Movie Review – Rough Night

TL;DR – It’s not the best film I have seen, while it has some laughs, it is let down by its highly predictable storyline.

Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars

P.S. – There is a Mid & End credit sequence

Rough Night

Review

It is the year 2009, those heady days when Balloon Boy was a thing, remember that, oh and Kanye West was an ass at the VMA, wow how times have changed. It was during this year that The Hangover a relatively small budget (35mill) R-rated comedy came out in cinemas and made a metric-ass-ton of cash at the box-office. Since that time there have been a string of R-rated ensemble comedy films that have tried to capture that same draw with 2011’s Bridesmaids being the closest contender. So why do companies keep making them, well they’re cheap, low risk, and a chance at a very big potential reward, but because of this combination the films tend not to be that good most of the time. So today we are going to be looking at the next challenger into this realm with Rough Night which while not being anything revolutionary does have its moments of interest.

Now before we go one I do need to point out that because of its mature content there is probably a very easy litmus test as to whether or not you think you’d want to go see Rough Night. So let’s highlight just a couple of things from the movie, there are male strippers, cocaine, neighbours that are in a very open marriage, and they end up stashing the dead body in a room with adult accessories. As I said at this point I have probably polarised the opinion of the people reading the review, but then that is the nature of these films. Also don’t take your eight-year-old to go see this, come on I didn’t think it needed to be said but apparently not.

The cast has a great rapport with each other

The cast has a great rapport with each other

So to set the scene in college four girls become fast friends and promise to always be there for each other. Fast forward ten years and Jess (Scarlett Johansson) is engaged to Peter (Paul W. Downs) and is running for political office, Alice (Jillian Bell) is a teacher but never really moved on from her college years, Frankie (Ilana Glazer) is an ‘activist’ but it is more for show than anything else, and Blair (Zoë Kravitz) is a successful business women that is going through a bad divorce. They along with Pippa (Kate McKinnon) a friend Jess made whilst studying abroad in Australia have come together in Florida to celebrate Jess’ bachelorette weekend. Jess is just looking for a quiet weekend with friends and is desperately avoiding anything that could damage her election campaign, but of course, the complete opposite happens when the group hires a stripper (Ryan Cooper) and then accidentally kills him. Look as crass as it is, it is still a good setup for a film, you have a dead body, you have everyone having a motive to try and hide the body because there are drugs everywhere, and you even have a question over who some people are. However, while the setup is good, the story does not really take it and run with it as we will see later.

Now it will probably become clear that I am quite mixed on Rough Night, mostly because of its story but one area I do have to give full props to is the cast, who is giving it their all and are really game for anything. For me the stand out was Kate McKinnon and not just because she really rocked that Australian accent which is not the easiest thing to do, but because she was game for anything they throw at her. I look forward to curious Americans trying Vegemite cold turkey, and the hilarity that follows, for our international followers, Vegemite should be consumed on toast with butter and you should build up the doses until you are comfortable with them. Also, I have to give credit to Paul W. Downs who spends most of the film pulling of a rendition of the sad astronaut, I really hope they paid you well. As well as the standouts I have to say the one thing that stood out for me was the rapport of the main cast. They actually feel like they are friends that have known each other for a long time it comes across in their performance. It was interesting to see Demi Moore and Ty Burrell play so off the norm with their swinger couple team and thankfully they are not around too long that the bit gets old and Dean Winters is always a good addition. As well as this, there were some good ideas here, like the TV in the background that gives you hints of what is going in the town.

Rough Night 1

Unfortunately it does not capitalise on its setup

Now while the film has a good set up, and the cast is up for anything, what stops the film from excelling is the story. Now there are some really funny moments in Rough Night, but for me, there were also far too many completely predictable plot points. [SPOILERS] At times it felt like we hit every trope in the genre that you see in film after film. Now while you kind of expect the standard Chekhov’s Gun, though it was interesting to see it in the form of a code word, there were also so many others that are just grating. For example, the story was fine but there was for some reason this really unnecessary conflict about Alice being too possessive over Jess, that either could have been handled better or removed. Sure yes, it inevitably leads to a big blow up and the inevitable catharsis, but this in itself is something you can see coming a mile away. Also, there were a lot of missed opportunities, like we don’t find out the first stripper is dodgy until almost the end when stripper Number 2 (Colton Haynes) appears but this could have added much earlier to the freak out the characters and provide a better source of conflict. Honestly, at times it kind of felt like there was a checklist that the movie had to reach before it could finish. [End of SPOILERS]

Look at the end can I recommend Rough Night, well yes, but only if your other choice is seeing Baywatch which is also out at the moment and has a similar tone. Other than that, well, of course, I have seen worse films, but I have also seen films in this genre that have been much better. It has a strong cast but there are just too many missed opportunities for me to fully recommend it.

