David Brent, Ricky Gervais' entertainingly pathetic creation from cult series The Office, finally gets his own spin-off movie as the boss-turned-sales rep attempts to make his rock star dreams come true on a misguided UK tour. David Brent: Life On The Road first introduces us to Brent's new life as a sales rep for a bathroom supply firm and, this time, his co-workers aren't all that willing to politely play along with his ebullient cluelessness even if a couple of them do genuinely like him. The film is shot in the same mockumentary style as The Office with Brent and his bandmates talking to the camera throughout their journey. The tour is obviously a disaster from the get-go as the band members are instantly put off by Brent's blatant desperation, awful songwriting and bad sense of humour. The gigs are one catastrophe after another between Brent's naively offensive songs, no-one coming to see the band play and countless mishaps. Fans of awkward humour should be in heaven with this film as a lot of effort is put into making Brent and his new adventure about as painfully awkward as possible.
There are similarities between this film and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa but Life On The Road is a much tougher watch as it's not so much focused on being silly. Instead, we follow a genuinely sad attempt by Brent to become a famous musician and, more often than not, you do feel bad for that character. Alan Partridge may be likeable but he's a bitchy buffoon, David Brent doesn't really deserve the amount of negativity and mockery he receives throughout the doomed-from-the-start tour so when someone finally offers him a little bit of kindness, the film packs an unexpected emotional punch. You can tell that while Gervais is well aware of how much of an idiot Brent is, he also likes him quite a bit so even when people are being very mean to that character, the sharp script makes sure we're never completely on their side, no matter how ridiculous Brent gets.
This could have easily just been a pointless cash-in but Ricky Gervais delivers a really good spin-off that's both very funny but also very sad. It's certainly one of last year's best comedies with the hilarious songs alone making it worth a watch.
In this 30th episode, I discuss episodes 17, 18 and 19 of Gotham Season 2, talk Ben Affleck and Powerless plus review The LEGO Batman Movie.
(for my written review of the Gotham Pilot, click here!)
Hope you enjoy it!
You can also find us on podcast The Big Rewind (available on Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher and Player FM) and send us emails with your Bat-questions, Six Degrees challenges and riddles here: email@example.com
M. Night Shyamalan had something of a mini-comeback with The Visit, a found-footage horror movie from 2015 about two kids going to live with their grandparents, whom they've never met, for a week. Audiences and critics didn't pan this one quite as much as the director's last few movies and it did well at the box-office so it was considered a success.
The premise for The Visit sounded pretty silly and the trailers underlined that quite a bit as it showed two old people acting strangely and two kids being terrified of them for no real reason. The film itself, it turns out, mixes comedy and horror convincingly and is refreshingly self-aware. This was something The Happening attempted years prior but the whole thing ended up being unintentionally funny and the "scary" parts came off as goofy throughout, despite the sinister premise. The two kids who supposedly film the events in this movie, Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), are decent actors with good enough comic timing to make the more light-hearted scenes work but they also do a good job reacting to the creepier moments. The Visit may not be the scariest film you'll see but it does have its genuinely unnerving moments and it's good to see M. Night Shyamalan trying to freak us out by any means necessary.
Deanna Dunagan, who plays the grandmother, really goes all out in this movie, giving a performance that's so unpredictable and strange you can't help but bite your nails when Becca is stuck with her in an unlit room as she's crawling around under the bed and scratching the walls. Peter McRobbie's grandfather gets increasingly intimidating and presents us with one of the most gross-out moment you'll see in any movie. Tonally, The Visit is often too disjointed as the build-up to spooky stuff can get distracted by the funnier aspects: one second Tyler is freestyle rapping, the next he his pursued by his grandmother in a creepy basement. As a whole, however, it is effective as both a comedy and a found-footage flick which makes it the first M. Night Shyamalan film to hit the mark in a while. Perhaps a simple, lower budget hit is what the filmmaker needed to get back on track.
The Visit is easily one of M. Night Shyamalan's most bizarre movies and, as such, it could have easily been another disaster. Luckily, a surprisingly game cast, some welcome intentional laughs, good use of the found-footage genre and a few solid scares make this an entertaining watch.
Ever since The Happening, every new M. Night Shyamalan movie has been met with cynicism. His last film The Visit was surprisingly well received, however, and so was Split, a horror thriller starring James McAvoy as a man with 23 split personalities who kidnaps three teenagers.
The serial killer premise sets the tone for the rest of the film, which is easily one of Shyamalan's creepiest efforts. We follow Kevin (McAvoy) as he incarcerates three innocent girls while still attending his psychiatrist's sessions. Meanwhile, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) and the other two teens try to figure out what's going on and look for a way to escape. Some of Kevin's personalities include a 9 year-old kid called Hedwig, the super intimidating Dennis and female mastermind Patricia. Your enjoyment of this film will depend completely on how you rate James McAvoy's performance which is both excellent but also wacky as hell. A lesser actor could have easily rendered Split either unwatchable or made it unintentionally hilarious. Luckily, James McAvoy is good as all his different characters and his random antics are an effective contrast to the genuinely unnerving plot.
Betty Buckley plays Kevin's psychiatrist Dr. Karen Fletcher and although she is an important character, perhaps a little too much time is spent with her as she explains to us what this special case of split personalities is all about like it's the doctor's end speech in Psycho or something. That said, Hitchcock's classic was certainly an inspiration for Split as Kevin is both frightening and tragic and the film builds up to some nifty twists. Speaking of which, fans of M. Night Shyamalan's earlier films should find themselves confused yet intrigued by the bold final twist which suggests a possible sequel. This is a simple yet well made film with a compelling central performance and some really dark moments, hinting that Shyamalan is ready to freak us out a few more times. This may not be the director's masterpiece but it's a step in the right direction and it's a fun, if grim, watch.
Good horror movies in January are a rarity but this is one that gets the job done: unsettling, ridiculous, bizarre, this is M. Night Shyamalan at his most sadistic and I, for one, can't wait to see what he has in store for future follow-ups.