I Wanna Dance With Somebody: Hollow And Soulless

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A musical biopic of the life of Whitney Huston, played by Naomi Ackie.

There isn’t much wrong with this film but nor is there anything right with it, once you put the fantastic body of work of Huston to the side there really is nothing left underneath. In many ways this film milks the songs of Huston as much as they can because they are aware that without them they have an incredibly boring biopic that feels just the same as all the other recent musical biopics. Everything happens as if on a checklist and obvious this film tries to stick to real events, I would assume, but it is the same narrative we have seen time and again, the rise to fame followed by the drugs phase leading into a downfall and then attempted comeback ending on an optimistic note. It is just so play by numbers.

Ackie was fine as Huston, her performance wasn’t anything particularly special and I do feel like many other actors could have played the role with more vigour and have fallen into the person more, at no points whilst watching did I think  she was Huston just someone playing here and sometimes not particularly well.

My final gripe with the film which I promise will be quick as it is my usual is, why the hell is this film on for over two hours? I know why because they stretch out the musical numbers for every drop they can get out of them, but I guess my real question is when did it become the norm for films to be on for this long? It feels like everything that comes out these days is passing the two hour mark whether deserved or not and that is becoming a real problem for me.

Overall, a deeply forgettable biopic.

2/5

Pros.

The Songs

It is watchable

Cons.

It is incredibly familiar

The acting is so so

It is on for far too long

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Dahmer-Monster, The Jeffery Dahmer Story: Netflix Should Be Ashamed And The Victims Families Should Sue

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A dramatic retelling of the life and crimes of Jeffery Dahmer, played by Evan Peters.

I think this series would have been a lot better if Ryan Murphy hadn’t been involved in it. Murphy brings his trademark soft core porn feel to this series and we have a lot of scenes of Jeff touching himself or of him and his victims, sometimes during  and sometimes after death. To say this show fetishizes the crimes committed by Dahmer for cheap thrills would be an understatement. There was no need for half of the intimate scenes we got, in the context of the show and considering as well that Dahmer’s victims families are in some cases still alive it felt to be the height of bad taste.

I think Evan Peters fit well in the role, he brought the right level of detachment and coldness to it. However, in many other ways his performance was quite limited and felt very reminiscent of Peters’ performances elsewhere. I think very much like Jack Black, Dwayne Johnson and Michael Cain Peters is a one note actor.

Overall, a good and at times very compelling series, however, after watching it you will feel like you need a shower and be angry at Netflix for sexualising a series of brutal murders.

Pros.

It is compelling

Peters

It is watchable

Cons.

It fetishizes events

Peters hits his limits

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The Greatest Beer Run Ever: Friends Are Worth Risking It All For

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The true story of John ‘Chickie’ Donohue’s, here played by Zac Efron, efforts to support his friends fighting in Vietnam.

This film really wasn’t what I was expecting it to be, I thought based on the name and comedy work that Efron has put out that this film would be raunchy, dumb and more than a little gross out, but in actual fact it is actually quite emotionally engaging and complex. Whilst it is hard to call this film a comedy as it isn’t funny, it is a film with a surprisingly big heart.

I thought Efron was on great form here, this film gave him a number of ample opportunities to flex his dramatic muscles and he pulls this off nicely, conveying the horrors going on around him and the anguish he feels for all to see. In that vein I think this film really does show us the undercurrent of the Vietnam war and doesn’t hold back in its brutality.

Russell Crowe and Bill Murray make supporting turns here to varying degrees of success. Crowe is a very welcome presence and plays off of Efron well when on screen together whereas Murray is seemingly pigeonholed into the old timer who thinks things should go back to how they were in his day. Though it is always nice to see Murray pop up on screen, here he is very much not utilised.

Overall, a surprisingly sweet film.

Pros.

Efron

The message

Showing the horrors of the war

Crowe

Cons.

It wastes Bill Murray  

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Jerry And Marge Go Large: Bryan Cranston Is The Ultimate Dad

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

After retiring from this job Jerry Selbee, played by Bryan Cranston, and his wife Marge, played by Annette Bening, decide to take advantage of a mathematical flaw in their local lottery and win money to help the town to stay afloat.

This film is deeply forgettable. Clearly this film wants to be the feel good film to cheer us all up in these dark times, and that is admirable, however really it is just incredibly generic. I think the acting weight of Cranston and Bening really do help to pull it up, without them giving deeply earnest performances I would have scored this film lower, much lower.

I understand it is based on a true story so there is only so much they can do with creative license, but this film feels like about a hundred other all American films, where the nice humble small town Americans get rewarded. In many ways without even watching this film you can accurately predict where the plot is going and how things will end up.

Moreover, I have looked into the true story this film is based on and can’t see any mention to the entitled college kids who become the villains to these simple down to earth folks. The whole narrative is so cliched and laughably bad, I don’t know why the film needed to include it in the first place.

Overall, fine. Cranston and Bening do a hell of a lot of good work, without them this film would just be forgettable schlock.

Pros.

Bening

Cranston

It is watchable

Cons.

The evil college kids

It is incredibly cliched and generic   

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The Silverton Siege: What The Mummy Gets Up To On His Off Days

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Loosely based on real world events, this film sees 3 young South African self-described freedom fighters hold a bank hostage whilst demanding the release of Nelson Mandela.

