Search only in certain items:


Emma @ The Movies (1779 KP) rated Instant Family (2019) in Movies

Jun 22, 2019 (Updated Sep 25, 2019)  
Instant Family (2019)
Instant Family (2019)
2019 | Comedy, Drama
Going in to Instant Family I had some reservations. I'm a big fan of Rose Byrne, her performance in last year's Juliet, Naked was a delight to watch, but on the flipside Mark Wahlberg and comedy don't come high on my must see list. Thankfully those thoughts were quickly dismissed as the times I laughed out loud soared into the double digits.

This is a genuinely good film with just a couple of things that made me pause a little, I'll mention those later. The moments where I laughed it was out loud, like almost everyone else at the screening, and when I wasn't laughing I was probably crying, sometimes ugly crying.

Byrne and Wahlberg worked so well together and with Isabela Moner in the mix too we were treated to some great on screen chemistry. I'm hoping we'll see a lot more of Moner on our screens as she was able to pull her weight really well with all the fantastic actors in this.

A lot is obviously focused around Ellie, Pete and the kids, but outside of that dynamic I've got to give some love to Karen and Sharon. Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro are such a fun double act, although for me Spencer will always steal the show. Their dynamic running the fostering program brought a smile to my face and while the reactionary humour may be predictable it lands so well that I couldn't care less that I knew it was coming.

My negatives about the films are so minute that they hardly seem worth mentioning. Pete (Wahlberg) has a tendency to be blunt and externalise what most of us would keep as inner dialogue. His script gives you those moments where you take a sharp breath and say "you shouldn't say that!" Ellie counteracts this by being the slight voice of reason so while you're taken aback by Pete's honesty you quickly come back to the normal flow of the film.

Out of my two quibbles this one caused me the most issues. Joan Cusack. She's great, I enjoy her work, but I really don't understand her inclusion in this. She pops up as a sort of cameo role near the end and it feels a little invasive on the dramatic moment we're witnessing, it just seems awkward and forced. It does at least lead to an amusing moment for Spencer so I think that probably gets it the pass.

Instant Family is definitely chock full of laughs and feels, despite my grumbles I still feel it deserves these five stars.

What you should do

It's a very entertaining film and perhaps surprisingly based on a true story, it's well worth a watch. I really think that everyone will get some entertainment out of this.

Movie thing you wish you could take home

If you could send Pete and Ellie round with their renovation skills it would be much appreciated.
Instant Family (2019)
Instant Family (2019)
2019 | Comedy, Drama
Enjoyable and harmless comedy laced with a degree of sentimentality.
The Plot
Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are focused and business-oriented home designers. They’ve talked about having kids “sometime in the future” but the years – as years are want to do – are motoring away from them. Pete is concerned that if they have their own kids now then he will end up being an “old dad” (cue very funny, black-comedy, flashback). This leads them into contact with the State’s fostering service – led by Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro) – and they progress into foster training. This introduces into their ‘perfect adult lives’ 15-year old Lizzy (Isabela Moner) and her younger siblings Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz). As these guys come from a troubled background Pete and Ellie find they have their work cut out. Who will crack first?

The turns
You’ve got to admire Mark Wahlberg as an actor. In the same vein as Steve Carell, he seems to be able to flex from dramatic (in his case, tough-guy action roles) to comedy without a blink. He’s nowhere near the calibre of actor as Carell, but he brings to all his roles a sense of menace – derived no doubt from his torrid criminal background in younger days. (His wiki page makes your eyes water: there’s a great biopic screenplay waiting to be written there! ) It must have made the kid actor who plays Charlie (Carson Holmes) actually soil himself at a key point in the film!

Wahlberg and the excellent Rose Byrne make a believable driven-couple, and Byrne has such a range of expressive faces that she can’t help but make you laugh.

Of the child actors, Nickelodeon star Isabella Moner shines with genuine brilliance, both in terms of her acting as the fiercely loyal Lizzy but also in terms of her musical ability (she sings the impressive end-title song). With Hollywood in ‘post-La-La-Showman: Here we go again’ mode, this is a talented young lady I predict might be in big demand over the next few years.

