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The Upside Review : No downside to the performances within it

Kevin Hart gives the performance of his career in the remake of The Intouchables, says Moviehole’s Mike Smith

Mike Smith

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Director:

Neil Burger

Cast:

Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, Nicole Kidman

Run time:

2 hrs 5 mins

Rating:

I’m going to start right out and say that, when he first burst upon the movie scene, I found Kevin Hart to be no more than an even louder Chris Tucker. He could be funny but he could also be annoying. In 2016 I began to come around, impressed as I was with his performance opposite Dwayne Johnson in “Central Intelligence.” This week, with his new film, “The Upside,” he may have finally won me over.

“The Upside” is the story of two very different men who learn to rely on each other. Hart is Dell, a recently released convict trying to right by his son but not wanting to put the effort into what it takes. Cranston is Philip, a once very active billionaire who is now a quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair. Dell tells his parole officer that he’s looking for work, but to prove it he needs to have paperwork signed by three prospective employers or it’s back to the hoosegow for him. He accidentally wanders into an interview session where Philip is speaking to prospective care-givers. Intrigued by Dell’s “I don’t have time, just sign this” attitude, he offers him the job. And a heartfelt and funny adventure begins.

For those who aren’t aware, “The Upside” is a true story and is based on the 2011 French film “The Intouchables.” It is a story of how people can change, whether they want to or not. Dell finds himself going from the projects to the penthouse (literally), while Philip, who has been slowly withdrawing since the death of his wife, begins to discover the joys of living again. Both actors give solid, moving performances, with just enough laughter to keep the story moving. As Philip’s business assistant, Kidman is no-nonsense in her dealings with Dell, likening his position to a baseball game – three strikes and he’s out.

Director Burger keeps the story flowing nicely, hitting all of the right emotional notes. A fine way to enter the new year!

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Film Reviews

Five Feet Apart review : a glorified episode of Grey’s Anatomy

An effective portray of Cystic Fibrosis nestled into a predictable love-story

K.T Simpson

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I have this controversial rule, that I’ll generally avoid a movie where the poster depicts someone with a tube up their nose. This has nothing to do with ignorance, or disgust, but merely the fact that I go to the movies to be entertained, not deeply depressed. Having said that, the woes of reviewing films means I have to sometimes go against my better judgement, and watch a movie about some dying kids.

Seventeen year-old Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) has Cystic Fibrosis, and as a result spends a lot of her time at the hospital getting treatment after treatment. As an incurable disease, most of what she does is manage the symptoms with the aim to lengthen her life. Her current stint in hospital sees her in a ward with fellow ‘CFers’, including best friend Poe (Moises Arias) and new hunk-a-spunk Will (Cole Sprouse), whom she initially [predictably] finds frustrating, as his lack of routine is incredibly vexing to control-freak Stella.

As with any teen-drama, Stella’s feelings of anger and frustration quickly turn to the smitten, and thus a love story begins, but unlike most others and the teens can’t go too close to each other – as CFers are a huge risk to one another in terms of passing on symptoms and illness.

“Five Feet Apart” plays out a little like Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”: the star-crossed lovers who can’t be together, and stubborn nurse Barb (Kimberley Hebert Gregory) forbidding the two to go near each other. What we have here, dear readers, is an over-the-top episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” – you will see each turn in the story come from a mile away, and the forced emotions come from a soundtrack of all the sad songs in today’s catalogue – not to mention the ‘starter kit’ for sad films: forbidden teen romance and death.

Don’t let my description put you off, as my heart of stone has a wall bigger than Trump’s planned border protecting it. “Five Feet Apart” is a touching (excuse that horrific pun) story, and those who are particularly vulnerable to a sob story will come out of the cinema red-faced and blotchy.

Where “Five Feet Apart” excels is in its ability to bring awareness to a terrible, and dare I say misunderstood, disease. My review is in no way a mocking of the severity of those who suffer, and I applaud director Justin Baldoni for his sensitivity in portraying its effects.

Further, actress Richardson is the standout of the film, outshining her “Riverdale” co-star Sprouse. Though predictable, “Five Feet Apart” is charming and if you want a depression-session : this is where to find it.

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Film Reviews

Fighting with My Family review : heart-warming… goes beyond the sport

We review the comedy-drama on the WWE career of professional wrestler Paige

K.T Simpson

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“Paige, I myself have come from a wrestling family too. I know exactly what it means to you”, The Rock tells a young WWE candidate from early on the new film “Fighting with My Family”, adding “Don’t worry about being the next me. Be the first you.”

