Review: The Wedding Video (2012)

After being asked by his brother, Tom (Robert Webb), to be best man at his impending wedding to Saskia (Lucy Punch), Raif (Rufus Hound) decides to mark the occasion by making a home video of the run-up to the special day, clashes and all. But, as the day nears, and various ructions occur, it becomes apparent that the wedding everyone expected, particularly Saskia’s overbearing mother (Harriet Walter) and conservative grandmother (Miriam Margolyes), may not be Continue reading “Review: The Wedding Video (2012)”

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Review: Bad Teacher (2011)

Synopsis: Some teachers just don’t give an F. Case in point: Elizabeth (Cameron Diaz). She’s foul-mouthed, ruthless, and inappropriate.  She drinks, she gets high, and she can’t wait to marry her meal ticket and get out of her bogus day job.  When she’s dumped by her fiancé, she sets her plan in motion to win over a rich, handsome substitute (Justin Timberlake) – competing for his affections with an overly energetic colleague, Amy (Lucy Punch).  When Elizabeth also finds herself fighting off the advances of a sarcastic, irreverent gym teacher (Jason Segel), the consequences of her wild and outrageous schemes give her students, her coworkers, and even herself, an education like no other.

While the premise itself is obviously interesting, and the characters have a great potential to be explored, screenwriters Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg are too busy trying to shock with crass humour, ridiculous gags and offensive one liners. There are glimmers of hope with a sprinkling of particularly funny moments – mostly to do with Punch’s Amy and her various interactions with Diaz’s Elizabeth – but, due to the inconstant nature in which they unfold, the humour falls flat as quickly as it arrives.

Jake Kasdan’s direction, on the other hand, is surprisingly rich and crisp for a comedy production, adding a pretty gloss that, at times, adequately masks the poorly structured and played out narrative. We’ve seen with Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and Orange County that Kasdan has huge potential, so it’s a disappointment to see him wasting his obvious skills as a director on such a misguided comedy.

Diaz is unavoidably miscast in the role of Elizabeth. Though she works wonders with the mediocre dialogue, she simply doesn’t have the versatility needed as an actress to pull off the various sides Elizabeth harbours. Sure, she can do the whole sexy, radiant thing, but it’s hard to believe her evil side when you’re aware of how nice she is in real life.

Timberlake tries a little too hard to be the sexy nerd, but he never quite pulls it off. Segel, however, makes a valiant attempt at the sexy rogue, but is thwarted by a lack of screen time. (Yes, there is indeed a theme of “sexy-insert-secondary-character-trait-here” going on throughout.) Essentially, this means that Bad Teacher belongs to Punch, who manages to be almost constantly hilarious as Amy: seemingly nice yet harbouring an insane evil streak. She fills the role with a terrific sense of physicality – so much so that you find yourself wishing she’d switch roles with Diaz purely so she can have more time onscreen.

Ultimately, Bad Teacher is a beguiling and poorly written comedy that shamefully wastes its array of talent. Aside from a few laughs, and a scene stealing turn from Punch, it’s almost entirely insufferable.

Review: You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, writer/director Woody Allen’s fortieth feature film, is tale of chicanery, infatuation and disappointment, and reunites one of the world’s best directors with the beautiful city of London.

The film follows a pair of married couples, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones), and their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) and husband Roy (Josh Brolin), as their passions, ambitions, and anxieties lead them into trouble and out of their minds.

After Alfie leaves Helena to pursue his lost youth and a free-spirited call girl named Charmaine (Lucy Punch), Helena abandons rationality and surrenders her life to the loopy advice of a charlatan fortune teller.

Unhappy in her marriage, Sally develops a crush on her handsome art gallery owner boss, Greg (Antonio Banderas), while Roy, a novelist nervously awaiting the response to his latest manuscript, becomes moonstruck over Dia (Freida Pinto), a mystery woman who catches his gaze through a nearby window.

Though not Allen’s strongest material, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger still has a solid story, blending the ups and downs of each relationship, and highlighting the hypocrisies of marriage. Allen clearly still has a way of letting his stories unfold in an eloquent and timely manner.

Through the unstable characters’ troubled relationships, Allen not only examines how people deal with mortality but also how we cope with life, love and existence in general.

The film, however many life-altering questions it brings up, ends just when complications set in, which not only makes you wonder how invested Allen really is with the characters’ lives, but also makes it harder to empathise with their troubled being.

The characters, from Jones’ Helena neurotic to Brolin’s anguished Roy, feel more like puppets rather than human beings with natural instincts, human emotions and comprehensible senses. They all come over as extremely egocentric and have little to offer in the way of benevolence to their counterparts.

Jones leads the cast perfectly with her portrayal of Helena. Watts, Brolin and Hopkins fail to break free of their limited dialogue and uncoloured characters, and, the shamefully wasted trio of Punch, Friel and Banderas who, despite having the most interesting on-screen personaes, are not given enough time to thrive amongst their equally underused counterparts.

While the acting isn’t up to the heights of Vicky Christina Barcelona, Annie Hall or even Match Point, it’s impressively low key enough to be a joy to watch.

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is by no means Allen’s best film, but it’s also not his worst. It’s well-plotted, beautifully directed, contains some mildy humorous moments and isn’t short of talented actors.

It’s irritating, then, that it’s let down so wrongly by glorified scenery, under-developed characters and a script that seems to foolishly avoid dramatic impact.