Archive for comedy

Review: Bad Neighbours

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan


I went to the cinema the other day to watch Godzilla, full of childlike glee at getting to see a Godzilla film in the cinema for the first time… unless I’d seen the awful Roland Emmerich version and have blocked it from my mind. Especially after seeing how it could be done by Guillermo Del Toro last Summer with Pacific Rim. What I didn’t realise is that Godzilla wasn’t released until the next day. Damn.

The only film that I hadn’t seen that was also on at roughly the same time was Bad Neighbours, the latest Seth Rogan comedy vehicle to hit the big screen. So, with a heavy heart and because I’d made the trip out anyway (plus, because of my unlimited card, I wasn’t paying!), I got tickets to see a comedy… something that  has brought dubious results in the past – a comedy that also starred Zac Efron, which makes it the first Efron movie I’ve ever watched. What was I doing?! The audience was rowdier than usual, which made my instantly regret my decision, but they settled down when the film started.

The plot of the film Is that Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne are a couple who have just had a child and bought their first home, what then transpires is that a college fraternity moves in next door and all hell breaks loose. Rogan & Byrne try to come across as cool and ‘down with the kids’ while also asking for the students to keep the partying to a minimum, something while is destined not to happen and so ensues a tit-for-tat prank playing spree with increasingly ludicrous results.

The film starts off pretty well, with some funny, if not predictable, gags about how parenthood is stopping the lives of the parents while all their friends are out partying and the fact that they aren’t many years removed from their younger neighbours, yet the gulf between their lifestyles is immeasurable.

I’m a fan of Seth Rogan and he turns in a reliably solid performance, Rose Byrne seems to be trying too hard, as do the couple’s friends played by Ike Barinholtz and Carla Gallo, Zac Efron seems to be slightly out of his league, especially in the improvised scenes and Dave France has a thankless job of backing Efron up and actually comes across as the character you root for out of the frat pack. There are a couple of cameos that stand out, one being a wonderful turn by Lisa Kudrow as the dean of the college who constantly tries to spin the disastrous tales of debauchery into more palatable headlines for the local press. The other is from Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who seems to be there just to pick up the cheque and whose character has barely five lines of dialogue in the whole film.

The problem with these improvised comedies where the director gives the cast free rein to go wherever they want with the script means that these types of comedies can feel very baggy, and this one is no different. There are large sections where you can tell the actors are just riffing because there is no definite script for the scene at hand and this means that the film itself could be about 20-30 minutes shorter and nothing would have felt lost.

This is not t o say there aren’t some good set pieces, the hiding of airbags is really funny, but would have been funnier still if they hadn’t been used in the trailer. It’s just the getting to the set pieces that takes up too much time.

One last thing I will say is that Efron’s body puts too much pressure on men to reach a certain level of fitness and body shape, in fact, in the scenes where he has his top off – which is a lot of the time – it took my attention off what was going on in the film. It’s the first time I’ve started to understand the hysteria around him!

Overall, it wasn’t Godzilla, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be either. Entertaining yet forgettable.


Review: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2013 by Tom Austin-Morgan


The cinematic debut of Norwich’s first son, Alan Partridge, hit the screens after 22 years of the character appearing on Radio 4’s On The Hour back in 1991.

Those that know the character – played by Steve Coogan – will know what to expect from anything Alan appears in, if you don’t just Google the name. You should strap yourself in for some hard laughs because the gags really don’t stop from the very beginning, through a miming of Roachford’s song ‘Cuddly Toy’ through to the end of the film where Alan changes the song playing over the end credits from ‘Bounce’ by Calvin Harris to Sparks’ ‘Number 1 Song In Heaven’.

The basic plot is that the radio station Alan works for, North Norfolk Digital, is being taken over by Shape, a bigger company looking to bring the station into the present and, in doing so, get rid of some of the older-style DJs. While trying to save the job of his friend Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney), Alan sees that the choice for the axe is between him and Pat. With all the desperate egotism we’ve come to expect from Alan he encourages them to sack Pat.

At the launch party Pat returns with a shotgun and takes  the new and old staff hostage, Alan manages to escape and alert the police.  The awkward part is that Pat only wants to talk to the authorities via Alan, whom he does not know had him fired, so Alan accepts and comedy ensues anon.

