Archive for March, 2016


Pee Wee returns to the big screen after a long absence but forgets to update its joke for a modern day audience.

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As a British person born in the 90’s I know very little about Pee-Wee Herman other than Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985) – which I watched only because it was directed by Tim Burton. Big Adventure is a film which whilst not fantastic has its moments so I hoped that Big Holiday would be a similar form of mild entertainment.

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Unfortunately it’s not as the filmmakers repeat tired and cliché jokes that are just not funny. It feels like you’re watching a talking Mr. Bean whilst on a bad trip. There is little to laugh at as the jokes come straight from the 80’s with characters and performances following a similar pattern. The nature of Pee-Wee as a boy-child who is obviously a bit older than in previous films just left me feeling sad… rather than laughing with Pee-Wee I increasingly pitied him.

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The film also stars “famous” actor Joe Manganiello as a fictional version of himself in what is a stupid and ridiculous plot-point with a model-making scene being the ‘emotional core’ of the film but failing to have any impact.

Maybe if you grew up watching Pee-Wee and viewed the film nostalgically it would be funny or if you were five years old. But for me it was simply a waste of time.

4/10

Bonus Video:

To showcase how unfunny the film is watch two minutes of Pee-Wee making fart sounds with a balloon – hilarious.

Zootropolis is highly engaging and funny film, which also succeeds in raising many points about modern society. It is essentially Animal Farm for the 21st Century.

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In Zootropolis all mammals (primates aside) live in a high-tech society similar to our own, they drive cars, use mobile phone and even have a functioning government. It is because of an ‘anyone can be anything’ policy that a tiny rabbit Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is able to become the first ‘bunny cop’ despite her stature compared to the rest of the force.

As the film continues we find that although she may have succeeded to some extent in being accepted by the larger mammals they still hold her and her fellows in disregard. So with the help of sly fox, Wilde (Jason Bateman) she sets about cracking the case and changing the world.

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The story is typical of a kids animated movie and it rarely moves on from this, however the style and tone in which the story is told makes it an immediately engaging and deeply metaphorical film, which pushes boundaries and is reasonably forceful in its beliefs. Anyone over the age of 10 will no doubt get the statement it wants to make and that’s the beauty of the film.

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But politics aside the film is wonderful to watch as it is a truly funny and reasonably unique film which will probably stand the test of time.

8/10

 

 

Batman and Superman finally meet on the big screen (Lego Movie aside) and fight… for about two minutes in a two and a half hour movie.

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Batman V Superman is a superhero film that forgets it has superheroes. The first three-quarters of the film we see drawn out conversations, pointless dream sequences and lots of political and religious talk. But almost nothing of the heroes… the film has almost no action for a long time so by the time the characters actually come to life you just don’t care.

During the final act of the film when the action actually begins the film drastically improves with Ben Affleck impressing in scenes when he’s Batman, but being increasingly dull in scenes as Bruce Wayne – how an actor can give both a great performance and bland one in the same film I don’t know… but somehow Affleck does it. It’s just a shame that the bat is given little screen time.

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It is also lucky that the film has two saving graces from the lack of tension between the two title characters. Coming in the psychotic Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and the mysterious Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). They both make their roles entertaining and add a real spark to the film, with Gadot particularly carrying the final set pieces of the film.

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The entire experience is a disappointing one as the film doesn’t deliver on it’s title, there is never really any sense of hatred created between the two leads and therefore when they actually fight it feels pointless. The fact that the fight between the two is ridiculously short before they become friends also leaves you feel let down as one of them doesn’t seem to really struggle at all (I won’t say which).

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What the film does deliver on though is the subtitle ‘Dawn Of Justice’ as the filmmaker seg in videos of Aquaman and the Flash before a lengthy speech about making a team. Whereas Marvel spent years carefully crafting their team it seems DC are doing it in one move and at this point I’m unsure how it will turn out… but if Wonder Woman returns then so will I.

6/10

 

 

A slow but “action-packed” start leads to an even more “action-packed” ending, unfortunately characterisation is forgotten.

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Russell Crowe runs around for a bit then dies (Spoiler). Then Kevin Costner runs around for a bit then dies (Spoiler). The Russell Crowe comes back as a weird-ghost thing (Spoiler). Then we have Superman (Henry Cavill).

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Then Superman continues to fight evil whilst discovering himself in an increasingly tiresome movie with the boring Zod providing a boring villain, the entire movie is just a waste of time.

It’s a film that I wished I liked more but I don’t, I just find very little to enjoy about the character, situation or relationships that the audience are given.

6/10

A disjointed tale of humanity told primary through the eyes of an astronaut witnessing the end of the world, Love is a movie which tries hard but fails to raise any sort of response.

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Beginning in the midst of the American Civil War, the audience listens to a dreary voiceover about explosions and death before being suddenly transported to the future where Lee Miller (Gunner Wright) is the only astronaut aboard a space-station. Miller soon for unknown reasons loses contact with Earth and over a period of years gradually turns insane.

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I think the film is supposed to be a claustrophobic thriller but it forgets to be claustrophobic as a its mediocre style, performance and story fail to engage with the audience on any level and it just becomes a tiresome mess. Random documentary style segments to people on Earth talking about death, reality and car crashes occur randomly throughout the film with the juxtaposition failing to add anything.

The ending of the film is also a complete shambles as it attempts to rip off 2001: A Space Odyssey but without the subtlety or any purpose. It just feels as if the entire ending is trying to confuse the audience rather than raise a point and is really annoying.

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Gunner Wright as essentially the films only actor tries hard to turn the film into something about the average with a varied performance which is captivating for brief moments… however over the course of a feature film you need more to maintain an audience.

 

Love is average in almost every aspect and that is its problem. There is nothing particularly good about it but nothing particularly terrible either… making it instantly forgettable.

 

5/10

 

 

A haunting film that’s terrifying, meaningful and pretentious in equal parts.

Don’t Look Now is a film which has been sitting at the top of my watchlist for years… as a film-maker and film lover it is a film which I have heard people (reviewers, friends, successful filmmakers) going on about for about as long as I can remember and this ‘hype’ has always, rather strangely put me off.

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The film follows a married couple Laura (Julie Christie) and John (Donald Sutherland) who following the death of their daughter move to Venice. In this city they encounter two ladies one of whom is psychic and has dark premonitions.

It is an extremely slow-building horror which is filled with lots of symbology, it looks beautiful and everything seems to have some sort of hidden meaning and it’s dry tone increases the tension at every time. It is truly horrifying and is a film which is likely to stick in the mind for a long time as the performances and visual combine into a frightening encounter.

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The problem is that it just wasn’t as good as I thought it would be and at times it just felt extremely pedantic… with forced visuals and pretentious scenarios it was all too obvious and too on the nose; it felt like all the symbolic moments and hidden meanings where making a point to be obvious and it was rather distracting when you don’t know the complete story.

One of the things about Don’t Look Now that people love is its re-watchability and I can see why, perhaps if you know the story and the moments to look out for it has another level, but for me on my first viewing it was just a disappointment, albeit a memorable one.

 

7/10

Space is the Place takes us on a out of the ordinary journey through time and space, and into the mind of jazz musician Sun Ra.

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Prior to watching the film I had little knowledge of Sun Ra, but have since done some research and discovered he is a musician who believed himself to be subject to an alien abduction and discover he was actually born on Saturn. He spent many of his years preaching the message of black people and how music could change the world. Both of these are messages with come across strongly in the film.

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The film has a confusing plot in which Sun Ra dressed in Egyptian style gold discovers a new planet, accessible by music, and that he intends to bring only black people here so they can prove a point to the whites. He then plays a card game with ‘The Overseer’ (Raymond Johnson) in which they travel through time and compete for the future of black future. From here there are many different ‘episodes’ that vary from the bizarre sexual encounters and awkward interviews, to strong political speeches. All of this intermixed with exploratory and futuristic sounding jazz (performed by Sun Ra and His Intergalatic Solar Arkestra).

