PRIDE REVIEW

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A film that should have taken more pride in it’s story and cast. Solidly acted, well written but a case of hype helping an easygoing biopic that seemed to hinder as it reached it’s conclusion.

To be honest, I think it may be a sign of the time. Despite it’s subject matter appearing “controversial”, it seems to be showing that we are very much past that era. The fact that nowadays a film like this can be viewed and received positively says it all. I know I wasn’t around during that period and I can certainly empathize. But I’ll never really know what these groups truly went through. Director Matthew Warchus and writer Stephen Beresford capture that perfectly and there are endearing moments as the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group suffer the scrutiny of the miners as they try and show their genuine support.

An attempt to publicise their beliefs soon becomes so much more once they meet the mining community and realise that despite conflicting sexualities, the groups very much share something in common and unite in a time of desperation, anger and torment. My main issue is that the film deals with it far too lightly and for it’s all hype, I wasn’t really laughing that much nor did I shed a tear.

At times, the story felt like it was going through the motions. It’s tough to stick to a true story without exaggerating certain facts to make a little more drama. However, I feel maybe a little more could have been exaggerated to justify the 120 minute length. When I saw the trailer, I expected an OTT, feel-good laugh a minute British dramedy. It certainly ends uplifting and brings the odd chuckle but most of them are revealed in the heavily flogged trailers. If you’re lucky then the jokes will certainly be fresh to you.

One thing I will definitely commend is the cast of British talent at Warchus and Beresford’s disposal. It was a surprise to see ol’ McNulty from The Wire in drag. Dominic West plays the role perfectly, balancing it with the right level of camp and heart. Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton are, to be expected, superb taking roles with completely different temperaments. Nighy’s deadpan but gentle Cliff to Staunton’s domineering outspoken chairman Hefina. Paddy Considine played Dai brilliantly. A complete change from his more introverted and volatile roles (Dead Man Shoes being a personal favourite).

The film also gave opportunities for up and coming actors. Ben Schnetzer was fantastic as group leader Mark. He is one to watch and has made a huge transformation from his supporting role in the highly enjoyable The Book Thief. He certainly carries the group in their time of peril and indeed the film. Jessica Gunning’s performance as the ambitious Sian was also worth noting. She has been around on the UK TV circuit for a while now and was most memorable for her small role in Great Night Out. She certainly proved that she can take a bigger role and deliver just as much gusto.

Menna Trussler was superb and in scene stealing form as the gullible and naïve Gwen. A loveable sweetheart whose intentions are in the right place, even if they may have come out the wrong way. “Where are my gays? I’ve missed them”, as well as her bizarre questions that she wanted rectifying after hearing from a friend down the market. She certainly delivered the one liners. Andrew Scott (Moriarty from Sherlock) was finally able to make an impression once his character was allowed to open up. A meeting with his mothers after years of being shunned seemed like a missed opportunity that was dealt with far too easily and quickly for my liking. Faye Marsay (Fresh Meat) was very good as Steph, the only lesbian in the group.

Joseph Gilgun played the role incredibly straight faced, which made a change after his role as Rudy in Misfits. However, you really wanted him to have some of that eccentricity as his character is hardly memorable. Liz White (or Annie from Life on Mars) played the role of Dai’s supporting wife as well as she could but is somehow pushed into the background.

With respect to the miners, Warchus and Beresford do not portray them as oafish or as naïve as you first anticipated from the trailers. Beresford has established an array of well rounded characters that stand out and are easily relatable to. At Pride’s heart it is still a story of two groups of people that were being shunned and downtrodden by the public, the papers and the government (most importantly). The AIDS propaganda campaign. The red band coverage of the miners’ strike. It was a surprise to believe that the majority of the events did happen and as the credits appeared over each character explaining what happened after this unifying moment, there were some surprisingly revelations which did hit home.

The soundtrack was brilliant and really ignited that nostalgia for the 80s. Well acted, well written, bit long at the tooth but . . .

