Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Review Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

#CanYouEverForgiveMe (2018): 6/10

Can You Ever Forgive Me is based on Lee Israel’s 2008 memoir of the same name and stars Melissa McCarthy (‘Bridesmaids’, ‘Ghostbusters’) as Lee, a writer out of favour with her publishers and critics, and struggling to make ends meet, who begins to forge rare personalised letters supposedly written by deceased authors and playwrights.

We’ll be the first to admit that we have really not been fans of many of McCarthy’s comedy films, but she offers something different here. Lee’s booming exterior is just a mask for her vulnerabilities, as she struggles to afford to pay the rent and her cat’s medical bills. The standout though is Richard E. Grant (‘Gosford Park’) as Israel’s loyal friend Jack, who is wonderfully eccentric; his performance is effortless. McCarthy and Grant gel so well together that many of the most enjoyable scenes in the film are them simply sat somewhere, deep in conversation.

The story is no doubt an intriguing one. Slowly but surely, Lee gains confidence in her skilful deception that quickly turns into greed. It may not be the most exhilarating watch but there are some moments of real tension as Israel takes bigger risks in an attempt to swindle more and more cash from unsuspecting dealers. McCarthy’s prominent portrayal helps us to really sympathise with the character, a feeling amplified further during Israel’s closing monologue in court. One worth checking out.

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Monday, July 27, 2020

Review Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

#CrazyRichAsians (2018): 7/10

Crazy Rich Asians is based on the novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, and stars Constance Wu (‘Fresh Off The Boat’, ‘Sound Of My Voice’) as Rachel Chu, an Asian American who is invited to attend a family wedding with her boyfriend back in his native homeland of Singapore. Little does she know just how well off the family are and what it will take to be accepted by them, in particular her boyfriend’s strictly traditional mother, played by Michelle Yeoh (‘Tomorrow Never Dies’, ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’).

The film is awash with picturesque locations, lavish parties, and worldie possessions; they’re a far cry from the average everyday life and standard of living, but whisk us away to a faraway paradise, a paradise and way of life we would all happily take tomorrow. The filming locations really are quite breathtakingly awesome.

The valuable lesson here though is that for all its feel-good factors, even this paradise is not without its problems. Chu, being an outsider, is accused of being a “gold digger” by some that could be considered rivals, whilst men not born into money are emasculated by the whole affair; Astrid, played by Gemma Chan (‘Humans’, ‘The Double’) feeling the effects of such a situation, and struggling to make things work with her disengaging husband.

The film does well to showcase both sides of the coin in equal measure. It is dramatic as it is funny, Peik Lin, played by Awkwafina (‘Ocean’s Eight’, ‘Bad Neighbours 2’) providing much of the comic relief, along with her reserved but peculiar brother. Each of the ensemble cast give a good account of themselves, which makes for a riveting two hours, a story that really draws you in and will resonate with viewers from a similar background, with an emotional payoff at the film’s conclusion.

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Saturday, July 25, 2020

Review Captain Marvel (2019)

#CaptainMarvel (2019): 7/10

Brie Larson (‘Room’, ‘The Glass Castle’) stars as Carol Denvers alongside a younger Nick Fury, once again played by Samuel L Jackson, with the film delving into Captain Marvel’s origins, her intergalactic rise among powerful alien race the Kree, and the war between the Kree and shapeshifting enemy the Skrulls.

There is a lot to like about Captain Marvel. Larson and Jackson’s “buddy cop” relationship blossoms from the get-go and only becomes more enjoyable when complimented by the introduction of Goose the cat, who proves to be a real scene-stealer. Fury looks splendidly young thanks to some neat CGI tweaks, with both eyes intact. There are even attempts to rekindle fond memories of the 90’s with some playful nods to Blockbuster Video and CD-ROM’s, although efforts to go some way to replicating the success of the ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ soundtrack don’t quite have the desired impact.

The film does take some time to really get going, with the main focus in the early stages on the backgrounds of the warring Kree and Skrulls, the Skrulls in particular showing glimpses of what they could potentially offer the MCU going forward (for further reading, see Marvel’s “Secret Invasion” Comic), Ben Mendelsohn proving an excellent foil in the leading Skrull role. The real meat of the action comes on and around Earth, although some of the scenes are difficult to follow at times.

Captain Marvel is an enjoyable watch, of that there is no doubt, but almost feels like a backwards step when compared with other recent MCU entries, and more on the level of an earlier Phase. An origin story this late in the day between two of the biggest films in the MCU so far also makes it feel like a setup for ‘Endgame’. Still, it’ll be interesting to see what Brie Larson brings to the table and how she interacts with the rest of the team as the concluding part of Phase Three plays out.

