Storks

My Rating: 7/10

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Storks
Cast

Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer

Directed by

Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland

Written by

Nicholas Stoller

Other Info

Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Rated PG
89min (and no more, thankfully)

For grown-ups:
For kids:
Storks landed in my local theater tonight and I was there with my 2 daughters ages 9 and 11.  By the way, I’m 47. I’m happy to report the 9 and 11 year-olds loved the film. I was only somewhat impressed.

IMDB gives this synopsis: Storks have moved on from delivering babies to packages. But when an order for a baby appears, the best delivery stork must scramble to fix the error by delivering the baby.

If that sounds like  a convoluted story, you don’t know the half of it.

Kids will like it though.

This film has been promoted in theater trailers and internet for what seems like a year at least. I think the makers felt the title would resonate in so many people’s childhood memories that they would mark the premiere date on their calendar as well as their Google alerts. As old as I am, my parents never told me anything about storks bringing babies. If any parents needed an explanation, it was them. I’m the oldest of 4 siblings and I was intelligent and very inquisitive as a kid. Thankfully for me, they shared the truth about how babies are made and how they come into the world at a reasonable age: no need for storks.

My dad on the other hand did get the stork story when he was a kid. I sent him a text after the movie joking that he should see this film. Maybe he’ll get it. I think this film assumed the audience knew this dishonest legend that parents used to tell their kids. It’s ironic how parents in the 1940’s needed storks to explain the mystery of childbirth to children. After this movie, a lot of parents will have to explain the mystery of the storks in the movie through the actual explanation of birth.

But, enough about the weird stork angle, let me tell you 2 things that do work in the film. 1) The babies. The first strong impression I recall of a baby in an animated film is Jack Jack in The Incredibles. He is a firecracker. I loved the way he giggled as he was blurting out superpowers. I think he stands out in all our minds as a movie baby we won’t forget. The babies in this film are amazing in a similar way. Their voices are perfectly timed with deft CGI artistry. This makes them extremely cute and loveable. The best aspect is the laughs. Their laughs make the Pilsbury doughboy sound stand-offish. They invite you to love them. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of merch comes from this film. 2) SOME of the jokes. There is a small bird who is a sort of pseudo-nemesis. He is very funny. Some of the jokes lag too much though. I was surprised this film was so flat in its humor after having been in production for a year or more. Usually they test things like that with focus groups etc. This film feels “off the cuff” a lot. Moreover, so much is predictable because we have seen all this before.

Having said that …

Kids will like it. To them, I recommend it. All else, tell me what you think. I think I could have skipped this one and not have missed much.

‘Ashby’ – Legendary Mickey Rourke as Mentor

How does ‘Ashby’ stack up as the latest Mickey Rourke film? The jury is in for this reviewer.

My Rating: 6/10 – Mickey Rourke is an irresistible performer. I’ve been watching his movies since I was a kid and his presence in movies had drawn audiences for years and up to the present day. Is Ashby a welcome presence? Hmmm.

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Ashby (2015)
Cast

Mickey Rourke, Nat Wolff, Emma Roberts

Directed by

Tony McNamara

Written by

Tony McNamara

Other Info

Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rated R
1h 40min

Ashby is one of those movies you keep questioning whether it’s an independent or major studio motion picture. You think it must suck as the latter and might be hip and cool if it’s the former. Turns out, neither platform can save this film, it comes up empty on several levels.

The premise is that a High-school student Ed Wallis (Nat Wolff) enters into a friendship with his neighbor, Ashby, (Mickey Rourke) a retired CIA assassin who only has a few months left to live.

The basic plot bears similarities to Scent of a Woman. The main difference is that Mickey Rourke doesn’t play the role as deftly as Al Pacino. In fact, his character is boring and without charisma. It’s hard to believe we are watching the same Mickey Rourke that kicked ass in Iron Man 2. Maybe he came off as lucid there because he was playing with a thick accent. His character could have been performed much better. The film’s biggest weakness is in him being mis-cast. He’s a great actor and I have huge respect for him. Another film I truly loved him in was The Wrestler. This is not The Wrestler. Unfortunately his performance falls short and almost nonsensical in this film. The romance present in the film can’t save it either. Emma Roberts and Nat Wolff are both charming but the other story overshadows everything and mostly, you want to forget it. I actually chose to watch this film because it was a romance but I think that is another “mis” in the movie along with miscast: a mislabeled.

