REVIEW – In Manchester by the Sea, Robert Ford is sad because he married the woman from Shutter Island.

Casey Affleck plays Lee, a not so mild-mannered janitor. Just the way he fixes a toilet screams emotionally harrowing backstory. When his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies, Lee has to go back to the titular town and wrap up his affairs, including a son Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Everything around him reminds him of the terrible trauma that led him to be the emotional damaged man we see today. Not to mention of course the fact he’s just lost his brother and Patrick has some problems of his own. Michelle Williams is Lee’s ex-wife – now pregnant with another partner – who returns for the funeral.

Kenneth Lonergan’s movie never shies away from the heights of melodrama. There’s a use of the most hackneyed piece of classical slosh – Albioni’s Adagio – which works completely. The humor  helps a great deal but also the refusal to proffer resolutions. There’s a bravery in the idea that no, everyone is not going to be all right. There’s some shit you’ll never come back from. Acting all around is excellent. Though a small cameo by Matthew Broderick only had the effect in my screening of making everyone shout in unison ‘Hey! Is that Matthew Broderick?’

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REVIEW – Jackie sees Princess Padme Amidala having bad luck with boyfriends again.

Pablo Larrain’s first English language movie is an unorthodox and occasionally great biopic of Jackie Kennedy. I’m not even sure if biopic is really right. Dealing with the days following the assassination, the film uses flashback and forths to show a young woman in the grip of a national tragedy. Unsure what to do best, Jackie seeks solace in a priest, played with a warm brogue by John Hurt. On the other side of the fence is a probing journalist, played by Billy Cudrup, trying to break the facade. This close up of the personal side to a very public event shows the madness of fame. Jackie becomes someone who is trying to escape being simply the victim of a terrible tragedy. It allows her missteps even as she seeks desperately to preserve and burnish the myth of Camelot.

It’ll be hard to keep Portman out of the Oscar running. And who’d want to. The score by Micah Levi either gets on your tits or is brilliant.

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HACKSAW RIDGE – REVIEW: Andrew Garfield plays pacifist superhero in bloody World War 2 drama.

Mel Gibson returns to blood and violence with a have-your-cake-and-eat-it Pacific theater war movie. Andrew Garfield stars as the pacifist stretcher-bearer Desmond Doss. Having volunteered to join the army at the outbreak of the Second World War, Doss refuses to carry a rifle, much to the consternation and then fury of his comrades and superiors. Vince Vaughn, who plays Vince Vaughn giving up smoking, is a sergeant with a particular grievance against him. However, once on the battlefield Doss’s heroism proves divinely inspired and life-saving.

Hacksaw Ridge is going for the same ideological spill-over that proved such a success for Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. Those who like war will like it, those who don’t like war will like it and those who say they don’t like war but secretly kind of do will love it. There’s muscular Christianity, muscularity generally and blood and guts galore. Garfield is good as a ‘holy fool’ whose pacifism seems to be reductively inspired by an aversion to his abusive father. Gibson seems to like him as a saintly character that you don’t really need to feel any need to imitate.

This is an insanely dishonest movie and as such will be hugely popular.

Oscar glory beckons.

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THE REVENANT – REVIEW: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s follow up to Birdman, The Revenant is an inspiring tale of survival ruined by blatant product placement.

Drowned on the Titanic, jailed for embezzlement, lobotomized on an island, beaten by Jack Nicholson, betrayed, basketball diaried, tricked into suicide by his girlfriend and a priest, Leonardo diCaprio has to be one of the unluckiest men alive. In The Revenant he’s torn to pieces by a bear and frozen by a hard winter, attacked by Indians, half drowned in a river and dropped from cliffs. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Tom Hardy offs his son and leaves him for dead. It’s almost as if Iñárritu is putting DiCaprio through some sort of Oscar endurance test. But it’s well worth the journey and diCaprio is magnificent along with Hardy.

