Mothering Sunday: Prepare To Be Depressed

1/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Set in a post WWI Britain this film tells the tale of Jane, played by Odessa Young, a maid who falls in love with a wealthy man, played by Josh O’ Connor.

This film was fairly bleak across the board. With the amount of death and heartbreak in it one questions whether this is even a romance film, or whether it is simply a drama about the impacts of post war trauma and gilded cages. I was so depressed by the end of this film that I had to watch something happy and upbeat almost straight away, be warned.

Moreover, the film has a needless amount of nudity throughout. This goes in both directions and feels as though it has just been stuffed in to give a shock to the older market that would usually come out for this sort of fare. Rather than feeling daring, or perhaps subversive, this instead feels incredibly try hardy.

For positives I would say that this film is certainly watchable, Colin Firth and Olivia Colman both give strong performances even if they are only featured infrequently. However, The leads seem far too detached for most of the film, which makes it hard to care about either of them, or even the film itself at times.

Overall, I am curious who this was made for?

Pros.

It is watchable and Firth and Colman give good performances

Cons.

The excessive amount of nudity

It is depressing

It is hard to care about any of the characters

It is terribly paced

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The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill And Came Down A Mountain: Looking For Love In Wartime Wales

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Two cartographers, played by Hugh Grant and Ian McNeice, visit a small Welsh town during World War 1 to measure local features, one of which is a large land mass that the locals say is a mountain -however the cartographers think is a hill. Hijinks ensue.

I think you can’t go wrong with young Hugh Grant, maybe Four Weddings but hey that was a fluke. Grant is at his charming best here and plays the tongue tied English man who of course falls in love with a local Welsh woman, played by Tara Fitzgerald, with gusto. You really end up caring about the central relationship but not perhaps as much as you do for the wider community who come together to turn there hill into a mountain. This is a community that has been ripped apart by war and suffering and to see them all come together to try and save their mountain is honestly heart-warming. There are a few moments wherein the sentimentality does feel a little sappy and American but for the most part the heart is just right.

One thing I would note is that it is pretty poor that none of the leading roles are actually lead by Welsh actors. The three leads are Irish and English. Now I am not going to go on a big rant about representation, but it is quite poor that they couldn’t have got an actual Welsh person for this film.

Overall, Welsh representation aside this film is a heart-warming delight.  

Pros.

The romance

The emotion

The ending

It is a lot of fun

Grant

Cons.

The lack of Welsh actors

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The Northman: A Viking Life For Me

5/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Amleth, played by Alexander Skarsgård, is a Viking prince who after losing his family and his kingdom goes on an epic quest for revenge.

Honestly this may be Robert Eggers best film, now I love the VVitch it is my second favourite film of all time, but I do think this film gives it a run for its money.

There is something so original and fresh about this film, you have never seen anything quite like it before, there are notes of Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising but even then not quite. This is not a revenge film as you would expect it, this is not a Viking film as you would expect it, this film takes different elements from several different genres and blends them together to create something new and abstract.

The abstract elements of this film, where things go noticeably strange, are just fantastic. Not only are they visually distinct and interesting but they are shot in such a beautiful way that they become burnt into your minds eye.

The characters are of course terrific Skarsgård is a capable lead, but I would say he is outpaced by both Nicole Kidman and Anya Taylor-Joy who both give masterful performance that will stay with you. I thought the twist with Kidman’s character worked perfectly and superbly steered the film towards its final act. My favourite performance of the film was probably Willem Dafoe’s jester/mystic character who thought he was only in it for a few brief scenes is a lot of fun.       

Overall, a must see.

Pros.

The epic scale

The battle scenes

The abstract elements

The performances

The ending

Cons.

None

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Peaky Blinders: A Fundamental Misunderstanding, Perception Vs Reality

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about why I believe the final series of Peaky Blinders was not only a great series in its own right but also how it was a fitting end point for the program,  as well as how some of the criticism on social media seems to lack a fundamental understanding of what the series was as well as the style of its creator.

