Downton Abbey A New Era: Everyone Likes A Trip To The South Of France

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Two interconnected stories of a trip to the south of France and a film shoot.

I never watched the Downton Abbey series and only went to see this film and the one before it because my girlfriend likes the show, but I have to say I did find a lot to like about this film. Most notably it has just the right amount of heart, making you laugh and making you cry in equal measures even I who have no attachment to these characters found it hard to not well up in the end.

Moreover, the film moves along at a nice pace and never starts to feel slow or boring you are constantly being entertained from start to finish. By that same token the performances across the board are fantastic with everyone involved giving it their all, if I had to pick a favourite I would probably say Hugh Dancy’s Jack Barber as he was a very welcome addition to the usual line-up.

I also enjoyed that this film gave Barrow, played by Robert James-Collier, a love interest and was not afraid to pursue an LGBTQ+ romance, I thought not only was it very progressive for the film but it also became the main source of heart in the film, by the end I was really hoping they could be happy together.

Overall, a good time and a lot of fun, even if like me you aren’t a huge Downton fan.

Pros.

The jokes

The emotion

The performances

The LGBTQ+ representation

The ending

Cons.

The brother sub-plot really goes nowhere

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Peaky Blinders: A Fundamental Misunderstanding, Perception Vs Reality

Written by Luke Barnes

In this piece I want to talk about why I believe the final series of Peaky Blinders was not only a great series in its own right but also how it was a fitting end point for the program,  as well as how some of the criticism on social media seems to lack a fundamental understanding of what the series was as well as the style of its creator.

I watched the most recent series of this show through a number of trips to a friend of mine’s house, we both enjoyed it, but after most of the episodes I would check online and see a lot of negative buzz and hate, with the finale being the only real exception. The criticism would all say base things like ‘oh remember when this was a gangster show’, or ‘when did the show become so boring’. To these complaints I would say you were watching a different show altogether, Peaky Blinders did have gang aspects to it, but the fundamental drive of the series was Thomas Shelby, played by Cillian Murphy, as a character and exploring his psyche.  For every street set gun battle, there was a quite conversation done to execute a subtle social twist.

The shows broad themes are a huge reflection of that, with the ideas of the pursuit for power and the supernatural steering the series towards more philosophical fare. Yes, within this drift the series featured a gun battle or two, but I would never say it was just a ‘gangster show’, or even that that was the show’s main focus, some people it seems got far too hung up on these aspects.

To further prove my point one needs only look at the series creator Steven Knight who is known for introspective fare like Locke and Hummingbird, which in the latter’s case does feature some action thriller elements, but is front and centre a drama, as is Locke. Fundamentally, I think many thought of Peaky Blinders simply as a badass action show that gave them a reason to wear a flat cap in real life to try and be a part of it,  when it reality it was always a drama series that featured action elements. In that vein I can’t see how the final series was anything other than a fitting conclusion as it delivered on all aspects of what it was striving to be as a show.  

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The Curse Of Robert: The Horrors Of The Netflix Algorithm

2/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

This is what happens when you trust a Netflix recommendation. A possessed doll film.

As the summary suggests Netflix thought I would like to watch this film so I put it on, and my my it was bad. I will give it credit for being exactly what I was expecting it to be, and also having some quirky B movie esque charm, but that is where my praise for this film ends.

An important point that I think should be noted up front is that I fell asleep whilst watching this film and then had to go back and finish it off, this was not at night dear reader oh no this was late afternoon, such is the film. To say it is boring and generic would be an understatement.

This film was clearly made to cash in on the recent trend of possessed doll films, see Annabelle and its various sequels, but somehow this film managed to screw up even that basic concept. What makes the Annabelle films scary is the demon that is attached to the doll that goes around and kills people, whereas here they forgo that and have the doll randomly come to life and kill people Chucky style but without any of Brad Dourif’s charm.

Overall, a forgettable possessed doll film.

Pros.

It is watchable

It is unintentionally funny at times

Cons.

It is boring

It is generic

It is nothing you haven’t seen before

It feels derivative

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The Nan Movie: Elder Abuse

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Catherine Tate tries to resurrect her career by bringing one of her characters from her noughties sketch show to the feature film realm, with rather unsurprisingly negative results.

Who was this made for? I am curious as this didn’t act as a gateway into Tate’s sketch show so it can’t have been for new audiences, maybe it was made for older fans but then if that was the case then why wait so long? It doesn’t make sense.

This films brand of comedy has not been funny or in vogue for about 10 years. This comedy can only be described as laughing at those with differences, the Little Britain sense of humour. There were multiple jokes in this film were the punchline was the fact that the lead, played by Tate, was being homophobic or laughing at a man in drag, not only is this not funny but it is borderline offensive. I am not one of those people to get up in arms over something not being PC, but here it felt mean spirited, excused away by ‘oh the joke is her reaction and her attitudes’, to me it felt like Tate and her fellow co-writer couldn’t think of any funny jokes so just decided to bash people not like them.

Moreover, I was sad to see Katherine Parkinson in this as she is so above this kind of slop that slumming it would be an understatement, I hope she at least got a big pay out for this appearance. The flashback stuff worked well, perhaps better than the present day sequences that range from nonsensical to desperate, sadly the flashbacks are undercut by the rest of the film and clash horribly.

