The Power Of The Dog: What Did That Horse Do To Him?

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Phil Burbank, played by Benedict Cumberbatch berates those around him for a few hours in a period setting.

To me this film embodied everything wrong with arthouse cinema. It is pretentious, it thinks it is deeper than it actually is, and none of it really leads anywhere it just a series of scenes spaced out with rants from Cumberbatch.

Honestly I found this film hard to watch as it was so slowly paced that it almost put me to sleep. Really the only interesting part of this film was seeing must how unlikeable Cumberbatch’s Phil could become and seeing how sinister he could get.

Moreover, if you like animals this may not be the film for you as there are a number of scenes where Phil is cruel to animals, and it can be distressing and hard to watch. I understand why the filmmakers choose to include these scenes, to show just how evil Phil is, but they can’t shake this overwhelming sense of needlessness.

Overall, Cumberbatch is good but the film as a whole is boring, hard to watch and far from what it thinks it is.

Pros.

Cumberbatch

It is interesting to watch Phil devolve

Cons.

It is overly pretentious

It is boring and far too long

Scenes of animal cruelty that feel needless  

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The Last Duel: The Horrors Of The Female Experience

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Two medieval feudal lords come to blows over a series of injustices.

This film is incredibly hard to watch. It is deeply hard to get through as it features a number of rape scenes which are increasingly graphic. Though I don’t know the need to be as graphic as the film chooses to be with them, I do think that using them in the narrative this film creates is a good thing as it sets up an important conversation about accountability and the mistrust of female victims when they come forward.

In many ways the film is incredibly powerful as it makes us reflect on the female experience and at how throughout time men have abused their positions and powers within society. There are some lines in this film particularly during the third chapter which is the truth of events from Marguerite’s, played by Jodie Cormer, point of view which are incredibly harrowing and show just how deep the injustice goes.

I thought Jodie Cormer was terrific here and her performance carried serious weight. Sadly, however she was let down by her co-stars, who ranged from underused to miscast. Yes, I am referring to Matt Damon who is by far the worst performer in this film. To make matters worse this film is set in France yet everyone has an American or British accent which is not only distracting but irritating and feels done because an executive thought ‘oh American audiences can’t understand a French accent or won’t read subtitles. With the idea that the actors also didn’t want to have to either learn French or try and do an accent also a likely possibility.

Overall, a powerful film in many ways but one that you would never want to watch twice.

Pros.

The conversation it starts

Addressing male abuses of power

The female perspective

Cons.

Matt Damon

The American accents  

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Hacksaw Ridge: Mel Gibson Should Make Films For PureFlix.

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

This film follows the life of army combat medic Desmond Doss, Andrew Garfield, as he serves during World War II without ever using a gun.

This was an incredibly uplifting film. Yes the violence and the death of war are grizzly and are on full display here, but underneath that is a story about a young man just doing what he thinks is right and saving lives, even when those same people call him names and abuse him for his beliefs.

I could have done without the constant religious framing of everything in the film, but hey it is a Mel Gibson picture so what do you expect? I understand the real life person this was based on was deeply religious and it is fundamental to the story, that is not what I am complaining about. What I am complaining about is the use of shots, to give an example the final shot of the film before it cuts to credits sees Doss being carried away on a stretcher, the camera is below and zooming out giving the impression that the stretcher is rising into the heavens- a saint ascending. This bothered me for two reasons one, the character doesn’t die and two, it is far too on the nose.  

Moreover, the writing in this film is not good at all. The opening scenes, not the ones when they are children but the ones which show Doss’s early courtship before he went overseas, are so painfully cringe that I almost had to skip through them. The line delivery is off by such a huge margin that I can’t place the blame solely at Garfield’s feet clearly something must have been bad in the script or even the direction.

That aside the performances for the most part were great across the board. I enjoyed Vince Vaughn as a drill sergeant and I thought once again Andrew Garfield shone brightly, proving his clear talent with ease.

