Saturday, 14 July 2018

What We Started

(M) ★★★★

Director: Bert Marcus & Cyrus Saidi.

Cast: Carl Cox, Martin Garrix, David Guetta, Paul Oakenfold, Pete Tong, Moby.

"And then I said 'I need a bigger table'."
The documentary What We Started aims to be "the defining film of the electronic music genre" and, for now, it is. It's the radio edit of a genre, distilling the important elements down to a catchy three-and-a-half minutes, as opposed to being the sprawling 12 minute club remix it could have been.

So while it's frustrating the way this doco skims through lots of integral things, you know there's the electronic dance music (EDM) equivalent of Ken Burns' 10-part series Jazz out there, floating in the ether, just waiting to happen. This ain't it, but in the meantime it will do.

What We Started is both a potted history of EDM and a tribute to two of its shining lights - veteran party DJ Carl Cox and young uber-producer Martin Garrix. While we watch dance music emerge from the ashes of disco in the late '70s before spreading and mutating around the world, we also see Cox end his 15-year residency at Ibiza's much-lauded nightclub Space and follow Garrix's meteoric rise to the top of festival line-ups.


The twin tales of Cox and Garrix get to the heart of the movie's message. While the film's talking heads often sound overblown discussing what EDM means to a bunch of people who are clearly just pinging off their heads, there's no disputing the way this type of music manages to affect a British black kid who grew up in the '70s (Cox) and a white Dutch kid who grew up in the '00s (Garrix). Cox's tale even adds a bit of heart to proceedings - it's hard not to get caught up in his passion as he says goodbye to Space, while his sister talks about Cox's relationship with his father.

The history lesson of it all is equally fascinating, if disappointingly scant. We whirl through the likes of Larry Levan, the rise and fall of disco, Chicago house, Detroit techno, acid house, the superclubs (Hacienda, Ministry of Sound, God's Kitchen), and the genre's recent rebirth. It's all told through the talking heads of Cox, executive producer Pete Tong, Paul Oakenfold, Afrojack, David Guetta, Tiesto, Moby, Sasha and more, plus some shitty quality but essential archival footage.

When it deep dives into things like Paul Oakenfold opening for U2 or the 2000 arrest of club owner Donnie Disco, it's awesome. It's even better when the genre starts to eat itself and the old-school DJs/producers start railing against the new school, only to recant later, or when they start taking swipes at "press play" DJs like Deadmau5 and Steve Aoki. It's a shame the doco doesn't better illustrate what the modern non-USB DJs are doing on the stage beyond scratching some vinyl and messing with the EQ. Demystifying the art might have helped take this to the next level.

Also missing are some pretty big names - there's no Giorgio Moroder, Chemical Brothers or Fatboy Slim, while Moby's presence is only to talk and never be part of the story. Daft Punk are in there for literally five seconds, while the doco inadvertently indicates that electronic music didn't exist prior to the mid-'70s. It also takes 48 minutes for drugs to get mentioned, although when the drugs kick in, it helps keep things interesting.

There are some unnecessary title cards and some bad punctuation - "DJ's" is a regular mistake - but some cool visuals and good material keep this from getting overblown. What's great is that it works as an entry level look at a music genre that snuck out of the underground clubs to become a billion-dollar industry.

If you don't "get" EDM, this is probably the best attempt out there to help you understand or appreciate what it's all about. For everyone else, bring on the 10-part series.

What We Started is currently screening on Netflix.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Ant-Man & The Wasp

(PG) ★★★

Director: Peyton Reed.

Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Peña, Laurence Fishburne, Hannah John-Kamen, Walton Goggins, Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer.

"Uh-oh, it's Edgar Wright. Awkward."
Read my Ant-Man review here.

Read the Marvel Cinematic Universe - From Best To Worst here.

Oh how we laughed when they said they were making an Ant-Man movie. How could that ever work? But Marvel found a way, and lo, it was good. And funny as all get-out too.

And after Avengers: Infinity War tore the MCU a new one, we need funny. Thankfully Ant-Man & The Wasp is funny. It's also got some nice action sequences, but it's severely lacking in some other areas.

When we last saw Ant-Man AKA Scott Lang (Rudd) in he was locked up for fighting with Cap in the battle for superhero freedom otherwise known as Captain America: Civil War. Two years on, he's under house arrest and has fallen out with the original Ant-Man Hank Pym (Douglas) and Hank's daughter Hope (Lilly) AKA The Wasp.

