And then the rain and cool winds blew in and changed the whole spectrum of my supposed early summer. Well, that said, it is still spring until the end of next month according to the calendar, but the summer movie season continues its march forward and so will I.
Pitch Perfect came in with such an unexpected thunder three summers ago that it only made sense that a part two would be in order. The fact that actress Elizabeth Banks stood up to helm the directorship of this sequel certainly bodes well for her future in the biz. Now, despite the recent Rebel Wilson age drama (Is she 29? Is she 36? Does anyone give a damn, really? Homegirl is cute and damn funny, punt!), is the sequel on point? Pitch Perfect 2 is a simple riot and yet something feels forced, often racist, and yes sexism runs rampant throughout the film. It is funny…again punt! Katey Sagal even joins that cast, and she still looks like Peg Bundy, it’s insane! The premise is simple. The Bellas, after a disastrous performance of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball, are discredited as a uni group and must perform a winning moment at an international a cappella competition that no US team has ever won at, the running joke being that everyone hates US-Americans…we know, believe me…we know. Simply put…this film is crass and a right laugh. ###-1/2
Oh Sean Penn…ever-looming once best actor of our generation, that never was and yet still is. He certainly has a type of woman, and Penn certainly has a type of role as well, which in The Gunman, he plays to stereotypical aplomb. His role is as special ops Jim Terrier (yes, like the dog) who, after an assassination assignment in Congo, must flee the country leaving behind the “woman he loves” and then the riveting film starts to quickly fall flat, following Terrier on the run throughout Europe, with significant parts of the film taking place right here in Barcelona. Enter Javier Bardem, and later Idris Elba, and we have the recipe for a taut thriller a la Liam Neeson films of late. However, instead we have a quasi-solid film with lazy storytelling and unengaged characters. Sad. ##
Shall I start this next critique in the same way as the former but speaking strictly of comedy? I shall not. Adam Sandler has never been a favourite, modern comedic actor for me. That role went instead to Jim Carrey and the late Robin Williams, may he rest in peace. But in the Nineties, with his SNL shtick and comedy routine, Adam Sandler really had some masses eating out of his hand. His latest film is called The Cobbler, and it marks an interesting (if slightly failed) attempt to break away from his usual rigmarole. He’s attempted this before with films like Spanglish and Punch-Drunk Love, roles which steer away from his usual angry or stoned comedy routine. In Cobbler, he plays Max Simkin, a Lower East Side shoe repairman who stumbles across a stitch machine once owned by his long-disappeared father. Then magic happens. It goes without saying that writers Thomas McCarthy (also director) and Paul Sado were directly inspired by Woody Allen, especially his fantastical side, like The Purple Rose of Cairo. This film is a wannabe love letter to not-too-long-ago NYC. While the film’s storyline revolves around this machine converting customer’s shoes into Simkin having the ability to then embody these clients (veerey far-fetched here!), it’s the other moments in the film that highlight a soft element to Sandler’s acting. This film has been the biggest box office disaster of Sandler’s career. It perhaps deserved a wee bit better reception. ###
Finally today, I finish with Black or White, the latest in Kevin Costner’s strong series of movies now that he is past a certain age. The film revolves around Costner and his adorable granddaughter Eloise (played by newbie Jillian Estell) after the death of his wife/her grandma. The child is the product of his now deceased daughter and her secret African American boyfriend, who turned out to be a deadbeat. Naturally, there are two sides of the family, and the plot focuses on the necessity of family being there for Eloise, but in a very dichotomous way because race, being black or being white, plays a large part in uncovering the layers of what is best for little Eloise. This film plays to its strengths (solid acting by everyone involved, especially Costner and the always great Octavia Spencer), but while it offers more food for thought than the average family drama of similar themes, something feels flat. Still, this is a film for people who love a laugh served with some pensive moments. ###