Film Reviews by DS

Welcome to DS's film reviews page. DS has written 42 reviews and rated 33 films.

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Stan and Ollie

Great film - do not take it too literally though

Let’s get one thing clear about Stan and Ollie and beautiful as it is as a love story between two long-time friends who stick together even in the thin times, it is to all intents and purposes more or less a work of fiction. Big alterations have been made to the circumstances of the two great comedians because if you did not there would be no real dramatic story. So, it is understandable and not a criticism because Stan and Ollie is a great, emotional, hug of a film, strongly acted and written from start to finish.

To qualify this without wishing to try to be clever or mean Stan and Ollie were actually hugely popular on this tour and performed in top venues as part of a variety bill and not on their own and they had been doing these tours since 1942. I just found this interesting to see what was changed to give the story more dramatic imputes.

The film is a huge love-letter (how many times do I use this expression in my reviews) to the two men and the era it is set it. It is helped able along by the two actor portraying some of the most viewed comedians on the planet, with Coogan once again proving what a fine actor he is as he gets to grips with the screen presence of Stan Laurel and more importantly the off-screen persona, he is more than match by the sublime John C. Reilly playing the sweet-natured ‘Babe’ Hardy.

If the audience is not spoiled enough, we get Shirley Henderson (always perfect) and Nina Arianda playing the power behind the respective thrones as the seemingly icy double-act of the wives. Both give us as many snorts and laughs as the two male leads just from a different angle. The chemistry is perfect between all four.

Wedged in between the foursome we have the perfect foil, Rufus Jones, pitched sublimely between true fan and untrustworthy agent as the man who books Laurel and Hardy into the venues and then has to suggest ideas to the old men how they might get more fans into the venues with some extra unpaid work. In truth the story, setting and acting are sublime and make and sad, beautiful film, that is still uplifting despite, like life itself, it’s up and downs.

Personally I could have seen more the 1937 Laurel and Hardy that we glimpsed at the top of the tale, I loved the short cameo of James Finlayson a regular foil of the duo but it is entirely understandable that there is no real dramatic pull in a story of two men being very popular and successful.

Stan and Ollie is a great, commendably short film, that tells a true platonic love story between two great comedians from the golden age of movies and comedy and it leaves you warm, glowing, feel at the end and perhaps a tear in your eye.

You can’t help feeling it is a movie that is needed in the current climate.

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Oh no, not another film where I don't have to think...

Dinosaurs in the 21st century are rare, also finding a film that I genuinely dislike so much that it makes me angry is equally as rare. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is just a film. I felt like I’d lost some IQ points after the final credits had rolled up.

Let’s break it down though.

The acting, everyone in this is not on their game. Bryce Dallas Howard, who I admit am I biased against, is bland and unconvincing, Chris Pratt, so much a great screen presence, has clearly sent a clone of himself, there’s no chemistry between our leads, no charisma from a very charismatic actor and the action sequences do not suit him and border on funny.

Rafe Spall is a fine actor and has proved he can turn his hand to any type of role. In Fallen World his role is Scooby Doo baddy, it is as subtle and poorly written as that. He is rich and wants to be wealthier so obviously he is evil, and he has to do it illegally. To be fair to Mr. Spall the house he bought from this role was definitely worth it.

Toby Jones is one of my favourite actors, like Rafe Spall he is a fine British thespian who can make at the minimum a reasonable fist of any role thrown at him in any drama and turn out great performance regardless of the material. Here he is a Bargain Hunt auctioneer but selling dinosaurs to stereotype snarling, comic-book bad guys. Why oh why is he wearing Dick Emery’s vicar’s teeth?

None of the last two paragraphs makes me happy, both Spall and Jones have given me every impression of being down-to-earth honest and friendly types so slagging off a film they are in and question their motivations for making it does not sit well with me. It would be interesting to see what they say about this film after some distance is put between them and it – at least they will never be in any sequels.

The supporting, grand-children, younger people, roles are filled by two relative unknowns Daniella Pineda and Justice Smith are neither relatable, funny or have any real purpose in the story. It is noticeable that they disappear for a long part of the film only to return at the end. It feels as if both were thrown in at the deep end and were not ready for this type of film or role. That only leaves Isabella Sermon to scream, run up and down corridors and spy on the adults plotting like something out of the Famous Five.

But despite all of the above the biggest annoyance for me is the terrible, awful, story. I am fully aware of the ‘it’s entertaining defence’ and this works if the film is made for eight-year-olds but presumably the story, and definitely the source-novel and original film, were also aimed at the older viewer too?

