Film Reviews by GI

Welcome to GI's film reviews page. GI has written 1241 reviews and rated 1832 films.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Disappointing Prequel to LOTR

(Edit) 01/01/2024

I revisit this film occasionally in the hope that I'll come to like it. It seems to me to be a film that ought to be something special and yet it lacks that sense of wonder and amazement that director Peter Jackson managed so brilliantly with his Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Perhaps the originality of those films just cannot be replicated now that the world of Middle-earth has been revealed although I think it's that the sense of realism that was created in the fantasy world of LOTR has somehow not been successfully recreated in The Hobbit series. It is also incredible that Jackson has managed to eek out a trilogy of films from a very slim children's novel and in doing so he has attempted to incorporate the book's child focused narrative and sense of fun with the dark atmosphere and horror aspects of the LOTR book and narrative, and this doesn't work effectively. On the positive side there are flashes of the dark fantasy film that fans hoped for and Martin Freeman is simply superb as the trilogy's titular hero, Bilbo Baggins who is forced into an adventure with a group of disaffected dwarves to reclaim their homeland now occupied by a fearsome dragon whom we shall only glimpse in this first film. This is an accomplished film with some wonderful visual creations that fans will tolerate because of the brilliance of the LOTR series but it's ultimately a disappointment and one only wonders what Guillermo del Toro who was originally to direct this, would have done with it.

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Mary Poppins

Watch Now - It's Still Wonderfully Magic

(Edit) 30/12/2023

Surely this is Walt Disney's greatest achievement. It's a sheer delight even after many viewings from childhood to adulthood. When you apply a critical eye to the film it reveals even more surprises not least that there is an underlining darkness and mystery to the landscape of the film. It's a pure cinematic vision of early twentieth century London but within the dark, gloom laden and smokey streets lies the magic that is at the heart of the story. Disney did add a lightness where the books on which this is based are much darker including the character of Mary Poppins, who is far colder and slightly menacing. But he was right to do so. This is after all a family film with some magical lessons for all ages. From the simple idea that laughter is a great healer to themes of family, childhood, and the cold nature of materialism. The kite is the emblem of the family here, broken, then mended and able to stretch out to discover endless happiness. Julie Andrews is superb in the title role, a multi-talented actor with a beautiful voice. Dick Van Dyke is also a multi talented performer and whilst, over the years he's been derided for his mock cockney accent, he gives the film an energy and a sense of comedy. Besides that accent just adds to the charm, this is not meant to be a historical drama. David Tomlinson as the father, Mr Banks, is also exemplary and often forgotten when this film is discussed but he's actually the character who is most redeemed by the film's conclusion. This is a remarkable piece of family entertainment and is Disney's biggest Oscar winner to date (it won 5) and it's always worth sitting round on a rainy afternoon with the children and watching it. If they haven't seen this then give them a treat.

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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Sloppy Version of Classic Gothic Story

(Edit) 27/12/2023

Director and star Kenneth Branagh has attempted to make a version of this famous gothic story as close to the novel as possible and get away from the Hollywood 'monster' image with bolts in the neck, high forehead etc etc. That's to be applauded yet despite a good start this is a clumsy film, poorly edited and with a hurried feel that makes it cheap and uninteresting. Characters dive through emotional swings so fast it's hard to keep up and Branagh seems obsessed with lots of shots of his sweaty torso and adds a pointless bodice ripping sex scene apparently so he can snog his co star, Helena Bonham Carter. Robert De Niro as the creature was no doubt a celebrated piece of casting but the resulting film leaves one wondering what attracted him to the role because the nuances of the character seem to be lost and it's difficult to interpret what we, the viewer, is meant to be feeling about him. Even the iconic scenes of the creatures birth are rapid and unfulfilling. Branagh has an eye for recreating the 18th century and some scenes are well constructed but the film doesn't flow at all well. The story is well known and here eager young intellectual Victor Frankenstein, the son of a renowned doctor (Ian Holm), is distraught by the death of his mother (Cherie Lunghi), and becomes obsessed with cheating death. At university he cobbles together huge amounts of equipment, steals body parts including the brain of his mentor (John Cleese) and stitches together a body which he manages to reanimate, immediately and I mean immediately, rejects it and flees. Then pretending none of this happened he pops off home to marry his beloved but of course said ungrateful and very ugly creature comes after him for some revenge. One is left with a big disappointment and the thought of what producer Francis Ford Coppola would have made of this story in the director's chair. What we have here is a mess I'm afraid

