Eddie The Eagle Review: An Uplifting Triumph

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There’s nothing quite like a proper feel good film to give you both the warm and fuzzies as well as a real sense of inspiration. It’s a tricky concept to nail; often running the risk of being too sickly sweet or cheesy beyond repair. Famous Brit actor and director Dexter Fletcher (WILD BILL and SUNSHINE OF LEITH) seems to have perfected the feel good flick genre with his latest feature EDDIE THE EAGLE.

Staring KINGSMAN actor Taron Egerton as notorious British underdog ski-jumper Eddie Edwards, EDDIE THE EAGLE tells his charming story as he triumphantly makes his way from amateur skier to hopeful pro, when he attends and competes in the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Born in Cheltenham in 1963, Eddie always dreamed of being an Olympic medal winner, despite his lack of natural athletic talent, and worked hard to become a good downhill skier. After missing out on representing Great Britain as a down hill skier, the never-say-die enthusiast sets his sights on ski-jumping and stumbles his way to Germany to train.

Eddie meets hip-flask toting, former ski-jumper Bronson Peary, played by Hugh Jackman, and manages to convince him to ditch the life of regrets and hard liquor ato train him up to be successful enough to attend the 1988 Winter Olympics. Throughout the narrative we witness Eddie’s many ups and downs, cuts and bruises and failed attempts to make it as a worthy ski-jumper and it makes for a heartwarming, entertaining watch!

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Written by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton, the screenplay is an absolute delight, with a really brilliantly uplifting narrative created from an otherwise simple story. There’s a joyous sense of quintessential British humor that runs throughout the narrative, with brilliant dialogue that leaves you laughing out loud at one moment, then tearing up the very next.

With Fletcher helming the project, the film follows the general codes and conventions that one would expect to find in your traditional sports biopic. However, he makes it a truly down to Earth and very human viewing experience, so that even the slower moments within the narrative feel absolutely detrimental to Eddie’s story and therefore make a real emotional connection with the audience.

The fantastic score includes original music from Matthew Margeson, while featuring songs from the likes of Hall & Oats, Deacon Blue and Van Halen. Combined with the brilliant aesthetic that often mirrors that of an 80’s video game, the film feels entirely nostalgic while effortlessly timeless.

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What really ties all these positive qualities together is the outstanding performance from our main man Taron Egerton. He is absolutely  hilarious as Eddie and completely enigmatic as he magnificently portrays such a quirky character. His facial expressions, body language, deliverance and general performance embodies everything we’ve heard about and seen from Mr. Edwards himself. It really is a joy to watch this young actor completely outdo himself with each new performance.

With Egerton himself just being generally likable and a pleasure to watch, he makes this charming character even more lovable and it’s near impossible not to watch his performance with a huge grin plastered on your face.

Staring alongside Egerton, our favorite Aussie Hugh Jackman plays his part as the gruff and disagreeable Peary with ease and his usual effortless charm. While Peary begins as the stereotypical fallen star that indulges in too much drink and self pity, his grumpy disposition soon transforms into one of pride and joy as he see’s Eddie succeed. While his character is one we may have seen a thousand times, Jackman’s chemistry with Egerton makes for a pleasurable viewing experience and stops the character from being too much of a cliche.

You really don’t have to be a major sports fan to enjoy Fletcher’s EDDIE THE EAGLE.With its great score, flawless script, brilliant direction and outstanding performance; it really is an all round joy to watch. It’s uplifting spirit will attract a varied audience but it’s the wonderful execution from all involved that will keep you planted firmly in your seats, smiling like fools.

 

 

 

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Batman v Superman Review: A Flawed But Enjoyable Superhero Flick

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The highly anticipated Zack Snyder flick BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE hit theaters this month, taking a whopping estimated $424.1 million worldwide in it’s opening box office weekend. However, despite the impressive takings the film itself has divided critics and fans as it’s received both scathing reviews and floods of praise.

With Britain’s own Henry Cavil reprising his role as MAN OF STEELS’ Superman/Clark Kent and Hollywood hotshot Ben Affleck donning the famous cowl as Batman/Bruce Wayne; BATMAN V SUPERMAN revolves around the tension between these two superhero heavy weights as Batman begins to fear Superman’s real intentions for man kind, as he witnesses the destruction that comes with the red caped hero’s valiance.

