Bad Moms – Movie Review

Mila Kunis’s Chicago matriarch seems to have it all. An amazing house, two spoiled kids and a husband who seems to make pots of cash despite appearing like a feckless loser. 
She has a part time job at a coffee company, though works such long hours it may as well be full time, and in case you hadn’t noticed, is one of the most attractive soccer moms in her neighbourhood. 

However, Christina Applegate’s PTA leader doesn’t take kindly when Kunis turns her back on her yawnsome meetings and draconian rules. 

When Kunis’ husband is caught having an online affair, she kicks him out and starts partying with a couple of new friends (Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn), one a raucous, licentious good time gal, the other an uptight, under the thumb housewife. 

As those around Kunis adjust to her new life, the movie addresses the wish fulfilment of millions of over worked, under appreciated mothers and those who take them for granted. All the guys in Bad Moms are split into one major camp (useless) or a minor one (hot bed mates). 

For the most part the movie is a hoot, with some snappy dialogue, great turns and snappy pacing. A montage in a supermarket is hilarious. Alas Kunis all but smothering her kids with love in places becomes redundant audio noise. 

It’s a little overlong and the closing titles featuring the actresses’s real mothers added little to the proceedings, but as a Hangover/Ferris Bueller-style fantasy, it ticks many boxes. The main thing is it’s funny and you won’t leave the cinema feeling short changed. 

The fact it made more that $120m on a $20m budget means a sequel is a less a case of if but when. Let’s hope Jada Pinkett Smith has more to do in that inevitable offering when it debuts in a couple of years. Here she’s wasted… and not in a good way. 


Groundhog Day Review – The Old Vic, London

When you travel 200 miles to see a stage version of one of your favourite films, the cost of transport, theatre tickets and hotel soon adds up. Thankfully £21 (restricted view) was a bargain for any birthday treat. And the fact Groundhog Day not only recrafts Bill Murray’s best film for the stage but enhances the source material was a present I never expected.  

Danny Rubin’s book, based on his own screenplay, gives us more depth about peripheral characters, such as Nancy, the beautiful blonde bedded by self centred weatherman Phil Connors as he repeatedly reports on the February 2 celebrations in Punxsutawney PA. 

Ned Ryerson, the insurance salesman, is also given more of a touching backstory, while Phil is turned into a more rounded character than the Murray classic allowed in 1993. 

Half the fun with the stage show is seeing how moments such as Phil’s weather van becoming stuck in a storm and having to turn back to Punxsutawney would be executed, or the chase in which Connors and his fellow drunks attempt to outrun the cops. Some simple but effective stage moments – a model truck having snow shovelled onto it by a groundhog – was laugh out loud funny. 

Tim Minchin has been my favourite composer for the past five years and the union of his music and lyrics was too good to resist. There’s no real stand out track, though I’d need to listen to the soundtrack a few more times to give a proper opinion, but while his sidebar polemic about faith healers adds little to the show, it’s a fun diversion. 

The star of course is the man chosen to fill the mighty shoes of Bill Murray, an actor who had to sing, dance, act, make the audience laugh and cry was a tall order, but Andy Karl managed it beautifully. 

Less Murray and more Nathan Fillion channelling Steve Martin, he nailed the self centred protagonist who despised his quaint B and B in a small American town and was only interested in self gain once caught in the time loop. 

The beauty of the movie was said plot device was never dissected and was a stronger film for it, especially in a Hollywood production where such things are usually explained away in the third act. 

I’m not surprised the film has resonated with many faiths the world over. It’s a simple tale that touches universal chords: part Twilight Zone, part Saturday Night Live sketch, it’s as relevant in the selfish selfie generation as it was in 1993. 

I want all films and stage shows to have a sucker punch moments when I’m reduced to tears or humbled by simple acts, and GD took the best moments of the movie and gave it as much of an emotional punch at The Old Vic. 

Yes it was too hot on that summer’s evening, the legroom was too little and the elevated idiots behind me felt it was okay to talk through the production and put their feet on my chair, but thanks to a Paddington hard stare they refrained and normality was soon restored. 

While elements of the movie are missing (no soundtrack classics I’ve Got You Babe or Pennsylvania Polka), it scarcely mattered. The transition from screen to stage is so rewarding I’m hoping this beta test version will be given a chance to shine on a bigger stage either in the West End or Broadway. 

Funny Girl Review – Savoy Theatre, London

When you’re casting the role of Fanny Bryce in Funny Girl the easy bit is choosing the sex. The ‘funny’ aspect is a much trickier job. The actress has to be able to do pratfalls, be witty, over the top and at the same time be able to break your heart. It helps if she can sing and dance too. 
The Savoy theatre is one of those venues well suited to the latest US crowd pleaser, a stage musical like so many in London aimed at just about everyone from the States, oh and plenty of Brits who just like to see home grown talent taking on a beloved role and acing it like a pro. 

She may have had her fair share of tabloid headlines in 2016, but Sheridan Smith is not one of those Celebrity Big Brother nobodies famous for being related to somebody else or achieving fame by starring in a scripted reality show. She’s the real deal who knocks the ball out of the park. If she has a bit of a public melt down after turning out performances as good as Funny Girl, let her. Great artists have wobbles from time to time, but that’s often what makes them magnetic on stage or film. It’s one thing to dazzle on TV as she did in Cilla and Mrs Biggs, but to stun the masses with her array of comical expressions and tear jerking brilliance live is another. 

