Film Reviews by GI

Welcome to GI's film reviews page. GI has written 1239 reviews and rated 1828 films.

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The Meaning of Life

Underrated & Hilarious British Comedy

(Edit) 23/03/2024

The fourth Python film has been derided as the weakest of their cinematic output but I think this is massively unfair. There's some genius in this film, a sketch based structure with the title's theme running through it. But the familiar Python satire on religion, Britishness and tradition is full on here, from the catholic attitude to sex and birth control to military class snobbery. And it's genuinely hilarious as well as subtle yet silly, the essence of Monty Python. The opening mini film 'The Crimson Permanent Assurance' directed by Terry Gilliam is a sharp satirical attack on modern greed and corporate dominance and it segues cleverly into the meaning of life sketches which cover from birth to death. There are many highlights including the delivery ward where the expensive equipment is more important than the patient, Michael Palin's laugh out loud Sergeant Major who just wants to "march up and down the square", and the 'Every Sperm is Sacred' song and of course the unforgettable Mr Creosote. There's slapstick, surrealism ('find the fish') and the teams genius exposure of hypocrisy and stupidity of social attitudes and institutions. A British comedy film that deserves a re-evaluation and certainly, if you want a good laugh, a film to check out.

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Drive-Away Dolls

Comedy Road Movie - Great Fun

(Edit) 21/03/2024

This is a crazy, screwball road movie comedy that is simply great fun. It's sharp and sexy even when it's all obviously flimsy and daft. Directed by Ethan Coen this has all the hallmarks of a Coen Brothers film even though Joel Coen wasn't involved. Jamie (Margaret Qualley), a free spirited and spontaneous girl, has just broken up with her tough girlfriend so she decides to accompany her friend, Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan), on a road trip to Florida. Marian is the polar opposite and although also a lesbian she's much more sexually repressed and Jamie is intent on getting her laid. But in the car they hire is a the film's McMuffin that starts the zany plot when they are pursed by a bunch of villains out to recover it. What is in the car you will be totally surprised by I guarantee. A cheerful, nonsensical caper film that will make you laugh and has the benefits of two leads who give great comedy performances and aided by a cameos by Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal.

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Spaceman

Dull SciFi

(Edit) 20/03/2024

An existential science fiction film that is so drab and uneventful it just seems to drag itself along. The most interesting character is the alien and even it is a tad disappointing. Adam Sandler, certainly a very underrated actor, here in a serious role as Jakub, a Czech astronaut on a solo mission to study a huge particle cloud located near to Jupiter. He's six months in and the mission is taking its toll on him mostly due to the isolation and he longs for his wife back on Earth. He's also been having strange dreams. All these emotional strains culminate in his finding an alien hiding in his ship. This takes the form of a dog sized spider that can talk and basically provides therapy to the intrepid traveller. There's lots of chatter about love, relationships and what it all means etc etc and not much else really. Carey Mulligan as the wife has an underwritten part, although she gives it her all, and the film's littered with Jakub's memories and hallucinatory images from his past mixed up with the present. Of course the alien spider maybe a figment of his imagination and probably is depending how you read the text here. But, for me, this is a tiresome film, trying to be something profound but really it's dull.

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Renfield

Humorous And Gory Comedy/Horror

(Edit) 19/03/2024

A comedy/horror that is resplendent with Pythonesque blood and gore and has Nicolas Cage having a ball as Count Dracula, no doubt a role he has wanted to play for his entire life! There's some neat homages in here not least to the Bela Lugosi Dracula in a small recreation of a classic scene from the 1931 film and at one point Cage looks remarkably like Lon Chaney from the 1927 film London After Midnight. Fans will no doubt spot a host of others. Here we have a modern day reworking of the characters from the Dracula novel chiefly Renfield (Nicholas Hoult), the humble law clerk who is a servant to Dracula and has been given some limited powers in order to provide his master with food. Nicholas Hoult shows he can manage comedy quite well and he plays the tortured young man who has looked after his master for decades now finding themselves in New Orleans where Dracula is recovering from his last fight with priests. This cues a daft story of organised criminals, a dedicated cop (Awkwafina) and a self help group all coming up against Dracula intent on world domination and Renfield who has to decide whose side he's on. There's some funny lines and scenes dotted throughout and everyone is clearly having fun but it's all fairly lacklustre and forgettable.

