Ava: A Movie We Have All Seen About 5 Times Before

1.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Jessica Chastain plays yet another cold emotionless spy, but this time she is a girl boss. Oh we have seen this before from Chastain and just like her ill-fated venture with Simon Kinberg this too is a mess.

The clear feminist girl power vibes here couldn’t be any more striking it they reached through the screen and physically hit you in the face, there is nothing wrong with that but I do wish that this film and Chastain’s other feminist themed action films at least had something interesting and new to say.

Moreover, though no one can doubt that Chastain has action hero prowess, her performance here and in her other action roles feels just a little bit too try hardy and as though she is trying to prove something. We all know her credentials so she needs to have more of that laidback self-assured confidence that a lot of other action hero actors bring to their roles.

The plot is fairly uninspired, you have seen it before and the twists and turns are incredibly obvious from the outset. Chastain does a little to elevate the incredibly trite material but even then it can’t be saved, which is a shame as a lot of talented actors had their times wasted making this.

Overall, flawed and not really salvageable.

Pros.

Chastain is trying

A few well done action sequences

Cons.

Chastain is trying too hard

It has nothing new to say from a feminist/ gender studies perspective

It is bored and played out from the beginning

The pacing is awful

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The 355: Men Are Bad And Simon Kinberg Is A Hack

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of female spies must come together to get a McGuffin and beat up some men folk.

Until the final ten minutes this film is below average but passably watchable if you have nothing better to do, and then the lecture starts and the film drops down even further. When I say a lecture I am referring to Jessica Chastain’s Mace going on a long ambling  rant to the camera about how men use woman, but how times are changing and how they are going to fight back, a message that feels both overtly hostile to a large portion of the target audience for this film as well as one that feels far too late. However, this isn’t the only questionable thing this film does in regard to gender as it also has all of the villains in the film be men, and those that aren’t get killed off, once again a not so subtle message and one that won’t score this film any points at all.

If all that isn’t enough to make you dislike this film it then also sneaks in a bit of sucking up to the Chinese regime, in order to open in China of course. There is a scene in the film when this all powerful McGuffin needs to be handed over to someone who will keep it safe and out of nefarious hands, so Mace gives it to a Chinese agent…….. Really? Was this some sort of meta joke?…….. Really?

I also think Jessica Chastain is deeply miscast here. Unlike the rest of the ensemble who actually do a good job Chastain sticks out for all the wrong reasons. In many ways her character reads like how America sees itself around the world dominant and in charge, but to everyone else entitled, self-involved and driven more by their own ego than what they should find right and wrong. Chastain’s character was honestly charmless and is probably the thing that sinks this film.

The other minor issues with this film are that it is terribly paced and becomes boring somewhere around the end of act I, furthermore the plot about scary internet hacking devices screams of being written by someone who doesn’t understand the internet or know anything about it.

Overall, this film is trash and you should avoid it at all costs.

Pros.

Cruz, Nyong’o, Kruger

Cons.

Evil men/ forcing its agenda down your throats

Pandering to China

Chastain

The pacing/ fear of the internet   

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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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No Time To Die: The Ending Bond Deserves

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

-There are spoilers within so don’t read this until after the film.

Summary

James Bond has to come out of retirement to fight a new threat that is far closer to those he loves than he realises.

-HUGE SPOILERS

I can’t believe they did it. They actually did it. For months I have been reporting that this film would kill off Bond and for months people said I didn’t know what I was talking about. Looks like I was right. Yes, Bond is blown up whilst poisoned and severely wounded, there is no way he is shaking that off. I am impressed by the creatives for doing this, as it does bring the Bond franchise to a close but in a very meaningful and poignant way. I really do hope going forward the universe focuses on the other OOs rather than bringing back Bond from the dead; if they do that this becomes a much worse film.

I have never been a huge Bond fan, this and Skyfall were the only two of Craig’s tenure that I thought were good. I thought the emotional maturity of this film was a refreshing touch, Bond is flawed, he makes mistakes, he looks to others for approval, rather than just walking into the room and having everyone thinking he is great and then throwing themselves at him. In that regard I thought the humour in this film really landed for me, there were a number of good jokes that made me chuckle over the course of the film’s runtime and I appreciated that.

My criticism of the film would be that it is very long, and as a result has pacing issues. There is a lot to get through with this film and a lot of it is very dark and that creates a heaviness which makes the film hard to get through. I would say more comedy might have helped in this regard, or obviously shortening the length.

Overall, a good swan song for an aging franchise, please don’t bring Bond back.

Pros.

The humour

The ending

The emotional maturity

Craig

Cons.

