Category Archives: Reviews

Captain America: Civil War

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I can hardly believe that roughly 18 months have passed since Marvel’s announcement of the Phase 3 slate, of which this was one of the most hotly anticipated. Following on from the notorious Comic Book Event “Civil War”, and having to open the Third Phase of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: Civil War, has exceedingly high expectations to live up to. Thankfully it does not disappoint.

The Russo Brothers have managed to do justice to both the Comic and the Cinematic Universe, every character has their own moment to shine and considering that; there’s 3 lead heroes, in Captain America, Iron Man, and I would say the newly introduced Black Panther; the other 9 heroes, one of which is new to the MCU; a villain who needs his own “Magneto was Right” style T-shirt; and a few other crucial ancillary characters. If that list makes it sound as if the film is overstuffed and overlong, that is justified because it is. But despite being 147 Minutes, it’s smooth flow and driving pace it never feels its length.

In regards to how faithful the film is to the comic, it very rarely follows the story directly but does take enough inspiration from the story and builds from what has been established in the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Also, if we’re honest it isn’t much of a Civil War, more of a really nasty argument between a few friends, and yet if you’re wholeheartedly invested in the lives of those friends, the film will be one of the more enjoyable MCU entries.

This enjoyment does often come from the sheet level of humour present in the film. From the quipping of Spider-Man and Tony Stark, to the fearful joy of Ant-Man, to the friendly rivalries between Falcon and Winter Soldier or Hawkeye and Black Widow, the humour perfectly matches the seriousness of the film’s premise.

Obviously this is a DEFINITELY SEE from me, however in reality it is an ONLY SEE if you have been thoroughly invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far, or at least since the previous Captain America film, as despite this films best efforts to keep reacquainting the audience with prior events, new audience members may soon become lost.

For more details, complete with spoilers, have a listen to Episode 3 of The Film Chum Podcast.

 

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Reviews for April / Early May 2016

So in case the audio ramblings of the Film Chum Podcast don’t appeal to you, here are some written ramblings about the films I’ve seen in the past month or so; except for Captain America: Civil War, which is getting its own post.

Reviews

Miles Ahead

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Don Cheadle’s cinematic Directorial Debut, is masterfully and lovingly made. It is clear how dedicated Cheadle feels about Miles Davis and this story. So much so that every aspect of the film is reflective of what is presented as Miles Davis’ core philosophy, improvisation. From the fracturing non-linear structure and editing, to Cheadle’s central performance, it all feels truly inspired by Miles Davis. However after the first 45 minutes or so, this constant pace can become a little exhausting. Particularly when the film starts to follow the typical creative/violent genius’ home-life drama story-beats that have been seen hundreds if not thousands of times before. MAYBE SEE if you have a keen interest in filmmaking flair or a Miles Davis Biopic that has light touches of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

 

Jane Got a Gun

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A Solid final act doesn’t really make up for lacklustre and plodding hour or so that comes before it. Natalie Portman has her moments but never really shines, and neither does Joel Edgerton, but really what moments are given to him are glossed over and rushed. Ewan Macgregor is clearly enjoying his moustache twirling black hat turn, but that too is not enough to save this damp CGI squib of a film. DO NOT SEE, while not offensive to cinema, it is undoubtedly a waste of time for all concerned.

 

Friend Request

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This is at the very least an interesting story idea for modern ^horror^ audiences, “Facebook is haunted and will force you to kill yourselves”. However it is quickly made incredibly boring by tired horror cliches and tropes, including the ever popular JUMP SCARE!!! This movie’s target audience may be entertained with this new genre of Cyber horror, just on the whole “monsters will get you where you are most comfortable” level, but in all honesty the movie falls completely flat. There is a rather cool music/sfx choice where mobile phone-speaker interference is used as the sound to signify that Marina is about to kill her victims. DO NOT SEE, there are many better and more interesting horror movies out there.

 

Louder Than Bombs

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It’s difficult to really put into words how to feel about this film, beyond saying that I enjoyed it however it is not a typical choice and I know it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. It’s a very interesting and esoteric character story of how the two sons (High-School and post PhD age) and the husband of a widely praised war zone photojournalist, deal with their lives a few years after her death. The storytelling is very fragmented, cold, and Scandinavian, thanks to the juxtaposition between the visuals and narration. And the performances, particularly from Jesse Eisenberg, feel as if they spring directly from that tone, which for me is always essential to having a film become a beautifully coherent whole. I don’t think that this film will have a long lasting impact on my life emotionally. But while watching the film, it certainly held both my heart and mind firmly and I couldn’t avoid watching it, unlike most other releases this week. ONLY SEE if you’re looking for a drama unlike the typical multiplex fare, that balances risqué and experimental artistic tendencies with powerful and genuine human emotion.

