Film Reviews by GI

Welcome to GI's film reviews page. GI has written 1233 reviews and rated 1821 films.

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M.A.S.H.

Classic AntiWar Comedy

(Edit) 23/10/2023

Zany, anarchic and downright hilarious this black comedy is one of the greatest anti-war films ever made. It may surprise someone watching today how innovative it was back in 1970 with it's random structure, overlapping, improvised script and boundary pushing with sex and bad language. Although set during the Korean War it's clearly intended as an allegory for the Vietnam War and it launched the careers of Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould and Tom Skerritt and spawned a long running TV series. Sutherland is a drafted army Captain and surgeon assigned to a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital near to the frontline. Daily treating severely wounded men he and his friends, Trapper (Gould) and Duke (Skerritt) deal with the stress of their lives by rejecting strict army discipline and getting up to all sorts of antics. The film concludes with a football game to finally sum up the war if you haven't by then got the message. Intermixed in the scenes of their pranks are some quite bloody and realistic scenes of surgery to underpin the serious message the film is portraying. This is a real classic and set a benchmark for subversive and adult cinema throughout the 70s. A must see film at all costs.

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Above Suspicion

Interesting True Crime Story

(Edit) 24/10/2023

Based on a true story this sets itself up as an erotic thriller but soon reveals itself as a true crime noir melodrama with Emilia Clarke giving a first rate performance in the central role. The story itself, one of corruption and misogyny, perhaps deserves a bigger film or maybe an extended TV series than what is delivered here but it's an interesting effort and at times quite compelling. Jack Huston is new, keen and ambitious FBI agent Mark Puttnam assigned to a small office in Kentucky. When along with the local police he busts a local coke dealer he sees an opportunity to recruit long suffering Susan (Clarke) as an informant. She in turn sees an opportunity to improve her life and perhaps get away from the small town abuse she has suffered at the hands of the men in her life. This is where the issues with the film really begin as Susan is at times revealed as a victim but also as manipulative femme fatale who seduces Mark into a dangerous sexual relationship, which threatens his career and marriage. The character of Mark is less complicated in that he allows himself to become sexually obsessed with Susan resulting in his need to be rid of her. He is ultimately a weak man, far too impressed with himself and who resorts to violence to cover his mistakes. The emotional dysfunction is what is at play here and the film never really gets to full and satisfying grip with it. Overall though this has an interesting and at times compelling story to tell and both Clarke and Huston are excellent.

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Demonic

Silly Possession Film

(Edit) 20/10/2023

This is a by the numbers, pure pulp demonic possession film that is all rather silly despite its interesting start. Considering director Neill Blomkamp's previous films this is a disappointment and appears to be a made for the money as he seems to have just made a TV movie that is really a damp squib. The set up is intriguing with Carly (Carly Pope) finding out that her estranged mother, who has been in prison for years having committed a horrific crime, is now comatose in a medical research facility. Carly is asked by the medical team if she will take part in an experiment involving entering a virtual computer simulated world and attempt to communicate with her. All so far so good but when the plot moves into its possession part it's all clichéd and daft. The researchers turn out to be Vatican exorcists and this cues lots of dark corridors, nightmare sequences, a monster of sorts and very little of it makes much sense. A very average horror film that attempts something new in a well used sub genre but doesn't deliver.

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Breaking News in Yuba County

Messy Crime Comedy

(Edit) 22/10/2023

A crime comedy that's a bit of a mixed bag. There's some delights, some massive misfires and some weird casting. On the positive side Allison Janney gives a worthy performance in the lead role as Sue, a nondescript married woman with low self esteem because she's friendless and ignored by her husband, family and work colleagues. When she inadvertently catches her husband having an affair a chain of bizarre events begins and Sue finds herself the centre of attention and literally loves it. Desperate for this to continue Sue tells more and more lies getting herself in a pickle with the police and some local gangsters. Mila Kunis plays Sue's sister and while she has a decent go at it she's wasted and clearly miscast. The plot gets more and more exaggerated moving the film from situation comedy to violent slapstick and believe me at times it's very violent. Ultimately it doesn't totally work even though it's a valiant attempt at showing how a simple craving for some recognition and friendship can push people to extremes. There are laughs and Awkwafina as the daughter of the local crime lord is as funny as always. Matthew Modine, Ellen Barkin, Juliette Lewis have small roles and Regina Hall is great as the detective on Sue's case. Entertaining in parts but all a bit mediocre.