It’s a fun idea for a story and for a while, I wanted to see what was going to happen. Soon however I lost interest in the characters and the predictable story unraveling before me. When a high school kid is mentored by an old dude, cool things can happen. I guess the trouble here is that not enough cool things happen. The film weaves a high school film into a hit-man drama with another “coming of age” cord woven in. If each were like seasoning, I’d say each overpowers the other. Nothing is subtle. I’ll be a Mickey Rourke fan to the end but this is not one of his films I can wholeheartedly recommend. I wanted deeper, more rounded characters and a better story. I see what they tried to do but in the end they missed it. It’s not a total bomb so if you are a fan, you may enjoy it because hey … it’s MICKEY ROURKE! Still, Ashby doesn’t pack the punch of some of his other hit films.

‘High Rise’ – Style Over Accessibility

Some movies look really slick as this one does, and believe me I was impressed with the look of it. Unofrtunately for me, I hadn’t read the book and I think somewhere along the plot line I got lost.

My Rating: 6/10 – *This review contains spoilers.

In the future, everyone might live in communal buildings. If you’ve ever lived in a tiny apartment in a big city, you know these can have their drawbacks. This film shows some of those potential problems in the form of a drama. It all looks great but it somehow lost me in its fragmented plot.

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High Rise (2015)
Cast

Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller

Directed by

Ben Wheatley

Written by

J.G. Ballard (novel), Amy Jump

Other Info

Drama
Rated R
1h 59min

Did you “get” this film? Imagine you live, work, swim, workout, shop, and recreate in a London high-rise building. That’s what’s going on here. The cover almost looks like the game “Clue” since it has all the characters posed sardonically as if to say “I could have done it, but I didn’t.” But this isn’t a “whodunnit.” Instead, it’s a drama about things that go on in said high rise. One facet that’s really weird and alluring is the way the futuristic stuff is all retro 70’s looking. It’s like a trip into a sort of “James Bond” land on a movie studio theme park tour. I also reminded me of Ray Bradbury’s writing. He wrote in the 50’s about a future he imagined from 50’s stuff (phones, analog computers, telescreens, monorails). What’s different here is you have a move made in 2016 that portrays a future using 70’s stuff. It really needs to be seen to be understood. I call it futuristic retro.

Tom Hiddleston plays the main character, Laing. He is the protagonist in the real life novel of the same name by J.G. Ballard. I would assume the novel provided some of the retro visual motivation. The film was directed by Bean Wheatley who is known for Kill List and Sight Seers. He is joined by his wife as screenplay writer on this film once again. Jeremy Irons plays “the architect.” He represents the older gentleman who knows everything about the building. Sienna Miller also stars in the film.

High-Rise is a story about surviving and thriving in a futuristic high-rise. It’s as much about human technology as it is about its failures. Were people meant to live this closely together? One might decide not after watching this film. Then again, it could be the fault of a few bad applies that spoils it for everyone. When Laing first moves in to the building, I asked myself “Why would he ever need to leave?” There is even a floor that serves as a grocery store. On its face it seems a novel idea, but perhaps we do need to go out from time to time and mingle?

Luke Evans (known for Dracula) plays a scary Wilder. He is the antagonist and the constant fly in the ointment. At the same time, he was the character I enjoyed watching the most. He bares a similar resemblance to Michael Shannon, who has a similar demeanor as well. It’s impossible to rule out whether a certain person or the faulty plans of the architect pave the way for anarchy in this London high-rise. despite the contained setting, there is sex, violence, vengeance, and science fiction that keeps the plot interesting. By the way, does anyone agree the sex scene was way too long? Is Tom Hiddleston gunning for a new genre here? Unfortunately, the structure and slick look is fragmented. I don’t think I “got it” as I was supposed to.

Lots of time movies look really slick but I just can’t get into them. It happened with the remake of The Man Called Uncle and some others I reviewed last year. I could probably go back and understand this film better a second time but I probably won’t anytime soon. For the visuals and futuristic/retro ideas, I gave it a 3/5. This is one however that I think will depend a lot on the individual as to whether it’s “gotten” or not. Part of being a “spoilers” reviewer as I am these days is being honest about my gut response. On a gut level, this movie scores lower with me. I try to avoid rating film by my gut so for the look, acting, and structure, I give it 3/5.

