Film Reviews by GI

Welcome to GI's film reviews page. GI has written 310 reviews and rated 899 films.

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I Care a Lot

Very Watchable Thriller

(Edit) 09/04/2021

This is an exquisitely nasty thriller about two sociopaths going head to head. Despite its coldness this is eminently watchable and draws you in making it rather enjoyable with very dark humour and a twisty plot. Rosamund Pike, almost perfectly cast, plays Marla, a calculating and cold woman who runs a scam as a court approved legal guardian trapping old people into care homes and milking their assets with the help of compliant doctors, care home owners and conning a naive judge. When she targets a wealthy woman (Dianne Wiest) with no apparent family and has her incarcerated she hasn't banked on the woman having some very dangerous connections. This is a really decent thriller with Pike channeling the same ruthlessness she showed in Gone Girl (2014), Wiest is also really good as the old lady who has a hidden toughness that is a neat surprise and sadly she is underused in the film especially its ending and Peter Dinklage supports. Because everyone is rather despicable you get caught up in the battle between the main characters where it's difficult if impossible to root for anyone. You just have to sit back and see who might win this violent battle of wits. Despite the evil nature of the protagonists this is a film that cleverly avoids gratuitousness making it a very enjoyable thriller. Recommended.

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The Souvenir

Unique British Romance

(Edit) 09/04/2021

This is a very distinctive and quite original romance drama and clearly a very personal work from director Joanna Hogg. It's quite a mysterious and beautiful film that defies expectations and cliché and consequently at times it's a difficult film to read. The story concerns Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne), a sweet, young film student who hails from a wealthy and upper class family, she lives in a neat apartment in Knightsbridge funded by her parents. The social-realism of their position is quite accurate, an honest representation of the position of privilege in British modern society. Julie has a matey relationship with her mother (Tilda Swinton) who lends her money for her film making projects. Then into her life comes the suave, supercilious and patronising Anthony (Tom Burke), who works for the Foreign Office and Julie falls for him. He soon inveigles his way deep into her life and there's a vampiric quality to him. His increasing need to borrow small amounts of money are the early signs that something is amiss but it takes a pompous friend (Richard Ayoade) to reveal Anthony's secret that will affect Julie's life. This film draws you into the relationship in a deft and clever way and with the remarkable performances this is a film of inspiration and intelligence. It won't be for anyone who seeks thrills in their films but if you are open for a relationship/romance film of delicacy and difference then this is well worth your time.

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The Wild Bunch

If They Move.....Kill 'Em

(Edit) 09/04/2021

This is one of the finest American motion pictures that's ever been made. Director Sam Peckinpah's masterpiece that set the tone for the future of the western genre but more importantly it's a film that deconstructs the legends and myths created by Hollywood of the history of the American frontier. The themes of contradictory loyalties and the absence of any recognisable code for the protagonists goes against everything that filmmakers like John Ford or Howard Hawks presented (John Wayne is said to have hated this film). For a start the setting is unusual, this is set in 1913/14 on the Texas/Mexico border. A violent civil war is raging in Mexico as rebels are attempting to overthrow the corrupt and dictatorial government. A small gang of criminals led by Pike (William Holden) flee across the border after a robbery of a railroad office goes awry. They are being pursued by a motley bunch of mercenaries hired by the railroad to catch or kill them all. Desperate the gang agree to rob an arms train for a Mexican General but the decision to give some of the stolen guns to the rebels results in the bunch having to decide on what they want from their wasted lives. The film has two very famous set pieces that bookend the film; an opening gun battle as the gang's robbery in Texas goes wrong and a climactic battle against overwhelming odds that finishes the film. This is often thought of as a gratuitously violent film but this is not so, indeed by today's standards it's quite tame, but it is one of the first films to use squibs to simulate gunshot wounds and became controversial as a consequence. But actually the film's depictions of death are balletic with Peckinpah using a unique style of cuts and slow motion to highlight the majestic nature of the action. It's been much copied since but never as good as here. There's been whole books written just about this film which highlights the high regard in which it is held. It is a genuine film masterpiece, a film that has much more going on than a casual viewing reveals. It rarely gets any better than this.

