Minamata: All You Need To Fight Injustice Is A Camera

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Johnny Depp stars as W. Eugene Smith a photo journalist who was pivotal in exposing the Japanese Minamata scandal.

There will be some out there put off by the fact that this film stars Johnny Depp, to them I will say he has not been charged with anything, though he is already cancelled and the masses online will form a pitch fork wielding mob if he stars in anything. If he is formally charged with something then of course my opinion will change, but for now the situation is murky and people are quick to cast the stone and ride the high horse.

Personally, I thought Depp was surprisingly solid here, his last few performances had begun to suggest he was losing his way and was maybe even starting to phone it in, however he is on strong form here and delivers a stirring performance.

I thought the film as a whole was haunting and brought light to a scandal many of us may not be aware of. It handles the drama and the emotion well and you become so wrapped up in the goings on that you want to go out and fight the injustice as well. I thought Ryo Kase was the scene stealer of the film and had many powerful scenes.  

Overall, I think it is a shame that many will let their feelings towards Depp put them off watching this as it is a very powerful and needed film.

Pros.

Depp

The emotion

Kase

Cons.

Pacing issues

Bill Nighy seems miscast

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Calendar Girls: The Calendar That Titillated The World

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of older Yorkshire women pose nude for a calendar to raise money for cancer patients. Based on a true story.

I found this film to be enjoyable to watch and mostly feel good. Yes, there were one or two moments that were a little on the depressing side but for the most part it was a cheery celebration of life.

I thought all of the performances across the board were strong, Helen Mirren and Julie Walters are both compelling co-leads and both are relatable with their individual struggles and how they handle their fame. I thought it benefited the film to have the reflection on fame and what it can do to up end a life, it made the characters feel genuine and real.

My issues with the film would come as a result of a very played out narrative that feels been there done that. Obviously this film was pinned down as it was a true story so had to stick to that, but a lot of the emotional beats and revelations about life felt deeply generic and puddle deep. The film was also insanely predictable.

Overall, a sweet if overly familiar film.

Pros.

Mirren and Walters

It is very watchable

A few funny lines

Cons.

It is very predictable

It feels played out  

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The Souvenir: The World’s Most Depressing Film

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young woman, played by Honor Swinton Byrne, falls in love with an older man, played by Tom Burke, however there romance is a bad one and things quickly descend.

My, my if you are looking to become depressed then look no further than this film. It is one of the bleakest, grimmest films I have ever seen. Honestly by the time the credits began to role I felt depressed. I understand the film might be reflective of the real life horrors that inspired it, but that doesn’t mean audiences want to see it. I can not imagine anyone choosing to watch this film and then finishing it, if it weren’t for the purposes of this review I would not have.

I only put this film on because I enjoy Richard Ayoade, but he was barely in it. Truly he was the white whale of this film, I kept at it and kept at it hoping for more time with him but sadly we only got a brief hello.

The emotions of the film rung true and I suppose that is the only thing I can really compliment the film on. Everything felt very genuine and I didn’t doubt the sincerity of the script or those delivering it.

Overall, manically depressing.

Pros.

The emotional feels genuine

Richard Ayoade for the brief moments we get with him

Cons.

It is bleak

You will leave it feel depressed

Pacing issues

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The Eyes Of Tammy Faye: Preaching To The Converted

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

This film details the rise and fall of televangelist preachers Tammy Faye Baker, played by Jessica Chastain, and Jim Baker, played by Andrew Garfield. Based on true events.

For the most part this film is an interesting look into the world of televangelists, showing a behind closed doors look into their world of power, abuse and infighting. It also has a few strongly emotional scenes that do land well, and strike chords within you. However, that is not to say this film is great by any means, there certainly are issues with bias and pacing throughout.

 The performances are strong from the central duo, with Chastain giving one of the best performances of her career, and Garfield having some really strong moments of quiet intensity. Moreover, Vincent D’Onofrio steals scenes as Jerry Falwell and is incredibly menacing whenever he is on screen, he is well cast in the antagonist role to the Bakers.

