Film Reviews by GI

Welcome to GI's film reviews page. GI has written 1198 reviews and rated 1787 films.

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Mississippi Burning

Cinema at It's Very Best

(Edit) 22/02/2024

Powerful and provocative Mississippi Burning is not only a first rate crime thriller it's a sharp condemnation of American cultural racism that continues to this day. Set in 1964 three civil rights activists are murdered by local Ku Klux Klan members, who include the local police amongst their number, in a small Mississippi town which strictly applies segregation laws. Their disappearance sparks the arrival of two FBI agents, Ward (Willem Dafoe), a young idealist who believes in proper procedure to get results and Anderson (Gene Hackman) a former Mississippi Town Sheriff and now seasoned agent who knows that only by extreme methods will they break the wall of silence in the local community. The theme of the old guard vs the new is quickly established as these two protagonists have a very conflicted relationship but gradually both come to respect the other. Their investigation and it's subsequent escalation sparks a wave of shocking violence as the racist whites attack the humble black community. There is only one redeeming white character, the wife of the racist deputy sheriff Pell (Brad Dourif), she's played with sensitivity by Frances McDormand even recognising her role is essential to enable the narrative to bring the investigation to a conclusion. Occasionally the film thrusts it's message a little too deeply when it doesn't have to because the power of the story is enough. This is arguably British director Alan Parker's best film, it's a gripping thriller that should make you gasp but it's also a fantastic movie that deserves a modern day audience.

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My Son

Flawed Experiment That Spoils This

(Edit) 22/02/2024

It's not until you do a bit of research about this film, a remake of a 2017 French movie, that the reasons it all feels rushed and average is that the main star, James McAvoy, was improvising the whole time and didn't have a clue where the the narrative and his character are going until he made it go that way by his sheer reaction to what the other actors did. All of this isn't apparent when you watch this. It's a basic story, a sort of home grown Taken (2008) set in the Scottish highlands (cue beautiful scenery) where McAvoy's Edmond returns to his former home when his ex wife (Claire Foy) calls to tell him their 7 year old son has gone missing. After a lot of crying and confusion Edmond decides to pursue his own investigation leading to some extreme reactions including torture of a suspect he believes has kidnapped his child. The films swerves from traumatic mystery drama to revenge thriller with little time for any character or theme to emerge and what's left is a 90 minute TV style story that is bewildering and empty of anything meaningful or interesting. I can see why McAvoy was drawn to the project, as an accomplished actor he's given free rein but it benefits the story and audience not one bit. Claire Foy is the one reason to watch this, she's fantastic here.

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Prizefighter

Unoriginal Boxing Biopic

(Edit) 21/02/2024

Clearly a passion project for writer, producer and star Matt Hookings but this historical boxing drama offers nothing that tons of other boxing dramas have done before indeed the narrative follows a predictable arc. This is a biopic of 19th Century bare knuckle champion Jem Belcher, a humble blacksmith who became a celebrated champ under the tutelage of trainer Bill Warr (Ray Winstone). It's a rise and fall story as the working class boy is overcome by the wealth and riches that come his way and then has to claw his way back culminating in a grudge bout with the man who has stolen his crown. Hookings never convinces as the blacksmith with his Oxford grad' accent and the presence of such luminaries as Winstone (his usual gruff, down to earth mentor type role), Jodhi May as Belcher's mother with a permanent disapproving face like a wet lettuce, Russell Crowe as Belcher's alcoholic and fight loving grandfather, Marton Csokas as a nasty aristocrat playing his usual slimy cad thing and Steven Berkoff in a cameo that offers little to the story doesn't help to lift this film. Yes it looks good but the unnecessary sex scenes and the fights never really grab you. It's ok I suppose but a film that is instantly forgettable.

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Mission: Impossible: Fallout

Great Fun & More Gritty Action

(Edit) 21/02/2024

It can't be denied, the Mission Impossible films get better and better. This is a thrilling action film that entertains from start to finish. Most of the old team are back together - Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames & Simon Pegg - and Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris and Alec Baldwin return from the previous Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015) with a story that continues the events in that film. Here the plot revolves around recovering lost plutonium that a terrorist organisation wants to make nuclear bombs. There's plenty of tension and this has some very gritty fight scenes especially involving Henry Cavill who plays a CIA agent sent to keep an eye on Tom Cruise' Ethan Hunt. With chase scenes, including an extended one through Paris, shoot outs, and a neat, convoluted plot this is simply great entertainment and provides exactly what great action thrillers should.

