Friday, June 10, 2011

Bridesmaids Premiere

** Disclaimer: I swear I have been in no way swayed by the kind attentions of the fabulously funny Ms. Kristen Wiig...

Written by: Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo

Directed by Paul Feig

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Chris O'Dowd, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Hamm

Rating: 8/10

"Better than The Hangover!" That's what the poster says...since when is The Hangover the bar by which great comedy should be judged? Well, whatever the case may be, that poster boast is definitely correct. Bridesmaids, in the guise of a gross-out comedy is beyond anything The Hangover could ever dream of...

Last night saw the director and cast of Bridesmaids walk the pink carpet at the Savoy Cinema, Dublin for the Irish premiere. Director Paul Feig (who I was tickled to recognise as Sabrina's biology teacher from Sabrina the Teenage Witch) along with stars Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live, Whip It, Knocked Up), Melissa McCarthy (Gilmore Girls, Mike and Molly) and Chris O'Dowd (The IT Crowd) were all on hand to answer questions and meet their fans (and in Chris's case, a swarm of cousins) and they appeared before the screening to introduce the film.

The hype from the States was huge but in my eyes the film more than lived up to it. Don't get me wrong, Bridesmaids is crass, silly, fun and follows the classic rom-com template. There's nothing new here. It's just that it gets every convention and nails it perfectly. It takes every low-brow joke and gives it class. It takes potentially cliched characters and make you seriously feel for them. A combination of top-notch performances and first-class direction from Paul Feig ensured every comic beat is hit, and the best is made of every joke.

The story follows Annie (Kristen Wiig), a woman on the verge of forty, whose business collapsed and boyfriend scuppered, taking with him her sense of self and every ounce of her energy and ambition. Her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) announces she's getting married and she wants Annie to be her maid of honour but Lillian's new, prettier, richer, sweeter best friend Helen (Rose Byrne) is trying every underhanded trick in the book to upstage Annie. At the core of the film is Annie's journey from decadent passivity to realisation that she has hit rock bottom to a slow, realistic effort to find her spark again. The journey is truly a touching one and it helps tremendously that Kristen Wiig puts in a powerhouse performance. Her quick, razor-sharp wit and vulnerability allows us to forgive the unfortunate behaviour she exhibits at her lowest point.

Having said that, this is by no means a depressing film and unlike Annie, it doesn't allow itself to wallow for a second. Not a minute goes by without a superb gag and the supporting cast are such great performers that they make even the most gutter-worthy gags hilarious...and believe me, there's some gags in this movie that would make the Farrelly Brothers blush. The chemistry between the cast is electric and the developing relationships between the women are believable, but most importantly the developing romance between Annie and Officer Nathan Rhodes (O'Dowd) is really sweet and felt completely natural. Chris O'Dowd more than holds his own here as the good-natured, lovable policeman who falls for Annie. And as much as we all love Jon Hamm (who, again, proves his comic capabilities are second to none), we can't wait until he's out of the picture and Annie can pick up the pieces of her waning self-esteem with the warm, encouraging Nathan. He must also be applauded for not falling into any of the usual Oirish cliches but managing to represent Irish men in a wonderful light. Full of humour, smiling eyes and sly charm, he is a far cry from the characters he usually plays and pulls it off remarkably.

Rose Byrne, Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy are all outstanding in their roles, each making the most of their meaty roles, superbly written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo. This screenplay is deserving of all kinds of awards but I predict that, like Judd Apatow's horribly overlooked Funny People it will probably be deemed too much fun to earn awards.

I can only presume that Bridesmaids will be as successful here as in the States. The magical combination of girly and gross-out should satisfy everyone and the balance of low-brow and high-brow should even keep the grumpy critics happy!