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The Martian

Visually Impressive Space Adventure

(Edit) 26/12/2023

The Martian is a refreshingly uplifting science fiction survival narrative from director Ridley Scott with his usual visual flair making the film very watchable. Essentially Robinson Crusoe in space it's the story of a manned mission to Mars commanded by Jessica Chastain, which has to depart urgently when a massive violent storm hits their encampment. Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) gets struck by flying debris and is presumed dead. But he survives and is then stranded on Mars with meagre supplies and has to use his wits and ingenuity to survive. Meanwhile, once NASA discovers he's still alive a plan to rescue him has to be devised before he starves to death. Scott manages to stretch out this piece of hokum rather well considering how thin the story actually is and Damon is very funny considering his monologues to his computer are the means the story gets told to us the viewers. The final rescue is exciting and whilst there's a lot of acting talent on offer (Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara et al)who all add to the epic feel of the film and add great drama as mistakes and accidents blight the efforts to rescue the stranded astronaut. Wonderfful effects in this very good space adventure. Enjoyable, spectacular and visually impressive.

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Fast and Furious

Silly Actioner But Better Than The First 2.

(Edit) 24/12/2023

A direct sequel to 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) and so chronologically the third in the series although it's actually the fourth film made. It's more of the same as the 2001 original and its sequel the 2003 film but with added panache and the return of Vin Diesel. The chase sequences and stunts are bigger and better and so from a viewing perspective this is a far better film than the first two. Story wise it's all the same ol' stuff with muscle, boobs, loud music, shooting and a lot of testosterone in abundance and all influenced by the gaming culture and so appeals to a certain demographic (interestingly the warning at the end to not try and replicate the driving stunts says it all!) Diesel's Dom comes out of hiding when his beloved girlfriend (Michelle Rodriguez) gets killed to find out who is responsible and finds he has to join up with his old nemesis, Brian (Paul Walker) who is once again working undercover with the FBI. It's all brash action, moody looks and totally silly although some of the chases are really well executed. Gil Gadot has a small support role. Better than the first two but.......

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Saltburn

Interesting Mystery Drama

(Edit) 23/12/2023

With subtle dark comedy touches this mystery drama set in 2006 but played like it's the 1930s is highly watchable and yet ultimately leaves you wishing it had something more to it. There will be the obvious links to Brideshead Revisited and similar such dramas and the denouement is pretty predictable although played out with some attempt at originality. Barry Keoghan takes the lead role here (to me he seemed a little too old for the part) as Oliver, a Liverpudlian lad who has obtained a scholarship to Oxford where he is a fish out of water and largely ignored by the other students. He becomes transfixed by Felix (Jacob Elordi), a rather beautiful aristocratic student, who is a magnet to others especially girls. Felix befriends Oliver much to the surprise and consternation of the fellow students and feeling sorry for Oliver invites him to spend the summer at the family's very large estate called Saltburn. Oliver arrives and there we meet the bizarre family of father (Richard E. Grant), mother and ex model (Rosamund Pike), Oliver's beautiful sister (Alison Oliver) and family friend (Carey Mulligan). Oliver gradually inveigles his way into the affections of the family but to what end? There's certainly some very bizarre events that take place as the various characters attract and mix together and Oliver's intentions are subtle and mysterious. The film does feel very drawn out at times and there are plot holes that you have to fill yourself yet the cast are all impeccable in particular Pike and Grant. Overall this is interesting, at times clever with a solemnity and seriousness that combines with the dark comedic moments some of which might make you cringe but it also feels like a film a little uncertain of itself.

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Maestro

Detailed and Passionate Biopic

(Edit) 23/12/2023

Bradley Cooper directs and stars in this biopic of the great American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein. Utilising a mix of black and white and colour and changing screen ratios this is clearly a passion piece with Cooper fully inhabiting the role with excellent prosthetics. The narrative focuses on his complex relationship with his wife, Felicia (Carey Mulligan), a Costa Rican actress. This is clearly a heartfelt and slightly exhausting film, it certainly tested my patience on a few occasions, with its long conversation scenes and characters that drift in and out of the story. Cooper captures Bernstein's heady obsession with his art and ultimately the film is about sacrifice for art's sake unflinchingly dealing with Bernstein's dalliances with young men. A candid depiction of a great artist in a production that is vast, almost epic, but you have to be invested in wanting to know about the subject. The two leads are excellent but the film just indulges itself a little too much for my taste.

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Airplane!

