Film Reviews by AM

Welcome to AM's film reviews page. AM has written 29 reviews and rated 233 films.

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Shoplifters

Unsettling yet..

Koreeda's films are so often about the dynamics of family, friendship vs family, nurture vs nature and so it is here.

The set-up, about what appears to be a family at the very bottom of the social scale who take in an neglected child (it's not kidnapping if they don't issue a ransom) is only the beginning. Gradually the dichotomy pf their moral choices is revealed, and questions are raised. Unlike JR, I felt the final section of the film necessary to pull threads together, particularly as it is based on a true story. Not his best film for me (that is I Wish), but easily good enough.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Martha Marcy May Marlene

Flying blind

This film is one that's been floating around the edges for me since it came out. It was well received on release, and I heard good things, but missed it. And in the intervening 8 years, I kept hearing good things, and it's floated up and down the wish list for a while. Finally I put it on, principally because it was short running time and that suited me.

I was left cold.

I realised quickly how little I knew about the film s I put the dvd in, noticing the slip described it as a thriller. I vaguely thought it was a comedy, about 4 girls in New York. Of that, the closest I got right was that some of the film takes place in New York state. There is only one girl, played by Elizabeth Olsen, who uses three names in the course of the film, inside and outside a mysterious cult.

Elizabeth Olsen is holds the film together, playing some we slowly realise is suffering from PTSD. I don't immerse myself in the Marvel universe, and so I've only seen her in one other film, being equally excellent in Wind River. But the film never quite clicks. The how and why of the cult, its existence and Martha's arrival is left completely blank, and this leaves a void at teh heart of the film.

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Saving Mr. Banks

Ok but not necessary

This is fine. It's enjoyable, and nice, and well-played. I can imagine siting down with the family on Christmas evening and watching it.

It didn't feel necessary though. It may shed a bit of light in the upbringing of the creator of Mary Poppins, or it may imagine scenes that do her, and her parents an injustice. I can't tell, and I don't really care. I don't need to know and I don't think anyone really does. As a general rule, I always think that if you are going to re-tell a story based on real events, then it either needs to be a story worth telling or seek to show new perspectives worth thinking about . Dunkirk is a film which falls into the former category, The Post falls into the latter. I don't see why Saving Mr Banks needs to exist.

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Lady Bird

Fabulous

This is as good an exposition of the emotions and relationships within a family as I've seen, in particular the mother-daughter relationship which is perfectly played. It probably has more resonance with parents, and particularly parents of teenage girls, but what's wrong with that? It builds slowly but carries a real emotional punch at the end. One of the best films of the year and deserving of all the plaudits.

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Harmonium

A dark tale of family life

This does not make for cheery viewing, though there were several moments in the first half of the film when I snorted with laughter.

The premise, of a family's quiet harmony being disturbed when an outsider arrives, is not new, but this slowly drip feeds a dark back story to develop a brooding menace. By the halfway point of the film it is clear there can be no happy ending. It's a well made, well acted piece, but definitely not a first date movie!

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Pasolini

gay porn

I switched this off very early on - ten minutes. It was unwatchably bad, but that ten minutes put me in mind of 9/12 weeks, re-filmed with a middle-aged man in the Kim Basinger role and a series of men in the Mickey Rourke role. If you like gay porn, this may the film for you, but if you don't, then avoid at all costs.

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Baby Driver

Delivers

Someone I know has a film rating method where he starts with 10/10 and knocks off 1 point for each fault. If a film sets out to be an action movie, and it delivers that flawlessly, it's a 10/10 action movie, etc.

Baby Driver is a heist movie with a smile on it's face. It delivers that pretty much perfectly. Kevin Spacey phones in a Kevin Spacey performance so I dock a point on my friends rating. My own rating method means I can't give a heist movie full points as I'm highly unlikely to watch it again. But I'd recommend this film without a seconds thought.

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Daddy's Home 2

I should have listened to child 2

'Lets go to the cinema', says I

'Let's see Paddington 2', says child 2.

'We've seen it', says child 1, ' let's see something new'.

And that is how I came to see this film. I should have listened to child 2, & over-ridden child 1.

This is a film without any redeeming characteristics, expect possibly that it came to an end. It makes jokes out of children learning to use assault rifles to shoot small animals. If there is a hackneyed line, it delivers it. Will Ferrel has never been so bad.

Towards the end of the film, there is a dig at formulaic Christmas movies, where it describes the plot of a supposed risibly bad Christmas action movie called Missile Tow. I would rather have watched that.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Life Feels Good

more than just a Polish My Left foot

The parallels are obvious. Both films tell the story of someone with cerebral palsy, over a number of years, both with a basis in fact. But life Feels Good is far more that just a Polish retread of My Left Foot.