 

Bastille Day

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Not since Die Hard With a Vengeance, or perhaps Taken, has an action-thriller been so gleefully self aware. While this film is not quite on those levels it is certainly trying, and having plenty of fun in doing so. This joy continues to Idris Elba’s ultra-tough guy/rogue agent performance as Agent Briar (Get it? He’s Prickly!!!). This film is genuinely enjoyable from start to finish, in terms of schlocky entertainment. When you see the phrase “Amazon Instant Video Presents” at the front of the film, your confidence and expectations can drop exponentially, luckily for Bastille Day that’s seemed to work in its favour. MAYBE SEE if you’re happy watching a discount Die Hard with a Vengeance set in Paris, and that’s not really the weightiest of condemnations that this film could face.

 

Ratchet and Clank

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The sheer level of half-heartedness and flippancy that this movie oozes does lead to an ultimately underwhelming experience, but it also makes up the largest portion of the movie’s best jokes. Every planet and location has an interesting “fun-fact” or fourth wall breaking comment that are admittedly enjoyable, it’s just a shame that the rest of the film is too disposable and pointless to warrant seeing, just for a few worthwhile chuckles. If this had been made around 10 – 15 years ago, it would have been straight to DVD and only remembered as being slightly better than Bionicle: Mask of Light. DO NOT SEE, not even if it’s being given out for free on the PlayStation Network, none of the 97 production companies involved in making this, deserve any support from this project.

 

Demolition

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It is strange when two movies with similar central ideas are released within weeks of each other, and no matter how different they approach that same central conceit it is even stranger when you can immensely enjoy both of them. Demolition is simply beautiful, that is meant both aesthetically and emotionally. It is just as impactful and hard hitting as Louder than Bombs with gallons more heart and joy thrown in. The atypical relationships that Jake Gyllenhaal’s character forms throughout the film feel quite unique, and as they unfold this film just runs up and down the emotional spectrum, appropriately with the force of a sledgehammer. Beat after beat after beat, you’re hit hard with a different emotion. In any other film this would come across as sheer tonal inconsistency, but it is very clearly been considered and made as a stylistic choice, one which was very welcome and downright creative. As much as I would like to definitely recommend this film, I understand that the material, no matter how ultimately uplifting it may be, the journey there isn’t the easiest so I would have to say ONLY SEE if you feel that you can deal with this films challenging themes and ideas.

 

Florence Foster Jenkins

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Honestly this film is not entirely intellectually investing, however this flaw is made up by just how emotionally investing it is. Meryl Streep is simply a delight in the titular role, and Hugh Grant is often the best he’s been for a while, whereas while Simon Helberg’s performance is as earnest and genuine as his co-stars, his character’s nervous twitches and ticks did grate and come across as false. The sheer force of will and passion of Florence Foster Jenkins (Both in the character and the film) is what makes this film slightly worthwhile. And while the trailers do present this film in its most simplistic form, it does take a few unexpected and interesting turns, that do make the drama worthwhile, for the most part. MAYBE SEE if you need a safe, heartwarming and emotional film to recommend to your mother. It is completely innocent, inoffensive and yet above all else passionate.

 

I Saw The Light

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This film has such magnetic central performances from Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen and some interesting flair to its cinematography, but for wholehearted positives that is about it. The best biopics (and Documentaries for that matter) will engage its audience, no matter the audience’s prior interest in the subject matter, this film fails that ultimate challenge, despite its best efforts. Fans of Country music star Hank Williams or just Tom Hiddleston may feel differently, but the plodding, repetitive, and trite biopic narrative won’t appease everyone. MAYBE SEE if you’re more forgiving or appreciative of Tom Hiddleston losing a lot of weight, learning to play the guitar, and sing with enough of a southern drawl to get by.

Eye in the Sky, Criminal, The Jungle Book and Eddie the Eagle Reviews

Moderately big news!!! (For me it is anyway) I’m starting my own Podcast in the next coming weeks, every episode of which will be hopefully available on Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, and here; just to make sure every episode is inescapable. But hopefully if you’re willing to read this, you’re willing to listen to me talk with my “Film Chums” for a bit. Anyway, on with the regularly scheduled programming…

Eye In The Sky

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This film is simply, a stunningly tense and powerful thriller. While at times managing to be the most unintentional comedy for years, just from the sheer state of bureaucracy that the military personnel are rightfully forced to deal with. Alan Rickman and Helen Mirren are the undisputed highlights of this stellar cast, which definitely underuses Barkhad Abdi, and lets Aaron Paul do some incredible work outside of Breaking Bad.

