Tag Archives: movies

The Father (2020)…

I lost my grandmother a few months ago to dementia so I knew if The Father pressed the right buttons it was going to be difficult to watch, and the way the movie chose to handle the disease had me intrigued.

Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman lead the very thin cast as father and daughter, and Hopkins in particular, is exceptional. The role – deservedly – bagged him another Best Actor Academy Award, and I found myself touched by his performance in a way that would likely not have happened in less capable hands.

The Father plays around with narrative structure and chronology in an effort to unsettle you and put you in the shoes of the title character, to the point where you, as the viewer, are unsure of exactly what is real and what is not. It’s an effective, albeit sometimes confusing device, but it succeeds in shining a light on a disease that we really don’t know too much about, despite it taking so many of our loved ones from us.

It’s a very good movie, but one that I probably won’t be going back to anytime soon. It just strikes a little too close to home.

And if you don’t have a lump in your throat at the end, you have no heart.

The Elephant to Hollywood – Review…


Michael Caine is one of my favourite actors. My earliest memories of his work are from my childhood and centre around Sleuth and Deathtrap – both of which, coincidentally, began on the stage.

Since those days I have grown to love a lot more of his output. In fact, Alfie (his best film), inspired one of my earliest email addresses, which would probably still be accessible if I could remember the password.

Reading this biography, I quickly realised that although I have seen a lot of his movies, I’ve definitely missed many others – a lot of which are, by his own admission, complete stinkers. But even if the production is bad, Caine never is. He’s a dependable performer and always a believable presence on screen.

This autobiography came out in 2010, and although he has made a handful of movies since, this covers the vast majority of his output, from his breakout performance in Zulu, right through to his supporting role in the Batman trilogy.

But it’s not just the movies he talks about. There are plenty of pages devoted to his wife Shakira, and how they met; his love of cooking; and his life growing up in the Elephant and Castle. And in typical Cockney fashion, he’s a good storyteller, so I was happy to go on all the journeys with him.

If you like Sir Michael (although he doesn’t want you to call him that) this is a good look behind the curtain into one of Britain’s most celebrated actors.

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.

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: 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.

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) ↑

The Gender Swapping Thing…

Now let me get this out of the way from the start: I love women. I really do. Most of them smell nice; and a lot of them look pretty good too. Women are, generally speaking, nicer people to be around than men are. It’s just a fact. Sure, there are some women out there who are bitches; but there are just as many men out there who are bastards. So let’s not get caught up in that whole discussion.

That being said… I’m fed up with Hollywood feeling that it’s necessary to remake or reimagine old ideas and franchises that starred men, just because there’s a widespread belief that it’s necessary to do the same thing with women.

No. It isn’t.

Equality is a good thing – of course it is; it’s silly to argue otherwise – and women should absolutely have the same opportunities that men have, but that’s a separate discussion for a different day. This is about the fascination Hollywood has had over the last few years of taking properties that used men in the leading roles, and simply sticking women in there… without any story-related reason to do so. It seems as though that is what constitutes a good idea these days.

I am on record as being generally ambivalent to remakes in the first place, and I believe they are often just a cash grab to trade off the back of the original iteration, but I especially don’t enjoy those in which the only thought of the production team is: let’s do this exact same story, but with women this time. How is that any good?

Spoiler: it’s not.

This rant comes as The Hustle is released – a con-artist comedy starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson; two actresses I have enjoyed in other movies, so I have no axe to grind with them. The thing is, The Hustle is a remake of the Michael Caine and Steve Martin con-artist comedy from 1988 called Dirty Rotten Scoundrels which, although far from the most celebrated entry in either of their ouevres, is considered to be a good movie. And I happen to like it quite a bit.

I have not seen The Hustle and I don’t intend to do so any time soon either, so feel free to consider this as an entirely biased breakdown. And yes, for all you clever clogs out there, I am aware that Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is itself a revision of the sixties movie Bedtime Story, but as I have previously accepted, there are always exceptions.

The one saving grace is that The Hustle is currently being fed to the wolves by the critics so I suppose I’m happy about that, because if these films continue to be lambasted then perhaps the public will begin to lose interest and there will be a time in the not too distant future when we don’t have to put up with these thoughtless travesties.

