Sausage Party Review

Seth Rogan I feel is one of those people that you either love or hate. I know so many people who either think it’s one of the best comedy creators of the 21st century and others who wouldn’t watch his films unless you forced them to. Me, I’m a bit of both; I like Knocked Up and Superbad but couldn’t get into Pineapple Express. And now, his latest, an animated film, Sausage Party is in theatres.

Sausage Party stars Seth Rogan, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Michael Cera and Jonah Hill and is directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan. The film follows a sausage called Frank (Rogan) and his girlfriend Brenda, a bun (Wiig) who find out the terrible things that happen to food when they leave the supermarket.

The cast list is immense. Aside from the ones previously mentioned, the film also includes Edward Norton, Salma Hayek, James Franco and Danny McBride. And unlike other animated films none of them sound like themselves (2016s The Jungle Book is the opposite, with some voices being so recognisable that it became distracting). Even Rogan sounds quite a bit different from his usual persona, it took a long time for me to realise it was him.

The jokes meanwhile, are your usual Rogan-style. Even with a cast made up of various food-items, Rogan manages to push in marijuana and stoner jokes, like every other film of his. The jokes lose some of their shine as the film goes on, you see one jar of honey mustard swear and make sexual innuendos, seen them all. The jokes do pick up however in the final act. The final twenty minutes is a roaring mad send-off to a film that was losing steam, with the last five minutes being a fantastic gross-out scene, making the Elephant Scene from Grimsby look tame by comparison.

The film’s laughs aren’t just powered by sex, drugs and swearing though. There are a few cute visual sight gags, such as a Jewish Bagel and a Middle Eastern Lavash constantly trading verbal barbs, a jar of sauerkraut that looks vaguely Nazi-fied (and wants to destroy all juice, a bit of wordplay) and “I’d Do Anything For Love” sung by an actual Meat Loaf. It’s more satirical than the trailers would give it credit, with ideas about religion and politics being explored, if a little bit on the nose. All these jokes are added for the more eagle-eyed viewers, but are sadly overpowered by the traditional “Stoner-Bro” comedy of Rogan and his entourage.

The story, to cut it down to its bare essentials could be said to be Toy Story but for grown-ups. You remember how Buzz Lightyear thought he was a real spaceman before learning the truth? It’s that, just filled with a lot more swearing and sex. Apart from that novel raunchiness though, not much else is that interesting or note-worthy. You can tell how the story is going to play out beat-by-beat, with hackneyed break-up/make-up sections and other screenwriting 101 plot points. If you can get over those though, you should be pretty fine. The concept though, of food learning what it’s true purpose is, it’s interesting enough that it sold me on the film. The food’s have their little districts; the spices and curry are mocked up to be an Indian Market, the Alcohol Aisle is a rave, the Frozen Food section is a snowy mountain, it’s all cute and imaginative until juice-boxes are getting sexually assaulted and baby carrots are being eaten alive, then you remember the film is rated 15.

In the end, I’m conflicted by Sausage Party. It’s jokes got stale after a while and the story is by-the-books, but the concept and the over-the-top final twenty minutes means that it’s score moves up. Overall it doesn’t deserve to be on the Must-Watch list, but for those few jaw-dropping moments, everyone should watch this one.

Score: 7/10 Absolutely bonkers, with a small streak of smarts.

War Dogs Review

I’ve been looking forward to War Dogs. As a fan of true-crime films such as The Wolf of Wall StreetPrecinct Seven Five and Pain And Gain, I’ve been really looking forward to a new film in the same vein. And as a big fan of Miles Teller (who has been on a bit of a poor run recently, Fan4stic anyone?) I was hoping this could be a return to form.

War Dogs stars Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, Ana De Armas and Bradley Cooper and is directed by Todd Phillips. The film follows the true story of David Packouz (Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Hill) who in their early 20s started running guns for the American Military in Iraq.

The director Todd Phillips’ highest profile work is The Hangover trilogy. From the promotion and the trailers, War Dogs looked to be continuing in that vein of often juvenile comedy. Thankfully, the comedy is toned down and the film as a whole is a lot more darker than it was advertised as. The Hangover crowd will find some fairly humorous moments; one scene where Jonah Hill struts around firing a machine gun in the air is one of the funniest parts of the film, but I liked how the humour is pushed back for space for a more mature story. While much of it is fictionalised, including one of the main scenes involving the duo running a truck of guns from Jordan to Iraq, it’s still an incredibly enjoyable film.

The actors do a fine job. Miles Teller is our main “everyman” type of guy, he provides a running voice over and the film is all from his point of view. Ana De Armas plays his wife Izzy, but neither have much personality beyond their roles in the story, they are pretty bland. Bradley Cooper, while a fun part of the film is not in most of it. He’s probably in it for ten minutes at the most, but his terrorist/evil gangster is an interesting role for an actor most known for being a comedy performer.

