The King’s Man: France As A Country Just Doesn’t Exist I Guess

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A prequel to the Kingsman films set during the First World War.

Going into this I had heard mixed things, and after seeing it I come to you with mixed tidings. The film does somethings right it is by no means a bad film, but it also has several major issues that stop it from truly excelling.

Firstly the good. I liked the films anti-war stance showing the needlessness of the slaughter and how to die for one’s country is not noble or heroic but rather tragic and needless. I thought as far as social messages go it was very well delivered and important.

Moreover, the new characters here all work well, Colin Firth and the rest of the gang don’t make any sort of time travel like cameos here so we are given a fresh cast, of which Ralph Fiennes is the standout as a grieving and over protective father who has turned to outward passivism to protect his family from the world.

I also thought the comedy mostly worked, the jokes often made me chuckle, there was nothing side splittingly funny but I enjoyed it for the most part. However, the one noticeable exception to that rules comes with Rhys Ifans Rasputin who relies mostly on physical and gross out comedy for his comedic moments, these come across as unpleasant to watch and if anything succeed too well in grossing you out.

Continuing with the negative, the Rasputin sequence is far too dragged out and lasts for a good half of the film, you will be surprised to learn he is not the big bad of the film despite how prominently the film features him. As you might assume the film suffers from a terrible pace and long outstays its welcome.

Finally, two smaller nit picks that bothered me about the film. France is never mentioned in the film despite having a large role in World War I, which if I were French I might find insulting, why they decide to leave the French out is beyond me. Furthermore, I also dislike how the sequence is done after the death of Fiennes’ characters son, played by Harris Dickson, he moves on far too quickly for the scene to mean anything and it quickly loses any emotional impact it could have had.

Overall, better than some have made out but not quite good either.

Pros.

Fiennes

The anti-war stance

The comedy for the most part

Cons.

The pacing

The gross out humour

Leaving out France and not giving the character adequate time to morn.  

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The Devil Rides Out: Christopher Lee Becomes A Magical Warrior Of The Lord

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A satanic secret society infiltrates British high society and Christopher Lee is all that stands between them and their dastardly ends.

Yes, yes I know this film has some racial undertones and is in many respect problematic, but it was from over fifty years ago so I am not hugely surprised. I have acknowledged these elements but for the purpose of my review I am going to try and look past them as little more than a product of their time.

Without further ado on with the review. Christopher Lee was a fantastic actor; he commands the screen here as Duc de Richleau. He brings such gravitas to the performance it is hard to look away, you really buy his performance consistently throughout.

Moreover, the film handles its stakes very well. Though only small in scale the film makes its stakes feel far grander and it is hard not to get caught up in this battle between good and evil. The tension coursing through the film is often palpable especially when it comes to scenes of mental sparing.

The film is beautiful to look at, even though a few of the scenes look quite poor by today’s standards, especially the car chase. However despite this there is longing towards this style of film making within me wherein whole films are not just massive dumps of CGI that underpaid visual effects people were forced to make during one long weekend wherein they couldn’t go home and were paid below minimum wage most likely.

Overall, there is a charm to this film that we don’t seem to see anymore.

Pros.

Lee

The stakes

The tension

The Angel Of Death scenes

The ending

Cons.

The rather blatant racism

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Last Looks: Charlie Hunnam Finally Finds His Big Screen Franchise

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A retired PI, played by Charlie Hunnam, must come out of retirement to solve the mystery of a daytime TV actor’s, played by Mel Gibson, dead wife.

I thought this was a very well done film. It illuded very much to the golden age of noir films in many ways, however it had more than enough personality to it that you can ignore some of the familiarities.

I have been saying for a long time that Hunnam is a terrific actor who sadly never seems to get cast in the right roles to make him into a big star, but once again he is great here. However, I would say he is outacted by Mel Gibson, yes I know Gibson is controversial but I tried to put that to one side when watching this. Gibson’s hammy British daytime TV actor is hilarious whenever he is on-screen, add to that Gibson’s ability to bring the emotion and deliver some quite touching scenes and you have a scene stealing performance.

