Tammy Review

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Melissa McCarthy once again graces our screens, playing the title role in Tammy. This role follows her niche of funny, overweight, female characters that are often without aim and purpose. While it may be time for McCarthy to start expanding into other roles, this film is good if you are just after a good time, where you can enjoy yourself without having to ponder the film’s deeper implications.

The film begins with Tammy, a clear mess. She is unkempt, drives a ragged car, and has a lousy job. After turning up late to work, she is fired, and arrives home early to find her husband (Nat Faxon) treating their neighbour (Toni Collette) to a romantic dinner. Tammy is furious, grabs her property, and goes two houses down the street to her mother (Allison Janney) and grandmother ‘Grandma Pearl’ (Susan Sarandon). When Tammy realises Grandma Pearl has the financial means for a road trip adventure, the two set-off. What follows is a course of mis-adventures, robberies, and arrests. Will Tammy find a way to turn her life around, or is the film destined to end like Thelma and Louise (1991)?

Over the last few years, Melissa McCarthy has become a household name. She has been apart of hit films – such as Bridesmaids – and has continued in this character niche with The Heat, Identity Theft, and now Tammy. While it would be good to see her in a truly serious role, it makes sense for her to follow her previous success. It is only by this previous success that McCarthy and her producer/first-time director/co-writer husband could make such a self-appeasing film with well-known guest stars. Susan Sarandon is also great in this film. Playing the unorthodox, alcoholic, grandmother is not a role we often see her in, but she plays it convincingly. Guest stars include Allison Janney, Toni Collette, and Dan Aykroyd, though not all are in it for long.

Still from Tammy 2This is not the first film to put two characters in a car and see what they discover about their lives. It has been done before, however Tammy still manages to entertain. Through the rising crises and the close confines of the car, the character’s progressions are expedited, and was planned and written beautifully in the script.

The element of swearing and adult-themes, while growing more common in films of this nature, still detracted from some of the enjoyment. Take for example the television show Roseanne (1988-1997). It wasn’t necessary to include lewdness and swearing to create characters much the same as in this film.

Unfortunately, despite all of the film’s positive aspects, there are more negative reviews than positive ones. The jokes are obvious – particularly an over-weight American robbing a fast-food restaurant – and critics are wanting fresher content. However, the response from cinema-goers has been positive.

Tammy is McCarthy doing what she does best, and there is no doubt her legion of fans will love her in this.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Hercules Review

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Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has gone from career to career, with his fan-base continuing to grow. He has been a college football player, professional WWE wrestler, and now he is a Greek demigod. This film is the second about Hercules to hit cinemas this year – with Kellan Lutz starring in the title role of The Legend of Hercules. Johnson’s film definitely has its ‘cheesy’ moments (“I am Hercules!”), but excels as pure entertainment.

Hercules begins by showing us the conquering of the legendary twelve labours (the Lion, Hyrda, the Boar, etc.) to get us familiar with the title character. Hercules, son of Zeus, is a heroic warrior mercenary. He is beyond the strength of any mere human, but he is tortured by the loss of his family. With nothing and no one, he does what he does best, and his skills are soon requested by the King of Thrace (Lord Cotys) and his daughter. Threatened by the tyrannical warlord Rheseus, Hercules must transform Cotys’ men into an army that is capable of defeating Rheseus and keeping the innocent safe.

Over the years, there have been many films that focus on Hercules, so it is difficult to make one more influential or entertaining than another. This film simply succeeds in creating an enjoyable experience. The overall pace is good, without being too emotionally heavy or boring. In the first two minutes, we see Hercules in all his glory, completing the twelve labours. Johnson is in perfect physical form for the role, and you can almost believe he is strong enough for these amazing feats.

Despite the obvious lack of real threat – I don’t think anyone in the audience could relate to the majority of the on-screen jeopardy – we believe these characters. We feel for their loss and their worries, and that is something hard to do in a film so detached from reality. Veteran actors Hurt and Fiennes are brilliant as always, though the “gruelling” eight months of training for Johnson might be starting to become too much for him.