I watched the most recent series of this show through a number of trips to a friend of mine’s house, we both enjoyed it, but after most of the episodes I would check online and see a lot of negative buzz and hate, with the finale being the only real exception. The criticism would all say base things like ‘oh remember when this was a gangster show’, or ‘when did the show become so boring’. To these complaints I would say you were watching a different show altogether, Peaky Blinders did have gang aspects to it, but the fundamental drive of the series was Thomas Shelby, played by Cillian Murphy, as a character and exploring his psyche.  For every street set gun battle, there was a quite conversation done to execute a subtle social twist.

The shows broad themes are a huge reflection of that, with the ideas of the pursuit for power and the supernatural steering the series towards more philosophical fare. Yes, within this drift the series featured a gun battle or two, but I would never say it was just a ‘gangster show’, or even that that was the show’s main focus, some people it seems got far too hung up on these aspects.

To further prove my point one needs only look at the series creator Steven Knight who is known for introspective fare like Locke and Hummingbird, which in the latter’s case does feature some action thriller elements, but is front and centre a drama, as is Locke. Fundamentally, I think many thought of Peaky Blinders simply as a badass action show that gave them a reason to wear a flat cap in real life to try and be a part of it,  when it reality it was always a drama series that featured action elements. In that vein I can’t see how the final series was anything other than a fitting conclusion as it delivered on all aspects of what it was striving to be as a show.  

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Operation Mincemeat: The Most Shocking Hand Sex Scene In The History Of Cinema

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A daring tale of WW2 espionage is ruined by a ham fisted love triangle that becomes distracting.

Before seeing this film I was excited the event this is based on is fascinating. For those of you who don’t know Operation Mincemeat was a British military plan whereby a corpse was floated ashore in Spain carrying false papers in an effort to convince the Axis powers that the Allies were going to attack Greece instead of Sicily. At the time the plan was deemed incredibly risky and is now viewed as one of the greatest feats of espionage ever. That premise sets this film up to be a good war time thriller, however, the focus is not on the operation itself really at all instead it focuses on the personal lives of the characters.

Colin Firth, Kelly MacDonald and Matthew Macfadyen, the three sides of the love triangle, all give good performances. The performances of those involved is not the problem, what is a problem however is the fact that the love triangle between these three actor’s characters becomes of greater importance to the plot than anything else. I thought it was entirely needless.

Moreover, during the Spain sequence there are these incredibly random sex scenes that just sort of come out of nowhere and feel weird. I don’t know if they are done in reference to real things that happened and were included for authenticities sake, but if they weren’t what are they doing in the film? The hand-job scene in particular had everyone in my showing of the film looking at each other in shock and confusion asking why this was happening?

Overall, though the film was very watchable and had good performances for the most part, the focus is in entirely the wrong place.

Pros.

It is watchable

Strong performances across the board

When they actually talk about the plan it is interesting

Cons.

The love triangle

The sex scenes

It has awful pacing

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Against The Ice: The Bleak White North Of Greenland

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

An expedition to Greenland soon turns into a life or death struggle for two men, played by Nikolaj Coster- Waldau and Joe Cole. Based on the 1909 true story.

I think this film is a remarkable tome to the human condition, both Coster-Waldau and Cole are  giving it their all and you can really feel it in their performances, from the beginning both sink into their characters so completely that you forget that you are watching a film.

Moreover, the film maintained a strong sense of tension throughout, there were multiple moments where, pardon the trite overused phrase, I was on the edge of my seat. I thought the film for the most part was deeply enthralling and kept you engaged throughout, this was helped along by you caring about the fate of the explorers.

My main issue with the film was that though for the most part it did a good job of keeping you interested there was significant pacing issues resulting in slow moments that hurt the film broadly and that tested your interest in it, regarding this there are also a number of sub-plots that could have been cut down to save time as they really don’t add much of anything.

Overall, an interesting film that is dragged down by some aggressive pacing issues.

Pros.

Coster-Waldau

The tension

You care about the characters

Cons.

The pacing

It overstays its welcome

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The Revenant: The Bear And The Maiden Not So Fair

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Really this was the one that Leo won an Oscar for?

I have only given this film a two because I can’t wholly dislike a film wherein Tom Hardy is doing a strange character performance. I like Hardy and find that as an actor he can do no wrong, he is easily the best part of the film even though I never really took him seriously as a villain.

I can’t really understand how anyone could enjoy this film, it has sizeable pacing issues, it is relentlessly bleak, including all sorts of needless scenes I guess just for the sake of it, and it is also incredibly pretentious thinking simply by existing that it is going to reinvent the wheel.

