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I Care a Lot (2020)
Great Potential, Dreadful Output
A really original storyline, had great potential, but what a terrible film. Nothing to do with the acting, that can't be faulted to any great degree, but the plot is just nothing like it could have been.
It starts off horrible, not as in a poor standard, but really horrible to watch because it invokes such sympathy. Yet it then drags for a long time, slowly getting worse, until it then significantly drops in quality as it gets ridiculous. Not a single likeable character, completely illogical survivals, and then somehow a simple con-woman becomes 007 to take down a top crime ring. The ending is fitting, something slightly satisfying in amongst something plain stupid. Good cast, original storyline, but not a good film at all, naff name for a film too.
Dead Pixels (2019)
Niche & Original
Niche comedy probably best enjoyed by gamers, although the humour feels fairly inclusive and more rips into the central character's life choices. You would expect a series purely about one fantasy game would be quite limiting, but each episode does feel different enough whilst providing a series arc.
The laughs definitely come from Nicky and Russell (a role really evidently made for Jamie Demetriou - as seen in Avatards - but still brilliantly played by Mumeni nonetheless), with Alison providing a funny outside view. The concept of Meg is good, but doesn't provide many laugh out loud moments. Still, really easy watch, funny for the most part, and pretty original.
Miss Congeniality (2000)
Superb Action Comedy
A really brilliant, well-balanced action comedy, and probably the best with a female lead. Bullock is the perfect casting for Hart, and surrounded by an impressive supporting cast too. Caine somehow both breaks his mould whilst remaining within it, typical English gentleman, but a very camp one this time around.
Genuinely funny throughout, a likeable character, and an excellent parody of US beauty pageants, Miss Congeniality has a bit of something for everyone. Really simple to follow, feel-good, probably one of Bullocks most famous films, definitely one of her best (although, not quite as good as the perfect action comedy, Demolition Man).
Juliet, Naked (2018)
Juliet, Naked is an enjoyable film, it's a good rom-com, it doesn't go much further than that. Really simplistic story (not a criticism) led by excellent casting choices, it's really just a very easy film to watch that no one can have particular quarms against. In fact, fairly relaxing.
A Different Kind of Sports Film
A really different boxing film, so much so that the boxing is barely the focus. Journeyman is very much a drama, not a sports film, as you follow the journey of a professional boxer recovering from a brain injury. It is difficult to watch at times and can get emotional, and this is driven by brilliant performances from the two leads. There isn't a whole lot to the plot, don't be expecting a sudden burst of excitement, but it is a slow build testing the depths of a man and his relationship with his family.
Another Philosophical Treasure Hunt
Another treasure hunt across Europe as Langdon acts surprised that the world's leading bodies seek his help, should be expected once you've traced Jesus and discovered the Illuminati in the Catholic church. Anyway, in a very similar fashion to the two previous films, Hanks is joined by a female sidekick who also happens to be a genius. Following a series of clues they try to prevent an inevitable doom. If you enjoyed the former films in the series, you'll enjoy this one too.
Again though, there are big plot holes easily spotted, and quite often the dialogue is used to just blind you with art, philosophy and history so you don't think about how daft it's all getting. Seriously, the billionaire could have just opened the bag before the story even takes place and stopped any attempts to stop him. Common sense would suggest the story is just ridiculous.
Plenty of twists along the way to keep up with, but to be fair, you're able to keep a grasp on what's happening throughout if you focus on the bare plot. It moves swiftly, acting is adequate, and it is enjoyable if you manage not to pick it all apart. If you didn't mind similar holes in the Da Vinci Code or Angels & Demons, then Inferno can certainly be enjoyed.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)
Good, Bad, & Very Greek
A good, bad film, maybe even a great, terrible film. Beyond cheesy, but a lot of fun too. The casting is the same as the original film but it is no where near as good as the first, but that's okay, after over a decade it was the best that could have been made.
There are genuine laughs throughout the film, everyone is likeable and if you have any experience of Greeks/Greece, it taps into a lot ridiculous characteristics. Some of the actresses are clearly not Greek and instead it's like Russians have infiltrated the family. Overall, it is a really daft film, very easy to watch, but it's never going to win any awards. You want something fun? You liked the first? Give it a go!
Red Dragon (2002)
Brilliant Thriller, But Less Lecter
A brilliant thriller but not necessarily what one would expect. A prequel to The Silence of the Lambs, the opening scenes suggest that Hannibal Lecter again would be the lead, or at least the lead villain, to the film, however it is very much just an opportunity to fit Norton's character into the storyline. Still a great film, but one with Lecter as a secondary character, not featuring that heavily throughout. Despite that, Hopkins is perfect again.
Ralph Fiennes picks up as the serial killer of note, and unlike Lambs, he has heavy exposure as the film progresses. He is brilliant in his role, yet the character's psyche is really just skimmed. Some obvious past events create an understanding of the character, but if he were to get such screen time perhaps a deeper connection could have been made.