The small slab of dialogue is essentially the plot of director Stephen Merchant’s Saraya Knight biopic. No more, no less. And it mightn’t be wrong to say that, for all intents and purposes, “Fighting with My Family” encompasses another unsurprising account of another underdog finding themselves on the way to the top. But like Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” – not to mention most of John G. Avildsen’s back catalogue- and countless other movies, all using a similar template, the choctop coating for what otherwise have been a very vanilla cone comes in the combination of structure, performance and, very importantly, casting. Together, the trifecta sees “Fighting with My Family” not only standing well after the final bell has blown, but with very minimal damage. And like the title character, this one’s a real winner.

The backstory of WWE wrestler ‘Paige’, or Saraya Knight as she’s known back in her native Norwich, “Fighting with My Family” tells of a determined young athlete who transitions her way from working local matches with her wrestling-loving family to participating in and winning the WWE Diva’s championship in 2014 (and where The Rock comes into it is that he played somewhat of a mentor to Knight in real life; he’s also the godfather of the film, bringing the story to the attention of actor turned director Merchant).

Paige has grown up with her brother Zak (Jack Lowden), also a keen wrestler and WWE-dreamer, and when the day comes that she has to leave him behind to chase the dream, Paige struggles with the guilt of success, stage-fright and finding herself alongside a group of girls who have been hired seemingly on beauty-status alone. While in Florida, Paige has to find the balance between being herself, growing into the role she’s been given, and standing out amongst a sea of wannabe-WWE wrestlers. Under the guise of coach Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn), who strongly believes in tough-love, Paige learns to develop a thick skin to not only improve her sport, but deal with the heckling crowds that have no sympathy for hesitance in the spotlight.

If you know anything about the real Paige’s story, you know how it ends – but the journey is effectively portrayed by all actors, who all bear a striking resemblance to the actual people.

Merchant’s script, let alone direction, is to-the-point and effective, without being staggeringly crafty, but the material is elevated by a dynamite cast headlined by Florence Pugh, providing both vulnerability and durability to a future big time brawler. Pugh is the show stopper here, channeling her real-life counterpart with a chameleon-esque performance that’s equal parts tough and tender.

The supporting players – Frost, Headey, Vaughn et al – all come from deeper waters, so no surprise that they too take Merchant’s characters and give award-worthy turns. Vaughn, especially, playing a fictionalised version of several coaches Paige worked with along the way, gives one of his best performances to date — so much so, it’s a shame they couldn’t find a spot for him on the poster (after all, Dwayne Johnson’s role is a cameo at best, Vaughn is in most of the film – but guess ‘The Rock’ sells more tickets, right marketers?).

As with any good sports film, the beauty in “Fighting with My Family” lies beyond the sport, but in the message that supports it. It’s easy to write a film off if you’re not into wrestling, but my advice is to put that aside and enjoy the heart-warming narrative of a young girl with little confidence come to find her feet in the wider world that surrounds Norwich. The “Rocky” for our times, “Fighting with My Family” is a movie for everyone that’s ever had a dream… and bloody embarrassing parents.

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Film Reviews

Finding Steve McQueen review : Clever and Nostalgic

The film is both clever and, if you’re a fan of the 1970s, nostalgic

Mike Smith

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1980. In a small California town, Harry Barber (Fimmell) has something to confess to Holly (Taylor), his girlfriend of seven years. Holly thinks a break-up is coming but it’s more like a stick-up. You see, Harry is a bank robber.

Based on a true story, “Finding Steve McQueen” is one of the smaller films that often get overshadowed by the latest offerings from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Through flashbacks we find Harry back in 1972 (who Molly knows as John) working in his Uncle Enzo’s factory, along with his younger brother, Tommy (Jake Weary). The factory is a front for Enzo (played by the always fun to watch Fichtner), who is, for lack of a better word, the “boss” of Youngstown, Ohio. Enzo has learned from a friend that President Richard Nixon, who Enzo is definitely not a fan of, has squirreled away $30 million in campaign funds in a bank not far from San Clemente (the Western White House). Eager for a big score, and the chance to stick it to the President, Enzo and his team, including Harry and Tommy, journey west to pull off what Enzo believes will be the perfect crime. After all, if someone steals the President’s dirty money, who can he call?

The film is both clever and, if you’re a fan of the 1970s, nostalgic. The script, by Ken Hixon and Keith Sharon, moves sharply through the decade, taking time to introduce things like hot tubs and historic characters. When the F.B.I. bureau chief (Oscar winner Forest Whitaker) gets a visit from his boss, Mark Felt (John Finn), you can’t help but smile when Felt tells him to read an article in the Washington Post written by “a couple reporters named Woodward and Bernstein.” For those who don’t remember their history, Felt was the infamous “Deep Throat” who led Woodward and Bernstein to their Pulitzer Prize.

Director Johnson keeps the story moving and kudos as well to whoever picked the songs that accompany the on-screen action. They helped set a perfect tone for a film that doesn’t need someone in Spandex to make it entertaining.

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