DANNY COLLINS (15)
D: Dan Fogelberg
Bleecker Street/Big Indie (Nimitt Mankad, Jessie Nelson, Denise DiNovi & Shivani Rawat)
W: Dan Fogelberg
DP: Steve Yedlin
Ed: Julie Monroe
Mus: Theodore Shapiro; Ryan Adams
Al Pacino (Danny Collins), Annette Bening (Mary Sinclair), Christopher Plummer (Frank Grubman), Bobby Cannavale (Tom Donnelly), Jennifer Garner (Samantha Lee Donnelly)
Danny Collins is a better film than it may sound, but isn't completely without faults, especially in some of the dialogue which doesn't ring true and an ending which nosedives into mawkishness before a swift change of direction saves it from complete predictability.
Al Pacino plays the title character, a washed-out, ageing, drug-addicted singer with shades of Neil Diamond to his act, still commanding a large audience but something is missing from his life. He hits a crisis point when he receives a belated letter from the late John Lennon, prompting him to move out of his mansion to live in a hotel, where he romances the divorced manager and attempts to repair his relationship with his estranged son.
Al Pacino returns to his usual fine form with his leading performance, but the story doesn't stray too far from the familiar.
A 1990's update on old B-movie nonsense about an intergalactic drug dealer, visiting earth to deliver his narcotics and pay-off line ("I come in peace").
It's easy to forgive the poor performances but would certainly be more likeable if some more effort were put into the special effects.
THE DARK TOWER (12)
D: Nikolaj Arcel
Columbia/Imagine/MRC/Weed Road (Akiva Goldsman, Ron Howard & Erica Huggins)
W: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen & Nikolaj Arcel [based on the series of books by Stephen King]
DP: Rasmus Videbæk
Ed: Alan Edward Bell & Dan Zimmerman
Mus: Tom Holkenborg
Idris Elba (Roland Deschain, The Gunslinger), Matthew McConaughey (Walter Padick, The Man In Black), Tom Taylor (Jake Chambers), Jackie Earle Haley (Sayre)
Intending to be the first episode in a series of movies and television shows, this adaptation of Stephen King's eight book series was over a decade in development and was released to practical silence. Needless to say that it's unlikely that the series will continue.
Set across parallel worlds, Walter Padick, an evil wizard also known as The Man In Black, is searching for a child's mind with the power to destroy the dark tower, a beacon which holds the universe together. Aiming to stop him is a young boy, Jake Chambers, from the real world as we know it, who joins forces with Roland Deschain, the Last Gunslinger, who has been in an eternal battle with The Man In Black.
This misguided attempt to bring a series of novels to the screen fails on multiple levels, the biggest one being that if you've not read any of the books, you won't have a clue what's going on. Another failure is the casting of Matthew McConaughey, who looks more like a shady lawyer than a malevolent wizard. Idris Elba is decent casting, but the screenplay lets him down with his cumbersome dialogue.
Quite possibly the biggest disappointment of 2017.
DARKEST HOUR (PG)
D: Joe Wright
Universal/Focus Features/Working Title/Perfect World (Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten & Douglas Urbanski)
W: Anthony McCarten
DP: Bruno Delbonnel
Ed: Valerio Bonelli
Mus: Dario Marianelli
PD: Sarah Greenwood
Cos: Jacqueline Durran
Gary Oldman (Winston Churchill), Ben Mendelsohn (King George VI); Kristen Scott-Thomas (Clementine Churchill), Lily James (Elizabeth Layton), Ronald Pickup (Neville Chamberlain), Stephen Dillane (Lord Halifax)
Gary Oldman truly delivers a convicting performance in this wartime biopic of former prime minister Winston Churchill focusing on the early days of his premiership as Britain were drawn closer and closer to the conflict of World War II.
Looking at wartime events solely from the corridors of power within British parliament the film does get bogged down with a lot of talky scenes and much feels like a dramatic reconstruction of real-life events, all leading up to Churchill's iconic wartime address.
However, with Gary Oldman filling the shoes of the politician with the aid of some excellent prosthetic makeup, his magnetic performance does keep you engaged throughout the duration of the film.
I've always considered Joe Wright an Oscar-bait director, his previous credits including Atonement and The Soloist, and my opinion hasn't changed following the viewing of this. Some scenes feel very stagey, whilst one scene in particular, when Churchill boards a London Underground train to canvas opinion from the public when he fears he's lost the support of his peers, feels very forced and nowhere near as convincing as it could have been.
Aside from Oldman, the rest of the performances are fine, but Kristen Scott-Thomas is very underused as his wife Clementine, with only a handful of scenes for her to get her acting chops into.
Anyone who's left school probably won't take any knowledge away from the picture that they don't already know and most people still in their teenage years are unlikely to be captivated by the material and the way it's presented, so the film kind of falls between two stools.