While Batman gears himself up for battle, Superman deals with the pressure from his adorning fans and fearful critics all while trying to keep his love,Lois Lane (Amy Adams), safe. While the two hero’s nurse their egos and flex their impressive muscles, villain Lex Luther (Jessie Eisenberg) worms his way into their lives by creating the devastating Doomsday which threatens to destroy Metropolis.

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Let’s get the immediate opinion out of the way so that we can get into the nitty-gritty issues and joys to be found in the film. Do I think BATMAN V SUPERMAN was perfect? Nope. Do I think it deserves all the bashing it’s getting? Nu-uh. It really is that simple for this passive superhero fan. This film is so obviously not Marvel, there is no bright pop of colour or witty comeback round every corner. It’s dark, stormy, brooding and serious. Yes, at times, it feels like over kill but generally I found it to be an enjoyable and interesting aesthetic and tone.

One of the biggest worries when casting news broke out all those months ago were the capability of Affleck as The Dark Knight himself. Coming from a girl who originally said she’d “rather shit in my hands and clap” then see Affleck as Batman; I really liked him in the role. I take my potty mouthed words back, Affleck! I’m sorry, man. Affleck made a fine Batman but an even better Bruce. His salt and pepper hair, ginormous frame and intense personality suites this role perfectly and every time he was on screen I found myself feeling both protected by him but strangely fearful of this older, serious Bruce.

At times the intensity of his character did indeed feel a little overplayed but that felt more to do with the script from Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. The dialogue in general felt a little stilted and many lines were delivered with any real sense of direction or delivery. Whether this was trepidation from the actors or just badly written dialogue is hard to tell but the narrative is one of the film’s weakest elements and that speaks volumes.

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Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luther was another casting choice that split fan’s opinion and I reacted to the news with a long, bored groan. Eisenberg played the character with a clever little rich boy arrogance, mixed with a genuinely unhinged edge that was better than I had imagined he would play it. With his quick wit, twisted sense of self entitlement and vast intelligence; Eisenberg played a very passable Lex Luther. Unfortunately there were times where he became a cartoon character of himself and that often felt awkward to watch. Despite this, his performance was enjoyable and there was good chemistry between our villain and our heroes.

Throughout the two and a half hour running time there were some really brilliant visuals that pushed the often lackluster narrative along nicely. Scenes such as the introduction to Justice League characters, such as Ezra Miller‘s The Flash and Jason Momoa‘s Aquaman, were great and orchestrated in a way that didn’t feel like an obvious push for the future Justice League movie. It slotted well within the plot and looked great too.

Other scenes such as Batman’s dream sequences were a little hit and miss. The problem is there was just too many of them and therefore they lost any real power within the narrative. It was interesting to see what Batman imagined the future would be if Superman reigned supreme, the soldiers bowing down to him as he rips off Batman cowl made for a nice little inclusion. However, other scenes like The Flash bursting from the screen to warn Bruce about the future felt absolutely unnecessarily and, unless you’re a fan of the comics, pretty much went straight over the audience’s heads.

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One of the biggest flaws to be found in BATMAN V SUPERMAN was what most of us flocked to the cinema to see. The actual fight between Batman and Superman, while ridiculously cool and great to watch, only really lasted around fifteen minutes. Call me greedy but I just wanted more. The choreography, performance, score and visuals for their fight were all brilliant but it just felt like it was over too quickly. With one quick mention of Martha and her impending death, Batman forgives all immediately and it just feels too easy. I wanted to see more difficultly over his decision but alas he was swayed pretty quickly.

While there are flaws to be found in the film one of my absolute favorite things about BATMAN V SUPERMAN was, without a doubt, Gal Godot‘s Wonder Woman. She was incredible and really aided the narrative with her presence. With Amy Adams’ Lois Lane had more to do than she did in MAN OF STEEL, the film was desperate for more positive female energy and Gal Gadot delivered! That brilliant electric score when she appeared on screen in all her glory really summed up her fantastic presence as Wonder Woman. Her costume was spot on, she wasn’t there as a glorified love interest and she actually plays a real hand in saving Metropolis. She was a real triumph.

