The Kitchen (2019)

I was quite excited by this, it seemed like an interesting an fresh story (albeit one based on a comic book series so not entirely original) starring Melissa McCarthy in a not “I’m fat and swear a lot, this is comedy” role. It seemed like an interesting idea. So I was kind of disappointed with the final product. The whole thing seems like a bunch of wasted opportunities. It does have to be said how good the central performances are though; McCarthy is great in it, as is Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss, my favourite performance though is Domhnall Gleeson, who is quietly building up a REALLY solid filmography in terms of performance; Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Star Wars etc. His performance in this is kind of terrifying in a great way, he seems like a cold-blooded killer. The cast does lead me to one of the big issues with this film; there are too many bland characters. There are people who you are supposed to recognise so you can be like “Wow, I can’t believe their relative did that”, but you don’t recognise them so it just seems like someone did something and you don’t get the importance of it until it’s revealed by dialogue later on. I think part of this is because it builds up characters as important threats, and then just kills them without fanfare. This means all that time spent developing that character feels kind of wasted. The twist near the end also doesn’t seem to land. I think the reason for that is because it’s supposed to be a big deal, but happens so close to the end that the ramifications of it never hit home, especially since about 4 minutes after the “big betrayal” there’s a “we need to put aside our differences and work together” scene which ends the film. So really it had no impact on the plot at all. I’m interested to read the comic this is based on, just to see if it makes the same mistakes.

I guess my big problem is I found it hard to give a shit about it. Especially once Elisabeth Moss’s character died, I found myself not really rooting for the main characters. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t rooting against them, I just wasn’t rooting for them; I flat out didn’t care about them. This review is shorter than normal, usually when I don’t like a film I can find a lot to talk about, I’ll use the issues I have with the film to kickstart a rant about something, I can’t work up the energy to do that with this. It’s left almost no impact on me at all. To the point where in a few years I’ll see a trailer for this this somewhere, and completely forget I’ve already watched it.

Still, Margo Martindale is awesome in it.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

No, Melissa McCarthy, we can’t forgive you for Tammy, or The Boss, or Happytime Murders, or, damn McCarthy, you’ve been in a LOT of bad films. I mean, also been in St. Vincent, and that film was fantastic. I do like McCarthy, but I don’t trust her. Like I will never go and see a film because she’s in it. She can be really good but occasionally falls into scripts which just seem incredibly lazy and one joke (that joke being: woman swears and is violent, HAH!”. Thankfully this is one of her good ones. Full of emotion, warmth, and great characters. This film has had so many awards thrown at it that it begins to feel like an assault. But it earns every single one. Not just McCarthy’s performance, but Richard E. Grant finally seems to be getting the mainstream attention he deserves with a beautifully broken performance. I really hope this leads to him becoming a household name. I mean, he is a known name among people who like films, but I don’t feel he’s yet at the “recognised by people who watch one or two films a year”, and he should be, he’s immensely talented (also, how great a horror movie villain would he make?).

The script is also brilliant. It’s about a woman knowingly making forgeries of letters by famous people. That doesn’t exactly sound fascinating, does it? It sounds boring as hell. It also sounds like it will be hard to make the main character likeable. This manages it though (but I think McCarthy’s performance is part of what makes the character likeable too), the story is incredibly riveting, but it does make one misstep. It’s not a problem with the film, but with the marketing, or maybe even the story itself. The trailer showed us how she got found out and investigated for fraud. This doesn’t happen until into the closing section, so it’s odd to watch a film about a plan and KNOW it doesn’t work. I mean, it is kind of fascinating in a way to watch with the knowledge that it all goes to shit, but it does take away from the drama somewhat.

I did like this film a lot, didn’t love it for some reason. Think it might have been because of the aforementioned lack of narrative surprise. It might have just been that the story itself felt inconsequential. I mean, it was incredibly charming and delightful to watch, and if it’s on BBC over Christmas I’ll give it a watch, but I don’t need to buy it. It deserved the plaudits though, without a shadow of a doubt. I must check out the book some time.

Secret Life Of Pets/The Boss

Two very different films, but both suffer from from the same flaw: the background characters are the best ones in the entire film. Not the only problems however.

