Monthly Archives: August 2015

Review – VACATION

_M7C3860.DNGStarring: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann
Written and Directed by: Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley
Cert: 15A Running Time: 97 minutes

Part remake, part sequel to the 80’s National Lampoon’s Vacation series, this outing comes to our screens with one simple goal – to make you laugh. It demands no more of you than to sit comfortably in your seat, munch your popcorn and try not to choke on it as you chuckle your way through its rolling barrel of gags.

The film opens with Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms), now grown up with a family of his own, stuck in a rut as a regional pilot with Econoair and his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) feeling their marriage is stuck too. Deciding the family needs an adventure just like the one he had with his folks, they embark on the 2,400 mile car journey to California’s Walley World theme park with their two sons. Enduring a whole host of set backs and off-road adventures in their Tartan Prancer, a specialist ‘green’ car all the way from Albania, the film works as a standalone adventure of its own, spitting out gags every few miles as they endure any number of perilous encounters on their trip across the States.

Helms and Applegate together make a great team. He re-invigorates his moron Hangover shtick to good effect complimenting Applegate’s great comic timing and together with Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins as their sons James and Kevin, they really manage to pull it off. The boys, particularly Stebbins, as a problem child with psychopathic tendencies towards his older brother, is terrific. A scene where he tries to smother him with a plastic bag is hilarious.

Written and directed by first timers, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley they never try to be too clever or knowing and as the jokes roll one after another, you find yourself chuckling along. The gags are inane, silly and stupid but they make you laugh. Standouts are a running rivalry with a truck driver (after Kevin asks him if all truck drivers are rapists on their Prancer’s built-in CB radio), Rusty’s handbrake turn that doesn’t quite go as ‘Vin Diesel’ as he planned and a very funny scene with a guy with a large rat on his shoulder. A simple joke very well-played. An amorous moment ruined by a motel bath also had me in stitches.

In an extended cameo, Chris Hemsworth pops up as weatherman Stone Crandall, husband to Rusty’s sister Audrey (Leslie Mann), when the family stop by for a visit. He’s clearly in his element exercising his comedy muscles for a change. He takes the mick (literally) out of his sex symbol status, with an enlarged package that he takes great care to highlight to Rusty and Debbie in case they were in any doubt. A scene in which he and Rusty herd cattle on quad bikes doesn’t quite work though and their visit wisely ends before it outstays its welcome. There are funny cameos too along the way from The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus, looking like he walked off the zombie set and Charlie Day who plays a white-water rafting instructor with personal problems.

In truth Vacation does so well as a standalone movie that when Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo show up it’s a bit distracting. Seeing them is a little surreal though neither has lost their Griswold charm. Vacation is one of those movies that does what it says on the tin and there are plenty of laughs that haven’t been crammed into the trailer. If you want to escape and have a chuckle, you could do a lot worse.

***

 

The TRAINWRECK cast hit Google in Dublin

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Being in the Foundry at Google’s European Headquarters is like seeing into the double oo’s of Google as if they were a giant pair of spectacles. The foundry is their hipster hangout and newest space in their Barrow Street empire and features a supercool state of the art auditorium packed this afternoon with all 360 multi coloured seats taken. Everyone has their phone at the ready, half have laptops and there’s lots of twenty-something Googly people chatting face to face and in real time with their co-workers. A giant screen fills the end wall, and five empty chairs (yellow, blue, orange, green and red) wait expectantly for their VIP guests.

This is the last day of a worldwide promotional tour for the Trainwreck stars, as they’ve traversed the globe spreading their giddy delight from social media outlet to radio station to joe-so on the street, so it’s fitting that Dublin should be their last stop. Apatow has brought previous films here to celebrate, knowing Irish audiences are particularly receptive to his sense of humour. “I love it here” he says with enthusiasm. It’s certainly mutual and there is an air of the love-in to this afternoon’s little gathering.

Greeted by mediator Karen Koster, of TV3’s Xpose (who perfectly sets the tone – cool, laid back and fun), Apatow ascends the stairs to the stage, followed by Schumer and co-stars (and SNL alumni) Bill Hader and Vanessa Bayer.

Having chalked up close to 94 million dollars at the U.S. box office, the cast arrived yesterday from Amsterdam and are “unravelling” according to Schumer “but in a good way”. Having enjoyed the Irish hospitality the night before (Hader and Schumer are quick to confesses to over imbibing the Guinness “enough to kill a small adult”), they are suitably relaxed on their last social engagement before the premiere at the Savoy tonight. She makes fun of the title of the film and how it’s been changed overseas. In France it’s ‘Crazy Amy’ and she says here the Irish response to her booze-addled promiscuity is “why would she be a train wreck?” She lets the question hang as the audience chuckles at the stereotypical image of the Irish carouser.