Something I noticed whilst viewing it is this film is very favourable to Tammy Faye, so much so that I was expecting it to have been produced by some of her relatives. I find it hard to understand why the film is so content to go after everyone else involved in this greedy story yet leave her blameless. I think by making her into this blameless angel the film risks losing any kind of realism and instead becomes an effort in aggrandisement.

Moreover, the pace is quite off here. There is no real reason for this film to be on for over two hours, as it could be wrapped up nicely in a tight hour and a half, the only reason I can see for this bloated runtime is because the film likes to indulge itself. A good example of this is the botched ending that sees Tammy sing again for the first time in years, and we see how in her head there is a backing bad and a flag and various other elements, and the song just goes on and on. The film doesn’t know when to end.

Pros.

Chastain

Garfield

D’Onofrio

Cons.

The ending

The bias

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The Mule: Drugging Running Is A Job For All Ages

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The film follows an elderly man, Clint Eastwood, who begins to run drugs for the Sinaloa Cartel in an effort to make ends meet. It is based on a true story.

I thought this film was very mismatched tone wise, there were moments where the film felt serious and weighty, and others were it almost played the situation for laughs. I thought this dichotomy only served to weaken the film in the long term as it stunted any kind of real emotional pay off the film could have had.

Eastwood is good in the role and he still maintains the same level of charisma that he has always had. Though I must say seeing scenes, multiple, of him having sex or relations with much younger women is both awkward and a little uncomfortable, I don’t see why we need to see these scenes. It feels like Eastwood wanted to indulge.

Moreover, I would also say the film is on for entirely too long and as such the pacing really becomes an issue. The film feels far too drawn out with many of the scenes seeming like filler.

Overall, watchable but it struggles to hold your attention for the duration.

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6 Days: A Police Negotiator, The Most Thankless Job You Can Have

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

This is based on the true story of the 1980 London Iranian embassy siege. Where the SAS gather to storm and the negotiators try and avoid a bloodbath.

This was a surprisingly good thriller. Netflix based on a true story thriller films have a reputation for being terrible, but this was actually good.

The film managed to maintain a sense of tension consistently throughout, as the events keep you on the razors edge: not knowing what is going to happen. This is masterfully conducted by Mark Strong who plays police negotiator Max Vernon. Strong easily captures a wide variety of emotions and conveys them with a facial expression when best effecting the scene.

However, I find where this film trips itself up is with the rest of the cast. Jamie Bell and Abbie Cornish are both talented performers in there own rights, but unlike Strong they are given very little to do here, especially with Cornish, and it becomes a clear waste of talent as the film progresses.

Overall, surprisingly watchable and tense with a good performance from Strong. However, the usual Netflix problems, poor side characters with famous faces, drags this film down and makes it less than it could have been.

Pros.

Strong

The tension

The ending

Cons.

They waste the rest of the cast

It has pacing issues  

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Zola: The Twitter Film

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Based on the infamous twitter thread, Zola tells the story of a road trip gone wrong, highlighting how easy it is for people to end up in dangerous situations.

I had no expectations for this film going in, I didn’t really keep up with the thread when it was viral, though I was aware of the story itself.

I found the film to be on the better side of average but nothing to write home about.

On the positive side I thought the film managed to perfectly nail the tension and produced several scenes that were captivating as they feel so unexpected and threatening.  You could feel the danger these women would have been in, and honesty it is both terrifying and heart-breaking.

Moreover, Colman Domingo was magnificent as X, the pimp who runs the girls through the later stages of the story. Why the character works so well and why Domingo’s performance is so good is because it is unpredictable, one minute he is cool calm and collect and the next he is knocking someone through a wall, the character works as they are seemingly very spontaneous and that is reflected in the performance. Furthermore, the character represents the moral ambiguity of our tale as we don’t know who to trust or believe, none of these characters are morally good and each do good and bad things throughout the film complicating them further.

Switching gears, what didn’t work for me at all was the dialogue. I understand that the way the main two characters speak is based on the real life tweets, you even get the tweet sound here and there, but I would have preferred it if they could have written it as actual dialogue for the film rather than just inserting tweets. Not only is it hard to understand but it quickly becomes annoying and grating as you watch.