But Hank's attempts to find his wife Janet (Pfeiffer) AKA the original Wasp have awakened something locked in Scott's mind from when he shrank too small and entered the sub-atomic quantum realm (as seen in the first film). That's where Janet went missing, which means Scott is about to be drawn back into danger to help with the search.


"Quantum" is a pretty important word in Ant-Man & The Wasp and it's one that gets bandied about way too much. It's used to paper over plotholes and find ways to connect the disparate story threads together. "Why is this happening?" "Because it's quantum" is a pretty common conversation explainer throughout this film.

It makes for some frustrating and boring stretches of scientific technobabble, equipment tweaking, frequency dialling, and experiment fine-tuning that never believably intertwine the three main plots. These plots are the search for Janet, the plight of a character called Ghost (John-Kamen), and the machinations of evil black market tech tycoon Sonny Burch (Goggins), and they sit together awkwardly. This means the characters of Ghost and Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) are underdone, while Burch is little more than an annoyance. On top of this is the distinct feeling this is a two-and-a-half-hour film trimmed to two hours in the editing suite, but which could have been made into a 100-minute film in the screenplay.

But when things are working, it's something to behold. The comedy is solid and well-placed, some of the action sequences are great fun, and the final act goes a long way towards redeeming the film. When it's playing around with the possibilities of having a bad guy that can phase through things and two good guys who can instantly shrink or grow, it's a superhero spectacle worthy of the Marvel banner. Its deep dive into the quantum realm is also visually intriguing.

There is also a good amount of heart here, although it's somewhat diluted by the wonky scripting. The connection between parent and child is a key theme, but it's not as strong as you'd expect. Again, when it works it's great, and it's reaching for some emotional depth that's not as prevalent in the MCU as you would like. Some of the subject matter in Ant-Man & The Wasp had the potential to move us to tears, but it never gets there.

Rudd is again a delight as Scott Lang, while Lilly's Hope kicks arse more than last time. Douglas, Fishburne, and Pfeiffer add some gravitas to the more ridiculous elements. In fact, the cast has no weak links (Peña is again a scene-stealer) - it's only that some of them are let down by the script (Ghost and Burch are the notable one-note characters).

Ant-Man & The Wasp is by no means bad. It's just not up to the lofty standards of the best of the MCU. It's funny and fun but a little too wrapped up and tripped up by its quantum entanglement of plots to be truly great.


Saturday, 30 June 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

(M) ★★½

Director: J. A. Bayona.

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Isabella Sermon, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, B. D. Wong.

"'Come see the dinosaurs,' they said. 'What could possibly go wrong?' they said."
Read my review of Jurassic Park here.

Read my review of Jurassic World here.

We've come a long way since Sam Neill's Alan Grant poked his head out of the top of a jeep, fumbled with his sunnies, and gaped at a herd of brachiosaurs. We gaped too, and it's no exaggeration to say cinema was changed forever.

Fifth time around, it's harder to be impressed, but to Fallen Kingdom's credit it manages a few moments of visual showmanship that almost help pave over the clunky script and the feeling this is the runt of the dino litter.

Three years after the incident that destroyed Jurassic World, former park operations manager Claire Dearing (Howard) is approached by John Hammond's old partner Benjamin Lockwood (Cromwell) and his aide Eli Mills (Spall) and asked to help in a rescue mission to get as many of the remaining dinosaurs off Isla Nublar before the volcano at the island's centre explodes.

With raptor trainer and erstwhile lover Owen Grady (Pratt) along for the ride, Claire finds herself in a race against time to save the resurrected creatures from becoming extinct... again. But that turns out to be the least of her problems.


In many ways, this feels like Jurassic Park: The Lost World, the better-than-you-remember-but-still-somewhat-forgettable second film in the series. It has a "great white hunter", it takes the dinos off the island, and it does some semi-retconning in order to expand the series' mythology (Hammond had a partner?). There's also that same feeling of predictable silliness -  those countless moments of "it would be dumb if they did this, but I bet they're going to do this" - that ran rife in JP2.

