Pixie

In Cinemas.

If you’ve ever wondered what a Quentin Tarantino episode of 90’s TV show Father Ted would look like, Pixie may just have the answer! Written by Preston Thompson and Directed by Barnaby Thompson. Pixie is a crime caper set in Ireland, where Olivia Cooke’s titular character is a step-daughter of a local gangster with plans for escape after the death of her mother. When those plans go wrong she finds herself in the company of two local young men Ben Hardy’s Frank and Daryl McCormack’s Harland, who in turn have found themselves involved in a drugs heist with local bad guys and a faction of gangster priests.

Pixie is an original and humorous take on the gangster films of a Tarantino or perhaps more accurately Guy Ritchie, the violence is infrequent and tongue and cheek, but it was the humour that appealed to me, it’s gentle and silly without descending into farce and the comparisons with well known Irish sitcom “Father Ted” are valid.

The three leads are engaging and for the silliness of the story, more than believable Cooke’s Pixie is sweet enough for the boys to follow and fall for her but determined and cold blooded enough to do what she needs to. Hardy and McCormack both pull off the “finding their way in the world innocence of early twentysomethings” well. There’s a great selection of supporting characters including Alec Baldwin’s Priest, Colm Meaney as Pixie’s stepdad and Ned Dennehy’s Seamus.

It may never go down as a classic, but has enough fun and humour to make it an enjoyable way to spend it’s just over 90 minute running time.

The Trial of the Chicago 7

New on Netflix.

Aaron Sorkin writes and directs this dramatisation of the trial of seven men charged with starting a riot while protesting the Vietnam war at the 1968 Democratic party convention in Chicago.

If you’ve read reviews of mine before, you’ll know I’m a fan of good quality dramatisations of seemingly staggering corruption whether financial, legal or as is the case here Governmental. If you’ve seen Sorkin’s films before, you’ll know what to expect, smartly written, well directed and rock solid performances that tell a fascinating story.

We get all of that here, as always Sorkin uses plenty of well crafted dialogue to tell the story and when delivered by excellent performances throughout you get a compelling film.

The performances are what you’d expect from a cast of this quality, Eddie Redmayne as Tom Haydn the man at the centre, delivers a performance that doesn’t insist on him having to transform physically to tell his story, Sacha Baron Cohen’s Abbie Hoffman shows their’s much more to him than Borat and Mark Rylance brings his usual gravitas to the role of defence attorney William Kunstler. It seems unfair to pick out just a few performances as there is not a flat one amongst them.

The film is built around the court room scenes but thankfully avoids the cliched grandstanding full of “you can’t handle the truth” moments instead ratcheting up the frustration as it is abundantly clear the trial is nothing more than a politically motivated farce.

While it’s important not to think this is a documentary The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a really well made courtroom drama that tells a fascinating story of a seemingly politically motivated trial and while it is set at the turn of the 70’s of course it has parallels, although not overtly, with modern day politics.

This is a fascinating insight into late 60’s US society and politics and well worth a watch.

Hubie Halloween

Now on Netflix.

Directed by Steve Brill, written by Tim Herliyh alongside Adam Sandler, who also stars as Hubie Dubois, a simple, kind hearted, community minded guy who loves his home town of Salem. Especially when it comes to Halloween were Hubie believes his one purpose in life is to make sure his town and its visitors have a happy and safe “holiday”. Hubies caring, community spirit however, makes him a target for ridicule, until this Halloween when a series of mysterious disappearances means the town need him.

If you’ve seen any of Adam Sandler’s comedies you’ve seen Hubie and your enjoyment of it will be dictated by how much you get on with his comedies. We’ve seen all of these characters before, it’s not just Sandler’s Hubie the kind hearted oddball who struggles to get on with others, but also those around him from bullying kids and adults to the unlikely love interest all are familiar.

I’ve no problem with Sandler’s comedies and while Hubies Halloween is not one of his best (depending what you think of Adam Sandler, that may be a warning) but it’s harmless enough with a few chuckles to be had as it parodies some other well known halloween fare. There is also a selection of cameos from regular Sandler collaborators as well as a couple of returning favourites who pop up with regularity and even the standard feel good ending to be had.

Sandler has done some really interesting stuff recently but this is a return to very familiar ground and a pretty average return at that, but that said, it’s light hearted and innocent enough as it passes you by giving a few laughs on the way, I didn’t even find the Sandler comedic voice overly grating!

There’s much better comedies out there, better Adam Sandler ones, but if you’re stuck with a couple of hours to spare and want something that isn’t going to stretch you to far and will keep the family at least partially amused, then this is just fine.

The Boys In The Band

New to Netflix.

