Film Reviews by GI

Welcome to GI's film reviews page. GI has written 622 reviews and rated 1210 films.

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The King's Man

Comicbook Prequel - More Of The Same

(Edit) 20/05/2022

A big extravaganza prequel to the spy romp series first introduced in 2004 with Kingsman: The Secret Service. Like the first film and it's sequel this is comic book Bondian with elements of the styling in The Avengers and tells the story of how the Kingsmen came into being. So we get a warped history lesson where a megalomaniac (think Blofeld complete with balding head) engineers the First World War through cohort of baddies that includes Rasputin (Rhys Ifans). The Duke Of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) mourning his beloved wife, killed in the Boer war, and now an advocate for peace aided by his two servants (Gemma Carterton & Djimon Hounsou) who run a network of spying house servants around the world set out to stop him. There's plenty of big action set pieces and fight scenes that always seem to cross the line of a little over stretched and mixed with splurges of bad taste masquerading as adult humour. It's entertaining enough and could've done with shaving twenty minutes from the runtime but it's ok if you liked the first two.

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The Departed

Excellent Crime Thriller

(Edit) 20/05/2022

Director Martin Scorsese once commented that this was the first film he'd made that actually had a plot. And what a great plot it is. A cat & mouse narrative as Leonardo DiCaprio as undercover cop Billy and Matt Damon as gang member Colin try to identify each other to ensure their survival. The film boasts a great cast with Jack Nicholson excelling in the ultimate bad guy role as Boston crime boss Frank Costello, aided by Ray Winstone (with a slightly dodgy American accent) as his chief lieutenant, who cleverly grooms one of his young gang members Colin to join the Boston police and work his way into the very unit trying to catch him. With an insider in the police Frank feels invulnerable until Colin discovers there's an undercover cop deep in Frank's gang. With splashes of Scorsese's trademark violence, a support cast that includes Mark Wahlberg, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen and a traditional crime thriller story that rattles along at a great pace it's no wonder this won Oscars. It was a departure from what we normally expect from this director but it was a welcome one.

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Deliverance

Survivalist Thriller - A Must Watch

(Edit) 19/05/2022

A harrowing survivalist film with real suspense at its core. A key film of the 70s and one of director John Boorman's best films, it's also the break-out film for Burt Reynolds who went onto star status following this. It tells the story of four city men who go on a canoe trip down a South Georgia river that is soon to be flooded and turned into a gigantic lake. Led by outdoor enthusiast and alpha male Lewis (Reynolds) the other three Ed (Jon Voight), Bobby (Ned Beatty) and Drew (Ronny Cox) are a mixed bunch of optimists and pessimists who are drawn to the trip by Lewis' obvious enthusiasm. Along the journey they have to contend with and form a bond with the wilderness but danger comes from a most unlikely source. Often deemed a horror film this is really a nuanced thriller that has character as it's main theme and it looks at a hidden and perhaps forgotten side of America. There's a constant edginess to the film setting an atmosphere of dread often bought on by Lewis in particular, a man possibly on the edge of sanity. In the end it's the meek character of Ed, who has a psychological issue that will affect their survival chances, who has to step up. This is a film that all film lovers should ensure they see, it's shocking and at times pushes boundaries but always stays just the right side of stretching the limits of credibility. Based on novel by James Dickey, who wrote the screenplay and has a cameo role this also has the great screen character villain Bill McKinney. A superb film and worthy of rediscovery.

