Film Reviews by GI

Welcome to GI's film reviews page. GI has written 304 reviews and rated 893 films.

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Joker

Disappointing

(Edit) 23/05/2021

Despite a typically strong (indeed Oscar winning) performance from Joaquin Pheonix this is a disappointing film. In opposition to the Marvel Universe the DC Universe is a dark, bleak and brooding one and never more so than in Gotham City. Here we have the iconic villain and Batman's arch nemesis given a backstory that all seems a little tedious and forced and in consequence it overall lacks the power that Heath Ledger brought to the character in The Dark Knight (2008) where he was unburdened by history. Pheonix plays Arthur Fleck, a former mental health patient now living with his elderly mother in her grotty apartment, he has a condition that involves him having bouts of uncontrollable laughter. But with aspirations to be a stand up comedian he is optimistic although bullied in his low down job as a street clown. Eventually Arthur finds his talents lie more in violence than comedy in a scene reminiscent of Death Wish (1974) and he begins his journey towards becoming Joker, focusing his anger on, amongst others, cheesy TV comic Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro). The Wayne family are involved in the story too just to lay the ground as it were for a link into Batman. There's some visceral violence and great production design which helps the film yet for a film that is ultimately a descent into madness narrative it is underwhelming.

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All Quiet on the Western Front

Classic War Drama

(Edit) 22/05/2021

Despite its age this remains one of the most realistic and powerful of war films and viewed today it recreates the trenches of the First World War so accurately it's easy to confuse the scenes with documentary footage. Based on a celebrated novel this is thematically a film that is designed to condemn war and does so through the theme of the disillusionment of youth. It tells the story of a group of German students who are roused to patriotic fervour by their teacher and en masse sign up for the new war against France and Great Britain. After tough training they are thrust into the maelstrom of the frontline where death and horror are daily occurrences. The film doesn't shy from showing dismemberment and gory battle scenes (this was made before the Production Code came fully into force in 1934) and there are some iconic scenes that have become renowned in cinema history, not least the ending. This is a wonderful and memorable film and one that every film fa n should see and I guarantee you will not be disappointed so don't be put off by it's age it's one of the finest American motion pictures ever made. It's been restored for DVD and BluRay in recent years but don't be tempted by the 1979 remake, it's not a patch on this one.

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Army of the Dead

Average Splatterfest Zombie

(Edit) 21/05/2021

One big splatterfest, very bloody, very gory and the sort of thing Arnold Schwarzenegger would've starred in in the 1980s. Instead we have man mountain Dave Bautista recruited by a shady government man to take a band of mercenaries into the walled off city of Las Vegas, which now is inhabited only by a zombie horde, to empty a casino vault of millions in cash. Along for the ride is Garrett Dillahunt who, in the employ of the shady government man, has another agenda . The trouble is it's less a prison for zombies than their kingdom mainly because the undead are not all of one caste, and they have a leader (explained, sort of, in the film's prologue) who controls the more intelligent ones. They're actually more like Orcs than zombies but either way they object strongly to these annoying humans trespassing on their territory. This cues a lot of bloodshed, shooting and general gore that makes the whole thing borderline humorous. Overall it's entertaining but it lacks the frights needed for a good zombie film and it's not as good as director Zack Snyder's earlier zombie remake Dawn Of The Dead (2004). I think the recent plethora of zombie film and TV has weakened the sub-genre making zombies simply annoying nowadays, we all know how to despatch them easily with nothing more than a kitchen knife!!

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The Two Popes

Interesting Drama

(Edit) 20/05/2021

Even for a non believer and fierce critic of the Catholic Church this somewhat indulgent drama has much to admire in its entertaining bromance structure about the clash of ideas between Pope Benedict XVI and his successor Pope Francis I. Played with gusto by Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce they make the film worth watching in what is really a preposterous imagining of private meetings between these two rivals as the incumbent Pope is considering the sensational decision to retire the papacy. The film plays out as the two spar together in a series of meetings and it's the early ones that really are more interesting as their animosity for each other is revealed. Hopkins portrayal of the ultra conservative Ratzinger is especially cold and at times a little bit Lectorish. The trouble is as the two duel with each other key issues are glossed over not least the international scandal over child abuse and whilst Pryce's Cardinal Bergoglio is given a backstory told in flashbacks there is no balancing one for Hopkins' Ratzinger and his final confession is made deliberately and annoyingly inaudible. By the end when the two sort of become mates the film feels all a bit sloppy. But it's two actor masters who are really interesting in their roles and this makes it all worth checking out.

