Blended Review

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It’s been a while since Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore starred in a film together, the last being 50 First Dates, an entertaining if flawed little rom com that managed to use both of the stars charisma to work its way past some stale jokes and a premise that lacked muster but Blended tries the same trick and fails. Not only do Sandler and Barrymore look bored for most of the film but they actually reuse jokes from the afformentioned movie, jokes that didn’t work then either.

Blended follows Jim (Sandler) and Lauren (Barrymore), two people who meet on a blind date and have one of the worst dating experiences of their lives and think they have seen the last of each other. However when they are stuck together on a family holiday they find new sides to each other and the lives they live with their kids as they start to improve their kids lives without even realising it.

Sandler has always been one for making a fool out of himself for the sake of physical comedy but somehow he has taken it to a whole other level for this one, pulling out all the stops and going so far over the top its almost unbearable. Sure watching a former comic star fall flat after a career of hits is sometimes fun but this time around when the decline has been so slow and constant it almost seems like someone should take the poor man out back like a wounded horse and shoot him.

Still from Blended 2In the end Blended is just like any other Sandler vehicle. It’s loud, its crude and it doesn’t possess even an ounce of subtlety to boot and while the luminous Barrymore usually helps things stay on track she is equally enamoured by the idea of going all out that she too phones it in. All in all, Blended is the worst kind of romantic comedy, it avoids any semblance of romance in favour of a few cheap laughs and then reneges on the jokes too leaving you with a big pile of nothing, which ironically makes you feel just as cheap.

Rated 1 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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The Purge: Anarchy Review

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Watching the original Purge, a film billed as a horror movie was a surreal experience. First of all, it isn’t a horror film despite what some people, mainly studio executives, try and say. The Purge was a thriller at best and while it wasn’t a bad film it suffered because you went into it expecting one thing and came out with another. Anarchy does the opposite, it states outright that this is an action film, a rather cheap and emotionally stunted action film but an action film none the less. That is what makes the film enjoyable and passable at the same time.

The film follows a grieving father (Frank Grillo) who decides to risk the streets of Purge night, a night where all crime is legal to hunt down a man who wronged him and his family. When he finally finds himself on the streets he can’t help but save a family from being brutally murdered and finds his plan hampered by his desire to keep those nearest to him safe. However it may all be for naught as Purge night has surprises around every corner.

There is a kind of frenetic energy to Anarchy (and anarchy in general I suppose) and it comes across on screen in an exciting way but while the film coasts off this feeling for most of the run there are moments when the action dies down and the actors are given the chance to show their worth and while Grillo is a consummate professional there are many dud performances to be found mixed in with the good ones with a lazy Zach Gilford doing his best to blend into the background.

Still from The Purge: Anarchy 2It’s easy to see why many will find the film fun with its strange premise, its build up from the first film and its more detailed look into the debauchery that takes place on purge night but when it comes down to it this is just a simplistic action film hiding behind faux social commentary and while that would be acceptable to make it watchable (people watch The Expendables movies for far less) I can’t help but think the film misses the point of the purge itself and that is a crying shame.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Mr. Morgan’s Last Love Review

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Despite a oftentimes shoddy accent by Michael Caine there is something inherently special about Mr Morgan’s Last Love, a film that risks it all in its final moments to surprise viewers with a ending akin to Marmite. Some might loathe its depressive nature but some may love the guts it took to stick to the idea that sometimes life doesn’t quite work out how you might expect and we should enjoy the time we have while we have it.

The film follows Matthew Morgan (Caine), a retired professor and widow living in Paris despite knowing hardly any french or even having a reason to stay beyond the fact that his late wife Joan (Jane Alexander) loved it. When he meets Pauline (Clemence Poesy), a young Parisian woman he finds himself facing a depression he was quashing for sometime while he bonds with her in a way he cannot bond with his estranged son Miles (Justin Kirk).