It is a film produced solely to win film awards and that's exactly what it's going to do.
If you like juvenile 'jokes' about farts, vomit and catshit then you'll probably find some of this puerile nonsense funny. Those who like some form of maturity from their comedies as a consequence of clever dialogue or extraordinary situations then you'll see this excuse for a movie for what it really is - pathetic.
The film doesn't have any real story to go over, it just parodies a bunch of romantic comedies, mostly Meet The Parents, but it doesn't really parody or spoof... it vaguely references other movies but doesn't do anything different that's neither funny nor clever.
Personally, if somebody made this our 'date movie', it would be our only one!
DAVID BRENT: LIFE ON THE ROAD (15)
D: Ricky Gervais
Entertainment One/BBC (Ricky Gervais & Charlie Hanson)
W: Ricky Gervais [based on characters created by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant]
DP: Remi Adefarasin
Ed: Gary Dollner
Mus: Ricky Gervais & others
Ricky Gervais (David Brent), Ben Bailey Smith (Dom Johnson), Tom Basden (Dan), Jo Hartley (Pauline), Mandeep Dhillon (Karen)
Fans of the mockumentary television comedy series The Office will be pleased to see Ricky Gervais reprise his role as David Brent, the boss from hell with a penchant for saying the wrong things to the wrong people.
Now a sales representative for a toiletries company, a documentary team catch up with the attention-seeking buffoon, who admits to have suffered depression following the events of the TV show and plans to use this film as a comeback, as his band, Foregone Conclusion, go on a tour of gigs in various locations.
The humour is more groan-inducing than it is funny, but it does have a few laugh out loud moments. The songs, penned by Gervais himself in collaboration with others, are full of lyrics which will make you grimace. They truly are completely awful, which is part of the point, and it will come as no surprise that it isn't a road to the fruitful career that Brent envisions.
It's all a bit of a shaggy dog story, which will only really appeal to fans of the original TV show, or possibly Ricky Gervais' biggest fans. Either way, you'll be watching through a pained expression on your face.
Unremarkable pre-Elm Street Wes Craven horror flick about a monastic Hittite sect in Pennsylvania and the murderous actions of a succubus, it's all rather silly and predictable, notable only for an early Sharon Stone performance and the unintentionally hilarious miscasting of Ernest Borgnine as a wild-eyed preacher.
DEADPOOL 2 (15)
D: David Leitch
20th Century Fox/Marvel (Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler-Donner & Ryan Reynolds)
W: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick & Ryan Reynolds [based on characters created by Fabian Nicieza & Rob Liefeld]
DP: Jonathan Sela
Ed: Dirk Westervelt, Craig Albert & Elízabet Rolandsdóttir
Mus: Tyler Bates
Ryan Reynolds (Wade Wilson / Deadpool), Josh Brolin (Cable), Morena Baccarin (Vanessa), Julian Dennison (Russell Collins / Firefist), Zazie Beetz (Domino)
The first Deadpool was a fresh breath of air to the world of superhero movies, subverting the usual traditions of the genre and brilliantly bringing the wisecracking vigilante to the big screen.
Unfortunately, the sequel isn't anywhere near as good, trying in vain to capture the magic again by throwing more money at it, but the bigger cash injection does not equal funnier jokes.
The plot also has more sentimentality thrust into it on this occasion, when Deadpool and a teenage boy with superpowers are both incarcerated in a prison which neutralises them and our impudent anti-hero subsequently saves the boy from a time-travelling assassin named Cable. A deed which ultimately backfires when the teenager turns rogue and develops villainous intentions.
There's also a subplot of Deadpool receiving an epiphany where he must ultimately decide whether or not his heart is in the right place.
Though there is much to enjoy, especially with the fine action scenes and performances, the acerbic comedy and the twee sentimentality don't really mix and some of the in-jokes only seem to be thrown in for the benefit of the cast & crew only.
The director of the original film, Tim Miller, left the project citing creative differences, and perhaps this was this sequel's biggest loss.
THE DEATH OF STALIN (15)
D: Armando Ianucci
eOne/IFC/Gaumont (Yann Zenou, Laurent Zeitoun, Nicolas Duval Adassovsky & Kevin Loader)
🇬🇧 🇫🇷 🇧🇪 2017
W: Armando Ianucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin & Peter Fellows [based on the graphic novel "La Mort de Staline" by Fabian Nury & Thierry Robin]
DP: Zac Nicholson
Ed: Peter Lambert
Mus: Chris Willis
Steve Buscemi (Nikita Khrushchev), Simon Russell Beale (Lavrentiy Beria), Jeffrey Tambor (Georgy Malenkov), Paddy Considine (Andrey Andreyev), Rupert Friend (Vasily Stalin), Jason Isaacs (Georgy Zhukov), Michael Palin (Vyacheslav Molotov), Andrea Riseborough (Svetlana Stalina)
The creators of British TV show 'The Thick Of It' take their style of political satire beyond the iron curtain to Cold War era Soviet Union for this 2017 comedy, laced with political incorrectness and acerbic dialogue.