 

Directed by – Lucia Aniello
Written By – Lucia Aniello & Paul W. Downs
Music by – Dominic Lewis
Cinematography by – Sean Porter
Edited by – Craig Alpert
Starring
– Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, Zoë Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Paul W. Downs, Ryan Cooper, Demi Moore, Ty Burrell, Colton Haynes, Dean Winters & Enrique Murciano
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: na; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R

 

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Movie Review – The Lego Batman Movie

TL;DR – It takes the very best of Batman, adds in some great animation and adds an interesting villain, I highly recommend it

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Lego Batman Banner

Review

“I’m Batman”, it is a phrase so common I bet you just said it in your head Christian Bale style or indeed Will Arnett style. Batman is one of those unambiguous pop-culture references and touchstones that everyone knows about even if they have never read a comic or seen a movie. So if you are a marketing executive you are loving this exposure, however, the Batman from the Lego films is a parody and an almost one-note parody at that. This is a problem because we have seen over and over again when you take the zany side character and give them their own film it often doesn’t work, see the last Pirates of the Caribbean. So with today’s review, we are going to take a moment to look at what lead to the creation of this film, then look at the animation, story and characters, and see if it holds up.

The Lego Batman film is a love letter to the character of Batman

The Lego Batman film is a love letter to the character of Batman

So before we start we have to look at the twin worlds that birthed this film, as it is like two colliding trains that somehow pulled off the impossible. So on the first hand, we have the gem that was the first Lego Movie, a movie that should not have worked but did. Seriously, could you imagine a few years ago that a film whose main purpose is to try and make Lego relevant again, this is of course after a slew of half-assed, mediocre straight to video Lego films that piled into barging bins during the 2000s? However, even with this history and the nature of the film, The Lego Film was not only good it was amazing. Not only was it well acted, written, and animated, it also criticised the very brand it was meant to be promoting which is a baller move when you think about it. However, on the other hand, we have the DC universe which while it has been profitable, it has not been a critical success yet and while making money the movies have underperformed. Now I could go into detail as to why that is, and I did in my reviews of Batman v Superman (See Review) and Suicide Squad (See Review), but generally, the DC films have been lacking narratively on every front. So we have a movie about selling Lego sets smashing into a blockbuster franchise that is underperforming, this is a recipe for disaster, yet it just works.

The first thing we have to look at is the animation and here once again Animal Logic shines. It is a difficult task to make the world that looks like it could come out of a Lego set, but also animates well, however, like the first Lego Movie they make it work. This universe looks like it is built out of Legos, the buildings are built from blocks, all the characters have those classical Lego designs, the fires and exhaust from the assorted batmobiles have that tell tail plastic flame, the lobsters are well lobsters, the hair, all the details are right. As well as this, they make the most of the Lego setting, like Gotham being built over a chasm and so everything is been held together by support bricks, now there are more example but then we start to head into spoiler territory. All the animations flow really well, and the film is not afraid to break the Lego premise if they think it will get a bigger laugh or enable the animations to look better, which is a bold but effect move.

The visual gags are on point

The visual gags are on point

The setting is where Lego Batman shines because more than any DC film in recent years it gets Batman, it gets the universe, and it understands how to tell an effective story inside that universe. The first thing I have to say is thank you for not forcing us to watch another origin story again, it is at this point the Death of Bruce’s parents is one of the most filmed sequences in cinema. But more than that Lego Batman shows a respect for the character in a way recent movies have forgotten, as well as this, they also show an immense understanding of the wider canon. Seriously, Lego Batman is a love letter to the character of Batman (Will Arnett) giving him the personality of a more current dark brooding Batman but setting it in a world more reminiscent of the wonderfully camp Adam West Batman. This juxtaposition leads to some of the Lego Batman’s funniest moments, because the writers get Batman and Batman’s universe, and also know how to tell a joke both verbally and physically. Now a lot of this is down to both the script and Will Arnett’s fantastic delivery that gives a surprising amount of range to a character that is intentionally one-dimensional. Also, we actually get a Joker (Zach Galifianakis) that was an interesting character for a change, with a clear motivation other than just ‘he’s freaky’ so you actually understand why he is doing what he is doing. Also on the scale of getting trapped on purpose which is kind of a villain mainstay, see Bond and the Avengers, Jokers plan actually makes sense. You also have an interesting take on both Dick Grayson / Robin (Michael Cera) and Barbara Gordon / Batgirl (Rosario Dawson), with Robin being the voice of innocence and Batgirl being the voice of reason, oh and Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) being the voice of don’t mess with my family or I’ll end you.

