Film Reviews by TB

Welcome to TB's film reviews page. TB has written 8 reviews and rated 182 films.

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Only You

A frustrating film (Star rating given for story/film theme, NOT acting or direction)

(Edit) 10/11/2019

I was interested in Only You after hearing very positive critical reaction, and also for the casting of Josh O'Connor, who was incredible in God's Own Country (If you haven't seen it, put it on your rental list once you've finished reading this.)

I want to get the positives out of the way, because I had a very big problem with this film, but it has nothing to do with and is not the fault of the actors. The performances, especially Laia Costa, are great. The direction as a whole and the cinematography are also brilliant, and the soundtrack is discreet but powerful.

But I have a massive, massive problem with this film: (slight spoiler, but after reading the blurb, not a big revelation) The whole thrust of this film is centred around the difficulty of Elena trying to conceive a baby; you see the ups and the downs, coupled with the frustrations which they then take out on each other. But nowhere in this film in any way, shape or form, is adoption of a child even considered or mentioned.

And the reason I have such a problem with this is because there is an adoption crisis in this country, with hundreds of thousands of children who desperately want a loving home/parents who are being left in care. So to sit and watch one definitely vacuous character, and another who becomes it over time; constantly talking about having children/a family and the importance they attach to it, yet not making any effort after not conceiving naturally to transform a non-biological child's life, is actually quite sick-making.

I hope that Harry Wootliff, who is absolutely a talented filmmaker and from the technical aspect of this film is a woman to watch, will maybe look at this subject in a different light that does involve adoption. Because after watching this, whilst I feel sympathy and compassion for any woman who has gone through the difficulty of not being able to naturally have children, to not even try to change an already living child's life is not something I can recommend

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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

A beautiful film with pitch perfect Ewan McGregor/Emily Blunt chemisty

(Edit) 20/10/2019

Being a massive Ewan McGregor fan, this was one of his films which I hadn’t seen but wanted to. The inclusion of Emily Blunt as well as Amr Waked (who had a brief but very effective and powerful role in Syriana) added to this.

Within 5 minutes of starting, this film had me completely engrossed in it. Ewan’s performance, which openly references at one point his character’s Asperger’s/autism, is perfect and he manages to make you at all times feel the emotions his character does. How you slowly see him go from being an utter cynic with limited social skills to someone who openly cheers as his project comes to fruition is a joy to witness.

But special mention must go out to Emily Blunt, whose chemistry with Ewan is as good as Nicole Kidman’s was in Moulin Rouge. Blunt is a fine actress and her positivity at all times against Ewan’s character’s negativity and how she slowly wins him round is worth the price of admission on its own. Their chemistry is one that hopefully will be seen again soon on screen.

Much has been made of Kristen Scott Thomas and her against type role, which again was enjoyable, although she was mainly regulated to shouting down a phone for much of it. 

A big mention must go out to Dario Marianelli, whose soundtrack, much like for The Brave One, fits like a glove. Cinematography and direction are also flawless. 

The only part which did rankle slightly was the inclusion of a plot device in Blunt’s character arc in the last third which, after the perfectly performed build up, didn’t sit well. The main reason for this was it took the focus away from the partnership of Ewan/Emily, which the whole film perfectly sat round.

But this is a minor complaint about a film which, as the credits rolled, left me with a big smile on my face as well as a sadness that the story had come to an end. Very gentle but highly recommended viewing for pretty much all ages. 

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Saving Private Ryan

One of the most influential films of my earlier life given a stunning refresh on 4K Blu-Ray

(Edit) 20/10/2019

When Saving Private Ryan first came out, it not only kick started my love of WWII history, but also showed a side of war which had not been put on film in a way like it before. Far from battles which mainly occurred off-screen with no focus on slaughter, in the first 2 minutes of the beach scene opening, most of the nameless men you see on screen have been slaughtered. And this is what Spielberg gets across in those 20 minutes more than anything: these individuals, some of the bravest men who have ever lived, don’t even get a chance to fight. The waste and wounding which is burned into your brain and onto your eyes never leaves you.

Using hand held cameras to make this up close and personal, you are in the thick of action. Whether on the battlefield or simply watching the chosen men for this mission interact, you are alongside them, sharing the horror, humour and grief they all have to deal with.

Although Tom Hanks is the A lister at the centre of the movie, the character who made the most impression on me was Edward Burns: Reiban was someone who, although a big presence in the group and quick to anger, also was the one who had the most difficulty trying to understand the situation he was in, as well as trying to survive. And the brief moment between him and Ryan before a battle, (a look which says a thousand words, with no dialogue) shows that even when there are no guns firing, the drama can be just as hard hitting.

But the 4K remaster made me see the film in a completely different way. Everything was more visceral and the washed-out look of the film makes the contrast even more stark. This was a perfect 4K remaster of a classic. 

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Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

An average sequel to an excellent film

(Edit) 17/09/2017

The first Jack Reacher film was a big surprise. Despite the endless criticism about Tom Cruise's casting because of his height (get over it, people) the first film was a great thriller. Cruise was great, the stunts/combat and car chase were excellent and Werner Herzog was one of the best villains in recent memory. Although there was some doubt about whether a sequel would appear, due to the fairly moderate box office, we now have Never Go Back.

In many ways it tries to improve on the first film and to flesh out the character of Reacher. This has mixed results and although it starts strongly, by about halfway the only real verdict I came to was "Average." It's not your standard action schlock and it must be said that the scenes in New Orleans are shot beautifully, proving that Ed Zwick (who also worked with Cruise on The Last Samurai) is a skilled film-maker.