Moreover, DiCaprio has given many fantastic performances over the years, but in all honesty I don’t think he was very good here. His character isn’t particularly engageable not just because he is so bland but also because he is not likeable at all and the film doesn’t do much to make you like him.

By the time the film had reached its climax I was finding it hard to stay awake.

Overall, a deeply overrated film.

Pros.

Tom Hardy

I liked the period setting

Cons.

DiCaprio

The pacing

The bleakness/ the pretention

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The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain: Cats Becoming People.

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

From watching the trailers for this film I didn’t really know what to expect. It looked strange and abstract and it is and in that is the films’ greatest success. This is indeed a quirky and an odd film and one that you aren’t likely to see again this year, and by doing that it becomes memorable.

This film is a who’s who of British acting talent and has more than a few familiar faces, everyone does a good job and the acting across the board is strong. Cumberbatch is a superb leading man and from his portrayal you really buy the eccentricity of Wain and also the suffering and the loss. Cumberbatch’s performance is transportive. Likewise Claire Foy is also excellent here and her and Cumberbatch have really strong chemistry that really helps to propel the early parts of the film.

My main negative of the film was that it was incredibly depressing and hard to watch at times. Yes, I know this film was based on Wain’s real life and there is nothing you can do to change that or how it was. It being sad and depressing is true to life. However, it is in that where for me at least the film became hard to watch. The trailers which made the film look feel good were almost certainly misleading, this film is upsetting.

Overall, a quirky film with oodles of personality but one that some might find too sad to watch.

Pros.

Foy

Cumberbatch

The personality and charm of the film

Cons.

It is very sad

Pacing issues

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House Of Gucci: Can The Kids Look Up From Their Phones To Watch This, Honestly Probably Not

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The infighting within the Gucci family

I will preface this review by saying I am exactly the sort of person that Ridley Scott doesn’t like, one of those kids today that will happily watch a film on their phone, however I showed up to both of his film’s this year and I have to say honestly The Last Duel was better.

I think the biggest thing that didn’t work for me here were the performances. Far from being worthy of award both the leads were fairly awful. Lady Gaga’s character was supposed to be likeable and then get progressively worse over the course of the film in terms of morals, at least that’s what I got from the trailers, but that wasn’t the case she started out deeply unlikeable and clearly badly intended from the beginning and only got worse, her character was deeply one note. Worse yet, Adam Driver plays two completely different characters here, yet you would never know. The first half of the film his character seems nice and fairly unassuming and then bang.. he just changes at the midpoint to be cruel and mean and entirely unlike how we have seen him so far, why? Because the story needs him to, it reeks of bad character work.

Jared Leto isn’t as bad as you might have heard, but that is not to say he is good either.

The only reason this film didn’t get lower is because it has a strong soundtrack of memorable hits and good performances from Al Pacino and Jeremey Irons, those three things are enough to keep the film watchable if nothing else.

Overall, a disappointment also there was no need for this to be on for well over two hours it was in no way an epic.

Pros.

Irons and Pacino

The soundtrack

Cons.

Gaga

Driver

The runtime is oppressive

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The Power Of The Dog: What Did That Horse Do To Him?

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Phil Burbank, played by Benedict Cumberbatch berates those around him for a few hours in a period setting.

To me this film embodied everything wrong with arthouse cinema. It is pretentious, it thinks it is deeper than it actually is, and none of it really leads anywhere it just a series of scenes spaced out with rants from Cumberbatch.

Honestly I found this film hard to watch as it was so slowly paced that it almost put me to sleep. Really the only interesting part of this film was seeing must how unlikeable Cumberbatch’s Phil could become and seeing how sinister he could get.

Moreover, if you like animals this may not be the film for you as there are a number of scenes where Phil is cruel to animals, and it can be distressing and hard to watch. I understand why the filmmakers choose to include these scenes, to show just how evil Phil is, but they can’t shake this overwhelming sense of needlessness.

Overall, Cumberbatch is good but the film as a whole is boring, hard to watch and far from what it thinks it is.

Pros.

Cumberbatch

It is interesting to watch Phil devolve

Cons.

It is overly pretentious

It is boring and far too long

Scenes of animal cruelty that feel needless  

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