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Film Review: Baby Driver

“The Moment You Catch Feelings Is The Moment You Catch A Bullet…”

Of all the rare successful exports of sunny, sunny Dorset, director Edgar Wright is undeniably up there with the best the South West has had to offer within the 20th century, and whilst his humble beginnings with the likes of the Simon Pegg starring Spaced gave Wright the opportunity to begin his venture into stardom through the medium of televised entertainment, his crowning jewel is indeed the triage of movies within the so-called “Cornetto Trilogy”, a series of successful movies which began all the way back with Shaun of the Dead in 2004 and continued with Hot Fuzz and The World’s End in 2007 and 2013 respectively. Emerging once again into the cinematic spotlight, Wright returns with Baby Driver, a star-studded action comedy led by the likes of  Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx, and a movie which overtly revels in a superbly crafted jukebox soundtrack, a collection of musical accompaniments which acts as the cornerstone for both the narrative and the development of the film’s titular leading character, resulting in a blockbustingly entertaining thrill ride which features all the tricks and twists you expect from an Edgar Wright film, albeit one which is slightly lacking in a similar level of charm which has encompassed his earlier work.

With an opening set piece which sets the standard for the rest of the action ahead, the audience is swiftly introduced to the life of Baby (Ansel Elgort), an ultra-skilled, high-speed driver who alongside suffering from a hard case of tinnitus, is caught under the thumb of Kevin Spacey’s crime boss, Doc, a softly spoken, calculating Joe Cabot figure who forces him to carry out heist after heist in order to pay off a substantial debt. Using music as both a blockade to its’ leading character’s ailment alongside acting as a bedrock of carrying out the film’s narrative, Baby Driver is undeniably an audience pleasing joy-fest, one which wins on a surreal number of levels through its’ constant supply of rib-tickling humour, brilliantly measured OTT acting and action set pieces which prioritise practicality and stunt work over the CGI overkill which tends to encompass many so-called contemporary blockbusters. I mean really, who can beat a high-speed car and foot chase played out to the backdrop of Hocus Pocus by Focus? Whilst the ending set piece does seem a little too far-fetched and overlong, one which makes the final shootout of Hot Fuzz look like the lowest key fight scene ever, Wright has managed to bag himself another cinematic success, using his love of cinema and sound to create a film which will no doubt be as big a hit with audiences as it has been with critics, a rare combination to say the least.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Review: Hampstead

“Everyone Wants Me To Change And Now You Too…”

Aided by a successful long-term collaboration with Woody Allen and a recurring starring role within Coppola’s Godfather trilogy, Diane Keaton remains one of the most iconic actresses to cross the barrier between the 20th and 21st century, and whilst the spotlight hasn’t entirely shone on the Californian star within recent years, Hampstead offers the opportunity for Keaton to show whether or not she still has the acting pedigree she once had when working back in the day alongside a rafter of incredibly talented and inspirational filmmakers. In the opposite chair, the contemporary icon of Ireland which is Brendan Gleeson graces the big screen once again with perhaps the most impressive beard he has grown to date, portraying a character within a narrative which bases itself upon the life of Harry Hallowes, a rough sleeping Londoner who after a rafter of legal battles managed to become the owner of land worth a breezy couple of million. Directed by Joel Hopkins, Hampstead is a remarkably safe, nuts and bolts romantic drama, one which although brought me within an inch of falling into a sleep induced coma, when up against the likes of Transformers this week, is really quite harmless.

Whilst Keaton is a shadow of her former acting self, taking a plain sailing approach to a character who chops and changes her decision making whenever the narrative direction tells her to do so, Gleeson is as charming and watchable as ever, using his gruff, edgy demeanour to some form of effect, even if the character development doesn’t really offer him or the audience up much more than an on-the-face-of-it kind of approach. Aside from the film’s two leading stars, Hampstead suffers rather woefully from an excruciating array of secondary characters, with Jason Watkins and Lesley Manville being the leading lights of utter tedium, with the former’s eerie, pestering nature being a complete hindrance on any sort of likeability whilst the latter suffering from what can only be regarded as being the type of toffee-nosed, greenhouse loving, cat hating, right-wing bastard which I tend to completely disagree with from the outset. Aside from such matters, Hampstead is similar to the likes of the Moody Blues or say the last remaining rich tea in the biscuit tin, with it not really causing much damage at all but not likely to spring to the forefront of many people’s minds at any time soon.

