Fools Gold (2008) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Fools Gold is a treasure hunting adventure rom-com star vehicle that aims to provide its audience with a charming slice of Tinseltown powered escapism. The best I can say is that it infrequently half succeeds.

Matthew McConaughey is of course an excellent leading man. His physical commitment and overall presence elevate the film above its station but alas, even his Energizer Bunny battery power can only paddle it semi-afloat for so long.

Many of the supporting cast try on patchy accents; Donald Sutherland’s well spoken Brit, Ewan Bremner’s comedy sidekick Ukranian and Ray Winstone’s…er…anywhere from East London to Brisbane.

Kate Hudson doesn’t quite posses her mother’s deft kooky charm but is sturdy enough to swim with the tide while Kevin Hart’s comedy villain is stupid and badly underdeveloped.

It’s caperish and light-footed enough to be amiable company with its holiday brochure playground of sunkist seascapes, super yachts and paradise islands (not hard to see why the cast signed on) but it’s overly long and not nearly funny or romantic enough on the side.

2/5

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Directed by Gareth Edwards. With Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn and Diego Luna.

There are more than fifty shades of grey in Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. To hutch a seat so close to the most feel-good fantasy film of all-time, simultaneously creating such blurred moral complexity is a brave perspective to reflect on a series that for generations has warmed hearts with its clean lines of good vs evil.

Set years, months, weeks, days, hours and minutes before the events of Star Wars (we call it ‘A New Hope’ for anyone born after 1990), Rogue One is directed by Gareth Edwards whose previous work shone a detailed focus on character against a behemoth backdrop – Monsters, Godzilla. Add the Death Star to that list.

Edwards’s reverence for A New Hope is evident in every frame. The retro futuristic technology, costume design, screen displays – minor details you might say, but together they form a tapestry of elements that transport us a very particular era of Star Wars…the part that really matters.

Felicity Jones is Jyn Erso, a rebel with a cause. Her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) is an Imperial scientist who designed the Empire’s dreaded “super weapon” . She is key to a secret at its dark heart.

Jones is a wonderful actress. She can use all of her face. She is unique and of herself, slightly out of time and place in the modern blockbuster era…which makes her a perfectly imperfect fit for a 2016 Star Wars film trying to look like a 1977 Star Wars film with a 2016 lick of paint.

You could spend a few thousand words highlighting the war films and history that Rogue One references. The Dam Busters, The Dirty Dozen…Star Wars itself is transplantation of World War II in space. This has always been clear and obvious, however the Jungian path of the hero at its core is what gives the imagintive dressing so much of its flavour.

The writing invites Zero Dark Thirty or The Hurt Locker as the very virtue of heroism is questioned in the moment we meet Diego Luna’s Captain Cassisn Andor and his gallows-humour droid, K2S0. The movie goes on to assemble an ethnically diverse group of avengers, all with their own barely-sketched backgrounds but all with a common enemy to unite them.

We planet-hop more than in any previous adventure as we’re introduced to new characters in downplayed settings. This causes an early audience disconnect which continues for a spell before the intentions of the storytelling begin to spread their wings.

Ben Mendelsohn’s Orson Krennic is the face of the Empire’s steely oppression. There is conviction in his snarky arrogance. Scenes he shares with a bizarre CGI ressurection of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin are ambitious but distracting. Of course, the inclusion of Tarkin makes perfect sense but the computer technology is not enough to truly bring him into a scene with another living, breathing actor. It’s a shame.

The sinister presence of Darth Vader is a lift, albeit brief, as he is afforded a moment of pure horror which pauses to indulge some blatant fan-service…not that you would hear me complain.

The final act takes a swing at Return of the Jedi for ‘most compelling space battle’ as marauding X-Wings face off against Tie Fighters in a thrilling climax that not only demonstrates the most awe-inspiring visual effects work in memory, but achieves a soulful poignancy in its closing stages.

It is a strange feeling to come away from Rogue One wanting more, as your DVD copy of A New Hope winks at you from the bedroom shelf. The hard-edged texture is divorced from the mystical fantasy of the original trilogy yet it frequently extends its hand to touch 1977 in surprising ways.

4/5

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Solo: A Star Wars (2018) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Directed by Ron Howard. With Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson and Emilia Clarke.

After Chris Miller and Phil Lord were relieved of directing duties on Han Solo: The Movie for essentially having creative differences with Disney (they were reportedly making it too much of a comedy), safe pair of hands Ron Howard was handed the hydrospanners and tasked with the job of fixing it up.