But in spite of this Fallen Kingdom manages to really dazzle in places, just like JP2 did with its cornfield scene and its edge-of-a-cliff trailer. While the fifth film's explorations of the murky morality of the original are interesting but ultimately superfluous for the most part, making its early on-screen arguments about "should we save the dinosaurs from a second extinction?" somewhat redundant, there's still a beautifully sad moment watching a brachiosaur being left behind on Isla Nublar.

Similarly, the whole "ticking time bomb island" thing (which definitely comes under the category of predictable silliness) is stunning to watch. Herds of dinosaurs fleeing an exploding volcano ain't something you see every day. Equally daft yet original and beautifully shot is the film's finale, which takes the Jurassic series into horror territory with interesting results.

But its failings cannot be totally overcome by its visual delights and the new treats it presents. The first third of the film is incredibly clunky, the chemistry between Howard and Pratt isn't as sparky as you'd hope, the side characters aren't very interesting, the prerequisite precocious child is unnecessary, the script groans especially when Spall's Miles is on screen. and Jeff Goldblum's cameo is disappointing and disposable.

It's still fun watching the dinosaurs run around sporadically eating people, and the film's final moments point to a sixth movie that could be genuinely awesome, but Fallen Kingdom is as silly and over-the-top as you would expect it to be. If that's all you're after, dig in. If you're hoping for something to live up to the original or even Jurassic World, you'll be disappointed.

PS. If we have to recast/reboot Indiana Jones, can it please be Chris Pratt? I'm more convinced than ever of this after watching Fallen Kingdom.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Incredibles 2

(PG) ★★★★

Director: Brad Bird.

Cast: (voices of) Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Eli Fucile, Samuel L. Jackson, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Brad Bird, Jonathan Banks, Michael Bird, Sophia Bush.

It's always best to wear matching outfits on family outings.

So there's this tweet:
... which is spot on and I couldn't agree more, but the proof is in the pudding, isn't it?

Cars 2 and 3 are easily the worst of the Pixar pantheon. Maybe waiting 14 years might have made them half-decent films. Or maybe after 14 years, someone might have realised "we don't really have good plots for any Cars sequels - let's do something else".

Cars movies aside, Incredibles 2 is well worth the wait. Like its predecessor, it's a super-smart breakdown of family dynamics that just so happens to be wearing a superhero costume and parading around as a "kids movie" (oh how I despise that term).

Picking up right where we left off 14 years ago, the Parr family is taking on subterranean supervillain The Underminer. But the resulting battle and its collateral damage merely reinforces the rational behind the banning of non-caped crusaders such as Bob Parr's alter-ego Mr Incredible (Nelson) and his wife Helen AKA Elastigirl (Hunter). The authorities come smashing down like Thor's hammer (it's called Mjolnir, I'm not even going to pretend like I didn't know that).

Relocated one last time, the family is at a loss as to what to do next. That is until they are introduced to mega-rich superhero enthusiast Winston Deavor (Odenkirk) and his tech whiz sister Evelyn (Keener), who have big plans to return the likes of The Incredibles to their rightful place as protectors of society.


The first Incredibles film was a masterclass in character creation that used its genre to perfection. The ever-flexible-ever-bending mother, the always-must-be-strong father, the hyperactive kid wanting to burst free, the teen withdrawn to the point of invisibility. and the unknown quantity that is a new baby - it's a wonder it hadn't been done before. But it was the interaction of these players and the celebration of family that made the first one sing, and this one successfully carries the same tune - just in a different key.

These elements are expanded, flipped, and evolved in Incredibles 2. The family unit is still at the core, but this time it's Helen Parr pulling on the spandex and saving the day while Bob stays at home with the kids. Director Brad Bird makes the most of this role reversal, using it to make some pithy points about society and gender roles, but really it's just a way to put the characters in interesting positions to see how they react (which is something every good sequel should do). 

This is the most fascinating part of the film. It largely moves away from the "loving tribute, silly send-up, and spot-on satire" and into fairly standard superhero fare (part of the plot echoes Batman Forever to be honest) that never rises to the levels of the original. The set pieces work well though, in particular a dazzling seizure-inducing fist fight between Elastigirl and central villain the Screenslaver, as well as an all-in-brawl in the Parr house where half a dozen baddies take on Frozone (Jackson) and the three junior incredibles.