Top of my list of the most stupid “where the hell have I seen her before bang-my-head-against-the-cinema-wall” moments is the actress playing Ellie’s mother Jan. She is OF COURSE Julie Hagerty, air-hostess supreme from “Airplane!”.

Also good value, and topping my list of “I know her from lots of films but don’t know her name” is Margo Martindale* as Pete’s exuberant and easily bought mother Sandy. (*Must write this out 100 times before her picture appears in the Picturehouse Harbour Lights film quiz!).

A well-crafty script with some wayward characters
The script by director Sean (“Daddy’s Home”) Anders and John Morris zips along at a fine pace, albeit in a wholly predictable direction. It helps that I struggle the think of many films about the adoption process itself. Sure there have been lots of movies about children that have been adopted – Manchester By The Sea and Lion being two recent examples – but the only film I can immediately think of (and not in a good way) with foster care at its heart was the Katherine Heigl comedy from a few years ago “Life as we know it”. So this is good movie territory to mine.

There are some fine running jokes, notably young Juan’s penchant for constantly getting injured. However, the script also lapses as did Anders’ “Daddy’s Home 2” from last year – into moments of slushy sentimentality. (My dear departed Dad always used to affect an exaggerated snore at such points, and I could hear him in my head at regular intervals during the film!). I would have preferred a harder and blacker edge to the comedy: something that last year’s excellent “Game Night” pulled off so well.

There are also a couple of characters in the film that were poorly scripted and which just didn’t work. While Octavia Spencer was fine (channelling an almost identical version of her wisecracking and sardonic character from “The Shape of Water“), I just had no idea what her colleague Sharon (Tig Notaro) was supposed to be. The tone was all over the place. Similarly, who should pop up on a balcony in an unexpected cameo but the great Joan Cusack. And very funny she is too for the 10 second interruption. But the writers having got her there just couldn’t leave alone and we get a plain embarrassing extended interruption that strikes a duff note in the flow of the film.

The film is amusing and harmless without taxing many brain cells. Most notably unlike many so-called American ‘comedies’ it did actually make me laugh at multiple points. I should also point out that my wife absolutely loved it, rating it a strong 4* going on 5*.

But the really cute thing is that…
…the film is “inspired by a true family”: namely Anders’ own. He and his wife fostered three kids out of the US foster service, so the script is undoubtedly loosely based on their own experiences, which give it an extra impact for some of Peter and Ellie’s lines. In an essay for TIME (source: Anders wrote:

My wife Beth and I had been talking for years about whether we should have kids,” he wrote. “For the longest time we just felt like we couldn’t afford it. Then I sold a couple of scripts and was feeling like I might have a career, but we were in our 40s and worried we had left it too long. We knew kids would make our life bigger, so one day I joked, ‘Why don’t we just adopt a five-year-old and it will be like we got started five years ago?'”

It gives you a completely different perspective on the film knowing this. My wife after the film was saying “I’m not sure how accurately it portrays the fostering process”. But it clearly does.
Army of the Dead (2021)
Army of the Dead (2021)
2021 | Action, Horror, Sci-Fi
6.7 (22 Ratings)
Movie Rating
I can't say that the name Zack Snyder held any pull to watching Army of the Dead. I'm still mad that I watched 8 hours of Justice League. But, I was sold on zombies and the poster, so I gave it a go.

Zombies have taken Las Vegas and the only option to end the danger is to raise the city to the ground. As the countdown to the cities destruction begins, a group of mercenaries are recruited to enter the quarantined zone for a wealthy businessman. Their retrieval mission will end with them getting out of the city safely, or the zombies getting them... whichever comes first.

A heist film with zombies and plenty of action? Three of my favourite things in one. The heist part is solid, it had time constraints to add tension, and the added peril of flesh eating monsters brought a bit of the unknown to each scene in the quarantine zone.

However... the idea doesn't pan out so well in production.

I enjoy Dave Bautista's acting career. Drax is a legend, and his dramatic yet comedic role in My Spy is great. Army of the Dead is a whole new ball game. Scott has the potential to be a really good lead, there's backstory, moments of action that Bautista is made for... but there's that script. There are so many points that diverge from what's happening that he ends up with something that hovers around average.

