Joshy (2016)

This was a surprising movie. One which seemed like a production too cheap to be any good, but it actually works. The movie is written and directed by Jeff Baena (I Heart Huckabees, 2004) centres around attempts to cheer-up Joshua, Joshi, our eponymous hero. The movie covers the events of a “Batchelor” weekend a group of his friends had planned for Joshy (Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley, 2014). However, four months prior to the weekend, joshy’s fiancée, killed herself. While at home one evening, Josh arrives home to fine her in a funny humour, he goes to the gym only to return to find her dead.

As the bachelor party date falls due, the landlord of the property they hired contacts them to remind them of the booking, they decide to go ahead with it, in order to cheer Joshy up. And now enter the 21st century; the weekend was planned by email, and as a result various of the people on the weekend do not know each other, most know Joshy.

An so our group of soon to be friends gather, each, as it happens with their own ijoshyssues also. Josh’s pall Ari ( Adam Pally, Happy endings , 2011) looked after the booking and is the central point, he seems to be the level headed one, he is met by Adam (Alex Ross Perry, Queen of Earth, 2014) Adam is in a break-up situation with his girlfriend and is sharing his grief with everybody. Adam is one of those up-tight individuals who will not use a hot-tub because of the disease risk. They a joined by the very enthusiastic Eric, (Nick Kroll, “I Love You, Man” 2009)who has everything planned out, much to Adam’s disgust, who intended for everybody to play his extremely complex Co-op board game .

As the weekend moves on, various others join the group as they attempt to sail through the weekend and help Joshy. We see Adam eventually get in the pool after a long conversation with the repair man (Jake Johnson, New Girl 2011). Not helping matters is the visit by his dead fiancee’s parents who blame Josh for their daughter’s death. We also see Ari, possibly falling for one of the girls they met on the first night, despite his own family dynamic.

In short this is one of those “road” movies where the stars are on a journey through their lives, without actually going anywhere.

This is truly one of the saddest comedies you will ever watch (premise-wise). I’ve deliberately not mentioned many/most/all of the gags and situational comedy, suffice it to say it works well. You spend much of the movie thinking just how lucky you are – not to be any of these people, even though we can all recognise elements of ourselves in most of the characters.

 

6/10

The Overnight

 

Written and directed by Patrick Brice (Creep, 2014). This is a perfectly fine piece of entertainment. I say this because given the subject matter and story line it could have been made a number of ways, from a Woody Allen 1970’s angst ridden social farce or a glorified soft-porn TV movie.  Instead Brice manages to pull off an exploration of the fears  and weaknesses. tumblr_nq7ddbul0d1uwiej5o1_1280

Alex (Adam Scott, Krampus, 2015) and Emily (Taylor Schilling, Argo 2015), together with their young son RJ are new to LA and don’t know many people. Against this they meet Kurt (Jason Schwartzman, Fantastic Mr. Fox, 2009) an extroverted Los Angelino while at the part with their son RJ, Kurt is there also with his son. After a short conversation (which leaves Alex and Emily scratching their heads) they are invited to dinner with Kurt and his wife Charlotte. Dinner starts off normal enough with Alex and Emily learning that Charlotte is an actress. They later see some of Charlotte’s “work” as they get to know their new friends better during the night.

Indeed as the night progresses we are exposed to the extroverted confidence of Kurt and Charlotte, which ultimately  reaches the point where Kurt decides they should all take a plunge in the pool outside, obviously the hosts are all for it, while our more reserved guests are somewhat shy about doing so nude. A reservation “justified” by the large size of Kurt’s manhood, compared to Alex’s. We can see the tension between everybody, Alex is not too comfortable with the events of the night while Charlotte is more open to allowing events unwind as the night develops.

This leads to some tension, which Kurt seeks to remove by showing Alex his pool-house where Kurt practices his art (the majority of the paintings are of the female reproductive organ) and also his breast suction pump films which they make for the Scandinavian market.

Alex, not at all comfortable with the night would be more than happy to leave. As the night progresses he spends some time talking with Kurt, as Emily and Charlotte also spend some time talking in the bed room.

As it turns out Kurt and Charlotte are not the perfect couple of their image, they have the same insecurities as the rest of us, but they do not want to accept these. While they all come from the point of not being happy with their lot in life, they begin to realise that what they have is not as bad as they thought it was.

On the down side the camera work resembles that of a cheap made for TV movie that does not inspire the casual viewer to sit down and watch the movie, the dialogue is a little stained in places but overall it works.