I really don’t believe that there is some kind of critic conspiracy behind these negative reviews. The film is a flawed one, it really is that simple. However, despite it’s problems, I found myself sinking into my seat, drunk on pure, passive entertainment and enjoyed what I watched. They’ve got a lot of work to do before we see our characters again and hopefully they’ll learn for their mistakes in BATMAN V SUPERMAN. For now thought, if you liked it then do so without outrage at the negative reviews. If critics don’t matter, as so many are saying, then surely their opinion shouldn’t sting so much. Film is an interpretive art form- enjoy it for what it is!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Mass Review: Weak Narrative Derails This Gangster Flick

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Director: Scott Cooper

Staring: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard

Running Time: 2 hours 2 mins

Rating: 15

Release Date: 27th November 2015

Johnny Depp‘s fantastic career has seen him play an array of weird and wonderful characters, from swashbuckling heart-throb to a leather clad cry baby. This year, however, he’s swapped fantastic costume for facial prosthetic as he plays Boston super gangster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger in Scott Cooper‘s latest feature Black Mass.

The gangster biopic begins in 1975 and introduces us to South Boston’s most notorious and violent criminal, Jimmy Bulger, as the leader of the Irish-American Winter Hill Gang. When Jimmy’s power position in the South is threatened by rival North end gang the Angiulo Brothers, he becomes an unofficial FBI informant, working with childhood friend and current FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton).

With Connolly and Jimmy working together, both turning to Jimmy’s State Senator brother, Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help, the mission to destroy the mafia goes ahead but soon the entire gang find themselves directly in the FBI’s firing line.

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Cooper takes a pretty traditional biopic route and, unfortunately, the safety doesn’t particularly work in his favor. While Jimmy is an interesting enough character, the  narrative doesn’t feel overly committed to his story as Cooper struggles to juggle both this central narrative and the weaving testimonials of the FBI informants. It leaves the film and its flow feeling a little clunky and disjointing, leading to a rather slow paced narrative.

While the film as a whole is disappointing, the performances are not; specifically Depp’s central role. It’s rather refreshing to see Depp in a role that strays from his more type-cast ‘wacky’ characters, instead seeing him in a new chilling light. His portrayal of Bulger comes with a real hard edge, a sense of unnerving controlled fury but a hot rage that pours from that stern psychotic stare. He plays it very well and it’s easy to see his physical commitment to embodying the terror his character well represents.

Dakota Johnson gives a great performance as the Mother of Jimmy’s child, despite her small screen time. We only really get a quick glimpse at her role in Jimmy’s life and it feels like a missed opportunity and failure on the writers part not to have seen much of their backstory. Still, she’s particularly impressive during the hospital scenes; giving a wonderfully emotive performance with great chemistry between her and Depp.

Alongside him Edgerton and Cumberbatch do a perfectly fine job of giving audiences a glimpse of how else a ‘street kid’ might have turned out. The difficultly with these two characters however is that there’s nobody among Bulger’s gang to empathise with or even truly like. This especially applies to Edgerton’s character, who initially starts out as a little naive but continues to fall deeper into his loyalty with Jimmy; leading him to be completely unlikable.

Without somebody, anybody, to be rooting for, it’s difficult to really care about how the narrative progresses; why should we really care about justice when there’s nobody to want justice for? This really comes down to the writing and direction, as it’s not difficult to see that the cast are doing the best with what they’ve got. However, it often feels like the focus is paid too much on creative a generic gangster flick that the real narrative drive is neglected.

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The film is terribly frustrating as it’s not hard to imagine a better movie if only they’d gone in a different, less predictable direction. Themes like Jimmy’s vastly different career to his Brother’s or his relationship with the Mother of his child peak your interest but they’re never fully explored and it does leave you with a cloudy head to disappointment.

Ones own love for gangster movies perhaps looks upon Cooper’s attempt with harsh eyes and I don’t doubt that Black Mass will find an appreciative audience who will be more than thrilled with his style and direction; I’m just not one of them.

 

 

Steve Jobs Review: Sorkin, Boyle & Fassbender Are A Match Made in Heaven

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Director: Danny Boyle

Staring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogan, Jeff Daniels, Micahel Stuhlbarg,

Running Time:  2 hours 2 mins 

Release Date: 13th November 2015

Rating: 15

You’d struggle to find somebody in the Western world who hasn’t heard of Steve Jobs, let alone his various Apple products. iPods and all it’s variants are firmly attached to our body like separate appendages and Jobs is seen like a Godly figure to so many tech lovers. With Steve Jobs being such an idol of creation and a public figure that held so much attention, it’s no surprise that Danny Boyle‘s latest flick, Steve Jobs, is the second film to be made about the main man.