Overall Score: 4/10

Film Review: Gifted

“He’s A Good Person. He Wanted Me Before I Was Smart…”

Aside from making moves in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Captain America, Chris Evans is very seldom seen in other visual ventures between the criss-crossing of fighting Tony Stark and aiding the woes of Bucky Barnes, and whilst this week’s release of Gifted is a far stretch away from CGI-fuelled mayhem and size-bending superheroes, the charismatic manner of the Hollywood star is indeed a welcome sight in a drama which allows Evans to convey his acting abilities and prove that muscle mass and tight rubber pants are not the only thing he feels comfortable doing. Directed by Marc Webb, a director renowned for the indie sensation which was (500) Days of Summer but probably best known in the geek world for the very good The Amazing Spider-Man and the not so good 2014 sequel, Gifted is a charmingly grounded family drama, one which includes a zippy and snappy narrative rife with effective comedic dialogue and tropes, and too a film which although could be classed as a good example of emotive manipulation, offers good enough reasons to bypass the saccharin sweetness at times and just enjoy the ride whilst it lasts. As the great Roger Ebert stated, “Some people like to be emotionally manipulated. I do, when it’s done well”.

Focusing on the one-two uncle and niece duo of Frank (Chris Evans) and Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace), Gifted begins primarily by setting the scene of the drama which is set to unfold, with seven year old Mary attending school for the first time and becoming increasingly noted for her outstanding mathematical abilities and street-wise nature which extends way past each and all of her similarly aged peers. At the heart of the narrative too is both the kind-hearted and softly spoken first-grade teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate) and the Cruella de Vil-esque character of the piece, Evelyn Adler (Lindsay Duncan) who interrupts the peace and tranquillity of Frank’s quest for a normal life in order to fulfil her own petulant and wholly selfish commemorative wishes, using Mary as a pawn in a proceeding tale of family breakups and legal scaremongering, all in a quest for Evelyn’s view of the greater good. Whilst both Mckenna and Evans give both incredibly charming performances, using the great chemistry between them effectively within an array of heartwarming comedic scenes which focus on the innocence of youth and the hardship of fatherhood, Gifted does suffer from a rather overly ripe shiny-happy-people ending and the inclusion of Duncan’s steely-eyed antagonist does come across as slightly too boo-hiss at times to feel a natural fit for the overall feel of the movie. Webb knows how to do the mis-fit, slightly kooky comedy drama well, and whilst Gifted isn’t as flashy as (500) Days of Summer, it sure worked for the most part in which I was emotionally invested with its’ loving, leading characters.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: Snatched

“What I Need Is An Amazing Adventure…”

In a world where American comedy is usually as effective as a chocolate teapot, Amy Schumer undeniably is up there with the worst that particular side of the continent has delivered over the course of the past few years, with her venture onto the big screen with releases such as Trainwreck burdening millions with her screechy Americanised tones and hysterically dull sensibility which really doesn’t compute with my idea of an effective comedic personality, particularly in a day and age in which memorable comedies are quite hard to find. Co-starring this week in Snatched with Hollywood legend Goldie Hawn, mother of Kate Hudson and partner to the awesomely cool Kurt Russell, Schumer once again proves that her particular brand of comedy just doesn’t work within the cinematic atmosphere, resulting in a performance which ultimately solidifies the notion of her inability to create laughs through a tired and cliche-ridden narrative which attempts to turn the vulgarity up to eleven in order to distract the audience from the utter boredom which encompasses the events on-screen. Goldie Hawn, what on Earth are you doing in this movie? I guess a gas bill must be due sometime soon. Ker-ching indeed.

After being dumped by her rock and roll boyfriend, Schumer’s unbelievably annoying leading character decides to make the most of her pre-planned trip to South America by inviting her feline-loving mother (Goldie Hawn) with a penchant for over-protection and questionable sculpturing techniques. Cue loud and completely unnecessary scenes of alcoholism, party music and nudity, Snatched is the type of 21st century so-called “comedy” which adds to the argument that the good times have most definitely come and gone in regards to its’ respective genre. Whilst Hawn seems to be there only for the sake of financial inducement, the film really doesn’t paint a sympathetic picture of its’ leading character, resulting in a warped sensibility which desires her captors to actually go through with their sickening plan and dispose of their prisoners as swiftly as possible. If this was indeed the case, the audience would have been spared from a 90 minute bore-fest whose only redeemable character is the poor U.S state department official who gets forced to help save their lives. Maybe next time mate, just forget the rescue and leave them to it.