The rest of the cast is star-studded too, Norton taking the lead and doing a good job, but this FBI agent isn't as engrossing as Clarice in the original. Furthermore, although a good story, everything the FBI do seems to be inconsequential to the ultimate outcome. Still a fantastic ending though.
Overall the cast do well, the dialogue is interesting and the plot is engaging, it is a brilliant thriller. Yet, in comparison to the two previous films, it doesn't quite hit the same level, although this may be due to preconceptions before viewing.
And Soon the Darkness (1970)
Does Not Stand The Test Of Time
A horror that isn't scary, a thriller with no thrills, what may have passed in 1970 certainly doesn't now. Instead of any suspense being built at any point, all there is is the dullness of someone travelling up and down the same stretch of road. This all leads to a climax, by which time you're so bored that you're almost drifting off to sleep, and the climatic scene does nothing to wake you back up. Some of the characters add absolutely nothing, and must only be there to act as a red herring, only nothing they do is interesting or remotely of any consequence. The ending is predictable and you feel as if you've wasted your time. Plus, the two English women have the most ridiculously posh accents, but perhaps that's how acting was back then. Unless you're an absolute fanatic for this genre, steer clear.
The Fugitive (1993)
Ford & Jones Shine
This is the ultimate version of a story that has been much repeated; someone wrongly convicted of a crime must evade the law and clear his name. The Fugitive far exceeds many others following the same narrative for many reasons.
The acting of all the main cast is faultless, and whilst Ford is the star, it is Tommy Lee Jones who truly shines in his role of the US Marshal. The storyline is consistently swift and engaging, each distinct section leading seemlessly to the next allowing discovery along the way, punctuated by pulsating action or chase scenes. The plot is intelligent and unexpected, as the audience are able to piece together what has happened along with the lead. The fights aren't all that believeable in parts, and the use of a manikin at the dam is evident (although impossible to film otherwise), but it would be harsh to mark The Fugitive down based on this. It is a non-stop smart thriller, and a perfect example of the genre.
Raw Deal (1986)
Raw Not Ready
Although a cool take on an old concept (wrongly/harshly punished cop/authority must complete impossible task to regain status), Raw Deal isn't one of Schwarzenegger's best films. Largely down to production, there isn't a great flow throughout the film, and the early stages are particular disjointed. It's not the best example of Schwarzenegger's acting either.
Having said that, if you're a fan of the actor, or just a fan of the genre, it's a good watch. The storyline is compelling and moves at a swift pace, there are a host of characters (even if a lot of them are practically the same), and when the action scenes come about they're good (gun fights yes, hand to hand combat, not so much). Clearly not one of his most celebrated films, but a decent watch.
Les choristes (2004)
Fine French Film
A moving and heartwarming story following a musician supporting a class of poorly behaved boys. The period fits well with the plot and allows for at least a little background development for all of the key choir members. The story is compelling and the audience is able to make connections, whether they be positive or negative, with all the characters in order to enjoy and be engrossed all the way to the finale. The setting, wardrobe and colour incorporated throughout the film draw you in to enjoy this piece of French cinema, it is easy and enjoyable.
A really slow build, but a brilliant thriller, and one of the best adaptations of King's work. A film which offers very little in terms of settings and an abundance of characters, but this only develops the protagonist and antagonist further, building a palpable relationship.
Bates is deserving of her Oscar in the role of Annie, switching personalities over scenes and creating a truly disconcerting character. Caan, likewise, is superb and displays the feelings of hope and despair well. The violence is limited for the majority of the film, making the intermittent bursts all the more uncomfortable. A brilliant slow burn film.
A Perfect Planet (2021)
Perfect Nature Documentary
Yet again, Attenborough's A Perfect Planet shines through as the pinnacle of nature documentaries. The footage captured is consistently phenomenal showcasing all the weird and wonderful creatures from the four corners of the planet. The species on show are split between the familiar favourites, to ones never heard of which haven't been captured on camera before, and even shows an interesting light on the types of animals which typically aren't seen as attractive (when else would you want to learn about ants, etc.?). Narration is fitting, the arcs following each of the species are engrossing and often emotional, and the entire thing is educational without ever being dull.
To all those who are complaining that it gets preachy, what did they really expect? It's a documentary about the forces impacting on the animal kingdom, if climate change is radically effecting that, it's going to be mentioned. This should only come across as a lecture if you yourself are not conscious of your environment. Each episode shows the cataclysmic possibilities if things don't change, is it fun to watch? Absolutely not. Is it important and the most concise way to learn these things? Absolutely so. If you don't like it because you find it depressing, you really need to consider the bigger picture.
