Film Reviews by DS

Welcome to DS's film reviews page. DS has written 63 reviews and rated 63 films.

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The Peanut Butter Falcon

I like ornithology but I don't like peanut butter, what did I think of this film....

(Edit) 20/05/2020

The Peanut Butter Falcon show off its Georgia locations to beautiful artistic effect and just for this one fact the film should be watched. No harm is done by Shia LeBeouf and Zack Gottsagen’s non romantised and charismatic partnership during the run time. LeBeouf quite often a figure of fun in the press and amongst cinema goers once again comes up with the acting chops that is obvious he has. In less able hands this could easily have been mawkish and over-sentimental but Tyler is spikey, dishonest and hard to breakdown.

For the purposes of the story he has to breakdown but I found this change to be skilfully handled and gradually done to point that you do notice but the increments are judged just about right.

Throw in the rather lovely Dakota Johnson and you have a good trio to pull through the story. Well supported by baddies John Hawkes, in a role he is so good at, and Yelawolf, who looks the part, and drop in Thomas Haden Church with a small dash of veteran Bruce Dern and you have very strong and capable cast.

All that could really spoil the film is the story and overall it’s a strong and fun tale. There is a nice lack of sentimentality for most of the run, Downs Syndrome actor Zack Gottsagen makes sure that his Down Syndrome character is shown warts and all and he is a fully rounded character and the whole film is better for it. Once again in lesser hands this could have been bad – so bad. Luckily for us it wasn’t.

To drive the story to where we are going the writers have stretched credibility to snapping point and this is my biggest bugbear after the credits rolled. Just dialling back on the twee and happy ending and you have a great modern tale of the opposites helping each other, learning lessons and becoming better people due to this. The final wrestling scenes and very end section whilst not snapping that stretch for me it was just about the snap. The most frustrating part was with just some judicious editing of the writing, a rethink of the conclusion and the film could have been a modern road-trip classic.

Nevertheless the fantastic cinematography and impressive all round performances negate almost any minuses I could give this film. What a treat to see Mick Foley and Jake ‘the snake’ Roberts near the end, Roberts in particular has not had a great later life and was impressive as the slobbish, mean spirited Sam in his cameo.

As package The Peanut Butter Falcon is fine, fun, enjoyable yarn, it certainly is not without flaws which I feel could easily have been ironed during the early stages of making the film but who knows what the first vision was like before this came to our screens? It is easy to criticise with no prior knowledge and when all is considered you get a fun, uplifting story of love, redemption and backwater wrestling and Shia LeBeouf tearing it up again.

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Blinded by the Light

Problems with the boss...both of them.

(Edit) 17/05/2020

In all honesty Blinded by the Light feels very much like a movie where the makers have gone the ‘stock plotline’ shelf and picked out the box labelled ‘rebellious teenager fights parents and expectations to follow their own path'.

There is nothing in the bare bones of the film you have not seen before. The clash, the seeming end of the main characters dreams, the uplifting ending where everyone changes their point of view overnight (despite being entrenched for the majority of the running time) and the conclusion the works for every main character with smiles and laughs all around.

Blinded by the Light keeps its head about the bland because it approaches this from a different viewpoint. The main characters are British-Pakistanis living in Britain where the National Front would hold marches in Southall and Luton, purely coincidence would say the spiv-like overlords of these ‘organisations’. This is the strong point of the story. It is not the first British-Asian film made but it certainly is one of a small number if we are being honest. Something I have no experience of and no real idea about so having these stories told is interesting and for me enlightening.

Having said this skin-colour and place of family origin in the end always seem to be over-ridden by human nature, the more I see different cultures explored in the movies the more I see that we are basically all alike. My Irish-born mother has more in common with Javed’s Pakistan-born mother than she didn’t. This is why more view-points more stories must and should be explored. Always.

The acting is uniformly good with lead Viveik Kalra as Javid and his best friend Roops, Aaron Phagura, having good on-screen chemistry and making the story fun, pleasant and engaging.

Stand-out is Kulvinder Ghir as Javed’s father playing the all-important patriarch Malik, Javed’s dad. A role that no doubt started off in ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ to become a full-fleshed out less comedic character. Incidentally Goodness Gracious Me is giving a beautiful full-on ‘nod’ near the end of the film. Alongside his role and diametrically opposite is Nell Williams as Javed’s middle-class ‘right-on’ green warrior Eliza, who even in my sheltered life in the 80s I recognised. She hit the nail on the head. Hayley Atwell as the sage-like figure is the plot driving force but it is to her credit that she makes this 'pat' role believable.