I’m insulted by this film. Insulted by it.

Firstly the whole driving point – dinosaurs as weapons for despots? Just buy tanks and planes as everyone does, they can be bought legally and would surely be easier to maintain and that driving force for science-fiction/fantasy story is so old that the grey whiskers it has have grey whiskers. Getting all gooey eyed over $10m for ankylosaurus, which as an herbivore would probably not be that aggressive but $10 that buys you a good League One footballer in this day and age.

The story eats itself with all these logical dead ends. Even within the world of the movie and implausibility of the situation, with all disbelief suspended, this still stretched credibility until it breaks. Not only that it further insults fans of the original by rehashing so many set-ups and stunts from the first movie that you can predict everything coming. Stealth Tyrannosaur anyone? Velociraptor that is more intelligent than most of the humans? Great White Hunter who is nasty and gets his from a big old dinosaur? A cardboard cut-out baddie who avoids everything that happens and seems to have got away but…. doesn’t? Check the tick list, they are all there and these are not plot spoilers because you’ve seen these scenes at least twice before in dinosaur-related mayhem films.

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The Rider

Beautiful and sad.

Director Chloe Zhao making the film over a short time period on a tight budget uses amateurs and non-actors throughout the film with Brady Jandreau and his family playing celluloid versions of themselves right down to the brain injury the real Brady suffered being part of this film’s narrative.

The story is slight, should a rodeo rider, who lives to ride horses, return to the rodeo after suffering an injury so serious he could die if he does? How will his future shape out when the only thing he wanted to do was be a rodeo rider and train horses? That's it.

What Zhao has created the is slow languid mood piece here with beautiful lingering shots of the vast, spacious Badlands of Dakota being a character in itself.

With the actors being non-professionals there is now demonstrative histrionics that might be associated with this type of story, even the conflict scenes play out gently, flaring up and dying down very quickly. Some people will love this, others will find it boring. For me, it reminded me more of the long, torpid, films of the 1970s that I used to like, character studies with the story playing out slowly and leisurely in front of you and a final lingering shot pay-off. That's what you get here.

The questions it asks are myriad it will be each individual’s viewpoint on what they are. The death of the way of the life of the cowboy in the USA, is he just a rodeo entertainer and nothing else? If you have only one goal in your life how does affect you and everyone around you when your circumstances change beyond your control? Could it be about the indomitable human spirit to never give up, to keep going or is it really foolishness? The end of the American Dream? Who knows? But underneath it all there is the tough, never-say-die, spirit that we non-Americans believe is at the heart of the USA for all of its faults and quirks. You can't help but admire these jeans and horses people living in a vast desolate place that have seen their way of life erode over the generates with seemingly no help or support from anywhere else.

It is a beautiful vision of a film with some of the most evocative and genuinely sad scenes I've seen for some time.

Needless to say, the cinematography is beautiful and spectacular the acting heart-breaking, natural and almost documentary style in the delivery, and it shows me a world I have no real knowledge of prior to watching the film.

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The Old Man and the Gun

An old man likes The Old Man and the Gun

Full disclosure - I've got a dog in this fight. I'm an old man, and old gimmer, my fully beard is white, mostly I'm soft and podgy and I am just plain slow nowadays. The Old Man and the Gun is beautiful crime story for me, and people like me. It's how I'd rob a bank.

Robert Redford now craggier and maybe not as easy on the eye as he used to be is still a fine screen presence and team him up with veterans who know their game, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover and Tom Waits, and throw in a young buck at the top of his, Casey Affleck, and no matter how slow-burning the story is or how unbelievable, even though it is mainly a true story, and you are going to get more good than bad.

Detractors will say the story is slow, there is 'no action' and there's a lot of sitting around and talking, well I would have to say that's the point. This is older people and specifically an older man who does not believe in violence but patience and charm to get his way. It is a slow easy conversation with a cup of coffee of a film. Sunday afternoon easiness made as a story and sometimes we are all better for watching such a story. It cannot always be evil murderers, exploding helicopters and two hours of shoot-outs.

The whole film has a relaxing feel to it and this comes through in Redford's easy charm and portrayal of Tucker. His chemistry and playful sparring with Spacek, the core to the story, is believable and enjoyable, likewise his love and friendship with partners in crime, Waits and Glover, who shine in lesser supporting roles feels authentic. Not as easy to do as many a film has proved.

Affleck as the man looking for a spark in his career John Hunt gets obsessed with the robbers gives a great 'everyman' display and his loving family life is truthful and not realistic, little touches like this make The Old Man and his Gun a slow-burning success. With the running time and barely over 90 minutes the time flew by.

