I'm Stephanie and i love films, here i will post spoiler-free reviews!

Wednesday 30 July 2014


Marvel take a risk in adapting one of their lesser known comics, Guardians of the Galaxy (12A), for the big screen. Bringing us five brand new superheroes to love with a whole new universe to protect, do the Guardians live up to the previous Marvel successes?

Set in space, five misfit criminals unite together to protect the galaxy when they realise that the villainous Ronan (Lee Pace) intends to destroy it once he gets hold of a powerful orb. Together wise-cracking, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Ronan's former prisoner Gamora (Zoe Saldana), vengeful convict Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and his tree sidekick Groot (Vin Diesel) must do everything that it takes to ensure the safety of the galaxy and its inhabitants.

There was much apprehension when it was revealed that Guardians of the Galaxy was to be Marvel's next big adaptation;
guardians-of-the-galaxy-footage1 in a world with Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, and Wolverine (to name a few) there was doubt if Marvel's most unknown comic book characters would be up to scratch. Despite this, Guardians of the Galaxy ends up being a pleasant surprise from start to finish in one of the funniest and most entertaining Marvel movies to date.
With all that has been said, the film could have lacked in characters, cast, and storyline and still been an amazing watch due to the flawless and mesmerizing visuals. Setting the film in space really opens the door to some mind-blowing graphics which Marvel and director James Gunn did not do by half; the galaxy truly comes to life and is fascinating to watch with the 3D effects enhancing an already beautiful backdrop as well as throwing you into the midst of the action.

Set to the soundtrack of a 1970s-80s mix tape, the film consistently oozes with tongue-in-cheek charm with a constant self-aware humour that balances out the sometimes-cheesy superhero conventions to create a smart, cheeky and well-rounded summer blockbuster without scuppering on the comic book tone.

The five characters that make up the Guardians are a refreshing change to the usual superhero line-up. All five have their own personal motives and are mostly carrying out the mission with the hope of a personal gain. Instead of being the usual savvy heroes who want to spread goodness and make the world a better place, the Guardians are incredibly flawed; they are selfish, self-motivated, gritty and a little bit stupid... And this is exactly what makes them so lovable and the storyline so enjoyable- they just seem real and this ensures that the plot isn't just another recycled comic book plot that we have already seen dozens of times before.

The strong mix of characters are greatly aided by the strong cast that bring them to life; although far from the usual A-List that you may expect from Marvel, the cast are second to none with leading man Chris Pratt especially excelling in the role of Peter Quill. It is sometimes difficult to pull of a character that is constantly cracking jokes and goofing around without making the film look as though it is desperate to be funny, however Pratt brings a charisma to the character that makes the wise-cracking appear genuine and the vast majority of his plentiful one-liners incited big laughs from the audience with none falling flat and, most importantly, never getting tiresome.


Overall, it is clear to see that all of the apprehension that followed the film's announcement was completely misguided and there were no better men for the job than James Gunn and Chris Pratt as together they pave the way for the most dynamic and original superheroes to date. The combination of a great cast, amazing visuals, strong characters and a brilliant, consistently hilarious script together creates what can only be described as the summer blockbuster of 2014!

Guardians of the Galaxy is in UK cinemas from July 31st!

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Sunday 22 June 2014


When Taylor (Hannah Arterton) is flown to Italy by her sister Maddie (Annabel Scholey) she is shocked to discover that it is for her sister's wedding to boyfriend of just five weeks... And even more shocked when she realises that her sister's boyfriend is Raf (Giulio Berruti), her holiday romance from three years ago!

Set to the music of popular songs from the 1980s and the scenery of beautiful Italian beaches, Walking On Sunshine (12A) should have all of the ingredients to be the feel-good movie of the summer, so how did it go so drastically wrong?

Desperately trying to be the new Mamma Mia, Walking On Sunshine fails in almost every way possible with more than one person walking out of the cinema part-way through. Let me start with this; 99% of musicals are going to be cheesy, that is just a given, however when Hannah Arterton bursts into the first number of the film, Madonna's 'Holiday', with a massive forced grin on her face and autotuned within an inch of her life I physically grimaced with second hand embarrassment. It's nothing against the song - I love the song, in fact I love every single song that features in the film, it is the clunky, awkward performances that make them so unbearable to watch.

