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All reviews - Movies (38) - TV Shows (1)

Pineapple Express review

Posted : 6 years ago on 8 June 2011 11:21 (A review of Pineapple Express)

Exorbitantly silly but hugely enjoyable stoner farce with a dazzling turn from James Franco as the drug-addled dealer, Saul, and strong likeable support from Seth Rogen.
This certainly isn’t a high brow entertainment. It consists of large amounts of stoner-humour, gurning, pratfalling and sheer stupidity but it works so well that you can’t help but sit with a huge grin all the way through.

The main success is the chemistry between duo Saul and Dale. The bromance between them is utterly believable with the relationship going from dislike and distrust, to dependence and appreciation, to the final acts where each would happily sacrifice himself for the other. It’s a heartwarming character arc that grounds what could have been another low-brow gag-fest.
Danny McBride’s side role as fellow drug-dealer Red is also highly enjoyable, especially during the moments when he appears completely impervious to serious injury or full of latent homosexuality for Saul. Gary Cole is amusingly menacing but sadly underused as the drug baron Ted Jones; and Rosie Perez’s corrupt police woman is sharp and vicious.

The narrative is simple and effective and lends itself naturally to both comedic banter and the large action set pieces which escalate in scale as the movie develops, with the epic final battle in the drug warehouse a genius mix of humour and warfare that makes you both tense and laugh.

Pineapple Express makes you nostalgic for all the classic buddy action movies from the 70s and 80s and certainly fills you with gratitude for this faithful and fun reincarnation of the genre.


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Never Let Me Go review

Posted : 6 years ago on 8 June 2011 11:19 (A review of Never Let Me Go)

Never Let Me Go is not quite the film it promises. If you are to believe the press it is a story of never-ending love full of romance and heartbreak. And while the film does contain these themes, they are quite shallow in their representation and their believability is stretched.

Carey Mulligan is fabulous as Cathy H, a donor in love with her childhood friend, Tommy (Andrew Garfield). Keira Knightly tops up the cast as irritating best friend, Ruth, who steal Tommy away from Cathy at an early age.

The film’s setting in an alternate world where children are bred to donate organs is deeply unsettling and the movie’s strong point. The moments that work best are those in which either the children are learning about their own destiny, or the adult versions are face to face with it. Through Cathy, who takes on the role of carer of fellow donors, we see the terrible reality of their short-lived lives. And when she meets Ruth and Tommy after 10 years apart and they have both started donating, the tragedy does hit deep.

It is therefore a shame that the love story, and the relationship between the three leads, falls short in quality. The portion where the characters are young and at school is flawless, drawing the links between the three carefully and with aplomb. It is when they turn into adults that things become strained. Cathy is still clearly very much in love with Tommy and remains so and this is where the love story works. However, Tommy has been in a relationship with Ruth for 10 years, and there are little, if any, signs that he is in love with Cathy. Yet despite this, we are expected to view their reunion after many years as joyous and a triumph for never-ending true love. Er, I don’t think so. If he did really love her why spend 10 years sleeping with her best friend (how the two are best friends is also unclear - they do not actually seem to get on at all) and then not trying to find her when she moves away?

So, a film and story which could have been delivered in a painfully poignant way exploring love and loss and ethical dilemmas, is merely a slow and somewhat pedestrian romance. Maybe the book is better.


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The Thing from Another World review

Posted : 6 years ago on 8 June 2011 11:19 (A review of The Thing from Another World)

Wonderfully kitsch piece of Cold War paranoia in which a team of American scientists dig up an alien being from the North Pole only to be terrorised by it once it defrosts. Famously the inspiration for John Carpenter’s The Thing, there is little to compare between the two aside from the concept and setting.

In this film the alien is rather interestingly revealed to be plant-based, able to reproduce via seeds which gorge on blood for sustenance. However he is still a Sci-Fi staple – a giant man with claws for hands who roars for human flesh, and you can’t help but feel warmth for such characters.

The film features strong performances considering the subject matter, in particular Kenneth Tobey as Captain Hendry, and Douglas Spencer as the newspaperman along for the ride, Scotty.
As with such old B-Movies there isn’t much action, it’s mostly talking and debating about origins and solutions and these moments are the film’s strength, allowing characters to come through and a large amount of humour to be infused in the dialogue. This is the main plus point for this particular film – it is extremely funny and enjoyable, which you can imagine in its heyday mixing with the (now tame) horror exceedingly well for audiences, making it quite a hit.

Now, it does look a bit hokey but there is a lot to love.


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Mid-August Lunch review

Posted : 6 years ago on 8 June 2011 11:18 (A review of Mid-August Lunch)

Delightfully light and charming film focusing on a put-upon middle-aged son, Gianni (the director in a wonderfully nuanced role), and how his life is disrupted one holiday weekend with the arrival of several old ladies to his home.

Narratively, the film only encompasses a small amount of time and limited locations, but there is so much character in every passing second that you become totally engrossed in the lives of those involved and their developing relationships.

There are many precious moments to savour – when Gianni is propositioned by Marina after a few drinks, when Maria is found in bed scoffing baked pasta – but the film’s real triumph is the final scene where you comprehend how these five people have enriched each others’ lives.

A joy to watch.


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Urban Legends: Final Cut review

Posted : 6 years ago on 8 June 2011 11:18 (A review of Urban Legends: Final Cut)

As I enjoyed the rather cheesy original Urban Legends film, I came to this expecting much of the same. A bit of a guilty pleasure to watch with no expectations with crisps and dip and a glass or two of wine.