Overall Score: 3/10

Film Review: Rules Don’t Apply

“You’re An Exception. The Rules Don’t Apply To You…”

Whilst Warren Beatty might be best known in contemporary media circles as being lead conspirator in the Best Picture fiasco at this year’s Academy Award’s ceremony, a recent high-profile cock-up more commonly known as “La La-Gate”, the attention comes in a somewhat suspiciously well timed manner considering the release of Rules Don’t Apply this week, a picture directed, produced, written by and of course, starring the cinematic legend, who takes the leading mantle as infamous businessman Howard Hughes within the setting of 1950’s Hollywood, supported by a simply enormous cast featuring the likes of Hail! Caesar star Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Matthew Broderick, Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin and the always superb, Ed Harris. With a cast as vast as this, Rules Don’t Apply is the type of movie you would think on the surface is one which everyone in the current cinematic world seemed to aching to be involved in, particularly with the reputation of Beatty at the helm, yet the finished picture is one of entirely mixed fortunes, one which suffers from a non-existent narrative and some misjudged moments of self-indulgence amidst some basic film-making errors which makes you wonder whether the real Warren Beatty should most definitely stand up.

Of the good things within Rules Don’t Apply, the leading trio of Beatty, Ehrenreich and Collins each give respectable performances amidst a screenplay which doesn’t really offer much chance to break new ground, with Beatty really hitting the zany mark in his depiction of Howard Hughes, taking cues from DiCaprio in The Aviator when needed but strictly focusing on the wilder side of the infamous billionaire, whilst Ehrenreich continues to impress every time I see him perform on screen, gearing him up for inevitable higher levels of stardom come next year’s Han Solo spin-off release. Star of the picture however is Lily Collins as the doe-eyed and wondrous Marla Mabrey, the keen and confident Virginian rookie who although is trying sometime in terms of awkward character quips and decision making, is a real find and completely holds her own against the likes of Beatty in a leading role. As for the not-so good elements of the film, Beatty treats the film as a personal blueprint for himself to engage in exceptional levels of excess, an understandable element when considering the character in which he is portraying, yet the sight of an aged Hollywood legend feeling up an intoxicated young star really didn’t sit well on a personal level whilst some fundamental film-making traits are completely disregarded, with endless questionable edits and narrative trails which simply go nowhere. resulting in a movie which ultimately is a complete drag to sit through and when you consider the talent at hand behind it, Rules Don’t Apply can only be regarded as a monumental disappointment.

Overall Score: 4/10

Film Review: CHiPs

“Go Undercover Within The Department? That’s Awesome…!”

Burdening themselves with the prospect of attempting to distinguish themselves from simply being yet another terrible excuse of a film which classifies itself as a comedy, CHiPs, written, directed and starring Dax Shephard, is based primarily upon the American television drama series of the same name which aired on NBC between the years of 1977 and 1983, and within a week in which Power Rangers has surprisingly succeeded in whinging a modern-day adaptation too, the penultimate week of March can only be classed as the week in which two of the most pointless and utterly undesired methods of entertainment have somehow had the 21st century treatment and had the nerve to grace the big-screen. All negative preconceptions aside, CHiPs, co-starring the undeniably likeable Michael Peña, whose back catalogue includes End of Watch and Ant-Man, as well as the most recent incarnation of Wilson Fisk from Netflix’s Daredevil, Vincent D’Onofrio, CHiPs is indeed the type of movie in which you begin to wonder about the mindset of those who have played a part in creating it, with the main driving force in the form of Dax Shephard being primarily to blame in successfully creating one of the most vulgar, idiotic, mindless and utterly offensive movies in recent memory.

Featuring a supposed array of so-called jokes which offend everyone and everything from the professionalism of the police community to the LGBT community and the disabled, CHiPs is a textbook example of one man attempting to boost his egoistic capabilities by taking hold of a TV blueprint and throwing as much awfully constructed action and comedic set pieces at it as possible in order to overshadow how poor the movie actually is. Unfortunately for Shephard, the ridiculously unfunny narrative and sloppy direction only enhance the shoddiness of the overall finished picture, a picture which shares similar elements with the vile back catalogue of Adam Sandler in regards to how retrograde it comes across towards sex and the treatment of females in a “I can’t believe they actually made this” kind of fashion. Whilst the response from fans of the original show has reportedly been less than positive, I would go as far to say that everyone who goes to see CHiPs will come out smiting the air in a retrospective feeling of contempt towards a film which is just so, so awful from start to finish. AVOID.