Angels & Demons (2009)
An Improvement, But Not By Much
Preferable to its predecessor, The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons continues down the ancient Catholic rhetoric, without going down so many tangents the ultimate arc is unrecognisable. However, this does not mean that is any less ridiculous at times, and does make it predictable a lot more frequently.
The storyline is more than clear, displaying the rivalry with the Illuminati, and Hanks as the lead explains everything as they sprint around so that the audience can keep up with proceedings. The rest of the cast do their jobs well to create the story, but at no point does it particularly get gripping. It is an intelligent story, obviously following the Dan Brown novel, but daft parts are accentuated by the addition of big cinematic moments.
If you enjoyed the first then absolutely watch this (although seeing the first is not necessary to understand the second), if it wasn't for you, this won't be either.
Logan Lucky (2017)
Perfect Heist Film
As far as heist films go, this is the only one I can think of that has reached the same standard as The Italian Job did when it was released. It is a lot of fun, with brilliant comic moments throughout, excellent cast and characters, and of course a really satisfying plan developed until the end.
Adam Driver again shows his versatility as an incredible actor, and all those involved were able to create compelling characters, from the relatable to the downright ridiculous (though believable). The setting is perfect for everything to unfold and it's really difficult to fault anything. For a heist film it's pretty much perfect, if heist films aren't your kind of thing, it's still a lot of fun, interesting, and never so complex that you lose track of what's going ahead, unless that's necessary at the time.
An incredibly unique film which deserves its plaudits purely for the intelligent world created. Whilst extremely complex, the 'science' allowing the story to unfold is explained for the most part, although I imagine everyone loses the plot on a first viewing at some point, for me I was okay until the very final Saito scene. It keeps you engaged throughout and I think (?) you're routing for the right people, although in reality the overarching reason to undergo the entire film is a little weak, possibly skimmed over, and purely a vehicle to discover the world of dreams.
Visually it cannot be faulted, and the pairing with the music works excellently as well. You're constantly drawn into the film without it ever being something that will get your heart racing, more interesting than compelling. Having said that, it is really one of a kind, at least at this level, and so everyone should see Inception, I'd not only to appreciate the depth Nolan went into.
A* For Accuracy
Having watched during the COVID-19 pandemic, the accuracy of this film realised almost 10 years previous is eerie. Contagion does not skip on the science, and every scene was like a dramatic recap of press conferences in reality. The level of detail the filmmakers went into is phenomenal, and they cannot be credited enough. Even beyond the science of a virus, the human reaction is spot on, notably Jude Law's character, a convincing keyboard warrior.
The cast is packed with A-listers, and although there are a lot of characters, they all have a relatively compelling arc to follow. Evidently it is a big budget film, and the use of sporting venues as medical centres, etc., is perfectly life-like. Obviously, this fictional virus is a lot more aggressive than what is being witnessed currently, but it would be a very dull film if this wasn't the case, and it does well not to jump the shark and doesn't succumb to the urge to make the virus something truly cinematic.
Having said all this, and whilst I don't think for a virus film it could be improved, I do feel that living through something spookily similar does desensitise the audience. You're compelled by the accuracy, but the shocks of the progression and decline of society are hugely lessened when they're lived through every day.
Game Night (2018)
Game Night Done Right
A really enjoyable comedy which is novel enough to make it stand out from those similar in the genre. Bateman plays the character Bateman always plays, but he's a very likeable and relatable one so it works well. The rest of the cast are diverse, each adding their own part, with each couple also having their own arcs interesting enough to follow without distracting from the overall storyline.
It's a ridiculous concept obviously, and it could be argued that they definitely jump the shark towards the end, but that doesn't detract from the enjoyment in this film. It's original enough, with genuine laughs throughout, and some fairly cool shots in the action scenes as well. Without being phenomenal, it's fun and delivers what you would hope for.
Weird & Wonderful
Parasite is like no film I have seen before, for a very long time, despite enjoying it, I was questioning just what this film was. There was comedy, obvious drama and a little romance too, but it all accumulates into a thriller. It's surreal, but brilliant.
Overall, Parasite is a stark commentary on the class divide within Korea, yet it doesn't paint either extreme as the lesser, the evil, or impose certain stereotypes. The difference in lifestyle and mindset is evident, yet putting these two seemingly amiable families in the same space displays the ultimate division. It's difficult film to explain to another, yet it's apparent why it won the Oscar for Best Film. Watch it, I don't see how anyone could be disappointed by it.
Stop After Series 2
A great and refreshing series following the lives of a few close-knit teachers. The main characters have great chemistry which keeps the storylines interesting and the arcs progressive. These are supplemented with a decent backdrop of context, setting, and supporting characters, but most of all a brilliant soundtrack that really sets the scene of the early-2000s.
Characters are diverse whilst having a single tie bringing with it a multitude of stories to follow. Whilst not side-splittingly hilarious it is witty and occasionally there are big laughs.
