Category Archives: Film Reviews

La La Land

la-la-land-ryan-gosling-emma-stone-1La La Land (2016) – Originally written January 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

La La Land, is a strange movie. There, I’ve said it.

It seems to leave the viewer with a somewhat split attitude, and will leave you pondering long after you’ve seen it.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie which has inspired me to write any sort of feedback, but La La Land has done just that…

Depending on which review you read on IMDB, you’ll either find a 10/10 which tells you that it is a musical masterpiece, hankering back to the old cinematic masterpieces of Kelly, Astaire and co, or you’ll read a 1/10 which criticizes each and every little detail of the movie.

Let’s be honest, neither review is of help.

La La Land is a good movie. It has some great tunes, and for large parts leaves you inspired. There’s no denying you’ll come out of it feeling a bit of an urge to jump on top of the nearest car and dance.

However… it is not the masterpiece that is so widely reported.

There are times when both Gosling and Stone characters are infuriating, mildly pretentious and really rather whinny. Neither actor is perfectly cast, but simultaneously it is impossible not to be impressed by the fact that they’ve obviously trained hard at singing, dancing and (for Gosling) the piano.

It’s a strange film. It really is.

I want to love it. I want to come out singing the praises and looking back at it with the fondness of old school movies, or even the more recent Artist. However, I can’t. Something feels wrong about it. The cinematography is a bit off, the tunes don’t always catch you, the story-line isn’t always clear. It almost feels like the film tries too hard to be good. It knows there is potential, but it tries to force this ability, and subsequently lets itself down.

I enjoyed the Jazz, and there are scenes I look back on fondly. I want to watch it a second time, to give myself a greater understanding of it, but simultaneously I’ve not come out of the cinema and thought “I need to see that again.” This is a bad sign.

You’ll read a lot of praise for this film, you’ll read a lot of criticism. You’ll also read reviews a lot more detailed and knowledgeable than this one. I guess what I’m saying is that the film is not as good, or as bad as anyone says.

It’s a film you should see. You’ll need to make your mind up. Does it deserve the Oscars? Personally I don’t think so. Will it win them? Probably.

Give it a go, but go in with an open mind. The critics can’t help you with this one.

Cold Mountain

Cold-MountainCold Mountain (2003) – Originally written January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It’s hard to know where to start with “Cold Mountain”. It’s basically excellent.

In this film your faced with the ever popular story of the young in love couple, who yearn for each other across distances and change as people before meeting once more. Add to this mix an array of different characters with stories of their own and you basically have an Oscar’s favourite.

The thing with “Cold Mountain” is that I do find it very hard to judge, and I’m not surprised by it’s mixed reviews. This film for me is a display of how to do something technically very well. The acting is superb, the soundtrack excellent, and the general feel of the film stunning. The problem is that whilst some reviewers will use these qualities, some will look more to if it actually makes the mark with it’s plot. Truthfully, I find myself flipping either way between whether it does or not. The problem with the plot of “Cold Mountain” is that I can’t help but feel that it’s a bit too long. For all the random people in it, some of them do provide alternative viewpoints which are necessary, but some of them feel slightly too drawn out.

If I had to choose four things about this movie, which really make it stand out as a film to watch, I’d choose Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, the occasional beautiful landscape, and Cillian Murphy. To those who are unaware of who he is, your most likely to recognise the actor as Jim in “28 Days Later”, however he is also in another of this years big films as Pieter in “Girl With A Pearl Earring”. Murphy in “Cold Mountain” plays a Yankie fighter who finds himself at the home of Natalie Portman and who is starving. As his two friends forsake their morals for food and for sexual gratification, Murphy shows a sign that for all the fighting in the war, people on both sides have moral problems with events and find themselves unable to act upon others misdemenors.

Ultimately, I’d recommend to everyone that you go watch this film. For the romantics there is a beautiful love story, for the violence enthusiasts out there, there is a lot of fake blood and violence, and for those who want to know how to create a successful, technically superb movie, there is “Cold Mountain”.