I thought for the most part this film was quite strong. It had good stakes and never let the tension slow down, by not having any respites or lulls in side stories or God forbid comedic relief this film allowed itself to be constantly engaging and intriguing.

Moreover, I thought the performances across the board were strong, I would not say there was a single weak performer. Thabo Rametsi was a compelling lead who really sold the struggle and inner turmoil of the character he was playing. Arnold Vosloo was also magnificent in his role and really brought something to the film.

I thought the social commentary of the film worked for the most part, however, in some areas it was laid on pretty heavily and as such felt a little clumsy. It certainly raised awareness and made me think a lot more about that time and place in world history, but I do think the writing could have been a bit stronger in this regard.

Overall, an above average Netflix film but certainly not something that will set the world on fire.

Pros.

Rametsi

Vosloo

The tension

Cons.

The social commentary is a bit too in your face and obvious

Pacing issues

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The Phantom Of The Open: Aim For The Bunker, Then Hit The Green.

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The true story of the worst golfer of all-time.

This was an unexpected treat, made doubly so by the fact that this film was directed by Craig Roberts one of the most underrated talents working today, until watching this I was not even aware that Roberts had moved into directing but I can now say it suits him.

This film was the perfect balance of trippy abstractness and British working class values, never fully leaning to one or the other and though that might sound strange or even paradoxical it works well. Moreover, the film is incredibly uplifting and feel good which after the couple of years we have all just had gives it an extra point from me, there were multiple times whilst viewing that I had a smile on my face.

Mark Rylance is outstanding in the lead and really sells both the character and his journey, as such I think it would be nigh on impossible to watch this film and not be rooting for Flitcroft as he is incredibly affable.

Overall, one of the best films of the year so far, certainly check it out.  

Pros.

The abstract scenes

Rylance

The feel good aspects

The ending

Cons.

A few slight structural issues

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The Duke: Down With The TV License

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A working class man, played by Jim Broadbent, steals a priceless work of art to blackmail the British government into doing more for senior citizens.

I enjoyed a lot about this film, I thought that it was inspiring, a nice look into a forgotten time period of British history, and also boasted a great message as well. Furthermore, this film really highlighted Broadbent’s acting abilities and becomes a fine showcase for him, he manages to cover the whole range from affable to anger and fully sinks into the character.

However, there was something about it that left me cold, which is hard to put my finger on.

My main issues with the film were the awful pacing which made it stretch on for far longer than it needed to, even brushing up to becoming boring at times, and the inclusion of the Anna Maxwell Martin character: who seemed to exist solely to make the statement that not all posh people are bad. Martin’s character is basically reduced to a cliché, and her appearance during the trial scene was cringey as hell and made the scene itself hard to watch.

Overall, a perfectly fine film but one that is also easily forgotten.

Pros.

The message

Broadbent

It shines a light on a lesser known event in British history

Cons.

The pacing

Martin

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Ted K: Sharlto Copley Does It Again

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The plot details the life of the Unabomber, here played by Sharlto Copley, shortly before his capture.

I was quite mixed on this film. On the one hand Copley is magnetic, as he nearly always is, and does a remarkable turn as Kaczynski falling entirely into the character. However, on the other hand the film spends far too long trying to develop out art house elements and surreal sequences that neither fit the format of the film nor add anything to it.

These art house elements also end up slowing the film down a lot and lead to it having pacing issues. There are vast parts of this film where everything moves along nicely and you are engaged and then it hits you with an abstract trippy scene which takes you out of the film and slows it down a lot.

I enjoyed the ending of the film and thought that it felt suitably big and impactful and the final shot showing the prison that Kaczynski resides in achieved the chilling effect it was going for.

Overall, a good true crime biopic however it could have been better.

Pros.

Copley

The tension

The ending

Cons.

The art house elements

Pacing issues.

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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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Pam And Tommy: Drilling And Pounding

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

An opening episode with all the depth and nuance of a puddle of sick, which often revels in its crass vulgarities thinking that simply by being shocking the series can be entertaining.

Honestly, I can’t understand why this show is getting good reviews? I am bemused by it. Within the first episode I found nearly all the characters to be so loathsome and unpleasant that I had trouble finishing it. If Tommy Lee, here played by Sebastian Stan, did indeed behave like that in real life he should be in prison, and if not he should sue this show for defamation.

Moreover, I am no prude, but this episode was needly vulgar every step of the way, I don’t know why it needed to be. Did the show think this would make it funny? Is it trying to make some kind of comment on the lifestyles of the rich and famous? Is it supposed to be shocking? I don’t know the answers to these questions dear reader, but I do know that after the hundredth ‘oh yeah do you like that’, that it becomes cringe and feels like it is trying too hard.

Also I have not seen the whole series yet so I can’t comment fully, but it seems to me that in the little we see of Lily James’ Pamela Anderson here, she is being sexualised. Which maybe they will do more with her over the course of the series and they will give her some nuance, but I doubt it. Objectification very clearly on display.

I also think it is worth noting that the real life Anderson, did not want this show to be made. So it is a show about a deeply intimate and embarrassing moment of her life being made without her consent. Ponder that.

Overall, I don’t think I’ll be returning for episode two.

Pros.

At least they didn’t have alleged sexual predator James Franco staring in it like they were going to

Cons.

Everyone in it is deeply unlikeable

It is trying to hard to be gross out and adult

It is vulgar

Lily James’s Anderson is being objectified

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