Snatched (2017)

When absolute no-hoper Emily (Amy Schumer) is dumped by her boyfriend before their trip to Ecuador and none of her friends are willing to go with her, a moment of madness sees her invite her mother, Linda (Goldie Hawn), with the intention of making her rediscover her fun side. However, Emily’s naive chasing of a good time soon leads to the pair’s kidnapping, closely followed by a less-than-smooth escape attempt.

I went into this hoping for some daft laughs, but while there were a (very) few moments in this that genuinely made me chuckle, overall I found it largely cringe-worthy. Emily is annoyingly pathetic, with no job or prospects or common sense. The only thing worse is her stay-at-home brother, whose feeble shouts at/for “Mamma!” were like nails down a chalkboard to me. Even Goldie Hawn, who I generally think is great, is given a rather tragic character for the first half of the movie, before finally being more ‘Goldie’.

The story could have had potential, but instead I felt it was a set of rather random and weird things thrown together supposedly to be funny. The ex-Spec Ops who cut out her own tongue? The adventurous rescuer who is clearly in some soap opera spoof? Ooh, or the whole, very icky, tapeworm scene – wtf? There was zero point to most of it, except padding out the story. And if the moral is meant to be about mothers and daughters bonding in extreme circumstances, I think it would be more appropriately: moms, b*tch-slap some sense into your idiotic adult offspring.

Short version: utterly not to my tastes or sense of humour. Avoid.

Released: 19th May 2017
Viewed: 26th May 2017
Running time: 90 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 3/10

The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

Batman might be a dab hand at rounding up the bad guys, but he’s still battling that crippling loneliness. It doesn’t help that he’s too afraid of (more) loss to let anyone close – or, quite frankly, that he’s a mega-arrogant douche 😉 Thankfully, the Lego Movie series is here to help us poke fun at a rich, weird loner who likes to dress in black, and a whole pile of superhero memes along the way.

Plot-wise, the Joker is upset when Batman refuses to acknowledge him as his ‘main adversary’ (“I like to fight around”), and sets out to be, urm, more appreciated. This might involve a group of cross-movie super villains being rather superbly spoofed, but I’m not giving anything away 😉 Meanwhile, the unfortunately named orphan Dick Grayson is out to get himself adopted, while Bruce Wayne is a little distracted by the new police commissioner…

There’s not a great deal of substance to this movie, really, but it serves to be ridiculous and does so pretty well. The bulk of the humour actually comes from a host of rather throw-away moments and lines, such as referring to Daleks as “British robots – ask your nerd friends”, or the characters all saying “Pew! Pew!” as they fire their guns (that slayed me. Don’t ask!). There’s also some great lampooning of Batman’s history-on-screen, as well as the character in general.

If there’s a weakness, it’s the ‘real’ meaning of the movie, which is all about family and working with others and *yawn*. Not awful, but y’know – pew! pew!! 😉

Released: 10th February 2017
Viewed: 8th March 2017
Running time: 104 minutes
Rated: U (UK)

My rating: 6/10

Trolls (2016)

I had zero interest in seeing this movie when it came out. The troll doll things that I remember from my childhood (and indeed, several generations seem to remember from their childhoods! o_O) had no appeal for me then or now, so a movie about them wasn’t even on my radar.

Until, that is, one of my friends adopted this as her go-to happy movie: by the wonders of a cinema pass, she must have seen it about a dozen times to combat rubbish days at work. And when the next opportunity arose, I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about.

Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is everything you’d expect a troll to be – urm, that is to say, one of the happy ‘good luck’ trolls, not in the sense of under-the-bridge… oh, you know what I mean! Poppy is all about singing, dancing, parties, and hugs. She’s so resolutely upbeat that it’s a wonder she doesn’t squeee herself to death.

However, when things go a little wrong at the 20th anniversary party of the trolls’ escape from the evil, joyless Bergen – who think their only chance for happiness lies in eating trolls – Poppy finds that her talent for scrapbooking may not be the best skill for a rescue mission o_O

While the story line is pretty average – rescue mission, learning to find the happiness inside yourself, etc etc – I ended up really liking some of the animation style here. There are scenes made to look like they’ve been crafted out of felt, or knitted, and just look gorgeous. Even the spiders – urgh! – are done to look super-cute.

