Sausage Party Review: Limp on arrival


Directors: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon

Writers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir

Stars: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader

sausage-party-poster-405x600


Release date: August 11th, 2016

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 88 minutes


2/5

Best part: The stellar cast.

Worst part: The racial stereotypes.

Writer/director/producers…actor…Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have made some of Hollywood’s most controversial gross-out comedies. Superbad explored teenage sexual angst, This is the End skewered Rogen and his friends’ fame, and The Interview almost kicked off World War III by pissing off North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. So, What next?

How about an animated sex-comedy about food? Sure, why not. Now, Sony will let them get away with anything. Sadly, Sausage Party proves studio notes and executive decisions are sometimes worthwhile. The movie’s plot is bizarre and simplistic. Hot dog Frank (voiced by Seth Rogen) and his girlfriend – hot dog bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig) – live next to one another in grocery store Shopwell’s. Frank, alongside fellow sausages Carl (Jonah Hill) and Barry (Michael Cera), believes they will be chosen by the gods, taken to ‘The Great Beyond’ and set free. However, the plan goes awry after an argument with feminine hygiene product Douche (Nick Kroll) leads to a spill, and mass casualties, in the isles. Frank finds out their situation isn’t as it seems.

Sausage Party and Suicide Squad are part of one of 2016’s most irritating trends. Both, featuring wholly predictable plots and characters, are covered in a nasty, immature allure catering to cheap desires. They also feature unique and interesting premises butchered by abysmal execution. Make no mistake, Sausage Party would have made for a kinetic, cutting short movie. Rogen and Goldberg are talented and interesting enough to know better. The final result leaves much to be desired. It lingers between parody and cheap dig at Pixar. Despite the allure, the basic plot follows Toy Story’s friends-finding-one-another story-line step by step. The twists and turns are wholly predictable and lack depth.

Sausage Party relies on the MA15+ rating and the filmmakers’ sense of humour. The comedy is pitifully hit and miss, relying on expletives and sexual references throughout. Every frame features lazy sex, fart, and weed jokes and food puns. If the first three-quarters weren’t haphazard enough, the finale takes some distressing and demeaning left turns. The movie, nowhere near as smart or interesting as it thinks, delivers a broad commentary on organised religion. The food products, convinced of the gods’ kindness, deliver a loud, brash musical number each morning about their fate. However, after that small splash of genius, we’re given borderline-offensive stereotypes from Woody Allen-esque bagel (Edward Norton) to angry Arabic lavash (David Krumholtz). Oy vey!

Sure, Sausage Party has a stellar voice cast and neat ideas. It’s clear Rogen and Goldberg had a clear vision from day one. However, their self-indulgence has gone too far. This may be 2016’s biggest disappointment.

Verdict: A sorely missed opportunity.

Captain America: Civil War Review: Braun vs. Iron


Directors: Joe & Anthony Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Stars: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan

Civil_War_Final_Poster


Release date: April 28th, 2016

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 147 minutes


4½/5

Best part: The airport showdown.

Worst part: Minor leaps of logic.

Let’s face it, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has eclipsed everything DC Comics/Warner Bros. could possibly hope to achieve. In its 13-blockbuster run, this franchise has set the bar for every other studio now clamouring for their own extended universes. With Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice turning from promising idea into jumbled, obnoxious mess, Marvel is still going strong. Can you believe it’s been eight whole years since Iron Man came out? Neither can I, neither can they.

instaCaptain America: Civil War looks set to be the most fulfilling blockbuster of 2016. The movie succeeds on every level, delivering on its promises and refusing to show fear or cynicism. The plot itself is more intricate and meaningful than your average MCU installment. Following up from the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Civil War opens up with the new, unique Avengers squad on its latest mission in Lagos. Tracking down weapons trader Brock Rumlow/Crossbones (Frank Grillo), their efforts end with multiple civilian casualties.