Pacing issues galore

Rami Malek’s villain needed more development  

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Spectre: Bond Defeats His Targets By Putting Them To Sleep

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Bond, Daniel Craig, is back to uncover and defeat a conspiracy close to home and one that links all the Craig era bad guys.

So I will open this by saying I am not a big Bond fan, I have seen a fair few of them and they have their moments, but to me they were never as good as the Bourne films.

This film was painful to get through, whoever edited it should be fired. An opening that drags on and on before anything even remotely interesting happens, followed by a story that meanders at nearly every turn seems almost like it is going out of its way to bore audiences. Self-indulgent would be the word I would use for it.

Moreover, it is painfully clear to see that Craig does not want to be there. He has the dead-eyed stare of a man who deeply regrets signing a contract but must now follow through. When you compare how he is in this film to the other Craig era bond films, or any of his other performances he just seems so turned off, so disengaged which almost becomes infectious as the film progresses.

The mystery is painfully dull and seems to add more complexions to itself simply to pad out the runtime. The villains are generic and are nothing we haven’t seen time and again before in previous films. The only character that actually got my attention was Dave Bautista’s Mr Hinx, he was an interesting character that could have been an intimidating villain for Bond, but no they killed him off.  

Overall, this is why the series needs to retire.

Pros.

It is watchable

A few neat visuals

Cons.

It badly paced

The mystery is awful

No one bar Bautista looks like they want to be there

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Captain America The Winter Soldier: If A Government Agency Wants The Ability To Kill Anyone Anywhere Generally They Are Evil.

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Captain America, Chris Evans, is forced to question what and who he is fighting for, when Shield, the government agency he has been fighting for turns out to be overrun with nefarious forces hellbent on world domination.

Until Antman and the Wasp came out this was my favourite MCU film. I watched it several times when it first came out, but this is my first time rewatching it since. Whilst I still think this is one of the best films in the MCU, I can see that there are issues with it that I didn’t see the first time around namely the pacing.

I enjoyed the deeply personal feel of the film, and the great character work between Cap and those around him. I think the character interactions are at their strongest with Cap and Scarlett Johannsson’s Black Widow, with this really being the film for me where she really came into the character and established a firm presence within the MCU. Moreover, I like the set up and building friendship between Cap and Sam Wilson, Anthony Mackie. Evans and Mackie have strong chemistry together and this makes for a number of strong humorous scenes.

I thought the Hydra twist worked really well and is an excellent choice to reset the MCU status quo. Moreover, the return of Bucky, Sebastian Stan, now as a villain is a stroke of genius as it furthers the emotional and moral burden on Caps shoulders. Even when first watching I knew the film was going to bring back Bucky as I was familiar with the character from the comics, however for those who are not familiar with the source material this would have been quite a surprising reveal I am sure.

Chris Evans performance as Cap is even better than it was in the first film, and that is saying something. He plays the do-gooder who no longer knows how to do good so well, and I enjoy the morality of the character and his decisions this time around. I think Evan’s performance emotes this split in the character, and he does a lot without saying very much at all. Certainly one of the best performances in the MCU.

Overall, a strong MCU film that has a few slow scenes but on the whole manages to be one of the best films in the MCU.

Pros.

Evans

Johansson

The twist

The Winter Soldier

Cons.

The pacing is off    

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: A Circus In Pandemonium

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

There is a mole somewhere in British intelligence and a veteran intelligence officer is brought out of retirement to find out who it is.

This film is basically a who’s who of older British leading men they are all there and are all excellent. I thought it was nice to see Colin Firth and Mark Strong share the screen together, several years before they would do so superbly in the first Kingsman film, they have great chemistry. I think Gary Oldman ends up stealing the show with this performance, though it is a very close race as there is a lot of talent on display here.

I found the mystery to be engaging and surprisingly well structured, it kept me guessing right up until the end, I did not figure it out. I thought the reveal we got was satisfying in the end, though I thought the tease we got throughout the film of who could it be, With each agent looking guilty at different times was equally as enjoyable.

I found the film to be paced well for the most part with the mystery being enough to keep me engaged throughout, with the reveals and revelations being spread out enough for each section of the film to feel like it matters. The one thing I would say is that there are a few dialogue scenes in the midsection of the film that do run a bit long in terms of keeping you, or at least me, interested, they could have done with being shortened.

Overall, a strong British spy mystery film.

Pros.

The acting

The mystery

The pacing

Oldman steals the show

Cons.

A few slow dialogue scenes

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SAS Red Notice: Ruby Rose Finally Gives A Good Performance

Written by Luke Barnes

SAS: Red Notice is a British action thriller film directed by Magnus Martens, based on the book of the same name by Andy McNab. The plot sees the British government turn on a family of mercenaries in their employ when one of the many atrocities committed runs the risk of being traced back to senior figures. A cat and mouse game ensues.

