The Tender Bar: An Earnest An Emotional Performance From Ben Affleck Saves The Day

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young boy, played by Daniel Ranieri as a boy and Tye Sheridan as a young man, turns to his surly uncle, played by Ben Affleck, for life advise in place of his absentee father, played by Max Martini.

Not too long ago in a review I was saying about how actors who then become directors don’t usually end up becoming good at it, I even gave George Clooney, the director of this film, as an example and whilst this film doesn’t prove me wrong it does show a nice upswing for Clooney’s filmography and suggests that maybe there is hope for the actor turned director.

That is not to say this film is perfect, it really isn’t. From a structural point of view there aren’t any stakes, things just happen and then it is on to the next thing. I understand it is supposed to be autobiographical to some extent and life isn’t like a film there often aren’t great stakes and battles to be won, but this film’s narrative needed that. As it stands it’s just one thing then the next, happening one after another without any real consequence.

Furthermore, Sheridan was probably the wrong actor to cast for this role as he seems incapable of emoting. Mud was a good film, but Sheridan wasn’t the main focus there, however in everything that has followed wherein he is the lead he seems incredibly one note and like he is pulling the same face throughout regardless of what is happening on screen- this is true here, painfully so.

However, rather surprisingly this film is saved by an incredibly emotional and earnest performance from Ben Affleck. There are several moments in this film where I would say Affleck’s performance is worthy of awards consideration, one that springs to mind is the emotion on his face during his final scene in the film as he watches his nephew, who is basically a son to him, drive away into the sunset: his face is so full of emotion, happiness and sadness, pride and loss it is quite moving. Sadly, it also points out just how poor of a job Sheridan is doing.

Overall, there might be hope for Clooney yet if he keeps working with Affleck.

Pros.

The emotion

Affleck

It was well paced

Cons.

No stakes, things just sort of happen and then are moved on from

Sheridan  

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Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Disney Coming In To Ruin Another Franchise

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A new animated take on the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney.

Where to begin on what went wrong with this film.

I think the most obvious place to start is that this film is a carbon copy of the much better live action version, it lifts scenes and lines of dialogue from that film and that just serves to remind you how needless this film really is, it is an animated reskin of a better product that came out just long ago enough for kids today to not remember it.

Speaking of the animation there is something noticeably off with it. I can’t quite put my finger on what is wrong, but there is certainly something going wrong with the lighting and the framing of it a lot of the time throughout the film. The animation style itself is fairly ugly, I understand they have chosen it to look closer to the books however it looks cheap and low rent.

The voice cast for the most part is doing their best to mimic the performances from the beloved live action films, and whilst in a few cases the effort is valiant, it never really rises to the occasion and lacks a lot of the charm and the warmth that made the performances in the live action films what they were.

Overall, entirely needless.

Pros.

It is short and if you close your eyes at times it feels like you are watching the live action version.

Cons.

The animation is off

It feels wholly unneeded and unoriginal

It is unfunny

It lacks any charm or warmth

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Belfast: Personal Yet Familiar

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The life and times of a young boy, played by Jude Hill, from Belfast whose family has to come to terms with leaving the area to escape the Troubles.

Do I think this is a good film? Yes. Do I think it should be inevitably nominated for Best Picture? No. This is a good film in many ways but it is not spectacular, and despite this being a very personal journey and reflective of a certain time and place there is an element over familiarity here, meaning you have seen this film before the plot is not quite as fresh as it really ought to be.

I thought this film particularly came into its own when dealing with emotion. I thought there were a number of stirring scenes here, the final scenes we get with Ciaran Hinds’ Pop and Judi Dench’s Granny and both powerful and the shop looting sequence is also quite harrowing. I was impressed with the film in that it both manages to show the danger of the Troubles whilst also presenting it from the point of view of a naïve child and keep the lens being from his perspective but at the same time not losing any of the perceived danger.

I thought the performances were good across the board however, I think Caitriona Balfe should be spotlighted for any awards nomination from this as she was excellent here- easily stealing the show.

Overall, a powerful yet familiar film.

Pros.

A strong cast across the board

Managing childlike nativity with the grim reality

The ending

Balfe especially

Cons.

The plot feels a little bit overly familiar  

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Big Mouth: Season 5 Overview

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The kids face off against love and hate.

