Father Figures

Year: 2018
Directed by: Lawrence Sher
Starring: Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken, J.K. Simmons, Katt Williams

Written by Tom Sheffield

I’ll be honest, with the disappointing quality of comedies over recent years (bar a handful of exceptions) I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy ‘Father Figures’ as much as I did. Owen Wilson and Ed Helms both have a history of hit and miss films, a niggling thought that only added to my scepticism of this film, but with the aid of a strong script and fantastic direction, this film manages to deliver some hearty laugh out loud moments, as well as offering up some genuinely heart-warming moments.

Peter (Helms) and Kyle (Wilson) are twin brothers who lead totally different lives. Peter is a Proctologist and divorced father of one who fears his child will hate him forever because he himself never had a father figure in his life. Kyle on the other hand is as laid back as they come and is currently earning the big bucks as the model for a BBQ sauce company.  The pair learn the their mother has been keeping a secret from them their whole lives… The man they grew up thinking was their father, who they were told died when they were really young, actually wasn’t their father. This revelation leads the brothers on a journey of self-discovery as they try to hunt down their real biological father by finding their mother’s ex-lovers.

Helms and Wilson are brilliant as the twin brothers, who pull off both the comedic and more heart-warming moments superbly. Sadly, the film fails to provide a classic Wilson ‘wow’ moment, and neither of the pair perform outside of their usual comfort zone as they portray characters who could easily be mistaken for one of older performances. The support cast, however brief their appearances may be, are all wonderful and offer something a little different to the story. A special shout-out has to go to Katt Williams, who absolutely steals the scenes he’s in and had me in absolute stitches. Williams’ scenes are also my favourite of the film, and it’s very likely I’m not the only one who will think so.

This is Lawrence Sher’s directorial debut. If the name rings a bell, it’s for a very good reason! Sher has worked on a number of films as the director of photography, including ‘Paul’, ‘The Hangover’ trilogy, ‘War Dogs’, and the upcoming ‘Godzilla’ sequel, ‘King of Monsters’. As far as debuts go, this is a pretty strong start for Sher and I look forward to seeing his future work both in an out of the director’s chair. As you can expect from a film with a director with a passion for cinematography, this film features some noticeably great camera work, lighting, and scenery. Sher enlisted the help of John Lindley (‘Legion’, ‘The Core’, ‘Bewitched’) to take the reigns as Director of Photography, with Sher no doubt having a great influence on his work.

The film takes a few unexpected (and hilarious) twists and turns, and with family-orientated comedies such as this you can always expect a scene or two that try to deliver an emotional gut-punch. For me, scenes like this tend to miss their mark or the ‘revelation’ is completely obvious and therefore doesn’t have much impact. However, the final scenes of this film absolutely nailed the delivery, timing, and came as a genuine surprise, which means it packs a pretty emotional wallop to the audience.

If you’re killing some time, this film will do the job and give you a few laughs along the way. The film doesn’t really offer up anything new but it does sport a great cast that play to their strengths, and a solid script. Sher has produced a comedy that manages to execute changes in tone throughout so fittingly that they don’t feel out of place or shoe-horned in. I may actually find myself re-visiting upon its home release.

Tom’s Rating: 5.5/10

Jumpcut’s Favourites: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Year: 2014
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Léa Seydoux, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson.

WRITTEN BY COREY HUGHES

There are two rules in life that I have come to understand within my 21-years on Earth. Number one; don’t talk about Fight Club, and number two; never ask a cinephile what their favourite film is. By breaching the second rule, not only will you be met with a disapproving grunt, but also a 30-minute rant on which film is their favourite; taking into consideration how different moods influence their choice.

Yet I’ve never had this problem. I relish the opportunity to gush about my favourite film, expressing my adoration for it whilst simultaneously trying to make others love it as much as I do. The film I’m talking about here, of course, is Wes Anderson’s wonderful ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’.

