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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Army Of Thieves: Once You Have Seen One Heist Film You Have Seen Them All

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Ludwig Dieter, played by Matthias Schweighofer, returns in a prequel to Army Of The Dead, in which Dieter finds himself at the centre of a series of international heists revolving around famous safes.

I enjoyed Ludwig Dieter in Army Of The Dead, but this film felt excessive. I don’t know why you go from having it be a heist story in a zombie apocalypse, to suddenly just a heist film. I thought the whole point of this universe was the fact that it featured a zombie outbreak? Yet this film almost goes out of its way to hide it, only showing us brief scenes on news broadcasts, and telling us about it in throwaway dialogue.

By doing this and having it just be a heist movie the film cripples itself. This film feels indistinguishable from any other heist film, was that the point? Though we have the same character from the other film back, it couldn’t feel further apart. Rather than manic zombie action we get the same set of generic heist characters we have seen hundreds of times before, with the same backstories. We see the same twists and turns, and the same ending as well, there is nothing new here. You will only find this film original if you have never seen a heist film before.

The only reason this film is not getting lower is because there are still a few good laughs to be had here, Schweighofer is still funny. Moreover, Nathalie Emmanuel has a great presence on-screen and she really brings something to this film. I liked the romance between Ludwig and Emmanuel’s Gwendoline over the course of the film as I found it to be genuinely effecting.

Overall, a needless follow up made better by Emmanuel.

Pros.

It is watchable

It has a few funny moments

Emmanuel is on strong form

Cons.

We have seen it all before

It does nothing with the zombies

The ending feels far too tided into the first film

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In For A Murder: The Real Crime Here Is A Terrible Marriage

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The film revolves around a bored housewife, played by Anna Smolowik, as she becomes increasingly involved in trying to solve a murder.

This film was very eh for me, it had some moments of fun but for the most part it was just dull. The humour of the film was very much hit or miss and only made me laugh a few times, I don’t know if it is a different sensibility or something but it mostly didn’t work for me; humour is of course subjective.

I found the murder mystery aspects of the plot to be initially interesting but then quickly played out and stale. I think this is because the pacing of this film is wildly off and every scene feels a few minutes too long. Whenever the film presents you with an interesting idea it ruins it by overly exploring it.

In terms of acting I didn’t find anyone to be particularly either way, neither good nor bad rather just fine.

Overall, this film does have some moments of promise, however for the most part it is dull.

Pros.

Some promise to the murder mystery

A few funny moments

It’s watchable

Cons.

It is poorly paced

It becomes boring

The acting is all very flat

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Copshop: Balloons Make A Great Shield To Mask Your Identity

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A fixer, Frank Grillo, and a hitman, Gerard Butler, find themselves locked together in a police station, with a rookie police officer, Alexis Louder, trying to figure out what is going on and why everyone wants the fixer dead.

Very much like with Joe Carnahan’s other work this film is very stylised, moreover it benefits from being this way: having a very distinctive visual pleat that draws on grindhouse and exploitation elements whilst keeping things fresh.

Surprisingly following Carnahan’s Boss Level, I find Frank Grillo not in best shape here. I understand the script wants us to view Grillo’s character as an unfeeling cold escape artist, but the film does not do enough to set that up, rather it just makes leaps in character development that just assume the audience is already viewing the character that way, which they most likely aren’t.

It is because of this that Butler really becomes the star of the show and manages to outperform Grillo seizing the lime light and the potential sequel. The only threat to Butler in this regard is Toby Huss, as the secondary hitman sent in to clean up Butler’s characters mistakes. Huss steals the show and has sone of the most memorable lines of dialogue I have heard in a long time, I know the film kills him off but if they do do a sequel he needs to come back in some way. Maybe a twin brother.

The crime thriller elements were engaging if a little generic at times, however they were elevated by the quirky personality of the film and some of the more out there comedic moments that strangely not only land but work.

Overall, the style and the humour elevate what could otherwise be a by the numbers thriller.

Pros.

Huss

Butler

The personality

Cons.

A generic plot

A few issues with character development  

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Beverly Hills Cop: In Need Of Sneaking In Somewhere? Bring A Floral Bouquet

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A maverick cop from Detroit, played by Eddie Murphy, heads to Beverly Hills to avenge his friend who was recently killed.

I can see how this was popular and how it inspired a larger franchise. Murphy is at his most charming and likeable here, with enough jokes and heart to keep you engaged throughout. Not all the jokes landed, though enough did that you stayed entertained. Moreover, as far as ‘cops who don’t play by the rules go’ Murphy’s Foley is one of the nicer ones, this makes rooting for him far easier especially now in the era of us questioning the power of the police.

My issues with this film come from the fact that it did nothing new. It felt like just another buddy cop film, if you take out Eddie Murphy the film becomes so generic that it would simply fade to the background of the genre. Throughout the film I was hoping for something to shock me but it didn’t, the film played out exactly as I thought it would.

Overall, it is a fun buddy cop film because of Murphy without him this film is incredibly generic.

Pros.

Murphy

The heart

A few good laughs

Cons.

The supporting cast is largely underused

The film is predictable

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Queenpins: Kristen Bell Stopped Trying

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

We follow Connie, Kristen Bell, and Jojo, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, as they create the biggest fake coupon ring in US history, supposedly based on a true story.

This one was a disappointment. I had been eagerly awaiting the release of this film as the trailer looked good, however, it turned out to be just another silly crime story. By that I mean its formulaic, the unlikely criminal becomes a criminal then becomes successful and then from an equally unlikely source they are brought down- it has been done a lot before.

Moreover, the leads don’t really bring much to the table. Howell-Baptiste is never really given much to do and basically gets to play side kick to Kristen Bell the whole film which is a shame as of the two I think Howell Baptiste shows the most promise here. Bell on the other hand doesn’t even seem to be trying she is playing a version of the same character she has played time and again before, the slightly naïve do gooder with a dark streak- see the Bad Moms films for more of that. Paul Walter Hauser is also playing the same character he has done before but his relationship with Vince Vaughn’s Simon does end up giving him a nice little character arc. Vaughn is the saving grace of the film, and he does provide the laughs if it were not for him this film would be much worse.

The feminist messages in the film are at best weak and pointless and worst awkward. Referring to themselves multiple times as ‘Queenpins’ felt cringe and then having the female character being motivated to act because she wants to get pregnant feels almost inherently sexist, women can want more than a child you know Hollywood. The whole cake line was also very needless, if you have seen the film you will know what I mean.

Overall, if it were not for Vince Vaughn this film would have been even worse.

Pros.

Vaughn

A few laughs

Cons.

Bell

The forced in feminism

They don’t give Howell-Baptiste anything to work with

It feels too familiar

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Comes A Day: Never Go To A Jewellery Shop They Just Aren’t Safe, Learn From Films

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of people become trapped in a jewellery shop during a robbery.

This film doesn’t seem to quite know what it wants to be, on the one hand it wants to be a dark comedy and on the other a pure crime film. However, the film brings over elements of each which end up complimenting each other nicely to produce a comedy crime film that will bring a smile to your face.

I have been a big fan of Craig Roberts for a while now, ever since I first watched Young Dracula on CBBC, and he continues to impress me across his career. I found his lead to be likeable and more than a little relatable, he feels human and reflects how most would be in that situation: I thought it was a masterstroke to have him not be the action hero sort as it would have thrown off the whole vibe of the film.

Furthermore, he is also supported by a very strong cast with Imogen Poots and Timothy Spall shining in every second of screen time. I appreciated the amount of character development Roberts’ and Spall’s characters get and think it was well done, however, it needed to be applied to Poots’ character who remained underdeveloped throughout. The same can also be said for the villains.

I think this films greatest weakness is that it is overly ambitious: it starts a lot of ideas and themes that it then doesn’t finish which cheapens the impact.

Overall, a very enjoyable crime film that could have just done with stronger villains and more development for Poots’ character.

Pros.

Spall

Roberts

The ending

Cons.

Poots is underserved

The villains need more personality

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The Guilty: Jake Gyllenhaal’s Best?

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A police officer, Jake Gyllenhaal, facing criminal charges finds himself in the middle of an abduction case as he is stuck behind a desk, all he can do is talk to the victim over the phone and try and resolve the situation.

This film is brilliant and possibly one of Gyllenhaal’s best. The journey this film takes you on whilst for the most part just showing you a man at a desk taking calls is truly magnificent. The emotions this film is packing will certainly take you through the wringer.

Gyllenhaal is electric in this role his character is volatile and damaged and you see every minute of it. From the inhaler scenes in the toilet, the fits of rage throughout, to the vomiting scene and acceptance again in the toilet. Gyllenhaal is able to really flex his muscles as an actor and give a layered striking performance.

I thought the mystery was also very strong, there is a twist three quarters of the way through, which I won’t spoil, but one that recontextualises the film in the most heart-breaking way so be prepared for that as it will hit you like a ton of bricks.

Overall, a terrific thriller film and one of Netflix’s best.

Pros.

Gyllenhaal

The ending

The twist

The emotions

Cons.

A slow start

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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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Rampart: The Film Known For One Disastrous AMA

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A crooked police officer, played by Woody Harrelson, finds his various crimes catching up with him.

I found this film to be quite hard to get through mainly because Harrelson’s character was so utterly loathsome. I understand that the character is supposed to be bad, you are not supposed to root for him or warm to him, but he is so unpleasant that it becomes hard to follow him. If anything maybe the film does too much of a good job in making his character hateable, which then backfires of them.

Harrelson himself was fine, personally I don’t understand all the praise he gets for this role- I have seen him be better elsewhere. I think another issue this film has is that it is so dedicated to Harrelson’s character that it ignores the rest of the supporting cast and gives them nothing to do. This is a huge issue when said supporting cast has the likes of Brie Larson and Robin Wright. A huge missed opportunity.

I would have liked for the ending to be a little bit more conclusive rather than as ambiguous as it is. Though that is a personal taste thing on my part.

Overall, Harrelson is trying however the character is so unlikeable the film is hard to watch.

Pros.

It is an interesting premise

I enjoyed the escalation

Cons.

Harrelson

An incredibly off-putting lead

Wasting a great cast

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