Tag Archives: Bill Nighy

A Boy and His Dingo

Buckley’s Chance

by Rachel Willis

A lighthearted adventure tale about a boy and his dog – I mean, dingo – struggling to survive alone in the Australian outback, Tim Brown’s latest film, Buckley’s Chance, should delight viewers of a certain age (the under 10 crowd).

Tough kid Ridley (Milan Burch) finds his world upended when he and his mom, Gloria (Victoria Hill), move from New York City to live with his irascible grandfather (Bill Nighy) on a sheep farm in the rugged Outback.

There isn’t much explanation as to why Gloria and Ridley are moving around the world to live with a man neither of them has met. While this might not bother children, it is a bit of a head-scratcher. We get a bit more later to explain this sudden upheaval in Ridley’s life, but it’s only a tidbit of not entirely convincing information.

It takes decidedly too long to introduce the Adorable Dingo that befriends Ridley. But it’s worth the wait. From the moment the long-legged, golden-coated wild dog enters the story, he steals the show. Okay, not quite, but he does distract from the moments when Burch’s acting falters. The relationship between boy and dingo gives the movie its emotional center.

A children’s adventure film needs bumbling baddies, and this one adds a couple who have the right amount of menace and hilarity. A few laughs are hewn from these villainous hog farmers, and they’re easily the most entertaining part of the movie.

The film’s biggest weaknesses come when it forgets its target audience. There are a few scenes that center too much around the adults and their dramas. Without Ridley’s presence, these scenes are out of place. There isn’t much appeal for children in a woman and her father-in-law reminiscing. Throwing these moments into the film also leaves less time for the main adventure.

As the hardnosed grandfather, Nighy doesn’t bring his A-game. His Australian accent is bad, his performance a little wooden, but you can’t help but like him just the same. His exchanges with Burch provide some of the film’s finest moments (not including the dingo).

The Australian outback is one of the most distinctive locales on earth, and cinematographer Ben Nott knows how to draw both the beauty and the terror from it. It’s tough not to be impressed with the challenges Ridley faces against this uncompromising landscape with just his wits and a dingo.

If you need a movie to enjoy with your kids, this one is good enough for all ages.

M&A

Emma

by Cat McAlpine

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition…had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”

So begins Jane Austen’s final novel, and so too starts Emma., with text across the screen that almost seems to smirk. We find Emma as she is described: beautiful, put together, and just mischievous enough. She is also vain, childish, and compulsive in a way that mysteriously endears you to her. Anya Taylor-Joy (The VVitch, Thoroughbreds) delivers a masterful performance that is always on the verge of a laugh or a tear, depending on which way the day goes.

Well matched in chemistry and in his ability to show an astonishing depth beneath the veneer of decorum is Johnny Flynn as George Knightley. I have loved Flynn since Lovesick was titled Scrotal Recall (yes, really), and his performance in Emma. is earnest and authentic as always.

The character growth, across the cast but most importantly for Emma and Knightley, is masterfully done by both and makes this one of my most favorite period pieces. There are no nonsensical professions of love, you can see every spark light and burn – even in the slightest nods and prolonged bits of eye contact. Josh O’Connor so well telegraphs his nervous and misplaced intentions as Mr. Elton, that it’s even funnier that Emma is in the dark ’til the end.

Supporting the hilarious, heartfelt journey is a cast of wild and weird characters with impeccable timing, namely Bill Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse, Mia Goth as Harriet Smith, and Miranda Hart as the unfathomably lovable Miss Bates. In fact, it is the background of Emma.’s tapestry that makes the story so vibrant. So rarely do the wealthy find themselves truly alone, and director Autumn de Wilde capitalizes on the presence of society members and household staff alike—often out of focus but still on screen—to mine even more comedic opportunities.

In her first full length feature, de Wilde deftly uses the camera to double down on subtext and deepen the most important moments. Her use of camera emphasizes the screen as its own type of narration and honors the story’s origin as a novel. Eleanor Catton’s debut screenplay expertly weaves the multitude of characters and circumstances. Neither de Wilde nor Catton is afraid to slow down and strike a vignette, but the pacing is only occasionally labored, as the gorgeous cinematography and costume design alike provide plenty to gawk at.

Finally, I would be remiss to leave out the score, which has its own humor and cagey attitude to support the litany of other masterful elements. The entire production has a beautiful, rhythmic choreography to which all things, movement, people, and intentions, inevitably adhere.

I often both benefit and suffer from being sporadically read. As George Knightly muses, “Emma has been meaning to read more ever since she was twelve years old.” Me too, bud. I’ve never read Emma, or seen an adaptation, so I can’t tell you how well this holds up to the source material. Based on the reactions of the mostly middle-aged female audience in my showing, it holds up marvelously. Based on my own viewing, this is a charming, funny, and soon-to-be-classic viewing experience for anyone.

Pika Pika

Pokémon Detective Pikachu

by Hope Madden

When my son was small and we played pretend, I made believe I was Snorlax so I could lay on the couch and do nothing. Does that make me a bad parent? Well, a lazy one, anyway, but the point is, I logged countless hours on that couch watching all manner of pocket monster.

I was dragged unwillingly into the world of Pokémon. No, I am not exactly the target audience for Pokémon Detective Pikachu (read: I am in no way the target audience for this movie). But, when Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds at his Ryan Reynoldsiest) says, “Mr. Mime is the worst,” I know enough to understand that shit’s the truth.

So, there is a plot. It involves loads upon loads of daddy issues, primarily (but not exclusively) those that hang over Tim Goodman (Justice Smith). In looking for his father he falls into a mystery involving a Pikachu who is not only adorable (he admits as much himself at least twice), but is also connected to Tim. Tim can understand him.

For the uninitiated, Pokémon just repeat their own names over and over and over again in a manner that makes you want to take your own life, and yet you tolerate it because you really do love your son.

But not this Pikachu! Sure, others can only hear his cute “pika pika,” but Tim can hear actual words, and those words are telling Tim, in a humorously snarky way, that he needs to unravel this mystery and work on his interpersonal skills.

Bill Nighy shows up as an entrepreneur/philanthropist/genius. Meanwhile, Ken Watanabe languishes with bafflingly limited screen time as a detective who is, let’s be honest, not very good at his job.

Kathryn Newton is a plucky would-be investigative journalist, her trusty Psyduck in tow. (Note: Psyduck is also the worst.)

Part of the entertainment value here is the genuine fondness for the content director Rob Letterman and his army of screenwriters bring to the table. Good looking CGI, committed performances and a solidly comedic but not too ironic tone also help.

The film doesn’t shoot over the heads of the youngest fans, does embed scads of references and homages for those there for nostalgia, and throws around enough kid-friendly Reynoldsisms to entertain parents who mercifully missed out on Pokémon Gen 1 and 2.

Is it a colossal waste of Ken Watanabe’s talent? Oh God, yes. Terrible.

But honestly, otherwise I don’t have a lot of complaints.

Love…Exciting and (Not So) New

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

by George Wolf

The efforts of a talented, veteran cast, coupled with a refreshing attitude toward the love lives of senior citizens, enabled The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to rise above a tendency for silly contrivance.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel can’t quite measure up.

Director John Madden and screenwriter Ol Parker return, along with most of the original cast, for a trip back to India where things are busy at the eccentric hotel which caters to “the elderly and beautiful.”

Hotel proprietor Sonny (Dev Patel) and girlfriend Sunaina (Tina Desai) are planning their wedding, but Sunny is distracted by business. He wants to expand, and has reached out to a U.S. firm for financial backing. When American “writer” Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) checks in to the hotel, Sonny is convinced he’s actually a spy sent by the prospective business partners.

Guy has barely gotten his room key before Madge (Celia Imrie) has the hots for him, he has his eye on Sonny’s mom (Lillette Dubey), Sonny is jealous of Sunaina’s childhood friend “Kush” (Shazad Latif), and Norman (Ronald Pickup) is afraid he accidentally took out a hit on his girlfriend Carol (Diana Hardcastle). Plus, Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Evelyn (Judi Dench) still haven’t gotten together!

Maybe Captain Stubing can talk some sense into everyone!

It doesn’t take long to realize how much this installment misses the dear departed Graham, as played by Tom Wilkinson. Beyond Wilkinson’s immeasurable talent, Graham’s thoughtful storyline grounded part one in a graceful humanity that the sequel sorely needs. Gere is a fine addition for sheer star power, but his character only serves as a means to add more empty conflict to all the sit-comery.

It’s too bad, because even with Wilkinson gone, this cast features a vast wealth of talent that can instantly improve most any flailing script. The odd man out again is Patel, whose exaggerated histrionics serve as an annoying distraction from his sublime co-stars.

Despite a few charming moments, this sequel is overlong, overdone, and easily Second Best.