Overall, a solid and uplifting war film.

Pros.

Garfield

It is inspiring

It doesn’t shy away from showing you the horrors of war

The ending

Cons.

The heavy handed religious metaphors

The dialogue and line delivery during the courtship scenes  

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71: Surviving The Troubles

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

This film follows Gary Hook, Jack O’Connell, a young soldier who becomes separated from his unit and finds himself having to survive the night in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

I enjoyed this film a fair bit, it kept me entertained throughout. I thought the film did a good job of maintaining its tension and it never allowed you to feel safe, or to feel like the character was safe, which also adds to the realism of the film.

In many respects this is quite a hard film to watch, there are a number of scenes that are very visceral and graphic and that will leave and impression on you afterwards. The sudden and random death of Hook’s fellow soldier early in the film being one of them, in many ways it perfectly manages to capture the murky and unpredictable nature of that part of Irish history.

Moreover, Sean Harris as the morally dubious covert intelligence officer Captain Browning is a revelation. Harris always shines through whatever he appears in and adds an uncertain edge to proceedings. I would say he comfortably out acts O’Connell here, with the latter’s rough boy charm sometimes clashing with the character he is trying to portray. For example when Hook is taking his younger brother out for the day he becomes very angry at the doorman for no explained reason, this doesn’t work when later in the film he is portrayed as the ordered and controlled soldier who would never lose his temper in a yobish sort of way. It becomes a clashing personality over the film.

Overall, a good film though more character work was needed with the construction of the lead, a fixed personality was needed rather than one that jumps around.

Pros.

Harris

The tension

Not knowing what was going to happen next

Cons.

O’ Connell

A few plot threads that are unanswered and also go nowhere

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Outlaw King: The Fight For An Independent Scotland

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The film follows the struggles of Robert The Bruce as he rebels against the English crown and fights to become the King of Scotland.

Though there are a lot of historical epics, this one managed to stand out to me. I thought the pacing was tight and it covered a lot in an interesting way. The film could have easily felt slightly xenophobic and even as anti-English propaganda but honestly I think the film feels far more balanced than that and I found myself easily rooting for Bruce and his cause.

I thought the battle scenes were well done and very weighty enough to leave an impact. Moreover, I thought the performances were strong across the board, with Chris Pine being a dependable leading man throughout, only being upstaged by Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s James Douglas and Florence Pugh’s Elizabeth De Burgh. Truly everyone who said something to the extent of ‘oh Black Widow is Florence Pugh’s big breakout role’ are so deeply ignorant to a well of great performances from her.

Overall, I felt for a Netflix action film this was very standout.

Pros.

Pine

Pugh

Taylor-Johnson

The battle scenes

Cons.

Perhaps just a tad bloated  

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Outcast: Nicolas Cage’s Weirdest Haircut Yet

Outcast

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

So I put this on for two reasons, Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen. Cage is barely in this film after the opening 5 minutes appearing what feels like hours later, but is in fact less, to be present for the final fight- clearly a pay check role for him. Christensen fares better and has some good fight scenes that at least make his character some what memorable.

Liu Yifei is in this film- yes that is the woman with the terrible views on freedom and who stared in the recent Mulan live action film: she is okay but does not really have much to do here. What she and other characters do have to do however is spout weirdly clunky racist lines every now and again. Yes there are comments such as ‘white devils’ and ‘do white people actually bathe I’ve heard they don’t’, to paraphrase, thrown into this film, why? Who does this serve?

The only real pro I can give this film is that it has cool fight scenes, the fights themselves are well choreographed and look suitably impressive, however everything around and in-between them is dull, cliched and vaguely racist.

Overall, Cage and Christensen deserve better.

Pros.

The fight scenes are well done

Cons.

It is racist ‘

It is uninspired

It feels like a straight to DVD film in all the worst ways

The CGI in the first section is particularly terrible

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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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Pride: Fight For The Change You Want To See In The World

Pride

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

This film made me both happy and sad, as paradoxical as that might be. On the one hand it was hopeful to see the miners embrace the LGBTQ+ activists, but on the other, seeing the horrible homophobia made me sad. I left the film feeling conflicted towards humanity.

This film can beautifully play with your emotions, as it did to me, and that is a testament to the writing, but also the real events that inspired the film. The film feels empowering to watch, inspiring you to make a change for the betterment of society.

The acting talent on display here is undeniable, Joe Gilgun, Dominic West, Andrew Scott and an always reliable Paddy Considine all perform well and leave an impression long after the film ends. George McKay is a little less strong and does drag down some of the scenes he is in, but thankfully he is not given much of the heavy lifting to do.

Furthermore, Pride does struggle with pacing and ends up feeling overly long and a little indulgent, by the time we reach the end the film is already starting to outstay its welcome.

A final note before concluding, Faye Marsay is terrific and should be cast in more films- a staggering young talent.

Overall, a good film that suffers with pace.

Pros.

The acting, bare McKay

The message

The empowering tone

Cons.

The Pace

George McKay

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Son Of The South: Anyone Can Be A Hero

Son Of The South is a biographical drama film directed by Barry Alexander Brown. The plot retells the early life of civil rights activists Bob Zellner (here played by Lucas Till), showing his early struggles and triumphs.

There have been many films where Till has been good, but he never stood out enough with a film to deserve awards and to break through into wider Hollywood, this however is that film. Till deserves awards for this one, this is his breakout film or should be at least.

This film was near perfect in every way, there was only one slight issues with it, can you guess what it is? Anyone who has been following my reviews for a while know damn well how I feel about Lucy Hale, (she can’t act and ruins any film that features her prominently, with Fantasy Island being the one film that made me question that statement), and the same could have been true here: thankfully after the first half an hour this film ditches here. Her half an hour performance isn’t good, but that almost goes without saying.

This film is important as it shows that no matter where you come from in life, you can help to better the world. Zellner’s own grandfather was in the Klan and threatened to kill him for helping the civil rights struggle, but despite his family Zellner went on to help change history. We truly can all be heroes.

There were a number of powerful scenes here, including the lynching scene and the riot at the bus station, that hit hard and leave an impact; this was not long ago in our history and have we come all that much further since? Really? So a mixture of despair for the monster that is the human race, but also a hope that the good can beat the bad in our world to a point where words like the Klan and White Supremacy lose their meaning and can be forgotten about permanently.

Overall, I can’t recommend this film enough, please watch it.

Pros

Lucas Till

The powerful message

The emotional impact

It leaves you thinking after watching

Cons.

Lucy Hale

4.5/5

Reviewed by Luke

Seberg: Leading To Tragedy

Seberg is a political thriller film directed by Benedict Andrews. The plot serves to tell the real-life story of Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart), an actor who got a bit too close to black civil rights movements and so became the target of vicious harassment from American law enforcement, which lead to tragedy.

Kristen Stewart is one of those actors who can either be really good or really bad and struggles to find a middle ground, however here she is dazzling. Her portrayal of Seberg is both empowering and heart breaking, Stewart manages to capture her so perfectly that it gives me hope for her upcoming Princess Diana film.

Stewart and Anthony Mackie (who plays Civil Right leader Hakim Jamal), have such amazing chemistry that you can’t look away for a second they are on screen together.

Vince Vaughn is also in this film as sadistic FBI agent Carl Kowalski, and once again he shines in the dramatic role proving her far more than just a funny man; if you are not already aware of the Vince Vaughn renaissance going on, you are now.

The message of this film is poignant and as timely now as it was then.

Overall a tragically beautiful film and one of Stewart’s best.

Pros.

Stewart

Mackie

Vaughn

The message

The heart-breaking ending and its emotional weight

Cons.

None

5/5

Reviewed by Luke