Movie Review – A Cure For Wellness

Director :  Gore Verbinski
Year Of Release :   2016
Principal Cast :  Dane DeHaan, Jason Issacs, Mia Goth, Adrian Schiller, Celia Imrie, Ashok Mandanna, Harry Groener, Godehard Giese, Tomas Norstrom, Carl Lumbly, Lisa Banes, Tom Flynn.
Approx Running Time :   146 Minutes
Synopsis:  An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps, but soon suspects that the spa’s treatments are not what they seem.

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I made it to the end of A Cure For Wellness. I sat there, bemused. I had this nagging, gnawing sensation in the back of my mind that I’d seen a film just like this before. I couldn’t place it, though, so I pushed that thought aside and sat down to write my review. I got half way through my review, before I realised where I’d seen A Cure For Wellness before. Or at least, seen it echoed. Think about it: you’ve seen A Cure For Wellness too, you probably just don’t know it. Sure, it’s spruced up by Verbinski’s crisp, rigid direction and production value that evokes the chilliest of horror classics, but with a few minor twists it could pass for a sequel film to one of Hollywood’s true masters.

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Movie Review – Limelight (1952)

Director : Charles Chaplin
Year Of Release :   1952
Principal Cast :  Charles Chaplin, Claire Bloom, Nigel Bruce, Buster Keaton, Sydney Earl Chaplin, Norman Lloyd, Andre Eglevsky, Marjorie Bennett, Wheeler Dryden, Melissa Hayden. (Uncredited: Geraldine Chaplin, Josephine Chaplin, Charles Chaplin Jr, Michael Chaplin, Oona O’Neill)
Approx Running Time :  137 Minutes
Synopsis:   A fading comedian and a suicidal ballet dancer must look to each other to find meaning and hope in their lives.

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 Encapsulating the duopoly of Hollywood’s fascination with ageing, Limelight is a contrast in focus. Charlie Chaplin was entering the latter stages of his career, while co-star Claire Bloom gave one of the all-time great major film debuts; Chaplin’s American career was cut off following accusations of Communist sympathies during the Red Scare, which resulted in him being banned from re-entering the United States, and Bloom’s post-Limelight career was a blossom of stardom and celebrity. The film is one of Chaplin’s rare “serious” films, largely bereft of the laughs and the comedic tones of his silent films and instead giving us an actor working hard to establish a more mature style, and so viewers should approach Limelight with that in mind.

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Movie Review – John Wick: Chapter 2

Director :  Chad Stahelski
Year Of Release :   2017
Principal Cast :  Keanu Reeves, Riccardio Scamarcio, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Bridget Moynahan, Lance Reddick, Thomas Sadoski, David Patrick Kelly, Peter Stormare, Franco Nero, Peter Serafinowicz, Claudia Gerini, Tobias Segal.
Approx Running Time :   122 Minutes
Synopsis:  After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.

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Pulsating, violent, epic: the second of a reputed trilogy of John Wick films lands upon our screens in an orgy of gunplay, bruising combat sequences and an admirable amount of exotic global locations. In many ways mirroring the hyperbolic carnage of the Raid films, John Wick: Chapter 2 takes the original movie’s relatively concise intimacy and expands on the world in which Keanu Reeves’ eponymous title character exists, that of “gentleman” assassins and codes of honour, giving it urgency and repercussions beyond Wick’s puppy’s unfortunate demise.

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Movie Review – Boss Baby, The

Director :   Tom McGrath
Year Of Release :  2017
Principal Cast :  Alec Baldwin, Miles Bakshi, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Conrad Vernon, James McGrath, David Soren, Nina Zoe Bakshi, Tom McGrath, Walt Dohrn.
Approx Running Time :   98 Minutes
Synopsis:   A suit-wearing briefcase-carrying baby pairs up with his seven-year old brother to stop the dastardly plot of the CEO of Puppy Co.