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Review Diego Maradona (2019)

#DiegoMaradona (2019): 7/10

Diego Maradona is the latest insightful documentary from Asif Kapadia (‘Senna’, ‘Amy’). Constructed from over 500 hours of never-before-seen archive footage, the documentary mainly focuses on Maradona’s time at Napoli, his meteoric rise from outstanding player to demigod, and presents a series of events that ultimately lead to his calamitous fall from grace with the Italian people.

For those unfamiliar with the Italian social ladder, the documentary showcases just how low Naples and its people were regarded when Maradona arrived, with many opposing fan displaying grotesque messages during Serie A matches, which only spurred Maradona on, almost single-handedly taking Napoli to the top of the Serie A tree, delivering their first ever league title, whilst also winning the FIFA World Cup with Argentina, the Quarter Final against England proving a pivotal moment with the now infamous “Hand Of God” goal; the archived footage proving exhilarating.

It’s quite evident from the documentary though that Maradona’s resulting popularity with the people of Naples left him feeling trapped, leading to friction with the press, and his relationship with the Camorra coming under increasing scrutiny, which all came to a head during Italia ‘90 with Maradona having a hand in defeating the home nation in the World Cup Semi Final, souring his relationship with the Italian people beyond repair.

Whilst the documentary is just as insightful and intriguing, it’s perhaps not quite on par with previous efforts ‘Senna’ and ‘Amy’, although with the added emotional weight of human tragedy in those, Maradona always faced an uphill battle to compete. Still, another fascinating piece of work that will satisfy both fans of Maradona and viewers exploring his story for the first time.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Review Dumbo (2019)

#Dumbo (2019): 6/10

Dumbo is the 2019 reimagining of the 1940’s Disney classic, the story of a young elephant born into a circus with oversized ears. Tim Burton opts to replace Dumbo’s rodent acquaintance in the original with two young children, played by Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins, who certainly bring a charm to the story. Danny DeVito (‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’) and Colin Farrell (‘In Bruges’) attempt to keep the wheels turning on the circus as Max Medici and Holt Farrier respectively.

The film pays homage to many of the major sequences in the animated original, which in turn brings back flashes of joyful childhood memories, such as the pink elephants scene. Where Burton’s take on the story lacks a bit of spark though is in the real emotional touches. The Disney magic littered throughout the animated films of a bygone era appears lost amongst the mechanical plot devices of the live action version. It certainly looks the part, vibrant and circus-like throughout, but carries no real emotional weight.

That said, there is still plenty to enjoy; Michael Keaton is particularly entertaining as the power-hungry Vandevere, and the sight of Dumbo flying delivers a real sense of awe. A film that has its moments, including a rather explosive finale, but that loses its magic somewhere along the way.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Review Fighting with My Family (2019)

#FightingWithMyFamily (2019): 6/10

Fighting With My Family dramatises the true story of Saraya Bevis aka WWE’s Paige, a girl from a wrestling family and modest background whose early life consists of entertaining the local people of Norwich in the family-run wrestling business World Association of Wrestling along with dad Ricky (Nick Frost, ‘Shaun Of The Dead’), mum Julia (Lena Headey, ‘Game Of Thrones’), and brother Zak (Jack Lowden, ‘Dunkirk’).

Merchant’s collaborations with Ricky Gervais such as ‘The Office’ and ‘Extras’ were nothing short of brilliant; and yet, for the most part, Fighting With My Family feels puzzlingly underwhelming. Perhaps it’s down to the rather formulaic story and overall plot, as Saraya gets her shot at the WWE and struggles on a gruelling NXT training programme with next-to-no support around her. This is a dramatisation of true events, so it was inevitable that the story would take this route in one form or another.

The film is still an enjoyable and thought-provoking watch though, from intriguing developments at home as Saraya’s brother Zak tries to cope with his rejection from the WWE, to inspirational support given to local kids by Zak down at the World Association of Wrestling base. For wrestling fans, there are sequences of real grappling entertainment from both WAW and WWE events, and we get a taster of a full-blown “Rock” monologue which will deliver more than a thrill for avid WWE fans of the “Attitude” era. And of course, it’s Stephen Merchant, so there are plenty of laughs to be had, in particular from funny man Nick Frost.

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Monday, July 20, 2020

Review Escape Room (2019)

#EscapeRoom (2019): 5/10

Escape Room was directed by Adam Robitel (‘Insidious: The Last Key’), and stars Deborah Ann Woll (‘Daredevil’) and Logan Miller (‘Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse’) alongside ‘Lost In Space‘s Taylor Russell as a group of unsuspecting people are invited to take part in a lucrative escape room that could see them walk away with $10,000.

