Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Review

I have seen several episodes of Absolutely Fabulous, and while I was never a “fan”, there were enjoyable. But I remember seeing the trailer for the Ab Fab movie and cringing at the fawning over celebrities and models and already wondering if it was going to jump the shark like many TV to film adaptations. Let’s find out.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie stars Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha and June Whitfield and is directed by Mandie Fletcher. The film follows the ever alcoholic, drug-abusing narcissists Edina (Saunders) and Patsy (Lumley) who have to flee to the south of France after Edina accidently kills Kate Moss.

We’ll start with what works, Joanna Lumley. She is by far the best thing in the film, whether she’s showing off for the paparazzi, getting caught up in a fashion runway or just walking down the road with a bottle of champagne in her hand, Lumley commands the screen every time she is on and plays Patsy as a wonderfully vain and pampered waste. Kathy Burke too, despite having only a few short minutes in the film as a ball-busting, loudmouth reporter has some great lines. And that’s really it. Sure there were some good lines here and there that made me laugh, but apart from Lumley and Burke, it’s really quite dreary.

Since Edina is a PR agent, celebrities would obviously be involved in some way with the production. The film takes a leaf out of Zoolander 2‘s book and floods the screen with as many famous faces as it can. When asked had he seen Jaws 4, Michael Caine famously said, “No, but I’ve seen the house it bought.” That’s what Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie feels like, people like Jon Hamm, Stella McCartney, Emma Bunton and Lulu are just turning up to be flattered by the main stars and then pick up a cheque. It’s not just fashion designers and models that turn up either. The film is full of actual actors like Robert Webb, Rebel Wilson and Martin Gatiss, and most are terrible in this. Webb and Gatiss are both funny people but are sadly given nothing to use.

The script, while it starts funny loses its mark around the half hour point. As always, there are some great one liners, but after that mark it descends into a weird sort of slapstick. The script also takes another note from Zoolander 2 by having several jokes aimed at transgender characters. It’s demeaning and ends up just becoming examples of “you’re transgender, that’s different from the rest of us so let’s laugh at you for a bit”. The off-colour jokes end up making the majority of the script about part way through and definitely in my screening there were moments when one of those jokes would come up and the whole cinema was silent.

Despite being only 91 minutes long, there are moments when the film feels a bit baggy. There are subplots about Eddie’s book deal and several dream sequences where Eddie and Patsy imagine that they are partying away the rest of their days surrounded by fashion celebrities. The film sets up the massive “on-the-run” type story but is simply resolved in the last two minutes of the film so that we can have a big happy ending.

In the end, this might be one for the super-fans of Ab Fab. If all you’re wanting to see is Eddie and Patsy together again, getting drunk and going on crazy adventures that you’ll have fun. For the rest, it might be one to check the trailer first before you decide whether to watch it.

Score: 5/10 Absolutely medicore.

Money Monster Review

Jodie Foster is well known for her work as an actress, but has many directorial roles under her belt. After three films and a couple of television episodes (notably Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards), she’s back with her new film, Money Monster.

Money Monster star George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O’Connell and is directed by Jodie Foster. Lee Gates (Clooney) hosts the Wall Street consumer advice show Money Monster. After his advice means delivery man Kyle (O’Connell) loses all his money, he is taken hostage by Kyle on live television.

George Clooney plays totally against type as Wall Street expert Lee Gates. Clooney is known for playing the suave, charismatic type, but Gates is more of a slimy character than usual. He got to where he is by his quick wits and ability to not let his emotions get in his way. His bravado soon come crashing down when Kyle bursts in, placing a pistol to the back of his head. It’s similar to his role from Up In The Air, but he’s much more in the thick of the action rather than flying from place to place.

Since the film is about economics and stocks and data, it would be easy to compare Money Monster to The Big Short due to the similar subject matter. But instead of focussing on the money and traders, it keeps it all mostly on the television and the media, which is more tying in with Network. The film cuts away to several groups watching the drama unfold on their televisions, tweeting and vining ( is that how you write the verb “to vine”?) and other news outlets jumping in to say their piece on what and why it’s happening. The film is putting it’s politics into the media rather than onto the bankers, which is a different take on films that focus on the economic collapse. Sadly, the characters on the outside aren’t very likable; playing out certain events to make O’Connell’s Kyle step up his demands or general apathy, turning away from gunfire on the television back to a table football game. It went for it, but I think it might have worked better if they just stuck to a hostage rescue scenario. Sometimes the wider story, about corrupt businesses and strikes and external forces went a bit too paranoid for me, with some of it being totally confusing as to how it profited the bankers.