*******

Let’s face it: the idea of an animated, baby Alec Baldwin riffing on the same character he played in Glengarry Glen Ross, only without the cursing, was always going to sell to a studio executive. Sadly for that executive – or whoever it was that greenlit this turd – the end result is a film that might earn back it’s budget and then some, but will have the cultural impact of a lower Top 40 pop song or a direct to DVD indie film. Aimed directly at children, The Boss Baby is slick, eye catching and noisy, but lacks the adult-oriented thematic panache of Pixar or recent Disney to really give it any staying power. And in a world dominated by a glut of new film releases vying for eyeballs, or a studio hoping to catch the Next Big Franchise Thing, this film was never going to last long.

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Movie Review – Wonder Woman

Director :   Patty Jenkins
Year Of Release :  2017
Principal Cast :  Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davis, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock, Lilly Aspell, Emily Carey.
Approx Running Time :   141 Minutes
Synopsis:   Before she was Wonder Woman she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, and a trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.

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The fourth of DC Comics’ DCEU franchise following Man of Steel, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, it’s fair to say there’s a fair bit resting on the outcome of Gal Gadot’s solo film Wonder Woman. Whereas neither Zack Snyder’s or David Ayer’s films were met with overwhelming critical praise – and in the case of Suicide Squad, the exact opposite – incoming director Patty Jenkins, last seen guiding Charlize Theron to Oscar glory in Monster, had the chance to summon all the goodwill for this iconic comic book character and deliver a rousing spectacle film that would right the hitherto wobbly ship that was Warner Bros attempt to mimic Marvel’s successful MCU. Gadot was rightly singled out as one of the truly positive notes in Batman V Superman; now she has the chance to… er, flex her muscles in her own movie and showcase the best DC had to offer.

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Movie Review – Fate Of The Furious, The

Director :   F Gary Gray
Year Of Release :   2017
Principal Cast :  Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuelle, Elsa Pataky, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron, Tego Calderon, Kristofer Hivju, Don Omar, Luke Evans.
Approx Running Time :   128 Minutes
Synopsis:  When a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of terrorism and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trials that will test them as never before.

*****

As the modern pinnacle of “big dumb fun”, the Fast & Furious movies continue to be an absolute gold mine for Universal, who would never have imagined their little car-racing flick from 2001 would become one of the most successful and critically popular franchises not currently owned by Disney. If you can believe it, we’re staring down the stickshift of the eighth film in this series, a staggering achievement for a franchise not Harry Potter or James Bond, and while many sagas of such venerability might sag or suffer the effects of wear and tear, magically the Furious lads just keep reinventing themselves. Even the tragedy of Paul Walker’s passing couldn’t dent the positivity surrounding Furious 7, bringing in over a billion dollars globally to make it the most successful film in the saga: Fate Of The Furious, which sees almost all the previous cast return in their respective roles, attempts to top the nutball stunts of its predecessors (including that hugely fun car-safe-chase sequence from Fast 5, the “they’ve got a tank!” sequence in Fast 6, and the twin-towers-car-jump scene in Fast 7) and give audiences the adrenalised cinematic thrills they’ve paid their money to see.

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Movie Review – Faster, Pussycat! Kill Kill!

Director :  Russ Meyer
Year Of Release :  1965
Principal Cast :  Tura Satana, Haji, Lori Williams, Susan Bernard, Stuart Lancaster, Paul Trinka, Dennis Busch, Ray Barlow, Mickey Foxx, John Furlong.
Approx Running Time :  83 Minutes
Synopsis: Three go-go dancers holding a young girl hostage come across a crippled old man living with his two sons in the desert. After learning he’s hiding a sum of cash around, the women start scheming on him.

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Fast cars and even faster women: there’s few films like Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, the seminal 60’s exploitation film directed by renowned titty-helmer Russ Meyer. Frankly, it’s an awful film, and for some reason has gained an inexplicable cult fame – perhaps deservedly so – but there’s a kitschy appeal about Meyer’s black-and-white direction and laughable script that works in a serendipitous B-movie way. It’s a film about angles: every second shot is designed to maximise the cleavage and sexuality of its trio of starlets, led by Tura Santana, who feel the need to wear skintight outfits through the Californian desert, so if you’re into big-breasted vixens and corny, laughable dialogue delivered in that rat-a-tat manner the sixties enjoyed, you’ll have a blast with this one.

