Charlie’s Angels

On Sky Cinema in the UK and available to stream on other services.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Angels and fondly remember the 70’s TV show and enjoyed Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu’s big screen antics as they captured much of the light hearted charm and fun of the original.

Roll on nearly 20 years and Elizabeth Banks picks up the franchise, there’s a lot to work with with the Angels idea, find three actors that can bring a light hearted chemistry to the screen, give them some action set pieces, a script with a bit of wit and charm and allow it to happen at a pace that keeps the story and the action zipping along.

Sounds easy and some films get the mix right and some are sadly like this and get it wrong on all levels. Set in the present, the Townsend agency has expanded to offer services around the globe the original Bosley, Patrick Stewart, now a rank rather than a person, is retiring. Elizabeth Banks picks up the senior Bosley mantle. A new Angels team is put together with Kristen Stewart’s Sabina and Ella Balinska’s Jane too help out and protect Naomi Scott who plays Elena a scientist working on an energy technology that she knows has a bug that can allow it to be weaponized. The story plays out Bondesque style moving around the world from one set piece to another before the final stand off and in this case, predictable ending.

With film’s like this the plot isn’t that important, a fun script, engaging leads, entertaining action and you’re on your way, sadly this lacks all of that. It’s slow and plodding, set pieces that are few and far between are pretty perfunctory and underwhelming and most disappointingly the main characters don’t work, even the normally reliable Bank’s can do nothing with this. The script doesn’t help but the performances aren’t great, Ella Balinska looks out of her comfort zone in this kind of film and Kristen Stewart never delivers the sassy rebel that she is cast to bring. The only high point is Scott, who is more believable as the bright girl, who finds herself cast into a crazy world of spies and intrigue, she manages to be engaging and funny throughout.

While this is a very dissapointing film I do think there is room for a good Charlie’s Angels and Banks no doubt would like to develop a franchise. But for me the whole thing needs a rethink, because not sure anyone needs to see a sequel to this version.

Otherhood

Showing on Netflix.

Directed by Cindy Chupack, Otherhood follows three mothers Angela Basset, Patricia Arquette and Felicity Huffman who are coming to terms with their boys growing up and drifting away from needing their mothers advice and help, casting them into “otherhood”. However, as another mothers day rolls around without the requisite attention the three decide they’re heading to Manhattan to go and interfere in their sons lives.

Let’s be honest upfront this is very nuts and bolts comedic fare with little originality and a very predictable story arc. But it’s fine it’s inoffensive and humorous enough in places, our three central characters are engaging and the sons stories are all different enough to offer a bit of variety and at around 100 minutes it doesn’t particularly out stay its welcome.

One review I saw said “should I go to the cinema to see this? No, but that’s fine as it’s on Netflix and is perfectly Netflixable” and they were absolutely right, night in, sweets at hand and don’t want anything to challenging, then this is perfectly serviceable, no more, no less.

Good Boys

Showing on Sky Cinema UK and various digital platforms

Another bit of “missed at the cinema” catching up with Gene Stupnitski’s 2019 film Good Boys.

Three “uncool” 6th graders Jacob Tremblay’s Max, Keith L. Williams’s Lucas and Brady Noon as Thor find themselves invited to a cool “kissing party” which will give Max the chance to kiss the “love of his life” Brixlee. However, when the boys run into two older girls and have an incident with a drone their plans are turned upside down and they end up on a journey to the local mall to put things right.

What we get is a relatively standard story of “tween” discovery, girls, kissing, sex, drugs and the reality that your best friends from your early school days are not necessarily friends for life.

What Good Boys does though is play with that familiar story by taking our 6th graders and rather than creating an age appropriate Goonies style story of discovery and friendship we get those films meeting Superbad and “sex toys” bringing us foul mouthed tweens, a whole new set of uses for adult entertainment devices and tucked away in their occasionally is a little bit of the sweetness of a group of boys growing up and coming to terms with their changing lives.

The films not highly original beyond swearing youngster’s, but it is fun, at 89 minutes it rattles along at a pace and there is a high gags per hour quotient, not all funny, but more hit than miss and the three boys relationship does endure throughout and gives the film some heart and a nice time for reflection for us older kids watching on the things that seemed so important when we were 12.

I can imagine kids swearing and humorous misuse of sex toys may lose its appeal for some, but it made me laugh pretty consistently and remained the right side of fun throughout.

How to Build a Girl

Showing on Amazon Prime Video.

Based on Caitlin Moran’s book, How to Build a Girl is set in 1993 Wolverhampton and follows the life of 16 yr. old schoolgirl Johanna Morrigan, a talented and passionate writer which leads to her making a less than glorious appearance on a TV poetry competition. Living in a music obsessed family with a music fanzine editor brother and frustrated drummer dad, Johanna finds herself in the world of music criticism when she earns herself a job as a columnist for a national music paper, leading her into a very grown up world via her alter ego Dolly Wilde and eventually a personality change that makes her infamous.