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Much of the film is spent trying to figure out if you’re enjoying it, as whilst it is extremely low budget and the performances are pretty awful. It is wonderful just from being so weird and unpredictable…

I imagine if someone were a fan of Sun Ra then the Space is The Place would be more interesting than to the average viewer, however as a lover of all things film related I have to say that it is definitely one of the most unique cinema experiences I’ve ever had.

5/10

High-Rise is a story of class warfare that whilst thoroughly entertaining, shocking and gory doesn’t quite get the point of the book across.
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The novel High-Rise by J.G Ballard is a scathing look at the different societal classes represented within a tower – it is a book filled with dark comedy, bizarre characters and statements about inequality. The adaptation has the former two but sadly misses out on the third.

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The story follows various characters that have all moved into a newly built high-rise building that is designed to care for all their needs. However they soon find that the building also plays on their minds, as the residents turn more and more savage in the enclosed space, whilst forgetting about their former lives.

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As the forces clash we are given three main views on the mayhem: from the upper-class architect of the building Royal (Jeremy Irons), a lower-class documentary filmmaker Wilder (Luke Evans) and a middle-class man ‘hiding in plain sight’ Dr. Laing (Tom Hiddleston). Events escalate quickly in a dark and shocking fashion as all social etiquette is thrown over the balcony alongside ice-cream and people.

The film is hugely entertaining, looks exquisite, has great performances and holds audience interest well – all of which is good when you consider the novel has almost no plot. It just in my mind doesn’t capture the true essence of the High-Rise in the way that the book does.

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In the book the climbing to a higher floor in the tower is of the utmost significance for all of the characters, however in the film this is somewhat missing; the scale of the tower just doesn’t feel as large as it could and at the same time not as claustrophobic. In the book the violence and death also feel as if they’re occurring to warn the reader against the dangers of the future, whereas in the film they just seem to be violent for violence sake.

However despite the flaws in the film it is a good adaptation of a difficult book to fathom, just a shame that it kind of misses the point.

7/10

A Cloverfield ‘sequel’ that has little to do with the original film; allows for a refreshing, claustrophobic thriller.

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10 Cloverfield Lane is an odd film, which could easily stand on it’s own without the use of the ‘Cloverfield’ franchise. It is a film which treads over old ground and on the face of it could be extremely cliché as it has predictable characters and a re-hased plot… however it counteracts this with fantastic performances, deep tension and a bonkers final act.

A slow-burner of a film it begins with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) being injured a car crash. She later wakes up in a bunker to discover she has been ‘saved’ by conspiracy nut Howard (John Goodman), as an unknown attack has taken place on America. She must then figure out whether to trust Howard and the bunkers inhabitant Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) or attempt to escape.

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As the plot progresses the tension mounts and mounts and mounts in a way that is reminiscent of Hitchcock in his best works (and if you’re a reader of this blog you’ll know how much I love the Hitch). Once it starts the film simply doesn’t let the audience go, continuing to pile on more and more tension, with Goodman excelling in the ‘is he or isn’t he a villain’ role.

When the film finally comes to an end it is almost a relief as you feel you can breathe again. And then there are aliens.

 

9/10

British romantic comedies are generally built much more on awkward situations than their America counterparts that tend to be much more story driven. Man Up delivers awkward by the bucket load and from all sides; it’s just a shame that’s it not funnier.

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The film stars Lake Bell as Nancy, a single 34 year old, who Jack (Simon Pegg) accidentally presumes to be his blind date. Rather than correct Jack, Nancy decides to go along with it and the two go on a date that only increases with awkwardness as ex-partners, stalkers, lies and alcohol mix together.

The problem is that whilst the film succeeds in creating an awkward atmosphere it just isn’t funny. You spend the entire film with a half-cringe, half-smile on your face but you never laugh as neither character is particularly comic. Even moments that you’d expect to be funny (Simon Pegg crying in a toilet) aren’t as you feel sorry and embarrassed by his patheticness rather than amused by the reasons for his being there.

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Built on a solid situation Man Up is a film that whilst generally likeable just doesn’t deliver the jokes.

6/10