Silly, Adult and Downright Hilarious

(Edit) 20/12/2023

Silly, anarchic and zany this American comedy holds up due to the relentless amount of visual and script jokes that run through the entire film even though some are dated and many require a passing knowledge of Hollywood as this is a parody of cinema and in particular the 1957 film Zero Hour!, which I challenge anyone who knows Airplane! to watch without laughing. Basically the story is a commercial airliner has an onboard emergency when the passengers and crew all get food poisoning and a former fighter pilot has to land it. Into that simple disaster film scenario the writers and directors weave a never ending pastiche of adult, risqué and borderline offensive comedy. It is a riot and has many now famous quotable lines and the presence of well known and very serious actors like Peter Graves, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges and Leslie Nielsen essentially undermining their own screen personas led to a film that is an absolute riot. This is one of those American comedies that it's always worth turning to when you need cheering up as it's just hilarious from start to finish.

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A Man Called Otto

Average Comedy Drama

(Edit) 19/12/2023

This Hollywood remake of the 2015 film A Man Called Ove is ok I suppose but it just never really gets to grips with itself. The main problem is that star Tom Hanks has a certain expected screen persona and the suicidal and ultra grumpy Otto never really lands properly with what we perceive as a Hanks character. Keeping the look and feel as Scandinavian as possible this is a quirky comedy drama about a grieving widower, Otto, who is fastidious about ensuring the rules of his little gated community are enforced all the while planning to kill himself as he misses his wife so much. The various attempts at suicide are always interrupted as Otto rushes out to chastise a neighbour for some infringement or other. This is supposed to be funny but rarely is here and the neighbours attitude to Otto reflects our attitude to Tom Hanks; we love him even though he's grumpy. This is a story of redemption as Otto is gradually transformed back to the kind hearted and lovable chap we all know he is and as we see in flashbacks to his younger self. His past with his now disabled neighbour is not explored satisfactorily and the ending is just too weepy for its own good. The stand out is Mariana Treviño as Otto's New Mexican neighbour whose bright and open personality refuses to be swayed by this grumpy ol' git. This will have it's fans but, for me, the book from which it's adapted and the 2015 version are more interesting.

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Jagged Edge

Great Murder Mystery

(Edit) 18/12/2023

A great murder mystery and courtroom drama from the 80s and written by the then much celebrated Joe Eszterhas. It's certainly a great script with the mystery cleverly layered and carefully peeled back as the narrative progresses. There's plenty of twists and turns making it a fantastic film when watched for the first time. Once the plot is known it possibly loses some of its power but still the performances and story remain tense and compelling. When a rich heiress is ritualistically murdered in her own home her handsome husband, Jack (Jeff Bridges) becomes the prime suspect mainly because he inherits all her wealth. The ambitious District Attorney (Peter Coyote) is convinced of his guilt and builds his case seeing his own career on the rise once he secures a conviction. But Jack, insisting on his innocence, hires reluctant lawyer, Teddy (Glenn Close) to defend him. Teddy becomes convinced her client is not guilty and as the trial begins she's soon identified who she believes is the real killer. There's some great backstory that involves the two main lawyers which builds a dynamic animosity between them making the case a very personal matter for them both. It is all very well written and Eszterhas was famous for his twist plots that he utilised in films like Basic Instinct (1992). Both Bridges and Close are wonderful here and ooze a charisma that sits just right with the plot. A film worth rediscovering and if by chance you've never seen this then it's a film to check out.

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Wonka

Cheerful Musical Origin Story

(Edit) 17/12/2023

This is a charming family fantasy musical with a hugely talented lead actor and I've no doubt children everywhere will be in raptures watching it. But it is all a little lacklustre and the dark edge of Roald Dahl's famous character is nowhere to be seen here. Timothée Chalet portrays him as a thoroughly likeable and naïve young adventurer who arrives in 19th century Paris with the ambition to open a chocolate shop using his late mother's recipes. The Willy Wonka from the book and even the Gene Wilder film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) has that scary side of the character that children are meant to fear. This film has the stereotypical cartoonish baddies (Olivia Colman and Tom Davis) who trap the young Willy in their sweatshop laundry at the behest of the nasty chocolate kings who dominate the market and don't want any cocky new competition. So Willy has to escape and expose all these baddies so he can finally realise his dreams. There's an orphan story running alongside the main plot and Chalet handles the average songs with aplomb. But it's Hugh Grant as the original Oompah Loompah who steals the show. There's a host of British talent here and Sally Hawkins cameos as Wonka's mother in a high production and pleasant enough film that is ok. Director Paul King hasn't really captured that magic he managed to bottle in Paddington (2014) and it's sequel.