Set in the corridors of power in the days leading up to and following the death of communist dictator Vasily Stalin, the film takes much glee in poking fun at the chaos surrounding the political regime and the historical characters involved in it.
It probably helps to be fans of Armando Ianucci's other works, particularly The Thick Of It or its cinematic spinoff In The Loop, and even have some knowledge of Soviet history, but even without there are plenty of moments which should raise a smile. It does a feel a little smug in places, but this is still an intelligent, frequently funny piece of work.
DEATH WISH (18)
D: Eli Roth
MGM/Annapurna/Cave 76 (Roger Birnbaum)
W: Joe Carnahan [based on the novel by Brian Garfield & the 1974 screenplay by Wendell Mayes]
DP: Rogier Stoffiers
Ed: Mark Goldblatt
Mus: Ludwig Goränsson
Bruce Willis (Dr. Paul Kersey), Vincent D'Onofrio (Frank Kersey), Dean Norris (Det. Kevin Raines), Kimberley Elise (Det. Leonore Jackson), Elisabeth Shue (Lucy Rose Kersey), Camila Morrone (Jordan Kersey)
A remake of the 1974 film, with added violence and Bruce Willis, ridiculously unconvincing as a doctor, who turns vigilante following an attack on his family which leaves his wife dead and teenage daughter in a coma.
Despite being an okay time-killer, this doesn't bring anything new to the ideas explored in the 1974 film (and its many sequels) and just feels like a cash-in on similarly themed movies like Taken and John Wick.
Willis did one for the money, Elisabeth Shue & Vincent D'Onofrio deserve much better and John Norris plays his exact same character from TV's Breaking Bad.
Unremarkable to say the very least.
DEEPWATER HORIZON (15)
D: Peter Berg
Lionsgate/Summit/Participant Media (Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian, Stephen Levinson, David Womack & Mark Wahlberg)
W: Matthew Michael Carnahan & Matthew Sand
DP: Enrique Chediak
Ed: Colby Parker, Jr. & Gabriel Fleming
Mus: Steve Jablonsky
Mark Wahlberg (Mike Williams), Kurt Russell (Jimmy Harrell), John Malkovich (Donald Vidrine), Gina Rodriguez (Andrea Fleytas), Kate Hudson (Felicia Williams), Ethan Suplee (Jason Anderson)
Based on true events leading up to the catastrophic fire on the free-floating Deepwater Horizon oil rig, due south of the Louisiana coastline, which, in 2010, was responsible for the worst oil spill in US history.
The film does tend to dramatise certain events, following two of the high ranking staff members in the build up to the disaster, where safety precautions were ignored at the insistence of BP oil company bureaucrats who were eager for the financially disastrous vessel to start churning out profits.
Though Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell offer good performances as the two leads, not enough attention is paid to those who lost their lives during the tragic event, and only given tribute during the closing credits.
Technically, there are some excellent achievements, especially with the Oscar-nominated visual effects, but the film as a whole feels like the usual Hollywood treatment of an incredibly serious subject.
D: Kathryn Bigelow
Annapurna/First Light (Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Matthew Budman, Megan Ellison & Colin Wilson)
W: Mark Boal
DP: Barry Ackroyd
Ed: William Goldenberg
Mus: James Newton Howard
John Boyega (Melvin Dismukes), Will Poulter (Philip Krauss), Algee Smith (Larry Reed), Jacob Latimore (Fred Temple), Jason Mitchell (Carl Cooper), Hannah Murray (Julie Ann), Kaitlyn Dever (Karen), Anthony Mackie (Greene)
Set during the 1967 Detroit riots, Kathryn Bigelow's crime drama focuses mostly on events before, during and after the Algiers Motel Incident, where three black teenagers were shot dead by police officers in what was alleged to be racially-motivated brutality.
With the truth behind the events sketchy, the film pieces the blanks together with realistic conviction, but the film also seems willing to stoke a fire during a time when racial tension in America is incredibly fractious, especially with an ending where no justice is served to those who should have been found guilty.
The ensemble cast all do a great job, particularly John Boyega, Algee Smith & Will Poulter, and Kathryn Bigelow's direction is gripping throughout. Surprisingly, the film was a flop during its cinema run, despite glowing reviews from critics. Perhaps its audience is still waiting to discover it.