 

Verdict-2-5-Stars

 





More Adorably Smitten Brits

About Time

by Hope Madden

Even if you’re not a romantic comedy fan, it’s hard to dislike Love Actually, right? Sure, pieces of writer/director/Brit Richard Curtis’s film drag. Still, the fact that so many story lines – big and small – fit together so nicely, telling tales of heartache as well as true love, helps to make it an entertaining gem. So, why not give About Time – the latest from its creator – a shot?

Well, actually, it helps if you are not a fan of romantic comedies because, regardless of the marketing campaign, that label fits this film loosely at best.

About Time is perhaps the most understated time travel movie ever. The Lake family has a secret. Their men can travel – briefly and with very mild manners –  through time. One New Year’s Day, this intel is passed from father (Bill Nighy – hooray!) to son (and unrepentant ginger), Tim (Domnhall Gleeson – son of the great character actor Brendan Gleeson, but best known as a Weasley boy from Harry Potter).

Tim mostly uses his power to improve his luck with girls, though he fails as often as succeeds because Richard Curtis loves adorably, politely, pitifully smitten Brits.

Tim’s big success is the love of his life, Mary (Rachel McAdams, aggressively adorable, as always).

The end.

Surprisingly enough, that is not true because bumbling awkwardly but endearingly toward true love is not the film’s real focus.

Rather, Curtis’s interest lies on the fringes of Tim’s life, with everyone and everything he fails to notice because of his dogged attention to his pursuit of true love. And in the end, that’s what Curtis wants of us: to slow down and notice everything. Live life fully and you won’t need time travel to go back and fix things.

If that sounds trite and patronizing, credit Curtis for developing it at a leisurely enough pace and with sound enough acting that it does not feel that way. The life lessons Tim learns are thoughtful, and Gleeson’s performance sells the tenderness and the hard-won wisdom.

What it doesn’t really settle is the almost creepy dishonesty of Tim’s wooing of Mary, and for all of the rest of the film’s Nice Guy Tim-isms, it’s hard to look past the SciFi trickery he utilizes to dupe this woman into loving him.

But I suppose you can look past that, since the romance is hardly the point. Unless you’re a fan of romantic comedies, in which case, may I recommend Love Actually?

Verdict-3-0-Stars

 

 





Something’s Up with Jack

By Hope Madden

Have you ever wanted to see a nose so big you might be swallowed whole by its gaping pores? In 3D, no less? Director Bryan Singer (X-Men) hopes so, because he means to shake up our chilly moviegoer blahs with an enormous adventure filled with ill-tempered, poorly groomed giants. It’s Jack the Giant Slayer, Singer’s attempt to cash in on teen romance, 3D, and the dearth of late winter entertainment.

The story veers a bit from the nursery school fable, in that there’s an adventurous princess, a back stabbing egomaniac suitor, a crown made of giant heart, and no golden goose at all. Plus, there are an awful lot more giants than I remember.

Wisely, Singer sees the opportunity for medieval battle on a grand scale. Like a giant scale. And once we finally get to some action, the film’s a lot of fun. But beware: its prelude is a long slog.

Singer’s first foray into the third dimension bores. Giants look like unconvincing cartoons, the views are nice but not spectacular, and the action sequences – though entertaining – benefit in no way from the technology.

Nicholas Hoult finished Twilight-ing zombies for Warm Bodies just in time to pull that same shit with this old fairy tale. While he’s a very likeable soul, he brings too little energy or magnetism to the screen.

A sly Ewan McGregor, on the other hand, charms as the princess’s main guardian, his ever wackier hairstyle (who knew so much product was available in days of yore?), captivating smile and over-the-top gallantry injecting the flick with some much needed vibrancy.

The great Stanley Tucci finds himself underused – a particular shame because he makes such a great villain, and his comic timing could have helped the film find more enjoyable footing. Also underutilized is Bill Nighy, voice of one of evil giant General Fallon’s heads. Plus, the usually wonderful Ian McShane just looks silly in that suit of gold armor.

Singer’s pace is leaden, and his patchwork script puts off action far too long to keep your attention. The film’s slightly too violent and far too slow for very young viewers, yet too earnest and lumbering for anyone else. The FX can’t even impress.

There’s nothing especially awful about Jack the Giant Slayer (though, I, for one, was hoping for a slightly different ending). Maybe Hollywood thought that good was enough for late winter at the movies.

2 stars (out of 5)