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The Defiant Ones

Raw Prison Break Film

(Edit) 18/05/2022

Multi award winning and the first to receive an Oscar nomination for a black actor. This is a prison break drama that uses its story as a powerful indictment of racist America and it's ahead of its time in shining a full light on the issue of racial intolerance. Tony Curtis, breaking away from his 'pretty boy' roles, and Sidney Poitier play two prisoners, Johnny and Noah, chained together and on the run in southern USA. Johnny is a typical bigoted redneck and Noah raised under the boot of the white south. Both have an unbridled hatred for one another but must unite if their escape is to succeed. Director Stanley Kramer was never afraid to raise controversial themes in his films and this one is influential, highly acclaimed in it's writing, cinematography, and performances it's one of the key social dramas that looks almost microscopically at the deep seated racism of 50s America, with the use of the 'N' word, calling Noah 'Boy', lynch mobs, and the sheer indoctrination where white people are afraid of allowing the black character to use the same plates and cutlery etc. There's a powerful scene where sharing a cigarette Johnny tears off the end to avoid putting the same bit in his mouth as Noah. Additionally Kramer injects the film with a despairing look at the state of the country questioning the 'American Dream', with scenes of poverty, of desperation highlighted in the scenes with Cara Williams, a 'poor white trash' character prepared to have sex with Johnny to enable her escape from her worthless life, even abandoning her young son to achieve it. Ultimately this is a story of friendship as the two men bond together each making sacrifices for the other even when the manacles have gone. A raw and tense drama that is one of those films you need to make sure you see at least once.

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Mothering Sunday

Interesting Period Drama - But slow!

(Edit) 18/05/2022

A lovely looking semi period drama that, even for someone like me that quite likes slow cinema, has an ennui that tests your patience. The languid nature of the film is such that the powerful emotions at play get lost. Set between the World Wars where the middle class rich are struggling with the huge loss of their sons on the battlefields of France. The story follows Jane (Odessa Young), a maid to the Nivens (Colin Firth and Olivia Colman) who are struggling with grief as their sons have not returned from the war. Mr Niven tries to be eternally kind while Mrs Niven seethes with anger. Jane is having an affair with the only surviving son of their neighbour who is about to be married. Paul (Josh O'Connor) is only too aware of the pressure of being the only survivor of the war from his family and finds solace in the arms of Jane, albeit they both know it's temporary. The film has a flashback structure that slows the pace so much that the film seems to lose its way. O'Connor gives another passionate lover performance that he does so well, perhaps we need to see him in something more challenging. Young too is highly watchable has manages the challenging, extended scene of wandering naked around Paul's big country house with aplomb. Olivia Colman offers the only moment to wake you up when she loses control and rages during a lunch party. With Glenda Jackson cameoing as the older Jane this film has a lot to admire but it needed a jolt of something to bring it alive and make it more entertaining.

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The Adam Project

Good Solid Family Adventure

(Edit) 16/05/2022

A big hearted family sci-fi adventure with the ever lovable Ryan Reynolds bringing his comic screen persona once again to make this hugely enjoyable. The film channels any number of other big popular films most notably Back To The Future (1985) and the Star Wars saga but it does so in a wryly comic way that makes you smile and occasionally laugh along with the in-joke. Reynolds plays a fighter pilot from the year 2050 who uses time travel technology to return to the past in order to change history. He's pursued by the evil baddie in the form of Catherine Keener who is desperate to stop him. In 2022 he meets up with his 12 year old self (played by Walker Scobell) and they have to team up to defeat the bad guys. Both the older and younger Adams dislike each other but also bond over their mutual problems. It's all good fun with great effects and the story is neatly done. The support cast of Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner and Zoe Saldana just adds to the mix.

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King Richard

Solid Sports Drama

(Edit) 15/05/2022

A confident film depicting the story of Richard Williams, amateur tennis coach who, against the odds, groomed his daughters Venus and Serena to world tennis stars. Will Smith is solid as Williams in his award winning performance although that will probably be forever overshadowed by his loss of control at the Oscar ceremony, but the actual performances that really stand out are Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton as Venus and Serena respectively. This is essentially a family drama that portrays Williams as a stubborn and obsessed father, fanatically focussed and endlessly demanding who believes his way is always right to the utter frustration of the tennis coaches trying to get the two sisters to champion level. The real Williams sisters were executive producers so there's always the thought that this is the authorised story and it explains how the narrative skims over what living with a disciplinarian like Richard was really like. There are snippets but overall he's portrayed as a fair, calm and dedicated man, who defends his daughters even to the point of contemplating killing a local gang leader who keeps hitting on them. Whether that incident is true of not it's the one episode in the film that seems placed there to show how he could be tipped over into violent action. Smith gives Williams his own easy going public persona (coincidentally the persona that so drastically slipped at the Oscars) and this makes the film a more gentle experience as a drama culminating in the nail biting match that Venus, aged 15, plays against Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, even suggesting some shenanigans by Vicario secured her victory. Strong performances and solid direction make this highly watchable but there seems something lacking.