The film isn’t told within the traditional narrative form of beginning, middle and end; opting instead to cherry-pick three major product launches, creating the narrative from said events and unveiling the central story line through the drama of backstage preparation. This method feels like it shouldn’t work, running the risk of losing audience engagement due to the simplistic, subdued form of story telling. Thankfully, the combination of Danny Boyle’s brilliant vision and Aaron Sorkin’s masterful script completely steers the film clear of being anything but captivating, gripping it’s audience from the very beginning and refusing to let go until the bitter end.

 Boyle really does do a wonderful job of steering this huge Steve Jobs ship and there are delightful moments of visual engagement that scream his name. Instant recognition towards his previous work spills from many scenes, a particular highlight being a scene involving Jobs and Hoffman conversing in an unremarkable corridor. As Jobs is giving another one of his impassioned speeches, wonderful images cascade the curved walls of the corridor, scooping the audience up into an atmospheric moment of epiphany; soon finding ourselves believing whatever it is Jobs is saying.

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Fassbender does a stand out job of embodying everything we’ve come to believe about Jobs. He transforms into this complex character with ease, proving his talents to be growing with each new performance. Fassbender does a brilliant job of conveying not only the development of Jobs, especially when related to his relationship with his daughter, but also relates the varied, eccentric sides to his personality. Whether we’re witnessing moments of absolute tyranny, such humor in his back and forth with Hoffman, unbearable patronising or even tenderness; Fassbender makes the character so overwhelming in the very best sense.

Alongside him, a varied range of top performances creates this incredibly impressive cast. Playing Jobs’ confidant and marketing executive Joanna Hoffman is the ever brilliant Kate Winslet, who’s character helps us see the softer side of Jobs, as well as representing much of what we’re thinking about the man himself i.e lighten up, man.

Seth Rogan gives an equally great performance as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Michael Stuhlbarg plays engineer Andy Hertzfled, Jeff Daniels appears as CEO John Scully and Katherine Waterston plays the troubled mother of Jobs’ daughter. Each of these tremendously written and played characters allow us to get an outside look at Steve Jobs, how he functioned as more than just the famous Apple co-founder; as a friend, lover, boss and father.

One of the films bigger side stories revolves around Jobs’ relationship with his daughter Lisa, played by Ripley Sobo, Makenzie Moss and Perla Haney-Jardine. It’s quite rewarding to see just how Jobs’ turbulent relationship with Lisa adapts, grows and eventually blossoms, especially after revealing his initial denial of paternity. There are moments where it feels as though the relationship is slightly forced to incorporate a sentimental ending but this mostly comes down to personal preference and it’s never enough to tarnish the stellar film as a whole.

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The film’s ultimate triumph is the outstanding, punchy and completely addictive script from Aaron Sorkin.  Every word of dialogue feels like shots being fired and as soon as you’ve heard one line, you’re desperate for another. Like a Western, each word fly’s from Fassbender’s mouth like a pistol and he won’t stop until somebody is dead. Sorkin completely outdoes himself and manages to make such heavy, constant, abrasive dialogue sound like poetry.

Scenes with Jobs and John Scully are particularly impressive, seeing how their relationship heats, cools and mediates. It’s so thrilling to watch as their meetings develop, from calming words of trust and wisdom to how their their fork tongues spit words of war at each other with such venom. Sorkin wowed with his work in THE SOCIAL NETWORK but this script is truly something all together masterful, an astounding example of how the right words can propel  good film to a great film.

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It’s with real bemusement that one hears STEVE JOBS has struggled to find it’s audience in the US, as this audience member struggles to find real fault with it at all. With a director who’s skill spills from each scene, outstanding performances and one of the smartest, sharpest scripts of recent cinema; STEVE JOBS is truly remarkable.

This is England: A History of Film & Television

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Are you guys as excited as I am for the new series of This is England ’90 airing tomorrow night on Channel 4? The film and television series’ mean the absolute world to me and Shane Meadows has been a hero of mine since the tender age of 15 so getting another installment of the This is England family has got me jumping for joy.