With enjoyable and likeable characters on the screen for nearly all of the running time Robert Redford has certainly chosen a great film to go out on, if indeed this is his swansong, maybe not a spectacular and certainly divisive one would imagine, slow languid films are not everyone's cup of tea, but it cannot be denied at 80 years of age he is still an engaging film presence.

The locations are on the nose mid-west America and generally seem to be period-correct, although I'm no expert on 80s USA, the story and cinematography are straight forward and uncomplex, but this is the strength of the film.

An uncomplicated, mainly true, grey-bank-robber story, if you want a nice relaxing gentle time, I would recommend The Old Man and the Gun, in fact, I just recommend it anyway.

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Believe or not I liked having more super-heroes in this film.

Hoorah, a one-off Marvel super-hero story that does not mesh into other stories or heroes and is entirely stand alone. What a breath of fresh air. How do you make a Marvel super-hero story and particularly a popular hero, Spider Man, who has had so many incarnations I think I might be up for the role soon, fresh? The makers of this movie, and there's a roster's worth of names, came up with an idea, whilst not original, certainly boosted the old tropes and made fun, in a loving way, of the whole Marvel Universe whilst creating an interesting and to point super-hero story.

What's more we're in a world of animation here and yet an old gimmer like me felt more connected to Miles, his parents and the jaded Peter B. Parker with his fat gut and pizza guzzling ways. How can animation hold my interest and make me genuinely laugh more than skilled on-screen actors and action?

The main protagonist Miles is the glue that holds the story together, more like a kid in a difficult situation than any host of live-action stories on the same tack. More believable, more fun, and more downright relatable. Aside from the animation and voice acting, it must be the writing, the feel for how a young lad might possibly react in these out-of-the-world and in-the-real-world situations.

The set up before the real story begins is engaging and enjoyable and drags you into Miles and his parents situation and once we get to the larger-than-life King Pin, voiced by Liev Shreiber believe it or not, and the funny but no irritating Peter Parker and the Peter B. Parker this show is on the road. Every character is well-fleshed and makes sense in their own ways without their own world and it was a blast from beginning to the very funny end.

The artwork and animation are superb and cleverly harks back to the comic-book origins and seamlessly mixes different styles to great effect.

Certainly, this movie came along at the right time for me, not a comic-book fan or particular big fan of Marvel, its strength was it dragged me in, and I enjoyed the characters and story. Maybe this alienated it from real fans of these films, but I cannot see it. If you like comic-books how could you not like this film? The voice acting is perfectly suited to each character, believable and fun, and not annoying as I can find these types.

So, there you go, a Marvel movie about a superhero, with fighting and explosions, that I enjoyed. I recommend Spider Man: Into Multi-Verse it is how comic-book films should be made.

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First Man

First Man, eventually with a few problems just before it happened…

There are a lot of negative reviews of First Man, but you will not find one here.

Taking a story that nearly everyone in the world knows but in fact few really do and then drilling down through the bombast and jingoism that infests these type of stories to bring us into a very personal and small account of a huge event is a breath of fresh Hollywood air and dare I say a stroke of genius. Then strip away as much dramatic artifice as you can, play most character and scenes in an understated and realistic way as you possibly can, and you've got me from the first scenes.

The principal characters are Neil Armstrong and his wife Janet with both playing pivotal roles in the emotional drive of the film, Ryan Gosling is the driven and controlled Armstrong, I seem to recall there was some criticism of the way he played the role, but the truth of the matter, pilots are trained in that way, you can't have panicking, arm-waving histrionics in that profession, take note Ron Howard, and Claire Foy playing his wife Janet is the softer emotional core of the film. How the rest of us normal humans would feel. That's not to say Gosling's Armstrong is a robot and one early scene shows his deep emotions but also says to the audience, this is in private.

Keeping it personal we are surrounded by a supporting cast of characters that were in Armstrong's life at that time, we get to see snatches of their personalities, their lives and what shaped them but only a small amount. Basically, mirroring real life - you don't know the intricate details of a work friends’ life. The once again emphasises the personal world view we are getting.

Then in a further stroke of cinematic genius we get to see the Gemini 8 launch as if you were taking part in it, what you would see were you Armstrong. Like I said personal.

All the acting is top notch in the film with even the dramatic effect scenes certainly having the brakes put on. Gosling is restrained to the point somnambulance at times but that is the point, Armstrong was this way, certainly in his professional and public life and it would make sense that a great deal of emotional outlet has to come from his partner in all this his wife Janet played by the sublime Claire Foy. In truth, women are not served well in this film with Foy the only major female character throughout which is unfortunate but perhaps also a sign of the period in which the film was set and of course we are seeing this primarily through the eyes of the Armstrong family.

