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So Undercover: Miley Cyrus Gets it So Wrong, Again
Even before the phenomenally successful Disney TV-sitcom Hannah Montana drew to a close in January 2011, Miley Cyrus had been trying to spread her wings onto bigger things. In an attempt to break away from her well-established teen-idol image, she tried tapping her way into slightly bigger and more 'serious' productions. However, even with films such as the 2010's romantic drama The Last Song and last year's highly panned teenage-drama, Lol, Cyrus' embedded Hannah Montana persona is still proving a difficult one to shake off.
So Undercover, the latest action-comedy from British director Tom Vaughn, responsible for What Happens in Vegas and Starter for 10, is not the film that will help Cyrus mature into the Hollywood starlet she so wants to be.
The film follows the story of Molly (Cyrus); a teenage girl working as a private eye in order to cover her dad's outstanding gambling debts. Raised by her dishonoured cop father, Sam (O'Malley), Molly has been taught to be tough and was skilfully trained to always follows her instincts. Her photographing expertise lies with capturing cheating spouses in the act; a pursuit that quickly grabs the attention of FBI agent Armon (Piven) – who is on the lookout for someone to go undercover on a highly classified case.
The job? Go to college, join a sorority and gain access to Alex (McKnight); a troubled student who could possibly be in possession of some critical data that the Russian mafia would like to get their hands on. Molly accepts, cue makeover!
After the much-needed alterations, Molly – the tomboy – is transformed into the latest member of the Kappa Kappa Zeta sorority house and, as Brooke Stonebridge, she enters the unfamiliar world of parties and excessive make-up, and soon begins to connect the dots to the case. However, before you know it, her focus is shifted when she meets a possible romantic prospect in the form of fine-looking college student, Nicholas (Bowman).
This is actually worse than it sounds – if that's at all possible. Posing as an action-comedy, So Undercover offers very few action sequences and even fewer laughs. Scripted by Allan Loeb and Steven Pearl, the dialogue is cheesy and downright dim - with words like 'amazeballs', 'swag' and 'adorbz' the novelty wears thing almost immediately. The plotline – if you can call it that – is predictable and there is very little character exploration. Taking its cue from every undercover-girly-action-comedy film known to man, including the most obvious ones, like Mean Girls and Miss Congeniality – the originality of this film is, well, nonexistent.
The now more mature-looking Cyrus fails to inject anything new to her already well-established image. Considering that she is once again playing dual roles, very little difference can be seen between the two characters and as she tries to bring in a little more edginess to her guise, these types of roles simply aren't a good fit.
So Undercover primarily targets Cyrus' devoted teen-fans and in the vain hope of boosting her career into broader horizons,choosing this incredibly unadventurous and ridiculously unoriginal story definitely doesn't seem like a good start.
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.
Ludicrous, crass but also undeniably fun,Ted 2 - the sequel to Seth MacFarlane’s successful 2012 comedy, Ted –proves to be a more consistent and better drawn-out affair than its predecessor, even if the jokes – which there never seems to be a shortage of– don’t always land where they’re supposed to.
Picking up shortly after the events of the first film, Ted 2 is once again centred on best-buds and avid stoners, John Bennett (Wahlberg) and his talking teddy bear, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) who, as it turns out, don’t seem to be living out their happily-ever-afters with the women in their lives. See, John has divorced the love-of-his-life, Lori (Kunis), and Ted, who at the beginning of the film shares his “I Do’s” with his human-bride, Tami-Lynn (Barth), is in constant clashes with his new wife.
Deciding that the best way to reconcile and put an end to all the bickering is to start a family, Ted reaches out to his best-friend for help; a decision which soon proves rather messy. However, Ted’s civil rights are soon called in to question by the government who wish to brand Ted as property as oppose to a living thing, leaving John and Ted with no choice but to turn to the rookie – and pot-loving- lawyer, Samantha (Seyfried) for some legal help in an attempt to prove that Ted is a living being with rights of his own. Hence the tagline ‘Legalise Ted’.
Endless pop-culture references and MacFarlane’s distinct brand of abstract toilet humour is once again the integral part of the story. While the first film lent most of its focus on Wahlberg and his romance with Mila Kunis – the actress was written out of the script due to her pregnancy with husband Ashton Kutcher – Ted 2 shifts the focus onto the talking teddy and his battle to be recognised, essentially, as a human.
The decision to shift proves to be a smart move, although the film does tend to take itself a little too seriously at times; in addition, Wahlberg – whose deadpan delivery is almost always spot on – seems to shine more in his secondary role.
Ted 2 is neither ambitious nor smart and its jokes are often offensive and pretty vulgar. Nevertheless, it’s a fun goofy kind of vulgarity that will ensure more box office success and probably even a third film.