One apparent flaw that Gavin Hood’s film can’t shake though is that due to the enforced separation of every character, they never meet face to face or actually onscreen at the same time. This can’t help but make the film feel a little cheap and detached, however due to the film’s final few scenes, it does become quite thematically apt. So once the audience gets past the first thirty minutes or so of flat setup and exposition, the actual mission itself is a non-stop nail biter, with a good healthy portion of musing on the ethics of military action layered throughout. ONLY SEE if you can handle the balance of the tension caused by bread and bureaucracy, and a morality weighted thought piece on the horrors of war, despite the frankly ridiculous title*.

*Be warned, if you adhere to the rule of leaving a film immediately once the title is spoken aloud by a character, you will only have seen about five minutes of this truly great thriller.

The Jungle Book 3D

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There’s a big difference between looking real and feeling real, which Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book hasn’t quite mastered. This is mostly due to the awkward and clunky script and even clunkier voice performances and practically nonexistent dialogue mixing. The whole film sounds too clean and sterile and unaltered, which is in stark contrast to the visuals that are beautifully photorealistic, grimy, full of life and yet completely computer generated. Beyond Mowgli, a few props and corners of sets, it seems that the entire film has effectively been animated, so much for the Live Action Remake.

Neel Sethi, considering he is a young child actor, does somehow manage to carry this film as the sole human being onscreen for the majority of the film. But still his unwavering connection to the computer generated creatures, voiced by annoyingly recognisable actors, leaves the film feeling unnatural. It’s as if it was somehow completely disconnected from its audience; or maybe that was just the 3D, which admittedly was really well integrated into the film’s aesthetic, but added nothing overwhelmingly special to the experience.

The whole point of these Live-Action Remakes of Disney’s back-catalogue that they seem intent on churning out at the moment, should be to provide a brand new take or different experience to the original. But this film leans too heavily on the covers of “Bear Necessities” and “I Want To Be Like You-oo-oo”,  which ultimately makes this film feel incredibly redundant. MAYBE SEE if the original isn’t available by any other means.

Criminal

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Going in with the absolute lowest of expectations, makes this cheap and disposable thriller rather enjoyable, complete with its ridiculous plot and majority of the cast growling through their lines (Here’s looking at you Costner and Oldman. We’re very glad that you seemed to have lots of fun with your roles). Albeit, Criminal definitely feels like the original script had been set entirely in the United States and was only moved to the UK for the London Film Tax Breaks, as they use all of the exact same locations that were available to London Has Fallen, and Thor: The Dark World, and they just feel completely out of place within the world of the film.

MAYBE SEE if you are looking for a movie with a diluted Bourne movie tone and aesthetic, but with a plot ripped straight out of the list of discarded ideas for ridiculous 90s action movies like Con Air or Face/Off.

Also do not watch this film immediately after The Jungle Book, if you are a big Cinematography fan. As one of the key characters of this film has the exact same name as the Cinematographer for The Jungle Book, Bill Pope. (Also known for: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, The Matrix Trilogy, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy, and many others)

Eddie the Eagle

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This is rather a late review for this film, as I didn’t expect anything of it. But as with Criminal, my negative expectations were pleasantly surpassed as this film is nothing short of uplifting, entertaining, and all round just a pleasure to watch. While the trailers and adverts for this made the film look incredibly televisual, what they did not communicate well was the heartfelt and eagerness to the emotional weight of this film that lifted it from a paint-by-numbers “Based on True Events” story.

Taron Egerton has definitely proven himself here as an actor who can carry a film from sheer force of will that Eddie Edwards ought to be proud of. From the solid character defining moments equally paced throughout the film, to the close-up go-pro stunts he clearly put himself through, he simply excels in this role. So much so that any distracted feeling you may get from seeing go-pro footage in an 80s setting, is practically irrelevant due to the investment you have in the personal successes and failings of Eddie The Eagle. The wonderful synth soundtrack also manages to keep the audience firmly rooted into the illusion that this is the 80s.

DEFINITELY SEE as Director Dexter Fletcher can clearly do no wrong when it comes to wonderfully enjoyable and shamelessly crowd pleasing films. If you can, watch in a double bill with Cool Runnings, which gets an unsurprising call-out to in this film.