The look of the 1960s seems tight and correct, but I was seven when the film's story ended so I am probably not the best person to comment, but to me it looked good. Being a true story but a dramatic film there are liberties with the truth and certainly if you go digging you can find many bends, stretches, and obfuscation in my mind though the spirit of the Armstrongs, the spirit of the time, the feel of it, or to go back to The Castle as Dennis said 'The vibe of it'.

This is where First Man gets it right, the very vibe of the times. Spot on. The pace, the look, the emotion, fits the story and the actors correctly. Sure, if you looking for screaming, exploding helicopters, flaming rockets at a breakneck speed you are going to be disappointed and without trying to preach not all films have to be like this, some can flow languidly like a wide peaceful river that makes it way slowly to a raging, beautiful waterfall.

I'd say give it a go, adjust your expectations if you love action, sit back and marvel at the millions of people did way back in the sixties, rightly or wrongly, to send humanity into space.

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Black Panther

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

I have to say I approach this movie from not being a Marvel fan of any sort and not really caring about the extended universe, the storylines or the original comics. Some of this behemoth of a franchise I enjoyed others I did not. Thinking back I clearly preferred standalone stories that focus on a few characters and I care less about the massive three hours trials and tribulations of everyone that was ever created in the comics.

So as a ‘virtue signalling soy boy’ apparently, this film should have blown my socks off, well parts of it did, parts of it did not. I think in all honestly once the credits had ended, and of course I had to watch to the end because of the various little scenes you know are going to pop-up, I was left maybe unsatisfied. Entertained but unsatisfied.

The overall story is appealing, about Africans, in Africa, hidden away from the colonisation and exploitation by Europe and becoming advanced beyond the rest of the world but keeping themselves deliberately isolated. So there’s a message there and a lot of wishful thinking but hey how many times have the USA won the World War Two on their own and the Vietnam War? So there is absolutely no quibble here and nor should there be.

The usual Marvel problems pop up flat cardboard characters and a simplistic storyline that goes on too long. Giving a big window to an African-centric story is interesting in itself and kept my attention whereas if it were a standard white American hero story my interest would have waned having seen it so many times before. It did annoy me that this African nation, hidden away, developed a massive, technological, advanced society that looked a bit like the USA including the shopping and wandering about in the streets smiling and buying things…hmmm not exactly imagination gone wild in those scenes.

We have been here before though, many, many times. This is any old story, really old, the king dies, long live king, someone evil claims the thone deposing the king, the king wins back with allies. Nothing new.

The huge problems with my opinion of Marvel movies were still here. A long extended hero versus villain fight that I disengaged from after about a minute and a massive over CGIed battle where it looked like no one was really getting hurt because….well because it looks like CGI.

The acting varies but the good outways the mediocre and no one was so jarring it took me out of the film some of the dialogue is a bit hokey and cornball and pacing varies in part with some expository linking scenes skipping along and others just plodding along to the point where you could be forgiven for looking at your watch. The look and design of the film in Wankada is sumptuous and clearly some thought has gone into how an African nation left to itself would develop and look, although being isolated from the world, as I have said before, would they really go for shiny skyscrapers and the capitalistic wandering around rows of shops buying things model? There could have been other ways to go here.

Unfortunately, I have the sinking feeling that yet again this is another Marvel film I watched from start to end, would not watch again and I will mostly forget. Shame really the ball has been fumbled here

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Anna and the Apocalypse

Zombies again? Dancing and singing not so much…

Little Haven, Christmas, a zombie virus is slowly sweeping the country and those that don’t prepare and fight back will end up zombies themselves. Only singing and dancing can save the day..sort of.

This is the best zombie-song-and-dance film I’ve ever seen. Okay, it’s the only zombie song-and-dance film that I’ve seen but it is still not a bad movie.

With a small-town setting, so all of the action is localised and personal, no wider world building here apart from some quick radio updates, and mainly in and around a school this film perfectly allows the cast to be young, full of energy and verve. This is clearly what you need for the song and dance routines and I have to say as no big fan of hoofing and jazz-hands, it works.

This type of film must rely on it’s cast and in this case, the delightful Ella Hunt and Malcolm Cumming absolutely smash the chemistry test as they interact on screen and rather pleasantly are just friends in the story, no romance. Ably supported by the wacky Sarah Swire as Steph North and other ‘friends’ from school the film sets out is stall early and you either quickly buy into it or it will leave you cold. For me it worked. I laughed and enjoyed the song and dance numbers that were full of energy and fun. The young cast are helped along by long-time British stalwarts Mark Benton and Paul Kaye who also give their pipes a working out over the course of the story, Benton I did not know about by I have seen former Dennis Pennis Kaye taking centre stage in the muscial production of Matilda at the RSC a few years ago.