Most of the film takes place in the Money Monster set. This containment keeps all the tension in one place and our attention solely on Clooney, O’Donnell and Julia Roberts as Gates’ producer Patty. However, the story keeps moving on so that when we do finally leave the set for the streets of New York and then to Federal Hall it doesn’t lose that small-room tension. Monsey Monster keeps building it’s tension by adding more and more layers to the conspiracy at the centre and then suddenly pulling a stabilising part of the puzzle away, making Kyle become much more erratic after he had been calm for an extended period of time. The film is at its best when we are with the three leads, losing the tension and turning into more of a comedy when it moves to other characters. There is some dark humour displayed by Clooney and O’Connell but the film works better as a thriller.

In summary, Money Monster is a good tense film, dissecting how the media works and generates stories. It often seems a bit too upfront about it subject manner, it’s morals as well as sometimes being confusing and expositional but overall it’s enjoyable.

Score: 7/10 Good for 90 minutes but not essential viewing.

Cyberbully Review


For my retro reviews I like to broaden out what types of films I choose to review. Some are old classics that I want to write down my take on and some are complete unknowns. And since I did the short film Qalupalik, I’ve been wanting to branch out into different sorts of films. So for this one, I chose a television film. I introduce to you, Cyberbully.


Cyberbully star’s Maisie Williams, Elle Purnell and Wilson Haagens and is written and directed by Ben Channen. The film follows teenager Casey (Williams) who is tormented by an anonymous culprit online.

Television films always get a bad rap. There is an idea that the word “television” means that it’s cheaply made and isn’t worth your time. It’s not always true, there have been several great “made for TV” films. Studio Ghibli, the guys behind Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro made Ocean Waves for television and that’s my favourite Ghibli creation. But anyway, back to Cyberbully.

I did mainly choose to watch this film because of Maisie Williams. She’s been on a roll since her breakout roll in Game Of Thrones and her performance in last year’s The Falling, a British horror film was nominated for a Clemwood Award. Here in Cyberbully she shows her tremendous range as an actress. At the start she’s carefree and happy, talking to her friend’s like a typical teenager, but soon descends into worry and fearfulness over the messages that the anonymous hacker is sending her. The last ten to fifteen minutes, where Williams breaks down into tears is a extremely effective stab at high traumatising drama and is reason enough to give Cyberbully a watch.

The film is done in real time, which is not a very well explored creative choice. The most well known films to use real time are Hitchcock’s Rope and the Uruguayan horror film La Casa Muda (remade as Silent House in America). The real time adds to the sense of immediacy and there are several long takes that Williams takes in her stride. The whole film is set in Casey’s bedroom and for the majority of the film it is just her and her laptop.

While the film’s title evokes ideas of teenage trolls and online bullying, the film instead goes for a more ghostly approach. It reminded me of last year’s Unfriended (although Cyberbully did come out before it) but it works a lot better here. Unfriended had small moments of downtime but mainly relied on jump scares. Cyberbully has a jump scare, which doesn’t really fit, but the rest of the tension/terror is built up through the actions of the anonymous hacker and Casey stooping to his level. It feels like something that Hitchcock would have made if he knew what laptops and the internet were.

The script was written by the director Ben Channen and David Lobatto and to give it sense of authenticity Channen asked both his own daughter and Williams to read through it and take out anything that felt fake. This does mean that the early part of the film where Casey is talking to her friend Meg sounds believable, similar to The Spectacular Now. The rest of the story has many twists and turns over who the anonymous hacker is, and while some moments feel predictable (a moment about someone else who Casey was in contact with is signposted early on), when it looks like the film will fall flat with a reveal it pulls the rug out from the audience and turn’s the story on its head.

Cyberbully is an incredibly taut and on edge thriller. Cyber-based suicides are an all too common story nowadays, and Cyberbully cuts right to the problem with online hate. It’s very easy to find, so if it sounds like something that you would enjoy, then Cyberbully get’s my recommendation.

