Paddington 2 movie review

For inSing

PADDINGTON 2

Director : Paul King
Cast : Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Grant, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin
Genre : Comedy/Family
Run Time : 1h 44m
Opens : 7 December 2017
Rating : PG

Everyone’s favourite marmalade-loving Peruvian bear is back on the big screen. Unfortunately, he finds himself in the big house, too. Paddington (Ben Whishaw) is thrown in prison, after being framed for a robbery he did not commit. His adoptive family, comprising Henry (Hugh Bonneville), Mary (Sally Hawkins), Judy (Madeleine Harris) and Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) Brown, plus housekeeper Mrs Bird (Julie Walters), must clear Paddington’s name. Paddington must find a way to foil the dastardly plans of Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), a fading actor who will stop at nothing to acquire a priceless treasure. While in prison, the cuddly little bear must defend himself from various nasty types, including the imposing prison chef Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson). With a positive attitude, good manners, and a little help from people who care about him, Paddington just might survive this ordeal.

After the runaway success of 2014’s Paddington, a sequel was inevitable. We can’t stop the cynics from viewing this film as a shameless cash-grab, but we don’t have to. Paddington 2 does a fine job of that all by itself. This is a film that brims with heart, is ever-so-English, impeccably acted, and not too sickeningly twee. Like its predecessor, there’s also a sweet pro-inclusivity message, conveyed by way of Peter Capaldi’s Mr. Curry, who hates Paddington just because he’s an immigrant.

On top of that, Paddington 2 is hilarious. Director and co-writer Paul King, who also helmed the first Paddington film, delivers a delightfully witty movie that features a mix of expertly-choreographed physical comedy set-pieces and clever wordplay. The film is a masterclass in the art of the setup and the payoff – things that register at first as silly details later become important in the plot, and it snaps together in such a satisfying way. The action-packed finale plays like a cross between the climactic scene of Back to the Future Part III and the opening set-piece of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

The first Paddington movie was going to star Colin Firth as the voice of the loveable bear, and Ben Whishaw was brought on as a last-minute replacement. Whishaw is effortlessly sweet and earnest without it coming off as an affectation. The computer-generated effects seem to have improved since the last movie, and it’s easy to buy Paddington as an actual character. While it’s not as photo-real as the work in War for the Planet of the Apes (nor is it intended to be), this reviewer found himself as invested in Paddington’s journey as he was in Caesar’s.

The stable of talented English actors who fill the supporting cast returns from the first film, with the addition of a few big names. Bonneville plays the pragmatic patriarch who, after years in the insurance business, has lost his taste for whimsy. Hawkins serves as a foil as the warm-hearted Mary. Walters is endlessly amusing as the plucky Mrs Bird, while Capaldi is as crotchety as he can be without Malcolm Tucker-style swearing.

Hugh Grant is the runaway scene-stealer. He gamely sends up his own career, playing a self-obsessed actor whose glory days are far behind him. Seeing as Grant was one of the hottest stars of the 90s and saw his stock fall after personal scandals and massive flops, it’s admirable that he’s willing to poke fun at himself. Not only that, he appears to be having a grand old time doing so. As excellent as Nicole Kidman was in the first film, Grant’s villainous turn handily one-ups hers.

Brendan Gleeson is also a joy to watch as the widely-feared prison cook whom Paddington gamely tries to befriend. All the actors seem to enjoy being a part of the project, and nobody looks like they’ve been forced to put on a happy face.

Given the current political and pop culture climate, few things are cynic-proof. There are popular YouTube channels dedicated to mercilessly dismembering every last thing anyone finds remotely enjoyable, and plenty of think-pieces endeavour to do the same. Paddington 2 is a shining light in this fog of scoffing and irony. What the film possesses in sincerity, it matches in technical accomplishment and engaging storytelling. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel the warm fuzzies.

In a year that’s given us some surprising, spectacular blockbusters, Paddington 2 might not be a shock to the system, but it shouldn’t be. It should be a hug, and that it certainly is. The film is dedicated to the memory of Paddington creator Michael Bond, who passed away just before filming wrapped. If future Paddington movies are anywhere as good as this, his legacy is in the safest paws.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

The Legend of Tarzan

For F*** Magazine

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN

Director : David Yates
Cast : Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Djimon Hounsou, Simon Russell Beale, Jim Broadbent
Genre : Action/Adventure
Run Time : 1 hr 49 mins
Opens : 30 June 2016
Rating : PG13 (Violence)

 

