Category Archives: Reviews

Potted Retro Film Review: 50 First Dates (2004)

Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Rob Schneider

717E8WX+wCL._SX425_What’s it all about?
Adam Sandler is Henry, a marine vet in Hawaii who loves the ladies. He meets Lucy (played by Drew Barrymore), and instantly takes a shine to her. He soon discovers that she was in a car accident the previous year, resulting in her inability to retain any new information, thus, forcing her to relive the same day over and over.

Prior to this outing, Sandler and Barrymore had worked together in The Wedding Singer, and they would do so after this in Blended, so there is obviously some chemistry between them.

50 First Dates is basically Groundhog Day as seen from a different perspective… and with a subject who doesn’t know it’s happening to them, as we watch Henry try to win Lucy’s heart in a different way every day.

Watching it with the kids…
This movie falls at about the same level you would expect from a rom-com. If anything, it’s quite mild, with only a hint of sexual suggestion to go along with the tame language. Nothing to worry about then.

Verdict…
The basic premise is a clever twist on the extremely formulaic rom-com genre, so it gets points for that, but the first half of the movie – when Henry is pursuing an oblivious Lucy – is a lot more enjoyable than once she begins to get a grasp on what has been happening.

Rob Schneider plays Henry’s best friend Ula, and in typical Rob Schneider fashion he drags this movie down. It’s a shame because 50 First Dates would be much better without him in it – with almost anyone else in his place. Unfotunately, that’s the movie we’re left with. It’s still fun, but this had potential for more.

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Potted Film Review: Late Night (2019)

Starring: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, John Lithgow

Late Night - PosterWhat’s it all about?
Katherine (Thompson) is a late night chat show host who discovers that her show is about to be pulled off the air due to falling ratings. Molly (Kaling) is the female comedy writer she hires to try to turn her sinking ship around… which would be fine, except Molly works at a chemical plant and has no experience with jokes. Molly is also an ethnic minority, just so we can tick that box as well.

Katherine is an unlikeable character, and just when she seems to be making amends for her shortcomings, a skeleton falls out of her closet, and she’s back to being that woman you wouldn’t really fancy as a friend. There’s a sentimental and heartfelt monologue at the end which is not as impressive as it thinks it is.

It’s good to see (fabricated as it is likely to be) some behind-the-scenes action from the production of a late night show. It shines a light on the difficulties of such a high-pressure environment and I left the movie respecting what these guys and gals do on a daily basis.

Watching it with the kids…
This is perfectly fine, with a few curse words scattered throughout, but if you can handle those there’s nothing else to worry about here.

Verdict…
Late Night is not a fall-about-the-floor comedy, and there are stretches where it plays more like a drama, but there are funny moments in here, and it never threatens to be a bad movie.

Emma Thompson (an actress I would never go out of my way to see) plays this role in her usual, cynical, Emma Thompson way. That’s fine, but just as detractors of ZZ Top’s music say that every track sounds the same, every Thompson performance is much like the last. Just don’t go in expecting her to do more than collect a paycheck.

Late Night is an entirely acceptable piece of fluff that you can watch on a weekend and forget about a few days later.

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Potted Retro Film Review: The Equalizer (2014)

Starring: Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz

What’s it all about?
Robert (Washington) is a former special agent who – upon the death of his wife – has given up those violent ways for a more peaceful life. He is a loner who spends his evenings quietly reading in his local coffee house, until lady of the night Alina (Moretz) finds herself in trouble with her pimp.

She is not really on screen for long, but Moretz does well here, and her character is the entire reason for the movement of the plot. Her black eye piques Robert’s curiosity, and before he knows it he is back doing what he does best.

The Equalizer is a cross between a vigilante superhero movie and an action thriller, not too far removed from the Bourne franchise. The fight scenes are creative, kinetic, and well-choreographed, and Washington plays the quiet bad-ass better than most, so it’s a lot of fun watching him take out the bad guys one by one.

Watching it with the kids…
The Equalizer is a very violent movie, prompting The Girlfriend© to shield her eyes at several moments. There’s a lot of blood coming out of lots of body parts, but it’s nothing that movies of this kind have not been doing for years. Language is strong yet appropriate for the type of movie being delivered here; and despite the thrust of the plot being about prostitution, there is no sex and no nudity.