More confusing to this old western white man’s eyes is the homage to the great Bollywood films made for a market that do not always have regularly access to movies, so romance, violence, intrigue, singing and dancing, all fired into the same story. In story about Luton I was not sure if the sudden dancing and singing really fitted properly.

The whole story was clipping along at a fair pace, I seemed to have the hang of it, when suddenly we got some over-the-top dancing and skipping around – including some nice wiggy action from Rob Brydon, not quite sure why or what he was doing in the film but it did not detract.

To my mind it seemed as if the makers were testing the waters with a more Bollywood inspired style-story but just not enough for it to be full-on and so for me just enough to be confusing.

Blinded by the Light is light frothy take on what in reality was probably a tough, fraught time in a young man’s life and the UK as a whole. For me this was the biggest weakness, it was neither one thing or the other and did not have the courage of its convictions.

This sounds like I did not enjoy Blinded by the Light but this is far from the truth. Frothy, fun and engaging there is much more to enjoy about the film than not. Engaging, well-acted, characters in a film well-paced with slice of ‘nostalgia’ for people like me who were in their twenties in the 1980s, it is a fun romp, even if there is more of a feeling of split-personality about the story-telling.

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The Gunfighter

When Bad Men Grew Moustaches, and Worse Ones Couldn't

(Edit) 28/04/2020

A western from the 50s but certainly following in the footsteps of other westerns from that era. Much more of a character study of a man trying to gain some redemption we see a Gregory Peck sans moustache, apparently against the wishes of the studio head, spending a great deal of movie trying to forget his past and move onto a different, brighter, settled future. The trouble is when you lived a tough, unforgiving past trying to shake that off is difficult. The Shootist with John Wayne followed the same path and is more or less the same story.

Here we see a stark monochrome film with an adult theme which compared to some of the output of 1950s western films was clearly setting the future up for a more dirty, unshaven, morally ambiguous future for westerns on the silver screen. The mood is downbeat throughout and threaded through with a feeling of impending doom catching up with the participants, the path they took in life was always leading here and as they get older it gets closer and closer.

Peck is impressive as the world-weary gunfighter whose legend is a huge boulder chained to him that he drags from town to town in the old west and he is well supported by the Millard Mitchell as his former ‘running mate’ Mark Stret the marshal. Both men want to leave their past behind but Stret has managed and Ringo wants to. The way his life choices is further outlined to him and audience when a cheerful rancher, pops into the bar, has one drink, briefly outlines his life and pops out again is odd and perhaps a tad heavy-handed but the point is reinforced for sure. Karl Malden rounds out the triumvirate of men from the old days who is pleased to see Jimmy, hankers for nostalgic old days but really sees the commercial opportunities in a gunslinger far outweighing any ‘trouble’. He is redeemed as a character by being basically decent.

The female side of cast is mainly supplied by Helen Westcott as the estranged wife of Jimmy, Peggy, who I found as a character a bit hard to believe she hung out and married hell-raising gunslinger Jimmy Ringo, of the main actors she seems more of her era, more actorly and dare I say a bit ‘hammy’ but not enough to detract. Jean Parker and the more worldly and thereby more realistic Molly, Ringo’s old partner Bucky’s wife, gives the other female support as the non-romantic interest who ultimately intervenes to the extent that Jimmy stays longer than he should and she is very good in a limited role.

As with stories and films of this era if Peck is the, admittedly anti-hero, of this film the makers need the real black-hat. This role is filled by the whip-thin interesting looking Skip Homeier who plays his role as the spoiled and unlikeable Hunt Bromley with great skill. In lesser hands it could have been a sneering moustache-twirling pantomime baddy but with Homeier and his callow, youthful, ‘he hasn’t started shaving yet’ looks he fits the role perfectly and on the right side of the line of melodramatic. An interesting actor he mainly played youthful villans after coming out of his child-acting career before retiring in the 70s. He certainly had that look and clearly played to his strength.

Oddly enough for a film of his era there is no score, particularly in the more dramatic moments, I for one liked this but it is a strange thing when you notice it. Equally as impressive for me was the lack of gunplay during the running, for a gunslinger western this is impressive and the writers and director have clearly tried to make the story about the man and not his deeds.

