Author: Andrew Parker

Review: I Am Chris Farley

Once dubbed by David Letterman as “the human thunderball,” comedic actor Chris Farley always came across as an almost unstoppable force of nature. A big man with uncanny athletic abilities, a self-deprecating sense of humour, and a heart as big as his larger than life personality, Farley went from an attention grabbing middle child in a large family in Madison, Wisconsin to becoming a standout performer on Saturday Night Live and a bankable movie star. But like many success stories about people who got too famous too quickly, Farley’s penchant for doing everything in his life to excess (especially drinking and eating) led to an early death in December of 1997 at only 33 years of age. Directors Brent Hodge (A Brony Tale) and Derik Murray (I Am Steve McQueen) take an almost overwhelmingly comprehensive look back on Farley’s career in the bittersweet and engaging, I Am Chris Farley. Featuring a wealth of interviews from his siblings, admirers, collaborators, and former co-workers, Hodge and Murray not only linearly trace Farley’s progression as a performer, but also the joy he brought to those around him and the care people generally showed towards one of comedy’s most tragic figures. It’s a well assembled and on point blend of warmth and sadness. It’s almost all archival footage or talking head anecdotes looking back on Farley’s special blend of madness, so it isn’t...

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Review: Around the World in 50 Concerts

For its outstanding 125th anniversary in 2013, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra embarked on a worldwide tour of six continents and fifty concerts. Dutch filmmaker Heddy Honigmann follows along for the ride, taking to band members and fans alike for the delightfully low key documentary, Around the World in 50 Concerts. It’s a pretty straightforward documentary, but a well meaning and well produced one that will delight music lovers from all parts of the globe. Honigmann interviews musicians and those influenced and entertained by the orchestra in pretty equal measure, leading to a film that never settles on a distinct personality in favour of having a wealth of intriguing views instead. Half of the film finds her filming like a fly on the wall in hotel rooms, airports, on side trips, planning sessions, and rehearsals, and the other finds her working as an active participant that engages with her subjects. It sounds uneven, but it works in practice. There’s also plenty of exceptional performance footage to balance out the interviews and looks at logistical details. It’s well rounded, and relaxing and poignant rather than hyperactive and prodding. It’s the kind of film that I think classical music buffs dream of whenever they see the latest behind the scenes rock and roll documentary. It’s a great look at how music can affect everyone around...

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Review: She’s Funny That Way

Philandering stage and screen director Arnold Albertson (Owen Wilson) has created his own worst nightmare. Following years of cheating on his wife (Kathryn Hahn) with high class call girls that he uses the same motivational lines on to get them to quit their jobs, his latest lover has come to audition for his new theatrical production. Tough talking New Yorker sex worker Izzy Patterson (Imogen Poots) uses a $30,000 gift from Arnold to kick start her faltering acting career by auditioning in Albertson’s latest alongside a buffoonish lothario (Rhys Ifans) and the director’s wife. The show’s mild mannered playwright (Will Forte) thinks she’s perfect. The wife thinks Izzy’s perfect. The star thinks Izzy is perfect because he secretly wants Arnold’s infidelities to come to light so he can bang the director’s wife. Meanwhile, Izzy is forced into doing therapy with her normal therapist’s shrewish, uncaring daughter (Jennifer Aniston), who just so happens to be the playwright’s girlfriend. On top of that, Izzy is being trailed by an unhealthily obsessed former client (Austin Pendleton) who has hired a private investigator (George Morfogen) to watch her every move. She’s Funny That Way is the first major theatrical outing (or not since it debuts on VOD the same day) for American auteur Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon) since 2001, and while it’s an admittedly slight, but over-plotted fable, there’s still a...