The first thing that needs to be said about Mr Morgan is that Caine makes him a revelation, a man combatting grief while also embracing the life he has left in whatever small way that he can. He enfuses the character with a charm that few performers could have given this sad man and while the film tries to turn him into an intolerable grouch, Caine almost makes him the honest character most people take for granted.The scenes he shares with Poesy are the films best as they bounce off each other in a naturalistic father daughter kind of way as the two assume a surrogate family quickly and easily.

Still from Mr. Morgan's Last Love 2The film only really loses focus when it devotes time to Matthew’s real family, the self absorbed and terrible daughter Karen (Gillian Anderson) and the depressive and vindictive son Miles. It’s not that their input isn’t felt in the films final moments, its that it slows down a deeply personal and emotional story to a halt when they arrive in the 2nd act as family drama gets in the way of serious plotting. It doesn’t matter much in the end as Mr Morgan’s Last Love proves to be a wonder of metaphors and beautiful acting

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Arthur Newman Review

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When I saw the trailer for Arthur Newman it felt like a pretty conventional romantic comedy, a film that wouldn’t really have any lasting impact or cultural relevance to be spoken of. That is why I wasn’t surprised by what I was subjected to, a film that tries desperately to seem risque and unobvious but just screams of desperation as top notch actors try hard to not embarrass themselves.

Arthur Newman follows a man trying to avoid his past life by changing his name to Arthur Newman (Colin Firth) and leaving everything behind. When he meets up with Mike (Emily Blunt), a woman also seeking to avoid the life she had before and her past deeds they strike up an unconventional friendship as they go on a unique adventure.

Although Arthur is an interesting man, his reasons behind running away from his life is borderline childish as he proceeds to live a life of excess and liveliness that he never could have had before his re imagination of himself. His desire to make something new makes sense as the man he was before was pitiful and the film really feels like the reawakening of a soul lost long ago to the ravages of insecurity and extreme shyness.

Still from Arthur Newman 2Mike however is a cut out of other better rebellious female characters as she runs from a backstory that while unexpected is equally manipulative. The film while treating viewers to a genuinely moving relationship between the two plods along at a feeble pace as the two begin becoming new people and enjoying new and unexpected lives. The problem is that this grows old quickly for viewers and it takes the characters that much longer to clock on to this fact. All in all the film lacks a cohesive plot and any kind of pace making Arthur Newman, the character and the film, ever so slightly boring

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Concussion Review

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Concussion is an unconventional film, not only because of its very limited setting but also because it never villainizes a woman who does some pretty disturbed things. The film never really feels like it is about her at all but the choices we make that lead us into corners, into places that we feel we can’t get out of until something strikes us out of position and onto another path entirely.

Concussion follows Abby (Robin Weigert), a wife and mother who is trapped in a life she has no control over but must stay in because she is the stable one, the family member who is always reliable and dependable. When she is struck over the head she finds herself wondering who she really is and who she wants to be leading her to rediscover herself in the only way she knows how, by becoming someone else entirely, Eleanor.

While people may be quick to label Concussion as a film about sexual awakening and the prospect of a new way of looking at love and life the film never once makes that assessment, it sees its character as a work in progress on many levels instead of just the simplistic. Abby may well be shy and afraid of moving forward in fear of ruining what came before but Eleanor is different, she takes risks but still holds on to enough of Abby to ensure that the changes feel real and emotional.

Still from Concussion 2Weigert is fantastic and she is joined by an equally impressive Maggie Siff. She manages to make Abby almost empty in a way while still infusing her with the kind of kindness and motherly characteristics everyone else sees in her but she doesn’t see herself. The film can take some odd turns but thats all in the light of a woman who doesn’t quite understand the finer elements of life as she has avoided it for most of her life

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Chef Review

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When I first saw the trailer for Chef I couldn’t wait to see it, it had a killer cast, a lead role for Jon Favreau (who also directed) and some great visuals that came close to food porn. What Chef is however is a pretty played out look into the relationship between a father and a son and while its easy to see why people might like the inspirational tale being spun here it all feels forced, like someone is pulling strings behind the scenes and if there is anything that reminds you that this is fiction its the idea that these characters are not their own.

