Thursday 14 December 2017

Movie Reviews: Entourage, The Longest Ride and Mr Holmes

The Longest Ride
Mr Holmes

Entourage is all shirt and no pants, The Longest Ride lives up to its name and Mr Holmes charms


Comedy/drama. Starring Jeremy Piven, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly. Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Rex Lee, Haley Joel Osment. Director: Doug Elin. Cert: 15A

It's not unusual for a TV series to rot on the vine. Mad Men, Lost, Desperate Housewives… each of them suffered with every passing season, as more doofus executives dived in to put their grubby mark on the show. HBO's Entourage suffered much the same fate. What was once a zippy, zesty, clever look behind Hollywood's velvet rope became a boring fleshfest.

The great raw materials were still intact - bromances galore, hedonism, glamour, the genius of Ari Gold - but somewhere along the way, it all went off the boil.

News of a big-screen revival, four years after the show was eventually put out of its misery, was not well received. It immediately called to mind another of HBO's pricey missteps: the cinematic disaster that was Sex & The City (and its unspeakably bad sequel).

But 'leave the TV shows alone' was a lesson that no-one wanted to hear about, or heed. So, here we are. Entourage, on the big screen, slap bang in the middle of blockbuster season. Hold me.

To his credit, writer/director Doug Elin has publicly stated his intention to reignite the original germ of the TV show. Four blokes from Queens - one of which, Vince (Adrian Grenier) is a movie star - having the time of their lives as fate hands them the proverbial keys to the kingdom. Sure enough, the movie is a heady brew of babes twerking in bikinis, bongs, brash cars and a dollop of property porn. Oh, and a batch of permanently stressed studio executives. The way Entourage tells it, being in the movie business is the worst job in the world.

Just watching Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), formerly Vince's agent and now head of a massive studio throb with occupational angst, is stressful viewing. With the variables from the show present and correct, just as we left them, a plot was needed to pull viewers back to the party. Here, Elin has gone a bit soapy: Vince wants to direct a film, Ari's studio will find the cash.

The finance is coming from a Texan billionaire Larsen McCredie (Billy Bob Thornton) and his grub of a son, Travis (a magnificent Haley Joel Osment).

With the project sinking into the red quicker than you can say 'Golden Globes', Travis is dispatched to Hollywood to see how the movie is faring.

A couple of other subplots fail to catch fire: Eric's ex Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui) is due to give birth, while Drama ends up finding fame at last… through a sex tape. Meanwhile, a subplot involving Ari's ex-assistant Lloyd (Rex Lee) getting married comes to nothing.

True to form, the cameos are bizarre and brilliant in equal measure (although they come so thick and fast that it starts to grate).

Enjoy a crackerjack Mark Wahlberg or a diva-esque Jessica Alba all you want… nothing beats the three seconds of glorious screen time that Calvin Harris takes up. If you're anything like me, you'll laugh so much that you'll fall clean to the floor. Sadly, Ari Gold - a richly comic character, ripe with potential - is sidelined to make way for the bromances of the Queens Four.

Just as they did on the small screen, the lads ogle and plough through the women like a hay fever sufferer goes through a box of Kleenex. It's the singularly most disappointing aspect of the film. As for the bizarre love quadrangle that the normally level-headed Eric (Kevin Connolly) finds himself in… please.

Ultimately, Entourage: The Movie is light on plot twists, lighter again on laughs and even lighter still on likeability. But one thing is for sure; it's a couple of hours of glossy, sun-drenched escapism.

Just pray they don't decide on a sequel. I'm not sure my heart could take it.

Rating: ***

The Longest Ride


Drama/romance. Starring Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Alan Alda, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin, Melissa Benoist. Director: George Tillman Jr. Cert: 12A

As movies go, you'd be hard pressed to find an instant classic like The Notebook. Beloved of melancholic women (or the recently dumped), the epic weepy was a prime slice of storytelling thanks to Nicholas Sparks. Needless to say, anticipation for his latest tale, which is also an inter-generational weepie, has been pretty high.

The film opens in the pen of a bull-riding competition, in which rider Luke (Eastwood) is one of the star attractions. It's not unlike the stylised beginning of the Dallas Buyer's Club, but rest assured, it doesn't take long for it to turn to romantic, slushy mush.

Luke knows he has to quit the bucking broncos, but his heart isn't in retirement just yet.

At his latest rodeo, he meets student Sophia (Britt Robertson), who is headed to New York to start a glittering career in the art world. As the two realise they are on two very different paths in life, fate lends a hand. The pair rescue the elderly Ira (Alan Alda) from a car accident, and as Sophia visits him in hospital, he recalls his wartime romance with the captivating Ruth (Oona Chaplin). Lo and behold, Ruth is also an art enthusiast.

As the story of the Ira and Ruth's decades-long marriage unfolds, the parallels between the two couples start to emerge. Star-crossed, highly photogenic lovers are starting to feel like Sparks' speciality.

And what a highly photogenic bunch they are: Scott Eastwood is an amalgam of Paul Walker and Sex & The City's Jason Lewis, with a dash of Michael Fassbender. He is, famously, Clint Eastwood's son, and while he makes for a strangely unconvincing cowboy (yes, really), he has the eye-glint to carry off a leading man role.

Jack Huston (grandson of John) is watchable as the young Ira, but Oona Chaplin (another showbiz progeny) is delightful, and the two make for a charming pairing.

All in all, it's the sort of film designed to jerk tears, teach us a thing or two about love and ignite a fuzzy, snuggly feeling in its audience. But at two-hours plus, it's the Longest Ride by name, and by nature.

Rating ***

Mr. Holmes

Mr Holmes

Crime/drama. Starring Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Colin Starkey, Hiroyuki Sanada, Sarah Crowden, Milo Parker, Hattie Morahan, Frances de la Tour. Director: Bill Condon. Cert: PG

Sherlock Holmes has shown up in cinema time and time again, in iterations that rarely stray too far from the original. But even with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller bringing the character to life for 21st-century audiences, Ian McKellan's portrayal of Holmes is surely the most radical and novel yet.

Here, Holmes is a 90-something retiree, living it up in the Sussex countryside by keeping bees. With his memory ailing with age, he decides to recollect events from his earlier days as a dashing detective, with a little help from Roger (Milo Parker). In the hands of director Bill Condon, Mr. Holmes is the brilliant fleshing out of a complex, sometimes unlikeable character.

McKellan puts plenty of flesh onto Holmes' bones as only he can, and it's a genuinely sweet and sympathetic portrayal.

A truly charming journey, even if you think you've already seen everything that Sherlock Holmes has to offer.

Rating ***

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