But after so much promise from the first film, its disappointing that this is what follows it. And after this film's box office takings (significantly lower than Jack Reacher's) it's highly unlikely we will see the character either played by Cruise or appearing again soon.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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Spotlight

A difficult but must see film

(Edit) 17/09/2017

When Spotlight won the Oscar for Best Picture and also Best Screenplay, it once again shed light on the horrendous and disgusting abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church, and rightly so.

There have been documentaries about this, most notably Deliver Us From Evil, which interviewed one of the clergyman and saw him openly admitting to what he did and also his feelings about minors in general. Although a difficult watch, it was compelling to see his victims trying to get the justice they deserved.

Spotlight takes a very different tack. It never shies away from the events, but rather than presenting them in a documentary style, it instead goes at a slower pace, creating more tension and traction in its approach. It also has an incredible cast: Michael Keaton, who was red hot after his success with Birdman, here becomes the strong axis the film spins on; Mark Ruffalo as the lead journalist, at times exploding in anger but motivated by the horror of what he discovers; Rachael McAdams as an equally tenacious journalist who uses her disgust to keep pushing for the truth; and finally Stanley Tucci as the lawyer whose refusal to be cowed and intimidated by the Church despite repeatedly threats ensured that the victims had their stories heard.

The film is never boring and completely absorbed me for the entire runtime, never once outstaying it's welcome or straying from the events. Amazingly directed and acted, with a great soundtrack, this film is essential and difficult viewing. A worthy Oscar winner

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Bleed for This

Miles Teller is great in a film that left me wanting to know more...

(Edit) 10/09/2017

The boxing/fighting move has in many ways become a right of passage for any actor who wants to make an statement and signal their commitment to hard graft and the training for the role. Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Hardy and even Daniel Day-Lewis have all made their mark in this genre, even though sometimes the results are mixed.

But because so many people have made what is effectively the same film over the years, the boxing film has more clichés than pretty much any other genre. And this to me is the biggest problem facing Bleed for This. This is a true and absolutely incredible story, often called the greatest sporting comeback of all time. And it deserves to be able to tell it's story. But because of how bloated the genre is, there is no doubt that every one of those troupes would have to be used to tell it, leading people to say "They stole that from Rocky," or "I've seen this before so many times." Bleed for This should have been made 10 or even 15 years ago and would have been able to potentially a lot more of this story.

But having said that, nothing should stop you watching this film for the performance of Miles Teller. A actor who is fast maturing into one of the best people working today in the films, he gives the film an electricity and audaciousness, making you really care about Vinny Paz and his difficulties and eventual triumphs, both in and outside of the ring. Aaron Eckhart is also great as the washed-up trainer, at first horrified by what his pupil is wanting to do before realising this is the redemption both of them need.

The only frustration of this film, as I alluded to earlier, is that it is far too short and leaves out a lot of what was undoubtedly critical to the recovery of Paz.

Finally, the biggest disappointment of all was the lack of special features on the Blu-Ray. 2 short clips of promotional video, both under 3 minutes in length, giving the absolute bare bones on how the film was made, including only interviewing Vinny Paz for around 90 seconds about the film of his life story.... Very poor

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Aftermath

A great performance from Arnold Schwarzenegger lifts this standard drama

(Edit) 07/09/2017

Since retiring from politics and going back into films, Arnold Schwarzenegger has starred in a variety of films, trying to broaden his output. Whilst some, like The Last Stand with Johnny Knoxville, have absolutely played up to his action image and satirised this, he has also thrown himself into serious films.

Like Maggie, which was his first film to truly stretch himself as an actor, Aftermath finds him as a grieving father struggling to not only find answers but also attempt to forge a new life through the upset and shock. It is based on a true story, although the setting has been moved from Russia to the USA.

Schwarzenegger is genuinely good in this film. Although when you first see him on screen, you start to think of his quotes and the more silly roles he has played, it is surprising just how quickly these vanish as the film continues. Special mention must also be given to Scoot McNairy, who brings a real gravitas to what is effectively a one sided role.

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Elle

Isabelle Huppert gives one of the best performances in recent memory

(Edit) 05/09/2017

When I first heard about this film, there were mainly 2 different reactions to it: outright disgust/horror at how rape and sexual violence could be shown in the way it was; or absolute reverence and adulation for it and more specifically, the performance of Isabelle Huppert.

As you can guess from my rating and title, I am firmly in the second camp and also feel puzzled as to why there has been such hysteria from some people about it. The main cause of this appears to be the rape of the main character which the film opens with and then revisits throughout the course of the film.

And I don't want to be trite about how I felt when watching it: it is absolutely horrifying to witness and it is right that it is shown this way. But what appears to be so controversial is the reaction of Huppert's character Michele, which is to almost not react and to carry on with her life as normal. Whilst it is unsettling, what it is showing is that Michele will not be, and refuses to be, a victim. And her actions as the film goes on further illustrate how she shapes her own destiny and turns the tables on her attacker.

The other characteristic about both Michele and the film as a whole is how funny it is. This is the blackest of black comedies, with a brilliant sense of humour and biting satire, along with some of the best lines I have seen in recent films.

But by far the best thing about the entire film is Isabelle Huppert. It cannot be overstated just how phenomenal her performance is and how much this film owes to her. She gives it everything and creates a character that I can quite easily rank alongside Clarice Starling and Ellen Ripley as one of the best female characters ever in film. This is a performance which I have no doubt will be referred back to as a touchstone and, alongside Paul Verhoeven, she has created a masterpiece of provocation and brilliance. To quote Mark Kermode, "She is a force of nature."

See this film and be reminded of just how amazing cinema can be

2 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

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