More so than the first film, this one is about the kids. Jak Jak (Fucile) steals every scene he's in, but the dynamic between Violet (Vowell) and Dash (Milner) and their parents is pushed more to the fore. This movie feels less about being husband-and-wife and more about being mother-and-father. Aiding all this is yet another wonderful voice cast, with Odenkirk in particular a great addition.

As with most sequels, Incredibles 2 takes a bigger is better approach, but where that approach really works is in the production design, score, and world-building, rather than the spectacle. The retro-futurism of the original is taken to the next level, Michael Giacchino's wonderful score is even jazzier and more ambitious than before, and the world the Parrs inhabit feels less like a city and more like a ... well ... world. 

There are some missteps along the way - some scene ordering feels a little off, Bob Parr's inability to genuinely support his wife takes his character a bit too far in the wrong direction, and the previous film's self-awareness is lacking.

But overall this is another Pixar success. Fun and funny, exciting and enjoyable, it is a triumph of character that continues the previous film's visual and musical coolness. I'd prefer not to wait another 14 years for another sequel, but if it's as good as this I won't be disappointed. 

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The last songs played live by famous musicians (part two)


It seems I'm not the only one with a morbid curiosity about which songs proved to be the final encores of famed musicians.

Here's the first one in case you missed it.

And here is part two, filled with more sad stories about more great artists who are sadly no longer with us.

Thanks to everyone who made suggestions.

(And apologies again - some of the audio in this is shitty.)

Musician: Jim Morrison (The Doors)
Last song played live: The End
Date: December 12, 1970
Location: The Warehouse, New Orleans, USA


As far as I can tell, very little audio and no footage exists of The Doors' final gig with Morrison, but that's possibly a good thing. All reports (and the above mini-doco) suggest The Lizard King "spent the day drinking and casually indulging in a cornucopia of drugs, including a strong dose of psychedelics", leaving him in no shape to perform. As a result, The Doors' last show (in the renowned New Orleans venue The Warehouse) was a debacle. Morrison was barely able to stand and spent much of the gig laying on the stage. He forgot lyrics, missed cues, implored the band to play St James Infirmary Blues, told bad jokes that fell flat, and may or may not have had a puke bucket with him. Eventually he passed out on stage, and the rest of band walked off. When Morrison woke up, he encouraged the crowd to clap for an encore ... and his bandmates came back out. One Warehouse employee described Morrison as the most loaded person they'd seen on their stage ever. According to Setlist.fm, the band still managed a 22-song set, the last track of which was, fittingly, The End (although I can't find any other source confirming that, nor can I find one denying it). But everyone agrees Morrison ended the show by smashing his mic stand to pieces, hitting the stage so hard it made a hole in the floor. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek later claimed in his biography that he saw Morrison's spirit leave his body that night. Somehow, the band reunited to finish the album LA Woman, before Morrison left for Paris. He died there in July, 1971, aged 27.

Below is audio from their second last gig.


Musician: Freddie Mercury (Queen)
Last song played live: It's In Every One Of Us
Date: April 14, 1988
Location: Dominion Theatre, London, UK

The final performance of Freddie Mercury was not with Queen, but as a special guest at a charity gig. The occasion was a performance of Dave Clark's musical Time, which was staged as a fundraiser for AIDS charities. Clark was a close friend of Mercury's - he was sitting by Mercury's bed when the Queen singer finally succumbed to AIDS on November 24, 1991. So it's possible Clark knew Mercury had the disease when Clark asked Mercury to join Cliff Richard on stage for a trio of songs from Time, the final of which was It's In Every One Of Us. Mercury found out he had AIDS almost exactly a year earlier, but didn't announce it to the world until the day before he died.


He would continue to record with Queen up until June 1991 - six months before his death - but his final performance with the band was on August 9, 1986 at Knebworth Park in the UK. The last song he sang with the group that made him a legend was We Are The Champions. Then, with Mercury adorned in a crown and a royal robe, the band launched into God Save The Queen as their singer bowed to his fans for what would sadly prove to be the last time.

