The Happytime Murders is a somewhat weird movie.
Putting Muppet style characters into real life Los Angeles and making them portray recognisable character types, familiar in so many previous genres.
However, be warned that one type of film this is not. This is not a film for children!!!
Imagine a ‘Blaxploitation’ movie from the ‘70s, add a police procedural with a comedy buddy story and you have this film.
Such a mix with human actors alone would be strange, but with puppets basically taking the underclass character roles works rather well.
The script is tightly written, full of humour and pathos. The human actors play their parts straight down the line. The puppets, created by the Henson studios, have realistic bodies and can be seen walking, running and engaging in other activities in a totally realistic way.
The humour ranges from laugh out loud to schoolchild sniggering and comes in large amounts.
All this together makes for a very enjoyable adult, guilty pleasure type experience.
Although I enjoyed this film, I know it wont be for every taste, I give it 4 stars out of five.
If you have seen the trailer for The Leisure Seeker, you may have been misled into thinking this is a light comedy about two seniors travelling America. It is not.
There are comedic moments but at its heart this is a story of fighting against age and its inevitable final destination.
Played by the almost unrecognisable Dame Helen Mirren and the unmistakable Donald Sutherland, the two protagonists embark on a final search for lost memories and lives.
The story is uncomfortable to watch at times as it plunges into the dark pool of dementia, exposing long forgotten and unknown truths about their perfect marriage.
This may have a limited audience but should be seen for the remarkable performances of both actors. Sadly it is let down by the contrived humour and a weak supporting cast.
Just about earns its 3 out of five stars.
Finding your feet is a lovely little film, in the English tradition of light domestic stories told with emotion and humour.
Full of British TV and Film stars, most notably Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, David Hayman, Celia Imrie, and Joanna Lumley.
It is produced and directed by even more of our great British talented people, including those behind the wonderful A Street Cat Named Bob just last year.
The plot encompasses loss in many forms and also survival from those losses. It also features the best death scene ever, certainly the way I would like to go.
It is told with great kindness for the characters. There are no big villains, although some are very cruel by their unthinking actions, eventually to be saved.
Happy endings for every character; a feeling of having been hugged for the audience.
I can imagine watching this film again at home over Christmas in front of a warm fire with cosy slippers and a nice glass of sherry.
A well earned 4 out of 5 stars.
Red Sparrow is a very contemporary play set against the rising threat of Russian expansionism. The cold war of old has been re-kindled but old spy craft is still a primary tool used against the West.
Enter Jennifer Lawrence as one of the nails used by the Russian hammer against, in this case, the Americans.
The story continues with great pace and gusto that gives the initial impression of being an exciting and gripping story. However, this is no Le Carré or Deighton story. There is no light and dark in the characters. The bad guys are all super-bad and the good guys could almost be wearing white hats.
The viewer is kept guessing about the true motivations of Miss Lawrence’s character till the end, but you can see within the early scenes who is going to lose the most.
On top of this plot is laid a visual assault of violence, gore and sex that is unprecedented in my experience in the legitimate cinema. Many scenes were bordering on the pornographic both in violence and nudity.
This may be artistically justifiable, indeed the presence of several A-List actors would indicate they felt it was justified, but not for me.
This would have benefited from clearer story telling, deeper characterisation and less visual exploitation.
Just 3 out of five stars.
The Shape of Water is an adult fairy tale, of monsters and lovers, sacrifice and hatred.
We are taken to the post WW2 anti-communist paranoid America, coloured with a dark palate, giving an impression of an old gothic horror.
Emotions are all ramped up to the maximum with no time for nuance or subtlety.
Thankfully the plot moves quickly as a result and the 2 hour 3 minute duration flies as quickly.
This film is probably the director Guillermo Del Toro’s best work (I haven’t seen them all so cannot be certain).
The performances by actors Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins and Doug Jones are all excellent.
I would particularly pick out Doug Jones who inhabits the central creature around which the story revolves. He brings the full range of emotions to his character without benefit of language, purely by his body language, which shines through his latex prosthetic body. (You may have seen him recently in Star Trek: Discovery, similarly cloaked in alien costume.)
As the story reached the ultimate and predictable conclusion, I felt this to have been a satisfying experience.
This will not be everybody’s cup of tea; indeed I resisted seeing it until after its Bafta success.
It is well worth 4 out of five stars.
At its heart, Battle of the Sexes is the story of a publicity stunt that went hideously wrong for its sponsor and in doing so caused a revolution in the world of women’s sport.
In 1973, Bobby Riggs, a former champion tennis player and world-class chauvinist, made a public claim that no woman pro-tennis player could beat any male pro-player.
What develops from this statement by an uncomfortably horrible braggart leads to a match between himself and Miss Billie Jean King.
Ms King was already established in the world of women’s tennis and leading their struggle for equal pay.
What follows is a portrait of institutional sexism at its most patronising insidiousness.
This story is not however crying into its hands.
Humour balances pathos and excitement balances emotion to give a well-rounded story that will educate and delight in equal measure.
Emma Stone portrayal of Billie Jean King is very believable.
Comedic actor Steve Carell gives a very controlled, reined in performance of an overconfident, addictive character as Bobby Riggs, good enough for possible award consideration.
He makes you laugh, loathe and pity this sad man, who is so wrapped up in his past glories, allowing his boasting lead him to an inevitable downfall.
As a sports movie, this is one of the very best I have ever seen.
A sporting 4 out of five stars for this biopic.
The Limehouse Golem has a great deal going for it.
It is based on the novel by Peter Ackroyd and then turned into a tight, witty and gripping script by Jane Goldman.
Bill Nighy takes the male lead. He delivers an excellent, gripping performance of a gentle but tortured soul in a harsh world.
Olivia Cooke as the protagonist also gives a fine portrayal, mixing light and dark, truth and lies with a fine touch.
Do not be misled by the Golem in the title. This is neither a horror story nor fantasy. It is a drama based on the reality of Victorian East London just prior to the reign of Jack the Ripper.
Those who have enjoyed the TV series ‘Ripper Street’ will be well satisfied by this tale. Fans of Mr Nighy will be delighted with his return to top form.
One of the best films this summer, well deserving of 5 out of five stars.