This is a safe 3*** movie with no pretensions of greater.

Calvary

Written and directed by John Michael Mc Donagh, this is the second of a loosely based trilogy. The subject matter is not connected, rather locations associated with McDonagh’s background. The first installment was “The Guard” (2011). Described as a black comedy, it might be better described Dark thriller with a touch of dark humour thrown in.

Although described as “dark” this is a very entertaining movie, which from the start drags in the viewer and keeps us alongside to the very end. Brendan Gleeson’s character is that of Father James, the local parish priest in a small rural parish in Sligo. Boarding the coast, there are some fantastic backdrops (having spent two years living in the area, I can say the scenery is every bit as photographed for the film. Fr. James we learn came to the Priesthood later in life, after his wife died. As with any normal person, he has his daemons, he is open about his hard drinking ways in the past, now he controls his life and habits. As “normal” as he is, the villagers, his parish, are what can best be described as an “odd bunch”.

The film opens in confession, here we learn that one of his parishioners was abuse as a child by a priest. In the parishioner’s quest for vengeance, he has decided to kill a priest, not just any priest, but a good priest, someone people will notice. He is told he has just over a week to live, they even make an appointment for the following Sunday on the beach. We are not clear if he actually knows who his killer is. Following a discussion with his less than helpful Bishop (David McSavage), the Bishop feels that the confession was not valid, as absolution was not present and so he should report the issue.

Instead Fr. James uses the week to put his house in order and try find a way to stop what is going to happen. In to the mix comes his adult daughter (Kelly Reilly, Sherlock Homes, 2009), recovering from a suicide attempt. We see through her that his relationship with her has been strained over time and in deed still shows some stress marks but they know they have something to work out and so do. They treat each other as adults.

Over the coming days, we see Fr. James deal with his parishioners, the wife beaten by her lover, the lover who has no remorse and even the cuckolded husband, who is quite happy for his wife to have an affair, as it takes the pressure off him and basically they can get on with life. As part of his ministering to his flock he visits an old American writer who is living in a remote area accessible only by boat. While bringing the old writer his messages, he makes a request for a gun (Walter PPK). After some banter Fr. James says he will try and see what he can do. In the course of the next day he pays a visit to the local Police Inspector, to borrow a gun. The inspector is at home, with a male prostitute. Fr. James is not fazed by this or the prostitute’s behaviour. The prostitute is played by Owen Sharpe, I mention this because of his recent role in “’71” playing the young IRA killer, a completely different role, both done well.

As the week goes on, he has to deal with his curate, Fr. Leary (David Wilmot, Vikings 2013) who is not exactly the caring type, more concerned with image rather than substance. Fr. James is rather blunt in his opinion of him as a priest. Indeed one of the defining characteristics of Fr. James is his bluntness. When we see him with the financier on the edge of arrest (Dylan Moran, Black Books, 2000) who is trying to put things right (in his own way). Fr. Leary fawns to Moran’s character, while Fr. James just basically sees through the acts and gets down to business naming a figure and looking for the check.

As the week goes on, we start to see things taking a chilling turn, with his local church being burnt down and even his pet dog killed, we are not told who is responsible for these acts. We see the tensions mount to breaking point, while we also see moments of clam and belief, no more so that the French couple of holiday who were involved in a car crash, the husband is killed, while the wife escapes unhurt, we see in her a person of Faith and in so doing also see his Faith, it is real to him.

He has no airs and graces, when one of the village odd-balls, Milo Herlihy (Killian Scott, Love/Hate 2010-2014) sees Fr. James in church to ask for his advice regarding women; the conversation turns surreal. He basically has urges, possibly to violence , to control these urges he has decided to join the army, which he is convinced is full of psychopaths anyway and so should be a natural home for himself, Fr. James attempts to bring him back to reality by suggesting he read certain magazines, only to have milo say he has already tried them. What we see is a man casting no judgements and genuinely trying to help. His chats with the atheist (and cynical ) doctor, (Aidan Gillen, Love/Hate 2010-2013) also give us an insight to his view on life and his outlook on things in general, while at the same time not forcing a believe or rationalisation on the other person.

In dealing with his parishioners and even his daughter (and by extension himself) we do see a “good Priest”. Fr. James’s character is no Saint, he has his flaws and weaknesses like any person. He is essentially a person who is trying to help is parishioners without overstepping. However the various scenarios thrown up by the locals work at both levels, firstly allowing for a local and immediate (personal response) but also causing us to see the reaction of a kind and compassionate man, even if one who does not suffer fools to gladly.