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Her new found success is still something she’s getting used to. She gets papped now and strangers on the subway in New York are slyly taking her picture. “So I’m on the train on the way to therapy” she says pausing to add a meek “I’m fine”, “wearing a blue rain poncho and an old pair of headphones. I looked like I was leaving a soup kitchen to go take a dump in a shelter” she adds. Schumer is best when uncensored, her filter switched off and let run wild. There is no topic off limits when it comes to her comedy. She jokes that she asks friends, family and ex-boyfriends if she can use their stories and just changes their names if they say no.

The chemistry between Schumer and Hader crackles off screen too. The pair have an energy, sparring off each other in a constant comedy battle of wits with every look and remark funnier than the last.  “I begged to be in it” he says. He and Schumer had never met before and were set up for a fake date with Apatow towing along with his camera.”They were very disgusting” jokes Hader of the snaps, pondering why Apatow would want him and Schumer to star in it together having seen the “horrendous” pictures.  Both are self-deprecating but when a clip runs on the giant screen behind them, you witness the genius of their pairing.

Vanessa Baer too is perfectly cast as Amy’s best friend Nikki. She’s hilarious in person and the story she tells of going to college in Ireland is a running joke between the four of them (she never gets to tell it) and they crack each other up with quips and moans of how it will take 40 minutes for her to explain. They are clearly enjoying themselves.

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When asked about the best compliments they’ve received since its stateside release Apatow is quick to tip his hat to his star actress and writer. “I’m very proud that Amy loves it, we spent so long talking about it. It means so much to her and we talked about this for years and how we’d do it and the fact that she loves the movie is the best compliment I think you can get.”  Schumer humbly sits next to him in her green chair head bowed, while Hader points out that while Amy is a very funny lady she’s a classically trained actress who decided to do stand-up, wowing them all on set with her skills. Baer is quick to add that for Schumer is also very generous with screen time for the other actors in the film. “She’s such a fan of other people so she really gave everybody else a chance to shine”.

Schumer herself is humble in her reply. She recounts taking her dad (who like her dad in the film, has MS) to a cinema near the hospital facility where he lives to see it as he couldn’t attend the premiere. “He said I’m so proud of you so that was like the best compliment to me.” She describes her appearance that day as very “grey gardens“, “more like ET in drag” interjects Hader as the room erupts again with laughter.

When the mic is thrown open to the floor (literally a fuzzy green smurf-like creature that can be tossed around the audience with a built in mic much to the panel’s amusement) the funniest answer comes from Schumer when asked what the most embarrassing thing she’s ever googled. “For me it’s not the most embarrassing but if you looked at how many times I’ve googled them. Can I drink on these antibiotics? And does this antibiotic make my birth control obsolete? I’ve googled both a million times.”

As it finishes Hader feigns relief exiting stage left as the room is drowned in whoops and applause and stops to shake hands with fans on the way out. The cast are off to do their premiere prep (which includes meeting up with Glen Hansard for a drink) and we have to come back to the real world and dry the tears of laughter from our eyes.

Trainwreck is in cinemas

 

 

Review – TRAINWRECK

Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, John Cena, Tilda Swinton and Le Bron James
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Cert: 16 Running Time: 125 mins

If like me you hadn’t been privy to Amy Schumer’s talents before now, you’d be forgiven for assuming her ‘woman of the moment’ status a fleeting one, but her cinema debut, after an eleven year climb to the top of the American comedy circuit, marks a new voice in Hollywood and a wildly funny one at that.

Directed by comedy maestro Judd Apatow, (who was so struck with Schumer’sscreenplay that he chose to direct it as well as produce), Trainwreck is a new romantic comedy that showcases a leading lady in a star turn. Every scene belongs to Schumer. It’s her journey and her jokes and she’s the reason it works on every level. Largely auto-biographical Schumer’s character (also called Amy) is the train wreck of the title, a woman who is disastrous at relationships – a commitment-phobe who would rather sleep around than be tied to one person forever. Amy’s forced to re-think her views when she encounters sports physician and surgeon Aaron Connors (Bill Hader). Tasked by her editor at mens magazine S’Nuff with interviewing the doctor she finds herself liking him for more than just one date.

