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By midlandsmovies, Apr 1 2019 04:51PM

The Front Runner (2019) Dir. Jason Reitman

Depicting the rise of Gary Hart, an American Democratic senator and 1988 presidential candidate, and to be honest for this 1980s born UK film reviewer a complete nobody to me, The Front Runner is a new political drama from Jason Reitman. Although not a shoe in, Hart hits the campaign trail hard and asks journalists “to follow him around”. Bad mistake. After publishing photos of Hart having an extra-marital liaison with journalist Donna Rice, he takes a stand against the press by arguing his private life is none of their business. In a world not just before the internet but even before the 24-hour TV news cycle, Hart’s request seems silly and naïve by today’s standards. Hugh Jackman plays the senator as a strong-willed but foolish man and the film positions itself as a commentary about an historical turning point in the coverage of the private lives of public figures. However, it doesn’t do this successfully despite Jackman’s compelling efforts as the bemused senator. There is however good support from the always excellent JK Simmons (as Hart’s campaign manager), Vera Farmiga as his put-upon wife and Sara Paxton playing his mistress. Whilst I was one of only a few that thought Spielberg’s The Post was overrated, the cinematic flourishes and clever script of that film show up the flaws in this one. Consequently then, The Front Runner ends up being all surface with little depth, telling a sordid tale in a Wikipedia-style fashion, ticking bland boxes as it goes. ★★★

The Dirt (2019) Directed by Jeff Tremaine

From the director of 4 Jackass-related movies, comes along a new musical biopic in the footsteps of Bohemian Rhapsody about 1980s glam-haired shock rockers Mötley Crüe. Based on the book The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band by Neil Strauss – which I read whilst being on tour with my own heavy rock band – the story begins in 1980 when Frank Carlton Feranna Jr leaves his abusive home and changes his name to Nikki Six. It isn’t long before he is hooking up with drummer Tommy Lee (he of later Pamela Anderson fame), guitarist Mick Mars and vocalist Vince Neil. After well-received gigs in LA, the band are signed to a 5-album deal and their crazy rock antics get more and more extreme. From touring with Ozzy Osbourne (who ‘snorts’ ants and drinks urine) they go through a slew of wild parties, model girlfriends, overdoses and a car crash which ultimately results in a conviction of manslaughter for Vince. After the set backs the band go on to hit the top of the charts, sell platinum albums and go on a successful world tour. Douglas Booth (from Loving Vincent) as Nikki is the best of the bunch whilst the others give admirable facsimiles of the rest of the band. Unremarkable throughout, and as someone who liked Bohemian Rhapsody but acknowledged its pretty nondescript-recounting of the band’s life, this film goes further into mediocre TV-production wishy-washiness. With little cinematic flair, this is definitely a film for the fans in the main, as it never gets under the make-up and tasteless clichés of the band, something the book – written from each band member’s viewpoint – actually did pretty successfully. Dr. Feel“bland” ★★★

Triple Frontier (2019) Directed by J. C. Chandor

A Netflix original film featuring A-List superstars Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac and featuring a solid support cast of Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Adria Arjona and Pedro Pascal, Triple Frontier tackles a band of ex-soldiers who reunite for one big heist to rip off a Colombian drug baron. As Isaac tries to convince the team to get back together for one last big score (ensuring they’ll never have to work again obvs) the film’s first 25 mins moves at a pace but with little character development and a whole host of semi-retired-older-guys-getting-back-in-the-saddle clichés. After easily defeating the bland crime lord, who barely features to be fair, the guys load up their over-stuffed bags with cash. But their escape helicopter crashes as it is over the maximum weight owing to the greedy guts the guys have been. Director J. C. Chandor’s previous movie A Most Violent Year, also starring Oscar Isaac, was slow and measured – sometimes to a fault – but Triple Frontier is knuckleheaded and speedy – again, to a fault. The beginning had strong Predator-vibes – covert operation in the jungle - and to be honest I was hoping the film would go into sci-fi or horror territory to avoid the clichés it was delivering. The whole second half however shows the crew trying to get to a rendezvous point which had echoes of The Way Back (Peter Weir’s 2010 survival film) and the boredom sets in as the group slowly trudge back through different wildernesses. In the end, despite its big-name stars, the film disappoints on a triple front by being flat, flavourless and ultimately forgettable. ★★

Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Apr 21 2016 01:32PM

Eddie the Eagle (2016) Dir. Dexter Fletcher

British rising star, Taron Egerton (Kingsman, Legend) has teamed up with producer Matthew Vaughn (X-Men, Kingsman) to bring us a biopic about a different kind of hero. Eddie the Eagle follows the story of British ski-jumper Michael ‘Eddie the Eagle’ Edwards and his journey to the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Directed by Dexter Fletcher and produced by Marv Films Eddie the Eagle is a heart-warming tale of determination and friendship that will make you laugh, cry and want to do everything in your power to achieve your dreams.

Having been born seven years after the 1988 Winter Olympics occurred; I had no idea who Eddie the Eagle was until I found out that this film was being made and part of the film’s beauty is that even if you have no clue who Eddie is, you still immediately connect with him. This is down to the talent and charm of Egerton who is unrecognisable as Eddie and pulls off a persuasive performance as the characterful ski-jumper, bringing both a likeability and vulnerability to the character. Hugh Jackman (Wolverine) takes on the role of a fictional character, former ski-jumper and Eddie’s unwilling coach, Bronson Peary and although it sounds like an odd pairing, their relationship quickly becomes the heart of the film.

At first Bronson is portrayed as a washed up, retired Olympian with a bad attitude and is not one to shy away from his belief that Eddie is crazy to think that he can learn to ski-jump and compete in the Winter Olympics. However, as the film progresses we see that Bronson warms to Eddie and agrees to help him. In turn, Eddie seems to bring out the best in Bronson and we see how the two characters are equally gaining from their unlikely friendship.

Throughout the film I found myself willing Eddie to succeed in every moment and there is a continued element of camaraderie as the audience experiences everything that he goes through; from wincing at his physical pain when he inevitably falls (a lot) to bursting with pride and getting a little emotional and teary-eyed when he finally fulfils his goals. The landscape cinematography and point of view shots of Eddie at the top of the ski-jumps make you feel like you’re with him every step of the way and avoiding the use of CGI where possible makes it all the more authentic.

The soundtrack for the film, created by Gary Barlow, is also a highlight, especially if you’re a big eighties fan. With tracks from the likes of Kim Wilde, Go West, ABC, Tony Hadley and a song in the end credits by the stars of the film, Egerton and Jackman (always a nice touch) the music is the cherry on top of a good old-fashioned, whole-hearted British film.

Overall, it lived up to its expectations of being a feel-good, family film with a positive message and combines this with both a brilliant cast and upbeat soundtrack.


Charlotte Brown

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