Among all of the local community there is one who stands out, the altar boy, Mícheál (Mícheál Óg Lane, the Guard, 2011) he stands out for one reason, essentially he has reprised his role in The Guard, as a comic foil for Gleeson. This time it is a little more subtle but equally as good.

This movie shifts to an climax which can only end one of two ways, Fr. James alive or dead. A good man alive or dead. What we saw was a week in the life of a small parish, all seemingly tranquil and calm while below the surface there is violence, loneliness, suffering and pain and only one man has an idea as to what extent the people of the village are suffering in their various ways, just as he is dealing with his own daemons. This is dark in its subject matter but the cinematography and sharp lines place this movie in the first league.

It is felt Gleeson might get an Oscar nomination for this role, he deserves it

9/10

Spy

What a relief to watch some good old fashioned fun. Written and directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, 2011) the premise of the film is simple; the bad guys have a bomb they want to sell and the good guys have to stop them. Sounds easy but there are some problems. The star of the show is Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy, The Heat 2013) a desk bound CIA analyst who works with her super-suave field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes 2009).

However things go badly wrong when the daughter of the terrorist they were tracking (and accidently killed) takes out Fine. In the process The agency discovers there may be a mole and the identities of its field agents may be compromised. The CIA section head responsible for recovering the situation is Elaine Crocker (Alison Janney, The West Wing, 1999). Opinion is divided on how best to continue, their other super-spy (self-professed ) Rick Ford (Jason Statham, Wild Card 2015) Ford adds a comedic balance to Cooper providing us with a character more like Inspector Clouseau, than James Bond. Knowing that all of the best agents have been compromised Cooper volunteers to go into the field.

Despite initial objections, Crocker eventually agrees to put Cooper in the field. It turns out Cooper is actually quite good at what she does regardless of what here friends and foes think of her. Ordered to track only their main suspect in order to find where she is selling the bomb and who to. Pretty quickly all of her plans collapse, largely as a result of no fault of hers.

Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne, Insidious 2010) has the bomb and has engaged Sergio de Luca (Bobby Cannavale, The Station Agent , 2003) as her middle man to sell it. Out in the field Cooper is supported back at HQ by her friend Nany Artingstall (Miranda Hart, Miranda 2009) an equally frustrated analysis.

Through a whole host of challenges Cooper repeatedly survives and gets closer to the bomb, despite the best efforts of colleagues who through their general incompetence or in-experience prove to be more than a hindrance. Agents like Aldo (Peter serafinowicz, Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014) sent in to help here continue to provide chaos.

This is a cut above the usual spy comedy. It quite happily pokes fun at itself without compromising the production. There will of course be the inevitable comparisons with 007, James Bond with the movie itself contributing to this with some subtle and not-so-subtle homage to the above names super-spy. Casino Royale springs to mind – not just the 2006 version by Martin Campbell (Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench) but strangely enough the 1967 version by Ken Hughes staring David Nivenm Peter sellers and Ursula Andress.

The cast is excellent, the script witty, the jokes (including the visual ones) are fast and many, this movie quite simple works where other descend in to a swap of stupidity.

I saw this movie as a preview and the audience loved it. so it should do well.

Horns

I came to this movie with an open mind, having read mixed reviews. I can see now why they were mixed. In essence we are looking at two movies, the horror-comedy-thriller and the romance. Although fresh and original, there were moments when I felt the film was deliberately playing to an audience segment, probably the younger audience who wanted to watch Harry Potter.

There is also an element of the old morality play about the film. I’ve noticed that a number of Hollywood productions carefully throwing in a moral lesson for the younger audience members, something, I’m not overly in favour of, there is a difference between entertainment and learning.

Directed by Alexandra Aja (The Hills have Eyes, 2009) and based on the screenplay by Keith Bunin (In Treatment, 2009) and the novel by Joe Hill. Following the death of Ig Perrish’s (Daniel Radcliffe, what If, 2013)childhood sweet-heart, Merrin Williams (Juno Temple, The Dark Knight Rises, 2012) under mysterious circumstances. Mysterious circumstances which have him as the prime suspect in her death. Pretty soon he notices he is growing horns. And this is where the film takes its first twist. We learn that Ig’s horns actually come with a gift/curse people do not notice them unless looking at them and then have an urge to focus on anything else but them. Being in Ig’s proximity also causes those around him to reveal their darkest secrets and desires. Using this he works through, the night of the accident and his various friends, people he has been friends with since childhood.