Overall, a desperate film made for a bygone age.

Pros.

It is watchable

The flashbacks work well

Cons.

It isn’t funny

It is offensive

It wastes the talents of Katherine Parkinson

It is dull

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Operation Mincemeat: The Most Shocking Hand Sex Scene In The History Of Cinema

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A daring tale of WW2 espionage is ruined by a ham fisted love triangle that becomes distracting.

Before seeing this film I was excited the event this is based on is fascinating. For those of you who don’t know Operation Mincemeat was a British military plan whereby a corpse was floated ashore in Spain carrying false papers in an effort to convince the Axis powers that the Allies were going to attack Greece instead of Sicily. At the time the plan was deemed incredibly risky and is now viewed as one of the greatest feats of espionage ever. That premise sets this film up to be a good war time thriller, however, the focus is not on the operation itself really at all instead it focuses on the personal lives of the characters.

Colin Firth, Kelly MacDonald and Matthew Macfadyen, the three sides of the love triangle, all give good performances. The performances of those involved is not the problem, what is a problem however is the fact that the love triangle between these three actor’s characters becomes of greater importance to the plot than anything else. I thought it was entirely needless.

Moreover, during the Spain sequence there are these incredibly random sex scenes that just sort of come out of nowhere and feel weird. I don’t know if they are done in reference to real things that happened and were included for authenticities sake, but if they weren’t what are they doing in the film? The hand-job scene in particular had everyone in my showing of the film looking at each other in shock and confusion asking why this was happening?

Overall, though the film was very watchable and had good performances for the most part, the focus is in entirely the wrong place.

Pros.

It is watchable

Strong performances across the board

When they actually talk about the plan it is interesting

Cons.

The love triangle

The sex scenes

It has awful pacing

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The Jack In The Box: If You Find A Creepy Box In The Ground Leave It There

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A demon jack-in-the-box is discovered and brought to a local English museum, however, once situated people start to go missing and bodies start piling up.

This film won’t win any awards, but I enjoyed it for doing something new with the killer clown format, I don’t think I have ever seen a demonically possessed jack-in-the-box before on screen so in that regard this is a nice dose of originality.

Moreover, a further strength of this film is that it benefits from a certain B movie esque charm, you can tell that this film was made on a very low budget but it looks good for it, it gives the film more of a real world edge that helps to sell the demon jack-in-the-box more thoroughly.

However, my main criticisms of this film would be that the performances are fairly week across the board, no one not even the lead delivers anything even close to a good performance which at times can take you out of the film.

Overall, certainly not the best film you will ever see but there is an unmistakable charm and originality to this film that genre diehards will enjoy.

Pros.

The originality

The scares

The B movie charm

The design of the demon

Cons.

The performances are awful

The final twist is laughably predictable  

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Sideworld Haunted Forests Of England: Viewing Material Before Your Next Trip To The Woods

5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

3 of England’s most haunted forests are explored with their myths and folklore brought to life.

I can’t believe George Popov has done it again, he has forged yet another masterpiece after his previous work The Droving. I think this film spoke to me so much personally because I am a huge folklore fan, I love going to new locations and learning about their strange and mysterious pasts, my book shelf is filled with tomes about mysteries and ghost stories and so this film was right up my alley.

I enjoyed how the film was set out, I thought by exploring 3 different forests and by extension 3 different types of folklore the film allowed itself a lot of room to stay fresh and also produce so really strong scares. I was surprised at how many times this film unsettled me, moreover it not only unsettled me but it also stayed with me after watching, I found myself still creeped out hours later.

I also think another strength of this film that is no less important is the fact that it teaches you more about England, and for those of us that live in Britain that means we learn more about our island and possibly have new places to visit next Halloween. I always enjoy films that can teach me something I didn’t know before and this definitely does that.

Overall, a deeply engaging, creepy affair and definitely one to check out.

Pros.

It teaches you a lot

It is scares

The folklore is fascinating

The pacing is superb

It stay with you

Cons.

None.

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The Kid Who Would Be King: The School Play Version Of King Arthur

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A new retelling of the King Arthur legend.

I am very mixed on this one, on one hand I enjoyed that it felt like a fresh take on the King Arthur legend apart from all the other adaptions of the story, it also had an incredibly distinct British charm and sensibility to it that I thought added a lot to the film. Moreover, it featured Patrick Stewart and I find it hard to not like something with Stewart in it.

However, on the other hand this film lacked any fun or imagination it needed to really come to life. There are some sections in the film that feel imaginative and well-executed perhaps even Harry Potter esque, but then they end and the film replaces them with a long drawn out beige scene in which the film progresses but doesn’t make you feel anything whilst doing so.

Additionally, what may be the greatest crime of this film is that it wastes Rebecca Ferguson in a villain role wherein she is given nothing to do and is kept off-screen for most of the film. This is an incredibly baffling decision as Ferguson is an incredibly strong performer so by not including her the film shoots itself in the foot.

Overall, it has potential but does nothing with it.

Pros.

The British feel to the film

A number of imaginative scenes

Patrick Stewart

Cons.

It doesn’t execute on its potential

It splits into dull

It wastes Rebecca Ferguson

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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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