In preparation for the series I’ve written a feature for Film & TV Now, looking back at the amazing work Meadow’s has done on the series. Take a look.

Southpaw Review: Gyllenhaal Triumphs Over Predictability In Boxing Drama

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With films like THE FIGHTER (2010) and WARRIOR (2011) paving the way for knockout contemporary sports films, there’s a strong demand for high quality boxing flicks that both stimulate the fighter in all of us, as well as deliver seriously strong emotive content. This year, Antoine Fuqua (THE EQUALIZER) throws his attempt into the ring with SOUTHPAW.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Billy ‘The Great’ Hope, a pro-boxer in the height of his career after defeating his demons and rising from the ashes of  the Hell’s Kitchen foster care system; along with his beautiful wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and sweet daughter Leila (Oona Laurence). Immediately after the decision to take a break from fighter to focus on family life, Billy’s life is destroyed as Maureen is fatally shot in a brutal scuffle with Billy’s rival, loud-mouthed rising star Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez).

With the anchoring support of his wife suddenly gone, Billy soon descends into a hateful spiral of self destruction that leads him walking away from his trainer (50 Cent), blowing his fortune and losing custody of Leila; leaving him devastated at the deterioration of their relationship. With no home or income, Billy finds himself turning to independent gym owner Tick Willis (Forrest Whitaker), for intense training that eventually leads him to an ultimate fight of revenge and redemption between formal rival and catalyst to his wife’s death, Miguel.

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The narrative itself is a carbon copy of every convention traditionally found within a sports movie, it’s a cookie-cutter story and there’s simply noway of getting around it. There lies the main fault within SOUTHPAW’S entirety. It flirts between cliche and cheesy, as Billy finds that one special trainer that’s going to make it all better for him; insert boxing ring montage here. While the relationship between Billy and new trainer Trick is actually pretty solid, it gets lost within a barrage of cliche boxing movie references.

In saying this, it’s narrative problems aren’t enough to derail the truly wonderful performance from main  man Gyllenhaal. His talent as a dramatic actor seems to only improve with age and when he’ steering clear from disastrous romcom’s, I’m looking at you LOVE & OTHER DRUGS, he really is one of Hollywood’s most adaptive and captivating talents. With his spectacular performance in Dan Gilroy’s NIGHTCRAWLER still fresh in everyone’s memories, his take on Billy gives justice to this new surge of hype in his career.

It’s impossible not to find ones heart crumble when Leila refuses to see her Father once she’s placed in care, as Gyllenhaal’s portrayal as the devastated Dad is as brutal as some of the fight scenes; with Oona Laurence giving him a run for his money in the tear-jerker stakes. Gyllenhaal obviously pours himself into this character, both physically and emotionally, as his tremendous talent breaks free from the aforementioned narrative faults; leading to a performance so raw and honest it comes with its very own Oscars rumor.

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Gyllenhaal’s physical performance is almost as impressive as his emotional one and the last fight scene turns movie theater’s into ring side seats of blood, sweat and tears. It’s an absolutely fierce climax to the narrative, which actually provides a pleasing pace, as Billy and Miguel square off for twelve rounds of absolute torture.

Fuqua certaintly knows how to direct these intense scenes with utter ease and with the help of cinematographer Mauro Fiore (AVATAR), they create a smorgasbord of visual pleasure, in the form of intense close up’s, hand held camera work and stylish show shots that ultimately lead to an all-round aesthetically pleasing movie. Accompanied by James Horner‘s brilliantly pumped up, urban score; SOUTHPAW strives to place it’s audience directly into the action and pulls it off with confidence.

It’s difficult to ignore the narrative issues from Kurt Sutter’s predictable script and this would indeed be the film’s kiss of death if it were not for the rest of the cast and crew’s stellar efforts. Thankfully then, Gyllenhaal gives a wholly gut punching performance that will leave audiences feeling suitably battered and bruised; with visually style that is perhaps a new best for Fuqua.

Orange is The New Black Season 3 Spoiler Review

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Have you guys already binged on Orange is The New Black? Of course you have! Me too. You can now read my full season review over at Film & TV Now but beware of those spoilers! Follow the link and let me know what you guys think! Also, keep an eye out over here for a new post about the Top 10 Films That Shaped My Adolescence.

CLICK ME: http://www.filmandtvnow.com/orange-is-the-new-black-season-3-spoiler-review/