Overall, it has its moments, but the dialogue really brings it down.

Pros

Solid tension

An interesting premise

Domingo

Cons.

The dialogue

The performances from everyone other than Domingo

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Lansky: Even Mass Murdering Gangsters Have A Sensitive Side

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

In many ways this is a deeply average crime/biopic film. There is nothing about the rise to infamy story told here that you have not heard before. However, there is something of an emotional nuance here that really takes the film in an interesting direction. We see the character as not just a cold blooded gangster but also as a man who cared deeply for and ultimately was unable to help his disabled son. There is a duality here, the film allows us to see outside the black and white and see a more accurate grey in regard to the situation.

Sam Worthington has not been in something in a while, or at least that’s how it feels to me, the last time I remember seeing him on screen in a big way was Avatar. However, this is not the comeback film or performance fans of his would want. Worthington is entirely forgettable here, and just about anyone could have played his role. Harvey Keitel fares better as the titular Lansky, it is nice to see him on our screens again and he does manage to leave an impression with his performance: proving once again why he is such a big force in the genre even now.

Furthermore, the film has pacing issues but not the ones you would expect. Indeed, the issue with this film is that it feels rushed, there is a lot going on and then bang it’s the credits. It all just feels rather abrupt and skipped over, there are a lot of unanswered questions left behind and the whole thing feels sloppy pacing wise.

Overall, Keitel and some nuance manages to push this film into being a slightly above average gangster affair that fans of the genre will fine pleasing.

Pros.

The emotional nuance

Keitel

The ending and the emotion

Cons.

Worthington

It feels rushed

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Captain Phillips: A Continuation Of Tom Hank’s Love Affair With The Sea

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

There was no need for this film to be over two hours, none, it feels indulgent.

However, that is not the only issue, another thing that bothered me was how action man like the lead was. We are led to believe that this character was a calm, level headed, all American hero, but I for one find it hard to believe. There is something about this film that just doesn’t ring true to me, with it likely not being as historically accurate as it claims.

Hanks plays Hanks which is a good or bad thing depending on how you feel about him as an actor. The character is the virtuous hero and doesn’t get any more character development than that. I would have preferred it if we had also had more of Phillip’s family time spent away from the ship so we can get the measure of him as a human, rather than a national figurehead.

I thought the action scenes, if they can be called that maybe survival scenes would be better, were well shot and felt suitably tense. The end sequence when Phillips is separated from his crew and things don’t look good had me on the edge of my seat, sadly this was after an hour of lulling me to sleep; so it was less effective.

Overall, you have seen this before.

Pros.

The suspense

The ending

Cons.

The pacing is brutal

Phillips doesn’t feel like a person but rather a patriotic metaphor

It drags

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The Courier: Been Here Before

The Courier

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

I had heard good things about this film, prior to seeing it, and was looking forward to my chance to see it on VOD. However, when it arrived I was left perplexed, whilst it is by no means bad, it is in fact very serviceable for what it is in terms of setting and genre. Yet there is something of a formula to it, it is very predictable and samey and that raises wider questions about historical dramas as a whole- namely is the genre played out?

In historical drama films set during the Cold War the narrative tends to go one of two ways, either the character, with an assumed western perspective as most of these films focus on western characters, defects to the Soviet Union after growing disillusioned with their own government, or the character tries to break into/ commit some sort of mission behind Soviet lines and ends up getting captured- this film is the latter.

I understand that the film was based on real people and events so there is only so much they can do with it, but honestly we have seen this story before and as such know where it is going. Viewing the genre for what it is, I question if this film even needed to be made, yes the actual person this film is based on deserves to have their story told, but on the other hand this film has nothing new to say so what does it contribute to the medium?

Cumberbatch is as strong as ever and manages to anchor the film, quickly becoming the only reason to continue on. Jessie Buckley is strong too, but sadly she is only given a few thin scenes and is mostly wasted.

Overall, nothing you haven’t seen before.

Pros.

Cumberbatch

Buckley

Cons.

Wasting Buckley

The generic nature of the plot

It is ease to lose interest in

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