 

Musician: Amy Winehouse
Last song played live: You're Wondering Now
Date: June 18, 2011
Location: Kalemegdan Park, Belgrade, Serbia

The demise of Winehouse is a tragedy best explained by Asif Kapadia's stunning 2015 doco Amy. Out of context, this final drink-and-drug-addled performance just seems pathetic, when really it's an incredibly sad end to a short-but-talented career. Struggling to deal with her fame and addictions, Winehouse was effectively strong-armed into a European tour she was not able or ready to do. The result was one trainwreck show in Belgrade and the cancellation of the remaining 11 shows. Contrary to some reports, Winehouse did sing during the gig (setlist.fm lists it as entirely instrumental, which isn't true - check out this performance of Back To Black from the ill-fated show). But she can barely be heard (or even seem to bother) in the final number, a cover of The Skatellites' You're Wondering Now. A month later, she appeared on stage at London's Roundhouse, dancing along as her goddaughter Dionne Bromfield sang Mama Said. Three days later, on July 23, 2011, she died, joining the infamous "27 Club".


Musician: Tupac Shakur
Last song played live: 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted
Date: July 4, 1996
Location: House of Blues, West Hollywood, USA

Tupac Shakur was just 25 when he was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas on September 7, 1996 (he actually died from his injuries six days later). His final gig was two months earlier, and was released on CD and DVD in full nine years after his death - it's one of the 20-or-so Tupac albums released posthumously. However that release, titled Tupac: Live At The House Of Blues, is a bit misleading. The two-hour long concert features Tupac for about 25 minutes - he delivers a nine-song set at the start before making way for the headliners Snoop Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound and Nate Dogg. Tupac then returns for the all-star encore of 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted alongside Snoop, Nate and about a dozen others. During his time on stage, Tupac dissed Biggie Smalls and Nas, and claimed "I ain't even trying to make peace". Ironically, when Tupac died, his death was announced during a Nas concert. The show was stopped and respect was paid. It took the death of Tupac and Smalls to bring the East Coast-West Coast rap war to come to an end - something it seemed Tupac didn't want in his lifetime.

You can watch most of the concert here, but hit the settings button and turn the speed down to 0.75 before you do.


Musician: Jeff Buckley
Last song played live: ????
Date: May 26, 1997
Location: Barrister's Bar, Memphis, USA

One of the many sad things about Jeff Buckley's passing is that his final gigs have been lost into the ether - no recordings, no photos, not much in the way of setlists. In February 1997, Buckley and his band were recording in Memphis with producer Tom Verlaine (of the band Television) for the follow-up to Grace. On February 12 and 13, they played some of the new material (and some older tunes) at a little hole-in-the-wall bar called Barrister's, located under a parking garage in an alleyway in Memphis. After that, the band returned to New York while Buckley stayed in Memphis to keep writing and demoing. He returned to Barrister's on February 20 and began an irregular (mostly Monday-night) residency to road-test more material. His final show there - indeed his final ever show - was on May 26. He drowned three days later. But as to what he played at that final show, only four or five songs are known and none are specified as the set-closer. We know he played Hallelujah that night, as well as Corpus Christi Carol, Your Flesh Is So Nice, a cover of Edgar Winter's Frankenstein and The Sky Is A Landfill, but frustratingly (especially for the person who requested Buckley for this blog) we don't know what he played last.

The best I can offer is this full band show at Arlene's Grocery in New York (the first with new drummer Parker Kindred), recorded about three and a half months before his death. It finishes, fittingly, with Last Goodbye.


Thursday, 7 June 2018

Ocean's 8

(M) ★★★½

Director: Gary Ross.

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Richard Armitage, James Corden.

The latest Harambe memes were off the hook.
The title of this film - number of main characters aside - suggests the makers have intentionally left room to make two sequels before they bump into the numbering of the George Clooney/Brad Pitt/Matt Damon Oceans movies.

If that's the case, bring on two more of these if they're as good as this one. That's not to say Ocean's 8 is great - it never meets the lofty heights or first-time-around ambition of Ocean's 11 - but it's a fun crime caper that's cool and breezy, like all fun crime capers should be.

Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean, the equally criminal sister of George Clooney's Danny from the previous Ocean's films. Fresh out of jail, Debbie has spent her time in prison coming up with her own version of the perfect crime - she's going to steal a $150 million necklace off the neck of world renowned actress Daphne Kluger (Hathaway) at the Met Gala, New York's social event of the year.

With the help of her old pal Lou (Blanchett), Debbie begins putting together a team to pull off the seemingly impossible.


Like the other Ocean's films, half the fun comes from the cast - they look like they're having a good time, and that's pretty infectious. The film makes us feel like we're part of the gang, even when we don't fully know what's about to transpire.