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Defence of the Realm

Superb British Political Thriller

(Edit) 12/05/2022

A rare treat, a British political thriller with a noir style and the break out film of star, Gabriel Byrne. Made at the height of the Thatcher years this neat, tense film captures the paranoia of the times with increased Government activity against anyone they considered subversive. Byrne plays an investigative journalist, Nick, who breaks a story about a high profile politician (Ian Bannen) and his links with a KGB agent. Applauded by his bosses and forcing the politician to resign Nick rides high even though his fellow reporter and an old friend of the politician, Vernon (Denholm Elliott, in a BAFTA award winning performance) tells him his story is wrong. When Vernon dies mysteriously Nick investigates further and uncovers a conspiracy involving an American nuclear airbase and the death of a young boy. This film will appeal to anyone who loved the British TV series, Edge Of Darkness, as they both tap into the idea of a sinister surveillance culture within the UK. There is little onscreen violence but the film twists and turns creating a sense of dread as Nick becomes more aware of being watched and targeted. Great cast that includes Greta Scacchi, Fulton Mackay, Bill Paterson and Robbie Coltrane. A forgotten gem and a film well worth seeking out.

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The Deer Hunter

Powerful & Provocative Vietnam Drama

(Edit) 11/05/2022

This war drama remains a powerful and quite astonishing condemnation of war and whilst it still has its dissenters it is a real achievement. When it was made American cinema still hadn't really got to grips with the Vietnam war and this film looked at how it affected the young men drafted to fight there and also the people at home who are equally traumatised by the conflict's resulting destruction of their lives. This is not a traditional genre war film and there are in fact very few scenes of actual combat. When the story moves to Vietnam it is a somewhat disjointed and jarring scene change that moves very quickly to the infamous POW scenes. Controversial to this day the 'Russian roulette' segments that form a key part of the narrative remain very shocking and these go along way to highlighting the exceptional acting that is carried throughout the film by the cast. It's the story of a group of friends from a grimy Pennsylvania steel mill town whose lives are radically altered by the experience of three of them who are drafted to fight in Vietnam. With the opening scenes of a huge wedding to the final chapter of attempting to find one of the three who is missing in Saigon this is a poignant, moving and a very intense and provocative drama. It is a masterwork and deserved the multiple awards it garnered. The cast are all superb including Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage and Meryl Streep, it's also the final film of John Cazale who died before the film was completed. Critics have cited the racist depictions of Asians and one can read a homosocial subtext especially relating to soldiers assimilating back into civilian life with the clear feminine influence at play but whichever way this is viewed it's an American 'anti-classic' and a film everyone should see at least once.

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Herself

Warm Social Drama

(Edit) 10/05/2022

A social drama that manages to be both a heartwarming story of self empowerment and a socio-realist story that condemns the bureaucracy and officialdom that deals with the plight of domestic violence victims. Clare Dunn writes and stars here as Sandra, the mother of two adorable young daughters and the wife to a toxic and abusive husband. After a particularly violent assault Clare leaves and with her children is stuck in hotel accommodation while she waits to get housing from the local government. Humiliated daily and carrying several menial jobs she hits upon the idea of building her own house to a self-build template she finds online. The housing officials refuse to help even though loaning her the money would end up cheaper than the hotel fees! But she finds a benefactor in her employer, Peggy (Harriet Walter) and her journey to a new life begins although her troubles with her husband are far from over. This is an unexpected warm drama with some interesting things to say and highlight and although the help of Peggy is a little too convenient for the plot this can be forgiven due to the earnest nature of the film. Overall this is a film about self empowerment and finding strength to overcome the hurdles life throws at you. It's very watchable and and good natured.