Escape rooms are popping up all over the place these days, with more extravagant room themes and ideas, so it was inevitable we would eventually see a film in the same vein. And the film doesn’t start too badly; there are 30-40 minutes of setup ready for the games to begin, which is adequate enough. Even the room puzzles and setups of each room are well crafted and thought out, each individual room having it’s own theme that somehow ties in to one of the players’ past life experiences.

Unfortunately, that’s where a lot of the enjoyment will end for most. The film feels very much like a mash-up of ‘SAW V’ and ‘Cube’, bettering neither of them. What’s worse, none of the characters really stand out and are so stereotypical; the overconfident young businessman, the truck driver, the introverted genius, the avid gamer. The final nail in the coffin is the film’s ending, that does more to hurt the overall plot than improve it; it feels very unnecessary. If you’re just in it for the casual thrills though, there may be enough to tempt you in.

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Sunday, July 19, 2020

Review Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

#HappyDeathDay2U (2019): 6/10

Happy Death Day 2U is the sequel that no-one expected; a follow-up to 2017’s ‘Happy Death Day’, which for the most part was an enjoyable slasher thriller with a touch of comedy, tapping into films like ‘Groundhog Day’ and ‘Scream’ for its basic storyline. Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard and Phi Vu all return as Tree, Carter and Ryan respectively, alongside newcomers Suraj Sharma (‘Life Of Pi’) and Sarah Yarkin.

2U goes off on a slight tangent; whilst elements will feel familiar for fans of the first, the film is less slasher this time around and more science fiction, with the plot proving a lot more unpredictable but clever in the way that it intertwines with the first. The slight shift in story means that even parts of the first play out differently, keeping the film fresher than you might think.

Jessica Rothe takes her performance up a notch. She brings a lot of fun to the table with numerous comedic moments, usually resulting in many deaths as was also the case in the first film. There are some difficult decisions for Tree to make later on too and Rothe does a great job of conveying this on screen, helping the film to carry a lot more emotional weight than its predecessor.

Overall though, the film has its peaks and troughs like the first, and doesn’t take itself too seriously, Carter once again pointing out the plot’s similarities to another popular film, but just like ‘Happy Death Day’ there are moments to enjoy and savour.

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Saturday, July 18, 2020

Review Glass (2019)

#Glass (2019): 7/10

Glass was directed by M. Night Shyamalan (‘Signs’, ‘The Sixth Sense’), and acts as a sequel to both 2016’s ‘Split’ and 2000’s ‘Unbreakable’. As sequels go, it’s nice to see a bit of continuity, even for a film as long ago as ‘Unbreakable’, with Spencer Treat Clark (‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’) reprising his role as David Dunn’s son Joseph, amongst others from both films.

Glass very much follows in similar footsteps to that of its predecessors in the form of a slow-burning psychological thriller. Fans of the now trilogy hoping for an all out face-off between The Beast and The Overseer may therefore be left disappointed; there are still some moments to savour, but these are left for the opening and climax of the film, with the real meat of the plot situated within a psychiatric ward.

McAvoy once again steals the show; possibly even outshining his ‘Split’ performance; the way in which he slithers in and out of the different personalities is captivating to watch, a real treat. It’s a shame we don’t get more of the other two main characters however, especially Willis’s David Dunn. After his surprise inclusion in ‘Split’, we would certainly have expected a little more face time. Sarah Paulson (‘Bird Box’) acts as the perfect foil for our protagonists as psychiatrist Ellie Staple, attempting to convince the three that they are in fact delusional.

Ultimately though, it’s the film’s final third that will make or break the experience for the majority of cinemagoers, which does offer up some really thought-provoking ideas, whilst also adhering to Shyamalan’s trademark twist, or two. Glass serves up a tasty crossover, and a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

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Friday, July 17, 2020

Review Hellboy (2019)

#Hellboy (2019): 5/10

Directed by Neil Marshall (‘Dog Soldiers’, ‘The Descent’), Hellboy is the 2019 retelling of the Dark Horse comics character’s origins, having already appeared on the big screen twice before in 2004 and 2008 in films helmed by visionary director Guillermo del Toro.

David Harbour, fresh off the back of success as Jim Hopper in ‘Stranger Things’, attempts to fill the entertaining boots of Ron Perlman, and for the most part plays a likeable version of Hellboy, even if he doesn’t appear to like himself. Milla Jovovich (the ‘Resident Evil’ film series) though, who is on board as the Blood Queen Nimue, rarely features in what feels like more of a cameo, and a throwaway and generic one at that. Even Ian McShane (‘Deadwood’), who plays 2019’s Professor Broom appears to go through the motions for large parts of the film.

