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The Love Punch – Movie Review

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The Love Punch – Movie Review

Rating: D (Very Bad)

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There are certain comedies one watches and you wonder why the director or writer thought a joke was, in any way, funny. Did nobody take Adam Sandler aside and tell him that the silly voice he was using in Little Nicky would quickly grate on a viewer’s nerves? Just as sad is a comedy where it seems like the pieces are in place and one can see why the filmmakers thought there was comedic potential in a joke or story moment. Joel Hopkins is a talented director, having previously helmed the charming Last Chance Harvey, and he’s rounded up a solid group of actors. The story of a divorced couple who team up to steal millions of dollars worth of jewelry to help pay for pension plans seems like a premise out of an Ealing Comedy. Yet the jokes never land and as the wait for successful humour increases, The Love Punch becomes more boring.

One of the most disappointing elements of The Love Punch is seeing otherwise talented actors like Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan try and force humour out of the dire script. Thompson is an accomplished screenwriter in her own right and incredibly witty, when given the opportunity. However, her performance takes a lot of odd turns as she faints, shouts, looks awkwardly around and seems uncertain of where to go. Though Pierce Brosnan thankfully does not sing anywhere in the movie, he looks similarly perplexed. He seems rather miscast in a role that maybe Hugh Grant would have been a better choice to play. Timothy Spall and Celia Imrie are roped into the tired comedy as well, with most of their moments either involving a strange running gag about Spall’s past or them trying to regain their youthful vigor. Oddly, their subplot brings to mind the similar themes explored in Neighbors, except that film had a point and The Love Punch mostly descends into stupid and random humour. However, out of all of the actors, French actress Louise Bourgoin comes out the most scathed as her performance comes off as stilted and unnatural.

However, a lot of the blame should go to Joel Hopkins’ tired direction. Any hint of comedic timing is non-existent and the screenplay is devoted to some rather unspectacular running jokes. A bit involving Thompson and Brosnan accidentally seeing the crotch of their son’s roommate via video chat is done not once, but twice. Think actors over 50 walking in slow-motion to modern music is funny? Well, lucky for you, they also repeat that gag. Even simple verbal jokes never quite land and it leaves one to wonder whether the editing ruined it or the actors were not up to snuff or they just were not that funny to begin with. The answer is probably all of the above. When the movie wants to be zany, it’s not quite crazy enough. When it wants to be more low-key and down-to-earth, the script becomes contrived and too unbelievable. What a coincidence that two characters end up in a room with the very things that give them allergies. When Timothy Spall finds himself in possession of a gun, it’s used in one scene and never appears again. It’s those ridiculous moments that help contribute to the jokes not working.

At no point do these characters become likeable or worth rooting for, even if their criminal plan is for a good cause. There wasn’t a time where I actively cared whether they would succeed in their goal or not and the attempts at being suspenseful don’t work. Maybe a as short, it would have been a humorous film, but at ninety minutes, it starts to wear out its welcome. In the first act, there’s a patient wait for funny material to arrive. Through the middle, there’s constant hope that maybe something will produce sufficient laughter. By the end, The Love Punch has proven itself to be a bore just waiting to finish. It’s mystifying how a film with this talent could produce such dire and dull material and why jokes that could potentially work just lay flat the entire time.

I could say The Love Punch suffers from a lot of sitcom-caliber humour, but that would be an insult to the history of brilliant situational comedy that has come out of Great Britain. It seems the jokes are in place, they’ve cast an accomplished group of actors and there’s a premise full of possibilities. However, when the most produced are a couple of slight chuckles here and there, it results in a very disappointing ninety minutes. The Love Punch isn’t an annoying comedy, but one could argue that being boring is just as ponderous.