Score: 9/10 Tense and topical, a very good film.

Dad’s Army Review

It’s been nearly 40 years since Dad’s Army finished it’s initial run on television. Through re-runs and DVD sales, it’s been passed down through generations and still has a large following today. Does the new feature film follow in the high steps of the television show or does it sink like so many film to television adaptations?

Dad’s Army stars Toby Jones, Bill Nighy, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Gambon and Blake Harrison and is directed by Oliver Parker. Based on the highly successful TV show, the film follows the Home Guard of the small seaside town, Walmington-On-Sea, as a Nazi spy threatens to pave the way for an invasion.

While much of the acting is superb, it’s sometimes let down by the casting. Some actors, such as Toby Jones or Blake Harrison are the spitting image of the former roles, adding to the sense of nostalgia, but others, like Bill Nighy or Michael Gambon just feel flat and out-of-place somewhat. Gambon especially, who plays fan-favourite Godfrey, just seems to be playing himself rather than performing. It seems a waste of good source material when paired up against some incredibly lifeless acting.

The script, by Hamish McColl, whose previous work includes Mr. Bean’s Holiday and Paddington, capture the spirit of the TV show and has a very British sense of humour throughout. The BBFC have rated the film as a PG for, “mild bad language, violence and innuendo”. The violence is mostly slapstick and in the finale when a simple chase turns into a multi-tiered gunfight (which incidentally is one of the funniest parts of the film for its sheer absurdity) has no blood, so it’s a film that the whole family can go to and they’ll be able to laugh at the jokes targeted at them. The innuendo is what fuels most of the jokes in the film, but a lot of them are hit-and-miss, leading to a lot of awkward silences or at least a roll of the eyes instead of a laugh.

The story is as basic and played out as you might expect. I distinctly remember the film’s plot being the plot of several of the episodes of the TV show, just with slightly different outcomes. Within five minutes of the film starting you’ll know how it ends, which is quite sad since for such a well-loved and long-running franchise, it smacks of laziness that they didn’t put a more thoughtful or at least a more developed story on screen. The film’s run time is only 100 minutes, meaning it’s pretty short in comparison to the rest of the cinema’s output, but there are still scenes in there that go on for way too long or just don’t add anything to the film. There is a love story between three/four characters (which again was a plot in the TV show) and here it just sits and does nothing original or interesting with the idea, bar one scene which is ripped straight from The Importance of Being Earnest.

The film also at times looks pretty shoddy. Some scenes, like a wide shot during a patrol on the seaside cliffs of Bridlington are quite nice, but others have an odd haze about them. On natural light was used in the film which may have been the reason why most of the indoor scenes have this golden filter rather than a clear picture. Natural light may have been used well in The Revenant, but it doesn’t look good for you Dad’s Army.

In the end, Dad’s Army has its problems. The story is paper thin, a majority of scenes aren’t lit properly and some actors just seem to be going through the motions. But the jokes, along with a healthy dose of nostalgia bring it around.

Score: 6/10 Can’t give it a higher score, but it’s a recommendation for the family.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E Review

I love James Bond. I know it might sound a bit weird to open a non-James Bond film like that but hear me out. While I am a fan of Daniel Craig’s interpretation and modern portrayal of Ian Fleming’s famous character, I still harken for the days of Connery and Lazenby, with the Cold War being the backdrop for their spying escapades. Does The Man From U.N.C.L.E. give fans like me a new spy-related alternative?

The Man From U.N.C.L.E stars Henry Cavill, Arnie Harmer, Alicia Vikander, Hugh Grant and Jared Harris with Guy Ritchie both directing and writing. Based off the hugely successful TV show of the same name, the plot follows CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Cavill) teaming up with KGB agent Illya Kuriakin (Harmer) to thwart a rogue faction from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Firstly the film looks gorgeous. Guy Ritchie knows how to operate a camera better than most directors working today, and the camerawork has a very old-skool vibe about it, strengthening the idea that this is a throwback to the early Bond adventures. After the dark streets of East Berlin, the films swiftly moves to Rome, with the sets having a glow around them, making it look and feel like a film that would have starred Audrey Hepburn if it had been made half a century ago. The movement of the camera is also worthy of praise for the making the film look as good as it is. The camera moves around effortlessly, soaking in the beautiful surroundings throughout the film and then the Ken Adam inspired sets near the middle of the film. The camera moves at just enough of a slow pace to let us appreciate the craft with which the film was made.