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Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Superb Action Thriller

(Edit) 20/02/2024

If you had any doubts that the Mission Impossible franchise is heavily influenced by the James Bond series then you'll be convinced after this one. The Daniel Craig 007 films are clearly being channeled here even to the extent we are given a world domination criminal organisation in the form of The Syndicate for the IMF to fight (Quantum/Spectre....geddit?). Although having said that it's worth noting that The Syndicate were the regular antagonists in the original TV series so the copying of Bond could just as well be denied. Despite all of this what we are left with is a rather good action thriller that continues to utilise the TV series tropes and pushes the action stunts even further including a now famous opening stunt of Tom Cruise hanging onto the outside of a airplane taking off. The cast is good too with Ving Rhames making a welcome return to a fuller role, Simon Pegg settles in as a major player and Jeremy Renner is somewhat underused. But the addition of Rebecca Ferguson as a double agent, Alec Baldwin arrives as the Head of the CIA and British character actor Sean Harris plays the top baddie. With some great chase scenes, gritty fights and an interesting, convoluted plot this is a worthy addition to the MI series.

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Red Dawn

Entertaining But Empty Action Film

(Edit) 19/02/2024

Red Dawn is a typical John Milius film, the law of the gun with heroic American underdogs overcoming greater and more evil odds. It's been cited as a 'right wing' film if you want to put a political angle onto it and Milius is certainly in favour of violence as a justified means of moral redemption but really this boils the film down to an action war film that certainly entertains but really lacks any real depth even with the addition of the Cuban former revolutionary turned soldier character who has a rather soppy role as the moral moment of tender mercy as if he's embraced the American Dream. The story certainly has promise and the opening information of the collapse of political structures in Europe leaving the USA in isolation mode (again!!) lends itself to an epic story of a dystopian future but basically here it leads to an invasion of America by a joint Russian/Cuban & others force. In a small Colorado town the oppressive invaders gain an early foothold and ruthlessly establish control. But a small band of high school students have fled into the nearby mountains where they evolve into an effective guerrilla force. This cues plenty of warlike set pieces that are well executed but none of the characters are well developed and these young people are just violent warriors intent on killing and they do a lot of it and often in a cold blooded fashion too. The whole thing is quite implausible simply because it relies on action only and even the presence of solid American stalwarts like Ben Johnson, Roy Jenson and Harry Dean Stanton do little other than solidify the flag waving aspects of the narrative which is emphasised by the film's coda. Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen are obviously enjoying the moment as the two main fighters aided by Jennifer Grey amongst others and even the big baddie played by William Smith is never really allowed to get to grips with his job of snuffing out these annoying brats. The 2012 remake added little to this but if you like a straight forward action shoot em up this one and that one does the trick.

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Prey for the Devil

Dull Possession Horror

(Edit) 14/02/2024

There seems to be a plethora of demonic possession films around all of which have the same visual tropes that include gloomy rooms, spine cracking contortions, gruff voices and nuns! This one offers nothing new although it's all presented very well but it simply lacks any excitement or scares and follows a routine storyline that is fairly predictable. A nun (Jacqueline Byers) feels the pull to train as an exorcist despite it being a men only club. She persists and is allowed after her apparent connection to a suspected to be possessed child. It all appears that the 'demon' in question has an issue with the nun going way back so it's a battle of wits between them. Some of the special effects are well done but as I say they are nothing new so the film simply plays out its story and runtime with little to recommend it.