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True History of the Kelly Gang

Disappointing Historical Drama

(Edit) 09/04/2021

Despite the title this is a totally fictional account of the notorious Australian outlaw and it's a cold, bleak film littered through with brutal violence, homoeroticism and a punk sentimentality. At times I found the film ridiculous and at times fascinating but ultimately it left me empty. The narrative here forgoes a traditional rise of the outlaw type story with bank robberies and a growing notoriety to show an occasionally confusing and emotional journey of a young Ned (Orlando Schwerdt), witnessing the sexual favours his mother (Essie Davis) is forced to give to the local policeman (Charlie Hunnam) to crazed, cross dressing rebel at odds with British policeman Fitzpatrick (Nicholas Hoult). The whole thing has a weirdness about it that was jarring and odd. Russell Crowe has a neat cameo as real life criminal and Kelly's tutor Harry Power and Essie Davis is really good as Kelly's mother. I think this will be a 'marmite' film, you'll either love it or hate it.

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Malcolm and Marie

Superb Relationship Drama

(Edit) 09/04/2021

This is a quite mesmerising relationship drama with two outstanding performances from John David Washington and Zendaya which make this film absorbing and clever. Shot in black & white gives it a timeless feel and the sense of their isolation here fits neatly with a film made in the midst of the pandemic although the narrative is not related to it. Malcolm and his girlfriend Marie return home from a film award ceremony at which Malcolm has been celebrated for the new film he has directed. During his acceptance speech he failed to thank Marie, an oversight he feels is insignificant but Marie harbours deeper feelings and this opens wide cracks in their relationship which are played out during the film. As a two hander the actors give powerhouse performances that deserve recognition and lift this drama from what could've been tedious to something humorous and compelling. The delicate jazz soundtrack plays to the rhythm of the ups and downs of the couple as they explore their issues with each other, their art and their pasts. It's an impressive film and well worth checking out.

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Withnail and I

Must See British Comedy

(Edit) 09/04/2021

Hilariously funny and a sheer delight, one of the best British comedies you'll ever see. Littered with great lines and three brilliant central performances from Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann and Richard Griffiths this is a semi-autobiographical story from writer and director Bruce Robinson set in 1969. Grant is Withnail and the & I is McGann (actually named Marwood), they are two unemployed actors living in a squalid flat in Camden eternally waiting for a call from their agent. Both former public schoolboys they live their lives focused on drink and drugs, especially Withnail, a manic depressive who panics when the booze runs out. On a whim, to recharge their batteries they persuade Withnail's gay Uncle Monty (Griffiths) to let them go on holiday to his remote cottage in Cumbria. Both of them are ill equipped for the experience but when Uncle Monty arrives and has taken a big fancy to Marwood their friendship is challenged. There's a unique intelligence to this film which works on so many levels and the characters are brilliantly written and have an originality that makes them very memorable, including drug dealer Danny (Ralph Brown) and Michael Elphick as a Cumbrian poacher. There's also a sadness to the film especially with Withnail, and Richard E. Grant's Hamlet soliloquy at the end is very moving revealing Withnail's acting talent lost in a haze of alcohol. A rich and brilliant film, if you've never seen this it's a must, a comedy that captures the times, great soundtrack (Hendrix) and forever quotable - "As a youth I would weep in butcher's shops"

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X-Men 2

Excellent Superhero Sequel

(Edit) 09/04/2021

This sequel begins events a few months after those of the first film and moves Hugh Jackman's Wolverine to centre stage. This is a worthy second film mainly because, like the first one, it has a well written story, is adult themed (this one being a little more violent) and uses great effects to enhance the narrative. The opening action where a mutant named Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) infiltrates the White House and attacks the President leads to the main story around Wolverine's past. The President calls in anti-mutant soldier Stryker (Brian Cox), who is given carte blanche to wage a war on mutants. Stryker has an agenda of his own and uses Patrick Stewart's Charles Xavier in a devilish plot to murder every mutant person. All the characters from the earlier film return including Ian McKellen, he has less to do in this one but does have some very good scenes. After this the series began to lose its way somewhat and in my opinion none of the later films, including the prequels, have lived up to these first two (the only exception being 2017s Logan). But as sequels go this is an entertaining Marvel Universe film and if you enjoyed the first one this is worth your time.

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X-Men: The Movie

At Last - A Brilliant Superhero Film

(Edit) 09/04/2021

A superhero genre film that stands out above many others. Firstly it's clearly aimed at a more adult market and secondly for a big budget, special effects laden film it is a concise and very well constructed, edited and directed film. Considering the considerable franchise that followed this remains, arguably, the best of the series and as a stand alone story it's entertaining, exciting and has great characters. This is where the film really excels creating superheroes that have human flaws and story arcs that draw you in. The stand out being Hugh Jackman's Logan (aka Wolverine), a simmering volcano of a character with a heart. Set in the near future and human evolution has taken a sudden leap resulting in some people having special powers. Normal society refers to this people as 'mutants' and there is a political move to have them registered and controlled. Two older mutants Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) advocates protection of mutants and proving they are not a danger but his former friend Eric (Ian McKellen), a powerful mutant, has begun a plan to take control of the human world. But he needs a young girl with a very unusual power to achieve his plan. The different powers that have emerged in various characters are great fun and in some of the 'bad' characters sometimes eerily scary too. The film has a great cast including Famke Janssen, Halle Berry and James Marsden. Brilliant effects and some gritty action. This remains one of the best in the ever popular superhero/comicbook genre and the Marvel Universe. A film to revisit for its sheer enjoyment factor and if you've not seen it then it's well worth checking out.

