Thursday, 15 August 2013

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

2013, 15, Directed by Declan Lowney 
Starring: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Felicity Montagu, Sean Pertwee 

Many would say that Alan Partridge, the disc jockey from Norwich, has long been overdue a feature film - many being thirty-something aficionados, or even twenty-something’s with a taste for British comedy. It was 21 years ago when the character (co-created by The Thick of It's Armando Iannuci) first lent his voice to Radio 4's On the Hour, sparking off a rib-tickling list of credits ever since. It was decided that now was the time - in a blockbuster-riddled age - for the multiplex invasion, and what we've been handed is Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, a charming British comedy spin-off more Inbetweeners Movie than League of Gentleman's Apocalypse
Partridge is more than just a character, channelling his purveyor Steve Coogan far more than the other way around. Every thought, line of dialogue and character tick is layered with precision - this is Coogan's baby. And he'd be damned if this film wasn't any good. Breathe your sighs and wallow in the news that Alpha Papa is Funny... with a capital F. Stocked with quotes up there with the best of 'em, this spin-off (which began its film shoot in Norwich only this past January) is a love-letter, if an ever so slightly scribbled one. Like most comedies, there’s the odd misfired joke fit with obligatory chuckle, and the lines of realism are blurred to say the least; quite tough to swallow when Partridge’s entire existence balances on being the everyman who lives down the road.
In terms of plot, we have Colm Meaney's Irish graveyard shift DJ Pat Farrell turn gun-crazed hostage-taker during the office party at North Norfolk Digital when company Shape are placed in charge and fire him (with no help from Alan's friendly suggestion to 'Just sack Pat'.) A hostage situation at his feet, the only person Farrell will converse with is Alan, who views the opportunity for evolution as he acts as a go-between for the police and the hostages.
The rest should be left for you to discover; prep yourselves for several laughs a minute. Coogan’s dialogue, quite evidently largely improvved, aims to push this character even further than you could have imagined (Partridge equipped with a rifle!), but all involved prove here fresh ideas are still at their feet. There’s not an Aha in sight.



Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Kick-Ass 2

2013, 15, Directed by Jeff Wadlow
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz Plasse, Jim Carrey

Kick-Ass 2, our return to Mark Millar's universe - initially brought to cinemagoers via Matthew Vaughn's unsuspecting 2010 cult hit - starts with force and refuses to loosen its clutch until... well, until after the credits have rolled. Plot-wise, this time around Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) undergoes training from Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz) so they can become a feared super-heroic crime-fighting duo around the city. But Hit Girl, now 15 and under the care of detective Marcus (Morris Chestnut) following the death of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage, his memory looming large with assistance from a keeper of a portrait) is forced to stay in line and embrace her inner Mindy. This leads Kick-Ass into the arms of an underground super-group led by Jim Carrey's Colonel Stars and Stripes, leading masked civilians intent on making a stand to avenge the murder of loved ones. Across town, Christopher Mintz-Plasse's rich kid Chris D'Amico, who shows he can do McLovin' psycho-style, is hell bent on wiping the city of Kick-Ass.

 There’s plenty here to get lost in; whether you’re a fan of the first or completely oblivious to its controversial habits, director Jeff Wadlow manages to make something potentially obscene into an immersive viewing experience. You could call this expansive; a flurry of new characters to work into the mixer, with new costumes and names to fathom (Insect Man, Night Bitch, to name a few) - and that’s not including Plasse’s super-villain group, featuring the 7 foot monolith, Mother Russia. Many filmmakers of mainstream standard would use this as an excuse to bog down their tentpole, whilst Wadlow somehow gives each the screen time they deserve. Everybody lends their worth also, even if not quite matching Moretz’ character-of-a-lifetime Hit Girl or Carrey’s unnervingly off-kilter ‘born again Christian’ Captain.

 The action, bloody as hell and choreographed down to a tee, is shot with fervent confidence breaking down fears this film couldn’t stand on its own two feet, even if it fails to outsmart its predecessor where it believes itself to be outdoing it altogether. So we haven't got a perfect film on our hands; much of the high school hi-jinks are threatened by obscurity (save for an extended number of scenes where Mindy does her best to integrate into a clique with results best seen with your own eyes; hilarious!) And the less said about the downright bizarre Union J cameo...

 But at the end of it all, Kick-Ass 2 - for the sum of its parts - teeters on heightened violent parody that disturbingly skims realism, but contains some of the most fun moments witnessed in a cinema all summer. Much has been spoken of Jim Carrey's refusal to promote his appearance due to the film's violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook killings, but in all honesty there is nothing more extreme or played for shock than there is in the original. If anything, Kick-Ass 2 is a tad more restrained. The debate will rage on endlessly, but to be frank perhaps many should simply sit back and take the sequel as they took the original.

Kick-Ass 3 is a welcome prospect; in the words of Hit Girl, ‘game on, c**ksuckers’