*NEW* EDDIE THE EAGLE REVIEW *NEW*

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Easy going feel good fun.

The story of Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton), the notoriously tenacious British underdog ski jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics.

“Eddie, you are NOT an athlete!”

I should have seen this coming from the producers of Kingsman: The Secret Service.

The silly opening got things going with a resilient young Eddie determined to achieve his dreams of reaching the Olympics. You had to admire the little lad for trying to do every known sport to man and failing terribly. Tumbling over obstacles, smacking himself in the face with shot puts, launching javelins through his dad’s window.

I was a little worried (at first) that Taron Egerton’s impression would make Eddie the Eagle look a bit simple. Especially with all the face pulling. BUT it wasn’t long before the bumbling oaf soon won me over. Another impressive turn from the Kingsman star. Definitely one to watch for the future.

I loved the 70/80s soundtrack. Belting some absolute tunes. BUT I didn’t love it as much as the supporting cast attached to this!

“And where do you think you’re going? I’m off to the Olympics Mum!”

Jo Hartley (This is England) was brilliant as Eddie’s mum. Forever supporting the poor lad and giving him belief when everybody else told him to give up (Including his dad!). Keith Allen was hilarious as Eddie’s exasperated father. Tired of watching him fluff up and not taking to the family trade of plastering.

Tim McInnerny (Blackadder) played the dastardly Dustin Target with aplomb. The snobby head official of the British Winter Olympics Commission who went out of his way to stop Eddie entering. Raising the bar that much higher every time he achieved the impossible.

The panning and landscape shots of the ski slopes gave me vertigo watching! Things did get a little repetitive as we watched Eddie crash and burn again and again. There was only so many times I could wince at Egerton’s CGI’d body fumbling and bumbling down the hill.

BUT you were still rooting for the clutz as he faced constant criticism. He was snubbed and ridiculed by the competing Norwegian Winter Olympic team. Even the prolific Finnish winter skier Matti Nykanen refused to give the Eagle an autograph.

However, once Hugh Jackman’s drunken and disgruntled former Olympian Bronson Peary came into the fold, I was sold. Egerton and Jackman were a fantastic duo. They worked really well together.

Jackman was a nutter. His OTT cheesy ski jump introduction did take the biscuit. BUT his crazy motivational speeches had me in stitches. I won’t think of Bo Derek in the same way. That’s all I’m saying.

The middle act did drag in parts as we had to wait for the reluctant drunk to fight Edwards’ bumbling charm and offer his services. Even if we’ve seen the underdog spiel time and time again (With the endless training montages), I still enjoyed watching this dysfunctional duo try and do the impossible.

I could feel myself getting engaged into the story as he overcame every obstacle that was thrown at him. I didn’t realise some of the facts and records that Eddie actually broke. The first British ski jumper since 1929?! He broke records just by qualifying! Unbelievable. I felt a little bad after only really remembering him as a novelty act and a bit of joke.

It probably didn’t help that I saw him recently in that horrific Olympic show Splash! on ITV just before watching this film. Writers Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton did bring that up as tempers flared between Peary and Edwards with that ever-increasing bar raising that much higher.

BUT the Eagle really didn’t care because he set out to achieve what he wanted. To become an Olympian. He came last in everything and yet kept breaking records for Britain. Mental!

The finale was cheesy BUT heartwarming and uplifting. The story may have been exaggerated BUT despite all its silly moments, this fun little biopic delivered one of the best messages going: “Don’t give up. If you have believe and determination, anything is possible and don’t sell yourself short”.

It wasn’t without its imperfections. The pace meandered along and Christopher Walken was wasted in his minute cameo BUT this was a real feelgood film and with a brilliant cast and some good humour, I think this one is worth your time.

3.5/5

SPOOKS: THE GREATER GOOD REVIEW

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One of the best British dramas takes to the silver screen? Was it needed? Did it succeed? Or should the BBC have let old dogs lie?

I won’t hide my bias. I am a huge Spooks fan. It came around the same time as 24, managed to stand its own, and became one of my favourite TV shows. But very much like 24, it was never afraid to wipe out main characters, deliver twists and turns every week, tense cliffhangers and nail biting cryptic dialogue between fellow spies and high ranking officials.

It may have lost the battle with 24 but certainly lasted the war. 24 stumbled at series 6 and never really recovered. It improved. While Spooks only really tested me at Series 8 of a 10 series run!

The last two series did feel like old hat. What was hard hitting soon became predictable and a retread of stronger story lines from earlier series. I guess there is only so much you can do with a spy drama. But the final series delivered a heartbreaking and satisfying finale.

Four years after the hit series came to a close, we have a movie. A close that was long overdue as the show seemed to be heading down the road of mediocrity. A fitting ending that wrapped things up but subtly suggested that a return wasn’t out of the question.

