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Special Correspondents (2016)
As the great philosopher Karl Pilkington once said, "When anything's done quickly, it tends to be sort of s**t."
The script for this could've been done in half an hour. Either Gervais' writing ability has waned as his fame has grown, or has been hampered by the constraints of writing for film. His TV series' have been uniquely excellent; character-driven comedies occasionally punctuated by bursts of emotion. His full-length feature films however have been mediocre at best; Ghost Town had none of his irreverent wit, The Invention of Lying was just a rehash of the same ideas as his first film, and now Special Correspondents feels like the work of someone who has made too much money to care. This is a man who had the restraint to end one of Britain's greatest and most popular sitcoms and forgo a boatload of cash because he feared it would tarnish its quality. Instead he churns out this.
Clichéd characters, predictable plot, very little comedy - the entire film rides on Gervais' previous successes. Take him out of the equation and you are left with a bargain bin film with a "not quite A-List but close enough to put them on the box art" supporting cast and a story that seems to have been forcibly reworked for Hollywood by the 'men upstairs' to make as much money and appeal to as broad a range of people as possible.
Predictable, forgettable cash-grab, laden with all the tropes of a poor Hollywood comedy that an earlier Gervais would've loathed. Don't waste your time.
The Andromeda Strain (1971)
The perfect film experience
I first heard of and read the work of Michael Crichton by chance in my early teens, and found him to be one of the most engaging writers I'd come across. That position still holds; his novels are beautifully paced and expertly crafted, with character driven narratives and well constructed dialogue. As a result, I was sceptical as to how well this would come across in film. I'd seen Jurassic Park before I'd read it and found it very entertaining, though reading the novel highlighted how much of the original story had been 're-made for Hollywood'. Thankfully, The Andromeda Strain does not suffer from the obligatory 'magic touch' of Hollywood.
It is paced excellently, steadily building tension whilst thoroughly and accurately exploring how science might discover and potentially exploit extraterrestrial life. The characters are realistic, both in appearance and behaviour, each with their own unavoidable faults that add significantly to the story. As a result, there is an unnerving undertone of man's authority, the right of humanity to conquer the unknown, best described by Dr. Stone - "we will understand it and destroy it". By the end, you will not root for mankind.
Suffice to say, this is one of the best films I've ever seen, easily the best science fiction film. Thoroughly recommended.
Despicable Me 2 (2013)
Jack in the Box
Despicable Me was a success the moment it opened, a literal out-of-nowhere film that had the makings of a huge box office hit. Not surprising the challenge that followed in making something better. I brought my BLT sandwich, as ever, in case of mediocre results.
The screening was packed. Little kids everywhere, a real logistics nightmare for the parents and cinema. They loved it, making horrible noises and kicking. Particularly upon the appearance of the minions - there's a huge cash cow waiting if they can produce another film, perhaps even a nonsensical minion spin off. Some rather original jokes, steady plot. Enjoyed the fact that most of the film takes place in one location, none of this fancy, lets fly to Africa and back nonsense of other films, where they feel exciting locations makes up for an inconsistency in dialogue. Nothing violent, no foul language, a fine plot for its target audience. A meagre sense of pace, quite a lot of change in direction, but overall one may enjoy this as much as his children. If you have younger counterparts, take them to see this, they will enjoy it. The sort of thing they'll look back on in later life and say "Remember how good this was?" as we all did with our TV and films. Though, unfortunately, they never have quite the same effect years on.
Although it's not really aimed at folks my age, the film had pleasant moments. They have managed to exceed themselves. Not my type of film at all, in fact I don't know why I went, but these days films just don't get me going like they used to, so I went mainly to review. I found my BLT getting quite dry, but this film did not enough to withhold me from my sandwich. And nice it was.
The Hangover Part III (2013)
A waste of time
You can't deny the success of the Hangover trilogy and its notoriety, and yet typical of many sequels before it, The Hangover Part III fails at almost every hurdle. From humble and I dare say somewhat original origins from the first Hangover, out is produced a loud-mouthed, vulgar and humourless successor. Little in this film captures attention in an admirable light. Abundant is the nonsensical, violent drive that paved the way for a series of good jokes in the first film, yet now no longer we see the laughs, merely the stupidity left in wake. There is no humour, no sense of longevity beyond a month or two, or even the mildest gesture towards good entertainment. Instead, a monotonous undercurrent of rushed scenes, placid dialogue and exaggerated violence carried throughout makes "The End" quite well a heavy thud into in-existence for the Hangover franchise.
Did anybody really expect brilliance? Likely not. Which is good, it should just make this final flick a forgettable yet entertaining encore to the previous films. But it's not. It's just a mess of too much money and a desire for more.
Nothing about this film appeals, nothing makes it worth seeing. Go to the park. Walk the dog. See something else. Just don't waste your time. One day everything will come to an end. Prolong your success with a final, exciting goodbye, or keel over into nothingness as one of the many forgotten films of Hollywood. The Hangover Part III likely won't dent the enjoyment most people think of at the first film, but it has formally announced that this, truly, is "The End".