Warcraft (2016)

As an Orc horde invades the planet Azeroth using a magic portal, a few human heroes and dissenting Orcs must attempt to stop the true evil behind this war.

Obviously I knew about the impending existence of this, years ago, but for the love of all that is Source Code, why is this a thing? What must have been ten years ago or so, a colleague of mine somewhat surreptitiously handed me a copy of World of Warcraft and said, in the hushed, guarded tones of a drug pusher with stock to offload at the annual policeman’s ball, “take this, install it and then come back to me.”


I knew about it already of course. I’d heard the stories, I’d read The Daily Mail. I knew about how WoW could suck you in and leave your normal life little more than a dusty husk, an inconvenience. I took the game home, put in on the bookshelf and never so much as opened the box.


Many people didn’t exercise the same caution and at its height, there were tens of millions of regular players (still roughly about seven million at time of writing) across the globe. Doubtless, while the timing in not exactly auspicious for Blizzard, it was inevitable that this, or something like it, would have to appear eventually. Half a dozen years too late, maybe, but nevertheless, here it now is.

Videogame adaptations rarely fare well when it comes to the big screen and the littered corpses of many a good idea in embryo adorn your local multiplex, but here Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) has pulled off a sure-fire winner. Critical appraisal of the film has been varied, with most of the negative reviews only possibly coming from those that have looked at this from a purely blinkered perspective (some may question if these same critics have even seen the film at all, choosing to jump the review queue and second guess the quality). Jones has delivered a gargantuan offering in scale and expectation, a feast of visuals, plotted with political intrigue, surrounding a love story and buckets of action and adventure.

Scored by Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones), this could potentially be the franchise-in-waiting that takes up the mantle from Lord of the Rings. Yes, that’s right, I did say that. Underestimate this at your peril. It’s simple and dangerously effective, boasting excellent performances throughout and character arcs that whilst not immediately apparent, will hook you in without you realising. It is technically challenging albeit not emotionally ground-breaking, and the script is not as engaging as it might be/will be next time, but Blizzard/Jones have achieved something to be noted, a mis-step in the philosophy that all videogame adaptations must be dire, ill-conceived and ridiculously optimistic in terms of box office.

Perhaps a little blunt at times and obvious to boot, Warcraft is far from a perfect couple of hours, but it is so far beyond expectations that you are likely to come out of it with immense pleasure at a job well done that you thought would be okay, but not astounding, or taken completely and happily by surprise by the pearl that ended up being for huge audiences that will no doubt take it to their hearts and revel in the thought that more must be coming. I cannot say whether this honours the source material, having never picked up the game to play it, but it is to the films’ credit that it can take the uninitiated, like myself, and deliver a very satisfying all-round cinematic experience.


Perhaps we can realistically look forward to Fassbender’s Assassin’s Creed now? Fingers crossed.

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Urge (2016)

A weekend getaway takes a dangerous turn when a mysterious nightclub owner (Pierce Brosnan) introduces a group of friends to a new designer drug. Stripped of their inhibitions, they start living out their wildest fantasies – but what starts out as a fun night of partying quickly turns deadly, as the island paradise deteriorates into a tropical madhouse.

Sometimes ‘And’ can mean alot. You know, like “would you like this chocolate cake and this lovely crisp ten pound note?” or “I’ve just won a holiday to the Bahamas and the Lotto!”
However, it doesn’t always live up to expectations. One such example here would be “And Pierce Brosnan.”


Now don’t get me wrong, I like the man in a Bond/Remington Steele fashion, but there are roles that he really shouldn’t approach, at least, not with any inkling that he will be able to pull it off, even if that role is undemanding and comes with a big, fat pay check that requires little to earn it.
Here he plays (wait for it) The Man. Now The Man in question is a really nothing more than a glorified drug dealer with a new product to flood the market with, starting on a relatively secluded holiday paradise where the real stars of the show (all equally repellent, if we’re honest) are vacationing.

This is pretty formulaic and unoriginal. Gather a group of friends (though quite what they see in each other is questionable, as the script does none of them any favours) together and watch as they enjoy a few days of hedonism and excess of pretty much everything. Mostly the titular Urge, sex and, well, cake.