Earlier this year What Men Want was released; last year we had a role reversal in Overboard; and a couple of years before that there was the much maligned Ghostbusters (a movie that was always fighting an uphill battle). I’ve heard rumblings of a Splash remake too (yes, with a merman), and even an all female version of Lord of the Flies.

Seriously? It’s just too much.

If you give me a worthy movie I promise I’ll go with it every time, but I don’t see any of these standing the test of time.

And before you ask – no, I don’t want to see a Pretty Man, in which Zac Efron plays a low-rent streetwalker purchased by rich business woman Sandra Bullock for a few days of conversation; or a sitcom about four geriatric men talking about life over cheesecake called The Golden Boys.

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.

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.


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.

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.

Recommended (highly) ↑

Potted Film Review: Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

Starring: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Synder, John Allen Nelson, Royal Dano, John Nelson

What’s it all about?
An alien craft – which has the outward appearance of a travelling circus – lands in the woods behind a small town in the middle of America. The aliens who emerge are clowns. They carry guns that fire popcorn, and they kill people; or at the very least, they encase their victims in a plethora of pink candy floss.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space is (if you didn’t already know) a parody of all those bargain basement sci-fi B movies from the fifties that you have either seen or heard about, and it probably helps if you know that going in. Those movies were almost uniformly bad, which makes it hard for a parody of that style to be anything other than bad as well… So you see the dilemma?

Some of the practical effects are amusing in an eighties Muppets kind of way, and the writers should certainly be given credit for using the clowns in a variety of creative ways, but I didn’t find myself laughing much during the very brief running time.

Watching it with the kids…
Yeah, sure. Don’t let the title fool you. These may very well be killer clowns, but most of the actual deaths that appear on screen are characters being either vapourised or cocooned courtesy of special effects that would make even a fan of the original sixties Star Trek show balk. Everything is done with its tongue so far in its cheek, that even when there is a little blood on screen, it’s hard to take it seriously. Language is very mild, and despite there being ample opportunity for some skin, there’s none of that either.

I’m really torn on this one. On the one hand the acting is terrible, the script is less than basic, and the effects are a constant reminder that nobody behind the scenes gave a shit about realism; but on the other, it’s a fairly accurate reflection of those old genre tropes. So how can I hate on a movie that does exactly what it sets out to do?

I would wager that this movie is great to watch with a bunch of friends and a bottle of your favourite tipple. Ultimately however, while it has entertaining moments, I am just apathetic towards it, and I can’t give a pass to something that makes me feel that way.

Not Recommended ↓

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.

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 ↓

(Im)mature Students…

I went to the cinema last night with The Girlfriend© to see Shazam! (review inbound), but for a hot minute it looked like we were more likely to be spending the next couple of hours explaining ourselves to the cops than watching the latest hero in the DC Universe.


Ticket prices here in Aberdeen are very expensive – to the point where we sometimes get a little creative with the purchasing of said tickets. I’m not proud of it, but we have been known to buy cinema tickets online and do so as students, because we save about £3 each that way. It’s not much, I know, but it is a system that is so easy to exploit (and nobody ever checks the tickets) that it almost seems like the purchasing option has been set up specifically for people to do just that. And although I’m sure we are not the only ones who have done it, I do appreciate that is no excuse either.

So we have got away with it maybe half a dozen times in the past, except last night the young female ticket collector – who admittedly, was only doing her job – did check our credentials.

She asked The Girlfriend© for her identification, and when she wasn’t able to produce any, she asked what course she was studying at university. The Girlfriend© – to her credit, was quick on her feet, and blurted out her son’s chosen vocation of midwifery – but was (of course) not able to show the ticket collector any emails or correspondence to prove her case.

I was asked the same questions, and I chose to go with the actual course I studied at university of Law & Management. Afterwards I figured if I was going to be lying anyway, perhaps I should have been a little more ambitious with my response, but in the moment it’s not always simple to be clever or cute. I guess I could also have thrown The Girlfriend© under the bus and explained that I was perfectly happy to pay the extra, and that I had nothing to do with the fraudulent purchase… but that would not have made for a pleasant remainder of the evening.

I am absolutely convinced that the ticket girl did not believe a word of what we told her, but she let us in anyway – probably just to avoid any escalation of the situation.

Suffice to say, the movie was good, but I spent a good portion of it expecting the manager to flip up the lights, and bring in a couple of heavy-set security guards to toss us out.