Friday Film Reviews: Trainwreck, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Pixels and Absolutely Anything

Friday Film Reviews: Trainwreck, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Pixels and Absolutely Anything


Friday Film Reviews: Trainwreck, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Pixels and Absolutely Anything

Award-winning actress and writer Amy Schumer raises her skirt to political correctness and gleefully flashes sexual inequality with this potty-mouthed comedy that is far from the debacle promised by the title.

Directed at a lick by Judd Apatow, who temporarily lost his mojo after Knocked Up in 2007, Trainwreck is a hilarious and heart-warming portrait of modern womanhood.

Throughout the uproarious two hours, Schumer is the butt of her own expertly targeted jokes, and she generously shares sparkling one-liners around the excellent ensemble cast.

In particular, she creates a hysterical supporting role for Oscar-winning British actress Tilda Swinton, as a monstrous magazine editor, who demands gung-ho headline-grabbing titillation, not gently worded, sentimental froth.

There’s a thin glaze of sweetness to pivotal moments between female characters in Schumer’s script and an emotionally raw scene at a funeral deftly tugs the heartstrings.

Yet, for its adherence to rom-com tropes, Trainwreck is laced with sufficient biting wit and self-effacement to drink The Hangover and its crude imitators under the table, and seal victory with a rousing belch.

Trainwreck is a wicked delight that asserts independent, single women have the same right as men to enjoy carefree sexual escapades without being labelled a hussy.

Schumer instantly endears us to her self-destructive 30-something, who has to hit rock bottom before she can begin the slow, painful ascent back to healthy self-respect.

Bill Hader is an adorable comic foil and sparring partner, and on-screen chemistry between the two leads simmers beautifully.

Supporting performances are equally memorable, including amusing cameos from Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei.

Jump on board Schumer’s runaway, filthy-minded train of thought and hold on tight.

Star Rating: Rating: 87%

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Friday Film Reviews: Trainwreck, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Pixels and Absolutely Anything

More than 50 years after the achingly cool TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. exploited Cold War paranoia for rollicking entertainment, director Guy Ritchie continues to explore fractious male dynamics in this globe-trotting spy caper.

The unlikely pairing of suave American agent Napoleon Solo and tightly coiled Ukrainian rival Illya Kuryakin during the Cold War remains unchanged in Ritchie’s script, co-written by Lionel Wigram.

While the original pairing of Robert Vaughn and David McCallum lent swagger and smouldering sex appeal to the politically divided operatives, Ritchie’s good-looking men from U.N.C.L.E. – Armie Hammer and Henry Cavill – radiate impeccably tailored style over substance and sizzle.

James Bond could arch an eyebrow and exude more charisma than either leading man manages here as they attempt to wrench a nuclear warhead from the clutches of a criminal network.

The film is having a laugh to suggest that these strapping and chiselled agents, both over six feet tall, could conduct covert surveillance without drawing attention.

Ritchie evidently agrees and stokes homoerotic embers with a thinly veiled declaration of sexual preference that will prick up the ears of gay audiences as the men attempt to simultaneously pick two locks on a door and evade capture.

These throwaway moments, including an appearance by Pussy Galore’s helicopter from Goldfinger, are symbolic of a film that has the right ingredients but no clear sense how to blend everything smoothly.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. lovingly evokes the textures, polish and poise of an era that rebelled against post-war drabness, with fine contributions from production designer Oliver Scholl and costume designer Joanna Johnston.

The soundtrack jives to jazzy beats, matched by Ritchie’s measured direction, which thankfully avoids some of his usual showboating.

If looks were everything, the film would twist and shout in snazzy kaleidoscopic split screens.

However, characters are poorly developed and on-screen chemistry between the leading men and a shamefully underused Alicia Vikander is tepid.

“For a special agent, you’re not having a very special day,” Waverly quips to Kuryakin after one chase sequence.

On this handsomely crafted yet bland evidence, nor is Ritchie.

Star Rating: Rating: 67%


Friday Film Reviews: Trainwreck, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Pixels and Absolutely Anything

Pixels is an action comedy, which harks back to this bygone era before smartphones and immersive 4D, when guiding a circular yellow head around a maze with four coloured ghosts in hot pursuit, was the height of hi-tech entertainment.