As The Man says, the only rule about taking the drug is that you can only do it once. The reason why this rule exists is not clear, but you know that the cast assembled are not going to pay a blind bit of notice, a fact The Man appears to rely on. I mean, do you know many drug dealers who will only sell you a drug once? Not a very reliable business model, which these affluent types perhaps should have asked themselves.

Part glib, careless commentary on recreational drug use and part collection of voyeuristic opportunities of beautiful people living vicariously, Urge does look polished enough to attract a certain amount of attention, but its message, such as it is, is somewhat lost in the telling of the stories of the vacuous characters that inhabit it. Engagement is understandably low as few viewers will recognise anything in it to cling to, plot or character based. Arguably the performances are not that bad and convincing enough to make you hate them just enough not to care about their sometimes grisly ends, but Brosnan is clearly the anchor to which the film relies on, and his comical, whilst fully charged,performance is just about as dreadful as the original idea.

One to avoid really. It’s all done in less than ninety minutes and you can see why as the film has so very little to actually say.


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How To Plan an Orgy in a Small Town

Directed by Jeremy LaLonde
Starring Jewel Staite, Ennis Esmer, Lauren Lee Smith, Katharine Isabelle

And the prize for the longest movie title of 2016 so far goes to…

Yes ladies and gentlemen, it is time to get your ass to Beaver’s Ridge (snigger) as sex columnist Cassie Cranston’s Mom has died and she’s coming back to the town she left in shame as a teenager to claim her inheritance. God help the lot of them.

Now personally, I really enjoyed LaLonde’s Sex After Kids in 2013. And this effort is just as funny and (although less often) heart-warming as that. The script is just as polished and LaLonde repeats his assertion that sex really is quite funny. This might be my innate Britishness coming to the fore, but nevertheless, LaLonde has such an admirable handle on the ridiculousness of the subject matter as to be able to convey this to an audience and ably pass this on to his cast of players.

The cast are brilliant. Not one of them failed to pull their weight and deliver the impressive script with verve and excellent timing. It was also great to see Katharine Isabelle involved, as I had not seen her in anything since American Mary (where she scared the hell out of me, frankly) as well as Ennis Esmer who also appeared in the aforementioned Sex After Kids.

Without prior knowledge, it would be quite easy to label this as a sex farce, but there is a good deal more than bumping uglies going on and the stories of these interwoven characters is compelling throughout, if also completely throwaway. This will not leave anyone gasping in any fashion, but it will make you laugh, and often, which is really all that LaLonde is going for. At times, yes, it does skirt the jagged edge of cliché, but never quite over the line to become tiresome.

In all, a great way to spend ninety minutes if you’re of that persuasion, and over eighteen, of course.
Watch the trailer for yourself and decide if it’s your cup of tea, as this is indie enough for the cinephiles, but not anywhere near satisfying enough for the PornHubbers.

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Hello, My Name Is Doris (2016)

A self-help seminar inspires a sixty-something woman to romantically pursue her younger co-worker.

Directed by Michael Showalter
Starring Sally Field, Max Greenfield
Sally Field may not work that much anymore, but she sure knows what she likes to do. The last few years have consisted, maybe inexplicably, of a couple of stints in the Spiderman reboots and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Not a lot of output for four years, but nonetheless, her performances are never less than brimming with a natural ease that confirm her status as one of Hollywood’s most enduring talents.
At first glance, you might immediately imagine that Field, playing the titular Doris, is a step out of time with a movie that maybe feels too contemporary and too independent for a shuffling cat-lover  that lives with her mother in an ever-descending garage sale of junk that her family want her to be rid of, not only for her own good after the death of said parent, but for their own good too.
Field, however, brings a delightful turn to this woman forgotten as nothing more than a data-inputter kept on at work due to the need for good branding and familiar continuance. She brings Doris to life with a sometimes verve that should remind us all that just because age may have crept up on them, there is still effervescent life in the older folks if they’re given the opportunity to run vicariously in the park. Field exemplifies the more senior performer perfectly here, as if made for the role that she could only really play right this minute.
When Doris falls for a much younger work colleague, she begins to imagine that he feels the same and through a series of half-chances and happenstance, the opportunity for a relationship does blossom, but not maybe in quite the way that Doris would like. 
What was most surprising was the decision from Showalter (also partly responsible for the truly lovely script) to suggest that this woman, despite really living a dream in which she was the star, to make the audience believe that this nearly romance was something that could possibly occur. Performances from both Field and Greenfield were convincing enough, despite societal norms, to have us all wondering maybe, just maybe, at times.
And despite this seemingly ridiculous notion, the project must be applauded for legitimately suggesting it was possible and backing that up with the quality storytelling to quell the doubters. We are all quite used to seeing young women playing the love interest to older men, but this idea upturned is rarely and approached, and even fewer succeed in achieving something as sweet and yet tinged with melancholy and moments of genuine tragedy as Doris is put through the gamut of emotions that love inflicts upon all of us.

