The Brothers Grimsby, aka Grimsby (2016): Utter Rubbish (Review)

Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong

One can only surmise that 2016 has been a rough year for Mark Strong and Penélope Cruz The proof in the pudding is their participation in this debacle masquerading as a comedy film. The Brothers Grimsby, aka Grimsby is complete and utter rubbish from start to finish. The fact that the only real laugh comes at the very end of the film speaks volumes for this complete waste of celluloid.

Written by Sacha Baron CohenPhil Johnston and Peter Baynham; directed by Louis Leterrier and starring, personal favorite, Mark Strong, Cohen and his wife Isla Fisher, Aussie actress Rebel Wilson and a few familiar faces to British television audiences in the form of cameos by Johnny Vegas and Ricky Tomlinson, The Brothers Grimsby is an assault on the senses of such catastrophic poor taste that one feels the need to have a shower and a colonic cleanse after viewing. 

The film is, essentially, a classic Cohen satire/parody of the northern city and its inhabitants. Former Grimsby denizen Sebastian Graves (Strong) is an agent for MI6, sports a contact lens which records his every deadly move while on missions and he is a bald “007.”

His long lost brother, Nobby (Cohen) is a lazy, piss artist and football mad Grimsby native who picks out a mattress by shagging a “bird” on the thing in the shop.  At least Cohen’s script never rises above genitalia, ejaculatory and bottom jokes, which run throughout the film.

Cruz plays master criminal Rhonda George. The villain masquerades as a charity head who plans to release a virus that will kill all the common folk of England. This means, of course, that every Grimsby citizen is doomed.

Scott Adkins is the violent assassin who has targeted Graves, and he also works for George, who has the thankless job of being the only other “straight” character in the film. 

The movie starts as it means to finish and never deviates from the persistent toilet humor and bad taste jokes that fill each and every scene. Just as it seems that Cohen has managed to hit heretofore unheard of depths of bad taste, he manages to top himself.

It really is a tie between the “sucking out the poison” gag and the “hiding in an elephant’s vagina” schtick, complete with Strong and Cohen being assaulted by giant elephant penii and both men being covered in a white viscous substance, as to which is really the most offensive.

Other jokes are aimed at Donald Trump, no real crime committed there as the real Trump is beyond deplorable; so no harm, no foul, charities and the film really is a massive leg pull of the lower working classes.

The real crime here, beyond the consistent bad taste of the film’s “comedy” is that this could have been funny. Mark Strong is a skilled performer who has massive comedic chops. (Anyone who has seen his performance in Kick-Ass can attest to his comedy skills.)

Granted, Cohen is an acquired taste.  Fans of his brand of comedy, Ali G Indahouse and Borat may well find the film hysterically funny.  Anyone  over the age of 11 will find the film a complete waste of time.

Even the action scenes with Strong’s character are diminished by the toilet humour on offer.  It has to be said that the one redeeming thing about the film was the “first person shooter” gaming POV aspect of Graves’ action scenes.  There was a touch of Kingsman, a’la FPS that could have been the film’s highpoint since the comedy was so dire.

Sadly the movie never moves past its dire start and the sight of Cohen with long Liam Gallagher sideburns and fake teeth.

This is one to avoid. A shaky 2 out of 5 stars only for the presence of Strong. Cruz looks as though she has wound up on the wrong filmset and even severe re-editing could not save this stinker.  It takes a lot for this reviewer to savage a film, but The Brothers Grimsby has rightly earned its drubbing.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014): Matthew Vaughn Spy Gold, Bruv

Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service
The second Kingsman: The Secret Service begins, the viewer can see Matthew Vaughn’s fingerprints all over this gold spy film adapted from another Mark Millar comic…bruv. The Money for Nothing music in the beginning along with the graphics, explosions and action interwoven with opening credits alone makes this film head and shoulders above the other action comedy films on offer. While this film is not a complete win, the idea of using a London “thug” as protagonist aka super spy material, “innit blood,” is a bit annoying and was used in Attack the Block as a device.

Granted, the character portrayed by Taron Egerton can be seen as a “victim of circumstance” but then so are most of the lads in prison who really come from that part of London. Ignoring the reality of gang members and focussing on character portrayal and storyline, Egerton has to be praised for the authenticity of his actions, delivery and pronunciation while playing the young “almost” gangster “Eggsy” who is lifted out of the borough like “My Fair Lady.”

Directed and co-written by Matthew “Kick-Ass” Vaughn Kingsman: The Secret Service has a perfect blend of humor and making fun of stereotypes, brilliantly choreographed fights and shoot-em-ups, and an over the top villain and hero. Colin Firth is spot on as the “silver spoon suppositoried” super-spy “tailor.” With his “John Steed” umbrella and Bond-ian spy toys and weapons, Firth’s Galahad is a top notch super spook who works for a private organization.

