Film Reviews by GI

Welcome to GI's film reviews page. GI has written 1241 reviews and rated 1830 films.

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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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Monsters

Clever & Original

(Edit) 05/03/2024

Monsters is an impressive film not least when you consider the small budget and crew that was used. Most of all though it takes a familiar genre narrative and manages to produce a really original story and visual experience. First time director Gareth Edwards has arguably never topped this. The film begins six years after a NASA probe, returning to Earth having been searching for life forms in the solar system, has crashed in northern Mexico. Soon after strange creatures have begun to emerge in the area and a huge 'infected zone' has been created which completely cuts off Mexico from the USA. The story then begins with photo-journalist Andrew (Scoot McNairy) who is working in Mexico being ordered by his boss to assist his daughter, Sam to get back home. When their passports are stolen they are forced to take the hazardous journey across the infected zone. We are then set up for a growing romance between them, which whilst a little routine and obvious is acted tenderly by the two leads. But most impressively are the creatures and the images of the destruction they have wrought. But this is not an Alien (1979) type scenario and perhaps the film's title is a little misleading because the exposure to the creatures leads to interesting interpretations. I've no doubt the influence of H.G. Wells' The War of The Worlds and Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey are to be found here but overall this is a surprising film, clever, fresh and very enjoyable. I highly recommend it.

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The Old Oak

Powerful Social Drama

(Edit) 02/03/2024

The latest and possibly the last film from director Ken Loach and another blisteringly powerful social drama that highlights, with brutal honesty and emotional intensity, the state of modern Britain. The Old Oak is a dilapidated pub in a Durham village, owned and run by TJ (Dave Turner), a former miner. He has a strong community spirit that extends to helping Syrian refugees who are housed in the village. This pits TJ against a few racist locals who have seen their own properties crash in value and whose families suffer from the collapse of the economy. TJ with the help of Syrian Yara (Ebla Mari) opens up the large and long shut up function room in his pub to try and bring the community together. Loach delivers his message with an intensity that cannot but be admired whatever your own political viewpoint may be and this film opens up questions for any reasonably minded person. But Loach delivers a balanced narrative here and attempts to show how a cauldron of false and biased social media and misconceptions affect the attitudes of people faced with deprivation and yet see strangers apparently being given an advantage. There are disturbing scenes here and a final uplifting conclusion that avoids a saccharine solution to Britain's problems. The film does suffer somewhat from the non professional actors who at times are clearly struggling but this is a minor criticism. A film well worth checking out.

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The Railway Children Return

Dull Sequel...of Sorts

(Edit) 02/03/2024

The main issue is that the railway children don't actually return! Well Jenny Agutter does and then has a small role that is essentially pointless. There's nothing at all wrong with a sequel to the children's 1970 favourite but this latest film isn't really a sequel, it's a completely separate story that essentially repeats the main plot points of the original film. In that sense it's a plodding, somewhat annoying and dull film that lacks any sense of daring or interest. It's set in the Second World War and three siblings are evacuated from Salford to the countryside and move into the house of the local head mistress (Sheridan Smith), the daughter of Bobbie (Agutter). Along with Bobbie's grandson they find a black American deserter being hunted by the military police and decide to help him evade capture as he's only 14. None of it is exciting or original and the image of a nostalgic, sunny and wonderful England in the 40s is a bit laughable. A children's film that is just unimaginative.

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Bob Marley: One Love

Disappointing Biopic

(Edit) 02/03/2024

Sadly this is a rather superficial biopic about a pop star who was far more interesting than the screenplay here attempts to portray. One can't help wonder that there has been some issues when every producer credit seems to be a family member and that a truer and more complex story has been whitewashed. What's left is a cursory look at the iconic reggae star from 1976 to 78 starting with the attempt on his life during the civil unrest in Jamaica. As a cinematic set piece this has to be the lamest and dullest assassination attempt committed to screen but it pushes the narrative to Marley heading to London to make his seminal album Exodus before returning home. None of the intricacies of this man are dealt with either at all or adequately and whilst we have the music, which is of course good, we don't get any sense of what he was about. Kingsley Ben-Adir does a reasonable job as Marley but there was something which nags at the back of the mind when watching his performance that he was not right for the role. Lashana Lynch tries her best as his wife but the script lets them both down to what in the end becomes one long pop video. There are some flashbacks, one of which lifts the film when the young Wailers get a try out in a Jamaican recording studio, but the rest seem pointless and a recurring one involving burning fields grates after the fifth or sixth time of seeing it! Overall the film has it's moments but it's disappointing.