So here we are. Did I sigh? Denounce the movie gods? Nope. I felt excited. My love for Spooks not quite over and after watching this film . . . I can firmly say it’s still not.

The opening sequence set the tone. Tension bubbling on the back burner. Even if I found the dialogue a little flat and cliched. Spies ironically playing the game ‘I Spy’ while the “cocky” CIA operatives chat up the only British totty (Tuppence Middleton) in the surveillance squad.

However, my little niggles were soon pushed to the back of my head (momentarily) by the introduction of one of my TV icons, head of MI5 security services, Harry Pearce (Peter Firth).

As soon as Firth entered the scene, the fan boy excitement was back. Offering a pillow to a systems analyst who had time to rest his feet on his desk.

It wasn’t long before something was afoot and we were thrown straight into the action as a terrorist (Elyes Gabel) escapes custody during a routine handover.

Racy, tense and very much in the style of the Bourne films. But let’s not forget Spooks were there first! They even threw in the infamous TV title sequence.

I will emphasize that the pace really is put on the back burner. It seemed to chug along after a promising opening and Pearce facing termination after making a judgement call.

The bureaucratic sniping and dealing with the “red tape” spiel did feel like the Spooks of old. Unfortunately, that meant it was dreadfully predictable. However, that was all relieved by some cracking performances from some old faces (Oh yes) and a lot of new ones.

Tim McInnerny (Blackadder) was superb as Mace. Just as callous and manipulative as ever. The introduction of David Harewood (Homeland) and Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty) was a mixed bag for me. Harewood played the uptight Warrender perfectly. A weaselly two faced mediator desperate to keep both agencies at bay.

The only cast member that annoyed me was Jennifer Ehle. Normally I don’t mind her but what the hell was her accent supposed to be? Her twang (even though she was meant to be English) really grated against me. It was like she was trying to do an impression of the Queen. Terrible.

Disgraced, Pearce must look to the only person who can help him. The agent who he removed from MI5. Cue . . . No, not Matthew Macfadyen! I know. Gutted, too.

It’s only Jon Snow, of course. Kit Harington literally hits the ground running making a memorable entrance into the mix. Smashing through a cafe window to escape some Russians. Never found out why he was running? A passing comment would have been nice after an entry like that.

Harington was very good. The sulky scorned spy role suited him and he worked well with Firth. Their relationship may have been a little cliched (and strikingly similar to Kingsmen) as Pearce knew his father who died in a botched operation.

BUT it was still interesting to see their already fractious bond tested to the max. And yes, Harrington’s character knows nottthhinggg. One for the Game of Thrones fans.

Harington was the much needed catalyst to jump start this spluttering slow burner. Once he begins Borune-ing the place up in a dangerous game of cat and mouse, I was hooked.

The airport rendezvous with Pearce was superb. Tense, suspenseful and every thing that won me over with Spooks the first time round. The numerous drop off points, the items of clothing with cryptic cards and the time frames. Brilliant.

At it’s best, it’s tense, dramatic with the odd shocker. But at it’s worst, it’s a little predictable and slow. The problem with Spooks is that you always know there is a bigger play. And the cogs are always turning. You can call things before they happen. That’s the problem after 10 series. It does kill the tension and some of the bigger reveals.

Firth was excellent as HP. Despite being integral to the plot, he does seem to be pushed into the background. A little disappointing. Harington’s Holloway is always at the forefront. Not a problem as he proves to be a worthy addition to the Spooks set.

However, Firth still gets his moment to shine and when he does, it’s great. After all the sorrow and tough decisions the man has to make, you really hope that there can be some solace for him.

I don’t think it’s a must for people who haven’t seen Spooks. There are a lot of new faces. When the old ones appear, you get the picture. I won’t say who, Spooks fans. Don’t worry. But there isn’t as many as I hoped.

And Guppy from Casualty has come a long way. Game of Thrones, A Most Violent Year and now this? He was brilliant as the maniacal Qasim. His American accent was impeccable. Take lessons, Ms Ehle. Tuppence Middleton showed potential. I just wish her character wasn’t so bland. But then again Spooks fans, who will ever top Ros?

The film may have been patchy but the last 20 minutes still had me trying to connect the dots. Even if some twists worked and others didn’t, the closing scenes still got me. And Firth stole the show, allowing HP to show a little vulnerability. Cracking his cold demeanour for a one moment before shaking it off and vanishing like a ghost. A spook. Proving once again why his character will always be one of my favourites.

The ending may have been ambiguous but it confirmed one thing for me. I’m still not quite ready to let Spooks go just yet. The film format certainly didn’t kill the franchise. If anything, it has given me hope. A few tweaks on the plot and pacing and I’m happy for it to continue. Cue freeze frame. Black and white.

3.5/5

Also did anyone else feel the title made you want to do this?