The use of CGI was good, and not over-the-top like other fantasy films tend to be. They were used a lot at the beginning of the film, allowing the rest of the film to be more character-driven, with the CGI mostly adding to the feel and setting. The lighting was quite dark, sometimes making it harder to see the effects, but this could also been more of a creative style by the director.

Hercules has received mixed reviews. It might not be the most important movie released this year, but it has been well-received and enjoyed by audiences.

Still from Hercules 2I am not sure whether the release of two Hercules movies this year will affect the success of either. However, this film is a must-see if you are into the thrill of adventure and want to be transported to another world. It does not stick too closely to the mythology, but the essentials are the same.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The Longest Week Review

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What is it about attractive, rich, men who refuse to grow up that entertain us so much? These characters have run wild on Film (from Arthur Bach in Arthur to Tony Stark in Iron Man) and Television (Joey Tribbiani in Friends and Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother), increasing in popularity especially in the recent years. The Longest Week attempts to make us root for characters we would hate in real life, but while the comedy aspects hits their mark, the film unfortunately lacks in the more dramatic moments.

Conrad Valmont (Jason Bateman) lives the ultimate life of luxury. He wakes up in his lavish Manhattan Hotel, dresses in only the best clothes, and spends his days doing absolutely anything he wants. The only problem is that his parents will no longer fund his aimless existence. Within a single week, Conrad no longer has a home, no longer has money, and no longer has his wonderful life. His writing career barely lifts off the ground, and he resorts to ‘bunking’ with his best friend Dylan Tate. And, just when he thinks it cannot get any worse, he finds himself in love with Dylan’s girlfriend.

The Longest Week’s cast-list boasts quite a few talented names. Jason Bateman has really surged in popularity since his role as Michael Bluth in Arrested Development (2003-2006, then 2013). He has gone from film to film, even taking jobs behind the camera, but has not been able to find the same success. I have only recently heard the name ‘Billy Crudup’ – who plays Conrad’s friend in the film – yet now it seems his name is everywhere. He has already been in three films this year, where he never played the same type of character twice. Unfortunately, though the cast are known for their ability to deliver great performances, they struggled with the script to make the characters work.

The cinematic style Peter Glanz offered for this film appears to borrow greatly from other filmmakers. While he is skilled enough to make them work, once again, it is the heart underneath that lacks, and his filmic attempts ring fake. The dialogue is shockingly cliché at times, and the characters don’t manage to progress, just exist.

Still from The Longest Week 2As many others have pointed out, The Longest Week is essentially a film about rich people with petty problems. For some projects, this works, but it needs to have heart. This film never established that vital element, and instead it works more to alienate the audience.

The film has been waiting to be released since its completion back in 2012, and the fact it was finally dumped into cinemas clearly is not a sign of confidence.

As with all movies, opinions are subjective, and what reviewers denounce, will always find some enjoyment from some cinemagoers.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The Angriest Man in Brooklyn Review

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Robin Williams, may he rest in peace, was a brilliant actor. He expertly played both comedic roles and serious roles, and everything in between. The Angriest Man in Brooklyn displays William’s ability to switch from silly to sentimental without missing a beat. Nevertheless, the finished product really let him down. Based on the Israeli film The 92 Minutes of Mr. Baum (1997), it is not easy to rate the film at either ends of the spectrum, because while some aspects worked, others didn’t.

The film follows Henry Altmann (Robin Williams), the titled ‘Angriest Man in Brooklyn’. While some people have bad days, Altmann has one every day. He hates anything and everything, and as a result, he is not too popular himself. A car accident brings him to the doctor’s office, where Dr. Sharon Gill (Mila Kunis) attends to him. Her day has not gone so smoothly either, and in a moment of weakness, she reveals he has a brain aneurysm – this is true – and that he has only 90 minutes left to live – this is false. The news hits Henry hard, and he rushes out of the office, desperate to find his loved ones and make amends, all within an hour-and-a-half. Of course, a lifetime of resentment is not so easily forgiven. Will Sharon reach him before the pressure overcomes him? Will Henry find a way to reconnect with all those he hurt? Or is it really too late to change the past?

