Category Archives: Reviews

Potted Film Review: Chloe (2009)

Starring: Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Julianne Moore

51cvj8kZo5LWhat’s it all about?
Liam Neeson plays David, a college professor who is caught running the same routine day after day. His wife Catherine (played by Julianne Moore) suspects him of having an affair, so she hires call-girl, Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), to tempt him and see if he really is being faithful.

Catherine regularly meets with Chloe to find out what has happened between the two of them, and Chloe is very quick to spill the beans, although things get a little twisted when it is apparent that Catherine is attracted to the call-girl she is paying to seduce her husband.

As the film winds up to boiling point it plays out like every other erotic thriller you have ever seen, and you won’t find any new twists on old tropes here.

Watching it with the kids…
Chloe is an erotic thriller, so that should tell you all you need to know. There is perhaps less nudity than you would expect (because nobody really wants to see Liam Neeson bumping uglies), but there are some fairly graphic sexual descriptions here that may have you cringing. So no, don’t watch it with them.

Verdict…
Erotic thrillers were very popular in the nineties, and this feels like it should be right there next to those, because it’s about quarter of a century too late. There are many better and more innovative examples of this genre out there if that’s what you’re in to, so go watch one of those, because this is competent at best.

Not Recommended ↓

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Potted Film Review: The Shape of Water (2017)

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones

What’s it all about?
Elisa is a mute cleaner who works in an undisclosed government facility. She does her job and keeps her nose clean, chatting to her friend Zelda, unti one day she discovers a strange amphibious creature in one of the rooms that she is cleaning.

Initially Elisa’s interest in the creature is no more than curiosity, but her feelings soon grow into something greater, and against all odds the two form a close bond.

Elisa hatches a plan to steal the creature, thereby releasing from its shackles, so that she can keep it in her apartment where it will not have to be subjected to pokes and prods from the government officials. She elicits the help of her father and Zelda to do this.

Watching it with the kids…
There are a couple of scenes where things get pretty violent and bloody, and you may have to turn away from the screen if that isn’t your kind of thing. There is sex, a bunch of bad words, and full frontal nudity. So no, don’t watch this with the little ones.

Verdict…
The Shape of Water is both a very strange movie, but also a very simple one. Yes, it’s a period fantasy movie centred around a man-fish (or maybe it’s a fish-man), held captive by some shady political officials, but it’s essentially just a love story with a few bells and whistles to make it stand out from the crowd. And it does stand out. It starts off slowly, but by the time the credits rolled it had made me a believer, and I wanted them to live happily ever after too.

Recommended ↑

Potted Film Review: A Star is Born (2018)

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay

What’s it all about?
Jackson (Cooper) is a well-known country/folk musician who likes the drink a little more than he should. He sees Ally (Gaga) perform in a drag bar and – seeing her talents – falls in love with her there and then.

They get together, and he quickly introduces her on stage to his audience. From here, Ally’s stairway to stardom soon eclipses that of Jackson, and the bright lights of the music business gradually pull her away from where they were when it was just the two of them.

The movie follows Ally’s rise to international fame while also detailing the ebbs and flows of the relationship between the two leads as a result of how they are viewed by the industry.

Watching it with the kids…
If you can handle the bad language, drug abuse, a couple of scenes of intimacy, and the strong adult themes of relationship struggles, there is not much here that will soil the younger eyes.

Verdict…
I was pleasantly surprised with this, and especially by the performance of Lady Gaga, who I had not considered as a worthy actress. I will however, hold my hands up and say I was wrong. Both her and Cooper are understated from start to finish and play their roles in such a way that you never believe they are acting. In fact, there are several scenes that I feel certain were ad-libbed, with only brief direction given to the performers. A Star is Born feels real, and as such, the emotional tug of the story is that much stronger, when it comes.

Recommended ↑

Potted Film Review: Toy Story 4 (2019)

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Keanu Reeves

Toy_Story_4_posterWhat’s it all about?
As per the events of Toy Story 3, Woody and the rest of the gang now live with Bonnie, but she is about to begin kindergarten and Woody is concerned that the experience will be difficult for her. It is here that we are introduced to the newest character – Forky, a suicidal plastic spork whom Bonnie adores.

While Woody is encouraging Forky to integrate himself with the group, he lays everything down to find an old friend who has been lost for years. His selfishness results in Forky being kidnapped, and – with the help of some new faces – Woody needs to devise a plan to rescue him in order to bring him back to Bonnie.

The final act – which I will not spoil here – is an emotional ride in which you will not only forget these are toys, but that this whole thing has been computer generated. These characters prove once again that nobody does animated heart and soul quite like Pixar.

Watching it with the kids…
As with all the Toy Story movies (and everything that Pixar does) this is superficially for children, but there’s always a deeper theme aimed at adults.