Midnight Special, Hardcore Henry, and The Last Man On The Moon Who Knew Infinity

Midnight Special

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This latest mumble core Sci-Fi from Director Jeff Nichols, following on from Take Shelter and the amazing Non-Sci-Fi Mud, is pretty much a quintessential example of both genres, particularly Sci-Fi. From the story beats, character archetypes and themes, 90% of this film plays out as expected. But that is not to say that the film is dull and predictable by any means, it is simply methodical, deliberate and driven. From beginning to end the audience are left to their own devices to discover the narrative, which is unfortunately, now a rare sight in widely released modern cinema.

However this lack of clear explanation does almost derail one moment of the film involving Adam Driver’s character, where the character seemingly makes an impossible leap of logic, without much evidence to support his conclusion. On the other hand it is the one film in recent memory to end perfectly, based on the rest of the film, most others continue on for an extra scene or two, Midnight Special just ends on a perfect shot. With such stunning heavy hitters as Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst and surprisingly Joel Edgerton, the young child actor Jaeden Lieberher both literally and figuratively out shines them all, with his character being believably wiser beyond his years.

ONLY SEE if you are REALLY looking for a new Sci-Fi with a very interesting and intelligent re-working of ideas and tropes that you’ve probably seen before.

The Man Who Knew Infinity

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There’s one key, inescapable flaw of the biopic, all of the depicted events will undoubtedly feel predestined, unnatural, and bordering on disjointed, as that’s how the screenplay will undoubtedly have been written, following the notable moments of the central characters life, ready to be ticked off the list.

This film is no exception, but since the film allows its audience to become wholeheartedly invested in the story and the characters, this flaw is slightly mitigated. This investment is mostly due to Dev Patel’s typically earnest performance, and also Jeremy Irons doing the best Jeremy Irons impression that he could, which was perfect for his role as Ramanujan’s mentor and colleague Hardy (All praise to the Casting Director).

The one gripe that this film could earn is the writing of exposition of and from Jeremy Irons’ character. On easily P(4) or 6 separate occasions is a variation of the line “I’m an Atheist” used to describe and effectively sum up his character, which frankly is rather lazy and sloppy writing for the basis for the central conflict at the end of the Second Act.
Despite that, this film is still one to MAYBE SEE. If you have any connection to Mathematics or the story of Ramanujan, or simply enjoy stuffy cultural dramas set during The First World War, this might be worthwhile.

The Last Man on the Moon

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Very effective documentary following the life of Gene Cernan, the last of the Apollo mission astronauts to walk on the moon. His views on his work life, personal life, and the world are a simply a delight to witness.

The documentary itself is a brilliant combination of the as-expected talking head interviews from all surviving Apollo Astronauts and Mission Control operatives, Gene Cernan “thinking aloud” at numerous emotional locations (or most wonderfully, just ‘hanging out’ on his ranch with his old Navy Buddy ‘Baldy’), collages of his family photos, stunning Moon vistas and original footage from the Apollo Missions. All of these disparate elements are perfectly and intricately drawn together, to form a narrative that smoothly and comfortably draws its audience along a genuinely emotional roller coaster.

While admittedly it does take a while to become fully engrossed by the film, by the end of it all, it would be almost impossible to not have been affected in some way by the lives of these astronauts, through the eyes of Gene Cernan. DEFINITELY SEE, documentaries of this calibre deserve all the support that they can get.

Hardcore Henry

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Just by describing this movie is to understand it in its entirety. HARDCORE HENRY is a mad-cap Sci-Fi ACTION MOVIE shot entirely from the main characters first-person perspective. From that what we get is a hell-ride of a jerky camera mount for just over 90 minutes, going from location to location and killing a bunch of faceless video game bad guys.

Every single stunt is undeniably amazing, however before long the fight sequences will becoming exhausting just due to the in-built frenetic nature of the camera. When it does come to the film’s story, there are some cool little details from the telekinetic main bad guy to Sharlto Copley’s character, this is all you need to know about them, the movie won’t care if you know more or less and neither should you. Beyond that the story never goes any further than “GO HERE AND KILL MORE GUYS!” then we get a massive frenetic action scene, followed by a little bit of exposition as a breather, then “GO HERE AND KILL MORE GUYS!“, repeat until the credits begin to roll.