Marshall decides to go down the route of over-the-top and in-your-face gore for Hellboy which is fun to begin with but quickly feels tacky and unwarranted, this also coupled with an excess amount of swearing which begins even in the opening monologue; ‘Deadpool’ is clearly an influence here but Hellboy does not house the same quick-snap wit. Perhaps the majority of the budget was spent on this then, as other CGI sequences are so glaringly green screen, in particular the scene involving the giants, it’s hard to simply gloss over them.

The film may entertain in patches, but overall Hellboy is another prime example of an unnecessary and frustrating reboot that in no way betters original offerings, a film that rushes toward its conclusion and grinds to a halt in a flash. In short, it’s poor.

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Thursday, July 16, 2020

Review Instant Family (2018)

#InstantFamily (2018): 7/10

Writer/Director Sean Anders brings us Instant Family, a family comedy drama inspired by his real life experiences as the father of three adopted Hispanic children, and once again brings Mark Wahlberg (‘Ted’, ‘Pain & Gain’) on board, the two previously working together on the ‘Daddy’s Home’ films. Wahlberg and Rose Byrne (‘Bridesmaids’, ‘Bad Neighbours‘) are Pete and Ellie, the couple at the centre of the story who decide to try and foster children when they see an online advertisement.

Many will have reservations about the film having witnessed a trailer full of clichéd slapstick comedy routines, screaming young kids, and cases of mistaken identity; the film certainly does contain a lot of silly humour, but manages to stay on the right side of charming. Where the film really excels though is its insight into the world of fostering, and the real challenges ahead for the eager parents and foster kids. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, both heart -warming and -breaking, and opens your eyes as to what children in the fostering system have to go through, and sudden changes of circumstance. There is more drama on offer than you might think.

Isabela Moner is a revelation in the role of teenage foster girl Lizzy, and easily the film’s stand-out. A girl desperate for her biological mother to “get clean” and prove herself fit enough to be able to take her and her siblings back under her wing, Lizzy wrestles with her feelings of rejection and betrayal on a daily basis, feelings brilliantly portrayed by Moner, for what must be only the start of a long and successful career.

Hats off to Anders and co. for this really quite emotional and touching comedy drama about a subject matter that will really punch you in the gut but still leave you with a huge smile on your face at the film’s conclusion. It may just inspire you to want to learn more about fostering, and even foster children of your own. You’ve been warned!

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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Review Men in Black: International (2019)

#MenInBlackInternational (2019): 5/10

Men In Black: International is the fourth instalment in the ‘Men In Black’ franchise, with the franchise seeing its first director change, and with it, a change in personnel; Chris Hemsworth (‘Thor’) and Tessa Thompson (‘Creed’), fresh off the back of their ‘Avengers: Endgame’ success, join forces once again to head up this ‘Men In Black’ spin-off, in an attempt to freshen things up in the franchise.

Hemsworth and Thompson are the two main plus points in this film without doubt, their energy and chemistry, seemingly copied and pasted from ‘Thor: Ragnarok’, keeps the film ticking along, with the roles reversed from previous films, the suited and booted MIB veteran this time providing the entertainingly goofy moments. Emma Thompson (‘Love Actually’) is also a highlight but is regrettably underused. The MIB headquarters get an international revamp for the London branch, with Liam Neeson (‘Taken’) in charge as High T.

We are yet to see a worthy successor to the 1997 original despite two previous efforts, which is a worry, and the changes probably do more harm than good. ‘Men In Black’ without Will Smith for example is always going to be a risk. With his character Jay already treading the introductory path in the original, it’s somewhat glossed over for Tessa Thompson’s M, meaning we don’t really get much time to see her wow’d by her new environment, or connect with her on an emotional level. The humour also leaves a lot to be desired with many jokes falling flat and some cringey pop culture references.

There are some aspects and scenes to enjoy despite forgettable antagonists reminiscent of The Twins in ‘The Matrix Reloaded’, and a few nice nods to previous instalments but these just serve as reminders to previous, better outings. With the film already performing poorly at the box office, even after a 7 year franchise hiatus, it’s hard to see the ‘Men In Black’ franchise continuing in its current form.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Review Pet Sematary (2019)

#PetSematary (2019): 6/10

Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, Pet Sematary follows a young family as they relocate to a property situated in the vicinity of an eerie cemetery in the woods. The 2019 film has been changed in places when compared with the 1989 original film but the basic premise of the story remains the same.

