Saturday, 28 July 2018

Film Review - Hotel Artemis (15)

You're lucky this place has rules.
Hotel Artemis is a particular kind of treat during the summer film season. It's a relatively small-scale studio production that some critics are calling a 'curio', presumably because it's a genre straddler - part dsytopian sci-fi, part noir crime thriller. (Note - it has more heart than you often find in either of those.) In other words, Artemis is a true original - not perfect, but refreshingly unexpected. 
It's the baby of first-time feature director Drew Pearce, who already has writing credits on Iron Man 3 and Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. Based in Los Angeles 2028 during the biggest riots ever experienced by that city, the 'Artemis' of the title is a one-time hotel converted to a hospital catering solely to criminals. It's a word-of-mouth deal, depending on honour among thieves (and the rest of the underworld) to retain the anonymity of the place. Jodie Foster plays The Nurse, a formidable matron-cum-surgeon, whose strictly enforced code keeps much-needed order. (One neat detail has the criminal inmates only ever referred to by the names of the hotel-suite in which they convalesce - Waikiki, Nice or Honolulu.) On this night of rioting, however, the combination of patients - including two bank-robbing brothers, a wickedly efficient assassin and a crime-boss with interests in the hospital - threaten the chaos the Nurse has thus far managed to avoid.
Pearce's movie has a number of key pleasures, a major one being its central location. The 'Artemis' combines gone-to-seed hotel plushness with advanced medical tech - a creepily eccentric environment. Surrounded by a city-in-meltdown and populated by reprobates, the hotel has an atmosphere reminiscent of the recent Purge horror films, while the script establishes a distinctively grim sense of humour. There's also considerable intricacy to the plotting, individual cogs (and characters) meshing in surprising ways. Even if the latter stages rely too much on coincidence and familiar story-tropes, the movie's world has established enough individuality by then for it not to matter.
The writer/director makes the most of his fine ensemble cast, Foster proving (no surprise) first among equals. Her performance as the enigmatic Nurse has both steel and pathos; it's a lovely turn, showing the double Oscar-winner back at her formidable big-screen best. Sterling K. Brown, awarded for hit TV series This is Us (and popping up briefly in Black Panther), exhibits leading-man credentials as one of the sibling-thieves. Sophia Boutella meanwhile makes for a thrillingly ruthless hit-girl, while Charlie Day is both hilarious and vile as the creepy 'Acapulco'. And Guardians of the Galaxy's Dave Bautista makes us laugh again, this time as a brutish security guard (he insists on the term 'health care professional') called Everest. 
As for the identity of the big-bad criminal boss, that's a secret better kept unspoiled, if you've so far avoided the trailer... 
Hotel Artemis combines intrigue and sometimes-brutal action, in a quirky noir setting that's not quite anything you've experienced before. It also finds a surprising degree of humanity and character-depth in this hospital-for-scumbags. In a summer full of the usual action juggernauts, super-heroics and sequels, it's fun to find a piece of mainstream cinema that tells a different kind of tale. One that doesn't neatly fit any storytelling mould.
Gut Reaction: Laughed, felt thrilled, remained engrossed throughout. Started caring about whether certain characters would make it to the end. (Always a very good sign). 

Where Are the Women?: Jodie Foster is back in a terrific role, where she belongs. And Sofia Boutella convinces anyone with a brain not to mess with her.

Ed's Verdict: 7.5/10. I loved the look and feel of Hotel Artemis, the place and the movie. Much as I tire of sequels, this is an establishment I would happily visit again.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Film Review - Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (PG)