THE DEVIL INSIDE (18)
D: William Brent Bell
Paramount/Insurge/Prototype (Matthew Peterman & Matthew Paulson)
W: William Brent Bell & Matthew Paulson
DP: Gonzalo Amat
Ed: Timothy Mirkovich & William Brent Bell
Mus: Ben Romans & Brett Detar
Fernanda Andrade (Isabella Rossi), Simon Quarterman (Father Ben Rawlings), Evan Helmuth (Father David Keane), Ionut Grama (Michael Schaefer), Suzan Crowley (Maria Rossi)
Yawn. Another cheaply made "found footage" horror movie to cash-in on the success of the terrible Paranormal Activity movies.
Following a botched exorcism which results in grizzly murder, the woman responsible is convicted and incarcerated at an asylum in Vatican City.
Isabella Rossi, the murderer's daughter, plans to visit her mother for the first time in 20 years, as she films a documentary which investigates the murder and subsequently records a clandestine exorcism being performed.
The ridiculous plot is tailored for the found footage gimmick, and even that isn't done very well, with the lead actress just gormlessly watching the events unfold instead of emoting with any sort of conviction.
Everything else is the usual demonic possession tropes first seen in The Exorcist thrown in with nothing of any originality and an abrupt ending which proves that production ran out of money whilst filming.
Despite being a moderate box office hit, this is easily the worst horror movie released in 2012 and its success can only be attributed to a marketing campaign and trailer which completely misled cinemagoers.
DIRTY GRANDPA (15)
D: Dan Mazer
Lionsgate/QED (Bill Block, Michael Simkin, Jason Barrett & Barry Josephson)
W: John Phillips
DP: Eric Alan Edwards
Ed: Anne McCabe
Mus: Michael Andrews
Zac Efron (Jason Kelly), Robert DeNiro (Dick Kelly), Zoey Deutch (Shadia), Aubrey Plaza (Lenore), Dermot Mulroney (David Kelly), Julianne Hough (Meredith Goldstein)
Is this honestly what comedy has become in the 21st century, or will Robert DeNiro simply take on any old role now if it pays enough?
It's never a good start when you're introduced to a film's main character with him masturbating furiously while watching pornography and this scene sets the tone for Dirty Grandpa, full of puerile jokes which miss more than they hit.
In the days building up to his wedding, a young lawyer goes on a road trip with his grandfather, who convinces his grandson to take a detour to where the college kids are having spring break, so the old man can fuck a teenager. Classy.
It's an actual embarrassment that a fine actor like Robert DeNiro has to degrade his career with films like this, although without him the film could probably be even worse.
The seedy plot does make some attempt to redeem itself before the ending, but gives up on that and goes straight for the jugular of lowbrow humour. Wrong on too many levels.
THE DISASTER ARTIST (15)
D: James Franco
Warner Bros/New Line/Ratpac-Dune/Good Universe (James Franco, Vince Jolivette, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg & James Weaver)
W: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber [based on the book "The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Film Ever Made" by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell]
DP: Brandon Trost
Ed: Stacey Schroeder
Mus: Dave Porter
James Franco (Tommy Wiseau), Dave Franco (Greg Sestero), Seth Rogen (Sandy Schklair), Ari Greynor (Juliette Danielle), Alison Brie (Amber), Josh Hutcherson (Philip Haldiman), Jacki Weaver (Carolyn Minnott), Zac Efron (Dan Janjigian)
It's a rich irony that one of the worst films ever made is the basis for one of the best films of 2017.
James Franco doesn't just portray Tommy Wiseau in this comedy biopic, he actually becomes him.
It's quite important to have seen 2003's The Room, dubbed the Citizen Kane of bad movies, before watching this "making of", or some of the references to the awful movie may not catch on.
The Room (qv) was wholly financed by struggling actor, Tommy Wiseau who spent over $6 million on the production, which he also wrote, starred in and directed, but with no filmmaking knowledge, fundamental filmmaking practices weren't just overlooked, but almost mocked (over half of The Room's running time has no bearing on the actual plot of the movie, entire sets were built for little reason, the film was shot on 35mm film and digital video, which require two different lighting methods, etc)
The comedy of errors all begins with the friendship which develops between Wiseau and struggling young actor, Greg Sestero. The two men strike a bond over their admiration of James Dean, which partially inspired Wiseau to write The Room, alongside his infatuation with famous playwright Tennessee Williams.
Though The Room is a terrible piece of work, it has gone on to achieve a cult fanbase, and this tribute to the best worst movie is bang on the money, with an excellent central performance and one of the funniest screenplays of the year. It's very much worth sitting through a terrible movie for.
Pathetically unfunny comedy from director-writer duo Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer, who present this as a parody when what they're actually doing is referencing a whole bunch of celebrities and raping a load of movies without adding any jokes.
It's pointless going over the storyline, because there isn't one, just reference after reference after reference.
The only funny thing is that the film made a profit, but that won't make you laugh either.