MAYBE SEE if it is on in the background when you’re getting drunk, preferably with friends, just for the stunning action scenes, and you can turn away from the screen if any potential motion sickness starts to kick in. Watching this with a serious critical eye is simply too tiring.

10 Cloverfield Lane, High Rise, The Boy and Risen

High Rise

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Typically in Ben Wheatley’s (Director) and Amy Jump’s (Writer) other films, there’s a single moment where the films unexpectedly transform into something completely different, much darker and stranger. High Rise is continually becoming darker and stranger right up until the end credits roll, and I don’t know whether or not that is a good thing, but I do know that I need to experience High Rise again. Despite the dark and distressing images and plot points, there is an overwhelming sense that this film is held up, and made all the more worthwhile, by the socio-political themes and commentary at its core, and the more invested and involved you can be in that the more you can enjoy the beautifully brutal production design, and simply gorgeous style that High Rise effortlessly exudes. Where there are undoubtedly films that are all style and no substance, this film can proudly claim to deserve its ingenious style because of its strong substance. ONLY SEE if you think you will enjoy 70s styled literal Class Warfare condensed into this microcosm of The Building.

The Boy

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Paint by numbers JUMP SCARE!!! “horror” movie which does nothing new, and doesn’t really have the energy to go anywhere with the tried and tested formula of isolating an innocent female character (read: Audience Cypher) in one location and then have a few unexplainable and unexpected goings on, continue to add story and plot devices until the movie ends. A few interesting shot ideas, most coming from the perspective of the titular Boy, do nothing to lessen the fact that this movie is an utter waste of time, for both fans and non-fans of horror alike. DO NOT SEE.

Risen

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For the “spiritual sequel” to Passion of the Christ, this ought to be a rather notorious film to review. However since the film is rather poorly made and does nothing but provide a direct retelling of the post-crucifixion Biblical narrative, any notoriety or interest this film could have garnered is already lost. A lot of the dialogue seems to have been lifted directly from the Bible which has the same impact as the shoe-horned Shakespeare quotes do in Shakespeare in Love (possibly thanks to Joseph Fiennes for that mental connection). Every single digital effect (from flames to birds) looks as if it was completed very quickly in After Effects, or using the same equipment as they did for Jurassic Park (whose wide shots haven’t aged as well as people say).

While the dialogue is written awkwardly and the narrative is not inspired by any means, the cast, for the most part, do a very fine job in being entirely committed to their roles. Tom Felton, Joseph Fiennes and the actors playing Bartholomew and Simon Peter being the most notable. There is only one role that I definitely have questions about the performance, and that would be the Brummy Roman Guard, how that decision was allowed into the film I do not know.

For a film that is about a Roman Mars-worshipping Tribune, looking for answers regarding the disappearance of the corpse of “Yeshua (Ieshua) the Nazarene” (Or as they actively avoid saying “Jesus”), there is nothing of any substance to this film for non-believers. Even going so far as to incongruously pose the question “Why send the messiah to Roman-occupied, widely illiterate Palestine?” And the only answer the characters and screenwriters can offer is the disciple Simon Peter laughing “I don’t know, I don’t know, but isn’t it amazing that it happened…?” This film is the ultimate example of preaching to the converted, and it can’t even manage that entirely competently. MAYBE SEE of you are a Christian and are looking for a film that will satisfactorily confirm your current beliefs and you can’t stand the gore and suffering of Passion of the Christ.

10 Cloverfield Lane

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DEFINITELY SEE. I’ll get that out of the way just in case for inadvertently spoiling the film as the best way to see it is to not have any knowledge of the film before, much like Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character does as she ends up at the eponymous address.
It does have to be said that John Goodman is brilliant in this film. His character unrecognisable from his previous few years of playing Movie producers (Argo and Trumbo at least), and still just as chillingly believable as he always is.

While the final act may put some off, for how the film wanted its tone to come across in those moments, I had no problems with anything that this film throws at its audience from beginning to end. It is engaging, thrilling and all round entertaining for the darkest (both from colour palette and tone) 12A release I have gladly seen for a while.

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Zootropolis

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

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While I definitely like this film, it is obviously flawed, but there is enough in this film to get the sheer enjoyment necessary for it to not be a total waste of time. The key problem with this film is in its editing from scene to scene, which completely stunts any flow that the film should have. This is particularly problematic during the first act when all the disparate plot threads are being set up and which ultimately barely come together.