However, this sequel is just bad, with little joy to be found. There aren’t even any decent scares or gore to liven things up. The film merely plods from one scene to another, the occasional murder or chase scene bookmarked by dreary characterisation and a plot that is so stupid and wafer-thin that it could blow away at any moment.

The only light in such a dank movie is Loretta Devine as security guard Reese, desperate to capture the essence of LL Cool J’s fun turn in the original. She’s immensely watchable but cannot save the scenes she’s in let alone the whole movie. Avoid.


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Hamlet 2 review

Posted : 6 years ago on 8 June 2011 11:16 (A review of Hamlet 2)

I really dislike Steve Coogan so imagine my surprise when I finished Hamlet 2 with a new respect for him. He is almost unrecognizable from his trademark characters as the hippy-esque drama teacher, Dana, complete with American accent and long hair. All that remains are the hideous teeth and the stupid grin.

I can believe that Hamlet 2 was a hard sell to audiences. A failing drama teacher with a class full of social miscreants pens a sequel to the greatest play of all time that involves a time-machine and features a song called “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” (which is terribly catchy). It doesn’t sound like class A material and it isn’t, but the cumbersome charm of the execution will win you over if you give it a chance.

There are many obvious gags, and some that might go over your head completely, but on a Friday night with a few drinks, it’s worth a punt. You might just like it.


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Kamikaze Girls review

Posted : 6 years ago on 8 June 2011 11:16 (A review of Kamikaze Girls)

An outsider wanting to stereotype all Japanese movies would find Kamikaze Girls a feast. It features the staple ingredients – a young woman who loves to wear frilly dresses, long socks and bonnets like a manga character, kitsch editing and music, rebel girls in leather on motorcycles, and a plot that allows for some silly comic book moments. Anyone who has seen Guitar Wolf vehicle ‘Wild Zero’ would really enjoy this.

And although there are certain aspects to enjoy, there is a limited amount of material to carry your attention right to the end where a baffling fight occurs between the two female leads and the local motorcycle gang.
Having said that, the two leads offer solid performances and their chemistry is natural. Strong supporting turns from bit characters that are larger than life enhance it also. But the performances can’t save what is essentially a mediocre film.


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The King's Speech review

Posted : 6 years ago on 8 June 2011 11:14 (A review of The King's Speech)

Wonderfully warm, funny and moving film that fully deserves the Oscars bestowed upon it.

Colin Firth shines as the publically mute Bertie, his performance a delicate mixture of Royal restraint and frustration. The moments when he tries to speak to the world are fraught with tension and pity, all quivering lips and helpless eyes. This immense control and self-discipline is wonderfully counterbalanced with scenes of him letting go whilst in therapy, screaming expletives into the air, singing and dancing to force his mouth into submission.

Geoffrey Rush as the lackadaisical speech therapist, Logue, is also phenomenal. His approach to the “Johnsons” from the off is friendly yet confrontational, refusing to conform to conventions of how to behave in a royal presence. The scenes featuring his failed attempts at acting are bittersweet and help flesh out a character who could seem pedantically cheerful almost to irritation.

His relationship with Bertie is beautifully portrayed as it moves from hostility, to resignation, to trust, and finally to pure friendship. There are no moments that seem false or laboured. And watching Bertie overcome his key radio speech announcing the Second World War to the nation is pure catharsis and joy.

The supporting cast are also on top form, featuring Helena Bonham-Carter and Timothy Spall as Churchill.

A delightfully open and emotional historical biopic that thankfully refrains from being dry and overly educational.


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First Class!

Posted : 6 years ago on 7 June 2011 01:01 (A review of X-Men: First Class)

Terrifically fun reboot of a somewhat tired franchise, that wisely focuses on the two most interesting characters of the X Men universe - Professor X and Magneto.

The introduction of Erik as a child within a Nazi camp is harrowing but electrifying, the discovery of his powers ultimately tragic. It lends to such an understanding of Magneto in the later films that was only ever hinted at, and you can completely understand his character arc and his actions. Fassbender is phenomenal as the older Erik, he is both cold and calculating yet his scenes with Charles are moving revealing some warmth (in particular the one where Charles reads his memories). He is clearly an actor destined for great things.

McAvoy makes an interesting Charles. He is light and cocky and, to be frank, a little bit cheeky. Watching him change as he becomes aware of the mutant world around him and how he can help it is more subtle but equally important to understanding the later Professor X. His relationship with Mystique is extremely interesting, and as a non-comic book reader, completely unexpected, and Lawrence is solid in the role.

Bacon as Sebastian Shaw is a delightfully evil villain, so hell bent on destruction that he disposes of everyone in his path. It's played with a slight pantomime edge but it works and is never embarrassingly laughable.

Whilst watching Charles and Erik become firm friends then become enemies is the key joy of the film, it's a shame that the additional characters are so dull and lifeless. Considering that this movie could really have picked any minor mutant it wanted, it choses to add a rag tag bunch of mostly uninteresting youngsters with no personality and powers that are largely unispiring.
Add to this the real blandness of Shaw's henchmen (including January Jones who has little to work with personality-wise) the film becomes a bit unstable with noticeable troughs of interest when the main characters aren't on screen.

Having said that, it doesn't overly detract from what is essentially a great film and an exciting preview of X Men-related things to come. The final shot of Magneto in all his helmeted and caped splendour sends a shiver down your spine that leaves you aching for more.


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