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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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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Percy Vs Goliath: The Breadbasket Is Under Attack

Percy Vs Goliath

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

I am a big fan of Christopher Walken, he is one of those few actors who is near always great even if he is only in a film for a short cameo, and this film is no different. Walken makes the character of Percy feel very human and sympathetic and does a lot to honour and capture the spirit of the real man himself.

Moreover, I think it is the performance of Walken that puts this film above a lot of other similar films, and believe me there are a lot of them, the idea of a regular person standing up to a large corporation is a very popular type of narrative that can be seen throughout the history of cinema, and back further into religious cannon: it taps into our universal love of the underdog. However, despite Walken being good this film does end up fading in with the rest of them, and the story itself is very predictable in this regard.

Furthermore, Walken is supported by a very talented cast as well with Zach Braff and Christina Ricci giving scene stealing performances, and easily holding their own with such a veteran performer as Walken.

Overall, despite a lot of high calibre actors giving good performances the film ends up feeling a little too predictable and familiar.

Pros.

Walken

Braff

Ricci

Cons.

It is predictable and feels a little too similar

It has pacing issues

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