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Rise of the Footsoldier

Very Violent British Crime Film

(Edit) 18/03/2024

Relentlessly violent this is a British crime film that lacks any subtlety or characters that you can feel anything for. It's based on true events and is structured around one main character for most of the film before deviating into a controversial real murder case. Carlton Leach (Ricci Harnett) is a street thug who rises in the world of football hooliganism in the 70s & 80s, his life basically one big violent ruck with just about anyone. The film depicts this particularly unpleasant world as bloody, frightening battles that take place on the London Underground and on the streets as Leach and his gang travel to indulge their addiction on brutal fighting. This is not just fists either, here we get the full scale use of machetes and axes and all the fearsome injury detail that accompanies their use. Leach's infamy in this world leads to bouncer duty at local Clubs and into the world of organised drug gangs. His friendship with one dealer, Tony Tucker (Terry Stone) brings him into the circle of ever increasingly psychopathic criminals epitomised in Patrick Tate (Craig Fairbrass). Tucker, Tate and another man are eventually brutally murdered in a quiet Essex wood. Into this loose story of disturbingly unpleasant people the film shows Leach in failed relationships, including his very short temper that offers up marital abuse, drug abuse and lots of grimaces. The best thing about the film is the depiction of the murders in which three separate potential scenarios are shown. A film that seems to have no real clear narrative thread as it meanders from violent set piece to the next and almost gives up on the Leach character to concentrate on the murders. It's an unpleasant film, far too gratuitous and glorifying the world it seeks to portray and the justification for the final killings is really just a way of trying to give some honour to these despicable people.

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Past Lives

Subtle & Emotional Romance

(Edit) 18/03/2024

A romance about lost love and a film that asks What if?, a question amplified by the power of social media giving people the ability to reconnect. It also is suggesting, in my mind, that that is not always a good thing. Two young children live in South Korea and become friends and have a funny little date arranged by their mothers which leaves the boy thinking they are destined to be together. But then the girl's family emigrate to Canada and they lose contact. Years later and Nora (Greta Lee) is now living in New York, a budding writer, and through social media she gets in touch with Hae Sung (Tae Woo) and they begin speaking via Skype but Nora then feels the past is intruding in her future and cuts off the communication leaving Hae Sung feeling hurt and distraught. More years go by and Nora, now married to Arthur (John Magaro) , and Hae Sung reconnect again and this time he comes to the US for a visit. This opens up emotions and issues for all three of them. This is a simple and yet sophisticated relationship drama that looks at childhood crushes and their impact that can be exacerbated by the ability to connect very easily with persons from years ago and many miles away. This is a sad film in many ways and the narrative doesn't allow you to take sides as you'll see the heartbreaking issues that the three adults here struggle with. No one is being 'bad' or even unfaithful and the film opens up the debate about repressed feelings based on images and affections long since suppressed. In this it's a gentle and warm film and a love story for the modern age.

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Respect

Average & Typical Music Biopic

(Edit) 16/03/2024

This biopic about the soul legend Aretha Franklin suffers from the multitude of clichés that dog the genre. Here these are played out in a reverential but seriously too long film that tries all too hard to be kind and amplify the singing, not a bad thing, but skimps over the traumas and demons that Franklin's life was loaded with. What was needed here was a concentration on the issue of relationships because they are the central issue that the script leans towards but the film flies through them without grounding them in any meaningful way. Firstly there's Franklin's (Jennifer Hudson) father (Forest Whitaker), a bible thumping preacher who flits between smothering affection and exploitation of his daughter's talent and indeed when she is clearly raped and made pregnant aged 12 by a family friend the trauma and crisis this must have caused is barely mentioned and we get no reaction from the father to consider. There's a slightly deeper narrative focus on Franklin's marriage and abuse by her first husband played brilliantly by Marlon Wayans in a cleverly smarmy and aggressive performance. But like music biopics must do there's the performances and Hudson does a first rate job as Franklin and the film keeps these as central even including her drunken attempt at a concert during the inevitable struggle with drink phase. Another cliché! Apparently this film was first conceived as a theatrical musical and you can see why and perhaps it would have fared better because as a film it does it's job but it's typical and underwhelming as a film. If you're a fan of this singer then there's something of interest to be found but ultimately it follows the standard narrative arc of such films.

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The Zone of Interest

Chilling Holocaust Film

(Edit) 15/03/2024

In this study of the banality of a family living their lives in a large house and with a beautiful garden, spending their time swimming and picnicking in the gorgeous countryside, comes an oppressive soundtrack and a disquieting editing from the family laughing and conversing to sudden night scenes and strange colours. Because this is the Höss family, the father Rudolf is the commandant of Auschwitz Extermination camp and the film is set in 1943 at the height of the Holocaust. The sounds of random gunshots, screams and the all pervading thump of the industry of the camp permeate the film from over the huge, barbed wire topped wall that boundaries the family garden and from where the constant black smoke billows from the tall crematorium chimney. Director Jonathan Glazer doesn't show the atrocities that are occurring within the camp he simply shows the everyday life of this abhorrent family as they go about their lives ignoring and eventually not noticing the sounds. The narrative also follows Rodolf Höss' career as he is promoted and moved back to Berlin to plan more horror and his wife, Hedwig's (Sandra Hüller) demand that she and the family stay in their house as it's the best place to raise the children. For a film where little happens other than watching the coming and going of a family privileged under the Nazi regime who talk as if the activities on the other side of the wall are normal and only provide good things for them (there's a conversation about clothes that the family have that have been confiscated from the prisoners) this is an uncomfortable film to watch. It's a disturbing study of the Holocaust and interwoven into this banality are night scenes shot on a thermal camera giving the images a ghostly quality of a young Polish girl who hides apples at the construction sites that in the day the prisoners are forced to work in. The combination is a fascinating film that leaves a big impression even though it's a difficult and emotional one.

