The Gentlemen

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Judd: After spending the last decade trying to branch out and do something other than “Guy Ritchie” films, Guy Ritchie has gone back to his roots and given us a British mob film, The Gentlemen. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunman, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding, Hugh Grant, The Gentlemen doesn’t bring anything new to the Ritchie cannon, but it is a solid entry with fantastic performances and a great script with double crosses, triple crosses, and enough twists to keep you entertained for the full two hours.

Mickey (McConaughey) is the most successful weed dealer in the UK, but middle-age has set in and he wants out of the game. He’s ready to retire. When he offers his business to a fellow competitor, Matthew (Jeremy Strong), things start to go awry. It doesn’t help that Mickey and his crew are being tailed by a private investigator named Fletcher (Grant) who is working to dig up dirt on Mickey for a tabloid. The story unfolds through Fletcher as he explains about the blackmailing plot through the use of a movie script he has written, detailing all the exploits he’s caught on his camera.

As with most Ritchie films, the editing and direction are frantic, but like Mickey, Ritchie is older and willing to slow things down and let the story speak for itself. Is it a perfect script? No, there are too many subplots, and we could have done with a few less characters, but it never feels overcooked.

The performances are all fantastic with Grant and Hunman providing excellent chemistry. Golding gives us the testosterone laden rage of Ritchie’s earlier films, and McConaughey is great when he’s not giving me a “talking to myself while driving a Lincoln” vibe – which, thankfully, isn’t often.

The fact that Ritchie hasn’t done a movie like this in such a long time also makes it easier to forgive the film’s missteps. It’s comforting and familiar, and pretty damn good to boot.

Judd: 3 stars

Podcast: SJ 265: Modern Family: Medical Police: Schitt’s Creek; High School Musical; Circle; RJ and The Queen; James May – Our Man in Japan; Like a Boss

White Background LogoSwanner and Judd talk about Modern Family: Medical Police: Schitt’s Creek; High School Musical; Circle; RJ and The Queen; James May – Our Man in Japan; Like a Boss.

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Like a Boss

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Swanner:  Mel (Rose Byrne)and Mia (Tiffany Haddish) have been best friends for 20 years. They went to school together, live together, and even opened a business together. Unfortunately, the handmade make-up business they opened isn’t producing the revenue they hoped, and they fear having to close. In walks Claire Luna (Selma Hayek), a successful cosmetic pioneer to help the girls build their business by buying 49% of their business to save it. Claire sounds sincere, but does she other plans for the business?

Judd: Rated R and running around 85 minutes, I thought, “What do I have to lose? Even if it’s not great, there should be plenty of gross-out humor, and sex jokes.” Girl, was I wrong! The movie is rated R for language only, with absolutely no skin to be shown. There was not gross-out humor, or any humor for that matter, and no sex jokes. This movie should have had the language toned down and rated PG-13 – at least I would have known to save 85 minutes of my life.

Swanner:  I was surprised that a movie with this kind of talent couldn’t have saved itself. The script felt like it was written by a film student stealing from other films, slapping it together and calling it a day. Seriously, it felt like I’ve seen this before too many times. One thing that really bothered me was that all the comedy seemed cheap. At the beginning the dialog was clever, but as soon as the story starts it’s all reactive shots. Mia says something sort of shocking and we get everyones reaction. This was continued through the film over and over. 

Judd: The things that Mia was saying really weren’t all that shocking – not for a Rated R movie, at least. Director Miguel Arteta has got some fairly good movies under his belt, and has worked on some acclaimed sitcoms. The screenwriters Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly, on the other hand, have no other writing experience, and it makes you wonder who they’re related to to get this steaming pile off the ground. It’s addition to Haddish, Byrne, and Hayek, this movie wastes the talents of Billy Porter, Jennifer Coolidge, and Ari Graynor.

Swanner: I know Bad Moms got a way with a lot of cheap humor and lazy writing but the cast found a way with making it work. Like A Boss may have good intentions in wanting to make a girl power film but only gives us another January mess that should have gone straight to video or streaming. 