Secret Life Of Pets

I have two problems with this film:

  1. As I alluded to earlier; the main characters are the least interesting ones, which, considering one of them is played by Louis CK is kind of unexpected. It’s not just the characters, the main plot is not that interesting either. The entire main plot is shown in the trailer, nothing new or exciting. There is, however, a fantastic B-story that shows up; the idea that animals that were once pets were thrown away and are now bitter and angry and ready to get their revenge. THAT’S a film, that’s the kind of thing that Pixar or Disney would do. On the subject of Disney there’s already been a lot of controversy about Finding Dory. People are saying that it could lead to an increase of people having exotic fish as pets and then discarding them when they get bored (like they did with owls after Harry Potter And The Quantum Of Solace or whatever it was called). The idea of an animal-led film that has discourages people from getting pets just because they saw them in films? Not only would that be good but it would also be a subtle attack to Disney and Pixar, a “This is why we have a problem with you, you’re irresponsible, not like us, we’re truly wholesome and safe for children to watch with their families”.
  2. The realism. I know, it’s an animated film aimed at kids so I shouldn’t expect 100% realism. But at the very least I should expect it to stay consistent within the world it’s created. The world within the film is supposed to be our world. This is decided very early on when a human character hear’s one of the main characters “talking” and it’s just barking. Yet there’s lots of moments in here which break that realism, moments such as a rabbit and a dog driving a bus off a bridge. Pixar usually does this kind of thing very well. Look at Finding Nemo etc, it takes place in our world, and we do see humans, but the interactions between the humans and the main characters is minimal, and the main characters, although living in a human world, don’t effect that world that much. This film has way too many instances where the animals have a major influence on the human world, there’s the aforementioned bus crash, there’s a break in at a sausage factory, a rabbit beating up a dog catcher etc.

But other than those two problems how was it? It was thoroughly ok. The closing shot was beautiful. It’s one of the great things about animation is that you can occasionally get absolutely gorgeous visuals, but apart from the closing shot it never really does that. In fact it doesn’t look great throughout, the animals just look ok, and the humans in it look like they’re made of twigs. The story is serviceable and does what it needs to, but I don’t feel I need to see it again. It’s biggest flaw isn’t the fault of the film, it’s just circumstance. A lot of times studios release films which (judging by poster alone) look very similar. Has happened a lot before: Antz/A Bugs Life, Finding Nemo/Sharks Tale etc. This films competitor? Zootopia. For this film to come anywhere close to that would be difficult. Zootopia (so far) is probably in my top five films of the year. This? Well be at the bottom of the top half so far. But considering Kubo isn’t out yet, this can easily be pushed down. Although this film did have a subtle Mario green shell reference, which is kind of cool.

The Boss

Nope. Just no. Here’s my massive problem with this film: you have a character get arrested, then when they’re released they go to a Girl Scouts meeting and decides to set up a new business luring Girl Scouts from their group into a new group helping her in a business with communist workers overtones (their logo is a red badge with a picture of a girl raising her fist in the air and wearing a hat). When one of the mothers at the group objects to this, she calls her a cunt, then insults her daughter, whom she later knocks out. The daughter’s age? Between 11-15. So, the “hero” of this story bullies and beats up a school girl just because she doesn’t like her mum. Comedy!

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Actually this film, tonally is kind of weird and all over the place. It attempts to get cheap laughs and sacrifices story to do that, destroying all story momentum for the sake of a joke. For example: there’s a scene where she goes to her old business associates, and they all tell her they hate her and want nothing to do with her. It’s the kind of scene that’s like a large roast dinner, it’s a lot to take in and you need to give it time to settle. Instead, just after the scene takes place the film makes her fall down a flight of stairs, thereby pouring custard on the emotional roast dinner of the previous scene. It’s like the film was written by different writers who never contacted each other to check if their bits lined up. You have important characters turn up for one or two scenes and then are never mentioned again.

It’s a shame as I really want to like Melissa McCarthy; she was great in Bridesmaids, and Spy was excellent. I just feel she has a habit of picking bad films, films where she is only asked to do her usual shtick and doesn’t allow her to stretch herself (otherwise known as Jim Carey syndrome). Which is a shame as when she’s good she’s amazing, check out the aforementioned Spy for evidence of that, and St. Vincent, where she manages to be one of the best characters in a film which contains Chris O’Dowd and Bill Murray (or to give him his full title: Bill Fucking Murray). She can do better than this, and her continual choosing of below-par films just provides ammunition to her increasing number of detractors. Luckily the next film she has lined up is Ghostbusters, I’m sure that is under no pressure.

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I also saw Independence Day; a film which (ironically) seemed like it was written by aliens, completely devoid of human emotion and everything seemed slightly fake and contrived.