With Terrence Malick’s cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki and set desginer Jack Fisk, there’s a fair bit of the Malickian here, but Iñárritu is more interested in nature red in tooth and claw. Immersed in the elemental extremes of fire, water, frost and violence, The Revenant drags the audience through an unforgiving wilderness. A history of massacres looms in the background and cold freezes throughout the film. There’s also a bit Tarkovsky with visions of floating women and sopping landscapes forgotten by an absentee God. Occasionally, the story veers too far into the extreme with logic and credibility be damned, a precipice too far if you will. But I’ll be gored by a bear and buggered by it too, if you can find a more fascinating and visually sumptuous depiction of why we have dentistry and central heating.

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TRUMBO – SPOILER FREE REVIEW -In a new series of reviews, we offer the cinema-goer the opportunity of having a full review but without any danger of having any detail or any part of the film revealed by SPOILERS which might in some way impair your later viewing enjoyment.

This week, biopic Trumbo, starring Bryan Cranston and directed by Jay Roach.

Here is our SPOILER FREE review.

It’s about this guy.

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CANNES REVIEW – GREEN ROOM – Nazi skins, punk bands, pit bulls and a body in the Green Room, what is not to like?

Jeremy Saulnier returns after Blue Ruin with another color coded genre thriller, Green Room. A punk band The Ain’t Rights hungry for cash agree to a gig out in the back of nowhere and find themselves surrounded by White Power Nazi skinheads. They respond with a burst of the Dead Kennedys and an inspired if dangerous choice of song. Note to self: when in a Nazi night club and it looks like you can leave, never go back for your mobile phone. Chekov from Star Trek does and finds himself and the band – including Maybe from Arrested Development – trapped in the Green Room with a dead body and a handgun and outside the door, Captain Jean Luc Picard gathers his fellow skinheads together to do away with all witnesses. Pit bull killer dogs, box cutters and machetes are the weapons of choice and Saulnier keeps the whole thing tense, fun and funny and occasionally very gruesome.

This is a siege movie with a difference, entertaining and tightly played, like a good punk song.


AVENGERS AGE OF ULTRON: REVIEW – The Avengers return in Joss Whedon’s slick screwball comedy.

Crash, Bang, Wallop – what a picture! There’s wit – fan service – action scenes and other stuff, but to be honest I’m getting a bit tired of Marvel and superhero pictures in general. There’s nothing wrong with the picture. Far from it. The gang are back together and fighting Hydra in some snowy mittel-European Ruritania, providing The Avengers with a nice ‘elsewhere’ setting in some exciting punch ’em up scenes: the hero shot comes early! And then we have a glowing blue doo-hah which must be protected because it’s so powerful. But Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) can’t help but fiddle with it in an attempt to create an artificial intelligence defense system which would effectively render the Avengers obsolete.  Oopsy-daisy! Ultron turns into a super villain intent on wiping out humanity.

Despite the clear intelligence of Whedon as a filmmaker, his actually characters are whoppingly stupid, none more so than the ‘genius’ Stark, who frankly gets off incredibly lightly for his potentially genocidal error. There’s some soap opera with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) grab some of the funniest lines, proving that occasionally it’s the straight men who can snatch the laughs when the self-knowing wit of RDJ grows wearisome. Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Paul Bettany are new heroes, the former seems to be spending this phase of her career tripping through rubble (see also Godzilla).

So it’s fun and all that. But I can’t say I care as much as perhaps I’m led to believe by score etc. that I should. I don’t care about Hulk and Black Widow. I’m unconvinced by the moral conundrums, when no one seems to want to take responsibility for their actions. Doctor Banner is supposed to be the conscience of the group but after he wreaks havoc through a city center his only solution seems to be to run away. And perhaps I’m weighed down by the prospect of another two Russo brothers directed movies: The Avengers: Infinity Wars Parts One and Two, but I’m beginning to suffer from a genuine fatigue with this sort of thing, regardless of its quality. It’s going to go the way of the Western. There are simply too many and no matter how good an individual film might be – and this is a stand out entry – there are only so many times you can watch a city destroyed, a blue doo-dah purloined, a bunch of costumed sociopaths ruminate on morality before you begin to think it might be time for the whole sub-fascist circus to be wrapped up and put away.