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Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

The First Really Great MI Film

(Edit) 13/02/2024

The fourth film in this enduring franchise is the first really great Mission Impossible film. The whole thing is a full on hi-octane action thriller with some fantastic set piece action sequences, a great story and many homages to the original TV series. The opening and the incorporation of the trademark lit fuse into the action sets the tone for the entire film which is a thrill ride from start to finish. A new cast too that includes Jeremy Renner as a new addition to the team, Paula Patton as Carter ( a distinct nod to the TV series which had a female agent called Carter) and Simon Pegg returns as Benji but in an enhanced capacity lending some well written humour into the plot. Ving Rhames only has a small cameo after being a main player in the first three films. Tom Cruise continues as Ethan Hunt who has to be sprung from a Russian jail before he can be given his new mission to recover nuclear weapon launch codes from a dangerous terrorist. The story is truly Bondian as it moves from Russia to Dubai to India and there's a fantastic stunt on a very tall skyscraper. This is first class entertainment and all you could want from an action film. In short it's great stuff.

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Pinocchio

Entertaining Stop Motion Animation

(Edit) 11/02/2024

As you would probably expect from Guillermo del Toro this is a dark version of the famous tale and with very detailed, indeed at times impressive, stop motion animation. I must say I was sceptical that this would work in that telling the story of a wooden boy utilising a filming method that sort of makes all the characters look wooden but it works very well. The story has been moved into 1930s fascist Italy and is narrated by a cricket, Sebastian (voiced by Ewan McGregor). A gentle carpenter is grieving for his son killed in an air raid during the First World War and makes a gangly puppet in a drunken moment of sadness. That night a kindly wood sprite (voiced by Tilda Swinton) gives it life and names it Pinocchio. And off he goes on a journey of discovery encountering the inevitable selfish and nastiness of people before reuniting with his 'father' and learning how to be a real boy. The story differs from the famous Disney version (a surprisingly dark and strange film) and it's quite sombre and at times thought provoking with its themes around grief, childhood, parental control and political ideals. An interesting version that might be a treat for anyone unfamiliar with the story and the cast are good and includes Ron Perlman, Christoph Waltz and Cate Blanchett (as a monkey!).

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Mission Impossible 3

Faster, Grittier & With A Great Baddie

(Edit) 10/02/2024

Coming after The Bourne Identity and in the same year as Casino Royale it is no wonder that this third instalment is grittier, faster and much more hardcore action in the hands of director J.J. Abrams in his first feature film. It certainly set what was yet to come in the later additions to the franchise. Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt now a trainer in the IMF and happily engaged to Julia (Michelle Monaghan) but he goes back on operations to rescue his protegé captured by evil arms dealer Owen Davian played with gusto by Philip Seymour Hoffman. The plot becomes a battle of wits between the two and with some excellent action set pieces with great car chases there remains big hints of the TV Mission Impossible legacy again utilising the masks and managing to break into impregnable buildings including the Vatican. Cruise gets to do lots of heroic stunts and with a cast rounded out with Laurence Fishburne, Billy Crudup and the first appearance of Simon Pegg as Benji, as well as a returning Ving Rhames this is a highly entertaining action thriller.

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Mission Impossible 2

Full On Action Sequel

(Edit) 09/02/2024

In the hands of action director John Woo this belated sequel is a much more hi-octane shooting and chasing film and much of the espionage roots that the first film used are lost. The familiar use of masks (from the TV series and used in the first film) are key to the plot here but this is really Woo's attempt at getting as close to a James Bond film as he possibly can and there are many similarities to the Pierce Brosnan series. Somehow this is often cited as the least favourite in the MI franchise by many and I can see why. Woo's over stylised use of slow motion in the fight and action scenes is just too much and there is much too much gung-ho shoot 'em up stuff when Mission Impossible is supposed to be about covert espionage and surprise plot twists. Here Tom Cruise is still a covert agent working for the IMF branch of the CIA. He is given a mission to find a lethal virus that has been manufactured along with an antidote. It's to be found in Australia and a psycho former IMF agent Sean (Dougray Scott) is also after it. Cruise recruits Sean's former lover Nyah (Thandie Newton) to help and soon a very unprofessional relationship begins. So we have a romance chucked in for good measure. Ving Rhames returns as the computer wizard and Anthony Hopkins has a great cameo. As action thrillers go this is actually very entertaining and it's worth re-evaluating if you've not seen it in awhile. It's definitely not as good as other films in this series but equally it's not as bad as you might remember.