We meet Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) on his home world of Corellia. He’s joined by love interest, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) in a landspeeder getaway sequence that feels like establishing an early homage to George Lucas’ well-known affinity for the roar-of-an-engine speed.

Considering the size of the ask, Ehrenreich does Star Wars proud in the title role. There is nothing to register as iconic yet he steps into the role without being afraid to allow his vulnerability to show. With this he quickly gets us onside. Han himself might say “neat trick, kid”. Just like the film’s composer conjures the famous themes of John Williams, Errenreich has habitually studied Harrison Ford and with a smirk or a sideways glance he conjures him for us too.

The film jumps forward three-years where we join Han on the battlefield fighting in the ranks of the Empire. It fits because it tells us Han will play any side to get what he wants. Tonally, the setting feels the closest Star Wars has come to describing ‘war is hell’ as the muddy trenches of the First World War are referenced and Han meets Woody Harrelson’s Beckett and a familiar tall, hairy ‘beast’.

What follows is a classic train heist involving multiple characters which achieves a great sense of speed but without the knockabout humour that often creeps into Star Wars. At this juncture the film states its grittier intentions and isn’t afraid to make sacrifices.

Chewbacca plays a pivotal role in helping Ehrenreich become Han. The banter they share (and apparently shower) injects original trilogy warmth to a noticeably under-lit film that seems intent on escaping the colour wheel.

When introduced, Donald Glover is immediately assured as Lando Calrissian. He’s cool and he knows it. He knows we know it. We know he knows we know it. From his impressive cape collection to his pristine ownership of the Millenium Falcon, he easily persuades as a younger version of the smooth smuggler. It counts for a lot.

Despite my admiration for the actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge, she is responsible for a series of frankly wince-inducing moments. Her voicing of the droid character L3-37 is out of step with a verisimilitude-bursting range of all-too-human interactions. Her humour is grating and extroverted. She overwhelms the scenes as opposed to contributing to them, harming the film with every inch of frame she fills.

Paul Bettany brings an air of unpredictability with his intense Dryden Vos. Scenes aboard his ‘yacht’ invoke the feeling of being in a classier version of the cantina as weird and wonderful sights abound. There are brief moments of classic Star Wars dotted around – a springboard for pure imagination to explore.

There are crosses, double-crosses, reveals, subtle fan-service a Kessel Run and not a lightsaber in sight. It is a less starry war than we’re used to. More grounded. Even though he is invoked, John Williams is missed. The plot has mechanics and we can see the gears. Ron Howard was brought in to safely dock the ship and ‘safe’ is what we get.

With its production woes in mind ‘Solo’ emerges mostly intact. Aside from Lando’s squeaky clean Millenium Falcon, little is ruined or damaged. Ultimately, the film has the look of muck under its nails but is more flirty than dirty.

3/5

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Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Revenge of the Sith (2005) Directed by George Lucas. With Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Ian McDiarmid.

To say that Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequel trilogy (it has the best title) is not to speak highly of its quality. This final act of George Lucas’ muddled saga remains blighted by the same semi-cartoon visual orgy of effects that leaves an empty feeling in the heart. That said, there are glimmers of the Star Wars that matters.

The movie gets off to a literal flying start as we reaquaint ourselves with Obi-Wan and Anakin in the midst of an almighty space war. It turns out to be a fun rescue mission with an early dramatic turn. Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen find some buddy banter, evidently more relaxed in their respective Jedi cloaks as a little confidence seeps through.

The story then picks up the strands of where Attack of the Clones ended with Anakin and Padme’s clandestine love hidden in the shadows. Lucas’ inability to write women is confirmed as Natalie Portman’s Padme is nudged out of the frame as she grows a baby bump. Once again Lucas begins to serve up an uneven film that occasionally highlights his talent and frequently questions where it went.

Gone is Jar Jar Binks. Gone are the moments of slapstick. Even C-3P0 is toned down as an earnest narrative through-line of death and rebirth begins to take centre stage.

It is a joy to watch Ian McDiarmid hamming it up again as the most evil man in the galaxy. I get the feeling McDiarmid had more licence with Lucas to improvise takes and ‘do his thing’ as he rolls back the years to recall his delightfully cackling wickedness of Return of the Jedi.