The world looks set to turn against our troupe of sexy, spandex warriors, convinced humanity is better off without them. Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) are scalded by US Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) for their shocking collateral damage, aiming to push United Nations sanctions into effect. Whereas the team feels justified in their actions, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany), and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) side with the government. After Steve’s frenemy Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is blamed for a catastrophe, Cap goes on a one-man mission to find answers.insta

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo along with long-standing screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, coming back after The Winter Soldier, have successfully taken the reigns from Joss Whedon. Their latest provides a sense of balance most blockbusters either avoid or can’t quite grasp. Its plot, unlike most cluttered superhero epics, follows one streamlined path from beginning to end. From the prologue and opening action sequence onwards, its character turns and narrative twists remain steady. Like the original Civil War storyline in the comics, the UN bill – titled the Sokovia Accords here – starts a ticking time bomb to the team’s obliteration. The conflict splits the story between both sides evenly – fusing its narrative, thematic, and emotional resonance throughout the exhaustive 147-minute run-time.

Team Cap and Team Iron Man have significant points of view. Cap and co. believe it’s their responsibility to protect the world and bring justice to anyone on the wrong side of the law. Cap – divided between the worlds of yesterday, today, and tomorrow – believes a bit of ‘ol’ fashioned’ goes a long way in this paranoid, surveillance state era. Stark’s troupe, however, points out the mass casualties already caused. The former weapons/tech. giant turned humanitarian warrior puts his foot down, outlining the escalation in worldinstawide violence and shady bureaucratic border-hopping. Both agendas are reasonable, literally and figuratively tearing the franchise’s two most beloved characters apart.

The Russos take on the monstrous task of following on from previous installments and setting up new ones. The pre-established characters and talented performers are given their due, with all sub-plots fitting together like intricate jigsaw pieces. Threads including Steve and Sharon Carter/Agent 13(Emily VanCamp)’s dynamic, Natasha’s diplomatic work, Sam and Bucky’s quarrels, Vision and Wanda’s impending relationship, Stark and Rhodes’ everlasting friendship and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Scott Lang/Ant-Man(Paul Rudd)’s involvement make for numerous light-hearted gags and soul-crushing moments simultaneously. It even throws in new characters including vengeful Wakandan prince T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), spunky youngster Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and scheming, sympathetic human villain Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) with textbook precision.

This globe-trotting, ambitious adventure delivers some of the MCU and modern Hollywood’s most inventive action sequences. The much-talked-about airport set-piece marks the franchise at its absolute peak. This impressive sequence brings our 12 major superhero characters together with aplomb, showcasing the astonishing array of fighting styles, abilities, and personalities. Pouring gravy onto instathis already hearty steak, the opening sequence, car chase, and heart-wrenching finale provide some ass-kicking delight in between the political discussions and character-driven interludes.

Captain America: Civil War successfully highlights Cap’s never-ending conflict with the 21st Century and The Avengers’ struggle to reassure the human race of its importance in the universe. Thanks to esteemed direction, a stacked cast, fun character-actor cameos, big laughs, and even bigger emotional rifts, this is the franchise’s most mature and momentous installment yet. Fingers crossed Infinity War Parts 1 and 2 can live up to our ridiculous expectations.

Verdict: Another rich superhero epic/fulfilling MCU installment.

Ant-Man Audio Review: Pint-sized Powerhouse


Director: Peyton Reed

Writers: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, Paul Rudd

Stars: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll

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Release date: July 17th, 2015

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 117 minutes


 

4/5

Review:

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues Review – Big News, Bigger Laughs


Director: Adam McKay

Writers: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay

Stars: Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner 


Release date: December 18th, 2013 

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 119 minutes


 

 

Best part: The zany humour.

Worst part: The exhaustive run-time.

Review: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Verdict: A hilarious, zany, and touching comedy sequel.

This is 40 Review – Apatow’s Admittances


Director: Judd Apatow

Writer: Judd Apatow

Stars: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks, Megan Fox


Release date: December 21st, 2012

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 133 minutes


 

3/5

Best part: The chemistry between Rudd and Mann.

Worst part: Its 134 min. length.

What is a defining part of life that is scary and unavoidable? Age. Age and wisdom define who we are as people. This pressing issue affects everyone in Judd Apatow’s new dramedy This is 40. The film is a coming-of-age tale in more ways than one. It’s also a funny, insightful yet slow jog toward one couple’s goals. One can’t help but notice, however, that Apatow’s comedy styling would be best suited to another format.

Paul Rudd & Leslie Mann.

Paul Rudd & Leslie Mann.