Verdict…
The Equalizer is based on a fairly successful eighties cop show starring stiff-upper-lip English actor, Edward Woodward, so on first blush this seemed like an odd fit for Denzel, but he’s one of my favourite actors so I’m always willing to give him a shot. He does not disappoint here.

This almost entirely divorces itself from the source material, to the point where I have to wonder why it wasn’t just floated as an original vehicle for Washington in the first place, but nevertheless, this is a fine action movie in a well-mined genre. Plot-wise, it doesn’t offer anything new or surprising, but it does it all with confidence and imagination.

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Potted Film Review: I Feel Pretty (2018)

Starring: Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams

What’s it all about?
Renee (Schumer) is like a lot of women – a lot of people, really – in that she struggles with a low self confidence. The plot presents her as overweight and somewhat unattractive, although both of those things are to some degree subjective.

One day she has an accident at the gym and gives herself a concussion, and from that point on the reflection she sees in the mirror is beautiful and she is rocking a perfect body. As a result her life changes for the better, because she has found confidence in her appearance.

One of the problems with I Feel Pretty is that Amy Schumer just isn’t a large enough girl to find the comedy in the plot. There are funny moments here, and I know that everyone has a different relationship with their own body shape, but it’s difficult to buy the pain and frustration of constantly being overlooked by men, when the central character is really just an average-sized girl. In the end… well, I’m sure you know where this one goes.

Watching it with the kids…
There’s not much in here that will offend the eyes and ears of the little ones. The language and sex references are fairly mild – standard for this kind of flick – and, of course, there is no blood for the squeamish either.

Verdict…
At the heart of this movie, there’s a good message, but it is trapped somewhere underneath a script that just isn’t as funny as it really should be. And it’s not the talent, because Schumer is a funny girl. I think if you chisel away some of the rough edges, this could be pretty good, so I’ll give it a pass for the destination… even though the journey to get there is sometimes a little heavy-handed.

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Eagles, Chapter I – Eagles (1972)

Members: Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner

The Eagles’ debut album sees the band at their most stripped back – before ego and indulgence, although both would come before they ended their run.

Every member is allowed to shine vocally here, with each of them holding the mic for at least one track – a feather which is certainly atypical for many other bands, and a risky move that shows their desire to present the ensemble as equals.

The division of labour would certainly shift as the band progressed, but here at the beginning, the Eagles were just four young guys sharing the workload.
Take it Easy (Glenn Frey / Jackson Browne)
Lead – Frey
This is the first track on their first album, and some will say that they hit the ground running with this and never really improved. It’s hard to hate on it because it’s such a feelgood tune… and I’m not going to try. I wouldn’t go so far as to claim it’s the greatest thing they ever did, but it’s certainly a top tier Eagles song, and deserves its place in any collection of favourites. 8
Witchy Woman (Don Henley / Bernie Leadon)
Lead – Henley
Henley’s raspy plea struggles to fit in with the rest of this album because it’s a world away from anything else around it. This song feels like it’s split from the same seed as One of These Nights, and it would have fit nicely on that album, but its inclusion here is a sign of where the Eagles would head musically over the next few years. A great song. 9
Chug All Night (Glenn Frey)
Lead – Frey
This is a little known track, but a solid early rocker, at a time when the Eagles were primarily producing softer, easy-going songs. Frey wouldn’t have been my first choice to sing this kind of track, but then he did write it. He is (mostly) comfortable on the microphone, but it is evident that he’s learning how to perform the harder stuff. 6
Most of Us Are Sad (Glenn Frey)
Lead – Meisner
It’s hard not to feel reflective when listening to this one. It’s the kind of sombre song that encourages you to take out your lighter at a concert… or go buy one if you’re not a smoker. This is the weakest of Meisner’s vocal contributions to the album. 5
Nightingale (Jackson Browne)
Lead – Henley
An inoffensive up-tempo Henley number that I imagine would sound great in the car with the top down. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it – and I usually give Don a little more rope than I would others – but it’s probably about a minute longer than it needs to be. 5
Train Leaves Here This Morning (Bernie Leadon / Gene Clark)
Lead – Leadon
Six songs in and all four Eagles have been given a shot in the spotlight. This simple and mellow campfire-ballad fits Leadon’s lower register well, and is the better of his two efforts here. 6
Take the Devil (Randy Meisner)
Lead – Meisner
A good Meisner number that shows a different side to his vocal style. It has an excellent guitar sound, and is musically reminiscent of their follow-up album, Desperado. 6
Earlybird (Bernie Leadon / Randy Meisner)
Lead – Leadon
The weakest song on the album. It starts with irritating bird chatter and segues into some banjo music… so right away it’s a hard sell. Thankfully it’s very short, so it doesn’t leave too much of a stain. 4
Peaceful Easy Feeling (Jack Tempchin)
Lead – Frey
Along with Take it Easy, this is widely considered to be the second classic from their debut album. Frey did not have the strongest voice in the band, but he had a knack for presenting these mid-tempo tracks believably that would have left every other Eagle floundering. 7
Tryin’ (Randy Meisner)
Lead – Meisner
I should go on record as saying that Meisner was the most underrated Eagle. His voice soars on this final upbeat track, and it’s a fine way to end the album. 7

Overall: 63%
That feels a little low, but the numbers don’t lie. Debut albums are often a case of a band finding their musical feet, and that’s what’s happening here. There are some bright spots along with a couple of forgettable tracks, and their sound is helped immeasurably by the fact that they use all four members of the band behind the mic. It’s notable too that at this early stage, Henley’s only credit is a co-writing gig for Witchy Woman.

Potted Film Review: The Bodyguard (1992)

Starring: Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston, Gary Kemp

What’s it all about?
Someone is sending creepy messages to Rachel Marron, one of the biggest movie stars in the world (played by big screen virgin, Whitney Houston). Kevin Costner is the titular bodyguard, Frank Farmer, who is hired to protect her.

At first Frank and Rachel don’t like or even respect each other, but in time they share a bed and begin to bond, but the entirely predictable romance ends before it even gets off the ground… before fate and circumstance brings them together for one more kiss. No spoilers – you all know how this works.

The irony of Whitney Houston playing an Academy Award nominated actress is not lost on me, as she is the most wooden performer in this movie, although thankfully she doesn’t have to deliver any great monologues. Costner is not far behind because he sleepwalks through his role, and I can’t help but wonder how much better this movie may have been with someone like Tom Cruise or Denzel Washington at the helm.

Watching it with the kids…
There’s a smattering of bad language, and the violence is all gunplay with a minimal amount of blood. Oddly for a romantic thriler of this era, there’s no sex.

Verdict…
This is an excruciatingly average movie, centred around a love story that I don’t really buy. It has run-of-the-mill thrills, and seems to meander along with little regard for the two-hour-plus running time. It plays more like a TV movie than one of the biggest box office hits of 1992, and it has a far greater reputation than it deserves. Trust me, there are far better examples of this contrived genre out there if you’re looking for a fix.

But, there is something comforting about a movie that is so familiar the first time you see it. It has an intangible quality that is maybe borne of nostalgia for the time; perhaps also because I know The Girlfriend© likes it, and she will disown me if I don’t give this the thumbs up. The Bodyguard didn’t speak to me, so I’ll never watch it again, but for those of you in the dark, it’s worth watching.

Once.

Recommended (but only just)

Potted Film Review: Mystic River (2003)

Starring: Kevin Bacon, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Laurence Fishburne

What’s it all about?
Jimmy, Dave, and Sean are best friends and playing in the streets of Boston, when Dave is taken away in a car by two strangers. Time passes and they all grow up to lead their own lives – each shaped by that day all those years ago.

Jimmy (Penn) had at one time turned to a life of crime, but has left his prison days behind; Sean (Bacon) has grown up to be a police officer; and Dave (Robbins) is married to Jimmy’s cousin, and is still troubled by the four days he spent with his captors as a child.

To say any more than that would be giving too much away. I wouldn’t usually worry about spoilers for a movie as old as this, but you really should go out of your way to see it.

Watching it with the kids…
Mystic River is quite a violent movie, and there is a fair amount of bad language throughout. But those things aside, this is a thematically dark and lengthy film, so it’s unlikely that the little ones will want to sit down in front of the TV for it anyway.

Verdict…
This is a slow burner, so if you’re looking for bullets a-flying and constant action you won’t get it here, but Mystic River had my attention from beginning to end. I can’t fault any of the central performances either. Despite appearing in some excellent movies, I’ve never really rated Robbins much as an actor, and Penn often comes off as a fan doing a De Niro impression, but they both work for me here. Bacon is reliable as always. Minor gripe about the reveal aside (and it really is minor), this is one of the best movies I have seen for a while.

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