Film Reviews

Film Review: Last Vegas

It’s hard to believe that there will soon be a generation of moviegoers who will not see the likes of Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and to some extent, Kevin Kline, as anything but “the old guys in a movie”. While these four may be at the tail end’s of their much lauded careers, their ability to find roles that while be diminished in terms of their scope, still give them enough room to show audiences that they were indeed the best of their time.

Last Vegas, a Jon Turteltaub (known best for 90s fair Cool Runnings, While You Were Sleeping) flick, can easily be labeled or dismissed as a senior citizens version of The Hangover. To some extent, it’s true, the story surrounds Michael Douglas’ everyoung ladies man Billy Ghershon who is finally getting married in his 60s (to someone half his age). His best friends are corralled together for one last hurrah in Vegas. Seems straight forward, yet what Turteltaub and the writers have done is given the film an added texture of personality and humility. It means that while Last Vegas is less brazen than The Hangover, it certainly isn’t anywhere near as provoking or memorable, however, it doesn’t mean it’s not without merit. Quite the opposite in fact. While The Hangover left behind no aspect of shame, Last Vegas‘ message is actually more about rebuilding and solidifying friendships broken by mistrust and miscommunication. Through an opening set in the 50s of Brooklyn, the heart of the film is born; four best friends will spend a lifetime sorting through the ups and downs of life.

When we are reconnected with them 58 years later, there is a rift between Billy Gershon and De Niro’s character Paddy Conners. Much of the friction comes between these two and both play it off really well. They’re like a more sophisticated rendition of Grumpy Old Men, set to the backdrop of the glitz and glam of Las Vegas. Through it all, we get lot of old jokes, lost in a generational gap jokes, and some old fashion “get off my lawn” jokes. Romance, age and time play a big part in the plot’s progression after we’re introduced to the still radiant Mary Steenburgen. And while there are elements that can be described as The Hangover type debauchery, it is far more toned down. In fact, much of the humour comes from the juxtaposition of old (people) and the young (Vegas, in spirit).

Yes, it’s funny, and all four actors play a substantial part in the appeal of Last Vegas. As the conclusion nears, we see that the point of the film isn’t about flying to Vegas to have one last debaucherous weekend reliving one’s youth, but rather rediscovering and perhaps, finally realising what really is important in life. Something that gives the film a true warmth. Fans of Grumpy Old Men will certainly find a kind hearted soul underneath a rough, agitated and cantankerous exterior they enjoyed from Jack Lemmon and Walther Matthau. But perhaps, for a generation of viewers who have no idea who Lemmon and Matthau are, they’ve got De Niro and Douglas. Not bad really.

[rating=3]

 

Last Vegas opens in Australian cinemas February 6th.

 

LAST VEGAS
Directed by: John Turteltaub
Written by: Dan Fogelman
Cast: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen
Released by: CBS Films
Running time: 105 minutes

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Television

Last Comedy Standing

Three seasons in and Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing is still one of the funniest comedies on television. You read that right. A Tim Allen comedy about a father whose jokes come at the expense of his wife, socialists, hippies, Democrats, racial stereotypes, progressive family structures and big government is one of the funniest shows you’ll watch on TV. Not to mention one of its most rebellious. It’s traditional in every sense of the word; it still boasts a laugh track, the seemingly long lost “this show was filmed in front a live studio audience” intro and of course, many cranky old and traditional values and beliefs.

So why does this make it funny? Because the show isn’t afraid to be unpopular in its ways, and it has no qualms about being tuned in to the seemingly unhip demographic of Middle America; the constant butt of redneck Bible Belt jokes. The show runs against the grain of 2014’s vast landscape of politically correct, progressive and undeniably modern brand of comedy and for it, Last Man Standing should be given some credit for being the lone survivor amongst TV’s PC police. Through its history, the genre has been both a barometer of safe and wildly revolutionary and as time moves on, comedies are seeing a progression in the characters they portray and the stories they tell. Ellen was a landmark moment for Gay and Lesbian acceptance on mainstream television (at least one of its starting points) while shows like The Cosby Show and The Jeffersons broke down stereotypical racial barriers. The success of shows like Modern Family proves that audiences were ready to progress alongside and as the audiences continued to embrace real life characters in 20-30 minute sitcoms, we’re able to see that television is better for it.

What about the show that rebels against these principles but does it without the sneer of hate or discrimination?

Duck Dynasty on Last Man Standing? Of course.

Duck Dynasty on Last Man Standing? Of course.

As political correctness and progressive ideology become the norm for success on television, Last Man Standing has somewhat quietly stood back from the forward pack and have cut themselves a piece of traditional amongst the vastly left-wing agenda of modern comedy (in this brief interview, Tim Allen speaks about the show “pushing buttons”). Is left-wing comedy unfunny? No, of course not, but there are times when Last Man Standing seems to be the only comedy on TV unafraid to make a joke firmly at the crossroads of Barry Goldwater and Hillary Clinton (in a recent episode Tim Allen’s character Mike Baxter responds to his wife’s quip that “Hilary Clinton used to be a Goldwater girl in 1964”, with “so, Satan used to work for God, what’s your point?”). Their continued mocking of big government, communism and free handouts side by side with light misogyny, sexism and stereotypes certainly is not progressive, but in the show’s writers seem to do so with a big tongue-in-cheek.

In a way, Tim Allen’s character is a self-parodying anecdote of traditional versus progression. He’s your average, successful American entrepreneur who believes in working hard for yourself and your family. He loves football, guns, fishing and hates free handouts. Yet, he’s surrounded in his home by the four women in his family who are a mix of left wing to right, from deep to shallow. Much of his chagrin comes from this- not in a negative way- in a contrasting one. The once popular traditionalism of his kind has become the minority in the new America and while he’s not struggling with it, he won’t back down from a good jibe.

