Big Night Out (Ed. by Jessica Adams, Maggie Alderson, Nick Earls, Imogen Edwards-Jones)

Big Night Out is a collection of short stories, recipes, song lists, illustrations and edited by Jessica Adams, Maggie Alderson, Nick Earls and Imogen Edwards-Jones. It was published to benefit the War Child charity.
Finished on: 25.11.2017

Big Night Out isn’t your typical short story collection. There really is a lot here that isn’t a short story at all, although the biggest part are short stories. I grabbed it for those (well, I grabbed it mostly for Jasper Fforde‘s short story in it), so I mostly skimmed through the other things, even though some very big names contributed various things (INXSSteve Coogan, and Nick Hornby recommending songs? Anthony Stewart Head sharing a cocktail recipe? Joan Collins‘ beauty tips? Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, and Boy George detailing hangover cures? It’s all there). I did feel that the selection was made on the basis of the people in any case and not necessarily for the quality of their content. But hey, it is for charity after all. If you don’t buy it for the stories, but for the good deed, you’ll get what you expect.

After the jump, I will talk about the short stories in the collection separately and you can find the table of contents so you can see what else is in there.

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The Dinner (2017)

The Dinner
Director: Oren Moverman
Writer: Oren Moverman
Based on: Herman Koch‘s novel
Cast: Richard GereLaura LinneySteve CooganRebecca HallChloë SevignyMichael ChernusCharlie PlummerSeamus Davey-FitzpatrickMiles J. Harvey
Seen on: 20.6.2017
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Plot:
Paul (Steve Coogan), a history teacher, and his wife Claire (Laura Linney) are meeting Paul’s brother Stan (Richard Gere), a successful politician, and his second wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) for dinner. Paul obviously doesn’t want to go, he doesn’t actually like Stan a lot and he’s struggling with his mental health. But something happened that involves Paul and Claire’s son, as well as Stan’s kids from his first marriage. And the four present parents need to decide what to do about what happened.

The Dinner managed to completely dismantle white, rich privilege without ever leaving the privileged perspective. Nothing in this film is okay, but it is worth looking at the issues exactly because of that.

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The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

The Secret Life of Pets
Director: Yarrow CheneyChris Renaud
Writer: Cinco PaulKen Daurio
Cast: Louis C.K.Eric StonestreetKevin HartJenny SlateEllie KemperAlbert BrooksLake BellSteve Coogan
Seen on: 11.8.2016

Plot:
Max (Louis C.K.) has the best life a dog could possibly have. He loves his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) and she loves him and takes care of him. But then one day, Katie brings home another dog, Duke (Eric Stonestreet). Duke is huge and new and he’s here to stay. Max can’t have that, especially since Duke uses his size to bully Max. Their feud takes a turn for the worse when they are both captured by animal control, and then freed by the bunny Snowball’s (Kevin Hart) Flushed Animals resistance group.

I liked much about The Secret Life of Pets, but I didn’t fall in love with it as much as I thought I might.

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Philomena (2013)

Philomena
Director: Stephen Frears
Writer: Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope
Based on: Martin Sixsmith‘s book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee
Cast: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham, Michelle FairleyAnna Maxwell Martin

Plot:
Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is a recently unemployed journalist, looking for a new challenge. When he is approached to write about the story of Philomena (Judi Dench), he is nevertheless hesitant. Philomena, now an old woman, had a child at a very young age (Sophie Kennedy Clark). That son was given away against her will by the nuns she lived with and worked for. And all of Philomena’s attempts to find him again were stonewalled. Since Martin can’t find a better story, he goes along with this one and finds himself very intrigued after a short while.

Philomena’s story is worth telling and the movie is engaging but I did think that it was missing a bit impact. Nevertheless it’s a sweet film with a nice sense of humor and a touching story.

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The Look of Love (2013)

The Look of Love
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Writer: Matt Greenhalgh
Cast: Steve Coogan, Imogen Poots, Anna Friel, Tamsin Egerton, Chris Addison, Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas, Shirley Henderson, Simon Bird, David Walliams, Dara O’Briain

Plot:
Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan) makes his money with nightclubs, stripping, erotic dancing – basically women taking their clothes off. And he makes a lot of it, despite the controversy around his job. His wife Jean (Anna Friel) is fully supportive – until Paul leaves her to be with Amber (Tamsin Egerton) and fully enjoy the party lifestyle. While Jean goes to the US with their son, Paul’s daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots) wants to follow in Paul’s footsteps as he continues to build his naked women emporium.