What does transpire is effortlessly charming and super-cool (try not to think too hard about the plot-holes though) and it all goes off without a hitch. In fact it's all too easy - the "will they get caught?" tension is fairly minimal.

Given that this is effectively the fourth film in the series, it's not surprising the film's not that surprising. We've seen all this before, and much like how the all-female cast is a twist on the familiar, everything that happens is a variation on a theme. The crew with the highly specialised talents, the fascinating planning, the intricately detailed crime, the late sleights of hand pulled on the audience - it's a formula. It's a winning formula, yes, but to a fair extent you should only expect the expected. The few surprises we get are nice, but nothing truly out of the box.

These criticisms aside, Ocean's 8 is enjoyable escapism and, as mentioned, that largely comes down to the cast. Bullock and Blanchett make a good pair, and their gang of talented miscreants is great, in particular Paulson, Rihanna, and the always wonderful Bonham Carter, who doesn't get to flex her comedic muscles often enough. Hathaway also deserves mention for a fun and slightly fruity performance.

The connections to the broader Ocean's universe are subtle but welcome. While it could have gotten away without the Ocean's branding, the movie would have suffered by unwanted comparison. Instead it's embraced the family name and is a welcome "sister film" that benefits from what it plucks off the family tree.

You can expect they'll go back to that tree a lot more if we see Ocean's 9 and 10. If so, that's fine by me.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Tully

(M) ★★★★

Director: Jason Reitman.

Cast: Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass, Asher Miles, Lia Frankland, Elaine Tan.

Mommy couldn't daytime drink like she used to.
Looking for a movie to put you off becoming a parent? Tully's got you covered.

The brutal realities of motherhood are thrown into sharp relief in this at-times-bleak dramedy, which seems to complete "a womanhood trilogy" of sorts from the writer-director combo of Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman. While this one doesn't wear its humour on its sleeve as much as Juno or Young Adult, it still has touches of laughs amid the true-to-life horribleness and the seriously bizarre edge to its plot.

But the real reason to watch this is Theron, who pulls out yet another remarkable performance that's up there with her best.

She plays Marlo, a married mother-of-two who is heavily pregnant with her unplanned third baby. When the third child arrives, Marlo quickly finds herself struggling to cope until the arrival of a "night nanny" named Tully (Davis).

Tully is a modern-day Mary Poppins who not only takes care of the newborn through the night, but also tidies the house, cooks cupcakes, and lets Marlo get her life back in order. But not everything is as it seems.


Theron is a marvel in this, whether it be when she's having a full-blown meltdown, navigating the niceties while trying to talk about her "quirky" but difficult son, dropping jokes at the dinner table, or singing karaoke with her daughter. It's a masterful performance that ticks every box. Even without bringing the whole weight-gain-acting-commitment thing into it, Theron should totally be in awards discussions when all that stuff rolls around.

The combination of her and Davis is a great one. The excellence of Davis' turn becomes increasingly evident as the film rolls on into strange new places and we realise the depths and facets of Tully. The way she bounces off Theron also gets better and better as their characters' connection grows.

Credit too to the often under-rated Livingston as Marlo's husband Drew, who is given just enough development so as not to be a mere plot device or story necessity (and gets a nice dramatic moment towards the end to cap it off).

The film's central conceit - which I'm trying very very hard not to spoil, in case you hadn't noticed - will be make or break for many people. It's either going to take the film to the next level for you, or turn you off it, and getting to a point where it all makes sense requires a little bit of patience and suspension of disbelief. But beyond its mysteries, the film has fascinating and important things to say about womanhood and motherhood. What is the cost of "having it all" as a mother/wife/woman? Where is the line between those three "roles"? Is "having it all" achievable? Are the sacrifices worthwhile? What if can't be all those things? What if you reach a point in your life and don't know how or why you got where you are?

Cody's script is wondering about all these things, and finds a fascinating way to look at it. It's humourous touches are welcome, it has a genuine heart to it all, but it's also smart and thoughtful. As for Reitman, this is a welcome return to form after the poorly received Labor Day and the terrible Men, Women & Children. It's more in line with his acclaimed first four films, and is perhaps most like the midlife/quarterlife crisis musings of Up In The Air and Young Adult.

All in all, it's clever yet sincere, and balances it light and shade pretty well. Just don't see it if you're thinking about having kids.