As I said before, there are both equally good and bad aspects of this film that make it hard to give a definite rating.

Firstly, it is always a treat when we get to see both the serious and comedic talents of Robin Williams. Never again we will be witness to his brilliance, so any project he has been involved in automatically becomes a treasured product – whether it was successful or not.

Secondly, there is no doubt that the message of the movie is positive. No one knows exactly how much time he or she has left on Earth, and time spent fighting is time wasted.

Still from The Angriest Man in Brooklyn 2Though the cast list boasts a lot of stars – Robin Williams, Mila Kunis, Peter Dinklage, James Earl Jones, etc. – their talents were not put to use. The latter characters were merely cameos, though it did fit with the ‘rushed’ theme of the movie.

The dialogue and story were also quite cliché and in no way realistic. A doctor would never deceive a patient like Kunis’ character did; and if they did, they wouldn’t keep their job for long. While the film is not supposed to be a true story, this does detract from its overall believability.

Online reviews have not been the most positive, either, and most consider it not bad enough to be comical, just plain bad.

With so many mixed opinions, it is hard to say either way. So, either watch the movie, or just watch the trailer, because the trailer is basically the entire movie in two minutes.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The Boxtrolls Review

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From the minds that gave us Coraline (2009) and ParaNorman (2012) comes the fantastic new 3D animation film The Boxtrolls (2014). Based on the children’s novel ‘Here Be Monsters!’ by Alan Snow, the story follows Eggs, an orphaned human boy who is raised by a society of strange and mischievous creatures called the Boxtrolls, and who must find a way to protect his family from the evil Archibald Snatcher.

No longer are animation films just for the enjoyment of children. I am twenty-three years old, and can say that this is my type of movie.

First of all, you cannot go past the brilliance of the animation. Laika, the American animation company founded in 2005, have created a very distinctive animation style. The generated scenery depth and character expressions are astounding, constructing life-like images of unreal creatures. Laika have found their niche, and would be foolish to change.

Of course, behind the animations are the talented voice actors. Rising actors Isaac Hempstead Wright (Eggs) and Elle Fanning (Winnie, Eggs’ human comrade), bring life to the characters purely through the emotion of their voices. Veteran actor Ben Kingsley (Archibald Snatcher), Nick Frost (Mr. Trout), Tracy Morgan (Mr. Gristle), and many more experienced actors and actresses breathe life into their characters, making each and every one unique and entertaining.

The animation may attract the audience, but it is the script that will keep them in their seats, and entertained for the full two-hours. The Boxtrolls, with their stubby legs and clad in discarded containers, speak their own gibberish language – perhaps an attempt to mimic the success of Despicable Me’s minion-language – and is the only downfall of the film, but it does not detract from the story and underlying moral of the film.

Over the past decade specifically, countries all over the world have focused on the environment and the issue of garbage. Recycling discarded materials into new products is encouraged, and that is where The Boxtrolls comes in. All films have a message within their story, a comment they want to make, and children’s films are no exception. This message might be a bit too complex for the younger children in the audience, but it is just another way in which this movie is appealing en masse.

The only issue that parents or guardians might want to look into before taking their child/ren to see this film would be what some reviews have called “grotesque” scenery. This relates to the sewer locations, and the darkness of the films colouring when below ground. It is nothing harmful, but younger viewers might dislike it.

Still from The Boxtrolls 2Animation films, despite the complex and lengthy creation process, seem to be always coming out at the cinemas. New technology leads to new techniques, and we can see the change in animation and story complexity from Pocahontas (1995) to The Lego Movie (2014). The Boxtrolls, though not as esteemed as the previous two films listed, shows inspiring animation, engaging characters and story, and is a film that will entertain all ages.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Mums’ Night Out Review

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When I first heard the name ‘Mums’ Night Out’, I feared it would be like Bridesmaids (2011) or The Hangover series (2009-2013), which are definitely not my type of movie. It only took watching the trailer to realise how wrong I was. This film has entertaining actors, comedy, and heart – which all adds up to a must-see family film.