Samuel Jackson as the squeamish (cannot stand the sight of violence or blood) villain who is attempting a global cleansing of the planet since he cannot stop Global Warming may not be to everyone’s taste. His lisping delivery is very funny though, and as super big bad Richmond Valentine, Jackson feels a little like an Americanized Richard Branson with a speech defect.

The violence in the film is just like that in the 2010 film Kick-Ass and watching the church scene with its stylized mayhem and Firth’s Galahad taking out all the “Westboro” types in the chapel makes one realize just how brilliant the Hit Girl scene must have been in the 2010 film before it was edited down to seconds versus its original length. The success of the scene is helped by the action taking place against the backdrop of the guitar solo from the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic em>Free Bird.

In terms of memorable actions scenes, it simply does not get any better than this. Unless, of course, one includes the latter scene of Eggsy fighting his way through a legion of guards throughout a warren of hallways while Strong’s Merlin shouts out directions.

Kingsman: The Secret Service has a roster of actors whose pedigrees and skills are impressive to the extreme and even the film’s cameo performances are noteworthy. Sir Michael Caine, playing the head of the organization, Firth’s character is named Harry Hart, which feels like a nod and wink to Caine’s Harry Palmer “back in the day” (and brother if that is not the case, it should be), is excellent as always. Mark Hamill as the kidnapped professor looks like he is doing an Eddie Izzard impression and enjoying the hell out of himself while doing so.

*Side note The scene in the beginning where the villain tells Professor Arnold, “honestly, this whiskey is amazing…you will shit,” is pure Vaughn and it sets the tone of the film beautifully. Also, it should be mentioned that the line “Are you taking the f***ing piss” is English for “Are you f***ing joking” or alternatively, “Are you having a laugh?”*

Along with the big names, like Mark Strong, Caine, Jackson, and Firth, you have Guy Richie regular Geoff Bell and the surprise appearance of Eastenders actress, and former Eurovision contestant Samantha (Janus) Womack. The actors all deliver and Strong proves that not only can he do “American gangster” (“Mommy, I want a Kick-Ass party.”) but he can deliver an excellent Scot as well.

Kudos to newcomer Sophie Cookson as Roxy, the possible love interest and female Kingsman. This very capable young English actress only started working in the industry in 2013 and is one of those who bears watching.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is the sort of film that Vaughn does extremely well. Based upon a comic, Mark Millar again, and one that allows the director to show those tightly edited fight scenes and twisty plots that are ever so slightly tongue in cheek. This is a 5 out of 5 star film that can be purchased or rented on iTunes and other streaming services right now. If you loved Kick-Ass, you will adore this film. Don’t mith thith one.

Before I Go To Sleep (DVD Review)

Poster for the filmIt is amazing to think that the first thing I ever saw Colin Firth in was a 1985 made for TV film called Dutch Girls. Equally amazing is that the one actor who completely blew me away in this London Weekend Television production was actor Timothy Spall and not Firth. The next feature I saw Firth in, he played a murderous maniac. The film was Apartment Zero. The DVD was picked up for a song in a shop in Cornwall whilst on holiday and “Mr. Darcy” became a firm favorite from that moment on. Now, in Before I Go To Sleep, Firth plays opposite Nicole Kidman and he comes dangerously close to stealing the show.

This was another film that was missed when it opened in cinemas last year. Presumably the film did not perform up to expectations and it was not showing at a lot of theaters in Vegas. Watching the DVD, it is hard to see just why it was received so poorly. Granted, there are a few plot holes but not having read the S.J. Watson novel the film is based upon these were not so glaringly obvious that they destroyed the film.

The film is about 40 year old Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) who is an amnesiac that, after she goes to sleep, forgets everything. Where she is, who she is and so on. Her husband, Ben (Colin Firth) looks after her and leaves notes and directions scattered throughout their home to help his wife cope. Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong) is a neuro-psychologist who is attempting to help Christine recover her missing memories.

According to her husband, Christine lost her memories after a horrific car accident. Nasch says that she was found naked and badly beaten. The whole film keeps the audience wondering, along with Kidman’s character, whom to believe. As pointed out, in the book’s reviews, the original tale was a clever mixture of everyday events blended with a surreal amount of tension and fear.

The film, directed by Rowan Joffe (28 Weeks Later, The American), who also wrote the screenplay, does a good job keeping at keeping the viewer guessing. Kidman delivers in the film and her performance, along with Strong’s and Firth’s is top notch.

It is hard to understand why the film got such mixed reviews when it opened. This English thriller hits all the right notes and while it does not revel in its Englishness, the film could have been set anywhere, it does add a certain something to the events. It may well be that the movie was too clever for many to see the adroit way that the puzzle is trotted out for the audience.

