Why Him? (2016)

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Her spine meets the arch of her tailbone and I want to pitch a tent and live in there. Tech millionaire Laird Mayhew (James Franco) introduces himself to the print-business owner father Ned (Bryan Cranston) of his Stanford student girlfriend Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) by flashing him over Skype on the older man’s 55th birthday. Invited to celebrate Christmas in California Stephanie takes her family to her boyfriend’s modernist mansion where the tattooed ignoramous bro hugs everyone, says everything that is inappropriate (likes Mom Megan Mullally rather overtly, charms little brother Griffin Gluck) and introduces Ned to a newly constructed bowling alley decorated with his image. He is just too much. And as for his assistant Gustav (Keegan-Michael Key) who does a Cato/Clouseau act with Laird which neither recognises when Ned understands the obvious reference… But when Laird asks Ned for his blessing in marriage to Stephanie he oversteps horrifically and it doesn’t end there … From a story by Jonah Hill, this was co-written by Ian Helfer and director John Hamburg and works both as (actual) lavatory humour (a huge plot point) and Silicon Valley satire (listen to what the poor intern says) while overtly reworking the story of Father of the Bride as it negotiates the problems a dad might have with a boor screwing his daughter on a table while he’s hiding underneath Get past the foul-mouthed quasi-autistic socially awkward techno savant fatherless antagonist and enjoy Cranston’s facial expressions which were made for just such a hellish but amusing meeting of bizarrely attuned minds in this generational bromance clash where it would appear both men are hiding problems with the state of their very different businesses. Mullally gets a chance to do what she does best too while you might recognise Zack Pearlman, Adam Devine and Andrew Rannells from The Intern which makes this rather meta. Definitely for fans of the band Kiss! (And Elon Musk…) A Christmas movie with a difference.

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Keeping Up With the Joneses (2016)

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Ten years, thirty countries, nobody finds us out and we don’t last a week in the suburbs! Desperate housewife Karen Gaffney (Isla Fisher) is bored out of her mind with her kids packed off to summer camp and her meek human resources guy husband Jeff (Zach Galafianakis) off to work at MBI Electronics every day. She spends her days designing a urinal. Then a gorgeous couple moves in across the street and suddenly life in the cul de sac takes on a whiff of international intrigue when she starts spying on them  … only to find that they are undercover agents. Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot are the Joneses and they insinuate themselves into the couple’s life apparently without realising they are being followed by them in turn. When the situation is reversed the average joes find themselves at the centre of a murderous espionage plot – with some treacherous neighbours implicated in industrial theft. Jeff’s people skills and Karen’s feminine intuition come in handy when push comes to shove and there’s an explosive finale involving a villain with self-esteem issues but overall the very good premise and a wonderful cast is laid waste by something – the writing? The pacing? Shame. It coulda been a contender! Written by Michael LeSieur and directed by Greg Mottola.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

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Nobody fucks with the Jesus. The Dude abides. Where to start with one of the most cherished films there has ever been? Not in the beginning. I may have almost had a coronary from laughing the first time I saw this at a festival screening prior to its release, but a lot of critics just did not get it. It’s the Coen Brothers in excelsis, a broad Chandler adaptation and tribute to Los Angeles,  a hymn to male friendship and the Tao of easy living with some extraordinarily surreal fantasy and dream sequences – not to mention some deadly bowling. Jeff Bridges is Jeffrey ‘Dude’ Lebowski, a guy so laid back he’s horizontal but he gets a little antsy when some thieves mistake him for The Big Lebowski and piss on his rug (it really tied the room together). Best friend Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) is his bowling buddy, an uptight Nam vet with adoptive-Jewish issues in this hilarious offside take on director John Milius. Steve Buscemi is their sweet-natured friend Donny and John Turturro is the unforgettable sports foe, a hispanic gangsta paedo in a hairnet, Jesus Quintana. After the rug issue is handled, Dude is hired by his namesake (David Huddleston) a wheelchair-bound multimillionaire philanthropist, to exchange a ransom when his young trophy wife Bunny (Tara Reid) is kidnapped. Naturally Dude screws it up. There’s a band of nihilists led by Peter Stormare, some porn producers (Bunny makes flesh flicks), Lebowski’s randy artist daughter (Julianne Moore) and a private eye following everyone. And there’s Sam Elliott, narrating this tale of tumbleweed and laziness.  Everyone has their signature song in one of the great movie soundtracks and Dude has not only Creedence but White Russians to really mellow his day. Just like The Big Sleep, the plot really doesn’t matter a fig. This is inspired lunacy and I love it SO much.