Every mother, no matter where they are in the world, knows how amazing it is to be a mother. They also know how tiring and stressful it is. Allyson (Sarah Drew) is a mother of three, who gathers her two best friends, Izzy (Andrea Logan White) and Sondra (Patricia Heaton), and goes on a mums’ night out. Things go from bad to worse when a child is lost and the group search all over the city, getting into one adventure after another. This film is not about useless fathers or tired mothers, but about individual accountability and learning that no one is perfect.

No one is going to deny that the story of a stressed-out mother who needs to compensate for her unreliable husband is not a new idea. Of course it has been done before, but it is the ways in which this film makes it feel fresh and new that keep you watching.

The actors are not A-Listers like seen in Valentine’s Day (2010) or New Year’s Eve (2011), but they are ones that we love to watch and that know how to entertain an audience. Personally, my favourite is Patricia Heaton, who has definitely found her niche. She is best known for her role as Ray Romano’s wife in Everybody Loves Raymond (1996-2005), and has expertly taken on the lead role in the show The Middle (2009-). All of the actors showed how much they understood the characters and the genre, with many of the original lines being thrown-out and improvised by the actors – which even the writer loved!

Mums’ Night Out has been promoted as a ‘Christian-based comedy film’, and while that may turn some away, it made me more inclined to see it. It is proof that movies don’t need to be riddled with curse words and sex scenes to be entertaining.

Still from Mums' Night Out 2Overall, this film has received generally unfavourable reviews. Comments on YouTube and reviews on online critic websites like Rotten Tomatoes, among other complaints, have labelled this movie ‘sexist’. This is so far from the truth that one questions whether they actually saw the movie. Upon watching the film, you will see that it is more about empowering women to understand that no one is perfect, and they aren’t expected to be. Yes, the men do sometimes behave in silly ways in the film, but so do the women.

Harsh online critics might be looking for something different (curse words, sex scenes, etc.) or they might just be reading a little too much into a fun story that has received a largely positive response from cinemagoers. Sometimes you have to ignore the critics and just watch the movie and see for yourself.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Heaven Is for Real Review

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There was a time when religious movies ran abound. When Heaven was not a fairy-tale and the harsh world knew that peace was attainable. Then came the time when in order to talk about Jesus and Heaven, films needed to first focus on the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. Thank the Lord that time has passed. The resurgence of Christian films brings a smile to my face and so does Heaven is for Real.

Colton Burpo is three years old when his stomach flu suddenly turns into appendicitis. His parents rush him to the hospital, and are given the heartbreaking news that complications gave their son little-to-no chance of survival. The parents pray, a miracle occurs, and Colton recovers. Four months later, he begins speaking of things and people he could not possibly know. He reveals the moments of his near death experience, and describes Heaven and seeing Jesus. His father, a Pastor at the local church, wants to believe his son, but finds the growing pressure from the community and arriving horde of media almost too much to process. Did Colton truly visit Heaven? Watch this movie and decide for yourself.

Rarely will you find a book that translates well into a film, but this film actually does. Firstly, the cast are amazing, with Greg Kinnear excellently playing the struggling father, and the adorable newcomer Connor Corum. Secondly, we all know it might not be factually correct. We don’t know what the afterlife will look like, and it has also been noted that there was no evidence reported that Colton was clinically dead during his surgery. However, it’s the point of the film, to bring about hope and individual religious discovery. The same could be said for Field of Dreams (1989). Nowhere in the Bible does it say that deceased baseball players will attend your field if you build one, but it was about hearing God and having the faith and trust in him to follow his commands, regardless of your temporary understanding.