My, my - how can I resist you?
Let's all have a moment of honesty, fans included. The 2008 film adaptation of Mamma Mia - a jukebox stage musical based on the songs of ABBA - was pretty atrocious in standard film-making terms. The whole thing was a bit of an amateur-hour shambles, full of wince-inducing dad-karaoke (here's lookin' at you, Pierce Brosnan) and ropy dance interludes. That it's viewed by many with affection is due to its exuberant sense of fun, the number of gorgeous people on display and those inspired ABBA tunes (the song-writing of Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus is preternaturally wonderful). As a movie, however, it wasn't actually much good and you know it. As for a sequel, well that's destined to be a blatant cash-grab, even more flimsy and cringing than the first. Right?
Actually, wrong. Surprisingly, disarmingly, wonderfully wrong. Turns out Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a well-crafted film and one terrific piece of summertime entertainment. And it warms my heart to type those words.
The original story had bride-to-be Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) inviting three of her mother's ex-lovers to her Greek island home, to discover which was her father in time for the wedding. By the end her mum Donna (Meryl Streep) was happily reunited with the love of her life (Brosnan), while Sophie found two additional doting father-figures in Stellan Skarsgard and Colin Firth. 
Caught up? Good. Five storytelling years on, Sophie is seeking inspiration from her mother's girlhood experiences, while contemplating the challenges of her own future. And it's this simple conceit that provides the movie its inspired sequel/prequel structure (think The Godfather: Part II with Swedish pop anthems). With the Bella Donna (Streep's island hotel) on the verge of a relaunch, flashbacks provide insight into how young Donna came to stay on the island in the first place - and a fuller picture of her romantic misadventures along the way.    
Here We Go Again is an upgrade on every level, not least because it's more than an adaptation from a frothy stage show; its original screenplay allows greater room for everyone to breathe creatively. Written by Ol Parker (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) with help from romcom maestro Richard Curtis, it is genuinely funny throughout, with emotional depth worthy of those sublime ABBA songs. Any doubts as to the point of a sequel are dispelled within five minutes and some striking plot developments. They're gone there? Wow. Was not expecting that. Hence while in one sense it's all still trivial, it simultaneously manages to be profound.
Then in his director's role Parker tightens everything - choreography, camerawork, editing... It's all sharp and vibrant and colourful. Past and present flow silkily together in terms of both theme and structure. The guys' dubious song-and-dance skills are used sparingly and to either amusing or dramatic effect, while the quality singing voices - Seyfried and Streep with the addition of a certain Cher this time around - come into their own. As for the acting, Julie Walters and Christine Baranski are a sublime comedy double-act as Streep's besties Rosie and Tanya, while Lily James (who's already shone this year in Darkest Hour and TGLAPPPS) is the living embodiment of summer as young Donna, completely unphased by the fact she's playing the same role as Multi-Oscar Meryl.
Props are due, in fact, to all the young actors playing junior versions of the established characters. It works charmingly in every case and uncannily so with Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn, as they replicate the Walters/Baranski double-act. I hadn't realised how much I liked these fictional people until there I was, taking delight in meeting their younger selves. 
There are a dozen reasons why I enjoyed this Mamma Mia! sequel as much as I did. Partly it's because the film provides an excuse to enjoy those songs from my childhood (the first three albums I ever bought were all ABBA and I don't blush to say it). Partly it's because the movie embraces the cheesiness of the jukebox musical concept with such knowing delight, finding enjoyably daft excuses to include great songs. And partly it's because the cast's talent and enthusiasm is properly complimented by the production this time around. Add those to all the other reasons and you get what we need most in this troubled summer of 2018 (and what the Swedish fab four have always provided) - pure heartfelt joy. Leave all your cynicism in the foyer and succumb to its welcoming, warm embrace. 
Gut Reaction: Laughed. Cried. Cheered. Danced (almost).

Where Are the Women?: Not so present behind the camera this time, but a force of nature in front of it.

Ed's Verdict: 8/10. I'm seriously tempted to give it more. As a celebration of life, music, love, friendship and family, this really couldn't be better. (Also look out for Omid Djalili's cameo appearance. Very funny.)

Friday, 20 July 2018

Film Review - Incredibles 2 (PG)

