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Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

Alternative Title: Reasonably Fabulous

Ab Fab first aired on the BBC in 1992 (ha, I’m the same age as the show!) until 1995, then show the show aired sporadically as series or special until 2012. Four years on, our ever-glamourous and self-indulgent duo has made it onto the big screen. Has the film broken to the small to big screen curse? Sort of. Whilst it’s no Bad Education movie (click here for review) it still doesn’t shake off the feeling this is little more than a bloated and extended episode.

Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) are still living the life of luxury, though the money is beginning to run out. Edina’s PR company is failing and her rival, Claudia Bing (Celia Imrie), is taking all the glory. Edina is in need of a miracle and one does arrive – Kate Moss is just fired her PR and is need of a replacement. The wooing of Kate goes wrong however, when Edina manages to push Kate Moss into the Thames. Kate is presumed dead and Edina becomes Britain’s enemy no.1, deciding escape is her only option she flees to France ,in the hope of finding fortune, taking granddaughter Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) and Patsy with her. The police are on the hunt, as are Edina’s daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha) and new boyfriend Nick (Robert Webb).

For fans of the show this film will either fill the void or slightly disappoint. Everything you loved about the tv series is present and correct – the humour and the characters are just how you remembered them. For those who are not so keen or aware of the show this will disappoint or even frustrate. For one thing, if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve seen most of the main gags.

Then there’s the fact the film takes the approach of adding in celebrities, loads of them – everywhere and in every scene there’s a cameo. Some of these work – Gwendoline ChristieRebel Wilson & Jon Hamm to name but three- and some just flopped – Jerry Hall and  Jean-Paul Gaultier displayed beyond awful ‘acting’ ability. However, instead of enhancing the story, they make-up the story. When watching it feels as if the celebrities were called in, or called in themselves asking for a role, and the storyline was manufactured from there. A join-the-dots approach to create a story with little substance.

What little there is of a story is archetypal for an extended sitcom episode- taking the characters we love to another country. Gasp! Let’s watch them engage in the customs of the land. Chuckle! Although it is evident the film was made with love for the characters, who we get to observe in their unabashedly badly behaved glory, it isn’t as funny as it could have been. At times it feels lazy and far too celebrity obsessed. Yes, this may be an accurate reflection of our main characters, but it also feels tired and out-dated. Like a relic from a past era it relies on in-jokes and cliches. And yet this didn’t bother me so much as my surroundings when watching the film were perfect for the occasion – 7pm at Picturehouse Central. The 90% capacity screen was made up with middle-aged amazonian women and groups of immaculately made-up men, this was clearly their show; laughs and cheers were constant throughout.

Saunders and Lumley play their characters with perfection but the written material isn’t there to make this a swansong that is absolute or fabulous. It’s not vintage Bolly but it will be a respite for the sport-weary and a reunion with old friends for those who loved the show.

2 stars

Warcraft: The Beginning

123 minutes of beginnings and little take-off

I came out of Warcraft feeling confused. As a total noob when it comes to W.O.W I knew nothing about the material before seeing the film and the film has little provision for the uninitiated.  Whilst scowling the web for plot summaries and plot explanations to answer my questions I also came across the reviews. Two outcomes came out of this experience, 1) I still have unresolved questions that may just have been plot-holes 2) There are some really brutal reviews out there that make me feel very sorry indeed for Duncan Jones and his film. Read any of his PR for the film and it is clear this is a project of passion for him – an element that really shines through when watching. Warcraft is not horrendous nor particularly bad; just too convoluted to allow it to flow. Plus, considering the entire film focuses on introductions it still manages to leave too many gaps and lead to much head-scratching. 

Draenor, the homeworld of the orcs, is dying. A green-skinned orc called Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) controls a magical force called The Fel which allows him to open a doorway from their world to another, Azeroth the home of the humans. Gul’dan plans to send over the orcs in batches, the first being a group of the strongest warriors. Duratan (Toby Kebbell) the chieftain of the Frostwolf clan, his pregnant mate Draka (Anna Galvin) and his second in command Orgrim (Robert Kazinsky) are amongst the first to cross. Duratan has his doubts over the mysterious green magic, believing there to be a link between Gul’tan using it and  the destruction of their home. Fearing the same will happen again with this world me makes contact with Anduin Loather (Travis Fimmel), the military commander of the city of Stormwind who in turn contacts the king (Dominic Cooper), the Guardian (Ben Foster) and a young mage (Ben Schnetzer). United will they be able to stop the Fel from destroying yet another world?

That’s the plot as far as I understood it (apologies to any of the more informed if I have gotten anything majorly wrong there!) It’s not the plot itself that leads to confusing, but some of the main nuances. Character motivations often go unexplained, as are the links and relationships between them. Considering the film’s focus is to introduce it almost feels like a prior film that I had missed had already done so. When it comes to the storytelling process I’m still not sure if the film is really clever or really stupid, lumbering along from one set-piece to the next, frequently impenetrable to the viewers.