In terms of the technical aspects, Heaven is for Real is creatively beautiful. The scenery is breathtaking, with the wide shots of the open farmland expanse and the bright colours of nature popping with intensity. The unique camera angles and visual effects work seamlessly, complementing the story.

Of course, a film like this will still have those that attack it for its religious message. Many reviews have commended the film for both its script and cast, while criticising it for how ‘preachy’ it was.

Still from Heaven Is for Real 2Whether you are a religious person or not, this movie is a must-see. It does not matter if what Colton – in real life – experienced was a true afterlife, but what his testimony stands for. It is a beautiful and heart-warming story that does not revolve around car chases or vampires, and has the ability to get important conversations started. With the recent line of Christian movies hitting the cinemas, now is a good time to gather the family and enjoy the flicks!

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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God’s Not Dead Review

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The experienced Kevin Sorbo and newcomer Shane Harper face off in the most recent Christian-based film to hit the big screen, arguing the controversial question: Is God Dead? The film is a perfect mix of logic and emotion, that anyone and everyone will love.

The recent influx of Christian-based films and mini-series’ is a wonderful thing. Watching them not only gets people talking, but also shows how God’s thousand-year-old promises are still accessible to us today.

Josh Wheaton (Harper) does not know what he is in for when he signs up to the college philosophy course, run by Professor Radisson (Sorbo). The students are all offered an easy passing grade, if they simply write: ‘God is Dead’. Wheaton, a Christian, refuses. Radisson offers an opportunity for him to pass: prove God is not dead. Wheaton accepts, but struggles to find the right words. He knows God sent him there for this very reason. He cannot fail.

Sometimes it is hard to describe exactly why you love a movie, but others times, everything just works.

There are not many familiar faces in the cast, but I am sure we will be seeing many of them in leading roles in the future. Kevin Sorbo is not as we have seen him before. He is not a Greek hero. He does not show-off his rippling muscles. Instead, he plays the role of the antagonist perfectly, not only portraying a human obstacle the hero must overcome, but also allowing his own character to come to life. Shane Harper brilliantly takes on the pressure-filled leading role. Coming from a mainly dancing background, it is amazing to see the depth of acting-emotion he has – though he still has room for improvement. Special guest stars such as Willie and Korie Robertson, from Duck Dynasty also bring a more light-hearted feel to the film.

Christian music has been growing in popularity over the years, and the Christian pop-rock band Newsboys – whose songs feature in the film – are sure to gain more fans with their inspiring music.

Overall, the film gives a very important lesson to learn. Colleges and universities all over the world claim to want open-mindedness, but criticise and taunt when a Christian walks in. There are legitimate arguments proving God’s existence, and so-called intellectuals need to hear it. Films like these get people talking about Christianity and doing the research for themselves.

As can be expected, most online reviews are very unfavourable. Criticisms range from its general faith-based story, to how preachy it was, and even the camera techniques. Despite this, audiences are quickly filling the seats and proclaiming their approval.

Still from God's Not Dead 2Not everything in this film is perfect – such as their stand on evolution and the big bang theory – so it’s important to watch the film, but then go out and read the Bible. This film was shot in a total of twenty days and has already gained over thirty-times its production budget. There is a definite market for Christian-based films and it seems, for the meantime at least, they are here to stay.

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Blood Ties Review

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Film adaptations of novels are not known for being well received by audiences, and remakes are even less successful, rarely worth the cost of the cinema ticket. Blood Ties suffers both of these. It is a French-American crime thriller, directed by Guillaume Canet, but even its talented cast cannot compensate for the shortfalls.

The story takes place in 1974, when Chris Pierzynski (played by Clive Owen) is released from prison. He has been serving nine years for murder, and is ready to turn his life around. But despite his good intentions and new relationship with Natalie (Mila Kunis – who would have thought she would be the one from That 70’s Show that would make it big?), the lures of old habits overcome him, and he returns to his criminal ways. If that was not bad enough, his brother Frank (Billy Crudup, who also stars in the amazing upcoming film Rudderless) is a New York cop. The conflict between the brothers tears are their sister Marie (Lili Taylor), and their sick father Leon (James Caan), who just want the two to get along. It is not until Frank is arresting a man named Anthony Scarfo (Matthias Schoenaerts) that he is re-united with his ex-girlfriend Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), who is currently married to Anthony and have a daughter together. Of course, Vanessa now wants to get a divorce, and she and Frank rekindle their relationship, much to the ire of Anthony. Anthony tries to kill Frank, and it is up to Chris to protect his brother, at whatever the cost.