There are some great cameos from Sean Pertwee as the leader of the police SWAT team, Nigel Lindsay as the MD of Shape who becomes public enemy number one or Pat Farrell, Simon Greenall who plays Alan’s Geordie mate Michael and Monica Dolan as Angela, Alan’s love interest. In fact the supporting cast is superb, but next to Steve Coogan and Colm Meany anyone will struggle to be noticed, but give them a watch too.

This film manages to take the essence of the comedy from the previous Partridge TV shows and convert it to the big screen, something that it usually either watered down, or amped up to an obscene degree. There is comedy to suit all senses of humour from the broad stuff (Alan miming to ‘Cuddly Toy’ and losing his trousers while trying to break back into the radio station after accidentally locking himself out), cringe comedy (which formed the prototype Ricky Gervais has built a career on but worked so much better with Alan), slap stick and subtle humour.

To say any more about the plot or any of the gags would be to give too much away because this is only a 90 minute film, which is refreshing as so many films in the last few years have been too long. The only criticisms I can find for this film are that if you aren’t a Partridge fan you probably won’t like it (but then why would you watch a film called Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa if you didn’t like Alan Partridge?) and that there are so many gags that there are times where you miss large chunks of dialogue. But this means that if you are a Partridge fan it will require you to go back for a repeat viewing.

If this is the end of Alan Partridge this isn’t a bad way to bow out, but I feel Alan will keep coming back until Steve Coogan can no longer act…and even then he may move back to radio shows. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, is great if you’re a fan, but you should probably steer clear if you aren’t.

Review: The Watch

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2012 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Sci-fi and comedy are two genres that are often combined and usually produce a great result when they are made by people who have a genuine love of both genres. Just a few examples of this are Mars Attacks!, Galaxy Quest, Men In Black and, more recently, Paul. But, when the filmmakers don’t have the passion for either genre you can end up with a film like The Watch.

The premise of this film is that a group of strangers get together and form a neighbourhood watch group after the horrible death of a store security guard. But, instead of trying to find and stop a run-of-the-mill murderer, they discover that aliens have infiltrated their town and are poised to launch an invasion.

This is a great premise and one that could actually be played totally straight as an out-and-out sci-fi film. But being written by Seth Rogan you can imagine that there will be some stoner or gross-out gags thrown in there. And you’d be right. Though there seems to be a laziness with the script that means the jokes don’t really work very well alongside the plot. There are long stretches where you actually forget the film is about aliens invading the Earth at all, which is a problem. There are equally long stretches where there is no comedy at all and the characters get introspective about their home lives.

Talking of characters; Ben Stiller plays Evan, the leader of various clubs including the neighbourhood watch who has a strained relationship with his wife. Stiller has been in some really good comedies in the past, but of late his star seems to be waning a little and he just looks like Tommy Lee Jones in Men In Black 3 – like he doesn’t really want to be there. Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill  try to amp up the energy being sucked from the screen by Stiller and occasionally hit the mark. Though, more often than not tend to look like they’re trying too hard. Luckily Richard Ayoade is there as something fresh in amongst the tired characters we’ve seen these actors play for a decade or more. But he alone could not save this film.

The Watch could have been a great film, the premise is good, the special effects were great but the script and acting were what really let it down and in the end, it just wasn’t funny enough.

Review: Men In Black 3

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2012 by Tom Austin-Morgan

A full 10 years on after the second film, which was more than a little forgettable, comes the third installment of Men In Black, which is imaginatively titled Men In Black 3. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are reunited – albeit briefly – as Agents J and K, two senior members of the M.I.B., a secret government agency which is the last line of defence between us and all manner of extraterrestrial life threatening our planet.

The film opens with a breakout from a maximum security prison on the moon by a character who is all bristles and fingers (you’ll get it when you see it!) called Boris the Animal who, for some unexplained reason, insists on being called ‘just Boris’. He is also completely indistinguishable from the actor playing him, Jermaine Clement (of Flight Of The Conchords fame), who really tears up the scenery as this larger than life bad guy. The news of the breakout seems to change something about K, who becomes even more introverted than usual forcing a bigger wedge between himself and J. Before long K is found by Boris who kills him causing a rift in the fabric of time.

