Bruised: Berry’s Career Receives A Knockout Blow

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

In her first directorial role Halle Berry has to give herself the lead role of a disgraced UFC fighter trying to get back in the game, as no one else is offering her roles. It is funny how life mirrors art, though I suppose Berry isn’t disgraced simply forgotten.

If this is how Berry wants to get back into cinema stardom then she has gone the wrong way about it, casting herself feels cheap and more than a little narcissistic, this wouldn’t be so bad if she was able to provide the film with a good performance, sadly that is not forthcoming.

As I have said in many other reviews the actor turned director often doesn’t have a lot of luck making good films that are well received by both audiences and critics, this provides us with another example. Berry certainly throws everything she has at this film, but it isn’t nearly enough. The pace of over two hours is simply grotesque and the story of a broken former star trying to regain past glories is about as played out as they come. If the film had better material to work with then perhaps it wouldn’t be as bad as it is.

As it stands this is just another bad and soon to be forgotten Netflix movie, though it does leave us with a lesson that not every actor has what it takes to excel behind the camera.

Overall, incredibly familiar, overly long and frankly an effort in egotism.

Pros.

It has a good soundtrack

The supporting cast are trying

Cons.

Berry

It is too familiar

It is too long

It is incredibly generic    

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Kicking And Screaming: Fathers And Sons Comparing Balls

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Phil Weston, played by Will Ferrell, has daddy issues and tries to exorcise those demons by beating his dad, played by Robert Duvall, at coaching children’s football.

I think within Ferrell’s catalogue of work this is one of his better outings. For the most part he plays the character straight, he is not loud, or overtly weird, and that gives the character far more of an earnest relatability then we often get from Ferrell’s other roles. He plays the everyman well here and we recognise and understand his motivations for wanting to beat his dad.

I would say this film made me laugh a few times, but it also has its fair shares of misses, it is not the funniest film in the world and there are other Ferrell films that succeed more in this regard; however I think this might be the Ferrell film with the biggest heart. There is a nice emotional core at the centre of this film and it is often on show, there are a number of scenes that are quite sweet and maybe even moving and Ferrell executes them well.

Overall, a sweet Ferrell film that highlights the need for reserve within performing, less is more Mr Ferrell.

Pros.

The sweetness

The emotion

Ferrell

Cons.

A fair number of its jokes don’t land

Some pacing issues  

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The Mighty Ducks: Fighting For The Underdog

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Bigtime lawyer Gordon Bombay, played by Emilio Esteves, becomes the coach of a local hockey team as part of his community service.

Honestly this is another ‘classic’ film that didn’t do much of anything for me. I don’t know if it is because I am not really into the sport or what, but this film left me cold.

To me the biggest issue with this film was that Bombay doesn’t really change he starts off the film as a cold, arrogant, meanie and he ends it the same way. Yes, now he has started caring about the kids to a degree but in terms of his personality he remains much the same, this then means that the happy ending comes off hollow.

Moreover, the drama of the film felt all too predictable. That is not to say you don’t end up rooting for the kids and become attached to them as you do, however you know everything that is going to happen and when it is going to happen so there aren’t really any stakes. To me, this just felt like a very generic sports film, the kind we have all seen too many times before.

Overall, a classic to some but decidedly average to me.

Pros.

You do end up caring about the kids

The ending is sweet even if the character work makes it feel hollow

Cons.

Bombay does not change

It is generic

It is predictable

It has pacing issues   

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Nacho Libre: The Greatest Wrestler Of Them All

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A Friar, Jack Black, dreams of becoming a luchador.

Before this viewing I had never seen this film all the way through before. Upon finishing it for the first time I found it to be enjoyable if not overly impressive.

Black is always very likeable and that is true here, his character of Ignacio is very easy to root for and you do develop a bond with him over the course of the film. Additionally he also gets several funny lines, I would say he was the only character in the film that made me laugh. Not all of the jokes landed, especially with the side characters, but enough of them did that it kept me engaged; Black has fantastic comedic delivery.

I enjoyed the look into the world of Mexican wrestling and luchador culture and think that more films should focus on it. Admittedly, I think the story would have been better served by having a Mexican actor in the lead rather than Jack Black as there was an element of white saviour to the film that I really didn’t like.

Overall, though the casting is troublesome I found this film to be enjoyable and even funny at times, not perfect but entertaining.

Pros.

Black

The comedy

The look into luchador culture

Cons.

The white saviour aspects

Not all the jokes land

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The Bronze: Does Anyone Really Care About Third Place?

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Hope Ann Gregory, Melissa Rauch, is a former Olympic bronze medallist who now spends her days in an American small town with her adoring public. However, after her life reaches a breaking point she ends up coaching the next generation of Olympic talent, much to her annoyance.

Usually I enjoy films under the Duplass Brothers Productions banner, but this was a rare misfire for me.

My problems with this film begin and end with the central character. There is nothing likeable about Hope, though in the beginning that is kind of the point even by the end of the film when the character journey is supposedly complete she is still a trash person and that makes her very hard to root for as a character. She does have a few funny lines, but it really doesn’t make up for how nasty the character is considering we are supposed to like her.

Moreover, the comedy of the film didn’t really work for me either. As I said Rauch has a few funny lines that work, but widely most of the jokes aren’t good and end up falling flat. A few are particularly bad eye rollers.

