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Lean on Pete (2017)
Absolutely not what you expect. Brave film making that really hits home.
I came across this film expecting something like Seabiscuit ( a film I really enjoyed) but instead got something I wasn't expecting.
A young lad gets involved with a fading racehorse and this film follows the few months after. I can't quite remember a film a veers so far from what you expect than this one. It is a beguiling film and one that never becomes boring. It's a rare feat for a film to surprise when you've seen so many but this one really does.
Due to the subject matter I can see why people wouldn't enjoy it but for those than enjoy being surprised in an understated way this will hit the spot.
The film is carried by Charlie Plummer who is exceptional as the kid just wanting to find acceptance. A truly wonderful performance.
This is a strange film in many ways but truly captivating and so far removed from the generic mush churned out these days that it's well worth checking out.
Outstanding must watch comedy-drama.
A quadriplegic hires an ex con to be his carer and an unlikely friendship ensues. Doesn't sound too promising but this film hits heights you really don't expect.
This is a rare film that hits the spot on both the drama and the comedy front with ease. Rarely have a laughed so much and add onto the top notch drama and you really have hit the jackpot.
Central to the films success are the two leads Francois Cluzet ( looking remarkably like Dustin Hoffman) and Omar Sy. Both are likable and bring real depth to their roles making you root for both of them. The supporting cast are excellent and there isn't a false performance throughout.
The films pacing is excellent and although it was nearly 2 hours long you really just want it to continue. A lot of films are let down by the ending but this one really delivers on the emotional front.
There is nothing that lets this film down, it's that good. I never rate films 10 on first watch but I'm making an exception with this one. One of the best films I've ever seen.
Thought provoking and enjoyable but falls well short of being a great film
A young soldier returns after the Iraq war lauded as a hero. But is he?
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is not the stereotypical war film but more a study of how war affects everyone at home and on the battlefield. In particular how the realities of war are far different to what those not there are told.
This is fairly slow moving and probably lacks a real star performance to carry it through. Saying that I thought Joe Alwyn ( looking a lot like a young Matt Damon)did a pretty good job in the lead role. It's told in flashbacks which work pretty well.
This is an intelligent war film but won't appeal to the shoot em up brigade. It raises plenty of questions about crass the war is perceived and portrayed in America.
This is an enjoyable film with lots of messages but it doesn't quite hit the mark enough to be labelled a great film.
Love of My Life (2017)
A bit hit and miss but still reasonably entertaining
A woman finds out she might only have a few days to live but her ex husband still hopes to win her back.
This is extremely far fetched and the situations are often off putting and forced but there are still enough good moments to make this an enjoyable romantic drama.
It features a good cast ( three of which were main characters in Four Weddings and a Funeral). Although not riotously funny there is a good smattering of funny moments throughout.
Although probably not as good as it should have been considering the cast involved this is still worth a look if you're in the mood for some easy light hearted entertainment.
Cruel Summer (2016)
Very unsettling but for a small budget film very impressive
Cruel Summer is very much along the lines of Eden Lake. A young adult with autism goes camping for his Duke of Edinburgh award to find himself at the mercy of a young thug with revenge on his mind.
This is a small budget film and a simple plot but nevertheless it's extremely well made and always engrossing if exceptionally uncomfortable viewing. I thought it was very realistic and all the actors involved did a great job. Danny Miller has received rave reviews for his performances in the British soap Emmerdale and it is clear that he is a hugely talented actor that if he wants can go far. The rest of the cast are less well known but all convince.
I found this quite emotionally draining and pretty upsetting and it will live long in the mind. The fact things like this happen makes it all the more sad. The ending was heartbreaking and beautifully done.
This is an unsettling film and not a film to necessarily enjoy as such and therefore won't appeal to everyone. Still for those with the stomach for it this is a brutal but impressive film.
The Shallows (2016)
Decent shark film
A US surfer gets stuck in the shallows hunted by a great white shark.
There is only so much you can do with a shark movie but this still manages to entertain despite the relative predictability of it. It's well filmed and makes the most of a beautiful setting.
There is some decent tension built up and some predictably bloody deaths. There are some nice touches done with the local wildlife of jellyfish,dolphins and gulls which all helps you keep your interest and makes you forget you've seen this all before.
This is an entertaining and decent entry into the shark movie genre and worth watching with a couple of beers on a Saturday night.
Every Secret Thing (2014)
Bleak but well acted and enthralling drama
Every Secret Thing is a mystery drama about the previous murder of a young girl and the search for a currently missing girl. It mainly relates to the two young adults who were found guilty of the death of a young girl 7 years previously and who are now suspects in the current missing girl case.