One scene at a space opera belongs in a 5-star film as everything slows to take a moment to soak in some fascinating character development. McDiarmid takes us away from the effects, the battles, the noise to demonstrate how enriching good acting and storytelling can be. I do not want to leave this scene. For the first time in this prequel trilogy, I crave more.

Ewan McGregor gives his best performance of the trilogy. To say he is no longer operating in the shadow of Alec Guinness is the highest form of praise I can give him. He’s doesn’t transcend Guinness, it’s more that he carves some his own identity into the character.

The film dips back to the cartoon tone of the previous outings as McGregor’s Obi-Wan mounts a giant lizard which emits an annoying squeal as he pursues the film’s sub-antagonist, General Grevious around a busy digital landscape.

An inevitable twist of evil is shoehorned in. It is a moment that has to happen but when it comes feels more that it had to happen than would happen, based on what we’ve seen.

There is a dual-climax lightsaber battle involving four iconic characters. Both set-pieces are overblown in their execution. Palpatine force-throwing giant bits of the galactic senate at CGI Yoda looks even worse than it sounds. It doesn’t feel like these two characters should ever have met, nevermind get involved in a test-of-stregth fight scene that serves only to undermine them both.

The inevitable Anakin/Obi-Wan final stand mirrors the overall descent-to-hell intentions as they cross swords on lakes of fire, often jumping around like sprites in a Super Mario video game. Frankly, it looks absurd. The drama of these two men and the history they share should be enough but Lucas cannot help himself. His digital environments are equally important to him but they impose on the drama and rob it of resonance.

When the very final moments come Lucas attempts to throw the kitchen sink of original trilogy nostalgia at us. For a brief moment through John Williams and his magnificent orchestra I feel something…but it is too late. The overall feeling as this prequel trilogy closes is that the Star Wars I grew up loving deserved better.

3/5

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Star Wars: Episode II – Attack Of The Clones (2002) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Attack Of The Clones (2002). Directed by George Lucas. With Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman.

It is the summer of 2002. I recall buying Empire film magazine ahead of seeing Attack of the Clones, hoping to read a glowing 5-star review to restore a sense of new hope in Star Wars. I flicked straight to it, barely believing my eyes. There it was. 5 beautiful stars. George has only gone and done it.

It turns out they were wrong. I left Empire magazine alone for a while after that. Fast-forward to May 5th 2020. I’d always felt ‘Clones’ was the weakest Star Wars film but I’d never watched it back-to-back with The Phantom Menace…until now. It turns out I was wrong too.

Where The Phantom Menace is mired in baffling political waffle, Clones is has more open intentions. Yes, the dependency on CG isn’t solved but Jar Jar Binks is relegated to the sub bench and the whole thing seems to have a slightly easier feel.

Ewan McGregor loosens up as Obi-Wan. He has more to do this time and seems to buy in. Faring not as well is Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. 10-years have passed since The Phantom Menace and in that time Anakin has ‘grown up’ to become a Jedi…a spoilt, quick-tempered, cocky, entitled, irritating, petulant Jedi. It’s hard to imagine the future Lord Darth Vader whining like a moody teenager but that is the path Lucas chooses and Christensen struggles to convincingly sell any of it.

John Williams creates another spellbinding Star Wars score, his love theme ‘Across The Stars‘ is both rousing and enchanting, fully delivering where the drama cannot. There are long excruciating scenes between Christensen and Natalie Portman, yet the power of the music almost drags their forced romance over the line.

It’s never clear why Padme loves Anakin or what she sees in him. His ideals are out of step with hers, he carries deep emotional trauma and doesn’t seem to respect the Jedi code. He indicates idly of creating a dictatorship and in one ear-scraping fire-side scene professes his undying romantic obsession with about as much charm and finesse as a Bantha stampede. Later he goes on to confess slaughtering women and children in a revenge-fuelled outburst of hatred, after which he falls into a heap, sobbing while she comforts him. He’s a real catch.

The most striking thing about Padme is her elaborate dress sense. She looks suitably radiant. Scene-to-scene, multiple hair and wardrobe changes occur capturing a strong sense of style and extravagance. It’s a shame that similar detail is not applied to fleshing out her character as her emotional responses seem to fall further out of step the longer the film labours on.

As the romance creaks along, McGregor’s Obi-Wan goes on a solo adventure that introduces us to the titular ‘clones’. Along the way he encounters Jango Fett & Son (young Boba) which leads to some fun action set-pieces. Lucas seems to have learned to let adventure do the talking as the political machinations are better balanced, though CG Yoda remains a dull know-it-all and as Mace Windu, Samuel L Jackson is unable to exert his trademark charisma.