The ending also didn’t work for me. This is mainly due to the fact that it did not feel earned, the character does not feel like she has gotten to a place where she would do what she does in the end, frankly I find it unbelievable and that proves poor writing.

Overall, a weak comedy film.

Pros.

It is watchable

Rauch has a few funny lines

Cons.

Most of the jokes don’t land

Hope is a deeply unlikeable lead

The ending   

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Heels: Kayfabe

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Two wrestler brothers spar over the future of their father’s wrestling promotion.

I will open this review by saying when it comes to wrestling I am pretty clueless, I have watched parts of odd matches here and there but when it comes to understanding and appreciating the finer parts of the art and the craftsmanship I am not the one to call.

This was far more family drama driven then I was expecting, sure the premise of the show does imply that their will be some drama, but this show is packing Nashville levels of drama, which is to say a lot.

I thought in this first episode both Stephen Amell and Alexander Ludwig did a good job. Both were able to appear as the hero and as the villain at different points in the episode’s narrative, and you never quite decide which of the two brothers you want to root for. I thought the supporting cast was decidedly weaker, but it is only the first episode so maybe they will get better flushed out in the coming weeks.

I found the episode to be quite depressing especially the ending, I understand the moment is supposed to be a low point for the character and be dramatic, but it ended up really bumming me out for the rest of the afternoon.

Moreover, I struggled with the episode’s runtime and pacing, both need a lot of work in the coming weeks to make the series more digestible. Clocking in at just over an hour, this episode feels twice that, and I understand they have to get everything set up in the pilot episode but even still they should have paced it better.

Overall, I am interested in the Brothers’ struggles but I am not yet invested.

Pros.

Ludwig

Amell

The drama

Cons.

It is depressing

It is too long and poorly paced

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Space Jam 2: Blatant Product Placement Strangely Works Here

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

I will admit I went into this with very, very low expectation. However, the film completely took me by surprise and I actually ended up really enjoying it. Yes, the film is a blatant excuse by the higher ups at WB to constantly advertise all their various properties, and yes it is excessive with the product placement, but in a strange way it all works well.

I think the reason this film works so well is because of how self-aware it is, it knows what it is, it knows what it is doing, and it makes a joke out of it. Honestly, this film is quite funny in a lot of places and it often has you laughing or at least smiling. Yes, there are a few cringey lines here and there, but they aren’t bad cringe and some of these lines prove to be amongst the funniest.

Lebron James is by no means a natural actor, but he is very watchable, and I would say he does a better job than Michael Jordan in the first film. I believed his bond with his son and in that respect I found the ending of the film to be surprisingly touching. Additionally, James has strong chemistry with the Tunes and him and Bugs are a good pairing. I would like this film to get a sequel so we can get more of them together.

In terms of being a Looney Tunes property this modernised the characters well and gave them a compelling motivation to help James and in doing so return to the court. The one comment I would make in this regard is that this is very much a Bugs Bunny film, and though the other well known characters appear he gets pretty much all of the screen time. Bugs ending runs the gambit between heart breaking and cheer-worthy, and you feel every minute of it.

Overall, the strongly negative response this film has brought out from a lot of people seems to be out of a sense of nostalgia, they are comparing this to the first film that they make have childhood connections with and viewing it like that this film never could have lived up. However, I think not only is this a good film, but I would say it is even better than the first.

Pros.

James

The Tunes characters

The emotions

The jokes

Cons.

It is a little blatant with the product placement

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Dream Horse: A Questionable Welsh Accent

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Many have taken issue with Toni Collette’s Welsh accent in this film, but after hearing it, it’s not as bad as I was expecting though I can’t really speak to the matter as I am not Welsh but have lived in the area in the past.

This followed a similar film to a lot of other feel good animal films, it certainly wins no points for originality, they raise the horse, it brings the community together, it proves to be a winner, oh no the horse is injured, its okay in the end: beat for beat you can see where it is going.

The film for the most part is functional as a feel good film, that is to say it made me feel good, however, I would say it has pacing problems that make it less pleasing and more irritating as it belabours the point in a few sections.

Overall, this film is very much what is says on the tin, your early guesses for what the film will be like based on the trailers and other promo materials will be pretty much right- this film is not surprising. However, the question is does it need to be? As though predictable there is also something comforting about this film.

Pros.

It is feel good

It is nice to see some Welsh representation within wider British Cinema, even if most of the actors cast are not actually Welsh

You become attached to the horse

Cons.

It is bloated

It is deeply obvious and predictable

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Boogie: Shooting Hoops And Quoting Classic Literature

Written by Luke Barnes

Boogie is a drama film directed by Eddie Huang. The plot centres around the titular Boogie (Taylor Takahashi), a young man with only one dream, to become a professional basketball player. We see Boogie, deal with life, family and growing up all whilst trying to improve his game and stay in control of his life.

I am fairly mixed on this one, on the one hand I thought that its quieter moments of character drama were excellent, especially when the film was focusing on Boogie’s parents relationship or how each try and control who he is. However, I thought the premise and the wider execution of the film let it down as it ended up becoming just another generic sports film.

Both Huang and Takahashi intrigued me, I think both have a lot of potential which is shown within this film and I am excited to see where both go next. Takahashi especially, managed the emotional weight of the film well, whilst still feeling relatable and human.

Overall, if you are prepared to dig beneath the generic sports movie premise there is some solid drama and character work to be moved by here.

Pros.

The character drama

Takahashi

The ending

Cons.

It is very generic

It is predictable

2.5/5

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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