For all the hype, the best British film of the year? En par with The Full Monty, Brassed Off and Billy Elliott? A film that will stand time and be remembered in the future. Not to me, I’m afraid pet.

3.5/5 Still one of the better ones but for it’s all hype, falls short for me and could have been more. Worth a gander most definitely.

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THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY REVIEW

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I wish it was done in 100 minutes. An easygoing feel good movie that is light on the drama but heavy on the cheese. Nice to look at but a little overcooked.

Enough food punnery! Let’s tuck in. It’s Chef meets Slumdog Millionaire in a nutshell.

The opening quickly establishes that from a young age, Hassan has a taste for flavour. A passion for food. It zips along, skimming past all the usual cliches as Hassan (Manish Dayal) tells the story of his humble upbringings from India to an uninterested stuffy French customs officer.

There are some predictable if endearing revelations as to why the family are now emigrating to France. “England was too bloody cold”, grumbles the talented Om Puri (East is East and my personal favourite The Parole Officer). An easygoing half hour has enough to keep me watching as the Kadam family reach the beautifully shot pastoral French countryside and open a restaurant directly across the road from Madame Mallory’s (Helen Mirren) Michelin-starred eatery.

An inevitable war brews between the restaurants as they compete for custom. Mirren plays the stubborn snotty French hostess with aplomb. Even if she had her upper lip pumped (tut tut tut Madame). It’s all quite tame and silly, with the odd chuckle as Mallory buys all the food in the local market so the Kadams have to drive 50 miles to the next village, for example. Inconveniences and minor scrabbles is as far as the tone of the film will allow. Puri delivers some cracking one liners and is instantly love-able. A character you’re happy to see more of.

However, he doesn’t quite get the screen time or depth to really make as much of a impression as you first thought or expected. A shame for a talented actor who has proven successful with comedies. He works well with Mirren and they have good chemistry. However, not enough was made of the tension between them and it all wraps up so predictably.

Dayal plays the role of Hassan brilliantly and is a very charismatic lead. More to see of him in the future, methinks. Inevitably he falls for fellow chef, the adorable Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon). For me, it all felt a little tame. Every obstacle felt more like a hiccup in which the family stumble but get back on their merry way with a cheesy grin.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still some surprises along the way. Especially in the brewing spat. Moments that I thought this fluffy film may not have touched. An event that resolves itself all too quickly, which leaves little for conflict after. Hassan and Marguerite’s ambition for becoming a renowned chef soon puts the sprinklers on their spurning romance. However, you just know how that story is going to end.

Hassan soon has to deal with the stress and pressure of fame as his cooking soon boasts his reputation among the cooking elite. As much as we can feel and relate to Hassan’s frustrations, you can’t help but know and predict how it’s all going to pan out with everybody smiling by the end.

For me the length was questionable. It meandered along way too much like the picturesque lake that Hassan and Marguerite share their picnics. There just wasn’t enough being made of the story or the talented cast with their loveable characters to justify it. Amit Shah, an up-and-coming comic talent was wasted in his role as Hassan’s brother-in-law Mansur. He has proven how funny he can be in The Infidel and the ITV sitcom Honest. Restricted and unmemorable.

It just about keeps you going but the tone of the film indicates what film you’re in for. An easygoing, nicey-nicey film, which isn’t a problem BUT it’s a shame because it could have been a lot more hard hitting and done in less time and been better for it.

You just can’t help but feel that if Mirren wasn’t attached to this vehicle that it might not have made the big screen altogether. The ingredients enough to serve as a ITV TV movie, at best. Uplifting, certainly. Funny, so-so. Easygoing? Yes plus it makes you want to go to France. But drama, tension and intrigue, it seems that the chef Lasse Hallstrom skipped a few steps in the cook book.

3 (just) out of 5 for me.