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The Ice Road

Enjoyable Action/Adventure

(Edit) 09/05/2022

Obviously influenced by The Wages Of Fear (1953) and Sorcerer (1977) this action adventure is another in the never ending line of Liam Neeson curmudgeonly old timer action flicks although this one puts aside the usual revenge theme for a reasonably entertaining adventure story that has its moments. Neeson plays Mike, a gutsy trucker who also cares for his mentally damaged ex veteran brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas). Needing the money Mike accepts the highly dangerous job of taking special (and very heavy) rescue equipment across the frozen sea on an ice road to a diamond mine where an accident has trapped miners underground. It's all a race against time before the miners suffocate. There's the tense journey across the ice which isn't without incident as you'd expect and also a slowly unravelling conspiracy to give Liam the chance to battle with some bad guys. It's pure hokum but enjoyable and Laurence Fishburne has a cameo just to add some extra spice.

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The Contractor

Routine Action Thriller

(Edit) 08/05/2022

A routine and uninspiring action thriller that wastes it's set pieces by making them formulaic and generic. The film has some entertainment value but it's an instantly forgettable auctioneer that offers nothing that hasn't been done before. A shame in may ways because Chris Pine seems to be a lead actor constantly in search of a good script. From Captain Kirk he seems to have drifted along with just the odd stand out, Hell Or High Water (2016) for example. Indeed his costar here, Ben Foster, also can offer a gritty addition to any film not least that 2016 one but in The Contractor he's the routine stereotypical mate who lets the side down. Pine plays a former special forces soldier, James, who struggling to get a job ends up working for a shady private firm led by even more shady Kiefer Sutherland. When his first job in Berlin goes awry James finds he's been betrayed and hunted but intends to get home and sort everyone out!

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Jiu Jitsu

Silly Predator Rip Off

(Edit) 02/05/2022

A blatant rip off of Predator (1987) where every six years an alien warrior arrives and has to be dealt with by a band of ninja martial arts fighters. It's all totally silly, a film made up of a series of long winded athletic fight scenes with a stupid and incoherent story attempted in between. Nicolas Cage appears in a cameo and reportedly took a fifth of the budget in wages and clearly the reason he did it at all. Avoid, I've given up 105 minutes f life so you don't have to.

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The Death of Stalin

A Must See Satirical Comedy

(Edit) 03/05/2022

Stupendous satirical dark comedy from director Armando Iannucci, hilariously funny and sharply scripted with a top cast who ring every last drop of brilliance from their roles. Based on a French graphic novel the story is close to historical accuracy in the telling of the rush and rivalry to gain power by the USSR top politicians when their leader Stalin suddenly dies of a brain haemorrhage. But with the actors keeping their natural accents and with a really funny script this becomes comedy gold and it's a film that you could see a mature Monty Python team writing and making. Simon Russell Beale is the dark heart of the film as the notorious Beria, a man who has murdered and sexually assaulted his way to the top and who now evilly plans his way to take over, along with Steve Buscemi as Krushchev and Michael Palin as Molotov out to foil his plans. Another stand out is Jason Isaacs as the tough, no nonsense Field Marshall Zhukov, a really funny performance. Along with a support cast that includes Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Friend, Jeffrey Tambor and Paddy Considine you also have a richly, clever satire on modern politics and whilst this story includes murder and depravity it takes a sharp look at the way politics has evolved including to today and in the aftermath of the Trump debacle viewers will recognise the contemporary themes. A great adult comedy that is a must see.

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Infinitum: Subject Unknown

Boring Experimental SciFi

(Edit) 04/05/2022

An experimental sci-fi film shot on an iPhone (although you couldn't tell to be honest) during the Covid pandemic. Written and made by husband and wife team Matthew and Tori Butler-Hart. It's a monotonous film about some weird mind experiment in which an unnamed woman (Tori Butler-Hart) awakes in a strange attic tied to a chair. She's escapes but finds that at certain moments time seems to reset itself and she has to start over, so like a computer game. Each time she manages to puzzle out what to do to keep going, all the while heading for an old country house where the said experiment is being controlled. Ian McKellen and Conleth Hill have cameos but mostly it's a one woman show! Nothing much happens, it's frustrating and self-indulgent and ultimately boring.

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