Swanner: 1 star
Judd: 1 star

Podcast: SJ 263: American Baking Show; Survivor; Green Book; Kathy Griffin: Hell of a tory: Michelle Wolf: Joke Show; Ronny Chieng: Asian Comedian Destroys America; Cats; The Rise of Skywalker

White Background LogoSwanner and Judd talk about American Baking Show; Survivor; Green Book; Kathy Griffin: Hell of a tory: Michelle Wolf: Joke Show; Ronny Chieng: Asian Comedian Destroys America; Cats; The Rise of Skywalker; and more!

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Cats

Judd: The year is 1980. Its three o’clock in the morning, and Andrew Lloyd Webber is home alone in his London flat. There are several rails of the purest Columbian lined out on his glass coffee table. He gazes at his shelves stocked with books, there only to make him look smart and impress his guests, in search of inspiration for his next Smash Hit Musical. His heart is racing, and he’s in a self-induced panic. How will he ever top Evita? And why was Patti LuPone such a bitch to him? Was it something he did? All of a sudden his eyes fixate on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. In an “A-Ha” moment, he snatches the book from the shelves and starts flipping through the pages. “Yes,” he thinks, “Yes, yes! It’s all right here! I will write repetitive songs, with far too many stanzas, and use the prose as inane lyrics! The costumes will be based on contemporary New Wave Punk, which will be both creepy and immediately passé! I’ll use the finest synthesizers that 1980 has to offer! It will be CATS! Now and Forever!”

And thus, Andrew Lloyd Weber unleashed an undying hellscape that has cursed the stages of theater districts around the world. It’s evil fueled by pedestrian suburbanites, willing to spend a small fortune on an authentic “Broadway Experience”. Thirty years later, that evil has been brought to the Silver Screen.

I’ve seen Cats on stage twice, which is twice too many, and where the stage play fails and the movie succeeds is that I was finally able to follow the plot. Once a year the Jellicle Cats get together for the Jellicle Ball. Each cat sings a song about his or herself to their leader, Old Deuteronomy. At the end of the ball, Old D picks a cat that will be put to death. Yes, the show is so bad, all the cats WANT to die at the end. The reason I believe I’ve never understood the plot before is the same reason a person’s mind represses traumatic experiences.

Cats is directed by Tom Hooper who directed the film adaptation of Les Miserables, and stars Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Judi Dench, IanMcKellen, Rebel Wilson, James Corden, Ray Winstone, Jason Derulo, and Jennifer Hudson, who luckily escapes with little screen time and the only song in the show that doesn’t make one wish for deafness. The script adds to the original “plot” of the movie by having the villain, Macavity (Elba), kidnap other cats in order to be the only one left to be euthanized. In the stage play, he only kidnaps Old D (now played by female, Judi Dench). The plot is further enhanced by the kidnapped kitties fighting their guard, Growltiger (Winstone), to escape and return to the mercy killing. Also, Macavity can teleport.

The CGI kitty costumes are extremely detailed and no more or less uncomfortable to see than the cat suits the stage actors wear. There are moments though, especially in the long shots and when dealing with miniatures like the mice and cockroaches, where lighting effects are poorly done and look cheap.

The real standout is Hudson, with a heart wrenching rendition of Memory that almost makes the first 90 minutes worth it. Almost. The audience was silent except for a few sniffles after she completed her number. Though maybe they were reacting to Hooper’s decision to give Grizabella a perpetually runny nose.

The film has an uneven tone, and it wants to appeal to children, but I can’t imagine they won’t get bored. Rebel Wilson (Jennyanydots) brings her brand of humor to the screen and it feels misplaced. At the end of the day, the movie itself is only as good as its source material. However you feel about the stage play, you’ll feel about the movie. The actors do what they can with the material, but they aren’t able to elevate it to something new (or watchable).

Judd: 1 star