Verdict…
It takes a lot to elicit an emotional response from me at the cinema, so bravo to the writers, animators, and performers of Toy Story 4. It’s a great movie, but is it the best iteration of Pixar’s flagship series? I don’t think so. It has a similar feel to the third entry, and – although Woody has always been the main star – here he takes up more screen time than ever before, at the expense of everyone else that we have come to know and love. It’s absolutely fine, but it sometimes feels more like a solo spin-off movie than a true ensemble sequel.

Recommended (highly) ↑

Eagles, Chapter II – Desperado (1973)

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

Desperado is the only studio release in the catalogue of the Eagles that was conceived as a concept album, and that fact alone could have meant this second offering was also their last.

It is the difficult second album – the one that has made many artists and broken so many more. Desperado shows the confidence of the Eagles to take their sound in a different direction, and the skill to do so without seeming like they are  just trying to find a new audience.

Doolin-Dalton (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / JD Souther / Jackson Browne)
Leads – Frey & Henley
From the evocative opening mouth organ, this is a great scene-setter that tells a good story. One of their finest album-only tracks. 8
Twenty-One (Bernie Leadon)
Lead – Leadon
Not one of my favourites, but it’s upbeat, very short, and the country sound is more reminiscent of their debut album than anything they would produce in later years. 5
Out of Control (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Tom Nixon)
Lead – Frey
Probably the hardest vocal Frey ever laid down for the Eagles, on top of a drum-heavy track. The title is apropos, because at times this feels more like a jamming session than a song the Eagles released. 6
Tequila Sunrise (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Frey
This is an Eagles staple, but I have always found this song to be a little overrated, probably because it is played so damn often. Not a bad song – the Eagles don’t really do those – but far from their best effort. 6
Desperado (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Henley
This is another familiar number, even to the casual ear. It is also one of the best songs that came out of the Henley/Frey writing partnership, and one of a handful of tracks that is synonymous with the band. It’s hard to hear anybody other than Don Henley singing this one. 9
Certain Kind of Fool (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Randy Meisner)
Lead – Meisner
This is Meisner’s only vocal lead on this album, but this is his finest hour. He always sounds good, but he connects here with every line and he sounds great. 9
Doolin-Dalton (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / JD Souther / Jackson Browne)
instrumental
It’s difficult to judge this as it’s an extremely brief banjo interlude that segues beautifully into…
Outlaw Man (David Blue)
Lead – Frey
…Frey’s best song on the album. I still think that Glenn’s voice is more suited to something in a softer genre, but his work on the first two albums suggest he wants a rougher edge to his tunes. 7
Saturday Night (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Randy Meisner / Bernie Leadon)
Lead – Henley
This Spanish-infused song is the only one credited to the original four members of the band, and it has grown on me over the years. I never used to get it, but I have learned to appreciate it over the years. 7
Bitter Creek (Bernie Leadon)
Lead – Leadon
A good song, and a very good fit for Leadon’s voice. The track keeps hinting that it wants to go somewhere else, but it never does. 7
Doolin-Dalton/Desperado (reprise) (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / JD Souther / Jackson Browne)
Lead – Henley
I like Doolin-Dalton and I like Desperado. Individually they are excellent songs. So together they must be amazing, right? Well… not really. It’s a case of the whole not being as great as the sum of its parts. Stilll good, but this mash-up is not as strong an end credit sequence as I had hoped for. 7

Overall: 71%
This could have ended up all kinds of wrong, but instead, Desperado is a definite improvement over their debut album. At least a couple of the songs on offer are right there in the conversation for the best tracks that the Eagles ever released.

Potted Film Review: 9 to 5 (1980)

Starring: Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton

What’s it all about?
Judy (sheepishly played by Jane Fonda) is the new addition to a sexist office in which Violet (played by Lily Tomlin) is the highest ranking woman. Doralee (Dolly Parton in her most famous role) is the stereotypical blonde secretary who is objectified and leered over by the boss (eighties comedy bad guy, Dabney Coleman).

When Violet is passed over for a promotion – primarily because she is a woman – she decides enough is enough. Along with the other two girls they get drunk and stoned, and they each fantasise about ways in which to off their boss…

…and it’s here that 9 to 5 gets a little crazy. Although the movie lays out its intention from the beginning and doesn’t pretend to be anything deeper than it is, it moves from a fairly straight comedy to surreal farce in short order, and just as it’s time to wrap things up, it’s hard to take any of it seriously at all.

Watching it with the kids…
This is a cheeky comedy, which feels like a reduced fat version of a Carry On movie, and there’s nothing in here that you wouldn’t find in one of those.

Verdict…
9 to 5 is certainly not the movie I had expected, but it is a time capsule – a love letter to a period of history that just isn’t around anymore. In 1980 I’m sure this was seen as progressive, but the current generation will probably find it difficult to watch in 2019, given their sensitivity when it comes to workplace equality… and their inability to take any sort of humour from topics as serious as sexism and misogyny. But take it as the light-hearted romp it is, and it’s a fun trip.

Recommended

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.

Recommended ↑