Category Archives: Reviews

Potted Film Review: The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)

Starring: Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Gillian Anderson

What’s it all about?
After Audrey (Kunis) is dumped by her boyfriend – and he is subsequently killed – she finds out that instead of being the deadbeat that she thinks he was, he was actually a spy working for the CIA. Along with her best friend Morgan (McKinnon) the two of them then travel to Austria in order to deliver a secret package.

It’s been done many times before – two characters thrust into a world of espionage and explosions, who don’t really know what they’re doing but manage to stumble their way to the end credits anyway and manage to save the day.

There’s some great stunt work in here, and the action is well done, but I think all that should be in a better movie than this. To their credit, the girls do seem to be enjoying themselves, but they may be the only ones. They have good comic timing and are fun to watch, but this movie is not. And at a few minutes shy of two hours, it’s about twenty minutes too long.

Watching it with the kids…
There’s a lot of blood spilled, and some fairly grisly moments that are not suitable for the little ones. Language is quite ripe throughout as well, and although there is no sex, there is a cock and a pair of swinging balls that you may want to be aware of if you check this out.

Verdict…
Both of the two female leads deserve a better script than this. It’s billed as a comedy, but it isn’t all that funny. McKinnon’s character is called Morgan Freeman, which I guess is meant to make me laugh. To be honest, the movie is far too violent far too often, and as a result, I don’t know how I am expected to react in any given scene. The Spy Who Dumped Me may have succeeded if it was a standard buddy flick, but unfortunately the tone is all over the place, and I was just left waiting for it to be over.

Not Recommended ↓

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Potted Film Review: Shazam! (2019)

Starring: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Mark Strong

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What’s it all about?
At first blush Shazam! seems to be about a boy who meets an old homeless dude in a subway tunnel, says his name aloud, and then is able to use that name as a conduit to become a bumbling superhero… but underneath all that it’s really a story about family and friendships.

It starts off quite slowly with a very deliberate first half hour, to the point where I was concerned it was dragging on too long. However, once the origin/backstory is set aside, it develops into a fun romp with its tongue squarely in its cheek.

As it proceeds I started to feel a bit of a Big vibe, in the way that the central relationship plays out, right down to a funny blink-and-you’ll-miss-it homage that I’m sure was a nod to those who had recognised the similarities.

I’m a fan of Zachary Levi from his television work on Chuck, and – as this role is not a million miles away from that one – he slips easily into the superhero spandex here, giving a confident performance that is an easy paycheck for him. The rest of the cast I can take or leave, to be honest. Mark Strong feels like nothing more or less than your standard comic book villain, and the supporting children are fairly forgettable on the whole. They aren’t all that good, but then again, they’re not too bad either. This is Levi’s movie, and – combined with the sharp script – he is the primary reason that this works.

Watching it with the kids…
This is a family friendly movie through and through, with only the very young and sensitive who may be a little frightened by the monsters and demons on display here, but there’s no gore and no blood. There’s some mild language to be aware of, but it’s extremely tame, and nothing more than what you will hear in any playground.

Verdict…
I’m not an avid fan of superhero movies, so it takes something a little different within that genre to make me sit up and take notice. Shazam! manages to do that, and it is because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. How can it? It’s a movie with an exclamation mark right there in the title. It’s not dark, gritty, or edgy, like a lot of these comic adaptations try to be, and that’s absolutely fine.

Recommended

Potted Retro Film Review: Risky Business (1983)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay, Joe Pantoliano

What’s it all about?
Cruise plays Joel, a suburban teenager who is on the one hand trying to get into college, but on the other, is just your typically horny kid whose primary concern is to get laid by a prostitute when his parents are away. Cue Lana, played by a sweet, butter-wouldn’t-melt Rebecca De Mornay.

The story escalates from one night of no-strings sex, to a stolen glass egg, to eventually Joel using his parents’ home as a makeshift brothel for a whole fleet of Lana’s colleagues to make some money. There’s a Porsche, a disgruntled pimp (called Guido, of course), and the whole thing is underpinned by the blossoming romance between Joel and Lana.

There are no real surprises here. There are some fun scenes, and the dialogue is on point, but it feels nothing like the benchmark title it is often considered to be. Cruise is on good early form, before he became a megastar a couple of years after this; and De Mornay is, well… she looks good, at least.

Watching it with the kids…
There are a couple of sex scenes here that you’ll want to avoid, and some stylised full frontal female nudity, done in the way that only a film made in the eighties could truly pull off. There’s also some bad language throughout. All things considered, given the reputation this has for my generation, it’s really very tame.

Verdict…
It had been many years since I last saw Risky Business, before this recent viewing. Was it as good as I remembered? No. For a comedy it’s not all that funny, and as a coming-of-age piece it has very few dramatic moments. I never feel the chemistry between Cruise and De Mornay, and their burgeoning relationship is clumsy and awkward at best. But as an early example of what the eighties was pushing in the teen genre – and before the market was flooded with this kind of thing – it’s hard to deny its influence and raw energy.

Recommended (slightly) ↑

Potted Film Review: Tag (2018)

Starring: Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Burgess, Jeremy Renner.

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What’s it all about?
If you weren’t told at the beginning of this ludicrous comedy that Tag was based on a true story, you’d never guess… because it’s too damn silly to be real. Even when the credits roll, and we see snippets of the real-life friendship that inspired this lunacy, it’s still pretty hard to believe.