Based on a short film of the same title by Patrick Jean, Chris Columbus’ big budget romp imagines life-size arcade games on the streets of bustling modern cities.

Except here, losing a life could mean the end of planet Earth.

Scriptwriters Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling fail to capitalise on this neat and tantalising premise, crafting an inane story of triumph against adversity that treats female characters as pretty baubles.

Pixels is a nostalgia-drenched bore, hung on the centerpiece recreations of classic games, which result in the destruction of swathes of London and Manhattan.

Sandler sucks the dwindling energy out of every frame, unable to muster any enthusiasm for his two-dimensional role.

Michelle Monaghan is wasted as the simpering love interest while Kevin James goofs and gurns as a highly improbable American leader.

Columbus, who directed the first two installments of the Harry Potter films, fails miserably to conjure the same magic.

He gleefully fills the screen with familiar pixelated characters including Q*bert, Frogger and Mario.

Regrettably, it’s game over from the opening frames for genuine emotion and narrative sophistication.

Star Rating: 2/5 Rating: 17%

Absolutely Anything

Friday Film Reviews: Trainwreck, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Pixels and Absolutely Anything

Directed by Jones and scripted by Gavin Scott, Absolutely Anything marks a reunion for the cult Monty Python troupe, as well as the final screen role of Robin Williams as the voice of a shaggy dog with a penchant for biscuits and frottering the nearest human leg.

On every count, it’s a shambolic waste of talents including Eddie Izzard, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal and Joanna Lumley in instantly forgettable supporting roles.

“Nobody’s perfect,” quips one character as the end credits roll and our suffering ends.

That’s an understatement for a gifted cast and crew, who struggle in vain to achieve even mediocrity over the course of 86 bewildering minutes.

Absolutely Anything is a ghastly, unedifying mess that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Pegg fails to make his hapless hero sympathetic or likeable, and he shares more screen chemistry with his glasses than a lovingly tousled Kate Beckinsale.

Misguided humour lurches wildly from the childish (big-eared police officers in lurid pink uniforms) to the twisted (the slaughter of 39 teenagers), punctuated by laughter-starved longueurs.

One of the comedic highpoints of the film is two steaming dog turds, which magically come to life, leap into a toilet bowl and flush themselves to oblivion.

Never has an image been more unintentionally apt.

Star Rating: 1/5 Rating: 20%

In Selected Cinemas…

Mistress America

Eighteen-year-old Tracy (Lola Kirke) begins her first year at college in New York, but her dreams of literary celebrity are immediately crushed when she fails to gain admission to the school’s legendary Mobius Society. To distract her from this rejection, Tracy arranges a meeting with her future stepsister Brooke (Greta Gerwig), whose father is poised to marry Tracy’s mother.

Unlike Tracy, who is reserved and socially inept, Brooke is an expletive-spewing, overly confident force of nature, who seems to know everyone important in Manhattan. Brooke introduces wide-eyed Tracy to some of the city’s best hotspots and the teenager becomes intoxicated by the energy and verve of her 20-something mentor.

When Brooke’s plans to open a restaurant hit a snag, Tracy joins her future stepsister on a weekend road trip to visit an old acquaintance called Dylan (Michael Chernus), who could finance the venture and stump up the 75,000 US dollars Brooke needs by Monday. Rating: 79%

Precinct Seven Five

Tiller Russell directs this engrossing documentary about police corruption in New York during the 1980s. On the mean streets of the Big Apple, crime is rife, perpetrated by brutal drug gangs. Some of the city’s police force admit defeat and work with, rather than against, the criminal fraternity, in return for a cut of the ill-gotten profits.

Michael Dowd is a young patrolman in the Brooklyn precinct of the title, who enlists with idealistic dreams of protecting the weak and the vulnerable.

He is gradually led astray, accepting bribes to look the other way and then stealing with impunity.

As Dowd loses sight of his moral compass, he aligns himself with a Dominican drug baron and dishonours the badge that he vowed to wear with pride.

Russell’s film interviews Dowd and other people who were immersed in the corruption of the era, painting a vivid portrait of a city on the cusp of anarchy. Rating: N/A

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