The humour between Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) and Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer) was fun. It wasn't quite a double act but it did cut through some of the more serious (and clunky) sections. My other call out is Tig Notaro. I loved the attitude she brings to her role, that's the level of sass I aspire to. It wasn't until after my viewing that I realised she had been CGId into the film as a last minute replacement. For the majority of the time I didn't notice, it's just one group shot as they enter Vegas that sticks out like a sore thumb. And with it being so early in proceedings, I was worried that it would be foreshadowing for what was to come.

Thankfully though, the effects were pretty good apart from that (and that tiger). The creatures were impressive and I was pleased to see that they still had the consistency of who the zombie population would be while they were inside the walls. Some of the action sequences may have been a little over the top, but it is a zombie action film so you've got to give it leeway.

I enjoyed Army of the Dead while I was watching it. But it's one of those films that changes when you think about it deeper. The main issue for me is that... this film doesn't need to happen... and a close second is that they attempt to give it a twist that comes to nothing, and because of that, ultimately felt bizarre. I don't think I'd mind watching it again, but I'm not feeling the urge to rush to Netflix.

Originally posted on:

Lee (2222 KP) rated Instant Family (2019) in Movies

Jan 24, 2019 (Updated Jan 24, 2019)  
Instant Family (2019)
Instant Family (2019)
2019 | Comedy, Drama
A very funny, heartwarming drama about adoption
On paper, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Instant Family is going to be just like so many other movies you've seen over the years. A couple without children of their own decides to adopt and end up with three troubled siblings of varying ages. And when you read that it's from director/co-writer Sean Anders, along with Mark Wahlberg, who worked together on both of the 'Daddy's Home' movies, you'll think you've got a pretty good idea of the tone and direction this movie is going to follow. Luckily though, while there are some genuinely very funny moments in this movie, it also manages to successfully blend it with some serious human drama and emotion and a fantastic set of characters.

Instant Family is based on the real life experience of the director Sean Anders and the adoption process he went through with his wife. In the movie, the couple are called Pete and Ellie (Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne), who earn their living by flipping houses (buy, renovate, sell). After Ellie has an argument with her sister regarding kids, they begin thinking about having children of their own. Worried about their age, they begin looking into fostering, with a view to eventually adopting an older child.

They visit an adoption agency, where they are joined by a number of other couples and single parents all looking to find out more and begin their journey to becoming parents. Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro are social workers, there to guide them all through the process. A very funny double act, providing a lot of the movies hilariously well timed lines. In fact, all of the other potential adopters are well written and funny, continuing to crop up throughout the movie as we revisit how everyone is getting on with their fostered children. None of this is zany, particularly goofy or over the top though - it's made very clear that many of the children in the foster system have had a pretty awful life so far, and this honest piece of reality is never downplayed.

At a meet-and-greet with potential adoptive children, organised as an outdoor event in a park, Pete and Ellie are drawn to Lizzie (Isabela Moner), a fiery teenage girl who is hanging out with the other older kids - separated from the main gathering, having resigned themselves to the notion that they're never going to get chosen by the prospective parents. When the couple mark her down as a potential for fostering, they learn that she actually comes as part of a package, having a younger brother Juan and even younger sister Lita. Pete and Ellie decide to go for it and foster all three, convinced they can make a difference in these kids lives.
There follows a period of new parents being thrown in at the deep end - the stressful night time routine, the problems with getting kids to eat and dress properly, problems at school etc. But again, it's not over the top - rooted in reality and successfully managing to walk the line between comedy and drama without resorting to exaggerated comedy set pieces. The problems experienced are made all the more challenging as the couple trying to care for and raise children who haven't had a great start in life, and have been used to a very particular way of living. Made even more difficult when the children's birth mother appears on the scene later in the movie.

I wasn't expecting to enjoy this movie as much as I did. There are more laugh out loud moments than any movie I've seen in recent years that bills itself as a comedy, but at the same time it's also a really heartwarming feel-good drama. So many enjoyable characters too, and with a sharp script that brings out the best in them all. Hugely enjoyable.