I'm trying to avoid spoilers here. Suffice to say that while My Left Foot dealt with the story of someone dealing with cerebral palsy, Life Feels Good deals with someone whose cerebral palsy leads to a further misdiagnosis. The resulting story is brilliantly acted, sensitively acted, with pathos, emotion and humour. It's an excellent film which deserves a far larger audience.

ps - only in the credits did I realise this was based on one singular true story, until then I assumed it was drawn from a collaboration of events. This is partly because I now expect film biopics to start by telling you this is what they are. That it is all true only enhances an wonderful film

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Captain Fantastic

General Excellence let down by Major Flaws

Where to start?

Imagine a world where The Dude did not grow up to be a ten-pin bowling obsessed hippie in the Big Lebowski, but instead 6 children who were home educated in in bohemian ideals using almost military work ethic, living off grid virtually cut-off from normal society. This is the starting point for Captain Fantastic with Viggo Mortensen in the lead role. Forced to leave their home after a tragedy, the film works best when it is just Viggo and the children. Together the family amplify the ideals so often shown in films (the hugely intelligent, charismatic hippy with all the answers) and the contradictory amount of work and near brainwashing used to achieve it, Where it works least when they meet other characters. These are almost invariably cartoon cut-out stereotypes, reacting in incredibly predictable ways. More depth to these encounters would have added so much more.

This is a four star film. I enjoyed it. It entertained me. It is, in part, really well acted. It wants to be better than it is, it tries incredibly hard to say more than it can; ultimately it just doesn't quite deliver. But better this film than a hollywood rom-com any night of the week.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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Monty Python's Life of Brian

Quite possibly my favourite all time film

I can quote whole screeds of this film. It is, simply, the greatest comedy of all time, and I have watched it countless times in the last 25 years.

Of course, there is controversy around it. A friend from university initially refused to watch it, understanding it to be a satire on the life of Christ. Eventually persuaded to 'try it', after I assured him that the film makes it very plain that Brian is NOT Christ, he ended up on the floor in tears of laughter.

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Amelie

Still great after all these years

Amelie came out at the same time my wife and I started dating. It was the first film we saw at the cinema, bought the video etc. On rewatching, over a decade later it holds up well. It perhaps has the timeless quality, and isn't reliant on what were current issues (other than the Lady Di references). The kooky humour is still great, it looks great - basically, it's great.

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When Marnie Was There

Only half Ghibli

Like many people (I suspect) I associate Studio Ghibli with Miyazaki. I was hooked in by films like Spirited Away (genius), Princess Mononoke, Valley of the Wind, films which are beautifully made, telling original stories unlike any we see in western cinema - semi-fantastical, child-like yet with an underlying menace. When Marnie was There is a Studio Ghibli film, but directed by Yonebayashi. Like his previous film Arriety (based on the Borrowers), it is based on a short story from Western culture, and for me that means it loses half of the charm. It looks great, but the story seems familiar, and never fully threatening. Arriety had great fun playing with the ideas that every Borrowers film has, and the threat of being discovered put a tension in the film that I enjoyed and my children loved. When Marnie Was There lacks that. It's nice. I enjoyed it, but feel no need to see it again.

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Straight Outta Compton

A story well told

Oh, this is good. Not ground-breaking, outstanding, but just really good story-telling. And the story is worth recording. Even if you don't listen to hip-hop, rap, or any of the various sub-sets that spin off this, if you are under 50 you will have heard at some point music (produced written or performed) by the central 3 performers in NWA. Their rise, with accompanying controversy (in spades), deaths (several), and old fashioned rocknroll excess is lovingly detailed here. It holds the attention, entertains, and at the same time reminds everyone where race relations where in the US in the 80's and 90's (I'll leave it to you to judge how far things have progressed since).

The three central actors are astonishingly good. They are playing icons, yet they've barely the beginnings of a career between them. Two have a collection of bit parts, while Ice Cube is played by his son, who is making his film debut.

If the film has a flaw, it is that it is produced by Dre and Ice Cube, and I can't help but feel it maybe shows in the script. In the film, NWA's genius is clear - Dre does the tunes, Ice Cube the words, Easy-E is taught to perform by Dre and the rest are bit players. Was it quite as clear-cut as that?

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Victoria

So good

Shot in one take. 4 of the 5 reviews mention this. It seems to be the only thing anyone knows. It's an outstanding technical achievement (this isn't a film set in one place, it moves location constantly, and the camera has to move with it), but it's also a great decision as it helps drive the film forward, and to lock my attention in. There are, unquestionably, one or two points where the decisions Victoria makes are odd (particularly early on) and I knocked a star off for that.

Alphaville mentioned Run Lola Run - also a really good film, and with undoubted similarities. Watch both.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.
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