You're not good. You're super.
The Incredibles came to our screens in 2004 and had an ending that fairly screamed 'sequel on the way'. Wisely creator/director Brad Bird did not rush to work on the follow-up, letting his ideas marinade while he got stuck into projects such as RatatouilleMission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and Tomorrowland. Fourteen years on the superhero family is finally back, fuelled by fresh visuals, well-developed character dynamics and outrageous humour. The story's pretty solid too.
If you recall the original, the Incredibles are the Parr family, a quartet of extravagantly gifted humans forced into a banal suburban existence due to the US government's ban on 'Supers'. Incredibles 2 finds them embracing their powers, yet still frustrated by authorities that wants to shut down their familial crime-fighting efforts. In step Winston and Evelyn Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener), a slick brother/sister PR firm ready to rehabilitate the whole Super image. They select mom Helen (the eye-poppingly springy Elastigirl) to carry out all the heroics under their auspices, while a disgruntled Mr Incredible (Bob) stays home looking after the kids. 
It's a neat and nicely subversive division of labour. She's out chasing runaway trains and wrangling with a new super-villain nemesis, while he's mired in mundane chores that gradually drive him insane. Voiced with middle-aged frustration by Craig T. Nelson, Mr Incredible is now occupied by his son's baffling maths homework and his daughter's tentative explorations in dating, when he yearns to be out punching bad-guys. Add to that baby Jack-Jack, an infant who is starting to unleash a terrifying range of superpowers with gurgling abandon, and you have yourself sheer comedy platinum. 
There's much to impress in the movie as a whole and how it advances (and enhances) the Incredibles world. The '60s-based futurism looks even better than - a Connery-era James Bond aesthetic with a John Barry-esque big-band score to compliment it. Bird's witty and intelligent script undergirds all the craziness, dealing with everything from sexual politics to the effect of hero-worship on society. And the slam-bang action is a directorial miracle at all points, combining a dozen different elements with absolute coherence, however breakneck the pace. 
Technically stunning though these sequences are, they do ultimately exhaust, reminding me of what I felt during the original film... It's the domestic sitcom and parody elements that really make the Incredibles work. The new movie excels in scenes where Mr Incredible interacts with his cute-but-semi-demonic baby son, or mortifies his daughter through well-meaning interference in her love-life. Wallflower teen Violet aka Invisigirl is a lovely comic creation, it should be said, never more so than in a vividly disastrous diner scene. Also good value are the Parrs' superhero neighbour Frozone (a kind of Shaft in spandex voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) and diminutive 'Super' fashion designer Edna Mode, voiced by the director in a deliriously funny extended cameo (Edna is too rich and scene-stealing a character to be used more than sparingly). 
Incredibles 2 never fails to entertain and is peppered with moments of inspiration. There are points, however, where I wanted the story to breathe, rather than belt along so furiously. The Parrs' family interactions are the heart of this franchise and the best part of it. Ironically in a film this big, it's the small stuff that proves genuinely memorable.
Gut Reaction: Overwhelmed at times by the incredible (ha!) visuals. But laughing always at the lower-key domestic disasters and sweetly judged moments of character comedy.

Where Are the Women?: Brad Bird's world of Supers is populated with strong female characters, not least of which is Holly Hunter's wry and super-strong Elastigirl.

Ed's Verdict: 8/10. While the Incredibles movies are not my absolute Pixar favourites (Coco personally has the edge for me this year), this is still a finely-crafted piece of work, full of character and at its best absolutely hilarious. Welcome back, this Super family.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Film Review - Skyscraper (12A)