The film is very well paced and totally enthralling. It uses flashbacks very effectively to show what could of happened during the previous murder so you don't really know who was responsible until the end of the film.
The strong cast featuring Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks, Dakota Fanning and Nate Parker are excellent but special mention goes to Danielle Macdonald who I'd never heard of previously who does a brilliant job as Alice Manning.
You never know how the film will end up and I found the very end of the film to be especially chilling. The only negative I can find is that I thought the film could have been a little longer in length.
It's quite rare to find decent intelligent dramas these days but this small effort really does hit the mark. Highly recommended.
Bleak but superbly acted drama about grief.
Winter is a drama about a man who has a breakdown following the death of his wife. The story follows how this affects the lives of his two boys.
A sparse and haunting soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment to this bleak drama. Tommy Flanagan is great as the husband struggling to cope with his enormous grief despite knowing that it is affecting his children. The hugely likable and ridiculously young looking for his age Tom Payne is also great as the responsible older brother.
Although this film lacks standout moments it always holds your attention thanks to it's fine cast. As you'd expect this is not a fun film to watch but does a great job of showing how hard grief can hit us all.
Winter is a very good emotional drama done on a small budget that is better than the sum of it's parts. Highly recommended.
And Soon the Darkness (2010)
Fairly enjoyable despite it's flaws
A woman goes missing on a bike trip around Argentina and her friend desperately searches to find her.
This is a fairly familiar tale as two naive girls find out the hard way that if you're traveling around a strange country you need your wits about you.
The Argentinian setting at least makes a pleasant change from normal USA thrillers and there is some nice cinematography. Amber Heard does a good job as the woman looking for her friend evoking the sense of desperation you'd feel looking for someone in a foreign country. Karl Urban as the man helping her is likable if a little wooden.
Based on the relatively low IMDb rating ( currently 5.2) I wasn't expecting too much. In truth although nothing outstanding this is fairly engrossing and at times tense thriller. It does at least try and spring a few surprises that you don't see coming.
The ending is fairly predictable but this is still a fairly enjoyable ride.
A Deadly Obsession (2012)
Pretty entertaining for what it is
A former student in love with a Professor goes on a gun rampage at a school.
This is a made for TV movie and expectations should be set at a lower level when watching the film. There is relatively little violence for the subject matter but still more than in most TV movies.
Grant Harvey does a pretty decent and believable job as the psychotic ex student looking for revenge. The rest of the cast are OK but nothing outstanding.
The film switches between the past meetings between the Professor ( Katee Sackhoff ) and Harvey. This is to tell his back story and work pretty well. The hostage situation is well filmed and at times pretty tense.
You can pick holes in the film and plot but if you watch the film as pure entertainment then this is still entertaining enough. One of the more interesting TV movies which at least isn't as predictable as most.
The Las Vegas Story (1952)
Enjoyable despite a great cast being somewhat wasted
A singer goes back to Las Vegas with her new husband and becomes embroiled in a murder investigation. A fine cast including Vincent Price, Jane Russell,Victor Mature and Brad Dexter make this an entertaining watch.
The case revolves around a valuable missing necklace. Although at times fairly predictable it is an absorbing story helped by some good acting and some interesting characters. I felt that the film somewhat wasted the intriguing start and turns into a straight chase film near the end.
The Las Vegas story isn't a classic by any means but it is always good to watch legends of the screen and so for me this was an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.
The Den (2013)
Disturbing social media horror
Hacked or The Den ( what is it with these stupid alternative titles? ) is another film based around the dangers of social media.
It starts very similar to Unfriended and becomes more SAW like as it progresses. The overwhelming impression I got from the film was just how banal and pointless most of social media is. Just sad people desperate for a bit of attention.
Although not groundbreaking it is fairly creepy and at times disturbing and keep my attention throughout. It didn't quite go where i thought it would and unlike many horrors I thought the ending was very good.
This is a very good effort for a low budget film and very effective in what it is trying to convey. Worth watching.
Average but some nice touches.
A young couple move into their new home but their new neighbour takes prying to a whole new level.
This film isn't going to win any awards for originality but it isn't a bad film for its genre. Neville Archambault is perfectly cast as the ultra creepy landlord. In his case you really can judge a book by it's cover.
Although the pacing is maybe a little slow and repetitive it does at least build up the tension with a couple of really well done and creepy scenes.
The film never really goes anywhere but the ending at least tries something different.
This is just an OK film nothing special but not terrible either and being pretty short maybe worth watching once if you're at a loose end.