The Boys In The Band is Based on Matt Crowley’s stage play, directed by Joe Mantello and stars Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto. Set in New York in 1968, we find a group of gay men brought together to celebrate a friends birthday. However an uninvited “straight” friend arrives and causes the evening to take an unexpected turn!

The challenge with putting stage plays onto screen is how do you stop them looking and feeling “stagey”, sometimes you can and sometimes, like this, you don’t pull it off, as I spent most of it It thinking “I could see why this would be good on stage”.

Another area that didn’t work was the characters “likeabilty”. While it’s not necessary to like a character to be engaged in a film, it is important that you find them interesting enough to want to spend time with. The problem with this group is while they are not meant to be the most endearing, as the party descends into an increasingly miserable and unpleasant affair the characters become increasingly less tolerable. Rather than wanting to continue to spend time at the party you want to run off into the distance and wonder how the guests put up with their hosts increasingly erratic, unpleasant and bullying behaviour.

The film is not without its positives, there are some particularly touching moments as the guests reflect on their loves past and present and there are performances to admire. Parsons is particularly good as party host Michael, cutting a frustrated, angry and unlikeable but interesting figure, Matt Bomer (Donald) and Robin de Jesus (Emory) also offer good support.

There is also a question about the films message, conversations in New York in 1968 are fine, but whether the discussions hold relevance in the 21st century is a question I’m probably not qualified to answer.

In the end this film misses more than it hits and while there are things in it to enjoy it didn’t translate well to screen and presented me a set of characters I’m in no rush to spend time with again.

Bad Education

On Sky Cinema and available to rent on other services.

Written by Mike Makowsky, based on Robert Kolker’s New York Magazine, Corey Finley’s Bad Education stars Hugh Jackman and is based on the true story of Dr. Frank Tassone the superintendent of New York’s Roslyn school district. Tassone on the surface is a caring, diligent and successful leader, driving the district to 4th in the education “league table”, with the support of his assistant Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney), until a massive fraud is uncovered showing years of systematic theft of public funds. The story is made public by an expose in the school newspaper from inquisitive young reporter Rachel Bhargava (Geraldine Viswanathan).

I’ve said before I always enjoy a well told “true life” story, sometimes its the staggering audacity of a crime, but sometimes it’s the little things, the ones that start small and get out of control. This is one of those stories and Finley’s film does a really enjoyable job of telling it. Jackman is excellent in the central role bringing to life a complex character, full of contradictions with many a narcissistic tendency. Alisson Janney is excellent as always and Geraldine Viswanathan also brings plenty as the inquisitive school reporter.

This is an enjoyable telling of an interesting story, it drags a little in the final 20 minutes, but before that it moved a long at a good pace never getting too bogged down in financial details, but enough to keep you intrigued. It also does a good job of exploring the private lives of those involved, especially of Tassone, without overly prying.

It’s full of good performances and a snappy script. Worth checking out.

The Broken Hearts Gallery

Currently in cinema’s.

Written and directed by Natalie Krinsky and starring Geraldine Viswanathan, The Broken Hearts Gallery is a nuts and bolts romcom about Lucy (Viswanathan) who is an assistant gallery manager with a habit of collecting mementos from her previous relationships. After a bad day at work she meets Nick (Dacre Montgomery) who is opening a boutique hotel and decides to use her collection of memories to start an art installation to help the hotel get on its feet.

The art installation inspires others to share their memories and it becomes a cathartic experience for a wide range of people.

The Broken Hearts Gallery does not surprise and plays out exactly as you’d imagine, cutsie, predictable and nothing more than fluffy, good hearted and disposable fun. But you know what? There is nothing wrong with cinema giving us just that especially now.

It does what it sets out to do really well, Viswanathan is watchable and engaging as Lucy, Montgomery provides a likeable love interest and Molly Gordon and Philippa Soo are entertaining as her friends. While the story plays out just as you’d expect, the premise is neatly thought out and delivers a positive message with a particularly touching scene in the final act that reveals why she collects the things she does.

The Broken Hearts Gallery won’t live long in the memory, but while in its company it is funny, touching and heartfelt and a more than pleasant way to spend 100 minutes.

Enola Holmes

Showing on Netflix.

Directed by Harry Bradbeer, written by Jack Thorne and based on Nancy Springer’s novel, Enola Holmes introduces us to the little sister of Sherlock and Mycroft. Her older brothers return to the family home when their mother Eudoria vanishes.

Enola, who has inherited Sherlock’s skills of deduction, gives her brothers the slip to go and find her missing mum. This leads her off on a voyage of discovery into a real world she wasn’t prepared for and one on the verge of change.

I’ve always been a fan of the Holmes stories including many of its spin offs and while this is not perfect, a little over long and a bit flabby around the edges, it still provides an entertaining adventure, similar in style and feel to the Robert Downey Jr., Guy Ritchie Holmes films.