If duct tape can't fix it, you're not using enough duct tape.
How many big, daft Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson movies should we have in our cinemas per annum? Two sounds about right to me - thus with Skyscraper he meets his quota for 2018. Follow-up question - is the year's second Rockfest as entertainingly big and daft as his recent Rampage? To that I say a resounding yes. Come on, look at the poster. How could that not be fun?
Our man Johnson plays Will Sawyer, a one-time team-leader in Hostage Rescue (proving he's hard as nails), who due to a life-changing injury became a security assessor for newly built skyscrapers - quite the career change, but not entirely illogical. Will has been installed along with his wife (Neve Campbell) and their two children inside the Pearl, a Hong Kong super-skyscraper. Created by billionaire Zhao Long Ji, the Pearl is significantly taller than Dubai's Burj Khalifa, i.e. it's one big-ass 'scraper. But before Will can risk-assess the tower's upper proportions, some nefarious dudes set its mid-section alight for mysterious reasons, trapping our hero's loved-ones upstairs along with the building's creator. Now Will has to break into the building, bypass the flames, defeat the criminals and rescue his family before the whole superstructure is engulfed. It's a tall order. Like, seriously mega-tall. 
Skyscraper is a film that wears its influences proudly, before building on their foundation. It's The Towering Inferno fused with the original Die Hard, but in a futuristic setting and aimed squarely at a family audience (despite the significant, albeit bloodless kill-count in the story's early stages). There are numerous additional action-thriller tropes and cliches in the set-up, but writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber has supplied enough pace and polish to sell them, with the aid of a thrillingly glamorous and high-tech central location. And there's one other major selling-point in the leading man...
As Sawyer, Johnson is the full package - a warm-hearted family man wrestling with the demons of his working past (did I mention cliche?) and adapting to life with a prosthetic limb (that bit's refreshingly new). However crazy the plot twists - and they're extravagantly crazy - he plays them all with conviction and heart as well as muscle. It's the best I've seen him to date and the story benefits hugely from his sympathetic presence. Campbell, it should be added, is substantially more than the wife-in-peril; she gets to be smart and resourceful, and to exhibit the same steely courage as her husband, while the world threatens to collapse quite literally around everyone's head. 
Ultimately this is all about thrills and stunts and jeopardy, and on that level Skyscraper hits its stride early and keeps on delivering. The title promises vertigo-inducing heroics and indeed there's enough climbing/dangling/swinging/jumping/balancing - all of it several notches beyond precarious - to keep sufferers squirming in their seats throughout. The obstacles faced by Johnson and family are insane, even before you add the flames. 
It's all totally preposterous of course, with so many implausible moments you quickly lose count (don't start me on one character's come-and-go asthma). Also despite its sources of inspiration, this film is no Die Hard. It doesn't have a memorable central villain, or the blood and grime, nor does it whip up the same number of entertaining subplots. But in terms of sheer summertime escapism, it's a thorough success. Likeable and gleefully over-the-top, this movie knows what it is - a trans-generational crowd-pleaser. It also knows how to use its star to maximum effect. The Rock has taken on a genetically enlarged gorilla and a flaming skyscraper this year - and he hasn't been dwarfed by either.  
Gut Reaction: You can mock this brand of blockbuster all you like, but it had me in knots of tension more times than is cool to admit.

Where Are the Women?: Good to see Neve Campbell proactive throughout and fully immersed in the sweaty mayhem. And she doesn't ever Scream. (See what I did there?)

Ed's Verdict: 7/10. Better-written and more effectively structured than Rampage, this is a superior brand of sky-high silliness and an all-round fun night out. Pass the popcorn and keep the duct tape close. That stuff proves mighty useful in an emergency. 

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Film Review - Sicario 2: Soldado (15)

Dirty is exactly why you're here.
2015's Sicario was a taut and defiantly grim thriller that followed CIA operatives into Mexico as they hunted down a ruthless drug cartel boss. Josh Brolin headed up the team, while Emily Blunt played a by-the-book FBI agent along for the ride and consistently mind-blown by the outfit's lack of adherence to the law. Blunt provided the story's conscience, but it was Benicio Del Toro who ultimately took centre-stage as Alejandro, an attorney-turned-hitman (the sicario of the title) whose personal revenge mission Brolin and co were facilitating. 
Sicario 2: Soldado (UK title) turns out to be a stand-alone tale rather than a straight sequel. Brolin and Del Toro reprise their combat-hardened characters from the original, but Blunt is significantly absent. There's no one to needle the guys' sense of morality. As Matt Graver (Brolin) states early on, this time around there are 'no rules'. 
The men's mission is rooted in a newly established policy by the US government of treating Mexico's drug and people-traffickers as terrorists. The strategy is one of divide and conquer - set the cartels at odds with each other and, once they are thus weakened, make war on them. To this end Brolin and Del Toro plan the kidnap of Isabel Reyes, the schoolgirl daughter of a cartel boss, passing it off as the act of his rival and thus triggering the inter-cartel conflict. It's a clever scheme, executed by guys who are the best at what they do. No scheme this ambitious, however, is proof against dangerous complications...
Returning to the Sicario universe minus the previous film's moral touchstone was certainly a risk. The result is a murky storytelling landscape where the mission is all, and where a protagonist can empty a handgun clip into some helpless enemy without a moment's deliberation. Writer Taylor Sheridan is at home in this unforgiving world (as well as both Sicarios he's penned top-notch thrillers Hell or High Water and Wind River), where all morality comes in shades of grey. Soldado is all the more stark and unpalatable as a result, but it's also compelling and ingeniously plotted, with an occasional flicker of humanity within these characters' damaged souls to illuminate their darkness. 
The first film achieved a memorable visual beauty, courtesy of director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins, one that contrasted strikingly with the story's harshness. This time Stefano Sollima of TV crime saga Gomorrah creates an environment as hard and bleak as our antiheroes' grimly pragmatic worldview. The score meanwhile borrows the ominous rumbling theme from the first film, this new narrative delivering totally on the sense of threat. 
Brolin and Del Toro firmly established their characters first time around and here they both excel. The former is smug and darkly funny as the no-bullshit CIA operative, while as the enigmatic Alejandro, Del Toro has arguably carved out the movie role of his career. The ruthless calculation with which he pursues his vengeance hides a core of pain that is genuinely moving on the few occasions we get to glimpse it. Catherine Keener is scarily efficient as Brolin's boss, while Isabela Moner calls on our empathy as the drug lord's kidnapped daughter - her sense of entitlement dissipating with her radical change of circumstance. Look out too for Elijah Rodriguez as Miguel, a raw but determined mafioso recruit whose subplot dovetails with the main story to dramatic effect.
I said that Sicario 2 stood on its own, but in truth it will benefit from knowledge of the first. The darkness in both lead characters' souls having been already proven, it remains to be seen how long they can outrun conscience with the moral brakes off. The world they inhabit is as pulse-pounding as it is grimy and despairing, with all aspects of the production committed to reality - however grubby that reality may be. The ride isn't comfortable, but it is dramatically satisfying. And it's not one you'll easily forget.
Gut Reaction: The first Sicario got me invested in these difficult characters. Sicario 2 had me all scrunched up in my 'engrossed' posture from the start. Consider me very gripped.