His best friend Lee (Max Minghella, The Social Network, 2010) seems to be immune, he is also his defence lawyer as nobody in the town believes him, his closest friend in the town is his brother Terry (Joe Anderson, The Grey, 2011) who he thought he could rely on, but there may be an issue. His parents are not much help and the horns allow him to hear so home-truths which don’t help him much. Indeed the relationship he has with Merrin’s father (David Morse, The Green Mile, 1999) is a far more honest one which despite what is happening actually develops.

The childhood relationship shared by the main protagonists helps us get a feeling of who and what is involved pacing the movie just one step ahead of us, not far enough to lose us, but not sufficiently far away to have us suffering from the suspense.

The horror elements come to the fore as the movie progresses, one of the things which make the horror element work is the non-use of stylised cinematography, the seeming normality of it. There are some specific comedy plot devices but it does not take from the presentation. The Role of Eric Hannity (Michael Adamthwaite, Sucker Punch, 2011) gives us both background to the childhood but also how it plays out in adult life as Eric is also the local sheriff, under the spell of the horns, Eric reveals certain facts about himself which play to the movie. His own parents Derrick (James Remar, Dexter , 2006) and Lydia (Kathleen Quinlan, Event Horizon, 1997) are no support to say the least, his father cannot relate to him and although trying to help may be doing more harm than good, while his mother is painfully honest with him.

Well worth watching, in only falls slightly in the extended “romantic” memories – fine we get the message, move on…David Morse, by the way, is notable for his understated approach, working well against his more usual type.

6/10 worth watching even if possibly aimed at the teen/twenties market. Who is telling the truth? Sometimes what we think of as a curse may be a blessing…

Local Hero (1983)

Some movies can have a long review just to explain them, others can be written in a few short sentences, this is one of the latter. This is not because of it being bad, but rather the opposite. It is a straight forward, well written and calmly directed piece which drags you in from the start and keeps you entertained until the end. Having watched it once, you will find yourself happy to repeat the experience as it pops-up from time to time.
Written and directed by Bill Forsyth (Gregory’s Girl, 1981) the cast is made up of some very understated stars. Peter Riegert (We Bought A Zoo, 2011) stars as the hard pressed executive sent to Scotland by Burt Lancaster’s (The Leopard, 1963) character Felix Harper. Harper the company’s CEO (Knox Oil & Gas) sends Riegert’s character (Known as “Mac”) partially because Harper thinks “Mac” has Scottish ancestry. This opening also shows how Harper can be truly narrow minded, focused on a result and dragging everybody else along, regardless of how they feel about it.
Harper has plans for an oil refinery and the townland of Ferness in Scotland is the perfect place, only problem is, he does not own it. Mac’s job will be to go to Ferness and convince the locals to sell-up. Adding an extra angle to the story Harper gives Mac an additional instruction to watch the clear night sky in Virgo and let him know back. Mac having a life in Texas tries to organise for all this to be done over the phone, but Harper insists on him being in Scotland.
Upon arriving he meets with Knox’s local man; Oldsen (Peter Capaldi, Dr. Who, 2014) and of course to add interest there is the local marine biologist, Marina (Jenny Seagrove, Judge John Deed, 2001)
Not being the biggest town in the world, Mac stays in the local bar/hotel which is owned by Gordon Urguhart (Denis Lawson, The Machine, 2013). As with many of these films being exposed to the locals and their way of life causes Mac to start to have reservations about the refinery project and the impact it will have on the local population. Of course things are never quite as they seem. Gordon not only runs the hotel but he works with some of the various fishermen who visit the port to actually manage their investments, none more so than with Victor, (Christopher Rozycki, Truly Madly Deeply, 1991) the Soviet trawler man who is a regular visitor to the town. Using parallels to Whisky Galore (1949) we see that life is hard enough for the locals and to be honest, they would be more than happy to sell up, but being who they are, they are putting on a long face and trying for as much more money as possible.
Mac and team soldier on with all the usual love and commercial complexities as the movie progresses, but then there is a twist, it turns out buying-up the town is one thing but when it comes to the beach and foreshore, there is a complication. The owner. He happens to be an old beachcomber by the name of Ben, (Fulton Mackay, Porridge, 1974) who actually lives on the beach in a self-made shack. Caught up in this and what looks like increasing issues with the locals it is starting to look like the purchase may not take place. In to all this Harper arrives and through a series of pleasant misunderstandings and his ability to effectively ignore what is being said to him, he actually manages to progress things. The dialogue with Ben, Mac and Harper is fantastic with some great one-liners. Sides are set, Ben does not want to sell, Harper wants the land and Mac is caught in the middle. Negotiations look like going nowhere. Faced with this Ben and Harper start to talk on the beach and well kindred spirits reveal themselves and a solution is found.
Movies like The Grand Seduction (2013) clearly owe a lot to Local Hero. Such is the quality of this film that it is one of those which is used as a bench-mark against others are measured. This is a case-study in how to write a story, direct the image and not over complicate or distort the output to a level which ruins and causes a lesser offering. This is simply a well-crafted story with a great ensemble cast.
8/10

