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

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

Two Night Stand

I’ll start of by saying I enjoyed this movie and only saw it on the recommendations of a friend. I say this because one or two others have not been too kind to the work. Directed by Max Nichols, this is directorial debut, and a good one at that. The premise is quite simple. Out of work and out of love Megan (Analeigh Tipton, Warm Bodies, 2013) is cajoled by her flat mate in to going out to a party, only to find she has no ID and cannot attend so back home. At home she decides to take the advice offered by everybody; get on line and find a guy.

After some time dithering about, she eventually cobbles together an on-line profile and enters the fray. Following a few minutes of the usual jokes she comes across “Alec” (Miles Teller, whiplash, 2014) who seems like a genuine guy; he does live on the other side of the city though, however she goes for it and heads over to Alec’s. after what is presumed to be a satisfying night Megan decides to slip out.

There are two issues with slipping out, firstly the front door is alarmed and causes here to jump back to bed before the siren sounds. This gets fixed only to have the morning after discussion with Alec rr as she mistakenly calls him; Alex. Many of the jokes/scenarios here are not new, but they are not hammed either. Indeed is their very recognisable nature which contributes to the scene, as we inevitably identify with various parts of the discussions. Finally leaving the apartment Megan has one last major obstacle to overcome; the New York snow, unfortunately the snow won as she is trapped inside , with no further option Megan returns with Alec to the apartment. What follows is the traditional awkward silence following the discussion they had earlier when they thought they would never see each other again. This is of course an ages-old gag; people insult each other only to be forced in to a situation together. What makes this work is the ability of both cast members to work well together and have a snappy script supplied to them by the screen writer (Mark Hammer, Skins episode 2011).

Having checked the weather , it looks like they are trapped together for at least another night, remember this is early morning. Eventually they settle done to a delicate “truce”, a truce which is put in jeopardy by Megan when she is in the bathroom and reads an article on the type of women who use dating sites for one night stands, she identifies as #2 – Damaged. Clearly still hurting she rips out the page and flushes it down the toilet. The only problem is the flood that follows. From here the disaster mounts. Alex has no plunger, but his neighbours have. The neighbours are away and Alex does not have a key, so the two of them gear-up and via the fire-escape go round to their neighbours’ apartment. The windows are frozen solid, normally a problem with the building’s windows would have meant they were open. Megan does what she needs to do and they get in, much to Alec’s shock and amazement.

Once the piece is recovered from the toilet, they have a discussion and the issue quickly passes, or does it? Following a smoke of a certain herb, they relax and after making a “blanket tent” relax for the evening. While talking they decide that their situation might allow for some Science – namely feedback on where they went wrong the night before. Queue night two. In the best traditions of love’s labours being lost, Megan leaves for home the next day, but under a cloud.

While Megan has been open about her relationships, Alec has been less so. What seemed like a budding friendship might just have failed at its second hurdle. Back at her apartment Megan’s flat mate, Faiza (10 Cent Pistol, 2014) and her boyfriend, Cedric (Scott Mescudi, Need For Speed, 2014) have news for her – she has 4 days to find a new place. Alex now has a similar predicament owing to items left in his apartment (see for yourself). So nothing else to do, it is time for the New Year’s eve party, which needless to say, is a bit of a damp squib for her, or at least it is until the police come looking for her. The consequences of her entry to Alec’ neighbour flat come back to haunt her. It seems as if this is Alec’s doing, she is in a holding cell and he’s trying to bail her out, unsuccessfully. The last few minutes of the movie you can check out for yourself.

This could very easy have been a painful saccharine affair (no pun) but with snappy script and delivery it turned the movie in to something well worth watching regardless of whether or not you are trapped behind a wall of snow.

A very solid ***

The Castle, 1997

Over the years Australia has managed to produce some excellent cinema, not least of all in comedy. Straight away The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Stephen Elliott, 1994) or The Dish (Rob Sitch, 2000) spring to mind, indeed talking of Elliott, another movie comes to mind first; The Castle, which Scott directed in 1997.

The Kerrigan family headed by the father of the house, Darryl Kerrigan (Michael Caton, the Sullivans, 1976/77) are happily living their lives. Life is not perfect, but together they overcome any challenges that might pop-up. This is about the “typical” ordinary Aussie family.

Home, to the Kerrigans, is their house and “Castle” nestled between the airport runway and a high-voltage power line. Darryl’s wife Sal (Anne Tenny, Dead Heart 1996) is his perfect partner. With their three sons, one of whom is in prison and a daughter, newly married.

Life, however takes a side-step however when the airport next door announces its intentions to expand. And just where do they plan to expand? Exactly. Darryl and neighbours spring in to action and after trying some of their own actions, resort to the Courts. With this in mind they hire local solicitor Dennis Denuto. Dennis has one major failing; he is useless as a lawyer. With Dennis fighting their already seemingly hopeless case, there is not much they can do.

After trying things his own way and acquiring a set of “bloody good gates” along the way, they look to see what else they can do and just as when all seems lost, along comes barrister Lawrence Hammill, (Charles Tingwell,    Breaker Morant, 1980). This is very much a Little-Man versus the Machine movie and for the little-man to overcome the fight ahead of him he needs a very capable mechanic, in this case a first rate QC. Despite being completely different people from totally different backgrounds and against all odds Lawrence and Darryl overcome their social differences. This is perhaps just as important a part of the movie as the overall fight to protect a person’s home.

Darryl and Lawrence are two very different people, one schooled and polished, the other a diamond in the rough; one a working-class man who will not accept what he see a bullying, while the other is firmly a member of the establishment. Darryl’s naivety, or lack of diplomacy contrasts with the careful reserve of his barrister, but the two hit it off.

It will not be too much of a spoiler to know Darryl and family win their case, but watching the journey to the end point is a very enjoyable experience. I had seen this movie some years ago and have watched it since, enjoying it every time. Some evening when the world needs to be kept away for an hour or two, get the DVD or stream this movie and by the end (most certainly before that) you will have a smile on your face.

**** A simple honest classic. As I have mentioned before, I like situational comedy, comedy when despite the seemingly straight acting of the cast and their script in response is the comedy. The more mindless, slapstick type rarely works for me. This situational scenario works just nicely. Oh and have a look out for a young Eric Bana.