Blog: All Things Film – Eddie the Eagle (2016) Reviewed

Blog: All Things Film – Eddie the Eagle (2016) Reviewed

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Could it possibly be that director Dexter Fletcher is the one British director who’s not had a faultless movie on his resume? First Wild Bill, then Sunshine on Leith and now Eddie the Eagle. At this rate, Fletcher’s next film will earn him Best Director at the Oscars and, if the trend continues thereafter, perhaps his fifth film will cure AIDS.

I have to admit, I barely remember Eddie the Eagle when I was a little kid. In fact I’m quite sure I confused him with Evel Knievel at various points. I mean, both of their names begin with an “E”. I vaguely remember all the coverage on the TV but if you were to ever ask me the name of any ski jumper, Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards is probably about as far as my vocabulary goes.

A true underdog story if ever there was one – and of course we’ve seen dozens – this has to be among the best of the bunch. In many ways, Fletcher’s direction plays out exactly as you’d expect: a plethora of Eighties soundtracks after a series of mishaps and training montages (often in the same sneeze), and the obligatory growing-up-and-older opening segment where we see the bespectacled and socially inept Edwards getting shat on from high.

This may sound like a downer if you’re reading this and considering going to see the film. It’s really not a downer because in the hands of Dexter Fletcher (who’s clearly learned a lot from working with some of the world’s greatest directors) Eddie the Eagle is lean, bold and enormously entertaining. It’ll take a stone cold heart not to toe-tap to the awesome soundtrack and marvel at some of the more sumptuous cinematography I’ve seen all year.

Taron Edgerton (the lead in Kingsman) plays Eddie absolutely perfectly; mannerisms are down to a tee, and it’s a far cry from the hooded thug he portrayed earlier last year. Hugh Jackman – for once not playing Wolverine – plays the drunk ex-jumper and mentor extremely well. Even Christopher Walken has a cameo.

If the film has one or two flawed spots, then it’s probably in the Keith Allen’s character of the father who seems to veer from extremely supportive to completely disaffected on the spin of a dime. Perhaps this is what really happened to Eddie – but I guess we’ll never know.

Eddie the Eagle is the feelgood smiler of the year. Will it high-jump to the awards? Remains to be seen, I suppose. But I loved it, and I’m pretty sure anyone reading this far will do, too.

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – Bastille Day (2016) Reviewed

Blog: All Things Film – Bastille Day (2016) Reviewed

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Proving that a crime thriller always works better with a black/white protagonist duo, Bastille Day runs its 92 minute gauntlet like a widow with severe learning difficulties, panting and clutching its chest before tripping over the finish line. The film will have exhausted every single tried and tested cliche from this genre before finally waving the white flag.

I am sure this film was shot nearly a year ago, and I do wonder how the filmmakers would have reacted to the tragic events in Paris in November of last year. The film of course is about terrorists in Paris – of all places – and the hardened CIA operative played by Idris Elba will enact his bad boy routine in torturing the poor pickpocket, played by Richard Madden,to find out why he’s blown four people to tits in front of a fountain with a rucksack.

It wasn’t the youngster’s bag you see – he managed to swipe it from a reticent-at-heart terrorist French women who bottled her duties a few minutes earlier. Will Elba believe Madden when he says he stole it and didn’t know it was a bomb? Will the chief of police turn out to be the bad guy after all? Will the film ever acknowledge that terrorists in area life are rarely white, and that if we are to take any acts of revolution seriously, then evidently only Iceland can be bothered to get off their arses to oust the crooked politicians?

No.

In Bastille Day, Syria doesn’t exist. The poor old Bataclan doesn’t even get a look in. I bring this up because, in being so rudimentary and by-the-numbers token action film making, director James Watkins (working from a copy-and- paste screenplay he farted out with cowriter Andrew Baldwin) clearly hasn’t seen any films with any twists in, ever.

The action is moderate and rarely violent until the final scene. Elba could just stand on his own and command the screen. There’s an action scene that takes place in the back of a police van that so tight and closely edited, you fail to register who’s punching who.

All of this is unfortunate timing. I’m sure we all saw the news that fateful night in November 2015 covering the Paris attacks. We cannot take any of this seriously; Idris doesn’t walk away clean. In a movie where you have the rugged, seen-it-all copper who’ll take no prisoners (unless they’re female and with a pert bottom; i.e. all of them) and a confidence trickster out to smarm and con his way to glory – I think the latter of the two is more interesting. Unfortunately for the film, Idris wasn’t cast in that particular part.

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) Reviewed

Blog: All Things Film – 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) Reviewed

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I’ll say nothing about this film’s final act, other than the fact that it does an expert job of totally destroying any goodwill mustered up by director Dan Trachtenberg’s reasonably skillful psychological Room-esque thriller that came before it.

