Film Reviews by GI

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

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Alfie

Key British Film

(Edit) 11/05/2021

A key British film of the 1960s and one that really evokes London from that era and of course a film that cemented Michael Caine as a major star. Highly risqué at the time mainly due to the then taboo subject of abortion which is a significant issue of the narrative. Interestingly the misogyny of the main character was less an issue then as it is when the film is watched today and despite the comic veneer this is a serious and at times disturbing film. But it's a film that's a British masterpiece and one I highly recommend if you've never seen it. Caine plays the title character, a jack-the-lad cockney, who's chief goal in life is to bed as many women as he can. He casually views women as objects to be used and cast aside at whim often referring to them as 'it'. But Alfie's attitudes and lifestyle are thrown into chaos by events he tries to treat as lightly as everything else and leaves him destined to a life of loneliness. In the end this is a tragedy, a stark warning of toxic masculinity and selfishness. Caine is superb here in a challenging and controversial role aided by a brilliant support cast of Shelley Winters, Julia Foster, Jane Asher, Denholm Elliott, Vivien Merchant and Millicent Martin. The famous song that accompanies the end titles has two versions, when originally released it was sung by Cher and later replaced by Cilla Black who had a huge hit in the UK with it. A film that has a unique style, Alfie sporadically addresses the viewer in what is often referred to as 'breaking the fourth wall', in what ultimately this is a social drama that confronts some delicate and complex issues. A film to definitely check out.

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Without Remorse

Formulaic Action Thriller

(Edit) 11/05/2021

A by-the-numbers action thriller with a formulaic plot, loads of shooting and a reasonable cast. Other than that it's all a bit routine and whilst entertaining will be quickly forgotten. Adapted from a Tom Clancy novel it fits into the Jack Ryan world and characters with names of Greer and Ritter will be familiar to anyone who either loves Clancy's books or the Harrison Ford starring Ryan films. The central character John Kelly alias Clark (Michael B. Jordan) has appeared in the Jack Ryan films too, most memorably played by Willem Dafoe in Clear And Present Danger (1994). This new film is his origin story. He's a Navy Seal who is part of a CIA op' in Syria to rescue a captured agent. When the team are back in the US some of them are murdered including Kelly's beloved wife and he goes on a revenge mission all because of some conspiracy involving Russians. Jamie Bell, Guy Pearce and Jodie Turner-Smith support in what is a shoot em up. Ok but could have been better.

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The Alamo

Epic Historical Adventure

(Edit) 08/05/2021

John Wayne's epic historical adventure, a passion project for him and the first of only two films he directed in his long career. It's an exciting, grand war epic depicting the 1836 battle of a small Texan mission held by a ragtag bunch of militia and volunteers against the massive Mexican Army who were delayed for fifteen days from their invasion. The battle holds mythical status in the US and Wayne saw it as the pinnacle of the American Dream reflecting his political ideals. That aside it's a highly entertaining film and once the main battle commences it's a cinematic treat. There are some misfires not least in the first third when Wayne adds a big dose of humorous western tropes with saloon fights and drunkenness (he even slips a very small cattle drive in there!), no doubt the effect of years of working with John Ford. The film is also littered with profound, political and macho speeches which spoil the films flow and a pointless, albeit mild, romantic interlude with Linda Cristal. A more experienced director might have trimmed these areas to concentrate on the main battle. Overall though this is a fine film enhanced by three stunning lead performances from Wayne as Davy Crockett, the former Tennessee congressman who fought and died in the battle, Richard Widmark as legendary Jim Bowie and especially Laurence Harvey as the martinet commander of the Alamo, Travis. He was woefully ignored for an Academy nomination which he deserved. There's the usual great support cast of character actors who had long worked with Wayne in his films. As a big war epic this is a film that is worth checking out, it's a rousing and at times very moving film and the battle scenes are wonderful. To top it all it has a very famous score by Dimitri Tiomkin including 'The Green Leaves of Summer'.