J is the only person now who believes that K was alive the previous night instead of the reality that now faces him: K was killed by Boris in 1969 and now the Earth is defenseless against the invasion about to be launched by his race, the ludicrously named Boglodites (Come on, Boris the Boglodite?!). So now J must travel back to 1969 to stop K being killed and avert the destruction of the planet.

Thus ensues some high jinks action involving all the kitch-ness of the 60s mixed with the futuristic design of the M.I.B. universe; with sleek sliver weapons and gadgets, and where the cars have one-wheeled motorbikes hidden under them, just in case. There is even a scene at one of Andy Warhol’s parties, Warhol here being an undercover M.I.B. agent, played by Bill Hader. Another thing that it looked like they were going to address is the question of race in the 60s; just before J time jumps he is warned that it was ‘difficult for your people back then’. But apart from a brief scene early on after his arrival this potentially interesting plot point is all but forgotten.

The young Agent K is played by Josh Brolin who does a tremendous impression of Tommy Lee Jones, and the interplay between Brolin and Smith is so much more dynamic than between Smith and Lee Jones. This is probably to do with the fact that brolin’s K hasn’t become Lee Jones’ K yet, but I suspect it may also be about how much the actors want the role. You get the feeling that Lee Jones is only in it for so little because he doesn’t want to be there, he doesn’t have the same twinkle in his eye that he did in the first film.

The most interesting character, though, had to be Griffin, a nerdy looking humanoid alien who sees all possible eventualities who is played by Michael Stuhlbarg. He is a nervous character who both helps and hinders J and K on their way to their goal of destroying Boris and launching the device that will prevent the invasion happening in the future.

The final showdown happens on the launch pad of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon and had an element of the opening fight scene of Casino Royale about it, with the protagonists fighting on the crane-like structures that hold the rocket in place. It all ends with a final confrontation which sees a military commander being shot and the origin of the story between J and K which was quite cleverly and emotionally handled by all. I have a thing where seeing Will Smith well up makes me want to cry too, because in a lot of his films he is the light-hearted comedy character, not to mention the guy you’re always rooting for.

In short; Men In Black 3 still hasn’t lived up to what made the first film such a success back in the 90s, but it’s going to stay with me a hell of a lot longer than the second. However, this is yet another trilogy that should stay as it is, no matter how much the actors need the pay cheque.

Review: American Pie: Reunion

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2012 by Tom Austin-Morgan

So, the latest in the American Pie franchise hit our shores this month, but is the first since The Wedding to show in cinemas – Band Camp and Beta House both being low-budget, straight-to-DVD fayre with just Jim’s Dad (Eugene Levy) carrying these on his  own. This time though, the original cast from the original trilogy are reunited (see what I did there?) for the first time in eleven years. And that’s pretty much the plot of the film too!

Just as you might expect, all the characters have grown up and gone their separate ways but have all arranged to meet up in their home town for the eleventh anniversary of their graduation. But when they get together all manner of hilarity ensues. It’s nowhere near original; there’s the obligatory Jim (Jason Biggs) getting naked in inappropriate places, lots of ‘dick and fart’ jokes and someone sleeps with a ‘MILF’ – though the outcome may surprise.

The film focuses on the nostalgia of the past and the feeling of being trapped in your life, being forced to grow up instead of being able to hold on to your teens, which is something a lot of the original audience who watched the first three movies could probably relate to at times. And what the film does is make you realise just how funny the preceding films were and how much they are re-hashing in this meal ticket for a lot of actors who really haven’t done a lot since The Wedding; I mean, when was the last time you saw Tara Reid, Jason Biggs  or even Mena Suvari starring in their own film lately, let alone any of the other main characters (Sean William Scott and Alyson Hannigan excluded)?

That said, it is a lot better than you might expect; there are a lot of laughs to be had and the ‘cringe moments’ are excruciating, but at points some of the cast look like they’re only there to pick up the pay cheque. The funniest moments are shared evenly between the male members of the cast with the girls just seeming to be there as objects to tempt the boys away from their marriages and stir up old emotions…the sentimental scenes being a bit vomit-inducing in places.

There is an opening for another sequel to be made, but I really think they should leave it at this last installment before it all gets really old. But in the wake of American Pie: Reunion I’m sure there will be more straight-to-DVD films for the die-hard fans.