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LAST KNIGHTS: REVIEW – Morgan Freeman and Clive Owen star in a load sword and shouting rubbish for money.

The times are dark and unspecific, Games of Throne-y but without dragons. The realm is an Empire stretching across national boundaries in a way that coincidentally reflects the multinational co-producers who came together to finance this film. The men are a band of amazingly cool at fighting knights who are also racially, ethnically and religiously diverse in a PC way to appeal to as many markets as possible as inoffensively as possible. The men are bound by a strict code of honor about killing lots of people in the most generic way possible.

Old Baron Bartokles (Morgan Freeman) is bored of good acting and so decides to ham it up and enjoy himself. He is a nobleman who in his autumn years has decided to disavow the hereditary principle, the idea of an aristocracy, corruption and all the things he’s been fine with for the previous years. Being a bit grumpy, he rubs the Emperor and his ministers the wrong way and soon finds himself on the sharp end of a beheading. His loyal servant Rickleshin (Clive Owen) and his unmerry men are scattered and apparently hopeless, but will they manage to get revenge, or will Rickleshin go back to his old bad drinking ways?

Yes, they’ll get revenge. Shit, I’ve said it. SPOILER! Oops, but believe me I’ve saved you two hours of your life. The dialogue seems to have been written for translation into another unearthly language, a kind of filmic Esperanto and it is spoken with the conviction of actors who look happy to be overdubbed. The action is okay, but has none of the kinetic madness of 13 Assassins, which is obviously an influence, and the story plods along in a caperish way, hitting fairly predictable beats and asking you to care for a bunch of characters who are little more than ciphers – young man, older man, etc. By far the best thing about the film is the title Last Knights, because it has a pun of the quality not seen since Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise ruled the multiplex together.

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The world’s premier primate movie critic, Banjo classic review of The Devil’s Advocate.
Weird Al Pacino play blind man who want to spend time rubbing his jumbo on ladies. He always getting in trouble for rubbing his jumbo so he get his son called Constantine to be a lawyer and get him out of troubles. Constantine have mental problems and see dead people.  Gabriel Byrne plays Kaiser Soze which he play in Arnold muscle-man film called At The End of the Days but he play it again in this film and he hire Constantine to go and find a ‘Pelican’s Briefcase'(?) Constantine’s sister played by Charlie Theremin has a Pelican’s Briefcase and when he go to her house to find it he has hump hump with her and Weird Al Pacino watches them and does a dance even though he is supposed to be a blind man. They all have a hump hump and then Kaiser Soze is in bed too and he is Constantine’s brother too and Weird Al is laughing and laughing and then he get a gun and shoot them all. 
At the end Weird Al look right at the camera and a voice ask him, ‘what your act called?’ And he say ‘The Advocates’ and he wink.
Banjo pretty sure this film a piece of shit.


Every week we are going to have an episode review of Game of Thrones Season Four which will include SPOILERS for seasons One through to the last episode screened of Season Four. 

WESTEROS – And so we rumble towards an end of Games of Thrones. After the head-smashing duel and the devastating battle comes the epic tying up of loose ends in the final episode of Season Four ‘The Children’.