Where Are the Women?: There isn't the same strong female lead as last time for clear storytelling reasons. Keener and Moner turn in good performances nonetheless.

Ed's Verdict: 8/10. Tough, twisting and confrontational. If you require your leads heroic and easy-to-like, look elsewhere. But for dark, complex humanity in a world that takes no prisoners, Sicario is your (rather unexpected) franchise.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Film Review - The First Purge (15)

There's something wrong with the world - isn't there, Nya?
I hadn't seen any of the Purge movies when this new chapter exploded in UK cinemas, and didn't want to be watching it in a vacuum - so I bought the trilogy box-set and binged on them over the weekend in preparation (a Purge splurge if you will). Good thing I did, because context is everything here. The First Purge may be a prequel, but it serves as a logical extension of the dark world established in the previous films and of that world's nasty dystopian politics. It's also brutal, exploitative and utterly compelling - not least because of the fractured mirror it holds up to modern America.
To set the scene - the Purge franchise envisages a near-future US governed by the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), a political party which has instated an annual 'purge' night; during this twelve hour period all crimes including murder become legal. It's a purported national catharsis, aiming to cleanse the population of primal urges and bring down the overall crime rate. As the multi-chapter story develops, however, the truth becomes steadily more apparent - the true function of the Purge is to cull America's underclass, with minority communities suffering the brunt of the ensuing violence. 
The First Purge brings us back to the beginnings of this grim societal experiment, with the residents of New York's Staten Island acting as guinea-pigs. Paid to stay on the island (more if they actively take part), they are monitored by Purge 'architect' Dr Updale (Marisa Tomei) and her political associates, as the inaugural  night of anarchy kicks off. Among those on the ground are community activist Nya (Lex Scott Davis), her kid brother-with-a-grudge Isaiah (Jovian Wade) and her one-time lover now turned local drug lord Dimitri (Y'lan Noel). All threaten to be consumed by a night that the NFFA is determined to inflame in pursuit of its screwed-up agenda.
The remarkable thing about the Purge films is how they manage to suspend our disbelief over this ludicrous dystopian premise, while incorporating genuinely sharp and ever-increasing political bite. The 2013 starter-movie was a creepy home invasion story with white-collar protagonists, but its successors have been resolutely street-level, following the efforts of those too economically strapped make it easily through the night. The First Purge doubles down on urban grit, immersing us in a socially embattled black community on Staten Island, as our handful of protagonists negotiate the potentially violent proceedings. James DeMonaco remains as the overall project's sole writer, so the DNA of the other movies is written all through this. (The sense of menace and foreboding seems to build with each new movie.) He's relinquished directing duties to Gerard McMurray, however, and the result is a punchier, more guerrilla feel than ever before. 
The characters as usual are sketched (it's all about the forward-hurtling plot in these films), but they're played with ferocity by the largely unknown leads. The result is that we root for Nya and her hapless man-child brother (Wade is chiefly known in the UK for turns in Eastenders and Doctor Who), and even hold out hope that drug baron Dimitri will undergo a Purge-style redemption story-arc. Humour is thankfully present, courtesy of Nya's straight-talking friend Dolores (Orange is the New Black actress Mugga), while Rotimi Paul is truly chilling as a drug-fuelled psychopath known as Skeleton - the movies' most grotesque character to date. But the real villains here are all about power, privilege and - in a shockingly in-your-face kind of way - race.
If the original Purge movie hinted at the underlying politics, this one boldly spells it out. Nor is it shy about bluntly critiquing Trump-era America this time around - streets awash with firearms, pot-shots at the National Rifle Association and solidarity with an impoverished black community on the sharp end of governmental manipulation. By no means is this the cunning social satire of Get Out or TV's Black Mirror - it's too broad and bullet-riddled for that. But in its own way The First Purge packs one hell of a timely punch.
Gut Reaction: I probably shouldn't be, but I'm riveted by these adrenalin-pumping scary movies. This one had me physically contorted from the tension.