THE GUEST REVIEW

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This is one house guest you won’t want staying around. Crawley is back and kicking ass. Dan Stevens has definitely escaped from the dusty confines of Downton Abbey and boy . . . what a film to break the mould.

Stevens is incredibly charismatic and proves that he can handle the leading role with ease. He was one to watch after his turn as Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey, but this performance will certainly put him on the map. However, it appears Hollywood have already clocked him with a supporting role in the new release of the Neeson crime showpiece, A Walk Among The Tombstones.

Now brought to you by the people who did You’re Next. When I read that, I dreaded what laid in store. I hated You’re Next. It completely flipped what I thought would be a solid slasher flick and turned it into a ridiculous farce. As soon as the opening credits of The Guest began with the highly elaborate overture that usually belonged to the 80s B-movie flicks, I was anxious. However, once Stevens flashed the pearly whites and unleashed that perfect American drawl, the anxiety dropped and a slow burning, suspenseful tension soon had me hooked as we try and decipher the intentions of the all too helpful lodger.

What’s it about? A soldier (Stevens) introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. After the young man is welcomed into their home, a series of accidental deaths seem to be connected to his presence.

A hint of A Shadow of a Doubt hovers over this indie action hit. In one moment, Stevens’ David works the charm offensive off every one in the screen, in the next he’s ready to destroy them. His unpredictability certainly makes for good viewing. However, one person isn’t buying it and that is Maika Monroe’s bizarrely dressed Anna Peterson. I don’t really pay attention to what people wear in movies but Monroe’s waitress stripper look was just strange and unattractive. The electro-infused soundtrack certainly made for interesting listening. Hypnotic at times but also balls-out random, which pretty sums up the movie and the finale in a nutshell.

The small cast play their parts well. Leland Orser’s (ER) frustrated feeble father, Joel David Moore’s pathetic pothead (Bones) and, scene stealer, Brendan Meyer’s Luke. Meyers delivered some of the better encounters with David. A tense encounter in a bar with some school bullies allows for cracking one liners and funny exchanges. Once Monroe seems to get over her sulking phases of having David in the house, she soon becomes a more interesting character. Especially with the fractious sexual tension inevitably blossoming between her and Stevens.

A little too much time is spent on the exchanges and glances that it slows the pace of the film down. However, the final 15 to 20 minutes came out of nowhere. The film goes in a completely different direction when Lance Reddick’s straight faced  (Fringe/The Wire) secret soldier creeps out of the woodwork. Now I think it will be down to the change in tide that will either make or break the film for people. For me, it made it so much better. For others, they may have preferred another route. Normally I am the latter. I’m staying cryptic because I want people to see this but it’s rapid, violent and balls-out (a lot of balls-out this time) reckless.

3.5/5 for me. Action packed, dark, funny, if a little long at the tooth in parts with an all out shoot em up and slightly abrupt finale. But not bad, not bad at all. Films aren’t testing me today.

LET’S BE COPS REVIEW

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Let’s Be Cops! Let’s not . . .

Until I’ve finishing this review. Ah ha! Anyway . . .

Nick and Original Pilot Coach from New Girl decide to be cops leading to an OTT but highly watchable action comedy. That’s what you get!

Some of the better bits are in the trailers and I feared that there would be little in between. However, it was all down to the partnership and chemistry of Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr that allowed jokes that really should have been mediocre and ridiculous, quite entertaining. Certain jokes still fall flat on their backside. An initial joke in which Justin (Wayans Jr) tells a line of apprehended Russian mobsters to put their hands on their heads and body pop started off funny but went on too long. Facebook selfies with rifles. Silly but okay.

I guess it’s down to what mood you’re in. If you think the premise is ridiculous then do not bother. It’s get a whole lot crazier and a whole lot sillier. But if you’re up for that then bienvenue, wilkommen, welcome!

Most of the heavily advertised funny bits in the trailers were done in the first 20 minutes. Although funny, if you’ve been unlucky to see them numerous times it’s highly predictable. I’m worried that Johnson may be typecast into playing Nick now for the rest of his acting career. I hope I’m wrong. It works this time round even if his character is a little more demented. The guy practices knife combat training with a kid he met in the park. Crazy. His impulsive EBay purchase of an old police vehicle and combat education from YouTube videos was too scary a concept with this day and age.

The plot is hardly original. Two thirty year old slackers that are either frustrated with work (or not working at all) get given an opportunity to be somebody (well pretend to be somebody), inevitably leading to hi-jinks and upsetting the Russian mob. James D’Arcy (Master and Commander: The Far Side of The World) didn’t do too badly as the Russian psychopath. He had the acting conviction but not the body to pull it off. It was hard to be intimidated by his scrawny demeanour. But at the same time, with the tank sized henchmen at his disposal, does he need to bulk up?

The supporting cast certainly do help make this film work. An unrecognisable Keegan-Michael Key (Fargo) played the highly agitated and crazy drug peddler Pupa to perfection, delivering the gags where the pace seemed to dip. Nick (Johnson), I mean Ryan’s interpretation of waterboarding Pupa for information was hilarious. Natasha Leggero’s (Suburgatory) crazy cougar cameo wowewewow. For others, they may find her irritating and stupid but me . . . and Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries) oh my goodness.

Okay, I’ll stop. Wayans Jr and Dobrev play the inevitable couple subplot spiel as well as they can. But it’s still corny and predictable as hell. I was surprised to see Rob Riggle playing it straight faced for a change. Especially after his hilarious supporting turns in 22 Jump Street and Step Brothers. However, it works so much better. And Andy Garcia, where you been? Great to see him back in movies and poking fun at himself. Even if he plays it incredibly straight faced. I think he was the only person doing some proper “acting” acting.

Johnson and Wayans Jr work well together. Their characters will hardly top the action comedy duos of all time but they certainly help make this film more enjoyable than it should be for all its clichéd and OTT guff. They can make as many Lethal Weapon references as they want but Riggs and Murtaugh they ain’t. Wayans Jr was definitely the scene stealer for me. He does his father proud, following his style but is still able to put his own stamp on it. It’s corny, predictable, OTT but it’s not the worst way to kill 100 minutes and it delivered more laughs than I expected. However, the best cop com movie for me is still 22 Jump Street, which this one falls short of. But NOT BAD.

For me, it’s a 3/5.

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP REVIEW

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Before I Go To Sleep . . . I must tell you to go see this crafty little thriller.

A woman (Nicole Kidman) wakes up every day, remembering nothing as a result of a traumatic accident in her past. One day, new terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everyone around her.

From the opening, it felt like a cross between Memento and 50 First Dates. Especially when Christine’s (Nicole Kidman) husband Ben (Colin Firth) had to introduce himself and explain her condition.

I loved the fact it got straight to business. Presenting a dozen questions and leaving you just as baffled as the protagonist. It established the set up quickly and set the game afoot as Christine tried to piece together her memories.

The initial sequences in which Kidman is re-told the same story, only for her to forget again were a little repetitive. BUT you felt for Christine and also her husband. Reliving the same thing day after day. Thankfully, things picked up when Dr Nash (Mark Strong) made an introduction. Strong delivered a sterling supporting turn in the minute role.

Providing Christine with a video camera to record her thoughts at the end of each day, hoping to improve her memory (Pretty much like Memento minus the Polaroid. Ironically, snapshots were plastered all over the bathroom wall). As she digs deeper, little flickers and images trigger more memories.

With thrillers, it’s always a tough one. To get characters you care about. Mysteries that intrigue. Twists that make sense. And an ending that doesn’t spoil it all. The cast were superb. Nicole Kidman was finally given a better character with a far better story to work with. Delivering another underrated performance. She had great chemistry with the scene stealing Firth (Reunited after their fantastic turns in The Railway Man).