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Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The year is 1963 and American ex-con turned secret agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is forced to team up with his most despised Russian counterpart (Armie Hammer) and an East German mechanic (Alicia Vikander) to stop a pair of former Nazis (Elizabeth Debicki, Sylvester Groth) from creating a nuclear device. A loose adaptation of the television show of the same name, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. comes from writer and director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes, Snatch) and it’s one of the most relentlessly mediocre and disposable films to hit the screens; an arrogantly predictable mess that feels about a decade too late to have bombed alongside the retro clones of Austin Powers films and reboots of other lacklustre television shows that were best left forgotten. Ritchie crafts a story that, as you can see above, can be summarized in a single sentence. That would be fine if it seemed like anyone was having more fun than Ritchie is. There are no characters, little plot, and almost no dramatic stakes. Everyone is well cast, but other than Hammer (who’s quite fun to watch even when the film around him isn’t) no one can find a way to work with what they’re given. Ritchie is obsessed with style and precisely nothing else. It’s an immaculate looking film, and to some extent Ritchie can find some solace in gloating over the fact that...

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Review: Straight Outta Compton

Back in the mid-80s, musical prodigy Andre Young (a.k.a Dr. Dre), prolific writer O’Shea Jackson (a.k.a. Ice Cube), and former drug dealer Eric Wright (a.k.a. Easy-E) created the world’s first gangsta rap supergroup N.W.A. Basing their raps in real life problems of growing up on the streets of Compton, California, a place where gang violence and a threatening L.A.P.D. were equal ways of getting killed or locked up, Dre (Corey Hawkins), Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), and Easy (Jason Mitchell) courted controversy and mainstream acclaim before any of them were barely out of their teens. The group would only produce a single album with their original line-up before less than amicably breaking up over Cube and Dre having beef with their manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti). Not only would the legacy of N.W.A.’s often violent and politically tinged music live on, but all three main members of the group would go on to become some of the most lauded (and sometimes vilified) names in hip-hop. It’s hard to make a musical biopic out of an entire band whose members’ solo careers almost eclipse what they did as a unit, but Straight Outta Compton might be the best case scenario for trying to boil down the significance of N.W.A. It certainly benefits from a timely release given the current state of race relations in America, and it comes directed by music...

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Review: The Cocksure Lads Movie

An English band on the verge of stardom head to Toronto to start their North American tour. Before they’ve even left the airport in Toronto, the band has a huge disagreement and breaks up. The band members separate and spend the day in the city, taking in the sights and getting into plenty of odd situations. They start to understand what it means to be a band, but it may be too late for the group to get together before their first performance. There are few things worse than a misguided musical comedy, but the tone deaf stylings of The Cocksure Lads Movie might be one of the most dire examples. It doesn’t have an ear for comedic timing, a proper sense of setting, or even any catchy or amusing tunes. The film comes written and directed by Great Big Sea’s Murray Foster and has all the markings of the kind of Canadian film that gets made simply because one semi-famous guy knows a bunch of semi-talented guys that are willing to help sight unseen. The titular band comes in the vein of The Beatles or The Monkees; a fresh faced, boy-bandish bunch of blokes who play songs best suited to 1950s kitsch acts. Unfortunately for the film, they are an out of place (and inexplicably semi-successful) modern day band that’s jazzed to be making their first trip across the Atlantic to Toronto. But upon their arrival lead...

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Review: Shaun the Sheep Movie

After growing bored with the day to day tedium of farm life, Shaun the Sheep decides he wants a day off with his flock of friends. When a prank devised to deceive the farmer goes horribly awry – involving a runaway caravan and resulting in memory loss – Shaun and his friends are forced to leave the sleepy comfort of Mossy Bottom for the big city for his most perilous and madcap adventure yet. Next to Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep is the most beloved (and lucrative) creation for British animation powerhouse Aardman (Chicken Run, The Pirates: Band of Misfits). Working on a more modest scale and with characters that never talk (not even the human ones), Shaun the Sheep Movie might not be the studio’s best film overall, but it might be their most audacious and clever family outing yet, staying true to Shaun’s television series roots and expanding the adventure on the grandest scale possible. Shaun – the character and the film – owe a great deal to classic, silent slapstick comedies. While there’s a clear and easy to follow story that even the youngest of tykes can comprehend without words or fast paced action, filmmakers Mark Burton and Richard Starzak take the precocious, curious, and quick witted sheep and his buddies from one madcap situation to the next. From a fancy dinner party that would do...

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