Eddie The Eagle Review: An Uplifting Triumph

Eddie The Eagle

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Netflix Review: Common (2014) A Sobering and Conflicting Drama

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While Netflix boasts some seriously impressive original series’ and big blockbuster features, it’s often the independent flicks one finds while trawling through the forgotten categories that become such standout hidden gems. One such find is the 2014 BBC television film Common from David Blair.

Directed by Blair and written by Jimmy McGovern (The Street, Banished), Common tells the story of seventeen year old Johnjo O’Shea as he’s dragged into a legal battle of justice when accused on murder under England’s joint enterprise doctrine. When Johnjo (Nico Mirallegro) gets a call from his older cousin Tony (Philip Hill-Pearson) asking for a lift to their local pizza place, he jumps at the chance to spend some time with the impressive lad and their friends,even if he’s just their for the ride and borrow his brother’s car to pick up the boys.

Waiting in the car outside, it’s only when the three boys come running back to the car holding a bloodied knife that Johnjo feels the cold grip in panic. He’s just become an unknown getaway driver to an unplanned murder, as one of his cousin’s friends, Kieran (Andrew Ellis) violently stabbed innocent bystander, Tommy Ward, in the pizza diner.

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Johnjo heads home after the murder completely bewildered at what he’s been dragged into and begs Kieran to come forward to the police. Kieran makes it frighteningly clear that they should all keep their mouths shut and if Johnjo grasses him up there will be violent consequences for him and his family. It takes no time at all for the police to show up at Johnjo’s door and with his brother taken away due to his car being seen on CCTV, Johnjo decides to come forward and make a full, honest statement of what happened.

Despite Johnjo’s lack of involvement of the murder, he faces trial as an accessory under the joint enterprise doctrine, a power that ensures all connected to the murder face the same punishment as those who physically carried out the attack. The rest of the narrative follows Johnjo’s conflicted mind in pleading guilty, his mother’s complete turmoil and the devastating effect the attack has had on Tommy’s mother.

The BBC drama is truly compelling as it explores the controversial common purpose doctrine in a negative light. The very core of the film’s aesthetic mirrors the bleak, gritty working-class England it’s set in and certainly paints the picture of unfortunate, pre-judged teens trapped in a world of social prejudice and doubtless guilt to whatever they’re accused of.

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McGovern’s script was inspired by the real life case of sixteen year old Jordan Cunliffe who was sentenced to twelve years under the common purpose law for the murder of Garry Newlove despite not actively taking part in the murder. Knowing that others have gone through the same issues, from both sides of the case, makes watching Common a very emotional and sobering experience and it’s handled by Blair with gentle and sympathetic expertise.

What’s also so brilliant about Common is that it opens up for a completely different view to a piece of legislation that has otherwise been praised by lawyers for its help in ensuring criminals cannot escape judgement by dismissing any physical involvement in violent murderous crimes. Often you feel yourself pulled from one side of the courtroom to the other. Our sympathies are clearly felt for Johnjo as we know he is absolutely innocent but seeing the relived faces of Tommy’s family when he’s convicted comes with a bizarre sense of relief for them also.

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There are some completely brilliant performances from such a strong cast, particularly from Nico Mirallegro, Susan Lynch and Jodhi May. Mirallegro plays Johnjo with a heartbreaking sense of vulnerability that oozes from his entire performance; his subtle body language screaming out extreme confusion and terror. With previous performances in the likes of Hollyoaks and the more recent E4 drama My Mad Fat Diary, Mirallegro looks to be a real one to watch for your British talent.

Jodhi May plays Johnjo’s desperate mother and gives a devastating performance as we witness the hope for her son’s proven innocence dwindle to a heartbreaking nothing. There was never a doubt for her in her Johnjo’s innocence, just a mother’s absolute raw worry for his two impossible options. Six years for pleading guilty or risking life imprisonment if he denies the charge. She absolutely cannot handle the idea that Johnjo could deal with any time in prison and is therefore desperately clinging to the idea that he will be found innocent.

Susan Lynch gives a crushing insight into a mother’s grief as we witness the fallout of Tommy’s murder first hand. A particularly harrowing scene involved Lynch identifying her son’s lifeless body as she lets out an inhuman scream. An all consuming, desolating roar of emotional turmoil that drags you down into the dark fog of her grief as the reality of the situation comes crashing down on her. Lynch does a wonderful job on ensuring we don’t forget the first victim of this heinous crime.

Common does not give us the gift of a Hollywood happy ending but does give us a compelling and interesting insight into the effects of such an interesting aspect of the common purpose doctrine that stays with you long after the film ends. Blair ensures we’re left with some sense of hope as both Johnjo and Tommy’s mother find some kind of peace; something immensely important with these kinds of narratives. With brilliant performances, a gritty sense of social realism and a thought provoking narrative; Common is a Netflix find treat.

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.

 

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Spoiler Review – A Book Faithful But Lukewarm Finale

Mockingjay

Director: Francis Lawrence

Staring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Natalie Dorma

Running Time: 2 hours 17 mins

Rating: 12A

Release Date: 19th November 2015

It’s finally time for the very last installment of THE HUNGER GAMES franchise, MOCKINGJAY PART 2,  and not since the days of HARRY POTTER has a YA book adaptation captured the imagination of so many. With Francis Lawrence back in the directors chair, the Hunger Games might be over but Katniss’ (Jennifer Lawrence) battle with Snow (Donald Sutherland) is only just beginning.

With her neck covered in dark bruises, her throat swollen and her voice still hoarse from Peeta’s (Josh Hutcherson) deranged attack against her; our Mockingjay is back on her feet and ready to save Panem from Snow’s deadly reign. Once the rebellion neutralized the Capitol’s weapon supply, Katniss’ realises she must sneak into the city’s center and infiltrate Snow’s mansion but with her status as the Mockingjay leaving her open to dangers from both sides it’s not going to be easy.

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The main chunk of narrative is taken up by Katniss’ trek through the crumbling Capitol with her team of soldiers, ‘The Star Squad’; including Boggs (Mahershala Ali), Cressida (Natalie Dormer), Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick (Sam Claflin) and a still desperately damaged Peeta. Katniss is determined to make it to Snow’s mansion but the dreadful game makers have rigged her path with countless tricks and traps with deadly consequences.

This section of the film is by far the most thrilling and there are glimmers of the kind of excitement that did so well in the first two films. With pits like ginormous flame throwers, gargling pools of deadly black liquid and some of the most hauntingly vicious mutts the Capitol could have created; death is around every corner and its here we lose a fan favourite character, as Finnick meats a violent end just days after marrying Annie.

It’s within these scenes that Francis Lawrence’s talent shines most as he appears most confident and comfortable directing these almost post-apocalyptic scenes; with what once was the glamorous Capitol now a ghostly tomb. There were moments where his previous work vibes through the streets of the Capitol, with those nasty mutts reminding one of the horrors in I AM LEGEND.

Still, this excitement doesn’t last too long and before we know it the action is over. The pacing feels like fits and bursts and as soon as the War between the Capitol and the Rebels begins, it’s pretty much over with a large bang and Prim’s death. It’s all down hill from here as the narrative dribbles off like a leaky tap, leading us to President Coin’s murder by Katniss, her return to what’s left of District 12 and then her sentimental end with Peeta and their children.

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The real trouble is that MOCKIGJAY PART 2 sticks utterly faithful to the book but it just doesn’t relay well on screen, unlike the films three predecessors. This is hugely due to the third book being split into two movies as the careless money making trick poisons the film with it’s blundering narrative. There is joy to be found for book lovers as the sweet ending does spur on emotions of fondness for these much loved characters, but after such highly-charged themes of rebellion and carnage, it feels more anticlimactic than heartwarming.

While there are more flaws to the finale than this fan had hoped, there’s still some great performances to be found and an interesting take on gender roles and representation. What is so brilliant about Katniss and her role as the Mockingjay is that she’s never a token women in a world of dominating men.

Throughout the franchise there are always strong women to be found and it’s actually quite a refreshing look at women in these dystopian-esque narratives. Alongside Katness, we have the likes of Joanne, played brilliantly by Jena Malone, Dorma’s Cressida and Michelle Forbes plays Bogg’s second in command, Lieutenant Jackson. Women in THE HUNGER GAMES franchise are well written, diverse and complicated characters that do well not to be overtly pigeonholed as either token badass or damsel in distress.

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There’s no real complicated reason why MOCKINGJAY PART 2 is an anticlimactic end to what started out as a brilliant franchise and it’s simply down to this cash-cow system of splitting one book into two mediocre movies.

With it’s often clunky script and it’s mismatched pacing MOCKINGJAY PART 2 feels like a wasted opportunity and actually a bit of a let down; which is devastating when fans have fallen so completely in love with the characters and narrative.