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Honest Thief

Mediocre Action Thriller

(Edit) 20/05/2021

Sometimes enjoyable, sometimes tedious and sometimes corny this action thriller puts Liam Neeson back into another action role this time as ace safecracker Tom who has accrued $9million of ill-gotten gains but bizarrely not spent a penny. Then he meets Annie (Kate Walsh), falls in love and wants a new future so decides to return all the money for a reduced sentence. Unfortunately corrupt FBI agents, Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Hall (Anthony Ramos) want the money for themselves. Ex marine Tom is having none of it of course. The film ebbs and flows from hackneyed to mildly interesting to downright daft. The action set pieces and shoot outs are unexciting and overall the film is an average piece of hokum that passes the time but soon forgotten.

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Alien: Covenant

Worthy Addition

(Edit) 19/05/2021

Having been a bit bruised by the response to Prometheus (2012) director Ridley Scott focused this sequel on the horror roots of the first Alien (1979). The iconic creature returns in a new form and we have a sort of new 'Ripley' type character in Daniels (Katherine Waterston) but Scott has still kept to his vision of joining the story to the 1979 film albeit we must wait for the final instalment which hopefully will be made. For now the story has moved ten years since the conclusion of Prometheus and follows The Covenant, a huge spacecraft carrying two thousand people in hyper sleep to a new life on a distant planet. Events go awry and the crew are awakened to discover a nearby planet from which a human voice message is being received. On investigating they discover the android, David (Michael Fassbender) who alone has survived, having crash landed there, from the Prometheus mission. Unfortunately for the unsuspecting crewmen David has his own sinister agenda. The significant link here is the malevolence of the android which links neatly with Alien where the android Ash turned out to be in the service of the notorious 'company'. This is an exciting, gory, at times quite scary scifi horror film that has an intricate plot and wonderful visuals that are Scott's trademark. It's a film worthy of re-evaluation if you weren't convinced before and hopefully we will eventually get a concluding part to this story. In the meantime if you like the Alien franchise this is a fine addition and worth checking out.

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Alien Resurrection

Pointless Addition

(Edit) 19/05/2021

This has its fans but I find it a silly film that takes the franchise nowhere and it seems to me its a film made to cash in. Even Sigourney Weaver only eventually agreed because of the huge amount of money she was paid. The conclusion of Alien3 (1992) effectively closed the 'Ripley' trilogy neatly and conclusively, this pointlessly reopens it. As a science fiction film this has some interesting moments and the visuals are impressive at times especially the spacecraft docking sequences. But ultimately this is yet another story of humans trying to escape through a labyrinthine huge spaceship chased by the iconic aliens. In the hands of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet the film has a EuroTrash feel with some attempts at gory comedy. So here we have a story set 200 years after the events of the previous film and Ellen Ripley has been cloned by a dodgy US Military team in order to harvest an alien that is gestating inside her. Ripley grows into a sort of hybrid super powered person and whilst Weaver clearly has fun with the part it just doesn't seem like the Ripley we know who was at all times vulnerable yet had resolve. The cast are good with Winona Ryder as an android and Ron Perlman as a tough guy. But it's the conclusion that really irks, the introduction of a creature that is so daft you end up laughing when you're meant to be appalled. Well I was appalled because the film ends up as a giant joke which may have been the intention of course. Either way I think this addition spoils what was the original intention and, for me, its best ignored in the Alien franchise.

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Prometheus

Don't Listen to the Critics - This is Superb

(Edit) 19/05/2021

Massively underrated yet a significant science fiction film, beautifully filmed and with a very intriguing, clever and intricate story. It is obviously a prequel to Alien (1979) but not a direct one and I'm guessing that die hard fans of the Alien franchise expected another chase film through dark corridors by the iconic monster and were disappointed when they got a film that attempts to delve into more involved themes. This is set 30 years before the events of Alien and the discovery on Earth of ancient cave paintings leads scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) to believe that an alien race somehow 'engineered' humanity into existence. Funded by the hugely rich and powerful Weyland-Yutani company a space mission sets off to find this race of 'engineers'. They find something much more sinister and frightening. Like many great scifi movies the film thematically attempts to deal with the origins of mankind, it's an attempt at working into the world of the Alien franchise some sense of meaning and complexity. For me it's flawed yet quite a wonderful film with so many clever twists and turns that it warrants repeated viewings. A central issue here is the role of the android David (Michael Fassbender) and his position in the hierarchy that includes the coldly domineering Vickers (Charlize Theron) and the very old, malevolent Weyland (Guy Pearce). Director Ridley Scott always wanted to look at an origin story for the Alien universe and he has really opened up the franchise to the extent that the original film and its two sequels gain a different sense of meaning. I urge anyone who was disappointed before to give this another go. It has some superb visual scenes and it's epic in structure but overall its a film that actually fits rather well into the story you know so well from the earlier films.