The problem when trying to write a musical around songs that already exist, as opposed to writing the numbers specifically for the film in mind, is that every transition appears really random and really forced; the exchange'I don't know what Raf sees in me' 'You're a goddess!' leads to a rendition of Bananarama's 'Venus', Raf closes his eyes for a moment which incites Taylor to warble The Bangles' 'Eternal Flame', and just before the credits role comes 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go' - presumably to wake up the snoozing audience members.

Not only are the songs awkwardly random, they are blatantly pre-recorded with the cast miming to them, badly. Of course not every musical can do a Les Mis where the actors sing live but you just don't expect the fact that they don't sing live to be so show-stoppingly obvious. A lot of the voices are auto-tuned to the extent that they don't sound natural at all and the singing that you hear doesn't match up to the performances that you are seeing onscreen, they may as well have been two different things - an album, and a silent movie. Even former X Factor winner Leona Lewis receives the auto-tuning treatment, something which is both baffling and unnecessary in the professional singer's first movie role.

The storyline itself is also intolerable; so thin and two-dimensional that there is barely anything to it with any attempt at character development, mostly in the form of Maddie, appearing forced and terribly executed. Hannah Arterton's performance as the irrational and slightly annoying Taylor is over-acted and makes you wonder who her competition was in winning the role and the inclusion of Maddie's obsessed ex-boyfriend Doug (Greg Wise) seemed to be more about Wise's desperation in a last-ditch attempt to launch a successful movie career than about the actual character.

All in all, Walking On Sunshine is one big mess - a bad storyline, bad characters, bad actors and bad musical performances with the only slightly redeeming factor being the fact that you can stare at the beautiful Giulio Berruti for an hour and a half... But to be honest, even his chiseled cheekbones, piercing blue eyes and washboard stomach aren't enough to make the film worth watching.

Walking On Sunshine is in UK cinemas from June 27th!

Stay tuned for more reviews and follow me on twitter if you fancy it :)


Friday 20 June 2014


Jon Favreau tries his hand as a triple threat writer-actor-director in the food-orientated comedy-drama Chef (15).

When Chef Carl Casper (Favreau) gets a bad review from notorious online critic Ramsey Michel, he finds himself being creatively stunted by the restaurant's owner. Unwilling to compromise his talent any longer, Carl quits his job and is eventually coaxed into opening his own food truck, where he rediscovers his love of cooking and zest for life.

My biggest issue with Chef is that in Carl Casper Favreau has created perhaps the most unlikable protagonist in this genre's recent history. There are clear attempts throughout the film that are supposed to make him seem likable - he is the typical 'funny fat guy', he is the underdog, he is the film's hero. However, it is hard to warm to a character that would be close contender for the top spot of 'Worst Dad of the Year Award'. 

Separated from his son Percy (Emjay Anthony)'s mum, Carl sees his son every other weekend and even then most of the time he drops him home early so that he can get back to the kitchen despite Percy's clear desperation to spend time with his father, so much so that he practically begs to be taken into work with him. When Carl gets the food truck the two characters begin to bond, however it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth when the only way a father will bond with his young son is when the son forces himself into his father's life and desperately tries to share his father's passion. The only conversations that Carl has with his son are about food, cooking and being a chef. The only time Carl spends with his son is when his son is cleaning his truck and serving the customers. It is actually quite disconcerting to see such a forced father-son relationship where there is no doubt left in your mind that if the son wasn't sharing his father's passions, his father would want nothing to do with him - not once did we see Carl ask Percy about his personal life, his schoolwork or his own passions. To put it frankly, Carl is a selfish man-child; the entire film is all of the other characters flocking around him and he taking them for granted and as much as I wanted all of his acquaintances to succeed, it seemed as though Carl needed to fail in order to be brought down a peg or two and learn what the real value of life is.

The story arc was clearly supposed to see Carl better himself as the film progressed, however, despite the fact that Carl is in a happier place work and family wise he still isn't a better person. The big 'wow' moment that is supposed to come when he finally enjoys spending time with Percy is discredited due to the fact the only time he enjoys spending with him is when Percy is working for him. Yes, Percy shares his dad's passion for food, probably because he realised at a young age this is the only way his dad will pay him any attention, but the fact is Carl should have wanted to spend time with his son even if his son's passion was different to his own. 

Alongside the unlikability of Chef Carl Casper, the film was much too long. The demise of Carl's reputation following the bad review at the beginning of the film was far too dragged out and did not have to be spread to the same length as the second half of the film where he starts to find his feet again. To be honest, it felt as
Leguizamo and Anthony steal the show
though there were a lot of scenes that should have ended up on the cutting room floor and it can only be Favreau's misguided passion for the film that made him reluctant to cut any of the gratuitous scenes, which is ironically to the film's detriment.