If it wasn’t for the talented cast, this movie would be a complete write-off. The story seems simple enough, and something seen in films many times, but it is how the actors make us feel for these particular characters that keep you watching. The essence of New York in the 70s is done well, with costume, scenery and minute details doing a lot more than other era-specific films have done.

Despite interesting set-ups and moments when all aspects of production work in harmony, the film becomes stagnant. The two-hour running time shows the lack of character development, except for the two lead characters. While this development is obviously important, you lose the reality of the film, and see how everything happens just for Chris and Frank’s progress. If you’re not the type to read into films too much, than this might not be an issue for you. The film will certainly entertain many viewers, but isn’t award-worthy.

Still from Blood Ties 2Blood Ties has received mixed reviews, most rating it around 50 out of 100. Use of violence, swearing, sexual conduct and drug use will restrict its audience, and is a surprising job choice for some of the cast. The film reportedly had a production cost of $25,500,000, an astounding sum of money and all the more reason to be disappointed in the finished product. As with every film, every viewer is different, but for me, even the vast amount of swearing in the trailer was enough.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Breakup at a Wedding Review

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I have never been to a wedding. The only wedding experience I have had has been through film and television. I don’t think I’m missing much. Breakup at a Wedding is a comedy that unfortunately falls flat. It does have an interesting new take on wedding movies, allowing us to see through the lens of the wedding videographer’s camera, seeing all that he sees and giving an almost found-footage feel, but it wasn’t enough to compensate for the rest.

The story begins the night before the wedding of Alison (Alison Fyhrie) and Phil (Philip Quinaz). The church has been booked, the flowers are ordered, the dresses and suits look stunning, but then it all goes wrong. Alison suddenly gets cold feet, and does not want to go through with the wedding anymore. Phil is shattered, and to save him from further humiliation, Alison concocts a plan to continue with the wedding. With hopes of winning back Alison’s love, Phil agrees to the sham wedding, and what follows are a series of ridiculous complications set to ruin the day and reveal their separation.

Using the wedding videographer as the narrator and cameraman is the only positive thing about this film. It is a different way of showing an old setting, but the rest of the story felt like it had been done many times before.

Not only were the jokes unfunny, but the characters were cliché, ranging from the bridesmaids wanting to sleep with the groomsmen, wedding crashes, and the bridal party either laughing or depressed after taking drugs.

The most recent – and much more successful – wedding film Bridesmaids (2011) managed to make the same elements work much more effectively. This could be due to well-known comediennes such as Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Melissa McCarthy, playing the leading roles, while Breakup at a Wedding is only the first film from the comedy group PERIODS.

There have been some positive reviews, also commending the use of the videographer as our conduit to the story, and viewers finding the overall story and ending to be pleasant. Nevertheless, that does not sell tickets.

Still from Breakup at a Wedding 2Breakup at a Wedding was filmed only a few days before real-life director Victor Quinaz got married, which would account for the lightness of the film, especially the ending. Overall, the characters weren’t realistic and believable, doing things that are so clearly set to fail, the major one being going through with a sham wedding all to simply ‘save face’ in front of their relatives. Then there are the illogical complications that seemingly come out of nowhere and are almost as ridiculous as a monkey slipping on a banana peel or a man being hit in the privates with a football.

The only unexpected part of the film is the contribution of Zachary Quinto, something he might now be viewing as ‘illogical’.

Let’s just hope their next film isn’t set at a funeral, because we all know how successful the 2010 remake of Death at a Funeral was.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Michelle Sommerville, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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