Review By: Stefan Ellison

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X-Men: Days of Future Past – Movie Review

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X-Men: Days of Future Past – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

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X-Men is one of the longest running superhero franchises, going non-stop for fourteen years and keeping with the same cast and universe. It has now reached the point where the prequel movie and the original trilogy have combined in an almost Star Trek-kind of way. With Bryan Singer returning to direct, there’s an expectation that it will keep the solid character development and general sense of fun that the earlier entries had. Matthew Vaughan took the series in an interesting direction by making a Cold War picture and further looking into the relationship between Professor Xavier and Magneto. One of the most appealing aspects of the franchises has been its use of real-world ideals and its not-so-subtle social commentary about accepting others. X-Men: Days of Future Past certainly tries to include all of this, but there’s a sense that it throws too many plot elements into the stew and the result is disappointingly underwhelming.

At a time when studios are accustomed to splitting a franchise installment into two parts, X-Men: Days of Future Past could have benefited from that treatment. The dark future in which mutants are persecuted and destroyed is an interesting one, but a lot of the history and exploration of that world is relegated to a quick series of flashbacks and exposition. The progression to how Earth fell into such disarray would have been a fascinating sequel in its own right and the beginning of Days of Future Past feels like you walked in very late. The movie immediately throws you in and expects the viewer to catch up, making it not a very effective stand-alone film. This results in the future scenes being the least interesting parts, when they should have been the most effective and harrowing.

When Wolverine is sent back in time, it does become fun reuniting with the team of First Class. James McAvoy believably plays the younger Xavier and really delves into his inner turmoil and dealing with being wheelchair bound after the events in the previous film. His tale is a well-handled one of sacrifice and confidence and how one deals with separation. Michael Fassbender again shines as Magneto, a mutant who makes plenty of strong points behind his position, but goes about it in a less peaceful way than Xavier. However, Singer doesn’t quite make the audience want to root against Magneto because it’s obvious his want for mutant superiority is not an hundred-percent evil viewpoint. This is in contrast with the villainous profiteer Bolivar Trask, who has a real prejudice against mutants and their abilities. Mystique, with her shape-shifting abilities, has always been my favourite X-Men character and gets some of the best scenes in Days of Future Past as she carefully plans her future evil-doing and slowly descends further into the dark side.

Jennifer Lawrence is great, whether in human appearance or covered under layers of blue makeup, and does manage to bring a lot of sympathy to her character despite her various actions throughout the film. Beast doesn’t contribute much to the overall plot and his earlier relationship with Mystique is not really explored with much depth or screen time. At this point, Wolverine has become a bit of a tired character and he doesn’t grow or develop through the course of the film. With the many mutants at the producer’s disposal, it’s a shame that Wolverine is frequently made the lead. When he is given his own spin-off movies to lead, you would think Bryan Singer would have allowed somebody else a chance to be the focal point. However, through some plot contrivances, it’s Wolverine that’s sent back in time. There are only so many ways you can make Wolverine interesting and it feels like he’s been exhausted at this point.

On the other hand, the new addition of Quicksilver is a welcome surprise and one that deserved more screen time. Evan Peters is having a lot of fun, speeding around and playing a very confident mutant who just seems to enjoy life. A stand-out scene where we see his fast powers through his point-of-view is one of the most memorable parts of the film. It’s a shame that the rest of the team only use him for one sequence and then carry on in their journey. That almost sums up the biggest problem with X-Men: Days of Future Past. There are so many mutants to follow, that some characters and possibly important scenes are left to the side. Xavier and Magneto’s dynamic was a pivotal part of First Class and they share a brilliant scene on an airplane, but that’s the most the film explores that. The same applies to the Xavier-Mystique relationship. It was a big element of its predecessor and it certainly drives him through this film, but it still seems cut back. It feels like so many scenes were deleted from the film and thus, it begs for an extended director’s cut that explores more of the characters, their interactions and motivations.