The Last Samurai

The-Last-SamuraiThe Last Samurai (2003) – Originally written January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

From the moment I first heard of this film, I disliked it. I felt the idea of a film like this was hideous, and I felt for it to be staring Tom Cruise, well it was blatantly going to be just a vehicle for his self esteem. Cruise, to put it bluntly, is awful. There are two over rated actors out there who appear in films and have the exact same facial expressions throughout. These actors are Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves, and I think they ruin a lot of good films.

So, with my dislike for Tom Cruise and my dislike for the idea of this film, I travelled to the cinema to watch this movie, took my seat, and for not the first time, was forced to eat my own words. Truthfully, I think this film is brilliant.

In “The Last Samurai”, Cruise plays Captain Nathan Algren of the United States Army. Hired to teach the Japanese how to use modern warfare technology, Algren, a man with many painful memories, is placed in a battle against the revolutionary Samurai of Japan. Eventually captured, Algren is introduced to Master Katsumoto, played wonderfully by Ken Watanabe, and is slowly shown the way of the Samurai.

Ok, why is it that I enjoyed this film? Looking at the main star, looking at the basic plot, looking at practically everything about it, I should have come out of the cinema in unsurprised disgust. The strange thing is though, that if you get all the bad parts which make up this film, and put them all together, it somehow works. It’s like trying to create Frankenstein’s monster out of a body which had been buried for two years. Ultimately all the parts are rotten, but yet still manage to function. Cruise, whilst I do hate him, performs acceptably with his three facial expressions of smile, tear in eye and grit faced determination. The plot, despite being tacky and slightly over long has depth and quality. Even the blatant cheesyness of it all comes through with flying colours. This film is ultimately, good.

I suppose put under pressure, I could say there are one or two things which are wrong with this film. Billy Connolly’s voice in it is painful to hear and I’m grateful when he leaves the screen. The same is true for Timothy Spall at the beginning, but his voice seems to improve with time. The Emperor of Japan is awkward and infuriating, but I wonder if that’s not how he’s meant to be played. Other than these three characters, and the last ten minutes, though, I really can’t think of much bad to say about this film. So it’ll never win Oscars, watch me be proved wrong here again although I find this unlikely, and most of it is easy no brainer viewing, but for what it’s meant to be, I think it holds up quite well. Definately worth viewing.

Philadelphia

PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia (1993) – Originally written January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It’s hard to say what I think of “Philadelphia”. I say to a lot of people that the better a film is, the less there is to say about it. The problem, as this film shows, is that simply that phrase doesn’t work. Whilst it’s true that for most films, having little to say shows that it’s been well made and there is nothing to complain about. With “Philadelphia”, it’s not accurate as all I want to do is sing the praises of Tom Hanks and Denzil Washington.

In this film, Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, an outstanding lawyer fired after the discovery that he is contaminated with the aids virus. Beckett seeks out Washington’s Joe Miller as a lawyer as he progresses to sue the company for wrongful dismissal.

First things first, lets be honest, Jonathan Demme took a huge chance directing a film about such a difficult matter, but fair play to him, he pulled it off. This film is a powerful, moving, eye-opening experience which will leave even the most unemotional person with a tear in their eye at one point or another.

Hanks, Best Actor at the Oscars for this film, is truely magnificant and worthy of his award. Washington too is superb as the homophobic lawyer being taught a thing or two about his beliefs.

Ultimately, I find very little wrong to say about this film. The last five minutes seem almost rushed, and it would have been nice to have seen the Company suffer a bit more, but ultimately, this film is worth it’s weight in gold and worthy of all the awards it picked up in it’s time. If you haven’t seen this film before, and I know for a guy who’s just watched it eleven years after it was first released this is hypocracy, but go out and rent it. “Philadelphia” is a gem.

Chicago

ChicagoChicago (2002) – Originally written January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

For a long time, this film has been something I’ve avoided. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an enourmous fan of musicals. “My Fair Lady”, “Les Miserables” and “Oliver Twist” are amongst my favourites, but this film just always looked awful to me. So, I hear you ask, why did I bother watching it?

Well simply put, I felt I kind of owed it to myself to see what it was like. I’ve known people avoid films for a long time expecting them to be awful, only to love them upon viewing. So today I sat down, I got myself a comfy chair, and I made the hard effort to actually watch Oscar’s beloved best picture. My final view of this film two hours later? Truthfully, I’m unsure what to make of it.