          Superheroes may reign at the multiplex, but the Lord of the Apes is hoping to reclaim the crown. We find John Clayton III a.k.a. Tarzan (Skarsgård) living a life of aristocracy in London, alongside his American wife Jane Porter (Robbie). It has been years since Tarzan has left the jungle and now, King Leopold II of Belgium has invited him to return to the Congo Free State. Tarzan is initially reluctant to travel back to Africa, but is convinced by George Washington Williams (Jackson), an American diplomat who plans to investigate Leopold’s alleged use of slaves to build a railway through the Congo. Tarzan is unaware that he is being lured back to the jungle by the ruthless and avaricious Belgian Captain Léon Rom (Waltz), who has offered to deliver Tarzan to the vengeful Chief Mbonga (Hounsou) in exchange for diamonds. As Tarzan reunites with the various wild animals he grew up amongst, the people of the Congo must fight for their liberty.


            Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan is an enduring figure in popular culture, but is now most often viewed as kitschy and campy. Clad in a loin cloth, yelling as he swings through the trees – he’s not exactly the action hero modern-day moviegoers have become accustomed to. Director David Yates, best known for helming the final four instalments in the Harry Potter film series, endeavours for viewers to take Tarzan seriously again. This take on the story is commendable in that it wants to be about something, directly addressing the colonialist politics and the unethical means by which various European nations went about their conquest of Africa. It’s pretty heady stuff and the film’s approach errs on the simplistic side, but there’s enough action to ensure the film doesn’t get bogged down in its sombre themes.

            Yates, working from a screenplay by Craig Brewer and Adam Cozad, approaches this as a work of historical fiction. The primary antagonist, Léon Rom, is an actual historical figure, who was known for keeping severed heads in his flowerbed. In addition, George Washington Williams as depicted in the film is a fictionalisation of a real-life Civil War veteran, preacher, politician, lawyer, journalist and historian. The 1890 setting is established with enough detail, but one does occasionally get the sense that this is an adventure flick putting on stuffy period drama airs.

            Skarsgård beat out the likes of Henry Cavill, Tom Hardy, Charlie Hunnam and swimmer Michael Phelps, who was toying with using this film to launch an acting career, for the title role. We first see Tarzan as John Clayton III, trying to fit in among the upper crust, and Skarsgård ably conveys that this is a man who is not in his element. While Tarzan is traditionally viewed as a feral man, this version portrays him as a person of both instinct and intellect, having mastered multiple languages and well-versed in various cultures. He wants to be seen as more than a mere oddity. Naturally, we get to see him doff his shirt, and any doubts that he wouldn’t be able to pull off the necessary muscled physique are quickly assuaged. For all his efforts, Skarsgård is still encumbered by a certain stiffness, and this reviewer would like to have seen a more passionate, unbridled Tarzan.

            Yates wanted Jessica Chastain to portray Jane and the studio had their eyes on Emma Stone, but it’s Robbie who portrays Tarzan’s lady love. Robbie possesses an irrepressible radiance and imbues Jane with a charming vigour. The film is able to strike a balance between putting Jane in peril, as she is expected to be so Tarzan can rescue her, while also making her a capable character in her own right. She holds her own opposite Waltz, but the scene in which Jane grits her teeth to sit down for dinner with Rom is a pale imitation of the similar scene between Belloq and Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

            There’s no denying Waltz is a talented actor, but by now, audiences have begun to tire of seeing him typecast as the villain, and he does nothing different as Rom. The character is the embodiment of imperialist greed, striding through the jungle with fearsome troops behind him, taking what he wants at will. There’s no nuance here, and Waltz often seems extremely close to twirling his moustache. Hounsou strikes an imposing presence as the tribal leader who has a long-standing vendetta with Tarzan, but gets too little screen time for their conflict to take hold. Jackson is entertaining as Williams and the character gets a moment to reflect on his own history and explain his motivations. However, his performance can’t help but come off as anachronistic, and Williams is very much a wise-cracking buddy cop sidekick, which can pull one out of it at times.

            There is a great deal of visual effects work and a multitude of computer-generated animals required to populate the Congo. Unfortunately, some of these beasts look sillier than others, and several sequences, particularly a railroad ambush and an ostrich stampede, lack polish. Tarzan calls on his animal friends for assistance during the climax, and for a film purported to be a more serious telling of the Tarzan tale, it is a little goofy.

            The world was never aching for another Tarzan movie, but this one justifies its existence by incorporating historical elements and setting out to make a statement about man’s relationship with nature. This is complemented by a blend of National Geographic-style panoramic vistas and moderately exciting action beats. While it lacks the heart of the animated version the target teen audience might be most familiar with, it’s a fine addition to the Tarzan movie canon, and definitely ranks far above the risible 2014 animated take.

Summary: Historical elements are cleverly weaved into the familiar Tarzan tale and this is not as much of a re-tread as one might expect, but there’s still a certain vitality missing from this version.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Eddie The Eagle

For F*** Magazine 

EDDIE THE EAGLE 

Director : Dexter Fletcher
Cast : Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Jo Hartley, Keith Allen, Christopher Walken, Tim McInnerny, Jim Broadbent
Genre : Biography/Sports
Run Time : 106 mins
Opens : 31 March 2016
Rating : PG13 (Some Sexual References)

Michael “Eddie” Edwards (Egerton) always dreamed of being an Olympian. Since childhood, he’s been repeatedly told by many, including his father Terry (Allen), that he’s just not cut out for sports. And it all went downhill from there, so to speak. Against the wishes of his father but with the support of his mother Janette (Hartley), Eddie sets out to a ski jumping camp in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany to train. He is mocked by the other more experienced jumpers at the facility, but catches the eye of drunken snowplough driver Bronson Peary (Jackman). Bronson was once a member of the U.S. ski jumping Olympics team under the renowned coach Warren Sharp (Walken), but was later seen as a disgrace to the sport and became an alcoholic. Eddie convinces Bronson to coach him so Eddie can qualify for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada. Dubbed “Eddie the Eagle” by the media, Eddie has to prove to the world that he’s a serious contender and not merely the silly underdog.

            If the term “feel-good movie” makes you roll your eyes, you’d be better off giving this a wide berth. Eddie the Eagle is a film that revels in its cornball sensibilities and adheres to all the sports movie clichés in existence. The jaded might scoff at it, but there’s definitely something very appealing here, you’ll just have to wade through the schmaltz to get to it. Most of us know what it’s like to be rejected or told we’re not good enough at some point or another, and Eddie’s irresistible combination of perseverance, chutzpah and endearing goofiness make him exceedingly easy to root for.

This is based on a true story, but the real-life Eddie Edwards has publicly stated that the film is only “about 5%” accurate. We completely understand the concept of dramatic license, but the liberties taken with the facts do make Eddie the Eagle feel inauthentic. There are many moments when the film comes off as cartoony, particularly in how all of Eddie’s fellow skiers, even those on the British Olympic team, are depicted as exceedingly stereotypical bullies. There’s no doubt that the real Eddie faced considerable obstacles in pursuit of his dream, but the underdog-ness is dialled up to the point where he might as well have to fend off an actual dragon on the way to the 70 metre jump.

The biggest fabrication is Jackman’s Bronson Peary, a character created from whole cloth by screenwriters Simon Kelton and Sean Macaulay. Edwards was actually coached by Americans John Viscome and Chuck Berghorn at Lake Placid; turns out they weren’t quite colourful enough for the filmmakers’ tastes. The swaggering Bronson’s glory days are behind him and he has the chance to make up for his fall from grace by taking on a protégé – yet more familiar tropes. That said, Jackman is extremely watchable in the role. He simply radiates charisma and reminds audiences yet again why he’s a bona fide movie star. He also excels at the several moments of physical comedy the character is given.



Egerton is poised to hit the big time after starring in last year’s Kingsman: The Secret Service; that film’s director Matthew Vaughn is a producer on this project. He piles on the “aw shucks” factor as Eddie and looks to be having fun playing the earnest, dorky, very unlikely national hero. Unfortunately, Egerton is prone to over-acting, though this can probably be pinned on director Dexter Fletcher too. There is so much squinting and lopsided grinning going on to emphasise the character’s awkwardness that it often feels like Egerton is merely mugging to the camera. This is yet another movie about a wide-eyed dreamer in which the mum is supportive and the dad completely isn’t, but we suppose that’s how it is in real life a lot of the time too. Walken’s barely in this; like Bronson, his character Warren Sharp is fictional too.



Famed second unit director Vic Armstrong stages some spectacular stunts, with professional ski jumpers re-creating some heart-stopping leaps off the ramp. The 80s atmosphere is suitably evocative, amplified by Matthew Margeson’s synth-heavy score. Eddie the Eagle is spirited, entertaining and even genuinely thrilling in parts, but it’s hard to shake the niggling sense that everything’s been packaged a little too neatly and tweaked for maximum crowd pleasing effect.

Summary: Eddie the Eagle will be too treacly for some and the staggering liberties it takes with the true story undermine it somewhat, but stars Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman ensure it makes that landing.