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Causeway

OK Drama

(Edit) 08/02/2024

A well meaning drama that is all just a little too neat and risk free to make it really good despite the first class performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry. We get a good glimpse at the Lawrence who shot to acclaim in Winter's Bone (2010) here in this sincere film about a mentally and physically wounded soldier trying to recuperate. Lawrence is Lynsey who was involved in an IED attack in Afghanistan and the film begins with her recovery with the help of a nurse but her recovery is rushed through the narrative until we get Lynsey back at home having to reignite a relationship with her rather insensitive mother (Linda Emond) and where old family traumas prove just as hard to overcome as her battle injuries. Her journey to happiness comes from her relationship with a sensitive local mechanic played by Henry. Both are excellent but the narrative is all a bit light and over sentimental making for an unrewarding film. It's all a bit risk free and whilst it's worth checking out it lacks the actual drama that is always hinted at.

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Plane

Entertaining Action Thriller

(Edit) 07/02/2024

A plainly bland and dull title gives way to a reasonably entertaining if fairly routine action thriller. Gerard Butler does another action hero job here as an airline pilot (with a history of a bit of justified violence) who is forced to emergency land his aircraft after it's struck by lightening. Finding themselves on a jungle island near to the Philippines and without communication means a long wait by the passengers and crew for rescue but unfortunately the island is occupied by nasty rebels who are only too eager for foreign hostages. Luckily for the hero he has help from a murderer who was on board being escorted by the FBI back home for his trial and sets out to foil the baddies with some traditional violence. Thereafter it's all Die Hardish action with plenty of shooting and the whole thing is wrapped up in a decent runtime making for a gutsy action film that keeps you watching even though it's all been done before somewhere else.

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Mission Impossible

Great Action Spy Film

(Edit) 06/02/2024

Whilst this spy thriller stretches implausibility to the extreme limits it is very entertaining. Based on the popular 60s TV series it is heavily influenced by the early Bond films and filled a gap that wasn't satisfyingly filled until The Bourne Identity (2002) and when the Bond franchise rebooted in 2006 with Casino Royale. The only character to cross over from the TV series to this film is Jim Phelps, here played by Jon Voight, who leads a covert intelligence team of young agents from a top secret branch of the CIA. One of his team is Ethan (Tom Cruise) who ends up being the only survivor when a mission in Prague goes wrong. Suspected of being a traitor Ethan has to go on the run and come up with a plan to prove his innocence. The scene is then set for great set piece action including a break in at CIA HQ, some very clever plot twists (some of which seriously upset fans of the TV series) and a 007 style ending. Cruise proves his action hero credentials here in a film that is aimed at a wide audience although there is some brutality. The gritty realism will come later in what has now emerged as a highly popular franchise. Great support cast includes Ving Rhames, Jean Reno, Kristin Scott Thomas and an uncredited Emilio Estevez. If you've seen all the series then this, the first, still stands up well and slightly apart from the rest of the films.

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Phantasm

Cheap & Silly Horror/Sci-Fi

(Edit) 05/02/2024

With it's slight European feel and a look very much of the Hammer Horror style this horror (with sci-fi) has become a bit of a cult favourite although I suspect that's more a nostalgic issue with people who flocked to see it back on its first release when it was the go-to late night film at many cinemas. It had benefitted from a big TV advertising campaign which focused on the infamous flying sphere sequence and drew audiences in and that sequence still garners excitement from some even today. The film is a sort of one man band effort with director Don Coscarelli writing, producing, directing and editing and it shows because it's really a poorly written and very clunky film that makes little sense and has some clumsy continuity errors. The narrative is influenced around the Hammer like vampire and zombie films with lots of coffins, shadows and strange things glimpsed every so often and there's even a pair of boobs for good measure. The story is simple and daft. A young boy (Michael Baldwin), mourning his recently deceased parents, becomes suspicious about the funeral home that is in a big country house and overseen by weird 'Tall Man' (Angus Scrimm). The boy and his elder brother investigate and discover the whole thing is a cover for aliens who reanimate human corpses into murderous dwarfs and send them back to their home planet for use as slave labour. None of it is presented in any remotely believable way and the presentation is about effect over good story telling. The final ending still rankles with many! Viewed today it's a cheap B movie horror more laughable than scary and if you've never seen it then don't expect too much.

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