Chef follows Carl Casper (Favreau), an extremely talented chef worthy of high praise according to most. However when a critic slams him online he finds his whole world crumbling and his job gone. Forced to live with the shame of his meltdown he finds a new way to do the things that he loves with the help of those around him who are looking to help out in any way that they can. However while he tries to reinvent himself he must also find a way to reconnect with his son, a boy who emulates him but doesn’t really know him.

Despite the beauty and attention to detail Favreau shows with his shots of exquisite looking food and kitchen etiquette the film plays with stereotypes in the way it handles its characters, they feel like cut outs in a film that has such passionate devotion to the character of food. The film spends too much time making a person out of its culinary creations that it fails to remember that Bruce and co need work too.

Still from Chef 2That being said the film really gets going in its final 30 minutes as Bruce’s ideas start to provide actual results and while you can feel free to take these moments and pretend they equate to a whole films worth of enjoyment its hard not to forget the hour or so that came before it. The fact that the film tags on an ending that negates almost everything the film had built towards is also a problem but in the grand scheme of things its the fact that nothing these characters do that seems believable that becomes the films real issue.

Rated 3 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Cuban Fury Review

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In the time Nick Frost has been gracing our screens his comedy has never really changed, sure in Spaced he was a little nuttier than the average Frost character but he still infused his comedy with the same kind of pacing and delivery we know him well for. Cuban Fury replays many of his old classics and displays them like they are something new and magical. It doesn’t take long for this to become abundantly clear, especially when the films premise is so completely idiotic.

Cuban Fury follows Bruce (Frost), a regular office worker who is living a life of routine as he hides behind his quiet life from the things he left behind a long time ago. However when Julia (Rashida Jones) arrives at work he finds himself reawakening something inside him as he remembers his days as a salsa dancer in his youth. With this new found confidence and vigour he decides to get out of his rut and reignite his passion for salsa.

While the film has some interesting dance sequences and a great antagonistical bromance going between Frost and Chris O’Dowd who plays his competitive and ever so slightly annoying co worker Drew, the film never has the guts to take any risks, its jokes are stale and it seems like director James Griffiths knows it. He hides the comedy behind layers of subtext and avoids delivering the punchlines instead option to concentrate on the music, the rhythm of the film and while thats commendable to think about movement and pacing in a film about dance it does mean the film isn’t actually a comedy.

Still from Cuban Fury 2Although a supporting role by Ian McShane seems to suggest otherwise as he makes even bad jokes entertaining this is strictly a romance and while most would believe it is between Bruce and Julia I’m here to tell you it is Bruce’s love of dance that really makes this film watchable as Frost really gets into it, embracing every little moment of athleticism and oddly enough, sex appeal. My point is, stay for the dancing, cringe at the humour.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Tim’s Vermeer Review

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There is something about knowing how something was put together that destroys the magic in not knowing, the idea that something is unexplainable makes it just that little bit more interesting.

Some paintings like The Mona Lisa for example are impressive because you don’t know if the signature smirk was purely an accident or an intentional design of the artist. Tim’s Vermeer decides early on that it wants to know everything and while there is an element of disappointment to knowing how certain things came together, its the final product that stands out.

Tim’s Vermeer follows inventor Tim Jenison as he tries to discover the skills and techniques that brought about some of the best art as he searches to learn more about the approach Vermeer took to paint with such elegance and skill. The film follows his trip into the minutia of the artist from how he started to how it all ended while he searches for the answer to great art and while the quest might be a pointless one it will present him with some surprises and treats along the way.

The way the film manages to avoid ruining the sense of artistry by appreciating paintings and works of art for the little things, the unspoken emotions they force out of the viewer without you ever really realising until you take a closer look. Jenison’s journey never feels like a way of ruining an artists allure but embracing it wholeheartedly as he tries to honour and decipher him at the same time, knowing full well that completely understanding is never on the cards.