It’s rebellious yet harmless, old school but relevant. And who is to say that one can’t enjoy the comedic touch of popularly acclaimed shows like Parks and Recreation or Community, but at the same time enjoy some good old fashioned laughs in Last Man Standing?

Progressive comedy can be draining, and with CBS often relying too much on hyper sexualized fare, it’s great that there’s a comedy that is self-aware of its place in society today. Last Man Standing is proof that funny works both ways.

(It’s also always funny to make fun of hippies and socialists)

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Trailers

Trailer watch: Make Money (Indonesian film)

Making films outside of the industry’s well known markets can often bring a new set of challenges to the fold. Director Sean Monteiro, who spent much of his childhood in Indonesia, has been working to bring his first feature film to fruition since 2009. Having spent years in Australia making smaller productions, Make Money, his first feature filmed and produced in Indonesia.

We had a chat with Monteiro about his upcoming feature, and we’ll be posting that interview closer to the release date. Until then, we’re sharing with you first the trailer for the film. We’ll get into the nitty gritty of the behind-the-scenes with him in the interview but from the trailer the film looks to be the work a seasoned vet than a relative newcomer to the field.

Taking the idea from the Eddie Murphy-starring Trading Places, Make Money is about a poor man who is thrust into the rich lifestyle when a beleaguered wealthy man leaves his inheritance to the poor man instead of his two sons.

The Indonesian comedy will open in Indonesian cinemas November 14th but hopes to find international footing over the months ahead.

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Film, Film Reviews

Film Review: We’re The Millers

If you’ve ever had to misfortune of seeing the 2006 Robin Williams comedy RV, you’d probably be hard pressed to sit down and watch We’re The Millers. On the surface, they’re near identical movies- a man trying to sort through the dysfunctional lives of his family members as they take a trip in a motor home. The difference being, that while RV was traditional, straight laced family humour, We’re The Millers is traditional, gross out toilet comedy akin to what has become the norm thanks to The Hangover and their kind.

Instead of a real family trying to sort out their difference, We’re The Millers sees Jason Sudeikis as low level drug dealer David Clark, stuck with no option but to be a drug mule for corporate douchebag (and hilarious orca owner) Brad Gurdlinger (played by Ed Helms). Concocting the ham fisted plan of putting together a fake family to transport the drugs in an RV as to not raise border patrol suspicions, he creates The Millers. His fake family includes a stripper (the phenomenally in-shape Jennifer Aniston), a runaway (Emma Roberts), and a goofy virgin (a really funny Will Poulter). When the Millers realize the amount of weed they are transporting across the border far exceed their expectation (“a smidge and a half” as Gurdlinger puts it), they are thrust into gag after gag of some pretty hilarious stuff.

The film’s crass approach and adult humour works well because the story is incredible simple. What RV lacked was any sort of edge, and with Sudeikis and Helms well versed in the kind of profanity-laced comedy, much of We’re The Millers comes across as contemporarily enjoyable. Much of the added laughs come from the great supporting turns by Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn (playing fellow RVers the Millers encounter on their adventures), who add their brightly coloured palette of humour to the mix.

Through all the crude jokes, there is a touch of heart to the film, and as expected, the Millers are taught some valuable family lessons as the film concludes. It never quite reaches the offensive enlightenment we get with the original Hangover, and a lot of it is very conventional, but it doesn’t mean however, that the film isn’t enjoyable. The cast is extremely likeable and while much of it isn’t too surprising, there actually is more to the film than a sexy, underwear-clad Jennifer Aniston stripping underneath a literal shower of sparks. That part is nice however.

We’re The Millers is in cinemas nationwide.

[rating=3]

 

WE’RE THE MILLERS
Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Written by: Bob Fisher, Steve Faber
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, Ed Helms, Will Poulter
Released by: Warner Bros.
Website: werethemillers.warnerbros.com

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The joys and perils of being lost in your late 20s and early 30s, the familiar obstacle for many and the premise for the new Kristen Bell-starring The Lifeguard.

Bell plays Leigh London, a New York reporter who leaves her big city life to move back to her family’s Connecticut home in an attempt to reconnect with herself, her past and her future. Co-starring Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks, Party Down), the film is directed by Liz W. Garcia (who also wrote the film) and is currently available as a VOD title. The Lifeguard will see cinema release August 30th.

You can watch the trailer above and a short clip from the movie below.

Clip:

Having conquered the art of the screenplay, Juno-writer Diablo Cody steps behind the camera for the first time with her directorial debut feature Paradise.

Starring Julianne Hough (Dancing with the Stars, Burlesque), Holly Hunter, Octavia Spencer and Russell Brand, the film tells the tale of a young woman who lets go of her conservative upbringing after surviving a plane crash. Set in Vegas, the once tightly wound woman is set free to the backdrop of attempted alcohol consumption, “extravagant” tattoo art, and the desire to set free her spirit alongside a Vegas bartender (Brand) and a showgirl (Spencer).

The film is set for release later this year.

Just me or does Russell Brand come across as far less annoying than all of his previous roles? May actually be able to sit through an entire Russell Brand film.

Film, Trailers

Trailer watch: Drinking Buddies

Beer. Liquid courage, the elixir of life, and the catalyst for many a great and catastrophic relationship. Drinking Buddies is a new comedy starring Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Ron Livingston, and Anna Kendrick that tells the story of two intertwined couples as they go through the ups and downs, ins and outs, of being couples. Beer, being among the common threads between them.

Where does the line between friends and more cross? Watch the trailer to find out more.

Directed by Joe Swanberg (Uncle Kent), the film premiered at this year’s South By Southwest Festival and will see limited release in the United States this August.

 

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