Archive for comedy

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2017 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Guardians of the Galaxy proved to be the sleeper hit of Marvel Studios’ prolific output from the last 12 years because it came completely out of left field, with no huge stars (on-screen at least) and about characters very few had ever heard of. However, the mix of a hilarious script, irreverent soundtrack and the chemistry of the cast came together to blow audiences and critics away.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn’t have that same luxury, people know what to expect from it. So, how does Vol. 2 go about replicating, if not building of the success of Vol. 1? As with so many sequels – especially in the comic-book genre – Vol. 2 goes bigger right from the jump.

The opening five to 10 minutes looks like it cost more money than any opening scene ever. But what the film does is focus on a very small, cute detail rather than the massive action set-piece happening in the background. And, in a way, that’s kind of the point of this particular franchise: the first film was about finding family, this film is about being a family – while also being a team that saves the galaxy.

Almost all the characters in Vol. 2 have been fleshed out and given more depth, rather than sticking with the templates that were sketched out in the fist film. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Yondu (Michael Drucker) have been given deeper issues to work through, Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) is more playful, the relationship between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) has been deepened with Nebula giving the real reason for her hatred of her stronger sister. Drax (Dave Bautista) continues to be a scene stealer with all the best lines, but his character has even been given more depth. Instead of being a character that takes things completely literally, he is now trying to use sarcasm, though he still doesn’t understand it.

The only character that doesn’t seem to have been given more is Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), despite the fact he has become the leader of the group and is the lead human character that we’re supposed to empathise with. He’s found his biological father in Ego (Kurt Russell), a god of sorts that offers Quill the chance to become a god too. For some reason though, this his character doesn’t seem to have the spark or charisma that he did in the first film.

There are some decent, if not well-telegrahed, plot twists along the way and some great visuals. Some of the action sequences, especially towards the end of the film, can be a little hard to focus on because of the quick cutting and the fact that there is so much going on.

There are some interesting cameos including Sylvester Stallone (who is difficult to understand), Ving Rhames (fleetingly), the Hulk (possibly), Jeff Goldblum (buried in the credits) and David Hasselhoff (bizarrely)! But my personal favourite was Stan Lee’s double cameo that goes some way to addressing a fan theory about his cameos. In it he is communing with the Watchers, a race of aliens who oversee the Marvel universe, telling them about his various entanglements with superheros on Earth. It would have been truly mind-blowing had he referenced a cameo in one of the Fox or Sony films… but that’s me getting super-geeky about things. Is he a Watcher in human form, or just a human go-between, keeping them abreast of goings on they may have missed?

If anything, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a funnier film than it’s predecessor and has been given more substance. The few criticisms levelled at it are the abundance of characters muddying things, the lack of development of the central character and the fact that a lot of what happens in the film relies on your knowledge of the previous film, even more so than most of the other films Marvel puts out. But if you’re seeing a film with Vol. 2 in the title before seeing the first, you’re doing something wrong.

Review: The Lego Batman Movie

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2017 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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The popularity of the Batman character, played by the excellently tongue-in-cheek Will Arnett, in The Lego Movie and the popularity of the character itself as well as the Lego games made the idea of a spin-off film a no-brainer.

Rather than being a spin-off however, The Lego Batman Movie is a stand-alone film that exists in its own universe. And what a joyous universe it is. The Lego version of Gotham is the brightest version of the fictional city since the 1960s TV series, the characters are all fun which sets it apart from the live action films of the past few years.

In fact, this movie spoofs virtually every Batman property that has existed in the characters nearly 80 year history. It even references the 1940s black and white series! One of the biggest criticisms that I have of this film is that the break-neck speed with which the cuts are made means that you probably miss around 70% of all the visual gags. It feels as if there are so many things going on that you just want the ability to pause it to find all the references and jokes going on around the frame.

The basic story is that Batman is super self-obsessed and narcissistic to mask a deep-rooted loneliness that he has repressed since his parents died. Through the course of the film the other characters get him to start working with others, including some of the most unlikely characters.

