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Monday, September 16, 2013

The Way, Way Back

I give it a nine.

The Way, Way Back is the kind of film that almost makes it worth sitting through an overall underwhelming "summer" season at the movies, as it's exactly the sort of gem that studios slip in during this time of year as a counterpoint to all those sequels, remakes and franchise properties. It is, as such, rather easy to overlook, but, please, if you're going to see one movie in cinemas this month, make it The Way, Way Back. You won't regret it.

The film isn't exactly heavy on plot but, as the best coming of age stories always are, it's very big on character. Duncan (Liam James), a fourteen year old misfit, is stuck on a vacation from hell with his loving, if weak-willed mother (Toni Collette), her hellishly horrible boyfriend (Steve Carell) and his indifferent daughter, before finding some much needed sanctuary in the Water Wizz water park and friendship in the oddball group of characters who run it - but most especially Owen (Sam Rockwell), the park's fast-talking, funny and compassionate, if seriously underachieving, manager. Along the way, there are the usual assortments of unrequited crushes, teenage hormones, misbehaving adults and familial strife to be expected from this sort of thing, but every familiar note only adds to the recognizability and effortless enjoyability of a film that embodies all that's great and immortal about the coming of age tale.

2 Guns

The year(s) of the Wahlberg continues...

Also up at Channel 24.

What it's about

A DEA agent and a naval officer try and infiltrate a drug cartel by staging a bank robbery and the fact that neither knows the other is working undercover is only the beginning of many, many complications that soon arise.

What we thought

2 Guns is, what, the seventh comic book movie this year? That's right, it may not be about superheroes and it may seem to have far more in common with regular action comedies than anything particularly “comic booky” but it is based on the Steven Grant comics of the same name, published by Boom Studios. Like A History of Violence and Ghost World before it, 2 Guns once again shows what a misnomer “comic book movie” actually is.

And, to be honest, that's probably the only really interesting thing about it. There's nothing in 2 Guns we haven't seen before, because even if the central conceit of the plot is fairly innovative, what transpires after that is the typical mix of wisecracks, gun play and ludicrous plot machinations that is the staple diet of any action comedy worth its salt. It does have a ridiculously complex and twisty plot but even there, there's nothing really that surprising.

All this said though, however derivative and unexceptional the film ultimately end us being, 2 Guns is still a cracking good time when it's playing and should work wonders for fans of this particular genre.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Kick Ass 2

Less kick ass this time, but it's hardly ass either.

Also at Channel 24.

What it's about

After the events of the first film, inspired by Kick Ass and Hit Girl, dozens of ordinary citizens have taken up costumed identities in the fight against crime. For Kick Ass himself though, his previous ineffectiveness has caused him to turn to Hit Girl to train him, while Hit Girl herself is struggling with whether to continue the great fight or to try and live as a regular teenage girl. The heroes have their work cut out for them though, as the former hero known as Red Mist declares a bloody vendetta against Kick Ass and anyone associated with him for the death of his father.

What we thought

2010 was arguably the quietest year for major comic book movies since the craze began at the turn of the century with only the disappointing Iron Man 2 moving the Marvel Cinematic Universe along and duds like The Losers and Jonah Hex making next to no impact whatsoever. Aside for the surprisingly enjoyable, if very loosely comics-based Red, the best comic book films to come out that year were, by far, a couple of quirky indie properties.

The first, Scott Pilgrim vs The Universe, was a hyper-active, hyper-colourful, hyper-poppy and hyper-brilliant mix of video games, martial arts, rock and roll, comedy and romance. The second, of course, was the similarly terrific Kick Ass – a hilariously fresh and violent take on the superhero genre that presented a tremendously stripped down take on the superhero in the most over the top manner imaginable. Like Scott Pilgrim, it was one of the best and most surprising films of that year but, unlike Scott Pilgrim, it was actually only the first part of what is supposed to be a trilogy.

Now, some three years later, we finally have the film's first sequel, again based off of the Mark Millar/ John Romita Jr. comic books – only this time it combines the series of the same name with its spin-off Hit Girl series and, even more crucially, is written and directed by Jeff Wadlow, rather than the first film's killer team of Jane Goodman and Matthew Vaughn (who stay on as producers). And, unfortunately, you really can tell.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

We're the Millers

Sometimes it's OK for comedies to JUST be funny.

Also at Channel 24.

What it's about

After a drug dealer is ripped off by a group of street thugs, the only way he can make it up to his supplier is by transporting a huge shipment of drugs from Mexico into the United States. To do so, he comes up with a plan that involves creating a fake family made up of a homeless girl, a stripper and a young nerd who lives alone in his building.

What we thought

We're the Millers has a lot going against it. It features a frankly moronic premise that somehow needed four different screenwriters to wrap their heads around it and, with Jennifer Aniston as the female lead, it looked to be yet another lightly comedic dud by the former Friends star. Amazingly enough, despite being very stupid, incredibly predictable and sometimes unjustly sentimental, We're the Millers is actually a likeable and genuinely funny comedy.

For a start, those four screenwriters clearly have some understanding of dumb but likeable comedy as between them they've worked on the Wedding Crashers, She's Out of My League and, um, Hot Tube Time Machine. Monty Python they ain't, obviously, but they do clearly have enough experience to put together a halfway decent comedy and with Dodgeball's Rawson Marshall Thurber at the helm, they manage to do precisely that.