The mystery was fairly well done, it was familiar but not predictable I didn’t guess where it was going.

My main criticism of this film would be that it gave Morena Baccarin so little to do, it felt like a huge waste of her talents, though maybe they will develop her character out if the film gets a sequel.

Overall, a charming whodunit.

Pros.

Hunnam

Gibson

A good mystery

Laughs and heart

Cons.

It doesn’t give Baccarin anything to work with

Pacing issues

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The Last Train To Christmas: Ruining An Interview By Urinating On The Tape Recorder

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Tony Towers, played by Michael Sheen, is a club owner on the verge of bankruptcy, however when he enters a train that allows him to travel to other decades of his life he tries to change things in order to be a success, however, as he does this he realises what really matters to him.

This was a powerful film; I know the above summary might make the plot sound a bit generic but trust me it really isn’t. As Tony begins to learn that his success comes at the cost of his brother’s, played by Cary Elwes, physical and mental health and then tries to save him it hits you like a ton of bricks. The bond between these two characters is incredibly strong and Sheen and Elwes play off each other really well over the course of the film.

I found the morality of the film and the impact of Tony’s choices to be fascinating and not go in a way that I was expecting. I thought the ending of the film felt incredibly well done and earned, the one thing that bothered me about it though was that the two didn’t talk,  I felt like this was needed for us to know that Sheen’s Tony had been truly successful.

Overall, potentially a new Christmas classic.

Pros.

Elwes

Sheen

The emotion

The morality

Cons.

The ending

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Villain: The Saddest Of The Gangland Films

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A recently released convict, played by Craig Fairbrass, must try and save his families pub from gangland threats.

To me this film failed to be in any way fun, yes though it is a different type of fun a lot of the gangland films, particularly those with Danny Dyer, have enough charm or gravitas to keep you around and enjoying yourself until the end of the film, this didn’t have that.

Not only was this film depressing, it was morbidly depressing, and seemed to go out of its way to be grim and off putting, honestly watching it made me sad. I understand the point the film was trying to make by having Fairbrass’ character die at the end, the superfluousness of his life style and how in the end even if you win you die, and it did deliver this message however, it just made the film feel even more of a downer and left a bit of a bad taste as well.

Fairbrass is fine he is playing a slightly toned down version of his Rise Of The Foot Soldier character. He tries hard to try and round the character and to add emotional depth though this ends in a colossal failure.

Overall, who was this made for?

Pros.

It is short

Fairbrass is trying

Cons.

The ending

It is depressing

There is no charm to it

It has pacing issues galore  

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Boxing Day: Maybe Skip A Family Christmas

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Melvin, played by Aml Ameen, brings his girlfriend, played by Aja Naomi King, home to face the family. A whirlwind ensues.

This film really wasn’t for me. It was unfunny to the point of annoyance and seemed to stretch on and on without any sign of it ending. I don’t think this film had me laugh once throughout.

Moreover, the wider cast were also poorly served, as the film reaches to give them depth but fails and instead just leaves us with a group of characters who are shallow, forgettable and ultimately unlikeable. Worse than all of that a lot of these characters are just written as cliches and tropes that we have all seen hundreds of times before.

Therein lies the big problem with this film for me, it is incredibly been there and done that. From the  off you can see where everything is going and rather than try and surprise you the film instead just plays out in an incredibly predictable way with all the generic holiday rom-com plot beats being hit as if the screen writers are trying to tick boxes on a list.

Overall, this film did little for me besides waste my time

Pros.

The ending dance number

I liked the mother stepfather romance

Cons.

It isn’t funny

It has pacing issues

A lot of the side characters are annoying

It relies heavily on cliches and stereotypes

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Boiling Point: The Worst Night Ever

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A chef must contend with a nightmare evening where everything goes wrong.

This is an emotional gut punch of a film, stressful is how I would describe it. The stress being felt by Stephen Graham’s Andy is so palpable that it comes through the screen and you feel it too. You latch on to Andy so much and relate with him as he is just trying to keep it all together, however as the film progress you see that maybe Andy isn’t so great. I enjoy the emotional ambiguity towards the end of the film, I think it makes the whole piece feel more rounded and nuanced.

