Tag Archives: Bill Nighy

Pokemon Detective Pikachu

After 17 hours of trailers, the movie started playing. I’d of course forgotten what I was here to see. Ah yes, Detective Whatever. It occurred to me suddenly that it was possible that total ignorance was not the best state in which to be watching this movie. Should I have take some crash course? Too late now. But there’s the naked truth: I don’t know what a Pokemon is or what it does or how it works or if it’s the name of the little guys or just the name of a show. I wasn’t even entirely sure that it was a show. I remembered a very popular app from a few years ago that had otherwise sane grown adults running around cities chasing after imaginary conquests, and that there’d been something back when I was a kid – cards, maybe? A show? Pogs? Definitely something. Which is why this movie is not called Detective Jay or Good Memory Jay or Jay Gives A Shit.

What I’ve surmised is: Pokemon are a kind of cute little…animal? With powers? And Pikachu is a type of Pokemon with a specific set of powers, including a lightning bolt tail. The human component of this movie is a young man called Tim (Justice Smith) who has MV5BMWVkMjIxOWUtYmQzMC00YTRkLWExNDUtNGEzOWY1Mjk0MTczXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTgwMDI0MDA@._V1_just learned that his father is dead. His father lived in the big city where he worked as a detective. Tim was raised in a small town, by his grandma. He hadn’t seen his father in years. When he lets himself into his dead dad’s apartment he learns two things: 1. His father was working a very big case when he died – and he possibly died in its pursuit, and 2. His father had a partner, and that partner is not dead as previously believed, but alive, and also happens to be a Pokemon named Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) that can be understood by Tim even though this is apparently unheard of. Oh and a third thing: his father never stopped loving him, guys!

But anyways. Pikachu has suffered amnesia and can’t really help solve the case, but he’s game to give it a go from scratch, which for some reason Tim is eager to do even though he’s an insurance adjuster, not a cop. It involves a purple gas that renders normally docile Pokemon into rabid attackers. Don’t ask me to make sense of this. The thing is, if you’re a Pokemon fan, or even just know the slightest thing about them, then this movie likely has more appeal to you than it does to me. But for me, this movie was really a buddy cop movie, just don’t ask me which one is the Ice Cube. But since I don’t know the pre-established rules of this universe, I don’t get the oddball pairing, I don’t get the humour, if in fact there is any. Ryan Reynolds lends quite a bit of charisma through his voice, but for some reason it keeps reminding me of Deadpool, which is probably the exact opposite of what this cute little pika pika persona is supposed to project. Although he is a hard-boiled cop. In a deerstalker cap. I don’t know, man.

But what I do know is this: the kids in the audience didn’t love it. And before the movie, I thought, dear sweet baby cheesus, we’re in for a ride. Because the pre-movie commercials were KILLING IT with this kid-packed audience. Telus had a commercial where a flamingo was dancing to She’s A Maniac, and I don’t think that Jerry Seinfeld in his entire career racked up half as many laughs as that flamingo did in a 30 second spot. There was a trailer for Abominable that was a laugh riot. So was Secret Life of Pets 2. This was a disturbingly easy audience to pander to. Sean missed a lot of this because he was patiently waiting in the drinks line to parch my ruinous thirst, and I felt the need to warn him when he got back of what was to come. But it never did. There must have been some laughs of course, and it’s possible my brain was so overheated trying to to unravel story lines I missed them. But there wasn’t much. It seemed in my screening that the kids were underwhelmed. I can’t say that I was expecting any kind of whelm myself. I’ve been perplexed and unanticipatory since I first saw the trailer. And I guess that’s what the movie delivered: slight confusion and utter forgettableness.

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Dad’s Army

‘Dad’s army’ is the home guard and its leader is Captain George Mainwaring. In a very small town in England, a band of merry misfits makes up its corps. Deep into WW2, all the fit, young men are away at war while the rejects and the elderly make up the home guard, charged with parading around and doing exercises and not much else.