How to Build a Girl takes a lot from work like Adrian Mole, Bridget Jones, Almost Famous and comes with a heavy dose of dark comedy.

There are issues with it and it takes some suspension of disbelief to get onboard, from ropey accents to a bit of a lack of attention to period details and I personally feel there are issues with the “antics” and situations we place our 16 yr. old central character in.

But the story of discovery and growing up in a hard up 90’s family did draw me in and that’s in no small part to its cast, Beanie Feldstein (hugely unconvincing accent aside) is a joy in the central role, taking Johanna from innocent and naive though to her darkest moments and back again seamlessly, Paddy Considine is fun as her still dreaming dad and Laurie Kynaston as her brother standout but performances are good throughout.

As I mentioned earlier this borrows heavily from some well known work and it shows in a pretty predictable story, but there is plenty to like, especially in the performances and if your looking for a decent story of growing up then this may be what you’re after.

Ad Astra

Showing on Sky Cinema UK and available to stream on most services.

During lockdown I’ve not done much catching up on things I missed at the cinema, however I made an exception for Ad Astra.

Directed by James Gray and starring Brad Pitt on the surface this is a space adventure, Pitt’s Roy McBride is the son of pioneer H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) who captained the deep space Lima Project sent out on mission to Neptune to study the galaxy for life. Thought lost, when strange sonic pulses threaten the fabric of the solar system, it seems they are coming from Lima and that Roy’s father is still alive and that Roy is the person to contact him and bring him in.

While the premise sets up the idea of a space adventure that’s not what Ad Astra is and that’s what I enjoyed, it’s not a story about space but is much more about loneliness, abandonment, desperation to be acknowledged and isolation, not only as individuals but as a species.

This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s slow moving, the quiet times are, for me, where the interesting things happen, but I appreciate that, that isn’t for everyone.

Pitt portrays the patient and conflicted Roy and this is certainly his film, supported by a particularly grizzled Tommy Lee Jones, who does also shows a level of vulnerability and desperation. Really the entire film is carried by Pitt, he is in pretty much every scene and for large parts the only thing on screen and he does an excellent job of keeping the story moving and engaging.

I imagine it would’ve looked marvellous on the big screen and lost a little of its scale at home, but that didn’t detract from the storytelling

The film is ambitious and interesting and happy to tackle its subject, but it also leaves enough peril and tension to give you more than a character study of Roy battling his inner demons and leave a bit of space adventure too.

Pity to have missed it on the big screen, but glad to have caught up on it nonetheless.

Buffaloed

Showing on Sky Cinema UK and available to stream on other services.

I’ve been watching The Politician on Netflix recently and one of the star turns has been Zoey Deutch so scanning for a Friday night film I came across Deutch in Buffaloed.

Directed by Tanya Wexler it takes a look at the seemingly poorly policed world of debt collecting in the US and is told in the style of Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short. Our story teller is young hustler with a dream Peg (Deutch) obsessed with making money from childhood, via an ivy league school and the world of finance, when events take a turn that ends that dream, she finds herself working in debt collection.

After seeing the seedier side of the business, she commits to “doing it right” which leads to animosity with rivals and a daily fight to make it work.

The story telling style is familiar for watchers of this genre as Peg breaks the 4th wall to address the audience with occasional explanations of the debt collection world. It’s not at the level of Wall Street or Big Short, but for me it was a pleasant surprise, its 90 minute run time keeps it bounding along and in Deutch you get a smart, energetic and fun performance that carries the film, she is well supported by Judy Greer and Jermaine Fowler, but this is a vehicle for Deutch and she does a good job of driving it along from start to finish.

If there is a criticism its short runtime means it never really digs to deeply into its subject or explores the miserable reality of its impact, but accepting that shortfall, it doesn’t distract from an entertaining 90 minutes and at least offering some exposure to a very seedy and poorly regulated industry.

The Old Guard

New to Netflix.

Based on Greg Rucka’s graphic novel, The Old Guard follows four “immortal” warriors who have, throughout the century’s, tried to help humanity in a positive way by doing what they “believe” to be right, saving people and lives from the actions of those who seek to do harm.

Led by Charlize Theron’s Andy our group find themselves commissioned to rescue a group of kidnapped children, where they find things are not as they seem. The group are soon joined by Kiki Layne’s Nile to take on a new threat.

The Old Guard seems like Netflix’s attempt to find itself a franchise opportunity and if I’m honest I’m not sure there is enough in this rather predictable and formulaic first outing to guarantee this is the vehicle they are looking for.