‘Suicide Squad’

My Rating: 3/10 – It doesn’t really matter that critics are giving this movie an average of 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. People are paying to see it anyway. The explosions and short-attention-span vignettes are what makes it very much like a comic and we all know how popular comics have become in pop culture.

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Starring: Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Will Smith, Joel Kinnaman, Cara Delevingne, Jai Courtney, Jesse Eisenberg, Viola Davis, Jay Hernandez
Genres: Action
Directed By: David Ayer
Studio: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating
R

In case you haven’t divined it by now, Suicide Squad is a comic movie made for comic fans. There is a lot to like about this film but there is also I found hard to follow in the plot. I found it recovered about halfway through and I ended up liking it for what it was.

Director David Ayer is known for his films set in Los Angeles. He is also known for directing Training Day which shines a light on the dark side of law enforcement in L.A.. In Suicide Squad, a set of high profile prisoners are commissioned by a secret government agency to battle an evil supernatural witch. The prisoners are offered less time for their sentences if they comply. These characters are fun to watch and they have a lot of crime adventures as they seek to take down the witch. Unfortunately, the story of how the witch came to be is a little hazy and she is, in my opinion, weak as a villain.

Everyone talks about Margot Robbie as the star of the film as Harley Quinn. I will grant her that but then again, there isn’t a whole lot of competition present here. Jared Leto as the Joker but the backstory about he and Harley Quinn takes away from the plot in my opinion and is not really necessary. I say if you are going to give the story of one you should give it for others. In all truth, I don’t think we need the history for any of these criminals, they should just let them do their work.

The plot starts out really slow but picks up 1/2 to 3/4 of the way through. Unlike a lot of the critics, I liked this film for what it tried to be. Comic books have simple, boxy cartoons that tell a story. This was sort of like “in your face” comic book pages flipping wildly. If you can put aside your desire for a traditional movie, it’s fairly easy to get in to this film. I know because I expected nothing and ended up enjoying it. It was clearly made for children, hence the PG-13 rating. I teach ten year olds and nearly my whole class told me they have seen it. It lost a couple stars with me, I give it a 3/5. Still, if you can shed your grownup sensitivities long enough for this funhouse ride, you might enjoy it. It’s a good idea to do that now and then you know?

‘Stand and Deliver’ (1988) – An Inner City Teacher & His Students Make History

After Jaime Escalante’s students passed the A.P. Calculus exam for a second time to prove they didn’t cheat, Escalante says to the test company: “I want the original scores reinstated.” What a cinematic moment! Those kids stood and delivered!

My Rating 10/10 This film means a lot to me as someone who values education. I can only think of one other film that competes for the position of my all time favorite and that is ‘Lean on Me’ with Morgan Freeman. They both demonstrate the concept of raising your expectations high for students, trusting they want to achieve.
*This review contains spoilers.

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Stand and Deliver (1988)
Cast

Edward James Olmos, Estelle Harris, Mark Phelan

Directed by

Ramón Menéndez

Written by

Ramón Menéndez, Tom Musca

Other Info

Drama
PG

This film, as far as I am concerned, should be required viewing for anyone who wants to be a teacher. I’m not saying it will discourage that career path but I think it accurately shows what you have to aspire to be if you want to reach your students. The larger than life teacher, Jaime Escalante, is played by Edward James Olmos in an eerie sort of doppelgänger way. It’s as if he was born to play this part.

The story goes that Escalante starts his first day teaching in an inner city Los Angeles school. The school is overwrought with gang members and students who seem to not care about school or their new teacher. I can tell you I have seen this played out in high school when I was a substitute teacher there in my twenties. At the same time, I’ve seen it in the lower grades, though a little more innocently, in my 17 years of teaching elementary public school. How do you tame this teeming horde? That’s the method you must develop as a teacher and it doesn’t come easy. Sending kids to the Principal becomes a last resort and you have to deal with unruly and disrespectful kids on your own.

Because the situation is so bad in some schools, teachers should see this movie. You can pick up some tips and you can be encouraged to go toward what you think is best. That’s called developing a teaching style. It’s also really easy to get into because it’s an 80’s movie with a great soundtrack. Credits to credits, you feel immersed in the miracle that truly took place in an inner city L.A. school. It is a powerful film for anyone to appreciate and enjoy, especially teachers.