Sergeant Arthur Wilson (Bill Nighy) assists Captain Mainwaring (Toby Jones) in their not MV5BNzg5MWMxNmUtNjdjNC00NTJlLTljNzQtNmU0NTFhYzNmY2ViXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTk2NTY1NzA@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_much else; they mostly spend their days blending into the scenery. Literally. So when a beautiful woman (Catherine Zeta-Jones) arrives in town, they and the whole town are ripe for some shaking up. Rose is an intoxicating distraction until it turns out there’s an actual German spy in town and the home guard is too busy thinking dirty thoughts about Rose to notice his intelligence gathering, let alone catch him.

Dad’s Army is made up of the very best in old British guys – Tom Courtenay and Michael Gambon among them. It’s cute and silly in an old, doddering way. The movie is just as inoffensive and harmless as the elderly members of the home guard. Apparently this is the movie version of a beloved TV show that I never knew existed. Old fans wouldn’t recognize this iteration but it’s pleasant enough. Yes, that’s a tempered endorsement. Adjust your expectations and you may find it perfectly enjoyable. It’s not steak and caviar. It’s oatmeal. Good old reliable oatmeal.

TIFF: Their Finest

London, 1940: most have gone to war but a few are left behind to entertain the people in this bleak time. The department of war is demanding that happy-ending war movies be churned out for morale.

At any rate, Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest was indeed a boost to my morale. Of course I love Bill Nighy, and he’s at his Nighest, with his signature gestures and snorts. He plays a very vain actor who can’t quite believe he’s perhaps aged past leading-man status. Luckily a diplomatic new writer, theirfinestCatrin (Gemma Arterton) hired to write “slop” (ie, the female dialogue) appeases him by enlarging the role of the drunk uncle just for him. Convincing her boss Tom (Sam Claflin) to let her do this is as infuriating and degrading as you’d imagine – until he starts to fall in love with her, of course.

Keep in mind that though they’re writing about the Miracle of Dunkirk, the war is still raging, and Catrin must decide whether to risk losing the thread of her story every time the air raid sirens go off. The cramped office remains nearly a sanctuary but outside the city is badly bruised.

The war was a time when, with young men absent, older gentlemen and women stepped up to get the work done. Catrin is constantly reminded, however, that her employment status won’t hold up when the boys return. untitledShe mustn’t get too attached to feeling useful or creative. The war makes everything tenuous.

But despite this sounding rather dire, it is very much a comedy, and a bit of a love letter to film making. The laughs are plentiful, robust. The stars are endlessly charming. I haven’t much cared for Sam Claflin and don’t have much of an opinion on Gemma Arterton, but both are excellent here. Nighy of course, is a prize scene-stealer, and he deftly makes away with every one he’s in. Sometimes the war is seen through rose-tinted glasses (a nostalgic effect?) but when the war does assert itself, it leaves a crater. This one’s not to be missed.

Norm of the North

Hey kids, can you say B-movie? Because that’s what this one is! Big disappointment. Boring. Badly plotted. Blearily devoid of charm. Bland. Bargain-bin. I’m not even sure how this one made it to the theatres considering how low-budget it feels.

Norm of the North feels shoddily and hastily put together with a barely-there eco-friendly message and not much else. Norm is a polar bear, and he dances images1OQMF438and also speaks human. That’s it. That’s the whole she-bang. Sorry I ruined it for you, but you’ve seen it before, and you’ve definitely seen it done better. The bar is set so low that any random episode of Paw Patrol will be more entertaining for your kids and less annoying for you. Yeah, I said it.

And the voice cast? The thing that’s easiest to hit out of the park? Norm of the North gets an F. Talk about B-list (or C-list)  (or D-list, let’s be honest) celebrities: Rob Schneider and Heather Graham. I mean – seriously? Did they norm-of-the-northrecord all of the voices on Oscar night or something? Like, which “celebrity” is not only not invited to the Academy Awards, but not to any of the post-Oscar parties either, and doesn’t even have friends or cable TV to be watching them from home, and doesn’t have a job to go to Monday morning that they’re getting to bed early for? And so they called Balki from Perfect Strangers and he was busy. And they called Tori Spelling and she said no. Screech from Saved By The Bell thought the script was lame. Carrot Top thought it might compromise his artistic integrity. And on and on through a rolodex of reality-TV “personalities” until they finally scraped the bottom of the barrel, and guess who was there, desperate for a pay cheque?