There are things to enjoy and there are some interesting sections contemplating the concept of immortality and the price that comes with it, there is also an interesting touch of jeopardy added to these seemingly indestructible beings.

Theron is as watchable as ever and is well supported by Layne, Mathias Schoenaerts, Marwen Kenzari, Luca Marinelli and the always reliable Chewetel Ejiofor.

However it comes with plenty of flaws, its lack of originality is a real issue with the film following a very similar path to any other “super hero” origins story and while not the worst it is certainly not the most interesting. One of the key story issues for me, is the wholly unbelievable nemesis Merrick (Harry Melling) who never convinces as the power crazed head of a pharmaceutical conglomerate.

While there are enjoyable moments overall its a very average adaptation which I’m not sure will warrant further installments.

Eaten by Lions

Showing on Sky in the UK and various on-demand platforms.

Omar and Pete are two teenage brothers who find themselves alone after the death of their beloved Grandmother but in her passing she leaves the boys letters and in Omar’s tells him about his estranged father and he decides to go and find him in far off Blackpool.

Eaten by Lions is a strangely uneven film, but it does have its heart in the right place and is anchored by a nice on-screen relationship between the two brothers and especially by Jack Carrol’s Pete who strikes a nice balance between comedy and pathos.

Its problems stem from a rather flimsy premise and story, which while there are the chances to develop it and some of the characters more, never really does more than scratch the surface with them including the father/son story, which doesn’t grow much beyond son meeting infantile father! Instead it wastes time with a strange segment in the final act that sees Pete and Parveen on a wild ride through Blackpool picking up a range of waif and strays.

For all of its flaws the film does have things to enjoy, with some nice comic touches, a warm heart, some fun performances and lovely cinematography showing Blackpool off better than it ever has been.

It certainly not perfect but there’s enough good intentions to just about forgive it its flaws.

Uncorked

Showing on Netflix.

Prentice Penny writes and directs the story of Elijah (Mamoudou Athie) a young man from a black neighbourhood in Memphis who rather than following his father and grandfather into the family barbecue restaurant business, dreams of becoming a master sommelier.

What we have is a setup for a pretty standard story of boy from the wrong side of the tracks pursues an against the odds dream, with a father who doesn’t believe in him, financial struggles and a family tragedy that makes him question his choices.

But what I really liked about Uncorked was how it took that idea and played with the format. Now to me, a master sommelier seems like a very white middle class pursuit, however by placing it in a black neighbourhood provides a fun twist, the film though never makes it about race or class, but just uses that to play with stereotypes, Elijah’s friend JT (Bernard David Jones) is a great example as a young “wide boy” DJ who is equally concerned by ensuring he has drinks on coasters and his teak table as he is his music.

Uncorked is not particularly challenging and is a gentle piece of storytelling, but its heart is in the right place and it is filled with subtle humour especially from Elijah’s father Louis (Courtney B. Vance). The cast are solid throughout all offering likeable characters whose company I enjoyed.

It feels a little long and drags a bit in the final act, but it was smart enough and funny enough for me to forgive that and took full advantage of the decision to take a well trodden story and twist it just a little.

I’d suggest you get yourself a glass, pop the cork and enjoy a gentle and enjoyable story.

Sergio

Showing on Netflix.

Director Greg Barker has previously made a documentary about the life of Sergio De Mello a senior UN envoy who has spent his career travelling the worlds hot spots including Cambodia and East Timor, which eventually leads to a posting in US occupied Baghdad. His film focuses around the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in the city, its impact and the chance for De Mello to reflect on his lives and loves.

Wagner Moura and Ana de Armas play the two central roles of De Mello and Carolina Larriera, his later life love, both of who are fascinating real life characters with no doubt interesting life stories to share.

But here’s the problem with Sergio, while there is no doubt a truly fascinating story to tell of both of our central characters, this film pretty much fails to show any of it.

Instead what we get is a film that chooses to only occasionally explore some of De Mello’s career highs and lows and instead would rather tell a melodramatic Mills and Boone style insipid love story between De Mello and Larierra including all the over ripe romance tropes you could want, especially in a frankly dull final act.

It does seem a huge missed opportunity, with not only an interesting subject but in Moura and de Amas, two talented performer’s who even with the material given to them both deliver solid and very watchable performances.

Ultimately, Sergio is a frustrating filmĀ  there’s a really good movie trying to escape, but it can never get free of the over sentimental and cloying grasp of the frankly dull romance that surrounds it and that is a real pity, the only plus is I’m going to search out Barker’s documentary because I’m sure there is an interesting character to better understand it’s just this film is most certainly not the way to do it.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started