The story follows a group of five men who have played tag for the entire month of March since they were young enough for that not to be considered childish. The hook, is that Jerry (Jeremy Renner) is a tag legend, and has never been caught in over thirty years of playing, and with the threat of Jerry’s retirement from their annual event hanging over their heads, the other four decide to give it one final push to make him it. Hijinks and hilarity ensues.

Everybody here is very comfortable in their roles, and that’s because nobody is too far outside their wheelhouse. Ed Helms is basically a more restrained version of his character from The Hangover franchise, and Jake Johnson is a cut and paste job from his role as Nick in quirky sitcom, New Girl, but although familiarity is sometimes criticised as laziness or paint-by-numbers, it’s quickly evident that this is simply good casting.

Watching it with the kids…
Oddly, for this sub-genre of comedy, Tag doesn’t try to be overly offensive or shocking, which is a welcome change. Sure, it’s peppered with strong language, but there is no violence beyond the slapstick, and no sex or nudity at all, so no curling up behind the sofa cushions is required.

Verdict…
Tag is a fun movie that knows it is based on a daft premise. It’s not the cleverest movie you’ll ever see, but it does boast some inventive scenes as the guys try to outsmart Jerry and back him into a corner. Everyone on screen seems to be enjoying themselves, even when the script threatens to become a little too sentimental towards the end, but I had a good time all the way through.

Recommended ↑

Yippee Kiy Yay…

The best Christmas movie there has ever been (yes, I’ll fight you on it), and the quintessential action movie that every other is still trying to follow, was first screened in the UK thirty years ago today.

Hell, it is quite possibly the greatest movie of all time. In any genre. Full stop. I am of course, talking about Die Hard.

“Now I know what a TV dinner feels like.”

Three decades on, and its simple but effective premise has yet to be bettered. The sequels, er…  try hard to recapture that initial glory, and the franchise occasionally even comes close to hitting that big screen G-spot with some of the set pieces that follow, but the original eighties classic stands alone – as tall and proud as the iconic Nakatomi Plaza itself.




Twenty One Years Later…

HBKI have been a fan of the WWE and the product it puts out since the early nineties – back when it was called the WWF, before those animal protection guys got all uppity and decided to take them to court over the name. Guilty pleasure, perhaps, but we should all be permitted a few of those.

Admittedly, the wrestling that company produces – or sports entertainment, as chief Vince McMahon wants the world to call it – has not been the greatest in recent years, but I have long loved the personalities and the check-your-brain-at-the-door storylines. It’s simple, and if you can wrap your head around the fact that the match results are pre-determined and everyone is just playing their part, then you can certainly have a lot of fun with it.

Shawn Michaels is my favourite wrestler. I enjoyed his attitude, his style, and his skills between the ropes. He retired in 2010 after twenty-five years in the business, and that’s just how it stayed until earlier this month when he found himself back in the squared circle, performing on the very controversial Crown Jewel show in Saudi Arabia. I won’t go in to the politics of it all, because that’s not what this is about, but suffice to say that 53 year old Shawn Michaels’ much requested return to the ring left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, despite the fact that his performance proved that even at his age, he still has… it.

imagesA few days ago was the twenty-first anniversary of another controversial broadcast (albeit, for very different reasons) that Shawn Michaels was heavily involved with – the 1997 Survivor Series. In the final ten minutes of his title match against defending champion Bret Hart at the annual pay-per-view, the audience in attendance and those watching at home suddenly saw an entirely scripted production become real. What happened then will forever be known in wrestling circles as the Montreal Screwjob. More has been written about that over the years than the legitimacy of the Apollo moon landings so I won’t add my two cents here, but if nothing else, that incident amplifies exactly how much wrestling, and the perception of it, has changed over the last two decades.

Back then it was gritty and grubby and frayed around the edges. Today it is very sanitised. It’s polished to a high shine and borders on being overproduced, and maybe it has lost a little of its soul as a result.

Then again, both of those events noted here were really just about the money, so maybe it hasn’t changed all that much after all.

It’s Not a Rumour…

On Friday I went to see Rumours of Fleetwood Mac with The Girlfriend© – the premier Fleetwood Mac tribute band in all the land. Even if this was my first time (and it wasn’t, as I had seen them many years ago with my sister) I would have known I was in for a treat as founding member Mick Fleetwood heartily endorsed them at the start of the show.

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The first half of the performance was taken up with a celebration of the Rumours album which is now forty years old. As such, they performed every song, featuring one of my favourite Mac tracks, the Stevie Nicks fronted Gold Dust Woman. It’s no secret that I think Stevie has one of the sexiest vocals in rock music, but Jess Harwood – the girl who embodies her on stage – runs her pretty damn close.

After the intermission the hits kept on coming as ROFM took us through the entire catalogue, from familiar eighties tracks like Little Lies and Gypsy, dating back to their roots in the late sixties with songs like Black Magic Woman and Need Your Love So Bad… the latter of which turned out to be somewhat of an aphrodisiac for The Girlfriend©, so that was an unexpectedly sweet Friday night bonus.

It’s a show I would heartily recommended for both Fleetwood fans and also those who simply appreciate good music. Catch them if you can – they are touring the UK until the end of May.