In this section, there may be some mild spoilers so be careful. It was also interesting to see that it was just not the DC villains that got a run with some old time favourites like Agent Smith, Sauron, King Kong, and British Robots (someone couldn’t get the right to the name Dalek it seems). Indeed like The Lego Movie, it is not afraid to take a few passing shots at the very companies it is meant to be a shameless add for. It not only makes a farce out of how ridiculous a setup Batman v Superman was, but makes sure there are more than a few barbs sent in Suicide Squads direction, Killer Kroc announcing that he actually did something was a wonderfully absurd moment. That being said, the story is a bit predictable, and they foreshadow a bit too heavily in the first act, so there are no real surprises going forward. When it comes to the casting it’s almost a who’s who of talent, and they all give amazing vocal performances. Though there are some oddities like Siri the apple computer program that plays the part of the Batcomputer which is an interesting and possibly groundbreaking choice going forward, also you have Ralph Fiennes who plays Alfred Pennyworth in the movie but he does not voice Voldemort who he played in the Harry Potter films, it is voiced by Eddie Izzard for some reason.

Finally a Joker who is memorable

Finally a Joker who is memorable

In the end, did I like it as much as The Lego Movie, no, but I did have an amazing time in Gotham City and it has been a long time since I have been able to say that. The animations are excellent, the voice work is top notch, the story is solid and the movie gets the characters it is portraying. I highly recommend Lego Batman, and oh DC this is how you do a Batman film.
 

Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Directed by
– Chris McKay
Screenplay by – Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern & John Whittington
Story by – Seth Grahame-Smith
Based onCharacters by DC Comics & Lego Construction Toys
Music by – Lorne Balfe
Edited by – David Burrows, Matt Villa & John Venzon
Starring
– Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Jenny Slate, Héctor Elizondo, Lauren White & Siri, with Mariah Carey, Eddie Izzard, Seth Green, Jemaine Clement, Billy Dee Williams, Riki Lindhome, Conan O’Brien, Jason Mantzoukas, Zoë Kravitz, Kate Micucci, Doug Benson, Channing Tatum, Ellie Kemper, Jonah Hill & Adam DeVine
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; NZ: PG; UK: U; USA: PG

Movie Review – Mad Max: Fury Road

TL;DR – A masterpiece of action and cinema, something you should go see just for the spectacle.

Score – 5 out of 5 stars

Review –

Wow, just wow,  George Miller knows how to put on a visual spectacle. Now I should mention at this point that I have never seen any of the other Mad Max’s (outside of those clips you see from time to time on TV) so while I had a basic understanding of the lore, I  (for better or worse) did not come into this film with nostalgia baggage, which is good because you don’t need any of that to enjoy this film.

Charlize Theron kicks ass Furiosa

Charlize Theron kicks ass Furiosa

So for those who don’t know anything about this franchise, it’s the post-apocalyptic (everyone got nuked apparently) Australian (well Namibia due to untimely flowers near Broken Hill) Outback and we have reverted to tribalism/barbarism. I think it is these themes of Barbarism/Tribalism that the movie really shines, as it mashes all of those images of Germanic/Nordic tribes with technology left over after the world ended. This creates a visually stunning world which feels both highly alien yet familiar. Overall there are some very interesting themes running under the action of this movie which is truly fascinating.

As far as the casting Tom Hardy is a believable Max, though I would say 90-95% of his dialogue is through grunts, Charlize Theron (Furiosa) kicks ass and the supporting cast is almost all Australian actors. Wait is that John Howard, yep, no is that Megan Gayle, you bet ya, wait a second that’s the old lady from Farscape (Melissa Jaffer), indeed it is.

Among all the action are moments of beauty

Among all the action are moments of beauty

 

There are a number of things that simply elevates Mad Max Fury Road above other movies like this. Firstly there is the directorial discipline of George Miller, the action is always in the center frame so no matter how many cuts you make you can follow what is happening. The next is the substance of the film, without giving the story away it is more than just a run and gun shoot-em-up, there is a strong message about the world that you don’t usually see a film like this tackle. Of course, the one thing you have to admire is the action, wow, as more and more films move to CGI (not a bad thing, just a thing), Mad Max shows how good practical effects can still be. Though if you are not a fan of action, then this is not the film for you as it is almost one long action beat, with only a few moments of downtime throughout and it earns its MA15+ rating.

Yes that is flames coming out of a guitar on the back of a doof truck

Yes that is flames coming out of a guitar on the back of a doof truck

In the end, this is a visually stunning film with a lot of substance behind it. I highly recommend.

 

Directed By – George Miller
Written By – George Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris
Starring – Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee & Courtney Eaton
Rating – Australia: MA 15+; Canada: 14A; Ireland: 15A; NZ: R16; UK: 15; USA: R