Now, I believe there are two ways that you can approach this area of discussion. You can either talk about what you think is the best film, or explain the reasons why a particular film is your favourite, as, after all, your favourite doesn’t necessarily have to be good film. Yet, for me, my experience with ‘The Grand Budapest’ is a mixture of both.

There are a variety of reasons why I’d argue that ‘The Grand Budapest’ is a bona-fide masterpiece. The most obvious is Robert D. Yeoman’s delightful and completely mesmerising cinematography. Wes Anderson’s symmetrical framing and composition is in full effect here, but adding to that, Anderson and Yeoman’s choice to use three different aspect ratios for each of the three time periods in the film is nothing short of extraordinary, adding to the storytelling aesthetic that Anderson hoped to achieve.

Yeoman’s exquisite camerawork, especially the fluidity of the 90-degree and 180-degree whip-pan movements, is surpassed only by Wes Anderson’s trademark use of vibrant colour palettes; adding to the exoticness of the locations and buildings that Anderson has placed in the shop window.

Written with such extravagance by Anderson himself, ‘The Grand Budapest’ also boasts a tremendous cast, bringing back the usual suspects of Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson; accompanied by the terrific talents of Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton and Willem Dafoe.

Yet it is Ralph Fiennes as the legendary hotel concierge Gustave H. who steals the show. Played with such charisma, intelligence and total narcissism, Gustave is perhaps the most iconic and memorable character that Wes Anderson has to offer, a real compliment with Anderson’s catalogue of superbly written figures such as Max Fischer in ‘Rushmore’ and Royal Tenenbaum in ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’. Fiennes brings so much flair and humour to the role, bringing the audience and his lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori) on his remarkable journey filled with murder and conspiracy. We really shouldn’t sympathise with him, but somehow we do. He’s just a loveable asshole, really.

But above all its glitz and glamour, ‘The Grand Budapest’ earns its title as my favourite film for its huge influence on my life. It’s the main reason why I started to look at films in a different way, the reason why I was eager to study the medium in greater depth. It is essentially the reason why I started to review movies, which is something that I love doing.

And when it comes down to it, ‘The Grand Budapest’ is the film that springs to mind when the harsh realities of life become prevalent. As soon as I pop my copy of the Blu-ray in the player, everything exterior to my screen becomes irrelevant. The only thing that matters within that 99-minutes of runtime is my experience with Wes Anderson’s delightful masterpiece.

Isn’t that what films are for?

 

Cars 3

Year: 2017
Director: Brian Fee
Starring: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Larry the Cable Guy, Armie Hammer, Bonnie Hunt

Written by Chris Gelderd

After a lacklustre response to ‘Cars 2’ which, in its defence, had some fresh ideas and a fast-paced plot, Pixar returns to the narrative of their original story for the third and possibly final (only if the cash doesn’t flow) chapter of the Lightning McQueen story. After some of the most dramatic marketing for a Pixar film in the guise of teasers and posters for the story that “will never be the same again”…. it pretty much IS the same and I am so frustrated by it.

When the marketing effort is more exciting and dramatic than the film itself, you know you’ve been sucker-punched into thinking this was something major. It’s not. The “money shot” of the trailers is out the way in the first 10mins, leaving the other 70 for a ho-hum, been there done that story that fails to step out of its comfort zone too much.

While ‘Cars’ had a perfect balance of characters, melodrama, racing and slapstick fun, ‘Cars 2’ came off as a spin-off film for hillbilly pick-up truck Mater, voiced by Larry the Cable Guy. With a host of new locations and characters, it was very different to what we expected. ‘Cars 3’ tries to learn from the critical and audience panning by taking us back to familiar places, showing us familiar faces and spending more time with our red racer and less with the pick-up truck. Does it work? Just. The balance is still not right, and there are more new faces and more old faces but lots of moments feel shoe-horned in for effect and the overall pace is a bit jarring, jumping back and forward, which may be a bit too much for younger viewers to keep up with.