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The Drop

Excellent Crime Drama

(Edit) 19/10/2023

A neat crime thriller/drama that improves on second viewing. It can come across as too slow and meandering but looked at more analytically it actually is a well scripted drama with interesting characters and I suspect a more realistic look at the New York crime structures and scene than many other films of this type. Tom Hardy underplays his role skilfully making the eventual development of his character more impacting. He plays Bob, an unassuming bartender who comes across as a little slow with hints that he may not even be able to read and write, he works in a popular working mans bar run by his older cousin Marv (James Gandolfini in his last role). Marv was once the owner and a wannabe gangster but has since had to sell the bar to an organised crime gang. They use the bar as a 'drop' where illicit cash is collected. When it gets robbed by two punks a chain of events begins that reveals some secrets. Hardy's Bob is the central character with much of the film focused on his interaction with Nadia (Noomi Rapace) who he meets when he finds an injured puppy in her trash. Their friendship blossoms and Bob becomes attached to the dog which culminates in events at the bar both past and present. The way the plot gradually comes together is well structured and a tension builds which is subtle and clever. Matthias Schoenaerts costars as Nadia's ex who will play a pivotal role in the story and John Ortiz as a cop investigating the robbery and other things! A far better film than perhaps it appears and certainly worth a revisit if you weren't convinced the first time.

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Lost Highway

Fantastic Thriller From a Unique Filmmaker

(Edit) 19/10/2023

Dark, moody and a distinctly unsettling mystery crime film with huge horror overtones this is quintessential David Lynch at his most enigmatic. The story follows Fred Madison, a nightclub jazz musician, who suspects his wife Renée is having an affair and the finding of videotapes left on their porch increases his obsessive suspicions. Convicted of her murder he is sentenced to death and awaits execution on death row when something very bizarre and strange happens. On first viewing the film may well leave you baffled and even frustrated because Lynch never bothers to unravel his narrative plot twists for you but on further viewings the clues to what is happening are clearly laid out. The main theme here is psychotic dreams and nightmares, an area Lynch has been drawn to in many of his other films. Whatever you think about the narrative style you cannot but be drawn into Lynch's dark vision, his nightmarish world where things are never what they seem. A film that begs questions and yet you'll realise you've seen something unique and quite special. Superb cast of Bill Pullman as Madison, Patricia Arquette as Renée, Balthazar Getty, Robert Blake (in his last film appearance) and Robert Loggia. If you're a fan of Twin Peaks or David Lynch in general then this is a must see, a magnificent piece of film art.

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Straight Time

Underrated 70s Crime Film - Worth Rediscovering

(Edit) 17/10/2023

An underrated 70s crime drama that fits into the wave of American films from this decade that challenged the myth of the 'American Dream'. A big influence on Quentin Tarantino (most especially seen in his debut feature, 1992s Reservoir Dogs) this was a pet project for Dustin Hoffman who was due to direct as well as star but handed the reins to Ulu Grosbard, a friend with whom he'd fall out during the troubled production. Partially scripted by an uncredited Michael Mann you can also see here the seeds of Mann's great crime films such as Thief (1981) and Heat (1995). Allegedly Hoffman wasn't allowed final cut and sued the studio so I'm not sure if the film on general release is his vision for the film or not. Hoffman plays Max Dembo, a career criminal released on parole after a six year stretch for burglary. He wants to go straight and live a normal life but quickly finds that the indifferent system is against him despite his best efforts. The system is represented by the slimy parole officer played by the great M. Emmet Walsh. Realising he's seen as worthless on the outside Max returns to a life of crime with his one chance of redemption with naive girlfriend, Jenny (Theresa Russell). An interesting film viewed today in its look at the life of the criminal and thematically identifying that society and the system is arguably what produces men such as Max. Hoffman gives his usual intense performance even though, on occasion, his screen charisma doesn't always seem to fit the hard man character of Max. Russell is excellent as the girl who takes a chance on max and Harry Dean Stanton and Gary Busey deliver great support. There's two great set piece robberies that Tarantino especially has homaged. A film worth rediscovering.