In short, a simple, beautifully told tale of love and opportunity. Doris’ character arc is delightful to witness and this should prove that if nothing else, that it is never too late to dream. Showalter’s direction is sound and the writing should be commended as much as Field’s ability to deliver such a convincing performance. Recommended.

Three hearty cheers for Tyne Daly. Why she doesn’t do more work these days is beyond me.

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The Jungle Book (2016)

The man-cub Mowgli flees the jungle after a threat from the tiger Shere Khan. Guided by Bagheera the panther and the bear Baloo, Mowgli embarks on a journey of self-discovery, though he also meets creatures who don’t have his best interests at heart.

Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Neel Sethi

A few months back, you would have caught me kicking up a fuss (again) about how movies just aren’t what they used to be, from the perspective of that wide-eyed child we all once were. I was referring to Star Wars at the time as The Force Awakens hit our screens. Here too, the threat of failure because of not living up to the expectation of an experience previously less demanding stands, waiting to bury Disney’s latest live action effort, for no other reason that I’m not the same kid I was, yet being told the same tale. Never mind that this iteration of the now well-loved story is not even a cartoon! Oh the humanity!

Sounds like I’m taking the mickey out of Disney, but really, I did look at the trailer when it first appeared, not knowing what it was and did precious little ‘ooing’ and ‘aahing’. When I realised what I was watching, my heart sank just a little, as another piece of my childhood appeared to be stamped on, swallowed up and then regurgitated, solely it seemed, for the purpose of nothing more than a lack of imagination and creativity.
In case you’ve actually been living in the jungle for a few decades, this is the story of a young boy called Mowgli (Neel Sethi) and his adventures during his travels from the wolf pack from where he was raised in the jungle, to the man-village. On this trip he is accompanied/protected by Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingley) and Baloo (Bill Murray). All the while, however, Mowgli is being hunted by the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba), so getting from point A to B is no easy task. As such, much excitement ensues. If Eli Roth had made it, this might even be classed as survival horror in extremely poor taste.
But thankfully, he didn’t. This collaboration between children’s favourite Disney and Director Jon Favreau has all the marks of the studio emblazoned across it for all to see. A young, determined and focused, though sometimes helpless, individual with a big heart, needs support from his loyal friends to help him achieve what seems impossible. This is not, as we have already established, breaking new ground.
What is different in this altogether darker version of the story is the tone. Favreau and Disney have taken what was a delightful young children’s singalong for a Saturday matinee and have given it a more cloying, murkier feel, with the dangers of death and fear never lurking too far from the screen.
With the introduction of Baloo, the film does lighten a little, as Bill Murray’s portrayal and dead-pan delivery are perfect for the beautifully cgi rendered bear. Elba as Shere Khan is blood-chillingly convincing as the tiger that was once wounded by a man that will now stop at nothing to kill the child that he sees as a threat to his own future and the future of the jungle, should the boy be allowed to survive, and Sethi’s performance as Mowgli is just precocious enough to remind those old enough to remember him, of the captivating vocal performance from Bruce Reitherman back in 1967. Walken may be no Louis Prima, but you can’t have everything. Nonetheless, this has periods where the PG rating feels entirely justified and will certainly scare some children under ten or so, particularly early on.
In short, this may not be The Jungle Book you are expecting, but the lavish vegetation and every animal within it is teeming with life, even if not a stitch of it is real. The translation from animation to live action adventure brings with it its own much more dangerous overtones and most of the innocent purity from long past is gone, even if the well loved songs are still (mostly) in place, which given the overall tone of the piece, might seem a little disjointed to some. Whether these sojourns into levity will resonate with audiences remains to be seen, though the overall critical response has been almost entirely positive.
Entertaining throughout and glorious to watch, there is also no lack of excitement, with plenty of time still reserved to appreciate the admirable performances. Disney have really gone to town on the special effects and whilst this effort may rightly hold its head up as an ode to the original, it is quite far removed from the masterpiece that inspired it.