The film belongs to Owen Wilson as McQueen and newcomer Cristela Alonzo as trainer Cruz. Remember that sleek black racer from the trailers and posters? The “villain” of the piece? Armie Hammer voicing? Yeah you’ll forget him soon enough sadly as he spends all of his amounted 10mins of screen time driving around a racetrack or sneering in the pits.  He doesn’t get to do much at all, nor does he present many thrills or any danger. He looks brilliant and sounds superb on screen, but he doesn’t do much, and I think it’s a real shame because he could have added the much needed “ka-chow!” to this.

You can see my frustrations here now – there is so much talking and little else, that I was a getting bored by the third time McQueen reflects on his past, or the fifth time friends remind him of Doc Hudson (voiced by the late Paul Newman via unused footage from the first film), and the sixth time McQueen or Cruz or Sally or whoever fail to see themselves as anything but worthless.

Jeez, Pixar, talk about bringing the mood down.

Yes, there are fun moments, and a few silly goofs and crashes to tickle the funny bone, but they are few and far-between all the heartfelt talking, training, failing and floundering. From a blistering opening race that is more exciting than the rest of the film, to a mid-section stock-car race, to an under-whelming training session and an even more under-whelming finale, it seems the cars here want to talk more, train more but race less. Will this appeal to younger audiences? My little boy certainly switched off half-way through when the mood got solemn and the sequences were slower and moody – he came for the thrills of the first and fun of the second, but got little.

However, on the whole, the way the film looks is one big success; another perfectly presented Pixar production. The colours leap off the screen, and the attention to detail is immersive. Textures looks superb and the characters are sleek and stylish. A sequence on a beach looks as if the beach is real and the cars are super-imposed there, it looks that good! ‘Cars 3’ doesn’t disappoint technically, and the sounds of the racers send shockwaves through your bones when they rev their engines and speed around the track…when it happens finally that is.

As you can see, I love the first film and tolerate the second. This third outing is just frustrating as it sold us on something like ‘Rocky 4’ in the Pixar world. Instead, it’s a slow journey dragging a mopey racer back to the podium with little chance to fist pump the air in triumph. The actors give their characters personality, yes, that’s not in question, but they sure seem to lack some vigour in doing it.

The door has been left ajar for a fourth film, and I imagine the takings from the toys are going to smash the box-office takings as the 90min toy advert certainly sells lots of new faces and race-tracks for young audiences.

Do they need another film? At this point I’d say no, and if they do, it needs to really think what made the first film a winner and harness that again because ‘Cars 3’ starts with a bang and ends on a whimper.

Chris’ rating: 4.8 out of 10

 

The First Trailer For Stephen Chbosky’s ‘Wonder’ Has Arrived!

“Based on the New York Times bestseller, ‘Wonder’ tells the inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman. Born with facial differences that, up until now, have prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade. As his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to find their compassion and acceptance, Auggie’s extraordinary journey will unite them all and prove you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.”

Owen Wilson, Julia Roberts, and Jacob Tremblay star in that adaptation of RJ Palacio best-selling novel, ‘Wonder’. Tremblay, who is quickly earning quite a name for himself following his performance in ‘Room’ and his upcoming part in Shane Black’s ‘Predator, is unrecognisable in his role as August Pullman, a young boy with “facial differences” and has never attended a public school before now. It’s good to see Owen Wilson tackling another serious role, and with Julia Roberts at his side I’m sure the pair will be fantastic in this film.

Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) is directing the adapted screenplay, which was written by Jack Thorn and Steve Conrad. 

‘Wonder’ opens in UK cinemas 8th December

Stand Up Specials And The Unintentional Death Of Blockbuster Comedy

Written by Patrick Alexander

The year was 2008. Millions of teenagers flocked to the cinema in the prime of adolescent sophistication with $10 bills and red vines in hand. In a 3 year span, they had witnessed the greatest comedy blockbuster run of their time. Call it youthful exuberance; call it an anomaly; call it what you want; just don’t call it Shirley. From 2006-2008, Hollywood had solved the comedy algorithm dishing out hits and home-runs like Alex Rodriguez in his prime. Personal opinions aside, take a look:

2006: Talladega Nights, Night at the Museum (underrated), Beer Fest, Little Miss Sunshine, The Break-Up [1], Grandma’s Boy, Accepted, Nacho Libre, Clerks II and Borat!  

