Tag Archives: jonathan levine

Snatched (2017) Review

For many, the idea of taking their Mum on holiday with them would be traumatic enough but “Snatched”, an aimlessly rowdy comedy, takes that nightmare scenario one step further.

After quitting her job and being dumped by her boyfriend, Emily (Amy Schumer) is left holding the tickets to a non-refundable paid vacation in Ecuador. Left with no alternative, Emily browbeats her mother (Goldie Hawn) into coming with her. But Emily’s impetuous and oblivious nature quickly gets them into trouble as they are kidnapped for ransom. But that’s just the beginning of their problems.

This mismatched buddy comedy featuring a mother and daughter on the vacation from hell is the kind of comedy they used to do so effortlessly in the eighties but for some reason, the knack escapes present-day Hollywood. Not that it stops them from trying. This movie is trying, in both senses of the word. There’s a palpable desperation to create something both funny and iconic but it’s just too unfocused and freewheeling for its own good. Goldie Hawn, making a return to the big screen after 15 years, proves she still has the comic timing to give as good as she gets but unfortunately what she’s getting isn’t all that great. Amy Schumer seems to have become a somewhat divisive figure of late and the jury’s still very much out on whether she has what it takes to be a movie star. Comfortable in sketch comedy and stand-up, there’s something about longer-form storytelling which fails to gel with her freewheelingly frank and raunchy in-your-face performance style. Where it worked in “Trainwreck”, it doesn’t really work here and you end up feeling all the sympathy for her poor, put-upon mother. Added into the mix is a weirdly off-putting and sneery performance by Ike Barinholtz as Emily geeky agoraphobic brother and baffling appearances from Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack in a sub-plot which promises great things but ultimately goes nowhere.

The adventurous plot of escaping the kidnappers and surviving in the jungles of South America provides at least a few laughs but they are too few and too far between. For every inspired joke about the reliability of jungle vines, there’s a misjudged (literal) gag about a tapeworm. Ultimately, all these disparate ingredients combine with all the success of a curdled Piña colada. I love Goldie Hawn to bits and I’ve got a lot of time for Amy Schumer but this is one comedy vehicle that you hope ends up in the same place as Thelma & Louise’s Ford Thunderbird.


Smoke the bowls with boughs of holly, it’s my The Night Before (2015) Review

If the sentimentality of “Christmas With The Coopers” doesn’t get your fairy lights twinkling and the spooky shenanigans of “Krampus” leave your pudding more duff than plum, perhaps bawdy festive comedy “The Night Before” will put the snap back in your Christmas cracker.

From the director and stars of “50/50”, “The Night Before” tells the story of Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie), friends since childhood who for the past decade have held an annual reunion on Christmas Eve. As time has passed and their lives have moved on, they’ve agreed that this year’s night of debauchery and hilarity will be the last. But this Christmas Eve, after years of trying, they’ve finally scored tickets to the legendarily exclusive ‘Nutcracker Ball’, New York’s invitation only Holy Grail of Christmas parties.

Underneath all the sex and drugs and misadventures, “The Night Before” is a wry and snarky update of Charles Dickens’ perennial movie plot provider “A Christmas Carol” as we see the three friends guided through an evening of self-discovery courtesy of the weed of Christmases past, present and future provided by the mystically gnomic drug dealer Mr Green (Michael Shannon). Under his sage guidance, Isaac confronts his future, Chris deals with his present and Ethan finally comes to terms with his past. Shannon is wonderful in this and almost steals the entire picture away from the three leads like some comedy acting Grinch.

Framed by a narration and coda featuring Tracy Morgan, the movie provides plenty of laugh out loud moments (mostly coming from Rogen’s Isaac tripping balls throughout the movie) but the film never quite gels together, belying its unusual production style. While the dramatic beats of the story were laid out in the script, most of the humour was improvised but then when you have a cast this good, why wouldn’t you let them go to town? Apart from the three leads, there are brief roles for Lizzy Caplan, Jillian Bell and Mindy Kaling alongside the inevitable James Franco cameo. Even Miley Cyrus gets in on the action – but don’t let that put you off.

As you’d expect from the camera of Jonathan Levine, the pen of Evan Goldberg (and others) and the mouth of Seth Rogen, “The Night Before” is a bawdy, profane and drug-fuelled scattergun comedy that just about manages to pull off the requisite happy festive ending. It may not become a universally beloved holiday classic, but it’s certainly fun enough to earn a slot in your yearly Christmas movie rotation.


Warm Bodies (2013) Review

A clever spin on the largely played out zombie craze, “Warm Bodies” delivers an enjoyable, surprisingly gentle comedy horror. Despite being stuck with the duties of the narrator, Nicholas Hoult is brilliant as recovering zombie ‘R’ and uses the inner monologue of our hero to turn the role into something special.

The engaging and intriguing premise, of a zombie slowly returning to life allows the film to keep its focus tightly on our undead Romeo and his initially unwilling Juliet.

Nicholas Hoult is terrific in the lead role, bringing a real sense of sympathy and pathos to the role of the brain-craving undead, as well as an incredibly nuanced physically to his condition and gradual recovery. He develops wonderfully authentic chemistry with Teresa Palmer’s Julie, the human girl who finds herself in trouble after defying her father and taking a trip outside the safety of their walled The supporting cast is good, especially the remarkably restrained turn from the usually frenetic Rob Corddry.

“Warmer Bodies” isn’t shy about leaning into the zombie apocalypse tropes and playing up the horror when it wants to. The makeup and special effects are solid, particularly the emaciated zombie Boneys, who provide much of the real threat of the movie.

At its core, though, this is a “love conquers all” romcom, only in this case, love helps to conquer the zombie apocalypse itself. It may not be the ‘original’ RomZomCom, but it finds some fresh ground between the overly pop-culture infused anarchy of “Zombieland” and the arch hipster romance of “Adventureland” to give us something with a little bit of newness and a whole lot of charm. Not afraid of spilling a little blood, but not gratuitously gory and with a satisfyingly upbeat and optimistic tone, “Warm Bodies” is certainly the most enjoyable Zombie movie I’ve seen in a long time.