It’s by now means a bad film, there’s great entertainment to be had in Katniss’ last fight and one can still find a bond with these much loved characters but it just doesn’t work as well on screen as it could have.

Spectre Review: Christoph Waltz Excels In Latest Bond Flick

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Director: Sam Mendes

Staring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz,  Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista

Rating: 12A

Running Time: 2hours 30mins

Release Date: October 26th 2015

Sam Mendes has taken on the Bond franchise with full force and back in 2012 he gave us SKYFALL, arguably one of the very best Bond films ever to grace the silver screen. With the well deserved praise comes the high expectations as Mendes and Daniel Craig return for Spectre, their second Bond film together. So much happened when we last saw Bond and the aftermath of the Skyfall destruction still weighs heavily on everybody’s minds. With M finding himself conflicted with the pressures of the politics of the secret service, Bond finds himself falling under the radar to delve into secrets on modern terrorism that quickly mix with those from his past.

Sending himself on a physical and mental mission of discovery, Bond must route through the dark corners of his past and connect the dots between what he’s done, what’s happened to him and how they all connect with the devastating mystery that surrounds the Spectre organisation.

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The opening sequence, set during Mexico’s Day Of The Dead, is without a doubt one of the very best in Bond history, and a new personal favorite. The entire scene is so wonderfully busy, deliciously Gothic and crammed with spectacular costume, makeup and props. It’s an ideal introduction to Craig’s next Bond chapter as he makes his way through the crowds of incredibly dressed, beautiful people. The cinematography in this scene alone is outstanding, with Bond stealthily snaking his way along the narrow roof tops of Mexico City; with a score from Thomas Newman marrying so beautifully with the stunning aesthetic.

There’s no denying that all the car chases, explosions and actions sequences makes for a high-octane Bond flick but it simply doesn’t make up for the weak, if not predictable, center narrative. It wasn’t difficult to clock the twist behind Bond and Blofeld’s past relationship early on within the narrative and therefore it didn’t pack the kind of hard hitting punch it had intended. It also felt a little weak in imagination, safe and even a little cliche; not something expected from such an outstanding writing team including John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth.

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The high-light of the film has to be the utterly enigmatic yet completely chilling performance from Christoph Waltz. There’s such measured madness to his character and it makes him utterly terrifying. Here we have such a calculated, patient and twisted villain to get to grips with and it’s truly fantastic to watch. We’re introduced to Blofeld with immediate intimidation in mind, his dark figure haunting the screen in silhouette fashion as a room full of important people cower at his presence. He’s a brilliant character and it’s disappointing that he doesn’t get more screen time, even if the time he does have is a joy to watch. Waltz really does play this character so brilliantly and is really the only thing that saves the narrative from being a complete mess.

Also getting screen time is our two new Bond girls, Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux. There’s still much to be desired from the representation of women in Bond films, even if Moneypenny’s Naomie Harris gave a boost in strong female characters in SKYFALL. Monica Bellucci gets minuscule screen time, much of it involving being seduced by Bond, and her character leaves little to be desired; making her presence feel totally wasted.

Léa Seydoux gives a wonderful performance with what she’s provided with, her presence both delicate yet feisty and she actually becomes a great match for Bond; even if she can’t quite resist his charms. While the relationship development between them does feel a little rushed and therefore perhaps over dramatic by the end, our love for Bond and desperate want for his happiness allows for the forgiveness for such flaws.

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Our faithful gang of behind the scene spies, Moneypenny, Q (Ben Whishaw) and M (Ralph Fiennes), get their own separate, interweaving narrative as they come up against Andrew Scott‘s C, as he attempts to dismantle their organisation all together. These scenes are pleasant enough as Whishaw in particular delivers some wonderful comedic relief throughout much of the narrative, giving a little boost to the otherwise often clunky dialogue.

It was always going to be a difficult job for Mendes to match the incredibly high standards he delivered with SKYFALL and there’s no denying that he’s created a brilliantly entertaining film in SPECTRE. However, it lacks the emotional intelligence and influence that SKYFALL conjured up and it the main narrative feels a little sloppy, weak and gives way for more action and cool stunts. Depending on the viewing, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it still makes for a tense, thrilling watch but for those wanting the sophistication of Mendes’ previous Bond’s, SPECTRE just doesn’t quite cut it.

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.