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Wyatt Earp

Western - Worth A Revisit

(Edit) 09/04/2021

Epic, sprawling western biopic that was a critical and commercial flop and was unfairly compared with Tombstone (1993) although they are two stylistically different films. Viewed today this film is entertaining, filmed and structured in a very Hollywood standard story telling way and to be honest all the better for it. It does slip in some homages which western fans will spot and attempts to play a part in John Ford's 'print the legend' maxim although a bit too casually to give the film any real gravitas. This is a film to sit back and just enjoy for it's cinematic grandeur and surface history. It is when boiled down a good ol' action western that has a good story, plenty of great action scenes and some stock western characters. Kevin Costner plays Earp as a very serious, emotionally damaged avenger with a story that begins with in his teens (with Ian Bohen in the first scenes as a young Earp), it then tells the story of his life from naïve drover to grieving alcoholic to lawman and killer. There's a good support cast including Gene Hackman as his father, Michael Madsen as his older brother Virgil and a slimmed down Dennis Quaid as Doc Holliday. A film well worth a revisit and re-evaluation because there is much to admire here, not least the sheer scale of the story and for it's attempt at a romanticised and retro style of western.

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World War Z

Great Action/Adventure

(Edit) 09/04/2021

Although this is basically a contemporary zombie film its not really a horror genre piece but more of an action adventure and mightily entertaining it is to especially as, wisely, it focuses on being a character based narrative but with some stunning set pieces thrown in. Brad Pitt, who also produced, stars as Gerry Lane, loving husband and father to two daughters and former U.N. Special Investigator. He's left the hectic world where he had a reputation for being able to root out the truth in some very dangerous situations and now concentrates on being a family man. But when a worldwide virus spreads rapidly turning infected people into rabid zombies that attack on sight he is called back to help find the cause. His journey takes him to South Korea, Jerusalem and Wales in his effort to find the answer to controlling the virus. The set up is exciting and the film wastes no time in getting straight into the story. It's tense and maintains suspense throughout. The outstanding set piece is the fall of Jerusalem to the zombie hordes and the zombies in this film aren't your shuffle along types these run full tilt at you and en masse too. The final third of the film is set in a W.H.O. facility in Wales where Gerry has to sneak into a laboratory inhabited by zombies, a tense closed in part of the story that plays like an espionage film. In the mix is gunplay, a plane crash, nuclear explosions and some very eerie undead to contend with. This is cracking good fun with plenty of action and excitement and even if zombie films aren't usually your thing give this one a try, you're guaranteed to enjoy it.

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Women in Love

Minor Masterpiece

(Edit) 09/04/2021

Hugely controversial when originally released this is a tragic romance story adapted from the novel by D.H. Lawrence. Set in the 1920s mainly in the industrial Midlands shot as a contrast between the beauty of the natural landscape and the "dark, satanic mills" of the coal mines with images reminiscent of Lowry. Alan Bates and Oliver Reed play Rupert and Gerald, they are best friends, the former a bohemian teacher in love with his colleague Ursula (Jennie Linden), and the latter a rich mine owner in love with Ursula's sister, Gudrun (Glenda Jackson). The sisters resist the social expectations that they see women falling into, namely marriage, housewife and motherhood and dream of true love. Rupert and Gerald seek ultimate satisfaction from love that involves sex, dedication and contentment. The couples begin tempestuous relationships climaxing in a holiday to the Swiss Alps where tragedy strikes. This marks director Ken Russell's first foray into a style of film making that set him as having a unique eye and his ability to display images that were often very challenging. This film has probably one of the most famous homo-erotic scenes in any film and the sex scenes are graphic for their time. Ultimately this is a beautiful film, a landmark British film and its realistic depiction of the times whilst telling a story of tortured love marks it as a minor masterpiece. This is a must see film and definitely one to seek out if you've never seen it.