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Brian and Charles

Delightful British Comedy

(Edit) 14/10/2023

A very British comedy in that it champions an underdog in this case the very lonely and socially inept Brian (David Earl) who lives on the edge of a remote Welsh village where he is routinely bullied by the village alpha male. Brian spends his days making useless and bizarre contraptions in his shed most of which are pointless and don't work until one day after finding a mannequin head and with an old washing machine he builds a robot. With the help of a timely thunderstorm Brian is surprised when it works and he calls it Charles. They become companions and Brian finds a new zest in life teaching Charles about the world. Charles (voiced by Charles Hayward) himself is like an eccentric English gent and is ever inquisitive of his surroundings. Brian is wise enough to keep Charles hidden but as he develops this becomes more and more difficult. This is a surprisingly heartwarming and amusing comedy that has it's roots in the Frankenstein story with elements of Dick Van Dyke's character Caractacus Potts from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). Earl has proved himself adept at playing oddball loners on TV often under the pen of Ricky Gervais and those familiar with the series After Life will recognise the roots of the Brian character. Overall there's something really quite charming, gentle and relevant about this nice little film, a tale of difference, friendship and finding your place in the world.

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Bones and All

Intriguing Horror

(Edit) 12/10/2023

A macabre horror cum road cum coming of age romance film, certainly interesting and oozing some originality. Here is a cannibal narrative set in 80s America (ideal to ensure the story has some plausibility considering the subject matter) where teenager Maren (Taylor Russell) lives on the edges of society and abandoned by her father sets out on the road to find the mother she has never met. Maren has a secret, a craving for human flesh which has forced her to be always on the move. Unable to understand why she has this is the driver for her journey of discovery. On the road she'll find love with drifter Lee (Timothée Chalamet) and fear from Sully (Mark Rylance) who she discovers are both 'eaters'. The strange normality in which Maren and Lee's relationship blossoms even when he casually murders for their food is what makes this film intriguing and the themes of 'feeling different' at certain ages and finding the transition to adulthood to be both painful, frightening and yet exciting are what drives the characters. Rylance is particularly good as the lonely Sully who literally craves some human contact yet makes him into a menacing stalker. An extravagant and quite outrageous film that won't be for everyone and to be honest I'd rather not watch it again as the odd scene did make me turn away!

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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: Extended Cut

Truly Marvellous

(Edit) 11/10/2023

The final epic and what a magnificent piece of cinema deserving of its 11 Oscars (to date only three films have achieved this). The Extended edition opens up the story with far more clarity than the theatrical release which went for more battle scenes to the expense of narrative and character. Luckily director Peter Jackson was always planning to finalise his true vision for this film and it is always the one to turn to. By the time this was released the world of Tolkien's Middle-earth was fully absorbed into the general imagination of the film-going public and Jackson could spread his vision and take risks such as opening the film with a gruesome murder, filling the story with monsters that are bound to provoke nightmares especially the giant spider, Shelob, and with gory battle scenes which rival any huge war film. The cast are magnificent clearly so comfortable now in their roles and I love that Jackson took chances especially by adding the films codas which are sad and uplifting at the sametime. A glorious film about heroism, friendship and loyalty centred around a passion for myth and legend. A wonderful film and a fantastic final instalment of one of the great cinematic trilogies. This is a modern masterpiece and a film to enjoy time and time again.

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Black Adam

Another Tired Ol' Superhero Film

(Edit) 10/10/2023

Another dumb superhero film, this time from DC, and a character that only fans would have heard of. Dwayne Johnson, probably the most likeliest of superheroes, finally gets to don a suit and fly around punching the lights out of anyone he fancies. On the plus side he's a sort of an anti-hero here, an ancient warrior somehow or other linked to a magical crown and imprisoned 5000 years ago but finally released in the modern world. He comes up against a gang of other superheroes led by Pierce Brosnan, none of whom I'd ever heard of before but all reminiscent of X-Men or Watchmen. They eventually all have to team up to fight a big bad villain which cues loads of the usual destruction. Indeed this is violent and darkish like the DC films tend towards but yet it's very MCU is style and structure. When you break it down it's a routine superhero film, it offers nothing new or particularly original and one can't help but think its just dredging the well of comic characters in an attempt to get a film onto the screen. If you're a fan, enjoy but for the rest of us.....yawn!