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Movie Review – Get Out

Director :  Jordan Peele
Year Of Release :   2016
Principal Cast :  Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Caleb Landry Jones, Lil Rel Howery, Betty Gabriel, Marcus Henderson, LaKeith Stanfield, Stephen Root, Erika Alexander.
Approx Running Time :   114 Minutes
Synopsis:   A young African-American man visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s mysterious family estate.

*******

Get Out is a film thick with menace, ghastly tension and an undercurrent of horrifying racial implication. It’s a film not for the faint of heart, nor is it a film you should avoid because it’s a “horror”, but rather it invokes horror elements as a tablecloth to its menu of social dissection (ha!) and front-page-news congruence. Tiptoeing around the more obvious racial elements Get Out displays in digging its hooks into you as you watch, the film, written by director Jordan Peele is both prescient to modern liberal saviour complexes and a genuinely creepy, skin-crawling exercise in deviant terror. Get Out contains thematic similarities to genre standards such as Psycho, Misery, The Stepford Wives, a touch of Saw and Strangers, yet it retains a scintillating visceral aesthetic all its own – Peele’s comedic work has never once elicited a strong reaction from me, but his efforts on Get Out have me extremely excited for what his future might entail.

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Movie Review – Beauty & The Beast (2017)

Director :  Bill Condon
Year Of Release :  2017
Principal Cast :  Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan Mcgregor, Ian McKellan, Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nathan Mack, Hattie Morahan, Adrian Schiller, Gerard Horan, Haydn Gwynne, Michael Jibson.
Approx Running Time :   129 Minutes
Synopsis:   An adaptation of the fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love.

******

The Disney live-action money train continues to roll, as the studio presents another of its adaptations of previously animated material – this time, it’s a remake of the 1991 Best Picture nominated film Beauty & The Beast, only now it stars Harry Potter actress Emma Watson as Belle, and Dan Stevens as the digitally augmented titular Beast. Directed by Twilight, Mr Holmes and DreamGirls helmer Bill Condon, and co-starring a star-studded supporting cast, Beauty & The Beast’s larger-than-life Hollywood production value is first class, a thoroughly entertaining musical film that will delight both long-time fans of the material and those new to it. All of Alan Menken’s tunes make a welcome return (now in Dolby Atmos sound, no less) and although following the animated version almost beat-for-beat, never feels simply rehashed or done as a cash-grab.

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Movie Review – Great Wall, The

Director :  Zhang Yimou
Year Of Release :   2016
Principal Cast :  Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Zhang Hanyu, Eddie Peng, Lu Han, Lin Gengxin, Chen Xuedong, Huang Xuan, Jing Tian.
Approx Running Time :   113 Minutes
Synopsis:  European mercenaries searching for black powder become embroiled in the defence of the Great Wall of China against a horde of monstrous creatures.

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When the first trailers for The Great Wall landed online, I, like many others, figured the film would be yet another White Saviour narrative a la The Last Samurai and Dances With Wolves. Matt Damon, one of the whitest white actors known to exist, starring in a Chinese-based film about Chinese mythology co-starring a battalion of Chinese acting talent, all directed by one of the industry’s most credentialed Chinese filmmakers, Zhang Yimou, looked for all the world like exactly the type of film popular culture rails against these days. Yimou, a filmmaker I’m relatively ignorant of aside from Hero and House Of Flying Daggers (both beautiful but emotionally weak films, in my opinion) brings the full box of tricks to this Hollywood-friendly action spectacle, yet despite the inclusion of Matt Damon’s bland-as-butter performance, The Great Wall remains largely ineffectual as a cinematic entertainment thanks to inept scripting and tonally inauspicious direction.

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