the sheriff of Nottingham and all that malarkey, you’d be forgiven. However, thanks mainly to the wonderful English justice system, not only does Robin pretty much single-handedly lead England to victory over the French AND get the girl AND steal crops to feed Nottingham AND own the fastest horses ever, he then gets outlawed FINALLY in the last couple of minutes.

It’s a barnstorming tale but don’t be expecting Robin Hood. This could really be anyone. I think there are plans for 2 or 3 sequels so hopefully the next story will involve less Frenchies and more robbing the sheriff’s men. The one sad part for me was that Crowe didn’t throw a phone at anyone, but hey not all reimaginings are perfect are they …

Posted by: Dr P | May 17, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

Outkast’s seminal Noughties classic “Hey Ya” enquired as to what could possibly be cooler than cool? The answer, dear reader, was “ice cold”. Whilst this is correct, temperature-wise, it’s not an especially satisfying answer is it? However, I’ll damn well tell you what’s cooler than cool … hot tubs and time machines. Individually quite fun, put them together and oh my lord, it’s freaking AWESOME.

I experienced my own hot tub time machine not that long ago when I left my watch in the washer. Thankfully it came out relatively undamaged, if slightly cleaner, which is also true of our central protagonists in this most excellent adventure. It really is a kind of Bill and Ted Part 3 after all, a group of nerdy men approaching middle age (plus one highly uncool kid in tow) who embark on a crazy adventure thanks to a time travelling portal.

But we’re jumping ahead aren’t we? The main men are a pretty sad bunch as we discover them. Adam (the superb John Cusack) has just been dumped by his girlfriend, and all he has left for company is his nerdy nephew Jacob, who sits in the basement and plays computer games all day. Meanwhile his former best buds and bandmates Nick and Lou are having their own troubles – Nick’s been forced to give up his musical passion by his other half, while Lou is so down on his life that he’s attempted suicide.

Having discharged Lou from hospital, the guys decide the best thing to pick them all up is a trip to the scene of their wildest teenage adventures, Kodiak Valley, a mountain ski resport with a wild reputation. Or at least it used to be. It’s now a rundown battered old place, full of shut down shops, depressed folk and a hotel bellboy missing an arm (a stroke of genius there). However, the four are enticed into what appears to be a normal hot tub on their verandah and are instantly transported back in time to Winterfest ’86, a hedonistic party at Kodiak Valley, where the young adults were faced with all manner of complex choices which led to their lives unfolding the way they did.

Naturally, half of the time they are concerned, Back to the Future-style, about not upsetting the timeline of events, while the remainder of the time they want to change things for the better. Cue various discussions about the Butterfly Effect and the like. Of course, they decide to plump for keeping things “as they were” which leads to all manner of beatings for Lou, a rip-roaring band performance from Nick, and encounters with women from their past – and present. Plus a lot of half-naked shenanigans and general japery.

This is a highly daft – and superbly funny – film. I laughed out loud almost constantly; there are some killer one liners, and the whole premise, stupid as it is, works really well. Sure you can see twists coming, but the way they play out generally delivers a satisfying end. Cusack in particular is wonderful; he’s a very astute comic actor, able to switch from silly to serious to ridiculous at the drop of a hat. Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry are also very good in their parts as Cusack’s pals, while the only disappointment is the lack of character development for the youngest member of the group, Jacob. That said, the movie really is about the 3 older guys reinventing themselves and living through their former life choices.

The soundtrack’s superb, as you’d expect, with some proper 80s gems thrown in. Foot tapping and cheesy grins are very much the order of the day. Mind you, I get like that without the music. There are some proper geeky 80s references, a whole host of wild and wonderful side characters, and very well set up comic moments indeed. Chevy Chase cameos as the mystical hot tub mechanic who randomly appears to dispense advice while dressed up like a ghostbuster. Not his finest moment but it’s fun when you recognise him.

Overall, 3 stars based on the high laughter quotient, with a whole star for the “will he, won’t he” running theme about how/when/if the bellboy will lose his arm. Well worth a view.

Posted by: Dr P | May 7, 2010

Iron Man 2

My 4 year old boy has a bit of a growing obsession for Iron Man – he keeps googling it and asked me about it last week. I told him that his Daddy is Scandium Man, one of the world’s leading authorities on the rare earth element, yet this left him strangely unimpressed. Harumph.

After the resounding box office success of the first movie, a sequel was never in doubt. Fast-paced, exciting, dynamic, the original was a cut above many movies of its ilk, and so it was with great interest that Big G and I zoomed along to the flicks to take in part 2. And we were anything but disappointed – this is a cracker!

For those not familiar with the backstory, billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is a tormented genius and playboy who was kidnapped and forced to create a weapon of mass destruction. However he suffered a heart attack and instead created an artificial device to keep him alive – and with it the “Iron Man” suit, a hi-tech flying machine filled with weaponry and special features. Naturally this soon topped the US military’s “most wanted” list, and so Stark was forced to fend off not only a whole host of enemies but also his own government, who are seeking to steal his technology.