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Monty Python's Life of Brian

Classic British Comedy & Still Absolutely Hilarious

(Edit) 13/03/2024

Quite rightly acknowledged as one of the funniest British comedy films ever made it is still surprising that it remained banned in at least one English county until 2009. With accusations of blasphemy from the christian world it garnered strong opinions but ultimately showed that the fiercest of critics didn't actually watch it or at least didn't do so carefully enough. Of course it ridicules the Sunday school bible story myths that children have had thrust down their throats for decades and that's because at its heart Python was always about exposing hypocrisy and ridiculousness in British society. Highlighting their great comedy skills not only as writers but also the six Pythons play over 40 roles between them. Graham Chapman is the titular Brian, an insecure young man growing up in Judea during the Roman occupation. It's when he joins a group of hapless insurrectionists led by Reg (John Cleese) and gets mistaken for the Messiah that his life takes a turn for the worst. Highlights are Michael Palin's ex-leper (Jesus cured him!) and Pontius Pilate, the 'big nose' fight, the stoning and of course the singing 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' by the crucified criminals. Certainly very ahead of its time with it's look at the roles of women in society and in a way predicting modern day issues over trans rights with one of Eric Idle's characters wanting to be a woman and have babies! This never fails to make me laugh and it's a film to revel in time and time again for it's sheer bravado and hilarity.

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Red Rocket

Somewhat Seedy American Drama

(Edit) 13/03/2024

Here we have an indie American social drama with comedic overtones and a film that becomes more and more tedious as it traverses it's two hour plus runtime. There's an ironic study here of the Trump era MAGA mantra highlighting the underbelly of American society and it's weird, dysfunctional and at times reprehensible obsessions. The story follows Mikey (Simon Rex), a washed up porn film actor, charismatic and with the gift of the gab who has left Los Angeles and turned up at his estranged wife's house in a small Texas town. He inveigles his way back into her affections with lots of promises, including getting a job which proves rather difficult so he ends up selling weed for a local drug dealer. But it's when he meets the 17 year old 'Strawberry' who works in the local donut shop that Mikey's true colours are brought forth. He essentially seduces her with the intent of getting her into the porn film business and hence his return to his profession where he feels he has some standing. This story whilst at time intriguing is dragged out somewhat over a swear riddled and sex scene heavy narrative that, in my mind, loses its thematic goals. There's something seedy and unpleasant about every character here making the film seem sordid and creepy. Perhaps that's the aim but whatever the intentions it's a film with an interesting purpose and a difficult experience for the viewer.

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A Most Wanted Man

Fantastic Contemporary Spy Drama

(Edit) 11/03/2024

This is a gripping and tense espionage thriller adapted from a John Le Carré novel. Like the novel on which this is based the film is not an action film but a convoluted psychological story about intelligence agents working against Islamic extremism. It's like some of the great conspiracy thrillers from the 1970s such as All The Presidents Men (1976) and it's a worthy spy film for the modern age. The great Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Günther the seedy head of a German intelligence team who using coerced informants discover a Chechen extremist has arrived in Hamburg and is seeking access to a huge sum of money hidden in a bank run by Brue (Willem Dafoe). The trail leads to civil rights lawyer Annabel (Rachel McAdams) and Günther sees an opportunity to nail the top Al Quada money man in Germany. But he's up against rival intelligence agencies including the CIA in the form of Robin Wright. What this results in is a tale of modern intelligence work and the difficulties of manoeuvring around politics, restrictive laws and the conflicting priorities of agencies and allied countries. It really is a first class film not least to see Hoffman in one of his last great performances before his sad and untimely death. His character is unpopular but sees the benefits of operating outside the law for the greater good. It's a remarkable performance. Not a film for thrill seekers but if you like a good quality thinking man thriller then look no further.