This story follows married couple Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) as their lives begin to crumble. With Debbie having turned forty and Pete following suit, they contemplate where their lives have ended up. But bodily restrictions and regrets are far from their only problems. Pete’s record company is failing to gain the attention it needs to stay afloat. While Debbie is convinced one of her employees is stealing money from her clothing store. Also coming to a head are problems with their kids Sadie and Charlotte (Maude and Iris Apatow), as both adjust to their bickering parents and their own inconsistencies. It’s up to Pete and Debbie to band together, before their afflicting issues cripple their marriage.

Rudd, Chris O’Dowd & Lena Dunham.

Apatow clearly loves his own life. Putting too much of himself into each film, all four of his theatrical creations can be seen as pieces of a much greater puzzle. His breakout smash hit The 40-Year old Virgin discuses the ‘first time’ and the importance of adolescence. Knocked Up, the pseudo-precursor to This is 40, chronicles the nervousness that comes with having a child. Funny People is based on the acceptance of death. While This is 40 is about hitting the wall. The norms of society are examined with close scrutiny. Instead of depicting unrealistically happy people conflicted by implausible issues, Apatow’s illustration of marriage and parenthood is smart and appropriately realistic for a Hollywood Romantic-comedy. Pete and Debbie are basically an ideal 1990’s couple forced to deal with the issues of a new century. Feeling out of place and unable to help, their constant arguing grounds this couple in a realistic fashion. They angrily discuss everyday issues such as kids, bullying, friends, parents and, most importantly, money. Apatow’s involvement, to a certain extent, brings out the uncomfortable and jarring elements of this on-screen relationship. With Rudd essentially playing Apatow’s avatar, the involvement of Mann (Apatow’s real-life wife) and their kids unnecessarily hits too close to home. Writer/directors that Apatow has obviously  taken notes from could’ve avoided subjectivity to convey a clearer message and funnier film-going experience. James L. Brooks and Nancy Meyers would’ve improved the material at hand and injected a greater amount of wit into proceedings (watch Brooks’ Spanglish for a strong example).

“We had sex the other night. You should give me some credit for that.” (Pete (Paul Rudd), This is 40).

Megan Fox.

Megan Fox.

Apatow’s effect on Hollywood comedy in the past few years has been exponential. He has resurrected careers and reinvigorated gross-out humour. Here, he has proven just how important he still is. With a Robert Altman-esque love of cameos and a refreshing grasp on reality, he has created an ideal night out for family and friends. He has, however, repeated his biggest mistake in stretching an identifiable story out to an excessive run-time. His involvement in TV, including hit shows such as Freaks and Geeks and Girls, has affected his grasp on concise cinematic storytelling. While avoiding Funny People‘s monotonous pace and unessential revelations, he is still unable to focus on the most important parts of his own material. Subplots are picked up and dropped without a hint of warning or development. Important issues are also unresolved, disrupting this story’s all too vital messages about family values and the joys of life. The comedic tone changes abruptly throughout. Flipping instantaneously from heartening moments to situational comedic hijinks, Apatow’s choices seem to be muddled here. Having said that, many characters are carried by fun performances. Rudd and Mann depict the same loving yet sour relationship they achieved as the same couple from Knocked up. They are two of the most likeable actors in Hollywood, and, despite their coarse attitudes here, its still easy to see why.

This is 40 can be summed up in one scene. Debbie’s gynaecological exam leads to everyone in the room trying to determine her real age. This hilarious yet frustrating game details both the sour aspects of ageing and Apatow’s love of awkward observational comedy. Its a comedy with as much wisdom, bite and tedium as life itself.

Verdict: An enlightening yet tedious look at growing up. 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Review -Teenage Tyrade


Director: Stephen Chbosky

Writer: Stephen Chbosky (screenplay & novel)

Stars: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Paul Rudd


Release date: September 21st, 2012

Distributor: Summit Entertainment

Country: USA

Running time: 113 minutes


 

4½/5

Best part: The indie-rock soundtrack.

Worst part: Underused supporting cast.

Whether it be the popular kid, the musical kid, the sporty kid or one of the unappreciated, anyone will admit that any amount of time spent at high school was just too much. Adolescence, bullying, illness and social order may at some point affect the average teenager, which The Perks of Being a Wallflower amiably discusses with hints of wit and optimism. The film depicts the mind of a struggling student, looking for a way into an accepted approach to living life. Wallflower is a middle finger to the cynical outlook of the world, proving that anyone’s dreams can and should always be encouraged.

Logan Lerman.

Logan Lerman.

Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a sweet and passionate young man about to attend his first day of high school. Instantly becoming an outsider, Charlie finds solace through his ambition of becoming a writer. Trying to expel the demons of his solemn past, his love of reading and new-found connection with English teacher Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd) become profound stepping stones to a fulfilling life. He also finds a meaningful connection with a unique group of older students, led by Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller). Charlie is soon invited on their surreal journey heading swiftly towards the end of the school year. Their imaginative interests and opinionated attitudes may help Charlie to find a place where he truly belongs and control his wavering mental state.

Emma Watson & Ezra Miller.

Emma Watson & Ezra Miller.

Wallflower is a truly unique and profound example of obtaining the greatest effect through low budget filmmaking (by Hollywood standards of course). The characters and story become instantly identifiable, not just through the power of adolescence but through existential angst. Charlie is an avatar for the modern viewer. A 90’s kid adapting to his own slice of Eden, the determined yet repressed Charlie allows the viewer to peel back multiple layers of his fragmented psyche. With each first experience (sex, drugs etc.), Charlie expands his own universe and creates a rebellious, empathetic and aspiring protagonist. The narration and flashbacks create an immersive and emotionally powerful insight into a life slowly veering away from normality. This easily identifiable character is an important example of how a single person can powerfully effect the lives of everyone around them. The film’s comedic yet extensive outlook on intertwining relationships and philosophical ideals is on par with cult classics such as Dazed and Confused and 10 Things I Hate About You. Director and screenwriter Stephen Chbosky is clearly a major part of his own work. Chbosky, also the author of the original material, has created a sensitive coming-of-age tale of how certain passions, ideals or significant others can lead to multiple conflicts and conclusions.

Watson & Miller.

Watson & Miller.

The film provides many nods to similar works, portraying a love for subversive entertainment and nostalgia simultaneously (in particular The Rocky Horror Picture Show). Influenced by the fun yet profound high school-based comedies of John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), Wallflower‘s subtle character touches create a much greater impact than the exaggerated iconic elements of Hughes’ material. The multi-layered stance against the high school system is projected in Charlie’s kaleidoscopic journey of friendship, betrayal and conformation. The ambitious and artistic older students convince Charlie that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The ranging personalities and conflicting emotions of this quirky group provide an in-depth study of the music, films, social classes and artistic endeavours of the era. ”Everything sounds better on vinyl” says Watson’s character, as the film provides a subtle look at what it takes to find a collection of identifiable people perfect for Charlie’s innate desires. The homophobic and abrasive high school system is a symbol of oppression in a changing decade. Chbosky creates a tonal balance however by portraying the 90’s as a cultural landscape eventually willing to accompany everyone’s hidden dreams, desires and opinions. Despite it’s affecting story, the film fails to develop Charlie’s important emotional problems such as bullying, family, suicide, troubled relationships and drug addiction, leaving many vital conflicts with a lack of significant explanation.

“You can’t just sit there and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love.” (Sam (Emma Watson), The Perks of Being a Wallflower).

Our favourite Wallflowers.

Our favourite Wallflowers.

The independent rock score stands out as a vital symbol of this group’s inner workings. Songs from David Bowie, Neil Finn and Sonic Youth provide a surprisingly memorable, catchy and rousing way of propelling this uplifting story of youth fighting back. The film benefits from its stellar cast. The young lead actors have never been better, creating likeable characters through instant chemistry. Lerman, unconvincing in mainstream films such as Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and The Three Musketeers, is enthralling in his subdued performance as Charlie. His impressive emotional range here lifts Chbosky’s troubled character off the page, displaying a charming yet destructive teenager wanting desperately to fit in. Emma Watson (the Harry Potter series) delivers an energetic turn as the seductive yet positive student finding new ways to achieve independence, placing her preferences and conflicting emotions in full view. While Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin) is both charismatic and darkly comic as the class clown and sympathetic leader. The supporting cast however is underused is ostensibly important roles. Rudd is his usual charming self in his small screen time as Charlie’s teacher. While TV actors Dylan McDermott and Kate Walsh are wasted as Charlie’s parents.

Chbosky, taking on writing and directing duties with little experience, seems to know what he is doing. Despite the minor book-to-film translation flaws, his adaptation is a fun and visceral homage to John Hughes and adolescence itself.

Verdict: A charming and resonant coming-of-age story.