Every time she was on stage, which was most of the show, Funny Girl was a delight. Though I didn’t recognise Darius Danesh for the first half, he had terrific stage presence despite being a little wooden. He wisely played second fiddle to his leading lady, never stealing the spotlight, which was hard considering he towered over her.

Darius greets the fans, Savoy Theatre. Photo. Roger Crow

And it was also a treat to see Butterflies’ Bruce Montague as Florenz Ziegfield. 

Standout track Don’t Rain On My Parade closed the first act beautifully, and I feared that like Wicked the show wouldn’t recover but the finale played out a treat, wisely featuring a touching reprise. Little wonder there was a standing ovation. 

Highly recommended. 

Fleabag – Review

Occasionaly there comes a sitcom so perfect you cherish every minute it’s on air and dread the second those closing titles arrive. The last time was The Trip, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s road journey around the north of England, sampling its best restaurants and eateries. I could mention The Trip to Italy, its glorious sequel, but cut from the same cloth, it doesn’t count.

Obviously there are comedy machines like Modern Family, the sitcom so brilliantly scripted you wish the actors would make a wrong move to convince you it was put together by real people and not artificial intelligence.

Crazy Ex-girlfriend is another slick US production which flits from the brilliance of the pilot to more humdrum episodes.

They are situation comedies with multi million dollar budgets. I prefer those with a more home made quality.

Such is the case with Fleabag, the BBC3 breakthrough from writer and star Phoebe Waller Bridge.

Imagine a mash up of Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City (back in the days when it was good) and Ferris Bueller, and you get some idea behind this laugh track-free bittersweet tale of a broken thirtysomething hiding a secret. At least she’s hiding a secret for most of the first episode. By episode four she wants to spend most of the time crying. We can understand why.

Now doing those knowing turns to camera, half winking at the audience, letting them in on her secrets, can be a disaster if executed by the wrong person. Too knowing and they come across as cocky. Too subtle and the camera will miss it. Waller Bridge gets the tone right.

If you’ve not seen it yet you will either be shocked by its frankness or touched by its honesty. 

I hope the final two eps are as strong as the first four. 

Like the name suggests it’s small, has bite and is hard to get rid of. Thankfully. 

The Six Million Dollar Man Review

“Steve, you know nothing about hunting cougars”, remarks Oscar Goldman from his plush Washington office.Ah, those were simpler times when watching Lee Majors running in slow motion across a western landscape was edge of the seat TV.

The $6M Man was hands down the most exciting show on TV in the early 1970s. It turned Lee Majors into an overnight superstar, coined the term “bionic”, and spawned the hit spin off The Bionic Woman. Weirdly, the chances of seeing this cult show now are pretty remote.

Taneha, an episode from the second season, sees Steve Austin trying to protect the last male cougar in the region in the hope of honouring a promise to a wounded old friend.

Naturally Steve is teamed up with an alluring brunette, who is blissfully naive of this format astronaut’s special abilities.

Obviously like all TV shows of a certain time, the $6Million Man is a product of its era. Bridging the gap between western and sci-fi, on a weekly basis for many years it saw Majors pitted against a series of adversaries in some rather economic/exotic locations.

Oh, and it also gave us some of the best opening titles ever seen, mixing a funky theme tune with thrilling graphics as our hero suffered a near fatal crash, and was pieced back together by experts. It told the audience all they needed to know whether it was their first or 101st viewing.

Forty years on and the show is still incredibly watchable. Majors may have been as plastic as the action figure he spawned in some eps, but he had a swarthy charisma, while Richard Anderson provided solid support as his boss, Oscar Goldman. 

There has been talk of a movie version for years now with Jim Carrey linked to one offering and now it looks like Mark Wahlberg will have a go as The Six Billion Dollar Man. It’s a franchise with plenty of life in it. 

After all. They can rebuild him. 

Jason Bourne Review

It’s remarkable for a film which is basically one long chase and no laughs that Jason Bourne is as effective as it is. 
After a nine year gap, star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass reteamed for another case of flashbacks, domestic fights with random items and vehicle chases. 

As ever with these thrillers, assassins are called assets and shaky cam is the order of the day as the viewer is taken on a ride from Greece, London, Washington and Vegas. I’m amazed at the front of the eponymous hero that he dons little more than a baseball cap in the hope of being disguised. In an age of facial recognition when his old ally Nicky Parsons is picked out in a few seconds of trawling through video footage, Bourne’s naked face is ripe for detection, but it seems the CIA are always one step behind him.  

As ever there are shots of senior government bods calmly barking orders while pc jockeys type demands into keyboards (is there no voice recognition software in Langley?) 

The absence of screenwriter/occasional director Tony Gilroy is notable. I missed the lack of complex words like ’mestastasise’ from The Bourne Legacy, a movie which obviously never existed in this world. No mention of Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross, which is a shame as that 2012 offering wasn’t bad either despite one finale too many.  

JB is a cracking thriller despite having seen it all before in the previous chapters, though there is a feeling we’re watching a movie with sat nav narration. “Turn right here. Target approaching. Target will be with you in 15 seconds.”

It’s a wonder that just before Moby’s obligatory closing theme Extreme Ways, we weren’t rewarded with an electronic voice remarking you have reached your destination with a CGI flag on the screen.