Still from Tim's Vermeer 2Written by magical duo Penn and Teller (directed by Teller), the film is all about magic and they depict the journey in such a playful and eccentric way that the movie comes off as a fantastical journey through the strange thoughts and artistry that brought about brilliance over the last few centuries. Jenison is a smart person to lead the film as he has a analytical yet goofy way of looking at facts. All in all the film cleverly dissects facts about Vermeer while never really affecting the way we look at his work and that in itself is an impressive feat.

Rated 5 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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After the Dark Review

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It’s very rare to watch a film with a teen sensibility try to do something else with its time. Usually you are stuck with romance or comedy as kids run around trying to stop some meaninglessly embarrassing thing to happen. After the Dark toys with the idea that maybe, just maybe, teenagers aren’t quite as stupid as people assume and that they can perhaps think about something other than themselves for just a minute. While not a revolutionary thought in real life, in the movies, its pretty darn shocking.

After the Dark follows a group of teenagers learning at a school in Jakarta who are set one final assignment by their philosophy teacher on the eve of their graduation. The assignment is to decide which 10 of the 20 students that make up the class would be best suited to reboot civilisation and should therefore take cover in a fallout shelter when the end of the world comes about.

While the film’s premise seems too short sighted and hypothetical to make the experience worthwhile there is plenty of worth here, be it the slightly heavy handed metaphors that slowly become richer as the movie proceeds as the stakes take somewhat heightened levels or the fact that a twist ending actually allows for some subtle character work by James D’Arcy that puts his equally fine acting in Cloud Atlas to shame. The film never quite feels as important as it assumes it is but it still leaves you pondering the right questions.

Still from After the Dark 2However the real star is the film’s attention to the smallest details, be it the way humanity means nothing without something to tether us to the world we are trying to save or the way that human nature can be our own worst enemy. The film delves into the darker thoughts that most teenagers never have as they live in a sheltered bubble of sorts making for some new and interesting dynamics with some subtle work by actors like Sophie Lowe to sell the more out there plot moments.

Overall the film works because it tries something new, some of it might not work in the conventional sense but it does allow for moments of pure delight and undeniable pain. In the end it’s clear to see that the people that deserve to live aren’t necessarily the ones who have something to contribute but the ones strong enough to try,

Rated 4 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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Vampire Academy Review

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I have never really been a fan of Young Adult movie adaptations, they never quite feel the way they are supposed to. It may just be my adverse reaction to Twilight or the fact I haven’t fallen quite as in love with The Hunger Games as the rest of the world has but Vampire Academy is the next in a long line of YA films that fail to hit the mark, not only in its choice of performers but in its story as it presents a childishly puberty story that never quite feels supernatural in the way its supposed to be.

Vampire Academy follows Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch), a half human, half vampire guardian who has the enviable task of protecting fellow vampire Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry), a member of mortal vampire royalty that Rose must protect as part of her order. She must attend a prestigious school alongside her and ensure her safety while also trying to live some kind of life of her own, no matter how hard that might be when everyone is out to kill you and your friends.

Although the premise seems interesting and Deutch has a kind of classic look to her that implies knowledge beyond her youth, a useful trait for her character, the film never takes full advantage of its out there plot points as the vampire element finds itself swept under the rug at times in favour of classic high school hijinks while they return in full force towards the end to remind you that this is in fact a vampire film, despite the constant flip flopping from plot thread to plot thread.

Still from Vampire Academy 2However the film really is about establishing characters and setting up this new world and while Marvel films manage to do this a little more successfully there is plenty to look forward to in future films. However Vampire Academy suffers in much the same way as the recent Guardians of the Galaxy as it tries too hard to create a world when the film really needs the effort, not the idea that future films could exist along the way. While there is something here in terms of characters the film is light on suspense, enjoyable action and the romance elements feel tagged on, making for a disappointing if not completely pointless excursion into the vampire genre.

Rated 2 out of 5

Reviewed by George Hooper, CinemaParadiso.co.uk

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