For the most part, this is a decent enough psycho-thriller that is as much of a victim of a release date coming so soon after Room, as the peril that permeates Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s car-crash victim-cum-prisoner that echoes more than a few shades of Misery. In that film, and this, the hero is rescued by an overweight lunatic claiming to be operating in service of the hero’s interest. Both Winstead – and James Caan – experience injuries to the leg.

And while we’re here, we can’t not tip our caps to other, superior tales in this realm; namely, ugh, Bad Boy Bubby (of which it will take a significant cue with its rudimentary Hasmat / gas mask costume showpiece), and of course Blast From the Past. 10 Cloverfield Lane isn’t particularly funny but it does contain a few moments of torment and peril. It’s at its best when John Goodman flits between rescuer and psychotic madman, and at its least effective when JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot production company finally remembers what it thinks an audience wants.

Sadly, it’s all undone toward the end. I’d have been happier with a more sombre, simpler suggestion – which is egged on a number of times when the movie’s macguffin is noted – and not felt the need to satisfy the dickheads in the audience once the inevitable rears its head. The performances from Winstead, Goodman and the other stranger in the room played by John Gallagher Jnr (which sneakily manages to bring back memories of Eliza Cuthbert in Captivity) are all very strong. Considering the material, most everything else is on fine form.

But that daft ending. What a shame. The tagline says “monsters come in many forms”. It’s perfectly okay, JJ, to leave one or two of them out.

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – Lazer Team Reviewed

Blog: All Things Film – Lazer Team Reviewed

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Do you remember the comedy ensemble from the 1990s called Kids in the Hall? If not, do you remember the Broken Lizard team behind Super Troopers and Club Dread? If you remember neither, then the nostalgia quotient for Lazer Team may be missed, as this is strongly reminiscent of low-budget comedy written by and starring a clique of lesser known comedic talent.

Rooster Teeth’s “Lazer Team” concerns itself with a young boy who’s groomed to become Earth’s ultimate champion of strength and mental agility. After receiving a message from space, the authorities know that a battle is imminent. However, the space suit that the aliens send ahead of time is accidentally discovered by a listless cop whilst he’s arresting three juvenile ne’er-do-wells setting off fireworks. They each put a piece of the suit on and are now in charge of the imminent battle against the Worg species. The stoner nitwit gets to don the headpiece which boosts his intelligence, and affects a British accent. The film is smart enough to make light of this fact; “He’s an idiot and thinks if you have a British accent, you sound smarter!”.

There’s a plethora of other film references; from Ghostbusters, to Turbo Man and any number of silly sport comedies (they look like a sports team, after all). Yet, in the script which is penned by director Matt Hullum and co-star Burnie Burns, there are enough detailed and nuanced gags that makes parts of Lazer Team as irrepressibly hilarious as it is economic in scale.

Lazer Team was financed by Rooster Teeth on Indie Go Go and they were hoping to attract under a million dollars. They ended up with over $2m, and it shows – the film’s production values are extremely well utilised and, under Hullum’s confident direction, the film sidesteps into Star Wars-esque lazer beam/corridor shoot outs.

Lastly, it is worth observing that Lazer Team feels like an R rated movie, and yet is actually perfectly suited to the younger audience. The violence is mild but not overdone – the jokes, too, are not gross-out or pithy. Only at the very, very end (the last shot in fact) does it veer away from the PG rating – and even so, that last shot is possibly one of the better sign offs we’ll see all year. Lazer Team is an invigorating and fun time at the movies.

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – 45 Years Reviewed

Blog: All Things Film – 45 Years Reviewed

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Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay star as Kate and Geoff Mercer, a married couple who later in the week will have a party bash for the 45th wedding anniversary. On the Monday, Kate takes the post in and they discover a message that reveals something hidden in Geoff’s past. To be entirely fair, the event – and the revelation – happened long before Kate had even met him. And, no, there won’t be an estranged twenty-something dude turning up claiming to be his kid, nor will it be a newspaper story confirming that he’s a serial killer.

And it is this very fact that elevates 45 Years into the usual humdrum nonsense we typically see from studio pictures because they daren’t bank on the intelligence of an audience. I shan’t reveal anything about what transpires, expect to say that it is understated and – certainly relative to most cinematic narrative twists we’re accustomed to – fairly lightweight. Writer/director Andrew Haigh is far more concerned in how a wife would react, and then how a husband may react to his wife.

The film is peppered with moments of real anguish, and also very believable sequences. It’s ultra hard to recall any movies that do not conform to some sort of cliche (apparently My Dinner With Andre is one of them) and 45 Years may well turn out to be another. From the viewpoint of most audiences, I am sure they’ll find 45 Years to be a sombre, morose and most tedious affair; there are long, gazing shots of Rampling having a fag, and walking through village town centres. But to catch the mundanity of retirement and think it boring is to entirely miss the point; the real action, and believe me there is action in spades, here, is in the detail; the cold stares, the musing, and the reactionary visage from the two magnificent leads.