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Glass

Pointless

(Edit) 18/05/2021

A clumsy, laborious and pointless sequel to Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2016) and director M. Night Shyamalan's attempt to create an original superhero world. The film starts reasonably well but it soon fizzles out into an anticlimactic mess. Bruce Willis returns as David Dunn, the main character from Unbreakable (actually an interesting gem in Shyamalan's canon), who was the only survivor of a train crash and has super strength and is able to read people's mind after one touch, he now roams the streets in a dirty raincoat as some sort of street avenger and is on the hunt for Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy), a schizophrenic psycho who kidnaps and murders young girls when he manifests as 'The Beast' (a sort of poor mans Wolverine). They get themselves caught and sent to a psychiatric hospital where sinister doctor, Ellie (Sarah Paulson) has some devilish plan for them but doesn't count on the dastardly Elijah Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) who has one of his own. McAvoy is clearly having a ball playing about twenty characters (I lost count) and obviously relished his time in the gym preparing for the role(s) but this attempt at a high gloss interpretation of the superhero genre is a damp squib. Watch the two earlier films as they are fun and weird but this one is a step too far.

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Alien 3

Better Than Reported

(Edit) 17/05/2021

This is actually a rather effective finale in a trilogy that tells the story of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and her relationship with the iconic alien creature. To appreciate this film requires two key things, first that the 2003 'Special Edition' is the version viewed and that the silly Alien Resurrection (1997), which followed it, is ignored (it took the franchise nowhere). This is despite the controversies surrounding Alien3 not least that the director, David Fincher, has more or less disowned it due to studio interference (the 2003 version is closest to his vision of the film and it's vastly superior to the theatrical release version). The story picks up almost immediately from the conclusion of Aliens (1986) and Ripley crash lands on a desolate planet formerly a huge industrial lead refinery and now a maximum security prison housing an all male set of rapists and murderers. Unfortunately an alien is also loose and with no weapons and the notorious 'company' somehow involved Ripley has to find a way to destroy this new threat and survive. Aliens was always going to be a difficult act to follow and returning to a story where there's just one alien to contend with after an army of them in the previous film was potentially an anticlimax. But we now have Ridley Scott's prequels to consider (both also worthy of reconsideration) and Alien3 fits quite neatly into the full story of the history of the creature. This is especially relevant in regards to how the creature takes on an appearance dependant on it's environment and helps create a more interesting evolutionary story. Alien3 is in itself a tense, bloody chase story, full of menace and threat and with a superb cast (most of whom are British - Pete Postlethwaite, Phil Davis, Brian Glover, Paul McGann, Ralph Brown) and continues with a bleak, uninspiring vision of a future that despite advanced technology holds little for humanity, encapsulated in the 'company', here given a name for the first time, which is prepared to, literally, risk the future of humanity itself in the pursuit of profit. A film that is worthy of re-evaluation and to round off the 'Ripley' story. I certainly recommend it if you haven't seen it and to try again if you found it unrewarding before.

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Aliens

Action Science Fiction - Brilliant

(Edit) 15/05/2021

A fantastic, exciting and gutsy sequel to the 1979 science fiction classic and it cleverly takes the story in a completely different direction and sets itself as a combat film over a basic horror narrative. It also focuses on the central character of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) giving her more complexity and depth. After drifting in space for 57 years Ripley, the sole survivor from the first film, is rescued but finds the 'company' deny any culpability in the deaths of her crew mates. She is forced to return to the planet where the derelict alien craft was located because communications with the new colonists there has stopped. Ripley accompanies a team of tough marines who have no idea what dangers the plant holds. Plenty of action, tension, scares and a gripping plot make this a film that is the equal of the original and arguably it's one of director James Camerons best films. Considering the franchise that followed this introduces the theme of motherhood into the main character but ultimately this is science fiction action cinema at its very best. It's a visual treat with a dreary, industrial vision of the future including vehicles and advanced weaponry. There's a brilliantly haunting score and a first rate cast including Michael Biehn and the late, great Bill Paxton. A top film that never fails to entertain, and one to most definitely see if you enjoyed the 1979 original. The version to check out is the 1991 'Special Edition' which replaced scenes removed from the theatrical release but which enhance the story and action.