The zombie side of the story is the what the makers hoped would be the catch and I understand this and applaud it as a brave move, I’m guessing the famous episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer would have been an early influence, where horror and song and dance could surely not mix but do.

The zombie plot, in all honesty, is slight and to my mind seems incidental, its not, and also what actually bogs down the movie as it goes on – people die, which some see as good point and others might not as it takes away from the comedy but the more the zombie plot plays out the more it holds back the film like a big undead anchor. The film starts to slow down at the midway and before the nihilistic open end, it had started to outlive its welcome. I just about held in there to end but may attention wandered.

The location’s in Scotland give the film an authentic real feel for UK viewers in particular and is another plus point for this odd film. The acting and performing from everyone is top notch and fun and overall this is a great interesting film to be added to the zombie pantheon.

Yet the nagging feeling I get overall is that this would have made a better hour-long special movie on say Channel 4 than a full-length feature film.

Overall its a winner though and it’ll be interesting to see what director John McPhail and writers Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry come up with next. I’ll be looking out for it for sure.

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Avengers: Infinity War

Infinity means the stones, doesn't it?

As I have noted before many times on my Blog I am not a Marvel Comic Book or film fan. I’m not invested in the stories or characters and I do not look forward to the latest instalment of the franchises whatever they may be. I will watch the films and I will not dislike them for the sake of disliking them and being contra-cool.

I do have to say that explosions, leaping and punching for an hour of running time bores me rigid but this film, story and franchise clearly is not aimed at me.

Infinity War is the penultimate film in this huge rambling series. The final instalment coming up, it’s on my list, is Avengers: End Game. Which knowing this, even when Infinity War was first released into the cinema means that no matter what happens in this film you just know it’s not the ‘end’ and also the next film, no matter what happens there, is also not the end. There is a lot of money to make producing these films, superhero style piles of money. No film company is going to put a stop to this regardless what does or does not happen to the characters.

So for me there are problems, so many characters to fit in, even for a few minutes that it felt like appeasement to fans at times, the story rambling all over the place, with things that happened seemingly plotted to make the running time longer. Logic in the storyline goes out the window early on and then flies to the trees and stays there. It would be churlish to point out all the points that make little to no sense but once you give a single character the power to alter time, reality and all points in between you had better make your story is watertight otherwise it sinks in a sea of gooey contradictions really quickly. Avengers: Infinity War does this.

Having said this the film for most of the running time is entertaining and my attention did not wonder too much. The big battle scene in Wakanda, like the last one in Black Panther, lacked tension or thrills and bored me as it seemed to be interminable, the same with the big fight with Thanos, who was so powerful and able to control most of what was going on that it was easy to ask how was there ever fight in the first place? But I fully understand big flashy, non-stop noisy fighting scenes are what makes a Marvel world and it works for youngsters whose eyes and brains perhaps are tuned better than mine to this. I honestly find it boring if goes on beyond the actual endurance of real people.

Like all Marvel films the running time is too long, at least half an hour of bagginess and what on the surface seems exciting depth in character and motivation proves on proper examination to be slight and at times a bit silly. As an example Thanos’ motivation seems initially ‘wow I could see why he might do that’ then in the cold light of day it becomes ‘wait a minute…’ and this is the overall pervading feeling I had. Of course I’m aware I was watching a complete fantasy and just escapism but also the Marvel Comics have always been defended as more ‘adult than you think’ and covering ‘modern hard-hitting topics’. Well they skim the surface but they are just comic-book stories no matter what anyone might like them to be.

The acting throughout is good albeit with some people getting two minutes of screen time and at least Samuel L Jackson gets the best line in the whole film that made me laugh. The visual and special effects are better than usual with a feel of heft and reality to most heavy-laden scenes, which cannot always be said of a Marvel Universe film but any sense of peril or real danger, even at the very end of the film was just missing for me. These characters are expensive commodities and are laying some very big golden eggs. Everyone one of them will return in some form or another.

Usual Marvel fare, well produced, explosion infested and definitely slanted to fans but for me the same, it was okay, but I will not be going out of my way to watch it again.