Where Are the Women?: With a string of films where all protagonists are potential victims, it's good to see tough women in each who refuse to be.

Ed's Verdict: 7/10. There's an irresolvable conflict in a story that condemns gun violence while providing a gun-based thrill-ride, - I get that. But something in me loves these grimy, hard-edged morality tales nonetheless. They're barmy, but in in among the madness is an unsettling degree of truth.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Film Review - Patrick (PG)

Never again.
I'll try to keep this short. Friday last I was watching new doggie-centric Britcom Patrick, seated in front of a couple and their pre-schooler. As the end-credits rolled, Dad leaned in to the child and asked, 'Well, did you enjoy that?' The subtext of his question was unmistakable: At those ticket prices, I hope to God one of us did. It's cinema interludes like this, you know, that make me want to smooch my Limitless monthly movie pass. 
Patrick aspires to be a family-friendly version of Bridget Jones, with an added cute-canine factor. Beattie Edmondson plays Sarah, a klutzy young woman with a disastrous love-life and a new teaching job, whose circumstances get worse when she inherits Patrick (the eponymous critter) from an elderly aunt. Initially the pampered pug is a source of exasperation to her, but gradually she realises that despite his icky habits, he might just make all the ill-fitting aspects of her life come together to heart-melting, life-affirming effect. 
This hokey-as-hell premise might just have worked (in a 6-out-of-10 kind of way), had it not been for a screenplay of perplexing ineptitude and dullness. Seriously, it is genuinely bizarre that people with money and influence checked out this limply strung-together bunch of subplots and decided 'Hey, we've got a workable script here, let's shoot this thing!' Storywise it's shambolic, plus it's not funny. Not remotely so. On any level. At a single given point. Nor can this be explained away in terms of target audience - the four-year-old behind me didn't laugh either. Nary a chuckle. Dad truly did waste that hard-earned cash.
I was tempted to take a cheap shot at Edmondson - daughter of Brit comedy treasures Jennifer Saunders and Adrian Edmondson - along the lines of 'Where's her showbiz pedigree?' (sorry), but I'm assured that she's genuinely funny in TV sitcom Josh. All of which comes back to the wretchedly underwritten character with which she's dogged (sorry). Fact is, none of the talented cast - and we're talking tested UK thesps like Adrian Scarborough and Meera Syal and Bernard Cribbins, God bless him - can wring any humour from this lame script. Only the dog comes out of it with a shred of dignity, and even he should consider changing his agent. Nor can the film's heritage-cinema production values make amends for the awfulness on display. Turns out you really can't polish a dog-turd. (Not sorry.)
I know, I know - I'm ranting about a lightweight family comedy; but come on, it's patronising to let a film off the hook on grounds of genre. Paddington 2 was one of last year's best movies - funny, uplifting and artistically accomplished on every level. Not every family feature can be expected to hit such a glorious standard, but none should be this poor. There are talented filmmakers out there striving to get their projects green-lit. That Patrick beat them to it is a doggone shame.
Gut Reaction: The pug's antics raised a smile on two occasions. I counted them.

Where Are the Women?: They're present on both sides of the camera, but frankly this won't look good on anyone's CV.

Ed's Verdict: 2/10. I don't think I'm being unnecessarily mean here. I'd throw it a bone if I could, but it really was that dreadful.