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Red Sparrow

Entertaining Spy Thriller

(Edit) 08/03/2024

A star vehicle for Jennifer Lawrence who pushes boundaries with her onscreen persona with the graphic sex and nudity. But none of it is particularly gratuitous and it belongs in the plot that surrounds the training and deployment of a Russian 'honey trap' spy. Lawrence plays a Bolshoi ballerina, Dominika, who after a crippling leg injury is no longer able to dance and is recruited by her manipulative uncle (Matthias Schoenaerts) for training in the security services. Dominika proves adept at the role of spy and is deployed to seduce an American agent (Joel Edgerton) in order to find a mole at the heart of Russian intelligence. But the plot soon thickenes and we have a tale of double cross which has some neat twists where you're never sure who is on whose side. The film is entertaining although it's overly long and relies on lots of exposition that slows it down somewhat and ultimately spoils the film's pace and your patience. But Lawrence is excellent and the support cast are impressive including Ciarán Hinds, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling and Joel Richardson. The film will probably be more renowned for Lawrence's nude scenes than anything else and there is a fair bit of tough to watch torture but this is a solid espionage film that is worth checking out.

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Dune: Part Two

Epic & Magnificent

(Edit) 07/03/2024

There's no doubt this is epic, visually stunning film making, a pure cinematic experience that draws you into the strange world of Dune and engulfs you in a complex story or equally bizarre characters. It is a superb film, massively entertaining and director Denis Villeneuve doesn't let the viewer off any hooks, you have to focus and get into this film which requires you to concentrate and unravel for yourself. Despite all of this there is a feeling of some scenes feeling disjointed and the advance of the narrative occasionally has a jarring feel and this adds to the need to keep your attention firmly on the film. You can't though take away that this is a bold and exciting film and every accolade has to be given for the adaptation of a complex and much loved novel. Timothée Chalamet carries the film and he's totally convincing as the messiah to grows from spoilt teenager to desert warrior leading a people to war. Rebecca Ferguson is also a stand out here, she is mesmerising as the mother who becomes a vital part of his rise. The remaining cast are impressive and whilst many have very small roles they dominate when on the screen, for example Florence Pugh, Léa Seydoux and Charlotte Rampling. Zendaya too is fantastic here and Austin Butler surprises as an evil psychopath. But the real star is the planet of Arrakis, the desert vistas are extraordinary combined with immense battle scenes that rival anything Ridley Scott has done. The infamous sandworms are brilliantly realised and all of this is combined with a booming and ominous soundtrack that adds to the deep atmospheric feel of the film. It's good we have a filmmaker that can produce such epic , adult orientated films of this calibre. Weil we get a further instalment to make a concluding trilogy to rival The Lord Of The Rings and Star Wars?

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Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Still Hilarious After All These years

(Edit) 07/03/2024

I have an enormous fondness for the Python team's first real movie (there had been a cinematic collection of some of their episodes previously released). It's a zany, anarchic and thoroughly hilarious comedy and I challenge anyone not to laugh out loud even if you've seen this many times before. There are some very memorable characters, all played by the Python boys who take on multiple roles, from John Cleese' French taunting knight to his Tim the Enchanter, Michael Palin's Sir Galahad the Chaste to Dennis the peasant and many others. What's great is the glorious vision of mediaeval England with it's mud and filth, witch trials, 'bring out your dead' carts and swirling mists and ancient myths. Like all of Monty Python films and the TV show this has a prod at religion, politics, English culture and sexuality. It's a brilliantly clever film and arguably better than their more celebrated '.....Life of Brian' (1979) but this is open to much debate. So in case you've never seen this classic it's the story of King Arthur who tours the country looking for knights to join him at Camelot but deciding it's a silly place he heads off with a motley bunch only to be given a quest by God (who actually shows up!) to seek the Holy Grail. Having various adventures in their hunt including dealing with a very dangerous rabbit, those insulting French knights and indeed the police it all culminates at an ancient castle. One of the funniest comedy films you'll ever see. Check it out if you've missed this, you will not regret it.

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Polite Society

Comedy - Fist half Great, Second Half Not So Much

(Edit) 05/03/2024

For most of this film there's an inventive, fun filled comedy that has the vibe of TVs Sex Education but a sudden turn and plot reveal marks a moment it downward spirals into adolescent silliness and spoils what went before. The story is about the relationship between two sisters, Ria (Priya Kansara) a high school student who dreams of being a stuntwoman and Lena (Ritu Arya), the older who has dropped out of art school and is in a bit of a rut. They are the only children in a reasonably well to do London based Pakistani family. The girls have that spiky type of sibling relationship that also reveals a deep affection for one another. So when Lena is wooed by the rich Salim (Akshay Kanna) Ria becomes suspicious and sets out with her two school chums to get the dirt on him. This gets them into various antics and trouble and threatens the two sisters bond. And it's all done with comedy and action that is funny and quite original. Then Ria discovers something about Salim's matriarchal mother (Nimra Bucha) and the film slips into a daft area that makes it too slapstick and far fetched for its own good and effectively spoiling the entire experience. The cast are all great and work well with what they have but it's a shame the film falls from good relationship/high school antics comedy into a ridiculous evil genius narrative.

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