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Matchstick Men

You’ll be disappointed if your looking for Lowry and Lancashire that’s for sure…

There is no way to give an opinion on this film without in some way spoiling the plot twists but as the film is fifteen years old one would hope most people had seen it by now or probably will not care too much. We’re not talking Endgame spoilerage here.

The film has more than a few problems for me. It starts of interesting setting up two let’s be honest, fairly despicable, characters and gives us a good long insight to their short run cons, clearly laying out Sam Rockwell has the quick thinking, young ambitious buck, with Cage as the neurotic and challenged older mentor. How a person with this many mental problems is able to hold onto a high-stress process as conning innocent ordinary folk is the first flag the popped up and took me out of the film somewhat. The glue that holds this together is Rockwell, playing a role he has down to pat, and Cage much more controlled that some of his more outlandish roles, even the OCD which must have been like catnip to him is treated with some deal of realism and sympathy by the film and Cage.

With the introduction of a big risky con and the ‘didn’t know I had a daughter’ daughter the film suddenly careers off into to two distinctly different film genres. Do we get a scary but ultimately satisfying con of some thoroughly greedy and unpleasant people or do we get a redemption of a dishonest but flawed man as his real humanity is brought to the surface by a daughter he loves but never knew about?

Well actually the film is neither and tries albeit unsuccessfully to confidence trick us into taking one of those two paths. Except of course most people, if they are paying attention, can see what is coming before it gets anywhere near the conclusion. Which begs the question why doesn’t experienced long-time con man Roy see it all coming? There are some obvious signs and glaringly things that happen that make you think ‘oh come on’ and then you’re out of the film.

Even more insultingly as the film closes we get a never-asked-for injection of saccharine, a meeting that frankly (no pun intended) makes no sense after what happened in the previous hour and a half and a feeling of disappointment that stays with you after the credits and ended and long gone.

The Sting did this many years ago in a much more entertaining way and I suggest The Grifters for a more gritty story, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels for more fun and Paper Moon for a mix of both before you even look at this one. I’m honestly sorry to be this way about a Ridley Scott film and a film that features Sam Rockwell but it’s entertaining enough but is quickly forgotten and I would not go out of my way to watch it again.

Matchstick Men fails to ignite the senses, flares for a short while and then burns out quickly – yes I went there.

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Hotel Artemis

This is not a Hotel.

Hotel Artemis seems to have been billed as a hot action flick but in truth the action, kicking, stabbing and shooting really takes place in the final fifteen minutes or so with a character study build-up leading into it. Mainly a cartoonish set of boldly drawn characters but nonetheless the film-maker tries to give them interesting characteristics and back-stories. This partially fails and partially succeeds.

For instance I was interested in who they were enough to keep me watching but then I felt that they were very lightly sketched. Jodie Foster, very effective as ‘The Nurse’, is given the lions-share of background but the rest are given one-line lead-ins but not much else. Sofia Boutella, impressive as always in this type of role, is a top assassin who is very successful and she has to record her killing for her client, but that is it. Dave Bautista is huge orderly/minder but that is it. Take this away from the film and what really have is a light, not so fluffy, comic-book style story. The police officer played by Jenny Slate seems to have been a weird afterthought that lead nowhere – I just found the whole part of the story odd.

Overall the look is impressive with the slightly-future LA looking good, just scuzzy enough to be on the edge of riots and noirish Blade Runner look fitting in well. Also the future-tech whilst perhaps a bit too far ahead for ten years in the future was plausible.

All of the acting fitted in well with the type of story and film that Hotel Artemis was but as a whole, I couldn’t help something was missing. The run time at 94 minutes certainly did not outlive its welcome and I was happy to sit and watch from beginning to end but like many films I’ve watched over the years I would not go out of my way to watch it again and by the end of next week I’ll have forgotten most of it.

Which is a shame but Hotel Artemis could have been so much more than it was.

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One Cut of the Dead

One Cut of the Dead is being remade - why? It is great we don't need another.

Well we’re in Shakespeare country here. One Cut of the Dead goes there, unashamedly, perfectly and so entertainingly it should be illegal.

This Japanese microbudget movie, that the actors paid to act in apparently, is nothing to do with zombies and everything to do with the reason you might be reading this review. Loving movies. The real fun to be had here is this is has been made with an obvious love of the creation of the films and real understanding of the frustrating, fun and at times bonkers processes that go into a tightly budgeted and difficult project. Without ruining the story by typing out the plotline and giving scene by scene recaps do not stop watching after the first end credits roll, apparently in some markets they did, and do not be put off by the cheapness, cheesiness and acting of the opening parts of the movie. It is worth holding on.

I’ll be honest the lengthy screaming put me off and made me consider my choice but I found out the reason and finding that reason out was worth the wait.

