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Date Night: Fey and Carell Joined in Wacky Matrimony
The very personable Tina Fey and Steve Carell are both comedic tycoons of this era, so it was only a matter of time before the two would team up. Their successful careers are hard earned and long overdue after years of hard work.
Both play the leads in a successful NBC sitcom: Fey created her self-referential 30 Rock based on her time as SNL’s head writer, and Carrell stars in the American version of The Office. Both shows rewrote the book on comedy. So does pairing them together work? Absolutely. If it wasn’t for their undeniable chemistry and comedic chops, Date Night would have amounted to nothing more than a big, flat splash.
Date Night opens with the Fosters; a committed couple worn out by the status quo. Their marriage has withered to a laundry list of daily routines, even their once- a-week date night is now a burden, where they have to go through the same motions over and over again. Fed up with the monotony, the married couple embarks on an impulsive binge with some zany results.
Driving away from their New Jersey suburb to a trendy fish restaurant in NYC only to find it fully booked, the Fosters spontaneously claim someone else’s reservation. It turns out that the table was booked to a nefarious couple attracting some serious heat. What follows is a paint-by-number mistaken identity scenario– think Dumb and Dumber, only condensed into a single night.
We get to meet a rotating cast of supporting characters played by Kristen Wiig, Mark Ruffalo, James Franco and Mila Kunis, as well as a hunky, shirtless Mark Wahlberg, who, in the movie’s funniest running joke, is perpetually pleaded to put a shirt on.
Director Levy bought us the Night at the Museum films, and didn’t set out to make a laughing riot with this film. Date Night‘s humour is more slice-of-life with economically distributed laugh-out-loud moments. Between the laughs and the thrills, there are surprisingly earnest scenes of reconciliation; the movie’s saving grace next to the lead performances. Equally interesting is the choice to shoot the film on Hi-Def as it gives it this subtle grittiness and sense of realism, putting it a cut above your average trite comedy.
Comedies aren’t exactly known for their envelope-pushing narrative, but you would expect something more substantial from Fey and Carell. Your best bet for a hearty laugh right now, Date Night might leave more to be desired, but it will most certainly leave a charming impression.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
On the surface, Robert Zemecki’s slick and a technically pristine WWII-set romantic-espionage-thriller looks like a winner. Boasting an impressive cast and a script by Peaky Blinders’ Steven Knight, everything about Allied points to success. However, although visually striking and overall satisfying in terms of action, it’s the film’s central story - the romantic pairing between Mr. Pitt and Ms. Cotillard – fails to ever really get going, leaving the film a little hollow and difficult to invest in.
Set in 1942, the story begins with the introduction of Canadian intelligence officer, Max Vatan (Pitt), who finds himself on a mission in Morocco with French Resistance fighter, Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard), who is to play the role of his wife during a covert operation that involves assassinating a high-ranking Nazi official. After successfully carrying out their assignment, the pair’s pretend relationship soon turns into the real thing with the duo soon marrying and welcoming a baby girl into the world, as they settle in war-torn Britain.
However, things are soon turned upside down for Max when he is informed by his by-the-books boss, Frank Heslop (Mad Men’s Jared Harris), that Marianne is currently under investigation and that she, in fact, may be a Nazi spy. Given seventy-two hours to prove her innocence before he will need to kill her, Max soon sets out on his own investigation.
Aesthetically, the film embraces an old-Hollywood approach, with a certain sense of nostalgic glamour and elegance present through the minutes. Told through a wonderfully slick lens frequent Zemeckis collaborator, cinematographer Don Burgess, there's a certain style and sophistication to every single frame. But while the film is pleasing to the eye and Steven Knight’s script boasts plenty of moments of suspense and intrigue, there‘s a serious lack of heart missing from the story, which turns the more passionate moments into melodrama.
In addition, the romance between the two leads is never really sold. Both Pitt and Cotillard definitely look the part and when they are not onscreen together, their performances are affective. However, it’s when they share the screen and viewers are asked to buy into their love story that it all goes south. Allied is a functional and an effective WWII spy thriller. It’s just not as captivating or engaging of a romance-drama that it sells itself to be.