Weird The Al Yankovic Story: Never Stop Chasing Your Accordion

3.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A film detailing the supposed life of Weird Al Yankovic, which is also a stand up of modern Hollywood biopics.

This was one of my most anticipated films of the year, and now that I have seen it I feel somewhat disappointed. Don’t get me wrong the film is still a lot of fun and there are a number of good jokes that come about as a result of the parody, but there are also a number of problems with the film that stop it from ever being truly great.

The chief issue for me is the fact that because the film is trying to cram in so many different references and call backs to other famous biopics, and different types of biopic at that, that often the comedy of the film can range far too broadly and not land, I think the comedy is far more miss than hit. Another thing that bothered me about this film is that it leaves a lot of the best of Weird Al’s work out, maybe I have been spoilt by other musical biopics that hit you with maybe one too many songs, but here I found it was far too few.

The film is redeemed in a lot of ways by its performances, Daniel Radcliffe once again proves that he has fantastic comedy chops, Evan Rachel Wood is a scene stealer as Madonna and deserves her own spin off film and finally Toby Huss is great as Al’s disapproving dad.

Overall, fun but not as strong as it could have been.

Pros.

Wood

It’s a lot of fun

Radcliffe and Huss

The ending

Cons.

It barely features any of Weird Al’s songs

The comedy is more miss than hit

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Elvis: Tom Hank’s Worst Performance

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

An Elvis biopic featuring a career worst performance from Tom Hanks.

Who thought Tom Hanks character here was a good idea? Whoever that person is should be fired, being subjected to Hanks’ performance here is nothing short of cruel and unusual. From the horrible over the top accent, that moves around constantly, to the awful facial prosthetics that become hilariously distracting at times, Hanks is destined for a Razzie nomination for this one.

Moreover, though I enjoy Baz Luhrmann’s style to a degree it is too much here. With the awful pacing and frequent needless asides this reeks to me of a director who was given carte blanche over proceedings and decided to fully embrace their style to the detriment of the film more widely, sometimes it is good to reign in a director. Truly, I think the most egregious thing about this film is its runtime, which is frankly absurdly long.

On a more positive note, this film does include all of the classic Elvis numbers that many of you will be coming to this film to hear, and in that respect you will be happy for the film’s obscene runtime as it gives you a chance to hear more of them and even to hear some totally needless remixes of them as well.

In addition Austin Butler gives one hell of a performance and manages to salvage this film from being a total dumpster fire fueled on by an unchecked director. Butler really becomes lost in the role and by the midpoint in the film you almost entirely forget that he isn’t Elvis himself. To further push that point home, up against Hanks’ ghastly performance Butler looks like he should be winning next year’s Oscar.

Overall, a good time if you like Elvis, otherwise fairly mixed.

Pros.

Butler

You get to here all your old favourites

Quite a detailed look into the life of Elvis

Cons.

Hanks’ performance and everything about his character

The runtime

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The Social Network: Was Mark Zuckerberg Ever Human?

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The story of the founding of Facebook.

I have seen this film well over 5 times it is just so good. The team of Fincher and Sorkin really come together to deliver something amazing here. The dialogue scenes are so impactful and tightly done that each one feels like its own mini action sequence, Fincher keeps the stakes up throughout the film and in my mind does justice to his subject.

I think this film for the most part doesn’t show Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jessie Eisenberg, as either good or bad but rather as just a human being who has seen some troubles in his life. I think Eisenberg is near perfect in the role and I don’t see how anyone else could have played the part, this is probably Eisenberg’s finest performance to date. Moreover, this film features Andrew Garfield which is always a good sign and he too has a strong turn here.

My main issue with the film is that the Napster stuff with Justin Timberlake feels quite like filler and doesn’t really need to be in the film, I think the piece as a whole would be tighter without it.

Overall, a magnificent biopic let down by a needless sub-plot

Pros.

Fincher

Sorkin

Eisenberg

The drama

Cons.

Timberlake and the Napster side plot

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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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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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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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King Richard: The Beginning Of A Smithissance

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The previously untold story of Richard Williams, played by Will Smith, the father and coach of two of tennis’s biggest stars.

To me at least, Smith has been treading water for years, I can’t remember the last time I watched a Will Smith film and thought wow, it is a real shame as in the nineties and early noughties he really was putting out good quality content, but in recent years it has dropped off. However this can be viewed as a return to form in a big way for Smith.

I think this film could be the start of a renaissance for Smith, similar to the sort of late in the game career revitalisation that Matthew McConaughey had, and still to an extent continues to enjoy. Smith is terrific here, he plays the man to whom family is the most important thing, a man who will suffer and bleed for those he loves, and he does it with such gusto that it is hard to look away from. Quite frankly you can see the amount of effort and passion that Smith is putting into the role throughout the film and it really makes for something special.

I would say the greatest hinderance of this film is its length. There is something really quite special here but the film almost loses that amongst the bloat of it’s runtime and that really is a problem.

Overall, proof that Will Smith is nowhere near done.

Pros.

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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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Black Mass: The Comeback That Never Quite Panned Out

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

This film recounts the life of ‘Whitey’ Bulger, here played by Johnny Depp.

This film always feels like a shame to me. Not because the film is bad but because it could have been the start of a big comeback for Depp and yet it never panned out.

I think that this is one of Depp’s finest roles, he manages to capture the ruthless killer whilst also making us somewhat like/understand him. The character that Depp brings to life in a nuanced and multi layered way reminds us that no character is simply good or bad but shades in-between.

Moreover, this film is also strengthened by a terrific supporting cast with Benedict Cumberbatch, Jessie Plemons and Joel Edgerton all giving terrific performances and really helping to bring the film together. Cumberbatch in particular steals the show here.

I also think the score of the film adds a lot and serves to nicely compliment the film and reflect the emotion of the scenes. I would say of all the gangster films I have seen this one’s soundtrack was the only one to stick with me after watching.

My main criticism of the film would be the pace, the film takes a long time to get where it is going. Though his early life is interesting the film spends far too much time there and not nearly enough time on his later life.

Overall, a strong Johnny Deep fronted gangster film.

Pros.

Deep

The supporting cast

The score

The ending

Cons.

The pacing

A very slow start

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Respect: Musical Biopics Have Been Done To Death

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

We follow the life of Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Hudson, and see the highs and lows of parts of her career.

Since release this film has been much maligned, and my review is decidedly in the middle.

Do I think this is a good film? No not really, average but certainly not good. There are positive aspects to this film, the story is interesting, and it keeps you hooked for about two thirds of the film. Moreover, Hudson and Forest Whitaker both grace us with terrific performances, that really help to bring these characters to life and elevate the film.

However, that is where my list of pros runs out. There are many issues with this film, the most glaring of which is the run time. There is no reason for this film to pass the two hour mark, none. Earlier I said, the film keeps you entertained for two thirds and that is very true as by the final third you have already lost interest and are ready to leave or turn it off if you are watching it at home.

Moreover, try as it might this film can’t escape the fact that at its core it is just a very average biopic film. There have been many, many musical biopics over the last few years, but truly this one feels the most soulless and lifeless. There is so much more the film could have done with it’s subject matter, but instead decides to settle for mediocrity.

Additionally, for as good as Hudson and Whitaker are Marlon Wayans is bad. Seeing Wayans appear as a serious actor is always a gamble, more often than not a bad one. That is proven thoroughly by his performance here where he stands out for all the wrong reasons.

Overall, Franklin deserved better than this.

Pros.

It is interesting at times

The songs are still powerful

Hudson and Whitaker

Cons.

Wayans

It is generic

It has huge pacing issues

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