In line with the noir style in Hollywood the film has no happy ending and no resolution, it starts with Ringo riding into the scene and ends with Ringo going out.

All in all, for a 1950s gunslinger western The Gunfighter is intelligently and well-made and acted and does ask some questions rather than just try to elicit boos and cheers.

Good work stands up whenever it was made, this much we should know by watching The Gunfighter

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Brightburn

Not Bright, Got Burned a Bit

(Edit) 22/04/2020

With Nolan and to a lesser extent Znyder making superheroes gritting, realistic, dark, this path was always going to lead to a film like Brightburn. The premise is interesting but not necessarily as new and exciting as it is made out to be with Will Smith starrer Hancock coming to mind and of course M. Night Shyamalan’s trio of weirdness too, alongside Chronicle and that’s the obvious comparisons.

Like Shyamalan’s superhero reinventing this film has a nasty streak, a meanness to it that has no redeeming feature. It seems to me to be unpleasant for unpleasantness' sake. Unlike Superman who saves random strangers out of the blue, Brightburn is the opposite but graphically and for no reason other than not getting his own way.

Herein lies the problem for me and perhaps other viewers. He’s truly horrible which in itself is no problem but horrible in a nasty pointless way. The anti-superhero here appears to have no motivation for his acts, particularly in the closing credits and is plan horrible. Being apparently indestructible and having many superpowers he, very much like heroes who wear ‘script-armour’ cannot be defeated and can do as he likes. So the whole story is pinned on you worrying about the fate of those around him – a clue for you is in real life you would stand no chance – and knowing that this spoilt brat has powers than cannot be defended against.

Whilst building up to the final acts you start to realise that the whole movie becomes pointless, you know who is going to come out on top even though there appears to be no point or reason for the cruelty on display. So, in the end, it is hard to care what happens.

If deconstruction of the superhero story is what was aimed for here I’m not sure the James Gunn’s brothers achieved what they wanted. The darkness is too dark, the horror is too horrible and really the film has no sense of humour and no reason for the events unfolding. Which, frankly, in this type of film you need

The cinematography is annoyingly dark and murky in places, with scenes taking place at night and seemingly filmed at night without lighting.

Overall Brightburn is competently made film with the kernel of an interesting idea at its centre but the makers fumbled it, filling it with grubby unpleasantness that could have done with a bit of a light touch at some time. Even some of the worst horror-films still recognise the need for a light touch.

Brightburn is an idea that needs exploring but perhaps not in this style.

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The Keeper of Lost Causes

Most unnecessarily complex crime since Austin Powers

(Edit) 05/03/2020

This was Denmark’s entry into the very popular Scandi-Noir and it follows the tick-box for that genre perfectly, in fact, it follows a lot of police-thriller tick boxes regardless.

Troubled brooding cop – yup, a partner who wants to be friends but is pushed away but proves their worth – yup, a cold-case that all have given up on – yup, a clever and complex psycho who formulates an elaborate and fiendish scheme – yup.

Therein lies the rub. Despite some good miserable-sod acting and an overall brooding menace, there is little that has not been seen here before, in some cases better and in some cases a lot worse. If you have a problem with the ‘one-inch barrier’ of subtitles then you are definitely not going to like this offering.

I have to be honest I did not like the story or the film that much but I enjoyed the acting, particularly of the lead actors, Nikolaj Lie Kaas and the charismatic Fares Fares, who being a Muslim cop was in fact just Carl Morck’s partner – to the makers credit him being an Asian and a Muslim was very much secondary to the story and relationship to characters.

The cinematography kept pace with the films dark noir feel and pace was actually good for this type of film, no hanging about or drawing out ‘moments’ but overall the story, like all of these ‘Scandi-type’ stories was overwrought, silly and more bonkers than the makers' actual villain. Without spoiling the film events what the baddy does, how he does it, and why he does it, are truly, top-range preposterous, something that clicked a switch with me as I remembered The Bridge, Harry Hole and ‘The Girl the Fancied 40-Year Old Saggy Journalists’ films, TV shows and books. I stuck with them all but the overwhelming thing that I circled around to in all of them was the actual crime and criminal, the very hook, the whole reason for the entertainment, was bat-poopingly silly. James Bond in the cinema was always a flight of fancy and tongue-in-cheek act of fun but the Scanda-Noirs are supposed to be scary, intriguing. If you keep thinking ‘silly’ then this hasn’t worked for you.