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Emma

OK Jane Austen Adaptation

(Edit) 14/05/2021

An adaptation of Jane Austen's eighteenth century comedy of manners. It's a lovely looking film, shot in delightful buttery hues and the sense of privilege of the characters in the period is wonderfully captured. Overall this latest version doesn't offer anything much that's new and it's a pretty faithful retelling of this story (the director seems to like showing buttocks which are surprisingly on offer at various times). Anya Taylor-Joy plays Emma as the bored rich girl who delights in match-making but who makes a right royal cock up when she tries to sort her friend, the low-born and gawky Harriet (Mia Goth), out with the local Reverend (Josh O'Connor). It all goes horribly wrong and affects her own suppressed love for the handsome Mr Knightley (Johnny Flynn). The first third of the film is a little confusingly told but overall there's nothing wrong here especially if you like period dramas such as this. The cast are good and include the brilliant Bill Nighy as the father and Miranda Hart as the boring Miss Bates who Emma cruelly insults.

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Love and Monsters

Fun Filled Creature Feature

(Edit) 13/05/2021

A fun filled family fantasy movie reminiscent of those wonderful matinees from years ago such as The Lost World (1960) and Jason & The Argonauts (1963), and in similar vein to Zombieland (2009), with a tongue-in-cheek adventure story full of those scary thrills that appeals to the young and the young at heart. The story here is that the multiple missiles fired to destroy an approaching asteroid resulted in radiation fallout contaminating the world and causing insects, amphibians etc to mutate into giant monsters. Survivors have fled to various ramshackle bunkers and seven years after the event hapless Joel (Dylan O'Brien) yearns to see his former girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick) who is 85 hazardous miles away. With hopeless survival skills Joel heads off to find her. The film is funny and has a central hero who shrugs his way through the dangers barely making it each time when he is pursued by various creatures all of which are superbly constructed with CGI. O'Brien plays the part of a lovesick fool just right mixing accidental heroics with utter hopelessness. There's a cute dog thrown in just to make it all the more appealing. Like with most apocalyptic narratives it turns out its the humans who are the most dangerous. Michael Rooker has a cameo in this entertaining little film that's just right for family viewing.

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Freaks

Intriguing and Surprising Thriller

(Edit) 13/05/2021

A film that defies expectations and turns out to be a rather intriguing thriller which tips into a bit of horror and a bit of science fiction. It's certainly quite entertaining and I found it quite a pleasant surprise. Its a story centred around seven year old Chloe (Lexy Kolker) who lives in a rundown house with her father (Emile Hirsch). He's over-protective and paranoid and keeps Chloe confined to the house (she's never been outside) and tells her that people are out to kill them. But Chloe, plagued by nightmares and hallucinations, is enticed out by the ice cream man (Bruce Dern) who tells her about her mother, who Chloe had been told was dead. She soon realises her dad has been hiding many truths from her. In order to avoid plot spoilers I'll go no further other than to say that there's a clever story here which, once the general idea is revealed, opens the film to some interesting action set pieces. This is a little different and well worth checking out.

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Alien

Masterpiece

(Edit) 12/05/2021

A masterpiece and a game-changer. A science fiction film that's influence cannot be underestimated, indeed it's style, editing and ideas have been much copied since. When this arrived it was an unbelievable experience, not only because of its, now infamous, scenes but also because of its look, its vision of future technology and the sheer tension and excitement and it went onto spawn a hugely popular franchise with mixed results. But as a key science fiction film this remains a benchmark in the genre. In the far distance future a commercial tug spacecraft, the Nostromo, with it's seven crew in hypersleep, are en route back to Earth. The ship's computer picks up an unknown signal and awakens the crew to investigate. On a small, desolate planet they find an abandoned alien ship but one of the crew is attacked by a strange creature that attaches itself to his face and by bringing it aboard the Nostromo they unleash something very terrible indeed. With it's imagery and themes of primeval awakenings, deviant sexual assault and unique designs by the concept artist H.R. Giger this is a film that deserves close and careful viewing. There's a host of things going on here that are complex and very interesting. There's plenty of shocks including a now very famous and bloody scene and plenty of unexpected twists. The small cast are all exceptional: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver (in her first major role), John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton and Ian Holm. Director Ridley Scott is responsible for two of the most influential scifi films ever made this being the first. It's a must see film, and I recommend having a look at the Directors Cut which adds some interesting character scenes, a significant extra scene which links it neatly to the sequel Aliens (1986) and trims some other scenes to make them more impactive. A modern masterpiece, if you've never seen it then it's worth your time believe me.

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