RATING: 3out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong  

Brooklyn

For F*** Magazine

BROOKLYN 

Director : John Crowley
Cast : Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters
Genre : Drama
Run Time : 1 hr 52 mins
Opens : 18 February 2016
Rating : NC-16 (Sexual Scene)

One heart is torn between two lands in this historical romance. Said heart belongs to Eilis Lacey (Ronan), a young woman from the small Irish town of Enniscorthy. Eilis’ older sister Rose (Glascott) arranges for Eilis to go to Brooklyn in search of better prospects, Eilis leaving Rose and their mother (Jane Brennan) behind. Father Flood (Broadbent), a priest active in the Irish community in Brooklyn, arranges for Eilis to stay in a boarding house run by the landlady Madge Kehoe (Walters). Father Flood also enrols Eilis in bookkeeping classes at a night school. Eilis meets and soon falls in love with Tony Fiorello (Cohen), a plumber from an Italian family. When Eilis returns to Ireland after a family emergency, she begins spending time with eligible bachelor Jim Farrell (Gleeson), a mutual acquaintance of Eilis’ best friend Nancy (Eileen O’Higgins). The small Enniscorthy community, unaware that Eilis is already in a relationship with an American boy, expects her and Jim to end up together. Eilis begins to re-evaluate the future she has planned, feeling the pull of home and of the promise of a bright future in Brooklyn.

            Brooklyn is based on the novel of the same name by Irish author Colm Tóibín, adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby. This is not a particularly grand story, but the intimacy and honesty of the tale draws one in. Director John Crowley has crafted a drama that is earnest and wonderfully devoid of cynicism. It’s a throwback to a bygone era without being self-conscious and it captures the period in eminently relatable fashion. While Eilis is meant to represent any number of young Irish girls stepping across the pond to forge new lives in America, the story doesn’t sacrifice the character’s individuality in the process. Its portrayal of the immigrant experience is quietly stirring and thoughtful rather than overtly political. Tonally, Brooklyn hits all the right marks to make a maximum impact: there’s a pervading melancholy that achingly conveys what it feels like to be homesick, but the film never becomes dreary and Hornby’s script contains well-placed moments of wit and humour.

            Ronan reminds us yet again why she’s among the finest performers of her generation, Brooklyn capitalising on her talents in the best way possible – she gets to use her delightful natural Irish brogue, for one. The blend of impish charm, raw vulnerability and emotional depth that Ronan brings to the role of Eilis is ever so appealing. The audience is in her corner from minute one and it is satisfying to see the initially tremulous Eilis’ confidence gradually increase as she becomes accustomed to her new life in Brooklyn. As an Irish-American herself, Ronan says she identifies strongly with Eilis’ journey. With this role, Ronan has become the second-youngest actress to be nominated for two Oscars. One hopes that many more projects like Brooklynfind their way to her.

The film’s portrayal of young love is clear-eyed and just sentimental enough, Cohen endearingly awkward and just sweet as can be as Eilis’ suitor Tony. The “aww shucks” factor he brings to the part comes off as genuine and wistfully romantic without straying into sappiness. We’re cheering for Eilis and Tony to stay together, so Gleeson has an uphill battle in making Jim seem like anything more than a nuisance. His measured dignity ensures there is an actual conflict as to who Eilis ends up with. Walters and Broadbent are perfectly cast as the stern, traditional landlady and the kindly priest respectively. Eilis’ housemates are sometimes catty, but the girls do form a certain camaraderie. A scene in which two of them teach Eilis how to twirl spaghetti without making a mess, in preparation for Eilis’ visit to Tony’s house for dinner, is amusing and heartfelt.

            Brooklyn is comprised of several conventional narrative elements, but it ends up being far more than the sum of its parts. This is a relatively simple story that is absolutely captivating, a romance that is sweet but not cloying, a drama that is heart-rending yet not manipulative. The specificities of the setting and the care taken in realising the 50s Brooklyn and Enniscorthy locales imbue the movie with texture and authenticity. It’s old-fashioned but steers clear of stifling stodginess and is resonant even if one doesn’t have a personal connection to the specific culture and period depicted. Lyrical, engaging and sincere, Brooklyn is a work of disarming beauty.

Summary:Personal and richly humane, Brooklyn is a small tale gracefully told, carried by a glowing, transcendent performance from Saoirse Ronan.