A lot of films I’ll sit and watch and I’ll either love from the start or hate from the start. In the case of “Chicago” though, something very unusual happened. For the first hour I sat, I vegetated, and I constantly pondered reaching for the remote and turning it off. For sixty minutes or so, I really do think this film is awful. Then for some unexplainable reason though, it seemed to begin to appeal to me, and the second half of it was a fully enjoyable motion picture event. Oscar winning material however? Not in the slightest. The Best Picture award is laughable, as was Catherine Zeta Jones’s award. To be brutally frank, if any award was due for this film, it was to John C Reilly who once again showed how good an actor he can be. Other than his performance though, the film seemed lacking in any markable levels.

Ultimately, I guess by the end, I must confess, to my ever lasting regret, to enjoy this film. It’s just a shame though that the first half was so abysmal. In total, hopelessly over-rated and Oscar needs to learn better.

Love’s Labour’s Lost

Love's-Labour's-LostLove’s Labour’s Lost (2000) – Originally written January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

All too often, Hollywood’s Shakespeare adaptations entertaining pieces of cinema. Beautifully shot they are well performed and faithful to the text. Films including Branagh’s “Henry V” and 1993’s “Much Ado About Nothing” are powerful pieces of work. Watching “Love’s Labour’s Lost” therefore, it’s such a huge disappointment for expectation to be so hideously thrown to waste. Sadly “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is awful! The King of Navarre (Alessandro Nivola) and his friends have forsaken drink and women for three years to focus on their studies. Plans begin to fall apart however when the enigmatic Princess of France (Alicia Silverstone) and her entourage arrive. Soon love is in the air and philosophy is off the Prince’s mind.

From the start, you realise that this film is not quite Shakespeare. Cleverly relocated into a 1930s musical by Ken Branagh, the plot is still there and the script remains, but now it has been sacrificed in favour of dire musical taste. Classics like “The Way You Look Tonight”, “Let’s Face The Music and Dance”, “I’m in Heaven” are all destroyed by weak singing and a strong feel that they just don’t belong here.

Aside from weak singing, we are also treated to an increasingly large number of awkward performances by regular stars. Ken Branagh and friends might enjoy making this film, but they provide us with a stomach turning collection of roles.

The main eight actors (four men & four women) are all equally dire, and the only positive on their behalf is a vast improvement on the truly dreadful Timothy Spall.

In fact, only one individual leaves the film worthy of any praise and that’s the consistently magnificent Nathan Lane. Lane has proved over the years that he is a comedy genius and in this feature he once again adds an air of humour to the jester Costard.

There’s little else to be said really. “Love’s Labour’s Lost” deserves mild praise for Branagh’s original take on an old tale. Unfortunately though, that’s where the positives end. Weakly acted, performed, sang and constructed, “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is perhaps the weakest Shakespeare adaptation of the last forty years. It should be avoided like the plague and should never have been made. A poor, disappointing choice by Branagh and here’s hoping his next effort is better.

Elf

ElfElf (2003) – Originally written November 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS (but then, it was always going to be predictable!)

So it’s Christmas time again, and as per usual, in amongst the “Lord Of The Rings” and the other big blockbusters, there’s the occasional Christmas fairytale. This year’s offering is “Elf” staring Will Ferrell, a film which is really exactly what should be expected.

In “Elf” Ferrell plays Buddy, a baby who one Christmas crawls into Santa’s sleigh, and is then raised by Elves as their own. Thirty years later and Buddy finally realises that he’s different to everyone else (despite being double their size of course). So with this in mind, Buddy heads off towards New York looking for his biological father (James Caan). Whilst there, Buddy influences everyone around him, and eventually revives the Christmas spirit.

So what can actually be said about “Elf”? Well, first and foremost, someone on here wrote that this film will be shown every Christmas for years to come. That person is spot on. “Elf” is forever going to be shown along with a selection of films (“Jingle All The Way”, etc) over Christmas at times when adults will want to sleep and children will want to be distracted. Secondly, it’s worth stating that this film isn’t as bad as some people might expect. If you expect cheese and you expect that weak plotted family film, your probably spot on. The special effects are simplistic when used, and the plot might be as weak as previously mentioned, but all in all, what would you expect from a film about an oversized elf?