Series 3 Although the general quality of the show lessens, the real downfall is what happens off-screen. The main character leaves a few episodes prior to the end of series 2, but this is fine as the finale follows arcs following the remaining characters, keeping a similar vibe, and weening you off Andrew Lincoln. What isn't fine is then dropping half of the main cast between series without any explanation. Seemingly half of the school's staff either drop dead of move away, and the result is being left with just two of the former main characters and a supporting cast that no-one really cares about.
Matt, the new English teacher, has the personality of a spoon, Penny continues to be annoying without the foil of the previous characters, Lindsay doesn't really do anything wrong but doesn't have a strong enough chemistry with anyone to be a compelling character. Kurt and Brian continue with their juvenile conversations, but it doesn't really come off without others there to call them up on it. Carol is shoehorned with a new circumstance but again with no explanation nor purpose.
The likes of Liz and Bob get a bit more screen time, but they were never anyone's favourites, they added well to the first two series as side characters, on their own they're just boring. And that's the thing, series 3 has no progression, no interest, no actual funny moments really, it's just a bit dull.
Series 4 It gets worse. The only remaining main characters are killed off off-screen, which isn't really a spoiler because it isn't part of any story, the actors are just suddenly replaced by graves. This leaves a few dwindling supporting characters fully taking the lead for the series and this being a pathetic continuation of what was originally a good series. New characters are supplemented in with similar traits, but by this time you just feel cheated, the draw to Teachers wasn't the particular school they were in, it was the original cast. This is way off.
Death Warrant (1990)
New Spin on Old Prison Setting
By now this is a really tired context for a prison drama, the morality of certain characters being so overplayed. Having said that, Death Warrant puts quite a fresh plot into the mix, so whilst some developments can be seen a mile off, others aren't quite so obvious.
The acting by all is really rather good, stereotypes aren't played upon too much, and it is an engrossing story. Some elements get a bit daft, mostly towards the end, but that doesn't take away from a brilliant build-up throughout the film. There are some questionable cinematic choices, particularly in the climatic fight scene, as certain typical action shots are seemingly shoe-horned in whether they support the continuity or not, or kicks/punches are replayed for a double-take a bit too frequently.
Having said all that though, it is quite fresh, persevere a bit when you think it's going to be the same old prison film, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Midnight Run (1988)
Midnight Run Home Run
A funny, well-paced and very intelligent film. De Niro is brilliant and his chemistry with Grodin is perfect for the characters. It's similar to a criminal Trains, Planes & Automobiles, as the two leads slowly make their way cross country. Each character has a well established arc and backstory, secondary characters supplement the plot well, and scenes are distinctly dramatic, comedic, or action. Women probably only have a collective of five lines spoken between them, which perhaps could have been improved, however I don't think any of the characters would have worked as well if their gender was changed. A great film, keeps you interested throughout, has impressive action at times, and comes to an impressive and satisfying climax.
Maximum Risk (1996)
Maximum Action Awaits
Yet again JCVD discovers a twin/clone who is identical to him bar their haircut, yet again it actually works really well! The concept is okay, the acting fairly standard, and for the majority of the film it probably is just an average film.
However, on the rare occasion that JCVD is put in a bigger budget film, it always delivers towards the end. The last half hour or so, the action-packed climax, is brilliant. The fights are varied and fantastic, choreography really well performed, and even a pulsating car chase through the streets of Nice, France.
Essentially, you are watching this film for high-octane action, the plot moves swiftly and allows this action to be delivered. The dialogue and storyline are really just a vehicle to deliver fight scenes, and it is done really well. 'Maximum Risk' seems like an odd title though, he's it's bold, but neither of the words are used at any point and there's no indication of 'Risk' throughout, just constant danger. But, if it hooks you in, you won't be disappointed.
A Certain Justice (2014)
No Justice for the Actors
The minute Lundgren saw the wig and facial hair his character would have, he should have known this was a film he should have steered clear from. It's not good, the script is bad, the acting is fairly poor, and the plot unoriginal.
It is coherent, so if you want an action film offering nothing more than a bit of violence, then this absolutely fits the bill. The final fight scene is actually pretty good too, so you have that choreography to look forward to, but the rest are a bit hit and miss.
It's really the dialogue that makes Puncture Wounds/A Certain Kind of Justice so poor though. Cringeworthy narration to bookend the film and the most ridiculously placed "It's okay, bro" within the script. So it's difficult to see if the acting is bad, or the material the cast had to work with just tripped them up. To be fair, Evigan (the only woman with lines) does okay, Vinnie Jones does his job (but very much typecast), and Lundgren passes, but really Le as the lead doesn't excel in anything but kicking.
Also shout out to the most shoe-horned scene possible, where a secondary character has to deal with an ill loved one whilst getting visited a rip-off Colonel Trautman.