“It’s a sequel to a videogame adaptation,” is probably a sufficient review of Sonic 2. The first Sonic the Hedgehog teased the introduction of Tails in the sequel, which also incorporates Knuckles the echidna. Although welcome faces from the games, having three CG characters undermines the first film’s primary strength, which was the believeable relationship between its humans and the anthropomorphised hedgehog. The human leads now share virtually no screen time with Sonic at all and many scenes are entirely digital. Although it is unclear how much of this was imposed by COVID filming restrictions, the result is a flashy spectacle with a fraction of its predecessor’s grounding, so that making it live action feels all the more unnecessary. Hiring professional voice actor Colleen O’Shaughnessey as Tails also serves to highlight the limitations of big name casting for the other virtual characters. At best, Sonic 2’s inoffensive but entirely forgetable mascot mayhem may distract younger kids for two hours, despite there being insufficient plot to fill even half the running time.
“A huge earthquake happens, who do they rescue first? Actors. They’ll rescue Clooney, Sandra Bullock, me. If there’s room, you guys will come.”
If Ocean’s 12 was an excuse for Clooney and his actor friends to hang out at his Lake Como villa, This Is The End dispenses with the pretence entirely as Seth Rogan, James Franco and friends play themselves riding out the apocalypse at Franco’s house. The main cast toy with their public perception, though the film’s best conceit is the suggestion that, if the Rapture were to occur, no one at a Hollywood house party would notice. Most of the cameos are fun but forgettable, the standouts being those who play against type — a shameless Michael Cera and a violent Emma Watson. One imagines the general lack of female presence is a product of the fraternal nature of the friendship group behind This Is The End, but the near total absence of women is disappointing and to its detriment. The script is peppered with hilarity and entertaining moments strung together by lazy writing and tired gross-out humour. Comedies like this typically lose traction the longer they run but, despite frequently lagging in the middle and perhaps aided by a wafer-thin plot which requires little conclusion, the film closes surprisingly strongly, leaving a better overall impression than I would have expected halfway through.
“You can be an asshole if you’re famous. You can’t be unknown and be such a bitch, Lee.”
Based on the true story of Lee Israel, a struggling writer who turned her creativity to forging letters from literary figures, this is a solid drama elevated by two sublime performances at its centre, both earning Oscar nominations. Melissa McCarthy sheds all expectations of her comedic persona to immerse herself in Lee’s deeply disagreeable character. There is no heart of gold hidden beneath the surface, just a human who dislikes the world. Richard E. Grant’s turn as Lee’s gadfly alcoholic accomplice will invariably draw comparisons to Withnail, though the earnest Jack Hock has at least some redeeming features. Although they are plainly reprobates, it is a testament to the performances that an audience can come to appreciate these two characters and will continue to carry them after the credits roll.
“We’d like to get to the point where Connor is everywhere, like oxygen or gravity or clinical depression.”
Lonely Island’s take on the music mockumentary is really just a thin plot to string together the band’s signature style of lyrically ridiculous pop, and the songs are undoubtedly the highlights of the film. The scenes in between rely largely on the big names who agreed to provide cameos or talking heads, but the wow factor declines as the movie drags on. Spinal Tap remains the pinnacle of this style of filmmaking because what happens off-stage is so well-observed. Here, the by-the-numbers rise and fall, with band members falling out and reconciling, cannot quite sustain an entire movie. As with most pop stars: the key to enjoyment is just listening to the music and ignoring the rest of their antics.