The action scenes are surprisingly hit-or-miss. As stated before, Quicksilver’s fast-motion romp is a ton of fun, providing the right level of humour and still being important to the plot. There’s a brilliantly put together sequence in Paris where the various characters converge and Singer edits the scene full of tension and dividing enough time between them and their various arcs. The climax, which jumps between past and future, lacks that same level of excitement. It’s not hard to see where the scene will go and it just seems to go through the motions. It’s just one big skirmish that ultimately meshes together and by the end, I was left feeling uninterested in what was happening on-screen, despite the presence of big robots and Richard Nixon in the same scene.

The groundwork is in place for a fun time-travel escapade and post-apocalyptic tale, but X-Men: Days of Future Past has too many mutants and not enough time to develop them or the world they inhabit. It’s mildly entertaining at spots, but the most fascinating elements aren’t explored as much as they deserve. It plays from scene to scene with occasional moments of inspiration, but this feels like a longer and better plotted movie waiting to come out. All of the actors do fine jobs inhabiting their characters they’ve grown into and Bryan Singer’s filmmaking prowess can’t be denied, but the final result doesn’t become anything more than substandard.

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Review By: Stefan Ellison

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Steven Tyler goes a little crazy on Crazy then invites buskers onstage!

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Steven Tyler forgot the lyrics to the Aerosmith song ‘Crazy’ at an impromptu jam session earlier this week.

 * UPDATE * – Aerosmith invites buskers on stage (see below)

Earlier this week a video surfaced of Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler joining a couple of buskers in Vilnius Lituania.

Tyler was in town as part of the Let Rock Rule/Global Warming World Tour 2014 tour which saw Aerosmtih play the Siemens Arena in Vilnius Lithuania last night.

The band landed at Vilnius International Airport on May 19.  Some time the next day this video surfaced of Tyler joining in an impromptu jam session with some street performers.

He starts off with the bridge/chorus and things seem to be going pretty well until Tyler completely forgets the lyrics to the band’s 1994 smash hit ‘Crazy’.

After giving a shout out to the capital city, Tyler starts some impressive falsetto and attempts to remember the lyrics but soon begins screaming the outro off key in an attempt to redeem himself.

This video was just too hilarious not to post. In all fairness even though Tyler is credited as a songwriter on the original recording it was most likely famed producer Desmond Child who penned the lyrics.  Also the 66 year old has been on tour basically non stop for two years.

With style, Tyler kisses his new friends and remains at the end of the video to speak with the Accordion player and the Violinist who accompanied him on this train wreck.

If this can teach you anything kiddies, it’s that Rock Stars are human too and it’s ok to make mistakes.

It’s ok Steven, we still love you!

*UPDATE* Thank you to Judy Ruffolo for bringing this to our attention.  In a display of true class, Aerosmith invited the buskers known as Vera Primavera on stage last night at the Siemens Arena to perform the song in front of a sold out crowd.  This version is a little better and proves that dreams do come true!



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Manchester Orchestra at The Opera House – Toronto Live Review

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Manchester Orchestra at The Opera House – Toronto Live Review

Manchester Orchestra at The Opera House_Brianna

REVIEW: Feargal Daly

PHOTO: Brianna Bell

Who: Manchester Orchestra (w/ Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band/ Balance and Composure)
Where: The Opera House, Toronto
When: Monday, May 19th 2014

Total Score: 9/10

 

The anticipation for Manchester Orchestra’s return to Toronto was palpable from the very moment tickets for the Opera House headliner went on sale months ago and inevitably sold out. Their only Canadian stop for the North American tour in support of their raw and powerful fourth LP COPE was applauded early on from fans for bringing what would be a loud, powerful and emotionally investing performance to such a hallowed, intimate venue.