To focus on the actors, nearly everyone here is on top performance. Our two main leads, Cavill and Harmer are polar opposites of each other, with Cavill being the ever lovable rogue and Harmer the quiet and psychotic Russian who looks like he’s going to blow up at any point. The two actors bounce perfectly off each other, with some of the funniest parts of dialogue coming from their two different approaches to spying for their respective countries. The majority of the jokes coming from this dissonance between the two, including a hilarious sequence near the middle of the film that I won’t spoil here. Hugh Grant is his usual quintessential British self, with only Alicia Vikander turning in a sometimes wooden and emotionless performance.

Despite the aforementioned hilarious sequences, the gags aren’t always up to scratch. The jokes don’t always fall the right way leading to these awkward pauses during the film where they thought the audience was going to laugh. They happen periodically throughout the film, including a segment where Kuriakin is trying to show off his cover story to Vikander’s character, Gaby. It just feels a bit forced when the films is trying to push the jokes in where they have no weight to them, feeling like fluff to pass the time.

The fight scenes in the film are similar to the jokes in that there can be a huge divide in quality. While some fight scenes, including an early one between our two leads can have a nice Paul Greengrass-handheld camera look to them as well as getting to see some of Kuriakin’s Spock-like super attacks, most of the other fight scenes just devolve into quick cut close-ups of hands and bodies flying around, ending with most of the bad guys on the floor.

The main problem that I found with the film however is the bad guys. While we get an expository sequence at the beginning detailing who these people are and their actions, they never really have a powerful presence on screen or off it either. They just seem to be shells for our heroes to focus on. Their comeuppance at the end of the film feels very anti-climatic and it feels as if the writers realised they had a few too many loose ends at the end of the film and needed to quickly tie them all up before the credits.

In conclusion, The Man From U.N.C.L.E is a beautiful old world style spy film, filled with all the fun of an early James Bond film. And with an end credit sequence that hints at a promising new film franchise, it could be that Bond won’t be the only spy that the cinema adores.

Score: 8/10 A fun romp into the golden age of spies.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me Review


Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was originally meant to be part of the David Lynch Collection review. I left it out of the first review since I had not yet finished the Twin Peaks TV series, and since the film takes place before the TV show, it would have spoiled many of the twists that the show set up. After finally plowing through both series, I am here now able to review, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.


Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me stars Kyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee and Ray Wise and David Lynch as the director. The film is set before the TV show of the same name, and focuses on the last seven days of Laura Palmer’s life, as well as the mysterious Bob coming to Twin Peaks.

To start with, the acting is all sorts of bad. While the acting in the TV show had a sense of the uncanny about it, here it is soap-opera levels of bad. Sheryl Lee is the worst, flipping from laughing manically to screaming and crying; it all feels a little over the top. Kyle MacLachlan as well, doesn’t have any of his trademark quirks from the TV show, coming off as rather bland and boring.

While nearly all of the main cast return, it feels out of place when a recurring character has been recast. The main recast is Moira Kelly who takes over the role of Donna Hayward from Lara Flynn Boyle. While Kelly does a fine job of imitating Flynn Boyle’s character, without the inclusion of all the original characters the film seems to missing integral parts. There is also some odd casting choices for side characters, with musicians Chris Isaak and David Bowie both turning up as FBI agents. When I saw David Bowie, I was instantly pulled out of the film’s narrative because all I could think was “That’s David Bowie”. Apart from a few lines of throwaway dialogue Bowie’s part has no real bearing on the story and could have been cut from the story.

The film is just over two hours long, and the plot seems to meander quite a bit. While the film has to hit all of the certain plot points that were brought up in the TV show, it’s earlier plot points featuring different characters that could have been cut. The first half an hour of the film focuses on a completely different subplot which is tangentially connected to the Laura Palmer story, but this plot thread is never resolved fully and is left hanging throughout the rest of the film.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me does feature some great Lynchian scares and suspense, with a standout moment being a back and forth set piece involving a picture of a half open door Laura Palmer has on her wall, as well as the disturbing rape and murder of Laura by Bob. These last two scenes are elevated by Frank Silva’s portrayal of Bob, who as always is laughing and snarling at his victims.