I thought after last season this was an improvement, that is not to say that last season was bad more that it went a bit too heavy on its themes of anxiety and future dread, this I felt did a better job as it tackled and did justice to its themes whilst keeping things moving at a fairly nice breezy pace.

Moreover, I thought the jokes were more on point this time around as it returned to the comedic ability of earlier seasons having me laughing quite a few times per episode. In terms of emotional weight I think this film tackles teenage love, unrequited love and hate all quite well having the characters go on believable journeys throughout the season. I enjoyed the scene where Nick, voiced by Nick Kroll, ventures into the monster world to find out who the boss is only for it to be the real life actor Nick Kroll, I thought the metaphor of you being in control and being the boss of your emotions was apt and quite poignant for the show.

If the show was going to end I would say that scene should have been the last of the show.

Moreover, I enjoyed the Christmas episode quite a bit as well. At first the idea of an anthology of stories seemed to be irritating as it was taking us out of the action, however it actually served as quite a nice pallet cleanser and had a number of great segments.

Overall, a strong season that saw a closer return to form for the show.

Pros.

It is funny

It is heartfelt

The Christmas special

The live action scene

Cons.

On occasion it belabours its points and drags them out for too long

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Our Ladies: Life In A Small Scottish Town

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of Scottish school girls head up to the big city, in this case Edinburgh, for a school choir competition, however they are far more interested in drinking, partying and hooking up.

Damn this one is an unexpected punch in the feels, get ready so it doesn’t take you by surprise as it did me. You have been warned.

The premise as I described it to you above seems pretty breezy and fun, and though the film has elements of that there is far more going on below the surface. The plot of this film is far deeper than you might give it credit for and it runs the gambit of commenting on such issues as terminal disease, inequality, homophobia and many more. In many ways, this film tackles both the high points and the low points of life and doesn’t shy away from either.

I found this film to be depressing, but maybe that was the point, maybe you were supposed to leave it reflecting on how these girls have less life opportunities than other people based on their location, gender and class background. However, that is not to say I didn’t find any moments of enjoyment in the film, I did. There are several moments in the film that are not only enjoyable but cheer worthy.

I thought all the performers herein were entertaining and endearing and by the end of the film I cared enough about the characters that I wanted them to have a happy ending, sadly that is not how it pans out.

Overall, a surprisingly dark tale of teenage angst, love and life.

Pros.

A few funny moments

Likeable characters

Well-paced

Cons.

It is too dark

It leaves you feeling depressed

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The Exchange: In Search Of A Similar Soul

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A small town teen, Ed Oxenbould, sets out to get a sophisticated French pen pal in order to find someone else like him. However, the exchange student he gets proves to be more than he bargained for.

Beneath the teen coming of age comedyiness of this film there is actually something quite soulful and human there. For every joke about sex, or some other teenage cliché, there are several deep comments about self-acceptance, racism and finding your place in a world where no one is like you.

I thought the cast across the board was strong, Oxenbould has come a long way since his days rapping in The Visit, and here he manages to capture acute social anxiety and embody the outsider better than any other actor I’ve seen in a teen film in a long while. Moreover, Avan Jogia is a delight here, he is the heart and soul of the film, and his character is beautifully written. Though he might seem like a young man with everything he could ever want in the world, he is actually far more troubled than that. I thought it was an ingenious choice to never really elaborate on what Jogia’s Stephane has experienced back home, but rather elude to it.

I would say the film’s humour is hit or miss. For the most part I didn’t find the teenage humour particularly funny, but I did find Justin Hartley to be hilarious. Hartley is truly an underrated talent; I found his man child character to be easily the most broken and most amusing character of the whole film.

Overall, a surprisingly insightful comedy film with a lot going on under the surface.

Pros.

Jogia

The deeper trauma

The coming of age elements

Oxenbould

Cons.

Not all the jokes land

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Plan B: ‘Save Your Car For Your Husband’

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

On the surface the similarities between Plan B and the HBO Max exclusive Unpregnant are hard to ignore. Both feature young women seeking out a way to get rid of their unwanted pregnancy, which takes the form of a cross country road trip with their best friend, both differently cover a lot of the same ground, however, both are unique, and both are good in their own right.