(Apologies to Bill Nighy who somehow got tangled up in this mess, and to Gabriel Iglesias who did punch things up a bit.)

yayomg-norm-of-the-north-quiz-5I was unprepared for how bland and pointless Norm of the North would be. How can you release this alongside Pixar fare and think you deserve to be there? It’s like hanging one of my kindergarten macaroni Christmas ornaments at the Louvre and not being embarrassed. The only thing I can console myself with is that it did set a record for worst opening for an animated feature and so maybe, just maybe, Lionsgate learned a lesson in humility.

Arthur Christmas

Merry Christmas.

You may have learned by now that Matt and I are therapists who specialize in crisis counselling. People can get depressed or suicidal at any time, around the clock, around the calendar, so our office never closes. IT NEVER CLOSES. Which means I’m at work today, and was at work yesterday too, and have worked through the holidays for 7 years running. And that’s okay. It’s not fantastic. I’d rather be at home, or with family, or in bed, or in Jamaica, or pretty much anywhere else, but this kind of work doesn’t come without sacrifice, and I knew that going in. I’ve made peace with it, although I always regret leaving Sean (a measly lawyer) home alone (we don’t live in the same city as our extended families) – albeit with a nice bottle of scotch, The Good Dinosaur on Disney Infinity, and a little droid called BB-8 (who is probably terrorizing our dogs).

The good news is, we do find workarounds. Since I’m working until 11pm on Christmas day, we had our Christmas dinner last night, when I got home from work (did I feel like cooking a big meal after a long day at work? you bet!). Then we settled into the hot tub with a bottle of wine. It was a full moon last night, and unseasonably warm here in Canada (a record high of 16 degrees, I believe – what was it like for you?), and it so we relaxed under a starry night to watch a movie recommended by Carrie called Arthur Christmas.

49251-arthur-christmas-best-both-worlds_0Arthur is the son of Santa, and the grandson of Santa too. It’s a job that gets proudly passed down in their family, and someday soon Arthur’s brother Steve will wear the suit. He already nearly runs the whole operation, having streamlined the process with his high-tech gadgets. Grandsanta is enjoying his retirement but Santa’s still loving his Christmas Eve missions and is reluctant to pass the torch. Arthur, meanwhile, too clumsy and keen to ever seriously be considered for the role, works in the letter department, answering all the kids who write to Santa. This Christmas Eve, Steve runs an impeccable shift and 2 billion presents are delivered, almost without a hitch. Almost. End of day, an elf comes across one ARTHUR_CHRISTMAS_15undelivered present. Steve is comfortable with their error margin and Santa’s ready for bed, so it’s up to Arthur, Grandsanta, and an androgynous elf named Bryony to somehow get a bike to Gwen before she wakes up and thinks Santa forgot her.

The movie’s a lot of fun, with just the right amount of saltiness in the sweet to make me happy (not many holiday movies have a Santa threatening to euthanize himself with a rock). Plus the voice cast is top-notch: James McAvoy as Arthur, Hugh Laurie as Steve, Jim Broadbent as Santa, Bill Nighy as Grandsanta…actually, the list goes on like crazy. Have fun trying to recognize them yourself.

This morning Sean and I had a Christmas brunch and gave the dogs each a Christmas steak. No one will ever make a Christmas movie about our non-traditional celebrations (although they tried – it’s called Mixed Nuts), but we did manage to put a little merry in our hearts. And hey – working on Christmas isn’t all bad: I came armed with cheeseball.

Happy holidays.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

“Why die here when I can die there?” – a dubious tagline is ever there was one.