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The African Queen

A classic - Romantic Adventure Film Masterpiece

(Edit) 07/05/2021

The classic romantic adventure film with two of Hollywood's biggest stars whose onscreen chemistry is so magical and forms the centre of the film. It's essentially a journey of peril narrative set in Africa in 1914 just after the start of the First World War when the sister of a missionary, the very devout Rose (Katherine Hepburn) is left alone when her brother dies and is faced with the Germans interring all foreign nationals. She is offered a chance of escape by gin swilling Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) on his grimy tramp steamer 'The African Queen'. But the journey up river is a hazardous one and the continuous danger from the river and trying to avoid detection eventually pushes Rose and Charlie together. This is a marvellous film, shot in glorious technicolour and on location. Bogart and Hepburn are flawless here (Bogart won his only Oscar for his performance) and John Huston's direction is spot on. This is one of those films that makes you fall in love with cinema. It's exciting, touching and has a great climactic confrontation with a German gunboat. If you've never seen this it's a must see and recently released in a new restored BluRay & DVD. A masterpiece.

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Come as You Are

Watchable, funny Road Movie

(Edit) 05/05/2021

A rather unsentimental comedy about three disabled guys trying to lose their virginity. This is essentially a road movie where the three, Scotty (Grant Rosenmeyer), a paraplegic since birth, Matt (Hayden Szeto), paralysed after an operation and sight impaired Mo (Ravi Patel) head to Canada where they have discovered that a brothel catering for the disabled is located. Chased by their worried parents but helped by their no nonsense driver, Sam (Gabourey Sidibe), there are funny moments, the odd silly one and a narrative arc where the three bond and come to terms with their lives. Where the film excels is in the scenes that reveal the daily humiliations the three suffer and the attitudes of naivety and downright unpleasantness from abled bodied persons who have dealings with the three which hit the mark in showcasing the trials and tribulations of disabled persons. Overall this is a briskly told story, based on a true story and a remake of a Belgian film Hasta La Vista (2011). Entertaining and funny as far as it goes although a tad predictable.

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The Adventures of Robin Hood

Classic Romantic Adventure

(Edit) 05/05/2021

British history, even when it's the legendary bits, has been richly mined by cinema not least Hollywood. This is the quintessential historical romantic adventure film that follows the children's Robin Hood stories. It's a rousing swashbuckler full of sword fights, archery battles and a classic tale of good versus evil. All the famous scenes are here, including the archery contest, Robin's rescue from the gallows and the return of Richard The Lionheart (Ian Hunter). Beautifully filmed in rich technicolour it stars the inimitable Errol Flynn, whose best films involved swordplay, the classic cinematic hero. As Robin Hood he dons green tights to fight the dastardly Guy of Gisborne (Basil Rathbone) and the treasonous Prince John (Claude Rains) to literally rob the rich to give to the poor and all for the love of King and Country....oh and the Lady Marian (Olivia de Havilland). This is a wonderful film, one you probably saw as a child and were captivated by the spectacle and action which is fast and fun. There's a famous score by composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold and it's a fine example of the use of leitmotifs. Arguably this is the greatest Robin Hood film, this is cinema at its purest, a wonderful film, and one to enjoy time and time again.

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Ad Astra

Interesting SciFi Epic

(Edit) Updated 05/05/2021

I'll admit I was baffled and underwhelmed when I first saw this. However watching it again and knowing how the story plays out I began to see that this is a very intelligent and complex narrative that reveals a film worthy of re-evaluation. Set about 100 years in the future and space travel has advanced to the point that there's tourism to the moon and Mars has outposts. Brad Pitt plays Roy McBride, a major in the US military space division. He's a loner unable to connect with others including his wife (Liv Tyler). This is due to his family history as his very famous father, Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones), a pioneering astronaut, disappeared 29 years ago on a mission to the outer edges of the solar system to search for other intelligent life. When huge power surges hit the Earth killing thousands of people, Roy is told that it is believed his father is still alive somewhere out there and is the cause of the surges. Realising there's a plan to send a team to locate and kill Clifford Roy takes over the spacecraft and heads out to find and bring his Dad home. The beating heart of this film is the journey and in many ways the story is similar to Apocalypse Now (1979), indeed there are quite a few aspects that will remind you of that film if you are familiar enough with it. But ultimately this is a film that tries to highlight the importance of humanity and that the focus should be on our inner selves rather than always searching beyond. To that extent it's a psychological film with some interesting action set pieces thrown into the journey all of which play a relevance once you've grasped the film's ideas. All in all this is a visually spectacular and enthralling science fiction film with some interesting things to say and it's worth checking out and especially if you weren't convinced the first time you saw it.