As the machiavellian Senator Palpatine, Ian McDiarmid begins a subtle demonstration of the smug self-satisfaction of the eventual Emperor. Further upping the villainy is Count Dooko (Christopher Lee) whose late inclusion contributes some welcome heft.

Alas, Lucas loses his discipline in a droid factory sequence that preludes a dizzying final act. The movie turns into a platform game complete with blundering comic relief involving C-3P0 and physics-defying daftness. It also looks awful. There are moments where everything in the frame is computer generated, causing an unnatural divorce of our senses.

The final act suffers badly for the same reason. Lucas plumps for ‘epic’ but his attempt to raise the bar suffers from overwhelming the screen with special effects. As countless lighsabers swing, blaster bolts flash and all manner of creatures run riot, the movie essentially becomes a rampaging cartoon. It is watchable but bloodless – like gawping at a 25-minute firework display where stuff happens.

There is a final showdown that goes for a huge crowd-pleasing moment where perhaps a little more subtlety would have paid off. As the middle trilogy film it inevitably proposes dramatic questions yet there is little evidence to suggest they will be satisfyingly answered.

2.5/5

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Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999). Directed by George Lucas. With Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd and Ian McDiarmid.

George Lucas is responsible for my happiest and most disappointing cinema experiences. Nothing could surpass the elation of the three-in-one cinema screening of the original Star Wars trilogy in the summer of 1985. I was 8-years-old. Those movies were pure magic to me.

Fast-forward 14-years. It’s the summer of ’99. The Phantom Menace is released to the world. I’m seated in the auditorium, anxious for more magic. New magic.

The opening crawl begins with talk of taxation and trade routes…I understand none of it. But it’s OK, because John Williams is blasting my senses with music that defines the sound of excitement and adventure. The movie starts and the air is slowly sucked out of the room. The film ends and I slowly trudge out. I try to tell myself it wasn’t that bad. The power of denial. I see it two more times. It doesn’t improve. Worse still, I think it is a disaster.

Fast-forward another 20-years and I’m seated with no expectations on Star Wars Day – May 4th 2020. By now I have made my peace with the prequels. I’ve chuckled at Obi Wan GIF’s and Anakin meme’s. The films had been kicked around town by critics and venemously obliterated by ‘Red Letter Media’. If anything, through the prism of internet ridicule I’ve found a warped affection for their critical failure and my own resulting fan deflation. In short, they’ve become a bit of a joke.

The movie begins will dry, robotic dialogue. Use of the line “I have a bad feeling about this” could not be more ironic. One character says it in the first 5-minutes! It all goes south from there. What ensues is talk of trade routes, treaties, chancellors, senates, beaurocrats…none of stitched together with any kind of elan.

As Obi-Wan Kenobi Ewan McGregor is so wooden you could varnish him. He looks self conscious, almost afraid to open his mouth. Most of the cast are badly hamstrung by porridgey writing that clogs up almost every story artery. Natalie Portman, so mischievous and alive 5-years earlier in Luc Besson’s ‘Leon’ acts like a Natalie Portman replica speaking doll. Press her tummy and she says 8 different phrases.

Then there’s Jar Jar Binks. A cinematic abomination. Roger Rabbit looked more ‘in the scene’ than this look-what-CGI-can-do-now experiment showpiece. Binks is to George Lucas what the monster is to Dr Frankenstein. Only, Binks never really comes to life…he just sucks life out of the film by hogging screen time to become orchestrator of all manner of calamities for our ‘amusement’.

Amid all of this Liam Neeson musters pleasant touches of fatherly warmth as a senior Jedi Master but by this time I’m looking for things that work. Watching Jake Lloyd as Anakin is akin to watching a school play, hoping the kid doesn’t fluff his lines. I’m too conscious of the poor kid’s acting for it to be a performance.

The CGI is badly overused. A detailed set or physical location will suddenly ‘screen wipe’ to an inflated cartoon canvas of Gungan’s and battle droids. These CG-heavy moments are lightweight and overblown. They don’t belong in the junkyard playground that established Star Wars as a familiar, lived-in universe. Lucas keeps misjudging it. He doesn’t seem to understand the basics of why audiences love his own creation. At turns, it’s painful to watch him repeatedly playing bum notes in front of an audience who are willing him to succeed.