2007: Knocked Up, Superbad, Hot Fuzz, Juno, Hot Rod, Rush Hour 3, and Blades of Glory (shut up critic).

2008: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Tropic Thunder, Step Brothers, Pineapple Express, Semi-Pro, Burn After Reading, and Kung-Fu Panda [2].

However, little did anyone know, that run concluded an era when the comedy blockbuster mattered. After 2008, the pulse of the comedy blockbuster went dark. The wrong stars got together, in the wrong roles or at the wrong time. Decade long runs of chemistry and collaborative brilliance were traded in for experimentation and solo projects. Comedy sequels and remakes became the norm as studios shifted focus from creating laughs to cashing cheques. Sadly, the real issue might’ve been that the best comedic actors got old. The comedy blockbuster lost its mojo and burned its fans like citizens of ancient Rome. And from its ashes rose the conquistador we call, “Stand-Up Comedy Specials.”

comedy2

Now, the stand-up comedy special was nothing new. From Eddie Murphy’s ‘RAW to Chris Rock’s ‘Bring the Painto Dave Chappelle’s Killin’ Them Softly‘, stand up specials were always a readily available plan-B to the critically acclaimed recommendations dished out by your local Blockbuster clerk. Only stand-up specials had never screened in theaters nationwide or sold copies like ‘Titanic’, and therefore, couldn’t carve out an appropriate slice of the pie. The closest to relevance stand-up comedy ever made it was the HBO Comedy Half Hour series of the mid-90s. In August 2012, that all changed. After 5 years spent figuring out their streaming service, Netflix cracked open Pandora’s Box with it’s debut stand-up special, ‘Bill Burr: You People Are All the Same’. The comedy landscape would never be the same.

Following 2008, a half-decade of delivering only a couple solid comedy hits per year had fans losing trust. After dozens of whiffs with underwhelming numbers, the studios began to cede ground to its online and on-demand competitors. Watching Adam Sandler half-ass a smug grin, on a weekend trip to the theater for the comely price of $25+tax, just wasn’t enough for the American people anymore. The opportunity cost of going to the local cinema became too high; the options available became more expansive; the viewing public grew to be more efficient about their time. Overall, a myriad of outside factors contributed to the downfall of blockbuster comedy, but the greatest death knell of all came from the studios themselves – sequels.

In hindsight, it seems simple to speculate that we didn’t need two (possibly 3?) ‘Grown Ups films or four movies about fuckbuddies in the same year, but at the time who would’ve known? Oh yeah, anyone with a pulse. As comedians and comedy writers shifted away from handing over their top-tier material to screenplays for pennies on the dollar, Hollywood turned to its tried and true formula: running it back. One ‘Dirty Grandpa‘, two ‘Teds‘, three ‘Hangovers‘, four Will Ferrell comebacks nobody asked for, and 5 years later…well this is our hell.

To be fair, this hell was not created completely by studios. It was aided by Father Time and Uncle Greed. Guys like Owen Wilson & Ben Stiller started pursuing indie passion projects. Guys like Vince Vaughn & Simon Pegg started cashing cheques as leads in films they couldn’t carry. Guys like Will Ferrell & Adam Sandler became tired versions of their past selves real quick, going through the big-budget production motions. All in all, the stars of yesteryear got old and nobody truly rose to the forefront in their place. The new wave of blockbuster comedians never materialized. God bless Andy Samberg & Ed Helms for trying, but two guys does not a next generation make.

comedy

Meanwhile, as the comedy blockbuster sphere started acting more erratic than your average day on the NASDAQ, the millennials of the world slowly shifted their collective attentions to the screens right in front of them. Capitalizing on the streaming boom from 2013-present day, Netflix took over, launching Burr, Mike Birbiglia, Jim Jeffries, Chelseas Peretti, Iliza Schleshinger, Tom Segura and dozens of other comedians into the mainstream. Coupled with Comedy Central’s introduction of Aziz Ansari, Anthony Jeselnik, and Amy Schumer, it was enough for stand up comedy specials to become a regular part of our comedy diet. In under a decade, the stand up special transformed from plate-filling sides to the main course.[3] In essence, our tastes for how we ingest comedy changed.