 - Charlene Lydon


Sunday, June 05, 2011

X Men: First Class

Written by: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn

Directed by: Matthew Vaughn

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult

Rating: 6/10

The X-Men as a concept is cinematic gold. Not only are they colourful, plentiful and beautiful (in a freaky mutant kinda way) but the central theme is one of acceptance, both by society and by one's self. There is always much to connect with in these characters as they live through the same struggles as many people do in their daily lives (in a freaky mutant kinda way). The first three movies were hugely successful (though the third one was panned by critics) and I think a huge amount of their success can be attributed to the Capraesque qualities of the stories; the little guy's struggle to belong and to overcome the authorities in order to gain acceptance. The political struggle which made up so much of these films is complex and universal. It is here where the first three succeed and I think it is here where the prequel First Class fails.

X-Men: First Class tells the origin story of Professor X and Magneto, played in the original films by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan respectively and played in this film by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. As they fight against the evil Sebastian Shaw who is trying to prompt the Cuban Missile Crisis in a preposterous plot device that instantly lost me before any of the other nonsense even started to bug me, Charles and Eric (who will later become Professor X and Magneto) set about finding other mutants and banding together to form a super team to help the CIA track down and stop Shaw, former Nazi collaborator and murderer of Magneto's mother. However, Shaw already has his own mutants fighting his corner in the form of Emma Frost, a telepath who can also turn to diamond and distract warm-blooded men with her killer bod and the fact that she wears her underwear as outerwear, and Azazel a red-skinned fellow who can create and control mini tornados. 

The good mutant-bad mutant dynamic is tons of fun. The mutant powers, the celebration of their skills, and the chemistry between the cast all makes for an enjoyable blockbuster. Not to mention the ingenious setting of the film in the 1960s which creates all kinds of aesthetic delights. Director Matthew Vaughn takes full advantage of this conceit and the visuals are stunning, and the first hour feels like an unfortunately non-existent episode of Mad Men where Betty Draper moonlights as a night-club vixen! The characters are colourful, the young cast are exciting and everything is going swimmingly until...that's right, the messy third act. 

The third act sees all the fun drain from the film and not only that but it becomes a very cheesy bromance between Charles and Eric as X tries to convince Eric to curb his vengeance-seeking and find inner peace so that he may use his powers for good and not cross to the dark side. Of course, since we know how it all ends up, the rather done-to-death pep talks not only make us think Prof X is a bit of a know it all, but also bores us to tears and ruins all the fun we were having in the first half.

Another major problem with the film is the banging home of a lot of the issues that have already been very aptly covered in the first films. The mutants struggle with how they see themselves, and with fears of how the world will react to them once they come out of hiding. This kind of "Dawson'-Creekery" detracts from the sweetness of the developing relationships and feels, to me at least, like a cheap way of injecting some depth to proceedings. Depth is unnecessary when you're having so much fun, just look at the first Spiderman movie, simple but perfect! 

I do have to point out that the cast was definitely a highlight for me. Rising stars such as Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult and Zoe Kravitz are full of energy and charisma that it makes me actually feel excited for the future of Hollywood cinema. More established stars like McAvoy, Rose Byrne and a wonderfully villainous Kevin Bacon also work really well in their roles. Universal praise has been lavished upon Michael Fassbender but his ever evolving series of accents (seriously, he was a full-blown Kerryman by the end!) were extremely distracting and it also has to be said that it's difficult to go wrong with a character that intricate.  

One of cinema's greatest tragedies is a film that starts off well and has the makings of a classic but for some reason, usually bad writing, veers wildly off course in the second half. That was what upset me about this film. The writers got so caught up in the overly complicated plot that they forgot about the fun and for all their effort, still came out with a messy endgame. That being said, it is by no means a terrible addition to the Marvel Studios oeuvre, it was just like a date that wouldn't put me all excited but sent me home with slumped shoulders!

 -  Charlene Lydon

Top Ten MTV Movie Awards Best Kisses!

Compiled by yours truly for the brand new entertainment website

Check it out...but if you're easily offended, don't click on the video for the Bound's a whopper!