I guess it’s hard to say too much about Farrell as I must admit to being a newcomer to his humour. He does what seems an acceptable job, and he cracks the occasional hilarious line. What seems ironic though is that some of the funniest lines are actually designed for adults and spoken by James Caan. Right now I can imagine people reading this review thinking “what the hell is he on about?”, well all I can suggest is to listen more carefully. There is, I admit they’re rare, the occasional really funny comment made in this film which, as a result of it being a childs film, probably won’t be noticed in a cinema full of children. These comments aren’t particularly hidden, but they are throw away comments which aren’t fussed over.

To summarise, “Elf” was never going to be anything special. It was always going to be a typical Christmas story, designed primarily for children, but with the occasional throw away adult line. With this definition in line, “Elf” fulfills it’s pledge. It doesn’t look though like the type of film which would really make too much money (In England anyway, it’s run has coincided not only with the final “Lord Of The Rings” film, but also with the far more appealing live action version of “Peter Pan”). This film is in the end of the day, definately one for television.

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

LOTR-return of the kingThe Lord of the Rings – Return of the King (2003) – Originally written December 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

Well here we are, the final chapter in what is being referred to in some circles as the greatest trilogy of all time. Ultimately though, does “The Return Of The King” hold it’s ground against the other two? Truthfully, I’d say it’s ten times better.

I must confess before really considering this film, that when I think of the first two chapters, I find myself gritting my teeth together and wishing they’d go away. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good films which for the first time or two keep the audience gripped. The problem though with the first two is that they were so over publicised and so overly pushed that I’m just incredibly sick of them. Now, I know your probably sitting there and thinking “but surely the same can be said of chapter three?”, well at this moment in time, you’d be wrong. I remember going to see the second film at one of it’s first showings and coming out of it happy. I really enjoyed it. The problem was that whilst I did find it a breathtaking experience I found myself frustrated by talks of Oscars (neither of the first two films deserved anything other than technical awards) and of constant pushing to see it. In “The Return Of The King” however, whilst again leaving with a feeling of awe and satisfaction, I do confess I can hear Oscars for Best Film and Best Director in the background.

In this film, everything built up in the first and second films are concluded, often in the heat of battle and also often with a tear in the eye. The paths of all the characters are woven together in a Spiders Web which even Shelob the Spider would be proud of.

Moving away from plot (as I don’t want to ruin anything for people), what can be said about this film?

The special effects are absolutely beautiful, the makeup superb, the acting good (but possibly not quite Oscar winning), and everything else which is part of this film is by and large superb. I won’t deny that the beginning and ending do take what seems like forever, however both are necessary. It’s hard really to describe the good points of this film, but as far as I’m concerned, if something can’t be heavily analyzed, that’s a sign that there’s nothing wrong with it.

Having said all of the above, is there anything I really dislike about this film? Only two things really stand out to me in all honesty. Firstly, I can’t help but feel that by enlarging it by 20minutes and including Christopher Lee’s scenes, then it would add a bit more of a dimension to the conclusion regarding the ending of “The Two Towers”. His absence is noticeable and rather than just cutting it, the film feels as if he has died and they’ve looked for loop-holes to avoid featuring him. The second thing I hate about this film? Truthfully, it’s not as much this film as the Trilogy. Basically, I HATE Cate Blanchett’s character. Galadriel the Elven Queen is an incredibly irritating and infuriating woman. It feels at times in this film like herself & Liv Tyler’s Arwen have simply turned up and attempted to share the glory without actually doing anything. Add this to the fact that Blanchett’s voice seems almost satirical in how bad it is, and you’re left with a spine scrappingly frustrating character.

Ultimately though, I mustn’t complain. Some die hard fans have already began to complain about a few changes from the book plot, but I’m left with the naivety of life as I’ve not read them. This, sided with the fact that as with most males, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the whole knights and swords scenario, leaves me feeling a glow after watching this film. If someone complains about this movie, let them go ahead, but don’t listen to hard. If someone (including myself) complains about how over publicized these films have been, again let them moan, but ignore them. Finally, if someone would state in no uncertain terms that the third film in the trilogy isn’t the best, then leave them to it as simply put, they probably are lying and haven’t seen this film yet.