Jason Clarke (‘Mudbound’) plays Louis the husband, who quickly befriends neighbour Jud on arrival at their new home, played by the brilliant John Lithgow (‘3rd Rock From The Sun’), whom also has a soft spot for Louis’s daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence). The film sets the scene at a good pace and allows us to get to know the family in a little more depth. Amy Seimetz (‘Stranger Things’) does a great job of portraying Louis’s wife Rachel, who is constantly tormented by thoughts surrounding the death of her sister, and as such, is not so keen to talk about death around her kids. Jeté Laurence (‘The Americans’) also lays on a very assured and mature performance for such a young age as daughter Ellie.

And yet the film as a whole still feels rather unremarkable. Not in a bad way, just rather generic. Pet Sematary sometimes relies on jump-scares for its kicks when it doesn’t really need to, although it does make for an intense few minutes, particularly during Rachel’s freakish flashbacks. 2017’s ‘IT’, based on another famous Stephen King novel, set the bar high and gave us something a bit different in the horror genre. Unfortunately Pet Sematary never reaches those same heights. Overall though, it’s still a decent chiller, is wickedly creepy in places with some good performances, and for horror enthusiasts will do enough to please.

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Monday, July 13, 2020

Review Mid90s (2018)

#Mid90s (2018): 7/10

Mid90s follows Stevie (Sunny Suljic), a thirteen-year-old boy growing up in Los Angeles who befriends a group of skateboarders during the summer break, much to the displeasure of his mother, played by Katherine Waterston (‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’). This is a coming-of-age comedy drama from first time director Jonah Hill, who draws on his own experiences of growing up in the same era.

The film is shot entirely on 16mm film which, coupled with the effects over the film’s picture, makes for an intimate 90’s feel. Stevie quickly befriends the skateboarding crew and is introduced to a whole host of life’s “pleasures”, including alcohol and the opposite sex, experiences that his brother Ian (Lucas Hedges) and overprotective mother look to shield him from, an occurrence many of us will have had as youngsters.

Mid90s is edgy, cool. It really captures the essence of the 90’s with its laid back and minimalistic approach to hang-out’s at the shop and house parties. It feels less like a film and more like real life with each passing minute. Each of the skateboarding crew members plays their part well, with a great central performance from Suljic. The musical numbers come thick and fast, each Hill’s own choices, which really compliment the film itself. Overall, an encouraging debut feature.

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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Review Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015)

#ScoutsGuideToTheZombieApocalypse (2015): 7/10

Scouts Guide stars Tye Sheridan (‘Ready Player One’), Logan Miller (‘Love, Simon’) and newcomer Joey Morgan as three long-time school friends who are also part of a scouts club, a club two of the friends wish to distance themselves from in order to appeal to the opposite sex. It’s a plot idea that is very relatable to any school kid of a similar age, or anyone who has been through school, complete with those awkward conversations with the girls you really desire the most.

The opening scene of the film really sets the tone for the film, with a really quite hilarious rendition of ‘Black Widow’ by the school janitor, played by Blake Anderson (‘Game Over, Man’). In fact, the film has a spring in its step throughout, and doesn’t get bogged down in intricate details of where the zombie virus originated from or how it has made its way into a local laboratory. It just gets stuck in with some good old fashioned fun. Think ‘Superbad’ meets ‘Shaun Of The Dead’.

All three of the friends bring something to the table, with the chemistry working well as a collective unit; they really feel like friends. A side story develops involving one of the gang looking to muster up the courage to speak to a girl he’s liked for some time. Unfortunately on this occasion, that girl is also his friend’s sister! Much like ‘Shaun Of The Dead’, Scouts Guide also boasts a bangin’ soundtrack. Add some outrageous tongue-in-cheek guts and gore to boot, and you’ve got yourself a very entertaining zombie flick with a slight twist on previous efforts.

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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Review Shazam! (2019)

#Shazam (2019): 6/10

Shazam! is DC’s latest attempt to break the mould and try something a bit different and new. Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is chosen as champion and entrusted with god-like powers and must stop Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), who has taken the Eye Of Envy containing the power and spirits of the Seven Deadly Sins, but in truth Billy is more concerned with finding his estranged mother whom he lost as a child.

Anyone who has seen the trailer will already know what to expect from Zachary Levi (‘Chuck’) as the film’s more adult Billy Batson. He provides most of the film’s energy and wit, and is impressive in the role. There are a plethora of neat pop culture references too, with many aimed at other DC icons, although at times the tone of these scenes does teeter on the edge of silliness.