R100

A lot was made of the potential content of Fifty Shades of Grey ( I saw it and refuse to write a critique of the tripe), this movie, being Japanese does not concern itself with western tastes and just gets on with the film. Takafumi Katayama (Nao Ohmori, Ichi The Killer, 2001) is a husband and father struggling under the pressures of life. His wife is in a coma with no prospect of waking, he deals with this while bringing up their young son (Haruki Nishimoto), with the help from his own father-in-law (Gin Meada, Midsummer’s Equation, 2013). To release some of his own pressures he joins a Bondage club. This club is not like any other. On entering he is met by a lone man (Suzuki Matsuo, Otakus in Love, 2004) behind a desk (in a very seedy looking building interior) who introduces Takafumi to the club and its rules; all contact is outside, none in the actual club, at mutually agreed times. Membership is only for 1 year, contact is non-sexual. Through a series of flashbacks we see the various girls from the club (various Queens specialising in S&M/Bondage disciplines. He is forced to eat squashed sushi in a bar when one queen makes him eat it, another attacks him in the street, at a fountain etc. As the time goes on, the visits get darker and his home/family become involved. This is beyond the limit for him. He goes to the police to complain where he meets a very jaundiced police officer played by Hitoshi Matsumote who also directed the film (Saya-zamurai, 2010) who basically tells him that at this stage no laws have been broken. Things go down hill from there. Not long after a Queen visits him at home, ties him up and begins sensory torture on him. At this juncture the film take a very disturbing turn, Takefumi’s son witnesses events and in the next scene we see the boy tied up in rope, suspended from a ceiling and gagged with the bondage gag. Thing go south with the accidental death of another Queen (Queen Saliva..) With the help of a mysterious government agent who shows up (Atsuro Watabe, The Flowers of War, 2011) and helps with his son. Knowing that his son is safe he goes to his father-in-law’s home believing he is in danger form the group behind the Bondage Club. He is. Indeed things have gone so badly wrong as far as the club is concerned that their CEO flies in to deal with things. Before I describe the closing scenes, it is only right to say that this movie is so far “off-the-wall” that the director engineers breaks within the movie, we are not told what these are first and are left to wonder, it quickly becomes obvious by the second “break” that these are producers coming out of a screening of the movie and are in shock, they cannot understand some of the more strange aspects of the movie – This is an interesting vehicle as it shows the director is still in touch with the viewing public and this adds to the comedic nature of the film. The denouement is a battle scene at Takafumi’s father in law’s house (at this stage it should be pointed out that both his wife and father-in-law have been killed by a “Queen” who ate them (yes!). The CEO of “Bondage” (Lindsay Howard) having flown in an struck fear in to all involved now leads the attack on the house. The scene is at times a mix of “Monkey” (1978) special effects with an approach which (to my mind at least) is nothing short of an homage to the works of Akira Kurosawa, particularly reminding me of (Ran, 1985) . The culmination of this is a 1:1 fight (not shown) between Takafumi and the CEO, it turns out he might be more of a sadist than a masochist and as a result a new sadist is conceived in him – you can guess what that means. Allow yourself to accept the cultural differences and you will enjoy the film. An interesting aside which make the movie work on another level is that it is set in the 1980’s/90’s so no PCs, laptops, smart phones or neon all over the place. A challenging but quite good comedy which will not be for everybody. The title itself “R100” is a view on the Japanese movie rating system (R18 etc.) and indeed near the endone of the “producers” during a break explains to his boss that the fictional director (himself aged 100) sys you have to be 100 to understand the movie – which of course causes them to ask how many 100 year olds are there who would go see the movie . Entertaining, funny and very watchable, if you are able J