As an adult (yes, despite some of my viewing choices!) it’s the little moments that are going to make or break a movie like this for me, and indeed they are done well. Little touches of humour and cynicism for the grown ups cut through the saccharine just about enough.

The music is also a major factor here, and it’s resolutely upbeat and bouncy – I can see why this was my buddy’s go-to happy film. And yes, I came out with a smile on my face – can’t say fairer than that, really!

Released: 21st October 2016
Viewed: 11th February 2017
Running time: 92 minutes
Rated: U

My rating: 6.5/10

Sing (2016)

Life is rarely what you wanted it to be. Mothers with no time left for themselves after looking after kids and husband, young men being pulled into the family life of crime, those with big talent but tiny confidence – to any of these, and more, the faint glimmer of a dream provided by a singing contest is enough to at the very least shake up the routine.

There have to be a dozen or more singing and ‘talent’ shows on TV in any given week, I’m sure, so a movie about just such a competition seems inevitable. But is it a yes or a no for Sing?

All in all, this is just a ‘nice’ movie. I was actually a little impressed and pleased at the lack of cynicism – I had sort of expected the theatre boss running the competition (a koala voiced by Matthew McConaughey) to be a bit of a schemer, for instance, but by making him a dreamer, too, it makes the whole movie that bit sweeter.

The range of characters and their reasons for wanting the escape of fame add a little substance to an otherwise slim concept. Not that there’s a great deal of depth here, and the gaps are simply filled with singing – well, duh! That may or may not appeal – this isn’t one of those movies where the adults get a different layer to appreciate while the kiddies are enjoying the dancing elephant.

Still, it was an enjoyable enough bit of fluff for a Saturday afternoon, and I’m 80% sure you won’t end up wanting to claw your (glass) eyeballs out 😉

Released: 27th January 2017 (UK)
Viewed: 11th February 2017
Running time: 108 minutes
Rated: U

My rating: 6/10

T2 Trainspotting (2017)

Twenty years ago, a little movie about the most unlikely of subjects – an Edinburgh youth with an on/off heroin addiction – become something of a cultural phenomenon for Scotland. In preparation for viewing the sequel, I rewatched the original and was amazed at just how iconic 90% of the scenes had become and still remain.

That two decade wait is a genius move for this follow up, with the aging of the characters playing a huge role in the story. Renton’s been living clean – and hiding out – in Amsterdam since the events at the end of ‘T1’, but when events send him home to Edinburgh it’s not long before his old friends – Spud, Sickboy, and Begbie – are once again turning his life upside down.

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this movie as much as I did. Although I was glad for the rewatch of the original – there are flashbacks and references that do benefit from a familiarity – it’s not an easy watch. The sequel, however, really has moved on twenty years. Sure, there’s still some drug-taking, sex, a lot of violence, and the dialogue is surely 90% swearing 😉 but there’s just so much more depth to this story. As one of my equally-impressed colleagues put it, you don’t often get to see a (serious) “coming-of-middle-age” tale.

So T2 becomes about these men facing middle age, their lives not what they’d hoped. Heroin might be (more or less) behind them, but as the new – and quite brilliant – “Choose Life” speech shows, the world has only changed so much and not all for the best. Throw in some revenge story lines, the attempt to reforge friendships and find… not purpose, but just something to do – through all of this, the character studies are done brilliantly and yet subtly. I came out feeling this movie had twice the content of the 2-hour running time, which is absolutely not something I was expecting – nor the bits where I was almost crying with laughter!

Of course, chuck in the extra layer of seeing my hometown on screen – including my bus stop, yay! – in the same cinema as the premier was held, of seeing twenty years pass not just for the characters but also in my own life… your mileage may vary, but I was wowed.