RATING: 4.5out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong 

Big Game

For F*** Magazine

BIG GAME

Director : Jalmari Helander
Cast : Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Felicity Huffman, Victor Garber, Jim Broadbent, Ted Levine, Ray Stevenson, Mehmet Kurtulus
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 91 mins
Opens : 7 May 2015
Rating : PG13 – Some Violence & Brief Coarse Language

You know what they say: “go big or go home”. In this Finnish action adventure film, 13-year-old Oskari (Tommila) feels the pressure of having to “go big”, seeing as his father Tapio (Jorma Tommila) is the best hunter in the village. While on a coming-of-age hunting mission, Oskari comes across an unexpected quarry: President of the United States William Moore (Jackson). It turns out that Air Force One has been shot down over the Finnish forest and the President’s escape pod has landed in Oskari’s neck of the woods. The President is being pursued by traitorous Secret Service agent Morris (Stevenson), who has partnered up with wealthy psychopath Hazar (Kurtulus) to hunt him down. President Moore must rely on Oskari for guidance and protection in the wilderness, while the Vice President (Garber), CIA Director (Huffman) and counter-terror consultant Herbert (Broadbent) figure out how to deal with the situation back at the Pentagon.


            Big Game is written and directed by Finnish filmmaker Jalmari Helander, famous for his Christmas horror-comedy flick Rare Exports. This feels every bit like it was made by a foreigner who grew up loving Hollywood action flicks and this element infuses Big Game with an irresistible charm. It homages 80s action movies and has an authentic “boy’s own adventure” vibe to it. This reviewer has a soft spot for adventure flicks in which kids are the heroes, films like E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial, The Goonies, Monster Squad and more recently Super 8. Big Game takes that and mashes it up with Die Hard or Air Force One and the end result is thoroughly grin-inducing.

            With its €8.5 million budget, Big Game is the most expensive Finnish film ever made and it certainly looks it. There is an overabundance of sweeping establishing shots of the Alps, standing in for the Finnish Lapland, and the big visual effects sequences, mostly furnished by Scanline VFX, are very well done. The CGI exterior shots of Air Force One look as good as in any major blockbuster and it’s clear that Helander intends for this movie to be his calling card when he inevitably breaks into Hollywood. While the film has its tongue very firmly planted in its cheek and is peppered with really funny moments, it doesn’t feel like obnoxious self-parody and its acknowledgement of action movie tropes is earnest and affectionate.



            Samuel L. Jackson may have top billing, but it’s Onni Tommila who is the true star of the show. He makes full use of the incredible opportunity to play opposite a prolific Hollywood actor and is excellent as the underdog hunter kid Oskari. Tommila’s real-life father Jorma plays his dad here; Helander previously directed the father-son pair in Rare Exports. There is a great little scene in which Oskari imagines killing and cutting the heart out of a bear. It’s a goofy moment that’s played so wonderfully by Tommila and that very effectively conveys to the audience what this character’s hopes and dreams are. It’s also telling that instead of leaping into an opening action scene, Helander spends a fair bit of time setting up the coming-of-age hunting mission and the relationship between Oskari, his father and the other villagers, as well as the significance of this hunt and what it would mean for the boy if he were to fail.

            Samuel L. Jackson seems to be in pretty much everything and it is a bit of a wonder that he hasn’t played the President of the United States until now. He does have fun with the role and doesn’t phone it in, and it is really amusing to see the guy famous for his portrayal of assorted badasses play a rather wimpy character who has to depend on a kid to get him through a survival situation. He shares good chemistry with Tommila and the scenes in which this odd couple gets to bond are genuinely sweet.

The scenes set in the Pentagon with Victor Garber, Felicity Huffman and Jim Broadbent huddled in the world’s tiniest situation room do have a slight silliness to them but that actors of this calibre are playing supporting roles in a silly action movie is something of a casting coup. There’s the added bonus of them not having to embarrass themselves as “serious actors” have in movies like the Transformers series. As the villains of the piece, Ray Stevenson and Mehmet Kurtulus chomp away at the scenery and bring enough of that crucial “love to hate factor” that the most memorable genre villains have. There’s also the added novelty of seeing Volstagg/The Punisher go after Nick Fury.

             Big Game has its plot holes and contrivances, but the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously while brimming with heart and delivering the goods in the action and comedy departments does make us more than willing to cut it some slack. There is a major plot twist late in the movie that rather frustratingly does not get followed up on, but the rest of the film is satisfying enough to make up for it and we would be all for a sequel.


Summary: With its entertaining homages to old-school action flicks, a terrific lead performance by child actor Onni Tommila and an earnestness evident throughout, Big Game is big on action, big on adventure and big on humour.
RATING: 4out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong