Category Archives: No Spoiler Reviews

WINE COUNTRY (2019): It’s…

Wine Country (2019), Netflix

Wine Country is a comedy about long time friends who gather for a 50th birthday party in Napa. Having not been together in their group in a while, as one might expect, tensions soon arise.

Directed by Amy Poehler who also stars alongside Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch, the premise of the story is the main reason I was interested. Especially since it reminded me of two memorable comedies. Namely Bridesmaids (2011) and Girls Trip (2017) – both of which are focused on the often unspoken tensions between us and our very closest friends.

Poehler’s film is one that started with some promise. It’s just that approximately fifteen minutes in, my interest started to wane. The story, dialogue and some of the character development proved not quite engaging enough to keep me focused. I enjoyed the few scenes that featured Fey and I recall laughing a couple of times in between. Yet overall, the characters of Wine Country just didn’t capture my imagination and heart the way the ladies from Bridesmaids and Girls Trip did. It certainly didn’t help that some jokes were dragged out for too long and the seemingly endless singalongs proved annoying.

It’s really mainly the sunshine-rich location and Fey’s character that were the key highlights of Wine Country. Almost everything else, particularly the comedy felt as though I’d seen it before but executed in a more memorable way.

I say watch it if you absolutely must. Who knows, perhaps you’ll find more to love and if you do, you’re very welcome to let me know in the comments precisely why I’m crazy.

Happy Film Loving 

G

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014): The Things I Liked…

Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014), Chris Pratt
Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014), Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel are among the stars of Guardians Of The Galaxy. A James Gunn directed action / adventure / comedy about a group of intergalactic criminals and their attempt to stop a fanatical warrior with plans to purge the universe.

The main reason I wanted to see this film is because I’d really like to watch the last two Avengers movies but I’m behind. And I’ve never been one to jump to watch a sequel before seeing the films that came before.

I’m quite sure that the following opinion isn’t popular but as Gunn’s movie played, it wasn’t too long before the thought ‘I don’t think I like this.’ came to mind. As I wondered why, several reasons began to surface. Reason one, it feels quite a lot like Star Trek. I’m not saying that I hate Star Trek, but I’m also not overly enthused by it either. Reason two, some of the humorous moments work but there’s a bunch of others that feel as though the script is trying too hard to be amusing. So much so that several attempts to make the audience laugh came across to me as forced. Thirdly, I found that out of the four or five main sentimental moments, I only really appreciated two of them; the one on earth and the one involving Groot. The rest just felt rather corny, for want of a better phrase.

As for the things that stood out most in a positive way, those include Zoe Saldana’s physical performance, Karen Gillian as the less favoured sibling, and of course, the visual effects that show what space actually looks like.

Knowing Guardians Of The Galaxy as a movie that many people love, I mostly see it as a reminder that fantasy is definitely not my favourite genre. Especially when most of the actors are sporting plenty of make up / prosthetics. Nevertheless, to everyone who had a great time, I’m seriously very pleased for you.

Happy Film Loving 

G

JOHN WICK (2014): The Things I Liked…

John Wick (2014), Keanu Reeves, Lionsgate
John Wick (2014), Keanu Reeves, Lionsgate

Everything that happens at the start of John Wick may not feel as perfectly put together story-wise as one might prefer. However, it isn’t long after the beginning and / or end that one realises the story and sometimes the dialogue didn’t feel especially polished for a reason. The reason being, the main focus of John Wick is really the fight choreography, stylish shots and shoot-out fun. That isn’t to say that you can’t have both a very well put together story and fun shoot-out action in the same movie. You just won’t necessarily get that here.

Directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, I liked seeing Keanu Reeves as a highly skilled and certainly well-dressed hitman. I had fun as the camera followed him as he moved around the city of New Yorkenacting revenge against the people who killed his precious dog.

It’s clear now why post John Wick viewing, ‘All that for a dog?‘ was a common question asked by a number of people. The story could have been executed in a way that meant such a question never even arose but the filmmakers had other plans. And anyway, for me, the killing spree wasn’t so much about the dog but rather, everything that the very precious dog represented.

All things considered, John Wick isn’t my favourite revenge movie. It also isn’t the worst. The moments that featured a noticeable light blue wash over the film’s imagery, denoting the coldness of the characters, their actions and mindset were one of the key highlights.

I’m quite certain that it’s not just me who kept picturing how a good a John Wick video game might look as the movie played. I definitely imagine that those who like shoot out games, don’t mind relatively graphic violence and enjoy stylishly executed cinema will have the best time.

Happy Film Loving

G

DOCTOR STRANGE (2016): Good Movie…

Doctor Strange (2016), Benedict Cumberbatch, Marvel Studios
Doctor Strange (2016), Benedict Cumberbatch, Marvel Studios

‘Fun’ and ‘good’ are the words for Doctor Strange; Marvel’s story of a brilliant neurosurgeon who’s drawn into the mystic arts while seeking physical and spiritual healing.

Starring the well-voiced Benedict Cumberbatch, director Scott Derrickson’s film is definitely a superhero movie. And as someone who was in the midst of superhero movie fatigue at time of release, I’m happy to say that the film’s different class of weaponry / enemy really worked to make the experience that little bit different and certainly more interesting.

I don’t know how great a thing this is but the impressive visual effects in Doctor Strange kind of kept my beloved Inception (2010) at front-of-mind, at least half the time. In fact, I couldn’t help but wonder about how much more amazing I’d find Marvel’s move if I hadn’t seen much of the style of effects first in Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

Arresting visuals aside though, the execution of the growth of Strange’s character from beginning to end; that – particularly how satisfying it was to watch the growth because he needed it is my favourite thing about Derrickson’s movie.

I absolutely took some time aside to fantasise about personally having Strange’s abilities… without the suffering that came before, of course.

Watch it if you haven’y already. It’s worthy.

Happy Film Loving

G

THE UPSIDE (2017): The Thing I Liked…

The Upside (2019), Bryan Cranston
The Upside (2019), Bryan Cranston

TRight away, I want to confirm that The Intouchables (2011), the French film on which The Upside is based is absolutely better than this remake starring Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston and Nicole Kidman.

Centred around the friendship that emerges between a wealthy paraplegic and an unemployed man with a criminal record who’s hired to help him, The Upside isn’t an exact copy of The Intouchables. There are some scenes that are very much the same. There are also a few more characters that were added; mainly the one played very well by Aja Naomi King.

I found that the best parts in director Neil Burger’s movie are the moments that weren’t too close to exact copies of scenes from the original. The original scenes always came out on top in my mind.

As for the performances, King was great in her role. Cranston, his super comic timing and Kidman are also undoubtedly very talented actors. Yet, even with all this seasoned talent, there’s no saving this movie from itself. It’s missing that special spark, all-round chemistry and flow that the original has. I enjoyed some of the comic moments between Cranston and Hart’s characters (especially during the birthday pary) but since The Upside is Hart’s first dramatic role, there’s definitely room for him to grow – and I look forward to seeing that progression in future performances.

On summary, watch The Upside if you really want to see for yourself how different it is from The Intouchables. Otherwise, it’s probably better to watch other great works by the talented cast. 

Happy Film Loving 

G

NIGERIAN PRINCE (2018): The ThingS I Liked…

Nigerian Prince (2018), Antonio J Bell, Chinaza Uche, Vertical Entertainment US
Nigerian Prince (2018), Antonio J Bell, Chinaza Uche, Vertical Entertainment US

I haven’t seen many African films but I’m quite certain that Nigerian Prince is the best I’ve watched yet. Featuring a down to earth realism minus all the extra melodramatics of my previous experiences of Nollywood filmmaking, I’m glad to say I was quite pleasantly surprised.

Nigerian Prince is a well told story that starts with a Nigerian-American teenager named Eze. Eze reluctantly arrives in Nigeria and soon learns that his beloved mother has cancelled his return ticket. As a result, a desperate Eze teams up with a local internet scammer to finance a flight back to the States.

Nigerian Prince isn’t a perfect movie but I enjoyed the tension-filled moments in director Faraday Okoro’s film; a fair amount of which came from Eze’s nativité. Particularly his cluelessness when it came to not fully grasping the risks he was actually taking by getting involved in criminal activity in Nigeria. Risk with consequences the audience is cleverly shown throughout. Therefore heightening our very deep concern for young Eze.

Chinaza Uche’s performance as the scammer is a personal highlight – and not just because it wasn’t extra dramatic. I found it interesting to learn about the life of a ‘Nigerian scammer’ and Uche sold it well. The cleverness in the way the story is told, especially towards the end is probably my favourite moment overall.

There are all kinds of tough situations people experience all over the world and the focus of Nigerian Prince really had me feeling grateful for my own set of problems and challenges – perceived or otherwise. 

As for whether it’s worth it to watch this movie, it may just be me and me alone but the fact that by the end of Nigerian Prince, I actually found myself wanting a sequel must mean there’s something good here. If you’re curious, do it.

Happy Film Loving 

G

THE SILENCE (2019): The Thing I Liked…

The Silence (2019), Netflix
The Silence (2019), Netflix

I’ve accepted the idea that Hollywood movies are currently embracing the ‘silence or you die’ theme. First came A Quiet Place (2017), then Bird Box (2018), and now director John R. Leonetti’s The Silence.The premise of The Silence is similar to that of the above mentioned movies. All three feature a family who have to stay silent in order to survive the deadly creatures terrorising Earth.

Starring Stanley Tucci, Kiernan Shipka and John Corbett, I settled into the pace and style of The Silence at the start quite nicely. Especially the introduction of the family at the centre of the story. I enjoyed this phase so much that I did then miss it once the scary creatures came to obliterate the peace.

I like that there’s a fair amount of tension-filled ‘scary’ moments in The Silence. Not the kind of scary that would induce nightmares but rather the more ‘suspenseful-scary’ variety. In fact, for me the most horrifying thing in The Silence isn’t actually the deadly, primeval species with acute hearing – but rather the intentions of a specific group within the story. I also liked the Tucci / Corbett dynamic and the design of the primeval species.

Overall I think The Silence is OK. The parts I wasn’t overly enthused by include the final cut of the car crash because it looked to me as though a clip of the crash was missing. There’s also a moment when the family seemed to have forgotten about a vulnerable family member during a particularly dangerous time that annoyed me. I know that almost anything can happen during desperate times, however… maybe I just don’t know, but I found it hard to believe that everyone forgot to do a ‘head count’ of their loved ones during such a desperate moment. The last part that left me wanting is the ending. I understood it but it felt flat and disappointing.

On summary, none of the ‘silence or you die’ movies are perfect but A Quiet Place does sit at the top in my mind. It did come first but I also really connected with the characters, appreciated the pace, the heart and I was more impressed by the cleverness / ingenuity when it came to how to survive a silent world. In second place is Bird Box, mainly because of the films last thirty minutes. 

Watch The Silence if you’re so curious. 

Happy Film Loving 

G

HOMECOMING – A FILM BY BEYONCÉ (2019): The ThingS I Liked…

Homecoming - A Film By Beyoncé (2019), Netflix
Homecoming – A Film By Beyoncé (2019), Netflix

Homecoming – A Film By Beyoncé delivered exactly what it promised; an intimate, in-depth look at the superstar’s highly celebrated 2018 Coachella performance. 

Featuring the great songs and dances that fans know and love, and sometimes with help from very welcome special guest appearances, Homecoming is the ‘recorded for your viewing pleasure’ ‘Beychella’ experience many have been praying for. 

I personally enjoyed the performances as much as I did the behind the scenes preparation footage. Footage that revealed the emotional road from creative concept to rehearsal and final show. I loved seeing Beyoncé taking charge of her vision and equally welcomed getting to know more about her heart. To be honest, I feel as though I already knew and appreciated Beyoncé’s heart since many years ago when she said that she makes music to empower women. 

The truth of that has been re-confirmed over the years through the many great anthems. Her heart was also clear to me in the Beyonce – Year Of 4 documentary. It was in her reaction when at the 2017 Grammys Adele expressed what Beyoncé and her great work meant to her and her friends. And now, in this very documentary, through the following quote about her Coachella 2018 performance.

I feel we made something. I made my daughter proud, made my mother proud, my father proud and all of the people that are my brothers and sisters around the world. And that’s why I live. I’m so lucky and grateful that I’m able to take all these crazy ideas and, actually make it into something that heals people and may spark vision in people, that shows them to dream big. It shows them that they are limitless. It’s possible. If my country-ass can do it. They can do it.’

I love how Beyoncé’s purpose makes me feel seen. I can’t help but feel lifted when I hear her music.

Tune in for the great performances, music, and words of wisdom from several wise leaders – most prominently featured among them, activist and writer Maya Angelou.

Happy Film Loving 

G