There are so many laughs in this film that it’s impossible to cover them all, but suffice to say that there are some really interesting character deviations from the norm that work so well, you wonder why they haven’t been done before. For example, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) becoming Batgirl virtually as an aside to her being such a kick-ass police officer. Also, every version of Alfred since Michael Caine has been touted as the most hands-on and handy in a fight, but Ralph Feinnes’ version takes this to new levels.

What’s truly wonderful about The Lego Batman Movie is, because it’s an animation, it can go anywhere. The roster of villains is ludicrous, not just the actual Batman rogues gallery that really exist but also the extra bad guys that crop up.

As with The Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie has a deeper message hidden behind the jokes about the importance of working together and combatting loneliness, but it’s done in such a joyful way that you barely realise you’re being taught a lesson.

This film is supposed to be a children’s film, but it works so well as an adult – especially if you happen to be well versed in the lore of Batman. I would almost go so far as to say it’s the best Batman movie ever made… it’s even confident enough to take a pop at The Dark Knight, and survives!

Review: The Magnificent Seven

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2016 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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Yet another modern-day remake of a classic western that was itself a retelling of Seven Samurai.

This version of The Magnificent Seven is progressive in the it has a pretty good mix up of characters that make up the eponymous group of gunslingers. This gives the tensions within the group a certain sense of reality that other movie team-ups have to really labour the point to have you believe.

A big problem with this film is that it can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a comedy or a darker more serious film. It has a real schizophrenic quality that feels jarring, especially with such broad comedy in some scenes being followed by quite heavy scenes where some characters are dealing with the aftermath of post-traumatic stress.

There are some great action set pieces and some brilliant characterisations, most notably from Vincent D’Onofrio, but the tone of the film really lets it down.

Review: Deadpool

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2016 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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First off: I thought I’d posted this over a month ago. Secondly: I’m a massive Deadpool fan, so this review could be heavily biased. (Aside: It will be.)

What is there to say about this film that either hasn’t already been said or could possibly spoil it. For once we’ve been given a film where the trailer gave away quite a lot of the plot and the set-pieces, but it didn’t matter.

Deadpool isn’t a traditional super hero film and it has managed something Fox, Sony, Warner Brothers and even Marvel have failed to do; appeal broadly to an audience that wouldn’t otherwise go. The Warner Bros. films might be seen as too earnest, the Marvel films might seem too unwieldy what with all those characters and interlinking stories, The Fox films have messed about with time-travel and the Sony films have re-invented Spider-Man for the umpteenth time. Deadpool stars heart-throb Ryan Reynolds, it looks funny, and it’s not taking itself seriously at all.

This is why Deadpool has given Fox its highest opening weekend ever, even more than Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, and the highest opening weekend for a 15 (R-Rated) movie ever. It’s different from anything people have seen in a super hero film. And this should worry you.

I could go on to describe how I started laughing about five seconds into the film and didn’t stop throughout, or the fact that Reynolds was born to play this role. I could also go into the two-dimensional supporting cast and how this isn’t necessarily a problem. I could even go on to explaining all the in-jokes and how much this is a film for the fans that, somehow, appeals to many more than the core Deadpool-reading audience. But there’s no reason as everyone is saying he same thing and by now you really should have seen it.

What I will say is that Hollywood regurgitates successes ad nauseam until it gets old, so expect to see a lot more gore and close-to-the-knuckle comedy in superhero films going forward. Already Warner Bros. have said there will be an R-Rated version of Batman v Superman;Dawn of Justice for the DVD/Blu-Ray release and Fox have stated their final Wolverine movie will be R-Rated too. The problem with this is that the gore and some of the language suits Deadpool, it may work for Wolverine, but it doesn’t really suit Batman and really isn’t needed in a Superman film.