The film has three saving graces:
  1. The food porn (I defy anybody to leave the cinema without a growling stomach!)
  2. Emjay Anthony's brilliant performance as the adorable Percy.
  3. John Leguizamo's heartfelt performance as Carl's best friend and su-chef Martin.

Leguizamo in particular needs to be receiving more of the credit for the film, he counter-balances Carl's unintentional unlikability by being constantly full of life and holding a genuine warmth to his character with his reappearance halfway through the film is the only thing to stop it turning completely stale.

Emjay Anthony gives Percy everything that he has got and his ability exceeds many other actors of his age, making him certain to be one to watch in the future.

Unfortuantely, these two characters were just not enough to forgive Carl for his wrong doings, and the fact that Favreau wrote Carl to be the film's hero, not Martin or Percy, proves that this was totally unintentional and Carl is merely the product of bad writing. 

All in all, there should be more to a character than his love of food, more dimensions to a character than his vocation and more elements to a father-son relationship than the son desperately trying to claw some affection out of his selfish and horribly neglectful dad. Instead of a 'warm fuzzy feeling' as promised, Chef leaves you feeling slightly uncomfortable and also tempted to create a Bechdel-Test-esque theory for father-son relationships that don't revolve around the father. 

Chef is in UK cinemas from June 25th!

Stay tuned for more reviews and follow me on twitter if you fancy it :)


Friday 13 June 2014


Belle (12A) is the heartwarming true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral who was raised by her aristocratic great-uncle, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson).

At a time when slavery was rife, Belle's aristocratic father enabled her to have a privileged upbringing, however, the colour of her skin prevented her from ever fitting in fully and she was not even permitted to dine with her family when they had guests over and still found herself victim of racial abuse despite her high social standing.

When Belle discovers that Lord Mansfield, a top judge at the time, is involved in a court case to do with human cargo and the awful treatment of black slaves, she enlists the help of an idealistic law student John Davinier (Sam Reid) and does everything that she can to ensure that her uncle makes the right decision.

Mbatha-Raw is beautiful as Belle, but that is not enough
The truth behind Belle's story is fascinating and it is only a wonder why it hasn't been adapted for the big screen sooner. The concept of a mixed race child being raised among aristocracy during a time where slavery was so normalized is incredible poignant and the differences between Belle and her white cousin of the same age, Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon), are striking from the start. The girls immediate friendship and love for one another paves the way for a touching subplot, with their relationship being one of the most heartfelt aspects of the film, if slightly under-used.

The real let-down of this film is Mbatha-Raw's performance. Despite looking absolutely beautiful she is incredibly two-dimensional throughout and Belle's character seems to be lacking in depth; turning her from a strong-willed and determined young woman to a stunning yet vacant china doll. Dependent mostly on one-look, Mbatha-Raw's doe-eyed melancholy is initially endearing but becomes increasingly frustrating as time goes on and she remains unable to deliver anything new or refreshing. 

The lack of depth to Belle's character makes the entire film feel slow, boring and almost like it misses the point. Director Amma Asante is entrusted with taking this great, hidden story to the forefront of the public's attention and instead of creating a show-stopping period piece that does the story justice, she created a bland, disappointing and emotionless drama that doesn't even scratch the surface of Belle's true character, least of all do her justice.

The supporting cast are strong, bar a conventional and over-the-top villainous performance from Harry Potter's  Tom Felton, but none of them are enough to detract attention away from the lifeless protagonist and her inability to give anything more or less than pure apathy. 
Painting  of the real life Belle and Elizabeth

Whilst the core story is interesting, its cinematic execution is not and although Mbatha-Raw is visually stunning to watch, her beauty is not enough to excuse the lack of depth to her portrayal of Dido Elizabeth Belle. The most exciting part of the entire film was the inclusion of a painting of the real-life Belle and Elizabeth that appeared just before the credits rolled, and given that this painting is accesible via a quick google search, that is not enough to make the film worth seeing. 

Belle is in UK cinemas from Friday 13th June!

Stay tuned for more reviews and follow me on twitter if you fancy it :)


Wednesday 28 May 2014


I have been looking forward to Maleficent (PG) since the concept of the film was announced and if you follow my blog you will know that it was one of my most-anticipated films of 2014. Well, the day to watch it finally came; Was it magical? Yes. Was it beautiful? Yes. Did it exceed my expectations? ABSOLUTELY.