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The Abyss

Fantastic Adventure Film

(Edit) 03/05/2021

This is James Cameron's most underrated film probably because it faired poorly at the box office but it is an absolutely fantastic adventure film and one of the very best set almost entirely at the bottom of the ocean. It has that claustrophobic atmosphere and tense threat that being stuck on the seabed creates. If you've never seen this then it's one to seek out because it has a great story that mixes disaster, action, a bit of romance and science fiction and it's a great example of Cameron's storytelling expertise. Starring Ed Harris as Bud Brigman who runs a deep sea drilling rig with a small crew. It can manoeuvre along the seabed in search of mineral deposits. When a US nuclear submarine mysteriously crashes on the edge of a deep trench Bud and his crew are recruited to assist in a rescue mission, aided by a Navy Seal team led by Coffey (Michael Biehn) and joined by Bud's estranged wife and designer of the rig, Lindsey (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). But when a severe hurricane leaves the rig damaged and stranded they have to figure out how to get back to the surface and Coffey starts to show signs of psychosis. To add to their problems they keep seeing strange lights coming from the depths of the abyss on which they are teetering. Cameron pioneered stunning new CGi effects for this film which he later improved upon for Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), and he created some beautiful imagery and the film is a real visual delight and exciting stuff. In 1992 Cameron reinserted some key scenes, removed for the theatrical release, in a 'Special Edition' and this is the version to watch. It has, in particular, a major scene at the end which gives the entire narrative a sense of meaning. A great adventure film that is full of surprises and well worth checking out.

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To Sir, with Love

Great British 60s Social Drama

(Edit) 01/05/2021

Surprisingly a huge hit in the US no doubt due to the draw of Sidney Poitier who stars as Mark Thackeray. He's a newly qualified engineer but unable to find a job in his chosen career he takes up a position as a teacher in a rundown East End school inhabited by unruly and under privileged teenagers. Finding it impossible to engage his class in the normal subjects he comes up with a bold plan of treating them as adults and teaching them life skills. Considered a quite risqué film at the time of its release it may seem quite dated today with its relatively tame swearing and themes of sexual awakening. It is however a wonderful film about the eroding state of education in Britain and the loss of opportunities for young people. The film tries to highlight the young persons's love of pop music, and even pop star Lulu has a role and sings the title song. But this is Poitier's film showcasing his ability. He plays a convincing London teacher here and when you consider his other big roles he is such a capable and intriguing actor and one to really admire. Interestingly, whilst there are some minor approaches to racism, obviously widespread in 60s Britain, it's hardly touched upon in the film. There's a host of familiar actors including Judy Gleeson, Suzy Kendall and a first film role for Patricia Routledge. A key British film of the 1960s and worth seeking out if you've never seen it.

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Page Eight

A Little Gem

(Edit) 01/05/2021

This is an intricate and captivating British espionage and political thriller with a great cast led by the inimitable Bill Nighy. The tone of the film is like a John le Carré novel with twists and turns of plot and not knowing who can be trusted and what the motives of each character might be. Nighy plays long standing MI5 intelligence man, John Worricker. His best friend and boss Benedict (Michael Gambon) asks him to read an intelligence file which reveals on page eight a startling revelation that may expose dodgy goings on at the very heart of the British government. When Benedict dies the file becomes a very hot property. Don't expect an action film here, this is a more delicate and involved story of double cross and deceit and it reflects the real world of intelligence. Rachel Weisz, Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones and Judy Davis are amongst the sterling cast but this is Nighy's film (he was Golden Globe nominated for this), he is the calm and clever agent who has to unravel the shenanigans in what is a wonderfully involved story. A little gem of a film and well worth checking out.