Millie Bobbie Brown is wonderfully engaging in the central role carrying the film on very young shoulders, balancing action hero and comedic lead well, from action set pieces to breaking the fourth wall with a smile or subtle wink.

Support is a little more patchy, Louis Partridge is solid enough as Tewskbury and Helena Bonham Carter is in her element playing Eudoria, however I never really bought Henry Cavill’s Sherlock or Sam Claflin’s Mycroft.

But that said Brown as the titular character does more than enough to take you on the adventure with her and while a little long, I’d certainly be more than happy (legal battles allowing!) to see Enola Holmes back on screen in another installment.

Bill & Ted Face the Music

It’s been almost 30 years since Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter last appeared on screen as Bill and Ted, Face the Music brings us up to date with the popular and quotable character’s.

Written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, we find Logan and Preston struggling to find the song to reunite the world. Still married to their 15th century English princesses and now both have daughters Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) who seem to be growing up the very images of their dads.

The story takes us on a time travelling journey as Bill and Ted move through the future to discover which of their future selves has the song that will not only reunite the world but, it seems, will save it.

I would say I didn’t watch Bill and Ted as a fan, I’ve seen the original films and remember them fondly enough, but wouldn’t say I remember them in any detail. It’s perhaps because of that Face the Music didn’t really work for me.

It’s not a disaster of a film and there was nothing to hugely dislike. However, very few of the jokes landed and while Reeves and Winter are fine, I was less convinced by the slightly grating impression of them by Weaving and Lundy-Paine as their daughters.

The story feels a bit of a mess and is rather repetitive as they visit slightly different future versions of themselves alongside their daughters popping around history putting together a band. The final act of the film is perhaps its best, although the finale itself seems a bit of a thrown together after thought.

Maybe it misses for me because I’m not a particular fan of the films and if this works for those that are because it’s full of references and nods to the originals that passed me by, then that’s great.

But for me it was a pretty average comedy, not enough laughs and a story that wasn’t that interesting, but there’s nothing to dislike, maybe just not enough to like.

Get Duked

Showing on Amazon Prime Video.

Written and directed by Ninian Doff, Get Duked fits into that very British mould of off the wall, low budget comedy thriller/horror. Set in the unlikely context of the Duke of Edinburgh award, we centre on a misfit group of four teenage boys dropped into the Scottish highlands for a few days of orienteering, camping and teamwork. What the boys stumble upon is a drug filled scottish highland farmer community and a plot by the local landed gentry to use the D of E youngsters as hunting prey to cull society’s poor for the good of the species!

The film plays out with the same off the wall silliness that the plot suggests it should, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s also not the only thing, the film also delivers a nice look at the relationships of the boys, a subtle look at how they play against their stereotypes and a nice dose of social commentary with Doff doing a good job of balancing this throughout the film.

Samuel Bottomley, Viraj Juneja, Rian Gordon and Lewis Gribben give us four engaging and believable central characters who never over play the farcical situations they find themselves in and with some nicely toned comedy cameos (Alice Lowe particularly) around them it all adds up to an enjoyable 87 minutes.

It’s not perfect, it feels a little all over the place at times and not all the jokes land, but for a bit of budget comedic fun, it delivers plenty to enjoy and is much smarter than many a high profile comedy that come nowhere near the subtlety, humour or social commentary that this does.

It’s 87 minutes long, there is plenty to enjoy and enough good things in it to overcome its faults.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

On Sky (in the UK) and available to stream.

Directed by Joe Talbot, starring Jimmie Fails and written by them both. This film draws us into the world of Jimmie Fails (Playing his namesake character) and Montgomery Allen (Johnathan Majors), who spend their day’s travelling to a house in the city that Jimmie believes was built by his grandfather in the 1940’s and maintaining it, the maintenance is not asked for or wanted by the current owners, but they insist on doing it anyway.

This is only the premise on the surface, in reality we have a melancholy story looking at displacement, community, friendship and a desire to find a way to hold on to it at all costs. While the main cast are all black, this is not primarily a film about race, it’s about the treatment of a community and how they as both a location and a people are moved from and priced out of the places that they and their families called home.

The film tells a methodical and deliberate story, it never rushes and is happy to take its time focusing on the depth of its central relationships. Fails and Majors offer two very watchable and engaging central performances with good support across the cast.

It’s not a wholly succesful piece, it is sometime a little slow for its own good and the narrative sometimes feels a little disjointed. Overall, however, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is an interesting and thoughtful film, engaging and interesting and glorious to look at with some beautiful cinematography.

It’s not going to be anyones idea of a bit of throwaway popcorn film fair, but for something a little different which thoughtfully examines a real world issue, it’s worth a watch.

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