It’s the story of “young” Billy finding himself and his relationship with his foster family that proves the real charm of the film. Asher Angel (‘Andi Mack’) is endearing as the younger Billy, fed up of the foster system as he continues to be thrown from one family to the other, and untrusting of those around him. Billy warms to his new foster family, just as we do. All play their part and are great throughout, in particular foster brother Freddy, played by Jack Dylan Grazer, who has great on-screen chemistry with both Billy actors. When looking to cast a worthy villain though, Mark Strong probably wouldn’t be at the top of your wish list. After roles in comedy films such as ‘Grimsby’ and ‘Kingsman’ where he really brought something to the film, his performance here feels largely underwhelming and generic.

Overall, it’s a mixed bag. A film that is charming when it wants to be, quick-witted in some places, silly in others. It’s a refreshing change from the relentless Marvel production line though, which can only be a good thing. Be sure to stick around for a double helping of post credit scenes.

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Friday, July 10, 2020

Review The Front Runner (2018)

#TheFrontRunner (2018): 6/10

The Front Runner was directed by Jason Reitman (‘Thank You For Smoking’, ‘Juno’), and tells the story of Gary Hart’s presidential campaign in 1988 which took a disastrous turn, all captured in the book from which the film is based, “All The Truth Is Out” by Matt Bai.

The film does take a little time to settle and for the plot to establish exactly what is going on and who is who, but once the film is in full swing it’s a captivating watch. Hugh Jackman is terrific, but then when is he not? His charisma and confidence shine through. J.K. Simmons is once again at his snappy best as campaign manager Bill Dixon, but feels under-utilised. In fact many of the side-characters feel underdeveloped, making it difficult to really feel invested in them and their role within the film. We would’ve liked to have seen more from Vera Farmiga (‘The Conjuring’ film series) also, who takes on the role of Hart’s wife Lee.

The screenplay almost feels like it’s split in half; the first showing Hart and his sensational rise in popularity, gathering momentum, the second almost a polar opposite, as the media frenzy brings the campaign to its knees, not only affecting Hart’s wife and daughter but also his aides and campaign volunteers; the family and lady involved in the affair in particular smothered by the claustrophobic feeling of constant media attention.

The Front Runner is probably not as riveting as Reitman believes it to be, but serves as a thought-provoking and an intriguing foray into the world of American politics, particularly for those that have no prior knowledge of the presidential campaign system nor the history of this remarkable series of events.

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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Review The Dark Tower (2017)

#TheDarkTower (2017): 5/10

The Dark Tower is based on the novel series by Stephen King, and stars Idris Elba (‘Luthor’) as the mysterious Gunslinger, sworn to protect the Tower, and Matthew McConaughey (‘Interstellar’) as the positively evil Man in Black, who hatches a plan to bring the Dark Tower crashing down.

The film had been in production hell for a number of years prior to its release, finally landing at Sony, who clearly saw the project as the beginnings of a possible film franchise, but with the runtime clocking in at a measly 94 minutes, there’s little time to really introduce or explore the realm of Mid-World and flesh out its history, making it difficult to really feel invested in it. Aside from the Gunslinger and Jake, a young boy on the run from the Man in Black’s accomplices, many of the characters share the same fate, with little or no explanation into their character. What we’re left with is a fantasy film that feels rushed and thrown together.

The role of the Man in Black isn’t a particularly testing one for McConaughey, who mostly coasts through his performance. Idris Elba gives us a deep and meaningful performance, but there’s no weight behind his feelings of vengeance toward the Man in Black. Save for short dream sequence involving the two, there is no real base for the pair’s relationship, which makes for an anticlimactic finale.

The Dark Tower is a passable film, but almost forgettable, which is a shame. There’s no reason why it couldn’t have become the next big film universe for avid cinemagoers to really get invested in, but just like ‘Mortal Engines’, it never really feels carefully thought out, the studio thinking five or ten steps ahead without being sure to get the first, most important step right first.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Review The Mule (2018)

#TheMule (2018): 6/10

Clint Eastwood directs and stars in The Mule, a film inspired by a World War II veteran in the 1980’s, who became the world’s oldest and most prolific drug mule for the Sinaloa Cartel. The film marks the second collaboration between Eastwood and writer Nick Schenk after ‘Gran Torino’.

Eastwood and Schenk do well to make the story captivating but not too unbelievable. Eastwood’s character Earle is infectious and dry-witted, a charming man who is instantly likeable and interesting to follow. His charm does not appear work on his family as well however due to his constant neglect of his duties as a father, grandfather and husband, instead treating to his precious crop of lilies and travelling the country.