StandandDeliverEdwardJamesOlmosEscalante gets a group of hispanic kids all fired up to take the AP calculus test. This surprises everyone in the film because up to now, the school has been one of the most underperforming in the country. Escalante petitions to the school board to get his students to take it and in spite of some people disagreeing, he gets permission. The kids do finally take the test and at that point, the worst of all worst things happens: the state comes out to investigate possible cheating. As if it wasn’t enough for these kids to work so hard, now they get accused of doing an immoral thing. They have to take the test again to exonerate themselves.

slide-daniel-villarreal-1All along the way, Escalante is reaching out to his students: showing them a finder trick to learn their 9’s in multiplication, dining at their parents’ restaurants trying to get buy-in on them going to college, and things like that. He is not a normal educator but rather a “super” one. I think it would be foolish for me to try and be like him, he’s an individual with a specific skill set of gifts. I on the other hand, have my own bag of tricks when it comes to classroom management and student achievement. Even those who are not teachers will find this film entertaining. Everyone has been in that student chair right? It is relatable from both sides and it clearly shows the benefits of having a common goal and never backing down.

stand-and-deliver_1Lou Diamond Phillips plays on of the hoodlum gang types that gets drawn in by Escalante’s teaching style. There is a great scene where Phillips’ character and a few hoodlum types steal his car and then fix it up in their chop shop. They make his old VW into a tricked out show car. It’s a great scene because is really shows how much he means to these kids now, after proving himself a conscientious and caring teacher.

4407856_f248I love another scene where Andy Garcia comes in from the test company to investigate the possibility of cheating. Phillip’s character jokes with him faking him out that they cheated. Then he springs a punchline insulting Garcia. There is another scene where Garcia throws a fit saying he is a Mexican and he understands the pressures. They are basically accusing him of not being sensitive to the Mexican people. It’s one of his more irate scenes I’ve seen him play. He does and excellent job.

ejo-stand-and-deliverThe movie is like a racing film in that there is a goal and despite tons of setbacks, the race ensues until the end where the elusive prize is won. For anyone starting school, college, a new challenging endeavor of any kind (but academic would probably receive the most benefit) this is an excellent motivation tool and source of inspiration. As a teacher, this is one of my favorite films but it ranks up there with any other movie I love. I’d put it in my top 10. So if you’ve never seen this “based on a true story” film, I highly recommend it to you. It has something for everyone and it affects you in a very banal way. If you don’t walk away after watching this in a more positive mindset, I think you need to rewind it and watch it again, you probably weren’t paying attention ese.

Edward James Olmos consulting on the set with the real teaching legend: Jaime Escalante.
Edward James Olmos consulting on the set with the real-life living-legend of teaching: Jaime Escalante.

‘Ben Hur’ (2016)

Ben Hur is effective for bringing up the topic of the historical figure of Jesus because the film is not about Jesus, he is only background. There is no Jesus-subtlety in this reboot.

*This review contains spoilers.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this film’s release and now, after watching it am suffering extreme let down. Hopefully you don’t like sermons or preaching, if that’s the case you may agree that this film misses the mark by a mile. If you liked this film, read on with caution, especially if you liked the enhanced evangelical aspect.

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Ben Hur (2016)
Cast

Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro

Directed by

Timur Bekmambetov (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)

Written by

Keith R. Clarke
John Ridley
Based on the novel by: Lew Wallace

Other Info

Adventure, Drama, History
Rated PG-13
124min

For many this can be a fun afternoon at the movies, don’t let me ruin it for you but this is after all, my blog so here goes.

From Ben-Hur to Jesus’ words and back again … repeat. That’s pretty much the formula of this Ben-Hur reboot. This is quite different globally from the 1959 subtle presentation of religion. We rarely see Jesus in the original, he is a suggestion, a sideline, a background to be accessed and made sense of only by the individual. That’s what makes the original a more powerful movie. What little religion is there, you can take or leave it. It’s not preached but rather suggested.

The story is more or less the same, though certain parts were left out of the reboot: A Jewish prince must suffer to make it back to his rightful freedom. Along the way, he has battles with his adopted brother. It turns out the best way to defeat him is in a chariot race. There are periodic appearances of Jesus speaking scripture and acting out Bible stories in parallel time to Ben-Hur’s life. In the end, it is revealed that this Jesus guy/god was telling the truth and everyone gets a healing of sorts.