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Leave the World Behind

Clever, Riveting Apocalyptic Thriller

(Edit) 13/12/2023

This is rather good, an apocalyptic thriller that builds slowly with an ominous edge to the soundtrack and strange events that periodically occur while the characters try to fathom what on earth is happening! Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke are husband and wife, Amanda and Clay. Cynical and disgruntled with the regimented life of the city she rents a luxury house in the country so they and their two children can get away from it all. The loss of all internet, phone and TV signals combined with a strange event on the local beach baffles them and then two strangers, a father and daughter, claiming to be the house' owners arrive late at night. The story arc is neatly controlled as matters become more and more confusing with the characters struggling to know what to do. There is some great visuals and intriguing twists in the film but there's a deeper study here of the torments in American society. The attitudes to race, wealth and paranoia caused by lies in media and politics are all on offer here. Mahershali Ali costars here as the house owner arriving with his tough minded daughter (Myha'la) and Kevin Baco has a great cameo. Adapted from a bestselling novel this is well worth checking out, a surprising film in a well worn sub genre where it oozes originality.

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The Iron Mask

Absolute Tosh

(Edit) 13/12/2023

A gigantic, bloated action/fantasy film that is apparently a sequel to a film from 2014 (The Forbidden Kingdom??) which I've not seen and am unlikely to either. The presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger and other acting luminaries as Charles dance and Rutger Hauer does nothing to save this trashy film, a huge Russian/Chinese production. The basic premise is that in the late 17th century a cartographer (Jason Flemyng) is tasked with mapping ancient China but before he gets on his way he discovers, held in the Tower of London, a prisoner in an iron mask who might be Peter the Great and a mysterious Chinese warrior (Jackie Chan) who are guarded by eccentric Arnie. This cues fights and loads of green screen shenanigans before we head off to China for battles involving a dragon, strange characters etc etc. It was all a complete mishmash and incomprehensible to me but may appeal to younger viewers as it's all very comic book in style and presentation. The closest I can think of that compares with this is the 60s/70s Sinbad films but either way this is really a load of tosh.

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Manhunter

Absolutely Brilliant

(Edit) 12/12/2023

One of the sharpest and most stylish crime thrillers you'd ever wish to see. This is one of director Michael Mann's best films and there's a fine selection to choose from. Based on Thomas Mann's novel Red Dragon (later remade by Brett Ratner following the success of 1991's The Silence of The Lambs) this is the first film to feature Hannibal Lecktor (spelt like this in Manhunter) and here played by Brian Cox, in a very sleazy and creepy performance. The story is a fairly basic psychopath/serial killer narrative where two entire families have been ritualistically murdered and, at a loss, the FBI turns to former agent Will Graham (William Petersen) to help them find the killer. Graham has the ability to get into the mindset of the killer, an ability that almost cost him his sanity in a previous case involving Lecktor. This is where this film stands out above similar films. The clever editing and visual shots evoke a gradual clarity as Graham begins to puzzle out who the killer is. In a departure from genre convention we the viewer get to know who the killer is quite early on and it's then that Mann's theme of two men, on opposite sides, but who are very similar centre the film's plot. (This theme can be seen in many of Mann's films, 1995's Heat being a classic example). The best scenes are when Graham visits the horrific crime scenes and Mann intercuts with flashbacks of the killer arriving to commit the murders. The use of bright colour and a thumping soundtrack where the musical beats follow the action are all Mann trademarks and highlight this film as something totally different from the usual fare. This is a mini masterpiece and if you've not seen this then I highly recommend it.

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The Changeling

Suitably Atmospheric Ghost Story

(Edit) 12/12/2023

A suitably atmospheric ghost story with a murder mystery thrown into the narrative. Veteran American actor George C. Scott plays John, a celebrated composer, who moves into an old gothic house for some isolation and quiet in order to finish a musical piece he's been working on. He's grieving after a terrible tragedy so when strange occurrences begin at the house it's thought it's all in his mind but John begins his own investigation and unravels a decades old murder. There's some nice subtle moments especially early on in the film as the poltergeist events ramp up. The actual murder mystery is fairly routine stuff and has been seen in many similar films and the final climax is a little disappointing. But this has many fans as an effective horror tale that eschews gore and 'cattle prod' effects for a more tense and slow build up. Worth seeking out if you've never seen it.

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