Rampling, it has to be said, is extremely attractive and well-kept well into her late sixties. Courtenay has a few years on her, and his Geoff is a meek, mild-mannered teddy bear who perches on the cervices of exploding on occasion.

Then, there’s the last scene. For you, it’ll go one of two ways. If you’re not on board and struggled to reach the end you’ll clap your hands and reach for the remote control. If, however, you’re totally vacuumed in and offered your personal investment into these characters and have the foresight to at least imagine yourself in their position one day, then the final ‘speech’ contains a nugget of genius and performance which may sock you in the gut — and realise that 45 Years was one of the quiet, more powerful and better films of 2015. It’s one I will revisit every so often just to spend time in the lead’s company, alone.

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records (2016) Reviewed

Blog: All Things Film – All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records (2016) Reviewed

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The chances are that if you’re over the age of thirty, you’ll remember Tower Records. Much like HMV, Virgin Megastore and Our Price Music/Video, Tower stood among these behemoths of the entertainment shopping outlets. I remember early trips in to the west End of London in the early nineties usually culminated with me and my friends visiting the Piccadilly Circus branch and exploring the avenues of videotapes and CDs.

There’s something to be said for the physicality of media. There’s not much that can replace the thrill of opening a sealed DVD or CD, and having a collection took care and commitment. Nowadays, we have hard drives stuffed with DVD Rips and stream from Netflix. The care and nurture has been replaced – in much the same way as the movies being produced – by a narcissistic sense of over saturation of content, and the rapid digestion of media as far as we’re not able to vomit it back out due to over indulgence.

It is precisely the wave of Napster and streaming that had put the final nail in the coffin of Tower. And, as such, the documentary (directed by Colin Hanks) doesn’t astound us, as we know the story before we’ve even been told it. We remember, i am sure, the day we went to the shops to find that it had closed. Or that Virgin had become Zavvi. We still scratch our heads and wonder how HMV have survived. The fact that it remains in come shopping centres baffles me – as if it’s part of some bizarre Mel Brooks’ Springtime For Hitler tax write off.

The fact that most will see All Things Must Pass online is a bittersweet irony, I am sure, to those who feature in the film – and somewhat less humorously ironic to those who hope the doc will make money. It’s that strange limbo that screwed Tower Records over, essentially. Let’s not let our pious earnestness get too much the better of us, eh?

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – Anomalisa (2016) Reviewed

Blog: All Things Film – Anomalisa (2016) Reviewed

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– Few movies lately have managed to capture the essence of what it is to be human. I suppose we’re asking too much when we see that a film comes along posing the same themes, but turns out to be animated.

And no, Anomalisa is not Inside Out. Rather, it’s somewhere between Team America and any Nick Park animation. This time, however, it’s gut-bustingly funny and not at all concerned with bravura or spectacle. If anything, it’s the low-key take on existence that makes Anomalisa the superb film that it is.

We follow Michael Stone on a trip away from home. He’s voiced by David Thewlis. Approximately half of you know the name but can’t picture the face. His voice is unfalteringly recognisable however, and an extremely odd choice for the main lead. But, it works perfectly. He stays at a hotel named Fregoli, which is Charlie Kaufman’s pen name for the play that this is based on. Everyone else he meets has the same face and voice, with little variance. “Everyone else” in this case is played by Tom Noonan, whom most of us know as the bad guy from RoboCop 2 and the grim reaper in The Last Action Hero.

Finally, during the monotony of his life, he stumbles across Lisa, voice – with deafening difference – by Jennifer Lason Leigh; a dowdy, curvy no-hoper. To Michael Lisa is everything he’s wanted in a woman; that is, she stands out from all the others.

Doesn’t sound like much, does it? It’s been two days since I saw Anomalisa and movie-wise, I’ve been thinking about very little else. To say this is low-key is a vast understatement. It’s meant to be, and it’s meant to absorb. It is fully successful in that endeavour.

The key themes here are loneliness, despair, compassion and, above all else, companionship. Both Anomalisa and Team America, for example, contain sex scenes. One of them is ferocious and wryly stupid. The other, very considered and almost tender to the point of over familiarity. It’s a love story and, true to Kaufman form, things go a little crazy in ways we’ve seen from Eternal Shunshine and, to an extent, Being John Malkovich.

2016 could well turn out to be the year of the understatement, both thematically and performance-wise. Spotlight falls into the same category. Anomalisa is somewhat of an antidote to Spotlight in many ways, however, both these films are the best of the year so far – and they share one thing in common: no explosions, not set in space – but in something far more interesting; real life, and very humble and powerful about it.