Many have also expressed problems with the quality of the dialogue, which I don’t feel are entirely there, but definitely character motivations are often either confused, very poorly explained, or simply out of character, even based upon what had been established in either this film or Man of Steel. I personally do not have any specific problems with the dialogue as I was engaged by the commitment that the cast at least seemed to have, even Henry Cavill and Jesse Eisenberg, despite the potential to read their performances as flat or grotesquely misjudged, they are undoubtedly giving their all to their role and that makes the film all the more enjoyable, when they have any brief moment to shine. Also, it is almost indisputable that Ben Affleck, Jeremy Irons and Gal Gadot come out of this film the best, as they all perfectly capture and produce almost quintessential versions of their respective characters, but again that only comes across in a few moments dotted throughout the film.

In regards to the music, I am a huge fan of the simplest version of Man of Steel theme / motif, and so was very glad that it was often used throughout this film. The Wonder Woman electric riff, always gets my heart pumping and brings a grin to my face, however the overloud Choral chant that serves as the film’s main theme and also supposedly Batman’s theme is not to my taste at all, that almost certainly shows my bias towards Hans Zimmer over Tom Holkenborg, but I do not know the extent of their collaboration on this score. Whatever the situation, my view of it entirely reflects my opinion of the film as whole.

Batman V Superman is a film filled with great moments, but just failed to find a comfortable way to link those great moments together, and so what we’re left with, is a disjointed mess of stuff that almost successfully entertains and advertises the upcoming slate of DC Movies coming in the next few years. MAYBE SEE if you enjoyed Man of Steel, and can ignore the more pointless moments and focus on those that actually have a useful bearing on the plot of this film, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the inevitable Justice League franchise.

Zootopia [UK Title: Zootropolis]

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Zootopia is good, nothing more and nothing less. Its morals, while incredibly direct and pointed, are welcome, interesting, and presented with such an enjoyable and unique style. As is to be expected as the standard from Disney Animation, both the visuals and the Voice performances are perfectly crafted for this kind of film. All of Zootropolis‘ interesting little details such as the sheep / deer / antelope characters extended their “aaaa” sounds, and having specific doors for different sized creatures, i.e. The large animals leave through the elephant sized door, but the hamsters can use the door built for their size.

It’s those little details that keep this delightful animation from quickly becoming stale, as every story beat is incredibly predictable if you have ever seen a fresh to the police force story or Buddy Cop movie. But even with those blindingly obvious story beats playing out exactly as you would expect, Zootopia keeps its audience involved thanks to the quick wit and joyous character interplay of Bunny Officer Judy Hopps and Cunning Fox Nick Wilde, which is of course nothing without the solid performances of Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman respectively.

Also while Michael Giacchino’s score and the Best Original Song obligatory Long-list entrant, “Try Everything” from Shakira, are fine and suit the movie incredibly well, they do not hold up in the same way as Giacchino’s scores for Inside Out or The Incredibles do. Very little of the music feels unique and too reliant on the tropes of the genres that the film itself is referencing, which is almost certainly intentional and crucial as to why it works, in the context of the film.

ONLY SEE if you know you will enjoy a light-hearted, moral-heavy, cliché driven romp through the richly detailed (I had to include this word on principle) anthropomorphic animal world of Zootropolis.

Sidenote: The original title of this film was Zootopia, however for trademark reasons, the International / European / UK title is Zootropolis, so I probably used each title interchangeably, apologies for any confusion. Please send all complaints to The Walt Disney Corporation and The Givskud Zoo, Denmark.

Anomalisa and Grimsby

Anomalisa

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While I usually list my reviews in the order I saw them, I cannot do that this time as just writing the Grimsby Review, made me hate cinema. Luckily my faith in the artistic validity of the medium was utterly reinvigorated by the magnificent Anomalisa.

This astonishingly human Stop-Motion animation completely and effortlessly drew me in, almost to the point where there were moments when I refused to blink. This film insists on being focused upon, and not in a negative way. The subtle means of its storytelling are such a delight to behold, it’s not immediately apparent what is happening and why, but by the time you realise, you are invested thoroughly with this character and his life.

The shining cinematography, beautifully understated score from my new favourite composer Carter Burwell (Carol, Hail, Caesar!, and Mr. Holmes just in the past 12 months) and stellar voice acting from all three cast members, all serve the sublime beauty that is the script and story. I genuinely cannot sing this film’s praises highly enough.

If you’re looking for an adult stop-motion animation, which is beautiful, thought provoking, weird, and at its core human, then Anomalisa is a film that you should DEFINITELY SEE.