This is obviously a personal prejudice but if like a cliff-hangar, a mystery and dogged by miserable, gruff cops then you will undoubtedly enjoy The Keeper of Lost Causes.

I watched it.

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The Keeper

The Keeper - a goalie with a German sounding name, but it wasn't about me.

(Edit) 27/02/2020

The Keeper is a good entertaining and uplifting film. It is the usual fare of film-maker wanting to entertain and a ‘true-story’. As far as I can tell the basic building blocks of the real-life story are there but last ‘fairy-tale’ moments from Bert’s life have been airbrushed out or not included. Thus it ever was before and so it will be in the future real-life stories in the cinema.

Getting past this, and some people cannot, you have to make sure you have an interesting, well written and acted story instead, the trips along and keeps you invested in the tale. The Keeper does this. German actor, hoorah a German playing a German no cod-accents here, David Kross is a handsome, charismatic presence on screen and gives Trautmann a grounded story, he’s no angel here but most importantly was not a Nazi, was there any in Germany, was it just 12 men in that whole country that were Nazis? To be balanced neither is he a goody-too-shoes but the audience is forced to sympathise with him, giving him nightmares about the appalling treatment of a Jewish child, the deaths of his comrades and so forth – it is somewhat heavy-handed at times.

Nevertheless John Henshaw comes in playing Northern Man and boy is he reliable solid and so believable at it and for once the ‘northern English folk’ are not tired stereotype ecky-thump types but ordinary people living in the north of England. The football scenes are surprisingly realistic for film football scenes, not a high bar but at least the snippets you get it does look like players are trying to stop their opponents scoring rather than falling back like the Red Sea when a player approaches them.

Freya Mavor as Margaret, Trautmann’s first wife (never revealed in the film), is given a great role, and is impressive as the free-spirited, tough, northern lass, whose heart is captured by the boyish charm of goalkeeper Trautmann.

The football recreation is a small part of this story, so don’t worry if you do not like football, the balk of the drama is taken up with the problems of Bert being a German prisoner of war staying in the country he was ‘at war’ with and taking on every prejudice, bias and hurdle placed in his way whilst falling in love and marrying an English girl along the way. As often happens in the life of people who are successful things happen to seem to take away their happiness or ‘test’ them. In real life this really happened to Trautmann and his family and it was no writer’s conceit.

The Keeper, or Trautmann in some markets, is a well-made film in every department, writing, acting, directing, filming, all round it is good. Some of the dramatic constructs are glaringly obvious and a bit ham-fisted at times and being ‘true to life’ it is not strictly ‘true’ but overall it is an entertaining and engrossing film about a really interesting character in a time when intolerance and prejudices had to be overcome – thank goodness that’s changed.

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Juliet, Naked

There are no naked Juliet's in this film...

(Edit) 10/02/2020

I am not obsessive about much and certainly not music, I am one of those weird people to whom music has no massive presence in their life. Having said this I did know lads at school that obsessed over groups and brought Japanese print only vinyl for £100 of any group they took a shine to, they went to concerts all over the UK, talked all day about their obsession. So this film seemed very familiar with the opening ten minutes.

Juliet, Naked is light and funny for most of the running time with the three main characters well played by Chris O’Dowd, again, Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke, who I could believe was not stretching himself, I’m sure I’m wrong but I think he lives a bit like Tucker Crowe. O’Dowd, in particular, seems to know exactly what obsessive to the point of unhealthy and dull to be around is through his performance but you have to suppose a lot of actors and especially the females, might well know where that side of ‘fandom’ comes from.

Annie is cautious and bit frightened of her own shadow, she puts up with a lot, it’s me for goodness sake. I felt Rose Byrne got this right too – despite being a lead in the story it is the one part that should not be showy but if anything underplayed, almost wallpaper, I thought the Australian actress got this virtually spot on. If there was one misstep in the characters it was Annie’s lesbian sister that just seemed to be a lesbian and her sister for laughs and nothing else, a bit of frippery.

Throughout the story the hands of Nicky Hornby are all over this. As an author he can write true to life authentic, sympathetic, deeply flawed, ordinary folk, that behave in a realistic manner. Sometimes these characters do not transfer to the silver screen so well, in the case of Juliet Naked the hit rate is much higher than the miss rate.