The original Ben-Hur is a beloved film made in 1959 starring Charlton Heston and a cast of thousands. It is as epic a film as one can imagine. Looking at it even on a surface level shows what is really happening here. This is a movie for evangelicals first. So why is it in theaters? That’s my biggest question. Producer Mark Burnett who is known for the Bible miniseries and the religious film Son of Man, secured the rights to re-do the 1959 film that won 11 Oscars. I have always seen the original as a secular movie to be enjoyed by all religions or by those who practice none.

Why pick a film to reboot that was so popular in its time as it was? Why not pick a film that did poorly and improve upon it? The answer is this: The name Ben-Hur is already established and therefore easier for evangelicals to force an agenda and a reading into a film.

Jesus appears a few times in the original Ben-Hur but in the reboot, he pops up a lot more. When he does, we see his face, hear extended monolog, and we even hear him tell Ben-Hur “I have a plan for your life.” Sounds like youth group at the local evangelical church “movie night.” The original Ben-Hur can be seen as pro-Christian but it is subtle and doesn’t over shadow the whole movie (especially the last 1/4). I honestly thought Greg Laurie or Billy Graham was going to appear during the credits and ask people to come forward to make a decision for Christ. Honestly people, there is a time and a place for this. Stealing the influence of Ben-Hur is not a cool move for the faithful. It’s already blowing up in their faces being a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 4/10 on IMDB. I predict it will not be in theaters long.

But let’s get to the actual movie instead of going on and on about the philosophy of the producer: Is this a quality film apart from the preachy religious stuff? Apart from two segments, this is a nothing more than a Hallmark tv movie. It’s hard to believe it made it to theaters. The two segments that made it worth watching fo me are: 1) The galley slave/boat scenes and 2) The chariot race. Everything else is like witnessing a dud firework not go off.

I should say a quick word about Morgan Freeman. All the acting is bad in this film. It’s like watching a long-haired 13 year old play Spartacus after oiling up his arms. Freeman is comatose. It’s as if he was paid a ridiculous sum out of the 100 million spent on the film and is thinking about all his relatives private school tuitions as his lines are delivered. I hope people reading this who disagree with me will get a chance to see the original Ben-Hur. This is nothing like it in any way. I had a similar criticism of Pete’s Dragon recently. I will actually praise Pete’s Dragon over this because Pete’s Dragon can stand on its own without preaching religion. There are parts that are neutral and enjoyable but due to its preachy side, this film should be playing in churches, not secular theaters.

In conclusion, I have no problem with a movie having religious overtones, many humans have religion and movies are for people. The problem here is that this reboot is preaching. Secular movies should be adventures anyone can get on board. I’ll forget this film in a couple of days and I do not recommend it. If you liked it, I’d like to hear why in the comments. To me, this is a made for church, church movie. I’m looking forward to putting my dashed hopes aside and getting on to the next film I want to see.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

“The devil comes from the sky.” -Lex Luthor

Apart from misleading marketing, even down to the very title of the film, “Batman v Superman” is an amazing film that audiences are sure to continue enjoying. The critics at large have dismissed its genius but time will take care of that.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Cast
Ben Affleck

as Batman

Henry Cavill

as Superman

Amy Adams

as Lois

Directed by
Zach Snyder
Written by
Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer
Other Info

Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated PG-13
151 min

I’ve gone around and around with it in my head and decided I just can’t take points from a movie because it was named and marketed poorly. Honestly though, that’s the only thing wrong with this film. It shines. My nearly eighteen year old son said it dragged at the beginning and was laboriously long but we both agree the mid to end portion is spectacular I thought the whole movie was stellar.

Without giving any spoilers, let me just say the title should have been something like: “Superman 2: Luthor rises.” This is really a Superman film with the usual nemesis Lex Luthor who uses rhetoric to persuade Batman to kill Superman. Does he succeed? Yes and no. You’ll have to see the film. There is some other stuff in the plot I’d love to talk about. It’s a grand scale monster we hear nothing about in the trailers. In my opinion, the monster and Lex are really what this movie is all about.

Ben Affleck plays a great Batman, which many of us felt he would. There is also the debut of the DC character Wonder Woman in the latter part of the film. This was briefly explained. In fact, the intro to her coming on screen was so miniscule, I have to go back and watch it again to get where she came from etc. It was a long and involved film so please forgive me. I didn’t bring my notepad, a mistake that will not happen again.

