The footballers who became film stars

England’s premier footballer of the past fourteen years, Wayne Rooney, is to hang up his cap – but perhaps a new career awaits…

Continue reading The footballers who became film stars

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Rough Night | Review

★★

First-time feature director Lucia Aniello has dived right into the deep end with Rough Night. On paper, she has a cast to die for, with big-hitters Scarlet Johansson and Kate McKinnon in lead roles and Demi Moore supporting. Her script, co-written with Paul W. Downs, was subject to a bidding war and her budget would make most indie newcomers weep.

Unfortunately, Aniello’s timing could not have been worse. The frat pool’s been drained and the diver’s landed with an unfortunate thud.

Faced with the competition of the similarly so-so, but arguably more progressive, Girls Trip, Rough Night is a comedy that falls flat due to the unavoidable sensation of being almost wilfully lame. Despite some good laughs and subtle jibs, the end result presents a sadly wasted opportunity. Sacrificed, is obvious potential for a black comedy of the most deliciously dark hues; left, is a feature too polished and commercially viable.

Fresh from a slightly misjudged role in Ghost in the Shell, Rough Night marks yet another interesting career turn for Johansson, who here plays Jess. On the cusp of marriage to fiancé Peter (Downs), Jess jets off for a weekend away with her best friends from college: Alice, Frankie and Blair (Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer and Zoë Kravitz respectively) and Australian bestie Pippa (Ghostbuster Kate McKinnon).

Jess wants a quiet and stress free weekend – she’s vying to become a Senator – so, of course, she gets anything but, with scenes of dancing, boozing and drug-taking following in suit. So far, so typical for the hen-flick genre.

When the gang hire a stripper, however, things take a turn for the worst as Alice accidentally kills the dirty-talking hunk and they decide not to report the incident to the police – ‘we’re all high!’ Running by the mantra that ‘if there’s no body, there’s no crime’, the ladies attempt to dispose of the body with…mixed success.

The main problem with Rough Night is a lack of self-conviction on behalf of the production. With a pace far too slow, and an anxiety to try and keep things light and easy for audiences, what remains is never quite sharp enough and often feels jarring in tone. Funny jokes are overworked and there’s an awkwardness to all too serious line deliveries. Take an early airport gag, for instance, in which one of the characters lets off a party popper and everyone in the airport runs screaming. What’s not needed here is a verbal explanation of the joke: ‘We’re in an airport…that sounded like a gunshot.’

McKinnon alone here feels comfortable in a role not so far from her usual wacky territory, with Johansson rather more lost and the others little more than generic. Their apparent self consciousness ultimately gets in the way of the fun. Which is a shame.

Despite occasional flourishes, Rough Night is a forgettable entry among increasingly packed genre opposition. When it comes to longevity, it won’t last the night.

T.S.

A-Z

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature | Review

Admirably attempting to answer the question of what – if anything – remains at the bottom of a thoroughly scrapped barrel, director Cal Brunker has taken on the mantel of Peter Lepeniotis to present The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, a sequel to 2014’s The Nut Job.

Will Arnett once again voices Surly, a hard talking but lazy purple squirrel in pursuit of an easy life with his mute rat partner – named, with similar creative inspiration – Buddy. Katherine Heigl plays Andie, who (because she’s a woman…) is characterised as sensible, compassionate and boring. Note that the biggest stars of the film’s predecessor – Liam Neeson and Brendon Fraser – are conspicuous here only by their absence.

Three years ago, The Nut Job was a film so definitive in the category of ‘does not need a sequel’ that it would be risibly easy enter this sophomore outing completely oblivious that it is a sequel, were it not a catch up summary at its start and the ‘2’ of its title. Not that this particularly matters, with the follow up largely opting to play safe and repeat the beats of the former, continuing its habit of pinching plots and gags from other, much better films.

Having arced from moronic outcast to heroically moronic outcast in The Nut Job, Surly is once again amid the local animal community as Nutty by Nature opens. Or rather, the local animal have migrated from their home at Liberty Park to join him at the city nut shop nearby, which has now been long closed down but still, weirdly has a huge stock of nuts. When the shop explodes – following the line: ‘It’s not like the nut shop’s going to explode’ – the animals are forced to return to their old home in the park to scavenge for their supplies. Except, the park, they discover, is about to be dug up and converted into the more profitable funfair, ‘Liberty Land’, by money-grabbing Mayor, Percival J. Muldoon (Bobby Moynihan).

Endless sequences of snide arguing and fighting follow, with Jackie Chan showing up as the cute-looking, but actually nihilistic leader of a street gang of kung fu mice.

Films, particularly those aimed at younger audiences, pilfer from each other all the time. Frankly, originality is as rare as purple squirrels from most studio animations. Often, however, this is an issue that can be negated by the realisation of lovable characters through skilful animation. The Nut Job 2 has no such luxury.

There are practically no likeable characters within this film. Indeed, the majority – Surly first and foremost – are actively hateful. Any progress made by the purple protagonist in the last film has been wound back for this one, so as to allow Arnett to prattle his way through exactly the same arc again. Were Mayor Muldoon not hideous enough an addition, his heinously spoilt daughter makes Toy Story’s Sid seem like a member of the Famous Five.

When it comes to the animation itself, the work here is perfectly fine, if never finely perfected. Watch for one moment in which the letters forming the sign for ‘Liberty Park’ read the name in the correct direction on both sides of the arch they make up.

Almost aggressively unoriginal, The Nut Job 2 manages to summarise its problem within its own round table-constructed script:

‘What’s wrong with easy?’ says Surly.

‘Easy doesn’t build character,’ replies Andie, ‘easy doesn’t last.’

T.S.

A-Z

5 Star Wars characters that must NEVER get spin offs

Cynical as it is to suggest that the frequency with which Disney are announcing new Star Wars spin-offs is the most commercially driven move from the House of Mouse since it was announced that basically every animated film they have ever made would get a live-action adaptation, it would be fair to say that Lucasfilm are milking their multi-billion dollar saga for all it’s worth.

Continue reading 5 Star Wars characters that must NEVER get spin offs

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