The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015)
Compelling and heartbreaking film
The true story of an Indian maths genius who gets to Cambridge University just prior to WW1.
On the face of it a film about a mathematician seems a dull subject for a film and to many it probably is. However this film is so well done it doesn't really matter what the subject is about.
Rarely does an actor come across as likable as Dev Patel and his role in this elevates it a notch higher than maybe it should. He plays Srinivasa Ramanujan who stuns Cambridge by solving a mathematics puzzle that was thought to be unsolvable. Patel lights up every scene he is in and receives great support from the ever dependable Jeremy Irons.
It may be slow in places as it charts Ramanujans struggles but the film slowly sucks you in before unleashing a body blow right at the end of the film.
This is a superb and heartbreaking drama that is much more enjoyable than you think it will be. Highly recommended.
Money Monster (2016)
Undemanding but reasonably entertaining
A disgruntled investor takes over a TV studio after losing money on the advice of a TV presenter.
Jack O'Connell an actor who excels at playing menacing characters and is great as the investor with a point to prove. It's hard not to have sympathy with his character with the endless smug investor professionals on TV peddling their greed on a daily basis. Clooney is as smooth as usual and Julia Roberts does her usual decent job.
Hostage type dramas have been done to death and it takes something special these days for a film to excel. This one doesn't really excel but there are aspects of it that at least try and be different to the usual clichés.
The story started to lose my interest after the first half hour but the tension does thankfully build and rescues the film from a slow death.
I like the message behind the movie that greed is bad and wealth can't protect you and as an undemanding thriller this does the job. Just don't expect to be blown away by it.
A Son's Promise (1990)
Inspirational true story. One of the better TV movies.
The true story of a young son who promises his dying mom to look after his younger brothers when she dies. The film follows his struggles as he tries to keep his family together through immense hardship.
A Son's Promise is a typical feel good true movie but don't let that put you off, this is one of the better ones. This is a tough role but the very likable Ricky Schroder excels as the young man showing maturity beyond his years as he works himself to the bone to provide for his brothers.
This is an inspirational story and is dealt with well here. It is always entertaining and thanks to Schroder you feel engaged with the lead character and his problems. It all builds to a satisfying ending.
As far as made for TV movies go this is one of the better ones I've seen.
Just Jim (2015)
A bit too quirky for its own good
A lonely teenagers life is transformed upon the arrival of his American next door neighbour.
This is a very quirky dark comedy that will not appeal to everyone. After a relatively sluggish start setting up the situation things pick up with the arrival of mysterious American Emile Hirsch.
Emile Hirsch is great and Craig Roberts who bears an uncanny resemblance and acting style to Martin Freeman is also superb as the unpopular kid trying to improve his social standing.
Despite the good acting this is a hit and miss affair. There are some good ideas here and some good scenes but too many of them fall flat. The pacing isn't great and it seems to bounce from place to place without any real direction.
Overall this isn't a bad film it's just a bit too way out there for my taste and I doubt I'd watch it again.
The Whip Hand (1951)
Decent 50's thriller
A young reporter on vacation injuries himself and finds himself in a small town called Winnoga which seems to harbour a dark secret.
The Whip Hand is a suspenseful and taut thriller. There are plenty of colourful characters as a town full of fear are helped by a confident reporter who senses things are not as they seem. Elliott Reid is convincing as the reporter and Raymond Burr is quietly menacing as one of the conspirators.
The plot although featuring a sinister subject is fairly routine and predictable to today's audience but probably packed much more of a punch in the post war paranoid 1950's.
Although by no means a classic, this is a fairly enjoyable thriller and well worth watching at least once.
Excellent 1940's Film Noir
A detective tries to find the killer of a composer who was presumed to have committed suicide.
The charismatic George Raft does a good job here as the detective who doesn't accept a suicide was murder. This atmospheric and moody thriller scoots along swiftly as the mystery as to who killed the man deepens. Raft is helped by a decent cast especially the beguiling Lynn Bari as Rafts chief suspect.
The well paced script shows plenty of wit and lots of snappy one liners. It builds the suspense well as Raft slowly uncovers the truth.
This is a classy and very entertaining 1940's thriller that holds up well today. Well worth seeking out.
Arizona Territory (1950)
Routine B movie western
A man helps a woman who has been shot at and inadvertently helps uncover a counterfeiting plot.
The film features Whip Wilson who had a short but unsuccessful stab at success as a leading western star. This is nothing more than routine western fodder with the short running time leaving little time for much character development.
What is surprising is that although this is nothing more than a B movie it does have some pretty high production values, certainly better than many other western B movies of the time.
