Neighbors (rather hilariously re-titled Bad Neighbours in Australia, presumably in order not to be confused with the long running soap, and really if you think anyone is going to confuse a Seth Rogan comedy with anything involving Ramsay Street, then what right do you have to work in the entertainment industry you IDIOT) was the sort of film where I watched the trailer and went, “well, this does look funny, but 1) they may have just crammed all the funniest bits in, and 2) I am so tired of dudebro comedies like whoa and it would really be nice if Rose Byrne actually gets to be hilarious in this.”
Well, the film gods were clearly listening to my half-arsed prayer far too closely, because Neighbours steps up with not only a properly hilarious film experience where, yes, Rose Byrne is by far the funniest part, but also some really solid, deliberate critiques of the current state of Hollywood comedies, their representations of masculinity and their paucity in representing women beyond kill-joy caricature. The point where, having both contributed to various ridiculous schemes in order to drive out the fraternity living next door, Rogan’s Mac turns to Byrne’s Kelly cajoling her to finally be the ‘responsible’ one, and she goes “oh no, you DO NOT get to pretend that I’m the one who has to fix everything just because I’m the WOMAN” made me silently cheer in the cinema and make tiny fist pumps. The film is filled with similar great little moments, from the ennui of being new parents, to the limiting expectations of masculinity and how young men attempt to break out of that, there’s a lot of clever points muscling their way into the forefront here. Also Dave Franco does the best De Niro impression I’ve ever SEEN, honestly if you are not firmly on board the Superior Franco’s train at the moment I don’t know what to say to you.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
The last thing I ordinarily need from an X-Men film is it for to be in any way coherent as a film text. X-Men films for me are all about people just running around madly going “Look at all the powers we have, whizz bam bosh” and Wolverine looking angry and like he needs a drink or thirty in order to get through this hot mess. The first two X-Men films do this. We don’t talk about X-Men: The Last Stand. First Class severely lacks in the second element, but introduced a whole new element in concentrated McFassavoy feelings, so I could hand-wave away the fact that the rest of the film was to an extent laughable garbage.
Days of Future Past initially seems like it will hold up its end of the bargain, especially in the “look at all the frigging mutants we have let’s look at their powers, ooo” stakes, but equally held me up short in revealing that what I assumed I wanted from an X-Men film – a hilarious hot mess – would only work when it is bolstered by strong story and character development. Don’t mistake me, DOFP is still a hilarious hot mess, but it is bogged down by a seriously nonsensical script, and the fact that attempting to cram in two franchises worth of mutants results in the majority of characters being little better than fan service cameos. It completely forgets the winning element of First Class – oodles of Fassbender-McAvoy interaction – and scales it back in favour of packing in yet more characters. I could also rant for days about the fact that while X-Men is generally the comic franchise to be the most reliable in terms of diversity in representation, everyone who isn’t a boring ol’ white male in this film is guaranteed to be outrageously shafted in terms of either dying, being useful only as a plot device or being given next to no screen time or dialogue (LET ME TELL YOU ALL ABOUT MY PLANS FOR A BLINK MOVIE, GUYS, FAN BINGBING DESERVES BETTER, SHE WAS GREAT).
Indeed, the only real moment of “oh god yes, this is totally worth the admission price and sitting through the rest of this bullshit” is the Quicksilver sequence. QUICKSILVER! Zooming around like the king of teen dirtbags to Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle, which should have been the most eye-rolling moment of all but instead resulted in what’s probably going to be the best film sequence of the year, or at the very least the most entertaining.
I went into Maleficent having very little previous knowledge about the project, apart from the fact that a lot of people were hoping it was going to be a nicely feminist retelling of Sleeping Beauty. I ended up having vague hopes myself that it might be an example of Disney being self-reflexive and having a bit of fun with its history.
What I didn’t expect was to be so excruciatingly bored.
Everything about this film is depressingly pedestrian. The CGI already looks cartoonishly dated. The script hits every possible dialogue cliche imaginable – I was correctly completing lines before they’d left the actors’ mouths. Even Angelina Jolie, for whom this was apparently a passion project and knows how to give highly enjoyable ham, seems to be pitching her performance from a better film that no one else got to see. There is also a whole raft of talented character actors in minor roles who are clearly here to pay a metric ton of rent, from Lesley Manville (who is the only one besides Jolie looking like she is having any fun) to Sam Riley (who looks like he is longing for the green screen to come loose from cables and crush him).
What effectively soured the experience completely for me, though, was the reasons offered up as to why Maleficent came to curse Princess Aurora, positing her as a misunderstood faerie woman who became ‘evil’ due to having been romantically wronged and physically abused by the man who eventually becomes king and Aurora’s father. Do I, do I really have to explain why this is hugely crap storytelling and also really sexist? And I know a lot of people are choosing to read the film as resulting in a lesbian romance utopia, and that is FINE, I can totally see where the film drops its defenses enough to allow that kind of reading, but I do not believe it is even sneakily deliberate (this is DISNEY), and the twenty-five foot high signposting throughout that Maleficent is meant to be mellowed by growing maternal feelings for Aurora (because again, DISNEY) just resulted in me throwing up my hands in annoyed disgust. Because I am not here for films where a woman’s only emotional change and growth comes from men or motherhood, no sirree bob.
Tagged: Angelina Jolie gives good ham, do you reckon Marvel and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are packing themselves due to Evan Peters' Quicksilver now? I bet they are, I am glad Hollywood has finally realised that Rose Byrne is hilarious, I didn't mention the Zefron but rest assured that he was excellent, Maleficent, multiplex viewing, Neighbors, The Superior Franco, X-Men Days of Future Past