The premise was hardly original. BUT the unravelling and mystery element of the film was highly watchable as Christine gets closer and closer to the truth. Director Rowan Joffe (28 Weeks Later/The American) excelled in delivering the suspense and tension.

The only problem however was that with a small (if incredibly talented) cast, there wasn’t enough red herrings in the story. A lumbering middle act did hamper the pace and some parts were predictable and quite easy to guess

Once the BIG TWIST (Don’t worry, NO SPOILERS) was revealed, I still found myself surprised. The twist may have been slightly obvious but it was HOW that twist was revealed that won me over. Earning its plaudits. It also allowed for a tense and nail biting finale.

This was never going to top Memento. An exceptional thriller. BUT this film certainly made my contender list for the top films of 2014. A well acted and taut thriller that makes this one not to forget.

3.5/5

IF I STAY REVIEW

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I should have stayed at home is . . . what I thought I would be saying after watching this. But surprisingly this . . . uh . . . surprised me.

The corny coma chick flick meets the cantankerous cynic of a critic and for all my griping (which there may be a smidgeon), there is still beneath its cheesy surface; an easygoing and brilliantly acted drama. I can feel the man points dropping off but here we go.

So what’s it all about? Life changes in an instant for young Mia Hall (Chloe Grace Moretz) after a car accident puts her in a coma. During an out-of-body experience, she must decide whether to wake up and live a life far different than she had imagined.

From the trailers and weepy teenage girls with their tissue boxes at the ready, I feared an incredibly schmaltzy, corny OTT teen love story. To an extent, it is. But I was proven wrong before with The Fault In Our Stars. Chloe Grace Moretz has matured from Hit Girl and impresses yet again, proving that she can handle the lead role.

The cast are perfectly chosen. Mirielle Enos (The Killing USA) and Joshua Leonard (Men Of Honor) play the hard rock junkie super cool parents fantastically to Moretz’s inevitably stuffy, uptight cello playing Mia. That is until she meets Jamie Blackley (Snow White and the Huntsman)’s charismatic Adam and the rest is . . . the movie of love, loss and classical music.

Blackley and Moretz have fantastic chemistry together and they really do make the characters stand out. I actually found myself caring for the little love birds not praying for their demise. Of course, they go through the ups and downs; the why me when you’re so cool and I’m so geeky spiel. The tests of college and flying the coop. Check, check, check. That is until the accident. That happens early on and the story flashes back and forth.

To be honest, the coma angle of the story didn’t really do much for me. The flicking back and forth just disrupted what was an easy going and watchable boy meets girl love story. It was just CGM wandering around aimlessly bar a few twists (which were ruined in the trailers). The last 15 minutes or so in which CGM finally stands still and listens to her friends and family as they prepare themselves for the worst case scenario, finally justifies itself by allowing for some endearing scenes (and yes everyone was crying. Apart from me, obviously).

Without spoiling too much, I couldn’t help but question the relevance of Aisha Hinds’ (Under the Dome) Nurse Ramirez preaching motivational speeches to a comatose patient. Ridiculously corny. Plus was she a spirit? As no one seemed to be paying attention to her too. Pointless in my opinion. Liano Liberto plays Mia’s best friend well and Stacey Keach delivers an emotionally sobering performance as Mia’s grief stricken grandfather.

The cello playing by whoever was CGM’s stand in was impeccable and the amount of classical music that was played in this. Unexpected but brilliant. Made a change to the usual indie/pop/teen soundtrack these films are normally flogging. The ending is a bit abrupt. It’s all built up and ponders the question which the film heavily suggests and then just ends.

The problem with these sort of coma pics; there are only ever two outcomes which makes it all a little predictable without divulging too much.

I was surprised at how quick this film disappeared from my cinema. It’s not without its imperfections but I have seen a lot worse. If it is still lingering around, give it a go. It won’t win merits for originality but cheesy, easy going, watchable guff all the same.

2.5/5 for me (might change it to a 3) depending on the next influx of weepies which there inevitably will be.

