Sausage Party

Director: Conrad Vernon, Greg Tiernan (2016) BBFC cert: 15

Supermarket foodstuffs come to life and take on a mind of their own in this saucy animated comedy.

The  cheerfully offensive stoner humour is stuffed with racial and religious stereotypes indulging in an orgy of sex, booze and drugs. It’s an acquired taste and bound to offend many, but once it gets cooking on gas it offers some bite-sized satisfaction.

Each evening the products sing to celebrate the day they’ll be picked from the shelves and taken out to ‘the great beyond’ by the gods of the aisles, the customers.

However when a hot dog sausage and his bun discover their real purpose in life, they struggle to convince their friends of the truth.

They’re also being chased by the Douche, a feminine hygiene product who wants revenge for the thwarting of his plan to reach the afterlife.

Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, James Franco and Michael Cera provide the voices with Salma Hayek plays a tacos looking to spice up her life.

Defiantly and unapologetically rude from the off, this is an adult treat and definitely not one for the kids.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

 

Tale Of Tales

Director: Matteo Garrone (2016)

Full of deliciously dark deeds and black comic moments, this fabulously grotesque fairytale is definitely not one for the kids.

In the grand tradition of European folk stories it’s a moral foray through a murky forest of avarice, gluttony, madness, magic and death.

With a minimal of dialogue its entwining stories are expertly twisted together by a marvellous mix of strong performances, stunning costume design, incredible locations and beautiful cinematography.

The loosely connected stories of three medieval monarchs begin with Salma Hayek’s Queen who is longing for a child.

A cloaked figure guarantees her a child but warns of a potentially lethal price. The Queen’s husband must kill a sea monster and its heart must be cooked by a virgin and then eaten by the Queen.

Dishonesty causes repercussions which pass down the years.

Meanwhile Vincent Cassel’s debauched king courts a singing maiden without having seen her face. Toby Jones is a wonderfully distracted king who organises a tournament to find a prince to marry his daughter.

Ogres, giant fleas, leeches,  jugglers, fire eaters, dwarves and a fat lady add flavour to this witches brew of story telling. A circus troupe adds a layer of theatricality and make believe to the mythic environment.

Roccascalegna castle is one of several perfectly chosen examples of Italian architecture which anchor the extraordinary events in our imagination.

None of the royal plans ends in the way they or us expect as they discover lies and self interest have severe and deserved consequences.

The final shot is a breathtakingly beautiful comment on the frailty and difficulty of life, offering a degree of compassion to those who have suffered through their own weakness.

@ChrisHunneysett

Everly

Director: Joe Lynch (2015)

Despite starring the pneumatic Salma Hayek as an imperilled prostitute, this exploitation action thriller repeatedly falls flat.

If you consider my intro to be tasteless and/or sexist then it’s a pretty accurate reflection of the film.

The concept of Everly has strength in it’s simplicity; blood-licking Yakuza boss Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe) has discovered his sex slave Everly (Hayek) is trying to shop him to the police.

Taiko is determined Everly will never leave her apartment so she has to defend her daughter Maisey (Aisha Ayamah) and mother Edith (Laura Cepeda) from waves of hit-men sent to assassinate her.

But the premise crumbles under pressure of a weak script, terrible dialogue, mediocre performances, an uncertain tone and blunt stabs at humour. A couple of moments of choreography aside, the direction is uninspired.

Other than tag-team villains The Sadist and The Masochist (Togo Igawa, Masashi Fujimoto) the bad guys are indistinguishably dull cannon fodder. Plus they don’t seem terribly clever, competent or keen to accomplish their mission.

It is frequently unintentionally and insufficiently funny.

Hayek looks fabulous and gives good shout but is miscast playing a role which feels written for a considerably younger actress.

Her cinema break-through was in Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado (1995) and followed it a role with in his From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) written by her co-star Quentin Tarantino.

Both twenty years ago. Dear Lord.

Rodriguez and Tarantino teamed-up on their Grindhouse (2007) double-bill. The creators of Everly are apparently in thrall to that poorly received work.

This is worse; a poor pastiche of the master magpies of cinema.

Following her nomination for a Best Actress Oscar for her self-directed Frida (2002), Hayek has combined TV work with Adam Sandler comedies Grown Ups (2010) and Grown Ups 2 (2013).

Now a naturalised US citizen, Hayek first established her acting credentials as soap opera star in her native Mexico.

Here she demonstrates the depth of her soap opera training, oscillating between angry and scared but never both at the same time.

Possibly inspired by the late success of the older Sandra Bullock (48 years against 50) as a sort of action heroine in Gravity (2013), Hayek could be applauded for taking her career in a new direction.

The excellent box office of Scarlet Johansson’s Lucy (2014) demonstrates a demand for female-led action movies – but this is a poor choice of material.

Hayek seems to lack the subtlety, wit or desire to make her character interesting or entertaining and her Jessica Rabbit-esque frame amply reflects her character’s cartoon quality.

The framing of cinematographer Steve Gainer draws attention to Hayek’s breasts at every opportunity generating an unthinkingly voyeuristic feel.

And in it’s gleeful offing of prostitutes in non-inventive ways and violent prosecution of the lead, the film seems determined to punish all the women onscreen.

However with it’s protective mother dynamic Hayek presumably imagines the film errs on the side of redemption not misogyny.

Everly is a series of unexplained contradictions failing to be a coherent character: She massacres a room full of men but is squeamish about frisking their dead bodies.

She can operate a variety of weapons with deadly effect while straight-faced suggesting she’s never held one before. She forgets she has wounds and brushes off explosions and blood loss and worries about her choice of outfits.

For a single location film – essentially an apartment block turned brothel but mostly taking place in the one room – the geography is poorly articulated, making for confusing action scenes.

Despite it’s 18 certificate, brothel setting and cast of prostitutes, there’s a staggering lack of sex or nudity.

Unlike the excellent John Wick there’s no sense of a coherent wider society existing beyond the gangland world exists within, creating a drama-and-suspense-killing lack of consequence.

There’s an Edgar Wright-style burst of energetic editing when a drink is served but rather than feeding the rhythm of the film, it trips it up.

Similarly a gag involving Hayek’s leopard-print heels isn’t developed, leaving it on the shelf without a punch line.

It’s typical of the film this idea is not followed up, just another idea thrown thoughtlessly into the mix along with sulphuric acid, an Alsatian dog and a pink teddy bear.

The Christmas setting allows us to be treated to a selection of festive follies on the soundtrack, another example of the misjudged humour and wavering tone.

In more than one way Everly’s final shot is the best.