The average American became filthier given more access to all the grimy, deranged[4] shit on the internet. We love to get dirty, but nobody to know about it which makes stand up comedy such a natural fit for the current climate. As a younger man’s genre, the millennial generation embraced the well-developed, levity-ridden, open dialogue stand-up brings on controversial topics such as race, abortion, sexual assault, and even the raunchier part of our daily lives. You know, the stuff you shouldn’t talk about in public.

Stand-up comedians write jokes that no Hollywood studio in their wildest dreams could green light. Try to imagine a comedy coming out this summer, starring David Spade and Melissa McCarthy, about rape. You can’t. It would be the most merciless beheading of actors, directors, writers, producers, studio, and everybody involved on down to the key grip 4, in film history. Stand-up might have been raised in that dirty niche under the noses of high society, but nowadays it’s your rich Uncle’s favorite house guest.

And just when Hollywood thought they’d earned our trust back with a balanced, more original 2016[5] filled with a few budding comedic actors, Netflix delivered “The Block“…aka Dave Chappelle. Game, set, match. With comedy legends Louis C.K., Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, and Sarah Silverman all slated for potential 2017 releases, stand up comedy specials have become appointment viewing. Combined with the paltry options of comedy blockbusters due out this year [6], stand-up specials ain’t giving the trophy back.

In an age of constant newness, the consistent discovery and evolution of new comedians with fresh material runs through the arc of open mic-er to stand-up regular to instant streaming special. A system set up to unleash a steady stream of hungry newcomers and thankful lifelong comics finally getting a fair shot. It’s automated for infinite future success and a winning formula developed over decades of stand-ups fighting for their right to air time. Comedians getting the pay off they deserve. Finally, something we can all agree on.

 

[1] and Jennifer Aniston’s backside! 
[2] Put some respect on it.
[3] Thanks, vegans. 
[4] read: funny.
[5] The Nice Guys, Deadpool, Popstar, Ghostbusters (women edition), Everybody Wants Some!!, Keanu.
[6] Baywatch, Fist Fight, Chips?…oh dear God, that’s…that’s Pitch Perfect 3’s music.

Woody Harrelson To Make Directorial Debut With First Ever Live Film

Yes, you read that right.. and no, I’m not kidding! Woody Harrelson has announced that he plans to  direct and star in ‘Lost in London’, which will be filmed live and screened in cinemas worldwide! 

In the trailer for his film, Harrelson admits that “no one has ever been that stupid” to attempt making a live film, but he’s doing it anyway! He goes on to say that the film will be about one of the worst nights of his life, and will also star Owen Wilson and Willie Nelson. Harrelson refers to the film as a “deep, soul-searching comedy” and he sounds like ready for the challenges and obstacles that could be thrown his way on the night. 

In an interview with EW, Harrelson also confirmed the film will run for 100 minutes and be shot with only one camera, so the aim is to have one continuous shot. The film will start at 6pm GMT and if the title didn’t give it away already, it will be shot in London. 

I really hope this will be screened at my local cinema as I would love to witness how this all turns out. There’s so much that could go wrong on the night, but Harrelson’s determination to get it to work will hopefully pay off. 

“Academy Award® nominated actor Woody Harrelson will direct and star in an unprecedented live feature film event, Lost in London LIVE, on January 19. Harrelson, who wrote the feature film “Lost in London,” will also co-star with Owen Wilson and Willie Nelson.”

‘Lost in London’ will screen live in cinemas on January 19th 2017. 

Written by Tom Sheffield