As the sequel opens, Stark is attending a hearing which is attempting to force him to hand over his secrets. However, he refuses and makes a mockery out of proceedings, together with one of his main opponents, the arms manufacturer and rival Justin Hammer, claiming that no-one can recreate his design within the next 5 years. Stark is also hosting an expo to bring together the world’s leading inventors and minds for the benefit of mankind.

Yet Stark has reckoned without a ghost from the past. His father collaborated in weapons research with a Russian physicist, and following his death his son, Ivan Danko (Mickey Rourke), discovers blueprints for a device very similar to the Iron Man weapon. In his grief-stricken state, he develops the machine and sets out to exact revenge for the wrongs he believes the Starks perpetrated against his father, who was deported from the US before Stark Sr claimed the technology as his own.

Danko appears at a Monaco racing event and wreaks havoc on the course, almost killing Stark before he’s arrested. He’s then secretly extracted from prison by the renegade Hammer, who’s building a series of Iron Men of his own and wants the maverick Russian on his side – initially to upstage Stark, but also for more sinister aims.

An added complication is that Stark himself is slowly dying – the palladium cores that power his suit are causing his body to degenerate; he hands over the reigns of his empire to his PA, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and then proceeds to get very drunk on his birthday and pick a fight with best friend Randy Rhodes (Don Cheadle). Rhodes takes the Iron Man technology to the military, where it falls into the hands of Hammer and Danko.

If all this wasn’t intrigue enough, gorgeous Stark Industries lawyer Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) falls under his gaze, and he appoints her as Pepper’s replacement. It transpires that Natalie is not just a hotshot lawyer but also part of an elite and highly covert secret unit known as SHIELD. Led by the superb Samuel L Jackson, the unit hand over secret materials left behind by Stark’s father, which leads our hero to discover what may be an alternative power source for himself and his suits … but will he create it in time to deal with the newly-revealed threat of Danko and his rogue army of robot Iron Men?

If ever the word charisma was applicable to a movie star right now, it would be Robert Downey jr. He’s absolutely mesmerising on screen – he was great as Sherlock Holmes, and his portrayal of Stark as a playboy self-loving egomaniac is just wonderful – “Narcissism? Check”. He lights up every scene he’s in, and the chemistry with both Paltrow in particular and also the stunning Johansson is terrific. He’s worth the admission price alone.

The movie itself is set at full throttle, and veers from glamorous location to glamorous location. There are well-crafted fight scenes, drama, brilliantly observed humour, some very very funny lines, and a rampaging plot to boot. The thumping AC/DC soundtrack is terrific, but not overused.

The lead actors all carry their roles well. Rourke is hard to top as a badass, and his own resurging career continues to shine. Paltrow is most watchable and likeable as Pepper Potts, proving more than a match for her boss most of the time, while Cheadle is also terrific in his more straight-laced role as the army guy torn between love for his best friend and a sense of duty. Johansson absolutely smoulders!

All in all, a smidge down on the near-perfection of the first film, but a corking 2 hours of entertainment; it won’t topple Kick-Ass as the best superhero movie of the year, but it gives it a damn good go. Highly entertaining, great fun, and one that will appeal to adults and kids alike.

Posted by: bigg36 | May 7, 2010

In the beginning…

Unleashed on an unsuspecting world and just to prove I do exist and am not just a figment of Dr Ps vivid imagination……

I am Yoda to Dr Ps Darth and together we will decorate the galaxy

I’ll leave the reviews to the dark master and pontificate pointlessly on the musings of our travels together through time and space (and around the outskirts of  Bolton)

Why does Bolton FM play jazz at night ?  Has anyone else ever heard it?  It is truly disturbing.

Car journeys at night can bring a shared experience (in a non-dodgy way) and oft we can be found descending into increasingly ridiculous and extended silliness based around the film of the night or whatever music has rashly been played on the one of the local radio stations.

Posted by: Dr P | May 3, 2010

Dear John – The Unseen Letters

Billed as 2010’s most romantic love story, the movie follows the changing lives of John (Channing Tatum) and Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) who meet and fall in love after a whirlwind fortnight together. John, an army grunt, returns to the front lines and the duo then spend many years writing to each other and describing their changing lives. In a world exclusive, Dr P’s Film Reviews is proud to present previously-unseen letters and extracts from their correspondence.

Dear John,
My heart overflows with love for you! I cannot believe that I have fallen head over heels for you in just two short weeks. Every fibre of my being is yearning for you and I cannot bear that we are apart.
Ever yours, Savannah

Dear Savanna,
It’s great here in the army. We got guns and all kinds of stuff! Boom! I love blowing things up! And guess wot? The boys ‘ave given me my own packet of crayons so I can write to you every single day innit?
Respect, John

Dear John,
As the weeks have turned to months, I find myself gazing at the moon every night knowing that you gaze upon the same sky every night. Please don’t forget me.
All my love, Savannah

Dear Sav,
I mooned an Iraqi family yesterday! Was well funny. I’m missing you too! I even write your name every night in my alphabetti spaghetti!
Chow, John

Dear John,
Whilst I like your letters, I’m starting to think you might not be my intellectual equal. Can you send me something more challenging?
Love, Savannah

Dear Savvy,
Here’s a question from our army training manual. I hope you find it more of a challenge.
“If the Pentagon spends 850 trillion dollars on hi-tech kit, and 20 soldiers set off West in pursuit of the Taliban, how many of our own soldiers will we bomb?”
Yours, John
p.s. My drill sergeant says he wouldn’t mind giving you a good examination. I don’t know what he means.

Dear John,
I’m starting to think this isn’t going to work, and I’m going to go out and look for something new.
Regards, Savannah

Dear Savi,
Cor! Me and the lads can’t believe it! It was movie night at the camp and all of a sudden, there you were on screen! Singing and dancing! The only problem – you seem to have three dads? Are you a Mormon? On the plus side, I’ve managed to swap your photo for a dozen tins of alphabetti spaghetti! Fantastic!
Starstruck, John

Dear John,
Yes I’m a Mormon. That’s the same as you – give or take an ‘m’.
Bye, Savannah

Dear Savannah,
Me and the lads are havin’ a bit of a giggle about your last letter. There’s no such word as “mormomn”. Speaking of Mormons, I discovered this week that I was brought up by the lesbian couple of Stockard Channing and Tatum O’Neal. How about that? Anyway, don’t call *me* stupid, you’ve been writing to me for 7 years now … and you haven’t even asked me for a phone number! DUH!!!!!
Ardeeeowse, John

Dear John,
Has it got through to you, numbnuts, that in 7 years every letter has got to you even though I addressed them to “John the Thicko, US Army”? Goodbye for ever.
Savannah

Posted by: Dr P | April 29, 2010

Spartacus – the reimagining

I'm Spartacus ...

I'm Spartacus ...

Posted by: Dr P | April 29, 2010

Date Night

The Fosters are your typical middle class American married couple. They’re happy in their own lives, the kids are cute, their jobs go well … but the spark’s starting to die. Even their regular “date night” has become dull and predictable. So when they head off to New York City and gatecrash an exclusive seafood restaurant by – gasp – stealing the reservation of no-show couple “the Tripplehorns”, the events that unfold lead them on a wild ride that certainly adds a bit of zing and danger back to their lives.

I say “gasp” there, as one of the most-repeated themes of the film is everyone’s outrage at the fact that this average Joe couple have had the audacity – nay the outrageous cheek – to steal a New York City dinner reservation. Mind you, having once spent 45 minutes at the bar in Bolton’s Frankie and Benny’s, I have to say how annoying it is when you don’t get a table sharpish … and therein lies part of the problem with this film – it relies on cliche and small laughs rather than a consistently funny script. Tina Fey and Steve Carell are both highly experienced comedians with a deft touch and a happy knack of being both eminently watchable and downright funny. Sadly, the material they’re given here is mediocre at best. But that’s not to say the film is poor, it’s actually quite fun, in a way that would have worked just as well as a small screen rom-com or a straight to DVD release.

The Fosters find themselves drawn into a backstory in which “the Tripplehorns” (an alias cooked up on the grounds of the male partner being a fan of Jeanne Tripplehorn – hoo yes indeed) are blackmailing a major city figure, and this brings in all manner of supporting folk, including a pair of corrupt cops, the mayor, a local mob boss and even their calculating babysitter, who demands huge amounts when she discovers the kids are potentially in danger as well.

Essentially it’s a film about mistaken identity and how a tiny little lie can spiral hugely out of control. Tut tut. Rather than directly telling the police exactly what’s going on, the Fosters take it upon themselves to try and solve the problem and not only uncover the blackmail plot but then try and fix it all themselves. Seems a little bit silly. It’s kind of like saying “yeah I’ll have the caesar salad … oh what the hell, bring me the entire menu”. An example of this is when Steve Carell’s character Phil “borrows” a flashy sports car, there’s a whole scene in which he can’t get to grips with the gears and the controls … and then a minute later he’s pulling off complex evasive manoeuvres that wouldn’t have been out of place in The Fast and the Furious.

There are two standout bits of the film. The first is Mark Wahlberg’s character Holbrooke Grant, a former client of Claire Foster and someone they turn to in a moment of crisis. We all know that Marky Mark’s a pretty handsome guy … and this is played up to the max as he spends the entire movie shirtless. This does prompt Carell to bark the line “for the LOVE OF GOD will you PLEASE put ON a SHIRT”, which doesn’t seem especially funny out of context but is one of the better moments. Anyway, Wahlberg plays a decent cameo, and is engaging and watchable (no doubt even more so for the ladies). He also has an Israeli girlfriend, and their banter is especially amusing.

The second scene I liked is a minor classic. The Fosters wind up having to “perform” for the blackmailee at a seedy club – in order for them to get a minute of his time, they have to engage in some pole dancing, and this allows the central duo to really go to town with some stupendously silly antics which I laughed out loud at more than once. Very good indeed.

The plot’s resolved nicely and all ends as we might expect, back in suburbia. It’s an enjoyable enough hour and a half, but not something you should go out of your way to see. Probably best to wait for the DVD release unless you’re an especially big fan of Carell or Fey, or even Marky Mark’s jiggling pecs …

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