This seems to be a week of humility for me, first I was wrong about the Snydercut and now I am wrong about Ruby Rose- well partially. So, as some of you may know I have strong doubts about Rose as an actor, in that she can’t act or emote with her face. However, the one thing she can do is be a convincing action star and this film proves that. She commands the screen as the unhinged psychopathic villain intent on making the world pay and manages to sell herself as an action presence.

However, Rose is easily out acted by veteran performers such as Noel Clarke and Andy Serkis. By and large the acting in this film is good. The lead performance from Sam Heughan is a little weak, but maybe that was on purpose as the film reveals his character to also be a psychopath and to struggle with emotions.

The film does focus a lot of its time and energy especially in the third act on psychopaths and how they differ from everyone else, and whilst I think it is a fascinating aside that I would love to see more explored elsewhere, it does steal focus away from the film and derail it a little bit.

Though for the most part I enjoyed this film my main issue with it would be that it reduced Hannah John- Karmen, a very gifted actor (who has appeared in Netflix’s The Stranger, as well as playing Ghost in Antman And The Wasp), down to basically a damsel in distress/ girlfriend character, which feels incredibly reductive.

Overall, a strong action film with a few interesting asides, sadly these asides derail the plot and from that position the poor performances are even more visible.

Pros.

Rose as an action star and not as an actor

Some good action/ thrills

Clarke and Serkis

The ending

Cons.

Derailment

Poor acting from some of the cast

4/5

Six Minutes To Midnight: Peak Britishness

Six Minutes To Midnight is a British spy thriller film directed by Andy Goddard. The plot sees Thomas Miller (Eddie Izzard), a British spy sent to infiltrate a boarding school for the daughter of the Nazi high command operating on British soil mere weeks before the onset of WW2.

There is something so British about a period piece, set around the war, and featuring Judy Dench; it is almost like a Britishness trifactor.

When I first saw the trailer for this film, I thought it was going to be a very tense spy film. However, when I watched it my expectations were met, though they were also a little underwhelmed at the same time. Yes, there is some spy thriller elements, but the film could do with losing a few of the slower sequences in favour of more sustained prolonged tension. Like honestly, I don’t care that one of the girls clearly feels left out from the rest, this is not a coming of age film, I want spy thrills.

Izzard handles most of the dramatic heavy lifting and manages to have quite a few strong character moments. I would dare say she is the strongest performer in this film, yes even out performing Dench and veteran actor Jim Broadbent. However, that might not be that hard as neither is given much to do, and Dench is just playing the same character she always plays, a sassy old woman.

The villainous reveal in this film also receives a portion of my ire, it is so painfully obvious. I won’t spoil it for you, but from the opening few minutes you will be able to guess it.

Overall, Izzard is trying to keep this film together and just about manages thanks to some strong tension and character moments. However, the film could do with being trimmed down and with having Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent being given far more to work with.

Pros.

Izzard

Some strong tense sequences

The ending

Cons.

Wastes a large amount of the cast

The identity of the villain is painfully obvious

3/5

Reviewed by Luke

Johnny English Strikes Again: Emma Thompson Is The Prime Minster We Never Knew We Needed

Johnny English Strikes Again is a British spy comedy film directed by David Kerr. The plot sees English (Rowan Atkinson), come out of retirement to save the world when all of M17’s current operatives become known to the public therefore rendering them inefficient as spies.

I will give this film some props for feeling more like a continuation of the first film rather than a retread of it, like the second film. I thought bringing back Bough (Ben Miller), was an inspired move as the two have great chemistry together.

The comedy here has the added dimension of having Johnny be at odds with the modern world and not understanding technology, which is funny briefly for the first ten minutes or so. However, once again I don’t find the rather obvious slapstick comedy funny and I find that it pushes the film to be more and more like Mr Bean.

I find the idea of an evil tech CEO as the baddie a touch predictable at this point, it has been done to death and this does nothing new with it. We need to move away from these sort of cliches.

I enjoyed seeing Emma Thompson as the Prime Minster and whenever she was on screen I found myself laughing and enjoying the film that bit more. She is definitely the highlight of the film.

Overall, a step forward after Reborn, but even still it is far too repetitive and clichéd, also the slapstick humour is getting actively worse film on film.

Pros.

Bringing back Bough

Emma Thompson

Johnny Vs. Tech is mildly funny

Cons.

The evil tech CEO is cliché

The slapstick is overused

It doesn’t justify its existence

3/5

Reviewed by Luke