Bradley Cooper (‘A Star Is Born’) and Michael Pena (‘Ant-Man And The Wasp’) are along for the ride as wisecracking DEA agents desperate for a bust. In truth though, this part of the plot feels a little disjointed from the rest to begin with; the DEA’s attempts to crack down on drug smuggling in the area doesn’t seem to fit in with the slow-burn chill of Earle’s journey, but as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that their paths will inevitably cross.

Not the most exhilarating film you’re likely to see in 2019 for sure, but The Mule is a touching tale of one man trying to reconnect with his estranged loved ones before it’s too late, with a little drama and dash of cheekiness thrown in for good measure. Worth a watch.

#FilmReview #MovieReview #Film #Movie #Review #FilmCritic #MovieCritic #Cinephile #TheMuleReview #TheMuleFilmReview #TheMuleMovieReview #ClintEastwood #SamDolnick #NickSchenk #BradleyCooper #MannyMontana #TaissaFarmiga #AndyGarcia #AlisonEastwood #MichaelPena #JillFlint #LaurenceFishburne #CliftonCollinsJr #DianneWiest #NoelGugliemi #KatieGill

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Review The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

'The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part' (2019) Review:

Despite being a big fan of the first Lego Movie, the trailers for this one didn't excite me all that much. That being said, I was still excited to see what this sequel had to offer.

And I have to say, this movie was pretty good. First of, I love how aware this movie is of itself. When a more knows what it is, and plays off its jokes and humor based on that, the result is genius humor that keeps you entertained the entire time. The next best aspect of the film is its great third act, which carries plenty of emotion, characterization, and a deep lesson that works for all audiences. Emmet's character journey was spectacular, it takes you on this deep coming of age story that kids and adults are sure to connect with.
And there we get to one of the problems of the movie. While it is all around very entertaining, the main plotline, especially during the second act, is extremely weak. The characters go to this place and right there I felt like the movie kind of died for a while. We're introduced to new characters who certainly entertain us, but are ultimately weak additions compared to the original characters who also felt robbed of screentime and development in this film.
In the end, 'The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part' is an entertaining, self aware movie that offers plenty of laughs and enjoyment, in addition to a great final act. Despite a slow second act and a less-than-interesting main storyline, this movie is the right way to spend a couple of hours if you're looking for enjoyment.

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Monday, July 6, 2020

Review The Nun (2018)

#TheNun (2018): 4/10

The Nun is the fifth film in The Conjuring Universe and the first chronologically in the series; The Nun first appearing in ‘The Conjuring 2’. A priest and a young Catholic novitiate, played by the real life younger sibling of ‘The Conjuring’s’ Vera Farmiga, investigate a nun suicide at a Romanian Abbey.

The film continues with the Universe’s theme of demonic possession, leading to the same supernatural and horror cliches, such as being forcibly locked in a coffin or separating the group in order to neutralise them individually. As for the scares, we’re fed the same stale jump-scare techniques that you have seen a thousand times before, and whilst they will always make you jump, you can’t help but feel they could’ve been a little more creative. Ironically, the most creative and scariest moment of the film was actually used for the film’s trailer, meaning there are no real surprises when it comes to that point in the film itself.

The character’s personalities and backstories are wafer-thin meaning we feel little for them once they are in trouble. The local townsman “Frenchie” even feels rather out of place to begin with, not unlike a narcissistic womaniser from a Disney film, before becoming more down to earth later in the piece.

Despite its decent special effects and make-up, The Nun adds to the growing number of disappointing horrors this year, which is a shame, particularly after the encouraging ‘Annabelle: Creation’. There is a nice link back to the main ‘Conjuring’ films at the conclusion of The Nun but this does little to redeem it’s poor quality.

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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Review Toy Story 4 (2019)

#ToyStory4 (2019): 7/10

Toy Story 4 sees a return to the ‘Toy Story’ world some 9 years after ‘Toy Story 3’ graced the big screen. Many felt that the emotional conclusion of ‘Toy Story 3’ rounded the trilogy off nicely, bringing the curtain down on a series of fantastic films that kickstarted the Pixar era. Sure, we’d all love an extra helping of ‘Toy Story’, but there’s always that little bit of nagging doubt that the next will pale in comparison.

All the big-hitters are back for this instalment including Tom Hanks (‘The Green Mile’) and Tim Allen (‘The Santa Clause’), as well as newcomers to the franchise, comedy duo Key and Peele, and ‘John Wick’ himself Keanu Reeves. We rejoin Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang, now in the possession of Bonnie, who, at her orientation day at Kindergarten, creates a new toy out of spare parts called Forky, who proves a welcome addition to the Toy Story family.