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – The Lobster (2015)   Reviewed

Blog: All Things Film – The Lobster (2015) Reviewed

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This reasonably low-budget indie flick boasts quite an extraordinary cast. There’s Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly, Lea Seydoux, Ashley Jensen, Olivia Coleman… I mean, the list goes on. They’re attracted to co-writer/director Yorgos Lanthimoss script, evidently. Colin Farrell’s meek character David checks himself into a strange hotel where – if you’re single, and remain so after 45 days – you’ll be turned into an animal of your choosing.

It’s a glorious stupid concept for a movie. With a Greek gentleman at the helm, we expect this to be an outright allegory for the state of relationships as we know them today. However, the film inhabits an altogether staid and robotic world where the people act like the Stepford Wives, and nothing of any great consequence seems to play too much on their minds.

Nevertheless, you can see why all these wonderful players wanted a bite. They must have read the first 60 pages and speed-dialled their agents, saying “Yes, Quick! Before that mad bugger offers it to someone else!” Yorgos Lanthimos possesses some Wes Anderson stylings in The Lobster. It’s a concept that drew me to the film.

How much of a letdown is it, then, that The Lobster completely nosedives at the midpoint and finds anything other than its ridiculous concept more interesting; such as themes that love is blind, and that when you’re finally convinced you’ll be forever alone is the precise moment that you’re found to be wrong?

In many ways, despite its quirky, no doubt cult-status tugging grandeur it most definitely can claim to, The Lobster falls into the trap of many great concepts films before it; it defies the concept and becomes interested in something altogether less satisfying. I wanted more of the rather excellent build up of the hotel and its workings; Coleman’s headmistress-esque hotel owener and her husband are wonderful characters. Whishaw and Reilly are David’s “friends”, and Ashley Jensen nearly walks away with the movie as a modern-day spinster.

There are chiefly wonderful comic moments throughout the first half of the movie because it’s all played so straight. Even Weisz’s narration until we meet her physically is marvelously sardonic and dry. I was really, really hoping that we’d end up in Spike Jonze-esque territory. At the very least, with balls this large, surely Lanthimos can stick to the courage of his convictions.

Sadly, with an idea as strong and bat-shit crazy such as this, what you don’t do is go out into the woods and play… leaving the far superior idea to burn into obscurity. No-one wants that. What a big, big shame.

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – Zoolander No 2Reviewed

Blog: All Things Film – Zoolander No 2Reviewed

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I guess when the studios get desperate, they think back to the original spinners and see what franchise possibilities lie within them. All the studios seem to be looking back and scraping the bottom of the barrel and picking whatever’s easiest to drop $40m+ on and just cross their fingers. The thing is that these days all these original one-offs now need a sense of self depreciation and acknowledgement that they’ve moved on. Fortunately for Zoolander 2, the original was already all of these things and more.

The sequel is precisely what you’d expect and a little bit less. Ben Stiller is back as Derek Zoolander, who’s as deep as he blusher on his face. A model who’s now out of retirement, along with Owen Wilson as Hansel, to find the whereabouts of his son and to get to the bottom of a murderer at large who’s killing pop culture icons who manage to strike a pose with their selfies before expiring. Justin Bieber is shot to ribbons in an opening scene that reminded me of Alex Murphy getting gunned down in RoboCop. Only in Zoolander 2, it’s less funnier. Scarier still, it’s actually less satisfying than I had hoped.

To say Zoolander 2 is unfunny is a dramatic overstatement. I didn’t laugh or smile once. The bevvy of cameos should have worked, but don’t. None of the jokes stick and seem flat and tired. It’s because they are. Somehow, though, should Zoolander 2 work in this day and age of facile media celebrity? Where are the potshots at the overabundance of social media stars, and all those damned cooking shows? Selfies are about as far as Zoolander 2 wants to take matters. They’ve missed a chasm of good materials just ripe for skewering.

And then of course there’s Will Ferrell; possibly the least funny man on the planet Just about the only reason keeping me from walking was Penelope Cruz. She’s game for a laugh, and looks incredible in that skin-tight red suit. I’ve never been much of a fan or admirer of hers, but I am now forced to reevaluate her charisma that towers head and shoulders above everyone else.

Or it could be that she’s simply the best thing about the movie – and that’s hardly a fair claim to glory considering everything else that’s on show. If only this 95 minute doze-fest was as clever as its teaser trailer with Stephen Hawking’s voice over.

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – Carol (2015) Reviewed

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Tedious. Simply cannot be bothered to review this one, other than it’s a slow, drudging affair with some sumptuous set design. The film may as well have been titled “Oscar”, as it’s the only reason any of us have to suffer through it.

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast!