Category Archives: No Spoiler Reviews

FIRST REFORMED (2018): The Thing I Liked…

First Reformed (2018), Ethan Hawke
First Reformed (2018), Ethan Hawke

In First Reformed, Ethan Hawk is a solitary, middle-aged parish pastor who’s plunged into his own tormented past and equally despairing future, after a pregnant parishioner asks him to counsel her deeply troubled husband.

Hawkes notable performance and the special way the movie’s dialogue shines a light on some of the more challenging experiences of the human condition are reasons why director Paul Schrader’s film was worthwhile for me. Challenges including the anguish experienced by those grappling with their religious faith or more generally, those lacking in hope for the future. 

All of First Reformed is engaging but a particularly memorable scene is the face to face conversation between the Reverend and the very troubled husband. I enjoyed listening to the interesting questions asked, some of which are literally answered and some answered through the films impressive execution which features some unexpectedly dark turns.

As a Hawke fan and a general lover of good movies, I say give First Reformed a chance and who knows, you may even find yourself feeling comforted by the knowledge that at some point, you too asked the same questions. And so, in that way, First Reformed is about you / everyone.

Happy Film Loving 

G

THE HAPPY PRINCE (2018): The Things I Liked…

The Happy Prince (2018), Rupert Everett
The Happy Prince (2018), Rupert Everett

The Happy Prince is the heartbreaking story of an artist who deserved so much better than the worst of the treatment he received whilst alive. The artist in question is the now very much deservedly adored and celebrated Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde.

Starring Rupert Everett, Colin Firth and Emily Watson, I wanted to learn about the untold story of the tragic times leading up to Wilde’s last days. As a fan of his work and many of his great quotes, I had somehow imagined that I’d be hearing famous Wilde quote after famous Wild quote as the movie played. This is not quite what happened and I’m not sure it would have been a good idea anyway. 

The good news is that there’s definitely clever and witty Wilde sayings to enjoy, even though Everett’s film focuses quite rightly on telling Wilde’s truth and capturing his undeniably magnetic charm.

As well as the fact that The Happy Prince is rather well cast, the cinematography is a pleasant surprise. I liked the general flow of the story which switches between present day and flashbacks. I also enjoyed the words that follow the unexpected confrontation in France… There’s nothing in me, not even fear.’ 

The Happy Prince brought to mind the value of great friends during dark times. It also reminds me that as sad as Wilde’s story is, I can’t help but notice how far LGBTQ rights have come since the days Wilde, and that makes me happy. 

Watch it if you’re a fan of Wilde. I have been for a long time. I even went to his final resting place at Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris once.

One more Wilde quote… ‘Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing.’

Happy Film Loving 

G

A SIMPLE FAVOR (2018): The Thing I Liked…

A Simple Favor (2018): Blake Lively
A Simple Favor (2018): Blake Lively

Director Paul Feig’s crime / thriller about a mommy vlogger trying to find out the real reason behind her new best friend’s sudden disappearance is a movie I liked less than I expected to. 

Starring Blake Lively, Henry Golding and Anna Kendrick, what I liked most about A Simple Favor, besides Lively’s character Emily’s great sense of style is her embodiment of a young woman in charge who refuses to take nonsense from anyone.

It’s therefore no wonder then that Kendrick’s outwardly super sweet Stephanie was very much drawn to the clearly inspiring and very fun to watch Emily.

There was a moment after all the key characters seemed to have been established that I wondered where the story was really going. What I most certainly didn’t expect is that I’d find A Simple Favor to be rather unsatisfying overall.

Having never read the book on which this movie is based, I’d prepared myself for a different kind of experience; one that was a fun mystery with entertaining dialogue, but without things taking quite the the dark turn that they did. And when I say ‘dark,’ I’m really mostly referring to the truth behind Emily, her true nature. It’s clear to me now that I simply wanted to like her.

The last time a movie did something similar to me, almost like a bait and switch was The Lobster (2015). And just like the Lobster, I liked the earlier half of A Simple Favor more.

Watch it if you’re so curious, maybe you’ll enjoy the darkness.

Happy Film Loving

G

PEPPERMINT (2018): The Thing I Liked…

Peppermint (2018), Jennifer Garner
Peppermint (2018), Jennifer Garner

The kind of happiness that washes over you as you watch an underdog silence all the doubters is a feeling I’ve always enjoyed, and new Pierre Morel (Taken 2008) directed action thriller Peppermint has an adequately satisfying serving of just that. 

Starring Jennifer Garner, John Ortiz, John Gallagher Jr. and Juan Pablo Raba, Peppermint is not quite the best of its genre but there are thrills to be enjoyed. Especially in the scenes where Garner’s character Riley North is in full action movie mode. I very much bought into all her physical capabilities. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I saw a female action star physically handle herself, others and guns with such convincing precision. I mean, it could be that I haven’t watched very many female led action movies, but still.

Of all the movies directed by Morel, I’m quite sure that Taken will always be my favourite. The pace, story and rhythm were near perfect. Peppermint’s pace, story and rhythm were entertaining enough, but I guess the films unsurprising premise and overall execution didn’t help me love it more. 

If you’re curious enough, watch it for the revenge action and to see Riley North unleash hell on criminals who had it coming. 

Happy Film Loving 

G

THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES (2018): The Things I Liked…

The Christmas Chronicles (2018), Kurt Russell
The Christmas Chronicles (2018), Kurt Russell

There are four key things I like most about The Christmas Chronicles, the story of siblings whose Christmas Eve plan to catch Santa Claus on camera turns into an unforgettable adventure. 

The first highlight is the ‘performance’ during the time in jail, the second is ‘the world in Santa’s bag,’ the third is the very adorable way the the words ‘Papa Noel’ are uttered towards the end and last but not least is that very glorious red leather coat on Santa’s back. Santa’s beard is quite something too, but that coat..!

When I wasn’t busy admiring the aforementioned, I was thinking that overall The Christmas Chronicles isn’t a terrible Christmas movie’. I mean, yes, there was a moment or a few when one of the young actors didn’t deliver their lines in a particularly believable way. There was also a part of me that felt as though the older sibling was probably too old for some aspects of the story. Still, all these ‘inconveniences’ didn’t stop me from watching till the end. I guess I was just very much in the mood for Christmas.

Watch it if you’re so curious.

Happy Film Loving

G

BIRD BOX (2018): The Thing I Liked…

Bird Box (2018), Sandra Bullock
Bird Box (2018), Sandra Bullock

Knowing my history with Netflix movies and how I’ve found the vast majority to be quite disappointing, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel after Bird Box. The good news is, I actually enjoyed director Susan Bier’s post apocalyptic sci-fi thriller more than I expected to. 

Intrigued by the story of a how a woman and two children were going to escape the mysterious force that compels all who see it to kill themselves right away, I couldn’t wait to see how the characters would survive, especially since they have to be blindfolded when outside.

As soon as the opening scene in Bird Box started to play, I had a good feeling because of how the scene immediately held my undivided attention. Leading up to the final thirty minutes of the movie there were other very engaging, ‘edge of your seat suspenseful’ moments. However, the best stretch of time and my favourite part of  Bird Box is without a doubt the last thirty minutes. It is the scenes when the key characters are truly most vulnerable and there are endless near disasters happening one after the other. 

Similar to 2017’s A Quiet Place, Bird Box will likely ave you thinking about parenthood and the gargantuan undertaking that it truly is. I enjoyed leading actor Sandra Bullocks performance, plus the moments in the story that moved, thrilled and surprised me, especially the last thirty minutes. 

As for the parts of Bird Box I wish weren’t quite so, those would include approximately thirty minutes into the film when, instead of being fully engaged, I found myself distracted by the fact that I hadn’t seen the ‘monster’ yet and I really wanted to. Secondly, I think there were too many characters ‘in the house;’ one or two of whom proved quite annoying and a number of whom resembled props who were just  there to play their relatively small parts just to move the story along and sometimes provide a fast thrilling moment. 

Thirdly, I understand the reason for the ‘flashback and back to present day’ editing choice. However, it had a little bit of a negative effect on the flow of the story and subsequently had me wondering how different it could all have been if everything had played out in regular order.

Overall I say give Bird Box a chance because it has some great moments and for me personally, it’s definitely an improvement on the last few Netflix movies I saw or tried to see.

Happy Film Loving 

G

WRECK IT RALPH (2012), The Things I Liked…

Wreck It Ralph (2012), John C. Reilly
Wreck It Ralph (2012), John C. Reilly

Wreck it Ralph, the animated comedy about a video game villain who wants to be a hero, but inadvertently brings havoc to the place he lives, as he tries to do just that is a movie I’m glad to have finally watched.

What I like most about writer / director Rich Moore’s film is the general cleverness of the story and its execution. There’s a particular twist in the story that I didn’t see coming that stands out as a favourite moment.

Another element to enjoy about Wreck It Ralph is the animated cuteness. It’s not quite the baby Jack Jack from Incredibles 2 (2018)or the Minions (2015)kind of extreme cuteness, but it’s cuteness all the same. 

Even though Wreck It Ralph is overall a good movie, it isn’t quite in my top ten list of favourite animated films. I blame my non-gamer status for this. Especially since I’m sure that those who’ve played all or most of the arcade games featured are very likely going to enjoy this movie that much more. Of all the games in the movie, I’ve only ever really played PacMan and Sonic the Hedgehog.

I know that by this point you’ve probably already seen this movie and its sequel – but if not, tune in to appreciate the smart execution and especially if you’re a fan of arcade games.

Wreck It Ralph stars John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch and Sarah Silverman.

Happy Film Loving 

G

LAST HOLIDAY (2006): The Things I Liked…

Last Holiday (2006), Queen Latifah, LL Coo J
Last Holiday (2006), Queen Latifah, LL Coo J

Just yesterday I was thinking about two things. Specifically where I’d love to travel to next and what I need to add to my vision board for 2019. Little did I know that Last Holiday, the 2006 comedy about a shy woman who suddenly decides to change her life and live it up in a posh European hotel would offer me so much inspiration. 

If you’re familiar with Last Holiday, you know that I probably don’t want to be in the main protagonist’s exact predicament. However I could most definitely do with a little more of the ’embracing life’ part. 

Starring Queen Latifah, LL Cool J and Timothy Hutton, what I like most about this fun Wayne Wang directed comedy – besides the way it has inspired me is how much it made me laugh and smile. It’s exactly what I needed this festive season. Latifah and her natural charisma is the reason I tuned in at all. Other reasons I stayed watching include the many engaging characters; from Latifah’s Georgia, Chef Didier who’s well played by Gerard Depardieu, LL Cool J’s Sean and all the staff at Grand Hotel Pupp.

As for everything else in Last Holiday, key highlights include the cinematography, the way food is featured and all the well chosen fancy outfits worn by Georgia while in Europe.

If I had to pick a moment in Last Holiday that I loved that little bit less, I’d choose the not completely believable way the snowboarding scene played out. Overall though, Last Holiday is a fun and funny holiday / Christmas movie that will put a smile on your face and have you looking forward as you think about how to best live the coming year(s). 

Watch it because it has a certain silly quality that’s good for your mood.

Happy Film Loving 

G