Not everything needs to follow a successful formula to be a hit. Deadpool didn’t and look what happened there… oh, wait…

If you’ve not seen this film it’s too late, but it is well worth a watch. Could be a little annoying for those not familiar with ‘the Merc with the Mouth’, but that’s who he is and this film is unashamed of that, as it should be.

Review: Lazer Team

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2016 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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I entered the cinema with an air of trepidation. Lazer Team (intentionally spelt with a ‘z’) is a film by a group of people (Rooster Teeth) who predominantly film stuff and put it on YouTube, produce podcasts and play computer games. I don’t watch things on YouTube, it’s a phenomenon that’s passed my by, I’m afraid. So, I thought it would by chock full of in-jokes and references that would alienate a Luddite like myself as it had been crowdfunded by the fans of Rooster Teeth.

I was wrong. Actually what it is is a slacker sci-fi comedy where a group of misfits unwitting stumble upon a suit of power, put on a piece each and then have to learn to get on and work together as they face a threat from beyond the galaxy.

Cue training montages where no-one gets any better, falling out, making up and ultimately coming together to save the Earth. Oh, and zombie-like soldiers being controlled by the aliens of course!

Apparently there were loads of references and easter eggs for those who are indoctrinated into the world of Rooster Teeth, but for those who aren’t it’s a passable couple of hours with more than enough laughs and some pretty good effects for an independent film.

It hasn’t converted me to wanting to spend hours on YouTube, but it wasn’t even half as bad as I feared.

Anywhere But Here, Episode 74 – Shaun Williamson (@FatBarryShaunW)

Posted in Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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This week, we have a very special interview with the actor Shaun Williamson. After waiting patiently for a time when he could fit us in it, typically, fell on a day when Ant was away. So, Tom dropped everything and went to do the interview. The only problem is that Tom is his nephew, so there’s no un-biased voice meaning that Tom had to play the family member and detached voice of the audience.

We find out how Shaun came to be an actor through many jobs that now don’t exist and the stroke of luck that bought him to the nation’s screens in Eastenders which, eventually led him to appear in Ricky Gervais’ hit comedies Extras and Life’s Too Short, as well as the Hollywood film The Invention of Lying.

His career isn’t all screen-based, and Shaun takes us through his stage work, where he’ll be appearing near you (as long as you’re in the U.K.) at some point in the next few months in a touring show of One Man, Two Guvnors. He’ll also be appearing in a film alongside Adrien Brody in the Autumn about Houdini who apparently worked as a spy during World War 2.

Shaun gives advice to school children wanting to become actors, as it turns out he still has a cult following with a generation who were barely born when he was acting in Eastenders.

There’s also a shocking revelation about weight at the beginning of the show that some will be taken aback by! We are very proud to be able to show you a candid, if not all-the-way-candid, interview into the man’s life. As it was a spur of the moment thing – and Tom was unprepared – please ask questions that should have been asked and they shall be put to the man himself, hopefully on record, very soon. In the meantime, enjoy this tantalising look into Shaun Williamson’s life and please, go and see One Man, Two Guvnors when it comes to your home town, soon! The link to the National Theatre’s website for dates and tickets is here.

Hold on to the end of the episode to get a piece of audio you could use for an alert on your mobile device too!

No video this week, unfortunately. Sorry about that, we will return to regular broadcasting next week!

The Tom & Jo Show – Episode 2

Posted in Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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Listen to the episode by clicking here: http://wp.me/p39mlz-bb or find us on iTunes or Stitcher Radio!

This time on The Tom & Jo Show, it’s the ultimate battle of the big-screen titans! Our hosts discuss who is better; Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Tom & Jo go to great depths analysing the careers of these legendary actors both on and off-screen to come up with the most comprehensive argument you’ll ever have heard on the subject.

They also do impressions, some good… some very bad!

(The editing of this podcast took a bloody age thanks to the software occasionally skipping, I’ve done my best to iron out the kinks, but some of the drops happened during key bits of dialogue. Give one of us a shout on Twitter at @heyitsmetom or @jogirlyjo if you think you’ve missed anything important. – Tom)