Tag Archives: potted film review

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) ↑

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 ↑

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.

Recommended ↑

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.

Recommended

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.

Recommended (highly) ↑

Potted Film Review: Lady Bird (2017)

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Lucas Hedges, Laurie Metcalfe, Tracy Letts

What’s it all about?
Lady Bird is a teenage girl who attends a Catholic school, but does not appear to have any strong religious beliefs. Like a lot of teenagers, she is trying to find herself. She has given herself the name ‘Lady Bird’ in order to assert her individuality, but it never really has any kind of pay off, other than as an example of her quirky personality.

She meets a boy at drama class and falls for him, but when he betrays her, she breaks off the relationship. She then meets another boy, but Lady Bird ends it when she discovers he has lied about his virginity (or lack thereof).

Ultimately, Lady Bird (superficially, at least) plays out a little like Juno, but at a slower pace and with less of the humour, and it turns out not to be about her blossoming sexuality at all. Instead, it is about the fractious relationship Lady Bird has with her mother, and how they eventually come together – not in an obvious or saccharine way, but through the subtlety of good performances and a solid script.

Watching it with the kids…
There’s a fair amount of bad language in here, including usage of the dreaded C-bomb, so stay away if that word scares you. There’s no naked skin to be seen, except for on the pages of a magazine, and there’s no violence either.

Verdict…
Lady Bird never really goes anywhere, which is not to say that it is a bad movie, just that it’s not a very exciting one. I can’t work up too much enthusiasm for it, but then again, such an emphatic reaction would be contrary to what this movie has presented over the last hour and a half anyway. It’s not going to get your blood pumping, but it is a well written and competently acted slice of drama. I think you really have to be in the right mood to watch and appreciate it, and perhaps when I sat down in front of the TV, I just wasn’t. Having said that, I still recognise what it brings to the table, so with that in mind…

Recommended (slightly) ↑

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.

Verdict…
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 ↓