The film focusses a lot more on the new characters introduced in the film rather than the core characters of old, although they all play a part. ‘Toy Story 3’ may have been the end of Andy’s story, but 4 acts as a continuation to Woody’s, as he struggles to move on and fit in with new surroundings. The film’s animation is more vibrant than ever, and is awash with great humour and heartfelt moments, despite a plot that occasionally feels forced in order to take the toys to new settings.

On the whole, Toy Story 4 does showcase less of the toy naivety and ingenuity we have come to love and isn’t quite on par with its predecessors, although in saying that, it still manages to pull off a just as powerful, emotional ending. The ending does feel very final, but if this franchise has taught us anything, it’s that you just never know.

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Saturday, July 4, 2020

Review The Sisters Brothers (2018)

#TheSistersBrothers (2019): 7/10

Based on the novel of the same name and written and directed by Jacques Audiard (‘Rust And Bone’), Joaquin Phoenix (‘Her’) and John C. Reilly (‘Step Brothers’) are the Sisters brothers, hired guns working for the Commodore (Rutger Hauer). Set against the backdrop of the 1850’s at the height of the California Gold Rush, the film does not harbour the usual Hollywood gloss, instead it’s a gritty, ruthless piece with bloody gunslinging and a comedic undertone to boot.

Charlie Sister (Phoenix) is bolshy and full of himself, wanting to continue to lead his current life, and yet relies heavily on his brother Eli without ever really being appreciative of him, making us more than sympathetic towards the kind-hearted Eli (Reilly), who is just looking to retire and settle down; Reilly giving one of the best performances of his career. Each scene brings with it its own tensions, personified by Hermann Kermit Warm, played by Riz Ahmed (‘Venom’), who is more than reluctant to share his experimental method for prospecting with new acquaintance John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), who unbeknown to him is actually on a scouting mission for the Commodore also.

The film is both a slow-burning tale of redemption and an examination of moral ambiguity in a merciless time period for man, complimented by great performances and some even finer cinematography.

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Friday, July 3, 2020

Review Us (2019)

#Us (2019): 7/10

Us sees Jordan Peele return to the horror genre for his second directional outing, as a family are terrorised by deranged doppelgängers whilst on a family holiday in Santa Cruz. After the breakaway success of Peele’s ‘Get Out’, all eyes were on Us to really deliver.

And deliver it does. It’s a slow-burning opening as we get great insight into the day-to-day lives of the family, and experience the shocking 1980’s flashback that sets the events of Us in motion. Michael Abels’ devilishly unsettling score keeps nerves on a knife edge throughout the home invasion and subsequent chase scenes, as the family are subjected to attacks by their “tethered” counterparts.

Most impressive of all though are the performances, as each actor plays both “tethered” and civilised family member, so good in fact that you forget they are the same actor. Lupita Nyong’o is undoubtedly the standout as terrified but strong mother Adelaide, and hungry for revenge doppelgänger Red. The amount of feeling and emotion she manages to convey from facial expressions and movement alone is astonishing, and will surely now be in the running for an Oscar nomination come January next year. Winston Duke also delivers a solid performance as father Gabe and provides much of the subtle humour, subtle enough that it doesn’t feel forced or out of place.

Some may point to the film’s reluctance to give a lot of answers and the underwhelming big reveal as weak points, but overall Us is an unrelenting thrill ride that encourages repeat viewings thanks to its intricately woven layers of symbolism and social commentary.

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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Review Widows (2018)

#Widows (2018): 8/10

Based on the novel of the same name by Lynda La Plante, who also wrote the excellent ‘Gone Girl’, Widows follows four recently widowed women and the fallout as a result of a heist by their husbands gone wrong. Steve McQueen (‘12 Years A Slave’, ‘Shame’) utilises an impressive array of big names and talent, with some top performances on show.

Unlike ‘Ocean’s Eight’, which just felt like a playful heist with no serious repercussions, Widows is gripping and feels gritty and real right from the off, despite its lengthy running time and slow plot development, which may discourage some. Daniel Kaluuya is menacingly unnerving as sinister gangster Jatemme Manning, one half of the Manning brothers, who intimates with just a look; a surprise but welcome departure from previous roles. Viola Davis is Veronica, a widow who looks to her fellow widows for help carrying out her late husband’s next job for a final pay-off after being tracked down by the people her husband stole from. Perhaps the most satisfying performance comes from Elizabeth Debicki, who really takes us on her journey of self-discovery.

Widows really draws you in and keeps hold with great drama and some well executed set pieces and uniquely shot scenes. A film that is emotionally intense, dark and violent throughout.

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