In relation to the rape and murder of Laura Palmer, the film pushes its 15 certificate to new heights. With several scenes of violent rape, bloody and vicious murder as well as drug abuse and general sexually explicit scenes, the film goes further than many new films in establishing itself as a dark and mature film. As with most of Lynch’s filmography, this is one film not for younger viewers or those who find the above material upsetting.

In summary, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, while being an important part of the Twin Peaks canon and overall storyline, fails dramatically at being a great standalone film. With the new series of Twin Peaks coming out in 2017, let’s hope that the story can only get better.

Score: 3/10 Only for diehards of the franchise.

Spooks: The Greater Good Review

Films based of popular television shows have had a rocky history. With varying critical successes and fails such as Are You Being Served?, In The Loop, Ali G and The League of Gentlemen, it was with a wary anticipation that I went in Spooks: The Greater Good. But soon into the film that anticipation turned straight into despair.

Spooks: The Greater Good stars Peter Firth as Harry Pearce, who after a high level terrorist escapes from MI5 custody, goes off the grid to find the escaped terrorist himself. Harry’s protégé, Will Holloway, played by Kit Harrington, is brought back into the fold by MI5 to track down Harry and stop a terrorist attack on London.

I have seen a fair few Spooks episodes. They were always on quite late if I remember correctly, and though I never watched them every week, I did enjoy the ones I watched. Sadly however, I found only the bare minimum of enjoyment in watching Spooks: The Greater Good. One of the main problems for me was the casting of Kit Harrington in the lead role. His voice is monotone throughout the entire film, with the same going for his facial expression. Yes he is Jon Snow, and he maybe good in Game of Thrones (as everyone keeps reminding me) but he is not good here. Many of the cast have this same problem of zero emotion being displayed, with Peter Firth, Jennifer Ehle and Eleanor Matsuura succumbing to it as well. The only actor who does display any emotion is Tim McInnerny as Director-General of MI5 Oliver Mace, who delivers most of his lines with a sneering sense of disapproval.

Switching to the bad guys, our high level terrorist/bad guy Adem Qasim (played by another GoT alumni Elyes Gabel) is woefully underused. For how much the MI5 guys talk him up to be a high value terrorist, we only get around five minutes or less of film time devoted to him, meaning we don’t get to learn about him and why MI5 are so invested in why they want to hunt this man down in particular. In the press releases and in the film he is referred to as being very charismatic, but we don’t ever see this, which gives him a character trait that might have brought something a bit different to the table.

Fight and chase sequences are interspersed throughout the film, all with fluctuating quality. A gun battle/chase at the very beginning of the film is handled very well, but halfway through the film our old friend “shaky handheld cam” rears its ugly head. Fights are over in a series of quick motions, most of which happen with the actors backs to the camera, meaning we don’t get to see anything spectacular. You can see with the fast movements it was trying to copy the Bourne franchise, yet it never allows us to see these brutal flourishes of violence, leaving us as the audience wanting more. The final fight/terrorism scene is fairly well put together, even if it did keep cutting away to Kit Harrington’s bland face every couple of seconds.

There are some good things in the film, as usual. The music, created by Dominic Lewis (known for his work on Wreck-It Ralph and Big Hero 6) does have a nice vibe to it, with it being reminiscent of John Powell’s famous The Bourne Identity score. Several of the fight scenes I have already mentioned are put together fairly well, along with fleeting scenes throughout the film, such as a home invasion of an MI5 agent and some of the dialogue that is thrown around the Situation Room at the end of the film.

But overall, the film just feels very generic, with story points stolen from much better spy films, as well as stock character motives (Absent parents, revenge and redemption seem to be the sole things that define Kit Harrington’s character). In summary, Spooks: The Greater Good is not a bad film, but has nothing that makes it stand out from the crowd of modern spy movies. If you’re a fan of the series you might get kick out of the nods to older characters, but it’s nothing you’ll keep coming back to.

Score: 4/10 Add a couple of points to the score if you like the TV show