There was something bathetic about the conclusion, but then again George RR Martin’s whole narrative style could be classed as a kind of epic bathos, constantly wrong-footing our expectations with sudden scenes of violence, cutting off interesting narrative strands prematurely. Here we have the Mountain in the hands of Victor Frankenstein. Jon Snow being saved by the arrival of the cavalry. Arya and the Hound finally caught up by Poderick (the single most pointless character) and Brienne, who seem to be completely forgotten and have some of the worst dialogue of the Seven Kingdoms: ‘Do you hear that Poderick? We’re only ten miles from the Bloody Gate.’ Daenerys continues her narrative arc from bold dragon warrior queen, to bleeding heart weepy girl. A stunningly uninteresting reversal. Bran’s story finally looks like getting a little interesting although when the magical seer tells him he has been watching him all his life, you can’t help but feel some sympathy for the poor man. Tyrion – who has once more been the star of the show – gets the most dramatic send off. The second shitus interruptus of the episode sees him off his dad just after he’s done in his girlfriend with some exquisite double standards: strangling girlfriend to death, fine; calling her whore, death penalty. Charles Dance has been consistently brilliant in the series and his scenes with Peter Dinklage have been the acting highlight of the whole show. Again Martin goes for bathos – an Oedipal murder is carried out in the privy – but here it felt right. Seeing Tyrion crated up like a little Ark of the Covenant and shipped out does not bode well for the next season, but it seems like everyone’s leaving. The dying moments of the Hound was a powerful scene, even though as far as duels were concerned nothing was going to match the Mountain and the Viper. And weirdly it made me dislike Arya, or worse still just not understand her. She’s on a boat to Bravos anyway which again is worrying. Surely at this stage all your main characters should be converging, but instead it feels like a dispersal. Here I’d like to jump ahead ten years and have them all coming back, but I don’t feel that’s going to happen. The dynamic of the story feels paradoxically both slack and as fettered as Daenerys’ dragons.  

(Please note this is the first time Studio Exec has done a show review, if you liked it tweet me @studioexec1 so I know to do others or not as the case might be)

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AT ANY PRICE: REVIEW – At Any Price might as well have been called Something Something Something. And yet despite titular blandness, the Zac Efron drama is an unusual but old fashioned melodrama.

The Efron continues his flight from High School Musical playing Dean Whipple, the young race car driver son of Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid), a seeds salesman and farmer and hail fellow well met Lothario with a bad back.
Whipple is in the midst of a crisis, as the agri-corporation company he works for bears down on him for some dodgy deal he’s pulled and his extramarital seed distribution also looks to threaten his family. Ramin Bahrani’s film weirdly ditches its car racing sub plot halfway through – which looked to be giving the film its manly dynamism – to concentrate more on Quaid’s woes and their failing relationship. It makes the film as broken backed as poor Henry, but that’s better than it descending into the usual formulaic story of fast cars and success as an escape route. This gritty little drama is light years away from the justly pissed on The Paperboy (Click HERE for that review), and though it isn’t going to set off a lot of fireworks, there’s some quality and thoughtfulness here well worthy of attention.


TO THE WONDER: REVIEW – Matt Damon’s dumb ass friend and Iran hostage rescuer goes to France and meets old Bond girl. They monkey about on a train, then go back to America where Olga Kurylenko (for t’is she), plus sprog, can’t stop dancing.

Poor Affleck looks a mite confused because a. she’s hot but b. she won’t stop dancing. Later he looks even more confused because Rachel McAdams turns up and a. she’s hot but b. erm… I don’t know. Confused? Hmmm.
The cries – criticising the emperor’s new clothes – were loud when Tree of Life was released, but I for one, thought it was madcap fun (read that review HERE). Here though it’s not so much that the emperor is naked as we can see his internal organs and it ain’t pretty. Well, that said, it actually is pretty. But the Malick aesthetic has now become industry standard for car and jeans adverts and other than the look, there is very little to hold onto here.  The interminable voice over has now become grating. Sixth form poetry passing for stream of conciousness. Poor Ben looks confused.      Olga dances and doesn’t so much hug trees as suck twigs. Javier Bardem turns up, looking baffled to find himself a priest. He preaches a sermon about love being great, a few more shots of sunsets and cows, and we’re done. The film ultimately overdoses on reverence: – not just for nature, love, God etc. – but for Malick himself who seems in great need of an editor who doesn’t like Terrence Malick films.