‘The House always wins.’
Except…when it really, really doesn’t.
Such is the case with The House, the latest tired frat comedy from Brendan O’Brien and Andrew J. Cohen, writers of the Bad Neighbours films and last year’s Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, with Cohen in his directorial debut. This one teams the admirable and winning talents of Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell as Scott and Kate Johansen, parents of Alex (Ryan Simpkins), who turn their neighbour’s basement into an illegal casino to raise enough money to send their daughter to college.
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The film that lures Goldie Hawn, last seen with Susan Sarandon in 2002’s maligned The Bangor Sisters, back to the limelight ought to be a special one. Likewise, the new feature starring Amy Schumer, a comic surprisingly divisive based on her most recent turn in Judd Apatow’s terrific Trainwreck, should easily be a hoot. Jonathan Levine’s Snatched, penned by The Heat and Ghostbusters writer Katie Dippold, is however neither special nor, more’s the pity, anywhere near to being a hoot. That the talent’s on board is without a doubt; it’s just hard not to expect so much better and want for so much more.
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When a film spends over a decade meandering in ‘development hell’, with producers abandoning it and its purpose-built production company going into administration, there’s a certain degree of trepidation that inevitably comes with said film’s eventual release. In the case of Gillies MacKinnon’s Whisky Galore! (first touted in the early noughties), the sense of wariness is only heightened by the fact that this particular long-awaited feature is a remake of a perennial Ealing comedy classic, of the sort that really don’t need remaking. Well, naysayers begone, MacKinnon’s adaption – inspired by the 1949 film from Alexander Mackendrick, the Compton Mackenzie book that inspired it, and the true story that kickstarted the chain alike – is a joy to behold.
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Enter Mindhorn blind and you might be surprised at just how starry the, Sean Foley directed, production’s cast list is. Without giving away the full roster (including one particularly rib-tickling cameo), Andrea Riseborough – so powerful in Channel 4’s National Treasure – holds a prime billing here, as does Steve Coogan – whose production company, Baby Cow, has associate credits too. From The Mighty Boosh, meanwhile, Julian Barratt takes the lead role of Richard Thorncroft, the washed-up former star of hit eighties, Isle of Man cop-drama: ‘Mindhorn’. Thorncroft’s career, once so promising as to boast merchandise, has hit the rocks since then and his agent (Harriet Walter) has all but given up of him. This is, of course, predominantly due to Thorncroft’s penchant for offending both his co-stars and the entire population of the Isle of Man alike. An infamous interview having proved particularly damning: ‘We’ve never forgotten what you said about us on Wogan’. The epitome of his fall from grace is that he now even suffers from the indignity of having been replaced by John Nettles in adverts for thrombosis socks. To add insult to injury, Thorncroft’s lost weight in his hair and found it in his waist.
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London, 1940. Bombs fall nightly in devastating Blitzkrieg air raids. A nation’s morale is at stake.
Lone Scherfig’s latest film, Their Finest, is not her finest. No, that remains the Danish-born director’s 2009 Oscar-nominated An Education. I suspect Their Best Available was, however, seen as a title that would have been rather harder to sell. Not that this a film short on selling points. Their Finest’s cast list alone boasts Gemma Arterton as its plucky heroine, alongside a well-cast ensemble comprised of Sam Claflin, Richard E. Grant, Rachel Stirling and Helen McCroy; not to mention, of course, its showpiece Bill Nighy, nailing the role of Bill Nighy. The problem is that Their Finest tries so hard not to descend to quaint sensibilities, as common in such WWII period fare (Dad’s Army most recently), that it does so at the expense of much attainable charm, exposing in the process an ultimately uninspired plot. Whilst Gaby Chiappe’s inaugural feature screenplay certainly hints at more biting possibilities, these moments are too few and far between to sustain any memorable momentum.
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Children’s cinema has it in it to be a perplexingly surreal place. You can keep your Salvador Dali’s and your David Lynch’s, they have nothing on the elaborate and deeply weird concepts which establish the world of The Boss Baby.
Based on Marla Frazee’s likewise titled picture book, the biologically unsound idea here is that human babies descend on the world from a Heaven-via-hegemonopia business in the sky called Baby Corp. From their (…birth? …construction?) initial formation, the infants are divided between those destined to join families and those who will enter employment within the company itself. With adult minds in minute bodies, the job of those designated to the latter category is to preserve human devotion to babies around the world. However, when the balance of love begins to shift unfavourably from the newborns towards puppies, soon to be manufactured to remain so forever, that the Boss Baby (voiced by 30 Rock’s Alec Baldwin) is sent to set the record straight. He does this by joining the family of Tim Templeton (Miles Christoper Bakshi, with Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel lending their talents to the roles of his parents), a child absorbed in his own imagination and the idyll of being an only child.
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Were it not for the opening scene, in which a young, black man, alone at night in a dark suburbia, is assaulted by an armour-clad figure and dragged into a white car to the vintage strains of Flanagan and Allen’s ‘Run Rabbit Run’, Get Out might easily have been a comedy. On paper, the film marks the directorial debut of Jordan Peele – the man who wrote and headlined last year’s action-comedy Keanu – its stars include the comedic talents of Allison Williams (Girls) and Stephen Root (Dodgeball, Finding Dory), and it has a plot reminiscent of Greg Glienna’s Meet the Parents. Ba dum and, of course, tish. Do not, however, be fooled. Whilst Get Out is undoubtedly a feature with some genuine belly laughs, they’re laughs that come with a distinctly nasty sting.
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