I would not be resorting to hyperbole if I said the last 30 minutes of the films tight runnning time not only prove to be entertainingly enlightening but genuinely, laugh-out loud, hilarious.

The opening part of the movie make you see everyone involved in one light that is basically not flattering and frankly a bit potty. Takayuki Hamatsu is the director from hell, but this turned on it’s head before the end by a charismatic and nuanced display by the actor who has one other credit to his name on IMDB. He is ably supported by all of the cast who get to play with their roles all of whom seem to have had no other acting experience with the exception of Mao who appears to be, and excuse my huge ignorance, a successful pop-star.

During the opening 37 minutes you are left hanging, no able to fully understand what is going and frankly in danger of stop viewing or letting your attention wander. I cannot emphasis this strongly enought DO NOT stop watching. Every question you ask, every annoyance you suffer by seeing what is happening on the screen, is answered and answered so well, so cleverly that you will be rooting for every character in the film.

If the ending of this film, the true ending, does not make your heart soar or even make you cry, perhaps watching films is not for you.

The whole story is directed with such subtle and consummate skill by Shin’ichirô Ueda that it takes a while after the film has finished to realise that everything you saw on the screen was meant to happen the way it did. Every single scene, every line of dialogue, every pause, all of it was planned, worked out an rehersed. This film is a glorious love-letter to low budget, fly by the seat of your pants, film-making and as such is a must watch for any and every person that professes a love of films. If you don’t love Director Higurashi and his friends at the end of the film – well, there’s no hope for you.

Every person in this film put in a great performance and were fun, interesting and quirky. They should all be so, so proud of themselves. I would be.

Finally, this film is funny, very funny.

“I’m fast, cheap, but average,” well it might have been made ‘fast’ it definitely was ‘cheap’ but there is no way it’s average.

Do yourself a favour, watch this film.

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The Man Who Invented Christmas

Christmas wasn’t fun, this looks like a job for….Super Author!

Dan Stevens is a charming and charasmatic presence as Charles Dickens in The Man Who Invented Christmas but he is given a tough task, he has to portray a man in the midst of the creative process and a creative process that is blocked. In real life this is staring at a wall for most of us and doing lots of the things that come under the heading of procrastination. To make it entertaining Stevens has to play this type of dry spell like it is coursing through his veins like some stimulating drug rather than something that drags you down. For the sake of a screen version of this story it has to be this way, otherwise you have a dull film. Stevens plays this role perfectly and is the anchor that makes the film an enjoyable watch.

Fortunately the film is populated with some excellent British acting talent lead by the unredoubtable Christoper Plummer, Johnathan Price and Simon Callow although Callow is close to being a cameo as Dickens famed illustrator John Leech. I think he is contractually obliged to act in all Dickens passed films or TV shows. Having 'favourites' I was pleased to see Justin Edwards and Miles Jupp (Thackeray) popping up during the storyline so I am biased.

There is a good mixture of comedy sprinkled throughout the running but it is part of the story and not the overriding reason for the story. The story, whilst seeming original, is in fact close to Shakespeare in Love with events and people in Dickens life shaping his latest story. The method is different, yet not original, where the characters Dickens is creating appear and interact with him. On the plus side this could have been very clunky but director Nalluri and the actors handle is well and smoothly. It was fun.

The film definitely assumes you have some working knowledge of Dickens and his novels but this is in fact a plus point. There is no hand holding here or one-hundred weight exposition crushing the proceedings. The story leaves us in no mind that Dickens reinvented Christmas soley through Christmas Carol but does not really explore how Christmas was celebrated before then, other than nearly all bosses appear to be Scrooge clones, so much so that getting inspiration should not have been that hard for the author. These are all piffling points and you should not really go into the film looking for an accurate depiction of Charles Dickens or the times, that is another film.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is fun, well acted, film but like many in this type of category you watch it and enjoy it but it's soon forgotten.

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The Equalizer 2

Equalizer 2 Luton Town 3 aet

I enjoyed the first film, despite not really liking these type of films, so I approached The Equalizer 2 with some trepidation. There is no doubt the Denzil Washingston’s charisma and laconic acting style made the first Equalizer a success and certainly would tempt a lot of people to watch it that maybe would not normally do so. But here we are with one of my least favourite film numbers ‘2’.

Having said this Denzil Washington is in the film, he does not do sequels, he does not phone-in performances and he certainly does not need the money so there must be something to it. Truth be told there is and there is not. When Washington is on the screen, whether it is being sage, or duffing people over, or just being nice or funny, you get your money’s worth. Luckily he is on the screen a lot. His character is interesting and appealing and to use a very overused expression he is ‘badass’.