Central Intelligence (2016)

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Bob (Dwayne Johnson) is the fat kid bullied at high school and Calvin(Kevin Hart) is the kid who saves what’s left of his dignity in the gym by giving him his jacket:  years later gym bunny Bob Facebooks him on the eve of their reunion and insinuates his way into Calvin’s accounting firm and gets him to look up some numbers. They’re bids on US satellites.  A knock on the door by the CIA reveals Bob is a rogue agent selling satellite codes to terrorists – allegedly. A cat and mouse chase in Massachusetts ensues with Calvin unwillingly involved as a pawn. There are a lot of bright moments mostly concerning Bob’s winning personality – he’s obsessed with Molly Ringwald and unicorns.  The big joke is all that:  the difference in size between him and the diminutive Calvin as the predictable intra-agency high jinks ensue and a dangerous transaction ultimately sorts out the real baddies. There’s buckets of charm between a few ill-chosen jokes and predictable action sequences and it’s no surprise at all to see Jason Bateman turning up as the adult bully. There’s a sweet kicker though when we meet Bob’s high school crush. You’ll have to watch it to find out! Undemanding fun. Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber from a screenplay by Ike Barinholtz and David Stassen.

Bad Neighbours 2 (2016)

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Aka Neighbours 2:  Sorority Rising.  They’re back! Well, everyone’s gone and grown up. Sort of. Opening on a horribly vomitous sex scene, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne realise they’re having another baby. They’re trying to sell their house and it’s in escrow now which they do not understand even when the realtor tries to explain. All they know is their toddler daughter keeps playing with a pink dildo in front of people. Meanwhile, Zac Efron’s bestie Dave Franco is getting married. To a guy. So he has to move out of their place and has nowhere to go – except back to the old frat house, where some bolshie girls led by Chloe Grace Moretz want to set up an alt-sorority so they can party righteously. He mentors them until they dump him while he’s lecturing them (they do it on their phones). So he teams up with Seth and Rose to get rid of the girls in order that their house sale goes through. There ensues … total mayhem! Screamingly funny, flat out gross out, hilarious, physical, bad taste comedy. Five buckets of money, that’s all you need. For anything! Party on, rad dudettes! Written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien and director Nicholas Stoller.

T2 Trainspotting (2017)

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You’re a tourist in your own youth. That’s how I felt too, when I sat down in an empty cinema for this – a far cry from the wild reaction that I expressed and experienced when the Godhead of Nineties movies made its debut. Wow! What a rush that was! Twenty years ago. Which is the real shocker. And age is what this is all about – age and betrayal and memory (or nostalgia) and payback. Renton is back – after making away with all that dosh in London. Sickboy – call him Simon now – ain’t too happy and beats him up. He rescues tragic Spud from certain death. Franco’s just had himself stabbed in prison so he can escape and lure his teenage son away from hotel management and into a life of crime … Revenge? Yes, please. There’s tragedy, fun and kickbacks to spare in this blackly comic outing with portions of Porno mixed up with a narrative carved from the original novel and several flashbacks to the old action and new-old footage of the guys as kids. Edinburgh like the rest of the British Isles is now afloat in Eastern European whores, one of whom has her claws into Simon but whom Renton fancies. Then there’s a scheme to set up Simon’s pub as a rival brothel to a chain of ‘saunas’ which invites interest from the proprietor. And in between bizarre music videos – check out Your Dad’s Best Friend by Rubberbandits! – a hilarious excursion picking pockets at a Loyalist club and digressions on George Best at Hibs, the rhythm section of director Danny Boyle, writer John Hodge and the superb cast (with the obvious exception of Tommy) is reassembled with a sense of style and a closing of the book, as it were. Spud gets a great storyline and there’s a nod to his precursor when Irvine Welsh turns up as chief car booster. Stick to the day job, dude. And there’s a brilliant payoff with a toilet bowl. Whew, it’s okay then. All is right with the world. Choose this.

The Night Before (2015)

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Gordon-Levitt is an unfulfilled elf, Rogen is about to be a dad, Mackie is the footballer. Christmas Eve, bromance-style, with drugs, drugs and more drugs and Michael Shannon showing up as a droll Ghost of Christmas Past drug dealer teaching some lessons as the guys have one last blowout before it’s time to grow up. An unclassic seasonal film by Red Bull and Sony Xperia.

Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)

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Nobody was actually holding out much hope for this, were they?  And it’s been a long time since we first met Renee as Bridget, the second film notwithstanding (and that’s being nice…) But in a year that’s been staggeringly unimpressive movie-wise the chance to catch up with a woman who feels less like myself now and more like an old friend was, well, pretty enticing. Even if the whole bloody story is in the title. So no surprises. And that’s the point. (Except, and we don’t wish to burn our feminist britches, Bridget’s face looks distinctly different in this sequel from shot to shot depending on the lighting. Just saying. And she’s way thinner. How? We never find out!) She’s forty-three (a year’s been shaven off…), given up the cigs, single,  the hot producer on that news show with a terrific alpha presenter for a friend (Sarah Solemani, who’s v. good) determined to get Bridget shafted, as she euphemistically puts it. But it all kicks off with Bridget literally switching gears by changing the soundtrack to her life from All By Myself to Jump Around. And that’s what she does. After attending the funeral of Daniel Cleaver who’s gone missing. There are a lot of Russian models there. Obv. And Mark Darcy (Firth looks so much older…) with wife Camilla (because that’s now the universal name for the bitch who ruins life for the Queen of Hearts, innit.) Bridget has a funny one-nighter with American Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey) who turns out to be a billionaire mathematician with a winning formula for romance. Everyone’s grown up except Bridget so there are children and husbands and busy lives for all those lovely friends whom we see in short scenes and then … there are those couplings. When Darcy turns up solo at a christening …  well! It’s a country house, the beds are big… With a result that troubles mum Gemma Jones running for the parish council on a family values ticket. And a long game of Who’s the Daddy ensues. Rather tasteless. Just like Mamma Mia. Part of the story’s eternal problem is of course dry old Darcy – even Jane Austen made it clear that the finest thing about her hero was his huge house and his great fortune. Elizabeth Bennett had her on the prize and it wasn’t him, it was what he possessed. And it takes a lot to bring a smile to Fielding’s interpretation of him. Oh well. Bridget never could choose a man. There are funny swipes at television production, celebrity human rights cases, gay families (not offensive, swear), pre-natal classes, workplace politics (a great scene with Lily Allen’s F**k You Very Much used so brutally well!) and the uneasy relationship between the horrifically repressed Darcy and the endlessly charming Qwant. Emma Thompson put a draft together after the previous versions by Helen Fielding and David Nicholls were nixed and gave herself a role as an ob-gyn. Sharon Maguire (Fielding’s BFF) is back on directing duties and Ed Sheeran gets a small funny ginger role. Year summary: one funeral, one music festival, one christening, two shags, one pregnancy, practically no calories or alcohol …  It’s all much as before. And for that we should be insanely thankful. Welcome back Bridget! It’s been way too long.

Daddy’s Home (2015)

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When will Hollywood’s affair with the midlife bromance stop? When Will Ferrell stops taking off his shirt and wobbling his tummy at us, that’s when. He’s a radio exec and stepdad to Linda Cardellini’s kids and when their real father shows up he’s Mark Wahlberg – a gung ho, athletic, sexy DIY repair guy and personal trainer who humbles Will and makes him even more wussy in front of the kids. To make matters worse, Will is ‘reproductively challenged’ and in this game of one-upmanship (as it were… ) it’s Wahlberg who introduces him to a gynae expert who then takes pleasure in telling him his little swimmers are now more active thanks to the presence of an alpha male in the vicinity.  Their competition for Cardellini’s affections and the kids’ admiration  knows no bounds but it all ends in a dance-off. There are funny scenes for Hannibal Buress, Thomas Haden Church and Bobby Cannavale and it’s only let down by an  instance or two of toilet humour. Family-friendly. Depending on what you call family, maybe. Un film de Sean Anders.

Zoolander (2001)

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Y’all know this one:  Derek Zoolander is the thickest man on the planet – he’s a model, doh! So he’s recruited by evil designer Mugatu as a Manchurian candidate to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia (the cue is Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax). The centrepiece of the movie is his walk-off against fierce rival Hansel, moderated by David Bowie (he loses.) Another highlight is the meeting with conspiracy theorist David Duchovny who used to be the world’s greatest hand model. And what about the guys playing with gasoline hoses at the forecourt and then lighting a cigarette … Yikes! The looks are of course legend – Blue Steel is how Derek made his name! The aphorisms are hilarious, the set ups are to die for and you know, above all, Moisture is the essence of wetness and wetness is the essence of beauty. I know you know that because I’m telepathic: bulimia is so cool. Anyone who read Bret Easton Ellis’s Glamorama knows that this was lifted pretty wholesale and uncredited (they settled out of court). But this is way funnier! If you don’t crack up better check your pulse, dude.Directed by Ben Stiller and written by him, Drake Sather (yeah, right) and John Hamburg. And Bret Easton Ellis.