To conclude, I’m just going to say three words, See this movie!

Road Trip

RoadTripRoad Trip (2000) – Originally written December 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

It’s hard to know what to say about “Road Trip” really. Done in 2000, right in the middle between “American Pie” and “American Pie 2”, this film carries on the traditions that the original Pie film introduces, and whilst it lacks the coming of age meaning, it is still worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as the Pie Trilogy.

In “Road Trip”, Josh (Breckin Meyer.. soon to be seen as Jon Arbuckle in “Garfield”), E.L. (Seann William Scott in Stifler mode), Rubin (Paulo Costanzo) and Kyle (DJ Qualls) embark on a road trip from Ithika University all the way to Austin University a total of 1,800 miles away. On the way the guys have many crazy experiences happen to them, and things then round themselves off nicely. Truth be told, that’s about the whole plot. As was shown in “Master & Commander” three years later however, a simplistic plot is not necessarily a bad thing.

Ok, I admit it’s not going to take much time to analyse this film, but that is a good thing. “Road Trip” contains typical gross-out humour, standard acting by a young cast, the inevitable scenes of brief nudity and ultimately everything to keep a teenage boy happy.

Truthfully, I can’t really think of anything bad to say about this movie. I could insult Tom Green, but for once the guy makes me laugh a lot and I’m grateful for his participation. The soundtrack is excellent, scripting as you’d generally expect, and even the limited special effects (for example, a car blowing up) are done to acceptable levels.

Whilst it may not have the originality of the very first “American Pie” film, “Road Trip” is still something which people can watch over and over again. It doesn’t stretch the brain at all, and it wouldn’t win any awards. However, if you love the “American Pie” films, then I can’t think of any reason for you to hate this. Sit back, relax, shut your brain off, and enjoy.

Bruce Almighty

BruceAlmightyBruce Almighty (2003) – Originally written December 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS (Although lets be honest, it’s not like you didn’t expect these before the film even started)

“Bruce Almighty” is Jim Carrey’s attempt to return to his face twisting, funny guy ways, and by his standards, I quite like it. In this film, Carrey plays Bruce Nolan, a News Reporter who dreams of that elusive Anchor slot. After an awful day, Bruce curses and swears at God, until eventually God answers. God (played without any real effort by Morgan Freeman) blesses/curses Bruce with his powers and sends him out into the real world to experience the ultimate job. Bruce sets off straight away to fix his life and only ends up making parts of it worse. By the end, most of what you’d expect to happen, happens, and you finish watching the film feeling like you’ve just watched any regular none descript comedy, which ironically, is what you have done.

Let’s get this straight right away, “Bruce Almighty” would never win any awards, it was never meant to. This film is there for you to relax to one night and be able to shut your mind off whilst watching. Carrey performs in his old style, and whilst he infuriates me in so many of his films, in this I found myself actually warming to his character. Carrey is a good actor, we saw that in “The Truman Show”, and in this he shows in a few scenes how emotional he can be.

Other than Carrey, what else can be said about this film? Not much really. The script is at times hilarious, at times sickeningly sweet, but ultimately satisfying, the other actors acceptable, and the message simply that if you want something, you’ve got to work for it.

Some people really hate this film, and whilst I can appreciate that Carrey might infuriate them, I just don’t get why someone would detest this so much? It’s nothing special for sure, but it’s by no means awful either.

I suppose the one thing which, looking back on it, really makes me laugh about this film is how so many people on this website have made comments about religion. I mean, yeah this film is about a guy who becomes God for a few days, but ultimately, it never had to be God. God is a recognisable, easy to explain figure, but really Bruce could have got his powers from anybody. All this film ever needed to do was allow us to sit back, relax, and show us that (to quote Spiderman) with great power comes great responsibility. That’s all.

If you choose to watch this film, and I recommend you should, leave your brain outside as it isn’t needed. “Bruce Almighty” is simply another chilled out film for a family to watch on a night in together. It’s by no means the best film of 2003 (not even close), but at the same time, it’s by no means the worst. You get what you pay for and that’s really the best way to summarise. Enjoy!

%d bloggers like this: