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Ted: One Man & His Teddy Bear
Ten year old playground outcast, John (Wahlberg), wishes that his teddy bear, Ted (McFarlane), could come to life and be the friend that he never had. His wish comes true and a couple of decades later, John and Ted’s pact to be friends for life is stronger than ever much to the chagrin of John’s long term girlfriend Lori (Kunis). She happens to be of the opinion that this relationship, which consists mainly of getting stoned, is keeping her guy from growing up and acting like the adult that he is. As Ted’s hijinks reach a level no longer tolerable by Lori, John’s forced to choose between his best friend and his girlfriend; a matter further complicated by a psychopath who’s just dying to make Ted his own.
Ted is very similar to pretty much every other R-rated comedy out there with the added twist that the protagonist’s man-child status manifests in the form of his teddy bear sidekick. There’s a giggling twelve year old inside this reviewer that’s immensely happy that this film got made, what with the cute, fuzzy teddy getting stoned, humping a cash register and fellating an ice lolly - not necessarily all at the same time. But, subtract that sense of novelty from the equation and the film you’re left with is quite average. These comedies - as in anything with Judd Apatow’s imprint on it - generally share a ton of the same DNA and rely on the same themes for their humour (sex, drugs, farts) - but this one seems even more familiar than the usual, not to mention it’s basically an excuse for a cute teddy to act dirty; the humans largely play second fiddle to their animated counterpart.
Ted suffers mainly from a case of a film’s concept being better than its execution. There are glimpses of hilarity in there; some of the jokes connect hard and there are some seriously awesome cameos, but it’s just not enough to carry the entire film which plays more like a bunch of poorly connected, very funny skits than a cohesive film. The actors are very entertaining; Ribisi as the aforementioned psychopath (has he ever played a character that isn’t seriously unhinged?), is a particular highlight and equal parts creepy and hilarious. Kunis and Wahlberg, however, aren’t served as well by the material. The former is shunted into a harping girlfriend role, while the latter is a classic man-child who, thankfully, is graced with a touch of self-awareness. Their relationship, however, lacks believability and as a result, you really couldn’t care less about whether they make it as a couple or not. Then there’s John’s relationship with Ted, which while served well by the brilliant animation, twists and turns with the dictates of the flimsy story and isn’t nearly as emotional as it could and should have been.
Ted is cool if you solely want to laugh, but with the number of great comedies that have come out recently that both crack you up and tug at your heartstrings; it’s a pretty underwhelming experience.
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.
Returning to the world of wizards and all things magic, J.K Rowling’s screenwriting debut in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has produced mixed results. Following the massive and the enduring success of the Harry Potter film franchise, the story is both magical and visually arresting. However, although definitely entertaining, the fun factor seems to have been squeezed out of the proceedings.
The plot follows ‘magizoologist’, Newt (Redmayne), who travels the world in search of magical animals in order to learn more about their powers. During his travels to New York City in 1926, Newt ends up losing his magical suitcase – a portable zoo of sorts which accidentally finds itself in the hands of an aspiring baker, Jacob Kowalski (Fogler) – setting off a chain of chaos.
The incident soon attracts the attention of Tina Goldstein (Waterston); a federal agent working for the Magical Congress of the United States of America who, after some persuading, reluctantly joins our hero on his quest along with her mind-reading sister, Queenie (Sudol).
Working from an original screenplay penned by J.K Rowling herself and directed by David Yates – filmmaker who helmed previous Harry Potter films – it would be easy to assume Fantastic Beasts to be nothing more than a blatant cash-grab which hopes to profit from long-time Harry Potter fans. However, although not as developed or as absorbing as one might have hoped, Fantastic Beasts proves to be a worthy addition to the fantasy arena which delivers an enchanting premise of eccentricity and magic.
Set seventy years before a boy named Harry Potter first walked the halls of Hogwarths, the film benefits from a degree of creative freedom to expand on its premise, introducing new stories, characters and an array of magical beasts along the way. However, there seems to be too much going on and the film struggles to keep up with the sheer amount of characters and sub-plots, failing to offer any substantial back stories or weight support them. The performances are relatively likable, with Redmayne embracing Newt’s love for magic with an gawky energy, though the rest of the cast – including Collin Farrell and Jon Voight - fail to make a similar impact.
Fantastic Beasts is an entertaining piece of cinema which will more than likely please die-hard fans that have been waiting to return to the world of wizards and magic. However, it’s not exactly what you might call an exciting movie or even a fully developed one; while it has sown the seeds for the films to come, as a standalone piece, it fails to really wow.