Pitch Perfect 3 (2017) Film Review

First, this college acapella group were competing in the national competition. Next, they entered an international competition. So, now what? Unsurprisingly, the singing part of their college career has not left them with many skills for the real world (though didn’t they do degrees and stuff as well? That seems unimportant in the Pitch Perfect world). So, they get together and go to entertain the troops, but end up competing with a rock band, a maybe hipster/country group and a DJ and MC for… well, it seems for the opportunity to do exactly the same thing they’ve been doing the whole time?

Look, you shouldn’t watch this film for logical storylines, or real life, or any kind of actual plausibility. But if you like silliness and fun and singing and self-aware dialogue, you should definitely watch this. I loved it to bits because it is totally ridiculous and silly. I loved Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) as an action hero, trying to connect to her criminal father, Fergus (John Lithgow with the most terrible and strange accent ever). I loved the interactions between Gail (Elizabeth Banks) and John (John Michael Higgins) despite there being no logical reason for them to be there at all. I loved seeing Ruby Rose rocking it as a kick-arse rock chick, but then joining in on the singing.

Orange County (2002) Film Review

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Shaun (Colin Hanks) is a kid who has grown up in surf heaven Orange County. His parents are divorced and his ultra rich father, Bud (John Lithgow) lives with a young gold digger and their nightmare child. The mother has remarried and her husband is in a wheelchair and out of his mind. Then there is the brother, Lance (Jack Black), who is constantly high or recovering from partying. Shaun decides he wants to go to college and become a writer, and feels like everything in his life, his surfer buddies, his family, his incompetent school (with the wonderful Chevy Chase and Lily Tomlin), everything. Oh, no, his girlfriend Ashley (Schuyler Fisk) is on his side.

This is one of those films that I remember coming out and thinking it was a bit of a Porky’s or one of those other ridiculous stupid teen films. So, the other day I felt like watching a ridiculous stupid teen film and got this. And guess what? It’s not. But it’s not really good either. It’s really boring, quite predictable, and things just don’t quite gel. It’s like they have Shaun and Ashley as believable, normal characters and everyone else in the film is a parody, and it just doesn’t work. At all.

 

The World According to Garp (1982) Film Review

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Based on a novel by John Irving, the film follows the story of TS Garp (played, as an adult, by Robin Williams), a writer with an unusual beginning. He was conceived when his mother, Jenny Fields (Glenn Close), has sex with a dying soldier when she was a nurse in the war. As a child, she rarely panders him, and often embarrasses and dominates him. When he decides, as a young man, to head to New York to pursue a career as a writer, she follows, writes her story and inadvertently becomes a hero to the feminist cause, often overshadowing and partially defining his life.

I read this book many years ago and found it compelling, and remember thinking that the film captured the themes of the book – identity, the place of women in 1970s American culture, when it is to be a man – really well. Funny that, because watching it this time made me wonder why they hated women so much. By ‘they’, I mean many of the male characters in the film, the filmmakers, and even John Irving. Things that can be forgiven of a man have horrifying results for the women, and the women in the film are so extremely aggressively hateful of the men as well. While the individual main characters seem to truly care for each other, everyone else is a caricature, from the hooker with a heart of gold, to the militant feminists disfiguring themselves in a misguided way of supporting a rape victim, even to the horny male student insisting on forcing a sexual act from his lover.

Perhaps it is just that there is far too much story for one film, and in trying to cram it all in, too much of the important detail and nuance is lost. Or perhaps John Irving really did have that much hate.

The World According to Garp was nominated for Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (John Lithgow) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Glenn Close)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) Film Review

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Will (James Franco) has been trialling a new drug to combat the effects of Alzheimer’s, testing it on gorillas. His boss, Steven (David Oyelowo) is concerned with making money, but when one of the treated animals appears to go crazy and get quite violent, Steven pulls the plug. There is a little baby, Caesar (who later is played by Andy Serkis with a whole bunch of special effects), who Will takes home to his father, Charles (John Lithgow), who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and Caesar is very smart, having had the effects of the drug pass down from his mother. When his renegade use of the drug on his father stops working, Will develops another without realising the danger of it. Meanwhile, Caesar has gone all protective on the evil neighbour who was hassling Charles and ended up in an unpleasant facility run by John (Brian Cox) and Dodge (Tom Felton). Caesar has come to understand that he is not human, and he gathers an army to find his home.

Phew. It’s a big plot, really, and I haven’t even covered it all. There are some truly shocking lines in the story (I think my favourite was “You know everything about the brain except how it works”) and parts are pretty cheesy. But overall, I really enjoyed it, I enjoyed the way the characters interacted and it has set itself up for the sequel, the recently released Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was nominated for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Special Effects.

Shrek (2001) Film Review

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Shrek (Mike Meyers) is an ogre who lives in a swamp and is blissfully happy on his own. Then a whole heap of fairy tale characters turn up in his swamp, dumped there by the evil Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow). To get his swamp back, he must rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and take her to marry Lord Farquaad. Shrek takes his new companion, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and it turns into a marvelous adventure.

It’s such a great film. Funny, silly, loads of cultural references that have not grown old. And really, how many kids’ movies can get away with a lead character with an extremely rude sounding name, popular kids fairy tale characters being tortured and a bird exploding? What ace times.

Shrek won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature and was nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published.

3rd Rock From The Sun – TV Review

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Four aliens come to earth in earth bodies to study people. They are a family; Commander Dick Solomon (John Lithgow) is the father to Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the teenage son, who is also the research officer and the oldest alien on the mission. His aunt, the stunning, gorgeous Sally (Kristen Johnston), is the head of security and then there is Harry (French Stewart), who is essentially the radio. They answer to The Big Giant Head, an entity back on the home planet (played for a few episodes in one of the later series by William Shatner). Over the course of six seasons, Dick falls in and out of love with Mary (Jane Curtain) a professor of anthropology at the second-rate university where he lectures in physics. Sally falls in love with Don (Wayne Knight), a pudgy, cowardly cop.

Lots of stuff happens over the seasons, there are fabulous guest stars (including John Cleese, Laurie Metcalf and Christine Baranski) and the characters develop and change beautifully.

I’ve watched this series many, many times. There is fabulous slapstick and brilliantly over-the-top performances throughout. It’s been wonderful to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt go on to a stunning film career; watching him as a teenager holding his own with this awesome cast shows what a strong performer he is. John Lithgow continues to appear and delight me in many things, from 30 Rock to Dexter.

The Campaign (2012) Film Review

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Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) has held a position as congressman in North Carolina for years, and is again running unopposed. But he continues to make major political gaffes, and uses spin to get around it. The Motch brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Akroyd), who are the faceless men behind politics, need to get someone more respectable in office to ensure their illegal Chinese labor plans get through congress. They find the most unlikely candidate, Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), an eccentric director of a small town tourist centre.

There’s a lot to love in this film. Seeing Will Ferrell punch a baby was definitely a highlight – horrifically detailed slow-motion CGI that is oh-so-wrong, but just worked. Plus, whilst Galifianakis plays an eccentric, the portrayal doesn’t seem to have that cruel edge that a lot of comedy has had over the last few years.

Whilst I enjoyed the film, I felt it didn’t stay strong for the full 85 minutes. The story just seemed to drop off by the end. Good for a laugh, sure, and a lot funnier than I had expected, but not totally grouse.