Jonah Hill though is the main comedy highlight. In a role similar to The Wolf Of Wall Street, he’s the scumbag to Teller’s nice guy. He likes to think he is a gangster; he has a massive picture of Scarface on his office wall, buys golden paper-weights in the shape of grenades and laughs manically like Jared Leto’s Joker. He’s bought totally into making money from the war, using the buzzwords of patriotism and the Free Market to clear his mind of any wrongdoing. A repeated line of his is “It’s not illegal,” which shows his entire character in three words.

The film is nearly two hours, and there is a little bit of a drop in the middle. The film starts great and ends great, but in the middle, once the duo have run their guns to Baghdad and have expanded their empire, it does drop with their second big contract. The film is split into around five “chapters”, with lines from the next part of the film being chapter titles e.g. “Welcome to Dick Cheney’s America!,” or “This is the whole effing pie!”. It’s like a less pretentious version of what Quentin Tarantino does with his films.

The whole films feels like The Wolf of Wall Street for teenagers, a TWOW-lite version. The shoddy stocks and bonds are replaced by AK-47s and over 100-million rounds of ammunition, and for good measure they went and borrowed Jonah Hill to play the same wacky/scummy sidekick of the main character. The glorification of money and despicable characters will obviously draw the anger of some critics, but that’s kind of missing the point. You not meant to cheer for the characters, but laugh at the ridiculous and risky things they do to make money and the mad opportunities that have been offered to them (such as supplying the entire Afghan Army).

The bad guys (or let’s just say “morally questionable” guys) is nothing new to cinema, and I bet that due to its subject matter, War Dogs will get lumped in with films like Pain And Gain or the previously mentioned Wolf. Don’t let that put you off, it’s one of the better things this summer and gets a hearty recommendation from me.

Score: 8/10 A lot smarter, funnier and better than it has any right to be.

Hail, Caesar! Review

The Coen Brothers are probably the most multi-talented duo in Hollywood at the moment. Both Joel and Ethan have produced, written and directed films for over thirty years, recently working on the script of Bridge Of Spies. Now, their new film, Hail, Caesar! is in cinemas.

Hail, Caesar! stars Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johannson and Alden Ehrenreich and is directed by Joel and Ethan Cohen. The films follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix (Brolin), a “fixer” for a major Hollywood studio during the 1950s.

The film is set in the Golden Age of Hollywood and there are several jokes and references to the films of yesteryear, the film is basically a love letter to Hollywood. We see behind the scenes of the films such as in the cutting room and the board meetings, with funny scenes at every turn. It reminds me of Singin’ In The Rain to an extent. We jump from movie lot to movie lot, seeing snippets of biblical epics, westerns and musicals. The film also moves between several genres of film, with parts being mystery, noir, romance and comedy. Unfortunately, this was one of my problems with it, as the film didn’t feel consistent with its tone. The film also changes aspect ratio whenever it goes into one of its film-within-a-film moments, which also annoyed me a little.

With the Coen Brother’s also writing the script as well as directing, the jokes come thick and fast. The Coen’s know how to construct farcical scenes well and hide little jokes in the margins for the more eagle-eyed viewers. My favourite from Hail, Caesar! is an extended back-and-forth between Alden Ehrenreich and Ralph Fiennes (the first of several cameos in the film) over pronunciation of a line of dialogue.

The film is littered with cameos from actors and actresses, each one bringing their all to the film. Tilda Swinton (in two roles), Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill, Michael Gambon and Channing Tatum all fill out the side space well. Channing Tatum, who leads the best scene in the film, a highly choreographed tap dance/Broadway song is brilliant, but is in the film for less than ten minutes. It’s nice to see all these talented actors, but ether they don’t feature enough or bog down the narrative with added weight. Michael Gambon does some voice over but it comes out of nowhere at has no narrative cohesion. It doesn’t open and close the story, it just pops in whenever it feels like it.

Watching the trailer, you would think that Hail, Caesar! is a crime comedy about George Clooney being kidnapped and Josh Brolin has to go out and find him. In all honesty, that story is only around a third of the film. The Coen’s add side-story on top of side-story, smothering the main plot with additional characters and stories that are either never resolved or end too quick. When we do get back to the main plot, it potters around for a good while before being resolved far too quickly. This blurring of stories is what the Coen’s do in a lot of their films, but it makes Hail, Caesar! feel very disjointed.

Hail, Caesar! is a very quirky film. If you’re a fan of Wes Anderson’s work then you might find enjoyment here. If you’re a real film history buff then you’ll get all the nods and jokes to the 50s production, but to the average movie-goer, those same jokes will fall flat. It’s not for everyone, but for those who get it, you’ll find several laughs within.

Score: 7/10 Baffling and a bit odd, but still very funny.