Plan B steers away from some of the more social conscious, politics heavy areas of Unpregnant and focuses more on the leading pair coming of age and what that means for girls in this day and age. That is not to say there aren’t some heavier moments peppered in, there are, but widely this film is more comedy focused.

I found this film to be quite funny, it made me laugh out loud on a good few occasions and had me chuckling throughout. I thought both the leads had moments to shine in this department and were well balanced, avoiding a one’s funny one’s trying too hard style situation.

Overall, a strong comedy film about coming of age and female friendship, only spoilt by a few slight pacing issues.

Pros.

The humour

The leads

It feels real and lived

You care about the characters by the end

Cons.

The pacing

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Coast: Running Away

Written by Luke Barnes

Coasts is a drama coming of age film directed by Jessica Hester and Derek Schweickart. The plot revolves around a young woman whose life changes when a traveling rock band is forced to stay in her small town for a while.

This film was a very stirring coming of age tale. It struck me as very personable and relatable, we have all been there before, we have all faced the reality of our small town life or grown board with our city if we are not from a small town, the urge to roam and be free is something that every human being can relate to.

I thought the drama of this film was very impactful. The idea of do you stay with what you know and what is comfortable and familiar, or do you take a chance that might never come again and go and be wild, I thought this premise raised a lot of philosophical questions and makes one reflect on their own life.

Overall, a very thoughtful and thought provoking film that nearly everyone can relate to.

Pros.

The relatability

It causes you to reflect

It is entertaining and engaging

Cons.

It has a few minor pacing issues

4/5  

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Bend It Like Beckham: David Beckham Really Is In Every Film

Written by Luke Barnes

Bend It Like Beckham is a sport coming of age comedy film directed by Gurinder Chadha. The plot sees Jess (Parminder Nagra), try to pursue a career in football despite her parents wishes.

I enjoyed this films depiction of ‘football mad England’, its approach is far more subtle and thoughtful than films like Football Factories or Green Streets would have you believe. I thought Jess as a character was very easy to warm to, and also very relatable. We could see the identity crisis she was facing, and we sympathise as the character almost becomes like a friend to us over the course of the film.

I thought the ending of the film were she gets to go and become a professional footballer in America is heart warming and just the right amount of feel good resolution that makes you think ‘hey maybe things will be okay’.

My main issue with the film would be that the central romance between Joe (Johnathan Rhys Meyers), and Jess is troublesome on several levels. Firstly, the love triangle between Jess, Jules (Keira Knightly), and Joe feels a bit too male fantasy, and secondly because he is the coach of the team and both of his female love interests are players on the team, meaning the power dynamic is icky.

A bigger question not just for this film, but also applicable more generally, was a romance plot line actually needed at all?

Overall, a feel good film on the surface but troublesome underneath.

Pros.

Nagra

Knightley

The ending

Cons.

The romance plot line

Some of the wider messages

2.5/5

The Edge Of Seventeen: High Fidelity In A Classroom

Written by Luke Barnes

Edge Of Seventeen is a coming of age comedy film directed by Kelly Fremon Craig. The plot sees socially awkward teen Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), navigate a world of depression, rejection and family strife, all whilst figuring out who she wants to be- I promise it is happier than that sounds.

I enjoyed this film so much, that it has quickly supplanted its way into my top ten films of all time.

For me, this is one of the best if not the best teen film of all time. There is something so painfully true about this film that really reached me and felt reflective of my own high school experience. The idea of teenage mental health is not something that you often see come up in coming of age fare beyond the usual idea of angst, however, it is really done justice here.
Where this film pips something like Lady Bird, is that it is more relatable. There is a quiet middle class privilege to Lady Bird, yes I said it, that though present here also is lessened to a point whereby it feels like a closer mirror to how a lot of people actually experience highschool.

Steinfeld is terrific here truly. I know True Grit was the film that put her on the map for a lot of people, but this was the film for me that made me stand up and take notice. She makes the characters so complex, but also so likeable, so charming and yet so self-destructive.  Moreover, the level of chemistry she has with Woody Harrelson, who plays her teacher, is off the charts- they must be cast together in more films.

Overall, a film that spoke to me on a personal level and reminded me why I love film.

Pros.

Focusing on teenage mental health

Steinfeld

Harrelson

The writing is sharp and witty

It feels painfully true

5/5