The splendidly named Whip Wilson is amiable enough but lacked the star quality to be a leading star. The rest of the cast are decent with John Merton making a decent bad guy and Nancy Saunders charming as his niece. Unfortunately the stilted and stagey dialogue and run of the mill script leave them little room for manoeuvre
I imagine this would have been lapped up by the audiences at the time but unfortunately it has limited appeal today. Saying that for fans of old westerns this isn't a bad film and at least moderately entertaining.
Cabin Fever (2016)
Very similar to the original but still enjoyable
It's pretty clear there isn't much love for this remake. However I like to give any film a chance and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this one.
I've seen the original a few times and it is very very similar however I still found plenty to enjoy here. There is a slight increase in gore and a slight twist on the sheriff cameo. Like the original there are some laughs and a few jump moments to go with the gory moments.
I was worried the acting would be poor but to be honest I thought all the cast did a decent job with what they had.
I can understand why some people may not have wanted a remake and to be honest it does seem a bit pointless if you've seen the original. However as a standalone film this really isn't that bad at all and it kept me and the wife entertained.
If you liked the original and are open minded or if you haven't seen the original then this is worth watching.
Borderline Normal (2001)
A strange mix of good and bad
Borderline normal is a coming of age drama about two sons whose parents split up and how in particular this affects the younger son.
This is a strange film in many ways, it features some hard hitting drama but also some strange characters. It has a relatively high profile cast with decent actors like Corbin Bernsen, Stephanie Zimbalist and Michael Ironside who provide excellent support. Unfortunately I found the performance of the lead Robin Dunne a little wooden but this is offset by a great performance by Caterina Scorsone as his girlfriend.
There are some excellent scenes here but these are interspersed with scenes that seem out of place and amateurish. This really is a bit of a mish mash and it's a shame as this had the potential to be really good film.
For all it's annoying faults this is never dull and is pretty entertaining.
The 33 (2015)
Well made and uplifting true story
The Chilean mine collapse in 2010 garnered worldwide coverage and it didn't take long for a film of the drama to be put in production.
Many real life drama's fail to do justice to the subject matter but this one does a pretty good job. There is only so much you can do with these stories of entombment so there isn't much here you won't have seen before. Thankfully this one doesn't just concentrate on those trapped but also those above which keeps the film moving along nicely.
The filming is impressive and the script is pretty decent. Throw in a few famous faces like Antonio Banderas and Lou Diamond Phillips and you have the building blocks of a good movie. It is maybe a touch overlong which does lead to a few flat spots but these are forgivable.
This an uplifting and at times very emotional drama that highlights the depths of human spirit in adversity. Well worth watching.
White Bird in a Blizzard (2014)
Unusual but good mystery drama
White Girl in a Blizzard follows a girl trying to discover what has happened to her mother via flashbacks.
This is an intriguing film that concentrates on how her mother going missing affects the daughter. The real mystery of the film though is just what did happen to her mother. It doesn't follow traditional storytelling techniques and bounces from place to place. This will annoy some but I think it made it a bit different to many mystery stories.
I can't say I was taken with the manic performance of Eva Green as the mom which I found annoying and which detracted from the film. Thankfully though the film is driven along by great performances from Shailene Woodley as the daughter and also Christopher Meloni as the Dad.
This is a strange film in many ways and far from flawless but it always grabs your attention and is a welcome change from many of today's predictable mystery thrillers. If you don't mind something a bit different this is well worth watching.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
A film full of suspense and surprises.
A woman finds herself in a bunker after a car crash but how did she get there and why is she there?.
10 Cloverfield Lane is a fairly slow moving film pretty much set in one place. It relies heavily on keeping the audience guessing as to what is really happening. On this score it works pretty well with plenty of red herrings thrown in along the way as the paranoia of the situation kicks in. The fact that there are spells when not much happens makes the things that do happen more sinister.
John Goodman is fantastic as the owner of the bunker whilst Mary Elizabeth Winstead is captivating as the woman trying to piece together what is real and what isn't. John Gallagher Jr has a lesser job as the every man but still convinces.
This is a film that pays to stick with as it ratchets up the tension tenfold as it nears it's climax. There is a sudden switch of pace towards the end which is a brave thing of the film makers to try. I found the ending a bit of a disappointment but I still found this an interesting mix of genres and always entertaining.
I was so confused as to whether I liked this film much on first watch, that I re-watched it the following day, something I rarely do. This confirmed to me that it is a good film despite a few things I didn't like. Personally I'd rate it slightly higher than Cloverfield as it's just a more interesting film.