The world of Warcraft is a rather beautiful and detailed one, with lots of layers and depth. However although it has made the transition to the screen it has perhaps not been translated enough for it to draw in those new to franchise, and I suspect it it is too diluted for it’s loyal fanbase. I have no qualms in metaphorically using a glossary to understand a mythology for a Fandom, something I have regularly had to do whilst watching six seasons worth of Game Of Thrones or even the six Middle Earth films,  but this film has too quiet a soul and too dull to warrant such extracurricular research. There is also a prevailing sense, resulting from poor critical and commercial reviews along with poor box office takings, that this is a world that will not return to the screen again…

The characters that inhabit this world are fine, not particularly good nor particularly bad. Just. Fine. Kebbell is standout as the conflicted Orc, proving yet again at his great skill at using the technology to create such wondrous creatures. Fimmel is almost an Aragorn 2.0, a reminder of just how good Viggo Mortensen  was in the role of charmer with a heart of gold. A shoehorned-in romantic subplot with half-orc Garona (Paula Patton) is undercut in terms of believability both by underdevelopment and forced chemistry. The rest of the cast are criminally underused. 

Warcraft is a film that is fantastical, but far from fantastic. Although the story being told is adequately entertaining it is told in a manner that is rather butchered, dull and rushed. It’s enjoyable enough but there is a prevailing sense that this film is not as good as it could have/ should have been.

2 stars

Me Before You

A serviceable and relatively sincere weepie

Let’s start this with an admission. I am a crier. I have cried and will cry at everything and anything. An article on human kindness – I weep. An audition on a relatively television program – I sob. A particularly emotive song – I howl. Considering the nature of this film and what I had heard of the book I had the tissues at the ready. Literally I had taken a tissue out of the packet and tucked it into a jumper sleeve for easy access. Come the roll of the credits and the tissue had remained unused. I didn’t cry. This is not necessarily a criticism of the film – there were plenty of noses being blown and gentle sobbing echoed around the screen. Yet not a peep from me. Whether that is because I’m all cried out from recent weeks or whether the film didn’t have the emotional depth needed? Well, read on and see…

Two years ago William Traynor (Sam Claflin) was hit by a motorbike – leaving him paralysed from the neck-down. Will was once a man about town, living and hustling in London. The type of man all men envied and all women wanted. Now he is stuck back in his small-town home with his parents Camilla (Janet McTeer) and Steven (Charles Dance). Concerned by his desperately low spirits she decides to hire a carer/companion who can brighten up his lonely   existence.  Enter Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke) who has just lost her job at the local cafe. Aged 26 she has never left her small town home, a place which she either loves too much or is too scared to leave. Her family rely on her as she brings in the only income so this job is perfect for her! Except she has zero experience as a carer. Having always been outshone by her younger sister, single mother Katrina (Jenna Coleman), or patronised by her long-term boyfriend Patrick (Matthew Lewis), Louisa is a woman not living life to its fullest. Maybe Will, a man who can no longer enjoy life, is the perfect person to help her live hers?

Having not read the book I cannot comment on the success of the transition of book to screen, although Twitter would suggest it is faithful. The story itself is relatively predictable, with little surprise, though this is not necessarily a bad thing as the story itself is told rather well. The pacing is solid with the growing bond between Louisa and Will is believable.The supporting cast are impeccably stereotypical and two-dimensional. Roll call for romantic tragedy archetypes – we have present: jealous and moody boyfriend who ‘doesn’t understand or appreciate’ how amazing his girlfriend is. Overly concerned mother and withdrawn father. Know-it-all younger sibling full of great advice. Friendly Australian nurse who steals most of the scenes he is in… (Side note: how can I get my own Nathan, Stephen Peacocke..?) 

The main cast themselves are solid. Claflin does well with his role as a man who feels he has little reason to live. He provides his character with just enough spark to hint at the man Will once was. His bond with Clarke’s character is well-established and there is plenty of charisma between them. It’s Clarke’s performance that particularly stands out, with her facial expressions providing an earnest authenticity to her character. Although her character is essentially a 2016 small-town England Manic Pixie Dream Girl (her ‘quirky’ clothes and shoes used to denote her character as opposed to providing her with any genuine character traits) she is remarkably likeable. Her eyebrow acting is, as my secondary school students would say, on point – managing to show so much with them knitted in concern.

There’s enough here to watch and enjoy with a glass of wine. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but if you’re a fan of such films as  The Fault In Our Stars or Me, Earl and the Dying Girl then you’ll enjoy this.

stars