Another problem could be the short-term amnesia plot device. Certainly it has been done before, Christopher Nolan’s 2000 film Momento, where Guy Pearce knocked it out of the park with the mystery thriller and then Adam Sandler, along with Drew Barrymore, who played the whole thing for laughs with 50 First Dates in 2004.

It is nice to see Kidman shunning the glamorous look while playing a woman trying so desperately to remember her past. The film keeps the twists and turns coming as each new bit of information just raises more questions. By the time the film ends, the viewer doesn’t trust anyone at all.

The cinematography, which is brilliant, and the lighting combine to give the action a deliberately murky look and feel. This is a delightful gem of a film well worth watching, if for no other reason than for Kidman and Firth’s interaction. The addition of Mark Strong, proves once again that the Brits really do corner the market in the world of acting.

Available on Redbox and other video streaming services along with Amazon, et al, Before I Go To Sleep is a real 4 out of 5 star film. A cracking movie that will keep you guessing until the climax.

The Imitation Game Benedict Cumberbatch is Quirky British Hero (Review)

The Imitation Game Benedict Cumberbatch is Quirky British Hero (Review)

The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch as the quirky British war hero Alan Turing is a fascinating film, it strives to be somewhat autobiographical in nature, while it gives a truncated version of Turing’s contribution to the mastering of the Nazi code machine Enigma. The movie also tells of the horrid injustice done to the man who could be called the father of the modern day computer. Alan was a homosexual at a time when it was against the law in England and after the war the man was prosecuted under the Draconian laws of that time and rather than go to prison, Turing opted for chemical castration, aka hormonal treatment. Two years after his conviction the 41 year old secret war hero was found dead from cyanide poisoning.

Revolver (2005): Guy Richie’s Ode to Kabbalah

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With nothing better to do, I finally decided to bite the bullet and watch Revolver last night. The film was universally panned by almost every critic worldwide, except for Mark R Leeper who stated that the film would have a “narrow” audience. (Wikipedia)

You can say that again.

As the film finished on a black screen being serenaded by a piano, I gazed at the screen and said, “What the fudge was that?”

You know a film is esoteric to the extreme when you have to look the damn thing up after you’ve watched it, to try and figure out what the hell went on for 110 minutes.

And since I only know what Wikipedia told me about Kaballah (I mean apart from the fact that Ritchie’s then wife Madonna was heavily into the religion) I still don’t know what the hell was going on in the film.

Directed and co-written by Guy Ritchie with the marvellously talented Luc Beeson, Revolver is an exercise in frustration, hidden meanings (at least hidden from me) and strange character interludes with the camera a la schizophrenia.

Jason Startham stars as Jake Green; wide boy and games player extraordinary. He gets out of prison and goes to confront his old boss Dorothy Macha (Ray Liotta) about getting the money that Macha owes him. On his way out of Dorothy’s casino, a very large man stops Green and says, you’re in a lot of trouble, call me. He also hands Green a card with the words, take the elevator on it. (Green has a phobia about lifts)

Ray Liotta is feeling blue...
Ray Liotta is feeling blue…

Green doesn’t look at the card and takes the stairs, collapsing the second he starts down. He wakes up and is told he has three days to live. The big man and his partner then decide to help Jake by taking all his money and making him deliver it to various people around town. They also start seriously messing with Macha taking his money and his drugs that he is supposed to deliver to the menacing and never-seen Mr Gold.

I watched this film confused from the first scene and kept watching hoping that it would all be made clear to me by the end. The only thing that became clear to me was that the “hit man” hired by Macha, resplendent in his glasses and natty suit, was Mark Strong who played Big Frank D’Amico in Kick Ass. I spent at least half of the movie trying to figure out why he looked so familiar.

 

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Even after reading about how the characters and the numbers and the colours were representative of the “teachings” of Kabbalah, my comprehension of this film is still zero.

I guess I can take some comfort in knowing that most of the world’s critics didn’t like the film either, but not too much. I don’t as a rule trust many critics, although there are a few that I do listen to. So I can only shrug in bewilderment and wonder what in the hell was Guy Ritchie thinking?

Obviously as a gesture to his (then) wife Madonna aka Madge in the UK, he decided to make an “Ode to Kabbalah” since she was a little obsessed with the religion.

I will say this for Ritchie and his film, I could not stop watching it. Not because it was that good, but because I kept hoping to figure out what was going on.

It is on Netflix in the UK at the moment, but don’t go out of your way to watch it. Unless you understand Kabbalah intimately you’ll get lost. If you don’t? I guess it’s just me, then.

I think I had the exact same expression on my face (sans lollipop) while watching this film.
I think I had the exact same expression on my face (sans lollipop) while watching this film.