If I could go back and amend my best of 2015 list, I would easily put this above The Martian yet still just below Inside Out and Room. This film definitely affected me just as much as the Top two, but in completely ways and for completely different reasons. Where Inside Out and Room, targeted the primal emotional reactions, Anomalisa targets the intellectual and psychological.

 

Grimsby

Please do not even read the following review, nothing that this film has to offer is worth any attention whatsoever. I am only writing the following for a sense of professional integrity, that is slipping away the more I think about this movie.

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I had no intention of seeing this movie at all, until I heard how astronomically absurd the set pieces were. Liam Gallagher impersonator Sacha Baron Cohen and Estranged Brother / ^”Secret Agent”^ Mark Strong hiding from the “villains” inside of a Female Elephant (please use your imagination, this description is painful enough as it is) and are then accompanied by a Male elephant with more conventional intentions, is a sequence that will unfortunately never be forgotten.

Putting the movie’s horrendous sense of ^humour^ aside, what is left is vomit-inducing, saccharine-drowned, unappealing melodrama, and inconsequential, incomprehensible action sequences. Cliché, after cliché, after cliché, followed by a Deus-ex-machina or two, basically sums up the structure of this film, making it almost torture to watch. Although it could be used as A Clockwork Orange style of Mental Reconditioning if the ^soundtrack^ was drowned out by Beethoven.

In regards to another of the more tasteless jokes, if you are going to use REAL people as the source of a joke (in this case namely Daniel Radcliffe) at least find a good lookalike, or do as you did with Donald Trump (the one segment of this joke I don’t disagree with) digitally overlay their face, if they unsurprisingly do not agree to appear on set.

Unsurprisingly I recommend that this movie is definitely one that you DO NOT SEE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, it doesn’t even fall into the “So bad it’s good category”, it’s just bad.

 

Hail, Caesar!, London Has Fallen and How To Be Single

Hail, Caesar!

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On the scale of Coen Bros movies, from the utterly intolerable Burn After Reading to stunningly esoteric True Grit, this falls somewhere in between. So that makes it equal parts utterly esoteric and stunningly intolerable. Based on the structure of the film the pace is meant to be quick and punchy, but with the widely spread disparate elements, the first two acts pass by at a snails pace. While there were story elements that could raise a chuckle and the subtly sublime score and soundtrack is very effective, neither of these elements can save the film’s dull unengaging pace, mild lack of intrigue, and cloying cinematography. Sorry Roger Deakins, I previously thought Sicario was your least stunning work, now Hail, Caesar! takes that honour. PROBABLY DON’T SEE, the Coen Brothers have put together just another movie with a grand ensemble cast, but it is nowhere close to be a prestige picture.

 

London Has Fallen

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Originality in action movies is dead, but when such brazen joy is taken in the filmmaking of the action, that can’t help but spill over into my reception of the film. While there’s no equivalent to the best line of 2013, “Let’s play a game of ‘Fuck Off!’ You go first!”, London Has Fallen does try to keep the balance between humour, cheap emotion, serious action and nail-biting tension, which is nowhere near the perfection of the early Die Hards… ONLY SEE if you really enjoyed Olympus Has Fallen, otherwise there’s little to nothing there that’s worth seeking out this film.

 

How to be Single

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It is difficult to criticise a film with such great central performances and a joyously self-affirming message. The wide range of characters will undoubtedly allow anyone to find something relatable in any of them. Soundtrack and direction are handled brilliantly, no massive complaints other than I could never laugh out loud with the audience I was with, as my laugh would be incredibly noticeable. PROBABLY SEE if you are looking for mildly atypical and diverse Romantic Comedy. For its genre, this film is one of the better examples.

The First Few Films of 2016

So despite posts for Deadpool and Dirty Grandpa, here’s the first mass Review post of 2016.

Dad’s Army

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As with most TV sitcom to movie adaptations, this one struggles to find its own feet without resorting to forcing in the catchphrases for a cheap laugh. Every character gets their own little moments, but the majority of the plot is a real drag. It’s only when the main plot finally comes together in the finale does the film distinguish itself and makes its existence slightly worthwhile. MAYBE SEE on television or home media if you are a fan of any of the brilliant cast or the original Dad’s Army.