While the first half hour plays like an off-shoot of Sex And The City (Amy is a potent mix of Samantha’s promiscuity and balls out honesty and Carrie’s kooky, razor sharp writer) it soon settles into its own rhythm as Schumer’s sassy script turns gender roles on its head with the girls talking locker-room-dirty while the men are deeply invested emotionally and romantically.

Craving the physical intimacy of sex but hilariously reeling when Aaron breathes next to her afterwards, Schumer never pushes it too far that you don’t relate to Amy and there’s a gravitational pull between her and Aaron that you just want to work. Their chemistry has an old-school crackle and Hader delivers large on the laughs too with Schumer writing plenty of great scenes some comedic, some not, that really move you to actually give a damn about them.

Reminiscent in some ways of When Harry Met Sally, the film has a lot to say about relationships and the ups and downs of getting to know someone past the physical side. It’s a credit to Schumer that all of the relationships in the film are so cleanly drawn. Her relationship with her sister Kim (Brie Larson) is at times caustic as Amy despises the dark side of domestic life her sister has chosen. Both of them also have their own fraught and complicated relationship with their father (a brilliant Colin Quinn) and the lack of saccharine sprinkled over the proceedings is refreshing and makes the punches hit all the harder when they come.

The supporting cast have fun twisting public perceptions with a great turn from basketball pro LeBron James (playing himself) as the loveable best friend (played by a woman in every other rom com you’ve ever seen). WWE’s John Cena too brings fun improv skills to a movie date with Amy, looking ‘like Mark Wahlberg ate Mark Wahlberg’ and the magnificent Tilda Swinton chews the scenery with her raspy East London swagger as Amy’s glamorous editor.

Rarely does a comedy deliver as much as Trainwreck, hurtling laugh after laugh, the jokes fresh and I-can’t-believe-she-said-that funny. With a keen comedic eye on pop culture there are also some very funny gags. The one about the tampon and Game of Thrones is very funny, if perhaps more to us girls. But Schumer is letting us in on the joke. For too long Hollywood has told us how women in romantic comedies should behave. Schumer has destroyed that in one go. All hail Schumer!

****

 

 

Review – HOT PURSUIT

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Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Sophia Vergara, Robert Kazinsky
Directed by: Anne Fletcher
Cert: 12A Running Time:87 mins

When two women at the top of their fields unite for a movie that plays to their obvious comedy strengths, led by a female director with a proven track record in the female comedy genre, you have to wonder through an excruciating 87 minutes of film, if they knew they were making one of the most unfunny, dull, offensive, cringe-inducing movies to come out of Hollywood in a very long time.

Bringing one of TV’s most flamboyant stars and one of Hollywood’s top actresses together must have looked good on paper but Sophia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon flounder in a script that denies them the chance to use their strengths. It’s hard to know who comes off worse. The Oscar-winning Witherspoon plays the uptight, by-the-book Officer Cooper as a Southern cocktail of one part Calamity Jane to two parts Miss Congeniality’s Gracie Lou Freebush. So far so kooky, but when matched with Vergara’s fiery Latino, something weird happens and they seem to cancel each other out like they are on completely different wavelengths.

The plot is back-of-a-napkin complicated. Witherspoon’s cop must escort witness Vergara to Dallas to testify against a drug lord and hilarity should ensue. This is a car crash of a film and is not even in the realm of so-bad-its-good sadly. It ambles awkwardly from one flat joke to another, managing to offend pretty much every woman in the audience with its shoulder-sinking, oh my god is this what Hollywood thinks we want for entertainment period joke, told through the painfully gritted teeth of its two stars.

A scene where they pretend to be lesbians to distract a gunman is frankly embarrassing, as if the two actresses either didn’t get along or felt themselves that it was the lamest thing they’d ever heard. Somewhere a phone was no doubt ringing in an agent’s office, demanding a review of their contract.

Vergara tries to make a point in the film that she can be smart as well as sexy and in one scene goads Witherspoon’s character for thinking the ‘brown lady’ won’t have something smart to say. Sadly the film doesn’t give Vergara the space she needs to make the point more solidly.

Director Anne Fletcher’s previous hit The Proposal proved another great showcase for Sandra Bullock and perhaps that’s what Hot Pursuit is lacking – the Bullock factor. Had it brought some of the foul mouthed havoc of The Heat and pulled in McCarthy too it might have been something hilarious, a real two-hander where both stars are completely in sync with each other. We’ll have to wait for The Heat 2 I guess. Sadly Hot Pursuit is a miss on all accounts.

*