Firstly, a word must go out to the opening acts Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band and Balance and Composure. Kevin Devine was met with an exceptionally warm reception as most fans embrace him as part of the wider Manchester Orchestra family. The tunes were upbeat, fun and clever and coupled with Devine’s energetic…”bounciness”… it made for a sure early crowd pleaser. Pennsylvania’s Balance and Composure were out in support of their latest record The Things We Think We’re Missing. Their post-hardcore nature was somewhat of a genre mismatch but it all depends on the city and crowd you play for. Their tracks are evidently heavy on layers with a trio of guitarists that despite being a little muddled they pulled off a sufficient warm up performance that seemingly won some new fans.

Manchester Orchestra have come a long way since their van days driving across the continent playing to anyone who was willing to listen. Having seen them seven years ago as mere pups opening for Kings of Leon in Ireland I can surely confirm that they have transformed into a huge musical presence and it’s a satisfying thing to see the flame that fuels them burn brighter than ever. Tim Very has solidified his place within the band since joining for their third record and his direct and heavy drum style lends itself well to the older material. Andy Prince is the new guy on board for this tour and he’s destined to make that bass stand out. His energy and enthusiasm is wholly impressive and believable that makes you wish you were right there beside him rocking out. Chris Freeman is the brilliantly odd yet deftly clever multi-instrumentalist holding his own stage left while Robert McDowell and Andy Hull expertly complimented one other with sometimes intricate and sometimes brash guitar riffs.

Surprisingly the setlist was dominated by tracks from the fan favourite sophomore effort Mean Everything To Nothing with a healthy sprinkling from its subsequent releases Simple Math and the aforementioned COPE. With “Shake it Out”, “I’ve Got Friends” and the slow-burning turned blisteringly kinetic ‘Pride’ setting the pace for the evening there was simply a wonderful intensity that couldn’t be contained. “Pensacola” and “Pale Black Eye” were wrought with emotion and displayed that critically acclaimed palette of colours that made Simple Math such a landmark album.

The signature quirky humor of the band (famous among their online devotees) was somewhat restrained in the back and forth between the audience and Hull for the former half of the set. As things loosened up and the crowd got a LOT rowdier there was need for some crowd control. Hull responded to the increasingly obnoxious fan requests with a simple laughter, shrug and claimed “fuck man, we’ve got too many songs” before heading straight into the next explosive track. He was right though – they simply have too large a catalog between MO and their side projects that satiating everyone’s tastes was nigh on impossible. The set was however cleverly constructed and crowd pleasing enough to please everyone at some level.

One curious criticism is  that despite its relative nascency it felt that COPE never got the attention you would expect as a new release and backdrop to the entire show with only “The Ocean”, “Top Notch” and the title track performed live. ‘Top Notch’ in particular had an unexpectedly impressive light show behind that heightened the intensity of an already powerful lead single.

By the time the show reached its climax it was all time for that humor to creep out. Hull brought out his “sometimes best friend, sometimes mortal enemy” Kevin Devine out for the inevitable Bad Books tune (MO and KD side project). Surprisingly, they went with “42” from Bad Books II which mellowed the atmosphere but tugged at the heart strings just enough for a few minutes of pure, unbridled emotion book-ended by friendly banter between the two friends. The true humor and chemistry came out with an outstanding, hilarious and crowd engaging rendition of the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme that simply must be watched (see the vid below).

Manchester Orchestra has always run a tight ship and consistently charged on with true independent spirit and control over their career. The payoff really seems to be clearer than ever. I don’t believe we’ve seen the band peak yet but if this performance can be called nothing short of impressive then I for one can’t wait to see what majesty awaits in the near future for Manchester Orchestra. Sublime.

Video Credit: Nichole Munavish

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Each Other Halifax May 23rd 2014

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Who: Each Other
When: Friday, May 23rd @10pm
Where: Seahorse Tavern, 1665 Argyle Street
Tickets: $13

Halifax surf-rockers Each Other hit up the Seahorse for a jam session as part of the Obey Convention. Now based in Montreal, the light, airy, experimental tunes of this gang will remind you of long summer drives in the 80’s or kicking it on the beach with your buds. Enjoy some mellow tunes to start the weekend.

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