August is a surprisingly big month, with 8 films in the Film Fight, making it also more than a little late.
First up, The Legend of Barney Thomson is the directorial debut of Robert Carlyle, with himself in the titular role as an unlikeable barber who accidentally becomes a murderer. While the police investigation thread doesn’t quite land, Barney and his mother (a scene-stealing, excellent turn by Emma Thompson) are engaged in a dark comedy that never strays too far into farce, but remains larger than life. Very good. (See my Legend of Barney Thomson Twitter review).
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is exactly what you expect from the franchise, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We have some of the biggest practical stunts in cinema, stylish fights, and excellent choreography/editing; the Opera scene stands out as particularly well done. We also have a convoluted, slightly nonsensical plot, but that’s par for the course. Sit back and let the action wash over you. It’s worth seeing. (See my Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation Twitter review).
Pixar are still the best animation studio out there. Inside-Out is another good example of their output, but is a little lacking. The imaginative worlds they build have always been fully-formed, and make sense from an internal point of view, but the world inside Inside-Out seems to lack cohesion. The film itself is funny and at times emotional, which is probably no surprise for a film about the embodiments of a child’s emotions. It’s not a bad film but does feel flimsy in places, even for a kids film. Okay. (See my Inside-Out Twitter review).
Marshland is a story about two Spanish detectives with very different approaches investigating some rural murders. The plot itself is able, if a little generic. There’s nothing particularly fresh in the story or characters, you’ve seen variations on this before. It is, however, a very solid effort in the crime fiction genre. Where it excels, however, is in the visuals. The aerial shots are gorgeous, and the colours, framing and lighting are world-class throughout. Good. (See my Marshland Twitter review).
Trainwreck is that rarest of things in American cinematic comedies: a fresh take. While elements of it are standard set-pieces, it builds smart jokes on top of enjoyably gross humour. For once, the character building is actually pretty good, with the leads getting more than the standard fall-from-grace and climb-back arc. Amy Schumer shows her comedy translates from stage to TV and now to cinema. Very funny. (See my Trainwreck Twitter review).
Meanwhile, Absolutely Anything is that saddest of things: a comedy with absolutely nothing new to say, not even the jokes. The premise is stock (Simon Pegg unexpectedly gets the power to do whatever he wants), and is propped up by tired cliches and reheated stereotypes. Nothing here develops beyond the terrible, narrow starting point. A comedy with no redeeming qualities. Avoid. (See my Absolutely Anything Twitter review).
Yet another comedy: Vacation digs up the classic National Lampoon series for a modern take. While it fails to better those films (which are admittedly of their time), it manages enough funny, if disjointed, moments to make the whole experience pleasant. Both Ed Helms and Christina Applegate are likeable as the new leads, and the supporting cast each deliver the little that is asked of them. Not a classic, but okay. (See my Vacation Twitter review).
Finally, Straight Outta Compton is the dramatisation of the rise and fall of NWA, and its stars. At two and a half hours, the slow start feels like it might be a slog, but things pick up by the halfway mark as the group splinters and the real drama begins. The performances as a whole are decent, and the subject matter is interesting enough. It’s probably a little longer and less focussed than it could have been, but overall it works. Good. (See my Straight Outta Compton Twitter review).
The winner for August is Trainwreck. While none of the (many) films this month was faultless, I think I’d probably see this one again soonest. Note: Barney Thompson had originally been the winner in my first draft, but I changed my mind between writing this and publishing it.