The location was generic English seaside town, actually Broadstairs in Kent, but like most Hornby creations it is irrelevant, it could be the States or Australia he is digging into people and their foibles. You have to admire his ability to crank out stories that mine the same rich vein but generally do not get too familiar or boring.

Juliet, Naked is fun and enjoyable.

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Spider-Man: Far from Home

Come and look at Peter Parker's holiday snaps...

(Edit) 10/02/2020

I have to once again reiterate that I am not a big fan of superhero movies and comics. So I do not have a huge stake in any of the MU movies. Having said all of this I do enjoy the Spider-man franchise more than most and in particular, Tom Holland who has seemed to encapsulate the character of Peter Parker perfectly.

Everything in the Marvel movie world is here. A big baddy, whose reaction to his situation seems to have been slightly over-the-top in my view but I suppose super-hero stories are always over-the-top so I’m being churlish. Huge confusing battles and explosions and comic relief from best friends and Happy Hogan.

The story takes you a direction you are expecting and at least drags into a different direction which is definitely to the writers’ credit. I did feel the big-bad was generic and the reaction that made him a ‘big-bad’ was shall we say, a bit of an over-reaction? Jake Gyllenhaal, always reliable, arrives as a competing and competent super-hero that seems to threaten Peter Parker's superhero credentials.

All the actors do their superhero bits well, some could probably do this in their sleep but for me, this is just another superhero film amongst many, I was not following it so intently so I did not notice and clues to further stories (apparently this happens) and I could not help feeling that despite a nice trip around the landmarks of Europe there did not seem to be any reason for Peter to got Europe.

Spider-man is a good comic-book super-hero, he is fun, interesting and more importantly flawed (and I very much like his aunt) but even this film was stretching my benevolence towards this particular hero.

I fell comic-book and super-hero movie fans will love this next instalment whereas others in the same mould as me (is there anyone like me) will be a bit bewildered by moderately entertained.

I still get bored by the huge noisy explosive action scenes and surely I am meant to get excited. I find it very odd.

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The Man Without a Past

Not the film to watch if you think the Finns are deadpan and strange...

(Edit) 10/02/2020

This is a Finnish film set in Finland in the capital city Helsinki although to be honest it could have been any mainland European city as the location was clearly not the star of the movie or important to the story. I’ve been to Helsinki at least twice and could not place the vista at all.

It pays to be aware of what type of film Aki Kaurismaki makes before you view in all honesty. This moves at a very slow-paced. Everything is played dead-pan when I say dead-pan I mean really dead-pan. It is almost anti-acting at some points. There is little to no ‘body-acting’ either, when the dialogue is sparse you do not get eyebrow-raising or gurning to portray what is happening. You need to get used to this because it is an old style of acting and an odd way of presenting characters within a story.

Without wishing to stereotype the Finns are reserved and stoical people so it seems entirely normal that a Finnish film should reflect this. But, like the Finns, inside the story, there is a sense of fun as the story stumbles forward, with plain useless police officers, doctors, nurses and employment office employees to the fore. Only the truly dense could not see the huge signpost Aki Kaurismaki is pointing at his own society here.

Here we see ’M' as our nameless lead is called strive to find out about his past and slowly get closer in dribs and drabs but then when he finds out, I will not spoil this part, but it neatly fits in with the overall style and feel of the story.

With the container homes, the odd assortment of characters overseen by a corrupt security guard and incorruptible Salvation Army you are stepping into as an un-Hollywood film as you could possibly get. The scenery, setting, is not really important as Karuismaki is clearly interested and focussed on ‘M’ and those around him and has directed them to be as plain-faced and dead-pan as possible.

I can see how this film will not appeal to some film-fans with a glacial pace, simple story-line and strange stylised acting but even if Man Without a Past does not sound like your ‘cup of tea’ it might pay to give it a chance. After all, a slice of Finnish cinema has to be the antidote to the endless output from Hollywood.

It’s weird, but like all weird things, some people will take to it and others reject it. It’s all good.

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Wild Rose

Mild Rose

(Edit) 10/02/2020

There is a huge swell of love for Wild Rose, it is a popular film. So knowing this perhaps when I sat down to watch it I had high expectations. All of us say we do not let others views colour our expectations or even opinions of films but truth be told it is hard not to.