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Bombshell

Excellent Exposé Drama

(Edit) 01/05/2021

This is one of those exposé dramas similar to Spotlight and The Big Short (both 2015) in this case the sexual harassment culture at America's hugely popular, right wing TV channel Fox News. It's a powerful and shocking story and backed by fantastic performances. The Murdoch owned channel (Murdoch here played by Malcolm McDowell) is rocked when long standing presenter Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) is sacked from her show by the channels seedy, repulsive but all powerful boss, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow). She begins a lawsuit against Ailes personally alleging long standing sexual harassment and reveals the open secret of his habitual attitudes to women forcing them into sexual acts on threat of dismissal. Gretchen hopes her actions will bring out other victims but fear for their careers plays a big role in forcing them into silence. Top news anchor Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) knows Ailes is guilty but wrestles with what to do. She famously attempted to expose Donald Trump for his attitudes to women and knows she needs to support Gretchen. There's some disturbing scenes including where Ailes harasses and assaults young employee Kayla (Margot Robbie). This character is fictitious created as a composite to represent the typical victim of Ailes. Lithgow in heavy makeup brilliantly plays the loathsome Ailes in this thoroughly well told, uncomfortable and superbly done film. An excellent drama with topnotch performances and a film well worth checking out.

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Above Us the Waves

Top British Classic war Drama

(Edit) 30/04/2021

This is one of the cycle of British war movies from the 1950s and a great one it is too. Based on a real event and starring one of the most popular actors from this period it's an example of the fantastic films produced when the British film industry was thriving. Set in the Second World War this tells the story of a daring mission to attack the German battleship 'Tirpitz' while its moored in a Norwegian fjord impervious to air attack. Commander Fraser (John Mills) convinces a sceptical admiralty that he can lead a few highly trained men in midget submarines past the German defences and destroy it. It's a tale of derring do and the entire film focuses on the training and operation and like all submarine narratives it plays on that sense of tension of being under the water and hunted by a skilled enemy. There's no attempt here, unlike other similar films made when the war was raging, to incorporate any family or romance into the narrative, this is simply a story of courage. In that sense it's wonderfully constructed and directed with a superb cast including John Gregson and Donald Sinden, both big stars at the time. These films are worthy of rediscovery, they're gritty, exciting and very realistic. If you love a good war film then this is worth your time.

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Crypto

Dull Thriller

(Edit) 29/04/2021

A confusing and quite dull thriller that despite delusions about corrupt banking, bitcoins etc is nothing more than a routine story about Russian mafia and the inadvertent uncovering of their money laundering operation in small-town America. Underwhelming and with a lead actor (Beau Knapp) who has little charisma and a teenage boys beard! He plays Martin, a hotshot Wall Street banker, sent to audit the books of a small branch that happens to be in his hometown. This cues some family drama involving his father (Kurt Russell) and his uncovering of said mafia naughtiness. Nothing exciting happens, there's a lot of staring at computer screens and the final denouement is a damp squib.

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Brightburn

Silly and Disappointing

(Edit) 28/04/2021

A schlock horror film that is a sort of Superman / Damien (from The Omen) hybrid, a good idea but ultimately all rather silly. The basic story is a subversion of the Superman one where a strange object crash lands in Kansas, inside is a baby boy who is taken in by wannabe parents (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) but who grows up to be something special and, in this case, something nasty. In the final analysis it's a creepy kid narrative with some gruesome murders and a story arc that starts off with promise but soon becomes ridiculous especially in the way the adult characters are written. Their reactions defy belief and, if you're like me, you'll occasionally groan at some of the daft decisions they make. A disappontment and if we're to have a sub genre that deliberately sets out to subvert and challenge the superhero genre then more thought needs putting in.

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About a Boy

Much More than RomCom

(Edit) 27/04/2021

It's easy to dismiss this as just another Hugh Grant romcom coming as it did within the cycle of films that made him a big star (Four Weddings...., Notting Hill etc) but it's actually a very intricate and sharp social drama with big dollops of humour. A coming-of-age story that concerns not only a lonely child struggling to understand the adults in his life but also a story of a conceited, self centred man who through the course of the film realises that other people are of more importance than his own narcissistic view of them. Grant plays Will, a relatively wealthy, single man who lives off the royalties of a song written by his late father. He's never worked or been in a serious relationship and lies routinely to get women into bed. When he invents a son to try and seduce a single mum things backfire when a young, isolated and bullied teenager, Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) finds him out and tries to get Will to help his own suicidal, depressive mum (Toni Collette). It's the developing relationship between the man and boy that is the focus of the story. A touching film that is very funny as well as dealing with themes of isolation, friendship, mental health and trying to find meaning in life. It's actually one of Grant's best films and performances. It also boasts Rachel Weisz in a support role. Based on a novel by Nick Hornby (also recommended) this is a film ripe for rediscovery and it's one that will appeal to all. If you've never seen this then I highly recommend it.

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