John Williams could never be accused of bum notes. His interweaving themes are clever and when ‘Duel of Fates‘ strikes up it’s hard not to feel awe striking as lightsabers crash and the film threatens to become half decent.

But sadly, by the climax it’s too late for a salvage job. The damage is done. We’ve endured three laps of an overly indulgent podrace, the mystery of the force has been painfully explained and the script has felt like an embellishment of a Lucasfilm tax audit.

Lucas is a visionary. A great man endowed with a unique sense of adventure, but he somehow (maybe hubris) managed to make himself the ‘phantom menace’ of this piece. It sounds like Star Wars but doesn’t wholly look or crucially feel like it. Lucas can muster no momentum, conjure no spark between his actors. Their school play is falling apart. We are desperately adrift with him in a vast ocean of Star Wars.

2/5

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Backdraft (1991) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Backdraft (1991) Directed by Ron Howard. With Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert DeNiro, Donald Sutherland, Scott Glenn and Rebecca De Mornay.

From the pen of Highlander writer, Gregory Widen, Backdraft is a big Universal studio film that feels part theme park attraction, part botched dramatic casserole of tasty ingredients.

Directed by Ron Howard, it is frustrating to watch a film that invests so much time establishing its characters, only to have their convoluted plot threads get in the way of any sense of engagement.

Kurt Russell and William Baldwin are firefighting brothers. In the worst bring-your-kid-to-work-day ever, child Kurt Russell witnesses his firefighter Dad (also Kurt Russell!?) killed on the job which sets him on a path to grow up to become firefighting Kurt Russell…just like pops.

Baldwin follows suit, only he’s a rookie. Amid the sibling rivalry, Kurt worries he’ll lose his brother like he lost his Dad.

In their central roles, Russell and Baldwin are good enough but the movie doesn’t suffer for a lack of quality performers. Robert DeNiro, Donald Sutherland, Rebecca De Mornay, Scott Glenn…the film is home to talented actors in scenes that are individually good yet the overall piece is as structurally unsound as the burning buildings it depicts.

If there are praises to be sung, they should be directed toward the staging of the blazing action. Explosions abound as eruptions of fire billow out into corridors. We have a poetic shot of a fireman running slow motion through a burning doorway carrying an axe and a rescued child, all accompanied by a schmaltzy Hans Zimmer score to help pedal a sense of heroic chivalry the movie can never truly own.

At over 25-minutes too long with numerous half-baked plot threads that feel like they belong on the cutting room floor, Backdraft becomes an endurance devoid of pace or momentum.

2/5

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Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). Directed by Mike Newell. With Hugh Grant, Andie McDowell, Kristin Scott Thomas, John Hannah and Simon Callow.

Written by Richard Curtis and directed by Mike Newell, Four Weddings and a Funeral is a winner of a Brit-com that not only catapulted Wet Wet Wet to the top of the charts for a 5-years (felt like it) with their pop-rock cover of ‘Love is All Around‘, but also showcased the previously unseen comedic talent of Hugh Grant.

Where the movie is particularly brilliant is in little incidental moments of comedy – those awkward conversations at weddings. It’s familiar to us all. The ‘joy’ of celebrating the love of one couple for an entire day symbiotic with, for some, a reflection of their own failure to succeed romantically.

The shared camaraderie of the cast is a joy. Friends in the role of family is beautifully understated (we all pine to be part of such a gang) and breathes an underlying humanity into the whole piece. Its refreshing to meet supporting characters who aren’t mere dressing – James Feet, Simon Callow, David Haig, Sophie Thompson, all of them in big small roles that stand out.

The agony of unrequited love, the flip-of-your-stomach “thunderbolt” of love at first sight, the heartbreaking despair of loss…all this and more are lovingly worked into a script that is acted with warmth and familiarity. For my two-penneth, outside of Blackadder it is the best thing Richard Curtis has written.

The film that elevated floppy-mopped Hugh Grant to A-list stardom is served well by his stuttering charm. Where the movie itself stutters is in the character and performance of Andie McDowell. Whether that is due to the direction is hard to say but her character is written as cold and almost aloof. It makes it difficult for us to buy Grant’s attraction toward her.

The final act is somewhat contrived and makes little sense in terms of character motivation, but by this point we’ve gone the distance and can perhaps forgive the better aspects of the drama giving way to the necessity of story convention (neat bow).

Overall, Richard Curtis’s script does a fine job of balancing ‘happy and sad’, all the while remembering itself as ‘a movie’ to serve up a range of humour that assures broad appeal.