We all know the traditional tale of Sleeping Beauty, but Maleficent reminds us that there are two sides to every story. Angelina Jolie stars as the title character, a magical fairy who turns evil after being tricked and mistreated by humans. In a jealous rage Maleficent curses the new baby princess Aurora (Elle Fanning), but she soon comes to realise that the child may be the only one who can restore peace between humans and the magical creatures.

First and foremost, Maleficent is one of the most visually beautiful films that you will ever see and the use of 3D really makes the magical kingdom come alive. From the fluttering fairies, woodland creatures, and even Maleficent's magical powers, absolutely every aspect of the film is truly pleasurable to watch and will transport you into that world and make you feel like a child again.

Angelina Jolie is striking as the lead role in both appearance and performance. The film is solely focused on telling the traditional fairy tale from the villain's point of view and Maleficent's character development is beautifully told; from her childlike innocence and kindness to the despair and sorrow that she feels when she realises that humans have betrayed her trust. This sorrow quickly turns into bitter vengeance and when she curses the innocent baby Aurora the audience feel Maleficent's pain and are completely on her side. Jolie's portrayal of the character is brilliant in ensuring that Maleficent doesn't just become a fantastical and unrelatable source of evil - despite possessing magical powers she is very human throughout the film and captures the audience's heart and empathy.

Once Aurora goes to live with three fairies in a bid to protect her from the evil curse, Maleficent begins to follow her life more carefully and with the help of her servant Diaval (Sam Riley), a rescued raven who she can transform into man at the mere flick of her wrist, she watches over the princess and finds her hardened heart thawing with Aurora's sweet and loving innocence.

One of the key aspects in Jolie's performance is that no matter how evil she appears to be, Maleficent is
never truly a villain. Whilst she acts maliciously and is full of hatred and anger her softer side is never too hidden away and you appreciate the entire time that she is not a bad person deep down, simply forced into making bad and harmful decisions due to the terrible way she's been treated. On top of that, the character has wit and attitude, yet avoids becoming a cringe-inducing Disney cliche and instead becomes a source of inspiration and the true embodiment of a strong, female character.

Although Jolie is the star of the show, Elle Fanning brings charm and grace to Aurora, a character who is normally considered quite plain and two-dimensional. Although your eyes will never wander off the evil queen for long, when they reach the princess it is just as beautiful to watch. Riley also shines as Diaval, a welcome character that provides an insight into Maleficent's mind who also supports and comforts our heroine as the humans put her under siege.

All in all, I am so happy to say that Disney has exceeded itself in this enchanting tale that will delight both the grown ups and children in the audience in equal measures. Visually stunning to watch, Maleficent transports you into a fairytale realm and Jolie's heartfelt and alluring performance will captivate you from start to finish.

Maleficent is in cinemas now!

Stay tuned for more reviews and follow me on twitter if you fancy it :)


Sunday 25 May 2014



Following 2004 comedy 50 First Dates, Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore unite onscreen yet again in family rom-com Blended (12A).

The concept of the story has all the makings of a great family drama; Jim (Sandler) is a widow and has three daughters who he’s trying to play both mum and dad to and Lauren (Barrymore) is freshly divorced with the father of her two sons refusing to take an interest in their lives. After a terrible blind date between Jim and Lauren they hold nothing but resentment for one another, but when they find themselves thrust together at a family resort in Africa they realise the positive impact the other has on their children and discover that maybe they aren’t so mismatched after all.
Blended Review movies movie reviews Sandler has the stronger story here, he plays his usual manchild character that the audience have come to expect from him but there is more heart and emotion at Jim’s core than usual. We discover that Jim’s wife died of cancer and it’s clear that neither he nor his daughters have fully come to terms with her death, which makes for some heartrending scenes that show the funny man’s sensitive side and will bring a lump to the throat of even the hardest viewers.
On the other hand, Barrymore’s character is neurotic to the extent of parody with her older son harbouring a creepy obsession with his babysitter and her youngest having extensive anger issues over the fact that he isn’t very good at baseball. These ‘quirks’ in both the children are clearly designed to be funny and an attempt to balance the emotional heartache that comes from Jim’s background. However having the majority of the attempts at comedy come via Lauren and her family ends up being to the film’s detriment.