Jessie Buckley is always a good screen presence, she was great in director Tom Harper’s TV adaptation of War and Peace, so far so good.

The story itself is fun and kept my attention, the directing keeps things moving along at a pace and all the characters are big enough and colourful enough to be intriguing but there are few huge stumbling blocks along the road.

Honestly the biggest hill I encountered is if you sell or deal in Class A drugs and you go to prison for it and are released on licence you will not get into the United States of America. There is more than a whiff of wish fulfilment fantasy in the story. An upper-class lady just loves rough at the edges, sweary, women, she just loves her and her kids love country music. I know children that would not watch Dr. Who because Peter Capaldi was ‘old’ so these country music-loving young, modern, children are at best an amazing rarity. The husband was so clearly a pantomime baddy, the character the audience could hate, it was ridiculous. Why do the makers of drama still use this hackneyed and as old as time itself conceit? It is probably just me but I hate it. You end up with a one-dimensional character whose only motive, often disguised skilfully by script, actor or both, is to be be ‘bad’.

It is not all bad. Clearly the writer has tried to add some jeopardy into the proceedings by having Rose-Lynn messing up on her ambitions, finding out Nashville is nothing like she thought but, rather childishly, every problem, every obstacle, in Rose-Lynn’s life/singing ambitions fades away to nothing rather quickly so that she can get a final denouement.

It’s all too neat, all too great in the end for Rose-Lynn.

This is more like an upgraded soap storyline than anything hard-hitting or gritty but the trouble is I think the makers were trying for hard-hitting and gritty.

Ultimately Wild Rose is truthfully Mild Rose.

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John Wick 3: Parabellum

Worst. Super Assassins. Ever.

(Edit) 10/02/2020

Firstly I do have to say how does this film get so much love out in the world? Is it because the genuine nice chap Keanu Reeves is in it? It mystifies me.

I don’t like action films. So when I saw the first John Wick I was amazed I liked it so much, it was action-packed but John Wick was just good at his job but got hurt and if he had a weapon he used it and though patently daft it was not that daft. It was certainly entertaining and different enough for me to enjoy it.

Then we got John Wick 2 (QPR 3) which was ‘quantum baby’. It was ‘very silly baby’ if I’m honest, The preposterousness of it was cranked up to 11 and it was beginning to look like a superhero film rather than a tough assassin gig. A bulletproof jacket, more baddies CGIing to death, in fact more deaths than World War 2 it seemed. It wasn’t good.

Now we get the last-minute equaliser, John Wick 3 (QPR 3) and if you are a football fan it felt exactly like a last-minute equaliser, upsetting and putting a downer on your day.

In what seems almost a parody we get nearly everyone in world being a member of the assassin’s guild, except how did they get to be the these assassins as they are all to a man and women completely crap at killing people. I mean really bad. None of them can kill John Wick, he’s only one man and most of the time he has little in his armoury and is wounded. Then again John is indestructible as shooting him, stabbing him, throwing him into walls or through glass hardly breaks his stride. Even running him over has no effect. It’s is silly but in fact, in reality, it is pathetic, Is it a kid's film/story? I sincerely hope not because more people die anonymously and willingly too (they are after all working for the ‘Guild’) than have done in any film I think I’ve ever seen.

There is barely a story but mainly loads of excuses for action set pieces which after the first one you’ve seen them all and tend to blend into the same thing. It is truly tedious – and it does not need to be as the first film ably proved.

The film reminded me of watching a video game walkthrough with actors cameoing their way through cut-scenes. I like video games, they generally do not make good films, with a few exceptions. Some of the next ‘baddies’ for John Wick seemed all too reminiscent of next level bosses it was that poor.

I know being green is an admirable and sensible thing in the world today but did the makers of John Wick 3 need to recycle so many set-pieces and action farts? There is a feeling that the ideas well is running dry.

A lot of the acting is a risible with Halle Berry clearly feeling that that next Raspberry could be hers, either that or she just could not be bothered. Jerome Flynn, why is he in this? The boss of the Guild pointlessly lives in the middle of a desert, I could not figure out why he was boss of the Guild it does not even make sense if you run it by your brain for a few scant seconds.

John Wick 3 might appeal to action junkies who are not worried about story or realism but I feel even some of these people might get quickly bored and frustrated.