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The Woman in Black

Very Creepy Haunted House Film

(Edit) 09/04/2021

In his first film role after the Harry Potter series Daniel Radcliffe is just right as a grieving young lawyer in this Hammer production of the celebrated novel by Susan Hill. This is just what you want in a ghost story. A Victorian English setting on a fog bound marsh with suspicious locals and a very creepy haunted house. And the film is a simple, quintessential haunted house story that really works, it doesn't rely on gore or 'cattle prod' shocks it creates a creepy atmosphere, gives you glimpses of something sinister every so often and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps who is grieving for his wife who died in childbirth four years earlier. He dotes on his young son but his distracted mental state has put him in difficulty with his firm. As a last chance to show he wants his career he is sent to the north of England to close the estate of an elderly widow recently died. On arrival he finds the locals are suspicious of him and unhelpful but it's only when Arthur has to spend time in the old woman's mansion positioned on the edge of a tidal marsh that he discovers the dark past of the house and why the village folk are so frightened. As a fan of the novel and the earlier TV adaptation too I still recommend this and urge anyone not to make comparisons. This film keeps the shocks restrained and any reveals are limited and carefully introduced, which gives it a real spooky feel. Great story and a perfect English ghost film.

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The Odessa File

Classic 70s Thriller

(Edit) 09/04/2021

This is one of a series of really great psychological thrillers made in the 1970s this one based on the popular novel by Frederick Forsyth and co-scripted by him. Set in West Germany in 1963 and investigative journalist Peter (Jon Voight) is given the diary of an old man who has committed suicide. The diary reveals the old man was a former inmate of a Nazi extermination camp and had recently seen the former commandant and wanted war criminal Roschmann (Maximilian Schell) walking free in Hamburg. Peter, after reading the horrors outlined in the diary, decides to try and track down Roschmann and his investigation soon finds him the target of a sinister organisation known as Odessa and he becomes of interest to the Israeli intelligence services. This has a good solid story, a twist and turn plot and a neat unforeseen ending. Voight, in one of his first big roles, is perfect as the German struggling to come to terms with the terrible past of his country and the film attempts to delve into the moral issues for modern Germans in dealing with the history of the Holocaust. But at its heart this is a good espionage yarn that is well worth seeking out.

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Wolf Creek

Excellent Aussie Cult Horror

(Edit) 09/04/2021

A typically gutsy Australian crime thriller, one that gained a big cult following in Australia and spawned a couple of sequels. It stands out for being loosely based on a real events and for its remarkable cinematography especially sunset and sunrise scenes in the outback. The story is of two British backpackers Liz (Cassandra Magrath) and Kristy (Kestie Morassi) who team up with local guy Ben (Nathan Hughes), they buy a rundown old car and head off into the outback to visit Wolf Creek, the site of a prehistoric meteor crash. But when the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere they are at a loss as to what to do but this is only the start of their troubles. There is some shocking stuff during the latter half of the film and the narrative as a whole sets up a plot that is harrowing and defies prediction. With the use of screen information about missing person statistics the effects are at times scary and haunting and the film holds its suspense very well indeed. If you've never seen this then it's a really interesting and entertaining thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat and hiding behind the cushions too.

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The Wizard of Oz

Classic

(Edit) 09/04/2021

A timeless family classic and dedicated to 'the young at heart' the film is often cited as the most viewed film of all time and for many years was a Christmas TV favourite. It is of course a very clever fantasy film and actually quite a dark and at times scary story which is about growing up and understanding the important things in life above and beyond material gain. It's also one of the earliest films that used the world of dreams and the subconscious to weave its narrative. Based on a famous children's book it begins in Kansas during the 1930s and follows a young girl, Dorothy (Judy Garland) who lives with her Aunt and Uncle on their farm. Her best friend is her small dog who she protects fiercely against the nasty Miss Gulch, the richest woman in the county. But injured in a tornado Dorothy finds herself transported to the magical world of Oz where with the aid of a scarecrow (Ray Bolger), a tin man (Jack Haley) and a lion (Bert Lahr) she has to find the all powerful wizard (Frank Morgan) to help her get home but she has to face the evil plans of a wicked witch (Margaret Hamilton). With the 'real' world shot in bland sepia tones and the 'fantasy' world in rich technicolor this has some wonderful songs, the most famous being 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' (which at one time was going to be cut from the film!) and some great dance and comedy performances making this is a joy of a film but tinged with the very scary witch and her flying apes. You can see the influence of this tale on later fantasy stories not least The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. For it's time the effects hold up remarkably well too. It's a film that every child should see and one that adults can still really enjoy, it's a delight even after all these years.

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