I can’t pretend that even the first one was a complete pleasure for me, but I am ever so charmed by the golden oldies in the cast and that was excuse enough, more than enough, to give it a watch.

41817The second one has mostly the same cast of Britain’s finest senior citizens. Bill Nighy, a particular favourite of mine, does his brilliant little grimace right off the bat, and I am gratified: almost worth the price of admission. Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton are at their cattiest, delightfully. Judi Dench is as strong and charismatic as ever. But this movie tries so hard to recreate the first one’s magic by basically just regurgitating it when in fact what it needed most was some fresh blood. Richard Gere, you say? Yes, he makes an appearance, but it stinks. He makes his grand entrance, grey hair flopping boyishly away, bringing with him the ugly whiff of American romcom. He’s like a virus, infecting what was already a perfect cast, a full complement of the world’s best that didn’t need or want improving upon. And Gere doesn’t – no fault of his. He just stuck out like a sore thumb.

The elderly each have their own romantic subplots, but the story’s meat is that Sonny (Dev Patel) is looking to take on a second property to expand his hotel “empire” while neglecting his la-ca-1219-the-second-best-exotic-131-jpg-20150107wedding plans. Actually, the wedding bits were probably the most dazzling – the colours, the flowers, the brightly lit lanterns, the beautiful saris. But I didn’t remember Dev Patel being such an awkward, borderline racist caricature. A bit of a buffoon maybe, but now he’s a downright fool. His florid, over the top communications wore me out quickly. And the constant “jokes” about death – (I hesitate to call them that though I do believe that’s the spirit in which they were intended) – painful. Not a single one landed with the audience, most of them there on a discounted senior’s ticket. Crickets.

Even the title tells us this will be the second best, but it doesn’t suggest just how far from the first it has fallen. Second rate is more like it.

 

 

Love Actually

I’ve actually started packing away my copy of Love Actually with my Christmas decorations every year, which limits my viewing of it to just once, annually. This is a necessary precaution because it’s way too easy for me to get swept away in this movie.Love_Actually_movie

It feels like the ultimate romantic movie, possibly because in this movie Hugh Grant AND Colin Firth both get the girl. But for every frenzied makeout session, there’s also a cold, awkward peck on the cheek. Your heart breaks as much as it soars. There’s grand gestures, and well thought-out lingerie, slow dancing cheek to cheek, and enough first kisses to charm even the more cynical hearts.

But for me, this movie excels not in its romantic tropes, but in the darker corners. You don’t need this movie to tell you that Emma Thompson is superb, but it does confirm it. The scene when she’s in the bedroom, having just unwrapped Joni Mitchell instead of jewelry, is moving and real. Only a few moments (and even fewer tears) are devoted to her broken heart and we watch her pull herself back together to give her children a smiling, overbright Christmas. Only an extended hug for brother David belies just how much she’s hurting. This movie happens to take place in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and while the magic of the season seems to heighten the romantic aspects, and give courage to those who need it, it also highlights the loneliness, the forced joviality, the false cheer.

There’s probably some sort of personality test about which couple your root for in this movie, but I must confess, I also adore the non-romantic-couple bits: the sweet and silly bromance between Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) and his fat manager, the sacrifice of Sarah (Laura Linney) for her institutionalized brother, the shared grief and renewed bond between Daniel (Liam Neeson) and his young stepson.

I’ve been watching this movie for a decade and I still squeal at all my favourite parts: the papier-mache lobster head, the Rowan Atkinson gift wrapping, the Beatles sendoff, Hugh Grant dancing unselfconsciously, the falling in love by subtitles between Jamie and Aurelia, Martin Freeman warming up his hands for “the nipples,” Rick Grimes taking a break from zombies. This movie has it all, and I’ve certainly heard it criticized for being over-stuffed, but personally I wouldn’t know which subplot to cut. Sure it’s self-indulgent, but watching this movie every year is a gift I give myself.

 

 

The assholes will be reviewing their favourite holiday movies all December long, so stay tuned!