I feel a bit like I’ve under-sold this film here so I’m going to reiterate that I did really enjoy it; in fact the script, set pieces and jokes really reminded me of the first three films. I think I just got caught up in the nostalgia for what has passed with these characters and yearned for a bit of the past.

Review: The Cabin In The Woods

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2012 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Made 3 years ago, in 2009, this project was put on the shelf after MGM, the studio which produced the film, filed for bankruptcy. This kind of disappointment seems to follow Joss Whedon’s projects since the runaway success of Buffy and  Angel; for example the TV series Firefly was cancelled after just one series even though it proved popular. Luckily though, he created the successful TV series Dollhouse and landed writing and directing roles on Marvel’s Avengers: Assemble – possibly a reason Lion’s Gate bought the rights to The Cabin In The Woods and have released it just before the Avengers movie.

It’s going to be very difficult to review this film without giving too much of the plot away, because it’s a bit of a genre-bender, but I’ll try. We start off with a clichéd title sequence with blood dripping down the screen over pictures and carvings of ancient scenes showing sacrifices. And then it’s suddenly interrupted by a scene between Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford who are standing around a coffee machine in an office talking about their marriages and what they do. This sets the tone for the rest of the movie, and sometimes is the reason it detaches you from the action and causes huge amounts of confusion.

Just as suddenly as we’re taken out of the title sequence, the actual title literally screams onto the screen and we meet the young cast readying themselves for a weekend away from their studies by visiting the titular cabin. Amongst these you have all the stereotypes of teen slashers: The jock (a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth), the stoner (the hilarious Fran Krantz), the slutty blonde (Anna Hutchinson), and the two slightly nerdy ones who are being set up together (Jesse Williams and Kristen Connelly). Can you see where this is going? You’re not even half right!

Needless to say there’s something not quite right with the cabin as they are informed, in a rather aggressive way, by a red-neck gas station worker…and just about here is where I’m going to leave the plot.  Needless to say this film is a strange one; written  by both Whedon and Drew Goddard (Alias, Lost, Cloverfield), this is a reaction to the torture-porn films that have saturated the horror market in the last few years. The Cabin In The Woods takes teen horror back to its early 90s roots in films like Scream and Urban Legend in a very knowing way.

I would say that you need to go into this film with an open mind, because if you’re expecting a straightforward nuts and blots slash-em-up then you may be disappointed; however, if you think along the lines of the Lost format then you’re much closer to how this film plays out. Which is quite distracting in places, but adds an overbearing sense of intrigue to the story’s development. There is a brilliantly blood-drenched 15 minutes in the third act that is extremely enjoyable, but the ending may leave some with a sour taste in the mouth as it all seems to crescendo a little too quickly.

The Cabin In The Woods is a film made with care by genuine fans of horror, and I can’t wait to see what kind of job Whedon does on the Avengers. But here I can’t help but feel that sometimes they were just trying a bit too hard to push the envelope and actually, the more you know about the conventions of horror the less scary and more like a comedy the film becomes. That said though, it sure is something to talk about and a fast-paced, enjoyable romp.

Tenacious D to release third album

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2012 by Tom Austin-Morgan

It has been 6 years since the album and film’Pick Of Destiny‘ were released, to mixed ratings after the all-round success of their self-titled debut in  2001 which seemed to take over the world for a good year or so. But no Tenacious D are back with a new album to rock our socks off with called ‘Rize Of The Fenix‘ and they celebrated the official news, yesterday, by releasing a snippet of the title track on their website.

The song seems to be a statement of intent by the band, lead by frontman, Jack Black’s, vocals. Never one for under playing his acting work or the ‘exploits’ of The D, here he claims that the band isn’t over and that it will rise again like a mighty phoenix from the ashes. Though one look at the artwork and you get the picture as to what the themes of the album will really be about! (Yes I do believe that the ‘fenix’ on the album artwork is actually a giant purple cock and balls with flaming wings.)

Let’s hope that ‘Rize Of The Fenix ‘ will be less concept bound than their last album and more like their brilliant self-titled effort of more than a decade ago.

See them play this Summer in the UK at the Download festival, Donnington or in the US at the Sasquatch Festival, Washington.