MILLION DOLLAR ARM REVIEW

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Disney + Don Draper = one easygoing sports movie.

Jon Hamm takes the helm as J.B. Bernstein, a sports agent who stages an unconventional recruitment strategy to get talented Indian cricket players to play Major League Baseball. From the opening speech with JB attempting to sign a major player to his firm, the pitch and delivery just reminded me of Mad Men and how much I will miss it after next year. It felt like a what if scenario. What if Don Draper left advertising and became a sports agent? Hamm has proven yet again that he can take the lead and deliver a charismatic performance.

I fear that this could be the beginning of Hamm being typecast to play more Draper-esque roles. But it’s early days and for some people, certain actors will always be certain TV or film characters. For now, it works. He carries the film where the story may drag or dip into familiar cliched territory. I mean at least this story was worth telling. I didn’t realise that this had only happened recently. The fact that JB channel flicks to Susan Boyle’s Britain’s Got Talent audition. A perfect metaphor for judging a book by its cover. The very lesson this film aspires to teach.

Alan Arkin is . . . pretty much playing Alan Arkin. Sleeping, moaning and whining about the curry he ate the night before. Some of his quips were funny but he has played this character before and so much better in Little Miss Sunshine. He definitely has been typecast. He grumbles and has the odd liner but disappears all too quickly to make a good impression. He inevitably reappears and justifies his character’s relevance. Only just. Bill Paxton played his part well and to be honest, there wasn’t enough of him but this isn’t his story. But my God, he has aged. The years have suddenly caught up with him. I know he was probably made up to be a little older for the role but yikes. Anyway, the main story is on our three Indian protagonists.

Pitobash as the eccentric Amit was brilliant. Scene stealing at every moment. From taking every little phrase literally;

Arkin: “He’s got juice”

Pitobash: “You want juice. I get you juice”

To his documentary film making catching all the things JB wouldn’t want in a PR video, he always brings a smile. Shuraj Sharma as Rinku with a unique stance for pitching baseballs and Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire) as Dinesh play the parts brilliantly. At first, Lake Bell’s (What Happens In Vegas) character of the hot doctor lodger that rents JB’s outhouse bungalow was a little annoying and so predictable. However, Bell and Hamm manage to convey enough chemistry to stop it from spoiling too much of the fun, even if the outcome is so obvious. Aasif Mandvi (The Internship) was wasted in his role, bar one good joke about recruiting the only three Indians who can’t stand cricket. This did make it all the more interesting that the very pitchers they are looking for are field hockey and track athletes.

To be honest, the length didn’t really bother me. I normally complain about the wavering length and at over two hours, I thought there may have been more moments in which I would be glancing at my watch. Not so! The opening may have been slow burning but there was enough easy going humour, charm and story to get away with it. Director Craig Gillespie catches the hustle and bustle of Bombay perfectly and has a cheeky poke at their politics. “We don’t bribe. We simply bypass the busy system by offering a little money”, offers Darshan Jariwala’s incompetent but loveable aide Vivek.

The first hour allowed time to be spent on the character’s backgrounds and upbringings which gave them a more rounded dimension. It also allows for a compelling contrast when the lads are put up in a hotel and are lost in translation with an elevator and escalator. I expected a little more tension with Dinesh’s family with his strict father but an unexpected heart to heart surprised me. I also feared that the film would baffle me with baseball statistics and terms as I’m not a baseball (or sports in general) fan but they use only a few slang words which are easily explained.

However, it’s funny, easy going with a nice uplifting, if slightly abrupt, ending. A somewhat mish mesh of Jerry Maguire and Slumdog Millionaire. The cast work brilliantly together as their fractious relationship and unexpected union are tested as they work against the odds to prove everybody, and themselves, wrong that nothing is impossible. Awww. Nice stuff.

3.5/5 Certainly one of the better ones. Not without its imperfections but worth a watch.