Another thing that maybe could have taken a star from my 5 star rating of this behemoth, beautiful film is the insertion of histories, mostly on Batman. Now we all know Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed in front of him as a child. Scenes like this and others are plentiful in the early part of the film. I would have rather they not be, they aren’t relevant. Still, this film picks up and gets you on a ride that all you’re thinking is “I can’t wait to tell my friends about this.” Don’t believe the critics on this one. I found it much preferable to the critical darling “Deadpool.” I highly recommend it.

‘The Family Fang’

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Starring: Christopher Walken, Nicole Kidman, Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Marin Ireland, Eugenia Kuzmina, Jason Butler Harner, Michael Chernus, Josh Pais, Mackenzie Brooke Smith
Genres: Drama
Directed By: Jason Bateman
Runtime: 105 minutes
Studio: Starz Digital Media
MPAA Rating
R

Once in a while I see a movie that reminds me of a made-for-tv film but then about 1/2 way through, I really like it and take it back. This is one such film. The subject matter is on having quirky parents and being embarrassed bt them even into adulthood. The parents’ problem is not alcohol, philandering, or even physical abuse. Instead, its their constant inclusion of their children in video pranks and other created scenes they call “art.” The children all grown up are played by Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman. The film is also directed by Bateman.

In one of these stunts, their father and mother (Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett) drive all four of them to a public food court at a park. They hand out coupons for free chicken sandwiches and film the reactions at the food stand as people (in theory) become enraged when they are rejected.

There are many pranks and works of art that are shown in the film. Some take place as flashbacks when they were kids and others take place in modern times. This takes the storyline into pranks you can imagine fully experienced and aged pranksters might pull. Could it be the adult children are now the butt of the joke?

The film does get more cinematic and less made-for-tv but always carries an air that is just short of a powerful film. There are topics relating to abusive parents that may come up in a discussion afterwards if one cares to bring them up. It lost points for being such an unbelievable subject and having characters and plot that were difficult to identify with.

Weekly Roundup – Movies I Reviewed Last Week

I spent some time looking at older films like Planet of the Apes. I also got one new film in: Lights Out. Enjoy.

Barney Thomson

“Barney Thomson” is a film that tries to follow the convention of black comedy. In this case, a barber turns unwitting murderer. Unfortunately, it just isn’t dark or funny enough to keep ones attention.

Barney Thomson is a film that tries to follow the convention of black comedy. In this case, a barber turns unwitting murderer. Unfortunately, it just isn’t dark or funny enough to keep ones attention.

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Barney Thomson
The Legend of Barney Thomson (original title)
Cast

Robert Carlyle, Emma Thompson, Ashley Jensen

Directed by

Robert Carlyle

Written by

Richard Cowan, Douglas Lindsay, Colin McLaren

Other Info

Comedy, Crime
Rated R
1h 36min
Riley’s Rating:

Robert Carlyle is well known for his role in The Full Monty. That film is funny because it deals in the absurd reality of men stripping due to them all having lost their day jobs. He’s the leader by proxy of the dancing group and you relate with him because he’s broke and he’s found a way. As he makes money as a stripper, the story goes all sorts of directions and it’s a really fun movie all around. This film, Barney Thomson, certainly has the ridiculous factor, a barber turns murderer accidentally and just keeps doing it.

So we have the absurd story but where is the comedy? Is murder less funny than male burlesque? Maybe. I think it can be presented as hilarious. Take the Coen Brothers’ work for example. Fargo is a dark murderous laugh a minute. This film approaches that sort of black comedy convention but never truly arrives there.

Some have noted the strength of Emma Thompson’s performance. Indeed she does bring a credence to the black comedy being portrayed. When she comes on screen, you feel things lift, as if it’s going somewhere you could in theory like. Unfortunately, her role is just not big enough to save this film.

In summary: Barney Thomson is a story of a burned out mediocre barber who loses his job and then accidentally kills his boss. Through many misfortunate events he kills others. He is labeled a serial killer and there is a hunt by the inspector. There are a few side stories going on, some make sense more than others. For example, a female officer (Ashley Jensen) cusses at the actual inspector on the case a lot for no apparent reason. The film has its moments but I feel the error is in the script. None of the powerhouse actors are given much to work with. Finally, Barney himself never really does anything either. A serial killer should be a little frightening or a little relatable, one or the other. I enjoyed parts of the film but I’m afraid the film didn’t evoke the humor and disgust side by side enough to make it a hit I would recommend.