Released: 27th January 2017
Viewed: 10th February 2017
Running time: 117 minutes
Rated: 18

My rating: 9/10

Moana (2016)

Many many years ago, the demi-god Maui stole the heart of the Mother Island, Ti Fiti, starting a plague of death and decay. Legends say that one day a hero will travel beyond the lagoon, find Maui, and force him to return the heart, thus breaking the curse and saving mankind.

Moana grows up hearing such stories from her grandmother (the self-proclaimed “village crazy lady” :)) and it leaves her with an urge to explore the giant, unknowable blue beyond their paradise island lagoon’s safe barrier. Unfortunately, not crossing that barrier is the one rule of the island – and given that Moana is being primed to take over from her father as the island’s chief, breaking the rules isn’t really an option.

Faced with a choice between her head and her heart, what can Moana choose?

I always go into animated movies with slight trepidation: even if the reviews are good, are they kid-movie good, or movie-movie good? I’m pleased to report that Moana was the latter, and I got exactly what I was looking for: some light-hearted fun, lots of giggles, and minimal saccharine.

First off, I really loved that we’re getting a legend from a different culture rather than yet another European Grimm rehash. Moana is very much in the ‘new’ Disney princess mold: strong, opinionated, and not the size of a twig. And Polynesian.

I also really liked the humour. Maui is voiced by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who does a wonderful job of sending himself up by making the character ridiculously full of himself. And then there’s the chicken. Seriously. Loved that chicken! 🙂

The story doesn’t stray too far from what you’d expected, with themes of finding your inner strength, self-belief, etc, but all done nicely with next to no saccharine. I’d very happily watch this again – and there is no higher praise for an animated movie, I think!

Released: 2nd December 2016
Viewed: 17th January 2017
Running time: 107 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 8/10

War On Everyone (2016)

Bob (Michael Peña) and Terry (Alexander Skarsgård) are cops. But given that their motto is, “Let’s go f*@! some scumbags!” I think you can imagine how closely they choose to follow the letter of the law. I mean, they could arrest you, but on the other hand that’s a very nice widescreen TV you’ve got there…

Of course, the problem with blackmailing and beating up bad guys is that sooner or later one of them will work for a bigger bad guy, who might not take kindly to anyone interfering with their nefarious doings. Without meaning to, it’s not long before Terry and Bob are tangled up in far more than they first imagined…

I went into War On Everyone expecting daft and a little ‘outrageous’ fun, and I think that’s exactly what I got. I was quite surprised, then, to see the outpouring of hate for the movie from various reviewers! Sure, it’s foul-mouthed and full of random and bloody violence. Yes, it’s incredibly un-politically correct. But hey – it’s also really funny, which is kind of the point!

The two leads are clearly having an absolute ball, and it shows: Peña as the smart family man, Skarsgard the Glen Campbell-obsessed singleton who might have drunk most of his brain cells away. But rather than the usual buddy cop movie cliche of the pair being ever at odds, they are instead the closest of friends, sharing an outlook on life being there for the grabbing, and willing to stick up for each other despite their antics getting them into increasing bother.

The rest of the cast are also good, from Paul Ritter as the police chief who has to tell them off but really doesn’t care that much, to a wonderfully off the wall performance from Caleb Landry Jones (weirdly reminding me of Sigourney Weaver, in appearance, and perhaps David Bowie in wardrobe!) as one of the bad guys. Main baddie, Theo James, is rather bland in comparison, but kudos to the director for the five minute shot of his bare torso walking towards the camera. For no real purpose, but it does balance out the scenes in the strip club, somewhat 😉

The tone is perhaps a little uneven – it’s practically slapstick at the beginning, and really quite dark by the end – but if you enjoyed Seven Psychopaths (2012), In Bruges (2008) (confusingly, both directly by Martin McDonagh, as opposed to War On Everyone‘s John Michael McDonagh – whose back catalogue is no predictor of this one at all!), or The Nice Guys (2016) and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), then this might find a similar funny spot in you.

Released: 7th October 2016
Viewed: 14th October 2016
Running time: 98 minutes
Rated: 15 (and pushing it!)

My rating: 7/10 – f’ed up to heck, but my twisted sense of humour liked it!