For me John Wick 3 is where this little foray into killing scores of people for no real reason should end. I feel there will be many more victims in the near future. Mind you why would you work for the Guild? If the John Wick franchise is anything to go by you are definitely going to die and not necessarily in a quick or pleasant way.

Guess what? I did not like John Wick 3 in any way shape or form.

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Shazam!

This was a Big superhero movie - see what I did there?

(Edit) 10/02/2020

Depending on your viewpoint they will definitely be parts of Shazam that will annoy you. I have to be honest I find the whole premise of superhero movies a bit silly and I never showed an interest in any of the comics from a young age until an adult. My boat was never afloat. I will watch them on film and I have viewed all of interminable Marvel Universe series, with the explosions, and so forth, but in general I like these type of films with a light touch, so Spiderman, Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool, oh I know they have a serious side but the touch is light, now we can add Shazam!

I would say this film is a great big smile of a movie, it is clearly made to be enjoyed, to be entertained. With the casting of Zachary Levi the makers got the perfect focal point. He exudes the joy of being a boy in a grown-up superhero body with the fun and underlying seriousness this brings. So far so Big, so far so daft.

The rather bland peril given to Billy, his alter ego and his best friend are very ‘comic-book baddy’ boilerplate and although they are given to the very capable and charismatic Mark Strong the whole story was much less interesting or important to me than the dilemma that being Shazam brings up for Billy and his best friend and indeed surrogate family. It is much more compelling.

Therein lies problems for Shazam!, it’s great and it’s fun but it can’t escape it’s superhero restrictions. Boring pointless baddies whose motive and plans seem ludicrous and ill-thought-out. Although this does give the film and most joyous and fun ending.

The special effects, set pieces and overall look of the film are good, A super impossible situation mixed into a blandly normal world is tried for in many superhero films and with Shazam! this attempt is definitely more hit than miss. The direction and editing move the story on at a good whip and the film never sags which in these types of films can definitely be a problem.

Overall Shazam! is a bright, joyful, fun-filled film and with the genius casting of Zachary Levi in a role, he was seemingly born to play you have a film with way more summits than troughs and you should get just over two hours of entertainment.

You cannot really ask for much more can you?

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The Sisters Brothers

They're brothers but they're called Sisters - it's crazy.

(Edit) 10/02/2020

The Sisters Brothers is another modern western that attempts to show a different west from the traditionally accepted, which it mainly succeeds all the while somehow staying close to what the viewer expects.

There’s more to cold-blooded killers than cold-blooded killing but they still are very good at their job and never get bested. Gold and the discovery of it is a driving factor in the hunt and impending downfall of their quarry – but Riz Ahmed is not your usual grizzled prospector, Jake Gyllenhaal is a bounty hunter too – but he finds people and waits for the real killers to arrive.

It all seems to be laid out in front of, you know the characters and even the storyline, but then it is not too. This is definitely the film’s strength and I can also see that it could be a weakness for some. Director Audiard shoot entirely in Europe and brought a sense of a European continental film to the story and the way it progressed. The action certainly has that grimy, gritty sense of the more modern westerns, scruffy, unclean, ragged around the edges, death is quick and cheap. Yet in amongst this the main characters are striving for a redemption of any sort that they might get. There is no black and white (hats) the whole canvas is a muddy grey and no one comes out clean.

Amhed’s reason for being pursued and escaping his pursers and capture is so incidental to the plot in real terms it might as well have ‘MacGuffin’ printed on it in foot-high letters. Audiard is more interested in his characters and how the ‘Wild West’ has shaped them, making seemingly tough, hardened, greedy and all the other characteristics we are used to seeing but giving them a real human side that motivates their actions and allows them to display other sides to the individuals rather than ‘killer’, ‘pyscho’, ‘greedy’, ‘untrustworthy’ and so on.

To do this the there is a lot of dialogue and a lot of simple pursuit, what violence and hardships that are suffered seem even more pertinent to the story as a life can be snuffed out easily for what sometimes is a random, undeserving, moment.  So far so bleak.

As the characters traverse through the very western looking scenery the film can seem to be slow-paced and meandering but this is a strong point in the story and fits the overall narrative and what the director/writer wants to tell you. Shooting, galloping, yelping and screaming gunslingers would not be true to the story.