In many ways this film feels like a horror film and is hard to watch at times if you have ever worked in a restaurant before either in the kitchen or in the front of house you will feel the terror of this film and it will leave you in a cold sweat.

I think the greatest thing about this film is Stephen Graham. Graham is one of the most reliable actors working today, often terrific and when used properly is the high point of any film that is the case here. Graham play’s damaged character just so well and throughout the film he portrays the moral ambiguity and vulnerability of Andy with such sincerity that he becomes real.

Overall, a magnificent film that is sure to horrify anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant.

Pros.

Graham

The tension

The moral ambiguity

The ending

Cons.

The health inspection scene drags for just a little bit

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Calendar Girls: The Calendar That Titillated The World

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of older Yorkshire women pose nude for a calendar to raise money for cancer patients. Based on a true story.

I found this film to be enjoyable to watch and mostly feel good. Yes, there were one or two moments that were a little on the depressing side but for the most part it was a cheery celebration of life.

I thought all of the performances across the board were strong, Helen Mirren and Julie Walters are both compelling co-leads and both are relatable with their individual struggles and how they handle their fame. I thought it benefited the film to have the reflection on fame and what it can do to up end a life, it made the characters feel genuine and real.

My issues with the film would come as a result of a very played out narrative that feels been there done that. Obviously this film was pinned down as it was a true story so had to stick to that, but a lot of the emotional beats and revelations about life felt deeply generic and puddle deep. The film was also insanely predictable.

Overall, a sweet if overly familiar film.

Pros.

Mirren and Walters

It is very watchable

A few funny lines

Cons.

It is very predictable

It feels played out  

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Off The Rails: Singing Song Lyrics Out Loud To Signify You Are Sad

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of friends get together after the death of one of their member and decide to go on a European trip.

Frankly there just isn’t anything new about this film, you have seen this film before and no the film doesn’t do anything new with it.

A bigger issue with this film is the fact that it is overly sentimental and that none of its emotion comes across and genuine or heartfelt. Rather it comes across as depressing. All of the emotional moments in this film feel cliched and predictable and as such have no impact. By the end of the film you are left feeling depressed and as though you might have wasted your time.

This film makes a big deal out of the fact that it heavily features the music of Blondie, even having the characters singing lyrics in supposedly sad moments for some reason, however even as a Blondie fan I didn’t find anything particularly impressive about this. Other than the very ham-fisted way I have already mentioned the catalogue of songs are not used for any real purpose.

Overall, though I like Sally Phillips, and she is a saving grace here, this film is simply depressing and played out.

Pros.

Phillips

It is short

Cons.

It is depressing

They waste Blondie

The emotion doesn’t land and feels fake

Judy Dench is forced in for no reason  

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Robin Robin: Whilst You Sleep At Night Mice Steal Your Food

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young robin called Robin, voiced by Bronte Carmichael, is taken in by a family of mice, but must then find out who she is after she realises she doesn’t make for a very good mouse.

My track record with Aardman Animation is mixed, I liked Wallace and Gromit and thought Early Man was okay, but I really didn’t like Chicken Run. So when it came to watching this I was mixed, however I have to say this is easily the best Aardman feature to date and if this is any indication for what they are going to produce through their collaboration with Netflix then I am very on board for what is to come.

I thought the film was sweet and really sold its message of being yourself and being proud of who you are well. I enjoyed all the characters and thought each had their moments to shine over the features run time. I thought the pace was well decided as well, as by keeping it short it allowed the film to have a real momentum that lead to it be constantly engaging and never boring.

Finally, there is a musical element to this film which could be hit or miss for people, for me I thought it worked and I enjoyed almost all of the songs, bar the final proper one during the third act, but for the most part I thought the songs added to the film’s charm.

Overall, a lovely little animated Christmas film.

Pros.

It is sweet

It is well paced

It has fun characters

The songs work well

Cons.

The third act could use work as it is a little played out  

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