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Why We Should Be Thanking Marvel


The other day I read what I believe is the stupidest comment I have come across related to film for some time.

Essentially, it suggested a correlation between the intelligence quotient of movie audiences in relation to the rise in prominence (and profit) of Marvel cinematic releases.

It beggars belief that the comment came from someone that actually has any sphere of influence in this regard, and despite this argument having been highlighted before, that any knuckle-dragging moron would either suggest it or believe that this is really the case.

I would ask firstly if the individual in question has any understanding about how the film industry actually works? Captain America: Civil War will be the fourteenth official Marvel release up to and including the original Iron Man movie appeared. Although box office receipts and home distribution sales are fluid and ever-changing, this has currently generated an estimated ten billion dollars in revenue. This revenue doesn’t just get swallowed up by a movie behemoth without a conscience, however. This success ensures that everyone from dolly grips, catering assistants and hairdressers continue to feed their families, put petrol in their cars which enables them to get to their next job, which may be another Marvel movie, or something with a less audacious budget that has been greenlit by a much smaller company that, without the skills and talent pool from Marvel and its contractors, would not otherwise have been made. 

Daniel Craig was famously heard to mention that he only really agreed to play James Bond, because he knew with his paycheck, he could fund his own projects, or take acting jobs for little or even no pay, if he was moved by an idea from another artist with little or no capital. It is not just the high-earning megastars that this kind of self-beneficial altruism is a plus for. Marvel’s success filters down through the its company and veers off in a myriad of directions, in order for other projects to be created, which are niether inspired by Marvel themselves, or even have a superhero involved. It’s not only shit that rolls downhill, money does too.


Now if you have followed my blog for any amount of time, you will already know that I am not the biggest fan of superhero movies per se. I even avoided the opportunity to watch Batman Vs Superman as recently as yesterday, giving up my free ticket to someone who would appreciate it more than I would. DC is a separate entity, I know, but if we’re going to splash the shitty stick, let’s at least make it an even coat all over, shall we? 

Firstly, we might want to look further than just the success that Marvel have enjoyed since they decided to make their own movies, rather than farming out their licences to others and ask why they are successful? It is undeniable that the movie industry in general is dominated by the United States. It still accounts for more total revenue than its Asian counterparts, though the gap is slowly diminishing, and traditionally a successful enterprise in film is often found to compliment the more over-reaching concerns of its audience at the time, capturing a nation or continent’s pulse. In the days of Roswell, the film industry was awash with UFO themed projects, for example, and in today’s financially insecure climate for many, the notion that there is someone out there that can do the things we can’t, in spite of difficult and insurmountable obstacles, is a prevailing theme that audiences can both be excited and comforted by. Westerners, in short, seem to need a hero to ensure that everything will be alright.


Of course, this is not the case for all audience members that appreciate these films. Some purely go for the bangs and whistles that Marvel are equally good at. Accusations of ‘dumbing down’ to an audience that are allegedly too stupid to appreciate ‘proper art’ are unfounded, purely on the success of the films, as this would suggest that all audience members are equally clueless. If that were the case, everything that wasn’t a superhero movie would fail to get off the drawing board. Audiences for Marvel movies are so large, in fact, that it is a completely ridiculous notion to suggest that everyone that pays to see them is an idiot, because the majority of that same audience also pay to see films that don’t feature superheroes in any shape or form.


It is understandable of course that not everyone appreciates these movies. I include myself as one of those people that take a limited amount of pleasure from them, but I do appreciate fully the place that Marvel (and DC, if lesser) currently inhabits. Without blockbusters, of which superhero projects are are included, the amount of money and talent swishing around the industry would be increasingly absent. Without the unmitigated success of these films, the film industry as a whole would actually be in a much more precarious position, so to suggest that Marvel movies are only for stupid people is more a comment best saved for the ashes of the movie industry, where those that believe it can stand on Hollywood’s funeral pyre and smugly know that they were right in the end, even if they have nothing to watch.

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Eddie The Eagle (2016)

The story of Eddie Edwards, the notoriously tenacious British underdog ski jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Directed by Dexter Fletcher
Starring Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman


We’re starting to realise that when the name of Dexter Fletcher is attached as Director to a project, that we are going to be treated to something with a common touch that is inarguably above average. Perhaps this is the projects he chooses to become associated with, invited to attend here by none other than Matthew Vaughn, in the guise on this occasion of Producer. Wild Bill was one of my favourite films of 2011 and Sunshine On Leith narrowly missed out on a top ten place in 2013. With this, his third directorial feature effort, we can safely say that Eddie The Eagle will also place fairly highly in this years’ list of great movie experiences. 

Stated quite clearly on the credits, this is ‘based’ on a true story, although it does take biographical liberties with some of the facts and characters involved in this story of one boys’ dream to make it to Olympic competition by any means necessary.

Nonetheless, it is no worse for this fact as Fletcher rightly recognises that in order for the film to flow for the benefit of his audience, a little tweaking was required for the emotional resonance to have any effect. This is also true for timing, which has been reduced by about half an hour from the original, so the story never has the chance to become draining for the viewer, deleting a few scenes and re-editing others to keep you facing forwards.

Normally, I’m not one to feel too emotional when it comes to movies, having only been moved to actual tears on a couple of occasions in the past decade. Perhaps it comes with the territory, viewing every movie I see with at least one eye on what it will be like for everyone else, but even I got the ‘feels’ here on no less than three separate occasions. This is no mean feat and far from what I had expected. By equal measure, you should know that I didn’t laugh anywhere near as much as I thought I would either, which says more about Fletcher’s approach to the script, than my potentially cold and emotionless regard for the material.

Egerton’s portrayal of the goofy, bespectacled Eddie Edwards does occasionally approach caricature, but thankfully never quite reaches it and this happens nowhere near as frequently as his embodiment of the character convinces us of its authenticity. Edwards was/is a unique character anyway, and creating a realistic version of him for the screen was never going to be easy, as even the real Edwards was seen as a figure of fun. The temptation to ham that fact up was thankfully underplayed, however, with Fletcher keeping the flow of the piece firmly fixated upon the story as much as the character.

Jackman’s support was priceless, as without him, a realistic tether that aided, abetted and argued as we would ourselves, the plot and Edwards could have easily run away with themselves and as such, parody was avoided by the presence of a character with, albeit misguided with hindsight, common-sense negativity.

If you’re not familiar with this incredible story of a man that finished last at the Olympics, then you might want to seek it out prior to watching this as a smattering of knowledge on the subject will go a long way. Also competing at the same Winter Olympics in Calgary that year were the Jamaican bobsleigh team, that ended up being the inspiration for Cool Runnings, and if you’ve seen that, then this is not so far removed, except here the focus is more on overcoming adversity and gunning for the underdog, than jokes about Jamaican’s and snow (listen out for the joke).

Overall, this is great stuff again from Fletcher, who continues to impress us with his directorial prowess. It’s been a long time since Press Gang, and the rest of us are much better off for his decision to lurk behind the camera, rather than ape around in front of it. One of the best films I’ve seen this calendar year, and as I said, will no doubt be there or abouts when the all important top ten drops in December. 

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10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

After getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter with two
men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical
attack.

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg
Starring John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jnr
     
You wake up shackled to the wall by handcuffs, you have no idea where you are, or who is holding you captive, but no, you’re not the latest unwitting victim of Jigsaw? What can possibly be going on? Well, the similarities of the opening of 10 Cloverfield Lane are strikingly similar to the first and very best of the Saw franchise. Even as viewer, you’re immediately on edge. Salaciously, you can only hope at this stage that Trachtenberg can keep it up long enough for you blow your cinematic load by the end.

And by the end in question, the answer is probably not. If you’ve been keeping up, you’ll most likely be disappointed by the last five to ten minutes of this feature, as it seems to be a little too simple for what has gone before. If you haven’t, then you’ll probably be delighted by it as the denouement is probably what you turned up for in the first place. This is not a ‘Cloverfield’ movie, in the sense that it doesn’t feature any first-person found-footage and no huge monster decimating a city, so don’t go into it expecting as much, as you will be one cheesed off punter by the time you’re ninety percent done.

This is, for the most part at least, a very admirable close-quarters thriller. It is equally absorbing as an off-kilter character study. The main players Goodman and Winstead are both rounded quite well, but given the limited amount of space and story, which is kept purposefully and deceptively vague, it should come as no surprise that two excellent actors should thrive in such a claustrophobic environment, given a passable script, which this has, albeit with a few loose ends left dangling.

Direction in such confines is key and Trachtenberg should be applauded for developing a triumvirate of sorts, where the balance is constantly shifting, most notably from these two out of three characters. One appearing to hold all of the cards and one trying to steal his keys to a freedom that incredulity has convinced them is allegedly more than what is promised.

Goodman has already been lauded by many for his own performance and it is easy to agree. His portrayal of Howard, a matter-of-factly bull of a man who built his own emergency shelter in order to be prepared for anything is anything but happy about his achievement when terror does actually come to town. The plot says more, maybe, about the way we live today than we might like and Trachtenberg plays on this fact by repeatedly appearing to make Howard a monster, which may or may not be true, but the cynical viewer will no doubt have made their mind up, much like Winstead’s Michelle, before there is sufficient evidence to prove this theory either way.

In summary, this is intriguing, compelling and gripping stuff for the majority of its runtime, which is probably ten or twenty minutes shorter than I would have liked. If I hadn’t made it clear already, I found the conclusion to be a disappointment at least as voluminous as the credit I give it for the first eighty minutes. Why Trachtenberg decided to bolt-on what seems superfluous is something you’d have to ask him yourself, I guess. Thankfully, this is still worth the ending for the excellent first two acts that highlight both the acting skills of the limited cast (kudos to Gallagher who didn’t really get a look in, despite his efforts, as the heavyweights he was up against basically just mowed over him) and Trachtenberg’s eye for a frame. Not sure if I was building a shelter to live in for years on end with a potentially limited supply of everything, including electricity, that I would have chosen to install an energy sucking jukebox, however, even if it helped fatten up the soundtrack.

It left me open-mouthed just the once, but you’ll know what I mean if you see it.

     

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Get A Job (2016)

Life after college graduation is not exactly going as planned for Will and Jillian who find themselves lost in a sea of increasingly strange jobs. But with help from their family, friends and co-workers they soon discover that the most important (and hilarious) adventures are the ones that we don’t see coming.


Directed by Dylan Kidd 
Starring Miles Teller, Anna Kendrick, Bryan Cranston, Alison Brie

The real world is hard, which is why I usually choose to avoid it whenever possible. With Dylan Kidd’s Get A Job, we are initially promised at least something of an insight into how it’s not just us that finds this life unfathomable and confusing, particularly in regard to the world of employment.
If you can feel the hackles rising on the back of your neck, you might have good reason, and don’t expect it to get any easier as you sit through this effort. Introduced to Will (Teller) and Jillian (Kendrick), a middle-class and already privileged young couple trying, with varying success, to get a foot on the ladder of promotion to secure their respective futures. Neither are especially likeable upon first meeting them, nor do they become noticeably more so throughout, though the effort to make them so is obvious.
It took it’s own sweet time getting here too, filmed in 2012, it inconceivably sat in storage for four years, with even Kendrick herself suggesting a couple of years ago that the film would be “unlikely to see the light of day”. The real reasons for this are unclear, but Lionsgate stepped in to give it a limited release and an on demand option this month. Whether they should have bothered is just as pertinent a question as the delay in its distribution, however.
Boasting what is an admittedly enviable cast, including Bryan Cranston, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, John McGinley and Alison Brie, it further begs the question about the delay in its appearance. And when you get a chance to sit down with it, it begins to become clear. What should be brimming with heart, soul and suitable amounts of irony, comes across as little more than a missed opportunity. Instead of a witty (even sarcastic would have done) social commentary on the vagaries of finding and sticking to a job for the purposes of survival and prosperity, we’re offered what often comes across as uninspired and lacking in imagination.
Get A Job fails in its fundamental task of portraying the difficulty in finding and keeping a position that we could all recognise and lacks enough character to coerce any engagement from. If you were expecting the type of experience offered by the likes of Office Space, for example, then you are going to be left feeling short-changed. Dipping its toe into romance, albeit only in regard to the relationship between Jillian and Will, with the occasional aside from what appears to be Alison Brie in nymphomaniac form, this just doesn’t convince either and its heaving from one to the other, even with the lazy jokes thrown in, just doesn’t convince in any department.
We rightly should have expected better from the assembled talent pool on offer and if anything, the performances are not actually the cause of the film’s woes. A script without bite and any real verve is most at fault and ultimately not worthy of the players. In the four years since it’s making, it is already beginning to show its age and that is as good a reason as any to question its appearance.
In summary, this is probably one to avoid unless you’re a real fan of any of the people involved. And even then, expectations should not be set too high. 

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The Lady In The Van (2015)

A man forms an unexpected bond with a transient woman living in her van that’s parked in his driveway.


Directed by Nicholas Hytner
Starring Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings
BBC Films can usually be relied upon to turn out a decent project, so I felt, with a fair degree of confidence, that this mostly true story of Alan Bennett’s driveway lodger would be right up my avenue, especially as it featured the always wondrous and eternally magnetic Maggie Smith.

With a screenplay by Bennett himself from his memoirs of his time in the company of this lady in the van, this is a delightfully witty and gentle comedy that never fails to draw a warm-natured smile. If you are familiar with the writing of Alan Bennett, you’ll already be well aware of what to expect. Here, like in all of his work, he is honest and genuine, full of spirit and a verbal dexterity that can only be admired if you’re a true lover of wordplay.

Detailing the experiences of this notable and ostensibly English playwright, split into two polarised characters for the purposes of ‘doer’ and ‘writer’, as all writers themselves will recognise, the story is simple and comparatively familiar to many that will recognise Smith’s eccentric character. If pressed, most of the audience drawn to this feature will be of a certain age, and will no doubt be able to draw upon personal experiences of their own with at least one person in their past or present that echoes the traits of this ex-habit covered, ambulance driver with a penchant for the piano forte.

Hytner’s direction is as subtle and nuanced as Bennett’s creation and does occasionally become a little too embroiled in rose-tinted recollection, guilty only as much as the writers’ depiction of a character that has long since left an indelible imprint on his memory, embellished though it may be for the purposes of entertainment. Nevertheless, this is never less than charming and Alex Jennings’ portrayal of Bennett is as good as anything you are likely to witness elsewhere, which must have been quite the task, given that Bennett himself was responsible for the screenplay and at one point, even makes a cameo appearance. No pressure then, eh?

In all, Bennett proves once again, were it needed, that his grasp of language and his ability to eulogise his characters with such rounded complexity and emotional completion is as strong as it has ever been, even if this maybe doesn’t stray quite far enough away from safe ground for those of us that would like to see him spread his wings beyond what is little more than a monologue brought to vibrancy by the power of performance.

Eminently watchable throughout, nonetheless, this is a delight for Bennett lovers and Maggie Smith fans everywhere, as you get precisely what you would expect from both. Reliable, robust and worthy of your time.

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