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Mona Lisa

Great British Crime Film

(Edit) 29/02/2024

Top class British crime drama from director Neil Jordan and a film to watch to revel in the sheer brilliance of Bob Hoskins, an actor who created layered characters and could mix a softy with a tough guy all in one. Here he plays George, a career criminal just released from prison after seven years who finds himself out of touch with the criminal world. He's given a job driving a high class prostitute, Simone (Cathy Tyson, in a brilliant performance) to and from her rich clients. Gradually they develop an affection for one another and George, desperate for love, hopes for more. But Simone is playing her own dangerous game which brings both of them into conflict with Mortwell (a sadistic Michael Caine), the local criminal kingpin. The narrative is built around a twisted love story with stark, realistic violence the inevitable conclusion. This is a remarkably good crime film and definitely one I cannot recommend enough.

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Fast and Furious 6

More Of The Same But Bigger

(Edit) 29/02/2024

There's no doubt this addition to the franchise is bigger and has higher production values with some big chase set pieces that are all very well done and the fights are grittier and more violent. But narratively the plot adds very little that hasn't been in the previous films and all of it is of course totally preposterous. At one point a character refers to everything being all 007 and there's little doubt this film is attempting to emulate the big action spy films like the Mission Impossible and James Bond series. However Furious 6 is video gaming on a large scale and you just have to roll with the sheer entertainment value of the set pieces and enjoy yourself, the story is utterly daft. The street racing crew are reunited by tough rule breaking cop Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to help him take down a mercenary (Luke Evans) and his equally tough crew who are out to steal the macguffin that will cause untold harm to humanity! Dom (Vin Diesel) only agrees as it appears his old girlfriend (Michelle Rodriguez) believed dead is in fact alive and working with the baddies. There's loads of narrative links with the previous films so you need to be up on those to get the full plot. Overall the bigger the better and this is arguably better than what went before and it's the last one that Paul Walker was in before his untimely death. There's also a post credit sequence that brings in Jason Statham ready for the next film.

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Hidden Figures

Interesting & Feel Good Drama

(Edit) 28/02/2024

There's no doubt this is a full on feel good film, a drama that that sets out to make us cheer for the underdog knowing that the film will give us the ending we desire. And it's all based on a true story. Don't get me wrong though this is a great film; warm, tender, interesting and a little shocking although it delves into areas that are all too familiar. It tells the story of three black American women Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) who all worked for NASA in the early 60s in various roles of the space program; all three were black women living in a State with tough segregation laws and an embedded social culture of racist bias. The three happened to be geniuses in the respective fields but were underpaid, discriminated against and yet proved instrumental in the success of the Mercury and later Apollo missions. Narratively you have a small history of the early space program led here by Kevin Costner as the no nonsense boss who is under pressure from his political masters to beat the Soviets in the race for dominance and who is portrayed here as colour blind in that he sees only the work and who can provide the answers to the complexities of getting a man in space. He's the force through which change is progressed by seeing the abilities of the three women and effectively changing the views of the others around them, in the characters for example played by Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons. This is the sugarcoated aspect of this drama as I'm sure this wasn't quite as simple but does make for a good feel vibe by the films end. And Costner is really good here. There's been better films about the space race, The Right Stuff (1983) for instance and of course quite a few about the American civil rights struggle but this one does get the message across and is an entertaining film to boot. A well made film, beautifully acted across the board and one that leaves that warm glow that comes from a good solid film.