No, the problem with the film is the story is a bit tired and saggy at the edges. McCall’s clearly has a strong sense of right and wrong and a strong moral compass he does not need a hackneyed and very old plot-point to drive him into a new and interesting story. A lot of story points could be spotted miles away and it was fairly easy to guess who was going to make it to the credits, who was not, and who were the baddies.

This is not say that the supporting cast acted badly or you did not feel a sense of peril for characters but there is a strong sense of ‘seen it all beforeism’ in the run time. The denouement was frankly disappointing and left me with some seriously raised eyebrows. It did keep my interest though as I tried to figure out who was going to ‘get it’ during the storm and I was dead-on, he with the least amount of lines and screen-time dies first.

More enjoyable was McCall’s earlier ‘equalizing’ which padded out the first part of the story but helped to established that if you do bad and he runs across your path you are in big trouble, they actually made more sense than some of the ‘main’ story.

Further to this the side-story involving Orson Bean’s holocaust survivor whilst having its heart in the right place was clunky and a bit saccharine particularly the way it was tied-up. A bit too neat and lovely.

Overall I found The Equalizer 2 enjoyable and watchable but it was definitely diluted from the original and to my mind perhaps Robert McCall should be allowed to live out his salad days in peace especially when you consider the amount of mayhem he seems to cause from time to time he probably is not going to get away with his vigilantism for too much longer.

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The Night Eats the World

A zombie story set in Paris, so zombies and romance...not really.

It is often said the Shaun of the Dead was a love-letter to George Romero well Night Eats the World is easily a big soppy love-letter to 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead (remake), and various other Usain Bolt zombie horror stories, there is even a small tribute to my favourite zombie ever, Bub, playing a fairly central part in the story. This is not to say it is a bad thing but if you a familiar with the trope, I feel many viewers will be, then you'll recognise scenarios, frights and the basic premise. Again this is not a bad thing but it does lead to a game of 'oh I saw that in' or 'they did that better/worse in this film'.

Casting aside the who, whats and whys, which all good zombie films should do, and getting to the action and set-up of the story whilst cleverly foreshadowing the coming events starts the film on a good footing and the whilst we are in plus terrioritory the makers then say 'What would an ordinary person, with no real survival skills (nearly all of us) do?' and they try to answer it sensibly too. Sam is no genius, he's clever enough to know that the scabby bloody messes are no longer his friends and neighbours and want to kil him and he is smart enough to know that if he can lock them out of the apartment block he'll be reasonably safe. He is stupid enough to try and get a cat from outside though - I wonder what stupid thing I'd do if I managed to survive (which I would not)?

Norwegian actor Anders Danielsen Lie plays Sam releastically and you believe from his reactions and the way he behaves this event has really happened. How he occupies the huge amounts of time he has is cleverly answered and is a question that no one asks in these type of films. After all if you make yourself safe and secure that is exactly what you'd do, stay save and secure, so many films end up with the protagonists doing ludicrous things that lead to disaster. Not Sam, he'll stay safe, make avant garde art music, listen to tapes, respectfully lay victims to rest, because he's a decent human not a monster that all survivors turn into immediately in US films, and like all of us, start to hear things and let his imagination carry him away.

The buckets on the roof are straight out of 28 Days Later but why not, it worked in that film and works for this story too. The zombies are very much World War Z, Dawn of the Dead (remake) and although I don't like sprinters, they make no sense at all for reasons I cannot be bothered to go into here, but to make them silent was a stroke of geninus.

I must mention the arrival of Denis Levant who now is my favourite zombie, trapped in the lift he cannot get to Sam so Sam uses him as companion sitting and talking to him. I will not spoil how that ends but it truly is original in its own way and definitely not what I was expecting.

The arrival of Golshifteh Farahani signals the end of the section of the story we would guess we were stuck in and takes Sam in a new direction and the twist to this part, whilst not original, was well played and actually made perfect sense due to what lead to it.

Night Eats the World tries to take a tried and frankly worn-out genre and give it some new clothes. It does not quite manage this as well as 'The Battery' which I recommend but it comes close. There are too many, seen it before moments, but the acting and real menace of the undead and the situation and how it is dealt with do give it a good spring cleaning at least.

All in all a better zombie movie - and considering the vast libaries of DVDs dedicated to this horror-trope most of which should really be forgotten about that is praise indeed. Would I go out of my way to watch it again? Probably not but if it was on TV and flicked onto it, I would flick to the next channel.

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