Reviewed: Swingers (1996)

swingers_poster.jpgOnce upon a time a group of precocious Hollywood wannabes made an Indie film that really turned things around and got them noticed by the rest of Hollywood. The group consisted of Doug Liman (director), Vince Vaughan (actor) and Jon Favreau (writer/actor). Liman is responsible for re-igniting the spy genre with The Bourne Identity, Jon Favreau put the heart into a film franchise (Iron Man) about a hero without a heart* and Vince Vaughan… well, everyone** fell in love with Vaughan and let him turn up in a string of Hollywood comedies which led to him becoming a household name.

Swingers is slightly autobiographical. It’s the story of a group of actors trying to make it in Hollywood. Mike (Favreau) is a comedian from New York that’s trying to recover from a six year relationship. It’s been six months and he’s not doing very well so his best friend Trent (Vaughan) takes it into his own hands to help him get back into the game and start meeting women again. He does this by taking Mike to Las Vegas. The rest of the film is a string of moments that eventually lead to Mike getting over his troubles through meeting someone he finally clicks with. There’s not much else to it.

This 1996 film walks us through what it was like to be a part of that particular Hollywood scene. There are many conversations in cafes, clubs and cars that if it weren’t for the presence of Favreau’s character to get us through them, would just be irritating. Case in point, Vaughan’s use of the word “money” is akin to Paris Hilton saying “hot” and comes off equally intellectual.

One moment where the characters argue about a scene from Reservoir Dogs and whether or not it was stolen from Scorcese then gets all post-modern on us and emulates it may very well be the high point of the movie. There’s also a reference to Lucas’ first film THX-1138 through the number plate of the car that Mike drives.swingers2I feel like the purpose of this movie was purely for these kids to ingratiate film royalty with the intent of it giving them the necessary leg up into the Hollywood elite that they so desperately wanted and as history tells us – it worked.

Good on them, too.

*In the comics he eventually had an artificial heart transplant.

**Not everyone of course, but you get the point.

Reviewed: Movie 43 (2013)

movie-43-poster03Movie 43 seemed like a bad idea the first time I heard about it. A handful of well-known actors come together for a gross-out film of epic proportions with a handful of directors and writers pulling it all together. It’s like Paris, Je t’aime via Funny or Die.

A sketch movie like Kentucky Fried MovieAmazon Women on the MoonMonty Python’s Meaning of Life or the Scary Movie franchise – this is a selection of thematically similar sketches tenuously tied together by the flimsiest scrap of narrative you’ve ever seen (which is probably the most entertaining part of the entire film).

The “story” follows a screen writer with a few screws loose (Dennis Quaid) who’s pitching to a movie producer (Greg Kinnear) some of the worst film ideas you’ve ever heard and the sketches are those bad pitch ideas.

The sketches are mostly puerile (something I have no problem with) and the Hollywood names that star in this do well with what little they’ve got. Considering that there are about 14 sketches and I actually enjoyed almost five of them, you’ve got to weigh up whether or not the whole is worth your time.

The reason you’ll watch this is to see what a certain name that you see on the poster is doing in it and then you’ll be sad if you parted with money to make it happen.

PS Bob Odenkirk is credited on this film and if like me, he’s one of the reasons that you’re giving this a shot, he does not actually contribute to anything (as far as I can tell). Perhaps his material got cut or he had a consulting role – a slightly uninteresting mystery which may never be solved unless you actually talk to the guy.

Reviewed: I Give It A Year (2013)

i_give_it_a_year_xlg(SPOILERS AHOY!) Here we have a romantic comedy which attempts to subvert the genre and almost gets it right. Watching this, two films of recent came to mind; The Five Year Engagement and Friends With Kids. Both focus on the negative of traditional relationships but result in different ways. Where The Five Year Engagement looks at what can happen when people make the commitment to “wait” for each other over an extended period of time, Friends With Kids looks at the idea of starting a family without the foundation of a “relationship” and/or marriage.

This film begins with our unlucky in loves at their wedding with all the signs pointing to the fact that they are not meant for each other. From there it establishes all the regular tropes to push them apart – the bride, Nat (Rose Byrne) finds herself working for a perfect man in the form of Guy (Simon Baker) while we find out that Josh (Rafe Spall) still feels for his ex, Chloe (Anna Farris), that he never really broke up with when she went on an extended overseas trip. As the plot pushes forward we find them confirming everyone’s thoughts that they just aren’t made for each other and that maybe they’ve made the wrong decision to get married.

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It all builds to a point where you think they’re going to break it off but when it comes to the crunch, they decide they want to give it a proper go and commit to making a better effort using the rest of the year as their trial run to fix things. In the meantime, Guy and Chloe get together and you think everything’s going great guns for one and all but then on their anniversary night, Josh realises he really is in love with Chloe. Telling Nat this brings joy to her as now she can be with Guy and they race together (although separately) to the airport to make things right.

The emotional side of this film doesn’t quite work – I never really found myself caring what became of any of the characters. What got me through was the dialogue; the little moments of humour that came through in conversation and character interaction.

Dan Mazer who wrote and directed this one has previously worked with Sacha Baron Cohen on BoratBruno and the Ali G TV series so a little bit of the awkward humour from these shines through.

The cast all do very well with what they’ve got but what’s lacking is real chemistry (whatever the hell that means). Steve Merchant also turns up to do his standard bit playing the inappropriate best friend of Josh who everyone loves to hate (and with good reason).

There are a handful of laugh out loud moments and I’ll give them points for that but as I said before, no real emotion is the where this one falls over.

Reviewed: The Way Way Back (2013)

the-way-way-back-poster-quadWhen I first heard about a little film called The Descendants, I was kind of excited due to Alexander Payne helming the ship. He’s responsible for bringing a handful of gems to the screen (SidewaysAbout SchmidtElection), each one toting a touch of melancholy with it in a way that balances the humour and gives it (at least for me) a sense of realism that is missing from many Hollywood comedies. The Descendants was no exception but one thing that this film brought to the table was the writing team of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. You may have seen Nat Faxon hanging out with the Broken Lizard team (Slammin’ SalmonBeerfestClub Dread) and you may know Jim Rash as the Dean of questionable sexual orientation from TV’s Community. The Descendants got them both a little acclaim and an award or two for their writing. In their follow-up effort the pair share directorial duties and the result is the film The Way Way Back.

It’s a coming-of-age story about Duncan who’s been pulled along against his will to a beach holiday house with his sister, mother Pam (Toni Collette) and her new boyfriend Trent (Steve Carrell). Here they’ll spend the Summer with Trent’s friend’s families. Trent tries to make an effort with Duncan but fails because he’s an ass and quite obviously doesn’t actually like Duncan’s quiet and introverted ways.

A chance meeting over a game of Pac-Man with Owen (Sam Rockwell) leads Duncan to getting a job at the water park where Owen plans to get Duncan out of his shell and live a little.

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This movie is a feel-good movie essentially and although touching upon the futile melancholy of real life and related themes, doesn’t dwell there long enough for you to want to kill yourself at the end (which is what I’ve had people tell me they’ve wanted to do at the end of Alexander Payne films).

Go along for the Ride. Carrell is believably egotistical; Collette plays the part of someone barely holding it together to a T and Rockwell… well, rocks. Rash and Faxon both have entertaining bit parts and all the kids in this film play it perfectly with a special shout out to Liam James as the wonderfully awkward Duncan.

Highly recommended.