With great scenery and score the eyes and ears are as well treated as the old grey matter with The Sisters Brothers add into this mix John C Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed on your starting roster and you have strong film. Female characters are not so strongly treated by Rebecca Root gets a great expanded cameo and as a ‘bad as the men’ character and Carol Kane turns up near the end which is always a nice treat for film lovers.

The Sisters Brothers is nice little western born of the same family as The Unforgiven and zigzagging across the genre right back to Shane. There’s redemption, death and life in the hard world of the west, but something that’s missing from a lot of those films is a European sensibility and an underlying sense of humour. This The Sisters Brothers has for me.

All in all The Sisters Brothers is good at what it does but be warned if you are expecting a more rock ‘em and sock ‘em western about bounty hunters shootin’ up the town then maybe do not set this aside to watch. I still think some viewers looking for that type of film might get enough from what they see but I can also see why some will not like the story as much as me.

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Incredibles 2

Sometimes a day can seem to last forever, but 14 years?

(Edit) 08/12/2019

Apparently, it has been fourteen years since the first Incredible film came out and this type of gap between sequels always makes me nervous. For instance, The Incredibles 2 starts off minutes after The Incredibles movie concluded. Did it? I honestly could not remember.

The film fires us into the Parr family immediately with all the kinetic and colourful action of its predecessor and this is not a bad thing.

The standard of the voice acting and animation is as usual top-notch and getting back into the life of the superhero Parrs was easy. Mr. Incredible having to stay at home and look after the children is perhaps not as ‘different’ as the makers think and in truth the man not being able to cope with raising the kids is very cliched, as cliched as having women not being leads and so the direction of the story falls between two stools. Whilst the Soy Drinking Virtue Signaller in me applauds the different take on the superhero animation genre, the old man who has seen it all before also sighed and raised his eyes to the heavens as well. Having said that the audience of younger adults and children may not have seen these scenarios before, so cynicism probably needs to be put back in the box or at least diluted.

Despite this the film is entertaining and made me laugh and there is fun to be had for adults that will pass over the heads of the ‘adults in waiting’ that will lap up the brightly lit and explosive action.

All in all despite the message the makers are trying to get across one cannot help feeling that the biggest talking point from the movie will be Jack-Jack and his blossoming and seemingly uncontrollable powers. A set-piece with a raccoon will raise the roof.

The Incredibles 2 is not as good as The Incredibles but certainly not as bad as some will have you believe. Sure, enough they have tried to address modern-day concerns and issues but that is what many films do and have always done so getting overly excited about this is a redundancy. The message, and indeed story, are perhaps not as fresh as Bird believed them to be and disappointedly for a film that is gently trying to prod some more contentious modern issues the story and characters can feel hackneyed with more of the whiff of cliché and lazy stereotyping.

Deep breath and relax though – it is a light-hearted animation about a slightly silly superhero family that is made mainly for the younger cinema-goers and as such it does the job comfortably.

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Leave No Trace

If You Go Into the Woods Today....you might not find anyone.

(Edit) 05/12/2019

Viewers are treated to marvellous unromanticised scenes of Will and Tom’s life in the woods and this gives you a strong base to the story and to the father, daughter dynamic. Skilfully weaving into the narrative, post-traumatic-stress, unyielding family loyalty and the need for true solitude you know we are on an interesting and perhaps harrowing trip.

The deft handling of director Debra Granik in the pacing and telling of the story ensures that you are never really sure where we are heading as we troop along with the main characters and also some impressive cliché swerving is done as no character in the film is given a black hat. Everyone is doing what they think is correct for a reason and the reason makes sense – you know, real life.

There’s a documentary feel to the filming and style, and Leave No Trace is all the better for it, bringing it’s naturalistic acting to the fore even more.

Tackling such diverse topics, particularly the post-traumatic-stress parts, with subtlety and without resorting to ‘flashbacks’ or teenage histrionics is something I can only applaud and a refreshing change and restraint to this type of story. We do not need abuse and evil authorities for the trip to be engrossing and entertaining.

The cast is uniformly natural and the leads Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie having a real and honest father-daughter dynamic that in other hands may have faltered.

In the end Leave No Trace is a love story between a father and daughter were death, trauma and huge changes in their lives ultimately cannot weaken the love.

Worth a viewing but if you’re looking for Rambo or teenage ‘oh my god’ angst look elsewhere.

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