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Moby Dick

Classic Adventure

(Edit) 27/02/2024

It was no mean feat adapting the famous novel by Herman Melville but this was dream project for director John Huston and viewed today it's a classic Hollywood adventure drama that is exciting, with gritty action and a very plausible use of models. An arguably miscast Gregory Peck, who was a bankable star, plays the infamous Ahab. There is no doubt he's too young for the role but he still does an admirable job in his portrayal of hate-filled obsession. The story is narrated by a young adventurer played by Richard Basehart who signs on for a three year whaling voyage aboard the Pequod. It's only once underway he learns that the mysterious Captain Ahab is committed to hunting just one whale called Moby Dick. A huge white one that has killed many sailors and was responsible for the loss of Ahab's leg. His obsession will drive him to ignore the safety of his crew. There's some great support casting from James Robertson Justice, Harry Andrews, Bernard Miles and Orson Welles cameos as a preacher. If you love classical Hollywood movies then this is certainly one you should check out. It really is a marvellous film despite it's flaws. Huston channels a lot of John Ford in his directing style and the washed out pastel colours give the film a sense of reality. Recently restored to DVD/BluRay this is a real treat for film fans.

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The Pope's Exorcist

Unoriginal Demonic Possession Horror

(Edit) 26/02/2024

The trouble here is that when you put 'Exorcist' in the title you know exactly what you're doing to get every devotee of The Exorcist (1973) either excited or groaning. And The Pope's Exorcist doesn't skimp on stealing well worn scenarios from William Friedkin's classic. So what you have here is a basic demonic possession potboiler, set in the 80s in a gloomy old Spanish chateau, so there's plenty of dark shadows and cobwebby rooms to have a jump scare or two, and a young mother brings her two children to Spain from The US to renovate her deceased husband's family estate. Unfortunately the house hides an evil and soon her young son is possessed by a demon. This prompts the Pope (Franco Nero) to despatch his number one exorcist, Gabriel played by Russell Crowe. This casting is the films strong point, his star charisma holds the film together where a lesser name and actor would have left it mostly laughable. But Crowe adds some seasoning even when the narrative veers into haunted house type territory. All the usual demonic possession tropes are here from vomiting up stuff, weird skin letters, gruff sweary voices etc etc and in that sense it's all fairly unoriginal. Supposedly this is based on the writings of the real Gabriel, a Vatican priest and expert but whatever the truth behind the story is what you have here is a routine horror that is watchable and then forgettable.

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The Mist

Great Modern Creature Feature Film

(Edit) 25/02/2024

The Mist is a horror movie based on a familiar narrative and a homage to the giant monster movies of the 50s such as Them (1954) and The Thing From Another World (1951), indeed director Frank Darabont wanted the film released in black & white to further make that connection but was vetoed by the studio. However his B/W version is available on the BluRay and I highly recommend it over the colour version. Based on a short novel by Stephen King this is a tense, exciting and quite scary monster story where after a severe electric storm a strange mist descends upon a small lakeside town on the east coast USA. David (Thomas Jane) with his young son goes to the local supermarket where along with a host of locals they find themselves trapped when strange and highly dangerous creatures begin appearing in the mist. Like many great films of people being trapped together the central theme is how fear and desperation cause changes in personality and rational people become homicidal. In this film this is represented by Mrs Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) who becomes a religious fanatic and starts to demand human sacrifice, a demand very much supported by others. There's a great originality to this film, the creatures are very terrifying and unusual. The characters are all brilliantly portrayed and include Toby Jones as a surprising hero. The ending is very shocking so be prepared but I urge you to seek this great film out because it's very, very good.

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Pusher

Stylish British Crime Drama

(Edit) 24/02/2024

A remake of Nicholas Winding Refn's 1996 film reset to London and with a bit of the style and 'cheeky chappie' vibe that Guy Ritchie pioneered in his early crime films. It's a fairly simple story really: Frank (Richard Coyle) is a mid level drug dealer who sells his wares in the London clubs and strip joints and is getting more successful to the extent he's despatched an associate to buy a stash of cocaine in Amsterdam and smuggle it back to the UK. But in the meantime he agrees to a one off deal that goes drastically wrong and finds he's in debt to a bigger fish in the trade who wants his money with interest or else. When the Amsterdam deal also goes awry Frank finds his life is in serious danger and he's forced to turn on all his friends. In regard to the story and plot it's nothing overly original or unpredictable but the film does have a swagger and pulse that makes it stylish and very watchable even though the ending is a little disappointing. As a British remake of critically acclaimed European film this hits the spot and is worth checking out if you've not seen it.

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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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