Overall Score: 2/10

Film Review: Get Out

“I Want Your Eyes, Man, I Want Those Things You See Through…”

Following on from the complete and utter nonsense spouted from the mouth of Samuel L. Jackson this month regarding the use of British black actors in lead roles within predominantly American based cinematic projects, first-time director Jordan Peele attempts to divert attention from such utter drivel this week by treating us to the release of Get Out, a film of which Mr. Jackson’s ill-judged comments were heavily directed towards. If being judged entirely on the merit of its’ trailers, Peele’s directorial debut presented itself as an entirely bonkers and mouthwateringly interesting horror, one which seemed to come across as the most surreal and OTT horror movie of the past few years. Starring Daniel Kaluuya in the leading role, an actor arguably best known for his work on Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror and Denis Villeneuve’s excellent Sicario in 2015, Get Out is as wacky and relentless as it’s many formats of advertisement made it out to be, a brilliantly shocking and wholly entertaining work of genre-twisting mayhem which makes you jump, laugh and squelch at the utter ripeness of its’ undeniable lunacy.

Unnerved by the potential racial tensions of meeting his girlfriend’s family for the first time, Kaluuya’s Chris is swiftly placed at the heart of a Stepford Wives-esque community who seem a tad bit too interested in his own individual well-being and presence amidst a minority of fellow black residents who seem weirder and weirder with every passing glance. What follows for the majority of the movie is a hypnotic, both metaphorical and literal, tale of Twilight Zone magnitude weirdness which evokes a wide range of classic horror tales from John Carpenter’s Halloween to the more recent splatter-fest in the form of Adam Wingard’s You’re Next. Mixing in a variety of effectively timed jump-scares amidst an underlying element of rib-tickling comedy, Peele’s debut is an outstanding addition to a supposedly tired format, with ripe as rainbow performances form most of its’ cast evoking a chilling sensibility which arches towards a Wicker Man-esque narrative, Get Out is the type of movie destined for classic cult status. The best horror movie of the year so far and by a distance one of the most interesting of recent years, Get Out is the type of movie fans of classic horror movies pray and hope for.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Review: Fist Fight

“We’re Gonna Handle Our Differences Like Real Men…”

When reviewing a film such as Fist Fight, the first thing you have to realise is that the Ice Cube which is top-billed on such a movie is indeed the same Ice Cube famous for being the great wordsmith which invigorated the gangsta rap scene in the late 1980’s with N.W.A and indeed the same Ice Cube whose latter-day career choices include seemingly blundering into a continuous array of comedy-based cinematic projects, with only a few actually being of some notable success such as 21 Jump Street and erm, 22 Jump Street. It comes as no real shock therefore that Fist Fight is nothing more than a lazy, thoughtless and cringe-worthy attempt of a comedy, with awful dialogue, a dwindling, lacklustre narrative, and one of the most pain-inducing performances I have ever seen from Charlie Day in a leading role which consists of a character who is slated for being friendly and kind and instead finds redemption and a sense of purpose by resorting to drug dealing, swearing at minors and unreasonable levels of violence. You know, all those things which make you “cool” nowadays.

Although running for a reasonable length of 90 minutes, Fist Fight is one of those movies in which you absolutely feel every single second drag past until you reach a conclusion and final act which not only is generically mediocre, but smiles at you whilst it crackles at the thought of the money the audience has paid to watch such a dire attempt of a comedy. Although the blame doesn’t entirely lie at the feet of Ice Cube, it just baffles me why this is the kind of film in which he has settled for after a strong start to an acting career which started with the likes of Boyz in the Hood and the culty favourite Friday, yet the real loser of the show is indeed Charlie Day who screams his way into a leading role which laughs at the state of modern-day education, resulting in the first case of a fictional character this year who has actively driven me to a straightforward high level of hatred. Saddled with jokes about underage sex, statutory rape, drug use, casual racism and a clanger of a mis-step in the form of a incredibly young child relaying lyrics from Big Sean to an audience of similarly aged children, Fist Fight is just poop from beginning to end. That’s right, poop. I can be a child sometimes too.

Overall Score: 3/10

Film Review: The Founder

 “If I Saw A Competitor Drowning, I’d Shove A Hose Down His Throat…”

Whilst not a huge fan of McDonald’s selection of economically priced fast-food personally, with it tending to come out quicker than it seems to have gone in, a film regarding its’ elusive early success isn’t something I would immediately choose to lap up either, with the most strikingly interesting movie depiction of the multi-billion fast-food franchise being Super Size Me, a documentary which put off everyone who saw it from ever buying a McDonald’s again. However, with a leading man in the form of the modern incarnation of Michael Keaton, a man whose career is most definitely at the peak of its’ powers after successful turns in both Birdman and the superb Spotlight, both of which picked up Oscar wins for Best Picture, as well as Saving Mr. Banks director John Lee Hancock in the armchair, The Founder is a surprisingly enjoyable comedic drama which utilises the abilities of Keaton in the leading role to the extreme, adding a much deeper and interesting level to a movie of which’s narrative doesn’t exactly have the same stopping or selling power as the man in which the movie attempts to portray.

Whilst not privy to the history of McDonald’s in any format at all on a personal level, the titular “founder” of the fast-food giants at the heart of the film is a character many cine-literate audiences may have seen many times before, one which has featured in the likes of Wall Street and more recently The Wolf of Wall Street, with Keaton’s magnetic portrayal of Ray Kroc being one of greed-inflicted determination, resembling fictional portrayals of similarly hateful white-collar figures including Jordan Belfort in Scorsese’s three hour orgy of vomit-inducing sleaziness. Whilst Keaton’s Kroc doesn’t hit the the heavy heights of hatred which others before him have mustered, The Founder doesn’t exactly adhere to a strictly balanced POV in terms of the historical elements of the company either, settling for a portrayal of a character which is seeped in shady sliminess. Whilst the movie does feel anti-climactic at times, Keaton manages to worm his way into holding the movie together in a fashion better than my stomach manages to hold a Big Mac on a cold Saturday evening.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: The Lego Batman Movie

 “Hey Batman! I’m Rubbing My Butt All Over Your Stuff! Gonna Have To Rename This The “Buttmobile”…”

A few years back, the appeal of an animated, feature-length Lego movie did indeed falter at first input into my mind, with the only response to the existence of such being an unashamedly sarcastic giggle, a response which in hindsight was one of undeniable small-mindedness considering the monumental success of The Lego Movie back in 2014 and the irritable notion of walking out the cinema singing “Everything Is Awesome” for the foreseeable future, which in itself resulted in astute looks of bewilderment from those within my singing range. With power however comes great responsibility and more importantly, a sequel, a sequel which this time focuses primarily on the Caped Crusader himself and a sequel which continues the sharp, witty standards set by the original whilst successfully improving upon its’ predecessor by being a much more relatable and comedically astute animated offering. Being a huge fan of Gotham’s most infamous export anyway, The Lego Batman Movie is an undeniable universal success, providing a steady output of eye-boggling animation for the younger viewers as well as a rafter of constant jokes to keep the older audience smiling from beginning to end.

With a lightning-fast string of laugh-out-loud quips, puns and nods to the world of comics throughout its’ more than satisfactory ninety minute runtime, The Lego Batman Movie is a movie which lays to waste most so-called comedies of recent years, relying on a mixture of gold-plated one-liners and animated slapstick amidst a narrative which obviously verges on the edge of absurdity from the get-go, one which features a broken hearted Joker and a selection of infamous villains from a wide range of different universes such as Harry Potter’s Voldemort, Sauron from The Lord of the Rungs, and my personal favourite; the Daleks, all of whom team up against the most egoistic yet unrelentlessly hilarious incarnation of Bruce Wayne yet, one which gives Christian Bale’s portrayal a run for its’ money. Whilst the film does become too fast-paced at times, with the structure so relentless you live in fear of missing certain jokes and particular Easter eggs, The Lego Batman Movie is a superb and mightily entertaining piece of cinema, one which not only adds to the argument of the current golden age of animation but one which will result in you never watching any other Batman movie in the same way ever again. Everything is awesome once again.

Overall Score: 8/10