4/5

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Coming To America (1988) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Coming To America (1988). Directed by John Landis. With Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall and James Earl Jones.

Bored with underlings bowing to please and adore him, Prince Akeem of Zamunda (Murphy) gets cold feet at the elaborate ceremony of his arranged marriage and opts (along with his servant Semi) to travel to the USA to find true love.

Toying with cultural naivety can be a rich home to implant comedic grappling hooks (Sasha Baron Cohen has made a career out of it). Indeed, it is the overriding lynchpin of Coming To America, serving to put us on the journey as our characters seek to go from heavenly paradise to the bottom rung of the American dream. The director (John Landis) establishes the fun of this cultural chasm with extreme contrast.

Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall are well synchronised. As Akeem, Murphy adopts the guise of innocence well. Audiences know him from 48Hrs, or as Axel Foley, the foul-mouthed fast talker from Beverley Hills Cop. Stripping him of his streetwise schtick works well and leaves the door open for him to apply his excitable comedy from another angle.

As Akeem’s father and King of Zamunda, James Earl Jones is comedically commanding, projecting his distinctive Vader-esque authority while literally wearing a lion across his chest (Lion King anyone?).

There is one inspired movie in-joke that links to another Murphy film, Trading Places though not all of the humour lands. Some of it actually stinks – Arsenio Hall in drag (he’s credited as ‘Extremely Ugly Girl’) is out of tune, indeed much of Murphy and Hall in multiple roles skirts closer to overindulgence than comedy genius.

With a bright, uptempo feel the fairytale rom-com aspiration of the central plot ensures an easy appeal. At close to two-hours it is perhaps a touch over long but there is charm in abundance and while the movie isn’t laugh-in-the-aisles hilarious, it has more than enough to see it through.

3/5

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Midsommar (2019) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Midsommar (2019) Directed by Ari Aster. With Florence Pugh.

Florence Pugh plays Dani, a young American woman struck by grief following a devastating family tragedy. Out of obligation, her wavering boyfriend invites her to join him and his three buddies on a planned away trip to a remote Swedish summer festival.

Upon arrival we’re immediately invited to feel uncomfortably welcome. Situated in lush green fields is a community of seemingly carefree souls, draped in white gowns singing a repetitive ceremonial chorus. On the surface it looks like a healthy place to shrug off the trappings of modern life. But this is a horror film.

The influence of Kubrick is clear in the framing and slow, sinister crawl of the camera. Much of the imagery feels transplanted from a vivid nightmare as it takes place during daylight hours in wide open spaces, which with the use of unsettling symbolism contributes to the sense of being kept off balance.

As Dani, Florence Pugh gives a good performance – equal to the task when asked to demonstrate guttural levels of despair. The dichotomy of her wrecked emotional state against the at-one-with-nature consciousness of the community is an interesting entry point for the tale to touch off.

Haxan Cloak provide an ominous soundtrack which empowers the imagery to set a troubling descent into the macabre and bizarre.

Under Ari Aster’s masterful direction, the aim is to get under your skin rather than make you jump out of it. By the final act you begin to realise that Midsommar is a film you will not forget in a hurry. Make that ever.

Florence Pugh plays Dani, a young American woman struck by grief following a devastating family tragedy. Out of obligation, her wavering boyfriend invites her to join him and his three buddies on a planned away trip to a remote Swedish summer festival.

Upon arrival we’re immediately invited to feel uncomfortably welcome. Situated in lush green fields is a community of seemingly carefree souls, draped in white gowns singing a repetitive ceremonial chorus. On the surface it looks like a healthy place to shrug off the trappings of modern life. But this is a horror film.

The influence of Kubrick is clear in the framing and slow, sinister crawl of the camera. Much of the imagery feels transplanted from a vivid nightmare as it takes place during daylight hours in wide open spaces, which with the use of unsettling symbolism contributes to the sense of being kept off balance.

As Dani, Florence Pugh gives a good performance – equal to the task when asked to demonstrate guttural levels of despair. The dichotomy of her wrecked emotional state against the at-one-with-nature consciousness of the community is an interesting entry point for the tale to touch off.

Haxan Cloak provide an ominous soundtrack which empowers the imagery to set a troubling descent into the macabre and bizarre.

Under Ari Aster’s masterful direction, the aim is to get under your skin rather than make you jump out of it. By the final act you begin to realise that Midsommar is a film you will not forget in a hurry. Make that ever.

4/5

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