Zoolander 2

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Painfully unfunny and poorly written are the only suitable words that can describe the horrendous offence to comedy that is Zoolander 2. Never before have I felt compelled to speak loudly in a cinema, but during the endless “Who am I‽‽‽” scene, I was on the verge of screaming at the top of my voice “THAT IS NOT A JOKE!!!!!” Not only is that one scene torturous to watch, but the repetitive exposition, and the slow plodding pace that the comedy and story take, make the entire movie an endurance challenge. DO NOT SEE, even if you’re a fan of the original, this movie does not even come close to holding a candle to the original.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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With a title like this, you’d expect to find a film that frankly is made up of two ideas hastily and awkwardly bolted together. But in reality the admittedly watered down and almost half forgotten zombie-horror element has been blended in rather seamlessly with Pride and Prejudice. What there is left of Pride and Prejudice is done rather well, with the majority of the film made up of really entertaining twisted Austen-esque fare. Granted I am not really a fan of either Zombie films or Pride and Prejudice, but the incongruous pairing of the two stories worked for me, although I’m sure could annoy fans of either side of this title. ONLY SEE if your sense of good taste is as malleable as mine.

 

 

The Last Films of 2015

I’m sure that I’ve missed around 200 suitable releases for 2015. Including such important films as: Trainwreck, Girlhood, Tangerine, The Assassin, not to mention Jem and the Holograms, and the unmissable Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. But I can’t manage to see everything, particularly when I only have one or maybe two days a week to see every film that has been released. But here’s my last post of 2015, even though I saw most of these in February of 2016, but that’s not the point.

Goosebumps

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Passable family action adventure horror comedy, that is entertaining enough to not be boring which is helped by a rather brusque pace, but is let down by an overuse of deus-ex-machinas. I’m pretty certain that every single difficult situation is resolved because of a detail that hadn’t been set up in any way. The awkward teen romance subplot is awkward and teeny, but is satisfying and unobtrusive for this kind of movie. Before the final minutes I had thought that they were going to go down the emotionally justified plot route but they didn’t, instead resorting to one final undeserved deus-ex-machina. MAYBE SEE if you want to introduce 7 year olds to horror movie concepts and ideas, without entirely distressing them, although the better Doctor Who episodes would also quickly achieve that goal.

Point Break

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It was impossible to shake the feeling, throughout this film, that everything happening onscreen is entirely pointless. Nothing about this film, outside of the characters’ names, use of USA Presidents masks and pointing a gun in the air yelling “AAAAGGHHH!!!”, warranted the use of the title Point Break. The original did not need to be remade, and as far as I’m concerned still hasn’t, this is comparable to a tenth rate parody, without any sense of humour or ability to interest. DO NOT SEE, watch the original instead.

Trumbo

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Brian Cranston’s absolutely electric central performance is enough for me to recommend this film. However what does make the recommendation fall short of wholehearted is the film’s rather televisual cinematography and languid pacing in the middle act, although that is due to the structure of the story i.e. The Trumbo Family’s suffering was exhaustive and lasted a decade so obviously this element would feel endless. MAYBE SEE if you’re looking to appropriately judge the “Best Actor in a Leading Role” Category at the Oscars. Because we all need to see all of these performances to truly make an informed decision, right? Of course not, we all know Leo’s going to win. (Note: I will edit this if I’m wrong and no-one will ever know…)

A Bigger Splash

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Gripping drama from start to finish, matched with wonderfully engaging performances from the entire central cast. Particularly the overworked but underrated Matthias Schoenaerts, who I feel has the least showy of the 4 rather showy roles, all for contrasting reasons. While the middle act does grind to a halt a little, whilst the film covers the ground it needs to for the full drama to work, the joyous character interplay throughout mostly masks this. This is a difficult film to recommend as it is truly “Just a Film”, there is nothing astronomically amazing about it, but what is there is great to watch. DEFINITELY SEE IF you get the chance and enjoy great actors in a beautiful location performing a great drama, but don’t feel compelled to actively seek the film out.

Concussion

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While the film does border on being over bearing at times, Will Smith’s dedication to this role undoubtedly shines, and truly makes the film worth watching on that merit alone. Albert Brooks is good, Gugu Mbatha-Raw is good, but as with A Bigger Splash, nothing is overwhelmingly great; important certainly, but not great. Also on a very minor side note, there’s some incredibly awkward and noticeable ADR for Alec Baldwin’s character that seriously stuck out to me, not just the old trick of putting a different line over the movement of the back of his head, but also an offscreen line having a completely different tone than that of the rest of the scene, as if it wasn’t conventionally recorded or properly mixed into the scene (But that would probably only bother me). MAYBE SEE if you enjoy Will Smith or can’t find A Bigger Splash, which is more entertaining to watch from a dramatic perspective.