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Fair Play

Solid Relationship Drama

(Edit) 11/10/2023

A well constructed and gratifying relationship psychodrama that has some clumsy narrative swings including one near the end that I didn't think fitted very well but overall this is an entertaining and very well made film. Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (Alden Edrenreich) are an in love couple preparing their future together but who both happen to work for a cutthroat hedge fund firm in Wall Street. Firm policy means they keep their relationship a secret but things begin to unravel when Emily gets a promotion that Luke thought was rightfully his. This has the effect of slowly eroding his self confidence, his sexual prowess, increasing his jealousy and killing his very masculinity made even more damaged when Emily offers to try and help him get the next promotion as if he can't do this on his own merits. His mental decline drives the narrative towards destruction forcing Emily to make some bad decisions that affects her relationship with her boss (Eddie Marsan). As a story of toxic masculinity badly wounded by the simple issue of a woman being cleverer and more successful than the man this is a strong story. It works brilliantly in showing Luke's gradual decline but occasionally steps a little too far in Emily's story arc especially the final scene which, for me didn't really sit with the narrative. Overall this is a watchable, well acted and interesting film.

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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: Extended Cut

Epic, Exciting and Truly Glorious

(Edit) 09/10/2023

A magnificent fantasy epic full of gritty, brutal battles and a far darker tone than the first film in the trilogy. The second film in a trilogy can often be the most difficult as audiences know that the conclusion is to come in a further episode and consequently a director must make a full narrative whilst setting the scene for the next instalment. The level of detail in this film is something to behold and the cleverness of following various characters as they go on different journeys in the narrative is beautifully edited to ensure the various story arcs are interwoven so as to keep all of them in the mind of the viewer and not to inhibit the action in any one of them. The cast remain impressive and in the Extended edition, which is always the version to watch, the story is more rounded, more enhanced and characters return from the earlier film to help explain the motivations of the characters, for example Sean Bean as Boromir is shown in a flashback with his father and brother in a scene that will give full meaning to later events in the third film. This film showcases the whole ethos behind Tolkien's celebrated novel. Its a tale of heroism and intermixing myth, legend and history to create a remarkable fantasy epic. This is a modern masterpiece, a superb piece of cinema and a film to relish over and over again.

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Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power

Thought Provoking Film Documentary

(Edit) 07/10/2023

For serious film aficionados and students of film form and critical analysis this is an interesting and though provoking documentary from film director Nina Menkes looking at the institution of the 'male gaze' in cinema and she proposes its repercussions in social-political environments of the real world. Menkes carefully shows the construction of image around the female form and her clear and evidenced look is eye opening. When I did Film Studies many years ago the 'male gaze' was an openly discussed issue but never within the context of sexual assault and female disempowerment. Menkes takes a really hard look at this using a wide range of film clips to emphasise her various points. I support the theory that the presentation of the female form as an object of desire can have a knock on effect within the context of real world ideas about women's roles and opportunities and their position within sexual relationships. There are one or two flawed concepts within the film and the role of female directors exploiting the 'male gaze' phenomena are not always pushed to a satisfactory exposé. But this is a very interesting and eye opening documentary and any student of film should see this.

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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Extended Cut

Modern Masterpiece

(Edit) 06/10/2023

Whatever your film preferences or where you stand on the fantasy genre this is a remarkable achievement. Director Peter Jackson's finest film and it will retain it's place in film history, not only for putting the fantasy genre into the mainstream of serious film making but also for the magnificence of the whole experience. Adapting the complexities and convoluted world of Tolkien's Middle-earth with such panache and beauty was a challenge but Jackson and his team aided by a stunning special effects department and a cast of actors who took the whole thing seriously achieved it. The story and world in which it is set is actually very involved and Jackson cleverly and wisely didn't feel the need to over explain, he left it to the audience to understand. This is a film for adults, a dark tale set in a mystical and legendary world inhabited by different peoples from men to elves, dwarves, hobbits and orcs. A land of evil, courage and with a complex history it's the story of the Ring of Power forged by a Dark Lord who returns after 3000 years to dominate the land but requires the Ring, long since lost, to do this. It's essentially a mythological story, a story of flawed heroes, unlikely heroes and evil monsters; of sword fights, strange creatures, peculiar peoples all with a history that the viewer quickly buys into too. This is a modern masterpiece and with it's sequels these are films to enjoy time and time again, indeed when you see a bad film this is a film to turn to to remember what magnificence cinema can do. My advice is always look to the Extended Edition its a more complete film and experience.

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