The Look of Love has a good cast but it has serious issues with focussing on the story they want to tell. It’s still rather entertaining, but it really didn’t blow me away.

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Re-Watch: Hot Fuzz (2007)

Hot Fuzz
Director: Edgar Wright
Writer: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick FrostTimothy DaltonJim BroadbentPaddy ConsidineRafe Spall, Olivia Colman, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Joe CornishAlice Lowe, David Bradley, Bill Bailey, Stephen MerchantJulia Deakin, Cate Blanchett, Steve Coogan, Peter Jackson
Part of: The Cornetto Trilogy

Plot:
Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is London’s star police man. But his success makes the rest of the service look bad, so he is reassigned to the small town of Sandford, where he’s partnered up with Danny Butterman (Nick Frost). Sandford might officially be the safest town in the UK, but Nick’s investigations soon turn up some weird things, when a series of freak accidents start.

Man, I really love this movie. It’s funny, fast-paced and riddled with cameos (some of which I only just learned about, like Peter Jackson and Cate Blanchett). It’s just an absolute joy to watch.

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Re-Watch: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: Craig Titley
Based on: Rick Riordan’s novel
Cast: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Jake Abel, Sean Bean, Pierce Brosnan, Steve Coogan, Rosario Dawson, Catherine Keener, Kevin McKidd, Uma Thurman
[Here’s my first review.]

Plot:
Percy Jackson’s (Logan Lerman) life is far from perfect. He’s dyslexic, suffers from ADHD and his mom (Catherine Keener) is married to an asshole. And then Percy finds out that his father is the god Poseidon, his best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) is a satyr and his teacher (Pierce Brosnan) is a centaur. But that’s only the start of his adventures since Zeus’ (Sean Bean) lightning bolt was stolen – and everyone thinks it was Percy who did it.

On re-watching the film it is at the same time less infuriating but also less fun than the first time round. It’s nice, but it also feels completely inconsequential. It’s the kind of film you watch and you don’t mind seeing it but you never think of it again as soon as it’s done.

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What Maisie Knew (2012)

What Maisie Knew
Director: Scott McGehee, David Siegel
Writer: Nancy Doyne, Carroll Cartwright
Based on: Henry Jamesnovel
Cast: Onata Aprile, Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan, Alexander Skarsgard, Joanna Vanderham

Plot:
Maisie (Onata Aprile) lives with her mother Susanna (Julianne Moore), an aging rock singer and her father Beale (Steve Coogan), a workaholic business man. While Margo (Joanna Vanderham) watches Maisie most of the time, Susanna and Beale are separating, their divorce growing increasingly uglier. When Beale marries Margo, Susanna tries to keep up by marrying Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard). Through all of that, it is Maisie though who gets almost lost.

What Maisie knew is a pretty damn wonderful film. It’s sweet and touching and has a perfect cast. More movies should be like it.

What-Maisie-Knew

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Despicable Me 2 (2013)

Despicable Me 2
Director: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Writer: Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul
Sequel to: Despicable Me
Cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Ken Jeong, Steve Coogan, Kristen Schaal

Plot:
Gru (Steve Carell), his girls and the minions are living the good (and honest) life. But when a new villain shows up, Gru is recruited by Lucy (Kristen Wiig), agent of the Anti-Villain-League. Together they start staking out the local mall, which not only prompts Gru’s girls to dream about a woman in his life, but also Gru himself.

I thought that I could maybe get more into Despicable Me 2 than I did into Despicable Me. Because it seems to have all the right ingredients for a movie that I would like. But somehow it ends up missing its mark with me. Or, to be more exact, it hits its mark and then it continues on and on until it’s so far past the mark it’s like it didn’t hit in the first place. (This might sound a little harsher than I mean it, but it’s still true.)

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Ruby Sparks (2012)

Ruby Sparks
Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer: Zoe Kazan
Cast: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina, Toni Trucks, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Aasif Mandvi, Steve Coogan, Deborah Ann Woll, Elliott Gould

Plot:
Calvin (Paul Dano) wrote a critically acclaimed bestseller when he was very young – and has been stuck ever since. He can’t really write anything, he’s afraid that he won’t live up to his own reputation. But then he starts writing about Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) – the perfect girl for him – and literally falls in love with his own creation. That is, until she actually shows up in his kitchen. At first, Calvin believes that he’s finally cracked, but other people can see her, too. And so Calvin doesn’t question it, instead starts enjoying their relationship. But how long can anybody remain perferct?

Ruby Sparks is the perfect take-down of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. And not only that, it is also a wonderfully charming, touching and funny movie with an extremely excellent cast.

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