Blended would have been much better off as a family drama rather than a comedy, as that genre seems to have forced the film into throwing around slapstick and childish gags in a desperate attempt to make the audience laugh, seemingly without realising that subtle comedic undertones among the drama would have made for more pleasurable viewing all round.
Sandler is yet again consistent and reliable for the genre and it is his character’s one-liners and dry wit that give some genuine funny moments to the film, whilst Barrymore and the supporting cast are left with the bigger gags that cheapen the film and take the focus off the heart and warmth at the story’s core. These jokes feel like they’re taken from a bad Carry-On film with children swearing, food being spluttered all over somebody’s face and sexual innuendos galore.Blended Review movies movie reviews
Frustratingly, the basic storyline and character development of both Jim and Lauren and all of their children is at times gripping to watch and it is particularly endearing to see Jim’s relationships with his daughters grow as the film progresses. The attempts at comedy take away from what would have been a really brilliant drama and although there are aspects of Blended that are thoroughly enjoyable, the next bad gag is never too far away which ruins the overall tone of the film.
All in all, Blended has the makings of a strong family drama and it is unfortunate that the attempts at comedy take away from this. Adam Sandler was without a doubt given the stronger role in Jim, and his family provide the audience with genuine laughs, heartache, tears, and a warm fuzzy feeling whilst Barrymore and her children are left to struggle on with bad jokes and gimmicks. Sandler proves yet again that he’s more than able to give a serious and heartbreaking performance; it’s just a shame that Blended wasn’t brave enough to avoid his comedy safety net.

Blended is in cinemas now!

Stay tuned for more reviews and follow me on twitter if you fancy it :)


Friday 16 May 2014


From the producers of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the writer of Drive, and the author of The Talented Mr. Ripley,  The Two Faces of January (12A) is screenwriter Hossein Amini’s directorial debut.
Set in the 1960s among the beautiful backdrops of Athens, Crete and Istanbul, The Two Faces of January tells
Oscar Isaac steals the show as Rydal
the story of Rydal (Oscar Isaac), an American con artist working in Greece as a tour guide, where he meets glamorous American couple Chester and Collette MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen andKirsten Dunst). After finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, Rydal ends up entangled in the couple’s lives and it soon becomes apparent that he is not the only con artist around.
First and foremost, The Two Faces of January is visually stunning. Not only do the sunny villages and ruins of Greece provide the film with beautiful scenery, but the 6os era makes way for a subtle yet time-appropriate costuming, and the entire tone of the film feels very traditional of the classic film noir genre.
The Two Faces of January Review movies movie reviews
The story itself is fascinating from the offset; the concept of both leading men being a little on the shifty side makes for an interesting watch as you’re never sure who you can trust or who is telling the truth. For example, upon meeting the couple Rydal says that he was drawn to them due to Chester reminding him of his father, however, is this just a ploy to get closer to Chester’s beautiful wife?
Perfectly paced by Hossein Amini in his directorial debut, as the story unravels so do the characters with Chester becoming increasingly paranoid of Rydal’s intentions which ironically leads to him to destroy everything that he loves. On the other hand, Rydal’s increased wariness of the unstable Chester leaves him more and more desperate to find a way out of the mess that he has somehow found himself involved in.
Whilst Dunst and Mortensen each give incredibly strong performances as the MacFarlands, it is Oscar Isaac who steals the show as Rydal. Commanding the screen with charm and charisma, Isaac adds to the film’s noir style with a presence uncannily similar to that of the leading men from old Hollywood classics of yesteryear, cementing his position as an up-and-coming actor to watch.
The cast have a brilliant on-screen chemistry and every aspect of their very complex relationships was riveting and believable to watch. Their understated performances were just as engrossing as the underlying tension and intrigue of the story.
Unpredictable from start to finish, The Two Faces of January provides a nostalgic look at cinema with timeless performances, backdrops and costumes that makes the film seem fresh and innovative despite being set over 50 years ago.

All in all,The Two Faces of January will quickly become a timeless classic in the thriller genre, with a great story and impeccable pacing leaving you unable to guess what the next scene will bring. Strong performances all round create a chemistry that transcends through the screen and into the hearts of the audience with Oscar Isaac proving himself yet again as a leading man and firmly announcing himself as a bold new face of cinema.

The Two Faces of January Review movies movie reviews

The Two Faces of January is in cinemas from today, 16th May!

Check out our Q&A with the cast here!
Stay tuned for more reviews and follow me on twitter if you fancy it :)